- BEST RATED DEFINITION:
N (Consciousness that knows). Knowledge.
Vinnana is made of vi and nana. So vinnana are special knowledge. When a citta arise at eye while seeing a colour, that citta particularly knows the colour. No other citta can know the colour. So it is a form of vinnana citta.
'consciousness', is one of the 5 groups of existence (aggregates; khandha); one of the 4 nutriments (āhāra); the 3rd link of the dependent origination (paticcasamuppāda); the 5th in the sixfold division of elements (dhātu).
Viewed as one of the 5 groups (khandha), it is inseparably linked with the 3 other mental groups (feeling, perception and formations) and furnishes the bare cognition of the object, while the other 3 contribute more specific functions. Its ethical and karmic character, and its greater or lesser degree of intensity and clarity, are chiefly determined by the mental formations associated with it.
Just like the other groups of existence, consciousness is a flux (viññāna-sotā, 'stream of c.') and does not constitute an abiding mind-substance; nor is it a transmigrating entity or soul. The 3 characteristics (s. ti-lakkhana), impermanence, suffering and no-self, are frequently applied to it in the texts (e.g., in the Anattalakkhana Sutta, S.XXII, 59). The Buddha often stressed that "apart from conditions, there is no arising of consciousness' (M 38); and all these statements about its nature hold good for the entire range of consciousness, be it "past, future or presently arisen, gross or subtle, in oneself or external, inferior or lofty, far or near" (S. XXII, 59).
According to the 6 senses it divides into 6 kinds, viz. eye- (or visual) consciousness (cakkhu-v.), etc. About the dependent arising of these 6 kinds of consciousness, Vis.M. XV, 39 says: 'Conditioned through the eye, the visible object, light and attention, eye-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the ear, the audible object, the ear-passage and attention, ear-consciousness arises. Conditioned, through the nose, the olfactive object, air and attention, nose-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the tongue, the gustative object, humidity and attention, tongue-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the body, bodily impression, the earth-element and attention, body-consciousness arises. Conditioned through the subconscious mind (bhavanga-mano), the mind-object and attention, mind-consciousness arises."
The Abhidhamma literature distinguishes 89 classes of consciousness, being either karmically wholesome, unwholesome or neutral, and belonging either to the sense-sphere, the fine-material or the immaterial sphere, or to supermundane consciousness. See Table I.
Vijñāna or viññāṇa is translated as "consciousness," "life force," "mind," or "discernment."
1) Throughout Pali literature, viññāṇa can be found as one of a handful of synonyms for the mental force that animates the otherwise inert material body. In a number of Pali texts though, the term has a more nuanced and context-specific (or "technical") meaning.
2) Hinduism; Sri Ramakrishna defines vijñāna as
"He alone who, after reaching the Nitya, the Absolute, can dwell in the Līlā, the :Relative, and again climb from the Līlā to the Nitya, has ripe knowledge and :devotion. Sages like Narada cherished love of God after attaining the Knowledge of :Brahman. This is called vijnāna." Also: "What is vijnana? It is to know God distinctly by realizing His existence through an intuitive experience and to speak to Him intimately."
viññāṇa : (nt.) animation; consciousness.
