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The meaning of "mind-only" (wei-hsin): An analysis of a sinitic Mahayana phenomenon

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 Modern Japanese Buddhologists, following a distinction that was evident already in the T'ang Buddhist circles, speak of a Mind-Only (Sanskrit: Cittamatra) school usually covering Zen and Hua-yen

(a) as being distinct from, and superior to, the Consciousness-Only (Sanskrit: Vijnaptimatra) tradition, represented by the Wei-shih
(b) school (Fa-hsing
(c)) of Hsuan-tsang's(d) followers.(1) This distinction between the so-called Wei-hsin
(e) (Mind-Only) and Wei-shih (Consciousness-Only) is often assumed to be self-evident.

However, there is, in Indian Buddhism, only one term, Yogacara or Vijnaptimatra, covering these two distinct branches in China. In the Tibetan Buddhist canon also, the section known as Cittamatra designates only Yogacara texts. There is no sharp distinction made in India or Tibet between Cittamatra and Vijnaptimatra, Mind-Only or Consciousness-Only, or, for that matter, between citta, mind, or (alaya) vijnana, (storehouse-consciousness.

In Yogacara traditions, citta is often another term for alayavijnana. How is it then that the Chinese and then the Japanese have this clear notion that Mind-Only is something other than, and superior to, Consciousness-Only? In the following article, I will discuss the meaning of Mind-Only from only one particular perspective by tracing the roots of the Zen concept of the Mind being the Buddha-nature. I will not touch upon the debate between Hua-yen and Fa-hsian, an ideological conflict that historically precipitated the Mind-Only versus Consciousness-Only dichotomy.

        Point directly to the mind (hsin),
        Recognize your (buddha-nature (hsing) and become

 These two lines are often given as two of the four traits that characterize Ch'an (Zen) Buddhim in China.(2) They not only summarize a key outlook in Ch'an, which is a uniquely Chinese Buddhist sect, but are the epitome of a key development in Chinese Buddhist thought as a whetsole. The association of mind (hsin) and Buddha-nature (fo-hsing(g), implied in the two epigrams cited, is virtually accepted by all the Chinese Buddhist schools. The northern Zen school is said to have embraced the notion of chi-hsin chi-fo(h), your mind is Buddha, the southern Zen school is said to embrace the negative dialectics of wu-hsing wu-fo(i), neither mind nor Buddha.(3) Their differences aside, mind and Buddha are seen as affiliates. Both Zen schools also adhered to the basic Chinese Buddhist doctrine of chung-sheng chieh-yu fo-hsing(j), all sentient beings have Buddha-nature. Your mind, your nature is the source and basis of enlightenment.T'ien-t'ai(k), Hua-yen, Ching-tu(l) (Pure Land) all accepted the association of mind with the universality of Buddha-nature. This association was so axiomatic.

 that the Fa-hsiang school since, for disclaiming the doctrine of the universality of Buddha-nature and for speaking of a deluded alayavijnana (storehouse-consciousness) , had the misfortune of being labelled as crypto-Mahayana or pro-Hinayana.(4) No Indian Buddhists would have thought of calling Yogacara a Hinayana school. T'ien-t'ai, Hua-yen, and Ching-tu all have key creeds concerning the mind. T'ien-t'ai talks about "the Three Truths as being of the One Mind": Hua-yen talks about the "Three Realms as being created by the One Mind": and the Chin-tu group speaks of the "Three Mind," the "Attainment of the Mind of Faith in One Recitation (of Amida's name)," or the "Mind of Peace."(5)

All these creeds contain Chinese Buddhist elements not totally or immediately reduceable to purely Indian authenticated scriptural sources. However, I will limit my discussion to the broader case of the Zen association of Mind with (Buddha-nature. The Indian scriptural basis will be analyzed. However, it will be demonstrated that the Ch'an tradition borrowed a Taoist concept of mind, incorporated the mind-nature (hsin-hsing) association made by Mencius, and thereby anticipated the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming(m) in the Ming dynasty. The structure of analysis is given in Diagram 1.


 The qualities (of the things) come into existence after the mind (lit. the qualities have mind as their precursor), are dependent upon mind, and are made up (formed) of mind. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought (mind), sorrow pursues him as the wheel follows the foot of the drought-ox.(6) So begins the Dhammapada, which emphasizes, in a kind of" moral idealism," the centrality of the mind. The same text recognizes the wavering restlessness of the mind. From an early date, mind or consciousness is a key object of Buddhist concern, in theory as in practice. However, the conception of an innately pure mind (visuddhi cittaprakrti; in Chinese, tzu-hsing ching-ching hsin(n) ) that appear repeatedly in Mahayana sutras and in Chinese Buddhist writings is traced back, supposedly, to a sermon ascribed to Gautama: ....all the component elements...have their support in the Active Force and Defilements. The Active Force and Defilements and founded on the Irrational Thought and the latter has its support in the Innate Pure Mind.

