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Human Affliction (kleśa) as the Karmic Nourishment of the Universe, in Yogācāra Buddhism

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Ovidiu Cristian

NEDU Bucharest University


At least in its mystical traditions, Indian philosophy tends to “look down” at human condition, considering it either illusory (māyā) either “accidental” (āgantuka) and seeing its suppression as the soteriological goal. The present paper tries to “redeem” human experience showing how, in Yogācāra Buddhism, it represents the condition for the

perpetuity of the cosmic manifestation. Human drama, through the karmic impressions it lives within the cosmic consciousness (ālayavijñāna), represents the condition for the perpetuity of the Universe. The existence of the cosmic manifestation is thus somehow subordinated to human affliction. Yogācāra Buddhism distinguishes two major types of

“obstructions” (āvara�a) specific to human condition: the obstructions of the afflictions kleśāvara�a) and the obstructions of the knowable (jñeyāvara�a). Both of them are necessarily involved in the production of new karmic impressions, hence the faults of human beings representing conditions for the continuity of the universal manifestation. The second part of the paper discusses the two major processes undergone by the cosmic consciousness, the outflow (ni�yanda) and

karmic maturation (vipāka), showing that the outflow can’t ensure more than a limited continuity of a particular manifestation of the store-house consciousness. The perpetuity of cosmic consciousness necessarily requires the karmic maturation processes which always involve human affliction. Therefore, human drama is not something “accidental” in the Universe, is not something which only happens to be, but is the reason to be of the Universe. Human beings and the Universe are in an intrinsic relation of mutual conditioning, the Universe not being the “place” where human experiences happen but rather the cosmic outreach of human drama.

Keywords: Buddhism, Yogācāra, Vijñānavāda, ālayavijñāna, obstructions (āvara�a), karmic maturation (vipāka), outflow (ni�yanda).

I. The dependence of the Universal Consciousness (ālayavijñāna) on Human Obstructions (āvara�a) I.1. The Dependence of the Content of Ālaya-Vijñāna on the Karmic Seeds (karmabīja, karmavāsanā) The most specific activity of the store-house consciousness is the maturation (vipāka) of the karmic impressions (karmavāsanā) produced as a result of the afflicted processes that take place on the level of the individual beings (pudgala, ātman), on the level of the operational consciousnesses (prav�ttivijñāna). The content of the store-house consciousness consists exactly in these

impressions left by the afflicted individual experience, thus being entirely determined by human experiences.1

[the store-house consciousness] owns its being to karmic maturation (vipāka), since it is always imprinted (bhāvita) with the seeds of all experiences.2

Therefore, the continuity of the content of the store-house consciousness is possible only through the continuous deposition, within it, of new karmic impressions that prevent the exhaustion of its series. Any of the already existing impressions, when the conditions become favorable, gets matured and is actualized as a particular experience, thus being consumed. Nevertheless, all individual conditions and experiences engendered by Karma involve appropriation (upādāna), volition (cetanā) and hence, at their turn, through their afflicted experiences, they produce new karmic impressions, thus ensuring the continuity of the content of Ālaya-vijñāna.3 The perpetuity of the store-house consciousness is possible only as a result of the afflicted mechanisms pertaining to the individual condition.

Karmic impresssions (karma�avāsanā), along (saha) with the impressions of dual perceptions (grāhadvaya), engender (jan)

1 The dependence of the store-house consciousness on human conditions, in Wu 2014, p. 422. Ālaya-vijñāna as the “stored one”, as the effect of the other seven consciousnesses, in Shun’ei 2009, pp. 36-37. 2 Vasubandhu, Mahāyānasa�grahabhā�ya, ad. Mahāyānasa�graha, ad.II.II.5, Lamotte 1934-35, p. 237. Translation after Lamotte’s French translation. 3 The process of “perfuming” (vāsanā) the store-house consciousness, in Verdu, 1981, pp. 10-11; Shun’ei 2009, pp. 32-33.

other (anya) maturations (vipāka) [of the seeds] when the previous (pūrva) maturations (vipāka) are exhausted (k�ī�a).4

he dependence of the content of the store-house consciousness on the afflicted individual condition also results from its frequently ascribed statute, of a “collection” (sa�caya) of seeds (bīja).5 As a mere collection of seeds, the store-house consciousness consists of the impressions left by the so-called “afflicted factors” (sā�kleśikadharma). Generally, Yogācāra philosophy identified two types of obstructions (āvara�a) characterizing human condition: the so called “obstructions of the afflictions” (kleśāvara�a) and the “obstructions of the knowable” (jñeyāvara�a). Both of them play a decisive role in the production of karmic impressions.

