The Wave and the Ocean

Just a couple of pages after the long quote from the Lankavatara Sutra that I mentioned in the previous post, there is a well known text where the Buddha compares the store consciousness (Alayavijnana) with the ocean, and the discriminating, conceptualizing mind as the wave. Now we all know that waves and the ocean are one and the same. There can be no waves without the ocean, and there can be no ocean without the waves (it just is not physically possible). So in essence the ocean and the waves are one the same, so are the conceptualizing mind and the Alayavijnana.

Now let us look at the text:

Like waves that rise on the ocean stirred by the wind, dancing and without interruption,

The Alaya-ocean in a similar manner is constantly stirred by the winds of objectivity, and is seen dancing about with the Vijnanas which are the waves of multiplicity

(The Lankavatara Sutra, D. T. Suzuki transl. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2003, p. 42).

Now the alayavijnana is usually translated as ‘store consciousness’ and refers to a seed of awakening that is already inside of us. It is the very nature of individual consciousness itself and has the characteristic of knowing and being conscious. All of our past karmic patterns are recorded in the Alayavijnana, and these will cease to be operative only when we have achieved total Liberation or nirvana or become a bodhisattva at the eighth stage. Basically speaking, the karmic patterns in the store consciousness will cease to function to us individually when we manage to merge ourselves totally with nature, or more accurately speaking, when we realize what is already there from the beginning – that there is no ‘ego’, no ‘I’, who functions as the perpetrator of actions and who thus receives the fruit.

The reason why we are still struggling in the ocean of samsara is because we do not realize this truth. However, this is not just a matter of being told and telling oneself. You have to become ‘one and the same’ with the teaching; every breath and every pore of your skin has to become one the same with the teaching. It is not just an intellectual exercise. All kinds of sufferings arise because the individual mind thinks that there is this thing and that thing and so on, and these imagined things are perceived and cognized to be affecting us in one way or another. This is only possible because the mind thinks of itself as something, some durable thing, that is, the ego.

Now when we do meditation, we try to observe the goings on of our thoughts. This is easier than it sounds, believe me. The key is to let the mind become still and calm on its own, through practices such as breathing meditation or hearing meditation that I talked about in an earlier post. Then when thoughts pop up, let us not follow them. We have been following our thoughts for no one knows how long. Now let us try to reverse the process and instead of immersing ourselves in whatever topic we happen to be thinking about, let us take a distance from that and see the thinking from outside. See the content of the thinking and its nature. Try to see when the thinking happens and when it ends, and — this is most important — try to be aware of the small gap that takes place after a previous thinking stops and before a new thinking starts. This is where the luminosity and the alayavijnana is.

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