Sanna v. Vinnana

Agree. Perhaps this can be demonstrated by means of a simile. For example if we take a flame, it’s a process. From this huge process we can abstract numerous physical and chemical properties and describe laws that they obey. But these properties has no intrinsic existence without the process of the flame. Similarly with the aggregates and the process of existence. But the aggregates are ‘dhammas’ that has actual reality(from an experiential point of view).

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For this sutra, the Chinese reads very differently, so I’m not sure what you are talking about here. I can assure you that I pay attention to what the Chinese means. I’ve been studying it for over 20 years.

Comparing the Chinese to the Pali is really quite illuminating in many cases. The Pali sutta doesn’t really make any sense in this case, to be honest, whereas the Chinese does.


Actually, I think does. Because the type of question asked in the OP sutta is

And why do you call it consciousness?
Kiñca, bhikkhave, viññāṇaṃ vadetha

It cognizes; that’s why it’s called ‘consciousness’.
Vijānātīti kho, bhikkhave, tasmā ‘viññāṇan’ti vuccati

The classification of consciousness in to six classes is of course found in other pali suttas.

To solve this puzzle I think we have to look at MN43

Feeling, perception, and consciousness—are these things mixed or separate? And can we completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them?”

“Feeling, perception, and consciousness—these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them. For you perceive what you feel, and you cognize what you perceive. That’s why these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them.”

The immaterial aggregates occur simultaneously and synchronously and they work in concert.

This can be demonstrated by actual examples from the medical field.

What People Cured of Blindness See

It’s interesting that when when Blindness is Cured the patient just sees a jumble of colors, they cannot cognize objects in the visual field. They have a very crude visual cognition(consciousness) since the perceptual process has not been trained.


Comparing the Chinese to Pali really can be quite illuminating.

I’m not talking about the Chinese as is, im talking about the English translation of the Chinese - what im saying is that the way the Chinese word is ‘translated’ is taken from Pali-English translations, possibly in relation to some non-EBT commentaries and then just inserted there without paying much attention to what the Chinese character means. In a way - ‘well this is how we translated the thing in the Pali-English so lets just put the same thing in Chinese-English, don’t mind much what the Chinese character means, lets just be consistent’… So the illuminating quality and potential for improvement in the translation is lost for the sake of consistency with already existing translations.

For example: The Character 識 does not really translate as ‘consciousness’ and the actual meanings given in the Chinese dictionaries are much more meaningful and insightful to try and understand the reality behind 識 i.e. vinnana, but in the Chinese-English translations of suttas its put as ‘consciousness’ because in almost all the Pali-English translations vinnana is translated as ‘consciousness’. Even more evidently but a more complicated issue because the way it has arisen is for example how a character like is ‘translated’ - in the Pali-English translations bhava is somehow translated as ‘continued existence’ and ‘becoming’ which i dont believe is accurate and the Chinese character too does not mean to become or to continue to exist it just means ‘be’ ‘is’ ‘exists’ and similarly the point being the future existence is not implied yet when the Chinese Agama is being translated somehow changes its meaning to ‘becoming’ or ‘continuing to exist’. Do you see what I’m saying?


Well, to begin with, these are words we’re talking about, not characters. It’s similar to a word in English that means several different things in different contexts. Chinese words function in the same way.

識 in classical Chinese is normally a verb outside of Buddhist texts. The definition that Buddhist translators are using to translate vijnana is to be aware, to know, to recognize. They turned that into a noun in the process, however. It’s true that we could translate it with different words as consciousness that mean essentially the same thing: Awareness, knowing, recognition. And so forth. Do you have a preferred alternative for what we should be translating it as?

識 doesn’t always translate vijnana. Sometimes it means knowing someone, as in a personal relationship.

I don’t really know what you’re talking regarding 是 since I’ve never personally seen it used that way in a Buddhist text nor in an English translation. It’s a simple pronoun “this, here.” It’s also used grammatically in Classical Chinese to connect a subject to a predicate, so it often turns into “to be” in translation for that reason. Classical Chinese doesn’t have a copula verb, but 是 often acts like one.

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‘Consciousness’ is really dangerous translation. What is consciousness? If you were to ask several people how do you think they would define it? Do you think it would fit how vinnana is defined in the suttas? Even the very standard definitions of ‘consciousness’ go against how vinnana is defined in the suttas. In the suttas it is defined as something dependently arisen while the English word consciousness is defined and often understood as a sort of ability or state on itself or even as being the seer hence the danger.

Have you red any Chinese Agama sutta containing the formula for ‘dependent origination’? Can you find one and cut out that part so we can investigate it (along some existing Chinese-English translation of it)?

I see. The problem is that Buddhist terms like vijnana or vedana are themselves technical terms defined in a narrow way. When we translate terms like this, it’s uncommon to have a good equivalent in another language. Sometimes there is, but the matches aren’t exact. The result is that we create a technical terminology that parallels the original terminology. The Chinese did this, and we’ve done it in English, too.

