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Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby ed blanco on Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:32 pm

Gregory, this Christian Pecaut is a trip. He is so funny. I wasn't ready for the Osama Bin Laden insertion though, that did take me by surprise. I love the deep bass. It reminds me of some character from Saturday Night Live...
The great thing is I am retaining this when sutras are, for me, quite airy. Yet I am understanding a lot of it. The sing song narrative helps but mostly is the perspective of listening rather than reading. It works here just fine.

:O:
IT SPEAKS IN SILENCE
IN SPEECH YOU HEAR ITS SILENCE

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby steve on Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:20 am

I've been reading The Red Pine translation of the Lanka for about a month now. I wanted to hip you all to a good study guide that I found. It is called Existence and Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra: A Study in the Ontology and Epistemology of the Yogacara School of Mahayana Buddhism. It is written by Florin Sutton. I have found it EXTREMELY helpful in systematically setting forth the various big ideas in the sutra. I'm writing this on my phone and can't go into great detail now, but I will say that I am not a big philosophy person who can tell you the ins and outs of the great thinkers. I had to Wikipedia "ontology" and "epistemology" before I started reading it to make sure I understood what the book title meant. But it has been a very good read which has illuminated much. It is challenging but not inaccessible. To be able to read about the three different ways to look at the tathagatagarbha concept, and relate it to the manifestation of being in time (skandas) and in space (dharmadatu) as a coherent ontology - allows me to go back and re-read the sutra in much deeper way.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has read it. He seems to be indicating that some of the positions he takes are not commonly accepted. For example, he states that the Yogacara "mind-only" isn't a denial of the existence of the external world. I don't know that I am holding too hard to any of his conclusions but the way the book is organized has helped me tremendously.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:07 am

Pedestrian,

I ordered the book yesterday from Amazon.

I have Suzuki's translation, and have read it a number of times. Also have Suzuki's STUDIES volume, on the Sutra.

For discussions with a feller on another forum, I also ordered at the same time Red Pine's transl. of the PLATFORM SUTRA.
I surely love the old translation in Dwight Goddard's A BUDDHIST BIBLE, done by Mou Lam, though; it's very clear and simple, it
seems to me; a real gift. Let's see how old Red does! ;-)

I'd like to join discussions here about the Lankavatara, and/or about Madhyamika and Yogacara, as they relate.

Big topics!

Thanks,

--Joe

Pedestrian wrote:I am taking a second crack at Red Pine's translation of the Lankavatara Sutra. Would anyone else be interested to stumble through it with me?
"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.

"I'd like to say thank-you on behalf of the band and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition". -- John Lennon, clowning on the Let It Be album (1970) recording session.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Pedestrian on Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:17 am

Welcome, steve and Joe!

So far (I'm on page 150 or so), Norman Fischer's comment about reading the Lanka as practice is resonating most powerfully for me. My graduate work was in cultural theory, and I feel pretty comfortable in the world of ontological and semiotic analysis (much too comfortable, in fact, much of the time...). Those concepts don't get me too far into the Lanka, however; they are rungs on a familiar ladder, but in the repeated engagement of "all dharmas are projections" those rungs dissolve and I quickly slide down down down... thud.

Which means for me that personal realization, again and again, is the ground on which I fall. Trusting that ground of personal realization is there makes reading a practice that's different from other sorts of reading. As Fischer points out, the Lanka is adept at seeping into and thus deepening every aspect of my own engagement with my practice. At least for me, it's also changing my approach to sutra reading, developing it more as an aspect of practice, not as a deluded search for and attachment to meanings.

So I've been in no hurry to interpret definitively, or even to finish, this rungless ladder of the Lanka. Perhaps I'm getting attached to stepping on vanishing rungs! :lol2:
"Buddha, to liberate beings, cultivates practices everywhere." Avatamsaka Sutra.

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:52 am

Pedestrian,

Thanks.

It's late at night here, and the mind and memory work strangely at such extreme times. Nonetheless, I recall and would like to relate an admonition that my old teacher Sheng Yen told us a long time ago. He always had us read and study as well as practice very devotedly. Well...

...he admonished us, if we read sutras, NOT to interpret them in the light of any awakening- or realization-experience we may have had, but, INSTEAD, to try better to understand our experience in the light of the SUTRA. I thought then that this was very fine, humble and correct, and I especially do now. Why do I mention it, now? Well, just in case I should soon have forgotten it. Now maybe I won't forget. And you are my witness. ;-)

Night-night!,

--Joe

Pedestrian wrote:Welcome, steve and Joe!

