“View of life refers to an individual’s perspective or understanding of the value, meaning, and personal attitude toward life. As the proverb goes, ‘Different people have different faces because of their different minds.’ Due to the different experiences and environments of each person, their understanding of life varies. For example, some people believe life is joyful, while others think it is full of suffering. Some people are proactive and optimistic, while others are passive and pessimistic. Which of these perspectives is right or wrong? Should we live in the moment and enjoy ourselves, or should we be pessimistic and seek liberation? Should we strive for success and be creative, or should we take things as they come and live in the present?
Moreover, where does life come from, and where does it go? What is the value and meaning of life? Is it possible that a person is born into this world for no reason, lives life in ignorance, and then dies without any purpose? If life is really like this, what is the point of living? If life is just about enjoying oneself or enduring a lifetime of pain, what is the value of life? Many philosophers, thinkers, and religious figures have tried to find an answer to these questions, but there is no consensus or conclusion.
Evolutionists argue that humans evolved from apes. Materialists believe that advanced animals come from lower animals, and that the survival of the fittest is the key. Some religious figures say that humans were created by God. If a person’s life is created by God, and their good or bad luck is determined by God or other deities, then what is the value of individual will and actions?”
During the time when Shakyamuni Buddha lived in the world, the Indian philosophical community had a concept called the “62 views of external paths” (62 different perspectives on the problem of human life). Some famous masters had their own views on the problem of human life:
Purana Kassapa: a skeptic who believed that there was no fixed standard of good and evil in human life, and that the concept of good and evil was created by social customs. Therefore, there should not be any karmic retribution for doing good or evil deeds.
Makkhali Gosala: a fatalist who believed that human behavior and destiny were governed by natural laws that could not be changed by human effort. Therefore, if one seeks liberation, one should simply follow one’s destiny, and liberation will happen naturally when one’s life ends.
Ajita Kesakambalin: an ancient materialist who believed that human life was composed of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind. There is no life or consciousness beyond matter, and everything ceases to exist after death. He advocated pursuing immediate pleasure and rejecting all ethical and moral values.
Uddaka Ramaputta: believed in the dualism of mind and matter, and held that human life was composed of seven elements: earth, water, fire, wind, pleasure, pain, and consciousness. He believed that life and death were only the aggregation and dispersion of these seven elements, and the elements themselves did not have birth or death.
These views are either nihilistic or annihilationist, and none of them represents the middle way. Throughout history, only Shakyamuni Buddha, with his supreme wisdom, could explain the origin of human life and the meaning of human existence. He fully understood the cause-and-effect relationship of sentient beings in the three realms and the truth of the six realms of reincarnation. He provided a complete answer to the mystery of the universe and human life. What did Shakyamuni Buddha have to say about the problem of human life? This should start with the origin of human life and death.
Buddha-nature and Deluded Mind
When the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he exclaimed, “Amazing! Amazing! All sentient beings possess the wisdom and virtues of a Tathagata (a Buddha). However, due to delusions and attachments, they cannot realize it. If they can be free from delusions, all wisdom, the natural wisdom, will be realized.”
The Buddha said that all sentient beings possess the wisdom and virtues of a Tathagata, which is the wisdom-virtue characteristic of Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is also known as true nature, self-nature, constant Buddha-nature, wondrous true-nature, true reality, etc. Although the names are different, they refer to the same thing, which is our inherent nature that possesses all the virtues and abilities. It is bright, clear, and tranquil, neither increasing nor decreasing in sanctity or profanity. It is not different from the Buddha, but it has been obscured by delusions and attachments since beginningless time, making its abilities unable to manifest. It is like a bright mirror covered in dust, which obscures the inherent brightness of the mirror. Even though the mirror is covered in dust, its original brightness remains unchanged. Once the dust is removed, the brightness will naturally manifest.
