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The One and the Many:
Yogaacaara Buddhism and Husserl
By M. J. Larrabee
Philosophy East and West
Volume 32 No. 1, January, 1981, p. 3-14
  University of Hawaii Press



Among  the  teachings   of  the  Buddhist    school  of aacaara,(1) the doctrine  of the  aalayavij~naana   (or aalaya,   for   short)   is   especially   unique    and perplexing.  The Yogaacaara  or Vij~naanavaada  school evolved   between  350 and 500 A.D., stimulating  other followers  in India and China into the ninth  century. The   school  posits  a form  of  subjective  idealism, partially   in  reaction  to  the  movement  begun  by Naagaarjuna  in the second century  A.D., a philosophy which  had denied  the reality  of both  the empirical world and the self.  Yogaacaara  attempts to establish the reality  of the self as consciousness  in order to overcome  the skepticism   and nihilism  engendered  by Naagaarjuna's teachings.(2)

The doctrine of the aalayavij~naana  (“storehouse consciousness”) is central to Yogaacaara metaphysics, but  it  appears  impervious  to  a  clearly  defined conceptual interpretation. At times the aalaya seems to be only one of many elements of consciousness, all possessing more or less equal stature. At other times, however, the aalaya seems to take on a predominant and fundamental role, separating itself from the elements of any particular consciousness  and laying claim to a metaphysical  status  which amounts  to the source  of particularity   within  the  spatio-temporal   world  as     ordinarily experienced. Commentators, mirroring one or another  aspect of this fluctuation, have likened  the aalaya   to    both   Freud's   unconscious, (3) an ego-centered  and particularized   phenomenon  although with a general shared structure, and Jung's collective unconscious,  (4)  a   basic,   universally   specified phenomenon which underlies any particularized ego.

In this article, I wish  to sketch  an additional comparison in    this    instance,    between     the aalayanij~naana  of Buddhist  idealism and the “flux” of  Husserlian  idealism,  a  structure  also  termed inner-time  consciousness.  In particular I will show the extent to which one phase of Husserl's  notion of consciousness  can illuminate some of the theoretical problems  which  emerge  from  the  doctrine  of  the aalaya. As we shall see, the similarities between the flux and the aalaya  may stem, in part, from attempts on  the  part  of both  philosophies  to  ground  the particularity of the ego-experienced  spatio-temporal realm in a primordial consciousness of some sort.

The article  will  take  the following   course: I will  first  outline  the  important  points  of  the Yogaacaara  system, with emphasis on the doctrine  of the aalaya  and its mode   of operation.  Next, I will discuss the Husserlian notion of the flux and compare it with the aalaya  in a preliminary   way.  The final section   will    be  an  effort    at  extending   the     metaphysical  implications  of the  comparison to its furthest  point;  hopefully, some   additional insight into  the  problems  inherent  in the doctrine of the aalaya will result.


The Yogaacaara  school  of Buddhism, with  the aid of Western  philosophical   terminology, can be described as a metaphysical  idealism.  Its main advocates were         Asa.nga   and  Vasubandhu,  who, in  the  late  fourth century, drew inspiration  from earlier (and, for us, anonymous) suutras, in particular the Sa.mdhinirmocana   Suutra    and   the  La.nkaavataara Suutra. The Yogaacaarins held that only consciousness is real. Consequently, neither the external objective world  nor the “internal”  egological  world  exists. Both    types   of   reality    are   the   result    of transformations   of   consciousness.   The    various arguments which the Yogaacaarins  set forth to defend their idealism will not be discussed  here, since our interest   concerns   only  the  description    of  how    consciousness operates.

This description begins with the positing  of eight types of consciousness.(5) This multiplicity on the part of consciousness  is intended to explain the different functions by which consciousness apparently “creates” the     illusions of  an existing spatio-temporal  world  and the internal   ego-worlds. These  eight  types  of consciousness  are: the  five external   senses  (vision, hearing, and so on), which count as the first through the fifth consciousnesses; an internal sense-center (sixth); the “mind” or the discriminating  consciousness, termed   manovij~naana (seventh);  and  the  aalaya  (eighth),  also  called storehouse or  home  consciousness,   receptacle  or appropriating  consciousness, or seed  consciousness. This eighth  consciousness   is, however, first in the order of importance   with respect  to generating  the movement    from   the  oneness    of  true  being   as consciousness  to the multiplicity of apparent beings within  the  spatio-temporal world,  including,  of course, the  many  empirical  consciousnesses  (human  persons).  It is termed   the first transformation  of consciousness   as  derivable    from  what  might  be described   as   the    “pure”   or  real   state   of consciousness;  consequently, it   is  the  ground  or condition    for   the    operation  of  the   other transformations  of consciousness which take place in the functioning  of mind (the second  transformation) and the six senses (the third transformation).