So far (I'm on page 150 or so), Norman Fischer's comment about reading the Lanka as practice is resonating most powerfully for me. My graduate work was in cultural theory, and I feel pretty comfortable in the world of ontological and semiotic analysis (much too comfortable, in fact, much of the time...). Those concepts don't get me too far into the Lanka, however; they are rungs on a familiar ladder, but in the repeated engagement of "all dharmas are projections" those rungs dissolve and I quickly slide down down down... thud.

Which means for me that personal realization, again and again, is the ground on which I fall. Trusting that ground of personal realization is there makes reading a practice that's different from other sorts of reading. As Fischer points out, the Lanka is adept at seeping into and thus deepening every aspect of my own engagement with my practice. At least for me, it's also changing my approach to sutra reading, developing it more as an aspect of practice, not as a deluded search for and attachment to meanings.

So I've been in no hurry to interpret definitively, or even to finish, this rungless ladder of the Lanka. Perhaps I'm getting attached to stepping on vanishing rungs! :lol2:
"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.

"I'd like to say thank-you on behalf of the band and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition". -- John Lennon, clowning on the Let It Be album (1970) recording session.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby steve on Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:22 pm

This is a part that seemed particularly meaningful to me today:

"By abandoning permanence and impermanence, by mastering permanence and impermanence, those who always see the Buddhas will not become subject to the power of philosophical viewpoints. When permanence and impermanence are adhered to, the preparation for buddhahood is achieved through complete knowledge. Through the imperfection of knowledge based on dichotomous thinking, permanence and impermanence are warded off. Whenever an affirmation is made, all becomes ambiguous. But when it is understood that there is nothing but one's own mind, disputes are not engaged in."

It's similar to the two truths doctrine. Inasmuch as it points to two different cognitive modes - one being thinking and logic and the other being meditative practice. It being stated that the "flaws" if you will in thinking based on language - or the contradictory or limited nature of it - allows the knowledge gained by it to transcend itself. It's like you follow logic to its end, realize it's limitation and then abandon it or dispense with it in favor of practice. Seems to be along the lines of what you guys were talking about relating the importance of the Sutra to practice.

If I have that right.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:25 pm

A little bit of weightlessness could be good for us all. ;-)

--Joe

Pedestrian wrote:Welcome, steve and Joe!

Those concepts don't get me too far into the Lanka, however; they are rungs on a familiar ladder, but in the repeated engagement of "all dharmas are projections" those rungs dissolve and I quickly slide down down down... thud.

<snip>

So I've been in no hurry to interpret definitively, or even to finish, this rungless ladder of the Lanka. Perhaps I'm getting attached to stepping on vanishing rungs! :lol2:
"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.

"I'd like to say thank-you on behalf of the band and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition". -- John Lennon, clowning on the Let It Be album (1970) recording session.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:46 pm

Steve,

Thank you for the reference to Sutton's study. It sounds and looks good.

I note that Amazon has the book, for about 27 USD. And I note that the Indologist bookseller Motilal Banarsidass (MLBD) has it for 400 Indian Rupees, about 7 USD, in a hardcover. I have many of his editions, reprints usually, of hard to find books that have gone out of copyright. The paper is not meant to last long, but the prices are usually right. On some occasions, MLBD has kindly forwarded books in his stock to his distributor in the States, and I bought them at discount from the latter. I'll see if we can wangle this, this time.

Banarsidass' outlet in the West, SouthAsiaBooks, does not have the book. This prob. indicates that the book is still in copyright by SUNY, and we must pay the US price. Or I'll try the "wangle" above; tho', it might not be strictly legal... or even remotely. ;-(

But, one way or another!

Probably have to shell-out... .

Thanks again!

--Joe

steve wrote:I wanted to hip you all to a good study guide that I found. It is called Existence and Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra: A Study in the Ontology and Epistemology of the Yogacara School of Mahayana Buddhism. It is written by Florin Sutton. I have found it EXTREMELY helpful in systematically setting forth the various big ideas in the sutra.
"The abundance of Nature is not a matter of its 'providing' ". -- William James, c. 1901.

