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From MN 49 (trans. Sujato):

Consciousness that is invisible, infinite, radiant all round—that’s what is not within the scope of experience based on earth, water, fire, air, creatures, gods, the Creator, Brahmā, the gods of streaming radiance, the gods replete with glory, the gods of abundant fruit, the Overlord, and the all.

Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ ...

The invisible consciousness (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) from MN 49 seems to be different from the sense consciousness described in MN 18 e.g. eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness etc. because it is not within the scope of sense experience, according to MN 49. It is also found in DN 11. It is also translated as "consciousness without surface" (from here, trans. Thanissaro).

Question 1:
What is the invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface described in MN 49 and DN 11?

Is it a cosmic consciousness like the one found in Hinduism? I guess not.

Question 2:
This answer implies that this invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface is the re-linking consciousness (patisandhi-viññana) that connects one lifetime to the next. This also implies that the re-linking consciousness (patisandhi-viññana) which is the invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) is the consciousness that descends into the womb causing materiality-mentality (nāmarūpa) to arise (from DN 15). Is this right?

Question 3:
Also, the description of "invisible, infinite and radiant all round" sounds very similar to the "luminous mind" (pabhassara citta) from AN 1.51-52. The same word "pabham" (luminosity) or "pabhassara" (luminous) is used in both MN 49 and AN 1.51-52. How is the invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface related to the luminous mind?

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Pre-knowledge:

Jānāmi means I know.

Vijānāmi means I know various things.

Viññāṇa is noun from Vi prefix+Ñā root+Yu suffix.

Vijānāmi is verb from Vi prefix+Ñā root+Na suffix+Mi Case-endings.

Vijānāmi term is same as "I do Viññāṇa".

Viññāṇa = Vijāṅa = Cognition Of Various Object.

Recite and learn kaccayaṇa-vyākaraṇa from the Tipitaka Memorizer for more explanation, or see the answer of Damith and Andrei Volkov to understand more about this pre-knowledge.

Question 1

What is the invisible consciousness or consciousness without >surface described in MN 49 and DN 11?

Is it a cosmic consciousness like the one found in Hinduism? I guess not.

  1. It definitely isn't cosmic consciousness. Actually, it is like to be known/knowledge in the other Sutta. However to understand it, the reader must recite and memorize Pali, first, then learn it with the inherited Tipitaka Memorizer, such as Pa-Auk because the proficiency is definitely required to understand the whole detail of each sutta. Even you can read Pali, Atthakathā, or ṭīkā, the proficiency still required.

    See below explanation to understand why I tell you like that.

  2. Your quoted MN 49 Brahmanimantanikasutta is bad cut, and wrong translation. It is:

    Buddha said Brahma think "this is the all knowable thing in the universe", but actually Brahma's knowledge is just a little compared to what could be known by Buddha's consciousness:

    ‘A galaxy extends a thousand times as far

    ‘Yāvatā candimasūriyā,

    Buddha claims Buddha knows more than Brahma:

    But there is another realm that you don’t know or see.

    Atthi kho, brahme, añño kāyo, taṃ tvaṃ na jānāsi na passasi;

    But I know it and see it.

    tamahaṃ jānāmi passāmi.

    Buddha claims Buddha knows Radiant Brahma:

    the gods of streaming radiance

    ābhassare kho ahaṃ, brahme … pe …

    the gods replete with glory (than above brahma) …

    subhakiṇhe kho ahaṃ, brahme …

    Buddha claims Buddha knows Nibbāna:

    Having directly known earth as earth, and having directly known that which does not fall within the scope of experience based on earth, I did not identify with earth, I did not identify regarding earth, I did not identify as earth, I did not identify ‘earth is mine’, I did not enjoy earth.

    Pathaviṃ kho ahaṃ, brahme, pathavito abhiññāya yāvatā pathaviyā pathavattena ananubhūtaṃ tadabhiññāya pathaviṃ nāpahosiṃ, pathaviyā nāpahosiṃ, pathavito nāpahosiṃ, pathaviṃ meti nāpahosiṃ, pathaviṃ nābhivadiṃ.

    You can see that the contexts force to translate "viññāṇa" as "nibbāṇa".

