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Verses Delineating The Eight Consciousnesses

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{{Centre|Verses Delineating The Eight Consciousnesses
by Tripitaka Master Hsuan-Tsang of the T'ang Dynasty
Translation and Explanation by Professor Ronald Epstein


The work, written by Tripitaka Master Sywan Dzang (AD 596-664) at the request of his foremost disciple and successor Dharma Master Kwei Ji (AD 632-682), is a summary of the doctrine contained in Hsuan-Tsang's most celebrated work, Treatise on Consciousness-Only. The Treatise on Consciousness-Only is a commentary on the Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only by the Bodhisattva Vasubandhu (fl. 4th cent AD). The Treatise is based on the Sanskrit commentary of the Venerable Dharmapala (fl. 6th cent. AD) and nine other Indian masters. Dharmapala was the teacher of Master Sywan Dzang's own teacher, Silabhadra, the Abbot of Nalanda Monastery in India.

Vasubandhu's Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only is in turn a verse summary of the major systematic work of the Consciousness-Only, the Treatise on the Stages of Yoga Practice, which is alternately attributed to Vasubandhu's older brother the Bodhisattva Asanga (fl. 4th cent. AD) according to the Tibetan tradition or to Asanga's supramundane master the Bodhisattva Maitreya according to the Chinese tradition. At any rate according to Sywan Dzang's biography (Hui-li, Life of Hsuan Tsang) Asanga entered samadhi and ascended to the inner courtyard of the Tusita Heaven to learn the doctrine of Consciousness-Only from the Bodhisattva Maitreya.

In brief, the Verses Delineating the Eight Consciousnesses is a verse summary of a commentary on a verse summary of the Treatise on the Stages of Yoga Practice. Only a simple explanation of the meaning of the lines of the Verses is presented here.


The starting point of the Consciousness-Only School is that everything is created from the mind as is "consciousness-only". Everything, from birth and death to the cause of attaining nirvana, is based upon the coming into being and the ceasing to be of consciousnesss, that is, of distinctions in the mind. Consciousness-Only doctrine is characterized by its extensive and sophisticated inquiry into the characteristics of dharmas. For if we can distinguish what is real from what is unreal, if we can distinguish what is distinction-making consciousness and not mistake it for the originally clear, pure, bright enlightened mind, then we can quickly leave the former and dwell in the latter. Ch'an Master Han-shan (AD 1546-1623) has said, "When Consciousness-Only was made known to them (i.e., those of the Hinayana vehicles), they knew that [all dharmas] had no existence independent from their own minds. If one does not see the mind with the mind, then no characteristic can be got at. Therefore, in developing the spiritual skill necessary for meditative inquiry, people are taught to look into what is apart from heart, mind, and consciousness and to seek for what is apart from the states of unreal (polluted) thinking."



"Verses". The work is written in verse so that it can be easily remembered. However, it is not so easily understood without an explanation or without having first studied the doctrinal teachings extensively

The verses are divided into four sections of twelve lines each. The first section explains the first five consciousnesses, and the remaining three explain the sixth, seventh and eighth consciousnesses respectively. The first eight lines of each section explain the normal characteristics and functioning of the consciousness, while the final four lines explain the characteristics and functioning after the transformation of consciousness into wisdom.

"Delineating". The Chinese, gwei jyu, literally means compass and T-square. In other words the verses map for us the boundaries and characteristics of the eight consciousnesses.

"Eight consciousnesses." Consciousness is used exclusively in the sense of distinction-making activities of the mind, which include both the making of the distinctions and the distinctions made. Conscious awareness and what is normally unconscious are both considered aspects of consciousness in the Buddhist sense of the word.

The eight consciousnesses are:

1) eye-consciousness or seeing,

2) ear-consciousness or hearing,

3) nose-consciousness or smelling,

4) tongue-consciousness or tasting,

5) body-consciousness or tactile feeling,

6) mind-consciousness or cognition,

7) manas, the defiling mind-consciousness which is the faculty of mind, and

8) alaya, or storehouse consciousness.

They are described in detail in the discussion of the verses themselves.

The Author

By Tripitaka Master Hsuan-Tsang of the T'ang Dynasty

Tripitaka is Sanskrit word meaning "three baskets". It refers to the Buddhist canon with its three divisions--sutra, vinaya, and abhidharma. A tripitaka master is one who has thoroughly mastered all three divisions. Tripitaka Master Hsuan-Tsang was one of the foremost translators of Chinese Buddhist texts and a great enlightened master in his own right. He lived during the early Tang Dynasty, a golden age for Buddhism in China. During his early years as a monk in China he became aware of a number of doctrinal controversies concerning the Mahayana teachings, particularly those of the Yogacara. He then decided to journey to India to resolve his own doubts and to bring back authoritative texts that would help establish the correct teachings in China. After his fourteen (or according to some, seventeen) year journey, he established a translation bureau under imperial patronage. He succeeded in translating the major Yogacara texts as well as many others. His teachings and translations served as the foundation for what was considered the orthodox Consciousness-Only School in China.

Text and Commentary


The direct, veridical perception of natural states can involve any of the Three Natures

All distinction-making consciousness, has as its most basic distinction that of subject and object. The functioning of the subject-component of consciousness is also of three types,known as the Three Modes of Knowledge. Direct, veridical perception is the first. The others are inference and fallacy. Fallacy includes dreams and hallucinations. Only veridical perception functions within the fields of the five consciousnesses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching).

