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Yogachara Glossary

Evgeny Torchinov

Alaya-vijnana, or "store consciousness" -- one of the central technical terms of Yogacara (Vijnanavada, Vijnaptimatra) philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism. Early Buddhists taught about existence of six-fold consciousness, that is the conciousness of five types of perception (visual, audial, etc.) and of "mind" (manovijnana). The Yogacarins analysing the source of consciousness added two more kinds of consciousness. They are: klistamanovijnana, or manas, that is the ego-centre of an empirical personality, and alaya-vijnana which is the source of other kinds of consciousness. Alaya-vijnana is above subject-object opposition but it is not a kind of absolute mind: alaya-vijnana is momentary and non-substantial.  Every sentient being with the corresponding to this being "objective" world can be reduced to its "own" alaya-vijnana. Therefore, classical Yogacara states the existence of many alayas.

The Alaya-vijnana is a receptacle and container of the so-called "seeds" (bija), or elementary units of past experiences. These bijas project themselves as an illusionary world of empirical subjects and corresponding objects. All other seven types of consciousness are but transformations (parinama) of alaya-vijnana. In the course of its yogic practice a Yogacarin must empty
alaya-vijnana of its contents. Thus the Yogacarin puts an end to the tendency of external projections of alaya-vijnana changing it into non-dual (advaya) wisdom (jnana) of Enlightened mind.

Svalaksana (self quality, self-sign, self-characteristic, etc.)

in early Buddhist philosophy -- an elementary single quality identical to dharma, or a quantum of psycho-phisical experience.

In the philosophy of late Yogacara (logico-epistemological school of Dignaga and Dharmakirti) it is a designation of reality as such (tathata) given in the momentary act of perception (prior to the beginning of the process of mental constructing -- kalpana, and even to the subject-object duality; therefore svalaksana is advaya, non-duality).

Tathagatagarbha (Tathagata -- Thus Coming One -- one of the titles of the Buddha; garbha -- 1) embryo, fetus; 2) womb, matrix) -- one of the most imortant terms of Mahayana Buddhism. It is

  1. embryo, or sprout of the Buddha-nature in every living being, its "precious nature" (ratna gotra);
  2. the name for the absolute reality of the One Mind (ekacitta) of Buddha identical to Buddha's Dharma-body (dharmakaya) and tathata, Suchness (reality as it is).

As the One Mind Tathagatagarbha is a substratum of every being (every dharma), that is, dharmata, dharma-nature. It is endowed with innumerable good qualities such as eternity (nitya), bliss (sukha), essence, or Self (atman) and purity (subha). in the doctrine of Tathagatagarbha alaya-vijnana can be understood as defiled garbha. This theory was extremely popular in the Chinese schools of Buddhism (T'ian-t'ai, Hua-yen, Ch'an / Zen) but the Tibetan tradition knows only a hybrid of  Yogacara--moderate Madhyamika--Tathagatagarbha thought. The Tibetan Jonang-pa school (which based its teaching exclusively on the garbha theory) was forbidden in XVII century by dGelugs-pa school as "Hinduizied" and "heretical".

Vasana (energy of habit) -- beginningless tendency immanent to the "seeds" / bijas (see "Alaya-vijnana") contained in alaya-vijnana to external projection of their contents. This tendency is a cause of the illusory (parikalpita; "mentally constructed") existence of the subject-object duality and samsaric world of births-and-deaths.

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text content by external link Evgueni A. Tortchinov
page uploaded 11 December 1999, last modified 12 July 2004