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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Alaya-Vijñana

(Ālaya-Vijñāna) In Yogacara school of Buddhism, it is the substratum of consciousness that underlies the continuity of personal experiences in time and through many lives. It is a receptacle-consciousness or store-consciousness, but which is not a self. This notion was expounded by Asanga (or Aryasanga) in the 4th century CE to explain why there is continuity of personal experiences in spite of the Buddhist teaching of no-self, or anatta (ANATMAN).

Alaya-Vijñana is the last of the eight levels of consciousness, which are in turn divided into three strata:

(a) the consciousness of the six senses

(b) the intellect or manas

(c) the store-consciousness or alaya-vijñana.

Alaya-Vijñana is contrasted to the concept of ATMAN in that the former is not enduring, while the Atman or Self is enduring and eternal, often spoken of as a spark of Brahman.

In The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky states that in the Yogacara school, “Alaya is both the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi) and the Self of a progressed adept. ‘He who is strong in the Yoga can introduce at will his Alaya by means of meditation into the true Nature of Existence.’ The ‘Alaya has an absolute eternal existence,’ says Aryasanga — the rival of Nagarjuna” (SD I:49).

Blavatsky links the universal alaya with the personal ālaya-vijñāna:

Alaya, though eternal and changeless in its inner essence on the planes which are unreachable by either men or Cosmic Gods (Dhyani Buddhas), alters during the active life-period with respect to the lower planes, ours included. During that time not only the Dhyani-Buddhas are one with Alaya in Soul and Essence, but even the man strong in the Yoga (mystic meditation) “is able to merge his soul with it” (Aryasanga, the Bumapa school). This is not Nirvana, but a condition next to it. Hence the disagreement. Thus, while the Yogacharyas (of the Mahayana school) say that Alaya is the personification of the Voidness, and yet Alaya (Nyingpo and Tsang in Tibetan) is the basis of every visible and invisible thing, and that, though it is eternal and immutable in its essence, it reflects itself in every object of the Universe “like the moon in clear tranquil water.” (SD I:48)

Other schools dispute the statement.

See also ARYASANGA.

V.H.C.

 

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