Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

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

Post by JohnK »

I'm no expert -- this is in the spirit of exploring with you.
Existence of an eye and existence of a form does not equal seeing (probably not controversial); "eye consciousness" being the phrase for seeing (maybe controversial?). Close eyes -- no seeing; open eyes -- seeing. Seeing is distinct from not seeing and distinct from hearing, from smelling, etc. hence not 1 type of sense consciousness.
Once seeing is known, i.e., once eye consciousness is known, (and clearly once an object is recognized), the sense sphere in play is mind knowing mind objects -- which then is the same type of consciousness.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Bundokji »

Dinsdale wrote: Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:14 pm I'm not trying to make a distinction between awareness and consciousness. Being aware of something is the same as being conscious of something.

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.

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.
whttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition
"And why do you call it 'consciousness'? Because it cognizes, thus it is called consciousness. What does it cognize? It cognizes what is sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, alkaline, non-alkaline, salty, & unsalty. Because it cognizes, it is called consciousness.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

According to the above, the Buddha told us why it is called consciousness: because it cognizes. Awareness is an aspect of mind consciousness which is, along with attention, are necessary conditions for recognition. Through recognition, we know that there are types of cognition (consciousnesses) that are conditioned by sense organs.
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 DooDoot »

SteRo wrote: Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:03 pm2. It undermines the delusion that objects of thoughts would be real external objects.
The above sounds like solipsism or Brahmanism or Yogacara; that the mind or Atman or Brahma or God is the only or preeminent reality. My impression is the six-fold consciousness is the opposite to what you have written; where you appeared to give primacy to consciousness. My impression is the six-fold consciousness places emphasis upon the doctrine that consciousness is dependent upon sense organs and sense objects. In other words, the six-fold consciousness gives primacy to consciousness being connected to material phenomena. In other words, the six-fold consciousness appears to negate any real possibly of imputing any pseudo-Atman or Soul upon consciousness (such as a patisandhi-vinnana) that can be reincarnated from life to life, as emphasised in MN 38. You appear to be aware nama-rupa in Buddhism means 'mentality-materiality' rather than the Brahmanistic 'name-form'.
The four primary elements are the reason why the aggregate of form (rupa) is found. Nama and rupa are the reasons why the aggregate of consciousness is found.

SN 22.56 & 82
Were someone to say, 'I will describe a coming, a going, a passing away, an arising, a growth, an increase, or a proliferation of consciousness apart from form (rupa), from feeling, from perception, from fabrications,' that would be impossible.

SN 22.53
Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises....

"Dependent on ear & sounds, ear-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on nose & aromas, nose-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on tongue & flavors, tongue-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on body & tactile sensations, body-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on intellect & mind-objects, intellect-consciousness arises..

MN 18; 148, etc
...the monk Sāti the Fisherman's Son, through stubbornness and attachment to that very same pernicious viewpoint, continued to insist, "Exactly so, friends. I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One such that it is just this consciousness that runs and wanders on, not another....

It's good, monks, that you understand the Dhamma taught by me in this way, for in many ways I have said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, 'Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness.' But this monk Sāti, the Fisherman's Son, through his own poor grasp [of the Dhamma], has not only slandered us but has also dug himself up [by the root], producing much demerit for himself. That will lead to this worthless man's long-term harm & suffering.

MN 38
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

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

Post by Sam Vara »

Dinsdale wrote: Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:46 pm ... 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.
All three formulations of your problem have been clear, and this is I think the clearest.

Overall, your questions seem to point to what Immanuel Kant calls the "Transcendental Unity of Apperception". If there were six perfectly discreet aspects or faculties, then they could not cohere in one perceiving subject. Each sense base would be separate from the others, but there would be nothing to relate your seeing to your hearing or other modes of experience. And there clearly is.

This thing is a unity because it is the focus for sensory coherence; it is of apperception, because it apperceives and therefore makes sense of the world; and it is transcendental, because it is not any possible object of experience, but a precondition for our experience. The TUA is a precondition for our perception of objects (in the widest sense of the word); if the eye-consciousness were unrelated to the ear-consciousness, we could not make sense of a visible thing making a sound.

