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.


The Pali suttas seem to define consciousness (vinnana) as ‘cognition’ (refer to MN 43 or SN 22.79) or ‘sense awareness’ (refer to MN 18, MN 148, SN 12.2, MN 9, etc) rather than the mentality that ‘stores’ defilements.

Defilements (kilesa) & underlying tendencies (anusaya) appear to be ‘stored’ in the citta or sankhara khandha.

If the ‘storehouse’ is sankhara khandha, there is no 8th consciousness according to the Pali suttas. The Yogacara idea about a ‘storehouse’, while having merits, appears to be unrelated to consciousness (vinnana khandha). This is why it is probably wrong and this is also why the idea that consciousness takes ‘rebirth’ is unclear or even questionable.

It appears the Yogacara idea fits with the Theravada Maha-Vihara idea of 3-life-time dependent origination because when consciousness re-links, consciousness must also store the defilements that are transmitted from life to life. Its seems consciousness itself must carry the defilements from life to life; like water carries leaves & dirt in a river downstream.

But this does not appear to fit the Pali sutta six-fold description of consciousness (vinnana) because in the Pali suttas, consciousness seems to only refer to sense awareness, ‘reflecting’ or knowing that operates via the eye, ears, nose, tongue, body & mind.

For example, the reflective quality of a mirror is not the same as the dust stored on a mirror.

Therefore, to me, Yogcara store house consciousness sounds the same as the relinking (patisandhi) consciousness of Sri Lankan Theravada Maha-Vihara Buddhism. It appears Yogacara is supported by the mainstream Theravada sect but not supported by the EBTs.