The Nature of Vinnana?

I more and more start to realise that when Buddha talked about aggregates he actually refered to a proces of aggregation taking place due to defilements.

There is a constant heaping up in the defiled mind which more are less violates it subtle openess.
A building up. A construction taking place. A filling up. An accumulating. A coming together, a joining, a densening. Aggregation taking place.

When things become felt and sensed that means that aggregation has reached a certain level.

I start to see that i was always inclined to treat khandha’s as something present and one could be attached to that or not. But now i begin see it is not like this. Attachment is a condition in the aggregation proces that leads to feelings and vinnana’s to establish. Like a cloud establishes and manifest when moist air cools down. In the same way aggregation takes place all the time and aggregates manifest as a result of that.
Vedana just means that aggregation has reached a certain level of coarseness.

Every mention of saññāvedayitnirodha points to the cessation of all consciousness, since perception, feelings, and consciousness are interdependent and cannot be separated.
As in MN43:
" “Feeling, perception, and consciousness—“Yā cāvuso, vedanā yā ca saññā yañca viññāṇaṁ— these things are mixed, not separate. And you can never completely dissect them so as to describe the difference between them.

In this sense, saññāvedayitnirodha is not a jhana. So it’s not helpful to compare them.

This also points to there not being a permanent unchanging consciousness/awareness, which would naturally be present and known in this state. But this is never taught or mentioned.

As to your example of being unconscious and not automatically being awakened, a major difference is the absence of Right View and the practice of the N8FP for most people.
There’s no context of prior Dhamma practice for wisdom to arise and deepen.

As in AN9.44:
" Furthermore, take a mendicant who, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements come to an end."

Again @Jasudho, if we will ever meet eachother we must first be in agreement about what vinnana refers to. Sujato might translate this as consciousness, and maybe others too… but would you agree that eye-vinnana is consciousness? Ofcourse not. Is someone blind, not conscious. ofcourse not, but he/she is not aware of visuals.

I made this serie post to dig into vinnana. For me this was all helpful. I have now a better understanding of vinnana. To translate vinnana as consciousness is not really accurate. Or, more sharp, it does not cover at all the meaning.

But i am not gonna repeat all i said earlier. Have you read this serie of post?

So what do you think about the translation of vinnana as discrimination/discernment, as this kind of translation is present in the dictionary?

I’ve read the posts and we appear to disagree about viññāna.

Have you seen SN26.3:

"“Mendicants, the arising of eye consciousness
“Yo kho, bhikkhave, cakkhuviññāṇassa uppādo ṭhiti …pe…
jarāmaraṇassa pātubhāvo …pe…
mind consciousness
yo manoviññāṇassa uppādo ṭhiti …pe…
is the manifestation of old age and death.
jarāmaraṇassa pātubhāvo.
The cessation of eye consciousness
Yo ca kho, bhikkhave, cakkhuviññāṇassa nirodho …pe…
jarāmaraṇassa atthaṅgamo …pe…
mind consciousness
yo manoviññāṇassa nirodho …pe…
is the ending of old age and death.”
jarāmaraṇassa atthaṅgamo”ti.

You appear to be holding to a view of another kind of permanent mind/consciousness.
That’s up to you.

BTW, Bhikkhu Anālayo has also written that the Buddha never taught about a permanent sort of consciousness in several books and papers, (although, I think like you, he does incline a final nibbāna being a kind of “eternal” dhatu).

Also, you haven’t responded to the issue of no consciousness at all being present in SVN.

But, you can have the final word because the discussion is going in circles.

Why do you even speak of eternal consciousness with me? I only say we must look into what vinnana means, how it arises etc etc. Well. MN28 says that sense vinnana’s manifest or establish with engagement as condition. It is not that when a tree comes in the range of the eye, eye vinnana establishes or manifest! It only establishes if the mind has becomes engaged or has some interest in it that has been build up in endless lifes.

Suppose you make joruney with a train. You see many things but suddenly something, a nice house or something, catches your eye…Maybe there is an element of greed involved and you like the house and maybe want to have such a house. Your attention is now very focussed upon that house. Only NOW eye vinnana;s are manifesting or establishing.

Seeing is not the same as the manifestation or establising of eye-vinnana’s but eye caught moments are. Do you see the difference between seeing and the moment something catches your eye? I do and if you are mindful you will also see the difference. Only when something catches your eye, ear…mind…THAT is refered to as sense vinnana’s manifesting or establishing. The coming together of eye, eye-vinnana, visual always need an element of engagement. Engagement is like glue. A builder.

