Embracing Enlightenment I 

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There is a scripture in Sanskrit, it's called Samdhinirmocana Sutra. This could be translated as revealing or unraveling the deep intention, meaning the deep intention of the Buddha's teaching. The sutra was translated into Chinese and Tibetan, and in Chinese the translation, the characters could be translated into English as revealing or understanding or explicating the deep secret or the deep intimacy.


In that sutra, the Buddha speaks about what's called in Sanskrit, the alaya-vijnana, and that could be translated as the storehouse consciousness or container consciousness. It is first of all the consciousness that apprehends a body. It kind of lodges itself intimately with the physical sense organs of an embryo or a fetus.


It could be of a human or of a non-human being. This consciousness shares the ups and downs of the body. It's constantly changing, just like the body is constantly changing. It's arising and ceasing every moment with the body arising and ceasing. Sometime after this sutra was appearing in the world, a great bodhisattva named Asanga read the sutra, heard the sutra, and it became one of his main inspirations in his practice.


Then he started to compose some works inspired by the teachings of this sutra about the Buddha's teaching. The Buddha's teachings in this sutra are very much teachings about mind and different types of knowledge. In the text that Asanga, the bodhisattva Asanga wrote, which he called the Mahayana-sangraha or the summary of Mahayana or embracing the Mahayana, the summary of the great vehicle, embracing the great vehicle, in the first chapter he teaches what is called the support of the knowable, what supports what can be known.


This chapter describes the structure of the mind that supports knowing. So he begins by describing the characteristics of this container consciousness. So he says that the support for the knowable is called the container consciousness, alaya-vijnana. And he asks, where did the world-honored one, where has the world-honored one spoken of this consciousness and where did he call it the container? In the basic verses that summarize the Mahayana, the Abhidharma, the highest Dharma,


or you could say in the basic verses of a scripture called the Abhidharma Sutra, it says, from beginningless time this realm is the support of all things. Only if it exists do all the destinies exist and is there access to nirvana. So Asanga is quoting a text which we do not have anymore called the Abhidharma Sutra and in that sutra it says, from beginningless time this realm, this type of consciousness, called the container consciousness, is the support of all phenomena. All phenomena depend on this container consciousness. And only if this container consciousness exists do all the destinies of worldly existence exist.


And only if this exists is there access to nirvana. So this mind supports worldly existence and supports the spiritual phenomena of peace and liberation. And again this Abhidharma Sutra says, the hidden ground upon which all things depend is consciousness with all its seeds. Thus I call it the container and have taught this for superior persons. I don't know if we're superior persons so it's questionable whether we should read this.


It's dangerous to read this teaching because when we speak of something that supports everything we might make it into like something substantial. We're already doing that because we have karmic consciousness which looks for some fundamental to grasp onto. So now this teaching could sort of feed that tendency. And this teaching is saying that tendency, that karmic consciousness, that way of knowing is supported by this consciousness which has all the seeds for all the different kinds of diluted karmic consciousness. But this consciousness is also access to peace and freedom. And I just want to say right at the beginning that it speaks of a consciousness with all its seeds.


And I want to say that this consciousness is not something in addition to all the seeds. It's a container which is nothing in addition to that which is contained. Or it's a container for the seeds for all states of ordinary karmic consciousness. It's all those seeds for all those states. It's the containment or collection of all those seeds for all those states. But it's not something in addition to the collection. It is just the collection. And the collection is a consciousness. It's a type of consciousness which is a collection of all the seeds for all types of ordinary consciousness. And it is a collection which is also necessary in order to access peace.


And then a sangha says, why did the Buddha teach that this consciousness is named the container? The answer is because the results of defiled mental states, the results of karmic consciousness of all sentient beings lie concealed and stored up in it as results. And because this consciousness lies concealed or stored up in all those mental states as their cause. So this collection of all the seeds for all states of defiled mental consciousness, the seeds for it are this consciousness. And the seed for each state lies hidden in each state.


