I’m not relating this to union with God, or whatever. It’s more trying to understand the functioning of sense-consciousness ( see the OP ), which seems inherently to involve subject and object, or discrimination ( the vi- prefix in vinnana ). And then trying to relate this to references like the one in the Bahiya Sutta, “when there is no you there…”

Yes, I’ve found that increasing attention on one aspect of experience tends to reduce attention on others - a bit like peripheral vision. But there is still attention, and therefore still an object of attention, or an object of awareness.


if a camera is on and looking - does there have to be an observer?


The camera itself has the role of observer here.



When mindfulness is established in the breath there is neutral feeling. Then the mind gets distracted by a painful feeling in the knee. That means contact at the breath ceased and a new bodily contact arose.


The camera/eye is the observing sense door. But there is no observer, no Self inside the camera.

This is an illusion. Probe deeper into it. You’ll see that only one stimuli can be processed at a time and speeded up, it looks like a continuous flow - partially slowed down it looks like there’s reduced attention. Keep focusing on the process and it will naturally slow down even more, until a shift from one stimuli to another is visible.

Focusing on one object of awareness develops samadhi or one pointedness on the object of meditation and this also takes place with being mindful of stimuli from sense bases. We are watching here in this process is the arising of form (and later consciousness, feeling, identification and fabrications) .


I’m not assuming a self or Self is involved here. I’m just saying that there is a duality in sense-consciousness. Something which observes ( eg eye or camera ) and something which is observed ( eg visible form, or sights ).

I agree there is a lot of switching between objects, but generally my experience is more like peripheral vision. For example I am focusing on the computer screen as I type this, but I will also notice movement on the periphery of my visual field, and I will also notice a loud noise, etc. I think this is an evolutionary aspect of sense-consciousness, related to sensing threats, like tigers creeping up on you (!).

So IMO attention is analogous to a torch beam - we focus it on the spot we’re currently interested in, but there is also light ( awareness ) scattered over a wider area.


Oh, I see. I took SN47.42 to mean a general cessation of contact, feeling, name+form, mind, etc.


Another issue around sense-consciousness I would like to raise is the 6-fold classification in the EBTs, which to me feels rather contrived. I work regularly with the sense bases in the context of satipatthana, so I understand the usefulness of focusing on different sense-bases at different times.

However my experience of consciousness is more like a torch beam, which I direct to different aspects of experience at different times - more deliberately when practising satipatthana.
Also that consciousness is actually composite, eg if I’m watching a film there will be visual and aural inputs combined. As an analogy, we can split a light beam into different wavelengths/colours by using a prism, but the light we see is actually all those wavelengths/colours combined.

Your thoughts?



Slow it down enough and impermanence becomes clearer.

6 blades = 6 sense stimuli.

3 dimensional becomes 2 dimensional


So how would this model explain the example of watching a film, where there is consciousness simultaneously of sights and sounds?


It’s how something working very fast can blur into something else. If all you have ever seen is the blur one may come to believe there are no individual components, and that it is all happening simultaneously:

Delusion 4 12 18.pdf (1007.3 KB)


Sure, the “input” is changing continuously, and our attention is continually shifting. I’m not sure what you mean by “individual components” since consciousness can be viewed as either analogue or digital.

But with the film example it does seem that we are conscious simultaneously of “inputs” from two sense-gates ( eye and ear ). Are you proposing an alternative model to this observed simultaneity, and if so, what is it? Are you suggesting for example a continual rapid switching of attention between eye and ear? That would be analogous to digital sampling. But IMO an analogue view would be simpler here, ie there are continuous ( though variable ) inputs from the various sense-gates, and our attention is shared among them.


" When you are speaking with someone or watching something happen, auditory and visual signals are not being processed concurrently, but they are perceived as being simultaneous."[20]

The strongest stimulus (in strength/frequency and duration in milliseconds) is felt.

simply increasing duration… of the same repetitive inputs to cerebral cortex can convert an unconscious cognitive mental function (detection without awareness) to a conscious one (detection with awareness). TRANSITION FROM SENSORY DETECTION TO SENSORY AWARENESS


ok. lets try an experiment. Now i will ask you how does the third toe on your right foot feel right now?

would you say you were feeling it simultaneously before reading the above?


For me the the following is a satisfactory answer to the above question

Friend, these five faculties — each with a separate range, a separate domain, not experiencing one another’s range & domain: the eye-faculty, the ear-faculty, the nose-faculty, the tongue-faculty, & the body-faculty — have the intellect as their [common] arbitrator. The intellect is what experiences [all] their ranges & domains."

PS: The Intellect is ‘Mano’ or mind


Yes, MN43 seems on point. It does suggest that the mind is simultaneously processing “inputs” from the various sense bases, which I think would be in line with a modern understanding.


This example involves a distinct change of attention from one object to another, and is different from the example of watching a film, where there is awareness of sights and sounds simultaneously. How would you explain the simultaneity involved in the film example?


This article supports what I am saying - inputs from the various sense-bases can be processed simultaneously because this in done in different areas of the brain.
From the article: “It has been believed for some time that inputs from different sensory organs are processed in different areas in the brain, relating to [systems neuroscience]

Sorry but I don’t see the relevance of this to the point we’re discussing. It’s nothing to do with simultaneity, just about the speed of detection.


In that case the simultaneity is only apparent because the sights and sounds are working together to tell one story.

Lets try another experiment. But you have to actually do it without just thinking about it. Put up a sutta on SC and play a completely different sutta on your ear phones. Try to read and hear simultaneously. And tell us your findings.


I don’t agree. IMO the simultaneity is actual in the film example, where the mind is concurrently processing “input” from both eye and ear and putting it together. I can’t think of anything in the EBTs which would prevent this simultaneity.

Next time you’re watching a film, focus on the visual images on the screen - does the film soundtrack completely disappear? Alternatively, focus on the film soundtrack - do the visual images on the screen completely disappear? In my experience the answer is “no” in both cases, it is more like a change of focus from foreground to background.

Possibly we need to look more carefully at the distinctions between consciousness ( vinnana ), contact ( phassa ) and attention ( manasikara ).