nine consciousnesses ［九識］ ( ku-shiki): Nine kinds of discernment. “Consciousness” is the translation of the Sanskrit vijnāna, which means discernment. The nine consciousnesses are (1) sight-consciousness ( chakshur-vijnāna), (2) hearing-consciousness (shrota-vijnāna), (3) smell-consciousness (ghrāna-vijnāna), (4) taste-consciousness (jihvā-vijnāna), (5) touch-consciousness (kāya-vijnāna), (6) mind-consciousness (mano-vijnāna), (7) mano-consciousness (mano-vijnāna), (8) ālaya-consciousness (ālaya-vijnāna), and (9) amala-consciousness (amala-vijnāna). (The Sanskrit is the same for both the sixth and seventh consciousnesses.)
The first five consciousnesses correspond to the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The sixth consciousness integrates the perceptions of the five senses into coherent images and makes judgments about the external world. In contrast with the first six consciousnesses, which deal with the external world, the seventh, or mano-consciousness, corresponds to the inner spiritual world. Awareness of and attachment to the self are said to originate from the mano-consciousness, as does the ability to distinguish between good and evil. The eighth, or ālaya-consciousness, exists in what modern psychology calls the unconscious; all experiences of present and previous lifetimes—collectively called karma—are stored there. The ālaya-consciousness receives the results of one’s good and evil deeds and stores them as karmic potentials or “seeds,” which then produce the rewards of either happiness or suffering accordingly. Hence it was rendered as “storehouse consciousness” in Chinese. The ālaya-consciousness thus forms the framework of individual existence. The Dharma Characteristics (Chin Fa-hsiang; Hossō) school regards the eighth consciousness as the source of all spiritual and physical phenomena. The Summary of the Mahayana (She-lun; Shōron) school, the T’ien-t’ai school, and the Flower Garland (Hua-yen; Kegon) school postulate a ninth consciousness, called amala-consciousness, which lies below the ālaya-consciousness and remains free from all karmic impurity. This ninth consciousness is defined as the basis of all life’s functions. Hence it was rendered as “fundamental pure consciousness” in Chinese.