What, then, is  the  aalayavij~naana, the  eighth type of consciousness?  Asa.nga  in his Mahaayaanasa.mgraha summarizes its nature as follows:

“All actions  (dharmas) which are blemished...  lodge in it in the quality of fruit and... it itself lodges in   these dharmas in the quality of cause (hetubhavana)....”(6) The aalaya, then, has a twofold character it  “receives”  and “stores”  the fruit of actions  and perceptions, the dharmas, in the form of seeds, and it causes further actions  and perceptions on the  basis  of these  seeds.  In short, it is both caused by and causes dharmas.(7)

We  may  note  at  this  point   that  this  dual character  of the aalaya  answers  one problem  which besets    any     idealism:   if   neither     enduring spatio-temporal  objects  nor  enduring  subject-egos exist,   how  can  the  regularity,  consistency,   and continuity   of  our  experience  be  explained?  The Yogaacaarins   claim  that  these  characteristics  of experience flow from the causal force of the seeds on the alaya, seeds  which  regularly  “perfume”  the other consciousnesses (as the original texts express it) in a specific  way which gives  rise again and again  to the same manifestations  (for example, the apparently subsisting  trees,  birds,  and  so  on).(8) Thus my experience  of myself as an enduring  subject  arises regularly  because  the aalaya    receives  the  fruit (effects) of a mind (manovij~naana) which  illusorily posits my self as an enduring  entity.  This illusory belief  in turn is caused  by the seeds of the aalaya operating on the mind.  The interplay of reciprocally affecting aalaya and manas perpetuates the belief in an enduring self.  and the perpetuation of the belief leads to the assumption   of the “real” existence of a self which is the object of that belief.  In the same way, the experience of enduring physical objects in an  enduring   spatio-temporal   world  derives   its continuity and consistency  from the mutual causation between  the  aalaya  and the other   seven  types  of consciousness.(9)

Thus far, the doctrine  of the aalaya appears  to cohere well with the basic idealistic position of the Yogaacaara  school.   However, certain difficulties arise upon closer investigation.  First, what is the proper character of the aalaya? To be consistent with         their   adherence  to  the  no-soul  doctrine  of  the Buddha,  the  Yogaacaarins cannot   view  it  as  an enduring   soul like   “container”   which  holds  the constantly passing seeds.  On the other hand, they do not want to claim that the aalaya is equivalent  in     structure with these seeds. The latter interpretation would result  in a continuous  defilement  by  the non-aalaya  consciousnesses  causing  the seeds, thus rendering impossible the attainment of nirvaana, that pure state of consciousness  defined by the cessation of such defilements.(10)

Asa.nga does not resolve this problem.  He states only: “These seeds are substantially neither different from nor identical with the receptacle consciousness (aalayavij~naana).” (11)  But   this statement merely reiterates the preceding position in an ambiguous and paradoxical manner: the seeds cannot be different  from the aalaya because then the aalaya would  be  an  enduring  substratum  underlying    the momentary  seeds, all of which are distinct  from it. On the other hand, the seeds cannot be equivalent  to the aalaya  because   then no consciousness  free from the defilements of these seeds would be possible. But if the  aalaya  can  be characterized   in neither  of these ways, how then can it be characterized? A second  and  related  difficulty  concerns  the predication  of number to the aalaya is it one or many? The texts themselves do not resolve this issue,         although certain indications are available. There are two predominant interpretations on this point. First, the aalaya is one, but “materializes”  at many points as individual  consciousnesses  which are empirically but  erroneously  viewed  as individual   ego-centered persons.  Second, the aalaya  is many, that  is, each individual   person  has an aalaya as one of the eight consciousnesses which make up that individual.   As we can  see, the latter  interpretation   emphasizes  the psychological  descriptive  aspect  of the Yogaacaara doctrine,   while    the   former    highlights    the metaphysical or ontological aspect.(12) The psychological  view was taken by Hsuan-Tsang, a seventh-century  Chinese  follower and interpreter  of the Yogaacaara school. He notes  in his commentary   on Vasubandhu's Thirty Verses, the Ch'eng   wei-shih lun: “The  word  ‘consciousness’ generally expresses the idea that all human  beings each possess  eight  consciousnesses,” including    the   aalaya    consciousness.(13) This interpretation    militates   against   any    monistic tendencies  of the  doctrine   of  consciousness-only, which at times seems  to posit  some single  ultimate reality.  For   Hsuan-Tsang, such  a  single  ultimate could not even be “True Thusness” (tathaagatataa), as many Buddhists describe the state of absolute reality reached in nirvaa.na, since Hsuan-Tsang  claimed that even   tathaagatataa  is “possessed”  in an individual way by each human being.  Only by inferring that True Thusness is one and the same in each individual (thus dissolving  any  and  all  individuality)   could  one arrive at a monism on Hsuan-Tsang's interpretation of the aalaya.  It might  be noted, however, that if one takes  into  account   the  Buddhist   penchant    for confounding  the  law  of  contradiction, a   monistic  position might be feasible  by claiming that Thusness is neither one (because  each human being can possess it)  nor  many  (because    it  is  the  one  ultimate reality).   Hsuan-Tsang  might then be interpreted  as discussing merely one common aspect of the reality of the aalaya  and Thusness  when he attributes  both of them to individual persons. The alternative  interpretation  of the number of aalaya  bypasses  a  possible    collision   with  the Yogaacaara   monism  by asserting  that the aalaya   is one, but that it differentiates  itself  into various ego-centers, which  rise and fall like   the waves  of the ocean, Also, like  the   waves  of the  ocean, the individual  ego-centers  are neither wholly distinct from nor wholly  identical  with the aalaya.   In this metaphysically  accented  view, the aalaya acquires a more  fundamental  role than  it has in the preceding psychological   interpretation.   Here    the   aalaya functions   as  the   ground   for    the   individual ego-centers and, consequently, as a common ground for the consistency of world-experience  undergone by the majority  of individual   human subjects, specifically      the continuous yet (for   Buddhists) illusory belief engendered by the manas consciousness   that    a substantial   world   with    substantially   enduring ego-subjects exists.(14)

