The idea that there is no subject-object in the alayavijnana is problematic already. The very definition of consciousness is that there is a subject consciousness being conscious of a mental object. If there were a stand alone, independent consciousness it would make it a substance, an eternal thing, an atman. Also, if the basis were pure there is no reason for impurity to arise. Pure mixing with impure to make a single consciousness is another problem, because it lacks the explanation for the connection between the two. By the way, in your quote it just gives an example but not an explanation of latent seeds, failing to address the problem of unconscious mental factors. Also, the seeds are not one but many mental factors, each with its own causal continuum of momentary existence and disappearance.
Some great points raised.
In DT Suzuki’s introduction to his translation of the Lankavatara Sutra, he writes,
Strictly speaking, the Ālaya is not a Vijñāna, has no discerning power in it; it indiscriminately harbours all that is poured into it through the channel of the Vijñānas. The Ālaya is perfectly neutral, indifferent, and does not offer to give judgments.
If we combine this with the notion that subjectivity arises in the manos-vijnana, we can draw the conclusion that, whatever the alaya-vijnana may be, there is no functioning dualistic consciousness. Clearly this gets back to your notion that there is no unconscious consciousness.
If we accept that there is no active consciousness at this level, does that also imply there is no knowing quality of the mind present? I would say no, it doesn’t. At the level of the alaya-vijnana, there is an ignorant knowing quality of the mind undifferentiated from the vasanas (since no dualistic consciousness is active). When the ignorant quality of the mind recognizes the vasanas, then consciousness arises automatically. We are then at the level of manos-vijnana, and we are on our way up the causal chain of dependent origination: Ignorance (avidya)-->fabrications (samskara/vasana)-->consciousness (vijnana)-->namarupa (name and form) --> etc.
But, then we are left with how to explain the arising of latent seeds (samskaras/vasanas) to begin with. Let’s see what we can come up with by starting with the first three links in the chain of DO: Ignorance (avidya)-->fabrications (samskara/vasana)-->consciousness (vijnana). The chain of DO is a noun-based chain. It doesn’t capture the dynamic quality of the chain. Ignorance is not a thing. It is a state of unknowing. There is a dynamic quality of active confusion for the knowing quality of the mind. At the level of samskaras, there is an active, fabricating quality of the mind that produces fabrications. The word samskara is actually a verb but has taken on both noun and verb meanings. From The Doctrine of the Buddha: The Religion of Reason and Meditation
By George Grimm, M. Keller-Grimm, Max Hoppe,
Sankhara is derived from the verb sankharoti, an equivalent to the Latin verb, “conficere”, meaning literally “to make (together)”, i.e. “to put together”. Hence its participium praeteritum means “put together”, “joined together”, in the sense of “made”, “created”, “produced”. According to the Canon, it can be used of anything in the world: plainly everything is sankhata, i.e. put together, joined together, and even therefor created, produced. …
The substantive verb pertaining to sankhata is Sankhara, which means “the making together”, “the putting together”, “the joining together”, the producing”: “Monks, the sankhara derive their name from the fact that they produce (sanhkaronti) what is sankhata.” Therefore the concept sankhara is as all-comprising as that of sankhata: simply everything is sanhkata, “brought forth”, “producted”, and simply everything which is sankhata, is based upon a sankhara, and “act of producing”. In this, sankhara means, first of all, the act of bringing forth, but may as well cover that which has been brought forth, produced, i.e. may as well be used in the sense of sankhata, just like our word “Production” (which also covers both concepts: the action of producing as well as that which has been produced, namely the product. p.207
One translation of samskara that I have come across that I like is fabrication
. Fabrication, in addition to meaning both
the process of fabricating and what is fabricated, also has the meaning of something made up or not real. I don’t know if yogacara says much about this fundamental fabricating quality of the mind. Mostly we just read about the fabrications. [Side note: from what I can tell in my readings, there really isn’t much difference in the terms vasana and samskara. There have been distinctions made, but on the whole they appear to be synonyms.]
From this, we can conclude that there are two basic qualities of the mind: a knowing quality and a fabricating quality. Although conceptually thought of as separate, they are in fact not separate at all--since they both originate from mind which is empty. When the confused knowing quality of the mind recognizes the fabrications of the fabricating quality of mind, dualistic consciousness arises.
If we conceptually divide up a seamless process (DO), we get 1) the alaya-vijnana as a container for both
the confused knower and the fabrications, and 2) the manos-vijnana container for the grasper-grasped dualistic consciousness. In this strictly theoretical division, there is no consciousness per se in the alaya-vijnana, harkening back to Suzuki’s comment that the Alaya is not strictly a Vijnana. However, there is still an ignorant knowing and fabrication. Since there is no subject-object dualism at work, this state is by definition an undifferentiated, or non-dual state. [Side note: to address bryandavis' comment, this is an ignorant non-dual state.]
I’ve mentioned this metaphor before: prismatic light. Originally, the fabricating quality of the mind is a undifferentiated, dynamic energy: light. When that undifferentiated light encounters the prism of the ignorant knowing quality of the mind, consciousness and variety manifest. Of course this is only a conceptual way of talking about something that is happening at a non-conceptual level. Any model we use to discuss what is going on at this level is bound to fail in some aspect.
The words citta and alaya-vijnana are considered synonyms. Alaya of course means storage. Regarding citta, Suzuki notes,
Citta comes from the root cit, "to think", but in the Laṅkā the derivation is made from the root ci, "to pile up", "to arrange in order". The Citta is thus a storehouse where the seeds of all thoughts and deeds are accumulated and stored up.
An interesting alternative way to think of “to arrange in order”, is to view this notion as sequential time. Thoughts are arranged in order. Thus we have the appearance of a continuous order of thoughts over time. The alaya-vijnana can be seen as the fabricated order of an endless sequence of thoughts through time. From a practitioner’s point of view, I like this notion. Here is an excellent quote by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche from As It Is, Vol 2,
Unless we know how to see our own nature, we reconnect again with the twelve links of dependent origination and the wheel of samsara spins endlessly. If you first recognize the nature of that which is ignorant, of that which is unknowing, then samsara stops at the first step in this wheel. That is called “ignorance purified at the very base”. The moment you recognize mind essence, this self-knowing wakefulness interrupts the stream of deluded thinking which is formation, the second link. Once formation is topped, dualistic consciousness stops, and gradually all the other links are cleared up. In one instant, the very basis for continuing in samsara has been interrupted, because dualistic consciousness has become original wakefulness. P. 226