Could someone illuminate me in "consciousness"?

Is it simply the ability to rationalize, analyze and most important concentrate? With or without ego?

Does consciousness dictate who we are?

  • Refined now from the thoughts of very knowledgeable sources ..I am now leaning towards awareness as a way to be as it is ...it appears that at some point consciousness is complicating some things in my mind yet consciousness is needed for life ...also aware of self consciousness being a hindrance !
    – user10244
    Oct 25 '16 at 13:05
  • You have added the tag "Vipassana" to the question. Does that mean that you are looking for answers pertaining to a purely practical (insight meditational) perspective?
    – user2424
    Oct 25 '16 at 14:06
  • Also, are you looking for Sutta pitaka-answers or Abhidhamma-answers?
    – user2424
    Oct 25 '16 at 14:07
  • Insight meditation is all I have and learnd from temple ...I found profound clarity and light in a dark room so I took vippsaana to the forest ....became a recluse for many yrs and am slowly reengaging in society frm my understanding of reality.
    – user10244
    Oct 25 '16 at 16:40
  • Yes to Lanka and first question ...to me the right way to reach right view is vippassna as it once truly appreciated and refined can Pearce the vale of ignorance and illusions to see things as they truly are .
    – user10244
    Oct 26 '16 at 7:20

In Pali Buddhism, 'consciousness' ('vinnana') is the sense awareness or cognition that operates through the six sense organs to facilite: (i) seeing; (ii) hearing; (iii) smelling; (iv) tasting; (v) touching &; (iv) knowing of the mind's internal feelings, perceptions, moods, thoughts, images, etc.

To use a rough analogy, 'consciousness' can be compared to the mere reflecting of an image by a mirror. Consciousness only 'reflects' sense objects, like a mirror, that is all. Consciousness does not 'think' or 'analyse', just like a mirror does not think or analyse.

To quote:

And what is consciousness? These six are classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness. This is called consciousness

SN 12.2


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 (mano) & ideas, intellect-consciousness (mano-vinnana) arises.

The meeting of the three is sense contact.

MN 18

In Pali Buddhism, the ability to rationalize, analyse & concentrate are other functions of other kinds of mentality (called 'mano', 'nama', 'sankhara khandha', etc).

Each of these mental functions, be they consciousness ('vinnana'), intellect ('mano') or mental intention ('sankhara khandha'), can operate without ego or self ('atta'). 'Ego' or 'self' is a natural instinctual yet ignorant idea the mind imputes upon conscious experience & mental activity. (If interested, read more here).

In Buddhism, what 'we' are is a product of the mind's accumulated & conditioned intentions & thinking (sankhara khandha) & thus 'what we are' is essentially unrelated to consciousness itself (even though what 'we' are are thoughts about what the mind is conscious of).

In short, we are what we 'think' we are. What we think we are is called 'bhava' ('becoming' or 'existence') in Buddhism. To quote:

The craving that makes for further becoming (bhava) — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving to be (bhava), craving not to be (vibhava): This, friend Visakha, is the origination of self-identification described by the Blessed One.

MN 44

The 'view' or 'belief' ('ditthi') of 'what we are' is what the mind clings or attaches to (rather than what the mind is conscious of). To quote again:

There are these five clingings to the aggregates, friend Visakha: clinging to the form (body) aggregate, clinging to the feeling (vedana) aggregate, clinging to the perception (sanna) aggregate, clinging to the fabricating aggregate (sankhara khandha), clinging to the consciousness (vinnana) aggregate. These five clingings to the aggregates are the self-identification ('sakkhaya ditthi') described by the Blessed One."

MN 44

For example, a small baby, before its mind/brain is mature enough to develop ideas of "me" & "I", is continually conscious of an image, sound, smell, taste & touch of a certain woman. Then one day, when the mind/brain became mature enough, it started to categorise (label & solidify) those images, sounds, smells, tastes & touches as "my mother". This categorising of "my mother" was the beginning of developing the ideas that dictate what we are or what we think ourselves to be.

To continue the original quote from above so to incorporate the process of thinking:

Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies

MN 18

What "we" are, namely, "self-identification", is what the mind thinks & objectifies about.

  • Certainly an interesting and yes factual answer to my question..I guess at the point of contact with senses and mind is what we could call consciousness!
    – user10244
    Oct 22 '16 at 8:20
  • Also like to clarify that to my knowledge " consciousness " is more subjective. Than " awareness " which is not so much a sense driven vehical ,,!
    – user10244
    Oct 22 '16 at 9:31
  • Thanks. Science uses the term 'consciousness' is many ways but, in Buddhism, consciousness is something 'objective'. It is the various perceptions & mental categorizations that arise after consciousness which are 'subjective'. Essentially our 'eyes' each see an object the same but we each may judge or impute a different meaning onto that conscious experience, which is the subjectivity. Regards Oct 22 '16 at 10:34
  • Yes true again ...my humble layman's truth in Buddhism so far let's me know that this is an inward study into each of our minds ...the difference is the ego , and the hidden gems are in consciousness and awareness as I think we now safely say that each is dependent on individual perception ...ie two people looking at the same cloud in space might see it in a personal form or for what it is simply a cloud in space ,hence Buddhism is the latter,,
    – user10244
    Oct 24 '16 at 11:12

The Sutta MN38: Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta might be helpful:

"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 — in the same way, consciousness 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.

  • 1
    Welcome ...this is very much of my like in more lesser words ...pls chk new comment ...the judging or identifying is where some of us miss the greater picture of which could simply be look ..feel ...think ..hear... smell don't attach just experience the moment for what it is a transient moment that's all it will ever be all else is clinging .
    – user10244
    Oct 24 '16 at 11:17

Consciousness is simply to know or awareness of contact.

Is it simply the ability to rationalize, analyze and most important concentrate? With or without ego?

What you describe there seems like thinking and pondering. Through thoughts ego arises and always associated with and unwholesome root. Also see: Tanhā Jālinī Sutta

Does consciousness dictate who we are?

Yes and no. Concies does not on its own does nothing to dictate who we are. We are formed due to past conditioning. This is decided by whether we react to the feelings arising from contact with craving, aversion and ignorance. E.g. you touch a soft fabric and think I want this. This creates fabrications and becoming.

  • Yes partially agree with the latter to my knowledge is concerned with I am looking ( eye ) = conscious of seeing soft fabric the ego will then say I want it , all of the above will be under the management of awareness ie the imagery , thought ,emotion and observation will = awareness of what's going on .much appreciate all the answers.
    – user10244
    Oct 26 '16 at 7:15

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