We don’t use many of these words as they’d normally be understood. We’re giving them technical meanings that we understand as Buddhist English. The words themselves are simply agreed upon to stand in for a technical meaning. So, for vijnana, consciousness has generally be settled on, and for vedana feeling or sensation. Do translators think these are perfect translations? Well, no, of course not.

But again, what is your preferred alternative?

Let’s see, a Chinese sutra presenting DO. Are you meaning the twelve links? Perhaps you could tell me which Pali sutta you’d like a Chinese parallel for?


Well that is a thing we should strive to eliminate. So that when someone reads a sutta he already naturally inclines to the right meaning, instead of having to rely on someone to explain to him not to use the normal meaning but something else the translation should already be the ‘something else’ :joy:

Perception. It can be ‘consciousness’ but only when in regards to mano. Which brings us to another point is that eyes see colors, not objects, eye-consciousness really is not a sensible thing, eye-perception on the other hand makes much more sense. In this way it is also not far from the ordinary uses such as knowing someone - its the thing that discriminates characteristics, perception. It needs to be kept in mind that the characteristics discriminated are not universal but conditionally made - you see only what you have been conditioned to / learned to see, its not something universal one becomes ‘conscious of’ (sankhāra paccayā viññāna) :smiley:

Take a look at this and reflect on awareness / ‘consciousness’ vs discrimination / perception:

It’s called consciousness because it cognizes.
Vijānāti vijānātī’ti kho, āvuso, tasmā viññāṇanti vuccati.
It cognizes ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain’ and ‘neutral’
Sukhantipi vijānāti, dukkhantipi vijānāti, adukkhamasukhantipi vijānāti.

It’s called feeling because it feels.
Vedeti vedetī’ti kho, āvuso, tasmā vedanāti vuccati
It feels pleasure, pain, and neutral.
Sukhampi vedeti, dukkhampi vedeti, adukkhamasukhampi vedeti.

Awareness / consciousness / ability to feel / quality of being aware on itself [as a noun] is not even a thing. Its how common people unknowingly refer to a delusion of a seer which they all think as real thing so its everywhere - in how they think, in the dictionaries, etc…

SuttaCentral source

Sanna is not the perception… but lets leave that for now and talk about it later if you are interested.

Just the twelve links. Any sutta will do we are just interested in the links right now not so much in the larger context of any particular sutta. The important thing is that there is already one or more existing English translations of it where the Chinese has been used as source.

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But there isn’t a “something else” in many cases, which is why some translators opt to transliterate terms rather than translate them. You have to create a new word in the target language. You can do that by transliterating the original word and turn it into a loan word, or you can redefine an existing word that’s close in meaning. You can even get creative and make up new words like “beginninglessness” that don’t strictly speaking exist. That’s about the extent of the possibilities.

It’s easy to nitpick at translations of specific words, something else entirely to translate entire texts or a corpus of texts. So, for example, you can beg off explaining samjna after stealing its common translation for vijnana, but a translator has to translate all of these terms as a group of terms consistently.

There’s no need to be coy. You have some mistranslation in mind, so point it out. There’s at least six different versions of the 12 links in Chinese.


There is: explaining it as sentence/description as it is commonly done in translations / communication between any two languages. There might not be word but one can say ‘that is that thing which…’. Another would be not translating them at all so as to not to imply that we have understood the reality behind it when we have not and to not to misguide people.

Dhamma is for liberation of people. Unfortunately this day when someone reads the ‘Dhamma’ and reads ‘consciousness’ [noun] it just confirms hes delusions [of a seer].

Don’t say that, i was in no way begging off explaining after ‘stealing’ some translations. It is awful that you say that. I was only putting that off so that we are not dealing at so many things at once. I can explain it. If you can understand it that is a different thing.

Unfortunate that you did not bring up the 12 links even after i repeatedly asked you to help me with that. I thought that being into the Chinese for 20 years it would take you a minute. Don’t say that I’m being coy. I will not continue discussing with you at this time.

As I said, there’s several different versions of it. It’s not like Pali in which the passage is the same or very close throughout. I can’t really help you with an issue of translating a character in some particular English translation without it being pointed out. Then I can find the Chinese for you and go through it with you.

As a personal note, I think you might do better with less condescension towards people who dedicate their professional and personal lives to working with these texts. I don’t particular care for being LOL’d at when I explain the difficulties and why translations aren’t perfect.

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I have dedicated my life to working with these texts, don’t be condescending and presuming i have not. Don’t say that I 'LOL’d like that, you are taking personally what is not personal.

Just like i said any sutta whatsoever which contain the 12 links would do.

We can only continue this discussion if you can stick to the subject matter, if you want to talk about who is condescending or whatever then its completely useless. I only want to talk about sanna, vinnana, and the 12 links here and the translations. You should not take it personally when existing translation you adhere to is being questioned. I mean I’m only trying to help to foster and further understanding.