    2.1. Below quote, Brahma is asking for "the thing" which is not within the scope of experience based on all (no one has known before, including this brahma) but viññāṇa (consciousness) is within the scope, so viññāṇa must is translated as adjective complement of "the thing (nibbāna) which is not within the scope of experience based on all" in above paragraph of it.

    2.2. Brahma acts like he has the best cognition, so the Buddha shows him what he never know before, nibbāna which is potential to be known, invisible, infinite, radiant all round below.

    2.3. You can see below translation has many words appearing in above quotes.

    2.4. "Viññāṇaṃ, anidassanaṃ, anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ" all are adjective complements, but the previous translation is a noun, so I wrote above "the translation is wrong". Viññāṇaṃ in this context is potential to be known (adjective complement of the nibbāna noun), not consciousness (noun).

    2.5. Buddha claims the best "potential to be known thing" is Nibbāna below quote.

    ‘Well, good sir, if you have directly known (the thing) which is not within the scope of experience based on all, may your words of (the thing) not turn out to be void and hollow! (Don't just say you know (the thing) because everybody can "say I know (the thing)" but they may don't really know anything! Describe it if it really is a true story!)

    ‘Sace kho, mārisa, sabbassa sabbattena ananubhūtaṃ, tadabhiññāya mā heva te rittakameva ahosi, tucchakameva ahosīti.

    (The thing[=nibbāna]) that is potential to be known, invisible, infinite, radiant all round (nibbāna is invisible but similar to have radiant all round more than all Brahma-deva which appeared in many paragraphs above)—that’s what is not within the scope of experience based on earth, water, fire, air, creatures, gods, the Creator, Brahmā, the gods of streaming radiance, the gods replete with glory, the gods of abundant fruit, the Overlord, and the all.

    Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ, taṃ pathaviyā pathavattena ananubhūtaṃ, āpassa āpattena ananubhūtaṃ, tejassa tejattena ananubhūtaṃ, vāyassa vāyattena ananubhūtaṃ, bhūtānaṃ bhūtattena ananubhūtaṃ, devānaṃ devattena ananubhūtaṃ, pajāpatissa pajāpatittena ananubhūtaṃ, brahmānaṃ brahmattena ananubhūtaṃ, ābhassarānaṃ ābhassarattena ananubhūtaṃ, subhakiṇhānaṃ subhakiṇhattena ananubhūtaṃ, vehapphalānaṃ vehapphalattena ananubhūtaṃ, abhibhussa abhibhuttena ananubhūtaṃ, sabbassa sabbattena ananubhūtaṃ.

    Abhidhamma and Atthakathā comment some same thing to me: Nibbāna is potential to be known and invisible. Visible thing has the end (paritta, little) but nibbāna is invisible (endless, ananta). "Radiant all round" is just the similitude that nibbāna is the best of the overall radiance.

  3. The part of DN 11 Kevaṭṭasutta is the same case of above, MN 49 Brahmanimantanikasutta. It just added the rhetoric of "viññāṇa".

    A bhikkhu try to know the cessation of the Four Element, but the great Brahma says he doesn't know but the Buddha knows it:

    But I too do not know where these four primary elements cease with nothing left over.

    Ahampi kho, bhikkhu, na jānāmi yatthime cattāro mahābhūtā aparisesā nirujjhanti, seyyathidaṃ—pathavīdhātu āpodhātu tejodhātu vāyodhātūti.

    That bhikkhu's question is "where is Four Elements ceased?", so the answer should be the cessation state, Nirodha (nibbāna). Nibbāna is where the Four Elements ceased, where is potential to be known, and where is invisible.

    So, it is the same case of above, MN 49, Buddha claims the best potential to be known thing is Nibbāna below quote.

    This is how the question should be asked:

    Evañca kho eso, bhikkhu, pañho pucchitabbo:

    “Where do water and earth,

    ‘Kattha āpo ca pathavī,

    fire and air find no footing;

    tejo vāyo na gādhati;

    where do long and short,

    Kattha dīghañca rassañca,

    fine and coarse, beautiful and ugly;

    aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ;

    where do mentality and matterity

    Kattha nāmañca rūpañca,

    cease with nothing left over?”

    asesaṃ uparujjhatī’ti.