This  interpretation   of the  aalaya  would, to a certain   extent, accord with the Yogaacaara  doctrine of  the  triple  nature  of reality: reality  is  one (monism), but appears  as either perfected, dependent or imagined  (parini.spanna, paratantra, or        parikalpita).(l5) As  perfected, reality  is ultimate reality or “Thusness” (tathataa).  Thus the aalaya in its perfected  state  is pure  consciousness, totally undifferentiated  and undefiled.(16) It is this state which a supposedly  existent individual  person would         reach   upon  attaining  nirvaa.na;  nirvaa.na  is the “return” to the one, the cessation of the wave on the surface  of the aalaya.  The aalaya  in its dependent nature, however, is a continuously  defiled  (by mind and sensations) and appearance-causing consciousness,      which “causes”  the totally unreal imagined nature of consciousness  as an empirical  subject living within an object-laden  world.  Mind  and  sensasions, alone with subjects and world, are  reality  in its  imagined   state in  fact, of course, unreality mistakenly seen as reality.

One problem  which the unitary view of the aalaya must  face  is how an ultimately  unitary  aalaya  is differentiated  into  a plurality  of  different  but “con-current consciousnesses or ego-subjects.(17) If consciousness  is an ever-flowing   single  stream, as the  Yogaacaarins   would  maintain, can  it serve  to ground  the diversity  of the  dharmic  series  which constitute  the individual  egos' consciousnesses? As one  aalaya,  it  should  apparently   give  rise  to simultaneous   ego-subjects  which  are  the same  and         which   lack all distinctions.  This is obviously  not the  case, for the many   ego-subjects  are  seemingly unique   in the (illusory) characters  they  have, the (illusory) actions they perform, and so on. I myself, as  a series  of momentary   dharmas, am distinct  and    different from you.  Consequently, the unitariness of the aalaya  must  be interpreted  in a way which  can account for the divergences in its “waves.”

Let us look more closely at the momentariness  of the aalaya. As pure flowing consciousness, the aalaya is surely beyond description.  The moment we say that it flows, we are leaning  toward an entitative  image in which we see some thing which constantly  changes. Yet   this  is  precisely    not  the  nature  of  pure consciousness.   In apprehending pure consciousness as one,   we  might  imagine  again  something  which  is immutable and possibly lacking in all determinations. But, of course, the  aalaya  is not an entity   in any sense  of  substantiality, either  as  an  underlying substrate  of  changes  or as an immutable   substance with a quasi-divine  nature.  Yet constant change and immutable    indetermination    both    seem   to   be characteristics  of the  aalaya  (although  they  are         seemingly incompatible  without a grounding substance theory).  Can  non-entitative  consciousness   be  both constantly   changing    in  its  determinations    and immutably  indetermined? For that is precisely how we want to interpret the aalaya in its pure reality.  We would  like to say that the aalaya  is both momentary and  unitary, since   as unitary  it  can  nonetheless ground the multiplicity of ego-subjects  in the sense that.  in its dependent  nature, it contains   all the possible  seeds which can give rise to such “defiled”         consciousnesses.

There is another related difficulty which follows from  the  above  argument,  that  is, the  seemingly temporal  character  of the aalaya  especially  as it relates to the problem  of the relation   between  the aalaya  and its seeds.   This character  appears  most strongly when the Yogaacaarins  employ the image of a stream or an ocean with waves to describe  the nature of the aalaya.  For example, Vasubandhu  notes in his Thirty   Verses  (the  Tri.m’sikaa):   the  aalaya  “is always   flowing  like a torrent.....” (18) The image ably emphasizes both the persisting existence and the non-substantial  charateristics of the aalaya.  Like a stream   or  torrent  it  continuously  flows  on, or, perhaps   more  accurately,  there  is  a  continuous flowing   (not: some thing  is continuously  flowing).        Also, like the stream, it undergoes continuous change or transformation  (recall Heraclitus'   river).  From one perspective, such  transformation  can be seen as the result of the constant change over  of   the  momentary   seeds  “carried”   by  the aalaya-stream.  But,  as  noted  earlier, a  clear cut equivalence does not exist between the aalaya and its         seeds the aalaya is not momentary  simply  because each of the seeds is, yet in each of “its” moments it is  causing  and  being  caused  anew.  From  another perspective,  the  change  of  the  aalaya  could  be accounted   for by its nature as a flow: a flowing   is never the same, quite apart from whatever   it carries along with it.  But, as mentioned earlier, the aalaya cannot be completely separated from its seeds; so too neither can its changeability be completely separable from the momentariness of its seeds.

Leaving aside the recurrent  dialectical  imagery of this description  of the aalaya, let us look  more closely    at  the  difficulty    which  I  termed  the “seemingly  temporal”  character  of  the  aalaya.  A superficial   understanding  of the “flowing” image of the  aalaya  might  lead  one  who  is familiar  with Western metaphysics to interpret this image as giving the aalaya a similarity  to, if not an identity with, time.  For  the  Westerner, change   implies  duration which in turn implies a length of time which measures this  duration.  But for the Yogaacaarin, time  is as unreal   as  the  object  which  apparently    subsists through change within this time. Any empirical notion of time, of clock-time, the time of the universe  and the movement of its bodies (charted in years, months, days, and  so forth), is rejected  as a construct   of mind  (manas).  Consequently, the   aalaya  cannot  be termed  temporal  in the usual   sense;  nor can it be termed eternal, if eternity  means endless  endurance through time. If the aalaya is in any sense temporal,        the nature of this characteristic  must be elucidated by means  of a more primordial  sense  of time and/or temporality.

