Excerpts from A Discourse on the Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna
Venerable Xiao Pingshi
As the seeds of ignorance, held by the ālaya-consciousness, enable the mental faculty with the intention for the ālaya-consciousness to give rise to the intermediate state (bardo) body, one then enters the womb at that moment due to an inverted thought. Upon entering the womb, the mind-kings consisting of the eight consciousnesses gradually become fully developed, indicating the full maturation of the five internal sense faculties and culminating in readiness for birth. After birth, these eight consciousnesses, the five internal sense faculties, and the five external sense faculties work in unison, which gives rise to various phenomena. Without the five internal sense faculties, one’s first six consciousnesses cannot manifest; thus, one cannot appear and operate in the human world.
Under what conditions do the five internal sense faculties arise? The five internal sense faculties are transformed and manifest from the ālaya-consciousness because of seeds of one’s self-attachment, self-craving, self-view, and ignorance from the past. Our physical body is absolutely not created by God, nor is it transformed by our mother; it is the result of our own transformation. If you are a mother, you better not tell your son, “I have created or transformed your physical body.” You have not created or transformed your son’s physical body; you have only provided him with the necessary elements: the four great elements of earth, water, fire, and wind. That is, you have only provided your son with blood and nutrients to assist him in transforming his own physical body. Who facilitates this transformation? It is your son’s own ālaya-consciousness. When the embryo that is your son has absorbed the nutrients that you (the mother) have provided, its transformation starts, and it continuously undergoes changes. It is your son’s ālaya-consciousness that transforms and gives rise to his physical body. That is why the ālaya-consciousness is called “the first consciousness capable of transforming” that which transforms and manifests its own internal world of the five concealments—the physical body that the ālaya-consciousness is brought to manifest.
The “first consciousness capable of transforming,” the ālaya-consciousness, depends on the karma that one created in one’s past lives to transform and manifest one’s five external sense faculties and five internal sense faculties. This ālaya-consciousness is the most superior mind entity of all, capable of bringing about a physical body that cannot be created by anyone. Bringing forth a physical body is an extraordinary undertaking; even advanced modern medical experts cannot achieve a tiny fraction of what it involves! Thus, the ālaya-consciousness is amazingly great; it can also transform and manifest the mental faculty, allowing it to be the decision-maker at all times and in all situations. After the mental faculty takes control, it deems the natures of meritorious quality of the ālaya-consciousness as its own virtues. This is what the Vijñana-Only (Consciousness-Only) School means by the statement “The mental faculty always inwardly grasps the ālaya-consciousness as itself.” This statement is incomprehensible to those who are not yet enlightened. They may comprehend its literal meaning, but they do not understand its true implications. However, those who are enlightened understand its meaning instantly.
In reality, the mental faculty is affiliated with the ālaya-consciousness. As the ālaya-consciousness never makes a decision, it is like a helpless puppet emperor, and the mental faculty is like a strategist prime minister, while the mind-kings of the eight consciousnesses are all under the control of the mental faculty. The ālaya-consciousness never makes decisions; the mind never thinks or calculates. However, no matter what the mental faculty needs, the ālaya-consciousness is always capable of offering. That is why the ālaya-consciousness is the most supreme mind of all.
When the ālaya-consciousness has already transformed and manifested the five sense faculties and the mental faculty, the first six consciousnesses come into play. After the first six consciousnesses emerge, the subsequent mental concomitants of the five omnipresent mental factors, the five determinative mental concomitants (desire, determination, recollection, concentration, and wisdom), 11 wholesome mental concomitants, the 20 derivative afflictions, and the four indeterminate dharmas, totaling 51 mental concomitants, all arise in succession. These mental concomitants are the properties of the eight consciousnesses.
All the dharmas of the 51 mental concomitants are transformed and manifested owing to the cooperative working of the eight consciousnesses. They depend on the manifested-consciousnesses of the ālaya-consciousness mind entity and the seed of the mental faculty that is inherently stored in the ālaya-consciousness; the mental faculty will enable the transformation and manifestation of various signs of phenomena with the cooperation of the ālaya-consciousness. Therefore, the mental faculty is known as the second consciousness capable of transforming. Due to the cooperation between the ālaya-consciousness and the mental faculty, the first five consciousnesses can then arise. Consequently, the mental consciousness can transform and manifest various conceived phenomenal dharmas and execute them. Hence, the mental consciousness is known as the third consciousness capable of transforming. Because of this phenomenal dharma, all the dharmas of both the mundane and supra-mundane worlds, such as form, sound, smell, taste, and touch, will then come into existence.
A Discourse on the Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, Vol. 1, pp.99-101