    And the answer to that is:

    Tatra veyyākaraṇaṃ bhavati:

    Where is potential to be known, invisible,

    ‘Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ,

    infinite, radiant all round.

    anantaṃ sabbatopabhaṃ;

    Here’s where water and earth,

    Ettha āpo ca pathavī,

    fire and air find no footing;

    tejo vāyo na gādhati.

    here’s where long and short,

    Ettha dīghañca rassañca,

    fine and coarse, beautiful and ugly;

    aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ;

    This is the additional more than DN 11, the rhetoric of "viññāṇa".

    Because Buddha uses Viññāṇa as an adjective complement of nibbāna, above, but Buddha uses Viññāṇa again below quote from DN 11 as a noun, which is ceased by nibbāna in the cessation of dependent origination.

    here’s where mentality and matterity

    Ettha nāmañca rūpañca,

    cease with nothing left over—

    asesaṃ uparujjhati;

    with the cessation (nirodha,nibbāna) of consciousness (viññāṇa),

    Viññāṇassa nirodhena,

    that’s where this ceases.”’”

    etthetaṃ uparujjhatī’”ti.

  4. It is important to understand MN 1 mūlapariyāyasuttaṃ with its commentary first before reading MN 49.

Question 2:

This answer implies that this invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface is the re-linking consciousness (patisandhi-viññana) that connects one lifetime to the next. This also implies that the re-linking consciousness (patisandhi-viññana) which is the invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) is the consciousness that descends into the womb causing materiality-mentality (nāmarūpa) to arise (from DN 15). Is this right?

As I described DN 11 above, the first Viññāṇa is an adjective complement of nibbāna, but the second Viññāṇa is noun, which is ceased by nibbāna.

Therefore, the first Viññāṇa in DN 11 is Nibbāna, not re-linking consciousness. The second Viññāṇa is cresed re-linking consciousness by nirodha (nibbāna), not nibbāna.

Question 3:

Also, the description of "invisible, infinite and radiant all round" sounds very similar to the "luminous mind" (pabhassara citta) from AN 1.51-52. The same word "pabham" (luminosity) or "pabhassara" (luminous) is used in both MN 49 and AN 1.51-52. How is the invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface related to the luminous mind?

It definitely is different, just a bit of it refer to each other.

It is Nibbāna, not luminous mind. I already described in above MN 49:

(The thing[=nibbāna]) that is potential to be known, invisible, infinite, radiant all round (nibbāna is invisible but similar to have radiant all round more than all Brahma-deva which appeared in many paragraphs above)

"Radiant all round" is just the similitude that nibbāna is the best of the overall radiance of below:

Buddha claims in MN 49 Buddha knows Radiant Brahma:

the gods of streaming radiance

ābhassare kho ahaṃ, brahme … pe …

the gods replete with glory (than above brahma) …

subhakiṇhe kho ahaṃ, brahme …

Pabhassara Citta in AN 5.23 is wholesome mind, not nibbāna.

In the same way, there are these five corruptions of the mind. When the mind is corrupted by these it’s not pliable, workable, or radiant. It’s brittle, and not completely immersed in samādhi for the ending of defilements.

Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, pañcime cittassa upakkilesā, yehi upakkilesehi upakkiliṭṭhaṃ cittaṃ na ceva mudu hoti na ca kammaniyaṃ na ca pabhassaraṃ pabhaṅgu ca na ca sammā samādhiyati āsavānaṃ khayāya.

What five?

Katame pañca?

Sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt.

Kāmacchando, byāpādo, thinamiddhaṃ, uddhaccakukkuccaṃ, vicikicchā—

Pabhassara Citta of AN1.41-48 are the same, but Pabhassara Citta of AN1.49-50 is different because the contexts are not talking about the wholesome or unwholesome mental factors of current arising mind (AN 5.23), but AN1.49-50 talk about normal mind, bhavaṅga (the factor of keeping current becoming). It is sleeping mind, which looks like dirty when the unwholesome mental factors, external defilements, arising instead. We cannot do unwholesome or unwholesome karma while we sleep, so before the defilement mind factors arise instead, that slēping mind looks like effulgent.

  1. Bhikkhus, the mind is effulgent, it is defiled by external defilements.

  2. Bhikkhus. the mind is effulgent, when released from external defilelment.


The answer is very clear for me, but it can make the reader confuse because of many references, many pali term, many words referring to each other, and my English skill lacking. That's why I wrote:

However to understand it, the reader must recite and memorize Pali, first, then learn it with the inherited Tipitaka Memorizer, such as Pa-Auk because the proficiency is definitely required to understand the whole detail of each sutta. Even you can read Pali, Atthakathā, or ṭīkā, the proficiency still required.

