08 March 2016

Mindfulness Born Peace and Happiness: A Way of Wellbeing

Chan Phap Kham

Published on the Mindfulness Bell, issue #71, Winter/Spring 2016

MB71-2016-Spring-PhapKham-PeaceandHappiness.pdf

Plum Village Hong Kong (PVHK) was established in November 2008 as a religious, educational, and charitable organization with the official name The Plum Village Foundation Hong Kong Ltd. In February 2009, we opened the At Ease Mindfulness Practice Center in a small apartment in Tsim Sha Tsui. In April 2011, we moved to the Lotus Pond Temple and Bamboo Forest Monastery in Ngong Ping, Lantau Island. During a visit to Hong Kong in April and May 2011, Thay officially established the Asian Institute of Applied Buddhism (AIAB) to help bring applied and relevant aspects of Buddhism to the people of Asia-Pacific.

As with other Plum Village centers, PVHK functions as: (A) a monastery for monastics; (B) a practice center for laypeople; (C) an Institute of Applied Buddhism; and (D) a center of collaboration with other organizations, both lay and monastic (see diagram on p. 42).

 

 

 

All four of these functions share the core study, teachings, and practices of Plum Village (identified as area E in the diagram), which consist of the following:

  1. Mindfulness Practice: as taught by the Buddha in the Discourse on Full Awareness of Breathing (Anapanasati Sutta) and the Discourse on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutta);

  2. Abhidharma:Manifestation-Only Teachings (Vijnaptimatrata of the Yogacara School).

  3. Basic Teachings: Four Noble Truths; Noble Eightfold Path; Three Dharma Seals (Impermanence, Selflessness/Interbeing, Nirvana); Three Doors of Liberation (Emptiness, Signlessness, Aimlessness); and Interdependent Co-Arising.

  4. Ethics: Five Mindfulness Trainings for laypeople and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings (Bodhisattvas’ Precepts) for both laypeople and monastics, and Revised Pratimoksha for monastics.

  5. Four Dharma Seals of Plum Village: I Have Arrived, I Am Home; Go as a River; Interbeing Nature of Truth and Time; and  Our Consciousness Is Continuously Ripening.


As PVHK has relatively few monastics compared to other Plum Village centers, it has developed more in the areas of lay practice, collaboration with other organizations, and the functions of the Institute. In 2014, PVHK established the Plum Village Mindfulness Academy to further develop those three areas and to offer a non-sectarian study and practice program for lay professionals who aspire to apply the practice in their fields of work (e.g., mental  health, physical health, education). Moreover, the Mindfulness Teachers' Association was established to help communicate with other professional organizations in the field of mindfulness.

Taking Care of Caretakers

In 2012, a survey of 226 doctors in Hong Kong public hospitals found that about 30% of them suffered from burnout, emotional exhaustion, and other mood symptoms, and 10% even thought about suicide. Besides the common reason of work  overload, there was a feeling of being under-appreciated in their  work. It was clear that caretakers needed to learn how to take better care of themselves before taking care of others. Hence, in 2012, we started an initiative called Healthy Body Healthy Mind and an approach called Mindfulness Born Peace and Happiness (MBPH) to facilitate the integration of mindfulness practices in the health care and social services fields for the well-being of professionals and the people they serve. This is a continuation of Thay’s work in the field, following the retreats held for psychotherapists and neuroscientists in Colorado (1989), Florida (1997), Zurich (1998), and France (2002 and 2006).


In recent years, there have been increasing requests from lay practitioners as well as the public to train people formally in the practice of mindfulness so they can apply the practice appropriately for themselves, the people they serve, and their employees. To meet this need, the Plum Village Mindfulness Academy has offered a one-year Mindfulness Teachers Training Program, using the MBPH approach, to those who want to apply mindfulness in their work. The first program was started in August 2014 and completed in July 2015 in Hong Kong.


The term “Mindfulness Born Peace and Happiness” comes from the fifth and sixth breathing exercises of the Discourse on Full Awareness of Breathing, using the word “peace” instead of “joy.” Mindfulness Born Peace and Happiness means the moment we practice (Right) Mindfulness, peace and happiness are born. Letting go, mindfulness, concentration, and insight are all sources of peace and happiness. Hence, MBPH embraces the essence of Peace and Happiness Born from Letting Go, Peace and Happiness Born from Mindfulness, Peace and Happiness Born from Concentration, and Peace and Happiness Born from Insight.

Mindfulness is a way of living that brings peace and happiness to those who practice it. This is reflected in the name of the training program—Mindfulness Born Peace and Happiness: A Way of Well-Being. It has three main themes: cultivating peace and happiness, transforming pain and suffering, and living a healthy and compassionate life.

Core subjects of Mindfulness Born Peace and Happiness are:The Full Awareness of Breathing and the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, Manifestation-Only Psychology (i.e., study of the mind and behaviour according to Manifestation-Only Teachings), and The Five Essential Mindfulness Practices (i.e., Five Mindfulness Trainings serving as guidelines for living a healthy and compassionate life).

Firstly, the teachings in the Full Awareness of Breathing and the Four Establishments of Mindfulness are very useful for the mental health field, since mindfulness was first discovered by the Buddha to transform defilements of the mind. The opening paragraph of the Discourse on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness states, “there is a way to help living beings realize purification, overcome grief and sorrow, end pain and anxiety, travel the right path, and realize nirvana (a tranquil state of mind, absence of dualistic thoughts).” The way is the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, in which “a practitioner remains established in the observation: (1) of the body, (2) of the feelings, (3) of the mind (thoughts, mental formations), and (4) of the objects of mind (perceptions)—diligently, with clear understanding, mindfully, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.”


Secondly, the Four Right Diligences (usually known as Four Right Efforts, samma padhanain Pali), which can be considered as the first recorded psychology lecture in history, can be used as a basis to connect Manifestation-Only Psychology with the five major paradigms of modern western psychology. We see some elements of biological psychology, behavioral psychology, cog-nitive psychology, psychodynamic psychology, and humanistic psychology in the Four Right Diligences: create conditions for unwholesome seeds not to arise in mind consciousness, and bring them down once they have arisen; create conditions for wholesome seeds to arise, and keep them there once they have arisen.

Thirdly, the Five Mindfulness Trainings, which are interpreted as global ethics, are an essential element of the Mindfulness Teachers Training Program. They bring mindfulness into daily life and helps us to create a healthy and compassionate living environment for ourselves and others. It helps cure societal sickness. In Hong Kong, the expectation of having a good education from prestigious schools so as to get a high-paying job and status has brought much pain and suffering to many teachers, parents, and students. Competition starts in play groups where toddlers receive “formal” training to build a strong personal portfolio for later admission into a kindergarten. Many of these toddlers and their parents suffer from anxiety. What kind of medications can we prescribe for them? We need to prescribe True Happiness, the Second Mindfulness Training, as a medication to heal this societal illness. Parents, teachers, and students are all victims of “running after wealth, fame, power, and sensual pleasures.” The global ethics can help steer the collective consciousness toward the understanding that “happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.”


MBPH participants study these three core subjects in a structured one-year program. However, students are reminded to relearn them from time to time, as it takes a lifetime of practice to truly understand and experience them. A major requirement of the program is that students practice mindfulness at least two hours a day in daily activities and maintain regular practice with a Sangha.


Becoming Good Mindfulness Farmers


In 2003, on a Plum Village teaching trip with Thay in Florence, Italy, I met a farmer whose family had been in the business of making olive oil for several hundred years. He said that by tasting a few drops of olive oil, he could tell when and where the olives were planted and harvested, what kind of soil was used, and the amount of rain and sunlight the olives received. He knew a lot about olive oil. It took years for him to gain this knowledge through the process of planting, harvesting, and producing the olive oil. So, when we have sufficient conditions (e.g., practicing full time in a practice center where everything we do is connected with mindfulness), we can become good mindfulness farmers.

People often ask how to apply mindfulness in different fields and circumstances. By offering the training of mindfulness as it was practiced and taught by the Buddha 2,600 years ago, with updated methods, we can provide practitioners with enough material for them to apply the practices in different scenarios. Let’s use soybeans and water as an analogy. For vegetarians, soybeans are a good source of protein. Using soybeans and water, a good cook can make many different dishes such as soy milk, tofu, and bean curd skin. What we do is like providing good soybeans and water for people to make good soy milk, tofu, and other dishes that they need. Teachings of Manifestation-Only Psychology are like soybeans; teachings from the Discourses on Mindful Breathing and the Four Establishments of Mindfulness are like water; and the Five Mindfulness Trainings are like a basic cookbook, providing many ways of bringing mindfulness into daily life.


Since the establishment of the Healthy Body Healthy Mind initiative and Mindfulness Born Peace and Happiness in July 2012, the AIAB has been holding quarterly Health Care Days of Mindfulness in cooperation with the Centre on Behavioral Health and the University of Hong Kong, as well as annual mind-body health retreats in Hong Kong and annual retreats for health care professionals in Thailand. We also held Health Care Days of Mindfulness in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. In 2015, a Health Care Day of Mindfulness was held at St. Luke’s Hospital in Tokyo, and another was offered for the Philippine Psychiatric Association in Manila.


At the 2002-2003 Plum Village Winter Retreat, Thay proposed to establish a compassionate listening phone line to help people deal with mental illness, especially young people wanting to commit suicide. According to the World Health Organization, about one million people commit suicide each year. It is tragic and a huge mental health disaster. What can we do to help? Plum Village Hong Kong is establishing the Breathe and Smile Mindbody Wellbeing Center as a manifestation of the compassionate listening line to help bring relief from mental suffering. Information about MBPH can be found at mindfulnessacademy.org. Information about the Breathe and Smile Mindbody Wellbeing center can be found at breathesmile.org.


1   Emily Tsang, “Burnout plaguing 30% of doctors,” South China Morning Post, June 2, 2012.


Bhikkhu Thich Chan Phap Kham has been a disciple of Thich Nhat Hanh since 1987. He was ordained a monk in 2000 and a Dharma teacher in 2004. A native of Vietnam, he immigrated to the United States in 1979, and studied and worked as an electronics engineer from 1983-1997. He currently serves as Executive Director of The Plum Village Foundation Hong Kong Ltd. and as director of its four working units.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Revised version, used after June 2009

The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality and ethic. They are a concrete expression of the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of right understanding and true love, leading to healing, transformation, and happiness for ourselves and for the world. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to cultivate the insight of interbeing, or Right View, which can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair. If we live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are already on the path of a bodhisattva. Knowing we are on that path, we are not lost in confusion about our life in the present or in fears about the future.

 

1. Reverence For Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

 

2. True Happiness

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.


3. True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

 

4. Loving Speech and Deep Listening

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.


5. Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

01 October 2015

 Letter to a Young Scientist

Thich Nhat Hanh

The Science of the Buddha, 21 Day Retreat June 1st - 21st, 2012
Plum Village 13 Martineau, 33580 Dieulivol, France www.plumvillage.org

2012 -21-DayRetreat-TheScienceOfTheBuddha-Booklet.pdf

2012-Letter_to_a_Young_Scientist-Thich_Nhat_Hanh.pdf


Understanding and Love

As a scientist, you have a need to discover. I, too, as a meditator, have a need to discover. Which is why I’d like to write you a letter.

I feel that to discover is one of the great needs of humankind. It is the need to understand. To understand and to love are two fundamental human needs. And only if we satisfy both needs can we be happy.

Understanding  has some kind of connection with love, and I believe this is something  you may  also have perceived. Understanding—even   scientific understanding—can take us in the direction of love. I see that where there is understanding, there can be love; but where there is no understanding, there cannot be love. And if there is love, then there must already be understanding, and that understanding  will continue to grow. Understanding  and love are two faces of one reality, like the heads and tails of a coin, or the wave and particle forms of an electron.

I call you a young scientist because you have within you this deep desire to make a discovery. To discover is first of all to satisfy the need to understand. And if you discover something truly new then you will become famous, and your name, perhaps associated with a theory or an equation, will go down in the history of science. The distant dream of becoming a famous scientist can give you a huge amount of energ y to work. You can sit hour after hour in the laboratory, not thinking about eating or drinking or going out, your entire mind absorbed in your research. This passion for your research can give you a lot of energ y, but it can also make you tired and prevent you from being in touch with the wonders of daily life, in you and around you.

I address you as a young scientist because you also have the capacity to release your views, to let go of the knowledge you have accumulated, so as to be more objective in your research and in the presentation of your work. In principle, a scientist is supposed to be objective, but you know that in scientific circles there are many people who describe themselves as objective, who actually continue to observe and present things from their own subjective point of view. In religion, especially in Buddhism, we are taught to let go of what we already know so that we can go further in our search for the truth. We have to let go of the knowledge we have acquired during the process of learning and discovery. If we believe that the knowledge we presently possess is the absolute truth then we lose our objectivity, and we are no longer able to get in touch with any deeper truth, because our knowledge has become an obstacle. This is called knowledge as an obstacle (jneyaavarana in Sanskrit).

Both scientists and yogis must have the capacity to let go of knowledge that has become an obstacle. In the Sutra of One Hundred Parables, the Buddha tells the story of a boy who was kidnapped  by robbers who raided and set fire to his village. The boy’s father was away on business at the time. When he came home he saw his house had been burned to the ground. Lying nearby he saw the charred remains of a young boy. He believed right away that this was the corpse of his son. He tore his hair and beat his chest, blaming himself for having failed in his responsibility  as a father. After the cremation ceremony he put the ashes of his son in a specially made silk bag, which he kept with him wherever he went, even when he was eating, sleeping or working. One night, after waking from a dream about his son, he was unable to get back to sleep. He wept and moaned, overcome by regret, unable to calm himself down. In that moment, he heard a knock on the door. His son had been lucky enough to escape from the hands of his captors and find his way home. He was standing in front of the newly built house, believing that this must be his father’s new house, knocking on the door and calling out. But his father refused to open the door. The boy called out again and again, “Father, father, open the door! It’s me, open the door!” But because he was absolutely sure that his son was already dead, and still clutching the silk bag tightly against his chest, he assumed that the boy at the door must be a young rascal who was just playing a nasty trick on him, to disturb him and stop him from sleeping. The boy called out again and again but eventually decided that this must not be his house after all. He went away, and from that moment on, father and son never met again.

Concluding the allegory, the Buddha explained that if we believe something to be the absolute truth then we will be caught in that belief and we will get stuck in our search for the truth. That is why all scientists, as well as all yogis, have to train themselves to let go of what they know. The spirit of science is the spirit of objectivity, not caught in subjective views or perceptions. If a yogi is able to do this then he or she also has the spirit of a scientist. If a scientist is not able to do this then he or she cannot be a true scientist.

In religious communities,  progressives are in a very small minority  and are often criticized or discriminated against. But it’s not necessarily true that in scientific circles everyone is a progressive. The majority of scientists tend to be conservative:  they are afraid that new discoveries will bring their conceptual structures crashing down. They lean on whatever they hold to be true in order to discover more. If this foundation were to collapse, they would have to start again from nothing ; and so the conservative tendency is always there. Knowledge must be built on the firm foundation of the fundamental laws, concepts  and constants. And yet we know that in the history of science these fundamental notions have crumbled many times. In the book Discours de la Méthode, even Descartes says about the sciences that, since they borrow their principles from philosophy, “nothing solid could be built on foundations so infirm.” In Buddhism the fundamental doctrines of impermanence,  non-self, emptiness, interbeing, dependent co-arising, and so on, are used as tools to help practitioners let go of their ideas about permanence,  self, being, non-being,  cause and effect. But practitioners are also instructed to transcend and let go of the converse notions of impermanence, non-self, emptiness, interbeing, and dependent co-arising, so as not to be caught by them either. This is exactly the spirit of the destruction of clinging to ideas: that no notion can be used as a foundation for insight, not even the notions of nirvana, liberation, or enlightenment.  That’s why one often hears the phrases: “Look for Nirvana in birth and death. The afflictions (klesha in Sanskrit) are the awakening. Buddha and living beings are one, etc...”

Knowledge—that which we know—is an obstacle, a barrier that prevents us from going ahead. Not only yogis but also scientists must release it.

