Author Topic: What is consciousness?  (Read 14338 times)

Offline Dairy Lama

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What is consciousness?
« on: December 06, 2011, 07:41:18 am »
We've touched on this question in other threads but I thought it would be useful to have a thread specifically on this.

Up to 8 types of consciousness are recognised in Buddhism - the first five relate to the senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing), the sixth is mind-consciousness, the seventh is manas, and the eighth is alaya-vinana.

So there is some classification of consciousness in Buddhism - but what actually is it? 

Is it best described as awareness, or knowing, or cognising?  And how is it different from perception?

CP
« Last Edit: December 06, 2011, 07:44:04 am by CP Gumby »
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream"

Offline ground

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2011, 08:21:02 am »
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"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.043.than.html



Quote
'Name-&-form exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there name-&-form?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Name-&-form exists when consciousness exists. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness exists when name-&-form exists. From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.065.than.html

Offline Dairy Lama

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2011, 08:06:28 am »
Quote
"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.043.than.html



Quote
'Name-&-form exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there name-&-form?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Name-&-form exists when consciousness exists. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness exists when name-&-form exists. From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.065.than.html



Thanks, but do these quotes get us any closer to what consciousness actually is?
CP
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream"

Offline Hanzze

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2011, 09:06:23 am »
Currently Name-&-form ? *smile*

Offline ground

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2011, 12:02:49 pm »
Quote
"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.043.than.html



Quote
'Name-&-form exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there name-&-form?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Name-&-form exists when consciousness exists. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.' Then the thought occurred to me, 'Consciousness exists when what exists? From what as a requisite condition comes consciousness?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Consciousness exists when name-&-form exists. From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.065.than.html



Thanks, but do these quotes get us any closer to what consciousness actually is?
CP


You mean the real essence, the real substance of consciousness?  :lmfao:

Sorry but consciousness has no weight, no color, no form ... so what "is" it? A mere term. It is a noun which refers to being concious but it does not refer to an object. It may be a linguistic issue you have trouble with.

Can you observe being or becoming conscious of something? Its part of mindfulness acc. to MN10. If yes, you should know what the term refers to.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2011, 12:10:40 pm by TMingyur. »

Offline Optimus Prime

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2011, 09:59:14 pm »
The Buddha used the word "consciousness" in varying ways and in addition, the teachers of today use it in varying ways.  This meaning varies from being just "sense impressions" that arise and cease... up to the Buddha Nature consciousness.  And in the western world, we can also use consciousness as in conscious vs unconscious.  So it's very important to understand first of all the context in which it was used and then understand the relevant meaning within that context.

Ajahn Amaro gives a good overview of the different ways in which "consciousness" is used in the Buddhist world:

The final, and perhaps most significant, term to look at in this light is “consciousness.” The Pali word “vinnàna” is almost invariably translated into English as “consciousness.” In Buddhist psychology “vinnàna” generally means a discriminative consciousness that acts via one of the six sense-doors: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind. It means the act of cognising a knowable object.

However, this is not the only way that the Buddha uses the term.

As Ajahn Sumedho mentions on p.134 there are two places in the discourses where a substantially different set of qualities are associated with the term.  The phrase that he quotes (vinnànaü anidassanam anantam sabbato pabham) Diga Nikàya 11.85, in the Kevaddha Sutta and, in part, at Majjhima Nikàya 49.25. The former passage comes at the end of a colourful and lengthy teaching tale recounted by the Buddha. He tells of a monk in the mind of whom the question arises:

“I wonder where it is that the four great elements – Earth, Water, Fire and Wind – cease without remainder?” Being a skilled meditator, the bhikkhu in question enters a state of absorption and “the path to the gods becomes open to him.” He begins by putting his question to the first gods he meets, the retinue of the Four Heavenly Kings, the guardians of the world; they demur, saying that they do not know the answer, but that the Four Kings themselves probably do: he should ask them. He does, they do not and the search continues.

Onward and upward through successive heavens he travels, continually being met with the same reply: “We do not know but you should try asking...” and is referred to the next higher level of the celestial hierarchy. Patiently enduring the protracted process of this cosmic chain of command, he finally arrives in the presence of the retinue of Maha-Brahmà, he puts the question to them; once again they fail to produce an answer but they assure him that The Great Brahmà Himself, should He deign to manifest, is certain to provide him with the resolution he seeks.

