Seven Hermetic Principles | 1. Mind | Part Two

The Principle of Mind (All is Mind)

The Principle of Cause and Effect

The Principle of Vibration or Sound

The Principle of Correspondence

The Principle of Polarity or Opposites

The Principle of Rhythm or Cyclicity

The Principle of Gender

The first Principle of Mind could be said to represent ‘the absolute’ aspect of Reality transcendent and immanent at the same time

The other six principles represent the way in which this Mind Principle manifests as ‘the relative’, although in actual fact both the absolute and the relative are indivisible as non dual Reality itself.

Excerpt From “The Seven Laws of Reality and Being 

– Max Corradi

The principle of ‘Mind Only’ in the Buddhist tradition 

In a mirror surface or the surface of a vessel, a woman, as she adorns herself, sees her face, though her entire face seems to appear in these, it is neither existent nor non-existent there. All phenomena should be known to be like that. 

– The Buddha – Shri Samadhiraja Sutra 

In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition we find a particular school of thought called ‘Mind Only’ (Chittamatra) or ‘The Doctrine of Consciousness’ (Vijnanavada). The ‘Mind Only’ tenet system asserts that there are no such things as external phenomena. Mind, as a non dual self aware consciousness, is an absolute Reality. It is founded upon the Buddha’s statement that “All three worlds are Mind only” and it is expressed mainly in Buddhist scriptures like the ‘Lankavatara’ and ‘Dasabhumika’ Sutra. According to the ‘Mind Only’ philosophical school of thought, when we see a table, the visual form of the table that we see does not exist separately from the visual consciousness to which it appears. When several people see a table at the same time, each person is experiencing the ripening of tendencies (karmic seeds) of collective karma on his or her own mental continuum. It is not that each person is seeing a common table, nevertheless, the table is findable, and everyone can point to the same table, in terms of what each person is experiencing. In the visual cognition of the visual form of a table, the visual form and the visual consciousness seeing it come from or share the same source, a karmic ground. They arise simultaneously from it as parts of a single cognition, without coming from different sources. The great Buddhist ‘Mind Only’ Teacher Asanga in one of his works says that it is awareness (mind) which arises in the appearance of external objects, living beings, selves, and sense-data. Thus it is nothing but awareness itself that appears externally to be things and persons, and internally to be a self perceiving sense-data, and since objects which appear to be ‘out there’ are nothing but awareness itself, what we regard as reality is an  28 illusory manifestation of mind itself. Another important feature of this system is the concept of the eight types or aspects of consciousness. These eight types of consciousness should be understood as different aspects of the mind or consciousness of an unenlightened individual sentient being and not as separate unconnected entities, although their function in shaping our ‘external and internal reality’ is different. In general the Buddhist scriptures talk of five aspects of consciousness, five sensory consciousnesses, plus a mental consciousness. But in the Mind Only school two more types of consciousness are added to the five: the afflicted mind consciousness and the store-house or ground consciousness. 

The five sense consciousnesses arise in conjunction with the five physical sense faculties, and the sixth consciousness, arises in conjunction with the faculty of the conscious mind. The sixth consciousness is also called ‘the intermediate consciousness’ or the consciousness following immediately upon arising of sense perception. As soon as a sensory perception such as form occurs, the mental concept of that form immediately arises. The sixth mental consciousness, like the sensory consciousnesses, exists in one instant and ceases in the next moment. The seventh consciousness, the afflicted mind consciousness or egoconsciousness, is the ego principle itself, the principle of self individuation. It is called the afflicted-mind consciousness because it believes and grasps at one ‘s own personality as an illusory self, thinking there is a separate ‘me’ or an ‘I’. It possesses pride, which believes the ‘I’ is superior to others, it has attachment to the ‘I’ believing oneself as more deserving than others and gives rise to all the deluded and destructive views about Reality. 

The eighth consciousnesses, the store-house or ground consciousness is the source of all the other kinds of consciousness. It is beyond a subject-object duality, it is momentary and non-substantial but is not a passively receiving ‘dust bin’ of the mind, on the contrary it is dynamic in organizing, integrating new tendencies and structuring the individual’s experience of reality, in fact it is the source of all impure or unenlightened appearances. Every sentient being with its ‘seemingly subjective and objective’ world can be reduced to  29 its ‘own’ ground consciousness, and this ground consciousness is basically the sum of all motivated actions and intentions from beginning less time. The eighth consciousnesses, is also called the store-house consciousnesses because it functions as a receptacle and container of the so-called ‘seeds’ or karmic causes of past experiences. These ‘seeds’ project themselves as an illusionary world of empirical subjects and corresponding objects. The ground consciousness is the foundation and source for the mind because all karmic latencies are stored in it. The latent karmic imprints settle in the ground consciousness to express themselves at a later time. 