Just as a yogi can be influenced by the doctrines of their particular sect, by the views of their teachers or spiritual guides, and can be caught in what they have learned in the scriptures, including notions regarding nirvana, birth and death, the pure land and the mundane world, and so on, then so too can a scientist be influenced by their particular school of thought, by what they have learned during their training at university, by the models and theories they have heard about and studied. Yet the concepts, models, and theories that we hold on to could in fact be the biggest obstacles to the furtherance of our research. Even great scientists like Einstein were sometimes influenced by their metaphysical  prejudices.  It was because he was caught in the idea of realism, that Einstein could not accept the probabilistic description of the atom and of subatomic particles revealed by quantum mechanics. This is why, in order to succeed, both yogis and scientists must cultivate the capacity to let go of what they already know. Yogis know they must not get caught in concepts, even the most fundamental  concepts such as, ‘everything has Buddha nature.’ In order to help one student break free of this notion, Zen Master Zhaozhou1 said, “a dog does not have Buddha nature”— apparently in contradiction with the Buddhist teaching that all living and non- living things do have Buddha nature. But the Zen Master’s intention was not to transmit or to confirm any particular notion, but to help his student be liberated from his notion. As long as someone is trapped in a concept or notion they cannot be free, even if it is the concept of God or the Ultimate Reality.

Afflictions as an Obstacle

Knowledge is only the first obstacle. The second obstacle is our own suffering. States of mind (known as  mental  formations  in Buddhist psycholog y) such as confusion, hatred, anxiety, craving, the desire for vengeance, and so on, are collectively known as ‘afflictions as an obstacle.’ They are like the dust covering a mirror and preventing  it  from faithfully reflecting  reality.  For scientists, instruments such as mathematical techniques, telescopes, microscopes, measuring devices, particle accelerators, and so on, are absolutely necessary for the work of research. While for a yogi, the mind is practically their only instrument. If our mind is burdened by worry or suffering, by views, confusion  and anger, then it is very hard for us to practice mindfulness, concentration and insight in order to realise the path and look deeply into ourselves and into reality. In fact, behind all sophisticated mechanical instruments, the scientist’s mind is still the fundamental instrument. Our mind must be free from views and preconceptions, and free from afflictions. If scientists know how to build, maintain and keep their instruments perfectly clean, then they should also know how to handle and transform the suffering that comes from grief and frustration since the mind is the fundamental instrument that stands behind all other instruments. Releasing views, knowledge and afflictions not only helps scientists be more successful in their careers of research and invention, but also helps them to have more happiness and freedom, and establish good relationships with their families, their friends and the world.

Intuition

Our mind is not just the intellect—our mind is also composed of the unconscious  and the subconscious,   as  well as  our sensibility,  the feeling  of wonder, of awe, and the capacity for intuition. Scientists don’t usually make their breakthroughs in the laboratory or while thinking about their research; so their breakthroughs don’t occur while scientists are using their intellect. Breakthroughs are the product of intuition, not deduction. Deduction and the intellect can serve to check the insights offered by our intuition, but they do not bring about those insights. Yogis can see this point very clearly. Sudden enlightenment does not arise by thinking but by intuition.

In the Zen tradition, intuition depends to a great  extent on practice, the practice of sowing the seed of a question in the unconscious (known in Buddhist psycholog y as the store consciousness). All we have to do is to maintain our confidence in the capacity of store consciousness. It is just like entrusting a seed to the earth and then watering it regularly. Whilst eating, drinking, lying down, sitting or working, a practitioner maintains this confidence, aware that the seed has been entrusted to store consciousness, knowing that there is no need for thinking or reasoning. This is called mindfulness and concentration. To be mindful is to recognise and to be aware. To concentrate means to maintain this recognition and awareness.  This recognition and awareness does not require thought. It’s like watching the sunset: all we need to do is remember that the scene is beautiful and we are perfectly present for the sunset, without any need to think or compare. Concentration is maintaining this awareness so it can last for a long time. Mindfulness and concentration  will help to ripen the seed planted in store consciousness, and one morning, that seed will suddenly bud and blossom. This is known as ‘insight arising from intuition.’

Double Grasping

Our discriminative mind can also be an obstacle. For example, we consider our mind and the real world that we seek to understand to be two distinct entities that can exist separately from each other. This is the problem of the subject and object of perception. Neuroscientists like to pose the question: “How is it that the objective computational activities of the neurons produce our subjective consciousness?” A large number of scientists still believe in an objective reality that exists  outside of our consciousness, and that continues to exist whether we are conscious of it or not. Since time immemorial philosophers have been asking whether or not there is an objective reality that exists independently of our consciousness. In the 18th Century David Hume said “Although we have no ground for believing in an objective reality, we have also no choice but to act as if it is true.” A large proportion of us still believe that there is some kind of subjective consciousness in here reaching out to an objective world of reality out there. This discrimination, according to Buddhism, is the greatest obstacle that stands in the way of enlightenment. Such discriminative thinking, where the mind is caught in the idea of the subject of consciousness and the object of consciousness as two separate realities existing apart from each other,  is called dual grasping (dvayagraha in Sanskrit).

Yogis, especially Buddhists, are carefully trained to deal with this problem. They are trained to see that the object of consciousness  and the subject of consciousness depend on each other and arise at the same time. Subject and object of consciousness do not arise one after the other, nor do they exist independently of each other. In every school of Buddhism,  the constituents of the material world, including the body with its five sense organs, as well as feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, are considered to be objects of mind consciousness (dharmas).  The object of mind consciousness manifests in the same moment as mind consciousness. Subject and object of consciousness rely on each other and manifest together—they exist for one kshana (Sanskrit term denoting the shortest instant of time) and form the foundation for the birth of consciousness in the following kshana. This is known as the principle of co-arising (sahajata), or co-being (sahabhu)—depending on each other but arising together: ‘if this is not, then that is not.’ Sahabhu can also be translated as interbeing. This can be compared to the scientific concepts of superposition or entanglement.

In Buddhism, nothing can have a separate existence—‘this is because that is.’ This is inside of that, but we still think that this is outside of that. In fact, everything belongs to a tightly interwoven net. If one thing is present then everything is present; if one thing is absent then everything is absent. A renowned Vietnamese Zen Master of the 12th Century, called Đạo Hạnh, expressed this when he said “If one thing exists, then everything exists. If even just one thing does not exist, then the whole universe does not exist.” The Buddhist view is that nothing has a separate self-nature: there is no self and there are no separately existing phenomena. This is the insight of no self and no dharma. Everything depends on everything else to exist. Subject and object of consciousness behave in the same way; like the two sides, left and right, of a piece of paper—they depend on each other to be there. If there is no left there can be no right, if there is no right there can be no left. That is why separating subject and object of consciousness is a fundamental error. In the school of philosophy known as phenomenolog y there is the principle that “Consciousness is always consciousness of something”  (conscience est toujours conscience de quelque  chose). Our consciousness is not something standing outside of, or independent of, the object of consciousness. Many scientists have already glimpsed this point, saying that “a scientist should be a participant rather than an observer.” For example, if we look at the Earth as just a block of matter lying outside of us, then we have not yet truly seen the Earth. We have to see that we are a part of the Earth, and the entire Earth is in us. We have to see that we are Mother Earth and that Mother Earth is us. The biologist Lewis Thomas looked deeply into the Earth and saw that Mother Earth is an organism, a cell in the body of the cosmos. That’s why he called his book The Lives of a Cell—‘cell’ here means Mother Earth. When we see the Earth as a living being we can overcome the idea that the Earth is just matter. The life of a living being includes spirituality and consciousness. When we refer to the Earth as Mother Earth, we see the Earth no longer as merely a block of matter, but as a wondrous mother who has given birth to countless living species, one of which is the human race—as well as many saints, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. To look at the Earth in this way is to look with all of our sensibility and respect, and with the feeling of wonder and love; we shouldn’t look only with our intellect. When we look in this way we feel deeply connected—the boundary between subject and object melts away, and our intuitive vision can arise. In this way we can free ourselves from the trap of double grasping, from the habit we have of thinking that subject and object of consciousness are two separate realities.

Observation and Participation

Einstein said that when he contemplated the beauty, harmony and mystery of the universe, a deep feeling of admiration and awe was born within him. This was the basis of what he called “the cosmic religious feeling.” Exactly this sensibility— Einstein’s feeling of admiration and subtle emotion at the beauty and orderliness of the cosmos—afforded him the keen intuition which led to the discovery of the space-time continuum and the theories of special and general relativity. So if we look at the sun and only see hydrogen and helium, then the sun, for us, is just a lump of matter; yet for Saint Francis of Assisi, the sun was a brother (see his poem Canticle of the Sun), and for many Buddhists the sun is a Buddha of infinite light and limitless lifespan (Amitayus,  Vairocana Tathagata). The mind that discriminates between subject and object, spirit and matter, self and other, is caught in double grasping and will have great difficulty in establishing the feeling and intuition needed to make a significant discovery or realise the path.

We can speak about good science and bad science, as well as good Buddhism and bad Buddhism. Good Buddhism is a kind of Buddhism in which our actions of thought, of speech and of the body are all founded on right view. The Buddha was once asked by one of his disciples, “Dear Buddha, you often teach about right view, but what exactly is right view ?” The Buddha  answered that right view is the kind of view which is based on the insight of non-discrimination. When we know that the other person is in us, and we are in the other person; when we know that their suffering is our suffering, and our suffering is their suffering ; that their happiness is our happiness, and our happiness is their happiness, then everything we think, say and do will go in the direction of healing and reconciliation, in the direction of true love. When everything we say, think and do is based on the insight of non-discrimination and interbeing, then that can be called good Buddhism. If as scientists we can release our dualistic views and discriminative thinking, then our minds will be able to penetrate deeply the object of our study, perhaps even overcoming the distinction between the observer and the observed. We may also then discover that science founded on the wisdom of non-discrimination  is good science.

In English we have the verb to comprehend which is composed of the prefix com, meaning ‘with,’ and the verb prehendere, from Latin, via French, which means ‘to grasp.’ If we truly want to understand, we have to become one with the object that we are seeking to understand. To grasp it and become one with it—that is the meaning of the verb to comprehend. We can imagine a grain of salt standing on the seashore, wondering how salty the ocean is. The only way for the grain of salt to find out is to jump into the ocean and become one with the seawater. In this kind of understanding  we completely penetrate the object of study, and there is no more discrimination between subject and object, subjective and objective. The French expression, ‘il faut être dans sa peau pour le comprendre’ (you have to be in his skin to understand him), means the same thing. This is called ‘the wisdom of non-discrimination’ in Buddhism (nirvikalpajnana)—a kind of vision in which there is no longer any boundary between subject and object, and where we are free from comparison, free from the complexes of superiority, inferiority and equality. If we look at Mother Earth and we see that we are Mother Earth and Mother Earth is us then we can be liberated from our dualistic way of seeing, and overcome our fear of birth and death.

Store Consciousness

In the Zen tradition, practitioners know that ‘the realisation of the path,’ or enlightenment, is a fruit offered to us by store consciousness, and is not the result of thinking. Store consciousness, sometimes known as root consciousness (mulavijnana),  is the foundation of our mind consciousness. It has the functions of receiving, maintaining, and processing information, as well as the capacity to learn and to nourish the seeds of insight. The function of store consciousness is similar to that of a hard drive, yet with the difference that everything in store consciousness is constantly changing, just like a wave on the ocean, whereas the data stored in a hard drive is static and unchanging. This is why store consciousness is sometimes called the life-continuum (bhavangasrota). Mind consciousness simply plays the role of planting the seeds in store and diligently watering them with the energ y of mindfulness and concentration. Mindfulness and concentration are not thinking, but merely being aware and recognizing, and maintaining this awareness and recognition.  Yogis or practitioners choose to live in a suitable environment for this practice, called the sangha body. The collective energies of mindfulness and concentration available in the sangha are a great support for the practitioner. If scientists could also live in an environment capable of nourishing the energies of mindfulness and concentration, they would certainly succeed more easily in their search for the truth. In such an environment there are teachers, friends and co-practitioners,  as well as many reminders to let go of the obstacles of our knowledge and our afflictions, so that our bodies and minds can be more peaceful as we patiently pursue our work of research.

The tendency to see mind and matter as two separate entities, to see subject and object as two things that can exist outside of each other, is a very old habit that has been transmitted to us over many generations. This habit is so strong that it requires daily practice and training in order to release. The dualistic view of reality is known as double grasping. The Zen Master Tuệ Trung Thượng Sĩ said: “If we can release the dualistic view then reality will reveal itself to us in its entirety.”

Yogis and scientists, once they have been able to release this view, will be able to make a great leap forwards. After that, letting go of such deeply rooted ideas as being and non-being, or birth and death, will become relatively easy.

No Birth, No Death

Let us talk about the ideas of birth and death. The notions of birth and death arise from and are intimately connected to the notions of being and non- being. Many of us believe that to be born means that from nothing we become something ; and that to die means that from something we become nothing again. Yet with the law of conservation of energ y, scientists have discovered that energ y has the nature of no-birth and no-death: energ y cannot be created and cannot be destroyed; it can only be transferred. Matter also has the nature of no-birth and no-death, since matter is in fact a form of energ y. When Lavoisier said “Nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed,” he made a statement which is very close to the Heart Sutra: “All dharmas are marked with emptiness, they are neither produced nor destroyed.” If every phenomena  has the nature of no-birth and no-death, then we too have the nature of no-being and no non-being. If the notions of birth and death are overcome then the notions of being and non-being are also overcome. But many scientists are still caught in notions of being and non- being, which is why they ask, “Where did all this come from?” or “Why is there something rather than nothing ?” In Buddhism the notion of being is defined very clearly: being implies the existence of an entity, a substance, a self-nature (svabhava). Practising Zen meditation we look deeply into phenomena, and we see that, in fact, nothing has a separate self, nothing  has a separate existence, everything has no-self nature and everything arises from conditions. Everything is the reflection of an interconnected web of causes and conditions. In this way, nothing  really exists. To stick to the idea of being is a mistake. To stick to the idea of non-being is also a mistake. The notions of being and non-being are not sufficient to describe reality. Reality cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist—whether we are speaking of God, a cloud, or a pebble.

A cloud has the nature of no-birth and no-death. A cloud does not come from nothing to suddenly become something ; a cloud cannot pass from the realm of non-being into the realm of being. The cloud’s nature is not-born. Nor can a cloud die: nothing can pass from being into non-being. A cloud is like energ y—it is transformed endlessly and cannot die. A cloud can only become rain, or snow, or hail, but does not circulate in the sphere of birth and death. A cloud wanders freely in the realm of nirvana, in the realm of no birth and no death, no being and no non-being.

Reasoning and Enlightenment

When Antoine Laurent Lavoisier discovered the no-birth, no-death nature of matter, he had the opportunity to simultaneously discover his own no-being and no non-being nature, as a clear and logical consequence of his work. If this talented scientist had been able to maintain the insight of no being and no non-being in his daily life, then in the moment of climbing the scaffold to be guillotined (Lavoisier was executed in 1794), he would have been able to smile—he would have been liberated from the notions of birth and death, being and non-being. So let us speak about the difference here between insight and knowledge. Many people have an intellectual understanding, a knowledge, of the notions of impermanence, non-self, no birth and no death. They have faith in these principles and may be able to explain them clearly, rationally, and eloquently—and yet they still live and act as if things are permanent,  as if things have a separate self, are born and will die. There are scientists who believe that after death there is nothing, even though they simultaneously uphold the principle that nothing is created and nothing is destroyed, just as Lavoisier discovered and believed. An intellectual understanding of impermanence, non-self, no birth and no death is not sufficient to completely liberate us from fear, craving and hatred. It’s only when we directly verify our intuition, maintaining it alive throughout our daily life, that we can get the insight which will truly liberate us. It is for this reason that in Buddhism we must practice mindfulness and concentration. Mindfulness (smrti) means to sustain our awareness. Concentration (samadhi) means to be able to maintain our insight. The practice of a monastic is to allow awakened wisdom to become the substance of daily life. Scientists have been able to release a number of superstitious beliefs that contradict the observations of science—such  as the beliefs in deities, ghosts and astrolog y—thanks to a certain degree of mindfulness and concentration. But the discoveries of science are usually applied only to technolog y, and not to our daily emotional and spiritual lives. This is the difference between knowledge and insight, between the intellect and enlightenment.

Beginnings and Endings

The true nature of reality is the nature of no birth and no death, no being and no non-being, so why must we look for a beginning and an end? To begin is to be born, and to end is to die. The Big Bang theory is an attempt to explain the beginning of the universe. But does the universe need a beginning ? Amongst all the phenomena of the universe we cannot find even one which has a beginning or an end. What is born must die; and so, if we speak of a Big Bang we also have to speak of a Big Crunch, we have to speak of becoming and of nothingness. Big Bang theorists posit that time and space began with the Big Bang. But according to them, the phenomenon of the Big Bang happened  after the beginning of time, just after the beginning of the universe (10-35 seconds). Scientists have not yet been able to find a way to represent or imagine the beginning of time (time zero). Why don’t we speak of the manifestation of this universe as the continuation of another universe, or of many universes, just as the manifestation of a cloud is the continuation of the water vapour, the heat, the sun, and many different rivers and streams? If this universe exists then perhaps other universes also exist. Isn’t it true that there are scientists who have proposed that there are many universes manifesting in parallel to ours? Perhaps this universe is just a manifestation of the network of all universes—why not?

