How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

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

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:49 am

SamKR wrote:
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.
I don't think the Mahavedalla Sutta is particularly helpful here, it basically says we can't distinguish between 3 of the aggregates - but in that case, why is the distinction repeatedly made in the suttas?
However if you look at the Loka Sutta, it seems to describe a dependently arising sequence: object, sense-organ and sense-consciousness lead to contact, and then contact leads to feeling. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I don't see a problem with describing sequential processes, it seems to tie in with experience.
And as I understand it, consciousness always involves an object, ie we are always conscious of something.
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SamKR
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by SamKR » Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:33 pm

Spiny Norman wrote: I don't think the Mahavedalla Sutta is particularly helpful here, it basically says we can't distinguish between 3 of the aggregates - but in that case, why is the distinction repeatedly made in the suttas?
The sutta is not saying we cannot distinguish between them. It says these cannot be separated from one another to distinguish them.
"It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them."
Spiny Norman wrote: However if you look at the Loka Sutta, it seems to describe a dependently arising sequence: object, sense-organ and sense-consciousness lead to contact, and then contact leads to feeling. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And as I understand it, consciousness always involves an object, ie we are always conscious of something.
I am not sure what you mean by object. If by object you mean "an object out there" existing independent of our experience, then I don't agree.
But if by object you mean rupa then yes the Buddha said "Dependent on the eye & forms there arises eye-consciousness...".

I don't think consciousness involves any object "out there". Consciousness involves name-form: " vinnana paccaya nama-rupam".
I don't think we are conscious of something apart from nama-rupa. There is just consciousness in consciousness - which arises dependent upon other things.
Consciousness does not need an "I" and "something" out there.

SarathW
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by SarathW » Thu Oct 03, 2013 1:55 am

The way I understand we should not take categories (study guides) as the real.
Mind and matter are interrelated and inter dependence hence inseparable.
We may say North America and South America are two separate things. But they are the part of the same world.
The following article may help you to understand the Dependent Origination.

http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/coarise5.htm
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

Dinsdale
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by Dinsdale » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:00 pm

SamKR wrote: Consciousness does not need an "I" and "something" out there.
Certainly not an "I", though if there were no form "out there", then there'd be nothing to see.

But going back to the OP, what do you think is the difference between consciousness and perception?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

Dinsdale
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by Dinsdale » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:04 pm

reflection wrote: 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.
I broadly agree, but I don't think there is a mutual dependence - I'd say that perception depends upon consciousness, but not necessarily the other way round. Consider the meditative state of "cessation of perception and feeling", for example.
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barcsimalsi
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by barcsimalsi » Fri Oct 04, 2013 1:28 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
reflection wrote: 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.
I broadly agree, but I don't think there is a mutual dependence - I'd say that perception depends upon consciousness, but not necessarily the other way round. Consider the meditative state of "cessation of perception and feeling", for example.
A dialogue between ven Kotthika and ven Sariputta in MN43,
"What is the difference, your reverence, between that dead thing, passed away, and that monk who has attained to the stopping of perception and feeling?"

"Your reverence, the bodily activities of that dead thing, passed away, have been stopped, have subsided, the vocal activities have been stopped, have subsided, the mental activities have been stopped, have subsided, the vitality is entirely destroyed, the heat allayed, the sense-organs are entirely broken asunder. But that monk who has attained to the stopping of perception and feeling, although his bodily activities have been stopped, have subsided, although his vocal activities have been stopped, have subsided, although his mental activities have been stopped, have subsided, his vitality is not entirely destroyed, his heat is not allayed, his sense-organs are purified. This, your reverence, is the difference between a dead thing, passed away, and that monk who has attained to the stopping of perception and feeling."
It doesn't mention a thing about consciousness or awareness so i wonder if consciousness also subsided.

SamKR
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by SamKR » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:44 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
But going back to the OP, what do you think is the difference between consciousness and perception?
I understand consciousness as mere presence, and perceptions as what is present. When I say "what is present" I don't mean an object out there but the pure "real" experience without assumptions.
Now, without "what is present" the idea of presence cannot exist. And without presence (in absence) "what is" is not presented/discerned/manifested.

To make myself more clear, let me present different modes of attention we may have in ascending order of refinement:

1. Normally, we assume that an object is inherently lying there, and it inherently possesses the attributes (like color, shape, size, etc.).
That is, in our normal mode of attention we think: "I am here, and I am conscious of an object lying there."
Example: "I am here, and I am seeing the red rectangular table lying there."

2. We can discard the assumption of an object inherently lying there having inherent attributes, and shift our attention to the mere attributes (perceptions, like color, shape). Instead of seeing a red rectangular table there (which is an assumption), we can just see red & rectangle (which is not an assumption but a perception, an actual experience).
So the mode of attention is: "I am here, and I am conscious of the perception there."
Example: "I am here, and I am seeing the red rectangle there."

