Is vinnana always passive? And can it take on different qualities?

In the suttas vinnana is described as the passive awareness of phenomena, and it is transient and dependent arising.
It has a six-fold classification corresponding to the six sense-bases, so for example eye-consciousness arises in dependence upon eye and form.

However from recent discussion here I am now wondering whether in some contexts vinnana has a different, more active function, or a broader meaning, perhaps more like citta or mano.

And on a related note, can vinnana take on different qualities? Is there such a thing as “grasping consciousness”, or “ignorant consciousness” for example? I thought it was only citta (mind) that could take on different qualities or states, eg “grasping mind” or “ignorant mind”.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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When we train AI to see images, we do so with intention and attention. When the AI subsequently sees images, it instantly recognizes images due to that training.

Then we find the AI is biased to white males and all manner of suffering occurs.

I have found the above useful in understanding the workings of my own consciousness, which appears to work exactly the same. My practice therefore consists of relinquishing pre-conceptions. It is endless. :see_no_evil:


I think, the less we know about something the more complex it seems. When we see it clearly we see the experience dissolved into its’ components. Vinnana, from a mundane viewpoint is mano or citta. It seems continuous, altering but not necessarily arising from sense doors, and persistent throughout one’s lifetime.

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Could you explain the difference of Vinnana, Citta and Mano?

I understand vinnana to be sense-consciousness, citta to be heart/mind, and mano to be mind-base.
I imagine mind to be like the “space” where states and mental objects arise.

Some people say that citta, mano and vinnana are basically the same, but it doesn’t look like that to me.

For example, one of the six classes of consciousness is mano-vinnana, or mind consciousness. This works similarly to the other sense-bases, so mind-consciousness (mano-vinnana) arises in dependence upon mind-base (mano) and mental objects (dhamma).

Given this, I don’t see how mano = vinnana.
It would be like saying that eye = seeing, rather than what the suttas actually describe, which is seeing = eye + form (eye-consciousness arising in dependence upon eye and form).

Meanwhile in the third frame of satipatthana (contemplation of citta), various mental states and objects are observed arising “in” the mind. But of course one needs to be conscious of these to observe them.