Compendium of Ways of Knowing

A Clear Mirror of What Should be Accepted and Rejected

Homage to Manjushri.

An explanation of the presentation of ways of knowing involves both knowing, which is something having an object, and the objects (it has). Of these, in general, something that has an object is defined as a functional phenomenon that (continually) possesses an object appropriate to itself. When divided, there are three types: (1) forms of physical phenomena, (2) ways of being aware of something and (3) noncongruent affecting variables. (An example of) the first is all communicating sounds, of the second every cognition, and of the third the limitless (numbers of) persons.

There are (1) definitions, (2) synonyms and (3) divisions of knowing. As for the first of these three, the defining characteristic of a knowing (of something) is an awareness (of it). Knowing, cognizing, being aware of and having a clear (cognitive arising of something) are all mutually inclusive (synonymous) terms. When divided, there are many aspects. There is knowing with apprehension and knowing without apprehension. Moreover, it can be divided into seven ways of knowing. There are valid and invalid ones, both conceptual and non-conceptual, bare cognitions and inferential cognitions, both primary minds and mental factors, and so on. There are many such things.

A way of knowing something is said to be either with or without apprehension depending on whether or not it apprehends its own object. Of the seven ways of knowing, bare cognition, inferential cognition and subsequent cognition: these three are apprehensions (of something). The other four are knowing (something) without apprehension. As for the statement by some scholars that presumptive cognition is a knowing (of something) with apprehension, the intended meaning is that with mere presumptive cognition one can (just about) apprehend (something).

There is explicit apprehension and implicit apprehension, accepted respectively as apprehensions of an object with the dawning or non-dawning of a mental hologram (of it). From Eliminating Mental Darkness: (A Filigree) for (Dharmakirti’s) “Seven Volumes (on Valid Cognition)” (by Kedrub Je):

It is said that (1) in general, with valid cognitions there are explicit and implicit ones; and (2) with bare cognition and inferential cognition, you may have explicit and implicit apprehension. The first statement is a very rough one, while the second is the Sautrantika position. Or the latter could be taken in the sense that both (types of apprehension may occur) in specific instances of bare cognition and inferential cognition. As for how an invalid cognition can apprehend (its object) explicitly or implicitly, it is in the same way as explained for the valid ones.

The seven ways of knowing something are by (1) presumptive cognition, (2) non-determining cognition, (3) subsequent cognition, (4) distorted cognition, (5) indecisive wavering, (6) bare cognition and (7) inferential cognition.

Presumptive cognition is defined as an invalid cognition that freshly, conceptually implies a correct object. When divided, there are five kinds of presumptive cognition: (presuming what is true to be so) (1) for no reason, (2) for a contradictory reason, (3) for a non-determining one, (4) for an unestablished one and (5) for a correct one, but without having reached decisiveness (about it). Examples having the defining characteristics of each in turn are said to be as follows: A knowing with which one assumes sound to be impermanent from merely (hearing) the words, “Sound is impermanent.” Similarly, assuming the same by relying on a line of reasoning that is contradictory, non-determining or unestablished, or by relying on the (correct) line of reasoning, (because it is) produced, (but not understanding it – these) are said to be what the presumptive cognitions are like that take sound to be impermanent.

These (five) may be condensed into two: (1) a presumptive cognition (of something) for no reason and, for the latter four, (2) a presumptive cognition having some reason. The understanding one gains from merely listening (to a teaching) is mostly presumptive cognition. Therefore, it is said that its continuum is unstable.

A knowing (of something) that is a non-determining cognition is one whose involved object is an objective entity that appears clearly but without decisiveness. When divided, there are three: (1) (non-determining) sensory bare cognition, (2) (non-determining) mental bare cognition and (3) (non-determining) bare cognition by reflexive awareness. As for yogic bare cognition in this regard, since everything that appears (to it) is decisively (cognized), there is no such thing as non-determining yogic bare cognition.