Now I suggest  that the apparent   tension, if not contradiction,  between  a  plurality   of  momentary determinations  and an immutably indeterminate  unity can    be  better   understood    if  we  introduce    a perspective   on  time  foreign   to  the  letter  of        Yogaacaara  thought  as such.  This   perspective, the time   of  absolute   consciousness,  is   found   in Husserlian   phenomenology  We  will  now  sketch  the relevant features of this notion of time.


The core of Husserl's  theory of inner time-consciousness  is found  in his  1905   lectures, Towards the Phenomenology of internal Time-Consciousness.(19)  In  these  lectures  Husserl approaches  the discussion  of time from the point of view   of    experience.   Time is not merely a scientifically  objective topic, something apart from the experiencing  subject.  Experienced  time  is the time    of  living   experience    (Erlebniss-sensings, thinkings, willings) of  our  subjective  inwardness, rather   than  the  time  of  objects, of  a  physical universe subject to putative natural laws. Experienced  time, however, cannot  be  equated  with what might be termed  a factual  psychological  time, for example, a person's subjective “measurement” of a duration of time, the “feeling”  that “this hour went faster  than the last hour.”  Husserl's  more radical     position on time presents a point of view which  can be applied   to the Yogaacaara  philosophy, despite its rejection of time as an objective measure of passing moments.

For  Husserl, inner   time  is most  fundamentally consciousness  self-constituting    itself.   At  this level, inner   time  is  aware  of itself  in its   own conscious  flow  and, consequently, generates  itself and all experiences  as temporal.   Husserl names this  consciousness    the    “flux”   to   emphasize     its primordiality.  This consciousness  of inner  time is both multiphased and synthesized as a unity many yet one.   The   former    characteristic   refers   to  a composition  of many phases of the flow, for example,        consciousness of the present moment, of a past moment as just past (called “retention”), of a future moment (called  “protention”).(20) However, these  different phases  do not comprise   a series  of really discrete moments,   for   all    phases    are    fundamentally        interconnected.   Inner    time-consciousness   has  a  synthetic unity which derives from the fact that each phase occurs “all-at-once”  within  the consciousness of the Now.  This occurrence all-at-once  is within a living present which Husserl  distinguishes  from the         present of the Now-point. The painfully  brief discussion   of the preceding  paragraph illustrates  the difficulty in describing a phenomenon  which  in some  sense  both is and is not temporal.  As Husserl notes, “names are lacking”  for the  absolute   characteristics   of  the   flux    of inner-time  consciousness,(21) even  though   we often speak  of it in terms  which  are  normally  used  to describe the constituted  stream of experience rather        than  the  constituting  flux.  As we have  seen, the Yogaacaarin avoids this problem of description by the use of metaphorical descriptions  which lack specific temporal  terminology, but which  imply  some type of non-serial  temporality  (for  example, the aalaya  is like  an ocean  with its waves  or a stream  with its rippling current).(22) Husserl naturally  avoids such images, but he nonetheless  attempts to describe  the         flux: it is, for  example, not   an object, a process, or any kind of thing which  alters  or persists.  The flux  is not in time, is not itself  temporal  in the usual sense.(23) Since the flux is not in time, it is said to be “all-at-once,” a phrase  which  itself  is subject  to the misinterpretation  inherent  in using “time”  talk.  Also, Husserl   equates  the flux  with         absolute     consciousness.(24)   Because    of    this equivalence  of the flux with absolute consciousness, the  flux   cannot    be  considered   a  metaphysical principle independent of consciousness  the flux is consciousness taken in its absolute sense. Therefore, in some difficult to understand  yet important sense, it   parallels    the   Yogaacaarin   view    of   pure consciousness as the absolute or perfected reality.

The  concept  of “all-at-once”  is  based  on the notion  of   the  “living  present,” a highly  complex concept   in Husserl's  later philosophy  of time.(25) For our purposes, the living present may be described as the active  focus  of the self-differentiation  of absolute  consciousness  (also termed   transcendental subjectivity), encompassing   both an undifferentiated beginning  and the differentiations  of the streaming flow of inner time (present  consciousness, retention and protention).  Flux  as all-at-once   is the living         present,   a  unified   synthesis    of  differentiated “moments.”

This  concept  of the  flux   is crucial  for  our interpretation    of  the   aalaya    as  unitary   yet momentary, undifferentiated yet distinguished. I will return  to this  interpretation   in the next section, but  now  I would  like  to  draw  several  parallels between  the constituting  character  of the flux and the  “causal”  character  of  the  aalaya.  First, in         Husserl's   phenomenological    discussion   of    the constitution  of the  ego, we may  differentiate  two meanings    of  “ego”   and  “constitution”:  (1)  the constitution of an empirical ego (psychological  ego) as  a  temporal  and  historical  being, and  (2) the      constitution  of the  transcendental  ego as absolute consciousness.  The first  type  is dependent   on the second   type,  just  as  for  the  Yogaacaarin    the appearance  of  a mundane  ego  is dependent   on  the aalaya  consciousness.   Furthermore, the constitution        of the transcendental ego is the self-constitution of the flux.(26) And although  the Yogaacaarins  have no parallel  to the concept   of self-constitution, their Absolute would at least be independent  in its being, a   concept   analogous   to    Husserl's   notion   of         self-constitution.