"I'd like to say thank-you on behalf of the band and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition". -- John Lennon, clowning on the Let It Be album (1970) recording session.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby steve on Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:21 pm

I had posted earlier about a book called "Existence and Enlightenment" by Florin Sutton that I found helpful in understanding the Lankavatara. At the time, I posted from my phone and couldn't describe it. So here is a little more on the book. It organizes the teachings of the Lankavatara into 2 sections - one dealing with ontology and one with epistemology.

In the ontology section, he speaks of the three pillars of Buddhist ontology: Tathatagarbha, the Five Skandhas, and the Dharmadhatu.

He attempts to show that the term "Tathatagarbha" has three distinct meanings depending on the context. First, it refers to the "ground of being" - or the "essence" of being. Second, it refers to an "embryo" - or that which is to be nurtured into realization of Buddhahood. Third, it refers to "womb" or "matrix of buddha activity". From a practical point of view, it helps an adept to visualize the self as an embryo to be nursed into buddhahood, the universe as the all-emcompassing matrix in which it is nursed, and identifies it with the universal teaching of buddhism. Thus, it is an intermediate step to the personal realization of anatman. It broadens one's horizon and weakens the attachment to a narrowly defined notion of Self. And eventually the emergence of one's consciousness into the broad and unlimited freedom of non-self. The Five Skandhas refers to the manifestation of Tathatagarbha in time. And the Dharmadhatu is the manifestation of Tathatagarbha in space.

In the epistemology section, he discusses the Madhyamika 4 fold negation. Or the tetralemma dialectic used by Nagarjuna. This broadens the more common method of analysis that something is either X or not-X by looking at it as either X, not-X, both X and not-X, or neither X nor not-X. Then he attempts to show how each of the various epistemological teachings correlate with one limb of the tetralemma. So in the affirmative, you have the doctrine of citta-matra or "mind-only" which affirms the mind. Showing that all assertions about reality are assertions of our experience of reality, or assertions about mind. So citta-matra is concerned with explaining what the mind is. Next, there is the Five Dharmas which leads the adept through various stages of knowledge or levels of cognition up to the transcendental which is imageless or content-less. So this is the negative limb. The Five Dharmas is the concept dealing with what "no-mind" is. Next is the conjunctive which is represented by the 8 Vijnanas. And shows how mind and no-mind work together. And finally the disjunctive - which is expressed by the teachings of causation. i.e. x is not caused by itself, by another, by itself and another, by neither. Again, all of these concepts are expressed as an expedient towards the higher religious goal of the abandonment of all attachment to views.

Reading this book (more than once) gave me a much better necessary background on the various ideas presented by the sutra, along with the history of the development of such ideas, which has made the sutra much more accessible to me. I recommend. Again!
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Carol on Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:15 pm

Looks interesting Existence & Enlightenment in the Lankavatara Sutra

Thanks for pointing it out.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Beatzen on Thu May 09, 2013 3:12 pm

I'm a little skeptical of red pine since I cited his translation of the Heart Sutra in a conversation on another forum.

There he translates the aggregates as "form, feeling, perception, memory and consciousness"

I personally think "volitional formations" would have been more appropriate.

It's only come up in my mind recently because amazon lists his translation of the Platform Sutra as #1 when you search for it.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Pedestrian on Thu May 09, 2013 3:22 pm

I noted that as well. He has substantial footnotes in both the Heart Sutra and Lankavatara Sutra translations (I think...) about that "memory" translation, related (I think...) to repository consciousness. If someone has either handy, can you check?
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Beatzen on Thu May 09, 2013 3:59 pm

this is very interesting to me.

We know that the Buddha implied that the "seed" of karma was cetana (volition).

but this whole Yogacarin thing about a "storehouse" consciousness reminds me of a story Robert Thurman told about when the Buddha met Brahma. This is before the buddha's full enlightenment. Siddhartha asks Brahma where the myriad dharmas go once they arise, persist momentarily, and then subside. The fact that Brahma could not answer told the future-buddha that Brahma was not enlightened.

Now, I'm not saying I know what I can 'unpack' from that story. But I'll tell you one thing.