Two Kinds of Truth

In Buddhism there is a form of contemplation known as ‘penetrating the true nature by following the form’ (tùng tướng nhập tánh) which means to go from the phenomenal world into the noumenal world. If we contemplate very deeply the phenomenal world we will be able to come into contact with the noumenal world. To enter the noumenal we must let go of the ideas and mental models we’re accustomed to using to describe the phenomenal world. We have to use a kind of language which is more representational. To this end, Buddhism presents two types of truth: conventional truth (samvritisatya) and ultimate truth (paramarthasatya). For example, in the phenomenal world, we can use the notions of birth and death, being and non-being, coming and going, one and many, and so on, but when we start to approach  reality as it is, then we have to let go of those notions. In Buddhism we call the noumenal world ‘reality as it is’, suchness, or nirvana. In the Udana (Inspired Sayings) the Buddha said, “O monks, there is that which is not born, not brought to being, not made, not formed. If there were not that which is not born, not brought to being, not made, not formed, then no escape would be discerned from what is born, brought to being, made, formed.” The not born, not made, not brought to being, and not formed is the noumenal world, the ultimate reality. The path of penetrating the true nature by following the form is a gradual path which can also be called ‘the natural flowing together of dependent co-arising and emptiness,’ (sunyata pratisamyukta pratityasamutpada anulomata). It means that if we are skilful in using the notion and the wisdom of co-dependent arising to enter the ultimate dimension of Emptiness, then there will be no conflict or contradiction between the conventional and the absolute truth. Anulomata can be translated as adaptation—and adaptation, here, means to use the notions and principles of dependent co-arising skilfully, without being caught by them. By starting just with the notion of dependent co-arising, we can touch no-birth; from the phenomenal, we can enter the noumenal.

The conventional truth and the ultimate truth do not contradict each other and both kinds of truth can be useful according to the circumstances. There are sutras that speak of the conventional truth and there are sutras that speak of the ultimate truth. Both kinds of sutra can be useful according to the circumstances. To say that living beings and Buddha are different is correct, but to say that living beings and Buddha are not different is also correct. The first phrase describes the conventional truth and the second describes the ultimate truth. The early Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna, in the 2nd and 3rd Century CE, in his work Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way spoke about the no-birth nature of things in this way: “Things do not give birth to themselves, nor are they born from another thing, nor are they born from both of these together, nor are they born spontaneously. Thus, the nature of all things is no-birth.” If the nature of all things is no-birth then it is also no-death, no being and no non-being. In this way, we can go from the notion of conditioned arising towards the insight of no birth, no death.


In science there are also two kinds of truth. The first kind of truth is represented by classical science, the science of Newton. This kind of science has confidence in an objective real world, existing outside of consciousness, in which each thing has a definite position in space and in time, has well-defined characteristics, and is completely independent of the observer. This kind of science is based on the philosophical schools of realism and determinism. Even Einstein, although he was able to let of of the idea of the point-mass or particle, continued to uphold a form of realism. He wrote, “that which we conceive as existing (‘real’) should somehow be localized in time and space. That is, the real in one part of space, A, should (in theory) somehow ‘exist’ independently of that which is thought of as real in another part of space, B.” In Buddhism, when we begin to observe the world of phenomena, we define things in a similar way. We say that things have to maintain their nature (their characteristics), long enough for us to form an idea about them and for us to recognise them.

With  the  advent of  modern  science, especially  quantum  mechanics, scientists no longer see matter in this way. Things are composed of atoms, which are themselves composed of subatomic particles, which do not exist as something independent, but can only exist as a part of the whole. These atoms and subatomic particles also do not have a definite position and momentum in space until they are measured by an observer. In The Grand Design Stephen Hawking  says that “Individual atoms and molecules operate in a manner profoundly different from that of our everyday experience. Quantum physics is a new model of reality that gives us a picture of the universe. It is a picture in which many concepts fundamental to our intuitive understanding of reality no longer have any meaning.” In order to express this new picture of reality, scientists are forced to let go of the concepts and language used in classical science. They use new words which have a more pictorial feel, like charm, colour, flavour,  string, and so on. The meaning of these words does not correspond to their meaning in daily life.

Scientists have seen many illogical and contradictory things in the world of quantum physics and have been forced to accept these illogical and contradictory things.  One example is the dual nature of fundamental particles—they  are called particles, but they are also waves, whereas in normal daily life, waves and particles are two totally different concepts. Another example is the uncertainty principle, according to which the position and the momentum of an elementary particle cannot both simultaneously be exactly determined—the more exactly one property is determined, the more uncertain the other becomes. Another example is that of quantum entanglement. In certain systems, two or more particles can become linked in such a way that they become fundamentally indistinguishable from each other regarding some or all of their properties. If entangled, one particle cannot be fully described without considering the others in the system. This one is not that one, but this one is also that one. This one is not only present here, it is also present there. Richard Feynman said that “The theory  of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense... So I hope you accept Nature as She is—absurd.” He also said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

If we still see reality as absurd,  it is because we have not yet released our notions and the habit of attempting to grasp reality through  those notions. Science has begun to see that space and time are not two separate entities and are not absolute. Both space and time are dependent on mass and speed, as well as on the position and mind of the observer. Science has begun to see that nothing has an independent existence; each thing is part of a tightly interwoven net and carries the whole net within itself. Electrons do not have a separate existence; the interactive energies between an electron, its environment and other particles are part of the electron, or even comprise the whole electron.

We can compare the electron with a flower. A flower is made only of non- flower elements such as sun, clouds, earth, manure, gardener and so on. If we remove the non-flower elements from the flower, the flower will cease its manifestation. The same applies to an electron, and to a star. This is what is known in Buddhism as interbeing. Interbeing means that, dependent on conditions, things manifest. The Buddha said, “This is, because that is. This is not, because that is not.” This is true for the pair space and time, just as it is true for all other pairs of opposites, like birth and death, being and non-being, movement and stillness, before and after, here and there, inside and outside, one and many, and so on. Looking into interbeing we can slowly release all our notions and come into contact with the ultimate reality.

In Buddhism the world of birth and death and the world of no-birth, no- death are not two separate realities. We have to look for no-birth and no-death right in the heart of birth and death. In this way, if we skilfully rely on the awareness of conditioned  arising we will be able to realise the wisdom of no-birth. Skilfulness here means adaptation—the  capacity to let go of our notions and the habit of grasping reality with those notions. The notions of birth and death have to be released as assumptions. The notions of nirvana, and no-birth no-death also have to be released. If we conceive of nirvana as existing outside of birth and death then it is no more than a notion.

In Buddhist studies, practitioners are taught to look for nirvana directly in birth and death. Looking for nirvana outside of birth and death is like a wave going to search for water. A wave goes up and down, is high or low, has a beginning and an end, is, and then is no more—but all of these things are properties of the wave. If the wave knows that it is water, then the hopes, comparisons and fears that arise from the notions of going up or down, being higher or lower, existing or ceasing to exist will be ended, and the wave will be free. A wave does not need to look for water, because a wave is already water.

The Middle Way

In Buddhism there is the teaching of emptiness, or the middle way. Emptiness here means the absence of notions. The middle way means to transcend pairs of opposites such as birth and death, being and non-being, subjective and objective, matter and spirit and so on. Nagarjuna employed a form of dialectical reasoning in order to reduce all notions to absurdities (reductio ad absurdum). Not only do the pairs of opposites not annihilate each other but, on the contrary, they depend on each other to exist. The subject of consciousness and the object of consciousness are taken to be like that, and so too are the pairs being and non-being, birth and death. The two sides of a piece of paper are also like that—because one side is there, the other side is there. So it is also for the two aspects of an electron, and for a wave and particle. The middle way is the path between the extremes, not caught in either side. Anton Zeilinger has said that “Ultimately, physical sciences are not sciences of nature. Nature itself is always a construction of the mind.” This is also true for yogis—for yogis, nirvana, or the absolute truth, cannot be described in language or by concepts. Statements about nirvana cannot express nirvana. This is the wisdom known in Buddhism  as adaptation wisdom, or conformity wisdom (anulomajnana), which we can use to take us from the conventional truth towards the absolute truth, without contradicting either truth.

To begin with, Buddhism also speaks of the existence  of phenomena— phenomena with well-defined positions in space and time, different characteristics, and which are recognised to exist outside of each other. This corresponds to what David Bohm has called the explicate order: the conventional truth that we are used to in daily life. A can only be A and cannot at the same time be B. A chicken is a chicken and is not a table, egg or flower. This is the principle of identity. But if we apply the vision of interbeing, we see that the flower is formed only of non-flower elements such as the seed, the mud, the earth, the sunlight, the rain and so on. If we try to take any of these elements out of the flower the flower will cease to exist. In this way A is not really A but is just an aggregate of B, C, D, E, F, etc... The Diamond Sutra employs a similar dialectic in the following way: “Living beings are not living beings, that is why they are truly living beings.” Symbolically we can write A≠A=A. When we see that A is not really A, but is actually an aggregate composed entirely of non-A elements, then that is when we are truly able to see A. Then we can write A=B+C+D+E+... This is adaptation wisdom (anulomajnana), which has the capacity to destroy the principle of identity and bring us towards the world of conditioned arising. We see this is in that, that is in this; things are not outside of each other but are inside each other. This is the world that David Bohm has called the implicate order. With this way of seeing we begin to perceive the interbeing nature of all things. Our view begins to adapt to the vision of emptiness presented in the Heart Sutra: “neither created nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increasing nor decreasing.” Using the wisdom of conditioned  arising we can go from the view that self and dharmas (phenomena) are separately existing realities, to the vision of things as empty of a separate self or existence. This is the vision presented in the Samyukta Agama 293, called the natural flowing together of dependent co-arising and emptiness. With this way of seeing, time, space, matter and spirit are all inside each other, just as birth is present in death, and being in non-being, and nothing exists separately or outside of anything else any more.

The Mathematics of Interbeing

In Buddhism there is a way of seeing known as tương đãi which can be translated as waiting for each other, or inter-waiting, or inter-relying. This way of seeing, along with the vision of interbeing, can help us remove dualistic views and realise the wisdom of non-discrimination—touching reality as it is. The wisdom of inter-waiting is similar to the idea of symmetry in science. Similarly, interbeing can be compared with entanglement or superposition. Interbeing is proposed as a more skilful word than entanglement2  or superposition. When we use the words entanglement or superposition, we are still caught in the idea that this is not that—because there have to be two things in order for them to be entangled or superposed. The word interbeing is very skilful,  because  in it there is the word being, but we use it to remove the notion of being, without approving or confirming the notion of non-being. We use the word interbeing to remove the notion of being, in order to arrive at neither being nor non-being.

According to the wisdom of inter-relying, the concept of a point and the concept of a line, in geometry, depend on each other to exist. In order to define a point, we have to use the concept of the line, and in order to define the line, we have to use the concept of a point. When we say that a point is the intersection of two lines, and a line is the displacement in space of a point, then we recognise the inter-relying nature of the two concepts. When one is there, the other is there. Point and line can only appear together, in the same moment. Point and line rely on each other to be established. Point and line are not two separate realities: in the point there is the line and in the line there is the point. This is inter-relying ; this is interbeing.

This is also true for the concepts of addition and subtraction,  as well as the concepts of positive and negative infinity. Positive and negative rely on each other to be established. The numbers that we call the rational numbers, lying between positive and negative infinity, are also like this. The number 1 can be expressed in terms of sums of other numbers, for example, 6 - 5, or -4 + 5, or 7 - 4 - 2. And all the other numbers can be defined in terms of the number 1. So conceptually we can see that all the numbers are present in the number 1, and the number 1 is present in all the other numbers—just as in the flower there is the cloud, the sunshine, the earth and the entire cosmos. The flower seems to be small, but it contains the entire cosmos. Overcoming  the ideas of small or large, inside and outside, we can truly see the flower. Seeing that the ideas of beginning and ending depend on each other to arise, then so can we also see that the ideas of positive and negative infinity depend on each other to manifest.

In geometry, it is possible to wrap a line extending from negative infinity to positive infinity, around a circle, with the point at the top of the circle representing both positive and negative infinity. Every single point on the line corresponds to a point on the circle.

 

PastPresentFutture 01

In the diagram, the points a, b, and c, on the line, are mapped respectively to the points A, B, and C, on the circle. We can see that as we wrap the two ends (negative infinity and positive infinity) towards the top of the circle, the infinitely large can fit in a finite space, just as the whole cosmos is present in a flower. Points further and further in the directions of positive and negative infinity have to be squeezed closer and closer together on the circle, getting infinitely close, but never reaching, the top of the circle. At the point on the top, positive and negative infinity come together as one.

We are used to representing the passage of time with a straight line extending from the past, through the present, to the future.


PastPresentFutture 02

We may have the idea that the section belonging to the past is getting gradually longer, and the section belonging to the future is getting correspondingly shorter. In Buddhism, time can be represented by a circle—rather like wrapping the line onto the circle as above. We may like to imagine a slide-projector, with 100 slides, in which the slide being projected represents the present, and the slides are shown one by one, coming from the side of the future and being stocked away on the side of the past.

PastPresentFutture 03


When slide number 100 is shown, slide number one has come all the way round to the side of the future, ready to be projected again in the present.

In Buddhism we speak of vipaka, which can be translated as maturation, ripening,  or concoction. Vipaka  is one of the functions of store consciousness. The mind can be described as a store of seeds that undergo a process of maturation and gradually ripen. Our experiences and actions in the present moment are stored as seeds in store consciousness. This is like the slides passing from the moment of projection, and being stocked away on the side of the past. The slides going around the carousel represent all the seeds in our store consciousness—the seeds planted by our actions and those planted by the actions of our ancestors. These seeds gradually undergo a process of maturation—they are cooked by store consciousness—and at some point in the future, they ripen and manifest again in the present moment. The image of the slide-projector is good but it is incomplete, since the slides do not change as they go from the present, to the past, around to the future and into the present again, whereas in store consciousness, the seeds are all of an organic nature and are always changing. All the seeds are maturing in our consciousness in every moment. The seeds sown in the present moment become those of the past. These seeds of the past, stocked in store consciousness, will mature and eventually ripen as the basis of an action in the present moment. Nothing is lost, and every action, every seed, in the past, has a consequence in the future. This is why karma, the Sanskrit word for action, includes time and space—that is, everything. And time and space interare with action: every moment contains actions of the past, present and future. Present action becomes the past, past action matures as the future, and the future ripens as present action. The three times are inextricably linked—in Buddhism this is known as the ‘interbeing of the three times.’

On a one dimensional line, one point can always be compared  to another in terms of being greater than, less than, or equal to the other one. In a similar way, we are often caught in the tendency to compare. We may compare ourselves in terms of weight, height, wealth, success, or power, and find that we are superior, inferior or equal to the other person. But we can only ever compare one of these aspects at a time. As soon as we try to compare two or more aspects of things at the same time, we find situations in which we cannot say one is greater or less than the other, but in which the two are also not the same, and thus are not equal. For example Alan is 170cm tall and weighs 60kg. Bob is 150cm and weighs 100kg. The two aspects of height and weight cannot be compared at the same time. In mathematics, on a 2D plane, when we compare two different points lying on a circle, they are not equal, but nor can we say that one is greater or less than the other.3   Because we see that each thing has multiple aspects or variables, we recognise the futility of comparison and are released from the three complexes of superiority, inferiority, and equality. When we stop comparing, the wisdom of non-discrimination manifests.

The particular aspect of an object is of equal significance to the universal aspect, because the particular is also a kind of universal. In set theory, a subset (particular) can also be a parent set (universal) in relation to its own subsets. The elements that make up a house, the windows, doors, bricks and roof, are considered to be the particular aspects of the house. But the window is also the universal aspect of its constituents: wood, nails, glass, etc. Particular and universal are just designations. In another example from set theory, if A is a subset of B and B is also a subset of A then A=B because all the elements of A are in B and all the elements of B are in A. This corresponds to our conventional view of reality. But looking deeply into the ultimate nature of reality, we see, for instance, that our father is in us, and we are in our father, and yet we are not the same as our father. We are ‘neither the same nor different.’ Set theory as it is currently formulated cannot account for this kind of relationship.