And the results of each state are collected in this consciousness. So this consciousness is hidden in all states. Not the whole consciousness, but a particular aspect of it giving rise to a particular state. And all the states are stored in the consciousness. Yes? Could you give an example of how that would work? It's kind of abstract. Well, your question just arose, which one might guess is a state of consciousness in which this question arose, which led you to be able to speak the question. That consciousness, it depended on this alaya, this unconscious collection of all seeds is actually supporting the question you just had.


Some unconscious state is supporting your conscious question. And the results of you asking that question, we can't see the results of the question, but the results of that question which we can't see and the source of that question we can't see are both right now in this consciousness which contains the seeds for your thought of having that question and it contains the results of you having asked that question. That all happened at one time, simultaneously. This unconscious state supported you to be able to ask that question and asking it has a consequence which then is stored in this consciousness, which then can be part of the support for the next consciousness. So, it's proposing that the support of what we know is a resultant consciousness.


It is a result of all the actions of all the mental states of all sentient beings. And that resultant state is the support, and it's an unconscious support for all active consciousness. And it is simultaneously present with all active consciousness. It isn't that it exists in the moment before, it exists simultaneous. So this will be analyzed more, but right now at the beginning we can say that what's being told is that what supports our ordinary active diluted consciousness is an unconscious, which is a result of all past active consciousnesses. And is right now in our present consciousness. It is supporting and hidden in our present consciousness.


And our present consciousness is now changing it and influencing it and having an effect on it. And it is receiving the result of our present action. And it will then in the next moment be the resultant of our present action, which will then be the past. So this is the past that's present that supports the rising of the present. Yes? It is a kind of consciousness which is the receiver and transmitter of karma. So without this kind of consciousness, if you just have active consciousness, if that's all you've got is this present moment of active consciousness, which is all we've got,


but the present moment of active consciousness has in some sense two main layers. One layer is the layer we're aware of and the other layer is conveying all of our past karma to this present karma. And so it transmits the past karma in the present to support this thought and it will receive the consequence of the present karma and then the result of this will be the next moment of this receiver of karma and the transmitter of karma. If you were a Buddha, that cause and effect would be instantaneous. There would be a karmic cause and effect if you were a Buddha, Arhat, enlightened being. Would that not be instantaneous and the present moment is all to deal with? The present moment is all we deal with and in the present we have the past.


The past is the consequence of past presence. So even for a non-Buddha, all we have is the present, but the present includes the past. The difference between a Buddha and a non-Buddha is that this past has been completely transformed, that this container consciousness has been completely transformed through practice so that the support of knowledge for the Buddha is the transformed container consciousness, a completely revolutionized container consciousness, which supports a way of knowing called the true body of Buddha. Yeah. Yes. I had a question about the significance of what you were teaching on.


How does it, does it really point and relate to a way of enlightenment? This teaching is for the purpose of showing how karma is received and transmitted, because if you just think that there's a present active consciousness, then how does the present active consciousness, which arises and ceases, how does that karma get transmitted to the next arising and ceasing of karmic consciousness? That's the first problem that this consciousness addresses. The next problem that this teaching addresses, that this teaching of this container consciousness addresses, is how can defilement, how can ignorance, how can the afflictions of ignorance and karma, how can they stick around?


How can they be present moment after moment? And the third thing it addresses is, so it addresses how defilement keeps going, and the next thing it addresses is how purification and transformation could occur. So it addresses all three of those things. And without this consciousness, this text is saying, without this consciousness, karma couldn't be transmitted, liberation could not be attained, purification would not be possible, and defilement would not be possible. So to just kind of translate to myself, we know that this cause and effect, and this sort of explains it, in addition to, it further complicates the matter, it's not actually a straight line. You do this, and you get these results, one, two, three.


