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Notes on Storehouse Consciousness: Citta and Alaya

In the Lankavatara Sutra, Citta is derived from the root ci, which means "to pile up" and "to arrange in order". Thus, the Citta is akin to "a storehouse into which the seeds of all thoughts and deeds accumulate" and are stored.

Yet the Citta has two meanings, general and specific. Generally-speaking, it means "heart-mind", the emotive part of the mind which includes the activities of Manas — intellect or mind-sense which grasps mental objects — and Manovijnana (sixth consciousness), and also of the Vijnanas (the five consciousnesses).

In this sense, it represents a person's mindset or state of mind which may be dominated by emotions.

Specifically the Citta is the Alayavijnana in its relative aspects, which is distinguishable from the rest of the mental faculties i.e. the pure mind that is free of the defilements of attachment, hatred and delusion.

In the form of Citta-matra, Mind-only, "Citta" is identifiable with the Alaya in its absolute aspect.

Alayavijnana means storehouse consciousness, for alaya is a storehouse "where things are hoarded for future use." As a cumulative faculty, the Citta is thus identified with the Alayavijnana. Yet the Alaya "is not a Vijnana," and "has no discerning power in it."

Indeed, the Alaya "indiscriminately harbours all that is poured into it through the channel of the Vijnanas."

The Alaya is the mind-stream, the stream of consciousness which is neutral, indifferent, and non-judgmental.

Regarding citta, the mind is first calmed during samatha meditation.

Then the mind is purified when liberating insight arises during vipassana meditation.


Lankavatara Sutra:
Instructions on breath meditation:

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