The Eight Brothers




Eight brothers live under one roof,
 one is sharp, one is dim.
five brothers do business out front,
the last one keeps tabs on everything.

Who are they?

"Eight brothers under one roof” all add up to one person.
Sounds strange, right?
"Under one roof” means they all live in one house.
Can you guess what the “house” is?
That’s right, it’s your body!

The eight “brothers” (we could also say sisters!) stand for the different parts of what we callour "Great Mind.“
Your mind is much more than you realize and that’s why we call it the Great Mind.

Every one of us relies on eight forms of consciousnessto live a normal life.
So the Great Mind can be divided into eight parts, the eight brothers.
The eight forms of consciousness work in unison all the time, like an experienced dance team, who work within their own scope of duties.
Let’s explore and find out who they are!


Brothers One to Five “doing business out front“ are 
the eye-consciousness,
the ear-consciousness,
the nose-consciousness,
the tongue-consciousness,
and the body-consciousness

These are our senses
–sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch–
and they interact with the outside world like busy bees, constantly giving us information about the world around us when we're awake.

The one who understands and analyses all the information supplied by these five brothers is Brother Six, the mental consciousness.
He keeps a close watch, weighing and considering everything the first five brothers do, like a sharp manager (or a helicopter mom!).
He's what we think of as our mind. 

Day to day, 
the mental consciousness tells us he is our real, ultimate Self.
But if he were really in control, why would he let himself experience the suffering of birth, sickness, aging, and death again and again as we go through lifetimes
one after the other?

Shouldn‘t he be able to put a stop to all this and free himself from all the difficulty and discomfort?
But he can't. 

The mental consciousness is fickle; his likes and dislikes can flip in an instant.
He gets bored easily and likes to stay entertained.
The mental consciousness 
Ceases in a dreamless sleep, so obviously it is not something eternal and imperishable.
Some people teach that the mental consciousness will go on to future lives. 
They mistake it for the real Self and they want to believe that this "self-knowing self“ will last forever but it doesn't.

The final two of the eight brothers manage things behind the scenes and we are totally unaware of them.
One of them, Brother Seven, is called "manas" or the "seventh consciousness.“
He is very quick and responsive. Like a top-notch butler, he takes care of everything in the house and makes decisions whenever necessary while staying invisible.

The other unseen brother, Brother Eight, is called the Buddha-Essence.
His formal name is “tathāgatagarbha.” (See if you can say that out loud!)
Sometimes he's also called the "eighth consciousness“ or the "foundational consciousness.“
Brother Eight seems dim and unresponsive but is extremely important.
We’ll talk more about him later.


Day to day,
it is actually manas–Brother Seven– who decides when to close up shop and tells Brothers Oneto Six to close all the doors and
stop receiving guests so we can fall asleep.
However, neither Brother Seven nor Brother Eightrests after we fall asleep.
In fact,they never take even a moment's break—EVER.

Since he is awake all the time, manas is the one who makes the final decision about everything we do.
For example, when a person is sound asleep, if manas senses any noticeable changein the environment, he wakes up Brother Six —the mental consciousness— right awayto find out what is going on.

He also believes that he himself is the real “Self”. 
However, among the eight brothers, only Brother Eight, the Buddha-Essence (the tathāgatagarbha), lives forever and is unaffected by old age, death, or any kind of suffering.
Like the air we breathe, the Buddha-Essence is formless and invisible yet it is the central core of our existence.

While manas isn't the real Self of a being, he does one very important thing.
When a person's body is no longer usable, manas will decide to move to another one.
Since manas believes the Buddha-Essence is part of himself, he drags it with him through many lifetimes in different bodies.

When the manas drags the Buddha-Essence along with it through endless rounds of rebirth, the first five brothers —the consciousnesses of the senses— are unable to follow them.
As we all know, a dead person has no feelings and perceptions, which means that our mental consciousness, the sixth brother, also ceases at death and does not go on to the next life.

While we are alive, the Buddha-Essence keeps records of everything we do in each life, in the way a black box in an aircraft stores all the transmitted data.
Applying the law of cause and effect –also called karma– to our conduct, the Buddha-Essence enables the creation of a new body of an animal, a human, a celestial being, or whatever form we deserve based on what we have done in our previous lives.
Obviously, the “records“ that the Buddha-Essence of each person contains are unique to that person, since no two beings have ever done exactly the same things or had the same experiences.