Mathematics built upon logical formalism and the principle of identity will have to change in order to be able to describe and convey the reality of interbeing and non-dualism.  Are you, as a young scientist, able to create a new mathematics, founded on ‘middle way dialectics,’ the contemplation of the middle way, and the insight of interbeing ? ‘Middle way dialectics’ means just this: if you look into A but only see non-A elements, then you have truly seen A. A is just a conventional designation. A is not an entity. A can only continue to exist in a relationship of conditioned co-arising with all non-A elements. This is the insight of interbeing.

Going Together, Hand in Hand

Yogis are very happy when they see that scientists have been able to explain and demonstrate the things that were previously discovered  by intuition and meditation, like the no-birth, no-death nature of matter and energ y, the non- dual aspect of wave and particle, of space and time, the interconnectedness of all phenomena, the interbeing nature and non-local nature of atoms and subatomic particles.  Yogis can use these discoveries to speak about and to explain their realisations on the spiritual path. This is why the yogis and the scientists need to work together. Scientists can design experiments to help yogis explain what they have discovered in the realm of the spirit. Scientists can also inherit and benefit from the discoveries and the methods of the yogis. This includes methods of practice like mindfulness, concentration and insight, used as tools to release the obstacles of our knowledge and our afflictions. If we know how to use these methods we will be more effective in the work of research and discovery; we will more easily release our habits of thought and our notions, and be able to truly enter the ultimate dimension. Now many scientists recognise that they are entering the domain of philosophy and are knocking on the door of ontolog y.

There are many examples of scientific discoveries that can help yogis to better understand and explain their realisations. One of these is from modern biolog y, which has revealed that symbiosis may be much more prevalent in living systems and organisms than previously thought. The biologist Lynn Margulis has suggested that the Darwinian picture of evolution driven solely by competition is incomplete.

She points out that evolution is in fact strongly based on co-operation, interaction and mutual-dependence among organisms. It is now generally agreed that certain organelles of the eukaryotic  cell, in particular mitochondria and chloroplasts, were originally bacterial endosymbionts. Mitochondria,  present in every human cell, are responsible for generating most of the energ y for the cell to use—they are sometimes called the powerhouses of the cell. Without mitochondria we could not lift even a feather, or walk, or breathe. But mitochondria have their own DNA, separate from the human genome, and may once have been independently living bacteria.  Very early in the story of evolution they made their home in larger eukaryotic  cells and in exchange provided ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the unit of intracellular energ y transfer, for the cell. Chloroplasts are essential for the process of photosynthesis, and are thus present in all plant cells that perform photosynthesis–they are also responsible for the green colour of all leaves. They are able to capture light energ y and store it in the form of ATP, which is then available as usable energ y for the plant. Chloroplasts also have their own separate DNA and are believed to have originated from free-living cyanobacteria, which were incorporated  into the eukaryotic cell through  endosymbiosis, around one and a half billion years ago. These are just two of the many examples from modern biolog y that illustrate the interconnected and interdependent nature of all life. Can we imagine a world without photosynthesis? A world without trees and green leaves, cool shade and oxygen for us to breathe. As yogis and scientists, we can use examples like these to demonstrate and explain the idea of interbeing. Looking deeply into our own bodies we recognise that we are not individuals, but communities. When we see that every cell in our body depends on symbiosis to function we are able to touch our no-self nature.

Another example is from the discipline of archaeolog y. Before the discovery of the Pillars of Ashoka (inscribed with the Ashoka  Edicts)  and the ancient Sutras  inscribed on palm leaves,  Westerners still thought  that  the Buddha was a mythological figure, a deity imagined  by the East, and not a historical person. Archaeologists and philologists have helped enormously in the work of identifying the sources of early Buddhist sutras—understanding when and where they appeared—so that Buddhists can have a more exact view of the history of Buddhist thought and teaching. Today’s telescopes and modern astrophysics can also help Buddhists refine their views regarding the great trichiliocosm.

In Europe, before the birth of Copernicus, and before the invention of the telescope, the cosmos was very small. Galileo, when he became blind in 1638, wrote to his friend Diodati that he had seen a universe one hundred thousand times greater than the universe conceived of up until that point by Western Philosophy. In India, at the time of the Buddha, more than 2000 years earlier, philosophers had already been able to see somewhat more. Time, in Buddhism, is not measured in years but in kalpas. One kalpa is more than 1,280,000,000 years. The image used to describe a kalpa is like so: imagine a huge mountain, perhaps in the Himalayas, and imagine that just once every hundred years a man climbs up to the top, and brushes it once, with a silken duster. The time it takes for the mountain to be completely razed to the ground  is less than one kalpa. In another image, an entire world is crushed to dust then one speck of dust represents the life of a person. These are the images given in the Lotus Sutra, which speaks about the Buddha Mahabhijnabhibhu.

A minor universe, according to Buddhism is made of many stars, suns and moons. One thousand such minor universes make up a small universe (small chiliocosm). One thousand small chiliocosms together form a medium chiliocosm, and one thousand medium chiliocosms like that form a great chiliocosm. Buddhist sutras usually speak about the three thousand  great chiliocosm cosmos—that is, a universe that is made up of three thousand great chiliocosms, as described above. In Sanskrit this is written tri-sahasra-maha-sahasra-lokadhatu.  According to Buddhism,  life is not present only here on Earth, but in many places throughout the immensity of the universe. This is the Buddhist view of the cosmos, attained by insight and then described in a simplified form; just as Siddhartha’s contact with suffering in life is represented in simplified form by the image of him going out four times through the four doors of the Royal Palace. We should not compare this description with the modern scientific view of the cosmos. The intention of Buddhism is not to seek to understand the universe but to look for practices that can help us to overcome the obstacles of our knowledge and our suffering, so that we can live with more freedom, peace and happiness.

In the time of the Buddha there were countless people, including some of the Buddha’s own disciples, who asked the Buddha metaphysical questions about the universe and the world. They asked questions such as, “How old is the universe?” or, “Is the universe limited or unlimited?”  The Buddha always replied that these were not very important questions, and the people often did not accept this answer. The Buddha said that people should ask questions about suffering and about the way to transform  suffering. Scientists are also people who have suffering and who want to find happiness. That is why we have to see Buddhism  as a kind of science which has realistic methods to transform suffering and generate happiness. The great scientist Albert Einstein had a lot of suffering throughout his life. He couldn’t communicate easily with his wife or his children. He was not able to see that to be in touch with oneself, to understand one’s own suffering,to accept oneself, and to be able to bring peace to one’s mind and body, are all urgent topics for science. It is a field of scientific enquiry directed inwards. If we are able to understand ourselves and accept ourselves then it becomes much easier to understand and accept others. When we are mindful, we can recognise and be in touch with what is happening in the present moment. And if we maintain this awareness then insight will arise. We will be able to see that our consciousness is a flowing-together of many streams and we will be able to overcome the ideas of inside and outside, subjective and objective, and subject and object of consciousness. The uncertainty and the probabilistic nature of that which we seek to understand comes from the way the streams of our consciousness flow out.

We see that the universal aspect of something is just a sign, without reality, just as the particular is also a sign, without reality. This is because we can also see the particular as a kind of universal, relative to its own particular aspects. For example, we can see that snow and cloud are two different universals, without reality, in respect of which H2O can be called a particular, also without reality. But H2O is a universal relative to the atoms oxygen and hydrogen; while atoms are themselves universals, relative to the sub-atomic particles. In Buddhism all signs are empty. All signs are marked with emptiness—the signs of birth and death, the signs of coming and going. When we can see that no sign has a self-nature, not only do we let go of all notions and assumptions, but there is also no longer anything to call absurd.

Surely we should have a spiritual practice that brings about peace and happiness, freedom and contentment, joy of life, and an enhanced ability to understand and communicate with others, with nature, with mother earth, and with father sky. Do you, as a young scientist, recognise and feel the need to find such a path? A spiritual path, a way leading back to your mind, to the source; a kind of religion not based on a divinity  as the ultimate cause, but only on that which can be verified and tested by the experience of many people.

A Spirituality for the Scientist and the Yogi

Each of us needs a spiritual dimension in our daily life. If we lack a spiritual dimension, it may be very difficult for us to overcome the challenges and difficulties we encounter. As scientists we also need a spiritual life. This spiritual life should be based on evidence, which can be verified, not on esoteric beliefs which cannot be tested. Below we propose a number of basic principles as a foundation for this kind of spiritual practice.

We can sit down together and share in order to establish an outline, or record a number insights upon which both scientists and spiritual practitioners can agree. For instance:

1. Looking into ourselves and into the universe, we see a profound harmony and beauty that causes to arise in us feelings of admiration, wonder, and reverence, which in turn nourish the will to discover and to love.

2. This feeling of admiration and reverence can help us to get closer to ourselves and to the cosmos, in the spirit of non-duality. In this way we can overcome the obstacle of perceiving subject and object as two separate entities.

3. There are two kinds of truth: the conventional truth and the absolute truth. And one truth can lead to the other truth, without opposition or contradiction, if we can slowly and skilfully release our ideas and notions about reality. The discriminative mind can bring about non-discriminative wisdom.

4. Ultimate reality cannot be grasped by means of concepts and cannot be described by words and concepts.

5. Direct intuition can bring about profound insights into the nature of reality and the value of those insights can be confirmed by scientific experiments.

6. Human consciousness  is the basic tool in the search for truth.  The functioning of this consciousness can be limited by prejudices (knowledge as an obstacle) and suffering (afflictions as an obstacle). There are practices that help us release our prejudices and transform our suffering, fear, worries, anxiety, craving, hatred, and despair, so that our mind can regain its clarity and its wonderful capacity of shining light on the nature of things.

7. Observing nature in terms of matter, energ y, and mind, we see that nothing is born, nothing dies, there is neither increase nor decrease, and the ideas of being and non-being, birth and death, increasing and decreasing, coming and going cannot be applied to reality.

8. The idea that mind and matter, subject and object of perception, as things which can exist outside of each other, need to be removed.

9.  Time and space are not separate entities and are not separate from the consciousness of an observer. All of them—time, space and observer—rely on each other to manifest.

10. To be, is to inter-be (to co-be). Things cannot be by themselves alone.

11. The one depends on the many to exist; the many depends on the one to exist. The ideas of one and many, sameness and otherness must also be transcended.

12. Body and mind cannot exist apart from each other as independent entities. Body cannot be removed from mind and mind cannot be removed from body. Body and mind are like the two sides of a sheet of paper—one side relying on the other to exist.

13. The no-birth, no-death nature of things necessarily implies the no-being, no non-being nature of things. Nothing is born and nothing dies—there is only manifestation. It is not because something manifests that we can say that it exists, and it is not because something has not yet manifested that we can say it does not exist. Nothing  can pass from non-being into being, and nothing can pass from being into non-being. Being and non-being are only ideas.

14. Things do not have a separate self-nature (svabhava). A flower manifests as the coming together of countless non-flower elements, such as sunlight, clouds, rain, soil, fertiliser, seed and so on. A flower cannot be by itself alone—a flower depends on innumerable conditions in order to manifest. The flower, and all phenomena, are empty of a separate self. Non-self, impermanence, and interbeing are the true nature of all things.

15. Subject and object of consciousness cannot exist independently of one another. Perception and object of perception go together. The subject of perception cannot be without the object of perception; in fact the object of perception is present in the subject of perception.

16. Ultimate reality transcends all notions,  such as being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, before and after, good and evil, subject and object.

17. Experiences of suffering and happiness lead to the idea of good and evil. Suffering and happiness are not an objective reality, they depend on the way of looking and understanding of each individual. A transformation of our mind and our thinking can turn suffering into happiness or happiness into suffering. The same is true with good and evil—and these notions can also be given up—they do not correspond to the true nature of reality.

18. If the insights of no birth, no death, no being and no non-being, are maintained by the energies of mindfulness and concentration, they can transform worries, anxieties and fears and make happiness grow.

19. Understanding the nature and roots of the suffering in ourselves and in others enables us to cultivate acceptance, love, forgiveness and the desire to help.

20. Clinging to ideas, discriminative and dualistic views bring about fear, anxiety, hatred and violence. The insights of interconnectedness, non-duality and togetherness bring about acceptance, love, and peace.

21. Fear, hatred, intolerance and despair are energies that can cause great suffering to ourselves and to others. Compassion, understanding, forgiveness, hope and joy  have the capacity  to  bring  about healing,  reconciliation and happiness. Recognising and understanding our own suffering can help us more easily recognise and understand the suffering of others.

22. There are ways of living and acting that can bring about either suffering or happiness, for ourselves and for others. These ways of acting may be described as positive or negative, good or bad. The way of acting that has the capacity to bring peace, reconciliation, and happiness can be called applied ethics. Applied ethics is based on a profound and solid understanding of reality—on a kind of insight which transcends all discrimination and prejudice. This insight is known as right view—a view which transcends all dualistic thinking. This insight is a kind of meta-ethics.

23. The founding principles of applied ethics can be based on the non- dualistic view. If we live according to these principles, we, as human beings, will have the capacity to generate happiness and transform  suffering. Wrong view leads to wrong thinking, wrong speech and wrong actions, which have the capacity to bring about suffering. Right view, on the other hand, gives rise to right thinking, right speech and right actions which have the capacity to bring about reconciliation, happiness and relieve suffering. Wrong  view is the kind of view which is caught in the notions of being and non-being, birth and death, inside and outside, self and other. These ideas bring about complexes, discrimination, fear, worries, hatred and conflict. Right view is the kind of view that is based on the insights of dependent co-arising and interbeing, which help us transcend all discrimination,  complexes, fear, worries, hatred and conflict; giving rise to the kind of thought, speech, and action that has the quality of non-discrimination, acceptance, understanding and love.

24. The insights of both scientists and yogis should be applied not only to the domain of technolog y but also to our ways of acting and living, in order to  transform  fear, discrimination, hatred,  and bring  about communication, reconciliation, harmony, togetherness and happiness.

25. Discoveries made by yogis can be verified by science and scientists should accept the truth of those discoveries if they are not able to disprove them.

26. The practice of generating mindfulness and concentration can bring about insight. These energies can be generated by our daily practice.

27. The practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking can help us go back to the present moment. The practice helps us get in touch with our bodies, with our feelings, our perceptions, mental formations and consciousness,  as well as with all the wonders of life that are available to us, such as planet earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and everything that has the capacity to nourish and heal our bodies and minds.

28. Mindfulness practice can help us to let go, to release tension and stress in our body and mind, easing the pain in our body and mind.

29. Recognizing  and  embracing  pain and  suffering  with mindfulness can bring about the relief of that pain and suffering. The collective energ y of mindfulness generated by a group of able practitioners can help us to take care of our suffering and transform it much more easily.

30. The energies of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can help us recognize strong emotions, and quickly transform those feelings into calm and peace.

31. The practice of deep listening and loving speech can help us re-establish communication, relieve suffering, and bring about reconciliation. Compassionate listening can help to relieve the suffering of the other person. The practice of deep, compassionate listening will be successful if we are able to maintain mindfulness of compassion throughout the whole time of listening. If we are able to maintain mindfulness of compassion in us, then the seeds of irritation will not be watered as we listen, and we will not interrupt the other person.

32. Looking deeply into ourselves, we see Mother Earth, Father Sun, and the stars, even though they are physically very distant. We and Mother Earth are not two separate realities: we are Mother Earth and Mother Earth is us. Mother Earth is not just the environment, Mother Earth is us. We must live our lives in such a way that Mother Earth can remain fresh and green for a long time. If Mother Earth withers, we will also wither and die. The presence of Mother Earth is our own presence, and looking deeply into our own true nature and that of Mother Earth, we see that they are both the nature of no birth and no death. Our life span is not limited to just 100 years, because we and our mother are not two separate entities. A global applied ethic should be built on that insight, and no matter who we are, whether scientists, politicians, businesspeople or spiritual practitioners, no matter to which religion or political party we belong, our way of life should reflect this insight.


Plum Village Practice Center, France


1. Chinese Zen master (b.778, d.897)

2. In fact, the German word originally used by Schrödinger to denote the concept of entanglement was verschränkung , which can also be translated as interleaving , or interconnection.

3. If we plotted this example on a graph, with height on one axis and weight on the other, Alan and Bob would both be the same distance from the origin, i.e. they would lie on a circle, of radius √(1702 + 602) = √(1502 + 1002) = √3250 ≈ 180

28 September 2015

The stars are made of consciousness.  We are made of the stars.

