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Could someone help clarifying the sixth channel of the eighteen dhatus - that is - the mental objects (dharma-dhatu), the mental faculty (mano-dhatu) and the mental consciousness (mano-vijñāna-dhatu)?

I’d be grateful for a more detailed description of their nature and relationship, and if possible the relevant suttas that mention these.

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OP: Could someone help clarifying the sixth channel of the eighteen dhatus - that is - the mental objects (dharma-dhatu), the mental faculty (mano-dhatu) and the mental consciousness (mano-vijñāna-dhatu)?

Here is a good explanation:

The element which is mano-dhatu or mind-element is nama. Mano-dhatu comprises the panca-dvaravajjana-citta (five-sense-door-adverting-consciousness) and the two types of sampaticchana-citta (receiving-consciousness) which are kusala vipaka and akusala vipaka. Thus three kinds of citta are mano-dhatu.

Dhamma-dhatu comprises both nama and rupa. Dhamma-dhatu is the cetasikas, the subtle rupas (sukhuma-rupas) and nibbana.

Mano-vinnana-dhatu or mind-consciousness-element is nama. It comprises all cittas which are not the dvi-panca-vinnanas and not mano-dhatu. For example, santirana-citta (investigating-consciousness), mano-dvaravajjana-citta (mind-door-adverting-consciousness) and the cittas performing the function of javana such as lobha-mula-citta are mano-vinnana-dhatu.

Panca-vinnana-dhatu (seeing-consciousness-element, etc.), the mano-dhatu (mind-element) and the mano-vinnana-dhatu (mind-consciousness-element) are: vinnana-dhatu (consciousness-element).

Dhamma-dhatu is not identical with dhammarammana (mind-objects). Cittas are included in dhammarammana, but not in dhamma-dhatu, since dhamma-dhatu is: cetasikas, subtle rupas and nibbana. When cittas are classified as elements they are the seven classes of vinnana-dhatu, namely:

Panca-vinnana-dhatu (which are five classes), mano-dhatu (mind-element), mano-vinnana-dhatu (mind-consciousness-element).

Concepts and conventional terms (pannatti) which are included in dhammarammana are not dhamma-dhatu, because they are not paramattha dhammas. Only paramattha dhammas are classified as elements.

Abhidhamma in Daily Life by Nina Van Gorkom, Chapter 18 - Elements

OP: if possible the relevant suttas that mention these

This is found in:

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A physical eye, similar to a mirror, may reflect an external image/object in it. However, the mental property/element of eye consciousness is require for the mind to experience/know the external image/object/sight.

Similar to the physical eye, the mano-dhatu is the sense organ required for the mind to know things/objects that can only be sensed/experienced/known by mano-dhatu. The things/objects that can only be sensed by mano-dhatu include:

  1. Feelings
  2. Perceptions
  3. Thoughts and defilements (moods, emotions, drives)
  4. Consciousness itself
  5. Truth, such as Four Noble Truths, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, not-self, emptiness
  6. Nibbana

While the Pali suttas do not explicitly define 'dharma-dhatu', obviously 'dharma-dhatu' are far more extensive than mere 'mental objects' (feelings, perceptions & thoughts) because they must include Truth (Insight) and Nibbana. Obviously, this is why the word 'dhamma' is used (rather than a term that is exclusively mental, such as "cetasika" or "nama-dhamma").

Originally, Bhikkhu Bodhi properly translated dhamma-dhatu (in Pali) as "mind-objects"; meaning "objects known by the mind". But recently, he has changed his translation to "mental phenomena", which is wrong (because Truth and Nibbana are not mental phenomena or nama-dhamma). The translations of Thanissaro and Sujato Bhikkhu of "ideas" and "thoughts" is also wrong.

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