Volition and Functions of Alaya Consciousness

This talk is taken out of order as there was a little difficulty in getting the English translation to share with you. In this talk, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the theme of volition as it relates to our relationships and to being a monastic followed by a teaching on the functions of alaya consciousness.

It was originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai,  the talk from New Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 19, 2013 and is the tenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Chan Duc.

00:00-10:30 Volition Food
10:30- 14:40 The Mind of Love – Bodhicitta
14:40-21:00 Volition and Marriage
21:00-28:48 The Path and Realizing the Dream
28:48-57:47 The Functions of Alaya
57:47-end Ripening and Impermanence

Last time we learned the alaya consciousness are tied to the five universal mental formations. What does alaya want to realize? In the teachings we talk of the four nutriments and the third is volition. Alaya wants to live  the good of volition should always be there – not temporary. Volition can be a positive nutrient and give us a lot of energy but it can also be unwholesome. What is my deepest desire? What do I want to do with my life? What is the source of volition food?

The Buddha had a desire to end suffering, worries, fears – to find a path. He had a desire to become a monk. The mind of love – bodhicitta. We must have this commitment to be a monk or a nun. This is our volition food as a monastic in the sangha.

People in the world may do something similar when they get married – what is the volition food of my partner? Do we share the same direction and the same ideal?  What do I want to realize in my life? We can also look at our parents and see their dreams and aspiration. Have they realized their dreams?

There is a path to realize our dream. The path is not different from the end. Every step has the dream for it to be reality in every moment of daily life. Don’t wait. We look to see our source of energy – our volition food – and we nourish it every day.

We have learned the self nature of alaya and that it is unobstructed, indeterminate, not good or bad, neutral. The 11 nature of seeds are the characteristics of the store. Now we talk about the function. First, the main function of alaya is to maintain and preserve – it is all the seeds. Second, alaya learns and manage the information it stores. Third, it has the capacity to make/ripen things. Fourth, it has the capacity to nourish and heal. Alaya is self directing and can behave in an automatic way. It has the capacity to sustain life.

The body and mind rely on each other and the basis are the seeds in alaya. Matter and spirit arise together because of alaya.

From the 30 Verses of Vasubandhu, we look at the 19th verse.

Consciousness is the totality of the seeds.
Transformation takes place in the way it does
because of a reciprocal influence; out of this, the
different constructions arise.

The alaya consciousness is also impermanent and birth/death is always taking place. Impermanent in every instant. There is also cyclical impermanence – we are born here and we die here. Maturation is cyclical.

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