3. Now, the idea that "perceptions are there" does not make sense. In perceptions idea of locality does not apply.
So we refine our mode of attention to: "I am here, and I am conscious of the perceptions"
Example: "I am here, and I am am seeing the red rectangle."

4. The idea of "here" only exists in relation to "there". So the idea of "here" also evaporates.
So with further refinement the mode of attention becomes: "I am, and I am conscious of the perception."
Example: "I am, and I am seeing the red rectangle."

5. With the understanding of anatta our assumption about "I" evaporates.
So the mode of attention now is: "Consciousness of perceptions."
Example: "Seeing the red rectangle."
Thus we reach the stage as described in Bahiya sutta: In seeing of the red-rectangle (in the seen) just the seeing of the red-rectangle (just the seen) - no seer" and no seen object.
In the seeing of a red rectangular table, "table" is just an idea. In reality of mere seeing, newer and newer "images" of red rectangle (seen) are appearing (presenting/manifesting) and disappearing.

chownah
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by chownah » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:30 pm

SamKR,
I like your breakdown. I have a slightly different take on it. While leaving perhaps most do it intact my view of how perception and consciousness is different from yours.

1. Consciousness performs cognition. (Might be better to think that consciousness IS cognition to avoid self making.)
2. Consciousness must be present for cognition to occur. (Might be better to think that consciousness IS cognition here similarly and also elsewhere.)
3. Consciousness can, if present, cognize perceptions.
4. Consciousness can also cognize mental objects which I view to be different from perceptions.
5. Perceptions are the simplest forms of cognition of stimulus received at the FIVE sense doors (mental objects are not perceptions) and they only occur if the sense door, it's object, and consciousness come together.

So, my idea is that if the eye is open and light is entering it and consciousness is present then colors perceived are cognized first..."I see green! yellow, red.".....then shapes are cognized....."I see different shapes of green, yellow, and red"......and then we mistakenly cognize selves...."the red shape is a table, the green shape is a bush, the yellow shape is a banana".....and then we perhaps cognize similarities and differences....."the banana was green yesterday but is yellow today and looks like it will taste like the ones I like to eat, yummy, it would be good if I could make a banana split with some chocolate ice cream which I cognize is located in the freezer.

So you see, my view on consciousness and it's job of cognition performs a multitude of different tasks covering the entire range more or less of mental activities as well as doing the preliminary job of sense input also known as "perception".....so, I guess for me, perception is one type of cognition; the recognition of sensory input known as perception.

I guess......don't know for sure......

I have never tried to actually state these ideas before so there may be some mistakes or even outright mistaken ideas.....criticism is encouraged.

chownah

SamKR
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by SamKR » Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:03 pm

Thanks, chownah, for your perspective. I may have misunderstood you, but It appears to me that you see the same consciousness cognizing different things, and that first there is consciousness then there are perceptions and others.
But in my understanding, we cannot say that it is the same consciousness doing different cognitions. Saying so would lead to a conclusion that consciousness exists inherently as some essence; that would not be in accordance to teaching of emptiness. Also, for each consciousness there is corresponding perception - coarising being dependent upon each other, not separate from each other.

chownah
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by chownah » Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:22 am

SamKR,
Good post. The idea that consciousness is an essence is not what I'm trying to portray in that I agree with you that consciousness is empty of self which precludes it's continued existence as some sort of essence.

One of the reasons I posted is that I think that it is unlikely that there will be an airtight analysis of feeling/perception/consciousness for many reasons not the least of which is that the meanings of these words in the English language are multiple and often poorly defined and relying on each other for support. I have no faith that Pali scholars have been able to discern exactly which Pali words correspond to which English words.....perhaps perception and consciousness got reversed for example.....I am no Pali scholar (haha) but I really don't think that there is a broad enough body of Pali literature to be able to clearly understand the precise meaning of the Pali words which are translated into perception and consciousness. Think about the HUGE body of literature on the English language which is directed at understanding perception and consciousness!.......and still there is a multiplicity of views.

Seems like we agree that a primary consideration is to maintain the view of emptiness which I take to mean the same thing as having no doctrine of self.

So, having said that, your posts have piqued my curiosity about some things and I think I will take some time to research them and perhaps post here again later although my most pressing research project of the moment is my farming...I don't want some young plants I transplanted to wither from lack of attention/water! DO for farming includes withered plants is conditioned by lack of water!

chownah

chownah
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by chownah » Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:40 pm

SamKR,
I read in MN43 that in one instance consciousness is conjoined with discernment and in another instance consciousness is conjoined with perception and feeling. I take this to mean that consciousness acts in two different capacities one being the intake of data from the sense media and the other being analysis and judgement sorts of things.

You posted that consciousness and perception coarise and are mutually dependent. What reference do you have that shows this?

Also, can you expand on your idea that consciousness is mere presence?......presence of what?....etc. Also, is there some sutta to support this idea? It seems to me since consciousness is repeatedly described as having the function of cognizing that your concept of mere presence seems to be too passive of a representation.
chownah

SamKR
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by SamKR » Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:48 pm

chownah wrote:SamKR,
I read in MN43 that in one instance consciousness is conjoined with discernment and in another instance consciousness is conjoined with perception and feeling. I take this to mean that consciousness acts in two different capacities one being the intake of data from the sense media and the other being analysis and judgement sorts of things.
I do not understand consciousness (vinnana) as something that takes data or analyzes anything. I understand it as a process itself: cognizing/knowing/manifesting/presenting/arising/appearing/"being aware of"/existing itself is consciousness. Anything (perception, feeling, etc.) that has this very quality of manifesting/presenting itself is said to be conjoined with consciousness.
chownah wrote: You posted that consciousness and perception coarise and are mutually dependent. What reference do you have that shows this?
The same sutta MN43 implies that they are mutually dependent. And there are many suttas that imply or directly state this. For example, Nagara Sutta and Nalakalapiyo Sutta.
It is as if two sheaves of reeds were to stand leaning against one another. In the same way, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness, from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.
chownah wrote: Also, can you expand on your idea that consciousness is mere presence?......presence of what?....etc. Also, is there some sutta to support this idea? It seems to me since consciousness is repeatedly described as having the function of cognizing that your concept of mere presence seems to be too passive of a representation.
chownah
Being present = presence = function of cognizing. Being present is knowing or cognizing. When do you know something? You know something (dhamma) when that thing is present or that thing comes to the spotlight of awareness. You don't know that thing if it is absent. Then the very quality of presence itself is consciousness. Presence (consciousness) of what? Presence of perception, feeling, thoughts, fabrication, any experience or anything that arises or known. Sutta support is MN43 itself:
"'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.'"
If there is anything that cognizes then it is consciousness (cognizing) itself that cognizes. There is no separate inherently or independently existing thing that possesses the separate function of cognizing. So, feeling feels and consciousness cognizes the feeling (that is consciousness brings the feeling to the spotlight of existence or appearance) - and they are mutually dependent.

That is how I understand it currently which, of course, is subject to change. :)

Dinsdale
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Oct 06, 2013 11:51 am

SamKR wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
But going back to the OP, what do you think is the difference between consciousness and perception?
I understand consciousness as mere presence, and perceptions as what is present. When I say "what is present" I don't mean an object out there but the pure "real" experience without assumptions.
Now, without "what is present" the idea of presence cannot exist. And without presence (in absence) "what is" is not presented/discerned/manifested.
I think you're confusing mind-consciousness and eye-consciousness ( for example ). If one becomes conscious of a perception or feeling or whatever, then IMO those are examples of mind-consciousness.
Compared to say eye-consciousness, which I see as the cognition of basic visual information, followed by perception and recognition, then feeling.

As for your statement "without what is present the idea of presence cannot exist", well, yes, but I think it's simpler to say that consciousness always has an object.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

Dinsdale
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by Dinsdale » Sun Oct 06, 2013 11:53 am

barcsimalsi wrote: It doesn't mention a thing about consciousness or awareness so i wonder if consciousness also subsided.
As a general observation about meditative states like the jhanas, I'd say that there is consciousness of these states.
See here: http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/table1.htm
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daverupa
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Re: How to distinguish consciousness and perception?

Post by daverupa » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:39 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
SamKR wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
But going back to the OP, what do you think is the difference between consciousness and perception?
I understand consciousness as mere presence, and perceptions as what is present. When I say "what is present" I don't mean an object out there but the pure "real" experience without assumptions.
Now, without "what is present" the idea of presence cannot exist. And without presence (in absence) "what is" is not presented/discerned/manifested.
I think you're confusing mind-consciousness and eye-consciousness ( for example ). If one becomes conscious of a perception or feeling or whatever, then IMO those are examples of mind-consciousness.
Compared to say eye-consciousness, which I see as the cognition of basic visual information, followed by perception and recognition, then feeling.

As for your statement "without what is present the idea of presence cannot exist", well, yes, but I think it's simpler to say that consciousness always has an object.
Following Nanavira, I think it's helpful to use 'presence' as a translation for vinnana in cases of examining tripartite contact.

For any presence, the presence is not replicated elsewhere: senses' arising or passing is present, else it is experienced as change-while-standing (e.g. one note is not another note & one song is not another song even though they occur over a duration as reflected in memory, but even hearing the same song again is in in toto differently present if for no other reason than that later it is the n+1 occasion of hearing it, instead of the earlier n-occasion, with consequent differences in citta, etc. This formulation, incidentally, makes positing momentariness unnecessary; anicca is a principled result of conditionality, nothing more - it doesn't need to get ossified in mental processes in that way).

Perceptions are the way sense impressions are broken up into meaningful bits. Perceiving specific notes can take training, while discerning music is relatively common. Perceiving different colors is relatively common, but discerning a lot of color-names is less common, and agreeing with someone about certain shades is less common still. Perception is an interesting event.

And, of course, there are one of three hedonic tones to any sort of perceptual presence.

And, finally, these all occur on top of one another.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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