The suttas appear to say in many places: consciousness cannot arise/exist without a sense object.
1. Therefore, when Bodhisatta Gotama was discovering dependent origination, he traced back feeling to sense contact; he traced back sense contact to sense bases; he traced back sense bases to mind-body; and he traced back the experiencing of mind-body to consciousness. Then we he asked: "what is the cause of consciousness?" he replied "mind-body". SN 22.82 says: "Nāmarūpaṃ are the cause why the aggregate of consciousness is found". HOWEVER, this consciousness & nama-rupa here are merely mental & physical elements or neutral of suffering.
2. Later, he traced back dependent origination to ignorance. But, here, consciousness & nama-rupa were not merely elements and neutral. Here, consciousness was "arising" or "operating" because sankhara was causing consciousness to be pre-occupied with the sankhara (inner thought). Therefore, the condition for consciousness became sankhara rather than nama-rupa.
SN 22.53 explains what I call "consciousness arising" or "operating":
To consider my explanation, you must first look inside of your mind. You must see:SN 22.53 wrote:Should consciousness, when standing, stand attached to fabrications, supported by fabrications (as its object), landing on fabrications, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase & proliferation.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
1. Whenever thinking (sankhara) arises, what happens is that thinking causes consciousness to be pre-occupied with it.
2. Whenever there is no thinking (no sankhara), then consciousness becomes pre-occupied with or lands on another object, such as silence, sounds, breathing, peacefulness, little nibbana, etc.
Please put down the books and look inside your mind. When thinking (sankhara) arises, this causes consciousness to know the thinking and be slave of the thinking.