Related answer: https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/30699/10100

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    BTW another way to translate viññāṇaṃ as adjective, is "the cognized" (the passive voice, referring to whatever is cognized - i.e. the objects of six senses). Which would make it "providing no ground for the cognized to land on" - see my answer. – Andrei Volkov Jan 22 at 21:43
  • @Andrei Volkov How to merge the passive voice in to cognizable? The answer need both: cognizable for the context, and cognized for sabhava. It' something like the cognized which is cognizable (be-cognized-able?). Thank you very much. – Bonn Jan 22 at 22:18
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    "To be cognized"? "Having potential to be cognized"? "Potentially cognizable"? "Potential object of cognition"? "Unknown but knowable"? "To be known"? :) – Andrei Volkov Jan 22 at 22:35
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    @Andrei Volkov I have edited it from cognizable to potential to be known. Thank you so much. It's really important. – Bonn Jan 22 at 23:44
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    That's right. It's a bit hard for the translators. 1. In a normal context, viññāṇa-noun (or the words in the center or end of sutta like that) appears in the same form before, but in this sutta it came in the different form, jānāti-verb. 2. Pāli is an oral tradition language. The speaker can abstain the word that already spoken in the previous paragraph because he and the listener are knowing it. But when the others, e.g. Ānanda, listen to it, reciting and the explanation, Atthakathā, is required. Therefore, even we can read Pāli and Atthakatha, the reciting and memorizing still required. – Bonn Jan 23 at 15:56
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Few thoughts, based on my understanding of Buddhism:

One: Vijñāna is not an entity, not a substance - it is an emergent effect, an emergent phenomenon known in modern terms as "subjective experience" or "subjectivity". Most people, when they read this phrase ("Consciousness that is invisible, infinite" etc.), assume it means consciousness as something objective that exists or dwells - like electromagnetic field - but in Buddhism it means subjective awareness, subjective experience, the continuously unfolding content of cognition. So we're not talking about cosmic consciousness that lives in space, we are talking about one's actual state of mind.

Two: on many occasions Buddha spoke about "support" and "condition" and "ground" - and how any such support/condition/ground is a basis of dukkha. He then advocated transcending any notion of ground, to achieve a dynamic state of mind which is ground-less, and therefore unconditional. Consider the following image from SN 12.64:

"... Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"
"On the western wall, lord."
"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"
"On the ground, lord."
"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"
"On the water, lord."
"And if there is no water, where does it land?"
"It does not land, lord."
"In the same way, when there is no [ground such as] desire, attachment, craving, then viññāṇaṃ [=cognition or cognized] does not land and does not grow."

Also, in MN21 there is a following image:

"... Suppose a person was to come along with dye such as red lac, turmeric, indigo, or rose madder, and say: ‘I shall draw pictures on the sky, making pictures appear there.’ What do you think, mendicants? Could that person draw pictures on the sky?”
“No, sir."
"Why is that? Because the sky is formless and anidassano. It’s not easy to draw pictures there."

Here the word is used in context of blame and blamelessness, indicating a condition when one's pure morals provide no ground for any blame. So, anidassano refers to something that provides no surface to lean on, no basis for something to happen or to be done.

Adding points One and Two together, we can reach conclusion that Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ means subjective experience that is completely open and groundless, without support, that feels like the infinite radiant sky.

This of course matches all of my teachers' descriptions of Enlightenment. For official sources, here's Dogen:

The water is clean, right down to the ground,
Fishes are swimming like fishes.
The sky is wide, clear through to the heavens,
And birds are flying like birds.

or Pema Chodron, a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

"...Then he [Trungpa Rinpoche] goes on and he talks about the mantra. And the mantra is: OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA.

In other words, a way to practice the profound prajnaparamita is actually to say this mantra —as well as the on-going practice of continually letting go, or letting be, training in a flexible, open, ready mind.

[Chogyam Trungpa] Rinpoche's translation is: OM, GONE (GATE is gone), GONE, (then PARAGATE) GONE BEYOND, (PARASAMGATE) GONE COMPLETELY BEYOND, (BODHI) AWAKE, (SVAHA) SO BE IT. So: OM, GONE, GONE, GONE BEYOND, GONE COMPLETELY BEYOND, AWAKE, SO BE IT.

