Just as a lotus flower can grow from muddy water, a compassionate mind can emerge from delusion. Delusion can cloud the mind. Insight can clear it. The mind gives rise to unhindered altruism. The Storehouse Consciousness concept and Buddha-Nature concept give rise to the idea that a Buddha is within the mind of all sentient beings.

The Storehouse Consciousness concept does not possess the same character across all schools and texts.1 The Storehouse Consciousness of the Yogachara differs from the Storehouse that is described in the Lankavatara Sutra and Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana. For the former, the Storehouse Consciousness is pure. For the latter two, the Storehouse Consciousness contains purity and impurities. To Suzuki, the Yogacharin conception is pure Idealism, while the conception espoused in the Lankavatara Sutra, Flower Ornament Scripture, and Awakening of Faith Sutra claim that the “world is the objectification of the mind.”2

The supreme importance of the Alaya Vijnana in the Lankavatara Sutra is expressed in a resounding declaration from the Buddha to his questioner Mahamati: “Nirvana is the Alaya Vijnana.” The Buddha further extols the value of understanding the Alaya Vijnana:

“Mahamati, since the ignorant and the simple-minded, not knowing that the world is what is seen of Mind itself, cling to the multitudinous or external objects, cling to the notions of being and non-being, oneness and otherness, bothness and non-bothness, existence and non-existence, eternity and non-eternity, as being characterized by self-nature which rises from discrimination based on habit-energy, they are addicted to false imaginings. Mahamati, it is like a mirage in which the springs are seen as if they were real.”3

The Storehouse Consciousness concept divides the mind into eight types of consciousness. The first five correspond to the five traditional senses. The sixth is the sense-center (mano-vijnana), the seventh is the egoist thought center (manas-vijnana), and the eight is the Storehouse Consciouness (alaya-vijnana).4

The egoist thought center “is the center where all the selfish ideas, egotistic opinions, arrogance, self-love, illusions and delusions arise.”5 The Storehouse Consciousness is where seeds are buried to grow and bloom at a later date. The mind interacts with the ostensible outer world and responds by storing memories, perceptions, and decisions. These imprints remain to give rise to later, similar experiences. The Storehouse is not itself good or evil. It is powerful and enduring, and gives rise to reality by dint of its all-encompassing nature.

Sanskrit:  Alaya-vijnana

1Lankavatara Sutra, Suzuki, xl.
2Lankavatara Sutra, Suzuki, xl.
3Lankavatara Sutra, Suzuki, 55.
4Lankavatara Sutra, Suzuki, 79.
5Takakusu, 1947, 37.