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In advaita vedanta, consciousness is the self. Consciousness has 2 modes: it can be pure consciousness, and it is described as "being aware of being aware" or the "I that I am knows that I am"; while the other mode of consciousness is consciousness entangled in objects, like feelings and thoughts.

Is pure consciousness, or being aware of being aware, the same as what the Buddha called the "unconditioned"? Or is the unconditioned the cessation of consciousness, as Buddhism sees consciousness as impermanent and not self?

They said if consciousness was not aware of itself, none of us would know that we are aware. I have this problem, my friend had the same, so we wanted to ask you if you could help us out.

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OP: In advaita vedanta, consciousness is the self.

In Buddhism, it is considered all conditioned and unconditioned is not-self/non-self. "

sabbe dhammā anattā

Therefore, there nothing that can be identified as a self. Not even Nirvana.

OP: Is pure consciousness, or being aware of being aware, the same as what the Buddha called the "unconditioned"?

No. In Buddhism consciousness is just to knows what is felt.

Then there remains only consciousness, purified and cleansed.What does one know [cognize]with that consciousness?

One knows, „It is pleasant.‟

One knows. „It is painful.‟

One knows, „It is neutral.‟

Dhātu Vibhaṅga Sutta. See below for a full quote of the section on consciousness.

What is unconditioned in Nirvana.

"There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned."

— Ud 8.3

Source: Nibbana

OP: They said if consciousness was not aware of itself, none of us would know that we are aware.

In Buddhism, consciousness is part of the 6 sense bases. It knows what you have come in contact with.

On account of a contact that is felt ... conditioned by that contact ...

Dhātu Vibhaṅga Sutta. See the full section quoted below.

(iv) The six groups of contacts are to be understood, thus it is said, and in what connection is this said?

Dependent on eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises. When the three meet, there is contact.

Dependent on ear and sounds, ear-consciousness arises. When the three meet, there is contact.

...

The six groups of contacts are to be understood, thus it is said, and it is said in this connection.

Cha Chakka Sutta


The consciousness element

Then there remains only consciousness, purified and cleansed.What does one know [cognize]with that consciousness?

One knows, „It is pleasant.‟

One knows. „It is painful.‟

One knows, „It is neutral.‟

On account of a contact that is felt as pleasant, there arises a pleasant feeling.

When one feels a pleasant feeling one understands, „I feel a pleasant feeling.‟ One understands, „With the cessation of that same contact that is felt as pleasant, the pleasant feeling conditioned by that contact ceases, it is stilled.‟

On account of a contact that is felt as painful, there arises a painful feeling.

When one feels a painful feeling one understands, „I feel a painful feeling.‟

One understands, „With the cessation of that same contact that is felt as painful, the painful feeling conditioned by that contact ceases, it is stilled.‟

On account of a contact that is felt as neither pain nor pleasure, there arises a neutral feeling.

When one feels a neutral feeling one understands, „I feel a neutral feeling.‟

One understands, „With the cessation of that same contact that is felt as neither painful nor pleasant, the neutral feeling conditioned by that contact ceases, it is stilled.‟

Dhātu Vibhaṅga Sutta

  • Thank you for your answer, what about pure conciousness is it described as conciousness conciousness of itself? I am confused about this part because I have been for a year in advaita they describe conciousness conciousness of conciousness as please go to 9;30 on this clip please help me with this i am stuck in this doubt thank you youtube.com/watch?v=f95XorCcgrM&feature=youtu.be – Conciousness vinjana Aug 14 at 22:14
  • Very good answer Suminda – Dhammadhatu Aug 14 at 22:14
  • Thank you for your answer guys – Conciousness vinjana Aug 14 at 22:57
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Is pure consciousness or being aware of being aware, the same as what the Buddha called the "unconditioned"?

Consciousness conscious of itself is what the Buddha called 'Nibbana' which is an 'unconditioned' phenomena.

Or is the unconditioned the cessation of consciousness, as Buddhism sees consciousness as impermanent and not-self?

The unconditioned is not the cessation of consciousness, it is the cessation of ego-mind or cessation of Consciousness identified with the ego-mind.

They said if consciousness was not aware of itself, none of us would know that we are aware.

Again the same phenomena, we know we are aware because we are primarily aware of six sense bases, eyes, smell, touch, sound, taste, and mind. When we become aware of awareness itself then we would have attained Nirvana. Ordinarily, it is not the case.

In Buddhism, there are five skandas. The five aggregates or heaps are: form (or matter or body) (rupa), sensations (or feelings, received from form) (vedana), perceptions (samjna), mental activity or formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vijnana).