There's lots of translations of this, and one is: OM, TRANSCENDING, EVER TRANSCENDING, TRANSCENDING EVEN TRANSCENDING, TRANSCENDING EVEN TRANSCENDING OF TRANSCENDING, SUCHNESS, SO BE IT.

What is wonderful about this mantra is that it is not a description of some fruition. It's actually a description of a journey that we are all on. We are all on this journey of going, going, going beyond, going even beyond.

No matter where we are, we can move on to the next beyond. Do you see? It's not a description of: I made it! It's like this! It's a description of: OM, groundless, even more groundless, can it get more groundless than this, Oh my gosh, it's ultimately groundless, there's no ground!, and then BODHI could be translated as Aaaaaaaaaahhhhiiiiiiiii! [Makes a falling scream] So be it! [Audience laughs]

To summarize, I think

Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ

means

Cognition with no support, unbounded, completely transparent.

or perhaps, if we take viññāṇaṃ with an -m to be an adjective, then

Providing no ground for the cognized [to land and grow into dukkha], without a limit [to stop it], completely transparent.

which reminds of the following instruction given by Buddha in Bahiya Sutta:

"... Then, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

Either way this is clearly a description of Non-abiding Nirvana (apratisthita-nirvana), also known as "suchness" (tathata).

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    it's the reason why Buddha uses both Viññāṇa (object) and Citta (subject) in many sutta, such as MN U Mahāpuṇṇamasuttaṃ – Bonn Jan 22 at 23:35
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In Kevaddha Sutta (DN 11) it has mentioned that,

Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ anantaṃ sabbato pabhaṃ
Ettha āpo ca paṭhavī tejo vāyo na gādhati
Ettha dīghañca rassañca aṇuṃ thūlaṃ subhāsubhaṃ
Ettha nāmañca rūpañca asesaṃ uparujjhati
Viññāṇassa nirodhena etthetaṃ uparujjhatīti.

This is a verse about Nibbana. Meaning of the verse is mentioned below;

  • Viññāṇaṃ - Nibbana

Explanation: The word "Viññāṇa" has three interpretations.

  1. "vijanatiti vinnanam" - 'get to know' is known as Viññāṇa.
    According to this explanation, the word "Viññāṇa" defined as an agent noun. In other words consciousness is defined as the doer who cognizes objects.
  2. "vijanati etenati vinnanam" - 'get to know by the use of' is known as Viññāṇa.
    According to this explanation, the word "Viññāṇa" defined as an ablative noun. In other words consciousness is defined as the instrument used to cognize objects.
  3. "vijanana mattam vinnanam" - in the sense of knowing it is known as Viññāṇa.
    According to this explanation, the word "Viññāṇa" defined as its true nature. This is the most suitable definition because the consciousness is conditioned. i.e. it has no power of independently appear without the help of its causes. Its mere function is knowing the object.

Here in this verse, the word Viññāṇaṃ (consciousness) was described using the second definition which I have provided above. "Viññāṇaṃ" used to mention "what should be cognized by consciousness (more precisely by the four supermundane wholesome path consciousness)". So, it has used to mention nothing else but Nibbana. We can find more evidence for this interpretation by looking at the commentary (Atthakathā) on Kevaddha Sutta:

Tattha viññātabban ti viññānaη, nibbānassa taη nāmaη.

  • Anidassanaṃ - This word has two definitions in this verse;
    1. Cannot be seen with eye consciousness.
    2. Cannot provide an example.

Explanation for definition 1: There are two types of rūpa.

  1. Sanidassana rūpa - Vanna rūpa. In other words whatever visible (or known) to eye consciousness.

  2. Anidassana rūpa - Rūpa which are not visible (or known) to eye consciousness. (For example, Shabdha rūpa, Gandha rūpa, Potthabbha rūpa, etc...)

Here in this verse, the word "Anidassanaṃ" used not to mention a rūpa but to emphasize that Nibbana is not visible to the eye consciousness. In other words, Nibbana cannot be the object for eye consciousness.

Also according to the book, A Dictionary of the Pali Language by Robert Caesar Childers, the word "Anidassana" has the following meaning;

Anidassana - Beyond the reach of sight, Immaterial

Explanation for definition 2: There is no equal dhamma in this universe which can be provided as an example to Nibbana.

Anidassanam = A + Nidassanam

According to the book, A Dictionary of the Pali Language by Robert Caesar Childers;

Nidassanam - Pointing out, Indicating, Designation; Example, Illustration; Sight, View

and

A, and before a vowel AN - A negative particle, used only as an inseparable prefix.

So, here in this verse, the word "Anidassanaṃ" used to emphasize that an example cannot be provided to explain Nibbana.

  • Anantaṃ - has no end nor boundary

Anantaṃ = An + Antaṃ

According to the book, A Dictionary of the Pali Language by Robert Caesar Childers;

Antaṃ = Anto = End; Limit, Boundary; Proximity, Side; Destruction, Death; Lowest, Inferior; Interior

Here in this verse, the word "Anantaṃ" used to mention that the Nibbana has no end nor boundary. All the conditioned things has three stages, uppāda (arise), titi (exist), bhañga (cease). Since Nibbana is unconditioned it has no beginning nor end but only existence.

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    You can use Anidassanaṃ directly without Rūpa because in Abhi. Dhammasaṅginī Sappaṭighatika specifies "asaṅkhatā ca dhātu (nibbana)" directly. – Bonn Jan 23 at 1:01
  • Thanks @Bonn sir for the valuable information! It's really helpful. – Damith Jan 24 at 1:49
  • Vinnana is not Nibbana. Therefore downvoted. – user13579 Apr 16 at 18:47
  • @Medhiṇī Please read whole answer before come to a conclusion. Bonn (in his answer) & I (in my answer) explained why word Viññāṇa used to mention Nibbana. – Damith Apr 17 at 3:28
  • @Damith My conclusion, as you put it, is based on experience. And based on that I can only say: Nibbana has not 'only existence' (your last sentence). – user13579 Apr 18 at 10:03
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This teaching was not given to Buddhists. No one got enlightened. It has no relationship to Heartwood Buddhism.

Heartwood Buddhism teaches there can be no consciousness without nama-rupa (MN 9; SN 12.67; SN 22.53; MN 38; etc). But this teaching, given to unfaithful Brahma gods and Brahmins, says in infinite luminous consciousness, nama-rupa is destroyed.

Its not Buddhism. The nama-rupa referred to is the nama-rupa of Brahmanism. The Buddha is speaking in the language of Brahmanism to Brahmins.

In the suttas, there are two types of nama-rupa:

  1. Nama-rupa for Buddhists, which is defined as earth, wind, fire, water, feeling, perception, intention, contact & attention.

  2. Nama-rupa of Brahmins, which is defined as 'naming-forms', per the Vedas; per DN 15; which the modern scholars say was composed for Brahmins.

Honoring viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ cannot be a Buddhist. Must be a Hindu (Brahmin). Taking faith in teaching given to stubborn faithless Brahma. Please remember, the suttas say the Buddha is the teacher of gods & men. Often, what the Buddha teaches is for the gods and not for the human state, which is the enlightened state (per SN 56.47).

Ajahn Sujato says viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is immaterial jhana & not Nibbana. But I disagree. Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is just themeless concentration of basic concentration.

Brahma delights in creating the world by naming forms. Buddha tells Brahma to stop naming forms; stop creating; and start meditating.

Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is not the non-Buddha relinking consciousness of the covert Brahmin named Buddhaghosa, who dedicated his Visuddhimagga for his rebirth in a Brahma world. This is because a pure Nibbanic consciousness cannot be reborn.

The description of "invisible, infinite and radiant all round" sounds very similar to the "luminous mind" (pabhassara citta) from AN 1.51-52. However, please note! The "luminous mind" (pabhassara citta) from AN 1.51-52 is something that can be defiled. It is not Nibbana, also.

Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements.

AN 1.51-52

AN 1.51-52 proves viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is not Nibbana because pabhassara citta & viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ can be defiled and become dirty & filthy.

Viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is not said to be "asesa" ("remainderless"). It is not Nibbana. It is not relinking. It is just the luminous mind without thoughts & naming. It is the type of mind a beginner to meditation should have.

I recommend to all sincere Buddhist to not waste their time with this teaching of viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ. It is just a wild goose chase about nothing.

