Text and Explanation
Explanation of the Title “Verses Delineating the Eight Consciousnesses”
“Verses”. The work is written in verse so that it can be easily remembered.However, it is not so easily understood without an explanation or without having first studied the doctrinal teachings extensively.
The verses are divided into four sections of twelve lines each. The first section explains the first five consciousnesses, and the remaining three explain the sixth, seventh, and eighth consciousnesses respectively. The first eight lines of each section explain the normal characteristics and functioning of the consciousness, while the final four lines explain the characteristics and functioning after the transformation of consciousness into wisdom.
“Delineating”. The Chinese, guiju, literally means compass and T-square. In other words the verses map for us the boundaries and characteristics of the eight consciousnesses.
“Eight consciousnesses”. Consciousness is used exclusively in the sense of distinction-making activities of the mind, which include both the making of the distinctions and the distinctions made. Conscious awareness and what is normally unconscious are both considered aspects of consciousness in the Buddhist sense of the word.
The eight consciousnesses are:
1) eye-consciousness or seeing,
2) ear-consciousness or hearing,
3) nose-consciousness or smelling,
4) tongue-consciousness or tasting,
5) body-consciousness or tactile feeling,
6) mind-consciousness or cognition,
7) manas, the defiling mind-consciousness which is the faculty of mind, and
8) alaya, or storehouse, consciousness.
They are described in detail in the discussion of the verses themselves.
By Tripitaka Master Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty.
Tripitaka is a Sanskrit word meaning “three baskets”. It refers to the Buddhist canon with its three divisions—Sutra, Vinaya, and Abhidharma. A Tripitaka Master is one who has thoroughly mastered all three divisions. Tripitaka Master Xuanzang was one of the foremost translators of Chinese Buddhist texts and a great enlightened master in his own right. He lived during the early Tang Dynasty, a golden age for Buddhism in China. During his early years as a monk in China he became aware of a number of doctrinal controversies concerning the Mahayana teachings, particularly those of the Yogacara. He then decided to journey to India to resolve his own doubts and to bring back authoritative texts that would help establish the correct teachings in China. After his fourteen (or according to some, seventeen) year journey, he established a translation bureau under imperial patronage.
He succeeded in translating the major Yogacara texts as well as many others. His teachings and translations served as the foundation for what was considered the orthodox Consciousness-Only School in China.
To be continued