Sure enough, before too long, Maha-Brahmà appears but he too does not know the answer, and he chides the monk for being a disciple of the Buddha yet not going to his own teacher with such a question. 

When he finally meets the Buddha and asks him, he receives the reply:

“But, monk, you should not ask your question in this way: ‘Where do the four great elements – Earth, Water, Fire and Wind – cease without remainder?’ Instead, this is how the question should have been put:

‘Where do earth, water, fire and wind,
And long and short, and fine and coarse,
Pure and impure no footing find?
Where is it that both nàma (name) and råpa
(form) fade out,
Leaving no trace behind?’
“And the answer is:

‘In the awakened consciousness –
the invisible, the limitless, radiant.
[vinnànam anidassanam anantam sabbato pabham]
There it is that earth, water, fire and wind,
And long and short, and fine and coarse,
Pure and impure no footing find.
‘There it is that both nàma and råpa fade out,
Leaving no trace behind.
When discriminative consciousness comes to its limit,
They are held in check therein.’”

The term anidassana-vinnàna has been translated in various other ways: “where consciousness is signless” (Walshe) “the consciousness that makes no showing” (Nanamoli) and, most helpfully, by Bhikkhu Nànananda, in his book Concept and Reality (p 59), as “non-manifestative consciousness.” It is unlikely that the English language has a single term that can accurately convey the constellation of meanings that anidassana-vinnàna possesses, however it is generally this set of qualities that Ajahn Sumedho is referring to when he uses the simple term consciousness.”

As he says, also on p 134, it is “a mouthful of words that point to this state of natural consciousness, this reality.” So it should be borne in mind by the reader that, most of the time, he is quite deliberately using the single word “consciousness” as a shorthand for “anidassana-vinnàna.” Naturally, the word is also used in various places with its customary scriptural meaning of discriminative cognising, as well as in the sense of “re-birth consciousness” (patisandhi vinnàna), for example, on p138, “When we are born into a physical birth, we have consciousness within this form…”. In addition, Ajahn Sumedho also occasionally uses the word in the ordinary English sense, i.e. describing the state of not being unconscious, being awake and aware of one’s surroundings and identity. 

An obvious parallel to Ajahn Sumedho’s usage of the word “consciousness” is the Thai phrase “poo roo” as employed by many of the Forest Ajahns. The literal translation is: “poo” = “person” + “roo” = “knowing.” It has been variously rendered as “knowing” “the one who knows” “awareness” or even “Buddha wisdom.”

It is also a term that can be used to convey a large spectrum of meanings from, at one end, the simple act of the mind cognising an object (as in classical definitions of vinnàna), through varying levels of refinement (as in being the witness of phenomena arising and passing away), up to the utterly unobstructed awareness of the fully awakened heart.  So it can mean everything from simple “cognition” to “the wisdom of a fully enlightened Buddha.” And, just as with Ajahn Sumedho’s employment of the word “consciousness,” it is necessary with the term “poo roo” to look at the context, and to take into account the favourite expressions of the Ajahn in question, in order to discern the intended nuances of meaning – ergo, caveat lector!

Since there are such a variety of meanings contingent upon the one word “consciousness” in this book, it would thus be wise for the reader always to reflect on the circumstance that the word is being used in. In this light, it might be felt by some that it would have been more helpful not to have used “consciousness” in such a broad range of ways, that perhaps sticking to more familiar terminology might have been easier on the listeners and readers – perhaps using a word like “citta,” the heart, as defining the agent of pure awareness, instead of “anidassana vi¤¤àõa” – however this is not the way that such organic and freestyle methods of teaching usually work.

p13-17 Intuitive Awareness by Ajahn Sumedho
Source:  http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/intuitive-awareness.pdf

Offline Hanzze

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2011, 10:09:03 pm »
Quote
Since there are such a variety of meanings contingent upon the one word “consciousness” in this book, it would thus be wise for the reader always to reflect on the circumstance that the word is being used in. In this light, it might be felt by some that it would have been more helpful not to have used “consciousness” in such a broad range of ways, that perhaps sticking to more familiar terminology might have been easier on the listeners and readers – perhaps using a word like “citta,” the heart, as defining the agent of pure awareness, instead of “anidassana vi¤¤àõa” – however this is not the way that such organic and freestyle methods of teaching usually work.