Therefore, it is said: the Mind is radiant by nature (but it) is polluted by occasional defilements(7) [aguta klesa]. This doctrine of "pure mind" clearly suggests something very close to the Hindu notion of the atman in its essential purity. How the innately pure mind can be defiled or polluted by accidental defilements remains a mystery. In a split second, the good mind is not tainted by defilements. In another split second, the evil mind itself too is also freed from being so tainted. It is a mystery how defilements never touch the mind, how the mind never affects defilements, and how the mind which is not affected of [[[worldly]]] dharmas can nevertheless become so tainted.(8)

 The above description of this mystery of a pure-yet-tainted mind came from the `Srimala sutra, a Mahayana sutra of southern Indian origin produced around 300 A.D. By that time, the innately pure mind had been associated with a new concept called the "womb of the Tathagata (Buddha) , " tathagata-garbha. All sentient beings have the embryonic Buddha inside them. This "womb," acting as a seed, will flower eventually into enlightenment. This treasured germ or seed is the subject of discourse in the Ratnagotravibhaga (Pao-hsing-lun)(o), Treatise on the Treasure Nature. There it is said that not only man possesses the germ or womb, but the womb also possesses man. It is said by the (buddha) that all living beings are always possessed of the (Womb) of the Tathagata, Tathagata-garbha. That is to say, by the following three meanings (of the term "Womb" or "Store"): (1) the Absolute Body, Dharmakaya, of the Tathagatagarbha penetrates all living beings; (2) the Tathagata, being the Reality, tathata (suchness) is the undifferentiated whole;

 and (3) there exists the germ of the Tathagatagarbha (Tathagata-gotra) in every being.(q) The Ratnagotravibhaga, being a fifth century A.D. treatise, had successfully systematized the earlier notion of the innately pure mind, detailed its attributes. and magnified its power. The tathagatagarbha envelopes or encompasses the whole world: the implication of a Mind-Only idealism is already suggested in this text. Indian Buddhism also had another early tradition that the Chinese Buddhist tapped for a theory of a Mind-Only doctrine. In the Prajnaparamitaa sutras, we find the mention of the aspiration for enlightenment (or Buddhahood) , bodhicitta. The bodhisattva arouses this mind of enlightenment and directs his whole being toward the attainment of this enlightenment or wisdom. By the sixth century A.D., the Vairocana sutra developed this notion to the full.

The mind, once started off to enlightenment, cannot back-slide any more. Enlightenment is guaranteed. Oriental Buddhists often use the term p'u-t'i-hsin(p) (bod- hicitta), tzu-hsing ching-ching hsin (visuddhi cittaprakrti) and ju-lai-tsang(q) or ju-lai-tsang-hsin(r) (tathagatagarbha) , interchangeably. However, Suzuki has realized that originally "(to arouse) the bodhicitta" meant "(to cherish) the desire of enlightenment" and not a "(to possess) a mind of enlightenment" per se.(10) However, the scriptural source from which the Chinese produced the term "Wei-hsin" is from a famous line in the Hua-yen-ching(s) , particularly one Chinese translation of this stutra from the Indian Avatamsaka sutra. The sentence goes "San-chiai wei-hsin tso(t);"(11) the three realms (of kama, desire; of form, rupa; and the realms beyond form, arupa) are of Mind-Only. All realities are of the Mind-Only. On the basis of this line, the Hua-yen school historically criticized and defeated the Fa-hsiang or the Consciousness-Only school in China. As the Chinese sentence goes and as traditional Chinese understanding stands. the line suggests that all realities are created (tso) by the (One, Pure) Mind. Only recent research into the original Sanskrit reveals that it was not intended to mean that.


 It was discovered that the word "create" (tso) found in the Chinese translations was not in the original Sanskrit. The original Sanskrit, according to Tamaki Koshiro's investigation, is "Cittamatram idam yad idam traidhatuka."(12) It reads more literally, "The threefold realm /of/ the mind only" or as Hakeda gives it, "What belongs to this triple world is mind only. "(13) A Tang translation of Avatamsaka sutra into Chinese follows this more literal reading and does not include the word "tso," make, create.(14) Tamaki concludes that the Chinese interpretation which sees the worlds as products of the mind is peculiar to the Chinese and not attested to by either the Sanskrit or the Tibetan.(15) Saigusa Mitsuyoshi in his essay in the same volume on Hua-yen thought lends support to Tamaki's observation, for Saigusa discovers that the so-called "Mind-Only" philosophy was really tangential to the Avatamsaka sutra.(16) Furthermore, the realization that the three worlds are of the mind only comes, according to the Dasabhumika) (Ten stages) sutra, to the bodhisattva upon the sixth stage of his spiritual ascent. This realization is crucial, though perhaps not as ultimate as the Chinese made it out to be.

What is realized at this stage of "the open way of wisdom or `facing' reality (abhimukhi)" is that the mind and the objects are interdependent. It is clear from the context of the sutra and from Vasubandhu's commentary on the passage that the three worlds exist as "object" because the mind or consciousness (vijnana) exists as a "subject."(17) Name-and-form (namarupa) and consciousness (vijnana) coexist. In fact, the "unreality" of the three realms corresponds to a "deluded" mind. It is the desiring, craving mind that sees the desired three realms. The realization of this should lead one to put a stop to the unreal world as well as the deluded consciousness and thereby transcend the mundane truth to reach the higher truth.

The mind does not create the phenomenon of desire. Even if there is a subtle relationship between reality and consciousness, it is clear that the mind spoken of here is not the "Suchness pure mind" but the deluded consciousness.(18) How then did the meaning change from "The three [[[illusory]]] worlds are of the [deluded] consciousness" to "The three worlds are created by the [true] mind"? The dearest turning point can be located in Hui-yuan (u). Hui-yuan explicitly states that "The three worlds are created by the true mind, chen-hsin(v) ."(19) Hui-yuan's statement became definitive.

