According to Abhidhamma, following four conditions must be satisfied for the arising of eye-consciousness.

  1. Eye-door should be good
  2. Visible object must be present
  3. Light must be present
  4. Attention must be present

So my question is, how do we perceive pitch-dark? Do we perceive pitch-dark with mind-consciousness?

  • Since you have tagged Abhidhamma, this might well be suited to @Bonn, and if he decides to answer, it might be quite intriguing.
    – user17652
    Jul 26, 2021 at 19:38

3 Answers 3


In my understanding, light refers to form only with regards to eye consciousness. When there is pitch dark, there are no visible forms. But the other senses still remain in play perceiving the other aspects of form, for instance: the body feels the tactile sensations of form - a small breeze or the pressure of the body pushing against the ground. Likewise for the remaining sense organs and their respective sense objects. Therefore, this perpetuates the intellect-consciousness and with the absence of light but with the presence of the other sense organs and their sense objects, mind reconciles with itself by creating the perception of pitch dark.

  • 1
    Good answer. The suttas refer to visible form as a requirement for eye-consciousness, and this is absent in a pitch-dark cave. So the mind fabricates a perception of darkness, informed by input from the other senses. Jul 27, 2021 at 5:52

Visible light is the visible spectrum of electromagnetic radiation which upon contact with the sensitive medium can be cognized by the nervous system.

When there is no color vision, that doesn't mean that the eye has no object, there is still vision but it is without color.

When you decide to look and see 'darkness', that experience depends on the nervous system interpreting, conceiving & perceiving the conditions that can be known with the eye element.

If you had no eye then looking wouldn't occur and no information would come into being based on the eye-instrument.

The absense of color vision is seen as a darkness with the eye element, that which sees is the eye, the uncolored spectrum visible is the seen and consciousness cognizes it as 'dark', perception perceives it as 'darkness', can be felt as pleasant or otherwise depending on the circumstance.

This directing of attention to seeing gives you knowledge you wouldn't have otherwise.

A person with no eye can't see darkness in a dark room, can't perceive shades or even direct attention to that knowledge & vision of darkness.

It is kind of evident in that you can see dark spaces in an otherwise illuminated room and there darkness is something you see & know with the eye due to seeing.

You can also think about it as seeing shades of black color as more or less uniform in terms of a distinguishable shape.

  • Thats a good answer and i think right. Spells out what i was trying to say in mine. You might be interested in the visual cortex aspect i added but other than that you covered it more/better
    – Al Brown
    Jul 30, 2021 at 14:15

Interesting question. The Suttas say almost the same about eye-consciousness. Ive been thinking about this question. My opinion is that the suttas and abhidhamma are technically wrong 😳. This marks the first time Ive ever held such an opinion, but I think eye-consciousness is present in pitch black when attention goes to the visual cortex; because samjna is happening. The visual cortex is still processing and creating summaries of the visual field to pass on to the rest of the brain, and attention is on that summary. In my opinion, that is what eye-consciousness is: the eye 👁 giving raw sight data to the visual cortex which is summarizing it and applying edge detection etc and passing that summary on to the cortex default mode network 🧠. And all that is still happening.

Congratulations you’re the first person to ever convince me of a technical error by the Buddha. I say technical because I don’t think the omission from the normal teaching is detrimental in any way to any aspect of practice, but this is very interesting and could even be a useful, relatively short-term, contemplative lesson. If this is directly addressed elsewhere in the suttas or by a master saying the opposite, I’ll probably change my opinion. Thanks for an insightful question 🙏🏻👍🏻

  • I have never expected such answer. I'm sorry if I make you suspicious about the path and Buddha. To follow this path you must have faith in Buddha and you must trust Buddha. As I have mentioned in one of my old answers, "If we find contradiction somewhere in Dhamma, it's not because contradiction lies within Dhamma but may be because we don't really understand what's actually described or may be the lack of words in translating original pali canon to other languages which eventually leads to misconception."
    – Damith
    Jul 30, 2021 at 4:44
  • Well it’s a very minor point. It wouldnt affect practice or faith in the path for someone.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 30, 2021 at 14:14
  • In regards to the Abhidhamma, the op translation of 'light' is misleading, i am pretty sure the pali doesn't literally translate as light.
    – user8527
    Jul 30, 2021 at 20:05

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