Second, for  Husserl  the flux  is not   simply  a  non-personal stream of experience;  it is personal, it is   always    someone's    ego.(27)   This    ego   or transcendental  subjectivity (not to be confused with the empirical  ego) serves as repository  of its past in the sense  that  the  ego  both  “has”   its living experiences   and   retains    them   in   retentional         modifications    within    its   “unconscious”    (the repository  of experiences   and their contents  which are no longer held in retentional modifications). The ego   also  “has”  the  future   as  its  protentional horizon, as the horizon of its possibilities. The ego in this sense is termed “monad, “ exhibiting  its own concreteness  by constituting   itself as a being with temporally constituted   experiences  which stretch in two  directions   from  the  present.(28) And it lives these experiences  all at once as the living present. At first sight, the transcendental ego seen from this perspective  may appear as a substantial entity quite         unlike the Yogaacaara  aalaya.  But, for Husserl, the transcendental  ego  is not a substance   in the usual sense its  “concreteness”   is  defined  within  the flash-point  of the living  present, and consequently it does not require  any characteristics   proper to a         substantial  entity.    Again,  the  Yogaacaarins   use metaphor to eke out a description   detailing  how the non-substantial  aalaya  is  affected  by and  affects non-realities: it  stores  seeds, it  is  perfumed  by seeds, and  so on.  Yet  for  both  Husserl  and  the        Yogaacaarins there remains the difficulty of relating a  basically  non-substantial    being  with  seemingly “substantial” characteristics.

Third, and finally, in relation  to the  absolute consciousness  as monad, Husserl's description of the workings  of inner  time-consciousness  includes  the element  of   genesis.  In  the  post-Ideas  writings, Husserl   frequently  states  that sense  (Sinn) has a        “genesis” or “history.”(29) Sense is the correlate of constituting     consciousness;     it     is     the object-as-experienced.   To  say  that  sense  has  a sense-genesis  is to indicate  a “pointing   back”  or reference to something more original and consequently something  “prior”  to the sense under investigation. This prior element  is the act(s) or no esis(es) which originally  constituted   that  sense.(30)  In  other words, no  object  of consciousness   occurs  isolated from previous   experience.    At  another   point  Husserl        describes the  genesis of  a  judgment    as  “its  intentional motivational foundations.”(31) The notion of genesis as foundation indicates that the presently investigated  sense points back to something original which serves as a foundation  for the current  sense. This foundation  must be present in the structure  of the ego for the current  sense  to be constituted  at all;  consequently, it is a necessary  condition  for the current sense and its constituting  act(s).  This characteristic   of the genetic structure of the monad recalls the necessary presence of particular seeds in the  aalaya  in  order  that  a  particular  mode  of consciousness   and/or  object  may appear.  The seeds “perfume”  the  aalaya,  and  as  a  result  of  this perfuming   the aalya causes  certain  phenomena.  The aalaya, then, in its causal  character, is comparable to genesis as foundational for sense-constitution.

But  genesis  as  foundation    is  not  merely  a condition   for  the  current   sense;    it  is  also “motivational”   (as    mentioned   in   the    earlier quotation) in the sense that it provides an impulsion or  inducement  toward  the  production  of the  new, founded sense.  The term “motivation” gives genesis a further significance, since the term implies that the foundation is not only a necessary precondition  for, but also an affective element in, the constitution of the current sense.

This  motivational    aspect  thus  parallels  the Yogaacaara  emphasis on the mutual causation  between the aalaya   and its seeds.  The seeds of past actions “fall”  into the aalaya, perfume  it and consequently “motivate”   the  aalaya  to  cause  further  actions        conditioned  by the past actions.  Both the theory of the  aalaya  and  of  genesis  can  account  for  the consistency   within   the  empirical   ego  and  its experiences of the spatio-temporal world. While inner time-consciousness  gives the formal  conditions  for         the temporal existence of the ego, both empirical and transcendental, the notion  of genesis  explains  the determinations   of the material and concrete  aspects of  living   experience.  Similarly,  the  concept  of aalaya as pure flow provides  the formal grounds   for the (apparent) existence of an empirical   ego and the  spatio-temporal world and also explains the origin of the  concrete,  consistent  experiences  within  this world.


At this point we can state  the explanatory  value of Husserl's doctrine of inner time for an interpretation  of  the  Yogaacaara  aalayavij~naana. Since for Husserl transcendental consciousness is not “in” empirical  time, it is not itself empirical, nor are  its concretions  within  the  genetic  structure empirical.  These  structures  explain  not only  the source of empirical time but also the development  of a concrete  empirical  ego.  In  this  way  Husserl's doctrine  parallels  that of the aalaya, which is the cause of the consciousness  of a “real”  world and of differentiated  empirical  ego-subjects  experiencing themselves as existent in that spatio-temporal realm.

