The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

A forum for members who wish to develop a deeper understanding of the Pali Canon and associated Commentaries, which for discussion purposes are both treated as authoritative.

Moderator: Mahavihara moderator

Layt
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri May 04, 2018 12:58 pm

The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Layt » Sun May 06, 2018 10:31 am

Hi, what is the real meaning of "viññāṇa" ? People often translate it as "consciousness", but apparently its original meaning (the Buddha didn't invent this term) was closer to "life force" or "higher knowledge".

"Life force" would make more sense if put between "kammic imprints" (saṅkhāra) and "emergence of the 6 senses" in the Paṭicca Samuppāda. In this case the "life force" could be interpreted as the formation of the fetus caused by past kammic imprints, which would of course lead to the emergence of the 6 senses.

Though I've been thinking while typing this post, could it actually be more like a "kammic force" that would turn kammic imprints into actual results ? It would be the saṅkhāra's counterpart, the other kammic constituent of a person, an intangible process. This would explain why viññāṇa is mentioned after the saṅkhāra in both the 5 khandha and the Paṭicca Samuppāda.

If my theory were to be true, then some aspects of the Theravāda's doctrine could be analyzed from a new perspective.

User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 4205
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Ban Sri Pradu Rubber Forest, Phrao, Chiangmai

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Dhammanando » Sun May 06, 2018 10:46 am

Layt wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 10:31 am
"Life force" would make more sense if put between "kammic imprints" (saṅkhāra) and "emergence of the 6 senses" in the Paṭicca Samuppāda.
The Paṭiccasamuppāda-vibhaṅga Sutta defines viññāṇa:
  • “And what, bhikkhus, is consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness. This is called consciousness.

    https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/sn12.2

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 2929
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by DooDoot » Sun May 06, 2018 10:48 am

Layt wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 10:31 am
Hi, what is the real meaning of "viññāṇa" ? ... "higher knowledge"
MN 43 and SN 22.79 say:
It cognizes, it cognizes': Thus, friend, it is said to be 'consciousness.' And what does it cognize? It cognizes 'pleasant.' It cognizes 'painful.' It cognizes 'neither painful nor pleasant.' 'It cognizes, it cognizes': Thus it is said to be 'consciousness'.

Discernment (wisdom; higher knowledge) & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It's not possible, having separated them one from the other, to delineate the difference between them. For what one discerns, that one cognizes. What one cognizes, that one discerns.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
:candle:
Layt wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 10:31 am
"Life force"...
Some words similar to "life force" seem to be "jīvitindriyaṃ" and "ayyu":
Mendicants, there are these three faculties. Tīṇimāni, bhikkhave, indriyāni.

What three? Katamāni tīṇi?

The female faculty, the male faculty and the life faculty. Itthindriyaṃ, purisindriyaṃ, jīvitindriyaṃ

https://suttacentral.net/sn48.22/en/sujato
These five [sense organ] faculties depend on life to continue.

Imāni kho, āvuso, pañcindriyāni āyuṃ paṭicca tiṭṭhanti

https://suttacentral.net/mn43/en/sujato

Layt
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri May 04, 2018 12:58 pm

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Layt » Sun May 06, 2018 11:22 am

I already know what the sutta say about viññāṇa, but the sutta don't make sense on many subjects so I do not trust them. Besides, "cognition" is "saññā".

When I said "the original meaning" I was talking about the brahmanical meaning.

User avatar
Dhammanando
Posts: 4205
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:44 pm
Location: Ban Sri Pradu Rubber Forest, Phrao, Chiangmai

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Dhammanando » Sun May 06, 2018 12:39 pm

Layt wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 11:22 am
When I said "the original meaning" I was talking about the brahmanical meaning.
I see.

You'll find it discussed by Joanna Jurewicz in her article Playing with Fire and perhaps in some of the other ones too.

http://uw.academia.edu/JoannaJurewicz

Layt
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri May 04, 2018 12:58 pm

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Layt » Sun May 06, 2018 2:45 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 12:39 pm
Layt wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 11:22 am
When I said "the original meaning" I was talking about the brahmanical meaning.
I see.

You'll find it discussed by Joanna Jurewicz in her article Playing with Fire and perhaps in some of the other ones too.

http://uw.academia.edu/JoannaJurewicz
Thanks for the link ~

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 2929
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by DooDoot » Sun May 06, 2018 7:21 pm

Layt wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 11:22 am
When I said "the original meaning" I was talking about the brahmanical meaning.
Wiktionary says:
From Sanskrit विज्ञान (vijñāna). वि- (vi-, “diverse”) +‎ ज्ञान (gyān, “knowledge”).

Hindi

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 16460
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by mikenz66 » Sun May 06, 2018 7:28 pm

This thread about Gombrich's summary of Jurewicz's ideas might also be of interest:
viewtopic.php?t=7464

It seems clear that the Buddha appropriated a lot of existing ideas, often redefining them...