But further on, there is not just a straight line that makes karma be a determined end to all, but also there is this way out that we, it's in the laya that we actually don't know. Even in the defiled result, it contains the way to enlightenment. Is that what the teaching is saying? That's part of what the teaching is saying, although it hasn't said it yet. It hasn't said, actually it's hard to say it, because it said that access to nirvana requires this state, but it didn't tell us how that's so yet. That comes later, but in fact it's saying you need this state, you need this kind of consciousness, which has the seeds for bondage and suffering, and has the seeds for affliction, all different types of affliction,


and it has also the seeds for the transformation of itself. So there's the seeds for transformation of what gets transformed, and the seeds for transformation coexist with what the seeds for transformation transform. It's not that there's just the transformation of the seeds for defilement, and that's it. That's not the same as what transforms it. I mean this through my experience. Sometimes the way I experience it, it looks like it's not the same part of the mind, like there's one part of the mind that's diluted, and then I perceive that at the same time there is something else going on at the same time, kind of more spacious, that contains the dilution.


So can I say that it's the same part of the mind, or it's two different parts of the mind? Can you say that what you see is two different parts of the mind? This teaching would say no, that your perception of different parts of the mind, that's the active karmic consciousness that's operating in the form of you seeing different parts of the mind. It's the same mind. It's the same type of mind, yeah. It's active, defilement. It's the same one that's diluted, that perceives, that wakes up, the same one. It's the same one that wakes up? It's the same type of mind that will eventually no longer be defiled.


But when the mind's observing these things that you're talking about, it sees them as existing on their own. Like this part of the mind on its own, and that part of the mind on its own. This undefiled part of the mind, and this defiled part of the mind. But they're both seen incorrectly. They're both seen in an ignorant way, which sees them as independently existing. And the basis for that is this unconscious mind, which carries the results of thinking that way from beginningless time. That the mind arises in such a way that it tricks itself, that it sees itself, and it sees its offspring, in all its varieties, as out there on their own. It doesn't see itself as itself.


It doesn't understand itself as itself. It thinks itself is something other than itself. And the seed for all those different varieties of the mind perceiving its objects as not itself, the seeds for that is this unconscious process. So the mind you're describing is an example of a deluded mind that sees spaciousness or unspaciousness, but sees them as having some substance. Like sees spaciousness as really being spacious. It's a mistake to see spaciousness as... Spaciousness isn't seeing spaciousness as spaciousness. Spaciousness allows that spaciousness is not spacious. So what is it to be done? What is to be done?


Well, one of the things to be done, one of the things to be done is to use this teaching to study your mind. And to realize that we cannot study the unconscious, but the unconscious is constantly being transformed by our conscious mind. So the conscious mind that we're dealing with right now, in which we speak, that mind is based on past minds like it, but the past minds like it don't transmit themselves to this mind. What they do is they influence this container consciousness, and the container consciousness is what is unconsciously supporting this mind. So it's not saying that this mind causes the next mind. And the reason why this mind can't cause the next mind is because, well, because this mind ceases before the next one arises.


So it doesn't really cause it. However, this mind, the next mind, does depend on this mind. But this mind doesn't get transmitted from itself to the next mind. This mind is a support for the next mind, but what transmits this mind to the next mind is something that carries the results of this mind. So the results of this mind are this unconscious mind and this resultant. The mind, which is the result of this mind and all minds, supports the next mind. So the next mind can be different from this mind, which it is sometimes. It can go from a wholesome state to an unwholesome state. But unwholesome states don't cause wholesome states. And unwholesome states don't cause unwholesome states. That isn't the way it works. It doesn't say that unwholesome causes unwholesome, and wholesome causes unwholesome. It says unwholesome has the consequence of transforming the storehouse consciousness,


and the storehouse consciousness then can support a wholesome or unwholesome or indeterminate state. So it's through the relationship with this process of cause and effect, including an unconscious aspect of the process. So it would make sense then that we can't just think a wholesome thought, and then the next thought will be wholesome. We shouldn't expect that. And we have noticed that that's not the case. We've noticed what seems to be a wholesome state, followed by an unwholesome state. Or what seems to be an indeterminate state, followed by a wholesome or an unwholesome. So this teaching is to make sense of what we see consciously, and to say that the way this works involves an unconscious layer. It's a study of cause and effect, so we're studying cause and effect. And studying cause and effect means pay attention to the active karmic consciousness part,


and pay attention to the teaching of how it works. And that will be part of the process of transforming this container consciousness, and transforming the container consciousness is... The completely transformed container consciousness is the true body of Buddha. Yes? And then, just along that, so the true body of Buddha is when everything is transformed, and it is consciousness, so there's no unconscious space. Everything is awake, everything is here, without any unconscious. It's still unconscious relative to what we ordinarily call active consciousness, which has objects.