This article, while on Yogacara, has very good explanations of these two terms based on Abhidharma traditions.

Please see from page 8 onwards of the PDF

Summary of the article:
Vinnana is better translated as ‘perception’
Sanna is better translated as ‘recognition’

“vijnana is what happens when there is a sense organ, a sense object, no obstruction between them, and a mind that functions properly; it is the first mental event that occurs and does not involve any " thinking” of vitarka-vicara or Kalpana. It is " the naked, unadorned, apprehension of each stimulus" (Conze quoting the Abhidharmakosa*)"
Article quotes Dinnaga here “When the eye comes in contact with a color, for instance blue, visual consciousness [sic] arises which is awareness of the presence of a color; but it does not recognise that it is blue.”


“Gunaprabha states that samjna, " having discerned the same object [as in a prior perception), grasps it with sureness” ('du shes ni yul de nyid yong su bead nas nges par 'dzin pa ste). Vasubandhu’s definition of samjna, on which Gunaprabha is commenting, is this:
" grasping an object by its sign" (yul la mtshan par 'dzin pa).* Sthiramati, another commentator on this same text, explains that “a sign is the particular of an object, blue, yellow, etc.; it is the basis of classification of a phenomenon. Grasping by a sign is thinking, ‘This is blue, this is yellow’ (mtshan ma ni yul gyi bye brag sngon po dang ser po la sogs pa dmigs pa rnam par gzhag pa 'i rgyu 'o.dela mtshan mar 'dzin pa ni 'di ni sngon po 'o 'di ni serpo’o zhes rtogpa’o).
Rahula uses the word " recognition” as a definition of samjna (though he translates it differently): samjna " recognizes that it is blue." ‘’ Buddhagosa, in his Visuddhimagga, defines it exactly as does Vasubandhu, and compares it to what happens when a carpenter sees a pile of wood that he has previously marked with a sign to indicate what type of wood it is (he recognizes it as previously classified)."

Found this a very logical way of looking at it. Its basically what you have summarised it as yourself - basic awareness vs distinguishing/recognising.

How well this sits with the definition in Pali suttas where vinnana is compared to taste, not too sure…But I feel the Chinese parallel (SA 46), quoted by cdpatton above, sits in line with this explanation.

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Maybe we should let go our reactions, personalisation and existence for a while, here I found one translation


bhava is translated as 有 . Very close meaning to 存在
And yes the word vinnana 識 is very close to recognize
Maybe you guys can start discussing instead of spending energies in cyclical activity. Metta

Hello again friend! :smile:

The point i was making is that bhava is in no way originally implying ‘becoming’ or ‘continued existence’ i.e. in reference to the future like its translated and talked about unfortunately almost everywhere today and its good to confirm that the Chinese too in no way implies it. So wherever the notions of future existence or becoming or something alike come from its not from EBT and its important to know that if someone is going to understand paticca samuppada.

I want to build a table of important Pali words and the Chinese counterparts so that it can be used to try to better understand the original message of the Buddha. I need a Chinese person which can help me understanding these terms like how ordinary person would normally use them, history and details like that.

viññāṇa — 識
bhava — 有

It is very important that we get the right meaning because if we don’t understand the right meaning we can’t even think of ourselves as instructed in Dhamma, even as having heard the Dhamma, let alone being sotāpanna or whatever :joy:

Can you imagine the frustration and misfortune when someone is looking for and trying to understand ‘consciousness’ to try and understand the Dhamma but its not even a real thing, even more so when ‘consciousness’ as it is understood pretty much everywhere goes strictly against message of the Buddha (for example…, and this one is really good if you can see and understand the implications of feeling being the thing that feels, not viññāṇa and how that relates to how ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’ is defined and then see that together with how viññāṇa is related to the feeling there… :rofl:).

What people normally understand as being because of having ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’ really is sañña and vedanā arising by the operation of sense organs. Sañña really is the signal / sign / mark / sensation in relation to stimulation of the sense organ, it is like one pixel of the eye being activated resulting in color, but keep in mind that its not the colors that come into eye, you only see the world in three primary colors because there are three kinds of nerve cells which react to three different frequencies of electromagnetic waves. That is why Buddha compared sañña to a mirage - it looks like there is colors / colorful stuff out there but really its an illusion, it’s like a mirage. If one had 1 type of cell in the eye one would think that the world is grayscale and if someone having three kinds of receptors started to talk about colors he would think the other is crazy or something and would not believe him or even be able to imagine what is he talking about. :joy: Still when one imagines or thinks about the world he thinks he lives in and longs for and struggles for the world of 3 primary colors. He puts one baby in blue colored dress, another baby in pink dress, he loves getting gifted a blue shirt, dislikes the green one, he loves seeing ‘neat’ and ‘balanced’ colors and dislikes ‘gritty’ colors. So you see what comes up just because one has three kinds of receptors in the eye leading to seeing colors :rofl:

Enjoy… And viññāṇa is like magic trick because it fools one of there being some perceivable quality which is not really there like a magician fools its audience of having done something while not actually having done it.

