October 5, 2001
THRANGU RINPOCHE'S travels have included Oxford, England and Samye Ling, Scotland. At both places Rinpoche's teachings were filled to capacity. Now Rinpoche travels to Germany and then he ends his tour of the West by returning to Nepal.
A NEW BOOK FROM NAMO BUDDHA PUBLICATIONS
TRANSCENDING EGO: DISTINGUISHING CONSCIOUSNESS FROM WISDOM
The book Includes root text and Rinpoche's commentary, extensive Notes, Glossary of Terms, Glossary of Tibetan terms, Bibliography, and Index.
134 pages, $ 12.95.
The entire path of Buddhism can be characterized as a quest for understanding the mind and then ridding the obstacles to mind.
While the mind is the foundation of Buddhism, it is rarely and directly described in its complexity. For this reason the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, wrote a treatise called Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom which describes the eight consciousnesses in great detail and explains how we as ordinary beings are deluded by them. He then describes how to transcend ego and transform these consciousnesses into the five enlightened wisdoms.
Transcending Ego: Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom presents a translation of Rangjung Dorje's brilliant 36 verse doha spanning this topic and includes a lucid and accessible commentary on these verses by Thrangu Rinpoche. Thrangu Rinpoche is the foremost scholar of the Karma Kagyu lineage (which is also Rangjung Dorje's lineage). Thrangu Rinpoche who has been teaching dharma for 40 years and has spent the last 20 years teaching Western students. Because of Rinpoche's great scholarship and realization he was chosen by the Dalai Lama to be the tutor of the present 17th Karmapa.
In summary, this book is a virtual textbook of Buddhist psychology by an authentic teacher from a lineage that continues to be alive today even though it is a 1,000 years old.
A quote from the text (page 27)
"Even though there is nothing that inherently exists, things do obviously appear. We see a car and we open the door and climb in and drive along the highway. A vast variety of appearances do appear and do have an effect on us. We wouldn't, for example, deliberately drive our car into a wall. These appearances are part of relative or
conventional reality and they appear to mind because mind has luminosity. When this luminous aspect of mind which is knowing awareness is impure, we have consciousnesses. When this luminosity is pure, we have wisdom. However, neither this luminosity nor this wisdom has any inherent reality on the ultimate level. Thus, all appearances come out of clarity or luminosity, but have no inherent reality."
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Below is Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of Transcending Ego: Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom (we have left off the footnotes and email, of course, changes the spacing of the lines).
All Appearances Are the Mind
The Five Sensory Consciousnesses
6. The five sensory consciousnesses create afflictions
Because of holding and rejecting
Forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactility.
What are these sensory objects?
If the wise examine well, they will know that
Nothing, such as atoms and so on, exist externally,
As anything other than cognition.
The five sensory consciousnesses of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body perceive the five sense objects of visual forms, sounds, tastes, smells, and body sensations. Basically, all sights, sounds, and smells are neither good nor bad, but some are perceived as being good and are accepted and some are perceived as bad and are rejected. These perceptions of pleasure and displeasure give rise to the afflictions or disturbing emotions (Skt. kleshas) which then cause all the suffering and illusory appearances of samsara.
If those who are endowed with wisdom examine the cause of all this suffering and illusion carefully by wondering, "What are these sensory objects?" They then will discover that although thoughts of beauty and ugliness, good and bad, and so on, are associated with the sensory objects, these qualities are not actually inherent in the objects perceived. Instead these qualities come from the mind because there is no sensory object that exists outside that mind.
The Four Conditions for Perception to Occur
There are four conditions necessary for a perception of an external object to result in a disturbing emotion. The first condition, called the "causal condition," is the condition where the ground (eighth) consciousness and the afflicted (seventh) consciousness have to be present. The second condition, called the "primary condition," is the condition where the actual sensory faculty and its consciousness of the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, or the body must be present. The third condition, called the "objective condition," is the condition that the external sensory object such as a sight or sound or smell must be present. Without this sensory object the sensory
consciousness cannot arise. For example, the ear consciousness will arise because of a sound and a nose consciousness will arise because of a smell, and so on. So for these five sensory consciousnesses to arise there has to be an object that can be perceived by the sensory faculty. The fourth condition, called the "immediate condition," is the condition of the continuum of the mind. Since the mind is a succession of individual instants, there's a thought for one instant,
then there's another thought the next instant, this continuum must also be present.
The result of these four conditions coming together is that we have a sensory experience that results in the perception of something which is either pleasant or unpleasant or neutral. If we perceive something as pleasant or beautiful, we think that it is good, and we are pleased, and we then develop the disturbing emotion of desire or attachment. If we perceive something as unpleasant or ugly, we will dislike it, which will gradually develop into the disturbing emotion of aversion or anger. If we see something that we think of as neutral, one will not see the true nature of the object, and we will respond to it with the disturbing emotion of stupidity or ignorance. We can see from this that all the negative emotions come about as a result of perceiving an object that is automatically identified as good, bad, or neutral.
We experience happiness or unhappiness based on our perception. But even when we experience something as pleasant and enjoy it, we may later experience suffering from this same object. Happiness is impermanent and will eventually become a source of suffering because of loss of this desired event or object. This suffering then comes from the four conditions: the eight consciousnesses, the continuum of mind, the five senses, and their objects.
Refuting the Erroneous view that The Sensory Objects are Not the Mind
7. If the substance of those sensory objects were other than con-sciousness,
They could not both be a single entity.
