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Fifty Verses on the Nature of Consciousness

THICH NHAT HANH                                               
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The fifty verses are from Transformation at the Base: Fifty Verses on the Nature of Consciousness by Thich Nhat Hanh (2001), Parallax Press

The book containing these verses and Thich Nhat Hanh's commentary is now published by Parallax in paperback, under the title Understanding Our Mind.

This page is an edited version of a page published at Hiro's Home Page


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50

One
Mind is a field
In which every kind of seed is sown.
This mind-field can also be called
"All the seeds".




Two
In us are infinite varieties of seeds -
Seeds of samsara, nirvana, delusion, and enlightenment,
Seeds of suffering and happiness,
Seeds of perceptions, names, and words.


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Three
Seeds that manifest as body and mind,
As realms of being, stages, and worlds,
Are all stored in our consciousness.
That is why it is called "store".


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Four
Some seeds are innate,
Handed down by our ancestors.
Some were sown while we were still in the womb,
Others were sown when we were children.


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Five
Whether transmitted by family, friends,
Society, or education
All our seeds are, by nature,
Both individual and collective.


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Six
The quality of our life
Depends on the quality
Of the seeds
That lie deep in our consciousness.


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Seven
The function of store consciousness
Is to receive and maintain
Seeds and their habit energies,
So they can manifest in the world, or remain dormant.


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Eight
Manifestations from store consciousness
Can be perceived directly in the mode of things-in-themselves,
As representations, or as mere images.
All are included in the eighteen elements of being.


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Nine
All manifestations bear the marks
Of both the individual and the collective.
The maturation of store consciousness functions in the same way
In its participation in the different stages and realms of being.


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Ten
Unobstructed and indeterminate,
Store consciousness is continuously flowing and changing.
At the same time, it is endowed
With all five universal mental formations.


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Eleven
Although impermanent and without a separate self,
Store consciousness contains all phenomena in the cosmos,
Both conditioned and unconditioned,
In the form of seeds.


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Twelve
Seeds can produce seeds.
Seeds can produce formations.
Formations can produce seeds.
Formations can produce formations.


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Thirteen
Seeds and formations
Both have the nature of interbeing and interpenetration.
The one is produced by the all.
The all is dependent on the one.


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Fourteen
Store consciousness is neither the same nor different,
Individual nor collective.
Same and different inter-are.
Collective and individual give rise to each other.


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Fifteen
When delusion is overcome, understanding is there,
And store consciousness is no longer subject to afflictions.
Store consciousness becomes Great Mirror Wisdom,
Reflecting the cosmos in all directions. Its name is now Pure Consciousness.


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Part 2. Manas

Sixteen
Seeds of delusion give rise
To the internal formations of craving and afflictions.
These forces animate our consciousness
As mind and body manifest themselves.


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Seventeen
With store consciousness as its support,
Manas arises.
Its function is mentation,
Grasping the seeds it considers to be a "self."


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Eighteen
The object of means is the mark of a self
Found in the field of representations
At the point where manas
And store consciousness touch.


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Nineteen
As the ground of wholesome and unwholesome
Of the other six manifesting consciousness,
Manas continues discriminating.
Its nature is both indeterminate and obscured.


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Twenty
Manas goes with the five universals,
With mati of the five particulars
And with the four major and eight secondary afflictions.
All are indeterminate and obscured.

[Note from C.McLean: 'mati' = prajna, one of the 'five particulars.']
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Twenty-One
As shadow follows form,
Manas always follows store.
It is a misguided attempt to survive,
Craving for continuation and blind satisfaction.


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Twenty-Two
When the first stage of the bodhisattva path is attained,
The obstacles of knowledge and afflictions are transformed.
At the tenth stage, the yogi transforms the belief in a separate self,
And store consciousness is released from manas.


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Part 3. Mind Consciousness

Twenty-Three
With manas as its base
And phenomena as its objects,
Mind consciousness manifests itself.
Its sphere of cognition is the broadest.


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Twenty-Four
Mind consciousness has three modes of perception.
It has access to the three fields of perception and is capable of having three natures.
All mental formations manifest in it -
Universal, particular, wholesome, unwholesome, and indeterminate.


