Are the sense bases a late doctrine?

Similar to the Aggregates and the Nidana thread, cakkhuviññāṇaṃ occurs only in

DN22 (not paralleled in DA) and
DN33 (sariputta)

, and then in

MN9 (sariputta)
MN144 (parallel in SA)
MN146 (parallel in SA)
MN147 (parallel in SA)
MN148 (parallel in SA)
MN149 (parallel in SA)

nowhere in AN,

nowhere in KN until the Nidessa.

It’s widespread in SN:
SN12 (7 occurences)
SN18 (2 occurrences, only 1 with a parallel)
SN22 (2 occurrences)
SN25 (1 occurrence, no parallel)
SN35 (69 0ccurances)

So again this doctrine appears to not enjoy the “spread” of the jhanas for example.


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I think that the term you are searching for is a latter thing, but that it has its roots in the earliest suttas.

I think that you will have better luck looking up “the seen and the heard”, you will also have to search for the Pali equivalents to “the seen” and “the heard”. It’s all over the KN in the earliest suttas. Its related but different. Also, kaya implicitly includes the senses, at least in some places. Good arguments have been made that mindfulness of the body is mindfulness of the senses linking it to “the seen and the heard” and “the merely seen” and “the merely heard” the goal of the jhanas.

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Thanks @Raftafarian ! But I am talking about the specific technical vocabulary associated with the samyutta. People.say this a lot, that such and such is early because such and such is in fact son and so forth, like when people in the nidana thread say 12DO is early because 12DO is “really” 4NT so you have to count any mention of 4NT as a mention of 12DO. I simply do not accept this argument, it conflates simpler terms.with more complex ones and obscures precicely the thing we are lookimg for which is the evolution of the presentation of doctrine from simple statments to complex ones.

When I talk about these things I am always talking about the technical language, never the underlying idea.

Got it. I think that highly technical language and theory grew over time like barnacles on the raft. I find that the Buddha comes through most clearly when down to earth terms are used. I don’t think the run away theorizing helps the practice. If anything, I think it’s a honey trap of hair splitting. Less is more.

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Wait. So, you’ve searched for “eye consciousness” to make an argument about the six sense bases? That would be more indicative of the eighteen dhatus, I would think. It’s true that the six senses were spun out into the six sets of sixes that became a popular mode of analysis in Abhidharma texts. What’s the distribution of mentions of the six senses themselves? I notice that “six bases of contact” are mentioned in a few places in AN, BTW. That would refer to the sense bases, but not by listing them out.


That is exactly what i have done :slight_smile:

I am not yet even sure i know what to look for with the aggregates, and the sense bases arw miles off, i was kind of being a bit cheeky because it was the only samyutta left without someone asking if it was “late”.

I am definitely planning to mount my case more comprehensively regarding all this down the track, giving representative samples of text strings for each doctrine and comparing them to the jhanas and all that, but for now, yeah, i just stuck cakkhuviññāṇaṃ into dpr.

Have to start somewhere.

Actually @cdpatton or others, are there any suggestions of text strings I might use for this leg of the project? I want pali that I can paste into digital pali reader and hopefully get a good “hit rate” with.

any suggestions (apart from the perennial suggestion to stop :slight_smile: ) are appreciated.


Hmm. I’m a little spoiled by Chinese not having declinations to get in the way of text search results. But, I think I would search for strings with the actual senses like “eye” and document the different lists they are used in. That might get a bit time consuming, but the six kinds of consciousness that this search will find is just one particular Abhidhamma-type list. It’ll find Abhidhamma-influenced passages that reproduce the six sets of sixes or the eighteen dhatus, like the passage in DN 22, which had an entire chapter of the Abhidhamma Vibhanga on the four noble truths copied into it. (Or the Vibhanga copied it.)

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the trouble is that searching for just cakkhuviññ for example, turns up the seemingly earlier pañcakāmaguṇā so I need something that reliably turns up things that are saḷāyatana but are not pañcakāmaguṇā

I’m having a go with manoviññeyyā to get my bearings.

Actually manoviññeyyā is a bust, since it is really only in MN137 outside of SDN in the common core, and a couple of times in AN…