A non-manifesting, immaterial awareness
Does not create material substance.
Therefore, a relationship where the latter arises from the former, could not exist.
With this view that sensory objects are other than consciousness,
It will become illogical for sensory objects to appear from consciousness,
Because they would have no connection.
Before explaining how all external phenomena are mind, Rangjung Dorje refutes the view held by many that external reality is not the mind. He uses the argument that if external phenomena were other than the mind, then external phenomena would have a different nature than the mind. The view he is refuting here is the view held that external phenomena are matter, and that the nature of consciousness is awareness.
If mind and external phenomena had completely different natures or essences, then there could be no connection or relationship between them: objects wouldn't be able to arise out of the consciousness that perceived them. The only way that there could be a relationship between objects and their perceiver would be if they were to have the same nature: objects would be able to arise out of the consciousness perceiving them. The relationship between matter and consciousness must be one of two kinds: they must be between things of the same essence or between things of a different essence. An example of things having the same nature is like seeing an elephant in a dream: we see a dream elephant, and both the nature of the elephant and the nature of the perceiver are mind. An example of two things having different natures is like seeing an elephant while waking. In this case, there must be an instant between the elephant and the consciousness perceiving it, because they cannot arise at exactly the same time; therefore, it is impossible for them to have a relationship other than cause and effect.
Why External Phenomena are Mind
8. Therefore, all these various appearances,
Do not exist as sensory objects which are other than consciousness.
Their arising is like the experience of self-knowledge.
All appearances, from indivisible particles to vast forms, are mind.
This means, that if nothing exists externally and separately,
Brahma and the rest, could not be creators.
When we learn that external objects are only mind, and are not separately existing things, we might answer, "Well, I can see them. They are made out of matter; therefore, they are different from mind, which is not made up of matter but has the quality of clarity or awareness. So, mind and external objects are completely different
things. One is solid matter and the other is clarity." To refute this argument we can use the previous example of a hand. We say, "Oh, I see a hand." But if we investigate more closely, we see a thumb, an index finger, a middle finger, ring finger, and a little finger, skin, flesh, and bones. We then ask, "Where is this hand that I see?" In fact, the hand is just a conceptual fabrication. We then look at the thumb and say, "I see a thumb." But the thumb consists of the first, second, and third joints, and so on, and therefore, also is made up of many different parts. We know that none of these parts are the thumb, and ask, "Well, where is the thumb?" There is only one answer: there is no actual thumb. We see something and think we see a hand, but in fact there is no real hand there. It is only a conceptual fabrication coming from the mind. The same analysis applies to the fingers, a mountain, a house, or to any other external object.
An explanation of the line in the verse which says "Their arising is like the experience of self-knowledge" will be given next. We may hold the position that all external phenomena are composed of collections of real, minute particles and these indivisible particles are gathered together to make the external phenomena that we perceive. When we, however, examine these small particles more closely, we find that we cannot divide them into the smallest particle because each particle can be divided into still smaller particles. So there is no such thing as a particle that everything is made up of, and there is no reality in this external phenomena. So we must conclude that all external appearances arise from mind.
We will never find an external object separate from our mind. We see things as being separate, because, since the beginning of time, which we have spent in samsara, we have been habituated to the idea that phenomena exist externally. All external phenomena, from the smallest, indivisible particle to the largest mountain, appear from the mind alone. Many traditions say that the world and all beings inhabiting it were created by Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu; they mistakenly assert that gods created the smallest particles which we might call atoms. However, everything we experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant arises from our mind through the power of our karma, and is not created by gods.
Explanation of the Mental Consciousness
9. The relationship between the mental consciousness and mental phenomena,
Is like the experience of a dream.
The mind focuses on phenomena
And becomes attached to them.
But they are devoid of any true reality.
Although we may intellectually agree with the statement that all objects are only experienced by mind and don't exist due to external causes, we do not actually believe this. We believe that there are two separate things: external objects and an inner consciousness perceiving them. Although we believe them to be separate, the Buddha
taught that these events are not external, but are only mind. Ordinary logic disagrees with this. For example, if we were to say that this book that we are reading is our mind, we would think, "No, that is not true. The book was made by a printer, and did not come from our mind; it is an external object." But when we dream, we also see external
objects; yet none of them have an independent external existence; they are all just mental creations. In the same way, all external appearances that we perceive are created by our mind, and do not have any independent existence.
The five sensory consciousnesses perceive sensory objects or events directly as mental images of visual forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and bodily feelings. These are then perceived by the sixth consciousness, which is the mental consciousness. But the mental consciousness does not perceive the sensory objects directly, but as mental events. These mental images are sometimes termed dharmas, which is translated as "phenomena," meaning the purely mental phenomena that appear to the mind. The relationship between the mental consciousness and these mental phenomena is not direct, but rather like that experience in a dream. In a dream the mental phenomena appears to the sixth consciousness which takes it as being real. A similar process occurs in a dream in which all the appearances in a dream arise internally to the mind and are conceived of as being external phenomena. There is a strong attachment to these images being external phenomena both in the dream and in waking.
The subject of Pramana describes mental consciousness as having two aspects-an external orientation and internal orientation. The external orientation is when the mental consciousness becomes attached to the sensory form that is perceived by a sensory consciousness. For example, when there is a sound, a mental consciousness engages that sound. This is the external orientation of the mental consciousness.
