In Buddhism, consciousness-only or mind-only (Sanskrit: "vijñapti-mātratā", "vijñapti-mātra","citta-mātra"; Chinese: 唯識; Pinyin: "wéi shí"; Japanese: "yuishiki") is a theory according to which unenlightened conscious experience is nothing but false discriminations or imaginations. Thus, the notion of consciousness-only is an indictment of the problems engendered by the activities of consciousness. This was a major component of the thought of the school of Yogācāra, which had a major impact on subsequent schools after its introduction in East Asia.


In contrast to the atman teachings of the IAST|Upaniṣads, the Buddha stated clearly that all ontological speculations regarding existence or non-existence of a self ("ātman") are detrimental to spiritual progress. [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "The Not-Self Strategy." See Point 3, [] . The Canon quote Thanissaro Bhikkhu draws attention to is the Sabbasava Sutta, [] .] He stated that all thoughts about self are necessarily, whether the thinker is aware of it or not, thoughts about the five aggregates or one of them. [Nanavira Thera, "Nibbana and Anatta." [] . Early Writings -> Nibbana and Anatta -> Nibbana, Atta, and Anatta.] As one scholar has written,

The mysticism found in the Pali discourses ... goes beyond any ideas of 'soul' in the sense of immortal 'self' and is better styled 'consciousness-mysticism.' [Peter Harvey, "Consciousness Mysticism in the Discourses of the Buddha." In Karel Werner, ed., "The Yogi and the Mystic." Curzon Press 1989, page 100. The full quote is: "If one would characterize the forms of mysticism found in the Pali discourses, it is none of the nature-, God-, or soul-mysticism of F.C. Happold. Though nearest to the latter, it goes beyond any ideas of 'soul' in the sense of immortal 'self' and is better styled 'consciousness-mysticism.'"]
Further, early Buddhism was not subjective idealistic. [Ian Charles Harris, "The Continuity of Madhyamaka and Yogacara in Indian Mahayana Buddhism." E.J. Brill, 1991, page 133.] Some have misinterpreted the Yogācāra school of Mahayana Buddhism that developed the consciousness-only approach as a form of metaphysical idealism, but this is incorrect. Yogācāra thinkers did not focus on consciousness to assert it as ultimately real (Yogācāra claims consciousness is only conventionally real since it arises from moment to moment due to fluctuating causes and conditions), but rather because it is the cause of the karmic problem they are seeking to eliminate. [Dan Lusthaus, "What is and isn't Yogācāra." [] .] The standpoint of consciousness-only starts by explaining the regularity and coherence of sense impressions as due to an underlying store of perceptions ("ālaya-vijñāna") evolving from the accumulation of traces of earlier sense perceptions. These are active, and produce "seeds" ("bīja") similar to themselves, according to a regular pattern, as seeds produce plants. Each being possesses a store of perceptions and beings which are generically alike will produce similar perceptions from their stores at the same time. The external world is created when the store consciousness ("ālaya") is "perfumed" (薰) by seeds, i.e. the effects of good and evil deeds.

To summarize, the seeds interact in three ways:

# Seeds produce the external world.
# Seeds are perfumed by the external world.
# Seeds produce seeds.

And this gives the solution to the original paradox. The conception of "self", the false atman, is produced from seeds. Actions in this world, good, bad and neutral deeds, perfume (or mutate) these seeds. The seeds then produce new seeds, with some seeds tainted by your actions, and others unaffected. Even after death, the impressions of deeds — their karma — linger on in the seeds of alaya consciousness. Since the seeds have a natural affinity to join together ("pratisamdhi"), reincarnation occurs when seeds fuse and new states of seventh consciousness (delusions of "self") form. A Buddha is someone who has managed to obliterate all impressions of himself, all his perfumings of the seeds, and escape the wheel of samsara. Such alaya consciousness fully cleansed of karmic sediment is known as "amalavijñâna", or "pure consciousness".