Further, there are five kinds of sensory bare cognition of this (non-determining) type, such as the five of an ordinary being, from the sensory bare cognition that takes (as its involved object) a visible form to the sensory bare cognition that takes a physical sensation, when (the person’s) mind is diverted in another direction, or the final moment of the five kinds of sensory bare cognition in an ordinary being’s mental continuum. As an ordinary being, the tiny moment of mental bare cognition and all (tiny moments of) reflexive ones are non-determining cognitions. As for the (type of) mental bare cognition indicated here, when it is of an arya, it is said in A Filigree of Lines of Reasoning (by the First Dalai Lama) that it is valid cognition.

As for this type of (non-determining) bare cognition by reflexive awareness, there are many examples, such as the reflexive awareness experiencing valid inferential cognitions in the mental continuum of a Charvaka or a Jain, (those experiencing) distorted cognitions and so forth. There are also, for instance, (all the bare cognitions by) reflexive awareness in the mental continuums of the Vaibhashikas from our own tradition, as well as the final moment of any continuum of an ordinary being’s reflexive awareness.

Subsequent cognition is defined as an invalid awareness that apprehends what has already been apprehended. When divided, there are three (types): the subsequent cognitions that come about in a continuum of (1) a bare cognition or (2) an inferential cognition, and (3) the subsequent cognitions that are neither of those two.

Further, as for the first, there are many (kinds), such as the subsequent cognitions of sensory, mental, reflexive and yogic bare cognitions. Examples of each progressively are the second phases of (1) the five types of sensory bare cognition, (2) advanced awareness cognizing someone else’s mind, (3) reflexive awareness having a continuum and (4) yogic bare cognition still needing further training. The second phase of a bare cognition can be included as a subsequent cognition that is not (specifically) any of those four.

As for the second (type), it would be like the second phase of a valid inferential cognition. As for the third, it would be like a decisive cognition induced by a specific (previous) bare cognition or inferential cognition and, for example, the second phase of a valid cognition. In short, they may be condensed into two: (1) conceptual subsequent cognition and (2) non-conceptual subsequent cognition.

Distorted cognition is defined as a way of knowing that takes its own object in an inverted manner. When divided, there are two (types): (1) conceptual distorted cognition and (2) non-conceptual distorted cognition. The definition of the first is a conceptually implying awareness that is deceptive in terms of its own conceptually implied object. The definition of a non-conceptual distorted cognition is an awareness having a clear appearance (of an object) that is deceptive in terms of its own manner of cognitively taking it. The first is like the two types of grasping for an impossible “soul,” namely of phenomena and persons, while the second is, for instance, like the sensory cognition to which a snow mountain appears to be blue.

From Eliminating Mental Darkness: (A Filigree for [Dharmakirti’s] Seven Volumes on) Valid Cognition,

Distorted conceptual cognition, conceptual distorted cognition and interpolation are all three mutually inclusive. An indecisive wavering not inclined toward fact also can be said to be a conceptual distorted cognition.

Indecisive wavering is a mental factor that vacillates between two conclusions concerning its object. There are three (types): indecisive wavering that is (1) inclined toward fact, (2) not inclined toward fact, and (3) evenly balanced (between the two). These, in turn, would be (for example) ways of knowing that (1) wonder, “Could sound be impermanent?” (2) wonder likewise, “Could it be permanent?” and (3) wonder, “Could sound be permanent or impermanent?” Concerning indecisive wavering, (some) assert it as pervasive with being a root disturbing emotion. There are also those who differentiate them into two: with or without being a disturbing factor.

The ways of knowing that take as their appearing objects objective entities and metaphysical entities are, respectively, bare cognition and conceptual cognition. Furthermore, bare cognition is defined as an awareness that is non-deceptive and parted from concepts. When divided, there are four types: (1) sensory bare cognition, (2) mental bare cognition, and (3) bare reflexive and (4) yogic (bare) cognitions. The four causes for (a bare cognition to be) deceptive are its (1) reliance, (2) object, (3) situation and (4) immediately preceding condition.

