Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

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Dinsdale
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Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 31, 2019 11:51 am

Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas? Why is that particular model of consciousness used? Why split up consciousness in this way?

Why not just say that consciousness takes different objects at different times? The only difference between ear and eye consciousness is the object of consciousness, sounds and sights respectively.
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SteRo
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by SteRo » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:03 pm

From my perspective it makes sense. Why?
1. Splitting up undermines fabrications of an alleged whole and thus undermines self-identity views.
2. It undermines the delusion that objects of thoughts would be real external objects.
3. It fosters mindfulness of the different sense doors.
4. It fosters effort to differentiate between bare outer sense objects and imputations by thought and to investigate whether there is a the borderline between these.

There may be many more positive effects and these are just my ignorant fabrications. Only Buddha knew why he taught what he taught.

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Bundokji
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Bundokji » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:36 pm

If we call it consciousness because it cognizes, then the separation conveys six types of cognition.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by char101 » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:48 pm

Categorization is a knowledge that comes from investigation into things (bhavana maya panna). Why do consciousness categorized by the sense objects? Because they are different in the aspects of the objects taken. Why is such categorization necessary? Because it promotes understanding.

The whole abhidhamma pitaka and some part of the sutta pitaka (patisambidha magga) basically consists of the teachings of categorizations.

Dinsdale
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:29 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:36 pm
If we call it consciousness because it cognizes, then the separation conveys six types of cognition.
I don't agree that they're different types of cognition. IMO it's the same function of awareness cognising different objects.
Last edited by Dinsdale on Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Dinsdale
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:43 pm

SteRo wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:03 pm
From my perspective it makes sense. Why?
1. Splitting up undermines fabrications of an alleged whole and thus undermines self-identity views.
2. It undermines the delusion that objects of thoughts would be real external objects.
3. It fosters mindfulness of the different sense doors.
4. It fosters effort to differentiate between bare outer sense objects and imputations by thought and to investigate whether there is a the borderline between these.

There may be many more positive effects and these are just my ignorant fabrications. Only Buddha knew why he taught what he taught.

:anjali:
1. Yes, I can see that regarding consciousness as singular could bolster self-view, the sense of "my consciousness" as an independent function.
2. Isn't the difference between a thought and a bodily sensation (for example) pretty obvious to start with?
3. Yes, but what's the point of that? Do you mean as related to #1?
4. Seems the same as point #2?

I'm not saying that the 6-fold classification is invalid, but I am questioning the assumption that it's the only useful way to examine experience.
Last edited by Dinsdale on Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Dinsdale
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:46 pm

char101 wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:48 pm
Categorization is a knowledge that comes from investigation into things (bhavana maya panna). Why do consciousness categorized by the sense objects? Because they are different in the aspects of the objects taken. Why is such categorization necessary? Because it promotes understanding.

The whole abhidhamma pitaka and some part of the sutta pitaka (patisambidha magga) basically consists of the teachings of categorizations.
Perhaps, but there are many different ways of categorising things, and many different models of experience.
The question here is not why the suttas contain models, but specifically why consciousness is split into six discreet aspects, rather than being considered as a single function which takes different objects.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by JohnK » Thu Oct 31, 2019 3:55 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 11:51 am
The only difference between ear and eye consciousness is the object of consciousness, sounds and sights respectively.
Perhaps this is just "how it seems."
Perhaps what feels the same about it is actually the 6th consciousness: once I have labeled the object as a particular sound or sight, my mind knows that mind object.
Just a thought.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by pegembara » Thu Oct 31, 2019 4:27 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 11:51 am
Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas? Why is that particular model of consciousness used? Why split up consciousness in this way?

Why not just say that consciousness takes different objects at different times? The only difference between ear and eye consciousness is the object of consciousness, sounds and sights respectively.
Because there is no one consciousness ie. the so-called "knower" that takes different objects in. The genius of the Buddha is the deconstructing of this "knower" into parts and making clear its coreless essenceless nature. Another ingenious idea is to point out the arising/passing nature of consciousness and dependent co-arising. In other words, the "knower" is a mere fabrication.

