The Pali suttas define 'consciousness' as 'cognition', as follows:
'Consciousness, consciousness': Thus is it said. To what extent, friend, is it said to be 'consciousness'?
'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.'
Further, the Pali suttas state consciousness & wisdom (panna) are co-joined, as follows:
Discernment & 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. Therefore these
qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having
separated them one from another, to delineate the difference between
The Pali suttas also state consciousness is impermanent, namely, it arises, functions & ceases when the sense organs arise, function & cease, as follows:
If anyone were to say, 'The eye is the self,' that wouldn't be tenable. The arising & falling away of the eye are discerned. And when
its arising & falling away are discerned, it would follow that 'My
self arises & falls away.' That's why it wouldn't be tenable if anyone
were to say, 'The eye is the self.' So the eye is not-self. If anyone
were to say, 'Forms are the self,' that wouldn't be tenable... Thus
the eye is not-self and forms are not-self. If anyone were to say,
'Consciousness at the eye is the self,' that wouldn't be tenable. The
arising & falling away of eye consciousness is discerned.
Therefore, every time consciousness functions, it is "real consciousness" because it performs the function of 'cognizing'. It does not not-cognize, it does not digest food, it does not walk, it does not speak. Consciousness only cognizes & discerns, which is why it is real consciousness.
The fact that the arising, existence & functioning of consciousness is dependent on causes & conditions, such as a mind & body (nama-rupa), sense organs & sense objects does not make consciousness not a real thing. Consciousness is a real thing because its reality is it cognizes and the only thing it does or is is cognising.
Importantly, real consciousness is an essential requirement for real wisdom or real insight. Therefore, real consciousness or real cognizing does not bring suffering. Instead, real consciousness brings true enlightenment.