The mental consciousness with an internal orientation is called "self-knowledge," which is the mind being aware of itself. The pramana tradition states that "One's own mind is not concealed from oneself." We have to ask someone else what they are thinking about, but we know exactly what we ourselves are thinking. This isn't because our mind is looking at itself as if it were something else. There is no dualism of something that is seen and something that is doing the seeing. We don't have to wonder, "What am I thinking?" because we can clearly perceive it. This internal orientation of mental consciousness which looks at the mind itself is called rang rig in Tibetan, and means "self-knowing." Externally oriented mental consciousness is conceptual and inferential. When we look at something, for example, we can compare it with previous sights, we can analyze it to determine its qualities, and we can name it. In contrast, internally oriented mental consciousness of looking at mind's own nature is nonconceptual and must be perceived directly. As ordinary (unenlightened) persons we can by inference understand that the mind is capable of seeing its own nature, but we do not have the direct experience or recognition of this self-knowledge. To recognize this self-knowledge directly, we have to engage in meditation to directly see the essence of mental consciousness. After we have done that, we should abide in this non-conceptual state.
If we do not recognize self-knowledge, but indulge in the externally oriented aspect of mental consciousness, then we will become involved in the usual flow of thoughts and remain in a state of delusion. But if we can reject the externally oriented consciousness and rest in self-knowledge, we will have effective meditation. Therefore, it is
taught, "Rest like an infant seeing a temple." When we bring a baby into a temple, the baby sees directly all the objects and images. It doesn't think, "Oh, that is a throne, that is the Buddha," instead, the baby has a direct experience of the temple. During meditation, we should have this direct experience without thoughts and concepts, and
In terms of meditation, the important consciousness is the sixth mental consciousness. When we are doing a meditation involving visualization, some of us believe that we should see the visualization as clearly as in normal vision; however, in visualization we are using the mental consciousness, while in normal vision we are using a visual consciousness. Since a mental consciousness perceives the meaning of an object, it cannot perceive a clear picture in the way that the visual consciousness can. We cannot expect a visualization to be as clear as seeing an ordinary object. Also in tranquillity (Skt. shamatha) and insight (Skt. vipashyana) meditation we use the sixth
consciousness. We are observing all the movements of thoughts in our mind. It is with the sixth consciousness that we are training in this meditation.
The Mind is Empty
10. These six consciousnesses,
The appearances of sensory objects and of beings,
The attachment to a self, cognition
Whatever appearances are manifested
Are not created by anything which is other than themselves.
They are not created by themselves,
Nor created by both self and other,
Nor by the absence of both.
In the graduated path of meditation it is first taught that all external phenomena are mind. This has been covered in the previous chapter and now we come to the discussion of how the mind itself, the six consciousnesses, have no inherent reality and are empty in nature. The verse begins by stating that there are no external appearances, only the internal six consciousnesses to which the external sensory objects, the belief in self, and the internal thoughts and feelings appear. These events or appearances are analyzed in the classic four-fold logic of Nagarjuna used in The Perfection of Wisdom (Skt. Prajnaparamita) teachings. These internal and external appearances to mind are: (1) not created from themselves, (2) nor are they created from something outside themselves, (3) nor are they created from both themselves and other, (4) nor are they created from neither themselves nor other. In other words, they are empty by nature.
Rangjung Dorje now describes how all external things are mental manifestations. We may wonder if this is the same viewpoint as the Chittamatra (Mind-only) school who assert that all external phenomena are mental manifestations and that phenomena have no true existence. This school asserts that only the mind truly exists, which is why they are called the Mind-only school. Rangjung Dorje, however, goes further, and teaches that the mind is birthless, has the quality of being empty, and possesses luminosity. The text shows that external things have no true existence, and when we investigate our mind, we discover that it also has no true existence. The usual example given is saying that a mountain defined as being "here" is different than a mountain over "there." But there is no definite "here" or "there" mountain because the mountain over "there" becomes the mountain "here" when one goes across the valley. Therefore, mountains don't have an intrinsic nature of being here or there; everything is instead interdependent with "here" depending on "there" and vice versa.
Similarly, the known and the knower also depend upon each other. When something is known, there is a knower; where there is a knower, something is known. If nothing were known, there would be no knower, because the knower depends on what is known for its existence. If external objects have no true existence, then the mind also has no true existence. If visual forms have no true reality, then visual consciousness has no reality; if sounds have no reality, then auditory consciousness has no reality and so on. If external phenomena have no true reality, then the six consciousnesses have no reality; if sense objects have no reality, then the actual senses themselves, and the
sense organs have no reality; if the sense organs have no reality, then the consciousnesses that arise from them have no reality. Therefore, if both external phenomena and internal consciousnesses have no true reality, then neither a self nor clinging to a self has a true reality. Even though there is nothing that inherently exists, things do
obviously appear. We see a car and we open the door and climb in and drive along the highway. A vast variety of appearances do appear and do have an effect on us. We wouldn't, for example, deliberately drive our car into a wall. These appearances are part of relative or conventional reality and they appear to mind because mind has
luminosity. When this luminous aspect of mind which is knowing awareness is impure, we have consciousnesses. When this luminosity is pure, we have wisdom. However, neither this luminosity nor this wisdom has any inherent reality on the ultimate level. Thus, all appearances come out of clarity or luminosity, but have no inherent reality.
