A Study of the Process Consciousness and Process-Free Consciousness in the Cognitive Process of Buddhist Psychology


In the Abhidhamma, one of the divisions of the Pāli Canon, the whole gamut of Buddhist psychological experience is expounded in detail by two streams of consciousness: process-consciousness and process-free consciousness. The process consciousness refers to the active condition of consciousness when it occurs in a cognitive process. The process-free consciousness refers to the passive condition of the mind when it is free from a cognitive process. The second stream is also called door-free consciousness because it does not occur in any of the six sense-doors: the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. On the other hand, the process-free consciousness presents three different functions: as life-continuum consciousness, death consciousness, and rebirth-linking consciousness. However, it has been observed that the life-continuum consciousness is closely connected to the Abhidhamma version of the cognitive process in the active condition of mind. Also, scholars such as Wijerekera (1979) and Rhys Davids (1936) have firmly stated that the concept of life-continuum consciousness is the same as the unconscious theory in Freudian psychology. Dividing into two parts, part one of this paper will answer the following question: why the term ‘life-continuum consciousness’ was not often found in the Suttas, recognized as the discourses of the Buddha, but introduced in the Abhidhamma when presenting the theory of the cognitive process in Buddhist psychology? Taking scholars’ opinions into consideration, the second part, with the application of a cognitive process of Buddhist Psychology, will argue that the “life-continuum consciousness” does not correspond to the “unconscious” in Freudian psychology.

Author Information
Dipen Barua, Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2018
Stream: Philosophy - Philosophy and Religion

This paper is part of the ACERP2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon