How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
barcsimalsi
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How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by barcsimalsi » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:48 pm

"And why do you call it 'perception'? Because it perceives, thus it is called 'perception.' What does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. Because it perceives, it is called perception.

"And why do you call them 'fabrications'? Because they fabricate fabricated things, thus they are called 'fabrications.' What do they fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, they fabricate form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, they fabricate feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, they fabricate consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because they fabricate fabricated things, they are called fabrications. [3]

"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.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I always thought that consciousness is label as mere observer or receiver but this sutta interpret it differently, now i'm confuse of the true meaning between consciousness and perception.

Appreciate any help.

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kirk5a
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by kirk5a » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:18 pm

However, these piles are best understood, not as objects, but as activities, for an important passage (SN 22.79) defines them in terms of their functions. Form — which covers physical phenomena of all sorts, both within and without the body — wears down or "de-forms." Feeling feels pleasure, pain, and neither pleasure nor pain. Perception labels or identifies objects. Consciousness cognizes the six senses (counting the intellect as the sixth) along with their objects. Of the five khandhas, fabrication is the most complex. Passages in the canon define it as intention, but it includes a wide variety of activities, such as attention, evaluation, and all the active processes of the mind. It is also the most fundamental khandha, for its intentional activity underlies the experience of form, feeling, etc. in the present moment.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... andha.html

"cognize"
cognize, cognise [ˈkɒgnaɪz kɒgˈnaɪz]
vb
(tr) to perceive, become aware of, or know
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cognize
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

santa100
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by santa100 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:28 pm

Ven. Bodhi's comment and recommended further readings might help..
http://palicanon.org/index.php/sutta-pi ... _link-2685

Virgo
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by Virgo » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:21 pm

barcsimalsi wrote: I always thought that consciousness is label as mere observer or receiver but this sutta interpret it differently, now i'm confuse of the true meaning between consciousness and perception.

Appreciate any help.
The Chapter starting at page 44:

http://www.abhidhamma.org/survey6.pdf

Kevin

chownah
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by chownah » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:26 pm

barcsimalsi,
Here is a sutta that seems to indicate that perception and consciousness can not be separated and understood separately:
From MN43


"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."


chownah

barcsimalsi
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by barcsimalsi » Tue Sep 17, 2013 3:31 am

MN43 says it all.

Thanks to everyone.

ricebowl
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by ricebowl » Fri Sep 20, 2013 4:01 pm

chownah wrote:barcsimalsi,
Here is a sutta that seems to indicate that perception and consciousness can not be separated and understood separately:
From MN43


"Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."


chownah
Thanks this helped. In one's own analogy, it's likened to a donkey chasing after a carrot hung on its saddle also trying to bite its own tail at the same time, it was an issue that kept me quite confused, and even after somebody kindly pointed out what I ought to have noticed all along, I'm still quite confused being a donkey.

"Mahavedalla Sutta: The Greater Set of Questions-and-Answers" (MN 43), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 23 July 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html . Retrieved on 20 September 2013.

Yes I'm aware about anicca.

Still, I am my feelings. I am my perceptions. I am my consciousness. Why do I need a Buddha to tell me that I am not a disjoined trinity but actually a conjoined singularity. To begin with, the Buddha taught, feelings are feelings, perceptions are perceptions, consciousness are consciouness, the meditative technique requried one to discern the existences of them, be mindful and aware of them, and that's how we work with them. And after we worked and worked and worked away at them, they actually ain't diseparate, just a conjoined phenomena, that is fine.

:yingyang: It's likened to taking everything out from the basket, counting them, then putting them back again.

So were they always conjoined? Were they ever disjoined?

Now i'm confused again, heh.
Thanks though, it was a lovely read.
Enjoyed it.
Loved it.
It is the technical details of the suttas that kept me excited.
At least the Buddha bothered to label things that He saw as useful.

Thanks this helped.

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reflection
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by reflection » Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:07 pm

In my eyes consciousness is the bare awareness and perception is mainly how this awareness is colored. For example, one person might perceive radish to taste nice while another perceives it to be awful. Also we could wonder if we all perceive the color red in the same way, and things like that. Perception often tricks you into thinking things are one way while they are another way. Consciousness itself can't do this because it is below that level.

I think the MN43 quote is not that you can't understand some differences between perception and consciousness, but that you can't have one without the other. No painting without canvas, that sort of idea. If there was no noticeable difference there would be no reason for the Buddha to have separated the two.