If there are five aggregates, and they are all co-dependant, then every previous moment is the fuel for the arising of new volition. There is no need to theorize about the existence of a 'buddhist unconscious mind' where all karmic seeds are stored. That flies in the face of everything the buddha taught about the groundlessness of reality, and the non-existence of any substrate to it. The only cause is the moment that immediately preceded it. no divine substance or hard-drive for the universe. There is no "digging" up seeds of karma, only sudden/gradual enlightenment, and the growing will to modify one's behavior in lieu of one's realizations. I think people forget that morality and reformation of character and the psyche takes a long time, and that you have to walk the walk to get where you want to go.

...thanks for allowing me my soap box moment by the way, since it's kind of but not entirely off topic, if anyone wants to reply, just message me.
Last edited by Beatzen on Thu May 09, 2013 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Pedestrian on Thu May 09, 2013 4:02 pm

I'm confused by what you wrote. I'm pretty sure that Red Pine isn't theorizing about the existence of a buddhist unconscious mind; I'm certainly not. Rather, is my sense that, given the impossibility of translation (hell, of language!), Red Pine believed that "memory" was an imperfect term that would serve his 21stC readership better than the other imperfect options.

I wish I had those footnotes handy...!
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Beatzen on Thu May 09, 2013 4:05 pm

because memory implies a place where memory is stored i guess. sorry i've been drinking too much coffee. i'm getting all ranty- better go fill myself with mischief somewhere else.
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Thu May 09, 2013 4:26 pm

Beatzen wrote:I'm a little skeptical of red pine since I cited his translation of the Heart Sutra in a conversation on another forum.
There he translates the aggregates as "form, feeling, perception, memory and consciousness"
I personally think "volitional formations" would have been more appropriate.
It's only come up in my mind recently because amazon lists his translation of the Platform Sutra as #1 when you search for it.

Pedestrian wrote:I noted that as well. He has substantial footnotes in both the Heart Sutra and Lankavatara Sutra translations (I think...) about that "memory" translation, related (I think...) to repository consciousness. If someone has either handy, can you check?

To me the best translation for the 4th Skandha from the POV of Western psychology is "complexes" because complexes are the mental formations of the psyche that mediate between the sensations and perceptions and consciousness.

Red Pine's use of "memory" is not as off the wall as it may first seem, because the continuity factor of psychic formations is what is being referred to as memory. Also, the idea of "volition" is based on the function of "self identity" and identity is based on memory in the sense that when we wake up in the morning we "remember" that we are the same person we were yesterday. So memory is the glue that holds all the formations in association and memory is the collection of threads and yarns with which we weave together our self identity and our world view.

Karma (action) is "our" karma to the extent that we have woven our identity, and thus the volitional aspect of our karma rests upon the self-image that is connected by the memory function that is formed into the mental and emotional patterns known as complexes.

The "ego complex" is one level of our self-image, and is basically the coherence function of the whole realm of complexes. But there are very many more formations that are more or less split off from the ego complex, and these relatively autonomous complexes are the formations of the vexations and afflictions that we perceive as obstacles in relation to our ego complex. They act as semi-autonomous personalities within our mind. This is why the Sixth Ancestor Huineng said that when we take the 4 Great Vows that the first vow is to cross over all the innumerable living beings of our own mind. There is no separation between the inner vexations as independent personalities and the outer persons who vex us.

Below the level of the personal complexes are the collective complexes that CG Jung termed the archetypes. The archetypal psychic formations are still personal in that they are manifested within the field of our own consciousness, yet they are collective in that they are psychic formations that are not individual in nature and are the basis for our collective consciousness that we call culture. The archetypes are the deepest level of the 4th Skandha that we can conceive of as having psychological influence and force within the field of consciousness.

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Sat May 11, 2013 7:54 pm

Beatzen wrote:If there are five aggregates, and they are all co-dependant, then every previous moment is the fuel for the arising of new volition. There is no need to theorize about the existence of a 'buddhist unconscious mind' where all karmic seeds are stored. That flies in the face of everything the buddha taught about the groundlessness of reality, and the non-existence of any substrate to it. The only cause is the moment that immediately preceded it. no divine substance or hard-drive for the universe. There is no "digging" up seeds of karma, only sudden/gradual enlightenment, and the growing will to modify one's behavior in lieu of one's realizations. I think people forget that morality and reformation of character and the psyche takes a long time, and that you have to walk the walk to get where you want to go.


