Bare Cognition and Semblances of Bare Cognition

Bare Cognition

The ways of knowing that take as their appearing objects objective entities and metaphysical entities are, respectively, bare cognition and conceptual cognition.

According to the Sautrantika explanation, all validly knowable phenomena are either objective entities (rang-mtshan) or metaphysical entities (spyi-mtshan). The former are impermanent: they arise having been affected by causes and circumstances and they have the ability to produce an effect. The latter are all permanent: they are unaffected by causes and conditions and lack any ability to produce an effect. Both objective and metaphysical entities have existence established from their own sides (rang-ngos-nas grub-pa) and thus self-established existence (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa).

Objective entities have substantially established existence (rdzas-su grub-pa). Having the ability to perform a function, they are external phenomena (phyi-don) and serve as the natal sources (rdzas) of the cognitions of them. They have truly established existence (bden-par grub-pa) and thus are deepest true phenomena (don-dam bden-pa). On the other hand, metaphysical entities lack substantially established existence and cannot perform any function. Lacking truly established existence, their existence is established merely as phenomena mentally labeled by concepts and designated by words. Thus, they can only be known conceptually and are superficial true phenomena (kun-rdzob bden-pa).

Because the existence of objective entities is not merely established by concepts and words, they can be known outside the context of conceptual cognition of them. Thus, they can be validly known non-conceptually by bare cognition. In such cognition, the appearing object (snang-yul) is always an objective entity. As an appearing object, an aspect of the objective entity, namely a mental derivative (gzugs-brnyan) of it, arises in the cognition, somewhat like a mental hologram. It arises only on the basis of personal experience, since the natal source of the cognition must be the objective entity existing externally prior the cognition of it.

Because the source of a bare cognition, other than bare cognition by reflexive awareness, must be external to the cognition, you cannot describe simply in words to someone the difference between the sweetness of sugar and that of chocolate. The person can only know it by personally tasting the two. The same is true of a parent’s love for their child and what it is like to have suicidal tendencies or the latent talents of a genius. These are all validly knowable objective entities that must be personally experienced in order to validly know them as the appearing object of your bare cognition.

Metaphysical entities, being permanent, can only be validly known in conceptual cognition (rtog-pa, rtog-bcas kyi shes-pa). If something is the appearing object of a conceptual cognition, it is pervasive that it is a metaphysical entity, namely a category, for instance an object category (don-spyi) such as the category “the physical sensation of giving birth.” As the appearing object of a conceptual cognition, the category is a mental derivative of all instances of the physical sensations experienced by any woman while giving birth. It is through this category that you can think of that physical sensation, which you would represent by a mental hologram of such a sensation. In Western terminology, the combination of the category and mental hologram would probably be called an “idea” – an idea of what the physical sensation of giving birth is like.

You do not need to be currently experiencing that physical sensation with body consciousness in order to think about it conceptually. You don’t even need to have ever personally experienced that sensation in order to conceptually imagine what it is like. That is because the permanent category is not an externally existing natal source of the conceptual cognition. Although the impermanent mental hologram representing the category may change in intensity and clarity from moment to moment, and it may be replaced with a more accurate representation based on personal experience, the category itself, as a metaphysical entity, remains static, unaffected by causes and conditions.

Although it is pervasive that if something is the appearing object of a conceptual cognition, it is a metaphysical entity, it is not pervasive that if something is a metaphysical entity, it is the appearing object of a conceptual cognition – for example, a space and the coarse or subtle selflessness of a person. Space is an absence of anything tangible that would obstruct the existence of something in three-dimensions and, as such, is a permanent imputation phenomenon on the basis of some physical object. The selflessness of a person is an absence of a static, partless, independently existent self or an absence of a self-sufficiently knowable self, and as such, is a permanent imputation phenomenon on the basis of an individual continuum of five aggregate factors. Being permanent, both space and the two levels of selflessness are metaphysical entities, but neither is the appearing object of the conceptual cognition of them. Both are validly knowable only with the implicit apprehension of the reflexive awareness that accompanies either the bare cognition in which their basis for imputation is the appearing object or the conceptual cognition in which an object category of their basis for imputation is the appearing object.     

Furthermore, bare cognition is defined as an awareness that is non-deceptive and parted from concepts. When divided, there are four types: (1) bare sensory cognition, (2) bare mental cognition, and (3) bare reflexive and (4) (bare) yogic cognitions.

As these four are non-deceptive, it is important first to know the causes for deception (‘khrul-rgyu) of which they are free.

The four causes for (a bare cognition to be) deceptive are its (1) reliance, (2) object, (3) situation and (4) immediate condition.