  • Just a polite question...what then is your view of formless realm of infinity of consciousness? – White Cloud Jan 21 at 7:06
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    The formless realm of infinity of consciousness is not without nama, i.e., not without contact, feeling, perception, intention & attention. Please refer to MN 111: accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.111.than.html . Where as i posted, viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is said to be without nama. This can only occur when "nama" has the Vedic Brahmanistic meaning. Regards – Dhammadhatu Jan 21 at 7:09
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What is the invisible consciousness or consciousness without surface described in MN 49 and DN 11?

In a previous post, I used the dark matter concept in the scientific world as an analogy to VinnanamAnidassanam. And just like dark matter, there're lots of hypothesis and speculations about the entity but still no concrete formal description of what it is. In the scientific world, until the day when scienfific instruments are quick enough, sharp enough, and sophisticated enough to capture dark matter, would we have a better idea of what dark matter is exactly. Similarly on the Buddhist side, one'd need to develop one's faculty until it's quick enough, sharp enough, and sophisticated enough to really see what exactly VinnanaAnidssanam is. Below is Ven. Thanissaro's comment in DN 11:

Viññanam anidassanam. This term is nowhere explained in the Canon, although MN 49 mentions that it "does not partake in the allness of the All" — the "All" meaning the six internal and six external sense media (see SN 35.23). In this it differs from the consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, which is defined in terms of the six sense media. Lying outside of time and space, it would also not come under the consciousness-aggregate, which covers all consciousness near and far; past, present, and future. However, the fact that it is outside of time and space — in a dimension where there is no here, there, or in between (Ud 1.10), no coming, no going, or staying (Ud 8.1) — means that it cannot be described as permanent or omnipresent, terms that have meaning only within space and time. The standard description of nibbana after death is, "All that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here." (See MN 140 and Iti 44.) Again, as "all" is defined as the sense media, this raises the question as to whether consciousness without feature is not covered by this "all." However, AN 4.174 warns that any speculation as to whether anything does or doesn't remain after the remainderless stopping of the six sense media is to "objectify non-objectification," which gets in the way of attaining the non-objectified. Thus this is a question that is best put aside.

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You have asked several questions, but I think your answers may all lie in "the planes of consciousness".

The phrase viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is used rarely and is found in two suttas: MN49 and DN11. More commonly, one sees viññāṇañcāyatanaṃ used in the context of "plane of consciousness". The seven planes of consciousness are listed in several places, but AN7.44 is the shortest list:

“Mendicants, there are these seven planes of consciousness. What seven? There are sentient beings that are diverse in body and diverse in perception, such as human beings, some gods, and some beings in the underworld. This is the first plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that are diverse in body and unified in perception, such as the gods reborn in Brahmā’s Group through the first absorption. This is the second plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that are unified in body and diverse in perception, such as the gods of streaming radiance. This is the third plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that are unified in body and unified in perception, such as the gods replete with glory. This is the fourth plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond perceptions of form. With the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite’, they have been reborn in the dimension of infinite space. This is the fifth plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite space. Aware that ‘consciousness is infinite’, they have been reborn in the dimension of infinite consciousness. This is the sixth plane of consciousness.

There are sentient beings that have gone totally beyond the dimension of infinite consciousness. Aware that ‘there is nothing at all’, they have been reborn in the dimension of nothingness. This is the seventh plane of consciousness.

These are the seven planes of consciousness.

Your reference to MN49 is to Baka the Brahmā, who was stuck in the second plane of consciousness, thinking it eternal. The Buddha disappears from Baka's perception into the higher planes, which astounds Baka.

An important clue to Baka's understanding is how the Buddha explains it:

A galaxy extends a thousand times as far as the moon and sun revolve and the shining ones light up the quarters. And there you wield your power.

In other words, one might feel the vastness of the universe and the span of its lifetime as infinite, but it is not. In fact, modern astronomy points out that everything we see is less than 14 billion years old and therefore prone to death, fading away and ... suffering.

The Buddha went beyond ALL the planes of consciousness. Even the seventh one.

Going totally beyond the dimension of nothingness, they enter and remain in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is the seventh liberation.

Going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, they enter and remain in the cessation of perception and feeling. This is the eighth liberation.

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