Likewise, a state refers to the object-component of consciousness. The object component is classified as being one of the Three Kinds of States:

1) natural state,

2) state of solitary impressions,

3) state of transposed substance.

The natural state refers to states--the perceived aspects of consciousness--as they really are, that is, undistorted by the attachment to self and other or by attachment to dharmas. The natural state is unconditioned by mental causation.

The second kind, solitary impressions, has no basis in the states as they really are, but consists of imagined categories of the sixth consciousness such as the hair of a turtle or the horns of a rabbit. The third, the state of transposed substance, refers to states that are distorted by false thinking and ultimately by the mark of a self. Only the first of the Three Kinds of States, the natural state, occurs in relation to the five consciousnesses.

Every moment of consciousness can also be characterized as having a moral nature. Again the analysis is threefold. The Three Natures are the wholesome, the unwholesome, and the indeterminate. Consciousness characterized by a wholesome nature tends towards the creation of good karma, whereas that of an unwholesome nature tends to create evil karma. The indeterminate nature is neutral, neither good nor evil. Since the five consciousnesses do not contain the potential for making moral distinctions, by themselves they are only indeterminate in nature.

Because the five consciousnesses always arise together with the sixth consciousness, which does distinguish good and evil, the five consciousnesses do partake of all three natures insofar as they are intimately connected with the sixth consciousness. As the first five consciousnesses function, the sixth consciousness simultaneously makes moral determinations of their contents. Apart from the activity of the sixth consciousness, the causal relationship of the first five consciousnesses to their states--sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects--is exclusively in terms of direct veridical perception.

Three consciousnesses--eyes, ears, and body--occupy two grounds.

The analysis now moves to what we might call the "vertical" dimension and informs about the levels of the conditioned world on which the five consciousnesses arise.

The "two grounds" refer to the first two of the Nine Grounds. The Nine Grounds are as follows:

a) the first ground is comprised of the realm of desire, which includes the five destinies of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, humans and the six desire heaven portion of the destiny of the gods;

b) the second, third, fourth, and fifth grounds are the Four Dhyana Heavens; and

c) the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grounds are the Four Stations of Emptiness.

The Formless Realms

(also known as the Four
Stations of Emptiness)

9. Neither Cognition nor Non-cognition

8. Nothing Whatsoever
7. Infinite Consciousness

6. Infinite Space

The Realm of Form

5. Fourth Dhyana (Stageof Renouncing Thought)

4. Third Dhyana (Stage of the Wonderful Bliss of Being Apart from Joy)
3. Second Dhyana (Joyful Stage of the Arising of Samadhi)

2. First Dhyana (Joyful Stage of Leaving Production)

The Realm of Desire 1. Six Desire Heavens and the destinies of humans, asuras, animals, hungry ghost, and hell-dwellers.

All five consciousnesses function in the realm of desire, that is, on the first ground. On the second ground eye-, ear-, and body-consciousness function, but nose-consciousness and tongue-consciousness do not function, because at that level (i.e., at the level of the first dhyana), the smell and taste objects of perception do not exist, nor does the type of morsel-nourishment which is connected with smell and taste. In the first dhyana nourishment takes place through contact rather than through the eating of meals comprised of morsels of food (the first of the four types).

Ordinarily we think only of nourishing our bodies through the intake of ordinary food and drink; however, the Buddhadharma distinguishes Four Kinds of Nourishment:

1) Mouthfuls. This kind is distinguished by the nose and tongue. Its substance is perceived through smell, taste, and contact. This ordinary food, bodily nutriment, changes and decays. It can be gross, solid, or fine. This kind of nourishment takes place only in the realm of desire.

2) Mental Contact. This kind nourishes the body by contact with joyous situations. In other words that the first six consciousnesses--seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and cognizing--can have special value as food. Nourishment by contact does not exist independent of the fourth kind of nourishment (see below).

3) Volition. When associated with the sixth consciousness, volition can function as food. It is characterized by desire for perceptual objects, thus aiding the five perceptual organs in attaining their objects. It occurs in all three realms, but does not exist independent of the fourth kind of nourishment. Therefore, the sixth consciousness in itself can have special value as food.

4) Consciousness. According to the Mahayana it refers to the eighth consciousness. It indicates that consciousness is capable of nourishing the bodily life of sentient beings. Life feeds off the eighth consciousness, the basic life force or life energy. When that life-energy is exhausted, death occurs.

One of the basic ideas here is that the nourishment needed by a being corresponds to its level of vital and conscious life. Coarse food is effective nourishment for a coarse organism but is of no use for a fine one. Higher and higher levels of life and consciousness must be fed with progressively finer and finer kinds of nourishment. Yet in the conditioned world even life on the finest and highest level of consciousness must "eat".

Beyond the first dhyana, that is, on the third through ninth grounds, none of the five consciousnesses arise.

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[They interact with] the universally interactive, the particular states, the eleven wholesome;

Two intermediate grade, eight major grade, greed, anger, and foolishness.

