Legacy YM

Sutra 1, Chapter 5 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Mind System


THEN MAHAMATI SAID to the Blessed One: Pray tell us, Blessed One, what is meant by the mind


The Blessed One replied: All things of this world, be they seemingly good or bad, faulty or faultless,

effect-producing or not effect-producing, receptive or non-receptive, may be divided into two classes: evil

out-flowings and the non out-flowing good. The five grasping elements that make up the aggregates of

personality, namely, form, sensation, perception, discrimination, and consciousness, and that are imagined to

be good and bad, have their rise in the habit-energy of the mind-system,--they are the evil out-flowings of

life. The spiritual attainments and the joys of the Samadhis and the fruitage of the Samapattis that come to

the wise through their self-realisation of Noble Wisdom and that culminate in their return and participation

in the relations of the triple world are called the non out-flowing good.

The mind-system which is the source of the evil out-flowings consists of the five sense-organs and their

accompanying sense-minds (vijnanas) all of which are unified in the discriminating-mind

(manovijnana). There is an unending succession of sense-concepts flowing into this discriminating or

thinking-mind which combines them and discriminates them and passes judgement upon them as to their goodness

or badness. Then follows aversion to or desire for them and attachment


and deed; thus the entire system moves on continuously and closely bound together. But it fails to see and

understand that what it sees and discriminates and grasps is only a manifestation of its own activity and has

no other basis, and so the mind goes on erroneously perceiving and discriminating differences of forms and

qualities, not remaining still even for a minit.

In the mind-system there are three modes of activity distinguishable: the sense-minds functioning while

remaining in their original nature, the sense-minds as producing effects, and the sense-minds as evolving. By

normal functioning the sense-minds grasp appropriate elements of their external world, by which sensation and

perception arise at once and by degrees in every sense-organ and every sense-mind, in the pores of the skin,

and even in the atoms that make up the body, by which the whole field is apprehended like a mirror reflecting

objects, and not realising that the external world itself is only a manifestation of mind. The second mode of

activity produces effects by which these sensations react on the discriminating mind to produce perceptions,

attractions, aversions, grasping, deed and habit. The third mode of activity has to do with the growth,

development and passing of the mind-system, that is, the mind-system is in subjection to its own habit-energy

accumulated from beginningless time, as for instance: the "eyeness" in the eye that predisposes it to grasp

and become attached to multiple forms and appearances. In this way the activities of the evolving mind-system

by reason of its habit-energy stirs up waves of objectivity on the face of Universal


[paragraph continues] Mind which in turn conditions the activities

and evolvement of the mind-system. Appearances, perception, attraction, grasping, deed, habit, reaction,

condition one another incessantly, and the functioning sense-minds, the discriminating-mind and Universal

Mind are thus bound up together. Thus, by reason of discrimination of that which by nature is maya-like and

unreal false-imagination and erroneous reasoning takes place, action follows and its habit-energy accumulates

thereby defiling the pure face of Universal Mind, and as a result the mind-system comes into functioning and

the physical body has its genesis. But the discriminating-mind has no thought that by its discriminations and

attachments it is conditioning the whole body and so the sense-minds and the discriminating-mind go on

mutually related and mutually conditioned in a most intimate manner and building up a world of

representations out of the activities of its own imagination. As a mirror reflects forms, the perceiving

senses perceive appearances which the discriminating-mind gathers together and proceeds to discriminate, to

name and become attached to. Between these two functions there is no gap, nevertheless, they are mutually

conditioning. The perceiving senses grasp that for which they have an affinity, and there is a transformation

takes place in their structure by reason of which the mind proceeds to combine, discriminate, apprise, and

act; then follows habit-energy and the establishing of the mind and its continuance.

The discriminating-mind because of its capacity to discriminate, judge, select and reason about, is



called the thinking, or intellectual-mind. There are three divisions of its mental activity: mentation

which functions in connection with attachment to objects and ideas, mentation that functions in connection

with general ideas, and mentation that examines into the validity of these general ideas. The mentation which

functions in connection with attachment to objects and ideas derived from discrimination, discriminates the

mind from its mental processes and accepts the ideas from it as being real and becomes attached to them. A

variety of false judgements are thus arrived at as to being, multiplicity, individuality, value, etc., a

strong grasping takes place which is perpetuated by habit-energy and thus discrimination goes on asserting


These mental processes give rise to general conceptions of warmth, fluidity, motility, and solidity, as

characterising the objects of discrimination, while the tenacious holding to these general ideas gives rise

to proposition, reason, definition, and illustration, all of which lead to the assertions of relative

knowledge and the establishment of confidence in birth, self-nature, and an ego-soul.

By mentation as an examining function is meant the intellectual act of examining into these general

conclusions as to their validity, significance, and truthfulness. This is the faculty that leads to

understanding, right-knowledge and points the way to self-realisation.