Thus  far, however, we have  mentioned  only  the surface  parallels  between  flux  and  aalaya.   The Yogaacaara  doctrine does not specifically  introduce the notion  of a quasi-temporal   characteristic  for  the aalaya  similar  to  the  inner-time    of  Husserlian        transcendental   consciousness.(32)  It  is  at  this point, then, that  the  Husserlian  analysis  may  be helpful  in understanding  and  expanding  the aalaya doctrine,  specifically   for  the  clarification   and resolution  of  the  problem  raised  at the  end   of     section I.  Clearly   the aalaya is not “in” empirical time reality  cannot have the non-real characteristic of empirical temporality.  But, as noted earlier, the descriptions   of  the  aalaya  possess    a  time like character.  Could  this  character  be understood  as       something similar to the inner-time consciousness  in Husserl? By such   a comparison, we may discover  that at least some, although not all, of the ambiguousness of the aalaya's character will be dispersed. Husserl's explanation of inner-time consciousness        would be most relevant  to the problem of whether the aalaya is one or many. If we consider the flux as the core    of   the   self-constitution    of    Husserl's transcendental   consciousness,  we  find   a  single undifferentiated    beginning   which    grounds   all       differentiations   of  sense  constituted  by  it  as transcendental consciousness.  How does Husserl allow for this movement  from  an undifferentiated   oneness (the flow) to differentiated multiplicity? The answer to this question clarifies the nature of the flux, to         the extent that clarification is possible for a being with  “no names.”  The flux, although   resembling  an undifferentiated   oneness,   has  a  double  reality. Husserl attempts to capture the nature of the flux by terming it the “living present.” This living present is  characterized as both standing and streaming; Husserl notes in an unpublished manuscript from 1932:

The  primordial  level  of  consciousness    is  a stream, which stands and streams, which streams  in a constantly  invariable  form, so that, however...  in the streaming  a doubled present constitutes  itself the present of the respective  worldly perceiving and the present  of this perceiving   simultaneously  with the  retentions  and protentions  of the  perceptions just-past and just-coming.(33)

Transcendental   consciousness    is  basically  a double constitutive  reality.  Within its oneness  as living  present,  it  differentiates   itself  in  the twofold character  of standing and streaming.  Such a differentiation grounds all further differentiations, both  on  the  level  of the  primal  temporality  of conscious  experiences  and  on  the  empirical,  and founded    level  of  “objective”   temporality    (the empirical ego and its experiences). Thus, its oneness is at once  one and many.   If such a characterization is allowed, an ontological  source of the constituted world  of  experience  emerges  which  overcomes  the difficulties  posed by the problem of the one and the many  with respect  to the aalaya.   In applying this characterization of the temporality of transcendental consciousness  to the  aalaya, we could   continue  to maintain   the  Buddhistic   emphasis    on  a  single rationally inexplicable source of Being, while giving some concrete  analysis  of the nature of this source as a source of multiplicity.


The aalaya can thus be seen as the living present which  is not  an empirical   flow, but exists  as the source  of  all  present  empirical  egos  and  their supposedly    contemporaneously present   empirical worlds. The streaming characteristic of the living present adequately reflects the nature of the aalaya  as flowing.  The standing   characteristic emphasizes the a temporality (or, as Husserl puts it, the quasi-transtemporality) and unity  of the aalaya. It  also  allows  for  the  unitary   nature   of  all        differentiations which flow causally from the aalaya, for example, the fact that all empirical ego-subjects seem  to experience basically  the same  (“non-real”)        empirical world.  By using the dialectical  character of the living  present, we could   thus explicate  the aalaya  as  one  reality which   by  its  nature  is fundamentally  differentiated  into a multiplicity of temporal modes. From this primal differentiation, the         higher   level differentiations  into the multiplicity of empirical  ego-subjects  would follow, all sharing the same ontological  source, yet not all sharing the same  empirical  experiences  or dharmic  characters. Each “wave”  of the aalaya  would  echo  only certain aspects   of  the  total   range  of  higher   level differentiations  (in  Husserl,  genetic  contents). Thus, the aalaya in its dependent  or apparent nature is many; in its true reality, one.

To  recapitulate   the  living  present  is  both standing   and  streaming.  As  standing,  it  is  the One the  Now through  which flow all differentiated living experiences  and their contents (my experience of  the  spatio-temporal   world   and  of  myself  as existing  empirical  subject,  and  so  forth) .   As streaming,  it  is  the   Many,  self-differentiating    itself into a multiphased stream of temporality which occurs  all-at-once, thus serving  as source  for the multiple experiences within empirical time and space. Although Husserl does not equate the constitution  by transcendental     consciousness   with   a    complete         constitution  of all  beings  in their  being  (in  a metaphysically  committed  sense),  the  use  of  his analysis to explicate the Yogaacaara  aalaya would be combined with a metaphysical  claim namely, that the aalaya in its true or perfected  state as Thusness is        the source  of being  (real  and unreal) of all other entities.  This comparative   effort, while  not fully integrating  the Yogaacaara aalayavij~naana  into the phenomenological    framework,    nevertheless    can supplement  the discussion   of the aalaya and perhaps         obviate   some  of the  difficulties   inherent  in its interpretation.


1.  The discussion   of the Yogaacaara school includes Asa.nga and his follower Vasabandhu, supplemented by  elements  from  earlier  anonymous    idealist Suutras.

2.  See A. K. Warder, Indian Buddhism (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1970).

3.  Ramakant  A.  Sinari,  The  Structure  of  Indian Thought  (Springfield, Illinois: Charles  Thomas, 1970), p. 98. Sylvain L'evi notes in his Mateeriaux pour  l'e'tude  du systeeme  Vij~naptimaatra: the term “aalaya”  includes  “...  the entire  domain which we today designate as the subconscious  and the unconscious....”  (Paris: Librairie   Ancienne             Honore Champion, 1932), p. 10.