The five consciousnesses are called mind-dharmas as are all of the eight consciousnesses. The five interact with thirty-one Dharmas Interactive with the Mind. Dharmas Interactive with the Mind arise from the mind, that is, from mind-dharmas. They are dependent upon mind-dharmas for their existence, and interact with them. They represent a finer, secondary level of distinction-making. The thirty-one are:

a) Five Universally Interactive: attention, contact, feeling, conceptualization, and deliberation;

b) Five Particular States: desire, resolution, recollection, concentration, and judgment;

c) Eleven Wholesome States: faith, vigor, shame, remorse, absence of greed, absence of anger, absence of foolishness, light ease, non-laxness, renunciation, and non-harming;

d) Two Intermediate-Grade Derivative Afflictions: lack of shame and lack of remorse;

e) Eight Major-Grade Derivative Afflictions: lack of faith, laziness, laxness, torpor, restlessness, distraction, improper knowledge, and forgetfulness.

To say that the first five consciousnesses interact with these dharmas means that when the first five consciousnesses are functioning, any of these dharmas may arise and influence them.

The above dharmas are listed in the One Hundred Dharmas under the second of the five categories: Dharmas Interactive with the Mind. The other categories of the One Hundred Dharmas are: Mind Dharmas, Form Dharmas, Dharmas not Interactive with the Mind, and Unconditioned Dharmas. For further information on the One Hundred Dharmas, see Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas by Vasubandhu Bodhisattva with Commentary of Tripitaka Master Hua.

The five consciousnesses are all supported by organs of pure form.

There are five perceptual organs----eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body----which are the basis or support of the activities of the first five consciousnesses. Each organ has two portions. The first is the physical organ and its neural pathways, which belongs to the proximate perceived division of the eighth consciousness. The perceived division of the eighth consciousness is divided into two portions, the proximate and the distal. The proximate refers to the physical aspect of the six faculties, while the distal refers to the rest of the external world. In other words it is material; it is categorized as form and is distinguished from other, distal, forms, which are the objects of the organs' perception.

The second portion is the organ of pure form. The organ of pure form refers to the organ of pure mental substance within the physical organ. You don't smell with your physical nose organ but with the organ of pure form within the physical nose organ. Pure form refers to the state in which the Four Great Elements are in perfect equilibrium. Pure form is imperceptible except through the use of the Heavenly Eye.

That with nine preconditions and those with seven and eight are close neighbors.

The five consciousnesses have seven, eight, or nine preconditions for their coming into being. The five are grouped together and are said to be "close neighbors" because their modes of functioning are very similar in distinction to the other--sixth, seventh, and eighth--consciousnesses. The number of causal preconditions necessary for the rise of the eight consciousnesses varies from nine to three among the eight consciousnesses. The nine preconditions are: space, light, faculty, state, attention, basis of discrimination, basis of defilement and purity, fundamental basis, and seeds as basis. The basis of discrimination refers to the sixth consciousness, the basis of defilement and purity to the seventh consciousness, while the fundamental basis and seeds as basis refer to the eighth consciousness.

All nine preconditions are necessary for the coming into being of eye-consciousness, and so the verse refers to eye-consciousness as "that with nine preconditions". Only eight (no light) are necessary for ear-consciousness. For nose-, tongue-, and body-consciousness, seven of the nine are required (no light and no space). All five consciousnesses have in common their reliance on the sixth, seventh, and eighth consciousnesses as preconditions for their manifestation.

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Three perceive the world of defilement by contact and two perceive it at a distance.

Eyes and ears perceive at a distance, while nose, tongue, and body perceive through contact.

The foolish have difficulty distinguishing consciousness from organ.

"The foolish" refers to the Arhats and lesser beings of the Hinayana teachings, who are unaware of the Three Divisions of the Eighth Consciousness:the self-verifying division,the perceiver division, and the perceived division. "Perceptual organs have the capability of illuminating states, while consciousnesses have the capability of making distinctions." (Quoted by Chan Master Han-Shan, Sying-syang Tung-shwo.)

The transformation of the perceived division in the contemplation of emptiness is merely Later Attained Wisdom.

The objects of the five consciousnesses are the five "defilers"--sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects. They have their basis in the perceived division of the eighth consciousness. That is, they are a development of the eighth consciousness which takes place because of further distinction-making. The five consciousnesses have their basis in the five perceptual organs, that is, the organs of pure form and not the physical organs. As explained above, the physical organ belongs to the proximate portion of the perceived division, while the organ of pure form belongs to the perceiver division. In the contemplation discussed here, attachment to the perceived division is broken by a change in the functioning of the organ of

At the fruition, if there is still self, there is not total truth.

"At the fruition", refers to reaching the goal of one's practice. If the enlightened awareness attained still contains the distinction, however fine, of subject and object, then it is still based on the perceiver division and not on the Buddha-mind.

At the initial emergence of perfect clarity, the state of no outflows is realized.

"Perfect clarity" refers to the Great Mirror Wisdom. Although on the Eighth Ground the eighth consciousness continues to act as the supporting basis for the extremely subtle spontaneous affliction that the Bodhisattva purposely preserves as the vehicle of his continued rebirth in the world, in every other sense the eighth consciousness is undefiled and no longer the cause of rebirth. From the latter point of view, the Eighth Ground marks the beginning of the laying of the groundwork for the Great Mirror Wisdom, which is fully realized at Buddhahood. "Initial emergence" means that on the Eighth Ground the process of the transformation of the eighth consciousness into the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom begins. At that time "the state of no outflows" is realized" as the innate attachment to self is eliminated.