Well, if there are no eye-ear—mind catching moment, i.e. when all is uprooted that leads to engagement, then also NO sense vinnana’s estbalishes or manifest. They arise but do NOT establish, they do not land or take root in the mind. They just come and go, leaving no trace.
Can you understand this is a very different functioning mind then an engaging mind constant inclining towards the senses and constant being caught by something seen, heard etc?

This difference we must distinguish right?

Ofcourse vinnana, as conscious sense moments, are impermanent. I also see that this way. For years.
But i also have feeling for awareness that does not engage with senses and i am not that sure this can be called coming and going. I feel it is not.

Yes, because first we have to come to agreement what is vinnana. I fully accept that when vinnana’s have established, i.e. when there is an eye-ear…mind caught moment, there is always an awareness of something specific, and also sanna, the ability to see unigue characteristics of what is sensed. There is also always sense contact and always a feeling or sensation. I feel Buddha described it perfectly.

This does not mean that vinnana’s must establish. When there is no element of engagement vinnana’s do not establish. I hope you will take some time to see what i mean by this.

For myself, all i have come to see about vinnana is very helpful. Ofcourse also thanks to others, like you, who stimulate me.

Thanks for asking. I have not yet really been thinking about this. But i especially feel that if we do an attempt, the distinction between vinnana’s establishing or not establishing, needs to be adressed in translating. Vinnana’s establising is never a mere or pure seeing, hearing, knowing moment, but also contains a certain element of engagement, or a way there is involvement with the seen, heard etc.

How can we take this into account when translating vinnana? Engaging awareness? Awareness with engagement? Or just translate…defiled or distorted knowing? Loaded knowing? Impure knowing?

It is also not merely an awareness of something. It also contains a certain load. For example the load of like, dislike, this is me, this is mine, this is my self. The load of engagement. If we would translate it as ‘discernment’ i feel that load is not adressed and that need to somehow be adressed in translating it.

Do you, or others, have ideas?

It’s interesting, because I have spent time thinking that maybe perception is closer to our notion of cognition than it is to our notion of perception. I used to think consciousness supervened on the sense, but recently I have thought to revise and consider perception as supervening on the senses, or sense cognition (manasikara). I am wondering which has the truth monitoring ability consciousness or perception. Indian philosophy seems to take it in perception (prajna), but I think there is a revision there in Buddha’s thinking, since “reasoning” is grounded in the senses. Cognition is highly valued in Western philosophy, but I don’t really get that sense in Indian philosophy. In some cases it almost seems to be maya.

Since you ask, and instead of relying on feeling, how about we check the suttas if when translated with ‘discernment’ we find obvious problems, we can quickly and safely discard such idea. However, if we do not find obvious paradoxes with it and rather find paradoxes with the translation of ‘consciousness’ then we can put more effort into this endeavor.

Let’s start our analysis based on suttas

For example how about we check MN140 (for translation as ‘consciousness’ click on the link, here let’s attempt to place ‘discernment’)

It starts with mentioning elements:

And what is the earth element?
The earth element may be interior or exterior. And what is the interior earth element? Anything hard, solid, and appropriated …

This should be truly seen with right understanding like this: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’
When you truly see with right understanding, you become disenchanted with the earth element, detaching the cittaṁ from the earth element.
… water … fire … air … space
When you truly see with right understanding, you become disenchanted with the space element, detaching the cittaṁ from the space element.

Immediately after this comes the segment containing the word viññāṇa:

Athāparaṁ viññāṇaṁyeva avasissati parisuddhaṁ pariyodātaṁ.
There remains only discernment, pure and bright.

Tena ca viññāṇena kiṁ vijānāti?
And what does that discernment discerns?

‘Sukhan’tipi vijānāti, ‘dukkhan’tipi vijānāti, ‘adukkhamasukhan’tipi vijānāti.
it discerns ‘pleasure’, it discerns ‘pain’, it discerns ‘neutral’.

So far there does not seem to be any obvious paradox in the previous segment were it to be translated ‘consciousness’ or ‘discernment’. Let’s continue a bit:

Pleasant feeling arises dependent on a contact to be experienced as pleasant. When they feel a pleasant feeling, they know: ‘I feel a pleasant feeling.’ They know: ‘With the cessation of that contact to be experienced as pleasant, the corresponding pleasant feeling ceases and stops.’
Painful feeling arises … Neutral feeling arises …

This segment says that feeling depends on contact to be experienced as pleasant, and the following segment gives a simile of rubbing two sticks together - a form of engagement, which when is stopped - when the sticks are placed apart - it ceases and stops.

