Consciousness in Buddhism

Consciousness in Buddhism

When it explains the consciousness in Buddhism, it is the literary translation of the Pali word “Vinnana”. In reality, what beings do is, in accordance with the volitions that arise. Volitions wouldn’t be without mind. Then what is mind? It of course cannot be seen or heard or touched. It is explained in the Citta Vagga of Dhammapada as this,

“Duragman ekacaram, Asariram guhasayam” this means, it is faring far, wandering alone, boundless and lying in a cave is the mind.

Here, wandering alone means no two thought-moments arise at the same time. The imperceptible mind is immaterial and colorless. Guhasayam is the seat of consciousness. According to the views of commentators like ven. Buddhaghosa and Anuruddha, who were the greatest monks, the seat of consciousness is the heart.

The cardiac theory, which prevailed during the Buddha’s time is evidently supported by the Upanishads.

The Buddha would have adopted this popular theory in order to convince the ordinary listeners. As I early mentioned, mind is known as Vinnana, consciousness, does not arise without causes.  When we study about Consciousness in Buddhism, it is simile to a river. Like a river it constantly flowing. Therefore, when the mind meets with a visual object there arise Cakkhu Vinnana, the eye consciousness. When the mind meets with sounds, there arises Sota Vinnana, the auditory consciousness etc.

This process of consciousness coming down from time immemorial in Samsaric existence. And it comes to an end with the attainment of Anupadisesa Nibbana Dhatu. For instance; no more continuing of this physico-mental process of existence with Nibbana, in other words with the attainment of Arahatship. The conceiving of a being in a womb of a mother is called the connecting consciousness in Buddhism, the Patisandhi Vinnana. The force of that consciousness prevails in every being. His life depends upon this force. Where there is no consciousness, there is no life. No sensation. When the consciousness leaves, there is no life.

Devoid of the Consciousness in Buddhism

Aciram ratyam kayo-pathavim adhisessati

Cuddho apeta vinnano-Niratthamvakalingaram”

This means, before long, this body will lie upon the ground, cast aside, devoid of consciousness like a useless rotten log.

It is with a developed consciousness that the scientist and technologists have discovered the forces of nature and various elements and invented marvelous machines such as the computer, television, hydroelectricity, washing machines etc. But their minds are full of defilements. If man were to strive hard and is able to make his mind free from defilements through meditation, he is not only able to perform miracle but attain Nobble paths and Fruits and put an end to all Samsaric sufferings.

When it is explained consciousness in Buddhism, it is with the sense faculties, that we make contact, with the external world. They are six fold, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. When we come across an object, it is the consciousness that recognize whether it is a form, a sound, odour, taste, touch or mental state. There arise sensations after the contact of the object with the particular faculty.

“Phassa paccaya vedana”.

This means, that if he forms in his mind the craving or ill-will for the object, then he gets his mind defiled. On the other hand, if he doesn’t form craving or ill-will and looks at it in the proper perspective, then he will be able to understand things as they really are. Such thoughts lead him to purify his mind and turn towards Vipassana and get the mind free from all sorts of defilements. Thus it is this consciousness that leads one to accumulate Kusala and Akusala Cetana. This means wholesome and unwholesome Karmic volitions.

  Consciousness in Buddhism

Moment of conception

Consciousness in Buddhism, it explains accordance moments. The force of consciousness that occur at the moment of conception in the womb of the mother and it continues within the body up to the end of life. As time goes on, the body changes and disintegrates, but the consciousness finds some environment to have a fresh birth.

So long as we are attached to the Bhava, for instance; the constant process of births and deaths, we will be born in accordance with the Karma, the volitional actions which occur at the moment of death, which is called Cuti Citta, the Death consciousness.

The being who is wandering in Samsara is enjoying or suffering as a result of his karma, accumulated during his previous births. At the same time, his accumulates fresh karma, as long as he does not eradicate the roots of craving, hatred and ignorance. These roots of course are states of mind of volitional activities.

That is why it is stated that what man does is Manomaya. This means “mind made.” Really speaking what is karma is not action as same religions profess, but the intention to act. The Buddha says as,

Cetabaham bhikkhave kamman vadami”

“I do say that the volition is the karma.”

“Cetayitva kammam karoti kayena wacaya manasa.”

“After thinking, one acts by deed, word or thought.

Hence, it is not sensible to judge the actions of an individual by mere out ward appearance. We have to find out what sort of thought induced that action.

There are some people who spend lavishly and make big donations with the thought of gaining publicity or to belittle a person who made a small donation. Such an act is not really a Kusala, a wholesome act, because their minds are defiled by evil thoughts. Devadatta rolled down a rock on the Buddha and caused bleeding from his toe. Jivaka, the royal physician removed the clotted blood from the toe using a surgical tool.

 

Consciousness in Buddhism

 

An eminent lawyer of today may argue cleverly and prove that both Devadatta and Jivaka have done the same action, for instance, shedding of blood from the Buddha’s body. But we are aware of Devadatta’s intention and that of Jivaka. Devadatta did so to destroy the Buddha and Jivaka wanted to cure the Buddha. So karma cannot be decided by mere outward appearance.

Understand well

When we look at the present society, some well-dressed men go about in expensive vehicles to houses when the husbands are out at work places. They speak decently and introduce themselves as members of some welfare organizations and ask for some donations. The house wife invites them into the house and goes inside to prepare something, to treat them with. In the meantime, they tie up the people in the house and rob their belongings and flee. Can such people be called decent, merely because of their out-ward appearance?

They are really plunderers or rouges, because they went there with the intention of looting. So, it is clear that it is not the form of the body of the individual but his Cetana, the volition that matter. The work of an individual is due to a host of volitions.

It is mentioned in Abhidhamma that even in a very simple act like folding of a stretched arm, there arise thousands of volitions in one’s mind, as describes consciousness in Buddhism. Isn’t it true? Hence in a way, the work of man is the work of volitions.

One may produce something for the good of man while another may produce something harmful. In both cases, the volitions are forerunners which are wholesome and unwholesome. The reason for this is that ordinary being looks upon worldly objects as pleasurable and everlasting. But this is not the real situation. The reason for this is that his consciousness or mind is blurred with Moha, which means the illusion.

Let’s try to be free from lust, hatred and illusion.

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