I.2. Karmic Impressions (karmavāsanā) and the Obstructions of the Afflictions (kleśāvara�a) The seeds involved in the process of “maturation” (vipāka) are the karmic impressions. Most commonly, they are called “karmavāsanā” or simply “karma”; however, they can be named

4 “karma�o vāsanā grāhadvayavāsanayā saha / k�ī�e pūrvavipāke'nyad vipāka� janayanti tat //”, Vasubandhu, Tri�śikākārikā, 19, Anacker 1998, pp. 188, 423. 5 Consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna, citta) as a “collection” of seeds, in classical Yogācāra, in Verdu 1981, pp. 20-21; Schmithausen 2014, pp. 337-339; Jiang 2006, p. 64. The centrality of the “seeds” in the accounts of Ālaya-vijñāna, in Jiang 2005, pp. 256-257, 261-263. The interpretation of “consciousness” (citta) as related to the act of “accumulating” (ci) Karma, in the La kāvatārasūtra, in Suzuki 1998, p. 249. Suzuki’s view of “citta” as “colection”, critically discussed in Giripescu-Sutton 1991, pp. 174-175.

in various other ways throughout Vijñānavāda literature (“vipākavāsanā”, “vipākabīja” etc.).6 “Karma”, usually translated as “deed”, refers more exactly to an act embedding volition, active and passionate involvement in experience.7 All the attitudes of this kind, which take place at the level of the individual being, imprint within the store-house consciousness seeds that, when the conditions become favorable, at the so called “occasion of maturation” (vipākāvasthā), will be matured (vi-pac) and will engender the so-called “effects of maturation” (vipākaphala).

Karma is the volition (cetanā), virtuous (pu�ya), non-virtuous (apu�ya) or indifferent (aneñja). The capacity (sāmarthya) placed by this Karma within the store-house consciousness, which will engender a future individual condition (anāgatātmabhāva), that is the karmic impression (karmavāsanā).8

6 A discussion on the terms “karma”, “vāsanā”, “sa�skāra”, “bīja”, in Kritzer 1999, pp. 97, 99-102; Jiang 2006, p. 61. Accounts of the concept of “Vāsanā”, both in Buddhism and in non-Buddhist schools of thought, in Tripathi 1972, pp. 22-23; Tola&Dragonetti 2005, pp. 456-457; Wu 2014, p. 423. The concept of “bīja”, in Yogācāra Buddhism, discussed in Lusthaus 2002, pp. 193-194; in the Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, discussed in Jiang 2005, pp. 257-259; Jiang 2006, p. 60. The Sautrāntika origins of “bīja”, along with references to Abhidharmakośa, in Jiang 2006, pp. 39-40. The “bījas” and karmic maturation (vipāka), in Sautrāntika, in Matilal 1990, pp. 338-340. 7 The connection between Karma and intentional action, in Lusthaus 2002, pp. 171-172; acc. to Abhidharmakośa, in Gold 2015, pp. 189-192, 196; Jiang 2006, p. 28. The characteristics of karmic causation (vipākahetu) and for a discussion about the experiences which engender karmic traces, in Chaudhury 1983, pp. 111, 113. 8 “pu�yāpu�yāneñjacetanā karma / tena karma�ā yadanāgatātmabhāvābhinirv�ttaye ālayavijñāne sāmarthyamāhita� sā karmavāsanā”, Sthiramati, Tri�śikābhā�ya, ad. 19, Chatterjee 1980, p. 107.

The only experiences that engender new karmic imprints are those activities of the operational consciousnesses which are intrinsically tainted by appropriation (upādāna), by the tendency towards proliferation (sāsrava) and, consequently, by affliction (kleśa). Some texts even utterly state that the experiences that imprint new karmic traces within the store-house consciousness are the specific activities of the operational consciousnesses (prav�ttivijñāna), consisting of actions (karma), based on the clinging to erroneous discriminations (vikalpa), the most important of them being the one between self and other (svapara), between subject and object (grāhaka-grāhya). 9

Ālayavijñāna [which is] the fundamental element of a living being (maula� sattva-dravya), consisting in [the Result-of]Maturation (vipākātmaka), produced by the Impression (vāsanā) of previous good and bad (kuśalākuśala) deeds (karma) and by Clinging (abhiniveśa) to the concepts (vikalpa) of object (grāhya) and subject (grāhaka).10

In case of the apparition (utpādana) of the individual condition (ātmabhāva) projected (āk�ipta) by the totality of the Karmic imprints (karmavāsanā) of the operational [[[consciousnesses]]],

9 See Kochumuttom 1999, pp. 150-151. For a discussion on the ways karmic traces are engendered based on the discriminations of consciousness, see Waldron 2003, pp. 31-33. Also, see Waldron 2003, p. 122, for an account of how the impressions of conceptual proliferation are responsible of the production of karmic traces. 10 pūrvakuśalākuśalakarmavāsanāgrāhyagrāhakavikalpābhiniveśanirvartitam – reconstruction by Schmithausen. Asvabhāva, Upanibandhana, Schmithausen, 1987, p. 328, note 367. Schleiermacher’s translation, with some Sanskrit equivalents added.