When you rub two sticks together, heat is generated and fire is produced. But when you part the sticks and lay them aside, any corresponding heat ceases and stops.
In the same way, pleasant feeling arises dependent on a contact to be experienced as pleasant. …
They know: ‘With the cessation of that contact to be experienced as neutral, the corresponding neutral feeling ceases and stops.’

And what follows after is:

Athāparaṁ upekkhāyeva avasissati parisuddhā pariyodātā mudu ca kammaññā ca pabhassarā ca.
There remains only equanimity, pure, bright, pliable, workable, and radiant.

Now - a careful reader has probably spotted quite an interesting fact that was just stated in the last sentence. Have we found a paradox? Feel free to reread it and figure it out before reading next.

To recapitulate:

After detaching cittaṁ from earth, water, fire, air, space…

Athāparaṁ viññāṇaṁyeva avasissati parisuddhaṁ pariyodātaṁ.
There remains only (consciousness OR discernment), pure and bright.

There remains only equanimity, pure, bright, pliable, workable, and radiant.

The sutta seems to state that there remains only equanimity. The viññāṇa, whether we translate it as ‘consciousness’ or ‘discernment’ is gone at this stage.

However, a general definition of the English word ‘consciousness’ according to Wikipedia is:

Consciousness, at its simplest, is awareness of internal and external existence.

Thus, the question to be asked then is, if we translated viññāṇa as ‘consciousness’, which would imply awareness, which according to the sutta ceased at this stage, how would one be aware of the equanimity or anything at all? That is a paradox. If one knows an answer to explain this or there is a mistake made somewhere, I would be grateful for the correction.

What about ‘discernment’? If we translated viññāṇa as ‘discernment’ and the role of this ‘discernment’ is only to discern between ‘pleasant’, ‘painful’, ‘neutral’, thus if it ceased, we would end up with ‘equanimity’. There does not seem to be any problem with this translation in this particular case.

Finally, we cannot make any conclusions by checking just one sutta, however we managed to find one paradox that requires investigation or clarifying by someone who is skilled in this domain.

Vinnana is a much-misunderstood term, as is evidenced by the threads on this forum.

While consciousness is an appropriate translation on most occasions, sometimes we have to consider that it refers to the “capacity to be conscious”, rather than a particular conscious moment or type of consciousness. After all, our capacity to be conscious does not disappear when a particular sense object disappears.

The word “Discernment” is not a good translation of Vinnana. Discernment implies some understanding incorporated into the awareness.

I would say that, in some settings, the better translation would be “acknowledgement”. Vinnana acknowledges the contact via the Ayatana. It acknowledges the feeling, perception and thoughts that arise with that contact.

When considering Vinnana, we have to consider that it is just one of four Nama Khandha. We must also remember that all four arise and pass away at the same time. We must also be cognisant of the fact that it takes many conscious moments to process a single sense object.

When we put all these things into context we see that Vinnana is a “Dumb Knowing”. It is the most neutral of all the Khandha. It does not incline to anything. That is the work of Sanna and Sankara. Vinnana is not defiled - although it is conditioned by defilements, which are associated with Sankara. Vinnana is like the photographic film that we used to use in the old cameras. The film did not understand the colours that would be developed on it, nor composition of the picture, but without the film there would be no photo. Vinnana is the same. It is entirely neutral. Entirely impartial.

This is why, when in deep Samadhi, equanimity is reached. Because in this state, Vinnana is only aware of itself. Experiences via the other Khandha are temporarily suspended. In this state, there is no thinking or reasoning - just basic, pure awareness, pure stillness. A singularity of pure equanimity. One is only able to reason about the experience AFTER one has had it.

I hope this helps.

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I do not think you must see it like that. I believe the sutta’s state that mind can have an element of enchantment. That is the same as saying: there is an element of engagement or interest. An element that gives rise to an inclination towards the senses , and causes sense-contact and feelings to arise.