I can attest to this through my personal experience as a young ENT surgeon on the Cochlear implant team.

Twenty years ago, when the first cochlear implants were being performed, the device was initially approved by FDA for post lingual totally deaf adults (who had already learnt how to speak and then gone deaf), with implantation in pre lingual totally deaf young children (who had no experience of hearing and consequently had not developed language skills) being an off label use. Everyone theoretically expected the post lingual totally deaf adults to have better results than the pre lingual totally deaf young children.

But things turned out differently in practice.

The post lingual adults often had great difficulty in adapting to the device. Essentially, their entire experience/ recognition (Sanna) of sound changed. Though they perceived sound (Vinnana), it was different from what they expected to hear… the sound “Apple” being heard as “ZZgrwtth” for example, no matter if someone spoke to them, or if they spoke to someone. Though most eventually re-learnt how to hear, this was a traumatic experience for many … . with some even begging to have the device removed as their entire auditory world had been turned upside down.

The pre lingual young children had no problem whatsoever! They had no idea what “Apple” should sound like … so even if it sounded like “ZZgrwtth” to them, they had no problems in building the association of that particular sound to the idea of an apple. Many developed near normal speech in the space of a few years, taking to the device like ducks to water.

These kind of results were instrumental in building the current consensus that pre lingual totally deaf young children are the best candidates for Cochlear implantation, who should be implanted as early as possible.


I am reminded of the dress sense of Neil Harbisson - the colour blind artist who underwent surgery to route colour sensation via the auditory apparatus. He gave a talk at Session 4 of the 9th Global conference on Buddhism chaired by Bhante @Sujato. That session held many invaluable insights into the nature of Sanna, Vinnana, Conciousness and our experience… it didn’t get the appreciation it deserved IMHO.


Do you have any videos of these patients talking about their own experience.

Unfortunately, no. We do sometimes take video, but its usually of the surgical aspects or technical switch on process. Medical Science is generally uncomfortable with publicly discussing/ sharing the emotional side of surgery as experienced by the patient.

But here is one person writing about his experience

Usually about a month after surgery, you will go back to your implant center to receive your external processor and have it turned on for the first time. This is usually called activation or activation day. While this day can be full of anticipation and excitement, it is best to not expect much the first day. Everyone’s experiences vary, but I was not able to understand speech at all for the first few days. Remember your brain is having to relearn how to hear. It is not like simply adding another hearing aid to the mix. It is a totally different way of hearing.

And here is a patient oriented site that offers a large number of patient experiences.


You are a fan of Venerable Puññaji’s idiosyncratic translations, are you not?

Using Venerable Puññaji’s “translations” (and those quote-marks aren’t for sarcasm or condescension) of key Buddhist terms and comparing them to normative Buddhist translation of those same key terms can illustrate why Buddhist translation sometimes happens as it does. Simply put, it is so that the root text may be vaguely discernible from the English translation, a virtue sought IMO in any serious critical tradition of translation of religious scripture, for good or ill.

The King James Bible, in Christianity, is a good example of a Bible translation where there is an attempt at a one-to-one correspondence between English and Hebrew clauses, or English and Greek:

bərêšîṯ bārā ɂĕlōhîm; ɂêṯ haššāmayim wə ɂêṯ hā ɂāreṣ.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

wə hā ɂāreṣ, hāyəṯāh ṯōhū wāḇōhū, wə ḥōšeḵ ɂalpənê ṯəhōwm; wə rūaḥ ɂĕlōhîm, məraḥep̄eṯ ɂalpənê hammāyim.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

(Genesis 1:1-2, 𝕸 and KJV )

There are some notable details, like “without form, and void,” which is interpretive for tōhū wāḇōhū, a Biblical Hebrew expression slightly similar to ‘a hurly-burly.’ Similarly interpretatively, the proper name ɂĕlōhîm is presented as “God,” but we’ll notice an inconsistency when the proper name Təhōwm (Tiamat in West Semitic languages) is presented as “the deep,” as if the source text had "hā ṯəhōwm" and not simply “Təhōwm.” These interpretive points aside, which reflect changing orthodoxies and interpretations of this elderly text over time, you can form a one-to-one correspondence between Hebrew clauses and English clauses, and because of this, we can say that the source text is at least somewhat deducible from the translation, and that the translation presents the source text more or less closely inasmuch as it presents ideas in roundabout the same order they are introduced in the source text, and inasmuch that nominally separated concepts are discreetly presented and not internally confused.