For Hui-yuan, the true mind (chen-hsin) is none other than the true consciousness (chen-shih(w) ) that is, the alayavijnana, or storehouse consciousness. This identification of hsin and shih was challenged later. The concept of the storehouse consciousness as the most basic consciousness is a key component of the Yogacara philosophy. Yogacara philosophy looked deeply into the workings of the human psyche. According to its tenets, beyond the five senses (or consciousnesses) there are the still deeper consciousnesses of (

a) the mental center,

(b) the ego-consciousness and

(c) the eighth and last -- the storehouse consciousness. The mental center, somewhat like our notion of the brain, collects and integrates the separate impressions received by the five senses and produces what amounts to a mental image of an entity.

However, Buddhism is not satisfied with an analysis of the cognitive process up to this point. Buddhism believes that there is neither a permanent subject called "I" nor a permanent object called a thing. The false conception of "I" and "It" as if they are two entities came from a deeper psychological source in the seventh consciousness or ego-consciousness. This ego-center creates the false sense of the subject and the object, partly because of ignorance and partly p. 70 because of habitual ways of thought, that is, conceptual thinking, that it had inherited from past experiences. Finally, as a kind of reservoir into which all impressions/ conceptions are deposited is the storehouse consciousness, alayavijnana. The alayavijnana is the most basic consciousness. Hui-yuan, a famous master, identified the true mind with this true consciousness. His scheme was like this:

8th consciousness the chen-hsin (true Mind), alayavijnana
        7th consciousness the deluded ego-consciousness (adanavijnana) or false mind (wang-hsin(x))
        6th consciousness the deluded intent (i(y))
        Five senses the deluded senses or consciousness

 His interpretation was not the only one. In fact, it is more standard to refer to the eighth as mind hsin (citta, for alayavijnana) , the seventh as intention, i, (manas) and the rest as consciousnesses shih (vijnana's).(21) Hui-yuan, however, was a very influential thinker at the time, and his interpretation of the Hua-yen sutra became the orthodox pronouncement: the Three Realms are solely created by the True Mind. Another crucial scripture that lent itself to the Chinese interpretation of Wei-hsin (Mind-Only) is the Lankavatara sutra. D. T. Suzuki has made a thorough and commendable study of this work. He has actually used the term "Cittamatra" to describe its contents, and associated the Lankavatara sutra's position with the later Zen philosophies in China.(22) According to Suzuki, one of the key contributions of the sutra lies with its notion of "revulsion," paravrti, a sudden turnover in the seventh consciousness, manas. The manas, as said before, is the ego-consciousness that produced the illusion of the subject and the object and therefore the subject-object dichotomy. A sudden.turn in this psychic center will revert illusion into enlightenment that transcends that dichotomy.

Manas is conscious of the presence behind itself of Alaya and also the latter's uninterrupted working in the entire system of the Vijnana's. Reflecting On the Alaya and imagining it to be an ego, Manas cling to it as if it were reality and disposes of the reports of the six Vijnanas [the five senses and the mental center] accordingly. In other words, Manas is the individual will to live and the principle of discrimination. The notion of an ego-substance is herein established and also the acceptance of a world external to itself and distinct from itself. (23) A sudden "conversion" in the manas "purifies" the manas and liberates the alaya-vijnana, which up to this moment has been tainted by defilements and trapped in ignorance. Suzuki then describes the transformation that takes place. Let there be, however, an intuitive penetration into the primitive purity (prakritipari`suddhi) of the Tathagatagarbha, and the whole system of the Vijnana's goes through a revolution.(24) p. 71 The "primitive purity" mentioned here (prakritiparisudhi) is a synonym to the "innate purity" of the "(innately pure) mind," which is the tathagatagarbha. The revulsion lets the innate purity reveal itself. The discussion above is summarized in Diagram 2.

 Diagram 2. The Yogacara Psychology (simplified)

      A. The five The first The The The
         sense-fields 5 consciousnesses 6th 7th 8th

      B. 1. form £\ 1. eye-conscious.
         2. sound £\ 2. ear-conscious. Mental Ego-consciousness Store-consciousness
         3. smell £\ 3. nose-conscious. Center house
         4. taste £\ 4. tongue-consci. consciousness
         5. touch £\ 5. body-conscious.

        G. Enlightened State:

 Attainment of enlightenment, purification of the senses, seeing things "as they are": impermanent, selfless, there is "neither the 'I' nor the 'It Since the alayavijnana up to the moment of revulsion has been accompanied by defilements in an essential (and not an accidental) way, Chinese scholars have at times elevated the tathagatagarbha above the alayavijnana. The tathagatagarbha is essentially pure; it is the Pure Mind, or the True Mind. The alayavijnana is the impure consciousness or the deluded consciousness.(25) The Chinese find justification of this distinction between Mind (hsin) and Consciousness (shih, implying the alayavijnana) in one line in the Bodhiruci translated Lankavatara sutra. The lines say: The tathagatagarbha is not within the alayavijnana, for whereas the seven vijnana's go through rise and fall (sa.msaara) , the tathagatagarbha is beyond life and death (samsara).(26) The passage seems to support the claim that whereas the various consciousnesses are tied to the phenomenal world of change and illusion, the tathagatagarbha alone is immutable, is above change, and is the absolute (Dharmakaya) . However, throughout the Lankavatara sutra, the alayavijnana always has been identified with the tathagatagarbha.(27) (The sutra is the scripture in which the alayavijnana and the tathagatagarbha traditions -- up till then apparently separated from one another by their northern and southern origins -- came together for the first time.)(28)

The cited passage actually mentioned only the seven vijnana's as mutable, making no mention of the eighth, that is, the alayavijnana. It is very possible that the passage only says that the alayavijnanaqua-tathagatagarbha is beyond life and death--not in the sense of nirvana, but in the sense that both are substratum to the "rise-and-fall" of the active seven consciousnesses.(29) The Sanskrit version of the Lankavatara sutra's passage as compiled by Nanjo Bunyu gives, not surprisingly: aparavrte ca tathagatagarbha`sabdasam `sabdita alayavijnane nasti saptavam pravrtivijnanam nirodhah. "In the alayavijnana that is not [yet] revulsed and that is called the tathagatagarbha, there is no cessation of the seven active consciousnesses."(30) [Italies added.] One would like to ask then: what repeatedly motivated Bodhiruci and the Chinese Buddhist thinkers to posite a Pure Mind above a yet imperfect alayavij~nana, storehouse consciousness? One possible answer is the Chinese association of Buddha-nature with Mind and principle.


