This is a preprint
Knowing Blue: Early Buddhist Accounts of Non-Conceptual Sense Perception
Abstract

In post-Dignāga Buddhist epistemology, non-conceptual cognition (nirvikalpa-jñāna) comes to be construed as a sort of pre-reflective and self-intimating feature of all states of cognition. In earlier Buddhist Ābhidharmika exegesis, however, the closest candidate for non-conceptual cognition is the notion that the five sense consciousnesses apprehend their object-supports directly, as opposed to the sixth consciousness—mind consciousness (manovijñāna)—which alone has the capacity for conceptual discrimination. In an oft-repeated example, visual consciousness is said to know "blue" but not "this is blue"; it is mind consciousness that knows "this is blue." This paper explores the difficulties that early Buddhist exegetes encountered as they tried to make sense of immediate, non-conceptual cognition.