Viññāna-kicca: 'functions of consciousness', as exercised within a process of consciousness or cognitive series cittavīthi In the Abhidhamma Com. and Vis.M XIV the following functions are mentioned: rebirth patisandhi subconsciousness bhavanga, directing āvajjana seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, body-consciousness; recciving sampaticchana investigating santīrana determining votthapana, impulsion javana registering tadārammana dying cuti.
A single unit of sense-perception e.g. visual consciousness, being conditioned through a sense-organ and its corresponding object, forms in reality an extremely complex process, in which all the single phases of consciousness follow one upon another in rapid succession, while performing their respective functions, e.g.:
As soon as a visible object has entered the range of vision, it acts on the sensitive eye-organ cakkhu-pasāda and conditioned thereby an excitation of the subconscious stream bhavanga-sota takes place.
As soon, however, as subconsciousness is broken off, the functional mind-element see: Tab. I, 70, grasping the object and breaking through the subconscious stream, performs the function of 'adverting' the mind towards the object āvajjana.
Immediately thereupon there arises at the eye-door, and based on the sensitive eye-organ, the visual-consciousness, while performing the function of 'seeing' dassana... Immediately thereafter there arises the mind-element Tab
I, 39, 55 performing the function of 'receiving' sampaticchana the object of that consciousness.
Immediately thereafter there arises... the mind-consciousness-element Tab. I, 40, 41, 56, while 'investigating' santirana the object received by the mind-element...
Immediately thereafter there arises the functional, rootless mind-consciousness-element Tab. I, 71, accompanied by indifference, while performing the function of 'determining' votthapana the object.
Now, if the object is large, then immediately afterwards there flash forth 6 or 7 'impulse moments' javana-citta, constituted by one of the 8 advantageous, or 12 disadvantageous, or 9 functional classes of consciousness Tab. I, 1-8; 22-23; 72-80.
Now, if at the end of the impulse moments, the object at the five-sense doors is very large, and at the mind-door clear, then there arises, once or twice, one of the 8 root-accompanied, kamma-resultant classes of consciousness Tab. I, 42-49 of the sense-sphere, or one of the 3 rootless kamma-resultant mind-consciousness-elements Tab. I, 40, 41, 56. Because this consciousness after the vanishing of the impulse moments, possesses the ability continuing with the object of the subconsciousness, taking the object of the subconsciousness as its own object, therefore it is called 'registering' tadārarmmana lit. 'that object', or 'having that as object'; Vis.M XIV, 115ff.
If, however, the sense-object is weak, then it reaches merely the stage of 'impulsion'javana or of 'determining' votthapana if very weak, only an excitation ot the subconsciousness takes place.
The proeess of the inner or mind-consciousness, i.e. without participation of the 5 physical senses, is as follows: in the case that the mind-objeet entering the mind-door is distinct, then it passes through the stages of 'directing at the mind-door' manodvārāvajjana the 'impulse stage' and the 'registering stage', before finally sinking into the subconscious stream. - App.: citta-vīthi.
Literature: Aids to the Abhidhamma Philosophy, by Dr. C.B Dharmasena with colour chart of the Cognitive Series; WHEEL 63/64. - The Psychology and Philosophy of Buddhism, by Dr. W. F. Javasuriya Buddhist Missionary Socy., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Maha Thera Nyanatiloka. Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, Buddhist Publication Society, first edition 1952.