The Eight Consciousnesses is a classification developed in the tradition of the Yogacara school of Buddhism. They enumerate the five senses, supplemented by the Mind, the "obscuration" of the Mind (Manas), and finally the fundamental store-house Consciousness, which is the basis of the other seven.
- Eye-consciousnes (Tibetan: mig-gi rnam-shes), seeing apprehended by the visual sense organs;
- Ear-Consciousness (Tibetan: rna’i rnam-shes), hearing apprehended by the auditory sense organs;
- Nose-Consciousness (Tibetan: sna’i rnam-shes), smelling apprehended through the olfactory organs;
- Tongue-Consciousness (Tibetan: lce’i rnam-shes), tasting perceived through the gustatory organs;
- Body-Consciousness (Tibetan: lus-kyi rnam-shes), tactile Feeling apprehended through skin contact, touch.
- \Ideation-consciousnes 意識 (Tibetan: yid-kyi rnam-shes), the aspect of Mind known in Sanskrit as Citta or manovijñāna, the "Mind monkey"; the Consciousness of ideation.
- Manas Consciousness (Sanskrit: klistamanas = klesha; Tibetan: nyon-yid rnam-shes), obscuration-Consciousness
The eightfold network of primary consciousnesses
The internally coherent Yogācāra school associated with Maitreya, Asaṅga, and Vasubandhu, however, uniquely – or "uncommonly" – also posits the existence of two additional primary consciousnesses, kliṣṭamanas and ālayavijñāna, in order to explain the workings of karma.
- The ālaya-vijñāna doctrine arose on the Indian subcontinent about one thousand years before Tsongkhapa.
It gained its place in a distinctly Yogācāra system over a period of some three hundred years stretching from 100 to 400 C.E., culminating in the Mahāyāna-saṁgraha, a short text by Asaṅga (circa 350), setting out a systematic presentation of the ālaya-vijñāna doctrine developed over the previous centuries.
It is the doctrine found in this text in particular that Tsongkhapa, in his Ocean of Eloquence, treats as having been revealed in toto by the Buddha and transmitted to suffering humanity through the Yogācāra founding saints (Tib. shing rta srol byed): Maitreya-nātha, Asaṅga, and Vasubandhu.
While some noteworthy modern scholars of the Gelug tradition (which was originally founded by Tsongkhapa's reforms to Atisha's Kadam school) assert that the ālayavijñāna is posited only in the Cittamatra philosophical tenet system, all non-Gelug schools of Tibetan Buddhism maintain that the ālayavijñāna is accepted by the various Madhyamaka schools, as well.
The Yogācāra eightfold network of primary consciousnesses – aṣṭavijñāna in Sanskrit (from compounding aṣṭa, "eight", with vijñāna, "primary consciousness"), or Tibetan: རྣམ་ཤེས་ཚོགས་བརྒྱད་, Wylie: rnam-shes tshogs-brgyad – is roughly sketched out in the following table.
|Subgroups||Name of Consciousness||Associated Nonstatic Phœnomena in terms of Three Circles of Action|
|English||Sanskrit||Tibetan||Chinese||Physical Form||Type of Cognition||Cognitive Sensor|
|I. – VI.
Each of these Six Common Consciousnesses' – referred to in Sanskrit as pravṛtti-vijñāna – are posited on the basis of valid straightforward cognition, on any individual practitioner's part, of sensory data input experienced solely by means of their bodily sense faculties.
The derivation of this particular dual classification schema for these first six, so-called "common" consciousnesses has its origins in the first four Nikāyas of the Sutta Pitaka – the second division of the Tipitaka in the Pali Canon – as first committed to writing during the Theravada school's fourth council at Sri Lanka in 83 (BCE).
|VII.||VII.||Manas (early Buddhism)Manas, kliṣṭa-manas||༧||末那識||Self-grasping||Disturbing emotion or attitude (Skt.: klesha)||Mind|
]]All-encompassing foundation consciousness)]
|ālāya-vijñāna, bīja-vijñāna||༨||藏識,||Memory||Reflexive awareness||Mind|
Origins and development
- "As you say, Lord," the Monks responded.
