"Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence."
Um...I hope these slogans aren’t written in order of difficulty. Number Five has been a real challenge! For the past three weeks, I have been carrying the card around with me: in my bag to and from work, near my piano on lesson days. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ve connected with the “present, unbiased awareness” referred to in Pema Chödrön’s discussion once during that period of time. Uh-oh. So I decided to satisfy myself with an exploration of what this “alaya” thing means.
Interestingly, the first Google results for Alaya are in reference to it as a baby name. I’ve never met someone named Alaya, but it is kind of beautiful. In these entries alaya has different meanings in various languages, but they are all variations on a theme.
Basque = joyful
Hebrew = to ascend
Arabic = lofty, sublime
Swahili = exalted
In reference to alaya as a form of consciousness, the "storehouse consciousness" or "root consciousness", the meaning has pointers back to the word’s meaning in these other languages. According to buddhist principles, maintaining oneself in the present moment leads to a reduction of suffering. Thus one might say joyful, ascended, sublime, or exalted.
My internet meanderings also led me over to lionsroar.com where I read an article about Integrated Information Theory (IIT) in which it is posited that consciousness is everywhere and can be measured. One of the neuroscientists involved in the development of this theory, Christof Koch, met with the Dalai Lama in 2013. He was struck by the similarities between his evolving ideas of the nature of consciousness and the buddhist notion that sentience is everywhere.
The most thought-provoking paragraph for me, given my current emotional disconnection with alaya at this moment in time is as follows:
"The late Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche stated that while mind, along with all objects, is empty, unlike most objects, it is also luminous. In a similar vein, IIT says consciousness is an intrinsic quality of everything yet only appears significantly in certain conditions — like how everything has mass, but only large objects have noticeable gravity.”
In that I am reminded of the preciousness of human form. Even when I am not able to rest in the nature of alaya this human form at least has enough “mass” that consciousness can appear with “noticeable gravity.” Therefore the potential for success in this regard remains as long as this human form does.
Whew! Let’s put this one away for now...
Now buy the Book!