Now we can compare the above to, for instance, Venerable @sujato’s translations here on SuttaCentral, which are also interlinear and, in being so, are an invaluable tool for textual exploration and analysis. Interlinear translations also hold the translator to a brutal standard, as can be evidenced by the many misguided (and some rightly guided) amateur linguistic critiques and explorations of SuttaCentral’s/Ven Sujato’s translations that happen here on this forum. Interlinear translations are the first step towards critical editions, and by featuring one, SuttaCentral joins a host of other web-based resources that feature this, like and, for their respective holy writs.

Avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā;
Ignorance is a condition for choices.
saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṁ;
Choices are a condition for consciousness.
viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṁ;
Consciousness is a condition for name and form.
nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṁ;
Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields.
saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso;
The six sense fields are conditions for contact.
phassapaccayā vedanā;
Contact is a condition for feeling.
vedanāpaccayā taṇhā;
Feeling is a condition for craving.
taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṁ;
Craving is a condition for grasping.
upādānapaccayā bhavo;
Grasping is a condition for continued existence.
bhavapaccayā jāti;
Continued existence is a condition for rebirth.
jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti.
Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be.
Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
That is how this entire mass of suffering originates.

(SN 12.1 Paṭiccasamuppādasutta)

Word-for-word correspondence is impossible between most languages, and produces difficult-to-read esoteric jargon generally when it is attempted. See failed amateur Chinese translation attempts from me as proof, if you are so inclined to search for them here.

For instance, in the above, “-paccayā X” becomes “[…] is a condition for X,” because there is no single word in English that does double duty in as flexible a way as -paccayā does in this context. Also, the vocative aside “, bhikkhave,” (", [O] monks,") is omitted, and I can see why it’s not really that necessary and might be seen as unnecessarily formalizing or adding long-windedness to a English language rendering of the passage. That being said, in the translation at large, there can still be said to be a general one-to-one ratio between clauses and it can also be said that the translation “generally follows” very closely the source text.

Compare this translation with an explanation-presented-as-translation, that a reader perhaps

and we’ll use Ven Puññaji’s “translations,” and then I can explore why I used quotes around that word for what Ven Puññaji does when he suggests alternative “translations” for certain key terms.

The following is going to be a secondhand paṭiccasamuppāda exegesis adapted from this YouTube video and repurposed so that explanations from Ven Puññaji replace terms used in conventional modern translations, in the interest of looking at this as a translation strategy. I will admit, I don’t have the easiest time with the Venerable’s accent, but I can prepare what I understand as a transcript of the Venerable’s speech below, and if I have anything seriously wrong, we can work to correct that so that this is not a futile exercise. We’ll then present the “translation” example and hopefully why this post was written will then make sense. I’m a court reporter in my fleshworld job, so I’m going to try to make this as verbatim as possible, but I do have a hard time sometimes with South Asian accents, and I’m going to make liberal use of ‘single quotes’ for definitions, concepts, etc., and “double quotes” for what I think are rhetorical statements, etc. In Canadian legal transcripts, it is common practice to delineate changes of subject mid-sentence, stuttering, and misspeaking in general, common in spoken language but not written, with two dashes, but through this typing window I type in presently, double-dashes become a single long dash (–) in the preview box to the right of my typing.

"Paṭiccasamuppāda (Concise)" - Ven Dr. M. Puññāji Mahāthera, May 11th, 2016, Brickfields Mahāvihāra, Kuala Lumpur

VEN PUÑÑAJI: People are getting interested in the teachings of the Buddha, because Buddha brought this message to the world, that everything happens due to the presence of the necessary conditions, and therefore, the world is not governed by gods and devils, but by this law, and that law is what is called the paṭiccasamuppāda. That paṭiccasamuppāda, if properly understood, all suffering can be brought to an end. That’s what the Buddha pointed out. And what – how is that? He pointed out that – although the existential philosophers taught that we exist, that existence is the most fundamental thing, the Buddha pointed out that existence is a delusion. That’s the wrong concept. We do not really exist. Now, that he understood by freeing the mind of emotions. It is the emotions that make us think that we exist. The emotions are not able to think, and the emotions desire things or hate things. It is only by getting rid of emotions and purifying the mind, freeing the mind, of emotions that the idea of existence will disappear. So he purified the mind, and that is how we talk about the jhānas.

We said, “The jhānas are really levels of mental purity.” They – the first level of mental purity, second level of mental purity, third level of mental purity, fourth level of mental purity, and then we go beyond the fourth level into infinity of space, infinity of perception, infinity of no existence, the infinity of neither perception nor no – no – neither sensation nor no sensation and, ultimately,

[Text displayed: Stopping of Sensation and Feeling (Saññā Vedayita Nirodha)]

he stopped the process of sensation and perception. That means he stopped that activity called ‘mind.’ And when that activity called ‘mind’ is stopped, are you conscious? When that activity called ‘mind’ has stopped, there is no consciousness. You are not aware of anything. Now, from that state, again, he woke up from that state. And when he woke up from that state, he began to understand how the mind begins to work.

