PRINCIPLE TENETS OF THE VINYANA GROUP

  • The Humaness of the Buddha - Our regard for Siddhartha Gotama as the human being who became the historical Buddha through his own endeavours is fundamental to  our practice.  We place less emphasis on the traditional concept of the Buddha as superhuman being who descended from heaven to take up his inevitable vocation as a Buddha and all the mythology associated..
  • Omnipotent Knowledge - There is a special type of knowledge or information that is the building block of  existence. It permeates the universe and drives the creation of the world. We can  call it Sacca Dhamma (ultimate Truth). It manifests as the laws of nature (eg. E=MC2), it can be the genetic information contained in DNA or it can be the knowledge of liberation.
  • Vinyana -  Sacca Dhamma is transmitted to all sentient beings as Vinyana. It is the energy that drives our existence and  facilitates our liberation. Vinyana is the repository of critical information that migrates and informs one life to another. We take the Pali word "vinnana" (vinyana) to mean "separate knowing"or "other knowledge". In some contexts it can be understood as the more common translation "consciousness" when interpreting Dhamma as translated into English from the Theravada Canon. However to apply this meaning in all circumstances limits our ability to understand.
  • Observation Creates Reality - Nothing in the world is real until it has been observed. Nothing exists until it has impinged the six sense fields. The Citta (mind/heart) is the sixth sense organ. It is unique to human existence and through the development of this faculty we have the opportunity to observe the Sacca.
  • Akassanabala - The mind's power to attract is integral to the realization of Truth. As we contemplate conventional (vohara) Dhamma we develop the power to  attract intuitive (paramattha) Dhamma in the sense that, "Whatever we think about a lot then as a consequence the mind is drawn towards it." If we think about Dhamma a lot we will attract it.
  • Pertinent contradiction - The fullness in emptiness.
  • Gradual Arising of Bodhi-  The attainment of Bodhi does not happen as a spontaneous event. Rather, it comes to us gradually in small but discrete waves.

'Friends, fears, troubles, misfortunes arise only for the fool, not for the wise. So think about it, “By investigating we will become wise. This is how you must train yourselves friends: 

If this is, then that comes to be. From the arising of this, that arises. If this did not exist then that would not come into being. From the stopping of this, that is stopped too.'


MEMBERSHIP - We have two types of members.

Savaka membership is for those who are generating an interest in Buddhism or who would more support in their practice.   Savaka Membership of Vinyana is FREE. It may be all you need.  It entitles you to attend our monthly Dhamma Day and weekly meditation evenings in the Cairns area and our on line practice support service. You will be able to access our network of similar souls trying to practice the Dhamma. You will also receive a monthly email with articles of interest and notice of coming events.
Samana membership is for those who are practicing regularly, are seeking more intensive practice opportunities and in depth information on Dhamma and meditation practice.  Samana membership is by invitation and is FREE. There are qualifying criteria to determine eligibility. It entitles you to stay over at our retreat centres. Your membership does not cover the cost of your attendance at courses and retreats held periodically throughout the year. You will also have access to our blog and member's area of this website. In this area you will find information not accessible elsewhere, sure to stimulate your mind and contemplation of Dhamma. Please contact us for membership criteria.


The Middle Way 

The five ascetics abandoned Gotama when he decided to abandon the ascetic practices and travel the middle path between extremes ........

""So now the Buddha (to be) concentrated on contemplating the Dhamma. He ate more comfortably and lived more naturally. He let the mind be simply the mind, the body simply the body. He didn't force his practice to excess, just enough to loosen the grip of greed, aversion and delusion. Previously, he had walked the two extremes. If happiness or love arose he would be aroused and attach to them. He would identify with them and he wouldn't let go. If he encountered pleasantness he would stick to that. If he encountered suffering he would attach to that.

The Buddha had been stuck on conditions. He saw clearly that these two ways were not the way for a samana. Clinging to happiness, clinging to suffering, a samana is not like this. To cling to those things is not the way. While clinging to those things he was stuck in the views of self and the world. If he continued to flounder in these two paths he would never become one who clearly knew the world. He would be constantly running from one extreme to the other." (Luang Por Chah, Transcendence, )


Vinyana
We have chosen the Pali word Vinyana as the name for our Dhamma group because of the significance it holds in the Budldha Sasana and its importance to our understanding of the Gotama's teaching.

As we read the Suttas we find that Vinyana is most commonly translated into English as "consciousness". The use of this translation is convenient and often fits neatly with the general understanding of consciousness in an English sense. It fits well with modern theories in psychology. However the use of "consciousness" alone is a simplification and its use limits our understanding. It can block us from a deeper exploration of Vinyana in the teaching. If we look at the derivation of the word in Pali, we find that it comes from the combination of two words, "vi" meaning "apart" or "separate" and "nyana" meaning "knowing" , "knowledge" or "information". Together they form the concept of separate knowing or a knowledge apart from the mundane. If we keep this derivation in mind as well as "consciousness" in some circumstances then,  when we study the concept of Vinyana in the Gotama's teaching, we can allow ourselves access to a broader understanding of this intriguing aspect of existence as described by him.

Vinyana is one of the five heaps or khandhas that together make up a human existence. An understanding of the khandhas and their nature is fundamental to understanding Dhamma. Every morning and evening chanting session it is common to chant Rupa (body), vedana (feeling), sanna (discursive thought), sankhara (mind constructions) and vinyana (separate knowledge) are all suffering, impermanent and devoid self. The khandhas are chanted in that order with vinayana coming at the end. In fact vinyana is better understood if it is placed first in the order, for vinyana is the life force that activates the arising of the other khandhas progressively from the moment of conception.

