5. Thursday, February 1, 1973
Alaya vijnana , Amala vijnana

KOBUN: Alaya vijnana is like the metaphysical idea of consciousness. Like, we say, “mind.” We don't know what is the limitation, what is the border of it. Sometimes when you dig yourself into the subconscious world and go to the other side, you go toward Heaven and God. Amala vijnana was found when someone dug himself deeper and deeper and broke the border of, depths of, the subconscious world, and found another world. It's like someone is standing like this (draws circle with man standing on rim) and comes to a very deep, deep unknown world of your past experiences. All sorts of dreams, imagination, every kind of experience, like a crowd within yourself. This idea, amala vijnana , this is not Japanese, this is Sanskrit. It means: a = no , mala =tainted and vijnana = mind. This is one of the deepest approaches to this kind of problem.

Jung's theory of collective unconscious cannot reach to this stage. Alaya vijnana has a very clear similarity with Jung's idea, but this is the mind which becomes the foundation for the collective consciousness . The one who thinks of collective consciousness has to have some foundation, and amala vijnana is like the other side of the deep unconscious. When you speak about alaya vijnana it's the front part of consciousness. Amala vijnana is the other side of consciousness.

STUDENT: Any images there? Is it clear, empty?

KOBUN: Umhmm.

STUDENT: (Points to drawing) Collective unconscious is alaya vijnana ?

KOBUN: Umhmm.

STUDENT: That is all experiences, ok? (Pointing to drawing of circle) And this is, it is not just below it, it surrounds it, amala vijnana ?

KOBUN: Surrounds. Uhhuh. Alaya vijnana too. Schilling has the same idea. When your mind works from the center of your inside, the world is like the universe, and what you understand is the reflection of the universe. You are within the world and what you understand of yourself is the phenomenal universe, how it is. Alaya vijnana is this unknown sphere, huge possibility you can know, and which is already known by you, inside of the universe. So alaya vijnana is exactly the same size and depth as the universe. When your alaya vijnana grows up, the universe grows up.... Amala vijnana means the ground, opportunity which makes all phenomena possible.

STUDENT: Then it would have to have another one, on into infinity.

KOBUN: Umhmm.

STUDENT: Einstein, as I understand from a book I read, said that we have an ever-expanding universe, but it could be what the universe is expanding into, which isn't part of the universe. Last night you talked about mind, surrounding the universe but a little bit bigger. Is that this amala vijnana ?

KOBUN: That is my feeling. Actually the tradition is what the amala vijnana is, is the mind which shines. Energy, which always shines. It is not just no-tainted, but it has shine.

STUDENT: Is it like an aspect of shunyata , in some active aspect?

Alaya vijnana seems almost to have some sense of time, a possibility of accumulation of consciousness.... But does amala vijnana have something to do with “here-now,” just the activity which makes possible consciousness...?

KOBUN: In a wider sense, it is. Alaya vijnana does not exist somewhere, it is a kind of idea. When I say, “I have milk, do you have a cup?” You go and bring cup. Alaya vijnana is found by need. The idea of karma is completely explained by this alaya vijnana. When you say zero and infinity have the same structure, it is the character of alaya vijnana . When you find out the self-nature you reach to zero, and when you see self-nature [face] toward the external world you meet with zero, which is infinity. So alaya vijnana is not existence, it is the name of something which is needed to start with.

STUDENT: There are many things in physics and mathematics which come into being that way. Infinity is one, and to give infinity some meaning so you can use it, that's what happens. You need to make things work. But then that makes the alaya vijnana not very interesting because it's something which doesn't exist anywhere.

KOBUN: What we saw is not alaya vijnana ; what we are watching is alaya vijnana . What we are experiencing, doing is alaya vijnana . It is an idea. Someone can draw my body but that shape doesn't exist. Alaya vijnana is like the shape of a person; it always grows and changes. It can be at the same time very minute and very universal, like Jung's idea of the collective consciousness.... From beginningless time there is life and death, there is nirvana, depending on alaya vijnana .

STUDENT: Well now, I understood from what Jerry said and what you said, the way you described amala , that the alaya would be the active aspect.

STUDENT: There's a story in which the reply was “the whole body is hand and eye.” The first guy says, “all over the surface of the body is hands and eyes...” Whenever I have a feeling for that, it's like my body is faster than my mind; it responds to what people say, to what things are... I should think the alaya vijnana would be something like that except in some wider, less personal way.

KOBUN: Umhmm. Emptiness is more this amala . Alaya vijnana is more active, dynamic aspect of the collective.

STUDENT: Could that be prior to the collective unconscious? Infinite possibility?

KOBUN: Infinite possibility. And itself is beyond pure or impure. You cannot tell whether it's bright or dark. Alaya vijnana is like chaos.... When you say “emptiness” it's clearness and passiveness, in the sense of acceptance; it's total acceptance, more like amala vijnana .

STUDENT: What does the term, dharmakaya relate to?

KOBUN: Dharmakaya ? Amala vijnana is the background of that idea.... Kaya means body, so the habit of humankind is to make some idea as our body. Like when you see the idea of Christian history, you see a clear, personalized figure of the god. Sometime you really see man's picture, who is God!

STUDENT: I thought of that “dharmakaya,” that little Japanese doll, the illustration that's often used of the doll at rest, and then if conditions, situations arise, the doll will react to it, but after reacting come back to rest. There's always the possibility of the resting doll to move, so, even though it's resting, the potential for movement is always there. So it's not “no action,” but that kind of rest, that kind of peace, readiness.

KOBUN: Certainty.


STUDENT: The concepts you are discussing are very abstract ones, but still they're supposed to be possible elements of experience. For instance, one could see the world as amala vijnana . It is part of our practice to get to see things that way?

KOBUN: Oh, oh. A mind which can reflect others' kindness is a very good example of existence of amala vijnana . It's like an antenna where sound can gather. People meet with this amala vijnana in a real sense, so, whether we know this word or not, we experience it.

STUDENT: I have some feeling that when one speaks of the unchanging mountains, the everlasting hills... although the mountains are alive and change, actually, there's some great static stability about them which is alive and wonderful.

KOBUN: Some say ancient lake, that kind of forever, beyond. It goes through all kind of changes without changing. Bone mountain. The bone is the shape and the four seasons are the changes, surface changes. In wintertime the bones appear, the shape of the mountain and trees, bare trees. To see the essential structure of things very clearly, it appears as the bone of the mountain. It is not, and cannot be, part of our practice. We don't need to know it. But if you know it, it's a kind of leftover job. You don't need to, but if you enjoy it, it's ok.

STUDENT: If you enjoy seeing things that way, it's ok, but you needn't do it. It's something extra.

KOBUN: Uh huh. It's a kind of looking through a glass of a little bit different color. “Oh, the world can be seen ...”

STUDENT: Rose colored glasses.

STUDENT: Not rose-colored because you try to see each thing, each moment so that it contains a lot of possibilities, and there's a big abyss between one moment and the next, and there's nothing to hold onto in between. It's certainly not very rose-colored. As a matter of fact it makes for a lot of anxiety...

STUDENT: He talks like a beatnik. That's nervous Zen. Existentialism. You know, smoking tons of cigarettes.

KOBUN: X-ray. It's like roentgen, when you have those eyes ...

STUDENT: Superman.

STUDENT: X-ray vision.

KOBUN: But, we have that eye behind the flesh eye and usually it's sleeping.... Better not to let it work, crystallize things, see through things. If you succeed it's very good, because you see clear emptiness in everything. If it works halfway it only makes trouble.

STUDENT: Yeah, but before it works all the way it has to work half-way, doesn't it?

No, it works all at once.

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