the impressions of dual perceptions (grāhadvayavāsanā) function as an auxiliary cause (sahakāritva), just as water [functions] in case of the apparition of the sprout. Therefore, it is said that karmic impressions (karmavāsanā) produce the maturation (vipāka) not by themselves, but along with the impressions of dual perceptions (grāhadvayavāsanā).11

Initially, in dependence upon two types of appropriation – the appropriation of the physical sense powers associated with a support and the appropriation of predispositions which proliferate conventional designations with respect to signs, names, and concepts – the mind which has all seeds ripens; it develops, increases, and expands in its operations.12

Vijñānavāda literature doesn’t offer a very thorough account of the way karmic traces are produced. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that they are brought forth as a result of the cooperation between the passionate afflicted (kli�

a) experience of the mind (manas) and those experiences focused upon a defined object, projected by the operational consciousnesses. Karmic impressions are produced when there is a passionate, volitional attitude towards a defined object. Karma is engendered by the individual operational consciousnesses but not by any activity 11 “grāhadvayavāsanāyāstu sarvakarmavāsanānām yathāsva� āk�iptātmabhāvotpādane prav�ttānām sahakāritva� pratipadyate / tadyathā apādayo ' kurasyotpattāviti / eva� ca na kevalā

karmavāsanā grāhadvayavāsanānug�hītā vipāka janayantītyukta� bhavati /”, Sthiramati, Tri�śikābhā�ya, ad. 19, Chatterjee 1980, p. 107. 12 Sa�dhinirmocana-sūtra, V.2, Powers 1995, pp. 70-71. Lamotte 1935, p. 184 has “En s’appuyant sur cette double appropriation, la pensée mûrit, grandit, prend de l’ampleur et du dévelopements.”

performed by them; only those experiences which involve clinging (upādāna), volition (cetanā) have karmic potencies. Generally, Vijñānavāda texts link the production of the karmic traces to those experiences which involve the so-called “tendency towards proliferation” (sāsrava). “Sāsrava” refers to the tendency towards maintaining individual life, towards perpetuating individual condition (ātmabhāva) and to all attitudes subsequently deriving from this. It is closely related to the preservation instinct or to the clinging to life (abhiniveśa) from Yoga and Vedānta. The association between the tendency towards proliferation and the production of karmic impressions is sometimes utterly stated by saying that the six operational consciousnesses, whether beneficent or non-beneficent, will engender karmic traces only when they are characterized by the tendency towards proliferation (sāsravakuśalākuśalavijñāna�a

kad).13 Other times, the association is rather implied, the texts stating that the six operational consciousnesses engender karmic traces only when they are non-beneficent (akuśala) or when, being beneficent (kuśala), they are nevertheless characterized by clinging, by the tendency towards proliferation (sāsrava). But, even in case of such statements, the tendency towards proliferation (sāsrava) is given the main role since, according to the psychology of Vijñānavāda, all maleficent (akuśala) experiences inherently involve this tendency which accounts for its “maleficence”. 13 Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1928, p. 91.

The connection between the tendency towards proliferation and the production of karmic traces also results from the statement that the experiences which don’t engender such traces are either those explicitly devoid of the tendency towards proliferation (anāsrava) either those which are morally non-determined (avyāk�ta); in their case, the absence of this tendency is also involved. The mere ideations engendered by the operational consciousnesses, all by themselves, don’t bear any karmic load; they receive a karmic value only when they become associated with the afflicted experiences of the mind (manas).

I.3. Karmic Impressions (karmavāsanā) and the Obstructions of the Knowable (jñeyāvara�a) Nevertheless, the mind (manas) alone, unassisted by the operational consciousnesses and deprived of the constructed (parikalpita) object projected by them, which could represent its focus, its appropriated (upātta) object, fails to produce karmic traces, leaving only impressions of outflow (ni�yandavāsanā).

The mind (manas), being afflicted (kli�

a) and non-determined (avyāk�ta), [produces] only impressions of outflow (ni�yandavāsanā).14

It is only when, under the influence exerted by the mind (manas), the experiences constructed (parikalpita) by the operational consciousnesses acquire a passionate character through

“avyāk�ta� kli��a� ca mano ni�yandavāsanāmeva”, Sthiramati, Tri�śikābhā�ya, ad. 1d, Chatterjee 1980, p. 30.

the tendency towards proliferation (sāsrava) which is associated to them – namely in case of all the non-beneficent (akuśala) experiences which, intrinsically, are characterized by clinging, by the tendency to proliferation, or in case of the beneficent (kuśala) but characterized by proliferation (sāsrava) experienceskarmic traces are also produced. Therefore, any act of desire, any intention focused upon a determined object, any conceptually determined experience which is not neutrally experienced but along with clinging, with desire, engenders karmic impressions.

