Nirodhasamāpatti

Before proceeding into Schmithausen’s method of being prior to seed-formation in the ālayavijñāna, another dominate feature needs to be addressed. Firstly, we need to revisit Schmithausen’s Initial Passage:

2.1 The passage which I take to represent the starting-point of the ālayavijñāna theory – and which appears not to have received so far the attention it deserves – is found in the Samāhitā  Bhūmih of the Basic Section of the Yogācārabhūmi:

“When [a person] has entered [Absorption into] Cessation
(nirodha(samāpatti), his mind and mental [factors] have
ceased; how, then, is it that [his] mind (vijñāna) has not
withdrawn from [his] body? – [Answer: No problem;] for [in]
his [case] ālayavijñāna has not ceased [to be present] in the
material sense-faculties, which are unimpaired:
[ālayavijñāna] which comprises /possesses/ has received)
the Seeds of the forthcoming [forms of) mind
(pravṛttivijñāna) , so that they are bound to re-arise in
future (i.e ” after emerging from absorption).”

The prominent term to bear in mind here (the title of this blog) is nirodhasamāpatti. This refers to a passage from a canonical Sutra pointing to the difference between death and “Absorption”; here the life-force has not left the body since the vijñāna has not been withdrawn. Here is the canonical reference:

In MN I.296, Sāriputta is asked: “He whose time has come and is dead and the monk who has attained cessation of perception and feeling – what is the difference between them?” He answers:

“Friend, for one whose time has come and is dead, the conditioned formations (sankhārā) of the body have ceased and tranquilized, the conditioned formations of speech have ceased and tranquilized, the conditioned formations of the mind have ceased and tranquilized, the life-force is extinguished, heat is quenched and his faculties are shattered. Also for the monk who has attained cessation of perception and feeling, the conditioned formations of the body have ceased and tranquilized, the conditioned formations of speech have ceased and tranquilized, the conditioned formations of the mind have ceased and tranquilized, [but] the life-force is not extinguished, heat is not quenched and his faculties are clear. He whose time has come and is dead and the monk who has attained cessation of perception and feeling–this is the difference between them.”

Thus in reference to the Yogācārabhūmi passage, the ālayavijñāna continues to remain present throughout:

nirodha-samāpatti (Pāli, attainment of cessation). Ninth level of trance which was added to the scheme of the eight trances (*dhyāna). In this ninth stage, all mental activity is suspended and bodily functions are greatly attenuated. The subject remains in a state of suspended animation in which it is difficult to detect any vital signs. In due course the meditator emerges spontaneously from this condition. Stories are told of *monks who remained in this state while there was great tumult around them, even to the extent of being absorbed in trance in the middle of a village that was on fire. The state is also known as ‘the cessation of ideation and feeling’. (Keown, Damien. A Dictionary of Buddhism (p. 194). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Although the meditator may appear as if dead during that trance, consciousness is able to be reactivated because the ālayavijñāna remains present throughout, with the seeds of future experience lying dormant in it, available to bear fruit when the person arises from meditation. The ālayavijñāna thus provides continuity from moment to moment within a given lifetime and from lifetime to lifetime, all providing the link between an action performed in the past and its effect experienced in the present, despite protracted periods of latency between seed and fruition. (Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 2929-2933). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Hence, it is the ālayavijñāna that keeps the meditator alive and well. Remember to keep in mind the continuity of this realization. An excellent resource here is Paul J. Griffiths’ On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation And The Mind-Body Problem; this work highlights nirodhasamāpatti (or, the attainment of cessation) through both Pali and Mahayana texts. For our present purpose here is a passage in reference to the ālayavijñāna:

The store-consciousness ‘grasps’ or ‘appropriates’ a new physical body after the death of the old, and thus the store-consciousness provides the required trans-life principle of continuity…. if the store-consciousness was constructed as an ad hoc explanatory category, and if the kinds of problem it was designed to answer were essentially those connected with continuity, is it regarded by classical Yogācāra thinkers as possessing ‘permanence’. (Ibid, pg. 94)

As you may recall this form of “appropriation” would refer to the passage from the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra. Yet, it also needs to be strongly noted how the The Vajrasamādhi Sutra references nirodhasamāpatti:

Mahabala Bodhisattva remarked, “Followers of the two [dualistic] vehicles are unable to see such Single-bhumi [of buddhahood] or the sea of the [Absolute] void.”

The Buddha responded, “So it is. Followers of the two [dualistic, lesser] vehicles are attached to Samadhi (mental absorption), [in order] to gain the Samadhi-body [through the trance of cessation (nirodhasamapatti), whereby they attain ‘neither perception nor nonperception’]. They are like alcoholics who are drunk and unable to sober up, as far as the Single-bhumi [of buddhahood] or the sea of [the Absolute] void is concerned. Continuing through countless tests, they are unable to attain enlightenment. Until the liquor has dissipated off, they finally wake up. They will then be able to cultivate these practices, eventually attaining the body (realization) of buddhahood. When a person abandons the [status of] (a person blocked from attaining enlightenment), he will be able to access the six practices.

Along the path of practice, his mind is purified [by devotion to contemplating thusawareness] and he definitely knows [the path]. The power of his diamond-like wisdom renders him (not subject to spiritual retrogression). He ferries sentient beings across to liberation with boundless mercy and compassion.”

In other words, there is no need of any form of cessation on the singular buhmi of Buddhahood, or the Absolute Void voids-out techniques that would lessen the Self-realization of the Tathāgatadhyāna. Tathāgatadhyāna therefore has nothing to do with any formal “position” in meditation. No-position of mind or body fits in quite succinctly with “keeping the One” and no-thing else. It is THE Dhyana of the Tathagatas.

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