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Yogācāra Vijñānavāda

The Triṁśikā is a key text of the Vijñānavāda ("Consciousness Doctrine") school of Buddhism. This Yogācāra school of Mahāyāna Buddhism teaches that everything exists only in the mind. Their primary interest is in the nature of cognition or consciousness (vijñāna).

The text asserts that vijñāna has three strata:

  1. The "operational consciousness" or "active consciousness" (pravṛtti-vijñāna) includes six subtypes of consciousness (vijñāna) that form one functional group as a whole. This sensory complex includes the five senses, which are the "organs of perception" (jñānendriya), plus a sixth type of cosciousness called manovijñāna, that is not the same thing as manas (mind), which is above all six of these lower types of perception. The term sparśavijñāna is used both to refer to the specific sense of touch, and to the five senses collectively. This group of six contacts of the sense organs with their objects is also known as the sparśa-kāya (Edgerton 2004:II:612). These six types of consciousness discriminate between their various objects.
    1. sparśavijñāna (touch consciousness),
    2. rūpavijñāna (sight consciousness),
    3. śabdavijñāna (sound consciousness),
    4. gandhavijñāna (smell consciousness), and
    5. rasavijñāna (taste consciousness).
    6. manovijñāna (mental consciousness). While the five sense-consciousnesses only arise if a suitable stimulus is present (Triṁ. 15), manovijñāna can operate at all times, even in the absence of external stimuli except for a few special cases (Triṁ. 16). As in Sāṁkhya philosophy, the sense organs are limited to the present moment only, having no jurisdiction over the past or future moments. What is called manovijñāna in this system seems similar to the function of manas as the thinking function in Sāṁkhya philosophy.
  2. Manas (mind) is above the sixfold sensory complex. It is also called the manana consciousness. A key characteristing of this thinking consciousness is to construct a false notion of "me" or "self" that it identifies itself with. The manana consciousness has an illusory identification of the self as an entity. It wrongly considers the ālaya vijñāna to be it's enduring self. The perceiver identifies with this illusory sense of self-continuity and all perceptual experience is interpreted within the context of that self. According to Triṁ. 6 the manana consciousness is associated with four causes of affliction that are all related to the sense of "me" or ego (ātmadṛṣṭi-ātmamoha-ātmamāna-ātmasneha). In this respect it seems similar to the function of ahaṁkāra in Sāṁkhya philosophy.
  3. Ālayavijñāna (storehouse consciousness, base consciousness, the "home base" consciousness) is the undifferentiated custodian of all intellectual seeds. Ālaya means "home". It is the home or foundation for all other forms of consciousness (vijñāna). Everything is stored in the ālayavijñāna. Unlike the other levels of consciousness, there is no discrimination or differentiation in this state. The ālayavijñāna is similar to the concept of buddhi (mahat) in the Saṅkhya system.

The senses in the YS

Compare Patañjali's analogy to the senses following the queen bee when the mind turns back toward buddhi. Pratyāhāra ("sense-withdrawl", the withdrawl of senses into the mind), the fifth of the eight aspects of aṣṭaṅga yoga. Same concepts but words differ. See YS 2.29, 54.

[From Anthony:] These three types of transformations of consciousness comprise the eight representations of consciousness. [Previously shown as footnote: One can draw a parallel here between the Mind Only school and the Samkhya school. What Samkhya calls mahat or buddhi is here called alayavijñāna, and what Samkhya calls ahamkara is here called manas. What is here called manovijñāna and spaŚavijñāna is in Samkhya called ---------?. ]

Footnotes