The Nine Consciousnesses UKE Jan 1995 by Marina Cantacuzino
Buddhism explains human consciousness in terms of nine levels of consciousness.
- Levels one to five do not involve complex thought process or emotions, but are the physical sensory functions of the body – namely the five senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell.
- The sixth sense computes in the brain the information given by the five senses (through eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body) and makes judgements accordingly. All living beings with a central nervous system are able to make instinctive judgements through the sixth sense. For example, if you eat a bad plum you will automatically spit it out.
- It is only with the seventh consciousness that human emotions come into play. In the seventh consciousness, the human emotions come into play. In the seventh consciousness we’re able to rationalize, realize, ponder and then take action according to these thought processes. For example, our sixth consciousness may initially disregard a potential partner as ‘not my type,’ but it is in the seventh consciousness that love can blossom with the realization that this person may in fact be a soul mate.
- The eighth consciousness (the alaya vijnan in Sanskrit) is a karmic repository. Every experience or feeling we have in this lifetime – no matter how big or small – will be registered in the eight consciousness and can have an effect on our lives at some time in the future. Similar to Jung’s collective unconscious, all experiences of present and previous lifetimes are stored here and make us into the kind of person we are. For example, abandonment during childhood might mean we don’t trust people easily. The influence of our karma permeates the upper levels of our consciousness, thus affecting our perception and our judgements.
- The ninth consciousness (the amala vijnana) is the consciousness where Buddhahood lies, where we are free from the shackles of past karma. It is necessary to reach this level of consciousness in order to transform our perception of live. As a consequence of transforming our perception, we transform our behavior, thereby transforming the world around us.
Daisaku Ikeda explains how this process works:
“Karma may be good, bad or neutral. A life manifesting predominantly bad karma is at fate’s mercy. The influence of its energy brings misfortune to others and can lead to environmental destruction and even to the annihilation of the human race. It is of the utmost importance to transform bad karma into good karma at the individual level. The transformation of the karma of one individual evokes a similar transformation in other individuals.
Transforming bad karma into good karma cannot be done on the level of the Eighth consciousness alone. Universal life, which subsumes the Eighth Consciousness, is the Night Consciousness (The Amala Vijnana) or the Buddha nature, which must be strengthened as much as possible. Once attained, the Buddha state of life purifies and reforms the Eighth Consciousness (karma storehouse) and orients all karma toward ultimate good (Choose Peach, page 73)