[1] A cognition may be deceptive through reliance (rten) on a defective organ. If you are cross-eyed you will see two moons. [2] If the object (yul) of your cognition is moving very quickly. such as a torch being whirled around in the dark, you may be deceived into seeing a ring of fire. [3] If you look out from a moving train, you may see trees approaching and rapidly receding because of your situation (gnas). [4] If immediately before looking at something your mind is violently disturbed by anger, then because of this immediate condition (de-ma-thag rkyen), you may see red or, with paranoia, threatening figures when no one is there. Bare cognitions are not affected by any such causes for deception.

The bare cognition that arises (only) from one of the physical cognitive sensors as its (exclusive) dominating condition is bare sensory cognition.

The words “only” and “exclusive” must be added to the definition since the bare cognition by reflexive awareness may arise from either a physical cognitive sensor or a mental one as its dominating condition (bdag-rkyen).

There are five (types), from the bare sensory cognition that takes a visible form (as its object) to the bare sensory cognition that takes a physical sensation.

Thus, there are bare sensory cognitions of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and physical sensations.

Each of these as well has the three (varieties of) valid, subsequent and non-determining cognitions.

When you see a clay jug non-deceptively and without conceptualizing about it, the first moment is your valid bare cognition of it. From the second instant, you have subsequent visual cognition, while the last moment is non-determining. Seeing this clay jug while listening intently to music is also an example of a non-determining visual cognition.

The bare cognition that arises (only) from a mental sensor as its (exclusive) dominating condition is bare mental cognition. There are five (kinds) such as the mental bare cognition that takes a visible form (as its object) and so forth.

When you remember, imagine or dream about a sight, sound, smell, taste or physical sensation, the appearing object of your cognition is a category of such an object, represented by a mental hologram of these sense objects, which is what actually appears. In these cases, you know a metaphysical entity by a conceptual cognition. It is not bare mental cognition.

However, with bare mental cognition you are aware of an objective entity, one of these five actual types of sense objects, through the cognitive sensor of your mind without any conceptual cognition of it. You have such bare mental cognition of a clay jug, for instance, immediately after your visual cognition of it and just prior to conceptualizing about it. Its continuum lasts only a very short time.

Bare cognition by reflexive awareness is of (only) the cognizer aspects (of a cognition) and is non-deceptive and parted from concepts.

The cognizer aspects (‘dzin-rnam) of a cognition refer to the primary consciousness and congruent mental factors of the cognition. These are the objects of bare cognition by reflexive awareness.

Both of those as well are explained, as above, as having three (varieties) each – valid cognition and so forth.

Both bare mental cognition and bare cognition by reflexive awareness have valid, subsequent and non-determining phases.

Concerning them, as for bare yogic cognition, it is the bare cognition in the mental continuum of an arya that has arisen from the force of having meditated with the absorbed concentration of a joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana as its dominating condition.

As explained previously, bare yogic cognition has only initial valid and subsequent moments. It is never non-determining. It occurs only during the total absorption (mnyam-bzhag) portion of an arya’s meditation session when the arya is totally absorbed non-conceptually with a joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana completely focused on either subtle impermanence or on the coarse or subtle selflessness of persons.

When divided from the point of view of its basis, there are three (types: that of) (1) shravaka (aryas), (2) pratyekabuddha (aryas) and (3) Mahayana aryas.

Both shravakas (listeners) and pratyekabuddhas (self-realizers) work for their own personal liberation from uncontrollably recurring rebirth (samsara). The former rely on listening to teachings from a teacher throughout their entire training, while the latter do not do so during the final stages. Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, work to achieve the full enlightenment of Buddhahood in order to be able to help liberate all others. According to the Sautrantika explanation, when any of these three achieve bare yogic cognition of the selflessness of persons, they become an arya either of the shravaka, pratyekabuddha or bodhisattva, that is the Mahayana class according to their motivation and style of practice.

From the point of view of their essential natures, each of them also has three (subdivisions: bare yogic cognition) with (1) a seeing pathway mind, (2) an accustoming pathway mind and (3) a pathway mind needing no further training.  

Shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas each progress to their goals through a five-fold path through which they develop, progressively, five pathway minds leading to their respective goals. These five pathway minds are focused on the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths and the subtle impermanence and coarse and subtle selflessness of persons experiencing them. Moreover, subtle impermanence and the coarse and subtle selflessness of persons are aspects of the first noble truth, true suffering.

