For example, I can point to my eye:

the eye itself;

I can point to an object of the eye:

a book;

But I cannot point to the eye-consciousness that arises based on the two.

  • Close your eyes and you can still see the object mentally. You can only point to the mind then. Mar 14, 2016 at 1:12
  • But that's not what I want to point towards, I want to point specifically to one of the six sense-consciousnesses. Mar 20, 2016 at 22:48
  • Yes, that is one of the six sense-consciousnesses. The mind consciousness. It gives you an idea of the presence of the mind when seeing occurs. Mar 21, 2016 at 1:32

5 Answers 5


From MN 28:

If, friends, internally the eye is intact but no external forms come into its range, and there is no corresponding conscious engagement, then there is no manifestation of the corresponding section of consciousness. If internally the eye is intact and external forms come into its range, but there is no corresponding conscious engagement, then there is no manifestation of the corresponding section of consciousness. But when internally the eye is intact and external forms come into its range and there is the corresponding conscious engagement, then there is the manifestation of the corresponding section of consciousness.

Trying to point to one's consciousness is like trying to point at the wind. One can't really "point" it out. One can only point to its manifestation. How to point at the wind? When seeing a tree and its branches are shaking or feeling a breeze brushing against one's face, etc. Similarly, how to point out one's eye consciousness? By the fact that one's able to cognize the form object like a book, a table, etc..

  • That's a great summary! However, how do I know you're correct? I don't see the sutta you referenced saying the same thing as what your metaphor is. But I am not sure what is meant by corresponding conscious engagement. Are they talking about intellect-consciousness? If they are talking about the corresponding sense-consciousness, then that doesn't really make sense. How can something cause itself to arise? Mar 20, 2016 at 22:47
  • The Suttas Pitaka was never meant to be a comprehensive source of information. Otherwise there'd be no need for volumes upon volumes of Commentaries and Sub-Commentaries. Conscious engagement in MN 28 is the fancy word for "attention". So basically the paragraph says that when a visual object comes into range of the eye, if you're occupied with something else, like some deep thought about some math homework, you won't pay attention and so won't be able to see that object, hence no manifestation of eye-consciousness.
    – santa100
    Mar 22, 2016 at 21:18

Pointing to a consciousness is the same as pointing to a computer program. Your consciousness is not an object, but rather a property of another object (your brain), similar to how a computer program's behavour is really just a convenient side-effect of a very specific arrangement of million of bits. You can't point to your consciousness, just like you can't point to Microsoft Word. The best you could do is point to your brain, which would be comparable to pointing to your monitor or hard drive.

  • Saying that the mind is a byproduct of the brain is a materialistic view. Such views are rejected in Buddhism. Mar 14, 2016 at 4:04
  • mind is a byproduct of karma
    – Shrawaka
    Jan 9, 2017 at 8:36

Consciousness a not a thing. Its a knowing. The misunderstanding arises because we are forced to talk about such phenomena using the limitations of language, e.g. nouns.

Consciousness exists as a taker of objects. Its the basic awareness of an object. Its divided into 6 types by way of its bases;

(a) eye consciousness cognizes visual objects, light

(b) ear consciousness cognizes sound waves

(c) nose consciousness cognizes smell

(d) tongue consciousness cognizes taste

(e) body consciousness cognizes tangible sensations

(f) mind consciousness cognizes mental objects such as ideas, concepts,images, abstract notions etc.

The above 6-fold classification is mentioned by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi in his short text on "The Five Aggregates Of Clinging".

  • "Consciousness is the general awareness of objects, while perception is the specific factor which grasps the object's distinctive qualities." How is this correct? Isn't it the other way around; Consciousness being the interpreter of patterns, and perception being the gateway for patterns? Mar 20, 2016 at 22:54

Based on the Vipassana retreat I attended (and translated), when it comes to place one's mindfulness one one's mind(s), the trick is to start with identifying the function of the mind: seeing, hearing, thinking, etc.

The mind is that which is clear and knowing. Its function is to know (realize) objects and it is easier to identify this aspect than it is to identify its clarity factor (which is its nature and makes it able to take the subjective aspect of what it apprehends, in the same way a mirror takes the aspect of whatever it reflects). I suggest you start by identifying the functions of your mind: seeing, hearing, and so forth. You can also read Analayo Bhikkhu on the topic.

  • Do you mean that the mind is consciousness? Mar 13, 2016 at 18:09
  • Yes. I have come across Theravadin references saying (it seems) there is a one mind with doors that are the eye-consciousness, etc. But I'm not well-versed in Theravada Abhidharma. In Mahayana Abhidharma, at least mind, knower, cognizer, consciousness are synonymous. There is the eye-consciousness, the ear-consciousness, and so forth. Mar 13, 2016 at 18:14
  • 1
    The mind can't be the consciousness because consciousnesses are taken as 6 equal parts (according to Theravadin sources), and thus you cannot label the mind as any 1 of those parts. Edit: Also, I believe it would be more accurate to say that the mind hosts the 6 consciousnesses, along with the alaya-consciousness (in Mahayana tradition). I am not sure, however. Mar 13, 2016 at 18:18
  • According to Mahayana, consciousnesses and mind are synonymous. What you refer to is probably what we usually call 'continuum [of consciousnesses]'. This continuum is not so much the object you seek to identify. You seek to identify particular instances of minds / consciousnesses / cognizers. Mar 13, 2016 at 18:25
  • Purbuchok says: "First, the definition of an awareness is : a knower. The definition of a consciousness is: that which is clear and knowing. Mind (blo), Awareness (blo), knower (rig pa), and consciousness (shes pa) are synonymous." Mar 13, 2016 at 18:30

In short:

  • You cannot point to your consciousness nor can you feel it directly
  • You can direct [point] your attention to the respective consciousness at any of the 6 sense doors to which you can feel the sensations born out of contact (passa - also see: What is the definition of passa ?)

In the case you point to your eye through body consciousness by feeling the sensations around the eye. Here you are not pointing to the eye consciousness but directing your attention to the body consciousness around where the eye physically exist.

In the case what to point to an object of the eye you direct your attention to the eye consciousness whereby you see the object at the eye.

In both cases above once contact with the eye happens this is followed by the contact with the mind in which further processing and thinking is done.


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