[Text displayed: AJJIVĀ = state of no mental activity (complete non-consciousness, “insentience”) ]

So from a state of no mind, he started – the first activity of the mind –

[Graphics displayed starting at 5:57]

– was what is called ‘feeling’ and ‘sensation’ – ‘feeling’ and ‘sensation.’

Sensation means – to understand what sensation is, it is important to understand that – we – we said, “We have eyes, and when light falls on the eye, we begin to see.” What do we see?

What we see is only light, because the eye can see the light, only because this, what we call light, comes in the form of waves, and these waves come in different frequencies. So I’m – it’s very difficult to understand this if you don’t know the meaning of a frequency. So for that – if you know a little about science, you’ll begin to understand that ‘the frequently’ means – it is simply a kind of shaking. And so this, the light, comes in different frequencies, and therefore you begin to see different colours, and this ‘seeing colour’ is what we ‘see.’ And at the same time, we begin to see this colour either as pleasant or it can be unpleasant. Some colours are – look beautiful. Some colours look ugly.

[Graphic at 8:54 summarized: Links 1-4 displayed, 1. Insentience/AVIJJĀ, 2. Mental Constructions of sensory entities visualized/Saṅkhāra, 3. Percepton/Viññāṇa, 4. Constructed Entity and Identity (categorized)/Nāma-Rūpa, graphic has arrows pointing out correspondences between these 4 links and a another chart called “PROCESS OF PERCEPTION” which outlines the five aggregates]

So that is what we call feeling. So the sensation is the colour and the feeling is whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. So that is the first thing that we see. But when we open our eyes, what we see doesn’t look like seeing colours. We are able to see objects. How do we see objects? It is simply – an object is constructed by putting the colours together. When a person draws a picture on a wall or in a paper, that person is only putting colours on the picture. And it is when we look at those colours that we see, in the form of a face or in the form of a tree or maybe in the form of a table or bottle or whatever – we are seeing objects by putting the colours together. It is a construct.

So every object that we see is a construct, a mental construct. So we put the colours together and form a construct. And we not only form a construct, we identify it. We are able to look at the thing and say, “Oh. This is a face.” How do I know that it is a face? Because I have seen faces before. So that object that we see is put into a category of ‘objects that I have seen.’ That is called categorization. It is by categorization that we are able to identify an object.

I can see – look at an object and say, “That is a chair,” or, “That is a clock,” or, “That is a door.” All that is because I am categorizing what I look at. So this identification means we are also giving a name to that. So every object has been given a name to identify that. When we say, “Clock,” that is a name given to that object. When we say, “Table,” we are giving a name to that object. So there is an image and a name. Now, this is what we call ‘nāma’ and ‘rūpa.’

Rūpa means ‘the image,’ and nāma means ‘the name.’ So these are the words that we use: vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa. That ‘viññāṇa’ word is ‘perception,’ but perception means ‘identifying the object.’ That is the meaning of perception. We are not only seeing things, we are also able to identify and say, “This is such and such.” That is the meaning of perception. So we are making use of these things. So it is very important to understand that – now, I use these words that I am just using, but these are not the words used by Rhys Davids, who translated these things. They’re – they used the word – ‘vedanā’ and ‘saññā’ are called ‘feeling’ and ‘perception.’ I am using the words ‘feeling’ and ‘sensation.’ ‘Sensation’ is not the same thing as ‘perception.’ So – you see? And then that word, ‘saṅkhāra,’ they translate as the – some other words.

OTHER VOICES: Volition, volition.

VEN PUÑÑAJI: Volition. Now, that word volition has a different meaning. Now, I call it a ‘construct.’ Construct gives the meaning that it has been constructed by putting the colours together as the mental construct. The word saṅkhāra means ‘construct.’ So only when you put the proper words – that you get the meaning out of it. And so, once you have constructed – and you are then identifying it, and that identification is really the perception. Well, “I would say this is such and such.” That is the perception.

So, once we have perceived, what we have perceived is simply an object which comes in the form of an image and a name, a name for it – an image and a name for it. Then, once that image has been made and the name, we say, “Viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṁ.” Nāma means ‘the name,’ rūpa means ‘that mental image.’

[New graphic at 17:35 summarized: Links 3-7. 3. Perception as before, 4. Constructed Entity and Identity as before, 5. Experiencing Six Sense fields: visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and cognitive/Salāyatana, 6. Cognition: becoming conscious of the environment/Phassa, 7. Feelings, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral/Vedanā with arrows illustrating relations between links and “PROCESS OF PERCEPTION” chart]

Then we talk about nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṁ. Now, saḷāyatanaṁ means ‘we are not only looking with our eyes, we are also hearing with our ears and smelling with our nose.’ We are also tasting with our tongue, and we are also touching with our body. This is why you give something to a small child, that child will want to put it in the mouth and touch in various ways – get all the information. So that is why all those things are put together to form on object. So it is not only the eye that we are using.