A karmic latency will awaken as an experience of suffering or happiness when the right circumstances present themselves. Positive karma doesn’t immediately express itself as happiness, rather the karmic latencies rest within the ground consciousness and arise later as a result when the secondary circumstances allow it. Similarly, accumulated negative karma does not express itself immediately, but the karmic imprints remain in the ground consciousness to ripen under the appropriate circumstances causing suffering later on in one’s experience. All the karmic seeds, good or bad, within the ground consciousness, sprout and manifest as the other seven consciousnesses, as if the ground consciousness were the ocean and the other seven consciousnesses were waves that appear upon its surface. Since the eighth consciousness is the basis of all unenlightened experiences including future experiences, creating imprints in the present through mind training and habituation leads to experiencing their results in the future. Habituating oneself to positive thoughts and actions allows negative imprints to decrease and positive qualities to increase resulting in future happiness. Since the subconscious mind spoken of in Hermetic teachings is basically the eighth consciousness of the Buddhist Mind Only tradition, by working with our conscious mind we can re- program our subconscious mind, in order to achieve new life conditions and experiences. To conclude, the final aim of the follower of the Buddhist ‘Mind Only’ school is to put an end to the tendency of external projections of the ground consciousness transforming it  30 into the non-dual Wisdom of Enlightened Mind, Reality itself beyond the duality of subject and object. 


The Buddha’s wisdom: the ability to see the two truths simultaneously

-Excerpt form Tibetan Buddhist Teachings of Thubten Chordon

When we talk about the qualities of the Buddha’s wisdom, we are referring to the ability to see the two truths—the ultimate truth and the relative or conventional truth—simultaneously. Conventional truth refers to all the things as they appear to us, all the things that function within our daily life. All the functioning things, all the things that appear to us, your watch, whoever you live with, your boss and everybody else are all conventional truths.

Ultimate truth is the way things really exist beyond the appearances. Conventional truths—tables and chairs and popcorn—all appear to us as truly existent, but they really are not that way. On the appearance or conventional level, all these things appear as truly existent, solid and concrete to us ordinary beings. However, on the ultimate level, the ultimate truths of those objects is that they lack any inherent, essential nature that exists independent of other phenomena.

The perception of an arya being

When you get to high levels on the path and do deep meditation on the wisdom that perceives the emptiness of inherent existence, at the time of that deep meditation, none of these phenomena appear to your consciousness. All a high practitioner perceives is the emptiness of inherent existence. Then when they come out of meditation, all the appearances of phenomena still appear inherently existent to them, because their mind still has some stains on it. But because they have realized emptiness, they know that things may look solid, but really are not solidly independent.

It is like when we watch a movie, it looks like there is a real person on the screen. But when we stop to think about it, we know it is not a real person; it is just a movie. In the same way, a highly realized being, an arya, has discordance between their meditation time and their time after meditation. In meditation they see emptiness directly with no appearance of chairs, rugs and things like this. But then when they come out of meditation and are walking down the street, they cannot perceive the emptiness of things and all these things again appear truly existent. They cannot directly perceive the emptiness at that time, but they know these things are empty so they can say, “Oh! This is like an illusion. It looks truly existent, but it really is not.” So they flip-flop between meditation and post-meditation perception.

The perception of a Buddha

Now the special quality of a Buddha is that a Buddha can see both levels of truth simultaneously. This is something a Buddha can do that all the other arya beings, highly realized beings, cannot do. The latter go back and forth between the two perceptions. A Buddha can perceive both at the same time. In addition, when the Buddha perceives conventional phenomena, these things do not appear to a Buddha as truly existent or inherently existent anymore. They appear as completely dependent arising. This is because the Buddha has totally removed that last veil, that last stain in the mind which causes the discordant appearance.

So when we talk about the Buddha’s wisdom, we are talking about this incredible ability to perceive how things really exist on a conventional level, dependent on causes and conditions, parts and consciousness, terms and labels. At the same time, Buddhas perceive the deeper level at which all phenomena exist, that all phenomena do not have any inherent existence whatsoever. This is a very special achievement.

The significance of Tibetan teacher’s hand mudras

Sometimes you will see pictures of a Tibetan teacher that show him sitting with one hand in the teaching position and the other hand in his lap in the meditative position. The hand in the meditation position is showing that he is in deep meditation on emptiness and at the same time, he can teach. In other words, he is able to deal on a conventional level and at the same time he perceives emptiness. That is symbolically showing, through the hand gestures, the qualities of a fully enlightened one.

One thought on “Seven Hermetic Principles | 1. Mind | Part Two

  1. This is a fascinating and informative article about the principles of Mind Only and the Buddhist tradition. It explains the different aspects of consciousness and how they shape our reality. It is interesting to learn about the ability of highly realized beings and Buddhas to perceive both ultimate truth and conventional truth simultaneously.
    founder of balance thy life


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