Viññāṇa，（nt．） (fr．vi+jñā； cp．Vedic vijñāna cognition) （as special term in Buddhist metaphysics） a mental quality as a constituent of individuality，the bearer of （individual） life，life-force （as extending also over rebirths），principle of conscious life，general consciousness （as function of mind and matter），regenerative force，animation，mind as transmigrant，as transforming （according to individual kamma） one individual life （after death） into the next．（See also below，c & d）．In this （fundamental） application it may be characterized as the sensory and perceptive activity commonly expressed by “mind．” It is difficult to give any one word for v．because there is much difference between the old Buddhist and our modern points of view，and there is a varying use of the term in the Canon itself．In what may be a very old Sutta S．II，95 v．is given as a synonym of citta （q．v．） and mano （q．v．），in opposition to kāya used to mean body．This simpler unecclesiastical，unscholastic popular meaning is met with in other suttas．E．g．the body （kāya） is when animated called sa-viññāṇaka （q．v．and cp．viññāṇatta）．Again，v．was supposed，at the body’s death，to pass over into another body （S．I，122； III，124） and so find a support or platform （patiṭṭhā）．It was also held to be an immutable，persistent substance，a view strongly condemned （M．I，258）．Since，however，the persistence of v．from life to life is declared （D．II，68； S．III，54），we must judge that it is only the immutable persistence that is condemned．V，was justly conceived more as “minding” than as “mind．” Its form is participial．For later variants of the foregoing cp．Miln．86； PvA．63，219．
Ecclesiastical scholastic dogmatic considers v．under the categories of （a） khandha； （b） dhātu； （c） paṭiccasamuppāda； （d） āhāra； （e） kāya．（a） V．as fifth of the five khandhas （q．v．） is never properly described or defined．It is an ultimate．But as a factor of animate existence it is said to be the discriminating （vijānāti） of e．g．tastes or sapid things （S．III，87），or，again，of pleasant or painful feeling （M．I，292）．It is in no wise considered as a condition，or a climax of the other incorporeal khandhās．It is just one phase among others of mental life．In mediæval dogmatic it appears rather as the bare phenomenon of aroused attention，the other khandhās having been reduced to adjuncts or concomitants brought to pass by the arousing of v．（Cpd．13），and as such classed under cetasikā，the older saṅkhārakkhandha．--（b） as dhātu，v．occurs only in the category of the four elements with space as a sixth element，and also where dhātu is substituted for khandha （S．III，10）．-（c） In the chain of causation （Paṭicca-samuppāda） v．is conditioned by the saṅkhāras and is itself a necessary condition of nāma-rūpa （individuality）．See e．g．S．II，4，6，8，12 etc．； Vin．I，1； Vism．545 sq．=VbhA．150； Vism．558 sq．； VbhA．169 sq．； 192．-- At S．II，4=III，61 viññāṇa （in the Paṭicca-samuppāda） is defined in a similar way to the defn under v．-ṭṭhiti （see c），viz．as a quality peculiar to （& underlying） each of the 6 senses：“katamaṁ viññāṇaṁ? cha-y-ime viññāṇa-kāyā （groups of v．），viz．cakkhu° sota° etc．” which means that viññāṇa is the apperceptional or energizing principle，so to speak the soul or life （substratum，animator，lifepotency） of the sensory side of individuality．It arises through the mutual relation of sense and sense-object （M．III，281，where also the 6 v．-kāyā）．As such it forms a factor of rebirth，as it is grouped under upadhi （q．v．）．Translations of S．II，4：Mrs．Rh．D．（K．S．II．4） “consciousness”； Geiger （in Z．f．B．IV．62） “Erkennen．”‹-› （d） As one of the four āhāras （q．v．） v．is considered as the material，food or cause，through which comes rebirth （S．II，13； cp．B．Psy．p．62）．As such it is likened to seed in the field of action （kamma） A．I，223，and as entering （a body） at rebirth the phrase viññāṇassa avakkanti is used （D．II，63； S．II，91）．In this connection the expression paṭisandhi-viññāṇa first appears in Ps．I，52，and then in the Commentaries （VbhA．192； cf．Vism．548，659 paṭisandhicitta）； in Vism．554=VbhA．163，the v．here said to be located in the heart，is made out，at bodily death，“to quit its former “support” and proceed （pavattati） to another by way of its mental object and other conditions．” Another scholastic expression，both early and late，is abhisaṅkhāra-v．or “endowment consciousness，” viz．the individual transmigrant or transmitted function （viññāṇa） which supplies the next life with the accumulation of individual merit or demerit or indifference，as it is expressed at Nd2 569a in defn of v．（on Sn．1055：yaṁ kiñci sampajānāsi ．．．panujja viññāṇaṁ bhave na tiṭṭhe）：puññ’âbhisaṅkhāra-sahagata-viññāṇaṁ，apuññ’．．．ānejj’．．．-- Under the same heading at Nd2 569b we find abhisaṅkhāra v．with ref．to the sotāpatti-stage，i．e．the beginning of salvation，where it is said that by the gradual disappearance of abhis．-v．there are still 7 existences left before nāma-rūpa （individuality） entirely disappears．The climax of this development is “anupādi-sesa nibbāna-dhatu，” or the nibbāna stage without a remainder （parinibbāna），which is characterized not by an abhisaṅkhāra-v．but by the carimaka-v．or the final vital spark，which is now going to be extinct．This passage is referred to at DhsA．357，where the first half is quoted literally．-（e） As kāya i．e．group，v．is considered psycho-physically，as a factor in senseperception （D．III，243，M．III，281，etc．），namely，the contact between sense-organ and object （medium，metazu/ was not taken into account） produces v．of sight，hearing etc．The three factors constitute the v．-kāya of the given sense．And the v．is thus bound to bodily process as a catseye is threaded on a string （D．II，76）．Cp．above c．
Other applications of the term v．both Canonical and mediæval：on details as to attributes and functions，see Vin．I，13 （as one of the khandhas in its quality of anattā，cp．S．IV，166 sq．）； D．III，223 （as khandha）； S．II，101 sq．（°assa avakkanti）； III，53 sq．（°assa gati，āgati，cuti etc．）； A．I，223 sq．； III，40； Sn．734 （yaṁ kiñci dukkhaṁ sambhoti，sabbaṁ viññāṇa-paccayā），1037 （nāma-rūpa destroyed in consequence of v．destruction），1073 （cavetha v．(so read for bhavetha)； v．at this passage expld as “punappaṭisandhi-v．” at Nd2 569c）； 1110 （uparujjhati）； Ps．I，53 sq．153 sq．； II，102； Vbh．9 sq．53 sq．86； Nett 15 （nāma-rūpa v．-sampayutta），16 （v．-hetuka n．-r．），17 （nirodha），28，79，116 （as khandha）； Vism．529 （as simple，twofold，fourfold etc．），545=VbhA．150 sq．（in detail as product of saṅkhāras & in 32 groups）； VbhA．172 （twofold：vipāka & avipāka）； DhA．IV，100．
--ânañc’āyatana infinitude （-sphere） of life-force or mind-matter D．I，35，184，223； III，224，262，265； Nett 26，39．It is the second of the Āruppa-jhānas； see jhāna． --āhāra consciousness （i．e．vital principle） sustenance：see above d and cp．Dhs．70，126； Nett 114 sq．； Vism．341．--kāya： see above e．--khandha life-force as one of the aggregates of physical life D．III，233； Tikp 61； DhsA．141； VbhA．21，42．--ṭṭhiti viññāṇa-duration，phase of mental life．The emphasis is on duration or continuation rather than place，which would be ṭṭhāna．There are （a） 4 v．-durations with regard to their “storing” （abhisaṅkhāra） quality，viz．combinations of v．（as the governing，mind-principle） with each of the 4 other khandhas or aggregates of material life （rūpa，vedanā，saññā，saṅkhārā），v．animating or bringing them to consciousness in any kind of life-appearance； and （b） 7 v．-durations with regard to their “regenerating” （new-life combn or rebirth=paṭisandhi） quality，viz．the 4 planes of var．beings （from men to devas），followed by the 3 super-dimensional stages （the ānañc’āyatanas） of ākāsa-infinitude，viññāṇa-infin．& ākiñ-cañña-infin．-- Passages in the Canon：（a） as 4：D 1 I．262 sq．； S．III，53 sq．（“standing for consciousness” & “platform，” °patiṭṭhā S．III，54； K．S．III，45） ‹-› （b） the 7：D．II，68 sq．； III，253 （trsln “station of consciousness”），282； =A．IV，39．Both the 4 and the 7 at Nd2 570．Cp．under a slightly diff．view S．II，65 （yaṁ ceteti ．．．ārammaṇaṁ ．．．hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā）．-- See also Ps．I，22，122； Sn．1114； Nett 31，83 sq．； Vism．552； VbhA．169．--dhātu mind-element，which is the 6th dhātu after the 4 great elements （the mahābhūtāni） and ākāsa-dhātu as fifth （this expld as “asamphuṭṭha-dhātu” at VbhA．55，whereas v．-dhātu as “vijānana-dhātu”） D．III，247； Vbh．85，87； VbhA．55； cp．A．I，176； M．III，31，62，240； S．II，248．--vīthi the road of mind （fig．），a mediæval t．t．for process in senseperception KhA 102．（Page 618）
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