 The Chinese infatuation with a "pure core-self" is understandable and perhaps even legitimate. A basic axiom in the Chinese understanding of Mahayana is p. 73 that Mahayana supports a theory of the universality of Buddha-nature. The phrase "chung-sheng chieh-yu fo-hsing" (all sentient beings have Buddha-nature) had been on the tongues of the Chinese Buddhists since the fifth century when the Mahaparinirvana sutra was translated by Dharmaksema and made available to the southern gentry Buddhists. This sutra pronounced the above-mentioned doctrine, and, in one of its many speculations on the seat of this Buddhanature, placed it in the mind or the innately pure mind. The Mind is Buddhanature. Given this doctrine in an authentic scripture, it is not surprising that Chinese Buddhists felt the need to assert a Pure Mind, qua Buddha-nature, qua Suchness (tathata) qua tathagatagarbha above the lesser understanding of those who followed a doctrine of a phenomenal alayavijnana as the deluded or tainted consciousness.

If this is the case, then Mind-Only doctrine was not a Chinese innovation but, as many would argue, represents a better understanding of Consciousness-Only (that is, Yogacara). However, the issue is somewhat complicated by certain factors:

(1)it has been shown that the term fo-hsing, Buddha-nature, has been a rather free translation of terms in Sanskrit;

(2) in the process of using the term fo-hsing, the Chinese leaned toward an ontological reading that aligned it with the absolute in a noncausative context; and

(3) Mencian and Taoist motifs have been incorporated in the process.

Since the issues here are fairly involved and would demand a treatment more detailed than possible at present, I will focus primarily on the Chinese proclivity for fo-hsing as defined by a metaphysical principle, li, and as identified with the mind. However, the other issues will also be briefly touched upon. It would appear that the choice of the word "hsing" (nature) in the translation process was influenced by the popularity of this term in Chinese philosophical usage, especially that of Mencius who argued ably that the nature (hsing) of man is good. The original Sanskrit terms corresponding to the Chinese "hsing" is generally either gotra, meaning "seed," or garbha, meaning "womb."(31)

Both of these Sanskrit terms have been encountered already in previous discussions. Gotra appeared in the title of the Ratnagotravibhaga, Treatise on the Treasured Seed (the Chinese, however, have translated it as Pao-hsing-lun, Treatise on the Treasured Nature). Garbha appears in the term tathagatagarbha. womb of the Tathagata, which Chinese usually translated properly with ju-lai-tsang, the "store" (tsang) of the Thus-come (ju-lai). The original Sanskrit of "fo-hsing" actually corresponds to Buddha-garbha, Buddha-womb, a synonym of tathagatagarbha. It is either a stroke genius, poetic license, or misappropriation that the choice of "fo-hsing" to translate Buddha-womb or -seed from the original Sanskrit was made.(32) Be that as it may, the term fo-hsing, like the English term Buddha-nature. suggests an ontological essence more than a tem like Buddha-womb or Buddha-seed would. By its very connotation, fo-hsing as used by the Chinese Buddhists implied an almost atman-like quality. Although the Mahaparinirvana sutra itself had been known to have been highly "Hinduized" in outlook, yet repeatedly the sutra took care to define the attribute of Buddha-womb or -seed as the "seed or the cause (hetu) leading towards enlightenment."(33)

Buddha-nature, strictly speaking, has a dynamic or latent characteristic pointing toward eventual enlightenment. A key passage in the Mahaparinirvana sutra illustrates best its more basic usage: [[[Buddha-nature]] is the seed leading to enlightenment].... the cause is the twelve chains of causation, the cause of cause is wisdom, the result is the highest enlightenment and the result of result is the great final liberation.(34) Following this fourfold classification, Chinese Buddhist scholars of the Nirvana school had, not unfaithfully, spoken of Buddha-nature in terms of "basic cause," "auxiliary cause," "result cause," and "result of result cause."(35) In other words, Buddha-nature, seen as a cause (hetu) to enlightenment, was defined within a causative scheme and not as an ontologically a priori reality. Man has Buddha-nature, that is, a seed that can flower in time to become enlightenment, but man as such is not already a Buddha. The Zen phrase, chien-hsing-ch'eng-fo, recognize your nature and become enlightened -- immediately -- is not applicable to the original setting in the Mahaparinirvana sutra. In the sutra, buddhahood is potentiality, not actuality. In order that the mature Zen position could be, a subtle change in the understanding of fo-hsing is required.

