The Eight-Consciousness Model of Ethical Decision Making


  • JENSHENG LIAO Feng Chia University
  • Charles S. Chien Feng Chia University



eight consciousness, ethical decision, Vijñānavāda, manas.


This article explores a model of Vijñānavāda generally known as the eight consciousnesses, which relates to understanding consciousness itself from the Vijñānavāda perspective. The model is mainly based on the description in the ‘Verses Delineating the Eight Consciousnesses’. According to the eight-consciousness model, our entire consciousness involves the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mental consciousness, the manas and the ālayavijñāna. These components are presented beginning with the single mind through the increasing complexity of the process of consciousness. In this article, this model is examined as a potential theoretical resource that could guide insight, knowledge and enlightenment. Herein, it is expounded how the eight-consciousness model can increase our understanding of ethical decision making and develop a perspective that can facilitate enlightenment. This paper does not treat a very dense and complex doctrine of Vijñānavāda. However, when considering the actions and intentions that occur in the mind, these investigations represent the transformation of consciousness into wisdom. 

Author Biographies

JENSHENG LIAO, Feng Chia University

PhD, College of Business

Charles S. Chien, Feng Chia University

Associate Dean in College of Busiess



Barbour, I.G. (1993). Ethics, in an Age of Technology: Gifford Lectures, 1989-1991, Vol. 2.San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.

Blasi, A. (1995). Moral understanding and the moral personality: The process of moral integration. In Moral development: An introduction, edited by W. M. Kurtines & J. L. Gewirtz. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 229-253.

Braboszcz, C., Hahusseau, S., and Delorme, A. (2010) Meditation and Neuroscience: from basic research to clinical practice. In “Integrative Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine: Perspectives, Practices and Research”. Editor: R. Carlstedt. Springer Publishing.

Clark, J. (2011). The seeds of awakening: from a talk about the Yogachrara also known as the Vijnanavada (the school that teaches knowing) given at the Buddhist Society Summer School. Middle Way, 86, 147-161.

Clark, J. (2008). "The eighth consciousness of the Yogacara: From a talk given at the Buddhist society summer school." Middle Way, 83, 67-77.

Dane, E. and Michael G. P. (2007). Exploring intuition and its role in managerial decision making. Academy of Management Review, 32, 33–54. DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2007.23463682

Dedeke, A. (2015). A cognitive-Intuition Model of Moral Judgment. Journal of Business Ethics. 126, 434-457.

Ellertson, C. F., Ingerson, M.C. and Williams, R. N. (2016). Behavioral Ethics: A Critique and a Proposal. Journal of Business Ethics, 138:1, 145-159. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2628-y

Evans, J. S. and Stanovich, K. E. (2013). Dual-process theories of higher cognition: Advancing the debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 223-241. doi:10.1177/1745691612460685.

Fan, W. H. and Chou, H. M. (2016). An analysis of the characters in Xiyou Ji through the lens of Yogacara Buddhism. Advanced Materials for Science and Engineering (ICAMSE), International Conference on IEEE. doi:10.1109/ICAMSE.2016.7840282

Finnigan, B. (2011). How Can a Buddha Come to Act?: The Possibility of a Buddhist Account of Ethical Agency. Philosophy East and West 61.1, 134-160.

Frimer, J. A. and Walker, L. J. (2008). Towards a new paradigm of moral personhood. Journal of Moral Education, 37(3), 333-356.doi:10.1080/03057240802227494

Greene, J. D., Sommerville, R. B., Nystrom, L. E., Darley, J. M., and

Cohen, J. D. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293, 2105-2108. doi:10.1126/science.1062872.

Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological review 108 (4), 814-834.

Harvey, P. (2000). An introduction to Buddhist ethics: Foundations, values and issues. Cambridge University Press.

Harvey, P. (2013). An introduction to Buddhism: Teaching, history and practices. Cambridge University Press.

Jones, T. M. (1991). Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue-contingent model. Academy of management review 16 (2), 366-395.