To summarize it is said that external phenomena and inner consciousnesses are not created by (1) the self, (2) something other than the self, (3) both self and other, nor (4) neither self or other. Thus all external phenomena and the inner consciousnesses experiencing this display have no true inherent existence.
The Scriptures on the Emptiness of Mind
11. Therefore, as the Victorious One has taught,
All samsara and nirvana are just mind.
That all external phenomena are mind and that mind is empty can be proved through logic as this treatise has done. It can also be established by reading the scriptures of the Buddha. The Buddha taught that the mind is responsible for us attaining Buddhahood and mind is also responsible for us wandering in samsara. The Buddha has said that the mind is like an artist who paints whatever he wants. The mind uses the five mental aggregates of form, feeling, identification, formation, and consciousness to create whatever is perceived in the world.
Saraha (9th century C.E.) in India was one of the eighty-four mahasiddhas practicing the Mahamudra. He said that mind is the seed of everything. While we reside in our confused state in samsara, everything we experience comes from the mind and when we achieve Buddhahood, all the enlightened qualities and wisdoms also come from
mind. Therefore when we use our mind properly, we can obtain both the happiness of samsara and the happiness of nirvana. In this way the mind is like a wish-fulfilling jewel.
Why is it that we are not always happy? It is that through countless lifetimes we have become thoroughly habituated to the false belief or delusion that external appearances are inherently existent or "real" and are distinctly separate from our mind.
This process of how mind creates phenomena is elaborated in a sutra in which the bodhisattva Manjushri is asked by a deva, "Has the external world not been created by someone?" and Manjushri replied, "Son of deva, the external world was not created by anyone. It was not created by Bhrama, Shiva or someone else. The entire world was created through latent karmic imprints. When these imprints developed and increased, they formed the earth, the stones, the mountains, and the seas. Everything was created through the development or propagation of these latent karmic potentials." Then the deva asked, "How can all external forms arise out of latent karmic imprints? All these mountains, oceans, the sun and moon are so solid and so vivid. How can they arise out of latent karmic imprints in the mind?" Manjushri replied, "These things arise through the power of development and the propagation of thought."
We have many examples of this in the East. For example, there was an old lady meditating on the visualization of herself being a tigress and she concentrated and focused so clearly that others actually saw her as an actual tigress. Also there is a well-known practice performed by monks to reduce their sexual desire by visualizing human bodies as containing all kinds of impure substances such as pus and urine. Sometimes other individuals can see these monks as having rotten and putrid bodies. While these two examples are small occurring over brief periods of time, we can imagine how large objects such as mountains have been produced by the minds of millions and millions of sentient beings since beginningless time.
How the Eight Consciousnesses Cause Delusion
The Treatise Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom presents an outline of the whole treatise in a brief form in the first eleven verses. We have reached the point in the treatise where each of these points is covered in more detail.
The Summary of the Eight Consciousnesses
12. The causes, conditions, and interdependence,
Have been taught by the Buddha to be the six consciousnesses,
The afflicted mental consciousness, and the ground consciousness.
Causes, conditions, and interdependence is necessary for things to arise in the mind; they don't appear without reason. For example, growing a flower requires a seed, the necessary conditions of water, sunlight, and soil. Finally, interdependence is necessary; the cause and conditions must be in the right amount, and occur at the right
time. If a flower has too much water or not enough sunlight, it will not grow. Likewise, birth in samsara doesn't just happen; its causes and conditions and their interdependence must be present for all the illusionary appearances of samsara to arise.
The six consciousnesses are literally called the six accumula-tions, and resemble the teaching of the five skandhas. The six conscious-nesses are not a single entity, are impermanent, and do not possess inherent reality; they are instead an accumulation of many moments of consciousness.
As an example of their impermanence, we assume that we have a single visual consciousness from morning to evening. Upon close examination, however, we discover that a visual consciousness only arises when a sensory object contacts the sensory organ. When this circumstance doesn't occur, the visual consciousness ceases. When we see a red color, a visual consciousness perceiving red arises and ceases. A visual consciousness arises for an instant and then ceases, allowing the next visual consciousness to arise and cease in the next instant. This process also applies to the other consciousnesses-an auditory consciousness perceives a loud sound and then a quiet sound, and so on, with consciousnesses continually arising and ceasing in a succession of instants. The samsaric appearances that arise from these causes and conditions are of two kinds: common and individual. Some appearances are the result of identical causes created by many beings, so that something will be seen by everyone in common, such as everyone in a particular room seeing that it has two pillars. However, there are certain individual causes and conditions which result in beings having their own individual experiences of happiness and discomfort. For example, some people taste chili and think it's delicious, while others taste it and experience discomfort. Even though the flavor and the sensory organs of their tongues is the same, differing individual experiences occur. These different perceptions are due to different latencies that have been laid down in the ground consciousness. The latencies of different individuals are different thus making for different causes for the six sensory consciousnesses.
The Objective Conditions of the Consciousnesses
13. The six consciousnesses are dependent on objective conditions,
Which are the six sensory objects of form and so forth.
