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According to Vedanta, a single self or jIva is the seat of consciousness. jIva as a single unit, is not further divisible.

Buddhism, on the other hand, does not subscribe to the doctrine of a permanent self. And in one of the suttas of Buddhism, the Buddha classifies consciousness into eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness and so on. (The Pali word used here is viññāṇa).

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.038.than.html

"Consciousness, monks, is classified simply by the requisite condition in dependence on which it arises. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the eye & forms is classified simply as eye-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the ear & sounds is classified simply as ear-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the nose & aromas is classified simply as nose-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the tongue & flavors is classified simply as tongue-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the body & tactile sensations is classified simply as body-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the intellect & ideas is classified simply as intellect-consciousness.

"Just as fire is classified simply by whatever requisite condition in dependence on which it burns — a fire that burns in dependence on wood is classified simply as a wood-fire, a fire that burns in dependence on wood-chips is classified simply as a wood-chip-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on grass is classified simply as a grass-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on cow-dung is classified simply as a cow-dung-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on chaff is classified simply as a chaff-fire; a fire that burns in dependence on rubbish is classified simply as a rubbish-fire — in the same way, consciousness is classified simply by the requisite condition in dependence on which it arises. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the eye & forms is classified simply as eye-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the ear & sounds is classified simply as ear-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the nose & aromas is classified simply as nose-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the tongue & flavors is classified simply as tongue-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the body & tactile sensations is classified simply as body-consciousness. Consciousness that arises in dependence on the intellect & ideas is classified simply as intellect-consciousness.

This Buddhist classification of consciousness into multiple individual consciousnesses would go against the teaching of the Vedanta, which considers consciousness as one. Moreover, for Vedanta, consciousness does not depend on eyes, ears etc.

Here is my question: Has any Vedantin criticized this Buddhist classification of consciousness into many and the dependance of consciousness on the senses? If yes, what were the arguments used to criticize Buddhism and defend the Vedantic notion of consciousness?

  • please see VedAntasArah 134, 135 – user17294 May 4 at 6:33
  • @commonman I checked. I am not sure it is addressing the question. The Buddhist viewpoint is not even correctly represented. In 131, it incorrectly describes one view of Buddhists as - sunya is self. – Lazy Lubber May 4 at 6:43
  • The Bengali subcommentary by Swami Amritatvananda from Udbodhan is satisfactory to me, as it shows that organs are not separately conscious and are guided by buddhi and buddhi is related to Atma and ultimately everything is linked to the Supreme Nondual Consciousness. – user17294 May 4 at 6:46
  • @commonman The Buddha is also not saying that organs are separately conscious. He is talking of consciousness arising in dependance on the senses and objects. – Lazy Lubber May 4 at 6:50
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    If He did not believe in AtmA, how did He explain the rebirth btw? – user17294 May 4 at 6:53

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