Similarly, our inherent nature is originally bright, clear, and possesses all the virtues and abilities. However, due to delusions and attachments, we generate confusion and karma, which results in rebirth in the six realms of samsara. Delusions and attachments are also called ignorance, which means a dull mind. It does not refer to the physical heart of a person but rather to the deluded mind that generates perceptions, thoughts, discernment, cognition, and grasping for objects.
In fact, Buddha-nature and deluded mind, wisdom-virtue characteristics and delusions and attachments are not two separate things. However, due to the difference between truth and falseness, motion and stillness, brightness and darkness, they are differentiated as Buddha-nature and deluded mind. Nature is like water, and mind is like waves. Water is static, and when it is calm, it is bright and clear. Waves are dynamic, and when they are turbulent, they become dull and confused. Water is the substance, and substance is real and unchanging. Waves are phenomena, and phenomena are illusory and impermanent. There are differences between motion and stillness, brightness and darkness, truth and falseness, but fundamentally they are not two.
Our inherent nature, which is bright, clear, and tranquil, becomes deluded mind due to delusions and attachments. This deluded mind, due to its dullness, is called ignorance. Due to its ability to obscure self-nature, it is called karma obstacles. Due to its binding and fettering, it is called habitual tendencies. Due to its agitation and disturbance, it is called afflictions. Ignorance, karma obstacles, habitual tendencies, and afflictions are all illusory, impermanent, and unreal.
Regarding the function of delusion, there is a passage in the Mahayana Treatise on the Great Perfection that states: “Ordinary beings become confused by the appearance of phenomena, distinguish and name them according to their appearance, and then grasp at those names and appearances. Because what they grasp at is not real, it is called delusion.”
This means that due to our inherent nature of great virtue and wisdom, we are capable of perceiving things clearly. However, due to delusional attachment, we develop a kind of unclear illusion called ignorance. This ignorance, combined with our originally clear and pure nature, becomes intertwined and habitually practiced, resulting in the Alaya consciousness.
As a result, our originally clear and pure nature becomes transformed into the Alaya consciousness, which is mixed with stains and contamination. This consciousness then gives rise to concepts and ideas through delusional thinking, which is referred to as the perceptual aspect of the Alaya consciousness. Through these delusional concepts, a realm of objects is projected, which is referred to as the phenomenal aspect of the Alaya consciousness.
In this way, our originally clear and wise nature becomes transformed by ignorance. It is like clear water that becomes rippled by a gentle breeze, forming an illusionary appearance. At this point, our original nature has become consciousness, which is further divided into two aspects: the perceptual aspect arising from the mind, and the phenomenal aspect arising from the projection of objects.
With the illusion of the perceptual and phenomenal aspects, a further illusion arises – the Manas consciousness. The Manas consciousness does not recognize that the perceptual and phenomenal aspects are merely illusions of our inherent nature. Therefore, it becomes attached to the perceptual aspect as its own capacity of perception, and to the phenomenal aspect as its own objects of perception.
With this attachment, we become entangled and endlessly pursue and differentiate everything that we have: what we love, what we hate, what we like, what we dislike. Thus, from this further illusion arises a false and imaginary consciousness. Once this consciousness arises, it dominates our lives (as well as the lives of all other sentient beings). It takes the place of our original nature, and even the Alaya and Manas consciousnesses are disregarded. It becomes the ruler of our lives, pursuing what it desires, hating what it dislikes, and causing chaos.
At the same time, this consciousness has a group of assistants: the five senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. Through the power of these assistants, it seeks the pleasure of the five desires – wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep – and thus gives rise to the afflictions of greed, anger, ignorance, pride, and doubt. From this, we create countless good and evil deeds.
However, this consciousness is only a product of delusional attachment and does not truly exist. At the moment of death, when the four elements of our being separate, this consciousness dissolves and only the fundamental Alaya consciousness remains, which will receive the karmic consequences of our good and evil deeds.
