(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 SN.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 (SN.i.122; SN.iii.124) and so find a support or platform (patiṭṭhā). It was also held to be an immutable persistent substance, a view strongly condemned (MN.i.258). Since, however, the persistence of v. from life to life is declared (DN.ii.68; SN.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. Mil.86; Pv-a.63, Pv-a.219.

Ecclesiastical scholastic dogmatic considers v. under the categories of (a) khandha; (b) dhātu; (c) paṭiccasamuppāda; (d) āhāra; (e) kāya.

  1. 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 (SN.iii.87), or, again, of pleasant or painful feeling (MN.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 mediaeval 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 sankhārakkhandha-
  2. 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 (SN.iii.10)
  3. 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. SN.ii.4, SN.ii.6, SN.ii.8, SN.ii.12 etc.; Vin.i.1; Vism.545 sq. = Vb-a.150 Vism.558 sq.; Vb-a.169 sq.; Vb-a.192
    ■ At SN.ii.4 = SN.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: “katamaṃ viññāṇaṃ? 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 (MN.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 SN.ii.4: Mrs. Rh. D. (K.S. ii.4) “consciousness”; Geiger (in Z. f. B. iv.62) “Erkennen.”
  4. As one of the four āhāras (q.v.) v. is considered as the material, food or cause, through which comes rebirth (SN.ii.13; cp. B.Psy. p. 62). As such it is likened to seed in the field of action (kamma) AN.i.223, and as entering (a body) at rebirth the phrase viññāṇassa avakkanti is used (DN.ii.63; SN.ii.91). In this connection the expression paṭisandhi-viññāṇa first appears in Pts.i.52, and then in the Commentaries (Vb-a.192; cf. Vism.548 Vism.659 paṭisandhicitta); in Vism.554 = Vb-a.163, the v. here said to be located in the heart, is made out, at bodily death, “to quit its former ʻsupport’ 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 Cnd.569#a in defn of v. (on Snp.1055: yaṃ kiñci sampajānāsi… panujja viññāṇaṃ bhave na tiṭṭhe): puññ’ âbhisankhāra-sahagata-viññāṇaṃ, apuññ’…, ānejj’…
    ■ Under the same heading at Cnd.569#b we find abhisankhāra 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 abhisankhāra-v., but by the carimaka-v., or the final vital spark, which is now going to be extinct This passage is referred to at Dhs-a.357, where the first half is quoted literally
  5. As kāya i.e. group, v. is considered psycho-physically, as a factor in sense-perception (DN.iii.243, MN.iii.281, etc.), namely, the contact between sense-organ and object (medium, μεταζύ 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 (DN.ii.76). Cp. above c.

Other applications of the term v., both Canonical and mediaeval: on details as to attributes and functions, see Vin.i.13 (as one of the khandhas in its quality of anattā cp. SN.iv.166 sq.); DN.iii.223 (as khandha); SN.ii.101 sq (˚assa avakkanti); SN.iii.53 sq. (˚assa gati, āgati, cuti etc.); AN.i.223 sq.; AN.iii.40; Snp.734 (yaṃ kiñci dukkhaṃ sambhoti, sabbaṃ viññāṇa-paccayā), Snp.1037 (nāma-rūpa destroyed in consequence of v. destruction), Snp.1073 (cavetha v. [so read for bhavetha]; v. at this passage explained as “punappaṭisandhi-v.” at Cnd.569#c); Snp.1110 (uparujjhati); Pts.i.53 sq., Pts.i.153 sq.; Pts.ii.102; Vb.9 sq. Vb.53 sq. Vb.86; Ne.15 (nāma-rūpa v- sampayutta), Ne.16 (v- hetuka n-r.), Ne.17 (nirodha), Ne.28, Ne.79, Ne.116 (as khandha) Vism.529 (as simple, twofold, fourfold etc.), Vism.545 = Vb-a.150 sq. (in detail as product of sankhāras & in 32 groups); Vb-a.172 (twofold: vipāka & avipāka) Dhp-a.iv.100.

  • -ānañc’āyatana infinitude (-sphere) of life-force or mind-matter DN.i.35, DN.i.184, DN.i.223; DN.iii.224, DN.iii.262, DN.iii.265; Ne.26 Ne.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, Dhs.126; Ne.114 sq.; Vism.341
  • -kāya: see above e.
  • -khandha life-force as one of the aggregates of physical life DN.iii.233; Tikp.61; Dhs-a.141 Vb-a.21, Vb-a.42.
  • -ṭṭhiti viññāṇa-duration, phase of mental life. The emphasis is on duration or continuation rather than place, which would be ṭṭhāna. There are α, 4 v- durations with regard to their “storing (abhisankhāra) 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, sankhārā), v. animating or bringing them to consciousness in any kind of life-appearance and β, 7 v- durations with regard to their “regenerating” (new-life combination 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-infi.

Passages in the Canon

  1. as 4: DN.ii.262 sq.; SN.iii.53 sq. (“standing for consciousness” & “platform,” ˚patiṭṭhā SN.iii.54; K.S. iii.45)
  2. the 7: DN.ii.68 sq.; DN.iii.253 (translation “station of consciousness”), DN.iii.282; = AN.iv.39.

Both the 4 and the 7 at Cnd.570. Cp. under a slightly diff. view SN.ii.65 (yaṃ ceteti… ārammaṇaṃ… hoti viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā). See also Pts.i.22, Pts.i.122; Snp.1114; Ne.31, Ne.83 sq. Vism.552; Vb-a.169.
-dhātu mind-element, which is the 6th dhātu after the 4 great elements (the mahābhūtāni) and ākāsa-dhātu as fifth (this explained as “asamphuṭṭha-dhātu” at Vb-a.55, whereas v- dhātu as “vijānana-dhātu”) DN.iii.247; Vb.85, Vb.87; Vb-a.55 cp. AN.i.176; MN.iii.31, MN.iii.62, MN.iii.240; SN.ii.248. -vīthi the road of mind (fig.), a mediaeval t. t. for process in sense perception Kp-a.102.

fr. vi + jñā; cp. Vedic vijñāna cognition