The bare cognition that arises (only) from one of the physical cognitive sensors as its (exclusive) dominating condition is sensory bare cognition. There are five (types), from the sensory bare cognition that takes a visible form (as its object) to the sensory bare cognition that takes a physical sensation. Each of these as well has the three (varieties of) valid, subsequent and non-determining cognitions.

The bare cognition that arises (only) from a mental sensor as its (exclusive) dominating condition is mental bare cognition. There are five (kinds) such as the mental bare cognition that takes a visible form (as its object) and so forth. Bare cognition by reflexive awareness is that which (only) gives rise to a cognitive aspect of the cognitive-takers (of objects in a cognition), non-deceptively and parted from concepts. Both of those as well are explained, as above, as having three (varieties) each – valid cognition and so forth.

Concerning them, as for yogic bare 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. 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. From the point of view of their essential natures, each of them also has three (subdivisions: yogic bare cognition) with (1) a seeing pathway mind, (2) an accustoming pathway mind and (3) a pathway mind needing no further training. From the point of view of their objects, there are two: (1) that which knows as much as can be validly known and (2) (that which knows) how phenomena exist.

As for semblances of a bare cognition, which are the reverse (of bare cognition), it says (in Dignaga’s Compendium of Validly Cognizing Minds),

They are termed (1) those that are (totally) deceptive, (2) those cognizing something as being superficial, (3) those in inferential cognition and those of (4) something derived from an inferential cognition, (5) something remembered and (6) something hoped. There is also (7) the semblance of a 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 a 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.’”)

A non-conceptual semblance of a 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.

Furthermore, a conceptual cognition is a conceptually implying awareness that cognizes an audio (category) or meaning/object (category) as suitable to be associated (with the other). When divided, there are two (types): (1) conceptual cognition that accords with fact and (2) conceptual cognition that does not accord with fact. (There are also) the two: (1) conceptual cognition that applies a name and (2) (conceptual cognition that) applies a fact. There are also the three: (1) conceptual cognitions having reliance on a tag, (2) those that interpolate something extraneous onto something else and (3) conceptual cognitions of something having an obscured fact. There are many ways to divide them.

In addition, there are the three (types of) conceptual cognition of (1) what has been listened to, (2) (what has been) thought about and (3) (what has been) meditated upon. The meaning of each in turn is the conceptually implying awareness (1) that takes (its object) by means of merely an audio category, (2) that which has found certainty (about it) from having thought about its meaning and (3) that is in an upper state (of samsaric existence) from having familiarized oneself further and further with a meaning that has arisen from thinking.

The types of distorted conceptual cognitions that have arisen concerning how many (distinct ways constitute) the count of (types of) valid cognition are as follows. The Charvakas and Jains accept only one valid way of knowing, namely (1) bare cognition. The Samkhyas assert that there are three (types of) valid cognition: (1) bare cognition, (2) inferential cognition and (3) knowing something through verbal indication. The Nyayas accept four: in addition to these three, (4) cognition of an analogous example. The (Bhatta) Mimamsakas claim that the number is definitely only six: these four plus (5) valid cognition through implication and (6) validly cognition of non-existence. The followers of the Charaka (Samhita) assert that the number is definitely eleven. To the above six they add valid cognition through (7) conjunctive reasoning, (8) non-perception, (9) tradition, (10) inclusion and (11) intuition. Our own tradition is that it is definite that there are only two: (1) bare cognition and (2) inferential cognition.

Concerning this, the definition of a valid cognition is a fresh, non-fraudulent awareness. When divided, there are two (types): (1) valid bare cognition and (2) (valid) inferential cognition. From another (point of view), there are (another) two (types): (1) valid cognition that determination (of what its object is) is self-induced and (2) (valid cognition) that determination (of what its object is) must be induced by another (cognition). And from the point of view of etymology, there are three (valid sources for knowing something): (1) valid people, (2) (valid) speech and (3) (valid) cognition.