In the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism, the delusional mind that clings to objects is analyzed into eight consciousnesses. These eight consciousnesses are: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, manas, and alayavijnana. The first six consciousnesses arise from the six sense organs of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The first five of these consciousnesses can only apprehend objects within their own domain and cannot substitute for the functioning of other consciousnesses. The sixth consciousness, mind, is guided by the other five consciousnesses and assists them in their functioning. For example, the eye consciousness can only perceive color and not distinguish between black and white. This distinction is made by the mind consciousness. Similarly, the ear consciousness can only perceive sound and not understand its meaning, which is determined by the mind consciousness. Thus, when one of the first five consciousnesses is active, the mind consciousness arises along with it. Additionally, the mind consciousness can compare and speculate on internal and external phenomena, regardless of their form or whether they are in the past, present, or future. Therefore, the activities of delusion and awakening are determined by the mind consciousness.
In modern psychology, only the first six consciousnesses are studied. However, according to the Yogacara analysis in Mahayana Buddhism, there are still two more consciousnesses, the seventh and eighth consciousnesses, namely manas and alayavijnana.
The seventh consciousness, manas, is translated as “thought” but is kept as “manas” to avoid confusion with the mind consciousness. Its function is to grasp and fixate on the egoistic view of the alayavijnana as a self and constantly reflect on it. Its characteristics are “self-grasping” and “reflection.” Due to its self-grasping, the four afflictions of ignorance, egoistic views, pride, and attachment arise accordingly. The manas consciousness belongs to the realm of the subconscious and does not create good or bad karma on its own, but because of its attachment to the self, it becomes the source of all sentient beings’ selfishness and self-interest. The self that the manas consciousness grasps is the alayavijnana, which is the last of the eight consciousnesses.
The alayavijnana, also known as the store consciousness, is a combination of original nature and delusional mind, and is the foundation of samsara, the cycle of birth and death, since beginningless time. It contains the concepts of arising and ceasing, as well as non-arising and non-ceasing. The non-arising and non-ceasing aspects are awakening, tathata, and original nature, while the arising and ceasing aspects are delusional mind and ignorance.
The Sanskrit word alaya means “never destroyed,” and in Chinese it is translated as cangshi, which means “store consciousness.” It is called “never destroyed” because it continues to exist through countless cycles of birth and death and is the repository of all karma, both good and bad.
All sentient beings, whenever they have a thought or intention, or engage in speech or behavior, create a karma seed. These seeds remain latent in the Alayavijnana until they ripen and bear fruit, and therefore have the potential to bear meaning. The sixth and seventh consciousnesses are capable of influencing and being influenced, while the eighth consciousness is the storehouse of the influences and influenced by the sixth and seventh, and thus has the potential to bear meaning. The seventh consciousness clings to the perception of self within this consciousness and loves it as such, hence the potential for the clinging to self to be stored in the Alayavijnana.
In terms of the order of arising of the eight consciousnesses, the Alayavijnana is the first and most important; but in terms of the order of return to their source, it is ranked eighth. The Alayavijnana is the totality of consciousness and the repository for all good and bad karma, which is why after death, the other seven consciousnesses are extinguished, and only the Alayavijnana is led by the force of karma to be reborn and experience its karmic consequences in the six realms of existence. Although the other seven consciousnesses are extinguished upon death, their functions still exist within the Alayavijnana, and thus delusion and karma continue to accumulate, leading to the endless cycle of birth and death in the six realms.
How does the Alayavijnana cycle through birth and death? This can be explained through the Buddhist concept of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination.
III. The Concept of Life in the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination
The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, also known as the Twelve Causes and Conditions, or the Twelve Links of Existence, is a teaching on the truth of the continuity of sentient beings’ three lifetimes based on the law of cause and effect.
The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination are: ignorance conditions volitional actions, volitional actions condition consciousness, consciousness conditions name and form, name and form condition the six sense bases, the six sense bases condition contact, contact conditions feeling, feeling conditions craving, craving conditions grasping, grasping conditions existence, existence conditions birth, birth conditions aging and death. Among these links, ignorance refers to past delusion, volitional actions refer to past karma, and from consciousness to feeling are the present suffering and its results. Craving and grasping are the present delusion and karma, existence is the present karma, and birth and aging and death are the future suffering and its results. This is the vicious cycle of the transmigration of sentient beings’ lives, where delusion leads to karma, karma leads to suffering, and suffering leads to delusion. The fundamental cause of suffering from karma is the alaya consciousness.