:heart:
Mike

Layt
Posts: 60
Joined: Fri May 04, 2018 12:58 pm

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Layt » Sun May 06, 2018 9:48 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 7:28 pm
This thread about Gombrich's summary of Jurewicz's ideas might also be of interest:
viewtopic.php?t=7464

It seems clear that the Buddha appropriated a lot of existing ideas, often redefining them...

:heart:
Mike
Oooooh that was very interesting, thanks a lot, exactly the kind of thing I'm interested in ~

Saengnapha
Posts: 1350
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:42 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 7:28 pm
This thread about Gombrich's summary of Jurewicz's ideas might also be of interest:
viewtopic.php?t=7464

It seems clear that the Buddha appropriated a lot of existing ideas, often redefining them...

:heart:
Mike
For me, it was interesting to read Bhante Punnaji's description of Ignorance as 'Insentience'. Many people will have a problem conceptualizing what this Ignorance is. It immediately gives rise to having a 'lack of something', KNOWLEDGE. But, to me, this is not what is posited in the Vedas or by Buddha. That state of Avijja, is one of lack of any conceivable objects, concepts, a vast sea of nothingness. No perceptions, feelings, sensations, etc. The word Insentience, pictures this much clearer, the lack of sentience. Nowhere is there someone who is ignorant.

To me, it is probably not possible to ascertain what something really meant to the Buddha because of all the existing questionable material relating different approaches and meanings to certain aspects of the nidanas that have appeared over the centuries.

Punnaji also defines viññāṇa as the process of perception/identification/naming. This is also at odds with more popular definitions, but Punnaji is not a traditionalist. He makes a lot of sense in his descriptions, but there will never be 100% agreement on all these terms and definitions within Theravada.

User avatar
rightviewftw
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:50 pm

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by rightviewftw » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:12 am

Idk about the brahmanical meaning but i can explain the Sutta.

it is a delineation of contact, conjoined with discernment, feeling and perception. It has the function of cognizing, it cognizes pleasant, unpleasant or neither pleasant nor unplesant.

Usually Vinnana referes to one of the six types of sense consciousnesses occuring at one of the sense bases, eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness etc. It is in these instances not referring to a standalone phenomena but a compound abstraction, a delineation of contact between the three;
sense-organ element, the sense-data element, consciousness element

the contact between the tree is the contact that occurs and it is delineated as a matter of convention, however it is just contact, the conjoinment between discernment, feeling, perception and consciousness is demonstrated thus; what is felt is discerned, what is discerned is perceived, what is perceived is cognized.

The convention of delineation is instrumental for teaching and explaining, it effectively adresses the differences between the various delineations of contact; consciousness is to be understood, discernment is to be developed is the example given in Maha Vedalla Sutta

If the discernment faculty is not developed to culmination, it is a basis for volitional formation and in such a case contact will beget contact.

If the discernment faculty is developed to culmination, there is no basis for volitional formation and contact does not occur.

The case of such non-occurence of contact is refered to as Vinnana-Anidassanam, translated as a consciousness without a medium or consciousness without a surface [basis for], the meaning is that there being no contact there, there is no fabricated[compounded] phenomena which could serve as a basis for more fabricated phenomena because of absence of will and intent on account of discernment.

Note that consciouness element is not the same as consciousness in general, unless it is specified to be such by context. Mere "Vinnana" usually refers to one of the six types of sense-consciousness but can take on all three meanings; Vinnana Anidassanam, Consciousness Element and Sense-Consciousness
Last edited by rightviewftw on Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:42 am, edited 10 times in total.

Dinsdale
Posts: 5964
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:16 am

Am I right in thinking that the "vi" of "vinnana" means "two", and denotes a duality?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4390
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:46 am

Dinsdale wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:16 am
Am I right in thinking that the "vi" of "vinnana" means "two", and denotes a duality?
Here's an earlier thread which goes into that:

viewtopic.php?t=12543

Saengnapha
Posts: 1350
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:36 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:16 am
Am I right in thinking that the "vi" of "vinnana" means "two", and denotes a duality?
I think it does have a dual association to it, subject object dichotomy. The end of consciousness would also be the end of vinnana. This is big departure from Advaita and the Hindu model. They don't acknowledge the possibility of the end of consciousness.

justindesilva
Posts: 807
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:38 pm

Re: The original meaning of "viññāṇa"

Post by justindesilva » Sun Jun 17, 2018 3:12 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:36 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:16 am
Am I right in thinking that the "vi" of "vinnana" means "two", and denotes a duality?
I think it does have a dual association to it, subject object dichotomy. The end of consciousness would also be the end of vinnana. This is big departure from Advaita and the Hindu model. They don't acknowledge the possibility of the end of consciousness.
Take the words vitakka ( application of thoughts when takka is arising from tarka as logic ).
Take vipassana which means analysis of perceptions or vipassana meaning insight.
Take vidarshana which arises with vi ( prefix) and darshana ( sight or seeing) again meaning insight.
The word vingnana is made of prefix vi and gnana meaning intelligence or knowledge.
Here it can be seen that vi is a prefix to enlarge or give a deeper analysis to a word to form a better meaning.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 17 guests