Stuck In The Eighth Consciousness
Different traditions explain this differently
In the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma tradition, there are eight consciousnesses; five of the senses and three of the mind. There is one more, the ninth, which is pure consciousness. The five sense consciousnesses are straightforward and non-conceptual, as the senses do not think. Just because we are seeing etc, doesn’t mean that we are thinking, as thinking happens in the three consciousnesses of mind – perception, judgement and memory.
They work work like this: the 6th consciousness perceives through the senses, and whatever is perceived goes straight to memory – the 8th consciousness, the storehouse of information. If this entire process goes unnoticed, awareness then drops to the 7th consciousness of judgement and we just react. It’s the 8th consciousness of memory that creates problems for spiritual enthusiasts. This is the “I” consciousness that wants to feel good about itself, and the moment we want to feel good or right, we’ve created the opposite, whereby others are wrong. 😀
In meditation, we may experience stillness and peace, but there is a subtle clinging in the process, an “I” dualistically relating to the experience of being still. This is difficult to give up if we are unaware.
There are two possible endings to this scenario:
1. We simply recognise attachment to stillness, drop it, and rest in the ninth consciousness of pure empty consciousness – actual non-duality. It’s just a matter of seeing. We are free in the moment of seeing. This is the outcome of genuine practice, when we gently move from the 8th to the 9th consciousness. We drop all reference to memories and theories. This movement is very subtle because, at the 8th consciousness, we are nearly there!
It is from the non-dual realisation of the 9th consciousness that true compassion arises, and that activates the four enlightened activities of pacifying, magnetising, enriching, and destroying ego’s games, where we are effective in our interactions with others.
2. The side effect of not dropping the experience is that it is still ‘all about me’. Feeling that we have the spiritual knowledge has an unfortunately effect that fosters the unconscious attitude and behaviour seen in many spiritual groups, of being overly self-consciousness and overly mindful. We become mannered and artificial, stuck in the memories of the 8th consciousness.
We use words such as ‘dukkha’, ‘metta’, ‘bodhichitta’. As long as we hold on to an idea, we will never experience the reality; genuine compassion and loving concern for others’ suffering.
includes those who consider themselves
to be knowledgeable.
For that, we need a truly firm foundation.