4.  Ninian  Smart, Doctrine  and  Argument  in Indian Philosophy  (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1964), p. 58.

5.  See   Vasubandhu,  Tri.m`sika,    v.   2,   trans. Wing-Tsit  Chan  as “The  Thirty  Verses  on  the Mind-Only   Doctrine”  in A Source  Book in Indian Philosophy, ed. S. Radhakrishnan and C.  A. Moore (Princeton,  New  Jersey:  Princeton    University Press, 1957), p.  334;  the same translation also appears  in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, ed.  W.  Chan  (Princeton, New  Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 380 (hereafter cited as SBIP and SBCP).  Also, see The La.nkaavataara  Suutra, Ch. 6, v. 82, trans.  D. T. Suzuki (London: Rout ledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1932), p.  190.  On manas, see Asa.nga, Mahaayaanasa.mgraha, Ch. I, v. 59, no. 3 and  4, trans.  Etienne  Lamothe, as La somme  du grand  vehicule    (Louvain:  Bureaux  de  Museon, 1934), p. 81; Vasubandhu, Tri.m’sika, v. 5, SBIP, p. 334 (SBCP,  p. 383). On the    third             transformation, see Vasubandhu, Tri.m`sika, v. 5, SBIP, p. 334 (SBCP, p. 383).

6. Ch.  1,  v.  3, p.  13.  Confer.  Sa.mdhinirmocana Suutra, Ch.  5, v.  7, trans.  Etienne  Lamote as L'explication   des    mysteres   (Paris:   Adrien Maisonneuve,   1935)  ,   p.    186;   Vasubandhu, Tri.m`sika, vv.  2 and 5, SBIP, p.  334 (SBCP, p. 380).

7. Ch.  1,  vv.  14-15,  pp.  32-33.  While  in  many contexts  the Indian  term dharma means duty, the Buddhist idealists often use the term to refer to conscious  activities, that  is, both the process and the products of those activities.

8. See La.nkaavataara, Ch.  6, v.   82, p. 193, and v. 83, p. 195. Also, Asa.nga, Ch.  1, vv. 58-59, pp. 80-81.  D.  T.  Suzuki, in  his  Studies  in  the La.nkaavataara   Suutra (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul   Ltd., 1930), characterizes  the “perfuming” of the aalaya  as follows: “...  it is a kind  of energy  that  is  left  behind  when  an  act  is accomplished   and has the power  to rekindle  the old and seek out new impressions.... Through this             `perfuming',...we  have a world of opposites  and contraries   with all its practical consequences.” P. 99. Confer. L'evi, p. 10.

9. The aalaya  doctrine  is also intended  to address the  problem  of retribution  and transmigration. The  aalaya    thus   provides   the  ground   for adjudicating   moral  consistency   between    the different  “lives” of each individual  spirit, as well  as for empirical   consistency  between  the different   moments of experiencing.  See Asa.nga,             Ch. 1, v. 59, no. 2, p. 81.

10.  In  most Buddhist  literature, nirvaa.na  is the term which refers to the goal of human existence, the  attainment   of  unity  with  the  one  true reality.  What is actually attained in this state is open to interpretation;  for example, it could be  a   complete  cessation  of  activity  or  the achievement of the purest activity.

11. Ch. 1, v. 16, p. 34.

12. See   Ashok  Kumar   Chatterjee,   The   Yogaacaara Idealism  (Varanasi: Bhargava Bhashan, 1962), pp. 132-133:  “...   the  aalaya  as  a  constructive hypothesis  must be accepted   either as one or as many;   in  neither    case   is  it  free  [from] difficulties.  This indicates only that it is not ultimate.” Chatterjee  notes that the aalaya must be grounded  in the Absolute  because  the aalava can  never   reach  a  pure  state:  “It  already contains the seed of self-disruption  in the form of this implicit  duality...  between  itself and its contents,” p.  117.  Chatterjee himself leans toward a Hegelian  interpretation   of Yogaacaara, such that the bare identity of the aalaya and the Absolute (true reality) is impossible.

13. Trans.,  Wing Tsit  Chan  as  “Treatise  on  the Establishment  of the Doctrine  of Consciousness-Only” in SBCP, p. 392.

14. See Smart, p.  58: The aalaya   “...is not part of what  constitutes   the  individual,  cannot    be considered  as the name for an entity peculiar to any individual.”   Compare Surendranath  Dasgupta, Indian Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge  University Press,   1962) ,  pp.   115-119,   who   interprets Vasubandhu  to mean  that  the aalaya  is only  a             hypothetical  state which grounds   all individual experiencing  subjects;  as such, the   aalaya  is unitary. Chatterjee,    however,   proposes     that    the interpretation  of the aalaya  as unitary  can be maintained only when unity is interpreted as “the harmony  obtaining  between the moments belonging to  different  series, as between   moments  of  a single  series...,  the  unity  of  the  temporal succession,” p. 132.

15. See  Sa.mdhinirmocana,  Ch.   6,  vv.   3-6,  pp. 188-189; Asa.nga, Ch. 2, v. 1, p. 87; Vasubandhu, Tri.m`sika, vv.  20-21, SBIP, p.  336  ( SBCP, p. 393); Hsuan-Tsang, SBCP, p.  393.  Compare A.  K. Warder, Ch. 11, especially pp, 1130, 438-439.

