Karma’s Repository

The advent of Mahāyāna Buddhism that coincided with the beginning of the Christian-era gave birth to the most sublime innovations in Buddhist-thought that have not been surpassed even to this day. Colorful, dynamic and transcendent in scope, resplendent with rich metaphorical language founded in the rich soil of sūtra and śāstra laden literature, the Mahāyāna shaped a new and indefatigable-direction for the nature of the karma-effect. According to the Sarvāstivādin and Theravādin doctrine, one’s goal in unraveling the karmic-equation was to slowly and diligently eradicate it through determined demolition of its defilements, in essence, being empowered to save-oneself. In Mahāyāna doctrine the emphasis was not so much in eradicating its effects, but standing above and beyond it by not focusing so much on individual-salvation, but by the salvation of others by practicing the six perfections or pāramitās. This found its inestimable worth in the cult of the Bodhisattvas. Generally, the causes of birth for ordinary beings are past deeds (karman) and defilements (klesa). But the Bodhisattva’s birth is unique in that it is caused exclusively by his will and purpose. Thus, a Bodhisattva volunteers to be born (sacintyabhavopapatti—intentional birth) into a life of suffering for the precise purpose of alleviating the suffering of sentient beings.

The Bodhisattva is that class of Buddhists who, believing in the Bodhi (intelligence or wisdom), which is a reflection of the Dharmakaya in the human soul, direct all their spiritual energy toward realizing and developing it for the sake of their fellow-creatures. (Suzuki, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism)

In essence, this points above and beyond karma and its ignominious effects by unraveling its apparent insurmountable mysteries. Among the many different schools within the Mahāyāna, the Yogācāran actually charted its internal origin and functions:

Karmic action is an accepted principle within the way of thinking of the people of India; it is believed that on the basis of the past karmic actions, the present world is determined and established. In a similar way, in Buddhism too, it is stated that the continuity of existence (i.e., corporeal, material existence of sentient beings) evolves and is differentiated by means of karma. Yogacaras, however, claim that what evolves and is differentiated by karma should be the internal mental functions instead of outer material substances; hence, the term evolution of cognition…

(More specifically—inclusion mine), it is also in accordance with the chain in the Sino-Japanese Buddhist tradition that “dependent origination as the fruition of karma,” was given greater significance in the Mahayana tradition when it was understood as the “dependent origination as the function of alaya-vijnana.”

(G. M. Nagao, Mādhyamika and Yogācāra)

“The concept of alaya-vijñāna first appeared in the Samdhinirmocana-sūtra, circa early 4th century C.E. in India. This Sutra asserts that the alaya-vijñāna is a form of consciousness that demonstrates specific modes of perception. It is here that it also takes on the familiar metaphorical-shape as a receptacle that house seeds of karma as well as the propensity for all future karma. It is essentially based on this understanding that Yogācāra Buddhists determine how all phenomenal diversity develops; indeed, for them alaya-vijñāna is the hallmark for all conventional realities, and it is how subjective-agents interact in their environment.” (From the series, Tsung-mi: An Intimate Study)

The following stanza and commentary from the Unborn Yogasūtras of Patañjali states thus:

4.9 Memory and the karmic impressions within the Alaya receptacle give rise to the automatic tendencies that afflict one’s life; all this occurs regardless of “time” factors, particular location, or by the string of endless lifetimes.

From the Commentary: The shared-memories from all former past incarnations continue to make their influences known and will stop at nothing to guarantee that the karmic-seeds come to fruition, all based on past actions—no matter how far back within the memory-banks of the Alaya receptacle. Also, the fruition of these seeds does not necessarily fall in chronological order. The karmic consequences from a millennium past-age could come home to roost along any given point of that karmic spectrum.