This change was applied by a group of radical sinitic figures, who associated Buddha-nature with li(2), Principle, a word closely associated with Tao. The usage of li began probably very early; it played a central role in the thought of Chih-tun(aa); it was inherited by the first expert in the Nirvana school, Tao-sheng(ab). However, the Buddhist monk who truly identified Buddha nature with li was Fa-yao (ac) who utilized the concept of li that was earlier favored by the subitists Tao-sheng and Chih-tun. Fa-yao defined the Buddha nature as the "principle (li) by which sentient beings become enlightened."(36) Fa-yao came after the "sudden versus gradual" enlightenment debate between Tao-sheng and Hui-kuan(ad) . In associating Buddha-nature with li, the One absolute, he drew upon the tradition of the subitists. In underlining the idea "become," he endorsed the position of Hui-kuan. Fa-yao synthesized both extremes and was possibly influenced by the `Srimalaa sutra.(37) He articulated a theory of the Buddha-nature that is uniquely Chinesein flavor: Sentient beings have the principle by which to become enlightened. The Buddha-nature's principle will ultimately be used (yung(ae), functioned) by the mind, despite the fact that [the mind] is being hidden by defilements People who receive the teaching hear of the doctrine of the Buddha-nature and attain faith-understanding [adhimukti]. This is because there is already this superior principle inside them which allows them to attain extraordinary insight. The permanent principle being manifested, one knows the meaning of the teaching previously revealed.

A grand-disciple of Fa-yao, Seng-tsung(af), gave even more radical expression to the relationship between li and the Buddha-nature in man: The Buddha-nature is li, principle. The essence-principle (hsing-li(ag) , nature-principle) never varies; it only differs in the degree of manifestation. To be one with the principle is the dharma that transcends the world. The principle of the Buddha-nature lies at the heart of all transformations and is beyond life and death (sheng-mieh(ah), samsara) itself. The essence-principle is permanent, and it is only hidden because sentient beings are deluded. Not part of matter the principle: is beyond all form or color.(39) In most of the passages cited above, the word "Tao" can easily be substituted for "li." Like the Tao, li is the absolute principle behind, in, or above phenomenal changes. The Buddha-nature defined in terms of li is, therefore, an essential, transcendent entity, and, unlike the Sanskrit gotra or hetu, it is a priori, perfect, and complete.

Chi-tsang(ai) (A.D. 549-623) of the San-lan school was alert to this innovative use of the term li by Seng-tsung. This interpretation [by Seng-tsung that identifies Buddha-nature with the principle] is most ingenious but it is not based on proper lineage transmission. It is important that all doctrines have traceable roots. I would like to know on what sutra and on whose authority is the theory that "the Buddha-principle is the basic cause of Buddha-nature" based?(40) T'ang Yung-t'ung(aj) commented on Chi-tsang's observation: This passage [from Chi-tsang] is most noteworthy. This is because the Chou I(ak) (I Ching, Book of Changes) had the idea of "exhausting the principle (li) and fulfilling one's nature (hsing)." In the Chin period, the philosophers based themselves on this tradition and used the word "li" to designate a thing's essence. Among the Buddhist scholars like Tao-sheng, the term was also appropriated. With Fa-yao, the use of the term was developed and quite a few followed in his tradition....

This development is extremely significant in the history of Chinese thought and demands investigation.(41) Actually the association of li and hsing by Fa-yao and Seng-tsung anticipated the Neo-Confucian "hsing-li" philosophy of Chu Hsi (A.D. 1130-1200). Equally, if not more, important is the Buddhist association of hsing (nature) and hsin (mind), which, in turn, anticipated the development in Wang Yang-ming. The choice of the word fo-hsing has been influenced, no doubt, by Mencian usage. Mencius in his own writings has aligned hsing and hsin, especially in the chapter on Chin-hsin(al) , Exhausting or developing to full the mind: "To exhaust one's mind is to know one's nature."(42) It would not be surprising to find therefore that the Buddhists in the fifth and sixth centuries, probably under Mencian influence, picked out selectively the Mahaparinirvana sutra's idea of the Innately Pure Mind and developed various theories of mind as the Buddha-nature, Tang Yung-t'ung has looked into this issue in some detail. p. 76 so I will only cite the key personages (a clear majority) who held a theory of a mind-nature identity:(43)

Pao-liang(am) The innately pure mind is the Buddha-nature
    Liang Wu-t'i(an) The spirit or mind is Buddha-nature
    Fa-yun(ao) The tathagatagarbha's impulse to desire
                          bliss and avoid suffering is the Buddha-nature
    Fa-an(ap) The indestructable mind that transmigrates
                          is the Buddha-nature
    Ti-lun(aq) masters The alayavijnana pure mind is Buddha-nature
    She-lun(ar) masters The untainted, amalavijnana, is Buddha-nature

 The choice of the mind as the abode of Buddhahood is natural because of the long tradition of hsin-related speculations in China. Hsin is so central a word that a whole section of Chinese vocabulary has it as a radical. The same could hardly be said of the word shih, consciousness. The triumph in China of hsin (citta) over shih (vijnana) (almost synonymous in India) is "fated."


Yet more important than the Mencian idea of a moral mind is perhaps Chuang tzu's(as) notion of a mystical mind, the Hsu-ming ling-chueh hsing(at), the vacuous, luminous, spirited, alert mind. Chuang-tzu (between 399 and 295 B.C.) was a philosopher keenly aware of the workings of the mind. He described the "scheming, plotting, restless mind" of the "little man" or the "everyday man."(44) He was acutely aware of the tension between the self and objects and is reputed to have propounded the final dissolution of self and object, identifying the two as one. On the one hand, he was the poet of despair, lamenting the corruptibility of the mind that decays along with the body. On the other hand, he was the euphoric dreamer of roving cosmic freedom, the fantasy-builder of of the immortal hsien(au) tradition.