The doctrine of consciousness-only thus reduces all existence to one hundred dharmas (法 factors) in fivedivisions 五位, namely, mind, mental function, material, not associated with mind and unconditioned, dharmas. The consciousness-only school thus sets out to enumerate and describe all these dharmas in detail.

An alternative explanation to the truism that "man has no soul" lies in a simple but powerful extension and paradigm shift: "man has no soul, rather, the soul has man." In other words, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not human beings having a spiritual experience. Assertions that "man" has a "soul" are necessarily false because man's physical existence, which "man" most predominantly identifies with, is merely an observable artifact of the true spiritual reality.

Another important contribution of the consciousness-only thinkers was that of the three natures of imaginary, provisional and real. See "three natures" or Trikaya for details.


The major framework of Yogācāra theory was developed by the two brothers Vasubandhu 世親 and IAST|Asaṅga 無著 in such treatises as the "Abdhidharma-kośa-bhāsya" 倶舍論, the "IAST|Triṃśikā Vijñaptimātratāsiddhiḥ" (Thirty Verses on Consciousness-only) 唯識三十頌, "IAST|Mahāyāna-saṃgraha" 攝大乘論, and the"Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra" 瑜伽師地論. Dharmapala's "Vijñaptimâtratâsiddhi-shâstra" is an important commentary that resolved several doctrinal disputes that had risen out of the original texts.

Consciousness-only doctrine was also defined in sutras such as the "Samdhinirmocanasutra" 解深密經 and "Śrīmālā-sūtra" 勝鬘經. The "IAST|Mahāyāna-saṃgraha", for example, says, "All conscious objects are only constructs of consciousness because there are no external objects. They are like a dream."(如此衆識唯識以無塵等故譬如夢等)〔攝大乘論T 1593.31.118b12〕.



* Zim, Robert (1995). "Basic ideas of Yogacara Buddhism." San Francisco State University. Source: [] (accessed: October 18, 2007).

ee also

* consensus reality
* Dharma character school
* Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
* George Berkeley
* German idealism
* Hindu idealism
* idealism
* Platonism
* Subjectivity
* Woncheuk
* Thoughtform
* Mindstream

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Thirty Verses on Consciousness-only — The Thirty Verses on Consciousness only (Sanskrit: IAST|Triṃsikā ; zh cp|c=唯識三十論頌|p=Weishi Sanshi Lun Song) is a brief poetic treatise by the Indian Buddhist scholar Vasubandhu. It was composed in the 4th century CE and is one of the core texts… …   Wikipedia

  • Consciousness — • In its widest sense it includes all sensations, thoughts, feelings, and volitions, in fact the sum total of mental life Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Consciousness     Consciousness …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Consciousness Explained —   Author(s) Daniel C. Dennett …   Wikipedia

  • Consciousness raising — (often abbreviated c.r. or CR) is a form of political activism, pioneered by United States feminists in the late 1960s. It often takes the form of a group of people attempting to focus the attention of a wider group of people on some cause or… …   Wikipedia

  • Consciousness-based healthcare — (CBH), an emerging field of complementary and alternative medicine, is the application of consciousness based interventions to achieve tangible, beneficial outcomes across a wide range of health concerns including physical and emotional issues.… …   Wikipedia

  • Consciousness — Representation of consciousness from the seventeenth century. Consciousness is a term that refers to the relati …   Wikipedia

  • consciousness — Possibly the most challenging and pervasive source of problems in the whole of philosophy. Our own consciousness seems to be the most basic fact confronting us, yet it is almost impossible to say what consciousness is. Is mine like yours? Is ours …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Only Revolutions — This article is about the novel. For the album by Biffy Clyro with the same name, see Only Revolutions (album). Only Revolutions   …   Wikipedia

  • Store consciousness — The Eight Consciousnesses (Sanskrit: IAST|Aṣṭavijñāna , from IAST|aṣṭa eight and IAST|vijñāna consciousness ) are a concept in the doctrine of the Yogacara school of Buddhism. They enumerate the five senses, supplemented by the mind (manas), the… …   Wikipedia

  • Class consciousness — Part of a series on Marxism …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.