When I look at this bottle here, I see it as a bottle. But I know that, if I touch the bottle, this is how I’ll feel it. Even if I have never touched it, I still know. When I touched it, I’ll feel it like this. That is because I’m using my memory. I have touched bottles before. So, you see, because we have used – using all the five senses, we put together all that to form an object. That ‘forming an object’ is what is called ‘phassa,’ saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso.

Phassa means ‘the formation of an object.’ Today, the word phassa is translated as ‘contact.’ Phassa is not ‘contact.’ Phassa is ‘the formation of an object.’ The object is formed by making use of all the five senses, not just one sense. So that complete object is formed, that is phassa. Once the object is formed, we are going to make use of the feeling in the object. You may get a pleasant feeling in the object, or you may get an unpleasant feeling in the object. And the moment you get the feeling, you react to that object –

[New graphic at 21:40 summarized: Links 7-10. 7. Feelings as before, 8. Emotional Reaction to Feelings/Tanhā, 9. Personalization of the Subjective experience/Upādāna, 10. Coming into existence imaginary “self” in an imaginary “world”/Bhava, with new arrows illustrating relations between links and new chart called “SAKKĀYA-DIṬṬHI”]

– with a desire or hatred. You see? It’s an emotional reaction to the object. That emotional reaction the Buddha called ‘taṇhā.’ Taṇhā is not ‘craving.’ Today, Rhys Davids used the word ‘craving,’ but taṇhā is not ‘craving.’ Taṇhā is ‘the emotional reaction.’ A craving is wanting something, but here we’re not only wanting. If we dislike something, we don’t want it. We want to get rid of it. So it – therefore, it is not a craving. It is the emotional reaction. Now, the moment the emotional reaction occurs, another interesting thing happens.

You see, we first formed an object ‘out there.’ When the object is ‘there,’ you begin to react to that object emotionally. Then there are ‘two things,’ the ‘object’ and the ‘reaction.’ Earlier, there was no reaction, but now there is a reaction. The moment the reaction comes up, the object is ‘out there,’ the reaction is ‘inside here.’ And what is ‘inside?’ What do we do to ‘what is inside?’ We say, “This reaction is mine. It’s my reaction.” The moment we say, “This reaction is mine,” that is called ‘personalizing the reaction.’ That is the meaning of the word ‘upādāna.’

Rhys Davids used the word ‘grasping’ or ‘clinging.’ This is not grasping nor clinging. It is calling ‘that’ ‘mine.’ That means ‘personalizing.’ So the moment it is personalized, what happens? How can there be ‘something mine,’ if there is no ‘I?’ The moment you say, “This is mine,” you have created the ‘I.’ ‘I’ comes into being.

That ‘I coming into being’ is called ‘bhava.’ The word bhava means ‘coming into existence,’ the “I have come into existence.” Earlier, there was no ‘I’ here. There was only ‘an object.’ The moment a desire or a hatred came, ‘mine’ came, and with the ‘mine,’ came the ‘I.’ Do you – understood? So the ‘I’ comes into being by personalizing. So the moment the ‘I’ has come into being, another question arises.

What did you call the ‘I?’ Where is the ‘I?’ The ‘I’ is only just a concept, but what are you referring to as ‘I?’ There must be an object to call the ‘I,’ to refer to the ‘I.’ What is the object? The ‘I’ has to exist. How can the ‘I’ exist? What is the meaning of ‘existence?’ ‘Existence’ has to be understood.

‘Existence’ means – now, if you say, “This cup exists,” what does it mean? The cup occupies space. It occupies time. To exist is to occupy space and time. So what is the ‘I’ that is occupying space and time? The only ‘I’ that can be occupying spacing and time is ‘the body,’ so the body comes the ‘I’ – body, the thing that is occupying space and time. When the body begins the occupy space and time, you can say the body is so many inches tall, so many – fat, and all kinds of things you can talk about the body. You see? That is, it’s occupying space. The volume of the body, length, breadth, and height, so –

[New graphic at 29:13 summarized: Links 10-12. 10. Coming into existence imaginary “self” in an imaginary “world” as before, 11. Birth (past of the body)/Jāti. 12. Aging (present) and death (future) of the body/Jarā-Marana, with arrows illustrating relations between links and the “SAKKĀYA-DIṬṬHI” chart, at the top reads “MANIFESTATIONS OF DUKKHA[,] Grief (sōka), Lamentation (paridēva), Pain (dukkha), Depression (domanāsa), Exhaustion (upāyāsa)”]

– but occupying time is ‘it has a past, a present, and a future.’ To occupy time is to have a past, a present, and a future. Now, the ‘I’ is not only just ‘I,’ but the ‘I’ is – has been identified as the body. The body has become the ‘I.’ So the body has become ‘the self.’ The body has become the self. So once the body has become the self, it has a past, present, and future. What is the past of the body? Birth.