It's still not that kind of consciousness. It isn't that this storehouse consciousness gets transformed and then becomes an object of ordinary consciousness. That won't be like that. It's already a consciousness, but it's not a consciousness which is like an object, an object of awareness. It has objects itself, but it's not something that ordinary active consciousness can see. And even when it gets transformed, ordinary active consciousness still won't see it. So it won't become conscious in the way we usually mean conscious. It will continue to be subconscious relative to the kind of consciousness that sees trees and people and flowers and hears sounds and things like that. But those consciousnesses will be in the completely transformed situation, those consciousnesses will just be servants of enlightenment.


They're no longer going to be defiled. So they will no longer see and believe the things they know as separate from themselves. They will no longer see and believe substantially existing phenomena. Because the support for that kind of seeing will not be present anymore. So would that seeing be just the emptiness itself? So the seer and the seeing is emptiness. That's the word for it, but that's the way it all boils down. No, not quite. But it's more like a completely transformed situation. You can simultaneously see things and see that they're insubstantial. But you can still see things in this transformed situation. But you simultaneously understand that they're not out there separate from the knowing of them. This particular, what I'm emphasizing now is a type of emptiness,


which is the emptiness of separation between consciousness and what it knows. But you're not necessarily looking at that emptiness. It's just absent. The separation is absent. But you're not necessarily looking at it, but you can look at it. And so you can look at the absence at the same time that you're just relating to objects without feeling separated. Which means then there's no affliction. Which means then there's nirvana. I have the feeling that we make a choose on the constitution of our identities. It seems that something chooses the constitution of our identities in the sense that some cultures can identify themselves with the trees and I can identify myself with my car. But I have the feeling that that consciousness you're talking about


is the consciousness that makes the selection of which part of the world is I and which part of the world is the other. Yeah, it's the support of all choice. Choice is one important part of active consciousness. And it supports the choices that occur. And there are certain types of karma which we share. For example, almost all human beings have language and then there's some variety among the languages, but language itself is very similar among human beings. And that means that the seeds that are determining our consciousness are quite similar. And so also the choices we make are quite similar.


But each one is different because alaya is associated with different bodies. It connects to different sense organs. So each person also makes different choices, but there's a lot of similarity in the choices. But the choices are supported, but not determined. Alaya doesn't control everything. It's just that it supports whatever happens. And the way we hear the teaching in the conscious realm and the way we're supported to receive or not receive the teaching in the conscious realm affects and transforms the storehouse consciousness. So somehow, some beings' active consciousness has been supported so that they can hear the Dharma. Like Hom was talking this morning, she would like to be able to somehow hear and understand


that everything that's coming to her is the teaching because if that's the way she consciously heard what was happening, then she probably would be still and quiet with everything. And then that would have a very good effect on this alaya storehouse consciousness which would then support another moment in the way you might again have the ability to receive what's happening as teaching and be calm and quiet with that. So in this way, the storehouse consciousness could be transformed so that finally you would see everything is the Buddha's teaching and be able to transmit that to others. And again, being able to see everything and hear everything as a teaching, then you're taking care of the teaching. And when you take care of the teaching, then it helps all beings.


Like we said at the beginning, when you hear the teaching and you maintain it, then it's easy to not get distracted. When you're hearing the teaching, then it's easy to not get distracted from the teaching. But when somebody does something or you see something and you think it's not the teaching, well, you feel kind of distracted. And you act like that, which then tends to contribute to you thinking in other things not the teaching and acting like you do when you think that's not a teaching, which then makes it, again, contributes to you missing another opportunity because you missed the last one. But now maybe you're hearing the teaching. So now you're becoming more likely to hear the teaching in the next thing that happens, in the next thing that happens. And the more you think you're hearing the teaching, the more you feel like you're not distracted from the teaching


