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Ālaya-vijñāna

Ālaya-vijñāna, also known as the “Storehouse Consciousness” or “Storehouse Consciousness Mind,” is a concept within Mahayana Buddhism, particularly in the teachings of the Yogacara or Consciousness-Only school. It represents a fundamental level of consciousness that serves as a storehouse for all the karmic imprints and habitual tendencies accumulated throughout one’s existence.

Origin and Nature:
Ālaya-vijñāna is believed to be the foundation and basis for individual and collective consciousness. It is considered to be the source from which all experiences and phenomena arise. The term “ālaya” can be understood as a repository or a storehouse, while “vijñāna” refers to consciousness or awareness.

Function and Characteristics:
According to the Yogacara tradition, Ālaya-vijñāna functions as the underlying and ever-present consciousness that provides continuity between moments of experience. It is where past actions (karma) and potential future manifestations are stored. It is also seen as the basis for the arising of subjective experiences, such as perception, cognition, and emotions.

The Ālaya-vijñāna is not considered to have an inherent existence or nature of its own. It is seen as a conceptual designation that arises due to the interplay of causes and conditions. It is subject to transformation and can be purified through the practice of meditation and insight, ultimately leading to liberation and the realization of the true nature of reality.

Relationship to Other Consciousnesses:
In the Yogacara view, the Ālaya-vijñāna is recognized as one of the eight consciousnesses. It serves as the foundational consciousness from which the other seven consciousnesses emerge. These include the five sense consciousnesses, the mental consciousness, and the afflicted consciousness (klista-manas).

The Ālaya-vijñāna is often regarded as the substrate that allows the arising of individual consciousnesses in response to sensory stimuli and mental formations. It is compared to a vast ocean, while the other consciousnesses are like waves that arise and subside on its surface.

ālayavijñāna (T. kun gzhi rnam par shes pa; C. alaiyeshi/zangshi; 阿賴耶識/藏識), or storehouse consciousness or foundational consciousness is the eighth of the eight consciousnesses presented in the Yogacara school. It is a subtle level of consciousness, in which traces of past actions are stored as ‘seeds’ ready to ripen into future experience.

The ālayavijñāna is systematically described in treaties by Asanga and Vasubandhu.

Contents

Etymology

From Sanskrit

Regarding the origins of the term ālaya, William S. Waldron states: Ālaya means “that which is clung to, adhered to, dwelled in”, and thus derivatively, “dwelling, receptacle, house.” Yet is also retained an older sense from the earlier texts…of “clinging, attachment, grasping.”[1] From Tibetan

The Tibetan for ālayavijñāna is ཀུན་གཞི་རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་.

Definition

Mipham Rinpoche explained: The state of consciousness that is mere clarity and knowing, which does not veer off into an active sense cognition, and which is the support of habitual tendencies, is called the alayavijñana, the consciousness that is the universal ground (ཀུན་གཞི་རྣམ་ཤེས་, Wyl. kun gzhi rnam shes).[2]

Description

Thrangu Rinpoche explains: The eighth consciousness […] is the basis or ground for the arising of all other types of consciousness. It is that fundamental clarity of consciousness, or cognitive lucidity, that has been there from the beginning. As the capacity for conscious experience, it is the ground for the arising of eye consciousness, ear consciousness, etc. Like the seventh, it is constantly present, constantly operating, and it persists until the attainment of final awakening.[3]

Subdivisions

The all-ground consciousness is divided into a ‘seed aspect’ and a ‘maturation aspect’.

Alternative Translations

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