Text and Commentary:


The direct, veridical perception of natural states can involve any of the Three Natures

     All distinction-making consciousness, has as its most basic distinction that of subject and object. The functioning of the subject-component of consciousness is also of three types,knownas the Three Modes of Knowledge. Direct, veridical perception  is the first.  The others are inference  and fallacy. Fallacy includes dreams and hallucinations.  Only veridical perception functions within the fields of the five consciousnesses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching).

     Likewise, a state  refers to the object-component of consciousness. The object component is classified as being one of the Three Kinds of States:

          1) natural state,

          2) state of solitary impressions,

          3) state of transposed substance.

     The natural state refers to states--the perceived aspects of consciousness--as they really are, that is, undistorted by the attachment to self and other or by attachment to dharmas. The natural state is unconditioned by mental causation.

     The second kind, solitary impressions, has no basis in the states as they really are, but consists of imagined categories of the sixth consciousness such as the hair of a turtle or the horns of a rabbit.  The third, the state of transposed substance, refers to states that are distorted by false thinking and ultimately by the mark of a self.  Only the first of the Three Kinds of States, the natural state, occurs in relation to the five consciousnesses.

     Every moment of consciousness can also be characterized as having a moral nature.  Again the analysis is threefold. The Three Natures are the wholesome, the unwholesome, and the indeterminate.  Consciousness characterized by a  wholesome nature tends towards the creation of good karma, whereas that of an unwholesome nature tends to create evil karma.  The indeterminate nature is neutral, neither good nor evil.  Since the five consciousnesses do not contain the potential for making moral distinctions, by themselves they are only indeterminate in nature.

     Because the five consciousnesses always arise together with the sixth consciousness, which does distinguish good and evil, the five consciousnesses do partake of all three natures insofar as they are intimately connected with the sixth consciousness. As the first five consciousnesses function, the sixth consciousness simultaneously makes  moral determinations of their contents. Apart from the activity of the sixth consciousness, the causal relationship of the first five consciousnesses to their states--sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects--is exclusively in terms of direct veridical perception.  

Three consciousnesses--eyes, ears, and body--occupy two grounds.

     The analysis now moves to what we might call the "vertical" dimension and informs about the levels of the conditioned world on which the five consciousnesses arise.  The "two grounds" refer to the first two of the Nine Grounds. The Nine Grounds are as follows:

          a)  the first ground is comprised of the realm of desire, which includes the five destinies of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, humans and the six desire heaven portion of the destiny of the gods;

          b)   the second, third, fourth, and fifth grounds are the Four Dhyana Heavens; and

          c) the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grounds are the Four Stations of Emptiness.

The Formless Realms 
(also known as the Four
Stations of Emptiness)  

9. Neither Cognition nor Non-cognition
8. Nothing Whatsoever
7. Infinite Consciousness
6. Infinite Space

The Realm of Form

5. Fourth Dhyana (Stageof Renouncing Thought)
4. Third Dhyana (Stage of the Wonderful Bliss of Being Apart from Joy)
3. Second Dhyana (Joyful Stage of the Arising of Samadhi)
2. First Dhyana (Joyful Stage of Leaving Production)

The Realm of Desire 1. Six Desire Heavens and the destinies of humans, asuras, animals, hungry ghost, and hell-dwellers.

All five consciousnesses function in the realm of desire, that is, on the first ground.  On the second ground eye-, ear-, and body-consciousness function, but  nose-consciousness and tongue-consciousness do not function, because at that level (i.e., at the level of the first dhyana), the smell and taste objects of perception do not exist, nor does the type of morsel-nourishment which is connected with smell and taste.  In the first dhyana nourishment takes place through contact  rather than through the eating of meals comprised of morsels of food (the first of the four types).

     Ordinarily we think only of nourishing our bodies through the intake of ordinary food and drink; however, the Buddhadharma distinguishes Four Kinds of Nourishment:

     1) Mouthfuls. This kind is distinguished by the nose and tongue. Its substance is perceived through   smell, taste, and contact. This ordinary food, bodily nutriment, changes and decays. It can be gross, solid, or fine. This kind of nourishment takes place only in the realm of desire.