Using Three Kinds of Transformation Bodies, one brings the wheel of suffering to rest.

As the eighth consciousness is transformed into the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, the first five consciousnesses are simultaneously transformed into the Wisdom of Sucessful Performance. This wisdom is characterized by pure and unimpeded functioning in its relation to the organs and their objects. In other words in their teaching and taking living beings across to the other shore, the Buddhas' use of their seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching is completely devoid of attachment or distortion.

The transformation-bodies are bodies which are created using spiritual powers and which are transformations or emanations from the Dharma-body of the Buddha. (Three Aspects of the Dharma Body are explained below in the section on the eighth consciousness.) The Buddhas expediently display for living beings Three Kinds of Transformation Bodies: 1) a great transformation body to teach the great Bodhisattvas on the tenth ground (equivalent to the Reward Body), 2) a small transformation body--the sixteen "foot" physical body of the Buddha Shakyamuni, and 3) bodies which take on appearance in accordance with the species of living being taught. The perceptual functioning of these bodies is accomplished through the use of the Wisdom of Successful Performance.


Below, the first four lines discuss the range of the sixth consciousness; the second four discuss its role in the creation of karma and in the resultant karmic activity. The final four explain its transformation into wisdom.

Having Three Natures and with [[Three Modes of ]Knowledge]], it pervades the Three States.

The Three Natures are the wholesome, the unwholesome, and the indeterminate.

The ]]Three Modes of Knowledge]] are direct perception, inference and fallacy.

The ]]Three States\\ are the natural state, the state of solitary impressions, and the state of transposed substance. They have already been explained above (see Part One, line one).

The sixth consciousness uses all three modes of knowledge in its awareness of the three states. The Three Natures refers to classification of the moral nature of its activity. The distinction-making of the sixth consciousness is considered to be of a wholesome nature if it is beneficial. Such activity arises karmically as a result of good roots, that is, it is the fruition of the seeds planted by wholesome activity in the past. The situation is the opposite for distinction-making of an unwholesome nature. Indeterminate distinction-making is neither beneficial nor non-beneficial and arises from past activity that was correspondingly so.

The last type, the indeterminate nature, is divided into the obscuring indeterminate nature and the non-obscuring indeterminate nature; they will be explained below in the section on the seventh consciousness.

As it turns on the wheel, it easily comes to know the Three Realms it turns within.

The Three Realms are the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm.

What causes our revolving within the Three Realms on the wheel of the ]]Six Destinies\\ are the distinctions made in the sixth consciousness. The distinctions lead to karmic activity and then to karmic retribution. Because of its great power of making distinctions, the sixth consciousness easily distinguishes and classifies the different states--environments--of the realms with which it comes into contact.

It interacts with all fifty-one Dharmas Interactive with the Mind.

The sixth consciousness interacts with all fifty-one of the Dharmas Interactive with the Mind. The fifty-one are listed in the appendix on the One Hundred Dharmas and are described in the Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas.

Whenever it is wholesome or unwholesome, they make distinctions and accompany it.

When the activity of the sixth consciousness is wholesome, it is accompanied by the Eleven Wholesome Dharmas of the One Hundred Dharmas. When its activity is unwholesome, the dharmas of affliction arise in conjunction with it.

Its Three Natures, the Three States it relates with, and its Three Kinds of Feeling are constantly in flux.

In other words the moral classification, and so forth, of the sixth consciousness changes from moment to moment. The sixth consciousness is involved in a constant flux of distinction-making. In the case of the Three Natures, wholesome, unwholesome, and indeterminate indicate the moral categories od its activity; in the case of the Three States--the natural, and those of solitary impressions and of transposed substance--the categories indicate degrees of reality; and in the case of the Three Kinds of Feeling, the distinctions of pleasure, of pain, and of neutral feelings classify the emotional and perceptual experiences we undergo on their most fundamental level of reception. One difference between the Three Natures and the Three Kinds of Feeling is that the former is an analysis of causal activity and the latter is an analysis of experiential effect.

The basic and subsidiary afflictions together with faith and other wholesome dharmas always arise jointly with the sixth consciousness.

The afflictions and wholesome dharmas are all dependent upon the sixth consciousness. In other words they are not really separate from it but represent further categorization of distinctions within it. However, as explained above, depending on the nature of the sixth consciousness at any particular moment, the afflictions and the wholesome dharmas do not necessarily all arise together, that is, at the same time.

In physical action and in speech it is the most important.

In the creation of karma the volitional activity of the sixth consciousness plays the most important role. Examination and decision, which are both functions of the sixth consciousness, lead to activity, which creates both speech and bodily karma.

It brings to completion by its ability to summon forth the power of karma that leads [to rebirth].

This line further explains the karma-generating power of the sixth consciousness. It brings about karmic activity that leads to retribution, which is the completion of the three-stage karmic process:

1) giving rise to delusion, 2) creating karma, and 3) undergoing retribution.

When karma is created, seeds are planted in the eighth consciousness. At the time of rebirth it is the ripening of those seeds, "the power of karma", that draws the eighth consciousness back into the suffering of the Six Paths of Rebirth.

