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There is a sphere of infinite space and there is sphere of infinite consciousness. It is easy to comprehend what is infinite space is but it is not clear what is meant by infinite consciousness? Does it mean infinite history of experience? Or does it mean infinite presence of sentient beings with consciousness?

  • To ask such a question on Buddhism SE actually implies that one already knows and has faith that the infinite consciousness will answer. :D – OyaMist Sep 15 at 21:34
  • @OyaMist Are you personalizing infinite consciousness as a separate power? – Dr. Robert Sep 18 at 23:05
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    Here there is only infinite consciousness talking to itself grasping at nothing. – OyaMist Sep 19 at 11:35

10 Answers 10

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In MN121 the Buddha explains his step by step method for achieving Liberation or Nirvana. This method relies on the gradual removal or abandonment or "giving up" of objects and any boundaries/limits, any separation, any division. First, the gross objects/limits/separation is removed, then medium-gross objects/limits/separation is abandoned, then subtle objects/limits/separation is "given up", and this process of incremental iterative refinement is repeated and perfected all the way until Final Liberation.

This process can be compared with a loop in a software program, a cycle:

var A = AttendTo(any object);
repeat until(A==Nirvana){
    var notA = FindComplement(A);
    A = AttendTo(A + notA);
}

On each iteration of this loop our current object is A. Next, we find its counterpart, the NOT A. Next, we combine the total of A + NOT A and make that our new A. This is repeated until Nirvana.

The first step of that process is to start where you are. Let's say you are looking out of your window and see a parking lot with cars and people. When you focus on one of those people, that's an A. When you focus on another person, that's another A. Any single person or any car can be your object. Then you try to find the counterpart (or the mathematical complement) of that A, the NOT A. If you take one member of a mathematical set, then the complement is the rest of that set. If you take any one object (person or car) on the parking lot, then its complement is everything else on that parking lot except that first object. Next step is to put together A + NOT A and make that your new A. When we combine our first person with the rest of the parking lot, the resulting A = A + NOT A is "the entire parking lot". This is the end of the first iteration.

The next iteration is when our A is "the entire parking lot". The NOT A is the rest of the world. The A + NOT A is "the entire planet".

The next iteration is when our A is "the entire planet". The NOT A is the rest of the universe. The A + NOT A is "the Infinite Space". The reason it's called "infinite" or "boundless" or "limitless" is because it is spatially all-inclusive without any borders or separation. It is our first serious attempt at attaining an undivided meditation object.

The next iteration is when our A is "the Infinite Space". This is where it gets a bit more tricky. What is the NOT A, what is the complement of the Infinite Space in an even broader context? Can we expand from the Infinite Space even further out? In other words, if the A of Infinite Space is one member of a larger set, then what could those other members be?

(...drum roll...)

The other members are all other phenomena, all other contents of our consciousness! Then A = A + NOT A is the entire consciousness with the entire totality of all its possible states and objects. When this becomes our new A, our new object of our iterative meditation refinement process, this stage is called "The Infinite Consciousness". Again, the reason it is called "infinite" or "limitless" or "unbounded" is because it is our new standard of all-inclusive undivided object of meditation.

The next iteration of this goes as follows. If A is The Infinite Consciousness, then what is its counterpart? What is beyond all phenomena, beyond all states of mind, all contents of consciousness? It is the complete absence of any content, complete Nothingness. This is our NOT A. And what is the superset of both A and NOT A? It is that which includes both "entire realm of conscious experience, with all its possible states" and "the complete absence of anything". This A + NOT A is called "the realm of neither (just) perception nor (just) nonperception", in other words it is the common ground for both consciousness and nothingness. But what is it, really? It is the point of view that comprehends all conscious experience as well as comprehends nothingness. It is the ultimate reference point.

Finally, taking this last object as an A, we need to work harder to find its complement. Could there be anything beyond the ultimate reference point that comprehends both consciousness and nothingness? It seems impossible to imagine. However, if you look very-very carefully you can realize that this ultimate reference point is nothing but a sign of "I", the sign of "subject". The complement of that A is complete cessation of I-making, complete cessation of being a point of view. Which means, it is complete cessation of interpretation, evaluation, discernment, and recognition, complete cessation of semiosis. This NOT A of "neither perception nor non-perception" is traditionally known as "cessation of perception and feeling". And if we combine these A + NOT A, that is if we find the common ground of both, then finally we are done.