Kaag, J. J. (2012). Emptiness, Selflessness, and Transcendence: William James's Reading of Chinese Buddhism. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39(2), 240-259. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6253.2012.01716.x

Kahneman, D. (2003). A perspective on judgment and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. American Psychologist, 58, 697–720. DOI: 10.1037/ 0003-066X. 58.9. 697

Kohlberg, L. (1971). Stages of moral development. Moral education, 1, 23-92.

Kohlberg, L. (1973). The claim to moral adequacy of a highest stage of moral judgment. The Journal of Philosophy, 70 (18), 630-646.

Kohlberg, L. Charles, L. and Alexandra H. (1983). Moral stages: A current formulation and a response to critics. Switzerland : Karger

Morgan, J. (2016). Religion and dual-process cognition: a continuum of styles or distinct types? Religion, Brain & Behavior, 6 (2) 112-129. doi:110.1080/2153599X.2014.966315

Monin, B., Pizarro, A. D. and Beer, J. S. (2007). Deciding versus reacting: Conceptions of moral judgment and the reason-affect debate.Review of General Psychology 11, 99–111.DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.11.2.99

Nedu, O. (2015). A Non-referential and non-cognitive theory of truth, in Vijñanavada buddhism. Revista Hiperboreea, 2 (2), 52.

Pan, Y. and Sparks, J. R. (2012). Predictors, consequence, and measurement of ethical judgments: Review and meta-analysis. Journal of business research, 65 (1), 84-91.

Rest, J. R. (1986). Moral Development: Advances in Research and Theory. New York: Praeger.

Reynolds, S. J. (2006). A neurocognitive model of the ethical decision-making process: Implications for study and practice. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 737-748. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.4.737.

Salvador, R. and Robert, G. F. (2009). Business Ethics and the Brain: Rommel Salvador and Robert G. Folger. Business Ethics Quarterly 19 (1), 1-31.

Schwartz, M. S. (2016). Ethical decision-making theory: An integrated approach. Journal of Business Ethics, 139 (4), 755-776. doi:10.1007/S10551-015-2886-8

Sonenshein, S. (2007). The role of construction, intuition, and justification in responding to ethical issues at work: The sensemaking-intuition model. Academy of Management Review, 32 (4), 1022-1040.

Tinghög, G. et al., (2016). Intuition and moral decision-making–the effect of time pressure and cognitive load on moral judgment and altruistic behavior." PloS one, 11 (10). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0164012

Tola, F. and Dragonetti, C. (2005). Philosophy of mind in the Yogacara Buddhist idealistic school. History of psychiatry, 16 (4), 453-465. doi:10.1177/0957154X05059213

Tripitaka Master Xuanzang. (AD 596-664). 'Verses delineating the eightconsciousnesses' (Ronald. Epstein, trans in 1986), A Monthly Journal of Orthodox Buddhism, (1998), 336.

Trevino, L. K., Weaver, G. R., and Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32,, 951-990.

Vainio, O. P. (2016). What Does Theology Have to Do With Religion. Open Theology, 2, 106-112.

Waldron, W.S. (2008). A Buddhist theory of unconscious mind (ālaya-vijñāna). Handbook of Indian psychology, 105-128.

Williams, R. and Gantt, E. (2009). Felt moral obligation and the moral judgment-moral action gap: An alternative ontological starting point. Paper presented at the 35th Conference of the Association for Moral Education, Utrecht, July, 2009.


oiceshyn, Jaana. (2011). A model for ethical decision making in business: Reasoning, intuition, and rational moral principles. Journal of Business Ethics 104: 311–323. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-011-0910-1.

Vasconcelos, A. F. (2009). Intuition, prayer, and managerial decision-making processes: a religion-based framework. Management Decision. 47 (6), 930-949.

Zim, R. (1995). Basic ideas Of Yogacara Buddhism." Paper Prepared for Philosophy 772 "Yogacara Buddhism". San Francisco State University.