Inferential cognition is the comprehension of an obscure fact through reliance on a correct line of reasoning as its basis. When divided, three types are explained: inferential cognitions based on (1) the force of the actuality of phenomena, (2) what is well-known and (3) conviction. Inferential cognition and valid inferential cognition are to be known as mutually inclusive.

Valid cognition in which determination (of its object is) is self-induced or must be induced by another (cognition) is the valid cognition that decisive determination can be induced through its own power or that of another (cognition concerning the fact) that if the significance of its own comprehensible object were not established on top of (it, cognition of this object as having that significance) could not arise.

Valid cognition that determination (of its object) is self-induced can be any of five (types of) valid cognition: two (kinds) of valid cognition – (1) bare cognition by reflexive awareness or (2) yogic bare cognition – (3) inferential cognition, or (valid sensory bare cognition) of (4) something with its functioning (also) appearing or (5) something with which one is familiar.

When divided from the point of view of etymology, valid cognition that determination (of its object) must be induced by another (cognition) is of three (types): bare cognition of something (1) for the first time, (2) when one’s mind is unheedful and (3) having a cause for deception.

There are also the valid cognitions that determination of (1) what the appearance (of its object is) is self-induced, but what in truth it is will have to be induced by another cognition, (2) what (its object) is in general is self-induced, but what it is specifically will have to be induced by another cognition, and (3) whether something has even appeared will have to be induced by another cognition. Although such (cognitions) have been explained, care is needed in differentiating which are actually (valid) and which are (only) nominally so.

Although it is pervasive that valid cognition that determination (of its object) must be induced by another (cognition) is a valid cognition, yet because that object, which one validly cognized that determination (of what it is) must be induced by another cognition, may (itself) not be validly cognized, precise detail is required concerning the pervasions and so forth.

There are four (types) of cognitive objects: (1) appearing, (2) cognitively taken, (3) conceptually implied and (4) involved. Appearing objects and cognitively taken objects are mutually inclusive. Except for (those having) appearances of falling hairs and so on, which do not rely on an external object, all cognitions have an appearing object. Conceptually implied objects are phenomena (that arise exclusively) through the gateway of conceptual cognition. They exist in all conceptual cognitions that accord with fact. Involved objects are the clear-cut cognized items of valid cognition. Valid cognitions and all individuals possessing them have this (type of object).

Although the conceptually implied object of a (non-distorted) conceptual cognition appears (unclearly) to that conceptual cognition, it is not its appearing object. Likewise, although its appearing object is the locus of the conceptual implication, it is not its conceptually implied object.

Sensory bare cognitions have three (conditions for their arising): (1) a focal condition, (2) a dominating condition and (3) an immediately preceding condition. In the sensory bare cognition taking a visible form (as its object), the condition of there being something that causes an aspect of itself to be presented (to the sensory consciousness) is its focal condition. Something having that defining characteristic would be, for instance, a visible form.

The condition that by its own power causes such a sensory bare cognition to arise is its dominating condition. It has two dominating conditions, a shared and an unshared one. The first would be the mental (sensor that serves) as its dominating condition and the second the eye sensors, for instance. The condition that gives rise to the clarity and awareness (factors) of such a sensory bare cognition is the third one, for example the mental cognition that occurred immediately before it. As for such things as sensory bare cognitions taking sounds and so forth (as their objects, their conditions are to be understood) in a similar fashion.

In the Chittamatra system, the dominating and immediately preceding conditions (of sensory bare cognition) are explained in almost the same way (as in the Sautrantika system). However, concerning focal conditions, they have their dissimilar specific ways of asserting whether they are actual or nominal.

