I usually talk to people about the alaya in the context of managing emotions: as seeds of emotion manifest in the mind, arising from the alayavijnana or store consciousness, we take care of it by raising the seed of mindfulness to hold and transform the emotion. Recently I have been reminded of another aspect of the alaya.
I am selling my house. It’s stressful! There are a lot of decisions to make, large and small. The process is intrusive. My consciousness is busier than usual—which becomes very clear during meditation and at other times as well.
What makes it stressful is reliance on the rational mind (manovijnana) to try to figure everything out. Doing things this way requires a lot of energy, and is responsible for a lot of the stress I was feeling.
But there’s another way…
We can learn to rely on the alaya to do this hard work. Let the different aspects of the problem sink into the alaya—or as we would say, the unconscious mind—where the solutions can ripen and manifest when they are ready. This is very effective, and requires a lot less stress and energy than trying to puzzle everything out rationally.
When the scientist Kekule was trying to figure out the molecular structure of Benzine, he was stumped. He was stumped until he had a dream of a snake circling around to bite its own tail. When he woke and remembered the dream, it became clear to him: the molecular structure of Benzine is a ring. This is just one well-known example, but there are many. A more common and less dramatic example is when we can’t remember someone’s name. If we struggle, we can make memory retrieval more difficult. But if we trust the alaya and let it come in its own time, we will suddenly remember. “Oh, that’s Cindy! Of course!”
Similarly, we can learn to pay attention to the nature of a problem we are trying to figure out, aware of all its details but without stressing over the solution, and let the alaya do its work.
“Let the alaya do it” is, you may have guessed, equivalent to “Let the Buddha do it.”