The sole experience of non-determined clinging, specific to the mind (manas) unassisted by the operational consciousnesses or the sole experience of the operational consciousnesses devoid of the passionate and afflicted experience of the mind, do not produce any karmic impression. The dependence of the karmic impressions on the constructed own-being (parikalpitasvabhāva) is frequently presented by stating that the production of the seeds depends on the clinging (abhiniveśa) to the constructed own-being (parikalpita svabhāva). Frequently, seeds are referred to through terms such as “nimittanāmavikalpavyavahāraprapañcavāsanā” (“the imprints of the conventional practice of discriminating names and characteristics”), “parikalpitavāsanā” (“the imprints of the constructed [[[nature]]]”), “prapañcavāsanā” (“the imprints of the conceptual proliferation”), all these terms suggesting the

15 The role of the linguistic dual discriminations in the creation of Vāsanā-s, in Wu 2014, pp. 424-425. Sa�sāra as being moved forward by desire along with dual perceptions (grāha), in Jiang 2006, p. 61.

dependence of the seeds on the clinging to the constructed ownbeing which, through its own nature, involves error and the affliction of the ego.

Those impressions (vāsanā, bīja) originated in a consciousness which clings to the constructed own-being (parikalpitasvabhāva) represent the dependent own-being (paratantra).16 First, there are the following three components to its objective support: [...] the residual impression (vāsanā) [left] by settling on the thoroughly imagined nature (parikalpitasvabhāva) of persons and dharmas.17

In terms of Vijñānavāda ontology, the perpetuation, the “increase” (samutthāna) of the dependent own-being (paratantra svabhāva) is determined by the constructed own-being (parikalpita svabhāva), through the imprints (vāsanā) it leaves. Otherwise stated, the conditional flux (pratītyasamutpāda) is “fuelled”, “nourished” by the afflicted experience of the individual being living in bondage. 18

The dependent own-being (paratantra) is produced (upalabh) based on (samāśritya) the constructed own-being (parikalpita).19

Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1929, p. 544. Translation after Poussin’s French translation. 17 Tsong-Khapa, Yid dang kun gzhi dka'ba'i gnas rgya cher'grel pa legs par bshad pa'rgya mtsho, Sparham 1995, p. 51. 18 The functions of the afflicted experiences in the perpetuation of the storehouse consciousness are studied in Waldron 2003, pp. 113-116. 19 “parikalpita� samāśritya paratantropalabhyate /”, La kāvatāra-sūtra, chap. II, verse 193, Nanjio 1956, p. 131.

I.4. The Mutual Conditioning Relation between the Store-house Consciousness (ālayavijñāna) and the Afflicted (kli��a) Individual Being (ātmabhāva) Any of the individual conditions, although occurring at the level of the actual state of the store-house consciousness, thus having the store-house consciousness as its condition or support (āśraya), also, at its turn, represents the condition/support for the future states of the store-house consciousness. Therefore, there is a double conditioning relation between the store-house consciousness and the afflicted individual condition; on one hand, the actual condition of the store-house consciousness represents a condition for the occurrence of the individual being, but, on the other hand, the individual being, determining the production of karmic impressions and, consequently, of the future states of the store-house consciousness, represents the condition of the perpetuation of the Ālaya-vijñāna.20

Regarding the eighth consciousness, it has as its simultaneous support the seventh consciousness; it cannot exist without having this as its support. Yogaśāstra21 states: “Ālaya always functions (sa�pravartate) along with the mind (manas)”; in

The way operational consciousnesses are born of seeds but, at their turn, are engendering new seeds, in Jiang 2005, pp. 266-267. Ālaya-vijñāna as both cause and effect, in Jiang 2006, pp. 64, 69. The mutual conditioning between Ālaya-vijñāna and the afflicted experiences (sā�kleśikadharma), in Yamabe 2017, pp. 20-22. 21 Yogācārabhūmi, 63, 11.

other places, [it states]: “The store-house consciousness (ālayavijñāna) is always established in affliction.”22

The store-consciousness and the afflicted factors (sā ṃ kleśika) are simultaneously (samakāle) mutual causes (anyonyahetuka). [...] In the same way, here too it is a matter of mutual causes: the store-consciousness is the cause (hetu) of the afflicted factors; in the same way, the afflicted factors are the cause of the store-consciousness. 23

One of the consequences incurred by this view is that it makes impossible to dissociate the store-house consciousness from the afflicted (kli� a) individual condition (ātmabhāva), to find a condition of the store-house consciousness which would be free from affliction, from bondage.24 Apparently, the store-house consciousness seems to be ontologically prior to the human afflicted condition and, therefore, it seems to be possible to have a “purestore-house consciousness, free from human drama. Nevertheless, according to Vijñānavāda, the store-house consciousness (the Universe) and the afflicted human condition are rather in a relation of mutual conditioning than in one of ontological hierarchy. In this situation, the existence of a “pure

22 Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin, 1928, p. 240. Translation after Poussin’s French translation. 23 Asa g, Mahāyānasa�gaha, I.17, Lamotte 1973, pp. 34-35. 24 The Ālaya-vijñāna as the “perfumable” which is “perfumed” by the mind (manas), the mental consciousness (manovijñāna) and five senseconsciousnesses, in Brown 1991, pp. 207-208. The dependence of the causal flow (pratītyasamutpāda) on the karmic impressions (vāsanā), in Tola&Dragonetti 2005, pp. 456-457.

store-house consciousness, of a pure Universe, free from human affliction, becomes impossible, the Universe being intrinsically related to human drama.