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Twenty-Five
Mind consciousness is the root of all actions of body and speech.
Its natures is to manifest mental formations, but its existence is not continuous.
Mind consciousness gives rise to actions that lead to ripening.
It plays the role of the gardener, sowing all the seeds.


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Twenty-Six
Mind consciousness is always functioning
Except in states of non-perception,
The two attainments,
Deep sleep, and fainting or coma.


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Twenty-Seven
Mind consciousness operates in five ways -
In cooperation with the five sense consciousnesses
And independent of them,
Dispersed, concentrated, or unstably.


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Part 4. Sense Consciousnesses

Twenty-Eight
Based on mind consciousness,
The five sense consciousnesses,
Separately or together with mind consciousness,
Manifest like waves on water.


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Twenty-Nine
Their field of perception is things-in-themselves.
Their mode of perception is direct.
Their nature can be wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral.
They operate on the sense organs and the sensation center of the brain.


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Thirty
They arise with the
Universal, particular, and wholesome,
The basic and secondary unwholesome,
And the indeterminate mental formations.


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Part 5. The Nature of Reality

Thirty-One
Consciousness always includes
Subject and object.
Self and other, inside and outside
Are all creations of the conceptual mind.


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Thirty-Two
Consciousness has three parts -
Perceiver, perceived, and wholeness.
All seeds and mental formations
Are the same.


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Thirty-Three
Birth and death depend on conditions.
Consciousness is by nature a discriminatory manifestation.
Perceiver and perceived depend on each other
As subject and object of perception.


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Thirty-Four
In individual and collective manifestation,
Self and nonself are not two.
The cycle of birth and death is achieved in every moment.
Consciousness evolves in the ocean of birth and death.


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Thirty-Five
Space, time, and the four great elements
Are all manifestations of consciousness.
In the process of interbeing and interpenetration,
Our store consciousness ripens in every moment.


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Thirty-Six
Beings manifest when conditions are sufficient.
When conditions lack, they no longer appear.
Still, there is no coming, no going,
No being, and no nonbeing.


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Thirty-Seven
When a seed gives rise to a formation,
It is the primary cause.
The subject of perception depends on the object of perception.
This is an object as cause.


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Thirty-Eight
Conditions that are favorable or non-obstructing
Are supporting causes.
The fourth type of condition
Is the immediacy of continuity.


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Thirty-Nine
Interdependent manifestation has two aspects -
Deluded mind and true mind.
Deluded mind is imaginary construction.
True mind is fulfilled nature.


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Forty
Construction impregnates the mind with seeds of delusion,
Bringing about the misery of samsara.
The fulfilled opens the door of wisdom
To the realm of suchness.


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Part 6. The Path of Practice

Forty-One
Meditating on the nature of interdependence
Can transform delusion into enlightenment.
Samsara and suchness are not two.
They are one and the same.

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Forty-Two
Even while blooming, the flower is already in the flower.
And the compost is already in the flower.
Flower and compost are not two.
Delusion and enlightenment inter-are.


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Forty-Three
Don't run away from birth and death.
Just look deeply into your mental formations.
When the true nature of interdependence is seen,
The truth of interbeing is realized.


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Forty-Four
Practice conscious breathing
To water the seeds of awakening.
Right View is a flower
Blooming in the field of mind consciousness.


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Forty-Five
When sunlight shines,
It helps all vegetation grow.
When mindfulness shines,
It transforms all mental formations.


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Forty-Six
We recognize internal knots and latent tendencies
So we can transform them.
When our habit energies dissipate,
Transformation at the base is there.


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Forty-Seven
The present moment
Contains past and future.
The secret of transformation
Is in the way we handle this very moment.


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Forty-Eight
Transformation takes place
In our daily life.
To make the work of transformation easy,
Practice with a Sangha.


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Forty-Nine
Nothing is born, nothing dies.
Nothing to hold on to, nothing to release.
Samsara is nirvana.
There is nothing to attain.


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Fifty
When we realize that afflictions are no other than enlightenment,
We can ride the waves of birth and death in peace,
Traveling in the boat of compassion on the ocean of delusion,
Smiling the smile of non-fear.


Ψ



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