As previously mentioned, the arising of consciousness depends on four conditions: the objective condition, which is the sense-objects; the primary condition, which is the sense organs; the immediate condition, which is the immediate mentality that will be explained in conjunction with the seventh consciousness; and finally the causal condition, which is the eighth ground consciousness. In more detail, the first condition is called the object condition; images, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations are perceived. These make the five sensory objects and the sixth object is the phenomena arising in the mental consciousness. The sixth sensory objects are called "phenomena" because the image appearing to the mind is not the actual direct perception of, for example, a visual form. A visual object is not directly perceived by the mind, rather a conceptual image of the visual form appears. Similarly, when the mind conceives of a taste; there is no perception of the actual taste, instead a concept of taste appears in the mind. None of the five objects are directly perceived by the mind. When an appearance of any one of the five objects arises in the mind, it becomes the sixth object. The six objects are the object conditions for the arising of the six consciousnesses.
These images alone would not be able to give rise to the six consciousnesses without the primary condition of the actual senses themselves-the sense of the eye, the sense of the nose, the sense of the ear, and so on.
The Primary Conditions of the Consciousnesses
14. Their primary conditions are the six sensory objects,
Which are clarity endowed with form.
The primary condition or the main cause for perception are the sensory organs. These are often taken to be the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, and the body. But these sensory faculties are not the actual physical sense organs themselves. Rather the Abhidharma, which describes the elements of mind in great detail, says that the senses are actually "the basis of the organs." As Rangjung Dorje says, "Which are clarity endowed with form." Clarity or luminosity is the faculty of knowing and shows the sense faculties have the power to perceive.27 Jamgon Kongtrul explains the actual physical form of these faculties according to Tibetan medicine. The sensory faculty in the eye is said to be like a flax flower, which is blue in appearance. The sensory faculty of the nose is like a knot in white birch, like a hole, shaped similar to an ear. The sensory faculty of the ear is like a row of very fine copper needles. The sensory faculty of the tongue is like a moon split in half and laid on the tongue. The sensory faculty of the body is said to be smooth and permeates the entire body, except for the hair and nails.28
Thus the six consciousnesses arise as a result of the six sensory objects and six sense faculties;. together they add up to the eighteen constituents of perception (Skt. ayatanas) which are responsible for the appearances arising in the three realms.
The Source of the Six Consciousnesses
15. Both faculties and objects arise from the mind.
This manifestation of sensory objects and faculties
Is dependent upon an element that has been present
Throughout beginningless time.
The five noncognitive sensory consciousnesses perceive objects vividly because they do not discriminate between beautiful and ugly, desirable and undesirable, and so on. Nagarjuna compared these senses to an idiot who can see everything clearly, but cannot think, "this is good and that is bad." In contrast the sixth mental consciousness cannot directly perceive objects; it rather follows what is perceived by the sensory consciousnesses, and has only a rough or vague idea of external forms. It is conceptual and conceives of phenomena as being, good or bad, similar or different, and so on.
Having established that there are sensory objects and sensory faculties, we may now ask, "Where did these external phenomena come from?" The answer is that all of external phenomena-houses, mountains, roads, and their perceptions-originated from the mind. They all arose out of the ground consciousness.
How is this possible? The answer lies in the fact that since beginningless time we have been perceiving sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and bodily sensations and these perceptions have been creating imprints or latencies in the ground consciousness. Habituation of having experienced a certain visual form will create a latency for
that very form. Eventually, that latency will manifest from the ground
consciousness as a visual form again, but it will be perceived as
external to ourselves.
Everything the mind thinks occurs within the mind itself. As mentioned before, the closest analogy of this process is a dream. Although dream phenomena have no connection to external objects, we become attached to their mental images which are, in fact, these imprints of latencies coming from the eighth consciousness. Because we
think that dream phenomena and external objects are the same, we grasp at that thought. Apart from the grasping, there is no connection between phenomena experienced in mental con-sciousness and external objects. This is why it is said everything appearing to the five senses arises, in fact, only from mind.
A brief introduction to the sixth and seventh consciousnesses
16. Though a sensory consciousness perceives an object
Its particular characteristics are known by the mental event of identification,
Which is dependent upon the mental consciousness:
The immediate mentality and the afflicted-mentality.
Briefly, we'll explain the Chittamatra or Mind-only school associated with Asanga and the Madhyamaka or Middle-way school associated with Nagarjuna. The Chittamatrins state that all phenomena are mind; the Madhyamakas state that all phenomena are empty. This text presents the information in terms of experiential Mahamudra meditation (in contrast to the methods of analytical meditation)30 by first teaching that all phenomena are the mind, and then describing the empty nature of the mind.
It is easier to first recognize that the nature of all phenomena is the mind; having gained that direct recognition, we realize that mind itself is empty. Presenting the subject in this order facilitates direct recognition, whereas simply learning the Madhyamaka view that phenomena are empty makes it difficult to gain understanding. Thus
Rangjung Dorje first teaches that all phenomena are the mind, and then teaches how the mind itself is birthless.
The sixth mental consciousness has no form and is called "the inter-mediate consciousness" or the consciousness following immediately upon arising or immediately upon cessation. As soon as a sensory perception of form occurs, the mental conception of that form immediately arises. The other senses also have a mental conception
immediately following perception. The sixth mental consciousness like the sensory consciousnesses, also exists in one instant and ceases in the next; mental consciousness that has ceased becomes the condition for the mental consciousness following in the next instant.
This verse introduces how the other consciousnesses fit in with the sensory consciousness in the process of perception. Even though the
sensory consciousnesses perceive external sense objects, they are not recognized or perceived as a solid external object until this perceptual process reaches the mental consciousness and the object is identified. The mental consciousness, however, does not store a memory of all the objects-this comes from the seventh and eighth
consciousness. The seventh consciousness is particularly mentioned and it has two aspects or functions: it serves as the immediate mentality which ensures for the continuity of the mind and it also is responsible for the afflicted mentality which is responsible for generating the disturbing emotions.