“The Storehouse Consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna): According to the Yogācāra school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, the system of perception, mind, ego-consciousness, and subconscious mind is divided into eight categories: the five sense perceptions, vijñāna [mind], mano-vijñāna [ego-consciousness], and ālaya-vijñāna [Storehouse Consciousness]. The relationship that exists between the Storehouse Consciousness and Suchness—whether they are identical or nonidentical—has been a subject of great contention among the sectarian scholars. What is essential here, according to the text, is that the Storehouse Consciousness be defined as the place of intersection of the Absolute order and of the phenomenal order, or enlightenment and non-enlightenment, in man.”

This Maya-maze is the creation of perpetually re-generated Mind-angst in the soiled receptacle that is the Alaya. It’s a particularized-episodic-dementia that is the antithesis and exact debasement of the Supreme turn-about in the Mind—not towards Its Best Self, but back into the diseased loins of unimaginable darkness—a veritable house of awaiting horrors; yea, the scarred-twin of the Tathagata-garbha.

Tsung-mi stated that in the depository of consciousness (alaya-receptacle) there are two principles at work: awakening and delusion. Awakening is the route of the Noble Ones (Ariyans), and delusion is the root of the common lot (puthujjanas). In drawing upon the Awakening of Faith, Tsung-mi taught that even though all beings are intrinsically endowed with the enlightened nature of the Buddha, because they are not aware of it, they form attachments and transmigrate according to their karma. Yet their enlightened nature neither is born nor dies. In conjunction with this realization the Chinese Yogācāra schools taught the following:

Fa-shang (495-580) represented one of these schools and expounded that tathagatāgarbha and alaya-vijñāna were exclusively separate from one another: alaya-vijñāna was totally impure and existed solely to house all karmic and phenomenal-based associations; whereas the tathagatāgarbha was solely “pure” and the ultimate source for all there is. This stood in stark contrast to other Yogācāra schools that asserted that alaya-vijñāna in-itself was pure and the sustainer of all phenomena—it was completely synonymous with the tathagatāgarbha . In a masterstroke of providing the middle-ground for all these opposing schools, the Awakening of Faith integrated both concepts: alaya-vijñāna was bifurcated as epistemologically a combination of both pure and impure aspects of consciousness, while ontologically it was not distinct from tathagatāgarbha. When in awakened-mode the alaya was pure; when in delusion, it was impure.

Of course, all this is leading to Paramartha’s superb recognition of transcending the alaya receptacle and its karmic effects:

“Paramātha’s innovation, namely the ninth consciousness, which is transcendent and pure (amala-vijñāna), eventually terminates the functions of the seed-system of the ālaya-vijñāna, replacing it with the absolute nature of reality, the amala-vijñāna. This new structure of consciousness, also called “Consciousness-Only”, is what remains when the seeds of defilement are no longer produced. The ālaya-vijñāna is the subconscious receptacle for karmic seeds stored for subsequent release, but the [continuum] of this karmic cycle and rebirth ceases when the functioning of the ālaya-vijñāna ceases. What remains is the [absolutely-real], the amala-vijñāna, the [seedless] state of consciousness. “If an objective world does not exist, what produces any effects? For example, seeds can produce a sprout. If the seed does not exist, how can a sprout emerge? Therefore, there is no production [of effects]. The nature of the absolute (pariniṣpanna-svabhāva) is called ‘the state devoid of substantial nature’ with respect to the nature [imputed on to a thing] because it neither exists nor does not exist [as some sort of substantial entity].”

“The ālaya-vijñāna and its processes of producing “sprouts” of attachment and delusion no longer function when the [wisdom] of the amala-vijñāna has been attained, according to Paramārtha’s interpretation of the Triṃśikā. The nature of the amala-vijñāna is [different from the nature] of the ālaya-vijñāna. One set of activities of consciousness does not simply transform its content from misconceived notions to knowledge of reality; rather the entire mechanism of that the ālaya-vijñāna represents [no longer functions]. Pure consciousness is identified with reality (pariniṣpanna) or Suchness in Paramārtha’s exegesis.” (Diana Y. Paul)

In Lankavatarian parlance this is “turning-about” within the defiled-seat of consciousness and Recollecting Pure Mind—unadulterated and devoid of any of those ignominious karmic-seeds. If left alone and not stirred through the act of grasping, the alaya remains calm, like the surface of the ocean—just reflecting its pure-essential stature as the Tathagata-garbha:

“Being closely associated with the system of the Sense perceptions (Vijnanas), it is only through its purification, or reabsorption (paravrtti—or turn-about) that the Embryo-of-Buddhahood may emerge in its original state.” (Sutton, Existence and Enlightenment in the Lanka, p.86)

Another critical realization is that in tathagatāgarbha, the “garbha-element” functions as “womb (of Suchness)”—for the potentially developing Bodhiseed; whereas when employed solely as “embryo”, the garbha-element takes on all types of phenomenal associations that are housed in the Alaya-receptacle—wherein potentially impure karmic actions are activated.

This is the Mind-Only Realization of defying all negative-karma interference, but by what discipline can this Realization be reinforced? Once again we need to turn to those Yogasūtras of Patañjali—an all-inclusive eclectic-reference source that defies any sectarian prejudice:

Seedless Contemplation is when the yogin is so totally AT-ONE with the Unborn that there is no longer any maturation of discursive thought patterns; it is the ultimate prajñā that is Self-Realized without any outflows of intellectual interference. In effect, all becomes sublimated within the Amala-consciousness of the Tathagatas…

1.48 The level reached is now *ritambharā*, wherein only the Truth of Reality AS IT IS is perceived through Mind’s own intuition.

From the Commentary: Several things are being revealed here. One now only perceives Yathabhutam—awakening to Absolute Reality AS IT IS. This is the Truth (ritambhara) of Reality (Dharmadhatu—Element of Truth) and THAT which bears the Truth is the Imageless Mind of the Tathagatas. There is no longer any form of discursive means available since all is now sublimated exclusively in the Amala-consciousness of the Tathagatas. The former skandhic-consciousness (form, sensation, thought, motion, and mortal consciousness) is now sublimated by the Amala. YOU no longer are, only THAT which animates you IS. There’s a familiar scripture adage, “Once I saw indistinctly, as in a mirror.” Now we see face to face with the Imageless Face of the Unborn.

The following from the Lankavatarian Book of the Dead series is a nice summation of this blog on Karma’s Repository:

In these advanced phases of Deep-Samadhis one discovers that the mechanism of consciousness itself needs to shift from its adventitious defilement mode (skandhic/body consciousness) and become attuned with the supra-consciousness of the Tathagatas (Cittapada). If this shift does not occur the Ariyan Mind cannot fully transcend the realm of karmadhatu and is thus still subject to its grosser forms. In other words, one must disconnect from the source of all skandhic conditioning by allowing the Cittapada to absolve all former defiled seeds of the Alaya-receptacle thus shutting-down the dynamics of the karmadhatu. Once this action is initiated (by the grace of infinite Buddhas and Bodhisattvas), then the Ariyan Mind is aligned (Cittidhatu) with the Self THAT is devoid of all those former vicissitudes of the defiled-garbha. Mystically this is known as the developing gotra becoming fully cognizant, as Dharma-child, of the Dharmadhatu. The stage is now set for partaking in the Bodhi-store of the accumulated Buddhagnosis of the Tathagatas, or being confirmed in the Amala-vijnana.

The Amala-vijnana is the total Wisdom-store of the Tathagatas and thus of all Buddhas, and (as shared through Tathatic-Grace) it is the modus operandi of all Buddhas to be. It is now seeing through Imageless-Eyes the full Reality of the Dharmadhatu. In light of this Noble Self-Realization, it is the True Nature of the Self devoid of all misconceptions and defilements of the now defunct Karmic Storehouse. This Primordial Consciousness precedes the acts of all perceptions as Mind no longer perceives but fully Recollects Its own Essential Stature. It Is Itself the Immaculate Thatness. Thus, the Ariyan Mind is now intrinsically attuned to the Undivided Self of Suchness—Tathata. Deep looking upon Deep.

As John of the Cross would write, “If you desire the All your mistake is desiring [grasping] it in the first place.” The slightest thought to the contrary ruins the spell.

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