     2) Mental Contact. This kind nourishes the body by contact with joyous situations. In other words that the first six consciousnesses--seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and cognizing--can have special value as food.  Nourishment by contact does not exist independent of the fourth kind of nourishment (see below).

     3) Volition. When associated with the sixth consciousness, volition can function as food.  It is characterized by desire for perceptual objects, thus aiding the five perceptual organs in attaining their objects.  It occurs in all three realms, but does not exist independent of the fourth kind of nourishment. Therefore, the sixth consciousness in itself can have special value as food.

     4) Consciousness. According to the Mahayana it refers to the eighth consciousness.  It indicates that consciousness is capable of nourishing the bodily life of sentient beings.  Life feeds off the eighth consciousness, the basic life force or life energy.  When that life-energy is exhausted, death occurs.

     One of the basic ideas here is that the nourishment needed by a being corresponds to its level of vital and conscious life. Coarse food is effective nourishment for a coarse organism but is of no use for a fine one.  Higher and higher levels of life and consciousness must be fed with progressively finer and finer kinds of nourishment. Yet in the conditioned world even life on the finest and highest level of consciousness must "eat".

     Beyond the first dhyana, that is, on the third through ninth grounds, none of the five consciousnesses arise.

[They interact with]  the universally interactive, the particular states, the eleven wholesome;

Two intermediate grade, eight major grade, greed, anger, and foolishness. 

     The five consciousnesses are called mind-dharmas as are all of the eight consciousnesses.  The five interact with thirty-one Dharmas Interactive with the Mind.  Dharmas Interactive with the Mind arise from the mind, that is, from mind-dharmas.  They are dependent upon mind-dharmas for their existence, and interact with them.  They represent a finer, secondary level of distinction-making.  The thirty-one are:

a) Five Universally Interactive: attention, contact, feeling, conceptualization, and deliberation;

b) Five Particular States: desire, resolution, recollection, concentration, and judgment;

c) Eleven Wholesome States: faith, vigor, shame, remorse, absence of greed, absence of anger, absence of foolishness, light ease, non-laxness, renunciation, and non-harming;

d) Two Intermediate-Grade Derivative Afflictions: lack of shame and lack of remorse;

e) Eight Major-Grade Derivative Afflictions: lack of faith, laziness, laxness, torpor, restlessness, distraction, improper knowledge, and forgetfulness.

     To say that the first five consciousnesses interact with these dharmas means that when the first five consciousnesses are functioning, any of these dharmas may arise and influence them.

     The above dharmas are listed in the One Hundred Dharmas under the second of the five categories: Dharmas Interactive with the Mind. The other categories of the One Hundred Dharmas are: Mind Dharmas, Form Dharmas, Dharmas not Interactive with the Mind, and Unconditioned Dharmas.  For further information on the One Hundred Dharmas, see Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharmas by Vasubandhu Bodhisattva with Commentary of Tripitaka Master Hua.

The five consciousnesses are all supported by organs of pure form.

     There are five perceptual organs----eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body----which are the basis or support of the activities of the first five consciousnesses. Each organ has two portions. The first is the physical organ and its neural pathways, which belongs to the proximate perceived division of the eighth consciousness. The perceived division of the eighth consciousness is divided into two portions, the proximate and the distal.  The proximate refers to the physical aspect of the six faculties, while the distal refers to the rest of the external world. In other words it is material; it is categorized as form and is distinguished from other, distal, forms, which are the objects of the organs' perception.

     The second portion is the organ of pure form.  The organ of pure form refers to the organ of pure mental substance within the physical organ. You don't smell with your physical nose organ but with  the organ of pure form within the physical nose organ. Pure form refers to the state in which the Four Great Elements are in perfect equilibrium.  Pure form is imperceptible except through the use of the Heavenly Eye. 

That with nine preconditions and those with seven and eight are close neighbors.