The problem is, of course, that some people who have read and taken on board a particular conception of anatta don't like to ponder this too much, as it is an enduring thing which could in some senses of the term be said to be "mine", and therefore begins to look too much like a conception of self for their comfort.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by sentinel »

It appears the mind do the saying , without the mind telling us what is seeing , we don't know it is a seeing . The experience of seeing is one thing , so does the hearing , smelling , tasting , sensing and cognising . But since they are all linked together , the mind has other functioning (ie thinking) that enable the mind to relate to them and translate it into our understanding . If your mind is not attentive , when someone calling , you would not aware of it although there is a hearing because of the sounds but the mind didn't notice it .
If you take science to explain , it is the nerves system that transmitting the signals to the brains area . Each of the sense door is different hence six type of consciousness , but six of them were links together by the nerves system .
Therefore , it is 6 yet it is 1 .
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

Just for full disclosure, as well as "consciousness without feature" which is sometimes discussed here at Dhamma Wheel, there is also the notion of discriminative consciousness (see MN43).

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Srilankaputra »

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?
"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.

"Just as fire is classified simply by whatever requisite condition in dependence on which it burns — a fire that burns in dependence on wood is classified simply as a wood-fire, a fire that burns in dependence on wood-chips is classified simply as a wood-chip-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on grass is classified simply as a grass-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on cow-dung is classified simply as a cow-dung-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on chaff is classified simply as a chaff-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on rubbish is classified simply as a rubbish-fire
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

But I don't understand why you refer to the dependant origination of consciousness as a model of consciousness. If we say that a flame exist due to fuel and air, would that be thought of as an attempt to model the flame?
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by chownah »

retrofuturist wrote: Fri Nov 01, 2019 3:36 am Greetings,

Just for full disclosure, as well as "consciousness without feature" which is sometimes discussed here at Dhamma Wheel, there is also the notion of discriminative consciousness (see MN43).

Metta,
Paul. :)
I looked at thanissaro's translation of mn43 (https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .html#fn-1) but it is not clear to me what you are referring to when you say "discriminative consciousness".
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Chownah,

He seems to use different phrasing... here's a translation that speaks of "discriminative consciousness".

The reason I bring it up is because MN43 refers to...
And what does it discriminate?

It discriminates pleasure
and it discriminates pain
and it discriminates neither pain nor pleasure
... which is a different threefold scheme to the six-sense consciousnesses.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Spiny Norman »

Bundokji wrote: Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:34 pm
Dinsdale wrote: Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:14 pm I'm not trying to make a distinction between awareness and consciousness. Being aware of something is the same as being conscious of something.

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.

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.
whttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition
"And why do you call it 'consciousness'? Because it cognizes, thus it is called consciousness. What does it cognize? It cognizes what is sour, bitter, pungent, sweet, alkaline, non-alkaline, salty, & unsalty. Because it cognizes, it is called consciousness.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

According to the above, the Buddha told us why it is called consciousness: because it cognizes. Awareness is an aspect of mind consciousness which is, along with attention, are necessary conditions for recognition. Through recognition, we know that there are types of cognition (consciousnesses) that are conditioned by sense organs.
SN22.79 is at odds with the standard 6-fold description of vinnana in the suttas, and sounds much more like sanna than vinnana.
When you say "recognition", do you mean sanna? That's often how sanna is explained, the example in the suttas is recognising colour. Which sounds exactly the same as recognising flavour!
Last edited by Spiny Norman on Fri Nov 01, 2019 6:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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sentinel
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by sentinel »

I agree with dinsdale . There is one type of mind consciousness or awareness ie being aware of whereas the discriminative factor is not consciousness itself but an attribute of perception .
Last edited by sentinel on Fri Nov 01, 2019 6:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Spiny Norman »

retrofuturist wrote: Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:33 am Greetings Chownah,

He seems to use different phrasing... here's a translation that speaks of "discriminative consciousness".

The reason I bring it up is because MN43 refers to...
And what does it discriminate?

It discriminates pleasure
and it discriminates pain
and it discriminates neither pain nor pleasure
... which is a different threefold scheme to the six-sense consciousnesses.