(Summary of updated teachings on Manifestation-Only by Thich Nhat Hanh in  the  Winter retreat 2013-2014 at Plum Village, France)


From Consciousness body to Store consciousness

The compilation of the Abhidharma literature begins by the process of gathering together Buddhist terms and explaining them. Generally the Buddhist teachings are numbered (the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, the Four Noble Truths, for example) and the Abhidharma explains these teachings in order beginning with the smallest number with the aim of clarifying the meaning of these terms. Meaning here refers to the meaning in terms of the practice. This work began at the beginning of the 1st century BCE and continued into the 1st century CE. After that the Abhidharma was concerned with systematizing the Buddha’s teachings as they were conveyed in the sūtrapiṭaka.

The teachings of the Buddha are to be found in an unsystematic manner throughout the sutras and before the Abhidharma masters began their work there was no other systemization. Abhidharma could also be called systematic Dharma. In Abhidharma the tendency to analyse and explain is very strong and the authors of the Abhidharma always thought that the more they analysed the teachings, the deeper the understanding of the meaning would become. There were more than 20 Buddhist schools at this time and each of them developed its own Abhidharma teachings. Only two of all these Abhidharmas are still extant today; the abhidharmas of  the Sarvāstivāda and the Vibhajyavāda. The Sarvāstivāda school took up residence in Kashmir and lasted for one thousand years. The Vibhajyavāda school went to Sri Lanka and called itself Theravāda (school of the elders); the name used before it divided from the Sarvāstivāda school. The Abhidharmas of these two schools were at their richest in the 5th century CE.

The Mahāvibhāṣāśāstra of the Sarvāstivāda school is an enormous analytical work that does its best to develop to the full the teachings of the Buddha. It is a compendium of all the Buddha’s teachings. The tradition has it that during the reign of king Kaniṣka, the venerable Pārśva, assembled 500 arhats who worked together for twelve years in order to produce this work. Besides the work of writing a commentary on the Jñānaprasthāna and systematizing the thesis of the Sarvāsti school: “past, present and future are all real, the nature of phenomena is unchanging,” the Mahāvibhāṣā also criticized the theses of other schools including the Mahāsanghika, Dharmaguptaka, Mahīśāsaka, Kāśyapīya, Sammītiya, Vibhajyavāda…..and also criticized the theses of non-Buddhist philosophies such as the Sāṃkhya, Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika and Jainism. This Sarvāstivādin work influenced the Mahāyāna teachings and because of it a Mahāyāna abhidharma began to appear, with commentaries that tended in a Dharmalakṣaṇa (phenomenological) direction. From this arose the Buddhist yoga school (yogācāra), propounded by masters such as Asanga and Vasubandhu. Although the Mahāyānābhidharmasūtra is no longer extant as such, it still survives in part in quotations in many works of the Buddhist yogācāra school.

The Mahāvibhāṣāśāstra went to extremes of analysis and explanation, which managed to daze its students and that is why, to satisfy the needs of young scholars, more concise works on Abhidharma were produced. The Abhidharmakośaśāstra of Vasubandhu was the first of these concise Abhidharma commentaries. However in compiling the Kośa Vasubhandu was heavily influenced by the Sautrāntika school although he had also begun to be influenced by the Mahāyāna teachings. At that time his elder brother, Asanga, had written the Mahāyānasaṃgrahaśāstra. This was a Mahāyāna abhidharma work. In it the store consciousness is treated as foundation and original cause of all that is. In the sarvāstivāda abhidharma there is the concept of vijñānakāya, consciousness body, equivalent to store consciousness. The term vijñānakāya is present in the Āgamas (Samyuktāgama 298) and was developed by the Sarvāstivādin Devaśarman in the work entitled Abhidharmavijñānakāyapadaśāstra.

 

The moon and stars are consciousness

 The function of Store is to maintain all the potentialities (seeds), that have manifested, are manifesting and will manifest as the world, the universe, all the living species (sendriyakāya) and the environment of these species (bhājanaloka). Phenomena manifest means that phenomena are perceived. Since Store is consciousness, the object of Store is the universe. The world, life and the environment that makes life possible are all consciousness. Moon and stars are consciousness. We are the moon and the stars. Everything we perceive through our senses and mind consciousness is Store. The point is: is our perception correct or not?

 Mahāyāna Buddhism speaks of three kinds of conditioned arising: the arising conditioned by suchness, the arising conditioned by the dharma realms and the arising conditioned by Store consciousness.

 The arising conditioned by suchness means that all that is, manifests from the reality in itself or suchness (tathatā), just as all the clouds in the sky arise from the ocean. If we look carefully into the clouds we shall see the ocean. Without the ocean there would be no clouds. This is the relationship between the phenomenal and the ontological worlds.

 The arising conditioned by the dharma realms means that all phenomena depend on each other in order to be able to manifest. Clouds, snow, rain, ice, water vapour depend on each other in order to keep manifesting. This is the inter-phenomenological relationship. You could say that the arising conditioned by suchness is the vertical relationship and the arising conditioned by the dharma realms is a horizontal relationship. Dharma realms means the realm of phenomena, which are called dharmas or objects of mind.

 The arising conditioned by Store means that all phenomena arise from Store. The meaning is much the same as the arising conditioned by suchness. It is also a vertical relationship between the phenomenal and the ontological. The difference between Store and Suchness is that Store is seen as a consciousness and the objects of the consciousness. In the light of Manifestation-Only teachings, suchness (the ultimate reality) is also consciousness and cannot exist outside of consciousness. Store can also be compared to the ocean water, a collection of all the potentialities or seeds, that manifests as clouds in the sky. Here, ‘clouds in the sky’ is a metaphor for the five skandhas, the twelve āyatanas and the eighteen dhātus. All phenomena depend on each other in order to be able to manifest is the meaning of  ‘the arising conditioned by the dharma realms’. All phenomena manifest from the Store of seeds is the meaning of ‘the arising conditioned by Store’.

Seeds manifest as manifest phenomena or phenomena that are in circulation. Manifest phenomena are the formations (saṃskāra); things that manifest because of the coming together of causes and conditions; like mountains, rivers, flowers, the grapefruit tree, etc. Because formations arise from causes and conditions they do not have a separate-self nature (svabhāva), they are not real existences, but they are also not non-existences. So the nature of formations is neither being nor non-being. Phenomena such as self (ātman) and objects (dharmas), because they are not absolute existences, are called conventional designations (upacāro). Their nature is empty of self (śūnya). This is what is explained by Vasubandhu in the first of the Thirty Manifestation-Only Verses. Although the formations do not have an absolute existence and are empty, nevertheless they are very wonderful; from the white clouds and the golden moon to the five skandhas, all are wonderful manifestations of the Dharma-body. It is only because manas and manovijñāna are still obscured that we look upon these formations as separate selves and phenomena that have a separate existence.

The object of Store is suchness

 The object of Store is the thing in itself (svalakṣaṇa) and this means the nature of reality. So the thing in itself is suchness. With suchness as its object Store cannot have wrong perception and so Store is called unobscured (not obscured by wrong perceptions). That is why Store does not need to be transformed. It is not correct to say that at the stage of arhat there is no more Store. When we say: “at the stage of arhat Store is released (vyāvṛttir arhatve)”, it means that the arhat is able to see Store as it is and no longer sees store as I or mine. The transformation here is not the transformation of Store but the transformation of the evolving consciousnesses: manas, manovijñāna and the five sense consciousnesses. Because Store has direct perception, it is directly in touch with the thing in itself and that is why Store always goes along with insight. Store is able to hold on to experiences, it has memories as its object, it stores memories and has the ability to preserve and access information from the store of memories. That is why store always goes along with the mental formation called smṛti ‘recollection’. Store is the plot of earth, where Zen koans are sown by master and disciple and from this earth the fruit of sudden enlightenment can be born. So Store goes along with concentration. Store does not fall into a state of dispersion as mind-consciousness does, so Store always has concentration. According to the Theravāda, two of the universal mental formations are concentration (ekaggatā) and vitality (jīvitendriya).

Store means maturation, the capacity to maintain life. It guarantees the continuation of the stream of life. That is why it always goes along with the mental formation of vitality, because vitality is the life faculty, the motivating force that underlies inter-continuation.

 Volume III of the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi of Master Xuanzang talks about two dimensions of Store: the tainted (āsrava) and the taintless (anāsrava). The tainted aspect of Store is when it is undetermined and goes along with the Five Universal Mental Formations and its function is simply to maintain the seeds, the body with the five sense organs and the physical universe. When it is taintless, Store abandons its undetermined nature, becomes wholesome and, for that reason, besides the Five Universal Mental Formations it has the eleven Wholesome Mental Formations and its function is to take all phenomena as the object cause. This cannot be correct. Store in the present moment at all times goes along with the thing in itself, suchness and all phenomena, because it is the ground of all phenomena. Since it is unobscured it is the great-mirror wisdom, which has the capacity to shine light on all things. Since it is undetermined it goes beyond ideas of good and evil, defiled and immaculate, being and non-being, eternal and annihilated, with taints (āsrava) and without taints (anāsrava). If you now debase it and put it on the level of good as opposed to evil or with taints as opposed to without taints, you rob it of its unobscured and undetermined nature. That is a step backwards  as far as Manifestation-Only is concerned and not a step forwards. The stars and the moon are wonderful manifestations but they cannot be said to be good, evil, defiled or immaculate, with taints or without taints. If we force the moon and the stars to take the side of the good, the immaculate, the non-tainted, is that not to rob the moon and the stars of their true worth?

The Eminent Master of Wisdom (Tuệ Trung Thượng Sĩ) was asked: “What is the immaculate Dharma body?” He answered: “Coming in and going out as a puddle of buffalo urine, Think of it as a pile of horse dung.” That is the nature of the Dharma body you cannot say that it is defiled or immaculate. Store is undetermined. It can no longer be described as with taints or without taints. These concepts are simply constructions of the mind.

All objects of mind go beyond the concepts of being and non-being.

In the Katyāyāna Sūtra (Samyuktāgama 301), the Buddha says to Katyāyāna that Right View goes beyond being and non-being. The object of Store is reality-in-itself. This reality cannot be recognized as being or non-being, good or evil, pure or defiled. This insight is reflected in the Heart Sūtra. The seeds of which Store is composed are of the same nature as Store. They are undetermined; not good or evil, not defiled or immaculate, not one and not many, not individual and not collective. The characteristics of seeds can in this light be listed as follows:

1. Changing at every instant (rather than destroyed at every instant), or cinematographic.

2. The cause and the effect stay together (you cannot remove the cause from the effect. You can never separate the cause from the effect).

3. Continuing as a series (although seeds are impermanent at every instant and without a separate self, they inter-continue).

4. Undetermined as to their ethical nature (traditionally they are said to be determined as to their ethical nature).

5. Reciprocal (waiting for each other to manifest; relying on each other to manifest).

6. Not being and not non-being.

7. Not inside and not outside (non local)

8. Not new and not old

9. Not defiled and not immaculate

10. Not the same and not different

11. Not coming and not going

12. Not individual and not collective.

In the traditional Manifestation-Only teachings there is a characteristic of seeds called “giving rise to its own fruit” (dẫn tự quả). This is not accepted in the updated teachings. There is a level of the conventional truth where we can accept that good leads to happiness and evil leads to suffering, but in the light of conditioned arising, genetics and undetermined nature we see that good, evil, defiled and immaculate are all organic and good does not continue indefinitely as good and evil indefinitely as evil.

 Cause and effect stay together (quả câu hữu) is one of the characteristics of seeds. Although the cloud is the cloud (the effect), it is also the vapour  (cause) that rises up from the ocean. In the cloud is the vapour of the ocean. In the effect is the cause. In the cause the effect is already a potentiality. Every direct perception of the skandhas, the āyatanas and the dhātus contains suchness, just as every cloud contains the vapour of the ocean.

Among the six characteristics of seeds that are mentioned in the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi, there are two characteristics that need to be re-examined: the determined nature and the giving-rise-to-its-own-fruit nature. These characteristics belong to the conventional truth, they do not cover the ultimate nature of the seeds.

 The characteristics of cinematographic, cause and effect staying together, continuing as a series and reciprocal are also in the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi and we should keep them because they are completely in accord with the original teachings of the Buddha. Cinematographic (kṣaṇabhaṅga) means ‘impermanent’. Anything that is impermanent does not have a separate self. Although all objects of mind are impermanent, cinematographic and without a separate self, they are not unconnected phenomena, which do not have an inter-connection, just as in the case of subatomic particles: they are always collaborating with each other in order to become a series representing a phenomenon. Continuing-as-a-series (hằng tùy chuyển) is a very important characteristic of seeds. Continuing as a series means, that although seeds are not separate selves, they are able to continue each other as a series.

Series here is the Sanskrit word santati. A river gives us the impression that there is some one thing that is always there, unchanging, a separate self, but if we look deeply everything is becoming something different at every instant, is impermanent and has no separate self. Cause and effect staying together, as we have seen, shows us the unity of cause and effect; the fact that cause and effect cannot be separated from each other; if cause manifests then effect also manifests, and vice versa. This is a very basic characteristic of seeds. Another essential characteristic of seeds is reciprocity. All seeds need to have sufficient causes and conditions to manifest and to be perceived as phenomena and these conditions include “conditions for growth” and the “condition of an uninterrupted series”.

The seeds in Store are undetermined just as is Store itself

 The characteristic of seeds being determined is something that needs to be reexamined. In principle since the Store consciousness is undetermined the seeds of which it is constituted must be the same. Undetermined means ‘not good’ and ‘not evil’. The nature of seeds must go beyond good and evil, in other words must be undetermined. The object of Store is reality in itself. The nature of Store is not good, not evil, not defiled and not immaculate.

 The Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi of Master Xuanzang defines undetermined as follows: determined (vyākṛta) means something is (ethically) determined as good or evil. Good and evil can be recognized by the fact that the one brings about happiness and pleasant feelings and the other suffering and painful feelings. This is to discriminate phenomena the one from the other and not see their interbeing nature, but the nature of Store is not to discriminate like this and so it is called undetermined.

The Mahāvibhāṣāśāstra mentions five kinds of inter-continuation (santati): antarābhavasantati (intermediate inter-continuation), upapattibhavasantati (rebirth inter-continuation), periodic inter-continuation (childhood, youth, adulthood and old age), dharma-characteristic inter-continuation (good, evil, or neutral characteristic), and kṣanikasantati (momentary continuation).  Dharma-characteristic intercontinuation is defined as meaning that what is wholesome can, because of hindering conditions, become what is unwholesome or undetermined and what is unwholesome can because of conditions become what is wholesome or undetermined. According to this definition the nature of seeds, like everything else, is impermanent and can change and that is why we cannot say that the nature of seeds is determined. Store is defined as undetermined. Because it is undetermined all the seeds must also be undetermined. Notions such as wholesome and unwholesome, defiled and immaculate, being and non-being are ideas that arise in mind consciousness and the nature of Store is to go beyond all these notions. Mind consciousness plays the role of the gardener who sows the seeds (infuses the seeds). Any seeds (like riceseed) that are necessary for life are sown by mind consciousness and those seeds are called wholesome. Seeds of weeds for example, which are not necessary for life are called unwholesome. This is also the definition of good and evil in the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi where the undetermined nature is talked about (chapter III). The fourth  characteristic of seeds instead of the determined nature should be the undetermined nature. Because seeds are undetermined they are organic and can on the level of the conventional truth become good or evil.

 For this reason the nature of Store is no birth and no death, no being and no non-being, no increase and no decrease, no coming and no going, not the same and not different. These pairs of opposites only exist at the level of the evolving consciousnesses and not at the level of Store. When we talk about the nature of seeds as being destroyed in every instant (kṣaṇabhaṅga), it does not mean that the nature of seeds is to be born and to die. Seeds are impermanent, they continue in a series, but they are not really born and they do not really die. Just as according to the first law of thermodynamics, the law of the conservation of energy, the nature of matter and energy is no birth and no death, no increase and no decrease. The expression ‘destroyed at every instant’ means that seeds are cinematographic and for that reason they also are periodically impermanent. Periodic impermanence is the same as continuing as a series.