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    Excellent explanation of the transition from known to knower to knowing which transcends all points of reference. I've been reading about this recently .Osho used to say that we can continually go from the object (rose flower) to the subject (that which is flowering) till midpoint.But let me highlight that methods are indicative of choice which can keep I invested with volition ,probability of getting stuck at one point in an infinite loop ,so in the dynamic life this requires maybe a specific time ,it cannot really fit in real-time ,Otherwise I salute you for this amazing explanation . – Omar Boshra Sep 22 at 15:55
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To measure is to assess. Consciousness exists to assess, to make choices. One assesses to gain more. Gaining more, consciousness grows. The measure of consciousness is what we gain.

DN15:15.2: Suppose there were totally and utterly no assessing for anyone anywhere. When there’s no assessing at all, with the cessation of assessing, would desire and lust still be found?”

Suffering creates limits:

SN41.7:6.2: Greed, hate, and delusion are makers of limits.

So we have then an apparent paradox with "infinite consciousness." How can consciousness be infinite if it is limited by assessment?

Infinite consciousness cannot be measured or assessed because any such measurement or assessment would be a limit. But infinite consciousness can be perceived.

AN9.41:13.10: ‘Suppose that, seeing the drawbacks of the dimension of infinite consciousness, I were to cultivate that. And suppose that, realizing the benefits of the dimension of nothingness, I were to develop that. It’s possible that my mind would be eager for the dimension of nothingness; it would be confident, settled, and decided about it. And I would see it as peaceful.’

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  • I am no pali expert but the English translation says that there is a perception of infinite consciousness. What does infinite means ? Infinite means something without a boundary. In a sense infinite measures. It measures the boundlessness. Suppose I say Infinite Space , what does that mean? It means I occupy a space which is without boundary in any direction. Of course this space is anatta but it is nevertheless found as a perception. Perception of the size of space and consciousness is integral part of knowledge gained by the meditator. – SacrificialEquation Sep 16 at 13:47
  • "Beyond measure" is indeed a measure. But it's also a measure without increase.:D – OyaMist Sep 16 at 14:46
  • interesting observation... – SacrificialEquation Sep 16 at 14:49
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Please keep in mind my answer comes from my personal experience alone, and not from a study of Buddhist texts. Also, I want to establish terminology because conversations like this can get very confusing if we aren’t extremely clear about what we are talking about.

When I say consciousness, I am talking about a specific sensate experience I can most directly explain as a combination of lucidity and identification. In my experience, consciousness is impermanent. When I am conscious, I am most likely observing thoughts who’s content kick off a process of identification (I am this not that, etc). I identify as a particular aspect of experience when conscious. In a deep sleep when I am aware of only awareness itself, consciousness is not present. But once the automatic process of self identification occurs upon waking, consciousness tends to arise.

The quality of “lucidity” that is present in consciousness is one that I can only describe as “the will or ability to act”. When I am lucid, I feel as if I now possess the ability to freely act, like during waking experience. When I am not lucid, I feel experience and actions are occurring autonomously, like during a dream.

Based on my definitions I would say the following.

When I am in a deep sleep, I am aware but not conscious. There are no experiences to identify as and I have no will to act.

When I am dreaming I am aware but not conscious. There are experiences to identify with, but there is no will to act.

When I am lucid dreaming I am aware and conscious. When I am awake I am aware and conscious. In both there are experiences to identify as and I have the will to act.

So to finally answer your question now that terminology has been laid down.

It is easy to comprehend what is infinite space is but it is not clear what is meant by infinite consciousness? Does it mean infinite history of experience? Or does it mean infinite presence of sentient beings with consciousness?

In my experience, it doesn’t mean either of the options you suggested, if I’m understanding you properly.

Whenever infinite space and infinite consciousness are paired together in conversation, I always immediately think of the altered states of consciousness that arise during deep concentration meditation. Specifically two particular Jhanas.

Infinite space is very clearly known during what I call the 5th Jhana. In this state, most of the 6 senses have dropped away, but I am left with a feeling of being a single point of consciousness, sitting within an infinite space. I physically feel the experience of space all around me, that seemingly goes on forever. The experience of consciousness is very small in this state in comparison to the experience of space.

