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alaya-vijnana

(Sanskrit: "store of consciousness"), key concept of the Vijnanavada ("Consciousness-affirming") school of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Since that school maintains that no external reality exists, while retaining the position that knowledge, and therefore a knowable, exists, it assumes that knowledge itself is the object of consciousness. It therefore postulates a higher storage consciousness, the final basis of the apparent individual. The universe consists in an infinite number of possible ideas that lie inactive in storage. That latent consciousness projects an interrupted sequence of thoughts, while it itself is in restless flux until the karma, or accumulated consequences of past deeds, is destroyed. That storage consciousness contains all the impressions of previous experiences (vasanas, "perfumings"), which form the germs (bija) of future karmic action, an illusive force that creates categories that are in fact only fictions of the spirit. That illusive force (maya) determines the world of difference and belongs to man's nature, producing the erroneous notions of an I and a non-I. That duality is conquered only by enlightenment (bodhi), which transforms a person into a buddha.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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