The source of life is that, due to inherent defilements since beginningless time, consciousness has become polluted. The power of karma created by attachment and delusion is deposited in consciousness. This consciousness is then controlled by karma and experiences the cycle of birth and death in the six realms. Therefore, we can say that the mystery of life lies in the alaya consciousness. Life comes from the six realms and returns to the six realms. In fact, there is no coming or going, but rather consciousness, being led by the power of karma, plays different roles in the cycle of life among these six types of sentient beings. Once the conditions are met, and one is reborn into the human realm, one becomes a self composed of the five aggregates.
In fact, the life that arises from the combination of consciousness and name and form does not necessarily have to be human, but the human realm is at the center of the three realms and six paths. Therefore, when discussing the issue of life, we assume that humans are the object. For example, suppose a divine consciousness is reborn into the human realm due to past karma. In that case, according to the present results of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, it means that the consciousness is inverted into the womb and forms a life with the union of the father’s sperm and mother’s egg. This life develops until it has the six sense organs, is born into the human world, gradually grows up, and experiences pleasure and pain by sensing the six objects of the sense organs, namely, color, sound, smell, taste, touch, and the Dharma. This is the consciousness, name and form, the six sense bases, contact, and feeling in the Five Aggregates of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination.
Once we experience pleasure and pain, we will avoid pain and pursue pleasure. This applies not only to humans, but also to animals. Since we seek happiness, we naturally have desires: greed for wealth, love for pleasure, and competition for fame and profit. However, excessive expansion of oneself will inevitably affect others. When a few people are happy, it is inevitable that many people will suffer. In order to seek happiness, those who are suffering may build their happiness on the pain of others. Of course, there are also selfless and kind-hearted people in the crowd who sacrifice themselves for others and live a humble life. However, whether our actions are good or bad, our intentions are imprinted as karma. This karma is imprinted in the alaya consciousness, and based on the good or bad of our karma, it will determine our future life, whether we will ascend or descend. Everything is created by ourselves, there is no God or deity who governs us. The above is the three causes of love, desire, and attachment in the twelve nidanas.
What about the future result? It is determined by the karma of the present, and then we will be reborn, receive the consequences of our actions, perform new karma, grow old, and die… It continues endlessly in the flow of life.
The content of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination is as follows:
The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination include the past two causes, the present, and the future two results.
The past two causes are:
- Ignorance: the delusions and afflictions that arise from grasping onto false views.
- Karma: the actions that result from these afflictions. These two causes are also known as past delusions and karma.
The present includes three causes and five effects.
The three causes are: craving, grasping, and existence.
- Craving: the desire and attachment that lead to the creation of good and bad karma.
- Grasping: the clinging to objects of desire that arise from craving.
- Existence: the result of the previous two causes, which leads to rebirth in a particular realm.
The five effects are: consciousness, name and form, the six sense spheres, contact, and feeling.
- Consciousness: the result of past karma that determines the nature of rebirth.
- Name and form: the combination of mental and physical factors that arise in the womb.
- The six sense spheres: the six senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental objects.
- Contact: the contact between the senses and their objects.
- Feeling: the sensation of pleasure or pain that arises from contact.
The future two results are:
- Birth: the result of past karma that determines the realm of rebirth.
- Aging and death: the process of decay and dissolution that leads to the end of life.
All of these links are interconnected and lead to rebirth in an endless cycle of suffering. Karma determines one’s future existence and the quality of one’s life.
The Sanskrit term for karma is karmā or kriyā, which refers to the act of creating or making. In terms of human behavior, thoughts and actions that are motivated by mental states of goodness or evil are collectively known as karma. According to the Abhidharma-kosha-bhashya, “whatever one thinks about and whatever one does is called thought karma and physical karma, respectively.”
