All-ground consciousness

From Rigpa Wiki
Revision as of 22:56, 27 December 2020 by Sébastien (talk | contribs) (→‎Alternative Translations)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The all-ground consciousness (Skt. ālayavijñāna; Tib. ཀུན་གཞི་རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་, kun shyi nampar shépa, Wyl. kun gzhi rnam par shes pa) is the eighth of the eight consciousnesses posited by the Chittamatra and Svatantrika-Madhyamika schools. In these systems, there are three mental consciousnesses, of which two are active (the sixth and seventh) and one is inactive (the eighth). It is a subtle, neutral level of consciousness, in which traces of past actions are stored as 'seeds' ready to ripen into future experience.

All-ground consciousness is mentioned in Yogachara related sutras and is systematically described in treaties by Asanga and Vasubandhu.

Another term used for all-ground consciousness is 'appropriating consciousness' (Skt. ādānavijñānam; Tib. ལེན་པའི་རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་, Wyl. len pa'i rnam par shes pa).


Tib. ཀུན་, kun means ‘all’, Tib. གཞི་, shyi means ‘ground’, Tib. རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་, nampar shépa is ‘consciousness’.


Mipham Rinpoche explained:

The state of consciousness that is mere clarity and knowing, which does not veer off into an active sense cognition, and which is the support of habitual tendencies, is called the alayavijñana, the consciousness that is the universal ground (ཀུན་གཞི་རྣམ་ཤེས་, Wyl. kun gzhi rnam shes).[1]


  • The alayavijñana or all-ground consciousness is neutral, neither positive nor negative.
  • It is not as coarse as the other seven forms of consciousness.

Thrangu Rinpoche explains:

The eighth consciousness [...] is the basis or ground for the arising of all other types of consciousness. It is that fundamental clarity of consciousness, or cognitive lucidity, that has been there from the beginning. As the capacity for conscious experience, it is the ground for the arising of eye consciousness, ear consciousness, etc. Like the seventh, it is constantly present, constantly operating, and it persists until the attainment of final awakening.[2]


The all-ground consciousness is divided into a 'seed aspect' and a 'maturation aspect'.

Alternative Translations

  • Basis-consciousness (John Powers)
  • Consciousness as the basis of all ordinary experience (LCN)
  • Ground-of-all consciousness (Gyurme Dorje)
  • Store consciousness (Pettit)
  • Storehouse consciousness
  • Stratum-bound perceptivity (HVG)
  • Subliminal cognition (Buddhavacana Translation Group)


  1. The Adornment of the Middle Way, p.238
  2. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, appendix, Creation and Completion, p.126

Further Reading

  • Samdhinirmochana Sutra
  • Lambert Schmithausen, Alayavijñâna. On the Origin & the Early Development of a Central Concept of Yogâcâra Philosophy. International Inst. for Buddhist Studies (Tokyo 1987).
  • William S. Waldron, The Buddhist Unconscious: The Alaya-Vijñana in the Context of Indian Buddhist Thought, RoutledgeCurzon 2003
  • Ben Connelly, Inside Vasubandhu's Yogacara: A Practitioner's Guide, Wisdom Publications, 2016, ISBN 978-1614292845

Internal Links