THEN MAHAMATI SAID to the Blessed One: Pray tell us, Blessed One, what relation ego-personality bears to

the mind-system?

The Blessed One replied: To explain it, it is first necessary to speak of the self-nature of the five

grasping aggregates that make up personality, although as I have already shown they are empty, un-born, and

without self-nature. These five grasping aggregates are: form, sensation, perception, discrimination,

consciousness. Of these, form belongs to what is made of the so-called primary elements, whatever they may

be. The four remaining aggregates are without form and ought not to be reckoned as four, because they merge

imperceptibly into one another. They are like space which cannot be numbered; it is only due to imagination

that they are discriminated and likened to space. Because things are endowed with appearances of being,

characteristic-marks, perceivableness, abode, work, one can say that they are born of effect-producing

causes, but this can not be said of these four intangible aggregates for they are without form and marks.

These four mental aggregates that make up personality are beyond calculability, they are beyond the four

propositions, they are not to be predicated as existing nor as not existing, but together they constitute

what is known as mortal-mind. They are even more maya-like and dream-like than are things, nevertheless, as

discriminating mortal-mind they obstruct the self-realisation of Noble Wisdom. But it is only by the ignorant

that they are enumerated and thought of as an ego-personality; the wise do not do so. This discrimination of

the five aggregates that make up personality


and that serve as a basis for an ego-soul and ground for its desires and self-interests must be given up,

and in its place the truth of imagelessness and solitude should be established.

THEN SAID MAHAMATI to the Blessed One: Pray tell us, Blessed One, about Universal Mind and its relation to

the lower mind-system?

The Blessed One replied: The sense-minds and their centralised discriminating-mind are related to the

external world which is a manifestation of itself and is given over to perceiving, discriminating, and

grasping its maya-like appearances. Universal Mind (Alaya-vijnana) transcends all individuation and limits.

Universal Mind is thoroughly pure in its essential nature, subsisting unchanged and free from faults of

impermanence, undisturbed by egoism, unruffled by distinctions, desires and aversions. Universal Mind is like

a great ocean, its surface ruffled by waves and surges but its depths remaining forever unmoved. In itself it

is devoid of personality and all that belongs to it, but by reason of the defilement upon its face it is like

an actor and plays a variety of parts, among which a mutual functioning takes place and the mind-system

arises. The principle of intellection becomes divided and mind, the functions of mind, the evil out-flowings

of mind, take on individuation. The sevenfold gradation of mind appears: namely, intuitive self-realisation,

thinking-desiring-discriminating, seeing, hearing,


tasting, smelling, touching, and all their interactions and reactions take their rise.

The discriminating-mind is the cause of the sense-minds and is their support and with them is kept

functioning as it describes and becomes attached to a world of objects, and then, by means of its

habit-energy, it defiles the face of Universal Mind. Thus Universal Mind becomes the storage and clearing

house of all the accumulated products of mentation and action since beginningless time.

Between Universal Mind and the individual discriminating-mind is the intuitive-mind (manas) which

is dependent upon Universal Mind for its cause and support and enters into relations with both. It partakes

of the universality of Universal Mind, shares its purity, and like it, is above form and momentariness. It is

through the intuitive-mind that the good non out-flowings emerge, are manifested and are realised. Fortunate

it is that intuition is not momentary for if the enlightenment which comes by intuition were momentary the

wise would lose their "wiseness" which they do not. But the intuitive-mind enters into relations with the

lower mind-system, shares its experiences and reflects upon its activities.

Intuitive-mind is one with Universal Mind by reason of its participation in Transcendental Intelligence

(Arya-jnana), and is one with the mind-system by its comprehension of differentiated knowledge

(vijnana). Intuitive-mind has no body of its own nor any marks by which it can be differentiated.

Universal Mind is its cause and support but it is evolved along with the notion of an ego and what belongs to

it, to which it clings


and upon which it reflects. Through intuitive-mind, by the faculty of intuition which is a mingling of

both identity and perceiving, the inconceivable wisdom of Universal Mind is revealed and made realisable.

Like Universal Mind it can not be the source of error.

The discriminating-mind is a dancer and a magician with the objective world as his stage. Intuitive-mind

is the wise jester who travels with the magician and reflects upon his emptiness and transiency. Universal

Mind keeps the record and knows what must be and what may be. It is because of the activities of the

discriminating-mind that error rises and an objective world evolves and the notion of an ego-soul becomes

established. If and when the discriminating-mind can be gotten rid of, the whole mind-system will cease to

function and Universal Mind will alone remain. Getting rid of the discriminating-mind removes the cause of

all error.