:namaste:

chownah
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by chownah » Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:17 pm

reflection,
What you say makes sense to me but when going to Wikipedia and reading about perception and cognition(cognition is what the Buddha said is the function of consciousness) or seems to me that what they are describing is perception as being a preliminary task of a simpler nature and cognition is used for more complex mental processes, perhaps building on perceptions. When I looked at a sutta it said that perception is based on contact and consciousness was based on namarupa which seems to point to what you are saying.......but then in another sutta it describes perception as perceiving visual stimulus while it describes consciousness as cognizing tongue stimulants.......this seems to make it more or less a toss-up. I do have a theory that the Buddha lived in a time when the mechanics of the senses were not well understood and this is why "form" is used as the sense object for the eye....at that time people did not know about optics and how the eye worked and at least among early Greek philosophers there were different theories about how vision worked......so the Buddha used the current ideas of his time which might very well have been that it actually was form which stimulated the eye. Pali dictionaries give two definitions for form; one as the visual object and one as the "physical manifestation" for lack of a better word......I'm wondering what's is the basis for differentiating the word onto the two meanings....it very well could be that in the buddha's time they did not differentiate it. Similarly, the tongue, since it seems to be the point of origin of speech might very well be taken to be the base or channel for more complex mental processes since speech is a more complex mental process......THIS IS MY VIEW ONLY.

I would be very interested in hearing from a Pali expert as to how the idea of "form" was taken to have two meanings......was it from some text which differentiated between the two meanings or was it someone overlaying more recent scientific understanding.

I would also be interested in knowing how it was decided which Pali word to translate as consciousness and which word to translate as perception.....maybe they got it backwards........I don't know.........
chownah

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reflection
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by reflection » Sat Sep 21, 2013 4:08 pm

Well, when reading about consciousness and perception, I think we have to look at context also. What is the main reason the Buddha taught them? To explain they are not self, are not owned, not controllable, those sort of things. He didn't teach them to deeply explain the mechanics of senses. So in that perspective it doesn't really matter what we see as consciousness and what we see as perception, as long as we realize, or try to realize, they are all not self. Also if somebody equates consciousness and perception, that still goes. It doesn't really change much.

SamKR
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by SamKR » Sat Sep 21, 2013 4:15 pm

How to distinguish consciousness and perception?
This is how I understand it currently:

Consciousness is the mere presence.
Presence of what? Presence of perception (red, hot, sour, smooth, etc...). Presence of feeling (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral).
If there is no presence then neither perception nor feeling is present. If there is perception and feeling there is presence already there.
Thus these three are not disjoined as they co-arise being dependent upon each other. Each of them can be distinguished clearly as different (that is distinction can be clearly made) when they co-arise: we can say this is presence (consciousness), this is perception, this is feeling. However, they can't be separated from each other as entities existing independent of each other.

chownah
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by chownah » Sat Sep 28, 2013 2:58 am

There is a new thread in the General Theravada section called "The Heretic Sage Interviews. Part 1 of the interviews has a discussion which directly relates to this topic. I found it very interesting....some of it is in untranslated Pali but there is enough English to be worthwhile.....it would be nice if more of the Pali was translated.
chownah
P.S. It is roughly the second half of the page which directly relates to this topic......the entire page is not too long.
chownah

barcsimalsi
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by barcsimalsi » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:43 am

Thank you for informing.

Dinsdale
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Sep 28, 2013 9:02 am

SamKR wrote: Consciousness is the mere presence.
Presence of what? Presence of perception (red, hot, sour, smooth, etc...). Presence of feeling (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral).
If there is no presence then neither perception nor feeling is present. If there is perception and feeling there is presence already there.
That's an interesting way of looking at it. I experience it more like a sequential process, ie first the "bare" consciousness of an object, then perception and identification, then the feeling response based on that perception.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

SamKR
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by SamKR » Sat Sep 28, 2013 7:57 pm

Spiny Norman wrote: That's an interesting way of looking at it.
This way of looking, I think, is in accordance with Mahavedalla Sutta:
Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Spiny Norman wrote:I experience it more like a sequential process, ie first the "bare" consciousness of an object, then perception and identification, then the feeling response based on that perception.
As I understand it, consciousness is not of an object out there (or a subject in here). Consciousness just is - conjoined with associated perception and feeling - arising when the conditions are fulfilled:
"Dependent on the eye & forms there arises eye-consciousness. The meeting of the three is contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

It is true that whenever there is consciousness there necessarily is perception and feeling, and vice versa. But I do not understand how it can be a sequential process that happens in time one after another. Time itself is a concept that is as "illusory" as a subject or an object.

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