Which consciousness/es are involved in meta-congnition (thinking about thinking)? And can the skandhas exist without them?

I'm asking because I'm interested in whether animals without metacognition have skandhas.

3 Answers 3


1. mana-āyatana is 7 viññāṇa-dhātu (7 mana-āyatana) that is dvāra of mano-viññāṇa

In tipitaka of theravāda-buddhism, viññāṇa in mano-dvāra are called thinking.

Viññāṇa generally translated as "consciousness" in english-tradition. This is a terrible translation, because when we compare viññāṇa with english in sense article, viññāṇa is not just the consciousness, but consciousness is the part of viññāṇa. There seem to be:

  1. Six viññāṇa, such as seeing, etc. = Six sense, not just consciousness, however consciousness is included in the part of sixth viññāṇa, too.

  2. Six dvāra, such as eye, etc. = Six sense-organ.

  3. Six object, such as color, etc. = Six sense-data.

The sixth dvāra called mano, that is enumerated to 7 viññāṇa/mano in 18 dhātu, such as cakkhu-viññāṇa/mano, etc. for describe mano in 12 āyatna. A cakkhu-viññāṇa arises at eye-dvāra to see a color-object. But when mano-viññāṇa will arise to think about that color-object, which was saw by that vanished cakkhu-viññāṇa, mano-viññāṇa will not arise at the eye-dvāra. Because the dvāra of mano-viññāṇa is not the cakkhu-dvāra, but the pāli said that mano is dvāra of mano-viññāṇa. So, when mano-viññāṇa thinking about a color-object, it thinking at cakkhu-mano, cakkhu-viññāṇa. So, first viññāṇa at mano-dvāra is called mano-dvāra-āvajjana. And so, mano-viññāṇa is called "mano"-viññāṇa. Therefore, Mano-viññāna is a thinking about a saw color, a heard sound, a smelled smell, a tasted taste, a touched touching, and a thought thinking.

So, in abhidhamma said that mano, viññāṇa, manoviññāṇa are the synonym. But they are used by buddha in difference function in each pali context, for avoiding the confusion of homograph and for briefing the word, such as 7 viññāna-āyatana brief to mano-āyatana, to make new word "mano-viññāṇa-dhātu", buddha is very intelligence!

Another, there is someone maybe teach consciousness is not thinking, because he has a weak pāli skill and never listen anyone around him. Especially, he never recite tipitaka, follow buddha's order, in A.N. Pañcakanipāta, to recite the teaching. This case often happen with the western professor, because they have a superego in their mind, so they always close their ear and their mind to learn the others' views. So, he never notice this pali's relationship. And he just always told that consciousness is not thinking, although consciousness is one part of mano-viññāna.

However, this case also happen to thai tipitaka translation, too. So, I often remind everyone to recite tipitaka in pāli, especially before teaching something. Especially when you listening the translate version of tipitaka, especially, from the western professor.

2. Asaññā-satta an nirodha-samāpatti-attaining-person can live without any viññāṇa.

  • "Asaññā-satta an nirodha-samāpatti-attaining-person can live without any viññāṇa" Sure? What's required for life?
    – user11235
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 3:23

In Buddhism, consciousness does not think. However, mind-consciousness (mano-vinanna) is required for 'thinking about thinking' because the mind must 1st be conscious of a thought before it can think about that thought.

This said, Buddhism does not teach the other khandhas exist dependent on consciousness but teaches the opposite, namely, the arising of consciousness is dependent upon the other aggregates (SN 22.53; MN 38; etc).

  • what do you mean "consciousness does not think"?
    – user2512
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 16:46
  • can you explain? :)
    – user2512
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 17:29
  • When the mind sees or hears something, this seeing & hearing is not "thinking". Similarly, when mind when the mind is conscious of a thought, this is not "thinking". Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 20:58
  • From MN 18: 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...... Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-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. accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.018.than.html Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 20:58
  • so what is thought? i find it strange to translate 'perception' as the ground (?) of thought, as i link that word to sensation much more strongly, i suppose you could be right
    – user2512
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 21:26

It's the sphere of a-rupa, where mind get's only entertained by mind. No touch, better attention, to the five "material" sense, that mind nurishes on minds objects. Yet, such as objects are still subtile present, like if throwing out the water of a glass, one might say that it is empty of water. Now still, taking a towel, one would see it's still wet.

So it should not be mixed with the "consciousness without surface", or the seventh one.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]

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