I shall quote a line from T'ang Chun-i's(av) study of the concept of mind in Chuang-tzu to illustrate a point: The mind discovered by Chuang-tzu is the mind that has momentarily ceased to respond to external matters and ceased to acknowledge outside affairs. This mind has turned inward upon itself and come to recognize its own [[[absolute]], independent] existence as such.(45) As Chung-tzu lamented the mind that was bewildered by and drawn into the interchanging colors of the world outside, he also celebrated this discovery of a luminous, spirited mind. This self-sufficient mind is compared to a mirror that shines forth in a strange "dark" light, illuminating passively without beholding consciously either self or object.(46) It is precognitive as well as supracognitive. It is this mystical concept of mind that influenced much of Chinese spiritualism. The Chinese Buddhists merely inherited this tradition and blended it wth the Indian understanding. In constrast to the Indian Buddhist tradition, which went into elaborate details in its analysis of the mind, its functions, and the various aspects and levels of consciousnesses, the Chinese concept of mind remained comparatively compact.(47)

What is often differentiated in the Yogacara philosophy remains undifferentiated in the Chinese scheme. For example, the alayavijnana (store-house consciousness) is largely a repository of bijas, (seeds). The alayavijnana does not cognize objects nor itself, since the discriminative (subject-object) knowledge, based on a false sense of self-nature (svabhava) applied to self and others, "resides" with the seventh vijnana, the manas. In normal everyday cognition, (false) self and (false) object exist interdependently; the five senses (first five consciousnesses) and their corresponding sense-realms "feed" on each other. To attain wisdom, the ideal is to put an end to this endless flow of impressions from without and misguided habitual thinkings from within. The cessation of "subject" and "object" is therefore desirable for an enlightenment into the anatman insight. Compared with this Indian scheme, Chuang-tzu's concept of mind has a certain charming simplicity. Hsin (mind, heart) is "precognitive" in its pristine state, "object-cognitive" through its involvement with the world of objects, and "transcognitive" or self-enlightened when it returns to its roots.

It includes within itself functions that the Yogacara philosophy would delegate to the manas (hsin, like manas, can cognize itself and objects) and perhaps the manovijnana (hsin, like manovijnana, synthesizes the impressions received by the senses). Here we find an element in the Chinese notion of Mind that is decidedly foreign to the Yogacara tradition in India, but which is precisely the distinguishing mark of `Sankara's Vedanta. The Yogacara philosophy is an epistemological philosophy analyzing how knowledge comes to be. In denying a notion of the atman, self, Yogacara only affirms the process of knowing but denies the existence of a knower (since the knower, like the known, is an interdependent false construct). A natural or logical question -- not necessarily a proper question--then is: who or what knows the knowledge? or is the subject-object knowledge (of things) immediately self-conscious or known (that is, it knows its own knowing)? `Sankara solved this key problem in Yogacara epistemology ("Who knows knowing?") by positing the atman as the self that knows (reality) and knows that it knows. The self is both the knower (of things) and the self-knower; it cognizes objects just as it also witnesses its own existence. `Sankara's notion of the self is what Paul Hacker has characterized as the lumen intellectuale, and it corresponds to Chuang-tzu's notion of the absolute, vacuous, mysteriously alert, self-knowing mind.

The direct parallel to `Sankara's atman would be the Chinese notion of shen-ming(aw) (the luminous and enlightened spirit) used by one member of the Nirvana school Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty. The Taoist concept of mind is therefore more monistic, comprehensive. Subject and object are not denied but positively affirmed in the Taoist theory of "equalization of all things." The Taoist mind is even free from the paradox of the Indian concept of the Innately Pure Mind mysteriously polluted by accidental defilements. The Taoist mind is, when compared with the alayavijnana, more "active" and can know itself. It is noumenal and pure. The Chinese association of mind with nature (Mencian in inspiration: "To exhaust the mind is to know one's nature") and mind with the absolute (Chuang-tzu's transcendental mind) is what was responsible for the Chinese selective and creative reading of comparable (though never exactly the same) concept of mind (that is, the innately pure mind) in Indian Buddhist thought.

It is also responsible for the Chinese discriminative distinction of the tathagatagarbha (ju-lai-trang hsin) from the less perfect alayavijnana. The emergence of a Mind-Only philosophy was then propelled by such native predispositions and considerations. The subtle transformation of Buddha-seed or -womb from the original Sanskrit in the Mahaparinirvana sutra, through the translated form of fo-hsing (Buddha-nature), to the notion of a nature associated with li, Principle, meant the absolutization of this Buddha-essence into an a priori, full-grown entity. Thus, for example, the term li-fo-hsing(ax) was used in the circle of Hui-yuan.(48) Thus, too, the term chen-ju-fo-hsing(ay),(49) thusness Buddha-nature or thusness as Buddha-nature, was used by Pao-liang. The structure of the conceptual relationship that emerged then within the Nirvana school was something like the following: A naive reading of this triad or correlationships into Sanskrit would yield:

  However, as we have seen, the structure is more Sinitic than Indian. The absolute phrased in terms of li, recalls the Tao, and even the Chinese choice of the term chen-ju is very likely under the influence of the Taoist notion of tzu-jan(az), "naturalness," The implicit structure is therefore this: p. 79 The Zen identification of mind, (Buddha-nature and Buddhahood in the line "Point directly to the mind, recognize your nature and become enlightened" (with which we began our discussion on Mind-Only) would follow from the. `triad' structure explained earlier. The northern Zen school, as depicted in the Platform Sutra, is said to insist on wiping the dust off the mirror (the mind). In so insisting, it still retained somewhat the early Buddhist notion of a "radiant mind polluted by accidental defilements." The southern Zen school seems to follow more faithfully the notion of mind discovered by Chuang-tzu: an innately pure, vacuous, radiant mind without any defilements, shining forth like the light from a candle. This Sinitic divergence eventually precipitated the conflict in Lhasa, Tibet.(50)