     The five consciousnesses have seven, eight, or nine preconditions for their coming into being.  The five are grouped together and are said to be "close neighbors" because their modes of functioning are very similar in distinction to the other--sixth, seventh, and eighth--consciousnesses.  The number of causal preconditions necessary for the rise of the eight consciousnesses varies from nine to three among the eight consciousnesses.  The nine preconditions are: space, light, faculty, state, attention, basis of discrimination, basis of defilement and purity, fundamental basis, and seeds as basis. The basis of discrimination refers to the sixth consciousness, the basis of defilement and purity to the seventh consciousness, while the fundamental basis and seeds as basis refer to the eighth consciousness.

     All nine preconditions are necessary for the coming into being of eye-consciousness, and so the verse refers to eye-consciousness as "that with nine preconditions".  Only eight (no light) are necessary for ear-consciousness.  For nose-, tongue-, and body-consciousness, seven of the nine are required (no light and no space).  All five consciousnesses have in common their reliance on the sixth, seventh, and eighth consciousnesses as preconditions for their manifestation.

Three perceive the world of defilement by contact and two perceive it at a distance. 

     Eyes and ears perceive at a distance, while nose, tongue, and body perceive through contact. 

The foolish have difficulty distinguishing consciousness from organ.

       "The foolish" refers to the Arhats and lesser beings of the Hinayana teachings, who are unaware of the Three Divisions of the Eighth Consciousness:the self-verifying division,the perceiver division, and the perceived division.  "Perceptual organs have the capability of illuminating states, while consciousnesses have the capability of making distinctions." (Quoted by Chan Master Han-Shan, Sying-syang Tung-shwo.) 

The transformation of the  perceived division in the  contemplation of emptiness is merely Later Attained Wisdom.

     The objects of the five consciousnesses are the five "defilers"--sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects.  They have their basis in the perceived division of the eighth consciousness. That is, they are a development of the eighth consciousness which takes place because of further distinction-making.  The five consciousnesses have their basis in the five perceptual organs, that is, the organs of pure form and not the physical organs.  As explained above, the physical organ belongs to the proximate portion of the perceived division, while the organ of pure form belongs to the perceiver division. In the contemplation discussed here, attachment to the perceived division is broken by a change in the functioning of the organ of 

At the fruition, if there is still self, there is not total truth.

     "At the fruition", refers to reaching the goal of one's practice.  If the enlightened awareness attained still contains the distinction, however fine, of subject and object, then it is still based on the perceiver division and not on the Buddha-mind. 

At the initial emergence of perfect clarity, the state of no outflows is realized.

     "Perfect clarity" refers to the Great Mirror Wisdom.  Although on the Eighth Ground the eighth consciousness continues to act as the supporting basis for the extremely subtle spontaneous affliction that the Bodhisattva purposely preserves as the vehicle of his continued rebirth in the world, in every other sense the eighth consciousness is undefiled and no longer the cause of rebirth. From the latter point of view, the Eighth Ground marks the beginning of the laying of the groundwork for the Great Mirror Wisdom, which is fully realized at Buddhahood.  "Initial emergence" means that on the Eighth Ground the process of the transformation of the eighth consciousness into the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom begins.  At that time "the state of no outflows" is realized" as the innate attachment to self is eliminated. 

Using Three Kinds of Transformation Bodies, one brings the wheel of suffering to rest.

     As the eighth consciousness is transformed into the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, the first five consciousnesses are simultaneously transformed into the Wisdom of Sucessful Performance.  This wisdom is characterized by pure and unimpeded functioning  in its relation to the organs and their objects. In other words in their teaching and taking living beings across to the other shore, the Buddhas' use of their seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching is completely devoid of attachment or distortion.

     The transformation-bodies are bodies which are created using spiritual powers and which are transformations or emanations from the Dharma-body of the Buddha. (Three Aspects of the Dharma Body are explained below in the section on the eighth consciousness.) The Buddhas  expediently display for living beings Three Kinds of Transformation Bodies: 1) a great transformation body to teach the great Bodhisattvas  on the tenth ground (equivalent to the Reward Body), 2) a small transformation body--the sixteen "foot" physical body of the Buddha Shakyamuni, and 3) bodies which take on appearance in accordance with the species of living being taught.  The perceptual functioning of these bodies is accomplished through the use of the Wisdom of Successful Performance.


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