The Immediate Aspect of the seventh Consciousness
17. The first of those is immediate because
It is the condition for the arising and ceasing of the six consciousnesses.
It occurs in the same numbers as those of
The momentary arising and ceasing of the six consciousnesses.
It can be known by a mind that is yoga-endowed
And through the teachings of the Victorious One.
The third condition of the four conditions needed for perception to occur is called the immediate condition. When we consider both the afflicted and the immediate aspect of the seventh consciousness, we must know that they are always present within the six consciousnesses. The instant a visual object is seen, for example, the visual consciousness ceases, allowing the next instant of consciousness to arise. This sequence applies to all six consciousnesses. The immediate mind is the condition for the immediate arising and cessation of the six consciousnesses; when a consciousness ceases, it does not disappear, instead it subsides into the ground consciousness. The immediate mentality is the condition for all appearances to arise from any of the consciousnesses and to settle into the ground consciousness.
How does the immediate mentality cause instants of the mind to arise? An instant of mind cannot arise if there isn't a preceding instant of mind that ceases. There has to be a continuum of instants that immediately follow the preceding instants. When one instant of mind ceases, a latency in the ground consciousness immediately manifests as the next instant of mind. This power of immediacy never ceases. It is continually present, so that the continuity of the mind is never interrupted.
How can we know this to be true? This can be seen by the "yoga-endowed." The word yoga is Sanskrit for "union" and in this context refers to the union of tranquillity and insight meditation. By directly seeing our mind with Shamatha and Vipashyana meditation, we can see the immediate mind. We see how the arising of the six consciousness themselves is also a precondition for the arising of the six consciousness-because of the immediate consciousness, an instant of consciousness settles into the ground consciousness as soon as it ceases. The other method of gaining this knowledge is by understanding the Victorious One's (the Buddha's) teachings. We are able to understand that the immediate mind arises on account of there being a condition for the six consciousnesses, and that it is also a condition for their arising.
It has been explained how all phenomena arise from the mind and how the mind itself is empty. With everything in samsara and nirvana appearing from the mind, we discover that the mind itself manifests as the eight consciousnesses. We all experience phenomena differently, for example, two people can go to the same movie and one will love it and the other will hate it. Also beings in the six different realms experience phenomena differently. Hungry ghosts, for example, will perceive all kinds of desirable things and also perceive that they can't obtain them.31 All experiences whether happiness or suffering, are due to particular causes and conditions. The basic cause of these experiences is the eighth ground con-sciousness, the alaya consciousness. We can begin to understand the function of the ground consciousness through our daily experience. We have a basic clarity of the mind which is an awareness or a continuous knowing. When we look, hear, think, and so on there is always a continuity of the mind; a knowing that accompanies us from birth until death; with the continuum of this clarity present until we achieve Buddhahood. Every action we take creates a latent karmic imprint and these tendencies automatically flow into the ground consciousness where they are stored. These karmic imprints do not, however, remain stored because they manifest sooner or later. These become our experience of samsara.
The Afflicted Aspect of the Seventh Consciousness
18. The second is an aspect of this immediate mentality.
It is called the afflicted-mentality because
It believes the mind as self, possesses pride,
Has attachment to the self, and has ignorance,
And gives rise to all the destructive views.
After the six consciousnesses are described, the text commences explaining the seventh consciousness. This consciousness is afflicted and immediate. The seventh consciousness is the ever-present feeling of "I" or "self," the basis of ego. Because the mind is bound by this
consciousness, it is called afflicted. The feeling of "I" is present in one instant and when that instant ceases, it is present in the next instant. That is why it is called the immediate consciousness. There is never a discontinuity in the mental continuum; as long as there is a mind, there is a continuous succession of instants immediately
proceeding each other. We cannot say that this succession of instants stops even after a hundred years. There is the continuous succession of instants of consciousness and this is called the immediate consciousness.
The seventh (afflicted) consciousness is also present in all beings as a very subtle clinging to a self, which is often explained in terms of mind and mental events. Mind and mental events refer to the clarity and awareness of the mind which sees the nature of things. Mind is the basic awareness and includes all the consciousnesses. When the mind changes, a mental event arises. There are fifty-one mental events listed in the Abhidharma. A mental event denotes that the mind has undergone a change-aspiration gradually becomes samadhi, which are positive, and feelings of resentment may become deceit, which are negative.
The afflicted mind is described in terms of four mental events: (1) clinging to a self by thinking there is a "me" and "I" (2) pride which is believing the "I" is superior; (3) attachment to the self which is believing oneself more deserving than others; (4) and ignorance which accompanies the above three and is ignoring how things truly are
(i.e., the egolessness of self). We may wonder whether the afflicted mind is good or bad. Generally, there are three types of actions or karma: (1) good action or karma, done with the motivation to help others, (2) bad action or karma, done with the motivation to harm others, and (3) neutral action such as walking, eating, or sitting which has neither a good or bad motivation. There are two kinds of neutral actions: those that do not obscure liberation, and those that do. Walking somewhere does not cause obscurations or prevent liberation, whereas clinging to a self does prevent liberation, and so is an obstacle. Yet it is in itself not good or bad, because, if we think something like, "Oh, I must do good actions and need to accumulate merit" subsequent actions are good, or conversely, "Oh, I have to do something bad" the subsequent action becomes negative.