Now in the 6th Jhana, I experience what I would call “infinite consciousness”. In this state, the single point of consciousness shifts into the space. Consciousness no longer feels like a point within space, but feels as if the entirety of infinite space is conscious/who I am. Some people describe it like the space becomes luminous, which I wouldn’t disagree with. If the previous state was described as “a point of consciousness within a sphere of infinite space”, this state would be described as “a sphere of infinite space that is conscious”.

There are other explanations of what could be meant by infinite consciousness, but they are normally talked about by people with different definitions of consciousness. When people talk about infinite consciousness from the pre-enlightenment perspective, This is what I believe they are referring to.

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  • Although I do not agree with the answer, I think it is a good attempt. Consciousness is that through which we experience pain and pleasure. Without consciousness there is no experience of pain or pleasure. For example when we loose consciousness in an accident we do not experience any pain..we experience only when we regain our consciousness. – SacrificialEquation Sep 16 at 13:37
  • “a sphere of infinite space that is conscious”...by this do you mean you rxperience consciousness outside of body-mind? – The White Cloud Sep 16 at 14:15
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    @TheWhiteCloud from my perspective, awareness is the “source” of dependent origination. we label and divide awaress into the 6 senses. our interpretations of the content within our 6 senses brings rise to all conceptual phenomena, including the distinction of the senses. by the statement i mean within awareness, an experience of feeling/touch arises id classify as spaciousness. This spaciousness is experienced not as external or internal, but as your source of being. In the moment, I am not experiencing any sight, thoughts, feelings, etc that can be interpreted to be the body or mind. – w33t Sep 16 at 14:29
  • @SacrificialEquation from my perspective, you are describing the natural impermanence of the 6 senses. I see consciousness as a process that unfolds through other phenomena, not as something that actually exists. Either way, I hope my perspective was helpful in some way! Good luck on the path brother 🙏 – w33t Sep 16 at 14:36
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    @TheWhiteCloud We as humans tend to chop up and conceptualize phenomena and make things more complicated as we add layers. Instead of viewing existence simply, we create concepts that obfuscate the true nature of reality. Going from source down, the mapping looks something like this: Awareness->6 Senses->The World. The 6 senses live within awareness. The senses can not exist if there is no awareness of them. The body, mind, and material world all live within the 6 senses. Without feeling, hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, and thinking, you would be unable to know the body, mind, or world. – w33t Sep 16 at 15:06
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Everything depending on their causes. If you want to know anything you need to know their causes and effects, so you should comprehend both spheres' dependent origination to understand them both.

What are you talking about is the object of consciousness. Consciousness in 30 spheres are knowing the object.

When the meditator meditated, did karma, infinite-space-meditation. This karma is going to create the only Nāma, resultant consciousnesses and mind factors. This Nāma has infinite-space illusion as object too. There are the other Nāma in Arūpa too, but not it's resultant. So...

There is a sphere of infinite space

It is a sphere of the consciousness being which knowing the object, infinite space.

there is sphere of the consciousness.

It is a sphere of the consciousness being which knowing the object, consciousness which knowing infinite space.

What is infinite space?

The infinite space is the special illusion which created by the 4th jhana master's mind when he practice infinite space jhāna.

Without the fourth jhāna, you can not create this illusion by yourself.

Why it is called in finite space?

Because the forth Jhāna master uses the space between Kasina to be basis of this Jhāna and because this is no matter, Rūpa, so the forth Jhāna master must ignore Kasina, which basing on Rūpa, by knowing only space illusion.

What is infinite consciousness?

There is no infinite consciousness actually. In the KN. Patisambhidamagga's commentary there is two definition...

anantaṃ viññāṇanti taṃyeva ‘‘ananto ākāso’’ti pharitvā pavattaṃ viññāṇaṃ ‘‘anantaṃ viññāṇa’’nti manasikarontoti vuttaṃ hoti. manasikāravasena vā anantaṃ. so hi taṃ ākāsārammaṇaṃ viññāṇaṃ anavasesato manasikaronto anantaṃ manasi karoti.

  1. The consciousness which knowing the consciousness as object. This object is consciousness which knowing infinite space, so it is called infinite-(space-object-)-consciousness.

  2. The consciousness which knowing uncountable consciousness as object. This object is uncountable
    space-object-consciousness, so it is called infinite-(space-object-)-consciousness.


It is easier to go to Pa-Auk forest monastery to practice it directly 😊🧘

But if you want to understand by reading, see the path of verification in SamādhiNiddesa.