- The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the Eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, Body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas.
This, Monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to Grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."
- See also: Yogacara
- Five sense-consciousnesses,
- Mind (Perception),
- Manas (self-Consciousness),
The store-house Consciousness accumulates all potential energy for the Mental (nama) and physical (rupa) manifestation of one's existence (namarupa). It is the storehouse-Consciousness which induces transmigration or Rebirth, causing the origination of a new existence.
Rebirth and Purification
The store-house Consciousness receives impressions from all functions of the other consciousnesses, and retains them as potential energy, Bija or "seeds", for their further manifestations and activities.
The store Consciousness, while being originally immaculate in itself, contains a "Mysterious mixture of purity and defilement, Good and Evil". Because of this mixture the transformation of Consciousness from defilement to purity can take place and Awakening is possible.
The equation of Alaya-vjnana and Tathagatagarbha was contested. It was seen as "something akin to the Hindu notions of ātman (permanent, invariant self) and prakṛti (primordial substrative nature from which all Mental, emotional and physical things evolve). The critique led by the end of the eighth century to the rise of ...
- [T]he logico-epistemic tradition of Yogācāra and [...] a hybrid school that combined basic Yogācāra doctrines with Tathāgatagarbha Thought.
- The logico-epistemological wing in part sidestepped the critique by using the term Citta-santāna, "Mind-stream", instead of ālaya-Vijñāna, for what amounted to roughly the same idea. It was easier to deny that a "stream" represented a reified self.
- On the other hand, the Tathāgatagarbha hybrid school was no stranger to the charge of smuggling notions of selfhood into its doctrines, since, for example, it explicitly defined the Tathāgatagarbha as "permanent, pleasurable, self, and pure (nitya, Sukha, ātman, śuddha).
- Taking Vipaka, manana and vijnapti as three different kinds of functions, rather than caharacteristics, and understanding Vijnana itself as a function (vijnanatiti vijnanam), Vasubandhu seems to be avoiding any Form of substantialist Thinking in relation to Consciousness.
These transformations are threefold:
- Whatever, indeed, is the variety of ideas of self and elements that prevails, it occurs in the transformation of Consciousness. Such transformation is threefold,
- Instead of being a completely distinct category, Alaya-vijnana merely represents the normal flow of the stream of Consciousness uninterrupted by the appearance of reflective self-awareness.
It is the cognitive process, containing both emotive and co-native aspects of human experience, but without the enlarged egoistic ermotions and dogmatic graspings characteristic of the next two transformations.
- [I]t can be purified by adopting a non-substantialist (Anatman) perspective and thereby allowing the Alaya-part (i.e. Attachment) to dissipate, leaving Consciousness or the function of being intact.
- Vasubandhu is critical of the third transformation, not because it relates to the conception of an object, but because it generates grasping after a "real object" (sad artha), even when it is no more than a conception (vijnapti) that combines experience and reflection.
- Thus we can see that 'Vijñāna' represents the simple reaction or response of the sense organs when they come in contact with external objects.
'Manas' represents the aspect of its Mental functioning, Thinking, reasoning, conceiving ideas, etc. 'Citta' which is here called 'Ālayavijñāna', represents the deepest, finest and subtlest aspect or layer of the Aggregate of Consciousness.
Although Vasubandhu had postulated numerous ālaya-Vijñāna-s, a separate one for each individual person in the para-kalpita, this multiplicity was later eliminated in the Fa Hsiang and Hua Yen metaphysics.
Thus the Eighth Consciousness is transformed into the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, the Seventh Consciousness into the Equality Wisdom (Universal Nature) , the Sixth Consciousness into the Profound Observing Wisdom, and First to Fifth Consciousnesses into the All Performing Wisdom (Perfection of Action).
- The author of the AMF was deeply concerned with the question of the respective origins of Ignorance and Enlightenment.
The technical term used in the AMF which functions as a metaphorical synonym for interpenetration is "permeation" or "perfumation (薫)," referring to the fact that defilement (煩惱) "perfumates" suchness (眞如), and suchness perfumates defilement, depending on the current condition of the Mind.