In the paticcasamupada (dependent origination) discourses Gotama confirms this function of vinyana.

     '-    Conditioned by ignorance is kamma.

-     Conditioned by kamma formations is vinyana.

-     Conditioned by vinyana is mind and body.

-     Conditioned by mind and body is the field of the six senses. '   (M.N. vol. 3.115)

Our ignorance of truth conditions the acts of body, speech and mind that we perform in this life. Vinyana in turn is conditioned by kamma, that is, the information about the acts we have performed that is passed on to a future existence. This information carried by vinyana then is the catalyst for the arising of body (rupa)and mind (nama). Because of body and mind vedana, the field of six senses, is able to arise.

From the arising of vedana we are able to observe the world, contact and interpret it. Conditioned by vedana the mind seeks to collate and store the information that is being received and so the faculty of sanna (memory based perception) is able to arise. We develop language and memory and are able to store and retrieve information either as a conscious act or via the spontaneous arising of a mind object (such as a discursive thought, a dream or an emotion).

Dependent on the coming together of the four groups vinyana, rupa, vedana and sanna then sankhara (mind constructions) arises last. It is sankhara that facilitates the creative nature of the human mind. Sankhara creates original ideas and intuitive constructions. It may be our imagination but it also has the capacity to exaggerate whatever mind object may arise in the citta. It can turn an emotion into a mood or an idea into a work of art. It is responsible for the exaggeration of our primal desires transforming them into the obsessions and habitual tendencies that dominate our human life.

The human body can continue to exist without nama (vedana, sanna and sankhara) as with people on life support, but without Vinyana life no longer continues. When vinyana leaves the body the other khandhas separate and disintergrate. Vinyana, the receptacle of separate knowledge, ethereal information in all its forms, does not disintegrate but instead migrates to another life. This Vinyana is not to be regarded as self and is not a notion of soul. It is the carrier of information, some of it is information about the previous life but as well, it carries information that is in the nature of ultimate truth. This separate knowledge, or sacca dhamma, is the fabric that constructs the universe. It is also the knowledge that can liberate us from it. It is the intuitive information known as wisdom (panna) which every individual person has the capacity to access. It is with the arising of wisdom that ignorance, the root cause of all our troubles, is overcome.

Vinyana as Information

So what is the nature of the information that vinyana carries? Vinyana is information. There is information connected to a previous life or kamma-vipaka that must be passed on and resolved in a new life. There is information that stimulates the development of the body, such as the information contained in the DNA makeup of a person. There is information that is psychic in nature and information that is intuitive. There is information that is law in its pure form, immutable truths that govern the makeup of the universe, such as E=MC*. There is also the information that liberates, Sacca Dhamma itself. We all have the capacity to access this knowledge in all its forms but mostly we do not.

This information drives the development of mind and body from the moment of conception. It permeates the new entity. It instills the pure mind of the phoetus with latent potential for discovery, our Buddha nature. With the development of Sanna and Sankhara, however, the mind becomes laden with obstacles the become stronger as we mature, dominate our consciousness and prevent us from accessing the portal of truth the we all possess.


The Great Challenge


Of particular interest is this extract of a discourse delivered by Gotama and recorded in the Majjhima Nikhaya:

  M.N. vol. 3.109

“Bhante, what is the root cause of the five heaps of grasping?”

‘Desire is at their root."

“Is there grasping at anything apart from the five khandhas?”

‘Indeed these are not the whole of grasping and yet there is no grasping apart from these five heaps. Whatever is attachment to, desire for the five heaps then that is grasping. 

An instructed disciple trained in Dhamma does not regard these five khandhas as self. He does not regard vinyana as being self, nor self as being vinyana. In this way there is no wrong view as to ‘own self’. 

Knowing it like this, seeing it in this way there are no latent conceits that, “I am the doer, self is the doer, in this vinyana informed body.’

The questioning samana then challenges Gotama with a very cryptic question.....

“Then what self do deeds that are done by this not-self affect?”

The Buddha then severely rebuked this monk saying, ‘Some foolish man here, uninformed, ignorant and with his mind in the grip of craving may deem to go beyond the teacher’s instructions saying that since there is no self then what sort of identity does the kamma done by this not-self affect?

"Bhikkhus, you have been trained by me to regard conditions (as fleeting) now here, now there, in these things and in those. Bhikkhus, is material shape permanent or impermanent? Whatever is impermanent is painful. So, is it right to regard that which is impermanent, suffering and liable to change as, “This is mine. This am I. This is my self?”’

The Buddha went on to say the same about the other khandhas including vinyana.

‘Seeing it all as such, the perfected ones turn away from these. By turning away he is detached and by detachment he is freed.’

Note: The Buddha’s response to this pertinent challenge was not specifically related to the question asked but aimed at the inference in it, that the five khandhas constitute self.


Gradual Development of Wisdom:

The Theravada also acknowledges that progress on the Path is gradual, which is supportive of the gradual training involved with meditation and study. In the Pali Canon, Majjhima Nikaya, Kiagiri Sutta 70.22 the Buddha says:

“Bhikkhus, I do not say that the final knowledge is achieved all at once. On the contrary, final knowledge is achieved by gradual training, by gradual practice, gradual progress.”

The Buddha further talks about studying the dhamma, following the dhamma, having faith or confidence in the teachings by hearing it and memorizing some of it, and practicing it. In Majjhima Nikaya Subha Sutta 99.4 the Buddha says, “I am one who speaks after making an analysis.”

In Majjhima Nikaya Ganakamoggalaha Sutta 107.3 the Buddha states, “It is possible, Brahmin, to describe gradual training, gradual practice, and gradual progress in this Dhamma and Disciplne.”