Why Alaya Vinnana and Manas is not supported in Theravada?

The objective of this question is not to criticise Mahayana teaching, but to compare and contrast the idea so we will have a better understanding of Theravada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Consciousnesses

  • 1
    Would it be fair to say that Theravada is based on the Tipitaka, that Alaya Vinnana and Manas are not in the Tipitaka? Does that answer the question? I'm asking because I guess that could be a true answer but unsatisfying or trivial, so I'm wondering what more than that are you asking.
    – ChrisW
    Nov 25, 2017 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


It is - https://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha195.htm

"Thus we can see that vijnana represents the simple reaction or response of the sense-organs when they come in contact with external objects. This is the uppermost or superficial aspect or layer of the vijnanaskandha. Manas represents the aspect of its mental functioning, thinking, reasoning, conceiving ideas, etc. Citta, which is here called alayavijnana, represents the deepest, finest and subtlest aspect or layer of the Aggregate of Consciousness. It contains all the traces or impressions of the past actions and all good and bad future potentialities. The Sandhinirmocana-sutra also says that alayavijnana is called citta (Tibetan sems)."

  • "It is" ... are you saying "It (Alaya Vinnana and Manas) is supported, in Theravada doctrine"?
    – ChrisW
    Nov 25, 2017 at 9:19

In Theravada, there are five khandha (aggregates), namely, materiality, feeling, perception, mental formation (sankhara) & consciousness (vinnana).

Alaya Vinnana and Manas Vinnana is not supported in Theravada because alaya & manas are sankhara khandha rather than vinnana khandha.

Alaya is 'citta', which is 'sankhara khandha' & not vinnana khandha.

Manas is thinking & intellect, which is 'sankhara khandha' & not vinnana khandha.

Vinnana is the basic awareness that knows sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches & mental objects, where these mental objects include citta & manas.

Since citta (alaya) and manas are objects of consciousness & are sankhara khandha, they are not a type of consciousness because they are objects (ayatana), similar to how a sound or smell is not consciousness but an object (ayatana).

The above should explain why these ideas of Alaya Vinnana and Manas Vinnana are not supported by Theravada.

An analogy is required here to prevent misunderstanding.

Imagine there is a bathroom with six mirrors, electric power points (wall sockets) & a bathroom cabinet to store soap, shampoo, razors, etc.

enter image description here

In this bathroom:

  1. The six mirrors are the six consciousnesses, which have a purpose of merely reflecting;

  2. The electric power points are 'manas', which have the purpose of thinking, decision making, intention, etc; and

  3. The bathroom cabinet is 'alaya' or 'citta', which stores emotions, defilements, tendencies, wisdom, metta, etc.

Its like a computer, with six computer screens.

enter image description here

In this computer:

  1. The six computer screens are like the six consciousness.

  2. The CPU is like manas.

  3. The hard drive is like alaya or citta.

Manas & alaya are not types of consciouness. These two ideas, namely, manas vinanna & alaya vinnana, arise from a miscomprehension of mental reality. Its like believing a dog is a planet.


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