In Paticca Samuppada this is describes as…avijja—sankhara-vinnana. This refers to the moments that the mind subconsciously becomes directed towards something that stirrs the mind or has stimulated the senses. But at this moment we or mind is not yet consciously aware of what this is. That all evolves into a moment that mind really becomes very consciously aware of some sense object which is now also recognised and also comes with a pleasant, painful, or neutral sensation. Now vinnana has established. Based upon this establishment of feelings, like or dislike or indifference might arise. And this again leads to further development of the mind.

The establising of vinnana here always refers to a very conscious moment of something which has all attention now. It is never merely a seeing, hearing etc. Therefor there is always an element of samadhi too in this established vinnana or in this clearly aware sense moment.

I now realise, it is not like this that we first experience sounds, smells, visuals, etc in a very aware way and then can become attached or not. That is always how i thought about this. But now i realise it is not like this. No, the moment we become very consciously aware of something that implies mind has already become attached, and is caught by that! It is not like attachment starts with reactions of like, dislike or indifference upon what is sensed. Now i see this is not the meaning of attachment.

For example, eye vinnana…when eye vinnana’s establish we, for example, have a very conscious moment in which our mind is fixed upon something seen. We are aware…i see a tree…This is allready attachment. An eye and mind caught moment. But there is also seeing without being caught. And that is not burdensome. Then there is is only the equanimous state of mind. Then still eye vinnana;;s etc arise but it does not establish. Mind is not caught by what is seen, heard etc. That means, mind is equanimous now.

Yes, because when mind is not caught by the senses it is pliant, workable, not fixed.

Thanks, for your reaction. It is nice to make an effort, i feel, to look into this with others.

Oke, but Maha Boowa with a reason called this citta and not vinnana. Because the citta is not in a state of aggregation, of heaping up, of contructing and developing. But establising sense- vinnanas are a result of that. They are always aggregations. Their existence cannot be seen apart from the coming together of many things. Because the citta is not in a state of aggregation it is completely open, unloaded, unburdened, and cannot desintegrate. Khandha’s will desintegrate because aggregations desintegrate.

SN43 says…i teach the Path to what does not desintegrate.

Citta or Vinnana, these are just names. In the description that I gave there is no inconsistency with that of Luang Dta Maha Boowa. Where you misunderstand is in the nature of the Citta, as referred to by Luang Dta.

The Citta in its usual (impure) state is simply the Nama Khandha at work. The Heart or as Luang Dta Maha Boowa often calls it, the Originating Citta, is the Citta at rest, coalesced into a singularity. The Citta is driven by Avijja and is the same mental force that was resting in the singularity. When the singularity (of Samadhi) finishes, the breakout functioning of the Khandha is called the Citta. The differentiation of the Khandha is simply to make it easier to explain the main features of the mental force.

The citta under the control of avijjā perpetually builds up births and existences right within itself. It is the nature of this citta not to remain still, but to be constantly creating births and existences. Luang Dta Maha Boowa, Investigating Avijja.

When Magga is practised, the defilements in the Citta diminish and are ultimately removed. This leaves a pure Citta. One in which Sanna no longer perceives the world in the conventional way nor is Sankara filled with defilements. The Citta, as Luang Dta describes it, is now seen as being without the differentiation and only the pure knowing element remains. In getting to this stage Luang Dta says:

These desires are samudaya, the cause of dukkha, and originate from
the citta. Now, as satipaññā advances with its probe, the scope of the
investigation becomes narrower as satipaññā understands more and
more, and eventually converges on the citta. Whatever now appears,
you’ll know that it comes out of the citta, not from saññā or saṅkhāra
because satipaññā is now capable of differentiating them. As soon as
the citta produces them they will immediately disappear, just like the
light of a firefly. Once satipaññā has caught up with the citta, it can’t go
on creating them. When satipaññā is always watching, they can only
appear and disappear. Luang Dta Maha Boowa

In other words, at this stage, the illusion of the Khandha has evaporated and the true mental force or Heart or Pure Citta is seen.

@Green I hope that his clarifies the point you raised.

Yes, that is also how i understood this. Does Maha Boowa ever talk about citta in terms of vinnana? I only wanted to say i have make him see this distinction.

I agree with what you said about capacity to know. When vinnana’s do not arise that does not mean mind has lost its ability to know. Mind is able to detect things before we become really consciously aware of something. Sometimes our behaviour is even based upon this principle. This is also accepted in science.

Mind, in its capacity to detect, is just not the same as sense vinnana in its capacity too detect something. Mind in detecting mode does not yet really detect houses, trees, cars. It is much more involved in processing rudimentairy sense-info. But what vinnana detects something that is much more developed or worked out as it were.