I.5. The Impossibility to Dissociate the Ultimate Reality (parini�pannasvabhāva) from Human Affliction (kleśa) Such an approach sanctions the “impurity” of the ultimate reality, already exposed by Vijñānavāda philosophers which, in some developments of the school, claimed that the conditional flow (or, in terms of Vijñānavāda ontology, the dependent ownbeing, the store-house consciousness) represents a natural adjunct of the ultimate reality. Moreover, the necessary connection between the store-house consciousness and the afflicted human condition binds the absolute reality to human affliction itself. Hence, human affliction is somehow considered as “normal”, as a natural aspect of reality. In spite of its drama and tragedy, human condition does not seem to be a merely accidental (āgantuka) occurrence but rather the manifestation of a natural function, of a potency of the ultimate reality. Even if the individual human condition involves ignorance (ajñāna) and a certain cleavage from the reality, falling into this unfortunate condition does not seem to be a mere accident but rather the manifestation of an intrinsic tendency of the reality itself. Reality itself seems to be characterized by such a tendency of self-deceit, of self-obstruction. Human condition can no longer be considered as something alien to reality but which, out of hard to fathom reasons, nevertheless occurs, becoming rather a “natural” aspect of reality.

The natural relation between the absolute reality and human drama induces an element of impurity to the absolute reality, “tainting” it somehow. Even if any particular human drama can be terminated, the potency towards the occurrence of such dramas is always present within the absolute reality. II. The Perpetuation of the Store-house Consciousness through the Processes of Karmic Maturation (vipāka) and Outflow (ni�yanda)

II.1. Karmic Maturation (vipāka) In its classical forms, Vijñānavāda explains the dynamics of the store-house consciousness as a combination of two major processes: the “[[[Karmic]]] maturation” (vipāka) and the “flux”, the “outflow” (ni�yanda).25 What is important in respect of these two processes is that only karmic maturation creates novel experiences; the outflow only maintains, to a certain extent and for a certain duration, the experiences already produced by karmic maturation. Karmic maturation (vipāka) represents the most specific process of the store-house consciousness; this process takes place solely within it, the other seven consciousnesses being only 25 The approach seems to be the simplified form of a Sautrāntika scheme, to be found in Abhidharmakośa (II. 55-60), which identified not only two processes, but five; along with “Karmic maturation” (vipāka) and “outflow” (ni�yanda), the text also mentions Visa�yoga (“release”, “liberation”), Puru�akāra (“the making of the human”) and Adhipati (“domination”, “regency”). See Chaudhury 1983, pp. 112-113.

effects of maturation (vipākaja – “born of maturation”), without performing the maturation itself.26 Karmic maturation means transforming the seeds (bīja) imprinted within the series of the store-house consciousness as a result of the experiences of the individual consciousnesses into a new individual destiny, into a new “appropriation” (upādāna), when the actual life comes to an end.27 More broadly speaking, maturation is the process of karmic retribution, through which the acts, the volitions of an actual life, determine, through the karmic seeds they leave, a new reincarnation.

The impressions of maturation (vipākavāsanā) are those which, due to the obtaining of [their] activity (v�tti), the projection (āk�epa) [performed] by the old Karma of store-house consciousness is fully accomplished.28

The karmic seeds are accumulated within the store-house consciousness, representing its “stuff”, its “content”. The continuity of the series of the store-house consciousness is ensured through the continuous accumulation, within it, of new karmic seeds. Within the series of the store-house consciousness, karmic impressions

Karma and karmic maturation, in Verdu 1981, pp. 12-13. Ālayavijñāna as Vipākavijñāna, acc. to Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, in Jiang 2006, p. 59. See also Wu 2014, p. 422. 27 Personal condition (ātmabhāva) as the reification of karmic energy, in Berger 2015, 97-99. The process of karmic maturation, discussed in Verdu 1981, pp. 9-13, 15, 22-23; as the “projector” (āk�epaka) of new individual conditions, in Brown 1991, p. 210. 28 “vipākavāsanāv�ttilābhādālayavijñānasya pūrvakarmāk�epaparisamāptau yā”, Sthiramati, Tri�śikābhā�ya, ad. 1d, Chatterjee 1980, p. 30.

exist in a latent condition, of mere potencies (śaktirūpa); when the conditions become favorable, they are actualized, being turned into actual factors (dharma). Karmic impressions project a new appropriation (upādāna), a new “basis of an individual being” (ātmabhāvāśraya), a new “destiny” (gati) or “birth” (yoni, jāti). Once actualized, they are consumed; nevertheless, the individual condition newly “projected” (ā-k�ip) by them will engender new karmic impressions, hence continuously “nourishing” the series of the store-house consciousness.

The eighth consciousness (vijñāna) is born having karmic (vipākavāsanā) as its dominating condition (adhipatipratyaya). It is called «maturation» (vipāka) since it is the one which «projects» (āk�epaka).29

II.2. The Distinction between the Nature of the Cause and the Nature of the Effect, in case of Karmic Maturation What is specific to the results of karmic maturation (karmavipākaphala) is that they are of a different nature than their causes (hetu).30 Karmic maturation is produced by the seeds imprinted within the store-house consciousness by the afflicted (kli�

a) experiences involving volition (cetanā) of the six operational consciousnesses (prav�ttivijñāna). Since the experiences that leave karmic impressions are characterized by 29 Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1928, pp. 91-92. Translation after Poussin’s French translation. 30 For a study on the heterogeneity between cause and effect, in case of karmic processes, see Waldron 2003, pp. 64-65.

affliction, by clinging, they are always morally determined (vyāk�ta). On the other hand, the effects of maturation consist of the projected (āk�ipta) individual conditions (ātmabhāva), of the neutral and yet indeterminate (avyāk�ta) acts of appropriation (upādāna), and not of subjective and morally determined experiences, as their causes. In case of karmic processes, the cause is the afflicted subjective experience, while the effect is the morally indeterminate birth, in future, of a new individual being, of a new subject. This newly born individual being will engender new afflicted experiences and so the cycle keeps on repeating. “The effect of maturation is not of the same nature as its cause.”31 In a text belonging to his Abhidharma period, Vasubandhu gives an example of this situation, showing that an individual and morally determined (vyāk�ta) act, such as the will to kill, will engender the effect of a future birth in a hell; this birth, this new appropriation of an individual condition is, in itself, a morally indeterminate (avyāk�ta) experience.32 What is really important for the dynamics of the store-house consciousness is that the cycle: afflicted experience → a new birth → afflicted experience keeps on going on indefinitely, hence the store-house consciousness being unceasingly perpetuated.33

31 Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1929, p. 477. Translation after Poussin’s French translation. 32 Abhidharmakośa, I.25; Vasubandhu’s example is discussed in Gold 2015, 52-53. The way mental events, such as volition, are materialized through karmic processes, acc. to Abhidharmakośa, in Bronkhorst 2000, pp. 67, 70-71. 33 The continuity of the store-house consciousness, through the series dharmasbījasdharmas, in Shun’ei 2009, pp. 45-47; Lusthaus 2002, p. 193;

Another important particularity of karmic maturation is that, unlike the outflow process (ni�yanda), between the cause (hetu) and the effect (phala) there can be a temporary gap; throughout this gap, the continuity between cause and effect is ensured by the presence, within the store-house consciousness, of the karmic seeds (karmabīja), of the latent potencies (śakti) imprinted in the store-house consciousness by the cause.34 Generally, the effects of karmic maturation are actualized in a future life, in a life succeeding the one of the cause.

II.3. The Outflow (ni�yanda) According to classical Vijñānavāda, along with karmic maturation (karmavipāka), the other major kind of process taking place in the Universe is the outflow (ni�yanda).35 The outflow is characteristic to the individual consciousnesses, namely mind (manas) and the six operational consciousnesses (prav�ttivijñāna), Matilal 1990, pp. 340-342; Jiang 2006, pp. 59, 69-72. The “restoration” of the karmic impressions representing the stuff of the store-house consciousness by cyclical causation, in Tola&Dragonetti 2005, pp. 460-462. On the various ways the causal relation between factors (dharma) and seeds (bīja) was understood along the various developments of Yogācāra, especially in China, see Yamabe 2017, pp. 21-23. 34 A discussion on the temporal gap between cause and effect, in case of karmic processes, in Waldron 2003, p. 65. The ways the two major schools of Abhidharma dealt with the problem of continuity, through the concepts of “prāpti” (in Vaibhā�ika) and “bīja” (in Sautrāntika), and how the problems involved in their approaches determined the novel approach of Yogācāra, in Matilal 1990, pp. 336-337; Griffiths 1999, p. 93. The theories of temporal continuity of the Dharmas, acc. to Sautrāntika, Sarvāstivāda and Yogācāra, in Jiang 2006, pp. 33, 36-37. 35 The two process comparatively analyzed in Tripathi 1972, pp. 343-344.

the specific dynamics of the store-house consciousness being not the outflow, but rather karmic maturation.36 The main difference between karmic maturation (vipāka) and outflow (ni�yanda) is that the outflow (ni�yanda) represents a continuous series of experiences of a certain kind, where there is no possibility of change in the typology of the experience in cause. The outflow (ni�yanda) simply means the continuous and automatic reiteration of a certain experience, its repeated “flow”. Though consisting of momentary (k�ā�ika) occurrences, human experiences have continuity, duration, since any instance of them leaves impressions of outflow (ni�yandavāsanā) which will engender new instances of the same type (sabhāga). This process keeps on going on indefinitely, thus ensuring the continuity of individual experiences.

