ETHNOGRAPHIE MALAYĀḶAM ET PHILOSOPHIE EN ASIE DU SUD

Awareness, «la conscience de soi»

Janvier 2011 (à l'occasion de la visite de Mark Siderits)

Le lecteur francophone de la littérature philosophique de langue anglaise se heurte à la difficulté de traduire awareness, or ce mot est constamment employé par les historiens de la philosophie indienne et bouddhique. Les érudits de langue anglaise emploient consciousness pour traduire vijñāna = viññāṇa qu'Edith Nolot traduit par «conscience sélective», focalisation sans cesse changeante sur l'une ou l'autre donnée sensorielle, et ils emploient awareness pour traduire vidyā = vijjā, littéralement un «savoir [clair et distinct]». Cette notion est souvent formulée dans les textes bouddhiques de façon négative sous la forme avidyā = avijjā, qu'on traduit en anglais par unawareness et en français par un néologisme: «l'inscience» (l'une des connotations est l'obnubilation, moha, qui obscurcit et brouille les idées). Le mot awareness est aussi utilisé pour traduire jñāna qui est l'un des quatre recours dans l'exégèse bouddhique:

jñānaṃ pratiśaraṇaṃ na vijñānaṃ iti /

"Direct awareness is one's point of refuge, not discursive awareness" (Traduction Paul J. Griffiths)


De vijñāna (consciousness) à jñāna (awareness)

Zhihua Yao, The Buddhist Theory of Self-Cognition,
New York, Routledge, 2005 (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism),
Chapter 3 "Refutation: Sarvâstivâda," pp.42–96;
spécialement pp.68–70

(68) "But what exactly does it mean to say that one is "to know", while the other is "to apprehend"? Are awareness and consciousness the same or different? One opinion simply holds that "consciousness (vijñāna) is awareness (jñāna) and their only difference is that the former has a prefix vi-. This is because jñāna becomes vijñāna when a prefix vi- is added. From a Vaibhāṣika perspective, however, the prefix vi- suggests that awareness and consciousness are substantially different, since the prefix means "division, distinction, distribution, or opposition".

The major difference between awareness and consciousness, as is stated in a Sūtra source cited in Mahāvibhāṣa, is that "awareness is associated with consciousness". This does not mean that they are mutually associated. The Vaibhāṣikas make it very clear that "awarenesses are associates of consciousnesses. But consciousnesses are not associates of awarenesses". This is because awareness is closely linked with wisdom (prajñā), a mental associate or activity, and thus belongs to the group of mental activities (caitta), while consciousness is the same as the mind (citta). This distinction is stated by some Sarvāstivāda scholars in the following way: "The word 'awareness' refers to all mental activities; the word 'consciousness' refers to the mind". The view that the consciousness is classified as mind is also supported by the Vaibhāṣikas, who understand the mind (citta), thought (manas) and consciousness (vijñāna) as synonym. It says in Mahāvibhāṣa: "Mind is thought and thought is consciousness. These three mean the same, though they sound different". Later, Vasubandhu restates this view by adding the word vijñāpti to the list. He says: "Mind (citta), thought (manas), consciousness (vijñāna) and representational consciousness (vijñāpti) are all synonyms".

The Vaibhāṣikas also admit another difference between awareness and consciousness: awareness is fundamentally an undefiled [pur, non souillé] dharma, while consciousness is a defiled [souillé] dharma, as it is said in Mahāvibhāṣa: "Awareness is the foundation of all undefiled things, and consciousness is the foundation of all defiled things". This view is also carried on by the later Yogācāra thinkers, who take the alaya consciousness as the foundation that gives rise to all dharmas in the defiled realm; while the four awarenesses of mirror-like (ādarśa), equality (samatā), observation (pratyavekṣaṇā) and accomplishment (kṛtyānusthāna) are the vehicles to the undefiled state. The whole purpose of Buddhist practice, in their view, is to transform consciousness into awareness."


Je souhaite éviter d'utiliser des néologismes comme inscience ou des calques de l'anglais comme awareness et je prends pour principe de traduire les textes de l'Inde dans la langue philosophique qui est la nôtre en français. L'analyse de Zhihua Yao me semble convaincante. Je considère donc que le progrès dans la connaissance de soi qui nous conduit de vijñāna à jñāna, en anglais de consciousness à awareness, nous conduit en français de la conscience à la conscience de soi.