the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

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clyde
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the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by clyde » Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:28 pm

I was thinking about the six consciousnesses (vijnanas) and a question arose. (Yes, I know that there are traditions which have seven or eight consciousnesses, but I don’t think it’s relevant to my question.)

My understanding of the Buddhist teaching is:
  • there’s eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness, and mind consciousness
  • that a sense object makes contact with the sense organ and this gives rise to the sense consciousness.
For example, eye consciousness arises when light (the sense object) makes contact with the eye (the sense organ) and this gives rise to seeing (eye consciousness). And ear consciousness arises when sound waves (the sense object) make contact with the ear (the sense organ) and this gives rise to hearing (ear consciousness).

And that this applies to mind consciousness; that mind consciousness arises when thoughts (the sense objects) make contact with the mind giving rise to thinking (mind consciousness).

If I’ve erred or omitted something, please correct.

My question is this: I understand that light reflected from objects and making contact with the eye gives rise to eye consciousness, but how do thoughts which are sensed by the mind giving rise to mind consciousness arise?
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Sentient Light » Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:19 pm

The sense organ is the base for the sense sphere. Contact occurs in the sensory spheres, which gives rise to the sense consciousness.

The mental sensory sphere overlaps the five other sensory spheres, thus makes contact with the mental objects cognized by the sensory consciousnesses, and integrates that together into a conscious experience of reality. In the yogacara model, this consciousness is split, with one mental consciousness relegated to making contact with the sense-objects of the five consciousnesses (manovijnana), and one whose role is specifically to organize that comprehensive experience into temporal sequence, into a seamless illusory experience of 'self' (manas).
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Malcolm
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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Malcolm » Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:56 pm

clyde wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:28 pm

My question is this: I understand that light reflected from objects and making contact with the eye gives rise to eye consciousness, but how do thoughts which are sensed by the mind giving rise to mind consciousness arise?
Mental consciousness, unlike the other five consciousnesses, does not have a point of support. The object of the mental consciousness is the dharmadhātu, which contains the mental factors.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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clyde
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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by clyde » Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:34 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 10:56 pm
clyde wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:28 pm

My question is this: I understand that light reflected from objects and making contact with the eye gives rise to eye consciousness, but how do thoughts which are sensed by the mind giving rise to mind consciousness arise?
Mental consciousness, unlike the other five consciousnesses, does not have a point of support. The object of the mental consciousness is the dharmadhātu, which contains the mental factors.
I’m trying to understand your answer and have questions related to the dharmadhatu.

I understand the dharmadhatu as being the sphere of all phenomena. Is that correct?

And are you saying that thoughts arise in the dharmadhatu and the mind senses the thoughts? Or have I misunderstood your meaning?
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Astus » Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:40 pm

clyde wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:28 pm
I understand that light reflected from objects and making contact with the eye gives rise to eye consciousness, but how do thoughts which are sensed by the mind giving rise to mind consciousness arise?
The 18 dhatus is a simple and easy model (until you turn the page and delve into abhidharma). The eye sees (contacts) a visual object (not light, unless light itself is the object), and from the contact (seeing) emerges visual consciousness. Note that neither the organ nor the object is directly known, only the visual consciousness is the point where there is any awareness that there is something seen. Similarly with the other five. Mind consciousness is no different, as it is generally believed that on the one hand there is mind and on the other there are thoughts, whereby it is when there is a thought in one's mind that there emerges a consciousness of an idea, in other word, one thinks of something.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:48 am

Boy you ask some hard questions Clyde! It is, as the other have suggested, a subject which is a topic in the Abhidharma, but the ‘nature of mind’ is a deep question no matter how it is dealt with. My only suggestion would be to bear in mind the essentially pragmatist approach of Buddhist teaching, which is concerned to impart insight and the supporting behaviours and attitudes, rather than delve into speculative philosophy.

One approach that has always helped me is the ‘don’t know mind’ teaching you find in some Zen schools. Like Seung Sahn’s ‘only don’t know’. I tend to live by that, it is central to the style of meditation I practice and the understanding that arises from it.