16. See Chatterjee, p.  124: “When the aalaya  starts functioning,   there  is  no  Absolute, since  the aalaya   itself    is   the   Absolute    defiled.” Consequently, perfected   reality  as the Absolute is,  in  a  sense,  the  aalaya    purified.   The diffference between this interpretation  and mine is  perhaps  simply  a  matter  of  nomenclature. Compare Sinari, p. 98, and La.nkaavataara, Ch. 2, v. 18, p.  55.  Suzuki in his introduction to the       La.nkaavataara  states: “The [Tathaagata-] Garbha is  from  the  psychological   point  of view  the AAlayavij~naana..., “   pp.    xxxix-xl.   Suzuki, however,  claims   a  distinction   between    the Lan.nkaavataara  and  the  Yogaacaarins  on  this point: “But the aalayavij~naana of the Yogaacaara is not the same  as that  of La.nkaavataara....  The  former conceives   the aalaya  to be purity  itself  with nothing defiled in it, whereas the La.nkaavataara ...    make[s]   it  the  cause   of  purity   and defilement,” ibid. Suzuki fails to note that, for the  Yogaacaara,  the  aalaya  in  its  dependent nature   is defiled  by its seeds, thus continuing to produce further mistaken dharmas.  In contrast to   the   foregoing, Dasgupta  sees a    complete distinction   between   the    aalaya   and   pure            consciousness: “As ground of this aalayavij~naana we     have     pure     consciousness     called vij~naptimaatra, which is beyond all experiences, transcendent and pure consciousness...; even this aalayavij~naana  is an imposition  on it...”   pp. 119- 120.

17. Chatterjee  discusses  this problem  but finds no satisfactory solution, p. 131.

18. V,  4, SBIP,  p.  334  (SBCP,  p.  380).  Compare Sa.mdhinirmocana, Ch. 5, v.  4, p. 185, and v. 6, p. 186; La.nkaavataara, Ch. 6, v. 81, p. 190.

19. Husserliana,  vol.  10:  Zur  Phanomenolagie  des inneren  Zeitbewusstseins,  ed.  R.   Boehm  (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966),34, p. 73; trans. J.   Churchill  as The  Phenomenology   of Internal Time-Consciousness (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana          University Press, 1964), p. 98.  Compare Husserl, Erfahrung und Urteil, 3d ed., rev. and ed.  by L. Landgrebe (Hamburg: Claassen, 1964), 38, p.191, trans.   J.  S.   Churchill   and  K.   Ameriks   as Experience   and  Judgment  (Evanston,  Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1977), p. 165.

20. Husserliana, vol. 3: Ideen zu einer reinen Phanomenologie und        phanomenologischen Philosophie, Book I, ed. W. Biemel (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1950), p. 199.

21. Zeitbewusstseins, 36, p.75  (trans.,  p.  100); compare  Husserl  MSC 13 II (1934), p.  9, Edmund Husserl Archives, Cologne, West Germany.

22. See note 18.

23. Zeitbewusstseins, Beilage 6, p.  113 (trans., pp. 152-153).

24. Ibid., pp. 75, 112(trans., pp. 100 and 150-151).

25. Husserl  MS  C  3 III  (1931), pp.  23-24, Edmund Husserl  Archives,  Cologne,  West  Germany.  See Klaus  Held, Legendige  Gegenwavt  (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1966).

26. Husserliana, vol.  6: Die Krisis   der Europ, sche Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phanomenologie,  ed.  W.  Biemel  (The  Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1954), p. 175; trans.  David Carr as The Crisis  of European  Sciences  and Transcendental             Phenomenology  (Evanston,  Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1970), p. 172.

27. Husserliana, vol. 9: Phomenologische Psychologie,  ed.   W.   Biemel   (The  Hague:  M. Nijhoff, 1962), p. 475.  “All my pasts lie in me, in the streaming present....”

28. Husserliana, vol.  1. Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vortrge, ed. S. Strasser (The Hague: M.  Nijhoff, 1950), 33, p.102; trans. D. Cairns as Cartesian Meditations (The Hague: M.  Nijhoff, 1964), pp. 66-67.

29. Husserliana, vol. 17: Formale and transzendentale Logik, ed.  P.  Janssen  (The Hague: M.  Nijhoff, 1974;1st ed., Halle: M. Niemeyer,1929), 85, pp. 215-216; trans.   D. Cairns as Formal and Transcendental  Logic  (The  Hague:  M.  Nijhoff, 1969), p. 207.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid., p. 226 (trans., p. 218).

32. Kenneth  K.  Inada discusses  the feasibility  of applying the notion of temporality  (not of time) to the Buddhist  doctrine  in his  article, “Time and Temporality - A Buddhist Approach,” Philosophy East and West  24, no.  2 (April, 1974): 171-179.             While not specifically directed toward Yogaacaara Buddhism, the   discussion  offers  an account  of temporality different from Husserl's.

33. Husserl  MS   C 7 I (1932), p.  4, Edmund  Husserl Archives,   Cologne,  West   Germany.    See  Held, Foreword,  pp.  x  and  30:  “ ‘Now’  as  the  one remaining    form  of  presence  and  ‘Now’   as  a changing time-point  among others...”  are Held's            characterization  of the present as both standing and streaming. See Husserl, Erfbhrung, Beilage I, pp.  467-468 (trans., p. 386); Husserl MS C 3 III (1931), pp.  29-31, and  MS  B III  9 (1931), pp. 36-37,  Edmund  Husserl  Archives, Cologne,   West Germany.


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