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  • I am asking what is infinite consciousness? I am not asking to know the conditions depending on which the perception of infinite consciousness arises. Make me understand what is infinite consciousness and not how it came to be... Hope I am clear. – SacrificialEquation Sep 16 at 10:37
  • I edited the answer. – Bonn Sep 16 at 12:22
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As i understand it, It is like perception of infinite space but without the space. There is then only the conception & perception of a boundless pleasantness.

There is the concept of infinity in play, consciousness is delineated due to the pleasantness of it's [boundless] perception.

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I think this question can only be answered by those who have actual insight of it but still I will like to answer with the help of some references so that it will be helpful for you to contemplate.

First let's see Infinite space from Rohitassa Sutta,

"I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear. But at the same time, I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering & stress without reaching the end of the cosmos. Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos."

Does that mean cosmos is infinite? It doesn't matter because till there is perception (aggregate) then consciousness due to perception will be there.

If you remember that after infinitude of consciousness, Buddha practiced dimension of Nothingness.

Further, Ānanda, the monk—not attending to the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space, not attending to the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness—attends to the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the dimension of nothingness. [MN 121]

But he was still not satisfied by it, why? because it still has a subtle level of perception of nothingness and consciousness doesn't ceases.

So, what you're trying to measure is perception? Because when Buddha talk about consciousness he talk about consciousness from requisite condition. -- Here perception and consciousness are dependent co-rising phenomena. (see MN 38)

Though I think scientist can measure it on the basis of how much level (or dimension) of perception one can perceive. (from bacteria to human etc)

This was answer to your main question, now coming to other questions.

It is easy to comprehend what is infinite space is but it is not clear what is meant by infinite consciousness?

I think @w33t answer makes much sense about it,

Now in the 6th Jhana, I experience what I would call “infinite consciousness”. In this state, the single point of consciousness shifts into the space. Consciousness no longer feels like a point within space, but feels as if the entirety of infinite space is conscious/ who I am.

But still those who are more advance in meditation (with insights) can explain it better.

Does it (infinte consciousness) mean infinite history of experience?

I don't think I can answer this for now but in most of references, for recollection of previous lives one thing always mentioned is that concentration needs to be bright and purified.

When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two... five, ten... fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion [MN 19]

At the time of Buddha other ascetic and brahman too have gained such insight.

Here, Ananda, in consequence of ardor, endeavor, devotion, diligence, and right attention, some monk or brahman attains such concentration of mind that, when his mind is concentrated, he sees with the heavenly eyesight, which is purified and surpasses the human [MN 136]

Also in [MN 36] it seems that even after practicing two dimensions taught by his both teachers he still had no recollection of previous lives and other insights. He got it later when he started practing as he used to when he was young. (But still both dimensions have their own importance in Buddhism)

So only way you can clear your doubts on this is through practice.

Or does it mean infinite presence of sentient beings with consciousness?

It may be possible and those who have such insight can answer it better.

But if you want to get your answer logically then -- I think Buddha taught this systematic (meditative) approach for liberation and not for getting whirled up there. So it's like you're travelling through a train and everytime when you reach a new station, you're keeping the baggages outside the station one by one which you're carrying in your head -- till you reach your destination.

(Scientist usually use term infinite when it's hard or not necessary to express exact end point.)

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  • Interesting answer ... all states of jhana are built upon planes of consciousness...so in a plane of consciousness the perception of infinite consciousness arises...the object of consciousness is consciousness... this much I know and am waiting to get a confirmation on the rest...I am infinite space does not mean infinite consciousness... – SacrificialEquation Sep 18 at 4:57
  • Infinite councioussness is the realm of Brahma. The seventh, where Buddha's master stumbled onto. Infinite councioussnes also called Maya or illusion, in terms of Vedic Mantra AUM. The semicircle and below part in that symbol represents Maya. And a dot above the semicircle is the Eighth, the Dukkhanirodhgamini patipada. To pierce the seventh you need surrender to Highest law of impermanence with all your senses. Then one obtain the Eighth, sword of detachment(Buddhism) or sword of spirit or word of God (bible) – Sandeep Telang Sep 19 at 10:25
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Good householder,

infinitive means that it has no border, no end, not even a perception of such. And like Upasaka Vorapol (Bonn) tried to transmit. Coming from a merely outwardly infinitive perception of space, the object, one turns at this stage toward the "subject", the consciousness, that of what knows, be aware of, mind. And of course, at least philosopical, infinitive is not measureuable.

