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(Skt.; Pāli, viññāna).

Consciousness or awareness, in both its active, discriminative form of knowing, and its subliminal or unconscious bodily and psychic functions. It is important to realize that vijñāna means more than the stream of mental awareness, which the English word ‘consciousness’ primarily denotes. For example, from the earliest times Buddhist sources have distinguished six forms of vijñāna corresponding to the six senses, thus eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, taste-consciousness, touch-consciousness, bodily consciousness, and mental consciousness. Vijñāna thus encompasses both the Western terms ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ and for that reason is difficult to translate by any single term. It is an important element in the Buddhist analysis of human nature as the last of the five aggregates (skandhas). In the scheme of Dependent Origination (pratītya-samutpāda) it forms the third link in the twelvefold series.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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