The Madhyama Agama sutra also distinguishes between thought karma and physical karma, stating that “there is karma of thought and karma of oneself.” Thought karma refers to mental actions, while karma of oneself refers to physical actions that arise from thought. Together with speech, these three forms of action are known as the “three karmas.”
Karma is characterized by three qualities: wholesome, unwholesome, and neutral. Wholesome karma leads to beneficial outcomes, while unwholesome karma leads to negative outcomes. Neutral karma, on the other hand, does not result in any particular outcome.
Of the three forms of karma (thought, speech, and physical action), only unwholesome and wholesome karma are capable of producing results. The ten wholesome actions are: physical action (not taking life, generosity, ethical conduct), verbal action (truthful speech, kind speech, helpful speech, and harmonious speech), and mental action (cultivating loving-kindness, compassion, and wisdom through understanding of cause and effect).
The ten unwholesome actions correspond to the same three categories of physical action, verbal action, and mental action, but with negative connotations. Physical action includes killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, verbal action includes lying, slander, abusive speech, and idle gossip, and mental action includes covetousness, ill will, and wrong views.
Of the three forms of karma, mental action is considered the most significant, as it influences both physical and verbal actions. If one’s thoughts are free from greed, hatred, and delusion, one’s behavior is less likely to be harmful to oneself and others.
Regarding karma, it is difficult for people to understand as it is intangible, without form or substance. However, every thought and action becomes a seed of karma, which never fades away and remains forever present, only to be activated when conditions are met. If we were to use an analogy, karma could be seen as an impression in our consciousness. Whenever we have a thought or engage in speech, whether good or bad, an impression is left in our consciousness, which becomes a seed of karma in the eighth consciousness known as the Alayavijnana. These impressions may vary in their depth, but they remain imprinted in our consciousness regardless of time. For something that has left a deep impression, it will be difficult to forget and may influence our psychology and behavior, but even for the slightest impression, it will remain in our consciousness permanently. Modern psychology explains dreams as activities of the subconscious. Things that are no longer remembered in our consciousness still exist in the subconscious, which proves that impressions do not fade away and that karma is also indestructible.
In his essay “The Teachings of the Buddha and the Essential Doctrines of Early Buddhism,” Liang Qichao provides a detailed explanation of karma. He explains that karma is the result of each person’s continuous activities and responses to the world, which shape their character and become the foundation for their future actions, ultimately determining their destiny. This destiny is called karma phala or karma vipaka. Karma is eternal and will only cease to exist when one’s will to act ceases. When actions change direction, karma will follow suit and exist in that direction. Karma phala and karma vipaka do not end with the death of a single lifetime, as death is only the separation of the physical body composed of matter according to physical laws. Life is not purely material, and therefore, each person’s karma is not destroyed by the death of their physical body. After death, karma will guide itself towards another direction or form and form a new life. This process of transformation is called reincarnation. Understanding the principle of reincarnation can prove that the principle of karma is indestructible.
What is the appearance of karma? Have you ever heard the conversations of those who collect Yixing teapots? The older the teapot, the better, and if the old teapot has always been used to brew good tea, even better. Why is that? Every time you brew tea, the contents of the pot change. When the tea is finished and the leaves are emptied, the pot is washed clean, and it appears to be the same as before. However, the “essence of the tea” is left in the pot. When you brew tea again, the essence from the previous brew will have an effect, making the tea taste even better. After brewing tea two or three times, or even thousands of times, the pot will not need any tea leaves. You can just pour in hot water, and in a short time, it will have color and flavor and can be drunk like tea. The same goes for those who smoke opium. They are very particular about using old pipes and old bowls because they have an endless supply of opium essence. In Buddhist terms, this essence of tea and opium is called the “tea industry” and the “opium industry”…
Karma does not disappear when the body dies. After the body dies, karma is deposited in the Alaya consciousness, which is then dominated by karma and combined with material to form a new life. But what kind of life is it? Is it human, animal, bird, insect or ant? The Alaya consciousness itself cannot act on its own and is completely under the control of karma. The Buddhist scriptures say that the situation where karma pulls the Alaya consciousness is like a debt collector who first pulls the stronger one. This means that the side with the heaviest karma will fall into that side.