:namaste:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by White Lotus » Tue Nov 20, 2018 12:55 pm

how do thoughts arise? it may have something to do with will and memory. I want/will to access my memory. this also involves knowledge which abides in memory. complicated stuff. I don't know the formal Buddhist approach towards this. how do thoughts arise? I don't know, nor would I be able to abide in such knowledge if I did know it. there are many angles or answers to a question like this, each could be helpful in its own way and context.

it seems that thoughts too arise on contact with experience or perception. the experience stimulating the thoughts that arise in response to the experience. so just as mind says I see a beam of light (thought), so too mind says I remember a beam of light (thought).

this philosophical rambling may be prapanca. ideas that proliferate on contact with experience. the trick is to just see what one sees without elaborating. all conceptual elaboration has an element of falsehood. it wanders from direct experience. freedom from symbols/words is one of the dharma gates of liberation. thoughts tend to be about words... unless one has access to pre-verbal thought. thinking with feelings or images rather than words. and that is not normal.

thoughts are not consciousness, they are observed by consciousness. it is possible to be conscious without thought as for example seen in mindfulness. consciousness is not stimulated by thought it is the mind ground upon which thoughts emerge. it seems to me that there are two centres of thought in humans. the heart can think and the head can think. strangely enough both are pretty much equal in respect to thinking words.

rgds, Tom.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Sherab » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:00 am

clyde wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:28 pm
IMy question is this: I understand that light reflected from objects and making contact with the eye gives rise to eye consciousness, but how do thoughts which are sensed by the mind giving rise to mind consciousness arise?
This is how I see it:
Each individual has a fundamental ability to know. When thoughts arise, there arise knowledge of the thoughts due to this fundamental ability to know. Mind consciousness is merely a product of the arising of thoughts and the arising of knowledge of the thoughts. When mind consciousness ceases, the fundamental ability to know does not cease.

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Malcolm » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:05 am

clyde wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:34 pm

I understand the dharmadhatu as being the sphere of all phenomena. Is that correct?
No. There are two definitions of dharmadhātu; the Abhidharma idea, which I am using here, defined as the object of the mental organ; and the Mahāyāna idea, where dharmadhātu is a blanket term for the emptiness of all phenomena.

On the former presentation, there is no point of support, the dharmadhātu is not a point of support per se.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Grigoris » Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:19 pm

Astus wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:40 pm
(not light, unless light itself is the object)
Not exactly. Light has to be present for eye sensation to happen. So it is not 100% correct to say that the eyes sees objects not light, because that would mean the eye could see them in the absence of light too.
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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Astus » Wed Nov 21, 2018 7:50 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:19 pm
Not exactly. Light has to be present for eye sensation to happen. So it is not 100% correct to say that the eyes sees objects not light, because that would mean the eye could see them in the absence of light too.
It is in the context of the 18 dhatus that it can be said that light is not the object of seeing. As for other models, that is another story.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Orgyen » Fri Nov 23, 2018 3:39 pm

clyde wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:28 pm
but how do thoughts which are sensed by the mind giving rise to mind consciousness arise?
Hi ,

Perhaps we can look at it this way .


Eye (contact) object = seeing (consciousness)
Ear ~ = listening ~
Nose ~
Tongue ~
Body ~
Mind(contact) object = knowing consciousness


What we called thought is but accumulation of knowledges and experiences.

So, when we say knowing consciousness that is Knowledge/memory/experience is functioning .

The state of Not Knowing is but consciousness Without any Knowledge or experience or memory .

Consciousness / Awareness is the Sensing part of the brain inherent nature .

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Tao » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:42 pm

I dont know if it really helps, and it's in spanish, but I did this small drawing for myself about the eight yogacara consciousness:

https://blogdetao.org/2018/09/12/frase-pendiente-4/

Image

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by White Lotus » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:45 pm

Thank you Orgyen, that's nice and clear. knowledge is key to the formation of thoughts. knowledge comes from trying (will) to understand (through manas) our direct experience of life (through the five sensory vijnanas) or memory. thought itself seeks to understand and know and understanding leads to further thought. when nipanca is realized there is a lessening of thoughts. as one progresses one thinks less and is aware more.

usually thought itself is 'words' and is part of the intellect (knowledge and understanding). in nipanca one drops 'attachment' to words and enters the signless gate. this is not the complete rejection of words, only knowing the limit of thoughts/words.

im sure its a lot more complicated than that. and could be expressed differently, but I do think that knowledge and experience are key to generating thought and that memory is key here too. no one knowing and experiencing, this no one being anatman. the self that is no self.

as to the scientific biological process behind thought: that is for a scientist to explain.

best wishes, Tom.

ps. thank you Tao for your diagram. a lot of work in it.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.

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Re: the six consciousnesses (vijnanas)

Post by Aemilius » Fri Nov 30, 2018 12:33 pm

svaha
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantrāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. (in english and sanskrit)

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