Wise Protector asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, how do wholesome and unwholesome dharmas control the consciousness?”
The Buddha answered, “Wise Protector, as an illustration, a piece of precious crystal looks white or black according to whether it is put in a white or black place. Similarly, when the consciousness leaves the dead body to be reincarnated and undergo different karmic results, it will become virtuous or non-virtuous according to whether it is controlled by wholesome or unwholesome dharmas.”
As we can see, consciousness is not absolute. It can be affected by different dharmatas. It’s only as good or bad as the soil it lands on. Hence, consciousness is a secondary mode and is subservient to Mind THAT stands above and is never soiled by phenomenal occurrences.
Wise Protector further asked the Buddha, “In what way is the body connected with the consciousness?”
The Buddha answered, “Wise Protector, consciousness does not accumulate or grow. As an illustration, there will be no sprout if the seed does not grow or if it rots. It is when the seed changes and undergoes transformation that the sprout emerges. Wise Protector, what do you think? Where does the sprout abide? In the seed, branch, stem, leaf, or the top of the tree?”
Wise Protector answered the Buddha, “World-Honored One, the sprout does not abide in any part of the tree.”
[The Buddha said,] “Similarly, Wise Protector, the consciousness does not abide in any part of the body. It abides neither in the eye, nor in the ear, nose, tongue, nor body. The time when the consciousness gains slight awareness may be compared to the time when the seed sprouts; the time when the consciousness acquires feeling may be compared to the time when buds appear; and the time during which the consciousness has a body may be compared to the time during which the flower blossoms and the tree bears fruit.
“From consciousness the body arises, and consciousness covers all the body and its limbs. When we look for consciousness in the body, we cannot find it anywhere; yet without consciousness, the body cannot live. “The tree bears the seeds of future trees when its fruits are ripe, not when they are unripe. In the same way, when the body dies as the karmic results [of one life] are settled, the consciousness-seed appears. Because there is consciousness, there are sensations. Because there are sensations, there is craving. Because of the bondage of craving, memory occurs and is absorbed by the consciousness. Through the union of the parents, and in accordance with its good and evil karmas, the consciousness takes birth again together with the elements of prajna (vitality), perceptions, and memory.
A reiteration here that this form of consciousness does not bespeak of the traditional eight modes—it does not abide anywhere. It’s only when consciousness ripens that awareness comes into play which is predetermined by the affected host, i.e., the various sensations in the receiving-mode. On the wheel of dependent origination, therefore, consciousness is the catalyst that ignites craving which in turn produces either right or wrong action in accord with particularized karmic triggers. In this sense consciousness is the memory-factor that keeps the wheel in perpetual motion.
“A mirror can reflect a person’s face, but if the mirror is not clean and bright, the face will not be reflected. Only when the mirror is bright can the image of the face appear. A person’s image in the mirror has no feeling or memory, but it bends, stretches, looks up and down, speaks, comes, goes, advances, stops, and performs other acts just as the person does. Wise Protector, by whose power does the image appear?”
Wise Protector answered the Buddha, “It is by the power of that person: Because there is the face, there is the image of that face. The image and the face are the same in color, and the image is exactly like the face, with or without complete organs.
The Buddha said, “The face is the cause of the image, and the mirror is the condition of it. Through the combination of the cause and condition, the image is produced. Due to the consciousness [serving as the cause of the body], there are feelings, conceptions, impulses, and other mental functions. The parents are the condition [of the body]. Through the combination of the cause and condition, the body is produced.
“The image in the mirror will disappear when the body moves away, yet the body’s image may be reflected in water or in other places. In the same way, after leaving the body, the consciousness takes birth again together with good and evil karmas to undergo other karmic results.
The mirror-image is controlled by the subject while the mirror itself is the condition upon which it’s projected. When karma ripens it’s transferred through the consciousness upon a new receiving modality. The usual array of sensate functions follow in suit.
“Furthermore, as an illustration, consider the seeds of banyan and udumbara. Though small, these seeds can engender huge trees, which will in turn produce seeds. The new seeds will leave the old trees to produce new trees. In time, the old trees will become weak, sapless, withered, and rotten. Similarly, after leaving its small body, the consciousness of a small sentient being may take on a big body of some kind, according to its karmas. “Moreover, consider barley, wheat, castor-oil plants, soybeans, green lentils, and so forth: their sprouts, stems, flowers, and fruits grow and ripen because of their seeds. Similarly, because they have a consciousness, sentient beings who are subject to transmigration have awareness. Because they have awareness, they have feelings, and as a result, the consciousness takes on different bodies together with good and evil karmas.
Symbolic use of big vs small; someone with small residues of karma can transmigrate into eventual larger karmic sins, e.g., Adolf Hitler. Along the lines of transmigration, the awareness factor kicks-in and produces all manner of karmic associations that are dependently arisen based on feelings and grasping which procreates new good and evil misfortunes.
“As a further example, a bee rests on a flower and becomes attached to it. The bee sucks the nectar of the flower to nourish itself, and then leaves the flower to rest on another one. It may fly from a fragrant flower to a stinking one, or from a stinking one to a fragrant one, and it becomes attached to whatever flower it rests upon. Similarly, because of meritorious karmas, the consciousness may acquire the body of a god to enjoy superior bliss. Then the consciousness may lose the body of a god and, because of [previous] evil karmas, be reborn as a hell-dweller to undergo many sufferings. The consciousness is thus born again and again in various bodies.
Being one of the gods in the heaven realms does not assure such a permanent status. Within the alaya-receptacle different seeds manifest at different times; hence, evil seeds from a former lifespan will eventually manifest and mature at some future junction, thus guaranteeing a new rebirth in one of the lower realms of impermanence.
“The consciousness is like the seed of a tulip, of a red or blue [lotus] flower, or of a giant white lotus flower. The seeds of these flowers are all white. If you break them, you will find no sprout, no flower, and no colors [other than white]. Yet when sown in the soil and moistened with water, the seeds will sprout and, in due time, produce abundant flowers and fruits, which are red, white, or other colors. The colors, sprouts, and so forth are not within the seed, but they cannot be produced if there is no seed. [Similarly,] after the consciousness leaves the body, no features, sense-organs, or sense-fields of the body are to be found within the consciousness. By wonderful vision, wonderful hearing, sound, texture, taste, dharmas, memory, and the sense-fields, the consciousness knows the good and evil karmas it has done and will acquire a [new] body according to those karmas when proper causes and conditions combine.”
Even though consciousness in itself is imageless, it becomes perfumed with karmic permutations in a present [form]ulation and will acquire new phenomenal forms in a future incarnation.