There Is No Suffering 38

The Yogacara, or Consciousness-Only School of Buddhism, speaks of sixth, seventh, and eighth consciousnesses. The sixth consciousness refers to the ordinary mind of discrimination, and also includes the consciousness aspect of the five sense organs (eye consciousness, ear consciousness, and so on). As already mentioned, the seventh consciousness corresponds to a kind of overseer of sensation, perception, volition, and discriminating consciousness. It is the part of our consciousness that attaches the ‘I’ to everything we do and think we are. Finally, the eighth consciousness (alaya) is the karmic repository within sentient beings. The Heart Sutra, however, predates the teachings of the Consciousness-Only School, and does not mention these different levels of consciousness.

The five skandhas are the essence of our being, and whether we intellectually grasp the concept or not, we must free ourselves from our attachment to them in order to be liberated. Of course, liberation would never happen of its own accord. Our recognizable as well as tacit attachments are too deeply rooted for us simply to drop them. Therefore, Buddhism outlines a path that can lead to enlightenment. Hence, to be liberated one must hear the Dharma, practice the methods, and contemplate the five skandhas until one directly realizes their true nature. In other words, to develop wisdom, one must practice.

Arhats22 have developed the ‘eye of wisdom,’ which liberates them from attachment to self and gives them a new perspective on existence. However, they are not completely free from attachment to the subtle, elemental dharmas. Bodhisattvas have the ‘eye of Dharma,’ which liberates them from all attachments. Although liberated, they neither detest nor cherish the world, but choose to remain in it to help sentient beings.