When they have developed as their motivation an unlabored determination to be free (renunciation) of true sufferings and their causes – meaning a renunciation that arises without having to be built up through a line of reasoning – shravakas,  pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas develop their first pathway mind. They all have the same motivation and each of the three follow similar practices with each of their five pathway minds and develop the same discriminating awareness (shes-rab, wisdom). Sautrantika does not assert that bodhisattvas have a bodhichitta aim to attain enlightenment to be best able to benefit all limited beings.

With the first pathway mind, a building-up pathway mind (tshogs-lam, path of accumulation), they build up to the attainment of a joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana. Once they have attained such a conceptual joined pair, then with the second pathway mind, an applying pathway mind (sbyor-lam, path of preparation), they apply the conceptual joined pair in order to attain a non-conceptual state of it. When they attain that, they have attained the third pathway mind, a seeing pathway mind (mthong-lam, path of seeing), with which they “see” non-conceptually the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths. With this, they become aryas of their respective classes and, with bare yogic cognition, attain a true stopping of the doctrinally based disturbing emotions (nyon-mongs kun-btags) ­– disturbing emotions based on the belief that you and all others exist as static, partless, independently existing selves (atman) and which you have learned from a non-Buddhist Indian tenet system.

With the fourth pathway mind, an accustoming pathway mind (sgom-lam, path of meditation), they accustom themselves to this bare yogic cognition so as to attain a true stopping, in stages, of the automatically arising disturbing emotions (nyon-rmongs lhan-skyes). With the attainment of the true stopping of these as well, each attains the fifth pathway mind, a pathway mind needing no further training (mi-slob lam, path of no more learning). Because of the vastly different amounts of positive force (bsod-nams, merit) each has built up , shravakas and pratyekabuddhas attain, with this fifth pathway mind, liberation as arhats, while bodhisattvas attain enlightenment as a Buddha. This is the way these five pathway minds are explained in the Sautrantika system.   

From the point of view of their objects, there are two: (1) that which knows the extent of how many phenomena there are and (3) (that which knows) the extent of how phenomena exist.

When focused on the five aggregates, bare yogic cognition can explicitly apprehend both the aggregates and their subtle impermanence. In so doing, it cognizes the extent of how many phenomena there are (ji-snyed-pa), although strictly speaking, the five aggregates include only nonstatic phenomena.  Alternatively, when focused on the aggregates, bare yogic cognition can explicitly apprehend the aggregates while the bare cognition by reflexive awareness in a conceptual cognition that accompanies it implicitly apprehends the coarse or subtle selflessness of persons, the extent of how phenomena exist (ji-lta-ba). 

Semblances of Bare Cognition

As for semblances of bare cognition, which are the reverse (of bare cognition),

A semblance of bare cognition (mngon-sum ltar-snang), mutually inclusive with a deceptive cognition (‘khrul-shes), is defined as an awareness that is deceived with respect to its appearing object. It takes the appearing object to be the actual object itself. Distorted cognition, on the other hand, is deceived with respect to what actually exists, not merely with something that arises in cognition.

Both deceptive and distorted cognitions may be conceptual or non-conceptual. In a conceptual cognition, the appearing object is a metaphysical entity, namely a category such as “clay jugs.” Its conceptually  implied object (zhen-yul) – literally, the object it clings to – is an actual, specific clay jug, an objective entity. Conceptual cognitions are deceptive inasmuch as they mix and confuse a category, which in this case includes all clay jugs, with a specific clay jug, as if all clay jugs look like this one. If the implied object of a conceptual cognition is non-existent, then it is not only deceptive, but distorted as well. An example is one in which the appearing object is the category “rabbit horns,” mixed and confused with an actual set of rabbit horns, although there is no such thing.

Although all conceptual cognitions are deceptive, not all are distorted. In fact, some of them, such as inferential cognitions – are valid cognitions inasmuch as they are a fresh, non-fraudulent awareness of their involved object. For example, the inferential cognition of “the clay jug is broken,” based on the line of reasoning “the clay jug is broken because it has a leak,” correctly and freshly apprehends its involved object, the clay jug. It is valid and, in this respect not fraudulent. But because it confuses the category “clay jugs that are broken because they have a leak” with a specific clay jug, it is deceptive.

In a non-conceptual cognition, for instance valid bare sensory cognition explicitly apprehending a clay jug, both the appearing object and involved object are the clay jug itself, an objective entity. Here, there is no conceptually implied object, since only conceptual cognitions have implied objects. When a near-sighted person looks at this clay jug, they see a blurred object with a non-conceptual semblance of bare cognition. Relying on a defective sense organ, their cognition is deceived because it confuses its appearing object, a blurred clay jug, with what is actually there, an objective clay jug. It is distorted as well because there is no such thing as an actual blurred clay jug. It is non-conceptual because it does not mix the blurred clay jug that appears to it with the category “blurred clay jugs.”