When the state of mind that is the initial phase of the Ground of Rejoicing arises,

The Ground of Rejoicing is the first of the Ten Grounds of the Bodhisattva's Path. Each of the ten is divided into the initial (or entering), dwelling, and departing phases.

Innate attachments still spontaneously appear as bonds and latent tendencies.

The two major kinds of attachment, to self and to dharmas, are further divided into two types: innate and distinguished. Innate are present at birth, and distinguished are learned subsequently. At this point, when the sixth consciousness begins to be transformed into the Wisdom of Wonderful Contemplation, the distinguished attachments have already been eliminated. The distinguished belong to the sixth consciousness, while the innate ones are found in both sixth and seventh. The innate are slowly eradicated up through the tenth ground. The latent tendencies refer to the seeds of the affliction-obstacle and of the obstacle of the knowable. Therefore, the line indicates that even at the point of entrance onto the First Ground innate attachments still exist in the sixth consciousness, both as manifest "bonds" and as latent potentials or "seeds".

After the Far-reaching Ground it is purified and without outflows.

The Far-reaching Ground is the seventh ground of the Bodhisattva. At the eighth ground, called the Unmoving Ground, one is without outflows. The sixth consciousness's attachment to the perceiver-division of the eighth, storehouse, consciousness as being the Self is abandoned, so there is no longer any attachment to self, only to dharmas.

How the seventh consciousness becomes attached to the perceiver division of the eighth consciousness as the self is explained in the initial section on the seventh consciousness.

When the Wisdom of Wonderful Contemplation becomes fully bright, it illuminates the universe.

At Buddhahood the transformation of consciousness into wisdom is completed, and the light of the Wisdom of Wonderful Contemplation illuminates everywhere.


The state of transposed substance that has the obscuring indeterminate nature is the connection between the sentience and the basis.

The state of transposed substance has two modes: the real and the seeming. Real transposed substance refers to the seventh consciousness relating to the eighth consciousness by falsely transposing the latter's perceiver division into a 'self'. That 'self' has no reality of its own, but is based upon the substance of the perceiver division of the eighth consciousness. [The seeming transposed substance refers to the sixth consciousness's relations with external states.]

The obscuring indeterminate nature is one of two modes of the indeterminate nature, the third of the Three Natures. The other mode is the non-obscuring indeterminate nature. Obscuring refers to those states of consciousness that have the function of, literally, 'covering' one's true nature. That is what the seventh consciousness does. As will be explained, it 'covers'--it distorts the true nature of--the perceiver division of the eighth consciousness. The non-obscuring nature refers to the perceived division of the eighth consciousness. It is said to be non-obscuring because it does not distort or obscure the true nature of the mind.

In between the seventh consciousness--'sentience' in the verse--and the perceiver division of the eighth consciousness--'basis' in the verse--there arises a state of transposed substance, which is the object of the seventh consciousness and which is identified by the seventh consciousness as being the 'self'. This is the process that obscures one's true nature.

According with conditions and attached to self, its mode of knowledge is fallacy.

As the seventh consciousness transmits information between the eighth consciousness and the first six consciousnesses, it overlays the information with self, thereby invovling the first six consciousnesses in its own fallacy.

The 'conditions', or situation, are those described in the first line: the state of transposed substance arising in between the seventh and eighth consciousnesses.

The four types of attachment to self are described in line four below.

Fallacy is the third of the Three Modes of Knowledge, already mentioned above, the first two being direct, veridical perception and inference. The seventh consciousness's attachment is innate and, therefore, a fundamentally fallacious mode of knowledge; it is not based on wrong inference as is the case with the sixth consciousness's coarse, distinguished, attachment to self. (The sixth consciousness also has a subtle, innate, attachment to self.)

The eight major-grade derivative afflictions; the universally interactive; of the particular states, judgment;

Self-love; self-delusion; view of self; and self-conceit all interact and accord with it.

The eight major-grade derivative afflictions are lack of faith, laziness, laxness, torpor, restlessness, distraction, improper knowledge, and scatteredness.

The five universally interactive dharmas are attention, contact, feeling, conceptualization, and deliberation.

Self-love, self-delusion, view of self, and self-conceit are known as the Four Types of Delusion. The four arise because of one of the Five Particular States, judgment, which refers to decision-making based wholly on worldly knowledge which is defiled by self. "Judgment" ceases to operate on the grounds of the sages, that is, from the eighth ground on. 'It' refers to the seventh consciousness. All of the eighteen dharmas listed here are dependent upon the seventh consciousness for their existence and all interact with it.

It continuously focuses its mental activity on inquiry which results in the characteristic that is self.

The seventh consciousness, in conjunction with the above mentioned mind-dependent dharmas, continously focuses on the perceiver division of the eighth consciousness, inquires into its nature, and erroneously ascertains that it is the true self.

In contradistinction to the other consciousnesses the seventh consciousness both functions continuously and engages in mental inquiry.


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
continuous functioning X X
mental inquiry X X

Day and night it reduces sentient beings to a state of confusion.

It is the seventh consciousness that keeps beings revolving on the wheel of rebirth. It is innate attachment to self that is the basis of our continued rebirth.