Sentient beings in the three realms create karma due to confusion, suffer from the karma they create, and are further confused by the suffering they experience. These three factors of confusion, karma, and suffering form a vicious cycle. However, because the karma created due to confusion can be good or bad, heavy or light, the results in the six realms can also be different in terms of suffering and happiness. The karma consciousness is born here and dies there, and this cycle is called the cycle of the six realms.
The so-called Six Realms are the Heavenly Realm, the Human Realm, the Asura Realm, the Animal Realm, the Hungry Ghost Realm, and the Hell Realm. The first three are called the Three Good Realms, and the last three are called the Three Evil Realms. Among them, the Heavenly Realm has the greatest blessing and less suffering, which is the result of cultivating the ten virtuous deeds of the upper grade. The Human Realm has a mixture of pleasure and pain, which is the result of cultivating the ten virtuous deeds of the middle grade. The Asura Realm has the same blessing as the Heavenly Realm, but with a heavy heart of anger and constant strife, which is the result of cultivating the ten virtuous deeds of the lower grade. The Animal Realm, which is one of the lower three realms, is characterized by ignorance, stupidity, devouring and killing, which is the result of cultivating the ten evil deeds of the lowest grade. The Hungry Ghost Realm is often plagued by hunger and suffering, and its suffering is greater than that of the Animal Realm, which is the result of cultivating the ten evil deeds of the middle grade. The lowest realm is the Hell Realm, which is the result of cultivating the ten evil deeds of the upper grade and experiencing extreme pain. However, within these six realms, the pleasure, pain, and blessing of each realm are also diverse. For example, humans have wealth, poverty, long life, and early death, and animals have birds, beasts, insects, and crustaceans. In the realm of ghosts, there are various types of wealth, such as no wealth, little wealth, and much wealth. In the Heavenly Realm, there are various heavens in the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. All in all, they are all results of the influence of karma, rising or falling due to good or evil, which is naturally so.
The sentient beings in the Three Realms and Six Realms include the Realm of Desire (the world with desire for sex and food), the Realm of Form (the visible world without desire for sex and food), and the Formless Realm (the world of mental consciousness without form).
Buddhist View on Life
After understanding the inherent Buddha nature of human beings and the delusional mind arising from attachment, recognizing the fundamental nature of birth and death, which is the Alayavijnana, and the power that governs this consciousness, which is karma, and understanding the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, the Three Times Cause and Effect, and the Six Realms of Reincarnation, we can then look at the value and meaning of life and our attitude towards life. Thus, we have a criterion: to measure the value and meaning of life with Buddha nature, Alayavijnana, karma, and the stance of cause and effect. This is the Buddhist view of life.
First, we look at life from the standpoint of causality. Causality is the law of the universe, the basic principle of birth, death, and change. The characteristic of this law is that the fruit arises from the cause, and things await completion through reasoning. The cause must bear fruit, and the fruit must have a cause. As the saying goes, “You reap what you sow.” The causality of life has two aspects, good and evil. If one plants good seeds, they will reap good fruit. If one plants evil seeds, they will reap evil fruit. The law of causality applies to the three times, and there will always be fruit for every cause. As the saying goes, “If you want to know the cause of the past, look at what you are experiencing now. If you want to know the fruit of the future, look at what you are doing now.” If we are in a fortunate situation now, we should not be complacent. If we are in a difficult situation, we should not blame the heavens and the earth.
