Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Alaya (storehouse) consciousness and faith in Amida Buddha

In Buddhism we speak about the Eight Consciousness which are generated when our senses encounter their objects:

1) consciousness of sight, 2) consciousness of hearing,

3) consciousness of smell, 4) consciousness of taste, 5) consciousness of touch, 6) consciousness of mind, 7) impure (mind) consciousness, 8) the alaya (storehouse) consciousness. 

The meaning of the first five consciousnesses is easy to comprehend, so I will not dwell upon them.  

The consciousness of mind integrates the perceptions of the five senses in concrete images and takes decisions concerning the exterior world.

 The impure (mind) consciousness is the source of clinging and so the origin of the sense of ego as well as of the other illusions which are born from the fact that the man takes as real something which is merely apparent. 

The alaya consciousness or storehouse consciousness is the place where all the actions and experiences in this life and the previous lives generated by the seven consciousnesses are stored as karma, being the only consciousness which comes along with every birth. This consciousness influences at the same time the workings of the other seven consciousnesses.  

We take this alaya consciousness with us in all our births in the various realms of existence. It contains the seeds of various types of karma and it is the storehouse of the habitual evil karmic tendencies that we have cultivated for eons. Because of the karmic seeds contained in the alaya consciousness one may die a premature death, be stricken with unexpected disease or inexplicable misfortune, overcome by strong desires, aversions and obsessions, can think and do things that one should never even imagine, etc. So strong is the influence of the alaya consciousness.

When Shinran is recorded as saying in chapter 13th of Tannisho: “a person may not wish to harm anyone and yet end up killing a hundred or a thousand people”, he is in fact referring to the influence of past karma contained in the alaya consciousness.

Here are two questions and answers related with alaya consciousness:

Question 1:  How can the influence of this alaya consciousness be annihilated in our case, as ordinary people?

Answer: Only through the Nembutsu of faith in Amida Buddha.

Question 2: What exactly happens with alaya consciousness after we receive shinjin (faith in Amida Buddha)?

 Answer: After we take refuge in Amida Buddha and receive shinjin, the alaya consciousness as well as the other consciousnesses continue to exist as long as we are still in our samsaric bodies, but at the end of our lives, when we are born in Amida’s Pure Land or His sphere of influence, it naturally melts and is absorbed in the Buddha nature. It is as the comparison with ice and fire. Once the ice meets fire (birth in the Pure Land), it becomes water (Buddhahood). Thus we can no longer speak about alaya after we become Buddhas in the Pure Land. It simply doesn’t exist anymore.

 We can’t purify this consciousness during our lives, but due to Amida’s influence it becomes powerless and cannot accompany us in the next life. By receiving shinjin during this present life, the seeds of our karma contained in alaya consciousness are sterilized, never to grow again in a new samsaric plant. It is like the struggle of the fish after it was taken out of the water. It will still move for a while but it will surely die in short time. Or like a cut flower which is put into a vase. It still preserves its color but will soon wither away.

Our karma stored in alaya consciousness is like this. It may continue to influence the present life, but cannot accompany us into the next life, because we become Buddhas in the moment we die and we are born in the Pure Land. 

No other religious practices outside or inside Buddhism can destroy the karmic seeds of the alaya consciousness so easy as the Jodo Shinshu method. This is because in Jodo Shinshu we become totally connected to the enlightened karmic energy of Amida Buddha who takes care of everything related with our attainment of Buddhahood.

2 comentarii:

Thomas of Sydney said...

Thank you for these words. It grants me both hope and courage to live life as best I can with the faith and aspiration that Amida is my ultimate goal in which I will find Buddhahood.

seow sang said...

Amituofo,Amituofo,Amituofo. All sentient beings have the nature of true mind.

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