Buddhist Institute of True Enlightenment
The eighth vijnana (Alayavijnana) is the basis for the doctrine study of the Yogacara school of Buddhism. Since ancient times, there have been many different viewpoints concerning the entity-function and nature-appearance of the eighth vijnana; the reason behind the different theories is whether one has actual enlightenment or not. The proposition about “seeds and the vijnana being identical or different”—the relationship between the mind-entity of the eighth vijnana and its stored seeds—is one of the topics of debate. Is the eighth vijnana a term nominally established or an entity of real existence that can be personally realized? This topic is closely related to the practice and realization of Buddhism and its core doctrines.
This article opines that, according to the Treatise on the Stages of Yoga Practice, Kuiji established the principle of “two truths with four layered statements,” which is a perfect, commonly acceptable methodology for examining the Buddhist theory of mind and whether the relationship between dharmas is “identical or different.” Based on Kuiji’s principle, the author finds that in the Mahayanasamgraha-Sastra, the relationship between the eighth vijnana and seeds is “neither identical nor different.” According to the same principle, the Treatise on the Establishment of Vijnana-Only interprets in detail why and how the eighth vijnana and seeds are “neither identical nor different”; namely, on the levels of the second, the third, and the fourth mundane (or the first, the second, and the third supreme) “nominal truths,” the eighth vijnana and seeds are distinguishable (non-identical); however, their relationship is likened to “the whole” (the vijnana entity having the four aspects [bhagas], including the self-corroboratory aspect [samvittibhaga], etc.) and “the part” (the objective aspect [nimittabhaga]), or “entity” and “function,” and therefore the two are also “non-different.” In contrast, Yinshun restricts this topic to the level of “whether the eighth vijnana and seeds are the same entity or different entities” and expresses his viewpoint as follows: “The original meaning of Asanga and Vasubandhu is that ‘seeds and the vijnana are identical,’ or ‘one seed-aggregate with seven manifesting vijnanas’—the whole of the eighth vijnana is precisely the aggregate of seeds; the other seven changing vijnanas, but not the eighth vijnana itself, are manifestly functioning; instead, the Treatise on the Establishment of Vijnana-Only holds that ‘seeds and the vijnana are non-identical’ or ‘all the eight vijnanas are manifestly functioning’—the eighth vijnana is manifestly functioning and seeds are only a part of the manifestly functioning vijnana; like a model of mechanical separation, such a theory is stubbornly irrational, and it deviates from the original meaning of Asanga and Vasubandhu.”
From the perspective of “Positivist Buddhism,” this article points out: “Whether one has actually realized the eighth vijnana” explains the difference between Yinshun’s view and that of the Treatise on the Establishment of Vijnana-Only; the difference is also reflected in the following two questions, “whether the eighth vijnana has its own intrinsic natures” and “whether the eighth vijnana is manifestly functioning if it has its own intrinsic natures.” Based on the actual realization of the eighth vijnana, the Treatise on the Establishment of Vijnana-Only proves, with evidence from five sutras and by ten logical reasonings, that the eighth vijnana has its own intrinsic natures, and it formulates “the theory of eight vijnanas,” in which each vijnana is different; “the theory of four aspects [bhagas]” is also proposed, indicating that the subjective aspect [darsanabhaga] of the eighth vijnana is manifestly functioning to discern the objective aspect [nimittabhaga], which consists of the physical body, the non-sentient world, and seeds. Hence it supports the theory that “the eight vijnanas are manifestly functioning.” In contrast, Yinshun holds the academic viewpoint that “the Buddhist thoughts are evolutional” and takes “Prasangika Madhyamika” as the definitive teaching; therefore, he tends to view the eighth vijnana as “merely a nominal term without real existence” or a term representing “emptiness devoid of intrinsic natures.” With this presupposition, Yinshun misinterprets the doctrines of vijnana-only sutras and treatises. Therefore, based on his false belief, he distorts or wrongly interprets the original meaning of sutras and treatises, and intends to lead the readers to believe the theory of six vijnanas of Prasangika Madhyamika rather than the theory of eight vijnanas. With evidence from sutras and by logical reasonings, this article refutes the Yinshun’s viewpoint that “the original meaning of Asanga and Vasubandhu is one seed-aggregate with seven manifesting vijnanas,” and we prove that the original meaning of these two masters’ theory is “the eight vijnanas being manifestly functioning.”
Lastly, using Three Valid Cognitions as a guiding principle and from the perspectives of “Buddha-nature,” “the state which the defiled Manas clings to,” “the support for the Manas,” and “the bodily sensations after samadhi and other states,” this article proves that the theory of “one seed-aggregate with seven manifesting vijnanas” does not conform to the principle of Three Valid Cognitions, whereas the theory of “the eight vijnanas being manifestly functioning” by Dharmapala, Xuanzang, Kuiji, etc. is in accord with the ultimate reality of the dharma-realm.
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