The Four Delusions and the Eight Major-Grade Derivative Afflictions arise interacting with it.

It is the Four Delusions, mentioned in line four above, and the Eight Major-Grade Derivative Afflictions, mentioned in line three above, that constitute "the state of confusion" of living beings.

When the sixth consciousness is functioning, the seventh is called the basis of defilement and purity.

The seventh consciousness is the mind-organ and as such is the basis of the sixth consciousness, which distinguishes what is defiled and what is pure.

During the initial phase of the Ground of Extreme Rejoicing, the Wisdom whose Nature is Equality begins to appear.

The seventh consciousness automatically begins to be transformed as the sixth is transformed. The seventh has no power of its own to eliminate delusion, because its delusions are all innate rather than distinguished. Through meditations utilizing the sixth consciousness, attachment to self is eliminated, but attachment to dharmas still remains.

Practice becomes effortless and the self is destroyed for good.

On the eighth ground of the Bodhisattva all further cultivation is spontaneous and without personal effort because there is no longer any self.

The Thus Come One appears [in a body] for the Enjoyment of Others

The Dharma-Body of a Buddha has three different aspects:

1) the Body of Self-Mastery, 2) the Enjoyment Body, which in turn has two aspects--self enjoyment and enjoyment of others, and 3) transformation bodies.

As an opportunity for Bodhisattvas of the Tenth Ground.

The Buddhas use their Enjoyment Bodies to teach and transform the Bodhisattvas who are on the tenth ground.


Its nature is exclusively the non-obscuring indeterminate, and it interacts with the Five Universally Interactive Dharmas.

Before its transformation into wisdom, the eighth consciousness always arises together with the seventh consciousness and the Five Universally Interactive Dharmas: attention, contact, feeling, conceptualization, and deliberation. The nature of the eighth consciousness is said to be "non-obscuring" because it does not obscure True Thusness. The eighth consciousness can also be said to be "unobscured" because its own nature is not obscured by the mind-dependent dharmas that arise with it. It is indeterminate because, being passive, it does not make the distinctions of wholesome and unwholesome or any other distinctions.

The eighth consciousness contains seeds, karmic potentials created by previous karmic activities. The seeds ripen and become actual dharmas as they are "perfumed" by the karmic activity of the first seven consciousnesses. The image here is built on an analogy with of sesame seeds, which take on the fragrance of the sesame plant's flowers or of any fragrance with which they come into contact.

The Three Realms with their Nine Grounds come into being in accord with the power of karma.

Although the eighth consciousness does not create karma because it is totally passive in function, the seeds stored within it ripen to create actual dharmas that are the Three Realms and the Nine Grounds. [The Nine Grounds are explained above in the explanation of the second line of the verse describing the first five consciousnesses.]

Because of their confused attachments, those of the Two Vehicles don't comprehend it;

And based upon those attachments, there arise the disputes of the shastra masters.

Only the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are capable of direct awareness of the eighth consciousness, because its states are so subtle. That is why those of the Hinayana vehicles deny its existence. The Treatise on Consciousness-Only gives scriptural references to it from both Mahayana and Hinayana scriptures together with logical arguments for the necessity of its existence.

How vast and unfathomable is the threefold alaya!

Alaya means "storehouse". Because it is a "storehouse" of seeds, storehouse consciousness (alayavijnana) is one of the names by which the eighth consciousness is known. "Threefold" refers to three aspects of the eighth consciousness: it contains seeds, it is 'perfumed', and the seventh consciousness takes it to be the self.

Generated by the winds of states, seven waves arise from its depths.

"Its depths" refers to the extent of the eighth consciousness, which is compared to the ocean. The first seven consciousnesses arise from the eighth consciousness in the same manner as waves arise on the surface of the sea. The wind represents "states", the causes and conditions for the consciousnesses arising. The causes and conditions "perfume" seeds in the eighth consciousness, causing them to sprout, to become actual dharmas. The first seven consciousnesses and the Dharmas Interactive with the Mind associated with them all come into being from seeds stored in the eighth consciousness.

It undergoes perfuming and contains the seeds both of the body with its organs and of the material world.

The body with its perceptual organs and the entire physical world also arise from seeds contained in the eighth consciousness.

After going and before coming, it's in control.

At death the first seven consciousnesses are reabsorbed into the eighth consciousness. At birth they are regenerated as separate consciousnesses. "After going and before coming" refers to the intermediate state between death and rebirth. During that period the eighth consciousness is "in control."

The line could also be interpreted as meaning that at death the eighth consciousness is the last to leave the old body, and at birth it is the first to begin functioning.

Before the Unmoving Ground attachment to the storehouse is finally relinquished.

The Unmoving Ground is the Eighth Ground. Prior to the eighth ground, that is, on the seventh ground, the seventh consciousness relinquishes its innate attachment to the eighth or storehouse consciousness being the self. This takes place as the seventh consciousness transforms itself into the Wisdom Whose Nature is Equality.

Upon completion of the vajra Path, it is empty of the ripening of results.

The vajra Path, "the Path of indestructible substance", refers to the eighth through tenth grounds and, in addition, the stage of Equal Enlightenment. Due to the absence of self and because the Bodhisattva contemplates the emptiness of both self and dharmas during this period, no fresh defiling karma is created, but "the ripening of results" continues: seeds planted in the past continue to ripen into actual karmic retribution. However, at Buddhahood the eighth consciousness is finally emptied of ripening seeds of future karma. In other words, no seeds remain in the mind that could give rise to future outflows or impurities.

The Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom and the undefiled consciousness are produced at the same time,

At Buddhahood the transformation of the eighth consciousness into the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom is complete, and consciousness can be said to be totally undefiled. It is this pure "consciousness" that is called True Thusness.

And in the ten directions universally illuminate Buddha-fields as countless as motes of dust.

The light of wisdom emitted from the Dharma Body of the Buddha illumintes everywhere.

The ten directions are north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, above, and below.

A Buddha-field or Buddhaland refers to where a Buddha resides, a "land" created by the power of great compassion to aid in teaching living beings and in taking them across to Buddhahood.




Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
attention X X X X
feeling X X X X
conceptualization X X X X
deliberation X X X X


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
desire X X
resolution X X
recollection X X
judgment X X X


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
faith X X
vigor X X
shame X X
remorse X X
absence of greed X X
absence of hatred X X
absence of foolishness X X
light ease X X
non-laxness X X
renunciation X X
non-harming X X


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
greed X X
foolishness X X
arrogance X
doubt X


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
self-delusion X X
view of self X X
self-conceit X X
self-love X X
extreme views X
false views X



Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
wrath X
hatred X
rage X
covering X
deceit X
flattery X
conceit X
Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
harming X
jealousy X
stinginess X
conceit X


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
lack of shame X X
lack of remorse X X


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
lack of faith X X X
laziness X X X
laxness X X X
torpor X X X
restlessness X X X
distraction X X X
improper knowledge X X X
scatteredness X X X


Consciousnesses: 1-5 6 7 8
sleep X
regret X
examination X
investigation X


basis - asraya

Buddha-field - buddha-kshetra

characteristics of dharmas - dharma-laksana

consciousness. vijnana

continuous functioning - Ch. chang

delineating - Ch. gwei jyu

dhyana - Ch. chan

ground - bhumi

interactive with the mind - caitta, caitasika

latent tendencies - anusaya

meditative inquiry - Ch. tsan chan

mental inquiry - Ch. shen sz

mind-organ - manas

no outflows anasrava

organ of pure form - Ch. jing sz gen

perceived division]] - nimitta-bhaga

perceiver division - darshana-bhaga

ripening of results - vipaka

seeds - bija

state - Ch. jye, jing jye

storehouse - alaya

storehouse consciousness - alayavijnana

three baskets - tripitaka

transformation body Skt. nisyanda-kaya

True Thusness - bhutatathata, Ch. jen ru

undefiled - amala

vajra Path - vajra-marga


[[TWO KINDS OF WISDOM (Ch. erjung jr)

1) Fundamental wisdom (Skt. mula-jnana, Ch. gen ben jr)
2) Later attained wisdom (Skt. prstalabdha-jnana, Ch. hou de jr)


1) Obstacle of the afflictions (Skt. klesavarana)
2) Obstacle of the knowable (Skt. jneyavarana)

THREE ASPECTS OF THE ALAYAVIJNANA ([[san jung}} e lai ye shr]])

1) Container of seeds (Skt. sarvabijaka, Ch. neng dzang)
2) Undergoes "perfuming" (Ch. swo dzang)
3) Taken to be self by seventh consciousness (Ch. wo ai jr dzang)


1) Self-mastery (Skt. svabhavika-kaya, Ch. dz sying shen)
2) Enjoyment (Skt. sambhoga-kaya, Ch. shou yung shen)
3) Transformation (Skt. nirmana-kaya, Ch. byan hwa shen)

THREE DIVISIONS OF THE BUDDHIST CANON (Skt. tripitaka, Ch. san dzang)

1) Sutra (Ch. jing)
2) Vinaya (Ch. lyu)
3) Abhidharma (Ch. lwun)


1) Self-verifying division (Skt. svasamvittibhaga, Ch. dz jeng fen)
2) Perceiver division (Skt. darsanabhaga, Ch. jyan fen)
3) Perceived division (Skt. nimittabhaga, Ch. syang fen)

THREE KINDS OF FEELING (Skt. vedana, Ch. san shou)

1) pleasurable (Skt. sukha, Ch. le)
2) painful (Skt. duhkha, Ch. ku)
3) neutral (Skt. aduhkhasukha, Ch. bu ku bu le)


1) great transformation
2) small transformation
3) bodies that accord with the species of living beings

THREE MODES OF KNOWLEDGE (Skt. pramana, Ch. san lyang)

1) direct, veridical perception (Skt. pratyaksa, Ch. syan lyang)
2) inference (Skt. anumana, Ch. bi lyang)
3) fallacy (Skt. abhasa, Ch. fei lyang)

THREE NATURES (Ch. san sying)

1) wholesome (Skt. kusala, Ch. shan)
2) unwholesome (Skt. akusala, Ch. e)
3) indeterminate (Skt. avyakrta, Ch. wu ji)

THREE STATES (Skt. avastha, Ch. san jing)

1) natural state (Ch. sying jing)
2) state of solitary impressions (Ch. du ying jing)
3) state of transposed substance (Ch. dai jr ching)