because you're hearing it now. Okay. What? I have to say that. You are supported to say that. Pardon? Is there something that you would suggest or read about this? No. I think it's okay for you to read this book, The Summary of the Great Vehicle. I think you can read this book. You might have a little difficulty,


but here I am. I'm starting it now and I'm going to probably keep going for a while. You don't have to read the book. You can just listen to me read it and I'll talk to you about it. But you can read it. I'm going to probably keep reading this for about 10 years. It's only 150 pages, but we haven't really finished the first page yet. And there's a lot on the first page. And after we get to page 10, we'll come back to page 1, probably. This is a teaching about cause and effect. That's what this is about. But the person who wrote this text, the Bodhisattva Sangha, says that in section 19 of the first chapter, he says that in this great vehicle, we have a very profound and subtle teaching


about the Buddha's teaching of dependent co-arising. And the profound and subtle teaching about dependent co-arising is one that has this container consciousness as part of the explanation about how we get in trouble and how we become free. So earlier, from the early days, the Buddha taught dependent co-arising, which many of you have seen, the 12-fold chain of dependent co-arising. And the way it was understood when Buddha first taught it was that this was about active karmic consciousness. As Sangha's teaching, this is not just about active karmic consciousness. It's about active karmic consciousness, which co-exists with a resultant unconscious, which supports all active karmic consciousnesses. So just like in modern psychology,


around the time of Freud, we started to become open to including the unconscious in our way of thinking about what we're doing. Here, 1500 years earlier, in the Buddha's teaching, as Sangha and other people are saying, the Buddha actually was teaching about unconscious, but people didn't get it. But now I'm telling you explicitly, I'm trying to show you that the Buddha taught that there's two kinds of consciousness, and there's two basic types, ordinary consciousness and unconscious. And then also, among the active consciousnesses, there's six types. There's the five-sense consciousness and mind consciousness. And then there's a third kind, so there's all six, and there's a seventh kind, which is the kind of consciousness which actually carries the ignorance, and there's an eighth consciousness, which supports all the other seven. So this teaching in this book is offered as a more sophisticated


and subtle and deep way of understanding the Buddha's basic teaching of dependent co-arising, which was the content, which is the content of the Buddha's enlightenment. And in early teaching, people understood it fairly successfully as just being about active consciousness. So early teachings, early students of the Buddha could understand this teaching just in terms of their conscious activity. And by studying their conscious activity and focusing on the present moment, they could attain a certain level of enlightenment. But this book is saying, in order to become a Buddha, you need this additional teaching about the mind. That the Mahayana has a deeper understanding than the earlier teaching did, which just said there's one kind of consciousness which is focused on the present moment. So now we're saying there is a consciousness which is focused on the present moment,


that exists in the present moment, and there's a vast unconscious which is also in the present, but in a sense is looking back at beginningless time, at beginningless karmic time. And all that is here in the present supporting this present moment. So our conscious life is not so narrow as it was earlier described as. When I first started studying Abhidharma, that's what I thought consciousness was. It was about the present moment, and not only that, but just one consciousness of one object. But in the Samadhi Nirmachana Sutra, that's the inspiration for this text, it says that there can be six consciousnesses, or five consciousnesses, or four consciousnesses, or three consciousnesses, or two consciousnesses of different objects. You can be aware of a color, a sound, a smell, a taste, a touch, and a mental object simultaneously, all of them at once.


And all of them, if there's all those, all of them are supported by this alaya. Yes, Jane? When you're talking about this container, what just keeps coming up for me is that I've always been mystified by being alive, in a way. It just seems so unfathomable. And so I just picture this container as this being which is holding all of that, all of those consciousnesses and unconsciousness. Yeah. Because when you talk about how earlier, about this delusion that there's a separation between this and the objects of this, and what this is, then that description of the container,


