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Lions Roar : March 2019
The eighth consciousness is the hazy background for all this blooming, buzzing mental activity. It contains or accommodates our various upsurges and forays. It’s the ground of all our mental gardens, the place where our positive and negative karmic seeds are planted. This containing space acts as central home ground. It’s called the alaya consciousness—a Sanskrit word meaning “storehouse” or “abode.” Occasionally, the seventh consciousness looks back toward this fuzzy storehouse consciousness and calls it “I”—thinking, “ That’s me.” The storehouse consciousness contains our memo- ries and impressions from the past, as well as all our imprinted conditioning. There are also seeds of future emotional states stored in the alaya, and when appro- priate psychological causes and conditions ripen these seeds, they blossom and flavor our experience accordingly. Sometimes these fragrant blossoms are said to “per- fume” our six sense-perceiving consciousnesses. Some- times these seeds ripen suddenly—like grains of popcorn popping in hot oil. This may lead to a sudden angry outburst, after which we wonder, “What was I think- ing?” In fact we were not thinking but reacting based on ingrained habitual patterns of defensiveness and anger. Strong habitual patterns were “thinking” for us. At other times, as the seventh consciousness leads another instigating charge, the six sense conscious- nesses are flooded with craving and desire. It’s as though mind gazes out at the world and says, “Look- ing at you right now, I see clearly that I never realized before how desirable you really are.” So, in light of this portrait of our everyday psy- chology, what is to be done? In all the instructions of the Buddhist practice lineages—handed down from the time of the Buddha to us today—we are strongly urged to care for our minds and hearts, developing our innately wise and compassionate instincts through meditation. We have innate seeds of wisdom and kind- ness in us that can be cultivated, ripened, and har- vested. To our surprise, the vast universal compassion and nondual wisdom that cares for all beings every- where can be discovered in the midst of our ordinary dualistic consciousness. As Pema Chödrön reminds us, “Right down here in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.” This is love for ourselves, love for others, love for all forms of life on this planet. How do we uncover this great love? Through the gentleness and friendliness of meditation. Here medi- tation means, first, making friends with ourselves, just as we are. We cultivate our own local inner gardens LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2019 59