Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 2, Section LIII

As usual, I'm using the translation here, and as usual, I'm not one who has been given a decoder ring.

This section - as is the others before it, I might add, is best explained by appeal to Suzuki's introductory exposition of Buddhist psychology in the Lankavatara...

What may be termed Buddhist psychology in the Lanka consists in the analysis of mind, that is, in the classification of the Vijnanas. To understand thus the psychology of Buddhism properly the knowledge of these terms is necessary: citta, manas, vijnana, manovijnana, and alayavijnana.
To begin with Vijnana. Vijnana is composed of the prefix vi, meaning "to divide", and the root jna which means "to perceive", "to know". Thus, Vijnana is the faculty of distinguishing or discerning or judging. When an object is presented before the eye, it is perceived and judged as a red apple or a piece of white linen; the faculty of doing this is called eye-vijnana. In the same way, there are ear-vijnana for sound, nose-vijnana for odour, tongue-vijnana for taste, body-vijnana for touch, and thought-vijnana (manovijnana) for ideas—altogether six forms of Vijnana for distinguishing the various aspects of world external or internal.
Of these six Vijnanas, the Manojivnana is the most important as it is directly related to an inner faculty known as Manas. Manas roughly corresponds to mind as an organ of thought, but in fact it is more than that, for it is also a strong power of attaching itself to the result of thinking. The latter may even be considered subordinate to this power of attachment. The Manas first wills, then it discriminates to judge; to judge is to divide, and this dividing ends in viewing existence dualistically. Hence the Manas' tenacious attachment to the dualistic interpretation of existence. Willing and thinking are inextricably woven into the texture of Manas.
Citta comes from the root cit, "to think", but in the Lanka the derivation is made from the root ci, "to pile up", "to arrange in order". The Citta is thus a storehouse where the seeds of all thoughts and deeds are accumulated and stored up. The Citta, however, has a double sense, general and specific. When it is used in the general sense it means "mind", "mentation", "ideas", including the activities of Manas and Manovijnana, and also of the Vijnanas; while specifically it is a synonym of Alayavijnana in its relative aspects, and distinguishable from all the rest of the mental faculties. When, however, it is used in the form of Citta-matra, Mind-only, it acquires still another connotation. We can say that Citta appears here in its highest possible sense, for it is then neither simply mentation nor intellection, nor perception as a function of consciousness. It is identifiable with the Alaya in its absolute aspect. This will become clearer later on.
Alayavijnana is alaya+vijnana, and alaya is a store where things are hoarded for future use. The Citta as a cumulative faculty is thus identified with the Alayavijnana. Strictly speaking, the Alaya is not a Vijnana, has no discerning power in it; it indiscriminately harbours all that is poured into it through the channel of the Vijnanas. The Alaya is perfectly neutral, indifferent, and does not offer to give judgments.
 So therefore the Buddha says in this bit:

With the Manovijñāna as cause and supporter, Mahāmati, there rise the seven Vijñanas. Again, Mahāmati, the Manovijñāna is kept functioning, as it discerns a world of objects and becomes attached to it, and by means of manifold habit-energy [or memory]  it nourishes the Ālayavijñāna. The Manas is evolved along with the notion of an ego and its belongings, to which it clings and on which it reflects. It has no body of its own, nor its own marks; the Ālayavijñāna is its cause and support. Because the world which is the Mind itself is imagined real and attached to as such, the whole psychic system evolves mutually conditioning. Like the waves of the ocean, Mahāmati, the world which is the mind-manifested, is stirred up by the wind of objectivity, it evolves and dissolves. Thus, Mahāmati, when the Manovijñāna is got rid of, the seven Vijñānas are also got rid of.

 Attachments are that which takes place within our awareness, including the desire to be rid of attachments - this desire too is a phenomenon of Mind itself which is imagined as real.

The trick is to care, or not care, as is appropriate...or, as someone said, to care, but not that much...


Brikoleur said...

Just wanted to drop you a note to express my appreciation of what you're doing here. I've tried reading the Lankavatara Sutra on my own, but it's way too dense for my understanding at this point. So carry on...

Mumon K said...


Thanks! I greatly appreciate the encouragement.

You're right, it's dense; these sutras are not written the way I communicate in my business incarnation, for sure, but I enjoy finding bits in it that match what the ancient and modern Zen teachers say.