 The "Mind-Only" philosophy in Chinese Buddhism asserts that the Mind is immediately Buddha and that it even "creates" all phenomena. This philosophy is a uniquely Chinese development. The Indian Buddhist philosophy generally holds the opinion that the illusion of the world corresponds to a deluded, tainted consciousness, seldom ever asserting that the phenomenal world and the mind are "by nature" good. For inheriting the more Indian position, the school of Hsuan-tsang known as Wei-shih, or Consciousness-Only, was attacked and erased in T'ang China. To the Chinese Buddhists who opposed Hsuan-tsang, the latter's idea of the alayavijnana ("tainted consciousness") was not yet the "final" or "ultimate" spiritual core. There was a higher. purer, and absolute mind without even the accidental defilements (aguta klesha). That mind was seen as superior to the storehouse-consciousness. It then followed that "Mind-Only" was also, superior to "Consciousness-Only." The Chinese then created a distinction that did not exist in Indian Yogacara and that was only vaguely suggested by the Indian scriptural traditions. The present essay's rather involved arguments can be summed up in the following:

 1. The term "Mind-Only" (in Japanese, yuishin) had become popularly used probably after Murakami Senjo's(bb) modern reclassification of the various Buddhist schools in the Meiji period. However, historically, the category was implicit in Fa-tsang's(ho) understanding of the Hua-yen sutra, and his elevation of the "tathaagatagarbha causation" school above the Wei-shih fa-hsiang school, the Consciousness-Only school of Hsuan-tsang (T. 44, 243b). For a fuller discussion on the historical aspects of this issue, see my "The Awakening of Faith in Mahayana: A Study of the Unfolding of Sinitie Mahayana Motifs," (Ph. D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1975).

 2. The full four lines describing the essence of Zen, as translated in Heinrich Dumoulin's A History of Zen Buddhism (Boston: Beacon press, 1963), p. 67, are: A special tradition outside the scriptures; No dependence upon words and letters; Direct pointing at the soul of man; Seeing into one's own nature, and the attainment of Buddhahood. The verse is attributed to Nan-chuan P'u-yuan (748-834); see ibid., p. 299.

 3. The distinction is more subtle than that presented here, but for brevity's sake, I follow Fung Yu-lan(bd) in his Chung-kuo che-hsueh shih(be) (Shanghai: Shang Wu Press, 1934). The book is incompletely translated in the Buddhist section by Derk Bodde as A History of Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1952-1953); see ibid., pp. 388-406.

 4. This opinion created in China is still repeated today; see for example, Takakusu Junjiro, Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy (Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii, 1947), p. 82: "For several reasons this school is considered to be still within the range of the formalistic, realistic Hinayana. It aims at an analysis of the phenomenal world, and is called Quasi-Mahayana."ersity Press, 1952-1953); see ibid., pp. 388-406.

 5. The Hua-yen school's concept of mind will be explained in the essay. The T'ien-t'ai school's concept was based on a liberal reading of the Ta-chih-tu-lun(bf) (Mahaprajnaparamita sastra ascribed to Nagarjuna) by Chih-i(bg); see Leon Hurvitz, "Chih-i," Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 12 (Brussels, 1960-1962), p. 274, footnotes 2, 3. The Ching-tu school took the notion of the "Three Mind" from the Amida-meditation sutra (commonly referred to as the Kuan-ching(bh)); see Jodo sanbukyo(bi), trans. Nakamura Hajime(bj) et al. (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1963) , 2. p. 63. On the metamorphosis of the Sanskrit term ekacittaprasanna into the Chinese popular reading of it as i-nien hsin-hsin(bb), see Fujita Kotatsu, Genshi Jodo shiso no kenkyuu(bl) (Tokyo, Iwanami 1970), pp. 576-618. The term "an-hsin(bm)," mind of peace, assurance and repose, is not "scriptural," but it played an important role in Zen and Pure Land schools; see Mochizuki Shinko(bn) ed. Bukkyo Daijiten(bo) (Tokyo, 1909--1916), 1, pp. 82b-83b.

6. Dhammapada, trans. P. L. Vaidya (Poona, 1934), p.

 7. Passage cited by Takasaki Jikido. "A Study of the Ratnagotravibhaga (Uttara-tantra), " Serie orientale roma 33 (Rome, 1966), p. 240 from the Anguttara Nikaya, I, 5, 9-10 and elsewhere; see vol. 1, p. 10 of the Anguttara Nikaya in the Paali Text Society's translation,

 8. My translation from the Chinese in T. 12, p. 222b. The `Sriimaalaa suutra has been translated into English by Alex and Hideko Wayman as The Lion's Roar of Queen `Sriimaalaa (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974); see p. 106.

9. Passage cited in Takasaki Jikido, op. cit., p.
           198; see a similar passage from the Chinese
           Fo-hsing-lun(bp) in T. 31, p. 796a.