I guess this sentences carry the most important message if we listen to teachings of maybe liberated "beings". Its like "why is it proper that a Buddha speaks of "i"" *smile*

Where ever is name(&from), there is a consciousness and where ever is consciousnesses there is name (&form), birth and death. So simply let go.

Offline ground

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2011, 10:11:35 pm »
So simply let go.

Great insight, Hanzze.

Can you keep this samaya? :wink1:

Offline Hanzze

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2011, 10:19:06 pm »


*smile*

Guess what is consciousness on this picture.

Offline ground

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2011, 10:21:23 pm »
Nice to learn how you are looking like :)

Offline Hanzze

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2011, 12:08:17 am »
Understanding one self means understanding others. No more need to quarrel about it. Understanding others to understand one self would be like looking in a mirror and thinking that there is somebody different. *smile*

The surface of the mirror we can call consciousnesses. Only if we penetrate it, we face reality. Ever tried to sit in front of a mirror for a long time and investigate your impressions of self.


That is a sample of a Dharma friend. *smile*

Offline ground

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2011, 12:12:06 am »
Understanding one self means understanding others.

You got the message of the Mahayana :teehee:

There is no way to liberate yourself without liberating others :wink1:

Offline Hanzze

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2011, 12:29:06 am »
What conditions what? *smile*


Offline Hanzze

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2011, 01:21:35 am »
From the Shurangama Sutra

Quote
“The reason those who cultivate cannot accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi, but instead reach the level of a Sound-Hearer or of one enlightened to conditions, or become accomplished in outside ways as heaven-dwellers or as demon-kings or as members of the retinue of demons is that they do not know the two fundamental roots and are mistaken and confused in their cultivation. They are like one who cooks sand in the hope of creating savory delicacies. They may pass through as many aeons as there are motes of dust, but in the end they will not obtain what they want. 1:231

”What are the two? Ananda, the first is the root of beginningless birth and death, which is the mind that seizes upon conditions and that you and all living beings now make use of, taking it to be the self-nature. 1:234

”The second is the primal pure substance of the beginningless Bodhi Nirvana. It is the primal bright essence of consciousness that can bring forth all conditions. Because of conditions, you consider it to be lost.


So the bright "primal bright essence of consciousness" is something that can bring you forth all conditions. If I understand this right in the context of this Sutra, it means that this kind of consciousness many might be attached to, is a last tool, vehicle but not any essence of personality. So can it be considered as the base condition to contentiouslessness, a consciousness (realm - jhana) that need to be reached to get beyond. *smile*

Offline Optimus Prime

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Re: What is consciousness?
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2011, 01:47:51 am »
From the Shurangama Sutra

Quote
“The reason those who cultivate cannot accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi, but instead reach the level of a Sound-Hearer or of one enlightened to conditions, or become accomplished in outside ways as heaven-dwellers or as demon-kings or as members of the retinue of demons is that they do not know the two fundamental roots and are mistaken and confused in their cultivation. They are like one who cooks sand in the hope of creating savory delicacies. They may pass through as many aeons as there are motes of dust, but in the end they will not obtain what they want. 1:231

”What are the two? Ananda, the first is the root of beginningless birth and death, which is the mind that seizes upon conditions and that you and all living beings now make use of, taking it to be the self-nature. 1:234

”The second is the primal pure substance of the beginningless Bodhi Nirvana. It is the primal bright essence of consciousness that can bring forth all conditions. Because of conditions, you consider it to be lost.


So the bright "primal bright essence of consciousness" is something that can bring you forth all conditions. If I understand this right in the context of this Sutra, it means that this kind of consciousness many might be attached to, is a last tool, vehicle but not any essence of personality. So can it be considered as the base condition to contentiouslessness, a consciousness (realm - jhana) that need to be reached to get beyond. *smile*


You refine your mind down with Jhana so that it becomes more and more subtle.  Refine it down so that the mind sort of approaches emptiness.  Then the deathless is easier to see.  Whilst within Jhana, you see the 5 Skandhas as anicca, dukkha, anatta and then you turn your mind towards the deathless.  This is the process that the Buddha recommended.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2011, 01:54:30 am by Optimus Prime »

 


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