The Elucidation of Consciousness

After seven years we now return again to our series based on the large compendium of the Māhāratnakūṭa Sutra. Subjects previously covered have been Akṣhobhya’s Pure Land, Mañjuśrī Teaches Prajñāpāramita, and The True Lion’s Roar of Queen Śrīmālā. Our present one is The Elucidation of Consciousness.

Readers will find that the consciousness discussed in this sutra is in many ways similar to the Yogacara idea of the store consciousness (alaya vijnana). It is our belief that this sutra is one of the forerunners or germinal sources of the Mind Only philosophy of the Yogacara school. As is stated here, “The consciousness is devoid of form and substance, yet it manifests itself by feelings and conception, it upholds all the dharmadhatu . . . it is fully endowed with the power of wisdom and can even know events of past lives . . . . Consciousness is the seed which can bring forth the sprout of various bodily forms as a result of karma. Perception, awareness, conception, and memory are all comprised in the consciousness . . . . “Here, we clearly see the precursor of the store consciousness theory. For those who are interested in the Buddhist view on consciousness, this sutra should be a useful reference. (from notes on the text)

As stated this nature of consciousness is the forerunner to the Alaya-receptacle in that it is the primal seed-carrier and not all of them good. It is not one of the traditional 8-levels of consciousness and perhaps comes closest to the 9th level, or Amala-consciousness, in that in-itself is fundamentally pure before its function of depositing seeds. It moves to different positions in the field of play in both realms of the karmadhatu and dharmadhatu. In respects to our previous series on the soul it supplants said nature and is the one that transmigrates. It’s a sutra on the rudimentaries of consciousness as a whole.

Mahāratnakūṭa Sūtra

39.The Elucidation of Consciousness

Prologue

Thus have I heard. Once the World-Honored One was dwelling in the bamboo grove of Elder Karaṇdạ, in the great city of Rājagṛha, together with twelve hundred fifty great monks who were all Arhats. These monks had ended their defilements and were no longer subject to afflictions. They had acquired ease and achieved liberation from passions and from ignorance. They perceived the past, the present, and the future without hindrance. These great dragons had, in accordance with the Buddha’s teaching, done what they had set out to do and abandoned the great burden [of sasāra]. They had gained benefit for themselves. They had already freed themselves from the sufferings caused by existence in samsara. By the power of right wisdom, they knew well sentient beings’ propensities. These great Sravakas were led by Elder Sariputra.

Also in the assembly were innumerable Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas.

Elder Karaṇdạ, in the great city of Rājagṛha: donator of the first proper Buddhist monastery in Rājagṛha: Sanskrit name for the capital of the kingdom of MAGADHA during the time of the Buddha. Rājagṛha was one of the two most important centers of the Buddha’s activities. The Buddha made a final visit to the city shortly before his death.

Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 52460-52462). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

These great dragons: minds filled with incomparable Buddha-gnosis.

At that time, at the dwelling place of the World-Honored One, most of the monks felt tired and lethargic. They looked listless and could not deport themselves properly. Thereupon, the face of the World-Honored One beamed like an opened lotus flower. All the monks then became fully awake and straightened themselves up with dignity. They thought, “Now the Buddha, the World Honored One, emits bright light from his face. What Dharma will he teach to benefit [sentient beings] greatly?”

Left to their own merits, monks are not immune to the assaults from Mara that leave them depressed and unable to function as proper upholders of the Dharma. Whereupon the entrance of the Light emanating from the Tathagata’s face breaks-through Mara’s evil power of darkness; yea, there is no greater remedy than the Light of the Luminous One. Hence, the monks become once again well en-lightenend dharma-heirs.

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