Ditto for the five aggregates.
"Consciousness, monks, is classified simply by the requisite condition in dependence on which it arises. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the eye & forms is classified simply as eye-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the ear & sounds is classified simply as ear-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the nose & aromas is classified simply as nose-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the tongue & flavors is classified simply as tongue-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the body & tactile sensations is classified simply as body-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the intellect & ideas is classified simply as intellect-consciousness.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
"If anyone were to say, 'The eye is the self,' that wouldn't be tenable. The arising & falling away of the eye are discerned. And when its arising & falling away are discerned, it would follow that 'My self arises & falls away.' That's why it wouldn't be tenable if anyone were to say, 'The eye is the self.' So the eye is not-self. If anyone were to say, 'Forms are the self,' that wouldn't be tenable... Thus the eye is not-self and forms are not-self. If anyone were to say, 'Consciousness at the eye is the self,' that wouldn't be tenable... Thus the eye is not-self, forms are not-self, consciousness at the eye is not-self. If anyone were to say, 'Contact at the eye is the self,' that wouldn't be tenable... Thus the eye is not-self, forms are not-self, consciousness at the eye is not-self, contact at the eye is not-self. If anyone were to say, 'Feeling is the self,' that wouldn't be tenable... Thus the eye is not-self, forms are not-self, consciousness at the eye is not-self, contact at the eye is not-self, feeling is not self. If anyone were to say, 'Craving is the self,' that wouldn't be tenable. The arising & falling away of craving are discerned. And when its arising & falling away are discerned, it would follow that 'My self arises & falls away.' That's why it wouldn't be tenable if anyone were to say, 'Craving is the self.' Thus the eye is not-self, forms are not-self, consciousness at the eye is not-self, contact at the eye is not-self, feeling is not self, craving is not-self.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Once one knows what mind consciousness is (mind activity, the mind sense), then one can actually notice outside of the jhanas, in ordinary worldly consciousness, that whatever one sees is followed immediately by a different type of consciousness. Different types of consciousness are arising and passing away, one after the other. Maybe it's another sight consciousness, and then mind consciousness, or maybe taste consciousness, and then mind consciousness. This mind consciousness follows immediately, so close behind the other five types of sense consciousness, that it gives the five senses an illusion of similarity. When one sees something, when one hears something or feels something with the body, what is in common with those experiences? What gives it the illusion of sameness? After experiencing jhana one will know that there is this mind consciousness always following behind; holding the hand, so to speak, of the other five senses. Once one sees that, then one can understand why there's an illusion of continuity in the experience of consciousness.

'Knowing' is like the particles of sand on a beach. From a distance it looks like there is no gap, no space, between those grains of sand. Then one goes closer and closer and closer and sees that there are just grains of sand, and in between those grains there is nothing. Nothing runs through those grains of sand. Like water in a stream. It looks like there is a continuous flow. However, once one gets closer with a microscope, an electron microscope, one can see that between the water molecules there is nothing, just space. One can then see the granular nature of consciousness. One consciousness arises and then another disappears. As it says in the Satipatthana Samyutta, "cittas arise and pass away" (SN 47, 42).

A person who still thinks they are the citta (mind), 'the knower', might be able to let go of the body, and get reborn into the jhana realms. But they would have to be reborn into this world again. They are again subject to more rebirths, more suffering. This is because they haven't fully let go of bhava (being). This person has not yet eradicated bhava-tanha (the craving to be), which results from taking the 'knower' to be self. It's like the simile of the tadpole. The tadpole is hatched in the pond, always in the water, and therefore it can't understand what dry land is. However, when the tadpole grows up to be a frog and leaves that water for the first time it carries the water on it's back. It's wet and slimy, but at least it knows what dry land is and it gets an idea for the first time what dryness is.

https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Ajah ... ANATTA.htm
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Pulsar » Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:08 pm

Dinsdale wrote
I don't agree that they're different types of cognition. IMO it's the same function of awareness cognising different objects
The six senses are definitely involved in 6 different types of cognition/consciousness.
Just think of the optic nerve, olfactory nerve etc heading directly to the brain. These nerves do not communicate
with each other, they do not branch off and link with each other via synaptic gaps, but the five senses do communicate with the mind directly. The mind makes
decisions based on the information separately received. There is a sutta that addresses this issue.
An excerpt from Bahudhatuka sutta MN 115
Ānanda, it’s when a mendicant is skilled in the elements, in the sense fields, in dependent origination, and in the possible and the impossible. That’s how a mendicant is qualified to be called ‘astute, an inquirer’.”
“But sir, how is a mendicant qualified to be called ‘skilled in the elements’?”
“There are, Ānanda, these eighteen elements: the elements of the eye, sights, and eye consciousness; the ear, sounds, and ear consciousness; the nose, smells, and nose consciousness; the tongue, tastes, and tongue consciousness; the body, touches, and body consciousness; the mind, thoughts, and mind consciousness. When a mendicant knows and sees these eighteen elements, they’re qualified to be called ‘skilled in the elements’
:candle:
Last edited by Pulsar on Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:12 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 11:51 am
The only difference between ear and eye consciousness is the object of consciousness, sounds and sights respectively.
This is plainly wrong. You cannot hear through your eyes, nor see through your ears. The six types of consciousness are differentiated by their sense-bases as well as their objects.
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Dinsdale
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:56 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:12 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 11:51 am
The only difference between ear and eye consciousness is the object of consciousness, sounds and sights respectively.
This is plainly wrong. You cannot hear through your eyes, nor see through your ears. The six types of consciousness are differentiated by their sense-bases as well as their objects.
I don't see how what I said was wrong. My point was that it's all vinnana, the same function of awareness - the only difference is the type of object involved.
The 6-fold classification is just a way of breaking down the flow of sense-objects.
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Dinsdale
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 31, 2019 6:11 pm

