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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 31 |summer 2006 body’s energy. So using mind consciousness is very expensive. Thinking, worrying, and planning take a lot of energy. We can economize the energy by training our mind con- sciousness in the habit of mindfulness. Mindfulness keeps us in the present moment and allows our mind consciousness to relax and let go of the energy of worrying about the past or predicting the future. The second level of consciousness is sense consciousness, the consciousness that comes from our five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. We sometimes call these senses “gates,” or “doors,” because all objects of perception enter conscious- ness through our sensory contact with them. Sense conscious- ness always involves three elements: first, the sense organ (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or body); second, the sense object itself (the object we’re smelling or the sound we’re hearing); and finally, our experience of what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tast- ing, or touching. The third layer of consciousness, store consciousness, is the deepest. There are many names for this kind of consciousness. Mahayana tradition calls this store consciousness, or alaya, in Sanskrit. The Theravada tradition uses the Pali word bha- vanga to describe this consciousness. Bhavanga means constantly The VieTnamese Zen masTer Thuong Chieu said, “When we understand how our mind works, our practice becomes easy.” To understand our minds, we need to under- stand our consciousness. The Buddha taught that consciousness is always continuing, like a stream of water. Consciousness has four layers. The four layers of consciousness are mind consciousness, sense conscious- ness, store consciousness, and manas. Mind consciousness is the first kind of consciousness. It uses up most of our energy. Mind consciousness is our “working” consciousness that makes judgments and plans; it is the part of our consciousness that worries and analyzes. When we speak of mind consciousness, we’re also speaking of body consciousness, because mind consciousness isn’t possible without the brain. Body and mind are simply two aspects of the same thing. Body without consciousness is not a real, live body. And conscious- ness can’t manifest itself without a body. It’s possible for us to train ourselves to remove the false distinction between brain and consciousness. We shouldn’t say that consciousness is born from the brain, because the opposite is true: the brain is born from consciousness. The brain is only 2 percent of the body’s weight, but it consumes 20 percent of the The Four Layers of Consciousness Abhidharma, Buddhism’s map of the mind, is sometimes treated as a topic of merely intellectual interest. In fact, says Thich Nhat Hanh, identifying the different elements of consciousness, and understanding how they interact, is essential to our practice of meditation. Paintings by darren waterston