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Lions Roar : March 2019
partner about next summer’s vacation plans (the same argument we had last year). In each case, our inner attitude enters decisively into the feeling- tone and texture of our experience. What is hap- pening “out there” and what is happening “in here” dance together. We move through the different realms of con- sciousness on a daily basis, and a regular medita- tion practice only highlights this inner journey. After all, we’re just sitting here on the same cushion or chair as yesterday, yet what a difference a day makes: yesterday happy and inspired, now dissatis- fied and irritated; yesterday bored with our job, today optimistic about our new relationship. There are gaps in this ever-changing mental ride, of course—times when we seem to step off the roller coaster of hope and fear, of ups and downs. Yet even the momentary gaps we experience meditating can become the springboard for another round of spiritually motivated grasping—searches for pro- found states of being, ambitious struggles to attain and master inner peace, or hungry quests for more spiritual nourishment. In other words, the different kinds of dualistic consciousness may play out in any realm—spiri- tual, emotional, relational, psychological, physical. Anything, anyone, any state, can be turned into an object of dualistic hope and fear, whose shape will be determined by our particular state of mind. Now let’s look more closely at the formation and activities of this dualistic consciousness itself. Mahayana Buddhist psychology outlines eight types of subject–object consciousness. Together, these eight consciousnesses dynamically compose what we call “ego.” These eight begin with the five kinds of sense consciousness we’re all familiar with: (1) the visual consciousness of forms, (2) the auditory conscious- ness of sounds, (3) the olfactory consciousness of smells, (4) the taste consciousness, and (5) the tac- tile consciousness of touch. These consciousnesses correspond to our usual organs of sense perception—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. In a sense, these five sensory con- sciousnesses link the perceiving organ to its object. Between the eye and the red flower it sees is the see- ing consciousness, between the ear and the music it hears is hearing consciousness, and so on. The sixth consciousness is mental. Running parallel to seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching is the conscious “minding” of thoughts and emotions. These mental phenomena are the objects of the sixth consciousness, and its changing panorama of psychological events forms our inter- nal landscape. The busy sixth consciousness also synthesizes and integrates the experience of the other conscious- nesses into a coherent narrative of synchronized sights, sounds, and mental commentary about our experience. This sixth consciousness is the writer/ director of the familiar inner movies and storylines of our experience: “These days my life is peaceful, but last year was very different.” Note that each of these six consciousnesses is transparently dualistic. “ This” (in here) experiences “that” (out there) with pleasure, pain, or indifference, and the attendant “conflicted emotions” of desiring, disliking, or ignoring. The seventh consciousness, known as the kle- sha consciousness, is sometimes called “nuisance mind,” because it likes to stir up one mental drama after another. It acts as a “blind instigator” driv- ing the other six to search out further sense objects based on underlying, perhaps unconscious, feelings of passion and aggression. This seventh consciousness insistently whispers to us: “More, more!” or “Less, less!” If the seventh consciousness flavors the other six with passion, we look for more desirable objects or pleasing events. If the seventh consciousness flavors the senses with anger, we turn away from unpleasant perceptions, wishing they would just go away. Note that this process is internally driven by consciousness itself. Nowadays we would describe this as psychologi- cally projecting onto the external world what arises inside our own minds. The urge to perceive and act that the seventh consciousness instigates is said to be “blind,” because it is unaware of probable results or conse- quences. It’s just leading the charge, like a slightly confused but energetic sergeant (“Let’s go, troops, let’s go!”) without any clear sense of direction: “I don’t really know what’s out there, but we better get more of it!” Based on karmic conditioning from our past, we may find ourselves avoiding situations that are actu- ally helpful. Error message: internalized fear nar- rows our sense of external possibilities. Conversely, we may move toward people and situations that ultimately prove unsatisfying because of a mistaken belief that they are reliable sources of happiness. All of this is the crafty work of the first seven confused consciousnesses shaping our perceptions and choices. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2019 58 GILT-BRONZESEATEDAMITABHABUDDHA,JOSEONDYNASTY/COURTESYOFNATIONALMUSEUMOFKOREA