Vijnana in Buddhism is Consciousness and it is empty of self.

  • The first sentence -- i.e., "... is what the Buddha called 'Nibbana'" -- where is that from, e.g. a sutta reference? – ChrisW Aug 14 at 13:20
  • @ChrisW I am not getting the source of that, but I thinking it was from some discourse somewhere related to 'what is nothingness or emptiness.' I will edit the post when I'll get the source. – codeNewbie Aug 14 at 14:30
  • Thank you, if you can. "Unconditioned" being an attribute or description of "nibanna" is familiar, but I don't recall having read before its being associated with consciousness like that. – ChrisW Aug 14 at 14:46
  • Actually, you can derive that conclusion if you try to go into physics of it. If you agree that everything that involves 'Matter' is 'conditioned.' and agree that Matter and Consciousness are two rungs of human experience, you can reach that conclusion. Because at Nirvana, you have left behind all that is 'conditioned' and then the consciousness is only remaining thing, all that remains is 'Consciousness becoming conscious of itself'. I think it gets confusing. But agreeably does not sound like direct words of Buddha. – codeNewbie Aug 14 at 14:55
  • @ChrisW I can ask this as a question if it has not been asked previously, that 'what is the physics behind Nirvana?' – codeNewbie Aug 14 at 14:58
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In advaita vedanta, consciousness is the self.

In Buddhism, consciousness is consciousness because it cognises (MN 43). To quote MN 43:

'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.'

MN 43



Consciousness has 2 modes: it can be pure consciousness, and it is described as "being aware of being aware"

Yes, consciousness knows consciousness. MN 43 says:

Yā cāvuso, paññā yañca viññāṇaṃ — imesaṃ dhammānaṃ saṃsaṭṭhānaṃ no visaṃsaṭṭhānaṃ paññā bhāvetabbā, viññāṇaṃ pariññeyyaṃ.

Discernment & consciousness, friend: Of these qualities that are conjoined, not disjoined, discernment is to be developed, consciousness is to be fully comprehended.

MN 43

PTS Pali English Dictionary pariññeyya adjective knowable, perceivable, to be known (accurately)

What is "perceivable" cannot occur without consciousness. To quote MN 43, again:

Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes.



or the "I that I am knows that I am";

No. The above is thinking or 'sankhara'. Buddhism teaches about five distinct aggregates that compose of life (SN 22.48). These are physicality, feeling, perception, formations (sankhara) and consciousness. Any type of label, word, thought or description is a formation (sankhara); particularly the delusion of "I am" (refer to SN 22.81).

while the other mode of consciousness is consciousness entangled in objects, like feelings and thoughts.

No. Consciousness does not "entangle" itself. What is entanglement is "sankhara" ("thinking wrongly").

Is pure consciousness, or being aware of being aware, the same as what the Buddha called the "unconditioned"?

No. Consciousness is a mental phenomena, that arises dependent upon conditions (MN 38). The unconditioned is Nibbana, which is not a mental phenomena (MN 115).

Or is the unconditioned the cessation of consciousness, as Buddhism sees consciousness as impermanent and not self?

No. Cessation does not mean cessation of consciousness. It means cessation of ignorance that causes consciousness to get wrongly involved in unwholesome sense objects. It means the cessation of a consciousness tainted and enslaved by ignorance.

They said if consciousness was not aware of itself, none of us would know that we are aware.

Sure. So what?

I have this problem, my friend had the same, so we wanted to ask you if you could help us out.

This problem appears to be a strange attachment & obsession with useless 'philosophy'. Buddhism is about ending suffering rather than philosophizing.

  • Hi, do you have any sutta reference for,'Yes, consciousness knows consciousness.' – codeNewbie Aug 14 at 14:32
  • youtube.com/watch?v=f95XorCcgrM&feature=youtu.be here is the clip from 9;30 he is saying that could you please give me the buddhist perspective of what he is saying – Conciousness vinjana Aug 14 at 20:50
  • Consciousness knows it is aware. But it is not "I am aware". When the thought of "I" completely dissolves in meditation, it will be known consciousness is conscious of consciousness. There is no such thing as "I am" apart from being a delusion. The video ends with "I know I am". The video is rubbish & superstition. Please don't post rubbish & superstition as comments to my answers. Thank you. The video is Hinduism. – Dhammadhatu Aug 14 at 22:31
  • MN 43 says: "consciousness is to be fully comprehended", which means consciousness is to be cognised by consciousness. I added this to my answer. – Dhammadhatu Aug 14 at 22:34
  • I am here to learn your perspective which I dirrectly feel is the right path i was in doubts about this i am all the time – Conciousness vinjana Aug 14 at 22:40

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