Rangjung Dorje presents a fairly unique view of the seventh consciousness. Generally, what was taught by Buddha in the Mahayana that discusses emptiness are called the sutras and the Buddha's instructions on meditational deities and Vajrayana practice are called the tantras. The teachings given by the Buddha were translated into Tibetan and placed in a collection called the Kangyur. There are two sections to the Kangyur: one dealing with the sutras and one dealing with the tantras. The Third Karmapa used both the sutras and the tantras for this text. His description of how the eighth consciousness stores karmic imprints is clarified in a tantra called The Tantra of the Vajra's Point which deals with how the mind perceives external phenomena. In the sutras of the Kangyur the Chittamatrins, in their teaching on the eight consciousnesses, taught the seventh consciousness was only an afflicted consciousness underlying a continuous belief in a self, but was not involved in the immediate
condition. Rangjung Dorje's own special view, however, combines this sutra and tantra view and adds the Madhyamaka view to the Chittamatra view, so that the seventh consciousness here is taught to have the aspect of immediate mentality as well as afflicted mentality.
Characteristics of the Immediate and Afflicted Mentalities
19. The immediate mentality, which is instantaneous
Upon the cessation of the six consciousnesses,
Is the location for the arising of those consciousnesses.
The afflicted mentality is the location for the afflictions.
Therefore, mentality has two aspects
Due to their power to create, and its power to obscure.
Another way to look at mind is to consider it as a succession of instants rather than a single entity. The moment an instant of consciousness arises, it ceases, allowing the next instant of consciousness to arise. Within this progressive succession of instants, external objects are perceived. We may think that the presence of an external object causes sensory consciousnesses to arise, and therefore that an external object is the causal condition, and that the sensory consciousnesses are its effect. However, if an object were the cause, and the consciousness were its result, then what would happen when the instant passed?34 If we perceive the effect, then the cause must have ceased, thus the object would have ceased. If a consciousness were the result in the following instant of consciousness, and its cause had existed in the previous instant, then the consciousness (the effect) would not be present when the object is present (the cause). They would not be connected and, therefore, have
no relationship; thus, one cannot be the cause and the other the effect. We may claim that they exist at the same time, in a cause and effect relationship. Yet if they existed simultaneously, there would be no need for a cause, because its effect would already be present. Therefore, it is not logical to claim that an external object is the cause for a sensory consciousness of that object.
Non-Buddhist and Hinayana Buddhists say that the mind and external objects are different. However, if we carefully analyze the situation, we discover that external objects and inner mind are one. External objects actually arise from the mind, just like a dream. In a dream we see forms, but there are no forms that exist outside of our mind. In a dream we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel bodily sensations, but there are no sounds, smells, tastes, or sensations existing outside our mind. Yet they do have appearance; an unreal appearance. Similarly, while waking, everything we see is an appearance, and arises from our mind.
Finally, Rangjung Dorje summarizes the two main functions of the afflicted consciousness. The afflicted consciousness is the source or "location" for the arising negative emotions or afflictions. This continuously present belief in a self gives rise to desire, anger, ignorance, envy, pride, and so on. This verse then concludes that the
seventh consciousness has two aspects: the power to create the six consciousnesses (the immediate aspect) and the power to obscure (the afflicted aspect) which prevents the attainment of liberation.
The Ground Consciousness
20. To those with superior understanding,
The Buddha taught the 'ground consciousness.'
It was also named the 'foundation consciousnesses.'
The 'location consciousness,' and the 'acquiring consciousness.'
All the actions created by the other seven consciousnesses
Are accumulated, distinctly and impartially within it,
Like rain and rivers flowing into the ocean.
Therefore it is also named the 'ripening consciousness.'
The first two levels of this verse are a brief explanation of the eighth (ground) consciousness and the rest of the lines are the detailed description of this consciousness.
The fourth of the four conditions for perception to occur is the causal condition, or the ground consciousness. The ground or alaya consciousness was not mentioned in the Theravada texts which describe only the first six consciousnesses. The seventh and eighth consciousnesses were not taught in the Buddha's early teachings. Because it could have incorrectly been taken for being permanent and therefore the same as the belief in a permanent self (Skt. atman). However, the ground consciousness is not a permanent self because its nature is emptiness. It is the source of all samsaric appearances. A self is considered basic and we have great attachment to it, but this isn't true for the ground consciousness. In the Abhidharma teachings, however, the Buddha said, "I have explained the ground consciousness to those who are pure," meaning that the ground consciousness was introduced to Mahayana bodhisattvas or "those with superior understanding" in this verse.
The ground consciousness has many functions so Rangjung Dorje explains these by giving each of them names. These are called the "basis consciousness" because the eighth consciousness is the basis for the mind; the "location consciousness" because it is the location of the mind, and the "acquisition consciousness" because it acquires all the karmic latencies that are laid down.
The reason the Buddha taught the subject of the ground consciousness at all is that when karma accumulates, the latent karmic imprints settle in the ground consciousness to express themselves at a later time. A karmic latency will awaken as experiences of suffering or happiness. Positive karma doesn't immediately express itself as happiness; so doing many positive deeds will not result in a rebirth in a paradise. Rather the karmic latencies rest within the ground consciousness and arise later as a result, for example, the joy of being reborn in a slightly more favorable situation. Similarly, accumulated negative karma does not express itself immediately as rebirth in the hell realms, but the karmic imprints remain in the ground consciousness to ripen under the appropriate circumstances causing suffering later on. Thus the ground consciousness can be said to be the "ripening consciousness."