Pulsar wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:08 pm
Dinsdale wrote
I don't agree that they're different types of cognition. IMO it's the same function of awareness cognising different objects
The six senses are definitely involved in 6 different types of cognition/consciousness.
Just think of the optic nerve, olfactory nerve etc heading directly to the brain. These nerves do not communicate
with each other, they do not branch off and link with each other via synaptic gaps, but the five senses do communicate with the mind directly. The mind makes
decisions based on the information separately received. There is a sutta that addresses this issue.
An excerpt from Bahudhatuka sutta MN 115
Ānanda, it’s when a mendicant is skilled in the elements, in the sense fields, in dependent origination, and in the possible and the impossible. That’s how a mendicant is qualified to be called ‘astute, an inquirer’.”
“But sir, how is a mendicant qualified to be called ‘skilled in the elements’?”
“There are, Ānanda, these eighteen elements: the elements of the eye, sights, and eye consciousness; the ear, sounds, and ear consciousness; the nose, smells, and nose consciousness; the tongue, tastes, and tongue consciousness; the body, touches, and body consciousness; the mind, thoughts, and mind consciousness. When a mendicant knows and sees these eighteen elements, they’re qualified to be called ‘skilled in the elements’
:candle:
Sure, there's clearly there's a lot of information being continually processed from the senses, the brain then decides which data to prioritise, according to current needs and interests. So we are presented with a series of sense-impressions, this usually being an unconscious process.
But I'm not sure how this this relates to the OP.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Bundokji » Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:05 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:29 pm
I don't agree that they're different types of cognition. IMO it's the same function of awareness cognising different objects.
If i am not mistaken, and i don't want to put words in your mouth, but i sense that interpreting awareness as the necessary condition in all sense object is driven by the idea, that whether we think about it or not, awareness is still necessary (or present) for sense experience or consciousness.

If the above is the underlying assumption behind your question, the trick lies in believing that awareness is still a thing if we don't think about it. In fact, if you don't think about awareness as a thing, there is no such a thing as awareness. The same applies to other sense media.

I think awareness is closely connected to attention, and i think attention is necessary for re-cognition (as opposed to cognition). Through the ability to re-cognize, we have the impression that the I that sees is the same I that hears. But through this very act of unification through awareness or attention or whatever we want to call it, we can recognize that hearing is dependent on the ear and sounds, while seeing is dependent on the eye and sights. Therefore, an injury to the ear, or an injury to eye would not cease either awareness of sounds or awareness of sights. There is no separate awareness beyond the object of awareness in the same way there is no eye consciousness apart from eye object.

I hope the above makes sense.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

Dinsdale
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:14 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:05 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:29 pm
I don't agree that they're different types of cognition. IMO it's the same function of awareness cognising different objects.
If i am not mistaken, and i don't want to put words in your mouth, but i sense that interpreting awareness as the necessary condition in all sense object is driven by the idea, that whether we think about it or not, awareness is still necessary (or present) for sense experience or consciousness.

If the above is the underlying assumption behind your question, the trick lies in believing that awareness is still a thing if we don't think about it. In fact, if you don't think about awareness as a thing, there is no such a thing as awareness. The same applies to other sense media.

I think awareness is closely connected to attention, and i think attention is necessary for re-cognition (as opposed to cognition). Through the ability to re-cognize, we have the impression that the I that sees is the same I that hears. But through this very act of unification through awareness or attention or whatever we want to call it, we can recognize that hearing is dependent on the ear and sounds, while seeing is dependent on the eye and sights. Therefore, an injury to the ear, or an injury to eye would not cease either awareness of sounds or awareness of sights. There is no separate awareness beyond the object of awareness in the same way there is no eye consciousness apart from eye object.

I hope the above makes sense.
I'm not trying to make a distinction between awareness and consciousness, I'm using them to mean the same function.

I do agree that where we place attention is an important consideration in understanding consciousness. If we're not paying attention to something, then either we won't be conscious of it at all, or we'll only be peripherally conscious of it.
Obviously it's different when we're practising mindfulness, since we're deliberately placing attention on particular aspects of experience, and thereby deprioritising other aspects.

I don't really understand your references to cognition in this discussion. Here we're discussing sense-consciousness,
which is just the initial stage of the cognitive process.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition
Last edited by Dinsdale on Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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