The above comments are a direct challenge to, if not an attack on, to the Mahayana view. This view by the Early Schools (that co-dependent arising explains everything so there is no place for any consideration of a mind not related to the 5 skandhas and no need for more than the 6-fold consciousness (vijnana)) is the re-presentation of one of the core debates by the Buddhist Bodhisattva Pandits (pandita) of the various schools of thought leading to the arguments of the Mahayana adding additional folds of consciousness to make 7, or 8 consciousnesses. (There was even one attempt to add a ninth consciousness to separately identify the Dharmakaya but this generally rejected as unnecessary.) The necessity to respond to this view of dependent origination was part of the causes and conditions requiring the development and restatement of Buddha Dharma in the Mahayana frame.

The first 4 skandhas are by definition not conscious in themselves, so they are by definition unconscious functions. The Early Schools only held to the view that the 5th skandha of consciousness is comprised of 6 consciousnesses related to the 6 fields, the 5 sensory fields of external sensory data and the 6th field of cognitive consciousness (manovijnana) that enfolds the other five through coherent patterns. But as the other 4 skandhas are unconscious, most of the coherency originating from the activity of mental formations, perceptions, sensations, and formations, is also unconscious.

This limitation on the analysis of consciousness was found by the monk-scholars practicing profound meditation, who came to be known as Bodhisattvas, to be insufficient, on the one hand, to describe the phenomenological diversity of cognitive consciousness, and on the other hand unable to adequately account for the integrated function of consciousness as well as the arising of ignorance. So a 7th consciousness (manas) was added to tie together the six with an overarching coherent functioning and an explanation for the arising of ignorance. However, the 7th consciousness alone was unable to deal with the continuity between lives and the underlying unity and nonduality of discriminatory cognitive consciousness so the 8th consciousness was also recognized. None of these numbered consciousness is actually separate and they are numbered only for the purpose of identification in the way that the fingers are numbered but not separate from the hand. One metaphor is to say that the 5 consciousnesses are like the five fingers, the 6th consciousness is like the palm of the hand, the 7th consciousness is like the arm, and the 8th consciousness is like the body. The analysis of the 8 consciousnesses is a supplemental alternative perspective to the 5 skandhas and does not dispense with the 5 skandha analysis. The 7th’s “subconscious” functioning and the 8th‘s “unconscious” functioning provide an additional explanatory system for understanding how the first 4 skandhas are functioning subconsciously and unconsciously.

While the 6th consciousness ties together the 5 sensory consciousnesses with cognitive cohesion, the 7th consciousness accounts for the intuitive factor that is not related to the sensory data of the 5 consciousnesses. Thus for the 6th to function and for the 6th to make sense of its phenomenal reality, which includes having cognitive perception that comes from intuitive data rather than sensory data, the 7th is required for an adequate analysis. This is necessary to explain how cognitive consciousness related to the 5 senses has other information and how perception is not exclusively related to the 5 senses. This is entirely analogous to how the idea of a subconscious and unconscious became necessary to understand the mind in Western psychology.

In other words, the early schools accepted the emptiness of personality but not the emptiness of dharmas, i.e., the quanta of consciousness. Since they did not accept the emptiness of dharmas, they held that the 4 skandhas that were not the 5th skandha of consciousness were composed of dharma entities in themselves separate and distinct from consciousness. However, the Bodhisattva practitioner monk-scholars who were the founders of the Mahayana were not persuaded about the existence of dharmas as real entities. That is, the Early Schools argued that there was no personality in the 5 skandhas but that the dharmas that comprised the 5 skandhas were real, external, and not empty, while the Mahayanists observed that both the person and the dharmas are empty, not real, and neither external nor internal, but merely dharmas of consciousness, which led to the view of consciousness-only (vijnanamatra). From this perspective, the very “ideas” of dharmas of the 1st to 4th skandhas are themselves actually dharmas of consciousness.

So if the 1st to 4th skandhas are not themselves conscious, they are functioning unconsciously, yet some factor of consciousness must account for them and for the ignorance that they generate. Thus the 7th consciousness also became the explanatory account for ignorance, as ignorance could not arise from sensory data alone, or from the 6th consciousness simply cognitively arranging the sensory data. The 7th consciousness accounts for the source of the fundamental polarity at the root of duality and the cognitive delusions resting upon duality, and when this is recognized, instead of being simply called “manas,” meaning “mentation” or “mental function,” it was called “manoklishtavijnana” or the “consciousness of soiled mental functioning,” because the polarizing function of the 7th consciousness is what “soils” the 6th consciousness with the literalizing view of duality.

