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Why consciousness not discussed as internal and external in Dhathu-vibhanga sutta?

"And what is the space property? The space property may be either internal or external. What is the internal space property? Anything internal, belonging to oneself, that's space, spatial, & sustained: the holes of the ears, the nostrils, the mouth, the [passage] whereby what is eaten, drunk, consumed, & tasted gets swallowed, and where it collects, and whereby it is excreted from below, or anything else internal, within oneself, that's space, spatial, & sustained: This is called the internal space property. Now both the internal space property & the external space property are simply space property. And that should be seen as it actually is present with right discernment: 'This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.' When one sees it thus as it actually is present with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the space property and makes the space property fade from the mind.

"There remains only consciousness: pure & bright. What does one cognize with that consciousness? One cognizes 'pleasure.' One cognizes 'pain.' One cognizes 'neither pleasure nor pain.' In dependence on a sensory contact that is to be felt as pleasure, there arises a feeling of pleasure. When sensing a feeling of pleasure, one discerns that 'I am sensing a feeling of pleasure.' One discerns that 'With the cessation of that very sensory contact that is to be felt as pleasure, the concomitant feeling — the feeling of pleasure that has arisen in dependence on the sensory contact that is to be felt as pleasure — ceases, is stilled.' In dependence on a sensory contact that is to be felt as pain... In dependence on a sensory contact that is to be felt as neither pleasure nor pain, there arises a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. When sensing a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, one discerns that 'I am sensing a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain.' One discerns that 'With the cessation of that very sensory contact that is to be felt as neither pleasure nor pain, the concomitant feeling — the feeling of neither pleasure nor pain that has arisen in dependence on the sensory contact that is to be felt as neither pleasure nor pain — ceases, is stilled.'

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.140.than.html

  • Vinnana (There remains only consciousness...) is treaded here in the consequence of having abounded Rupa. It's not treaded in relation with form here, good householder. It does not start with "And what is ...? It's a "far withdrawn from world" Sutta. A minding-it one. – Samana Johann May 24 at 16:27
  • I have posted this question in Dhamma Wheel as well. dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=37245&start=15 – SarathW May 24 at 23:05
  • I’m voting to close this question because this question is likely to be answered with opinions rather than facts and citations. It should be updated so it will lead to fact-based answers. – Dhammadhatu May 24 at 23:16
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Perhaps it's because the first four elements at least, probably the first five, are included in rupa -- but consciousness is separate from rupa.

SN 12.67 says that "consciousness" and "name and form" are like two bundles of reeds leaning on each other (i.e. they are not part of the same bundle).

Suppose there were two bundles of reeds leaning up against each other.

In the same way, name and form are conditions for consciousness. Consciousness is a condition for name and form. Name and form are conditions for the six sense fields.

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  • SN 12.19 refers to external nama-rupa. Consciousness does not necessarily arise due to external nama-rupa, such as in jhana or immaterial sphere, where there is only internal nama-rupa. . – Dhammadhatu May 24 at 23:34
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If you look at original Pali, what they translated as "consciousness" is actually "vijnana" - (discriminative) experience.

The point of the sutta is, as you meditatively investigate what seems to be your "I", you progressively exclude all physical elements as obviously not "I", until you are left with just experience itself. Then you investigate that experience and realize that it depends on the sensory input, which depends on attention.

When you don't pay attention to any sensory input, experience stops. What's left is called "equanimity" ("upekkha"), characterized as "luminous" or "radiant" ("pabhassara"). See Pabhassara Sutta for the canonical reference to "luminous mind".

Then Buddha explains that although this equanimity can be shaped into any other meditative state, including the formless jhanas, the meditator understands that any such state would be contrived and conditioned and therefore finite and prone to suffering.

This realization leads to letting go of desire to attain any state different from what is presently unfolding. The resulting state is pure suchness providing no basis for suffering to arise. The meditator realizes that this indeed is the culmination of the path, "the knowledge of the ending of suffering".


So, the "experience" is not analyzed as internal and external because we are talking about meditator's own experience as he tries to find who he is by separating from everything that is conditioned and unreliable. Experience (vijnana) itself is conditioned on sensory input and is therefore unreliable, not suitable to be called "I" or to be our basis for eternal happiness. Which leaves us with nothing to rely on, nothing to stand on - and this final realization being the only unshakable truth, acceptance of which gives unconditional freedom from any mismatch of expectations, - is the very Nirvana the Buddha is leading us to.

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  • Consciousness is one of 3 conditions that creates contact. Contact does not condition consciousness; as is written above. Also, the Pali does not use the term “subjective” in relation to consciousness; which, if so, would have certain connotations similar to Hindu nondualism – Dhammadhatu May 24 at 21:48
  • Hi Andrei. Did you notice that Pukkusati is an Anagami, not an Arahant? – SarathW May 24 at 23:00
  • @Dhammadhatu "What does one cognize with that consciousness? One cognizes 'pleasure.' One cognizes 'pain.' One cognizes 'neither pleasure nor pain.' In dependence on a sensory contact that is to be felt as pleasure, there arises a feeling of pleasure. When sensing a feeling of pleasure, one discerns that 'I am sensing a feeling of pleasure.' " – Andrei Volkov May 24 at 23:09
  • @SarathW yes, because he was stupid enough to ask for ordainment. If he understood the teaching he would have no desire to ordain, he would not think he needs to become a monk. – Andrei Volkov May 24 at 23:11
  • Andrei.. Your comment appears unrelated to my comment. – Dhammadhatu May 24 at 23:13
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The space property may be either internal or external...

There remains only consciousness: pure & bright...

Possibly because there're 2 ways of classification: space and time. The Rupa-related components(earth, liquid, fire,...) were space-wise, while the Non-Rupa-related components(consciousness, equanimity,...) are time-wise. Notice the Buddha didn't reject the space-classification of consciousness since He did mention internal/external consciousness in other suttas. He just didn't use it here and the phrase "There remains only consciousness" indicates this time-wise classification (ie. there might be other consciousnesses, external, not pure, not bright, etc.. until there remains only the pure&bright consciousness).

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The five elements (earth, water, fire, wind and space) are physical. They are described as internal, when they are part of the body, and they are described as external when they are not part of the body.

Consciousness, the sixth element, here, is purely mental. It is of the mind - that's why it's only internal, not external.

Pure and bright definitely refers to this verse: "Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements." (AN 1.49), as Andrei has already mentioned.

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Because unlike rupa, vinnana is always internal for this or that being.

External means it's not kammically acquired by any being such as the water in the ocean or the juice of flowers this part is in the vibhanga paragraph 175/83.

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