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'The nine consciousnesses' is a profound Buddhist concept that speaks of the different levels of human capacity in understanding the reality of life. In this article, we look at the nine consciousnesses and try and comprehend the profoundness of each of these. It must be understood that our lives are governed by the action of these nine consciousnesses and everything we do consequently is influenced by or influences any or all of these forms.
The concept of nine consciousnesses comes from Buddhism. Consciousness is a word which stands for that sense of the human being which makes it feel alive and able to relate to the surroundings. It remains there even when the person sleeps. According to the above-mentioned concept, there are nine levels or forms that consciousness is divided into. It is on the basis of these levels that self-identification and relation of the self to the surroundings is made possible. These nine levels are as follows.
The First Five Forms Of Consciousness
The first five consciousnesses are the five senses that we are endowed with. Our ability to witness, feel, talk, smell and hear are the five consciousnesses. The eyes help us see the surroundings, the ears help us hear the surroundings, and the likewise. These senses are perishable in nature and help us understand the material world. What is tangible can be comprehended by these five senses of ear, eyes, nose, tongue and the skin. They exist in the physical body.
The Sixth Consciousness
The sixth consciousness is that of the human mind. What the five senses experience, is read, and communicated to the brain by the sixth form of consciousness. It gives a mental experience which helps us observe the surroundings and thus, infer the meaning. Thus, the sixth consciousness is nothing but the culmination of the five consciousnesses and helps us understand our environment.
All these five senses combined with the sixth sense are mortal in nature. As the human body perishes, these too stop functioning with the death of a person. The remaining forms of consciousnesses are immortal. Let us understand how so.
The Seventh Consciousness
The seventh consciousness is one that helps up differentiate between good and bad - something everyone of us humans are endued with. The seventh consciousness, in other words is feeling oneself. Our ability to differentiate between the good and the bad is what comes from the seventh consciousness.
The ability to differentiate oneself from the others comes from the seventh consciousness. For instance, the fear of death and the belief which makes us fear death is the result of the seventh consciousness being active. It is often also related with the ego and pride which are deluded thinking as per most of the religions of the world.
What is known as selfishness comes because of being too much in control of the seventh sense. Thus, the concept of personal identity comes from the seventh sense or the seventh form of consciousness.
The Eighth Consciousness
It is also known as the storehouse of the Karma; Karma being the active force leading to various results. While the result of some karma comes soon, and that of the others might take some time, the energy of the Karmas whose results have not yet come, gets stored in this store house. As the right time comes, the effect of the Karma caused by a person falls in place. Thus, the eighth sense is like a constantly flowing river detailing about the causes and effects in a life. This eighth consciousness is known as Alaya in Sanskrit which translates to house.
Thus, the eighth consciousness is one that manifests the law of cause and effect; the deeds we have committed over many lifetimes and makes us face subsequent effects for the committed deeds. The law of karma is based in the eighth consciousness.
The Ninth Consciousness
Then comes the ninth consciousness. It is the purest form of consciousness. It is unbiased and unopinionated. It is known as Amala, which means pure. It is not affected by Karma. Thus, it gives a person, the pure and unbiased vision. With its pure eyes and with this vision, we can see the positive and negative energies that we have accumulated in the karmic store house.
The effects of other senses get reduced when one is able to perceive the world with the purity of the ninth consciousness. Thus, the energy of one's life gains value with the power of the ninth consciousness. It is also believed that with the power of the ninth consciousness, we can change the negative tendencies of the eighth consciousness as well.
Thus, the ninth consciousness is one that is free from all forms of karma. Hence, it is the state of enlightenment and can be achieved by prayer and subsequent action in accordance with prayers.