Second, we look at life from the standpoint of karma. The beauty and ugliness of the world and the happiness and suffering of life are all caused by the karma of sentient beings. The former is due to the collective karma of sentient beings, while the latter is due to personal karma. Karma is the result of past actions. We have three types of karma: body, speech, and mind. We can do evil with them, or we can do good. Evil thoughts such as greed, anger, and wrong views, evil actions such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, and evil speech such as lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and idle talk are all forms of evil karma. Good thoughts such as contemplating impurity, compassion, and dependent origination, good actions such as saving lives, giving, and purifying conduct, and good speech such as truthful speech, straightforward speech, gentle speech, and wise speech are all forms of good karma. The difference between good and evil karma is just a thought away. Therefore, our goal in life is to purify our consciousness and create a better environment for our future lives.
Third, from the perspective of the Alaya consciousness, the fundamental and ultimate source of all things is the Alaya consciousness, which is the amalgamation of inherent nature and delusional thoughts and contains both purity and defilement. Since time immemorial, it has continued to cycle through the six realms of existence without end. Although it is contaminated and grows within the six realms, it can also be purified and transcended to the realm of the holy. Therefore, the value of life does not lie in the ephemeral and illusory pleasures of the body and senses, but in the purification of the eternal essence of life. The method of purifying this essence is through the Six Paramitas of Buddhism, which are giving, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom. By eliminating the six afflictions of the mind, which are greed, anger, ignorance, attachment, confusion, and scatteredness, our essential nature can be restored to its original clarity, and we can attain eternal liberation.
From the perspective of Buddha-nature, the inherent nature possessed by each individual is identical to that of the Buddha, with boundless potential and virtue. However, due to ignorance and habitual tendencies, we become entangled in the cycle of samsara and sink into the sea of suffering. Nonetheless, our Buddha-nature is never diminished, and anyone can become a Buddha. Therefore, the Buddhist view of life is positive and optimistic, urging us to recognize the causes and consequences of our actions, avoid evil and cultivate good, purify our essential nature, and manifest the radiance of our human nature. If everyone could achieve this, then the earthly realm would transform into a Pure Land.
一切智 (yī qiè zhì): The name of Buddha’s wisdom. One of the three wisdoms, it understands all things and their nature, including the wisdom of equality and the emptiness of phenomena.
自然智 (zì rán zhì): All kinds of wisdom that arise naturally, without relying on any techniques or methods.
真性 (zhēn xìng): The true nature of all things, also known as the true self-nature.
常住佛性 (cháng zhù fó xìng): The original nature of all sentient beings, which is not affected by birth, death, or any physical changes. It is pure and untouched, just like Buddha’s nature.
妙真如性 (miào zhēn rú xìng): The essence of the true nature, which is beyond all concepts and forms. It is the reality of all phenomena, and is described as “permanent, wonderful, clear, and all-pervading” in the Surangama Sutra.
真如实相 (zhēn rú shí xiàng): The true essence of all things, which is not false or changing, but real and immutable. It is the pure and clear nature of all sentient beings, also known as the Dharma-body, Tathagata-garbha, Buddha-nature, etc.
业障 (yè zhàng): Obstacles created by evil karma, which hinders the path of enlightenment.
习气 (xí qì): Habits, inclinations, or residual tendencies, which are also known as defilements or afflictions.
烦恼 (fán nǎo): Mental and physical afflictions caused by delusions, such as greed, hatred, anger, and ignorance.
阿赖耶识 (ā lài yé shí): The eighth consciousness among the eight consciousnesses in Buddhist philosophy, also known as the store consciousness. It has three aspects: (1) the ability to store all good and bad seeds, (2) the repository of all impure mental states, and (3) the self-grasping aspect. It is also known as the “unfailing consciousness” because it never ceases to exist, even in the cycle of birth and death.
末那识 (mò nà shí): The seventh consciousness among the eight consciousnesses, also known as the “discriminating consciousness.” It is responsible for the cognitive processes of perception, memory, and conceptualization, and is closely related to the formation of the self-identity. The four fundamental afflictions of egoism, views, attachment, and pride are associated with this consciousness.