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.