The Nature of Vinnana?

After spending some time on a search for some sources on this topic to locate a book or quotes from people who might consider viññāṇa as discrimination/discernment, I’ve happened to stumble upon a free book from Venerable Bhikkhu Kaṭukurunde . It has quite an imposing title, but ignoring that, the excerpt from the book from the end of page 5 states:

In his letter Bhante has mentioned the importance of
understanding the difference between vijānāti and pajānāti when
it comes to discussing viññāṇa. I ask for an elaboration.

“This is something that tends to get overlooked. There are
many words that share the ñā root in the texts: sañjānāti, vijānāti,
pajānāti, abhijānāti, parijānāti, ājānāti. There may be more. It is
with a reason that there are these differences between them.

“It is commonly known that the root ñā stands for
‘knowledge’. Why is it said‘vijānāti’ when it could have easily
been said ‘jānāti’? Most translations just use ‘knows’.
But vijānāti means ‘discriminatively knows’. What is the main
job of viññāṇa? We can clarify from the Mahāvedalla Sutta.
There we get the phrases yaṃ sañjānāti taṃ vijānāti and yaṃ
vijānāti taṃ pajānāti. ‘What one perceives, that one
discriminates’ and ‘what one discriminates, that one knows’.

“From the examples that follow that phrase we can
understand the jānana level of each. For sañjānāti: Nīlakampi
sañjānāti, pītakampi sañjānāti, lohitakampi sañjānāti, odātampi
sañjānāti – using colours. When someone is coming from a
distance, all we see is just some blob of colour. When he comes
closer we separate him from the others: ‘oh, he is this person, not
the other’. When we know deeply, at pajānāti level, all is the
same, just the four elements, but let’s leave that aside for the

“What are the examples given for vijānāti? There are two;
the first is sukhan’ti pi vijānāti, dukkhan’ti pi vijānāti,
adukkhamasukhan’ti pi vijānāti. This clearly shows
that vijānana is unique to living beings, not found in trees and
rocks. The first level of viññāṇa is in discriminating between
different feelings. For instance, in the Mahānidāna Sutta we find
the Buddha asking Ven. Ananda Thera whether there would be
any self notion where there is no feeling. The answer is ‘no’. That
shows that feeling is fundamental. So what is there in feeling?
Bifurcation, which is the most fundamental delusion.”

He pauses to say how glad he is that there is no need to
use ‘footnotes’ when talking to me. I’m glad I did the homework.
If you want to find Bhante Ñāṇananda in his zone, do the
necessary preparatory studies, and be willing to put up with
copious amounts of Pāḷi, not all of which would be translated.

But then he asks “Do you remember the other example
for vijānāti?” I don’t.

“There is a second example for vijānāti from the Khaj-
janīya Sutta

ambilampi vijānāti, tittakampi vijānāti, kaṭukampi
vijānāti, madhurakampi vijānāti, khārikampi vijānāti,
akhārikampi vijānāti, loṇikampi vijānāti, aloṇikampi
vijānāti — different tastes. Do you see any difference
between knowing colours and knowing tastes?”

I mumble my ignorance.

“With taste the discrimination is explicit. When we taste
something, it takes a while to decide whether it’s sweet or sour or
salty. Some foods we can’t easily categorize by taste, like
the Nelli fruit. But it is not essential to go that far: what is
important is to remember that discriminating between different
feeling tones is the main function of viññāṇa.

“A unique feature of paṭiccasamuppāda is the way one
result becomes the cause for another. One pulls the other in.
When we take a pair of items in paṭiccasamuppāda, one member
is also a member in the next pair. The very question whether
saññā and viññāṇa are the same or different reeks of absolutism,
an attempt to separate them into water-tight compartments. But
their connectedness is pointed out in the Sutta with yaṃ sañjānāti
taṃ vijānāti, yaṃ vijānāti taṃ pajānāti. This doesn’t mean all
three are the same either. The nuances are important.

“The difference between viññāṇa and paññā is explained
as paññā bhāvetabbā, viññāṇaṃ pariññeyyaṃ: paññā is to be
developed, viññāṇa is to be understood. When paññā is
fulfilled, viññāṇa is fully comprehended.

While there are also many books and sources on other translations, now we one solid source for this kind of interpretation. I wonder if we could find other sources.

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