A previous seed engenders a future seed of the same type; this means the homogeneity (sabhāga) of the causes engendering an effect of outflow (ni�yandaphala).37 Virtuous, nonvirtuous, and neutral engaging consciousnesses which are simultaneous with the ālaya-vijñāna – one coming into being as the other is going out of existence – leave a seed that will, in future, give rise to an engaging consciousness of a similar type;38 36 The dynamism of outflow, studied in Brown 1991, pp. 208-209. 37 Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1928, p. 123. Translation after Poussin’s French translation. 38 Tsong-Khapa, Yid dang kun gzhi dka'ba'i gnas rgya cher'grel pa legs par bshad pa'rgya mtsho, Sparham 1995, p. 88.

A repeated experience (abhyāsa) determines a cause of the same type (sabhāgahetu), which will be associated to an effect of outflow (ni�yandaphala).39

The process of karmic maturation (vipāka) is specific to the experiences (upādāna) involving appropriation, to the experiences of an individual subject, while those of outflow (ni�yanda) are common both to appropriated subjective experiences and to neutral, un-appropriated experiences. Karmic maturation is specific to human afflicted experience, while the outflow takes place also in case of non-afflicted experiences, its principle being mechanical continuity. A certain mechanical continuity is to be found also in case of subjective experiences, along with karmic maturation, which is restricted to appropriated experiences. The main differences between the outflow (ni�yanda) and karmic maturation (vipāka) are, firstly, that the outflow processes, while passing from cause to effect, preserve the typology of the experience (sabhāga) involved and, secondly, the continuous and repeated occurrence of the outflow transformations. In case of karmic maturation, the transformation of the seeds into a “destiny” (gati), into a “birth” (jāti), takes place only once, without the possibility of reiterating this transformation. New karmic seeds will be produced by the individual being thus born, but these new seeds are not

39 Asvabhāva, Upanibandhana, ad. Mahāyānasa�graha, X.29, Lamotte 1973, p. 315. Lamotte’s French translation is: “Un acte répété (abhyāsa) détermine une cause pareille (sabhāgahetu), nécessairement associée à un fruit d’écoulement (ni�yandaphala).”

necessarily similar to those that projected the individual being in cause; therefore, in case of Karmic maturation, we can no longer speak of a continuous reiterating series of transformations,. Unlike the outflow (ni�yanda), karmic maturation displays a certain heterogeneity between cause and effect. The cause is a volitional act, consisting in the afflicted experience of an individual being, while the effect is the trans-subjective experience of projecting a new “destiny”, the experience of creating a yet non-existing subject. On the other hand, in case of the outflow (ni�yanda), a certain type of seeds (bīja) engenders a certain type of actual factors (dharma), which, at their turn, will

engender the same type of seeds; this cyclical process keeps going on indefinitely, without any change in the typology of the series. Thus it is accounted for the fact that generally experiences have a certain continuity, in spite of them consisting of mere momentary flashes (k�a�a). The preservation of the typology of the flashes, through the outflow dynamics, makes the process a continuous series.40 Certainly, the seeds originating in the dual perceptions engender uncountable effects of outflow (ni�yanda). On the other hand, karmic seeds are exhausted when they bring forth their effect, which is an effect of maturation (vipāka).41 The perpetuity of experience, provided by the outflow dynamism, is not absolute; any apparition maintains its being for a 40 The outflow and its homogeneity (sabhāgatā), in Verdu 1981, pp. 14-15, 22-23. 41 Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1929, p. 477.

while, through the outflow processes, but, at one point of time, it is necessarily annihilated. The outflow processes are responsible for maintaining any apparition in a relatively continuous form, between its birth and its destruction. Generally, Vijñānavāda texts describe this dynamism as the “causation of the preservance/maintenance of the species” (sabhāgahetuka). Whatever, in ordinary experience, appears as the perpetuation of an entity, according to the theory of momentariness (k�a�ikavāda), is nothing but the serial occurrence of several momentary discrete apparitions, all of them sharing a common typology.

The impressions of outflow (ni�yandavāsanā) are those which, due to the obtaining (lābha) of [their] activity (v�tti), a similarity of category (nikāyasabhāga) among the different (antara) [factors of a series] takes place.42 The outflow can ensure the continuity of the apparitions only because the outflow seeds (ni�yandabīja) are actualized immediately, in the very next moment (k�a�a), without any gap between cause and effect, as it happens in case of the process of karmic maturation.