Of course one can categorize diverent perceptions, individual, conventional...transcendent and sort them into minor and more sublime, like as from blurry to sharp.

After infinitive "mind at knowing" one turns to even more sublime perceptions, giving up knowing as well.

To get things really known, one needs to practice: Sila, Dana, Bhavana (reflecting the heard Dhamma). Concentration is something that has a cause, would not arise without. So one concentrates on give the cause for it.

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange, other worldbinding trades, but for escape from this wheel]

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Consciousness cannot be measured. Because all is measured by itself, but measured things cant measured the instrument of measurement i.e. consciousness.

Consciousness is a pool of whole, we are part of that. When individual consciousness ceases altogether, with cessation of I, it finds itself a part of universal consciousness. So, then question of coming & going, being & nonbeing ceased totally. He see all beings are part of him. He doesn't harm any creature with his body, mind and speech. (Human beings are exactly the same, wherever you go. We are one single unit, but due to ignorance perceive different than others. That's where the work of Religion starts, to bind the world together as one family.) Peace!

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These two infinite spheres that you ask about are the same.

They are the same because they are imaginative attempts to conceive of something about reality: one which you say you can comprehend, and the other you ask about so that you can comprehend it.

They are the same because ultimately, they speak of reality, which has no pieces, aspects, parts, characteristics, etc. Only that which is held to occupy space is like that.

You say you can comprehend infinite space but that is not reality. It is an artifact of modern science which conflates infinite time and space together as spacetime in order to attempt to define the ‘laws’ of motion of things that inhabit space-time. Thus you see it as something that will take ‘forever’ to traverse. If that is what you want to comprehend, you should seek out Physics Stack Exchange.

You have trouble with “infinite consciousness” because you have been confused by scientists who, limited by their understanding of reality as just a big space-time filled with things that interact physically, consciousness must be in the brain. Thus, how can it be infinite.

But these two ‘spheres’ mean “not-limited”. What is not limited? Even the universe of science has edges, and thus, limits. So in that realm, you must always envisage another ‘level’ of reality that contains the lower level.

“Not-limited” means not conceptualizable, not comprehensible, by intellect.

To properly understand these statements about that which is not limited by the intellect, which are made, not in an attempt to describe something, but rather, to point the way forward for the understanding as it develops through a meditative practice, is to meditate, meditate, meditate.

And that process is unlimited in what it can bring.

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What about all the perfected ones, the fully awakened Buddhas who lived in the past? Have you comprehended their minds to know thatKiṃ te, sāriputta, ye te ahesuṃ atītamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto cetasā ceto paricca viditā:those Buddhas had such ethics, or such qualities, or such wisdom, or such meditation, or such freedom?”‘evaṃsīlā te bhagavanto ahesuṃ itipi, evaṃdhammā te bhagavanto ahesuṃ itipi, evaṃpaññā te bhagavanto ahesuṃ itipi, evaṃvihārī te bhagavanto ahesuṃ itipi, evaṃvimuttā te bhagavanto ahesuṃ itipī’”ti?

“No, sir.”

https://suttacentral.net/dn28/en/sujato

I asked a similar question in Dhamma Wheel.

Can stream of consciousness naturally come to an end?

https://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=36287&hilit=Infinity+consciousness

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  • The answer is nowhere close to what I asked. I am asking what is meant by infinite consciousness? Infinite is a numerical quantity. Boundless. But in what sense ? In what sense is consciousness boundless? – SacrificialEquation Sep 16 at 9:52
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    @SacrificialEquation Infinite is not a numerical quantity Infinity is an abstract notion. – The White Cloud Sep 16 at 10:13
  • @TheWhiteCloud Do you want to debate the technicalities or seriously try to give me a picture of Infinite consciousness? (BTW have you solved infinite series sums in maths or sums of infinite in integral calculus .... I am not an idiot...we will discuss infinity in maths some other day ... for present day understand it as boundless... I have made clear what I wish to understand..) – SacrificialEquation Sep 16 at 10:18
  • @SacrificialEquation chill bro....i have solved series and integrals...doesnot help here...quiet a while back ruben2020 asked this question buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/41378/… based on our discussion. This question in complete is similar to yours. The answers are not satisfactory. IMO only way to know for sure is by getting thrre. – The White Cloud Sep 16 at 10:36

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