Yogācāra, often referred to as the “mind-only” school, is an influential school of Buddhist philosophy and psychology, a profound exploration of consciousness and the path of practice. This philosophy forms the basis for many Mahayana Buddhist traditions, including Zen, Chan, and Tibetan Buddhism. Fred’s talk gives a comprehensive introduction and experiential understanding of Yogācāra, and how the teaching provides a road map to personal transformation and spiritual growth.
Fred emphasizes that Yogācāra does not claim that external reality is illusory, but rather that our experience of the world is shaped by our minds. He introduces the Eight Consciousnesses model:
- Eye Consciousness
- Ear Consciousness
- Nose Consciousness
- Tongue Consciousness
- Body Consciousness
- Thinking Mind Consciousness
- Manas Consciousness
- Ālāya (Storehouse) Consciousness
The upper six consciousnesses involve our sensory perceptions and thoughts. Fred points out that our experience of the world is continually shifting due to the inherent instability of these upper levels. The Ālāya (Storehouse) consciousness is where our actions, thoughts, and emotions leave imprints or seeds. These seeds influence our attitudes and behaviors, affecting our overall mental state. Fred described Manas as the intermediary between the upper six levels and the Ālāya consciousness. It is the sense of self, the ego, and the attachment to personal identity; it creates a false sense of separation between ourselves and others. This aspect of consciousness plays a significant role in how we perceive the sensory information we collect, construct narratives, and form judgments that dictate how we interact with the world.
The teacher points out that our path of transformation must address the storehouse consciousness and the attachments of our ego. He emphasizes that understanding these aspects of consciousness helps us comprehend why certain patterns of behavior and thought are difficult to change. By cultivating mindfulness and awareness, each of us can recognize and transform unwholesome mind states when they arise.
Fred also emphasizes that the transformative journey occurs throughout our daily lives, not only during formal meditation. He encourages practitioners to develop altruistic qualities to counteract the self-centered tendencies of the ego. The talk concludes by suggesting that through meditation, individuals can directly experience the undefiled nature of consciousness beyond the conditioned self.
During group discussion, we explored our understanding of the Manas consciousness and how the Yogācāra teaching compares to modern psychology. Several members expressed their appreciation for Fred’s pragmatic approach in introducing Yogācāra. His talk shows us that this teaching not only offers theoretical ideas on how the mind works but also provides a concrete way for us to work with it.
The video we shared during our session is posted below. Happy learning!
From the Teachers: Yogācāra
NOTE: We apologies for any advertisement you may see during video play. These ads are inserted into the videos by YouTube. Neither the Florida Community of Mindfulness (publisher of the recordings on YouTube), the speaker, nor Chicago Buddhist Meditation Group profits from these ads. Thank you for your understanding.
Yogācāra: A Concise Instruction for Practitioners — by Fred Eppsteiner *
* Fred Eppsteiner has been a student of Buddhism and a practitioner of meditation for over fifty years. He has practiced primarily in the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist lineages, but bases his teachings on the full breadth of the Buddhist philosophical, psychological and meditative traditions.
He began his Zen practice with Roshi Philip Kapleau (author of The Three Pillars of Zen) in the late 1960s at the Rochester Zen Center in upstate New York. In the mid-1970s, he established a close relationship with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. In 1994, Fred received Dharma Transmission and permission to teach from the Master.
Fred has also had a long-standing relationship with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (Vajrayana), and is an experienced practitioner within the Nyingma lineage of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) teachings. His teacher was Dzongnar Rinpoche from the Palyul Monastery of Tibet.
Fred is the editor of two books on Buddhism, “The Path of Compassion” and “Interbeing”. In 1986 Fred moved to Naples, FL, where he practiced psychotherapy and founded the Naples Community of Mindfulness in 1998. He is also the founder and the resident Dharma teacher of the Florida Community of Mindfulness in Tampa, FL.