The effect of maturation [...] is not born immediately but in another life. The effect of outflow is of the same type as its cause and is immediately born.43


ni�yandavāsanāv�ttilābhācca yā”, Sthiramati, Tri�śikābhā�ya, ad.1d, Chatterjee 1980, p. 30. 43 Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1929, p. 477. Translation after Poussin’s French translation.

II.4. The Entire Individual Experience as Characterized by Outflow The entire sphere of individual experience has a certain degree of continuity; any human experience leaves impressions of outflow (ni�yandavāsanā) which ensure the continuity of that experience. Even the morally non-determined (avyāk�ta) experiences and those non-afflicted (akli� a), devoid of the tendency to proliferation (anāsrava), which fail to leave karmic traces within the store-house consciousness, nevertheless impregnate it with outflow seeds (ni�yandabīja). As stated before, the mind (manas), all by itself, unassisted by the operational consciousnesses and thus devoid of a definite focus, also does not engender any karmic impressions, its sole dynamism being the outflow. There, the operational consciousnesses (prav�ttivijñāna), beneficent (kuśala) or non-beneficent (akuśala), place in the store-house consciousness (ālayavijñāna) impressions of maturation (vipākavāsanā) and impressions of outflow (ni�yandavāsanā). The indeterminate (avyāk�ta) [operational consciousnesses] and the afflicted mind (kli�

amanas) [place] only impressions of outflow (ni�yandavāsanā).

Thus, under the determination (adhipatya) of beneficent (kuśala) and non-beneficent (akuśala) factors (dharma), the store-house consciousness gathers (pari-g�h) impressions (vāsanā) “tatra prav�ttivijñānam kuśalākuśalam ālayavijñāne vipākavāsanām ni �yandavāsanā� cādhante / avyāk�ta� kli��am ca mano ni �yandavāsanāmeva /”, Sthiramati, Tri�śikābhā�ya, ad. 1d, Chatterjee 1980, p. 30.

[producing] both effects (phala) of maturation (vipāka) and of outflow (ni�yanda). Under the determination (adhipatya) of indeterminate (avyāk�ta) factors, it [gathers] only impressions [producing] effects of outflow (ni�yandaphala).45

II.5. The limitations of the continuity provided by the outflow (ni�yanda) and Karmic maturation (vipāka) as the only process creator of novel experiences Operational consciousnesses (prav�ttivijñāna) and mind (manas) are characterized solely by outflow processes. Karmic processes, though determined be the seeds imprinted within the store-house consciousness by the operational consciousnesses assisted by mind, take place only at the cosmic level of the storehouse consciousness. It is also noteworthy that the

continuity ensured by the outflow processes is not absolute, but only a limited one. Any experience which is preserved for a while through the outflow processes nevertheless ceases at a moment of time. Hence, the outflow processes, by themselves, cannot ensure the perpetuity of the Universe. The outflow can only provide a limited continuity to an already existing apparition, without being able to engender novel apparitions. Karmic maturation (vipāka) is the only process efficient in bringing forth novel contents within the store “tathā hi kuśalākuśaladharmādhipatyādālayavijñāna� vipākani�yandaphalavāsanā� parig�h�āti / avyāk�tadharmādhipatyācca ni�yandaphalavāsanāmeveti /”, Sthiramati, Madhyāntavibhāgabhā�ya�īkā, ad. I.9 (I.10), Pandeya 1999, p. 28.

consciousness and hence able to perpetuate the cosmic manifestation. Karmic maturation repeatedly creates novel apparitions, under the determination of the impressions (vāsanā) left in the store-house consciousness by the existing afflicted experiences. The outflow (ni�yanda) restrictively applies to the effects of karmic maturation, to whatever is “born of maturation” (vipākaja).46 Only karmic maturation is truly creative, in the sense of bringing forth novel apparitions. The outflow (ni�yanda) does nothing but ensures

the continuity, the “flow” of what is born as a result of karmic maturation (vipākaja). For our discussion, it is important that, only by itself, the outflow can not ensure the perpetuity of the store-house consciousness. The dependence of the store-house consciousness on karmic maturation means nothing but the dependence of cosmic manifestation on human affliction. The store-house consciousness can never be reduced to a set of “pureexperiences, characterized only by outflow (ni�yanda) since, as we have already shown, these transformations can ensure only the limited continuity of some already existing apparitions. The outflow is somehow subordinated to karmic maturation since the outflow does nothing else but to perpetuate an apparition born as a result of karmic maturation (vipāka).

46 See Hiuan-Tsang, Ch’eng-wei-shih-lun, Poussin 1928, p. 92. Karmic dynamism and the “growth” of Ālaya-vijñāna, in Brown 1991, p. 210.


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Bio-Note: Ovidiu Cristian Nedu, researcher at Paul Păltănea History Museum of Galați and associate lecturer at Bucharest University, has been interested in Indian Idealist systems (Advaita Vedānta and Yogācāra Buddhism). At present, he attempts a different approach to these religious traditions, analyzing them from a psychological and humanist perspective. E-mail:


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