Store goes along with the particular mental formations

If Store has a direct perception of reality in itself, if the object of Store is suchness and the Dharmadhātu, Store must operate along with the mental formation of wisdom (prajñā), which is one of the five particular mental formations. If Store operates along with wisdom it also must operate along with mindfulness and concentration, because mindfulness and concentration are what make wisdom possible. According to the Sthaviravāda the universal mental formations include one-pointed mind (ekagracitta) and vitality (jīvitendriya) as well as contact, mental attention, feeling, perception and volition. We can say that as well as operating with these last five, Store also operates with zeal, determination, mindfulness, concentration and insight and vitality or life principle. So the life principle is not one of the cittaviprayukta (disassociated from mind) dharmas as it is listed in the 100 dharmas of the Dharmalakṣaṇa school. The lifeprinciple is life itself, the force that underlies the desire to live. The function of Store is to maintain life in the body with its five sense organs and also in the environment, in which the body operates, or nature. There are times when the operation of mind consciousness is interrupted. Nevertheless life is maintained at those times and that is the function of Store. Since Store maintains life it is upon this basis that mind consciousness comes back into operation again. Along with the autonomic, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, Store maintains the state known in biology as homeostasis. The regulation of the breathing, the heartbeat, the circulation of the blood, the digestive system, perspiration, temperature, etc. is something unconscious and all of it is supported by the life principle, the desire to live. The desire to eat or hunger or the desire to drink or thirst, the instinct to continue the species and to reproduce are all related to the life principle. These mental formations are all unobstructed and indeterminate as is Store itself. We cannot say that they are good or evil, defiled or immaculate. Good, evil, defiled and immaculate are differentiations made by the evolving consciousnesses. They are not the concern of Store.

Maturation at every instant

In the nineteenth of the Thirty Verses it is said that when the previous maturation is exhausted, another maturation arises.This sentence could give rise to misunderstanding and make people think that Store in its function as maturing is a Self that maintains the identity of a person throughout his life. If Store continues as a series in the way that a river does, if the seeds are impermanent at every instant, then maturation is also like that. There are two kinds of impermanence: momentary impermanence and periodic impermanence. Periodic impermanence does not necessarily mean the end of someone’s life. When a child reaches puberty, that is a new maturation. If we compare a teenager at the age of puberty with the picture of how she was 10 years earlier, we shall see how different she is now. It looks as if the child of ten years ago has died, in order for the teenager to be born. So maturation can take place at many periods in life. The young adult is different from the teenager. The middle-aged person is different from the young adult. The aged person is different from the middle-aged person. If we look closely we shall see that maturation is taking place at every instant. On the tree some fruits may already be ripe while others are still green, and others are only just formed. It is possible for only one tenth of the cloud to become rain, while nine tenths keep the form of a cloud. One maturation is not yet exhausted and another maturation is already taking place. A cloud can look down and see its continuation in the form of a stream, a sheet of ice or a snowstorm. In the Sūtra in 42 Chapters the Buddha says that the lifespan of a person is not 100 years but the length of a breath. That is the meaning of cinematographic, momentary impermanence or momentary maturation. That is why in the Fifty Manifestation Verses it is said: “Maturation takes place at every instant.” (verse 35).

The Lover (or the 7th Consciousness)

While Store is the root consciousness, and the one that is all the seeds, the ground of all phenomena, embracing all the potentialities that manifest as everything from the body with its five senses to the physical universe, Manas (the Lover) is the cogitating consciousness. Day and night it silently grabs hold of a part of store and maintains that this is I, this is myself. We can call Manas the Lover to differentiate it from root consciousness or the Store. These are terms used by Master Xuanzang in his Verses on the Eight Consciousnesses. The Lover is first of all the intention to live, the instinct of self-preservation. This seed is available in Store as the life principle, the will to maintain life, the desire to continue as a stream. Store itself is a stream. Satkāyadṛṣṭi, the view that I am this body, is the point of view of the Lover. Satkāyadṛṣṭi means first of all the view that I am this body, but it is also the view that I am the other four skandhas: feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. The five skandhas manifest from a part of Store called the nimittabhāga (the object of perception as cause).

 Although the mode of perception of the Lover is direct, it is wrong direct perception. In other words it is a wrong intuition. In the nimittabhāga of Store the five skandhas are a wonder of life, a part of the Dharma body, but as far as the Lover is concerned they are myself or something belonging to myself. The Lover is also called Cogitation. The vision of the Lover is obscured because it is not able to realise the thing in itself (svalakṣaṇa). Instead it creates its own object of perception which is not the nature of reality but a false image of reality, even though it has its basis in reality. This object is called a Representation not the thing in itself. Representation means that it is only representing reality. It is not reality itself. It is a mental construction. The five skandhas that the Lover grasps to as myself, are not the five skandhas in themselves, but an image of the five skandhas created by a wrong and subjective perception. So the Lover is obscured unlike Store which is unobscured. The cogitation, thinking and perception of the Lover is as follows: “This is myself, that is not myself. I have to take care of myself first. I have to protect myself first.” Based on this perception the Lover goes a long way down the path of obscurity with the tendency to seek pleasure and without knowing the dangers that come from pleasure-seeking. At the same time it has the tendency to run away from any kind of suffering and does not realise that suffering helps us to recognise happiness and to produce the energies of understanding and compassion, which themselves are the source of real happiness. Moreover the Lover does not know the danger of ignoring the law of moderation. Store and mind consciousness are aware of this danger.

The nature of the Lover is to always want to live and always to fear death. The tendency to cling to life has its roots in Store, because Store has the function of maintaining life, and operates along with the mental formation called life principle. The Lover craves life and fears death but the idea to kill oneself also comes from the Lover, because the Lover wants always to run away from suffering. When someone is overwhelmed by suffering the tendency to want to run away from it becomes much stronger than the energy that craves life and fears death. However, in Store there is also the ground of an insight into the unborn, the capacity to see the no-death, no-birth , no coming, no going, no being, no non-being of all phenomena. If you use mind consciousness to practice looking deeply and are able to penetrate the nature of reality , mind consciousness will realize this insight and reduce the fear and anxiety of the Lover. This very anxiety and fear, this tendency to crave life and fear death is the mud that can be used to grow the lotus of the insight of the unborn. The Lover and the insight of the unborn are a pair of reciprocal opposites: they need each other to manifest, just as above needs below, right needs left and inside needs outside. As long as the Lover is, there is the wisdom of the unborn, even though that wisdom has not yet fully manifested.

The nimittabhāga (object of perception) of the Lover

The Manifestation-Only masters are not in accord about what the object of perception of the Lover is. Nanda says that the object cause or self for the Lover is the self-knowing aspect of perception (svasaṃvittibhāga) of Store, and the objects belonging to this self are the mental formations that operate along with Store. Master Citrabhānu says that the Lover takes the darśanabhāga (subject that perceives) of Store to be the idea of a separate self and the nimittabhāga (object perceived part) of Store to be what belongs to this self. Master Sthiramati says that the Lover takes Store to be the self and the seeds in Store as what belongs to the self. Master Dharmapāla says that the Lover takes the darśanabhāga part of store to be the object that is the self.

To put it simply and concretely the object of the Lover is this body with its five senses and the whole store of experiences, knowledge, emotional attachments, diplomas, honours, standards, interests, property, land, spouse and children etc. All these things are the object of the Lover. The Lover is the self and all those things listed above are what belong to the self. Self is the subject that has a wrong perception of self and what belongs to self are the objects that belong to that wrong perception of self.

 In Store needs like feeling hungry and wanting to eat, thirsty and wanting to drink, tired and wanting to sleep, emission of semen when there is a surplus etc. all happen naturally. They are not defiled, immaculate, good or evil. In the Lover, however, the tendency to seek pleasure and avoid suffering is the basis for the arising of concepts of pure, impure, good and evil in mind consciousness. The basic reason for pleasure seeking and avoiding suffering in the Lover is that the Lover is obscured by the view of a separate self. Besides the view of a separate self, the Lover is obscured by the mental formations: ignorance about self, complexes about self and attachment to self. Self complexes are the superiority, the inferiority and the equality complexes. They are all based on the wrong view of self and bring about a great deal of suffering and frustration.

Although the Lover is obscured, it is, as Store, undetermined because the self-preservation and self-protection instincts are a very natural part of life. Because the Lover is undetermined it is organic in nature: the afflictions in the Lover can be transformed into awakening as mud can be used to grow lotuses. If the nature of the Lover were ethically determined as good or evil, the Lover would not be able to play the role that it does.

Lotuses cannot be without mud

As we study Manifestation-Only teachings we should learn to avoid terms like: “the inner consciousness, the outer world, mind gives rise to spirit and mind gives rise to matter”. We have to become used to concepts of neither inside nor outside, of subject and object that cannot be separated from each other. Sentences like: “True representation is mind that gives rise to mind,” and “False representation is mind that gives rise to matter,” in the Three-Word Scripture on Consciousness-Only by Tang Dayuan could lead to the misunderstanding that inside and outside are independent of each other, and subject and object are independent of each other. The object of the Lover, although it is said to be the five skandhas of grasping, is also the nimittabhāga (object ) of Store or of mind as a whole. The Lover is essentially subconscious, silently holding on to the object to which it is attached. In the psychoanalysis of Freud there is the idea of an “id”, whose function is very like that of the Lover: it goes after pleasure, avoids suffering, has no regard for the laws of moderation and moral customs. Continuing the id is the ego, which has the capacity to inhibit and prevent the id from behaving in a way that contravenes moral standards. On the other hand if the ego sees that the time is right it could also allow the id to satisfy its demands. The ego is equivalent to the mind consciousness. When ego is stimulated by an image or an idea it can go along with the id. But when ego thinks about the matter and knows that it is not possible to do what is not allowed, it knows how to inhibit the id. If the ego only knows how to inhibit and does not know how to shine light and sublimate, it will lead to unconscious repression and things, like desire or deep resentment, that are repressed over a period of time can rise up out of control. The ego, which means mind consciousness, knows what is happening in the environment and for that reason can, encourage, allow or inhibit. In psychoanalysis the ego is sometimes united with the id, especially on an unconscious level and at other times it opposes the id. Over the ego is the superego. The superego has the tendency to sublimate. It finds pleasure in culture, art, ethical behavior, ideals, etc. Thus the id of the subconscious is continued by the ego and the superego of the conscious mind. In the Buddhist tradition mind consciousness does not only inhibit the Lover, it also shines light for the Lover. If mind consciousness knows how to meditate on conditioned co-arising and interbeing and sees that the sentient-being world and the physical world are closely related to each other and co-arise together, then mind-consciousness will realize the insight of no-self and be able to transform the sexual energy and attachment of the Lover into wholesome energies like the bodhicitta, the vow to serve, compassion, insight into interbeing and no self and the characteristics of the wisdom of sameness and the wisdom of wonderful observation. The Lover, mind consciousness, the wisdom of sameness and the wisdom of wonderful observation are not levels of consciousness separate from each other. They all depend on each other and continue each other in a series, just like the lotus roots continue the mud, the lotus stem continues the roots and the lotus flower continues the stem. One of them is not possible without the others. Because there is mud, there are lotuses and because there are lotuses there is mud. That is the wisdom of interbeing and reciprocity. Reciprocity (anyamanya), means things mutually rely on each other to manifest; like above and below, inside and outside, short and long, defiled and immaculate. As long as one of the pairs is there, the other is. That is the truth of: “this is because that is,” which is repeated many times in the Āgamas.

Not violating the principle of sahajāśraya (the ground of co-arising)

Master Xuanzang transmitted to Khuiji a short poem on the nature of the three objects of cognition, that is the objects of consciousness: the reality in itself, representation and mere image. The gāthā is as follows:

Reality in itself is not dependent on mind
The mere image is a construction of the perceiver alone
Representation is a construction of the Lover and Store
Other matters like good and evil and seeds, etc. depend on the above.

This means that reality in itself does not depend on the subject who perceives; that the mere image of reality is the creation of the darśanabhāga (the subject who perceives), and the representation of reality is the creation of the Lover and the Store. Other things like good and evil and seeds, etc. depend on the above principles. 

Reality in itself is not dependent on mind means that reality in itself is a kind of object of perception that cannot be influenced and modified by the perceiver. On first reflection this may sound correct, but it could lead to huge misunderstandings. Firstly people could think that the thing in itself is something independent of the consciousness, which is always present, whether the perceiver is there or not. This goes against the law of reciprocity, because the object of perception, whether it be the thing in itself or not, always has to manifest simultaneously with the subject of perception. This principle is called sahabhūtāśraya in Sanskrit and means the ground as co-existence. Of course the reality in itself needs to have its ground in the seeds (bījāśraya), but in order to manifest as an object of perception it needs its ground in co-existence. Following on this we see that the reality in itself can only be perceived when the perceiver (darśanabhāga) is true mind and not when the perceiver is wrongly- perceiving mind. Only true mind  (direct mode of perception) is able to condition reality in itself. If it is wrongly-perceiving mind (mode of wrong direct perception or mode of wrong inference) there is no way that reality in itself (suchness) can manifest. So to say that reality in itself is not dependent on mind is not exactly correct.

The second sentence: The mere image is a construction of the perceiver alone means that the mere image cannot just arise of itself and is simply a construction of the perceiver. This also appears to contradict the principle of reciprocity. On reading this sentence people could think that the perceiver is there first of all and later on it constructs on its own some imagined images to be its object. However, we know that those images whether they are purely imagined or have some basis in reality all come from the store of memory, in the form of seeds. There is a certain stimulation, an impulse in the nervous system, that accesses those images in the memory store, so that they are able to manifest again. So objects as mere images also have the seed basis (bījāśraya) just as every other object of perception. Naturally objects that manifest from the seed basis also need to depend on the darśanabhāga (perceiver) in order to play their role as nimittabhāga (perceived). That is reciprocity. So to say that the mere image is a construction of the perceiver alone is not correct. Even if the objects of perception are something wholly imagined like the fur of a turtle or Father Christmas, they are not images constructed out of nothing. For example, the image of an elephant with wings flying in the sky, although it is called a figment of the imagination, still has a basis in reality. The image of an elephant is based in reality and the image of wings is also based in the reality of wings that appear on a bird. Mere imagination is also based on images that have a basis in reality. The images of a turtle with fur or a hare with horns, although they are the constructions of mind, are also made up of real images such as  the horns of a stag, which are placed on the head of a hare. To say that the nimittabhāga (perceived) is the same seed as the darśanabhāga (perceiver) is also not possible, because this goes against the characteristic of the cause co-existing with the effect, a characteristic that all seeds have. Mere images have their own seeds and those seeds are kept by Store in its memory.

The third line of the gāthā: Representation is a construction of the Lover and Store, means that the object of the Lover is a nimittabhāga (the perceived part of consciousness) which is put together by the cooperation of the Lover and Store. The object called ‘representation’  is not reality in itself but an image that is projected from reality. The idea that there is a true representation and a false representation is an idea that needs to be reexamined. According to the Logic School of Manifestation-Only teachings, when consciousness conditions consciousness, meaning when the Lover conditions Store, the object of perception is a representation and only then is it a true representation. When mind consciousness and the five sense consciousnesses condition the material world, the object is still a representation but in this case it is a false and not a true representation. Following the gāthā of Master Xuanzang, Tang Dayuan wrote in his Three-Word Scripture on Consciousness-Only: “False representation is when mind conditions the form, the object depends on the subject, the object arises because of the subject.” This means that when mind conditions the form, the object is only false representation and never true representation, because the object part (nimittabhāga) is wholly dependent on the subject part (darśanabhāga) and the object is only possible because of the subject. This also sounds as if it goes against the principle of reciprocity and it does not accord with the principle of sahajāśraya (co-arising as the basis). It makes it sound as if form and mind are two separate realities that can exist apart from each other. This is a basic wrong perception, which in the Manifestation-Only school is called double grasping: the thesis that the subject and object of perception can exist separately from each other. Many neuroscientists are also still caught in this dualistic way of looking, which maintains there is a subject that perceives, which goes looking for an object of perception separate from itself; there is a subjective consciousness that goes looking for an objective reality. The word ‘grāhaka’ means the one who grasps or perceives and the word ‘grāhya’ means the object to be grasped or perceived. Double grasping means to be caught in the idea that the grasper and the thing to be grasped are two separate realities, independent of each other. We have to see that the thing that we call form is also the mind. The truth is that the manifestations that we designate self and objects of perception all belong to the nimittabhāga (object part) of Store, which means that they are Store, or in other words they are mind. We cannot say that the darśanabhāga (perceiving part) is mind and the nimittabhāga is form. That which we call form or matter is just a formation manifesting from seeds. When we say: the object part (nimittabhāga) is wholly dependent on the subject part (darśanabhāga) and the object is only possible because of the subject, we are caught in a theory of idealism, which is not in accord with the Manifestation-Only teachings, because that way of looking has not yet overcome double-grasping. When we study the Manifestation-Only teachings we have to learn to remove the distinction between mind and matter, subject and object of perception or darśana and nimittabhāga. It is not correct to say that the object as representation is a construction of darśanabhāga, because it goes against the principle of bījāśraya, seeds as the basis, and the characteristic of seeds that the cause is found in the effect.