 10. In his early work, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism (1907) , Suzuki followed the traditional and natural Chinese reading and interpreted p'u-t'i-hsin (bodhicitta) substantively as the mind of enlightenment. In his later study on the Gandavyuha, after a diligent study of the Sanskrit phrases "amuttaraayaa^m samyak sa^mbodhan cittasya utpaa.h" and "cittotpaada," he came to a different conclusion and was able to correct the traditional Chinese and Japanese understanding of fa p'u-t'i-hsin(bq) as "awakening the mind of enlightenment," that is, the misconception that "there is a special mental equality to be called "enlightenment-mind'.... or that this mind itself is enlightenment. "Suzuki was able to show that the "cherishing the desire for enlightenment" marks the beginning of the career of a bodhisattva's compassion and wisdom, but that this act is nothings like the instant attainment of Buddhahood that oriental Buddhists had made it out to be. Suzuki, who himself came out of the Mind-Only tradition and misread the meaning in 1907, gave us personally and in critical scholarship an insight into the problem I am addressing. See D. T. Suzuki, "The Ga.n.davyuha," in his On Indian Mahayana Buddhism ed. Edward Conze (New York: Harper and Row., 1968), pp.208-211.

11. Bodhiruci was largely responsible for this translation, see T. 26. p. 169a; T. 9, p. 558c:
            T. 10, p. 514c.

        12. Tamaki Koshiro, "Yuishin no tsuikyuu(br)," Kegon Shiso(bs), ed. Nakamura Hajime (Kyoto, 1960), pp.

        13. Hakeda Yoshito, trans.. The Awakening of Faith Attributed to Asvaghosa (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), p. 49, in the inserted note within his translation.

        14. See Tamaki. ibid.. p. 358. and the T'ang translation of the same line in T. 10, p. 194a. p. 533a. Tso was dropped. but one (Mind)' was added in the T'ang version: "What the three worlds possess, is One Mind only."

        15. Tamaki, ibid., p. 359.

        16. See Saigusa. "Engi to yuishin(bt)," Kegon Shiso,
            pp. 201-273.

        17. See T. 26, p. 169b.

        18. Tamaki, however, reverses his own critical finding and rationalizes or defends the traditional Mind-Only position but the argument, in my judgment, is apologetic instead of truly concrete; Tamaki, op. cit., pp, 345-356.

        19. T. 44, p. 527b.

        20. See Fukaura Seibun, Yuishiki gaku kenkyuu(bu) (Kyoto: Nagato Bunshodo, 1954), 1, pp. 188-208.

        21. See note in Hakeda, op. cit., p, 47.

        22. Suzuki, Studies in the La^nkaavataara Suutra (London: R. Routledge and Sons, 1930).

        23. Suzuki, trans., The La^nkaavataara Suutra (London: R. Routledge and Sons, 1956), p. xiii.

        24. Ibid,, p. xxvi.

        25. Traditionally it is said that there were three main positions held in China during the Sui-T'ang period concerning the status or nature of the aalayavij~naana: Bodhiruci and Ratnamati held the view that it is pure, Paramartha proposed a theory of a mixed (true-and-false) aalayavij~naana, while Hsuan-tsang supported a theory of a "deluded" aalayavij~naana. The ideology-free description of the nature of the aalayavij~naana has been given in lucid Chinese by Shih Yin-shun(bv), I fo-fa yen- chiu fo-fa(bw) (Taiwan, 1961), pp. 301-361.

        26. My translation from the Chinese version that came from the hands of Bodhiruci; see T. 16. p. 556bc.

        27. Ibid.

        28. Takasaki, op. cit., p. 198.

        29. The aalayavij~naana, being a depository of "seeds" and a reservoir of past and present impressions, does not actively participate in the rising and falling" stream of consciousness.

       30. I am indebted to Masatoshi Nagatomi for finding and pointing out as well as for the translation of the passage in Nanjo Bunyu. ed.. The La^nkaavataara Suutra Gombun Nyuryorakyo (Kyoto: Otani University Press, 1956).

        31. See Ogawa Ichijo, Nyoraizo, Bussho no Kenyuu(bx) (Kyoto, 1969) pp. 43 68.

        32. See my "The Awakening of faith in Mahayana," pp. 102-106. The etymology of the Chinese word "hsing" as "what pertains to birth" justifies eventually the ingenious choice of fo-hsing to trans late buddha-garbha or gotra.

        33. See T. 12, p. 538c and passim.

        34. T. 12. p. 524a.

        35. See T. 37, pp. 547b, 548b.

        36. T'ang Yung-t'ung. Han Wei liang Nan-pei-ch;ao
            Fo-chiao-shih, (Shanghai: Shang Wu Press. 1939).
            p. 679.

        37. Fa-yao, according to the Kao-seng-chuan(by), was one of the first to specialize on the `Srimala sutra.

        38. T'ang, ibid., pp. 687 688.

        39. Ibid. p. 688.

        40. Ibid., p. 698.

        41. Ibid., p. 690.

        42. Mencls. 7.A.l.

        43. T'ang, ibid., pp. 681 712.

        44. Chuang-tzu, 2.

        45. T'ang Chun-i, Chung-kuo che-hsueh yuan lun(bx) (Hong Kong: Now Asia College Press, 1966), 1,

        46. Ibid.

        47. "Compact" is used in opposition to "differentiated, " following the sociological usage in, for example, Robert Bellah's article "Religious Evolution," in his Beyond Belief (New York: Harper and Row 1970).

        48. T'ang Yung-t'ung, Fo-chiao-shih, p. 716.

        49. Ibid., pp. 680, 698-699.

        50. Indian Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism met in a controversy in Tibet; see Paul Demieville's classic, Le concile de Lhasa (Paris: Impr. nationale de France, 1952) or short excerpt in Edward Conze, ed., Buddhist Scriptures (Middlesex; Penguin, 1959), pp. 214-217. The Chinese held that there was a "pure, a priori, Buddha-nature mind without klesa (defilements) requiring only immediate recognition."