I guess I think of myself as a container more these days of all kinds of stuff. That's not necessarily separate from all this, but in its containment, it feels like this. So I don't know, for some reason, this whole description of the container just... And I contain all these seeds of karma, but I contain seeds of complete freedom from all that karma as well. Yes. Yes. Consciousnesses, the realms of consciousness


that the Heart Sutra says don't exist? The Heart Sutra says... The Heart Sutra actually is just talking about, in that case where the Heart Sutra is just speaking of the active consciousnesses. The Heart Sutra does not talk about this container consciousness. This teaching arose around the same time as the Heart Sutra, but somehow the Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Heart Sutra being one of them, they do not seem to have this sophisticated teaching about cause and effect incorporating this container consciousness. This teaching completely agrees with the Heart Sutra, but is giving us some more information about the way the mind works. The way the mind creates affliction and karma


and transmits it and receives it and transmits it, and the way it maintains the affliction and the way it purifies it, in terms of the workings of the mind. The Perfect Wisdom Sutras do not explain that. Yes? In this alaya vijnana that's connected somehow to this body, where do the seeds of freedom come from? The seeds of freedom come from the completely transformed alaya vijnana of the Buddhas. So the seeds of freedom come from the Buddhas. And the Buddhas are the completely transformed alayas, completely transformed container consciousnesses. So they respond to other beings


who are actively conscious, supported by a vast containing of seeds of delusion. They respond to these beings by sending these beings little messages, which plant, and if these beings hear these messages, those seeds come into the active consciousness and they plant seeds in the alaya, so that alaya then is now supporting the reception of more seeds, more teachings, which will influence the alaya, which will support more transformation of alaya, and therefore more opportunities for active consciousness to ask for and receive more transformative information and teachings. What's the teachings? The teachings plant the seeds. The teachings come in to the active consciousnesses, and when the active consciousness hears the teaching,


as a teaching, and thanks the teaching for doing the teaching, that transforms the storehouse consciousness. And then some of the teachings are teachings about how the active consciousness can be, and sometimes the active consciousness hears about these new ways of being, and the active consciousness is able to say, OK, I would like to practice these precepts, I would like to do these precepts that I've heard about. And the reason why it can say yes is partly also because it's heard these teachings before, and so it can be open to them and see them as teachings, and therefore get further and further transformed and to be more and more receptive of everything as the Buddha's teaching, and be encouraged by everything, and encourage everybody else to be encouraged by everything. So these seeds come from beginningless time


of the Buddha's practice into the conscious minds, and then become instilled in the unconscious minds, and the unconscious minds are instilled in the conscious minds, and so on. Yes? This teaching is awakening a kind of urgency for me around the practice of welcoming. It's like waking that up, and giving me a sense of urgency about doing that. I think at a certain point I was thinking, OK, I can welcome this, I can't welcome that. But now I feel like, through hearing this, that it's time to welcome, and it's really important to be welcoming everything. That seems to be the basis on which the unknown has come up, or possibly, maybe the unknown unconscious can. Yeah, that's usually the first step in transforming the container consciousness, is in the conscious mind,


welcoming, welcoming, welcoming. And urgency about it is a positive contribution to the welcoming process. So Vimalakirti had a house, and there were a lot of people in the house, but he asked them all to leave, and after he left, he expanded his house, so that much more people could come in. So maybe it would be good to empty your house


as a gesture of making room for more beings to enter. Empty your house so that you can welcome more things as the Buddha is teaching. If you can welcome things as the Buddha is teaching now, with your present situation, great. And then, now that you've welcomed, consider welcoming more, and making your house bigger. That will transform this container consciousness, which will support future active consciousnesses, which will be receptive to the idea of welcoming more, and so on. So this is the first practice of the Bodhisattva, the practice of giving. To open the house up, to let the Dharma in.


To give away the walls of your house, so that all the Dharma can come in, to your active consciousness. And thereby, to your resultant consciousness, which receives that good karma of that practice, and transmits it to the next moment. It doesn't mean for sure that the next moment will be like that, but this is how transformation works according to this teaching. So, it's a little bit past 5.30, so maybe we should stop, so that we can go. Thank you very much for another wonderful day, at the place of no abode. The Buddha's Way


Beings are numberless I vow to save them Delusions are inexhaustible I vow to end them Karmas are boundless I vow to enter them Buddha's Way is unsurpassable I vow to become it