In trying to make sense of the 5 sensory consciousnesses, it is in the interaction between the cognitive function of the 6th consciousness and the intuitive and reflective bifurcating function of the 7th consciousness that the sensorial world is perceived as based on dualities such as “internal” and “external”, “self” and “other”, “physical” and “psychical”, etc. In this way the 7th consciousness’s polarizing function becomes both the source of ignorance and the source of our fundamental delusion of a self. When this polarizing function is taken literally by the 6th consciousness, then it is seen as the “soiling” (klishta) function as it soils cognitive consciousness with duality consciousness.

The 7th consciousness functions in a manner that we would call “subconscious.” We generally and usually take its polarizing and its bifurcation of cognitive function as a given and “believe in” the various dualities as they appear to the naïve consciousness. This naïve interaction of the 6th consciousness with the 7th consciousness is taken for granted as our “mind” and our “individuality.” The bifurcation of cognition that is reflected subconsciously by the 7th consciousness is taken by the 6th to be proof of our individual existence and the 6th consciousness then grasps onto this sense of “self” and builds a wall of self defense and self protection in relation to every kind of sensory data.

This leads to the next level of inquiry to address two different but fundamental and very related questions: how does karma function and how is there even the possibility of liberation and awakening if there is no way out of this entrapment by duality? To escape duality, there must be a “nondual” function in consciousness that is the “gate” or “way” to liberation. If our karma makes (fabricates, contrives) for continuity between an act and its fruit, how does it do so when the first skandhas can no longer function when the body decays and the elements disperse? And if there is no continuity from life to life, then how can the fruit of liberation in one life have any connection to the cultivation activity (karma) of a previous life? It is convenient to say that there is nothing outside the 5 skandhas, but when the person dies, where then, for example, are the 4th skandha’s mental formations that are not conscious? And how do the mental formations of one life have any affect on the mental formations of another life since there is no “moment that immediately preceded it” connecting one life’s skandas to another.

The eighth consciousness called the storehouse consciousness (alayavijnana) was perceived to be the explanatory principle for both karma and liberation. It is vitally important to understand that the perception of the 8th consciousness is not an intellectual exercise or an arbitrary construction or definition. The storehouse is discovered personally by anyone who inquires deeply enough into the mind just like the internal organs are discovered by anyone cutting deeply enough into the body. To say that one denies the storehouse consciousness because one has not perceived it for oneself is like denying the spleen, or some other organ or physical system, just because one hasn’t felt it working inside one’s own body.

The discovery of the transpersonal nonindividual storehouse consciousness occurred over 2000 years before the Western discovery of the unconscious, but the discovery is analogous and necessary for very similar reasons. Even today there are materialist believers in neurologically determined psychology who think the unconscious is a mystical notion, and likewise there have always been Buddhists who take the alaya to be a “divine substance” because it does not fit into a frame of reference of externally existing dharmas.

Going back to the point of the alaya storehouse not being merely an intellectual category of analysis, the alaya is not a “thesis” or a “hypothesis” in the intellectual sense, but a phenomenological description in the existential sense. It became necessary and beneficial to articulate the alaya storehouse when the Bodhisattva monk-scholars were trying to describe the experience of liberation and awakening. The phenomenological reality is that in the liberation of awakening the awareness that comprises consciousness disengages with the view of phenomena as external reality, and lets go of its grasp of phenomena maintained by the duality function of consciousness. This activity is called “turning around” (paravrtti) the light and is also known as “taking the backward step.” When the light of awareness turns around from the habitual discriminations of cognitive consciousness it pierces the veil of the polarizing function of the 7th consciousness. Then what? This is what the Bodhisattva panditas were attempting to adequately describe with the conception of the alayavijnana, the storehouse consciousness.

When the awareness penetrates the veil of the 7th consciousness to have direct perception of the 8th consciousness, the initial experience is called shunyata emptiness. This however is only an entry to the perception of nature as no-nature, the mind ground as groundless, but not itself awakening. Awakening or enlightenment occurs upon the exit or awakening from the state of neither perception nor nonperception in the perception of reality itself as the Dharma rain. This is when consciousness which depends on duality is no longer an adequate frame of reference for awareness and the model of the 8 consciousnesses is transformed into the model of the 4 wisdoms.