THEN SAID MAHAMATI to the Blessed One: Pray tell us, Blessed One, what is meant by the cessation of the


The Blessed One replied: The five sense-functions and their discriminating and thinking function have

their risings and complete endings from moment to moment. They are born with discrimination as cause, with

form and appearance and objectivity closely linked together as condition. The will-to-live is the mother,

ignorance is the father. By setting up names and forms greed is multiplied and thus the mind goes


mutually conditioning and being conditioned. By becoming attached to names and forms, not realising that

they have no more basis than the activities of the mind itself, error rises, false-imagination as-to pleasure

and pain rises, and the way to emancipation is blocked. The lower system of sense-minds and the

discriminating-mind do not really suffer pleasure and pain-they only imagine they do. Pleasure and pain are

the deceptive reactions of mortal-mind as it grasps an imaginary objective world.

There are two ways in which the ceasing of the mind-system may take place: as regards form, and as regards

continuation. The sense-organs function as regards form by the interaction of form, contact and grasping; and

they cease to function when this contact is broken. As regards continuation,--when these interactions of

form, contact and grasping cease, there is no more continuation of the seeing, hearing and other sense

functions; with the ceasing of these sense functions, the discriminations, graspings and attachments of the

discriminating-mind cease; and with their ceasing act and deed and their habit-energy cease, and there is no

more accumulation of karma-defilement on the face of Universal Mind.

If the evolving mortal-mind were of the same nature as Universal Mind the cessation of the lower

mind-system would mean the cessation of Universal Mind, but they are different for Universal Mind is not the

cause of mortal-mind. There is no cessation of Universal Mind in its pure and essence-nature. What ceases to

function is not Universal Mind in its essence-nature, but is the cessation of the effect-producing



upon its face that have been caused by the accumulation of the habit-energy of the activities of the

discriminating and thinking mortal-mind. There is no cessation of Divine Mind which, in itself, is the abode

of Reality and the Womb of Truth.

By the cessation of the sense-minds is meant, not the cessation of their perceiving functions, but the

cessation of their discriminating and naming activities which are centralised in the discriminating

mortal-mind. By the cessation of the mind-system as a whole is meant, the cessation of discrimination, the

clearing away of the various attachments, and, therefore, the clearing away of the defilements of

habit-energy on the face of Universal Mind which have been accumulating since beginningless time by reason of

these discriminations, attachments, erroneous reasonings, and following acts. The cessation of the

continuation aspect of the mind-system as a whole, takes place when there is the cessation of that which

supports the mind-system, namely, the discriminating mortal-mind. With the cessation of mortal-mind the

entire world of maya and desire disappears. Getting rid of the discriminating mortal-mind is Nirvana.

But the cessation of the discriminating-mind can not take place until there has been a "turning-about" in

the deepest seat of consciousness. The mental habit of looking outward by the discriminating-mind upon an

external objective world must be given up, and a new habit if realising Truth within the intuitive-mind by

becoming one with Truth itself must be established. Until this intuitive self-realisation of Noble Wisdom is

attained, the evolving mind-system will go


on. But when an insight into the five Dharmas, the three self-natures, and the twofold egolessness is

attained, then the way will be opened for this "turning-about" to take place. With the ending of pleasure and

pain, of conflicting ideas, of the disturbing interests of egoism, a state of tranquillisation will be

attained in which the truths of emancipation will be fully understood and there will be no further evil

outflowings of the mind-system to interfere with the perfect self-realisation of Noble Wisdom.

Sutra1 Chapter1 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discrimination
Sutra1 Chapter2 - The Lankavatara Sutra - False-Imagination and Knowledge of Appearances
Sutra1 Chapter3 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Right Knowledge or Knowledge of Relations
Sutra1 Chapter4 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Perfect Knowledge, or Knowledge of Reality
Sutra1 Chapter5 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Mind System
Sutra1 Chapter6 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Transcendental Intelligence
Sutra1 Chapter7 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Self-Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter8 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Attainment of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter9 - The Lankavatara Sutra - The Fruit of Self- Realisation
Sutra1 Chapter10 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Discipleship: Lineage of the Arhats
Sutra1 Chapter11 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Bodhisattvahood and Its Stages
Sutra1 Chapter12 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Tathagatahood Which Is Noble Wisdom
Sutra1 Chapter13 - The Lankavatara Sutra - Nirvana
Sutra2 Chapter1 - The Diamond Sutra - The Diamond Scripture
Sutra3 Chapter1 - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom - Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom
Sutra4 Chapter1 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Autobiography of Hui-Neng
Sutra4 Chapter2 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Prajna
Sutra4 Chapter3 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Dhyana and Samadhi
Sutra4 Chapter4 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on Repentance
Sutra4 Chapter5 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Discourse on the Three-Bodies of Buddha
Sutra4 Chapter6 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Dialogues Suggested by Various Temperaments and Circumstances
Sutra4 Chapter7 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Sudden Enlightenment and Gradual Attainment
Sutra4 Chapter8 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Royal Patronage
Sutra4 Chapter9 - Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch - Final Words and Death of the Patriarch

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