Buddha teaches the same, i see now.

I do not really see how this must depend on satipanna. I believe that must be a mistake.
At least, my feeling is: If one still has to apply mind in a certain way, and if one does not, the mind still tends to be caught by something or even can become delusional, i feel then this mind can impossible be purified. It cannot have arrived at Nibbana.

I know there is some sutta that says that even arahant have to apply their mind. I feel this all cannot be true.

I believe, in a purified mind effortlessly all just comes and goes. It would also not surprise me if on this issue also rely different ideas about parinibbana in this very life or not.

But i cannot accept :blush: that one must still apply some effort or means to be awakened.

If vinnana’s establish in the mind, i.e. eye, ear—,mind catching moment take place, this is described here: SN56.14, i believe.

When vinnana’s establish also this six sense fields establish and that is always felt as a burden.

BUT seeing does not at all mean that the eye-sense-field has established. Only when there is an eye-catching moment this sense field establishes. Without anusays that cause engagement no sense field establish. This is another way to talk about end of suffering.

I feel also SN56.14 is interesting.

Like Luang Poo Tate, Luang Dta Maha Boowa says that Vinnana is an expression of the (Originating) Citta, or a condition that arises from the Citta/Heart (LP Tate, uses Heart). This does not mean that the Citta exists as some special entity. What it means is that a defiled Citta operates in the form of the Khandha while the pure Citta is the same mental force but free of defilement and differentiation - a singularity.

The fact that Luang Dta uses the word Citta to refer to both an impure and a pure state can seem a little confusing. This is why LP Tate differentiates Citta and Heart.

This is not a mistake. AN 10.61 clearly states that Satipanna is the food for the Seven Factors of Awakening. The quoted passage refers to the advanced stages of meditation, when Sati and Panna are very strong. It is not referring to a time after awakening.

Vinnana is not established in the mind. It is a component of the mind. It is one of the expressions that emanate from the Originating Citta. The different types of Vinnana - eye, ear, etc., are just further refinements of that term.

While Vinnana and the pure Citta/Heart are not identical, one can say that one can reverse engineer Vinnana to reach the pure Citta/Heart and this is the relationship they have. Vinnana being part of the defiled Citta at work and the Heart being that same Citta but now singular and, ultimately, pure.

This is why, in meditation, it is essential to be able to train the mind to reach the singularity of the Heart. Only then will one be able to understand what is the Heart and what is not.

Thanks. For myself i become more and more aware that whatever training, one must never make the head ones home. One must let go of the arising mano-vinnana’s too. Not be there. In the head. One must make nothing ones home because that is what is liberation.

I tend to disagree at this moment. I do not think it is appropriate to talk about the citta as a mental force at all. The citta is merely an openess, a knowing essense without force. It is also not a stream. Do you agree?

It is very insightful, i feel, to see the difference between for example an eye vinnana that establishes and that does not. Eye vinnana’s cannot and will not establish when there is no interest or element of engagement present in the mind towards the seen. ONLY when something catches your eye, only then eye-vinnana establish and also the inner eye sense-domain like SN56.14 says.

The same with mano-vinnana’s. Anything can arise in the mental domain (6the sense) but if it is not caught by the mind , no mano-vinnana’s can and will establish. Those dhamma-sense-moments (mano-vinnana’s) at that moment just arise and cease.

Any moment we experience the head as our home, like we abide there, that means the mind has attached to mano-vinnana’s. We are in a state of delusion now. There is no wisdom in being trapped in the head and involved in mano-vinnana’s.

For practicing Dhamma one must come out of the head. Let go of the head and all that happens there.

I am quit sure that when we talk about the heart we in fact talk about openess, open heartedness. No attachments at all. But it is also very easy to become narrow minded and feel the burden of being narrow minded. The beauty of the Path of wisdom, i feel, is that it undermines feelings of guild, self-hate, other-hate, the idea that suffering is punishment. That reliefs the heart. THAT is what the Path is about for me. Not that i started practicing with such idea or intent but i notice it now. Things become less and less loaded and there was always a huge load with me. Still, but it is decreasing.

Do you believe we can ever be enstranged or seperated from the Heart? I do not.

I agree with your analysis here, and I see vinnana as a basic function. But could you elaborate on your final sentence - how is vinnana conditioned by defilements?

