By Swami Harshananda
Ālaya-vijñāna literally means ‘consciousness, the home of impression’.
Whether the external world is perceived through the real senses or unreal ones is a question to all. If it is perceived through real, then what is its nature and if perceived through unreal then what is the reality? These are the questions often raised and discussed by the philosophical systems.
The Vijñānavāda school of Buddhism (also called the Yogācāra school) denies reality to the external world and considers it as ideas or states of the internal vijñāna (consciousness or mind), which alone is real. This vijñāna is the ālaya or abode of all the impressions. Hence it is named as ‘ālaya-vijñāna.’
It is the potential mind that is similar to the ātman of other systems. However it is considered not as an unchanging substance, but as a stream of continuously changing states. Through proper culture it can gradually stop the arising of the undesirable mental states and develop into the ideal state of nirvāṇa (emancipation).
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore