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Consciousness in Buddha’s Discourse Essay

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Updated: Aug 12th, 2020

Alternative teachings about the world to those Buddhism are not welcomed positively. Such was the case when Sati tried to alter the meaning of the term consciousness. This new understanding was equated to opening the box of Pandora by the Blessed One. As a result, it was regarded as a problem that arose from the pernicious view of a bhikkhu named Sati, addressed as the son of a fisherman, over the Dharma taught by the Blessed One about consciousness. Sati quoted that his pernicious view about consciousness was that “consciousness ran and wandered through the round of rebirths and another” (MN 38.2).

Such a view was deemed outrageous and against the Dharma taught by the Blessed One, who was highly revered. Therefore, fellow bhikkhus tried to detach Sati from what the other bhikkhus regarded as misrepresentation of the Blessed One’s Dharma. All efforts to dissuade him from his view were in vain resulting to tabling the matter to the Blessed One, who explained his view about the conditions. Hence, Sati might have been entangled in the conditions and it was imperative to disentangle him; otherwise the view-deemed pernicious- would result in his ruin and that of anyone else who would consider supporting this pernicious view.


The argument arose from Sati’s pernicious view and the Blessed One’s Dharma. The Blessed One explained his Dharma using various concepts. To begin with, the Blessed One demonstrated how “consciousness was reckoned by the dependent condition” from which it arose using various examples (38.8). For example, in the same way that “fire is reckoned by the condition dependent on which it burns” is the same way that consciousness is reckoned (MN 38.8).

Therefore, if consciousness arises dependent on the tongue and flavors, it is reckoned as tongue consciousness. Secondly, consciousness was deemed a nutriment that originates or is produced from a craving. Craving is attributed to feeling, which subsequently arises from contact that sequentially originates from the six fold base. Ultimately, ignorance is deemed as the source of all the nutrients (MN 38.16). The Blessed One then reiterated in a converse manner, “But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of formations and associated conditions” (MN 38.20).

This argument clearly indicates the chain of conditions that give rise to consciousness, and what stems from consciousness. This holistic view led to the notion that Sati’s pernicious view might have emerged from the same consciousness which will ultimately lead to craving and a clinging. The clinging, in this case, which is Sati’s adamant understanding of consciousness, would result in the birth of great misfortunes. The pernicious view by Sati was deemed as a craving that he ought to have suppressed. The use of the synergistic relationship between conditions was used to indicate the source of Sati’s pernicious view, and its associated consequences.

This sequence is noted by the Blessed One in his quote, “Good, bhikkhus. So you say thus, and I also say thus: ‘When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises’” (MN 38.19). Thirdly, the Blessed One used the concept of disorderliness and conflict. The Blessed One asks. “Knowing and seeing in this way, would you return to the observances, tumultuous debates, and auspicious signs of ordinary recluses and Brahmins, taking them as the core [of the holy life]?” (MN 38.23). Using this concept, the Blessed One indicated that this pernicious view was linking an unknown past and unknown future with the present, and this would result in great internal conflict that would give rise to the different conditions, whose ultimate result would be pain, sorrow, lamentation, ageing and death.


The argument given by the Blessed One is convincing because it typically defines the human nature, which seeks to fulfill its desires in an array of ways. In this instance, the Blessed One indicated that Sati was craving for the Blessed One’s position; hence, it might have been the reason for his pernicious view that aimed at misrepresenting the Blessed One. Using the conditions, the Blessed One highlighted:

Bhikkhus, do you see: ‘This has come to be’?”; “Bhikkhus, do you see: ‘Its origination occurs with that as nutriment’?”; “Bhikkhus, do you see: ‘With the cessation of that nutriment, what has come to be is subject to cessation’? (MN 38.9). Using these statements, the Blessed One had analyzed the situation and already given the verdict. These statements are convincing because they indicate that it was out of Sati’s ignorance that he formed his own perceptions of the term consciousness, which he interacted with and vehemently clung to resulting in the being/existence of the new view.

The use of the teacher and student illustration by the Blessed One indicated that Sati wanted to be like the Blessed One: lustful of the Blessed One’s position. Sati’s new view would give rise to a chain of misfortunes; hence, cessation from such a view was paramount. Sati’s ignorance had been intensified by lust, and due to his inability to control his senses, he had acted without trying to govern his mind; indicating his lack of wisdom.

Works cited

Nanamoli, Bhikkhu, and B. Bodhi. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya (Teachings of the Buddha). Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 1995. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Consciousness in Buddha’s Discourse." August 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/consciousness-in-buddhas-discourse/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Consciousness in Buddha’s Discourse'. 12 August.

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