Okay, let’s include ‘acknowledgement’ and examine viññāṇa in different context to see if we can find another paradox or not, such as dependent origination.

And also let’s include “discrimination” for viññāṇa and to discriminate or to have discriminative knowledge for vijānāti.

As I understand English I see discernment to be a synonym to the above but maybe there is a nuanced difference.

PTS Pali English Dictionary


to have discriminative (dis = vi˚) knowledge, to recognize, apprehend, ascertain, to become aware of, to understand, notice, perceive, distinguish learn, know

One common use case of word viññāṇa is in dependent origination.

saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṁ,
viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṁ,

If we were to translate each of discrimination, discernment, acknowledgement, consciousness, we would obtain the following verses.

Let’s ask the following questions for each translation:

  1. In what way are choices a condition for viññāṇaṁ?
  2. And how is viññāṇa a condition for name and form?

Choices are a condition for consciousness,
consciousness is a condition for name and form.

  1. By translating viññāṇa as consciousness, this text would imply that choices (saṅkhāra) are condition for it. And once again if consciousness implies awareness, it would imply that choices are condition for awareness too. But how would one make choices without awareness?
  2. If we considered consciousness to imply awareness, I believe it could serve as a link for name and form, however I believe awareness can serve as a condition to many elements.

Choices are a condition for acknowledgement,
acknowledgement is a condition for name and form.

  1. Are choices a condition for acknowledgement?
    I think it could be due to a mental choice.
  2. But is acknowledgement a condition for name and form?
    I do not see a link here.

Choices are a condition for discernment/discrimination,
discernment/discrimination is a condition for name and form.

  1. Is choice a condition for discernment/discrimination?
    If we wish to discern something as either ‘pleasant’, ‘painful’ or ‘neutral’, I believe we are indeed making a mental choice, unless it became a habit.
  2. Is discernment/discrimination a condition for name and form?
    Name and form represent two distinct categories - there seems to be a distinction made but its not easy to answer this question as to how exactly discernment/discrimination is a condition

We could also apply the same questioning to:

When choices cease, viññāṇa ceases.
When viññāṇa ceases, name and form cease.

To summarize:
We’ve looked at viññāṇa in the context of dependent origination. We have assumed that consciousness implies awareness, which might not be how someone understands it - although an English dictionary might define the word that way.
What are your thoughts about the questions and answers to the various translations and how would you answer them yourself?

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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I don’t mind what you call it, a force, an energy, whatever. I only use that term in order to avoid the confusion that comes with using the word Citta to mean both an impure and a pure state of mind.

Perhaps the relationship between the Citta and the Khandha is illustrated in the following analogy. Imagine the Citta as white light. If we put a prism in it, the white light is split into its components. Avijja is like the prism. It splits the Citta into components (Khandha). If the prism is removed, temporarily or permanently, the white light returns, and the components vanish. None of the white light components in themselves are the white light but each emanates from the white light.

The Citta, in its pure form is not a stream. It is a singularity. In its impure form, it is a stream, a stream of conscious moments in which all the Khandha arise and pass away simultaneously.

How can an object “catch your eye” if you are not conscious of it? Also, you seem to be confusing the role of Sanna and Sankhara with that of Vinnana. Vinnana does not direct anything. It may seem like that because these other Khandha arise simultaneously but, in reality, Vinnana is completely neutral. It is Sanna and Sankhara that make consciousness seem otherwise.

Mano Vinnana does not arise in the head.

See my response above.

The law of Dependent Origination shows that both the Patisandhi Vinnana and the Khandha Vinnana are fashioned by past Kamma. This is the gross answer. The more subtle answer is that Sanna and Sankhara are driven by the defilements, Sanna by past defilements and Sankhara by present defilements. As sense objects are processed, Sanna and Sankhara direct the flow of consciousness. For example, an object may arouse a wholesome response from Sankhara (say Metta), so Vinnana is positive. On the other hand, the object may arouse anger and so the corresponding Vinnana is negative. Same object, different outcome. Vinnana cannot tell the difference between these outcomes. It just acknowledges the object and the response to it.

Vinnana in this sense is the Patisandhi Vinnana, a very specific rebirth Vinnana and not the Vinnana of the Khandha and so I don’t think your analysis works. You also seem to be confusing the past, present and future components of Dependent Origination.

This is not the role of Vinnana. It is the role of Sanna. It is easy to confuse Vinnana with the other Khandha because they all arise and pass away together.