ACCORDING TO THE TEACHINGS of Manifestation Only Buddhism, our mind has eight aspects or, eight “consciousnesses.” The first five are based in the physical senses. They are the consciousnesses that arise when our eyes see form, our ears hear sounds, our nose smells an odor, our tongue tastes something, or our skin touches an object.
The sixth, mind consciousness (manovijñana), arises when our mind contacts an object of perception. The seventh, manas, is the part of consciousness that gives rise to and is the support of mind consciousness. The eighth, store consciousness (alayavijñana), is the ground, or base, of the other seven consciousnesses.
Store consciousness has three functions:
The first is to store and preserve all the “seeds” (bija) of our experiences. The seeds buried in our store consciousness represent everything we have ever done, experienced, or perceived. The seeds planted by these actions, experiences, and perceptions are the “subject” of consciousness. The store consciousness draws together all these seeds just as a magnet attracts particles of iron.
The second aspect of store consciousness is the seeds themselves. A museum is more than the building, it is also the works of art that are displayed there. In the same way, store consciousness is not just the “storehouse” of the seeds but also the seeds themselves. The seeds can be distinguished from the store consciousness, but they can be found only in the storehouse.
When you have a basket of apples, the apples can be distinguished from the basket. If the basket were empty, you would not call it a basket of apples. Store consciousness is, at the same time, both the storehouse and the content that is stored. The seeds are thus also the “object” of consciousness. So when we say “consciousness,” we are referring to both the subject and the object of consciousness at the same time.
The third function of store consciousness is as a “store for the attachment to a self.” This is because of the subtle and complex relationship between manas, the seventh consciousness, and the store consciousness. Manas arises from store consciousness, turns around and takes hold of a portion of store consciousness, and regards this grasped part as a separate, discrete entity, a “self.”
Much of our suffering results from this wrong perception on the part of manas.