There are seven types of semblances of bare cognition, six conceptual and one non-conceptual.

it says (in Dignaga’s Compendium of Validly Cognizing Minds”), “They are termed those that cognize (1) deceptions and (2) conventions, (3) those of inferential cognition and (4) derived from inferential cognition, (5) those that are remembrances and (6) those that fancy ahead. There is also (7) the semblance of bare cognition that is blurred.” The first six are conceptual semblances of bare cognitions while the last, a knowing of something blurred, is a non-conceptual semblance of bare cognition. For the meaning to be understood (by each), one should refer to such (texts) as A Filigree of Lines of Reasoning, (A Treatise Explanation of Dharmakirti’s “Commentary to [Dignaga’s ‘Compendium of] Validly Cognizing Minds.’”)

According to Dignaga’s Compendium of Validly Cognizing Minds,” (Tshad-ma kun-btus, Skt. Pramanasamuccaya) [1] Conceptual cognition of what is deceptive (‘khrul) is distorted as well. It is the conceptual semblance of bare cognition of anything that does not accord with fact, such as the misconception that sound is permanent. Also included in this class are ordinary people’s dreams and fantasies, which confuse fiction with reality.

[2] Conceptual cognition of conventional things (kun-rdzob) is not distorted. It is a correct apprehension of something conventional that is made of particles or a collection of moments, such as a clay jug or a mental state. It is deceptive in that it mixes such an objective entity with a metaphysical category of which it is a specific instance.

[3] All inferential cognitions (rjes-dpag) are conceptual cognitions in which you know something obscure (lkog-gyur), not readily obvious, by relying on a valid line of reasoning. They are deceptive because they confuse their appearing object – a category, as represented by a mental hologram of a member of that category – with the external objective entity that is their conceptually implied object. For instance, you can validly know that sound is impermanent by relying on the reason: because it is an affected phenomenon ('dus-byas-kyi chos), like a clay jug and not like space. You correctly reach this conclusion because the three factors of applicability to the topic, pervasion and negative pervasion are satisfied. (a) Being an affected phenomenon is a property of sound, (b) if something is an affected phenomenon it is pervasive that it is impermanent, for instance a clay jug, and (c) if something is permanent it is pervasive that it is not an affected phenomenon, for instance a space. Your conceptual inferential cognition, then, has as its appearing object the three categories "sounds" and "affected phenomena," as represented by a mental hologram of a sound. Although this conceptual cognition is valid, it is deceptive because it mixes these categories, with the conceptually implied object that is its involved object, an external objective sound. 

A Buddha would not need to rely on such a conceptual cognition of an inferential cognition to know the impermanence of sound. When having a bare auditory cognition explicitly apprehending a sound, a Buddha would also explicitly apprehend its impermanence without any use of logic.

Another example of this third type of conceptual cognition is knowing an effect and saying that you know its cause, such as feeling the warmth of the rays of the sun and knowing by inferential cognition that the sun is hot. Also included is giving the name of an effect to its cause, such as calling a Buddha a Compassionate One. In this case, you are mixing the effect of being a Buddha, that one is compassionate, with its cause, that one is a Buddha. Another example is thinking of sound as being something produced, which also mixes an effect with its cause.

[4] Conceptual cognitions derived from inferential cognitions (rjes-su dpag-las byung) are your cognitions of the conclusions derived from the above process of inferential cognition. An example is your conceptual cognition that sound is impermanent, gained after inferring this from the three factors.

[5] A conceptual cognition that is a remembrance (dran-pa) of something mixes the category of the event or object with the original event or object.

(6) A conceptual cognition that fancies ahead (mngon-‘dog) about something that has not yet happened, or about what might have been if things were different, confuses the category of a plan or an idea with what will actually happen. Thus, all six of these types of conceptual cognition are deceptive since they mix their appearing object with their conceptually implied object.

[7] A non-conceptual semblance of bare cognition of something blurred (rab-rib-can) is also deceptive because what appears to it is not so in actuality.

A non-conceptual semblance of bare cognition, a knowing in which there is a clear appearance of something non-existent appearing clearly, and non-conceptual distorted cognition are mutually inclusive.

In a knowing in which there is an appearance of something non-existent (med-pa gsal-snang-can-gyi blo), an actual non-existent item, such as a rabbit horn or a static, partless, independently existent self, does not appear, since it does not exist. The appearing object in such a cognition is just a made-up semblance of what you imagine such a thing would be like.