 

The yearning for the absolute

The basic difficulty in the process of the development of Manifestation-Only teachings has been to overcome dualism and absolutism. The majority of us are looking for the absolutely good, the absolutely true, the absolutely beautiful and the absolute happiness. When we study Manifestation-Only we see interbeing, co-arising, and the principle of reciprocity. Without mud there are no lotuses; without suffering there can be no happiness; without the impure there cannot be purity; without evil there can be no good. We think that when we reach the stage of arhat, the Lover is no longer there; there is just the wisdom of inclusiveness. We think that when we become Buddha there is no more suffering; there is only happiness. This means we believe that goodness can be there without evil, purity without impurity, lotus without mud. This violates the law of interbeing. Therefore to say that at the stage of arhat, in the attainment of the cessation of feelings and perceptions, on the supramundane path the Lover is no longer there, is incorrect. If the Lover is no longer there, how can there be the wisdom of inclusiveness? The two have to be there together and rely on each other as the lotus relies on the mud. What is more, if there is no Lover how can there be mind consciousness? If mind consciousness is not there, how can there be the wisdom of wonderful observation? Does this mean that Buddha and the arhats do not have mind consciousness? If not, with what do they practice mindfulness and looking deeply? If you want to have mind consciousness you have to have its base which is the Lover, the 7th consciousness. Mind consciousness is the extension of the Lover, just as the lotus stem and lotus flower are the extensions of the lotus roots and the mud. Thanks to the mud the lotus can be there. Without the Lover there is no mind consciousness. We have to learn to accept the patent truth that without mud there is no lotus, without the first noble truth of suffering there is no third noble truth of happiness, without left there is no right. Practice means to train ourselves to produce happiness and joy and to handle suffering. Handling suffering means producing happiness. When we have insight and know how to handle suffering, we suffer very little and we are able to use suffering to help produce happiness just as we use mud to grow lotuses. Without mud, no lotus and without suffering, no happiness is possible. We often heard it said that the kleśas, afflictions, are the Bodhi, awakening; that nirvāṇa is to be found in saṃsāra, and that is the truth. It is an illusion to think you can have lotuses without mud.

 A practitioner is someone who knows how to sow and to water the seeds of compassion and insight frequently. Insight and compassion are as impermanent as any other phenomenon, so they need to be nourished and reinforced. That is why after becoming enlightened the Buddha continued to practice sitting meditation, walking meditation and looking deeply. Even though we know how to cultivate rice, if every year we do not sow the rice paddy and tend the crop, we shall not have anything to harvest and to eat. Listening to the Dharma, keeping the precepts, looking deeply and practicing everyday is the work of sowing the seeds of understanding and compassion, and stopping greed, anger, pride and confusion from arising, is the work of removing the weeds that stifle the crop and cause the harvest to fail. This is what is meant by ‘infusing’ (vāsanā). If we stop practicing for several months or years, it is like stopping to plant and tend to the rice crop for months or years. We shall have no rice to eat and weeds will take over the rice fields. Without practicing we shall not have understanding and compassion and the afflictions like greed, anger and ignorance will take over. So the stage called non-regression, although it is something a practitioner can realise, has to be maintained by a continual practice. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas have to maintain the practice in order to maintain the state of non-regression. All phenomena are conditioned (saṃskṛta) and have to be reinforced if they are to be maintained for a long time. That is why bhāvanā, cultivation, is the word used in Sanskrit for meditation practice.

 

Reality in itself with signs and without signs

The nature of all the seeds (bīja) that are conserved in Store can be called “reality in itself without substance,” or “reality in itself without signs”. When the seeds manifest as formations, they still maintain their nature of reality in itself, but this is called reality with substance, or reality with signs, they carry with them the marks or signs that can be universal (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) or individual (svalakṣaṇa), same, different, coming to be or dissolving. Because Store is unobscured these signs remain reality in itself. The evolving consciousnesses can be caught in these signs and for that reason give rise to the afflictions: greed, anger, fear, ignorance, pride, etc. Contemporary physics is also looking for the basic nature of phenomena. Some people say that the basic fabric is subatomic particles. Some people say it is force fields. The expression force fields is the nearest equivalent to the concept of seeds. Seeds are a kind of energy, potentialities, known as śakti in Manifestation-Only teachings. The seeds themselves are reality in itself without signs and when they manifest as phenomena they can be called reality in itself with signs. Store is not deceived by the signs of phenomena.

 

Deduction and objectivisation

Because the Lover is caught in these signs, it grasps the five skandhas and says they are myself. From that point on the five skandhas become the five skandhas of grasping (upādānaskandha). In Store the five skandhas are the wonderful Dharma body. In the Lover the five skandhas are the object of attachment. True representation is the object of the Lover. Because of deduction and projections, the Lover sees the five skandhas as a separate self. Therefore the object of the Lover could be called a projected representation. This is the case that is usually referred to as “mind perceiving mind”. In the case which people call “mind perceiving form” the object of mind consciousness is objectivised representation. This means that mind consciousness makes out that the object of its perception is an objective reality; whether there is consciousness or not, the object remains the same. Objectivisation is a new term in Manifestation-Only teachings. It means making out that the object of perception is an objective reality that lies outside of consciousness.

 

With and without substance

People also talk of two kinds of mere image. The first is mere image with substance. This refers to the seeds of images that have been sown in Store and maintained by Store. The second kind is mere image without substance, or mere images created by the mind. These are images that are an assemblage, patching together or confusion of a number of mere images with substance. An artist’s power of creation lies in knowing how to use mere images with substance to create mere images without substance, which will then again become images with substance in Store.

 

Continuation without elimination

According to the principle of reciprocity, the wisdom of inclusiveness makes a pair with the Lover, just as lotus and mud make a pair, because they rely on each other to be. Without the Lover, the wisdom of inclusiveness cannot be. As long as the wisdom of inclusiveness is there the Lover is there, and vice versa. If you say that there will only be lotuses when there is no more mud, it is not correct. Lotuses can only be while there is mud. The two need each other and the good thing is that, thanks to the practice, we can use mud to cultivate lotus. Both mud and lotuses are organic and impermanent. The Lover and the wisdom of inclusiveness are the same. So to say that at the stage of arhat, during the cessation attainment and on the supramundane path, the Lover ceases to exist, is not correct. If the Lover does not exist then the wisdom of inclusiveness cannot exist either.

Once we can accept the Lover, we feel safe. After that the practitioner wants to handle the Lover skillfully in order to nourish the wisdom of inclusiveness. That is what is meant by: “The afflictions are the awakening,” or “The saha  (inhabited by humans) world is the Pure Land,” or “Saṃsāra is nirvāṇa.”

 

Removing boundaries

As students of Manifestation-Only we should learn gradually to remove boundaries between pairs of opposites like good and evil, ignorance and awakening, pure and impure, mind and matter, subject and object, etc. Science is also going in this direction. In the beginning we thought that heaven and earth were two different realms, but with the discovery of the law of universal gravity, we see that both heaven and earth are governed by that law, so we see that earth is a part of heaven and heaven is a part of the earth. After that it was discovered that sound and air are not separate. Sound is possible because of vibrations in the particles of the air. Then comes temperature: heat comes about because of the electromagnetic interaction between atoms and particles within matter. Electricity and magnetism are not two separate things, but just two aspects of the same reality. Electromagnetic waves and light waves, just as matter and energy, are also not separate entities. Matter can become energy and energy can become matter. The best thing that Manifestation-Only teaches is that if we want to be in touch with reality in itself we have to abandon double grasping. Double grasping is being attached to one of a pair of opposites, the belief that there is a subject of perception without an object of perception, and an object of perception without a subject of perception. We know that the darśanabhāga (perceiving part) and the nimittabhāga (perceived part) rely on each other in order to manifest, they act as causes remaining in the effect for each other. With that insight we are able to remove the boundary that separates the perceiver from the perceived. Manifestation-Only needs to go farther and help us remove the dualism between body and mind, pure and impure, good and evil, suffering and happiness, ignorance and awakening, etc.

If Manifestation-Only is able to do that, it will become the highest vehicle and not just an expedient vehicle as it has been seen to be from the fifth century until today. Master Fazang of the Tang era began this work, but only half the work has been realized.

Later acquired wisdom

Store can be called root wisdom and mind consciousness is the main force that realises the later acquired wisdom.  The seeds of later acquired wisdom are available in Store. Mind consciousness only needs to recognise, access and nourish this wisdom by the practice of looking deeply and making an effort so that this insight grows stronger everyday and can shine light on our everyday actions. Store is the earth. Mind consciousness is the gardener. In order to eat we have to garden and we have to keep gardening, tending to the plants and reinforcing our practice. The later acquired wisdom has to be nourished and reinforced everyday by the work of the practice.

Manifestation-Only teachings confirm that mind consciousness and the five sense consciousnesses all have the capacity to be in touch with reality in itself, because these consciousnesses have the potential of the direct mode of cognition. When mind consciousness operates alone and when it operates in conjunction with the five sense consciousnesses, it is able to be in touch with the reality in itself by the sign of the thing in itself (svalakṣaṇa). However, because of the habit of constructing and differentiating, the sign of the thing in itself quickly becomes a universal sign (sāmānyalakṣaṇa), so that the object is no longer the thing in itself but a representation. The mode of cognition (pramāṇa) may still be direct but it is nevertheless wrong direct cognition. The same is true for the five sense consciousnesses when they rely on mind consciousness. Vikalpa, differentiating mental construction, is a construction of consciousness based on an object of perception that is reality in itself. According to this way of looking, clouds are only clouds, they are not rain or vapour; father is only father, he is not son, the body is just the body, it is not the physical world or the environment. The truth is, however, that things interare: clouds are also water, the son is also the continuation of his father, the body is made from elements in the environment. Thanks to looking deeply into conditioned co-arising, interbeing and reciprocity, mind consciousness is able to discover the paratantra (relying on the other to be) nature of things, so that it, too, is finally able to be in touch with the pariṇiṣpanna (fulfilled) nature. The pre-eminent concepts of Manifestation-Only teachings are: undetermined and double grasping; and not: the three self-natures or the three non-natures.

 The great commentators like Dharmakīrti and Dignāga, brought into the Manifestation-Only teachings the ideas of the three objects of perception and the three modes of cognition. These ideas have helped to clarify Manifestation-Only epistemology, but they have also the potential to create some extreme views and reinforce the idea that there is only mind without any object. If we are able to remove the dividing line between mind and matter and see that mind and matter rely on each other in order to manifest in a reciprocal manner, then we have been able to overcome double grasping.

 

No coming, no going

Just as the way of presenting the twelve nidānas (links of interdependent arising), has been designed to explain the mechanism of rebirth, Manifestation-Only teachings have tried to do the same by saying that when this maturation ends other maturations continue. In the Verses on the Eight Consciousnesses Master Xuanzang, talks of Store as the boss, the leader of the other consciousnesses. Store is said to play the role of director, it is the consciousness that is first to come and last to leave. When someone dies the sense consciousnesses and mind consciousness stop operating first and Store stops operating afterwards. This could lead to the misunderstanding that Store is a soul that leaves the corpse. The nature of Store, however, is no coming and no going, no after and no before. The matter is one of manifesting or not manifesting, and not a matter of being or not being, coming or going. In winter we do not see butterflies and flowers manifesting, but this does not mean that flowers and butterflies have ceased to exist. In spring butterflies and flowers manifest, but this does not mean that they come out of nothing. Store conserves the seeds of butterflies and flowers, so that when the conditions are right, flowers and butterflies can manifest. Store also conserves the faded flower petals and the ragged butterfly wings, so that in spring they can become elements that feed new butterflies and new flowers. In popular belief rebirth means there must be a soul. Maturation according to Manifestation-Only teachings, is not the matter of a soul but of a continuing stream of life, of potential energies that are in all animate and inanimate forms of life.

 

The 18 realms (dharmadhātu) are not the “everything”

Before we speak of the role of mind consciousness in the process of practice and transformation, we need to mention the matter of the concept of “everything (all phenomena)``. In the sūtra the Buddha has taught that everything is found within the 18 realms of elements: the six sense organs, the six sense objects and the six sense consciousnesses. When we look into mind consciousness, we see lying underneath it are the Lover and the Store, just as when we look carefully at an iceberg we shall see a huge part of the iceberg is hidden in the ocean, only just a small tip shows itself on the surface of the polar seas. Store is like the iceberg in the ocean and the tiny tip that we see is like mind consciousness.

Thanks to scientific experiment we know that the universe is not just what we perceive with our five senses. Each sense helps us be in touch with a certain sense object, the nose only allows us to be in touch with scent and not with form, sound, taste and touch. All of our senses are quite limited. A dog’s ears help the dog to hear sounds that humans cannot hear. So the sounds with frequencies that are higher or lower than the frequencies recognized by human audition do not lie within the realm of human perception. The same is true of light. There are light frequencies that humans are unable to perceive. If we were able to perceive them the world would be a very different place from the world we perceive now. There are species of animal whose olfactory and auditory senses are far more sensitive than the same senses in humans. This means that with our five sense consciousnesses we just create a tiny universe and we are not able to perceive the true nature of the universe. The object of our consciousness, made possible by the five senses, is mostly a representation and not the thing in itself. As far as the oysters, who have no olfactory and auditory senses, living on the bed of the ocean are concerned, the universe is much smaller than the human universe and “everything” for them is much smaller than “everything” for us. There may be species with senses that are more sensitive than ours and as far as they are concerned the universe could be something much greater and much more beautiful than ours. The oysters living on the bed of the ocean do not have the chance to observe the universe with its moon and stars, the blue surface of the ocean with its mighty waves or hear the resounding music of the rising tide. The bat has a sense organ that allows it to know what is in front of it for as far as three kilometres in the dark, so that it can avoid bumping into things as it flies. That sense organ is like a kind of radar and the human body is not equipped with it. We should not be over confident about our senses and mind consciousness has the capacity to wake us up to the limitations of our senses so that we are not too excited and dogmatic in our way of relating to the world and all its species. Actually we have more than the five senses. The receptor neurons on our skin are of many kinds. Some receptors are only able to sense touch, or cold, or hot or pain. Each receptor can only do its own work. The inner ear has a sense organ called the labyrinth that is able to know the position of our body in space, what is above, what is below, what is on the right, on the left and thanks to that sense we can keep our balance when we are standing, walking, lying, sitting, running and jumping.

Science helps us to recognize the limitations of our sense organs and enlarges our capacity to see, hear and move from place to place. Even though we are not clairvoyant or clairaudient and do not have the power to appear in a different place at will, modern science and technology allow us to see and hear what is happening thousands of kilometres away. We can travel at the speed of clouds and be rocketed to visit neighbouring stars.

Biology and physics help us to remove more easily our dualistic view of mind and matter, psyche and soma, so that we are able to see the reciprocal and interbeing nature between body and mind. Our mental formations like anxiety, anger, fear, sadness and despair are closely related to nerve impulses and neurotransmitters. We see how body is the continuation of mind and mind is the continuation of body and for that reason we are able to let go of the differentiation that is called vikalpa (differentiating mental construction) and see the unity of all phenomena, of subject and object, creator and creation, lotus and mud, purity and impurity. In our own time Manifestation-Only teachings have to learn from biology and physics. They do not need to go along entirely with logic as in the time of Dharmakīrti and Dignāga. Psychology and biology should go hand in hand. If we are studying the process of the arising of thoughts and feelings, we should have knowledge of the nervous system and the brain. In the very first instant of perception the five sense consciousnesses do not yet form differentiating mental constructions, and are not yet caught in the universal signs and although they touch the thing in itself, it is only a very limited part of the thing in itself, while Store conserves all the seeds of reality in itself. In the light of reciprocity the Store as subject is also the Store as object, the perceiver part is the perceived part, because we cannot separate them from each other.

