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From MN 148

Bhante Sujato

Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights. The meeting of the three is contact.

Bhikkhu Bodhi

Dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises; the meeting of the three is contact.

Pali

Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṁ, tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso;

Can you have the internal base, the external base, and consciousness but they do not meet? If so, what is an example?

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3 Answers 3

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The confusion arise in you because of mis interpretation of

tiṇṇaṁ saṅgati phasso;

It should not mean 'contact of three'. Because arising of consciousness itself is connecting the two. it is connector.

Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviññāṇaṁ

Actual meaning of sangati is going together. sam+gati.

so as long as the eye is there and object is there and consciousness is there, there exist phassa. It can happen that the arised consciousness may drop before the phassa. due to lake of interest. or the object itself drop due to fast movement. or the eye moves away. in all such case there shall not be phasso which can generate vedana.

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generally speaking, as i understand it, the meeting of the internal-external-consciousness creates contact named eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, etc. i don't particularly understand the idea of 'gives rise to' or arises, as if the contact was moving up like smoke or vapor, but whatever that's another topic.

but your question: Can you have the internal base, the external base, and consciousness but they do not meet? If so, what is an example?

it's not a clear question to me, but as I understand it, contact is only for 1 of 6 senses at any given time. so yes, 5 of 6 senses are contactless ie do not meet.

then it seems 6 of 6 also not meeting in higher jhana according to AN 9.37:

The eye itself is actually present, and so are those sights. Yet one will not experience that sense-field. The ear itself is actually present, and so are those sounds. Yet one will not experience that sense-field. The nose itself is actually present, and so are those smells. Yet one will not experience that sense-field. The tongue itself is actually present, and so are those tastes. Yet one will not experience that sense-field. The body itself is actually present, and so are those touches. Yet one will not experience that sense-field.”

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  • That sutta doesn't explicitly mention contact. It could be that eye, forms, and eye-consciousness are not meeting to make contact OR there is eye and forms but no eye-consciousness.
    – triplej
    Jul 5, 2023 at 14:17
  • from my understanding, there is only one consciousness. eye-, ear-, etc. is contact, ie 6 types of contact.
    – blue_ego
    Jul 5, 2023 at 14:23
  • the sutta seems to imply a consciousness not within the body, but i'm not sure
    – blue_ego
    Jul 5, 2023 at 14:26
  • There are six classes of consciousness suttacentral.net/sn12.2/en/…
    – triplej
    Jul 6, 2023 at 12:38
  • yes, you are right. but i don't believe it. what good is tongue-consciousness without a tongue? i believe in one consciousness and six types of contact
    – blue_ego
    Jul 6, 2023 at 14:21
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No. Eye-consciousness can only arise when the eye & the form meet. MN 38 says:

Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness.

Consciousness, monks, is classified simply by the requisite condition in dependence on which it arises. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the eye & forms is classified simply as eye-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the ear & sounds is classified simply as ear-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the nose & aromas is classified simply as nose-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the tongue & flavors is classified simply as tongue-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the body & tactile sensations is classified simply as body-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the intellect & ideas is classified simply as intellect-consciousness.

Just as fire is classified simply by whatever requisite condition in dependence on which it burns — a fire that burns in dependence on wood is classified simply as a wood-fire, a fire that burns in dependence on wood-chips is classified simply as a wood-chip-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on grass is classified simply as a grass-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on cow-dung is classified simply as a cow-dung-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on chaff is classified simply as a chaff-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on rubbish is classified simply as a rubbish-fire — in the same way, consciousness is classified simply by the requisite condition in dependence on which it arises.

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