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The Eight Consciousnesses (Aṣṭa Vijñāna)

The Eight Consciousnesses (Aṣṭa Vijñāna or Asta Vijnana)

All Eight Consciousness (Tibetan: rnam-shes tshogs-brgyad)[1] are “aggregates” or skandhas.

The first five are the sensate consciousnesses:

1. First consciousness: “Eye-consciousness” (Tibetan: mig-gi rnam-shes); seeing apprehended by the visual sense organs;

2. Second consciousness: “Ear-consciousness” (Tibetan: rna’i rnam-shes); hearing apprehended by the auditory sense organs;

3. Third consciousness: “Nose-consciousness” (Tibetan: sna’i rnam-shes), smelling apprehended through the olfactory organs;

4. Fourth consciousness: “Tongue-consciousness” (Tibetan: lce’i rnam-shes); tasting perceived through the gustatory organs;

5. Fifth consciousness: “Body-consciousness” (Tibetan: lus-kyi rnam-shes); tactile feeling (vedana) apprehended through skin contact (spasha), touch.

These first five along with the sixth are identified in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Tradition (Theravada):

6. Sixth consciousness: “Ideation-consciousness” (Tibetan: yid-kyi rnam-shes); the aspect of mind known in Sanskrit as the “mind monkey; the consciousness of ideation.

The Mahayana Sutras of the Yogacara School (Yogachara or Mind Only School) that espoused the Cittamatra Doctrine (Chittamatra or Chittamatrin) proffer two more consciousnesses:

7. Seventh consciousness: “The manas consciousness” ”Obscuration-consciousness“ (Tibetan: nyon-yid rnam-shes); (Sanskrit: klistamanas = kleshaobscuration“, ”poison“, ”enemy“; manas “ideation”, ”moving mind“, ”mind monkey“ (volition?); a consciousness which through apprehension, gathers the hindrances, the poisons, the karmic formations (c.f. Manas (early Buddhism)).

8. Eighth consciousness: ”store-house consciousness“ (Tibetan: kun-gzhi rnam-shes; Sanskrit: ālāyavijñāna); ” The seed consciousness (bi^ja-vijn~a^na); “the consciousness which is the basis of the other seven.


[2] The seven prior consciousnesses are based and founded upon the eighth. It is the aggregate which administers and yields rebirth; this idea may in some respects be compared to the usage of the word ”citta“ in the agamas; see below. In the early texts the sankhara-khandha plays some of the roles ascribed to the storehouse consciousness by later Yoga-chara thinkers.

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eight_consciousnesses.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/26 18:11 (external edit)