Metta,
Paul. :)
Yes, here vinnana seems to be consciousness of vedana. Though again I would argue it's the same vinnana, and not three different vinnanas. What changes is the object of consciousness, and not the nature or function of consciousness. Though again, vinnana here seems to be merging with sanna, since it's recognising or discriminating.

In any case I think the 6-fold classification is the one most commonly referred to in the suttas, which is why I focused on it.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Spiny Norman »

Sam Vara wrote: Thu Oct 31, 2019 9:39 pm
Dinsdale wrote: Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:46 pm ... 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.
All three formulations of your problem have been clear, and this is I think the clearest.

Overall, your questions seem to point to what Immanuel Kant calls the "Transcendental Unity of Apperception". If there were six perfectly discreet aspects or faculties, then they could not cohere in one perceiving subject. Each sense base would be separate from the others, but there would be nothing to relate your seeing to your hearing or other modes of experience. And there clearly is.

This thing is a unity because it is the focus for sensory coherence; it is of apperception, because it apperceives and therefore makes sense of the world; and it is transcendental, because it is not any possible object of experience, but a precondition for our experience. The TUA is a precondition for our perception of objects (in the widest sense of the word); if the eye-consciousness were unrelated to the ear-consciousness, we could not make sense of a visible thing making a sound.

The problem is, of course, that some people who have read and taken on board a particular conception of anatta don't like to ponder this too much, as it is an enduring thing which could in some senses of the term be said to be "mine", and therefore begins to look too much like a conception of self for their comfort.
It's really a practical question. When for
example I'm watching a film, my attention is mostly on the sights and sounds, so that is what I'm conscious of.
I can choose to focus on the soundtrack, in which case I am less aware of the visual images (it's as if they become peripheral). So for me consciousness is more like a torch beam which illuminates different aspects of experience at different times. And mindfulness involves deliberately holding the torch beam in one place.

I assume that the purpose of the 6-fold classification in the suttas is to emphasise the conditionality of consciousness, though I find this model rather contrived, and not necessarily in line with actual experience.
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by chownah »

The idea that there is one kind of consciousness seems to me to tend to the idea that consciousness is a continuum...some people view it that way but others view it from the momentariness perspective which is the idea that consciousness is arising and fading away constantly and each arising of consciousness (of any sort) is a different consciusness than the ones that precede and follow it.....and so with consciousness arising and fading with each arising being a different consciousness then it doesn't seem so appropriate to speak in terms of one kind of consciousness attending to different objects but seems more appropriate to speak of different arisings of consciousness attend to different objects and so we classify these arisings by what object they attend to......for me (maybe not for others) the consciousness continuum with there being one continually existant consciousness tends to pull my mind towards seeing a consciousness as an object (in the subject/object reationship) or towards seeing consciousness a having a self (as opposed to it being a dependently arisen fabrication empty of self).
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Re: Why is consciousness 6-fold in the suttas?

Post by Spiny Norman »

chownah wrote: Fri Nov 01, 2019 8:45 am The idea that there is one kind of consciousness seems to me to tend to the idea that consciousness is a continuum...some people view it that way but others view it from the momentariness perspective which is the idea that consciousness is arising and fading away constantly and each arising of consciousness (of any sort) is a different consciusness than the ones that precede and follow it.....and so with consciousness arising and fading with each arising being a different consciousness then it doesn't seem so appropriate to speak in terms of one kind of consciousness attending to different objects but seems more appropriate to speak of different arisings of consciousness attend to different objects and so we classify these arisings by what object they attend to......for me (maybe not for others) the consciousness continuum with there being one continually existant consciousness tends to pull my mind towards seeing a consciousness as an object (in the subject/object reationship) or towards seeing consciousness a having a self (as opposed to it being a dependently arisen fabrication empty of self).
chownah
Yes, a 6-fold classification of consiousness lends itself more readily to a "digital" rather than an "analogue" model of consciousness.
Digital involves repeated sampling, as opposed to the smooth continuous change of an analogue signal.

Though the digital model would still work with consciousness being singular (as opposed to being split 6 ways). It would just be viewed as a succession of sense-objects from various sources.
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