Kasiṇa as "universal" in AN10.25 and AN10.26

“Viññāṇakasiṇasamāpattiparamā” has being translated to “universal consciousness to be the ultimate”. Why use the word “universal”?

Why not ask the translator himself?

Maybe Ajahn @sujato has some notes he could share as to provide a rationale for the words he used to render in English what he understood from the Pali.

Note that the choice of words is consistent with the preceding sutta:


The word kasiṇa has been almost universally (pun intended!) misunderstood by translators. The problem is that it is used rarely in the suttas, and frequently in later Theravada, especially the Visuddhimagga, where it has the meaning “a physical object used as the focus of meditation”. It is never used in this sense in the suttas, yet translators either assume it does, or else they simply do not translate it, with the result that any reader familiar with the later sense will automatically assume it applies in the suttas. The most obvious problem with this reading is that it is hard to see how it could apply to consciousness.

The root meaning of kasiṇa is “totality, wholeness, universal”. This meaning is found in the Sanskrit kṛtsna, and is acknowledge in modern Dictionaries in this sense:

Critical Pali Dictionary says:

    1. (n.) totality, entirety; 2. (mfn.) whole, complete, entire; all;
  1. totality; ~ denotes a category of ten subjects of meditation (cf. kammaṭṭhāna, q.v.) or (metonymically) the relevant jhāna;

Margaret Cone’s Dictionary of Pali (on which our New Concise Pali English Dictionary is based), says:

  1. All, whole, entire
    1. The whole, totality
    2. a meditational exercise of total and exclusive awareness of on concentration on one of the four elements … or one of four colors … (etc.) leading to jhana …

If you read the Sutta passages closely you will see that the term kasiṇa does not, in fact, refer to the process of meditation leading to samādhi, but to the state of samādhi itself, described as “non-dual, measureless” in terms very similar to, for example, the four brahma viharas.

The viññāṇakasiṇa is, therefore, probably identical with the viññāṇañcāyatana, the “dimension of infinite consciousness”.