The negative and the positive qualities increase due to habituation. For example, a person becomes angry again and again and then becomes habituated to anger, causing the latency of anger to increase in the mind. The same is true with desire. When one desires something again and again, the latencies of desire increase. This process also occurs for the positive qualities: a person may not have much love, compassion, or wisdom, but by engaging in love, compassion, or study; the imprints of these positive qualities increase in the ground consciousness. If there were only six consciousnesses, then thoughts would arise and cease without anything left to increase or develop such as the good qualities to reach Buddhahood. The increase of these positive qualities occurs only because positive tendencies are planted in the ground consciousness. The ground consciousness is the foundation and location for the mind because all karmic latencies are stored in the ground consciousness. A
momentary visual consciousness instantly ceases (when the next instant appears) and does not occur again; instead a new momentary visual consciousness appears. Similarly, a mental consciousness is created and ceases instantly; sometimes a mental con--sciousness does not appear at all. However, the latencies for the arising of these consciousnesses are contained within the ground consciousness. Thus, we can remember a visual perception that occurred in the past; and remembering it, strengthens the latency. The ground consciousness is very important for our practice of the dharma. If we do not maintain mindfulness and awareness, our disturbing emotions gradually increase, from day to day, from lifetime to lifetime. However, if we develop mindfulness and awareness, our mind will gradually improve due to the latencies being established in the ground consciousness. For example, when we begin to practice, there may not be much love and compassion in our meditation. But if we
persist and meditate on love and compassion, through the gradual accumulation of the latencies of love and compassion in the ground consciousness, we will gradually progress to a point where our meditation will have vast love and compassion.
In terms of dharma practice, the ground consciousness is very important, because through meditation our mind overcomes negativity
and develops positive imprints. Habituating ourselves to positive thoughts and actions allows negative imprints to decrease and positive qualities to increase. Meditation is very similar to habituation. By developing samadhi, negative tendencies can be transformed into positive imprints, which can be developed until Buddhahood is
attained. We can witness the effect of latencies in our daily life. Some children are very intelligent and some are not. This is due to the presence or absence of latencies to study in previous lifetimes. Some children are naturally very kind due to positive latencies laid down in their ground consciousnesses in previous lifetimes, and some
children are very aggressive, due to negative latencies. We can also see an aggressive child who has bad behavior gradually change as he grows older; through his cultivation of mindfulness and awareness, he can slowly with the right training establish new latencies by developing love, compassion, and humility as an adult. Conversely some good children grow up to be bad due to the negative latencies they establish during their childhood.
The eighth consciousness is also the foundation of experience. Should someone be born into a higher existence of a god, jealous god, or human being his or her experiences of happiness would be based upon the ground consciousness, and should someone fall into the lower realms, his or her experiences would also be based on the ground consciousness. Thus the eighth consciousness is the basis of all experiences within samsara, including future experiences. Creating imprints in the present leads to experiencing their results in the future; like a child who goes to school and studies hard-that activity will create an imprint in the child's mind that will allow him or her to become a teacher later on. If there were no learning, there would be no imprint, and no possibility of being a teacher in the future. This is how the eighth consciousness functions and why it is responsible for the various existences in samsara, and why it is also called the consciousness of acquisition.
The five sensory and the sixth mental consciousness are either positive, negative, or neutral. The seventh (afflicted) consciousness is neutral but has two possibilities: it may be ignorant and therefore the basis of the disturbing emotions, and may be obscuring because it obscures liberation. The eighth (ground) consciousness is also
neutral; however, it is not obscuring like the afflicted consciousness, it instead has an aspect of clarity. This clarity allows all phenomena (places, bodies, existences, and so forth) to manifest, but does not obscure liberation.
The other seven consciousnesses create positive and negative imprints in the eighth consciousness. A simile to how this occurs is given in the text: when it rains, the water naturally flows into the rivers, and the rivers, whether they are dirty or clean, naturally flow into the ocean. Similarly, positive and negative imprints naturally flow into the ground consciousness.
21. As it creates everything,
And is the ground from which all seeds sprout,
It is described as 'the causal condition.'
However, because it is eliminated
When the seven consciousnesses are negated.
It is also called the 'conditional consciousness.'
All the karmic seeds, good or bad, within the ground consciousness, sprout and manifest as the other seven consciousnesses, as if the ground consciousness were the ocean and the other seven consciousnesses were waves that appear upon its surface. The ground consciousness is responsible for all illusory appearances, but is not
the basis of Buddhahood, which is freedom from delusion. This is why the eighth consciousness is a consciousness and not a wisdom.
This concludes the section of the treatise that deals with the impure states of mind, the consciousnesses. The ground consciousness is the source of all delusory experiences. It is not the basis of Buddhahood because Buddhahood is freedom from delusion. The nature of the ground consciousness is delusion; it is not in harmony with the true nature of reality. When Buddhahood or arhatship is attained, the ground consciousness is transformed. When the ground consciousness ceases, all the consciousnesses are transformed into ultimate wisdom.
To summarize there are impure consciousnesses and pure wisdoms. In defining the impure consciousnesses it has been taught that the root of samsara and nirvana is the mind and that the mind itself is birthless.
(End of Chapter)
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