1) mental inquiry (Ch. shen lu)
2) decision (Ch.jywe ding)
3) action (Ch. fa dung)

THREE REALMS (Ch. san jye)

1) realm of desire (Skt. kamadhatu, Ch. yu jye)
2) realm of form (Skt. rupadhatu, Ch. sz/shai jye)
3) formless realm (Skt. arupyadhatu, Ch. wu sz/shai jye)

FOUR KINDS OF NOURISHMENT (Skt. catvara-ahara, Ch. sz shr)

1) mouthfuls (Skt. kavali-kara-ahara, Ch. dwan shr)
2) mental contact (Skt. sparsa-ahara, Ch. chu shr)
3) Volition (psychology)|volition]] (Skt. manah-sancetana-ahara, Ch. sz shr)
4) consciousness (Skt. vijnana-ahara, Ch. shr shr)

FOUR KINDS OF WISDOM (Skt. jnana, Ch. sz jr)

1) Great Mirror Wisdom (Skt. adarsa-jnana, Ch. da ywan jing jr)
2) Wisdom of Equality (Skt. samata-jnana, Ch. ping deng sying jr)
3) Wisdom of Wonderful Contemplation (Skt. pratyaveksana-jnana, Ch. myau gwan cha jr)
4) Wisdom of Successful Performance (Skt. krityanusthana-jnana, Ch. cheng swo dzwo jr)

FOUR TYPES OF DELUSION (Ch. sz hwo/hwei)

1) self-love (Skt. atma-sneha, Ch. wo ai, wo tan)
2) self-delusion (Skt. atma-moha, Ch. wo chr)
3) view of self (Skt. atma-drsti, Ch. wo jyan)
4) self-conceit (Skt. atma-mana, Ch. wo man)

SIX DESTINIES (Skt. gati, Ch. lyou chyu)

1) gods (Skt. deva, Ch. tyan)
2) humans (Skt. manusya, Ch. ren)
3) asuras (Skt. asura, Ch. e syou lwo)
4) animals (Skt. tiryagyoni, Ch. chu sheng)
5) ghosts (Skt. preta, Ch. e gwei)
6) hell-dwellers (Skt. nairayika, Ch. di yu)


EIGHT CONSCIOUSNESSES (Skt. vijnana, Ch. ba shr)

1) eye-consciousness (Skt. caksur-vijnana, Ch. yan shr)
2) ear-consciousness (Skt. srotra-vijnana, Ch. er shr)
3) nose-consciousness (Skt. ghrana-vijnana, Ch. bi shr)
4) tongue-consciousness (Skt. jihva-vijnana, Ch. she shr)
5) body-consciousness (Skt. kaya-vijnana, Ch. shen shr)
6) mind-consciousness (Skt. mano-vijnana, Ch. yi shr)
7) defiled/defiling mind-consciousness (Skt. klista-mano-vijnana, manas, Ch. yi)

NINE GROUNDS (Skt. navanupurvavihara, Ch. jyou di)

1) Realm of desire (Skt. kama-dhatu, Ch. yu jye)
2) First Dhyana (Skt. prathama-dhyana, Ch. chu chan)
3) Second Dhyana (Skt. dvitiya-dhyana, Ch. er chan)
4) Third Dhyana (Skt. trtiya-dhyana, Ch. san chan)
5) Fourth Dhyana (Skt. caturtha-dhyana, Ch. sz chan)
6) Infinite Space (Skt. akasanantyayatana, Ch. kung wu byan chu)
7) Infinite Consciousness (Skt. vijnananantyayatana, Ch. shr wu byan chu)
8) Nothing Whatsoever (Skt. akincanantyayatana, Ch. wu swo you chu)
9) Neither Cognition Nor Non-Cognition (Skt. naivasamjnasamjnayatana, Ch. fei syang fei fei syang chu)


1) Space (Ch. kung)
2) Light (Ch. ming)
3) Organ (Ch. gen)
4) State (Ch. jing)
5) Attention (Ch. dzwo yi)
6) Basis of Discrimination (Ch. fen bye yi)
7) Basis of Defilement and Purity (Ch. ran jing yi)
8) Fundamental Basis (Ch. gen ben yi)
9) Seeds as Basis (Ch. jung dz yi)

TEN GROUNDS (Skt. dasa-bhumi, Ch. shr di)

1) Ground of Happiness (Skt. pramudita-bhumi, Ch. hwan syi di)
2) Ground of Leaving Filth (Skt. vimala-bhumi, Ch. li gou di)
3) Ground of Emitting Light (Skt. prabhakari-bhumi, Ch. fa wang di)
4) Ground of Blazing Wisdom (Skt. arcismati-bhumi, Ch. yan hwei di)
5) Ground of Invincibility (Skt. sudurjaya-bhumi, Ch. nan sheng di)
6) Ground of Manifestation (Skt. abhimukhi-bhumi, Ch. syan chyan di)
7) Ground of Travelling Far (Skt. duramgama-bhumi, Ch. ywan sying di)
8) Ground of Not Moving (Skt. acala-bhumi, Ch. bu dung di)
9) Ground of Good Wisdom (Skt. sadhumati-bhumi, Ch. shan hwei di)
10) Ground of the Dharma Cloud (Skt. dharmamegha-bhumi, Ch. fa yun di)