Think of how even identical twins are not totally alike in their personalities, hobbies, capabilities and appearances.
This is also why some people display particular gifts, some times at very young ages.
The famous Chinese poet Li Bai was proficient in poetry at the age of ten.
The great European composer Beethoven held concerts in Köln, Germany at the age of eight.
They displayed such brilliance because the seeds of their gifts had been stored in their own Buddha-Essence and brought forward from their previous lives.
These are examples where very good things came from previous lives.
Not only is every sentient being —people, animals, birds, insects, etc.— created by its own Buddha-Essence, but everything in the physical world —galaxies, planets, mountains, and rivers— is created collectively by the Buddha-Essences of
karmically-related sentient beings working together.

The Buddha-Essence is indeed the most amazing yet invisible magician.
It is our real Self.

The Buddha-Essence itself isn‘t changed by the karmic records.
Like a cup that can hold different drinks, it's the one thing that stays the same, regardless of its contents, life after life.
A Buddha is someone omniscient of all the knowledge stored in his Buddha-Essence, has perfected the merits and virtues, and possesses the ability to utilize all the features the Buddha-Essence has to offer.
But the Buddha-Essence is formless and shapeless, so how can we find it?

Think of how our eyes cannot see micro-organisms because they are very small or distant galaxies because they are very large.
We need the help of microscopes and telescopes.
Similarly, to “see” the Buddha-Essence, we need to have a special tool, the “eye of wisdom.”
So how can we open and use our wisdom-eye?
In everyday life, we should treat people with kindness and respect, cultivate tolerance and compassion within ourselves, respect the Three Jewels, and accept the Buddha’s teachings with faith.
If you can do all these consistently, your wisdom-eye will soon awaken.
By cultivating the Buddha Dharma with diligence, your wisdom-eye will open when all the conditions are right, and you will be able to “see” the Buddha-Essence, the invisible magician in you.

You may wonder:
Why do we need to see the “invisible magician”?
Isn't it enough just to be a good kid?
Being a good kid Is of course the right thing to do.
But even a good kid has all kinds of records from past lives stored in the Buddha-Essence, which will result in endless rounds of birth, life, and death–your karma.
Imagine yourself stuck on an uncontrollable Ferris wheel that cannot be stopped, one that brings you through many kinds of environments.
It may be easy to be a virtuous person for one life, but is it possible to stick to the right course over trillions of lifetimes in different situations?
All it takes is one bad friend or one slip, and you’ll have to live with the painful consequences of your misconduct for a very, very long time.
In that case, would it still be easy to be a good kid?

What keeps this Ferris wheel of rebirth going are the mistaken beliefs of the mental consciousness and the manas that they are the real and eternal Self.
They think being a good person can halt the powerful karmic force that drives the Ferris wheel.
Instead, we must seek the Buddha-Essence because it is the only mind entity that is everlasting and unchanging over time.
By learning the correct Buddha Dharma, we can change the karmic forces stored in the Buddha-Essence by correcting and purifying manas from the effects of any bad things we've done.
As we change the good and bad karmic forces with pure practices and enlightening insights, the Ferris wheel will begin to function properly and come under our control.
When it does, we can move toward becoming a Buddha.

Potentially, every one of uscan become a Buddha.
To be more precise, any sentient being can become a Buddha.
So we are all equal in terms of our chance of attaining Buddhahood.
When we become a Buddha —like Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha Amitabha, or any other Buddhas— we will acquire omniscient wisdom.
As a Buddha, we will each have the power to choose our rebirth in any world and become any kind of sentient being, so that we can teach people anywhere about the wisdom of liberation from the uncontrolled cycle of rebirth.
A Buddha is omniscient, as he knows everything about the universe and the planet we live on, as well as everything we have done over the countless lives we have lived.
As we know, everything we do is recorded in the Buddha-Essence and a Buddha has the wisdom to access the information stored in it, like you can find the information on your computer.
To become a Buddha you have to perfect your merits and wisdom, as well as assist countless other sentient beings on their way toward Buddhahood.

If you can cultivate the Buddha Dharma and learn all about the Eight Consciousnesses in each and every life you live, then you can gradually replace negative habit energy, such as craving, egoism, arrogance, and aversion, with the seeds of pure actions.
As long as you continue to cultivate the Buddha Dharma and follow the noble path of bodhisattvas, you will eventually attain Buddhahood.
When you become a Buddha, you will be able to help benefit countless other people and liberate them from the suffering that comes with birth, aging, sickness, and death.
As well, you can bring them never-ending wisdom that leads to true liberation and ultimate happiness.

Would you want to be able to do that one day?
If you really want to become a Buddha, you can make the following vow every day:
May I acquire the unsurpassed merits and wisdom of a Buddha, so that I can help liberate all sentient beings from endless rounds of rebirth.
If you really want to become a Buddha, you can make the following vow every day: To achieve this, I sincerely vow to cultivate the Buddha Dharma and learn all there is to know about the Buddha-Essence.


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