The role of mind consciousness

When mind consciousness is in a state of dispersion it can very easily be pulled away by the Lover and, coming into contact with objects of desire, its attention is inappropriate attention (ayonisomanaskāra). If mind consciousness lets itself be pulled away like that it will bring about suffering. If mind consciousness does not know how to look into the four kinds of food, it will allow the body and mind to consume toxins which cause the afflictions and suffering to arise. If mind consciousness does not learn to practice the mindfulness trainings and help the Lover control impulses like craving, selfishness and hatred, it will increase the mud and decrease the number of lotuses. If  mind consciousness does not know how to look deeply, but only covers up and suppresses suffering, sooner or later there will be symptoms of mental and physical illness and mind consciousness will become mind consciousness in disorder or psychosis. If mind consciousness practises mindfulness and concentration in daily life, it will be able to produce peace, joy and happiness in every step, every breath, every action and pacify body and mind. If mind consciousness knows how to use mindful breathing to recognise the suffering and sadness, without running away from or covering it up, then mind consciousness will be able to embrace and calm down the feelings and emotions of sadness and finally by the work of looking deeply it will reach the insight that will transform suffering into understanding and compassion, transform mud into lotuses in the present moment. By meditating on impermanence, non-desirability, interdependent arising and interbeing, mind consciousness dissolves mental constructions and reaches the insight of interbeing (paratantra), that is able to remove the dividing lines that create suffering. If mind consciousness continues to meditate on interbeing, the insight into fulfilled truth (pariṇiṣpaṇṇa) will gradually arise, that is the later acquired wisdom which helps mind consciousness to be in touch with the Dharma body, suchness and reality in itself, just as Store is in touch with these things.

These methods of practice are very concrete; much more practical than practices like the four Methods of Investigation the five layers of consciousness-only meditation, the process of contemplation, extension, thorough understanding, cultivation, coming to the end, the ten bodhisattva stages, the four dhyānas, the four formless attainments, which are all rich in theory, but not very concrete as far as daily practice is concerned.

 

The Four Methods of Investigation (paryeṣaṇa)

The aim of the four Methods of Investigation is to help the practitioner see the fictitious nature  of designations (nāma), objects (vastu), designated self-nature (svabhāva-prajñapti), and designated differentiation  (viśeṣa-prajñapti). These four things are fictitious by the fact that they are all constructions of consciousness. The Sanskrit word  paryeṣaṇa means search, investigation. These four Methods of Investigation are mentioned in the Mahāyāna-saṃgraha-śāstra of Master Asanga.

 

The first of the four Methods of Investigation is the Investigation into designations (nāmaparyeṣaṇa). A name helps us to be able to conceptualise something, but the name is not the thing. The thing itself is changing at every instant, but the name stays the same. The thing is compounded of many different elements and the name helps us conceptualise those compounded elements as one thing. When we meditate on the name, we should just see the name and not confound it with the thing itself. The name jug is to direct our attention to a jug. As far as the designation jug is concerned, a jug is just a jug and it cannot be anything other than a jug; like a bowl, plate, clay, furnace, water, the potter’s hand and so on. The term jug excludes everything else, even though between the jug (vastu) and the other things there is a close relationship of interdependence to the extent that if they were not there the jug would not be there either. Therefore the function of a name is to exclude (apoha) and it is not the same as the thing itself.

The second Investigation  is Investigation into the Object (vastuparyeṣaṇa). When we are investigating the object, we should only investigate the object and should not be caught in its name. The reason is that things are impermanent, interdependently arising and interbeing, while names are not like that. When we investigate objects we can see their interdependent, inter-reliance and interbeing nature.

The third Method of Investigation is the Investigation of the Designated Self-Nature. We investigate the nature or substance of the thing to see that it is not a real entity; it is fictive, a notion, a construction of consciousness. First of all it is the substance or the nature of the name of the thing. The name of the thing is just the name, it does not have any real substance. It is just a conventional designation. Secondly it is the substance or the nature of the object. Objects are not real entities of an ontological nature which have a real substance because they are temporary composites made up of differing elements. Objects are also conventional designations. The Sanskrit word for conventional designations is prajñapti.

The fourth method of Investigation is the Investigation of Designated Differentiation. This means the investigation of how distinctions are made between the differing names and differing objects in order to see that although on the outside things seem to be different from each other and be opposite to each other, they do in fact depend on each other in order to arise, like short and long, right and left, inside and outside, subject and object, being and non-being, birth and death and so on. First of all it is a differentiation and separation between names, because, for example, if there were not the word long there would not be the word short. If there were not the word inside, there would not be the word outside. If there were not the word noumenon there would not be the word phenomenon. If there were not the word life there would not be the word death. When we hear these words they seem to refer to pairs of opposites, that negate each other, but in fact they rely on each other to be possible. Thirdly there are the opposing natures like matter and energy, creator and creation, afflictions and enlightenment, happiness and suffering. These forms of differentiation and opposition are just conventions. Their nature is one of reciprocity, interbeing and they rely on each other in order to manifest. Without the afflictions there would be no enlightenment. Without suffering there would be no happiness. Without mud there is no lotus. Therefore all these pairs of opposites that are in fact reciprocal are mere conventions, devices, conventional designations. Designated differentiation (viśeṣaprajñapti) here means the reciprocal nature of all phenomena, which the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra in the Dharmakāya chapter (Taisho # 671) often mentions. We have the tendency to think that from the phenomenological point of view things differ from each other in their outer aspect, but from the ontological point of view all things share one nature (svabhãva), even though that thing is not a real entity like a self but rather the nature of inter-reliance (paratantra), the nature of fulfillment or perfected nature (pariniṣpanna), or suchness. This tendency leads to the idea of a unity and that unity is seen as the opposite of diversity.Thus we are caught in another dualism that of same and different. The teachings of Manifestation Only help us to meditate on the Three Non Natures in order to help us not be caught in the Three Natures (mental construction (parikalpita), reliant on the other (paratantra) and fulfilled (pariniṣpanna)) and so that we are not caught in the idea of unity. At the same time these teachings help us meditate on divergence and reciprocity to help us not be caught in the idea of diversity. The Four Methods of Investigation are very thorough in as far as explaining the teaching is concerned.

The Four Methods of Investigation of the Manifestation Only teachings, are in principle very much in tune with the insight of both original and mahāyāna Buddhism, but from the practical point of view  they are still too abstract and theoretical. The aim of the practice is not to prove that something is true, even if that be a tenet of the Manifestation Only teachings, but the transformation of the practitioner. So we have to pragmatize these four Methods of Investigation by using the concentrations on impermanence, no self, and conditioned co-arising in order to shine light on real problems of daily life that arise because of pairs of opposites like the afflictions and enlightenment, happiness and suffering, life and death, continuation and cessation, Buddha and living beings, friends and enemies, we and they and so on, so that we can have a Buddhism that can be applied very practically in daily life.

The Five Levels of Consciousness-Only Meditation

In the process of developping the insights of Manifestation Only teachings Master Khuiji, the foremost disciple of Master Xuanzang, composed the Five Levels of Consciousness-Only Meditation. This meditation practice still lies under the influence of dualistic thinking, is very theoretical and violates the principles of the ground as co-being (sahabhūtāśraya) and the ground as the seeds (bījāśraya), which belongs to the teachings of Manifestation Only.

The first Level of Consciousness-Only Meditation is Eliminating the False and Keeping the True. The False here refers to the nature of mental construction. This form of cognition sees the self and other phenomena as separate-self entities, which are able to exist on their own and do not need to rely on other causes and conditions. The True here refers to the insight into the other-reliant nature of things (paratantra). This form of cognition sees that all things rely on each other to manifest: this is because that is, if this is not that is not. False means deceptive, not real. True means real, really there. The ideas of being  and  non-being here are kept, but they do not refer to the existence of self and phenomena but to the true and false nature of cognition.

The second Level of Consciousness-Only Meditation is Removing the Unnecessary Excess and Keeping the Essentially Pure. The unnecessary excess here refers to the object of cognition, the object of consciousness, the nimittabhāga (perceived part) of consciousness, or the part that is reciprocal to the perceiving part (darśanabhāga). According to the teachings of the Five Levels of Consciousness-Only Meditation the svasaṃvittibhāga (self-witnessing part of consciousness) and the witnessing the self-witnessing part of consciousness are produced from the darśanabhāga. Although the nimittabhāga is the object cause (ālambanapratyaya), it is there in dependence on other parts so it is not essential. This violates the principles of sahabhūtāśraya (the ground as co-being) reciprocity. It is contradictory to the teachings of Manifestation-Only and leads us to thinking that perceiver can be there alone without the perceived.

The third Level of Consciousness-Only Meditation is  Taking Hold of the End and Returning to the Source. The End refers to the darśanabhāga and the nimittabhāga (the perceiving and perceived parts of consciousness). These two parts are just the manifested part on the surface and they are not reality itself. We should not be caught in them but let go of them in order to return to the ground and the source which is the svasaṃvittibhāga (the self-winessing part of consciousness). This way of thinking demonstrates the idea of  leaving the appearance (lakṣaṇa) in order to enter the nature (svabhāva). This means the intention to leave the phenomenal world in order to enter the noumenal world. Such an intention is still caught in dualistic thinking. The noumenal (svabhāva)that we are looking for can be seen in the phenomenal (lakṣaṇa) and there is no need to remove the phenomenal in order to find the noumenal.

The fourth Level of Consciousness-Only Meditation is  Hiding the Unimportant and Revealing the Important. The Unimportant here refers to the mental formations (caitta) and the Important to the mind king (cittaråja). This idea also comes for dualistic thinking. We have to see the mind king when we see the mental formations. Without drops of water how can there be a seaprate river?

The fifth Level of  Consciousness-Only Meditation is  Removing the phenomenal (lakṣaṇa) and connecting to the noumenal. Here dualistic thinking is still dominant. We do not have to efface the phenomenal world in order to witness the noumenal world. If we efface the phenomenal world there will be no more noumenal world.

The Five Levels of Consciousness-Only Meditation are just a demonstration of the intention to leave the phenomenal in order to enter the noumenal. However the method of meditation is not practical and it contradicts two basic principles of Manifestation-Only teachings; bījāśraya (seeds as the ground) and sahabhūtāśraya (co-being) as the ground.

 

A summary of the chief points

1.      Store maintains the seeds and the formations that arise from the seeds. The darśanabhāga of Store is true direct perception. The nimittabhāga of Store is the thing in itself without substance and the thing in itself with substance, which means the thing in itself without signs and with signs. Store is always the great mirror wisdom and does not need to be transformed. Whether you are an arhat or not an arhat, Store is great mirror wisdom, because Store is unobscured.

2.     The seeds and the formations, which Store maintains are all unobscured and undetermined. Their nature, as the nature of Store, is beyond the concepts of being and non-being, good and evil, tainted (āsrava) and taintless (anāsrava). The seeds from which the body and the physical world arise as appropriated by Store are reality in itself.

3.    Nimittabhāga and darśanabhāga arise in mutual dependence according to the principle of reciprocity. We cannot remove the subject from the object or the object from the subject.

4.     The characteristics of the seeds in Store are also the characteristics of Store:

       1. Impermanent at every instant (cinematographic)

       2. The cause and the result stay together and cannot be separated from each other

       3. Continuing as a series. Although they change at every instant, they always continue each other.

       4. Undetermined: they are not good or evil. They are organic in nature and can be recognised for that reason as good or evil.

       5. Need sufficient causes and conditions to manifest or to ripen.

       6. Go beyond the ideas of being and non-being.

       7. Go beyond ideas of inside and outside, subject and object.

       8. Go beyond ideas of old and new, innate and recently infused.

       9. Go beyond ideas of pure and impure, āsrava and anāsrava

       10.  Go beyond ideas of same and different

       11. Go beyond ideas of coming and going.

       12. Go beyond ideas of individual and collective.

5.     In Store both seeds and formations are reality in itself. Seeds are reality in itself without signs and formations are reality in itself with signs. Store is not caught in the signs of formations because Store is direct perception.

6.     Because seeds are impermanent, interbeing and co-arising, they do not necessarily need to stay the same in nature after maturation.

7.     Store operates in conjunction with the five universal and the five particular mental formations, because Store has wisdom (prajñā) in the form of true and direct mode of cognition, recollection (smṛti) in the form of storing memory, and concentration (samādhi) in as far as it is not dispersed and is always present to maintain the life force. Store operates in conjunction with the mental formation of jīvitendriya (life force).

8.     In Store the five skandhas are reality in itself, something as wonderful as the Dharma body. The object of grasping of the Lover is not the Store in itself but an image of Store created by the Lover. That image is a representation and not the thing in itself.

9.     The Lover has its foundation in Store, especially in the jīvitendriya, the will to live, to keep going, to continue forever. The Lover is a mechanism of self-preservation, an instinct of self-protection, the energy that wants to live and is afraid to die, the tendency to run after pleasure and run away from suffering. It is the foundation for the arising of the afflictions of anxiety, craving, fear, etc., which have the function of making us suffer. However, if mind consciousness relies on Store in order to look deeply it will shine light for the Lover and control it, making possible the wisdom of inclusiveness, which is the lotus of wisdom that grows from the mud of the Lover. As long as there is mud there is lotus and as long as there are lotuses there is mud. That is why the Lover and the wisdom of inclusiveness, mind consciousness and the wisdom of wonderful observation are part of one stream always depending on each other in order to manifest and they are not in opposition to each other nor do they  eliminate each other. You do not need to eliminate the mud in order to have lotuses. On the contrary once there is no more mud there are no more lotuses. That is what is meant by “the afflictions are the awakening”.

10.   In accord with the principle of bījāśraya (ground of seeds) and sahajāśraya (ground of co-arising), the darśanabhāga and the nimittabhāga of consciousness, both have their foundation in seeds and both need to depend on each other in order to manifest simultaneously. To say that the nimittabhāga follows the darśanbhāga, and the darśanabhāga leads the way, violates the principle of co-arising and the principle of reciprocity. The darśanabhāga cannot arise first and make the nimittabhāga arise later.

11.   As  long as there is life, there is the Lover. Even after you have become an arhat, a bodhisattva or the Buddha, the Lover is still there. However as far as these holy ones are concerned, the Lover is not a problem, because they know how to handle and sublimate the Lover, changing the substance of the Lover into mindfulness, concentration and insight. Buddha became enlightened at the age of 35. He was still very young and still had sexual desire. However this did not present a problem, because the Buddha was able to turn this energy into compassion and understanding, which nourished him and made it possible for him to help others. Rather than being a hindrance, his sexual energy was a source of energy that was essential for him because he could sublimate it to bring about happiness and wisdom, as mud can bring about lotuses.

12.  Maturation happens at every instant and there is also periodic maturation. We do not have to wait until the four elements of this body fall apart in order to be reborn. We are reborn with every thought, word and action, as soon as these thoughts, words and deeds have taken place. Our actions can take more or less long to come to fruition, but ripening is taking place at every instant.

13.  We have to train ourselves everyday, by looking deeply to remove dividing lines between subject and object, inside and outside, mind and matter, us and them, because only then can we overcome double grasping and realize the nature of Manifestation-Only.

14.   Here are concrete practices that can clarify, control and sublimate the Lover:

       1. Practising the mindfulness trainings and seeing that the mindfulness trainings are protecting our freedom and are not restrictions and prohibitions.

       2. Living in mindfulness in order to be able to touch the wonders of life that can heal and nourish, and not abandoning the present moment in order to seek happiness in the future.

       3. Learning to produce joy and happiness by means of mindfulness of breathing and walking.

       4. Reflecting on the nature of conditioned arising, interbeing and reciprocity in all phenomena in order to abandon the mentally-constructed view of differentiation and to realise the nature of all things depending on each other. This makes possible the realisation of the later acquired wisdom, with which we leave behind the world of representation and are in touch with reality in itself, so that mind consciousness can perceive as Store does.

       5. Transformation at the base (āśrayaparāvṛtti) is not the transformation of Store, but the letting-go by the Lover and mind consciousness of old habit energies and the formation and reinforcement by these two consciousnesses of new habit energies that are able to produce peace and joy and handle suffering in the present moment. The plasticity of the brain and the neurons makes possible the formation and reinforcement of these new habit energies. The plastic nature of the brain shows that the brain like the Store is undetermined and organic.  

In the beginning Manifestation-Only teachings were called Yoga Practice (yogācāra). Yoga means connection, connection with the truth and the ultimate reality. Practices like mindful breathing, concentration of mind and thought, stopping (śamatha) and looking deeply (vipaśyanā) are to establish a connection between the practitioner and the ultimate reality. The Yogācārabhūmiśāstra of Asanga maintains that there are seventeen levels of practice (bhūmi) that a practitioner needs to realise. The practice is presented in this work in a very theoretical and detailed way and is not practical in the way that the Buddha’s teachings presented in the sūtras are. The basic meditation sūtras like the Ānāpānasati, Satipatthāna, etc., present the practice in a much clearer, simpler and more concrete way.

 The Manifestation-Only teachings of Buddhism are the Abhidharma of the Mahāyāna. With its insight into non-duality and reciprocity, Manifestation-Only Buddhism can cease to be the vehicle of mere expedience, that it has been seen as over the centuries, and become a solid foundation of Buddhism in its own right.