When the 8th consciousness is seen in its aspect of nondiscrimination not filtered by the 7th consciousnesses polarization, then it is seen in its inherently unified state and all the other seven consciousnesses are recognized to be the actual activity of the unified 8th consciousness which is the mind in its inherently nondual nature. As this mind is consciousness that is no-consciousness, it is more adequately called mind than consciousness, and so the designation of mind-only (cittamatra) came to be used to designate this awareness of the underlying activity of mind that is vastly more than the just the dharmas of conscious functioning within the field of an individual consciousness.

This is a long post, but in comparison to what can be said about mind and the functioning of consciousness it is really very short and sketchy.

_/|\_
Gregory
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby Kojip on Sun May 12, 2013 12:17 am

Thank you for this post, Gregory. I have always found the cittamatra teachings challenging, particularly around the 8th consciousness, and have had a nagging sense of something arbitrary in many descriptions . Your description is very clear and helpful.

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby clyde on Sun May 12, 2013 9:01 pm

Gregory;

I hope it’s OK to ask you a few questions to help me understand your post.

At one point you call the alayavijnana “the transpersonal nonindividual storehouse consciousness”. It seems to me that “transpersonal” and “nonindividual” mean the same. Do they mean different things to you in this context? And what does the term “storehouse” mean to you?

And, as you understand it, is the experience of the alayavijnana the same as the experience of, for examples: shunyata? the Eighth Jhana? the Dharmakaya? Nirvana? Buddha’s Awakening? Enlightenment? And if not, how does it fit within the path? Is it the experience of non-duality?

Finally, is there any mention (direct or implied) in the Pali Suttas of the alayavijnana?

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Re: Reading Red Pine's Lankavatara Sutra

Postby fukasetsu on Mon May 13, 2013 1:34 am

clyde wrote:And, as you understand it, is the experience of the alayavijnana the same as the experience of, for examples: shunyata? the Eighth Jhana? the Dharmakaya? Nirvana? Buddha’s Awakening? Enlightenment? And if not, how does it fit within the path? Is it the experience of non-duality?


On this subject and more....
entering the tao of sudden enlightenment wrote:Q: The eight consciousnesses are turned into the Four Wisdoms, and the Four Wisdoms are bound together to become the Three Bodies. Which Wisdoms are the transformation of multiple consciousnesses? Which Wisdoms are the transformation of only one consciousness?
A: Eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body -- these five consciousnesses together become Perfecting Wisdom. The sixth consciousness alone becomes Wonderful-Observing Wisdom. The seventh consciousness alone becomes Equality-Nature Wisdom. The eighth consciousness alone becomes Great-Perfect-Mirror Wisdom.

Q: Are these four kinds of wisdom the same or different?
A: Their substance is the same, but their names are different.

Q: Since their substance is the same, why are there different names for it? Also, if it is true that these differentiating names are used only as expedients, then what is it that -- even though it is, in reality, just one substance -- is, nevertheless, named Great-Perfect-Mirror Wisdom?
A: Deep and still void that is bright and completely motionless -- this describes Great-Perfect-Mirror Wisdom. When no object causes a single thought of love or hate to arise, then duality is void. This voidness of duality is Equality-Nature Wisdom. When all the sense organs and all objects can discriminate and be discriminated, but no confused thought arises to limit freedom -- this is Wonderful-Observing Wisdom. When all the sense organs experience in a correct way with no discrimination of form -- this is Perfecting Wisdom.

Q: In relationship to the binding together of the Four Wisdoms to become the Three Bodies, which Wisdom alone becomes one Body, and which Wisdoms come together to form one Body?
A: Only Great-Perfecting-Mirror Wisdom becomes the Dharmakaya. Only Equality-Nature Wisdom becomes the Sambhogakaya. However, Wonderful-Observing Wisdom and Perfecting Wisdom combine to become the Nirmanakaya. These Three Bodies are set up as names and differentiated as concepts only as an expedient to assist those who do not yet understand. If one readily understands this doctrine, the expedient concept of "Three Bodies" is not necessary, for he clearly comprehends that their nature and substance are formless and that they are rooted neither in impermanence nor in non-impermanence.

http://www.ymba.org/books/entering-tao- ... ightenment
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