As for how the mental bare cognition indicated here arises, there are (two traditions concerning) the mental bare cognition (that comes) from the second phase of sensory bare cognition onwards. (One is that) mental and sensory (cognitions) arise in alternation and (the other is) the triple gait that Alamkara (Upadhyaya) asserts concerning mental bare cognition. Neither are accepted by our own tradition, which asserts (instead) that it arises only at the end of a continuum of sensory bare cognition.

The differences between conceptual and non-conceptual cognition can more or less be known from what has been said above. (In short), both sensory cognition and bare cognition may only be non-conceptual, whereas mental cognition is of two kinds, either conceptual or non-conceptual.

There are primary consciousnesses and mental factors. Primary consciousness, the mind and consciousness are synonymous terms that are mutually inclusive. When divided, there are six types, from visual consciousness to mental consciousness.

There are 51 mental factors, namely the five ever-functioning, the five object-ascertaining, the eleven constructive, the six root disturbing emotions and attitudes, the twenty auxiliary disturbing emotions and the four changeable.

Feeling a level of happiness, distinguishing, urge, paying attention or taking to mind, and contacting awareness make five. Because these (always) come in the company of every (instance of) a principal awareness, they are called the five ever-functioning (mental factors).

Intention, firm conviction, mindfulness, mentally fixating and discriminating awareness make five. It is explained that because these ascertain (the mind’s) involvement with specific cognitive objects, they are called five object-ascertaining (mental factors).

Believing a fact to be true, moral self-dignity, care for how one’s actions reflect on others, the three roots of what’s constructive – detachment, imperturbability and lack of naivety – perseverance, a sense of fitness, a caring attitude, equilibrium or serenity, and not being cruel (are the eleven constructive mental factors. Each is) constructive from the point of view of being either an opponent or by essential nature, congruence and so forth.

Longing desire, anger, arrogance, unawareness, (deluded) indecisive wavering and (deluded) outlooks are the six root disturbing emotions and attitudes. They are the main (factors) that bring one’s mental continuum to (a state of) disturbance.

Hatred, resentment, concealment of having acted improperly, outrage, envy, miserliness, pretension, concealment of shortcomings or hypocrisy, smugness or conceit, cruelty, no moral self-dignity, no care for how one’s actions reflect on others, foggy-mindedness, flightiness of mind, disbelieving a fact, laziness, not caring, forgetting, being unalert, and mental wandering make twenty. As these enhance, develop from and are proximate to the root disturbing emotions and attitudes, they are (called) auxiliary disturbing emotions.

Sleepiness or sleep, regret, gross detection and subtle discernment are the four changeable mental factors. They change over and again to become constructive, destructive or unspecified in accordance with the motivation they are congruent with.

The Sautrantika division of (Svatantrika) Madhyamaka, Prasangika and Vaibhashika assert (only) three types of bare cognition: (1) sensory, (2) mental and (3) yogic bare cognition. They do not accept the bare cognition of reflexive awareness. However, Sautrantika, Chittamatra and the Yogachara division of (Svatantrika) Madhyamaka insist on four: (1) sensory bare cognition, (2) mental bare cognition, (3) bare cognition of reflexive awareness and (4) yogic bare cognition.  

Because I feared this work might become too long, I have presented, more or less, only some basic lists. For specific examples of what has been defined, meanings to be understood and so on, please consult the general works (on Dharmakirti’s Commentary to [Dignaga’s “Compendium of] Validly Cognizing Minds”) as well as A Filigree of (Valid) Lines of Reasoning; (A Treatise Explanation of Dharmakirti’s “Commentary to [Dignaga’s ‘Compendium of] Validly Cognizing Minds’”)  and so forth.

In order to (show) the hair-splitting differences concerning ways of knowing, which entail what should be accepted and rejected by those of subtle and aspiring intelligence, this brief compendium of jingles on ways of knowing has been compiled by someone named Losang. By virtue of the effort made in this (work), may the eyes of all wandering beings be opened to see what is correct or defective. By following to its conclusion this excellent and unmistaken path, may everyone quickly attain the topmost achievement, omniscient (enlightenment).