Birth is the past of the body. What is the future of the body?

Death. Death is the future of the body. And in-between birth and death is what we call ‘aging.’ So, you see, now, you are not only having a body, you are not only having a self, you are also having birth, old age, and death. With the coming of birth, old age, and death, what happens? Grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair. By creating a self, you have created suffering.

The whole problem is this ‘getting old’ of the body. Now, the self has become the body. So you have created a self and with that self has come suffering. Do you – understood? That is how – the Buddha says this is how this whole mass of suffering has come into being. “Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.”

So the paṭiccasamuppāda is – is an explanation of how suffering comes to an end, how suffering comes into being, but what the Buddha pointed out was, if he can see this properly, we begin to understand this whole thing has been created by this mental process. Not only the self, the world is also created by this mental process. The whole world and the self and the suffering was created by this mental process, and by understanding this fully, by reflecting on this, ultimately, the thought of ‘world’ and the ‘self’ and the ‘I;’ everything disappears when you fully understood this. So becoming aware of that brings about what is called ‘a paradigm shift,’ a paradigm shift, a different way of thinking, and the different way of thinking is to realize that this is all a mental creation, not a fact.

So the existential philosophers thought, “We are existing,” but actually existence is a delusion. That is, when we have understood properly, we awaken from the dream of existence, and that is what is called nirodhasamāpatti.

Using the above exegesis, we can generate the “translation” spoken of above, the promised “secondhand paṭiccasamuppāda exegesis adapted from this YouTube video and repurposed so that explanations from Ven Puññaji replace terms used in conventional modern translations” from before the above transcription exercise.

The Paṭiccasamuppādasutta with terminology from Ven Puññaji:

Avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā;
Insentience[, monks, is a condition for] the mental construction of sensory entities, [mentally?] visualized.
saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṁ;
The mental construction of sensory entities, [mentally?] visualized, [is a condition for] perception.
viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṁ;
Perception [is a condition for] constructed entity and identity.
nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṁ;
Constructed entity and identity [is a condition for] experiencing six sense fields.
saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso;
Experiencing six sense fields [is a condition for] cognition.
phassapaccayā vedanā;
Cognition [is a condition for] feelings.
vedanāpaccayā taṇhā;
Feelings [are conditions for] emotional reactions to feelings.
taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṁ;
Emotional reactions to feelings [are conditions for] the personalization of the subjective experience.
upādānapaccayā bhavo;
The personalization of the subjective experience [is a condition for] the coming into existence of an imaginary ‘self’ in an imaginary ‘world.’
bhavapaccayā jāti;
The coming into existence of an imaginary ‘self’ in an imaginary ‘world’ [is a condition for] the past of that imaginary ‘self’/‘world’.
jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṁ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti.
The past of that imaginary ‘self’/‘world’ [is a condition for] the present and future of that imaginary ‘self’/‘world.’
Evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
That is how this whole mass of suffering has come into being.

This is sidestepping “avidyā as insentience” v.s. “avidyā as ignorance,” a debate likely to pop up anywhere Ven Puññaji is mentioned alongside dependent origination, but also a debate that belongs in the “Legacy of Venerable Dr. Bhante Punnaji” thread.

So we can see that this can work to produce a “translation” of a Buddhist scripture, but it is hardly a “translation” anymore, is it? This is an interpretation. The actual text that is being presented to the reader is buried beneath interpretation. Sure, if it is a good interpretation,

but what they read is only ambiguously the source text, and therein lies the balancing act of translation, and why individual instruction, group lessons, Dharma books, etc., will likely always be a companion to sūtra-study.

Instead of producing a “translation” that is halfway between a translation and a commentary, why not just write a commentary on the source text, clarifying what need be clarified?

Buddhism has never existed as a series of divine words in a vacuum, as Dharma existing solely in a text, like a theory without a practice, like insight without calm, like wisdom without concentration and ethics, but rather has always been taught by living beings, “the saṁgha” (and I am using this term very loosely), in a living manner, in accordance with what they believe to be Buddhavacana. This is in contrast to the Buddhavacana itself, which does not speak in the manner of a living being, cannot clarify itself beyond what it already contains in writing, and does not change over time like peoples and societies do, from culture right down to the language they use to understand the world. A scripture in a vernacular language, given time, becomes a scripture in an esoteric sacred tongue only preserved, only propagated, only read, by specialists. Those specialists (and this is a wide variety of people I am talking about here, not just in the academy but also outside it) then have the task of taking up that propagation and dispensation, should it suit them.

I certainly hope it doesn’t often happen that a junior monk comes to a senior monk with a question, only to be told to simply reread the passage he doesn’t understand, the idea being that the suttāni are all one needs. Sometimes when we read books in a vacuum, whether having been denied guidance or having rejected it, we simply invent our own esoteric autodidact meanings, drifting further into the ocean of our own proliferation.