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Buddhism Yogācāra
by
William S. Waldron

Introduction

The Yogācāra (practitioners of yoga) school, also known as citta-mātra (mind-only), or vijñānavāda (consciousness school), is one of two major schools of Indian Mahayana Buddhist thought, which flourished in classical India from the 3rd–4th century CE to the 9th century CE. It is important both for the way it synthesized and developed all aspects of contemporaneous Mahāyāna Buddhism, as well as for its historical influence on subsequent forms of Buddhism both inside and outside of India. Its encyclopedic aims led Yogācārins first to outline the “practice of yoga,” which combined Abhidharmic modes of analyzing mental processes with the Mādhyamikan notion of emptiness, and, second, to systematize the Mahayana path system and developing notions of buddhahood. Both of these syntheses—philosophical analyses of mental processes and systematization of the Buddhist path and goal—were very influential in later Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Buddhist history, while only the second—systematizing the Buddhist path and goal—attained similar importance in Tibet. Understanding the whole of Yogācāra is a challenge commensurate with its ambitious aims; accordingly, there are still no comprehensive treatments of Yogācāra in Western languages. Moreover, a huge gulf still exists between works that are relatively accessible to nonspecialists and those written for and by specialists. Academic interest in the school has been increasing since the 1990s, however, partly as a result of increased historical knowledge about and interaction between South and East Asian forms of Buddhism, and partly in response to the many venues for dialogue between Yogācāra and modern thought.

General Overviews

Though Yogācāra is an elaborate scholastic school, it purports to describe everyday experience, however deluded, as well as its transformation through the practice of yoga to the ultimate state of buddhahood. In accessible terms, Nhât Hanh 2006 and Tagawa 2009 show how Yogācāra analyses of mind elucidate everyday experience and their transformations. Davidson 1985 illustrates, more technically, the multiple systems whereby Yogācārins conceived of such transformation, while Nagao and Kawamura 1991 addresses the various philosophical, interpretive, and historical issues these practices raised. Potter 1999 contains useful synopses of most Buddhist texts from the formative period of Yogācāra. Lusthaus (What Is and Isn’t Yogācāra) provides an excellent and succinct outline of classical Indian Yogācāra while arguing against the standard interpretation of Yogācāra as metaphysical idealism—an interpretation whose history in Western scholarship he reconstructs in Lusthaus 1999. General Bibliography on Yogācāra and especially Powers 1991 can be consulted for further sources.

  • Davidson, R. M. Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya parivṛtti/parāvṛtti among the Yogācāra. PhD diss., Berkeley: University of California, 1985.

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    The only work that effectively encompasses the various dimensions of classical Yogācāra systems of transformation in its Indian historical milieu. It assumes some background on the part of the reader.

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  • Lusthaus, Dan. “What Is and Isn’t Yogācāra.”

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    A succinct summary of Yogācāra along with the clearest argument against its standard interpretation as a form of metaphysical idealism.

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  • Lusthaus, Dan. “A Brief Retrospective of Western Yogācāra Scholarship in the 20th Century.” Paper presented at the 11th International Conference on Chinese Philosophy, Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan, 26–31 July 1999.

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    A useful overview of Western scholarship on Yogācāra during the 20th century. Includes references. Available online.

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  • Muller, Charles. General Bibliography on Yogācāra.

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    An accessible online bibliography of Yogācāra materials.

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  • Nagao Gajin, and Leslie S. Kawamura, trans. Madhyamaka and Yogācāra: A Study of Mahāyāna Philosophies: Collected Papers of G. M. Nagao. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

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    A collection of seminal essays by one of Japan’s leading Yogācāra specialists. A great place for graduate students to begin, especially those interested in philological issues.

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  • Nhât Hanh, Thich. Understanding Our Mind. Berkeley, CA: Parallax, 2006.

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    A simple, though not simplistic, introduction to the major concepts of Yogācāra from the point of view of a leading Buddhist teacher and monk. Accessible, although somewhat repetitious.

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  • Potter, Karl, ed. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist Philosophy. Vols. 8–9. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.

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    A useful collection of detailed outlines of Buddhist philosophical texts from roughly 100 to 350 CE, a period that encompasses the classical texts of Asaṅga and Vasubandhu. It includes a long introduction contextualizing the development of Yogācāra doctrines within the larger world of Indian Buddhist thought.

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  • Powers, John. The Yogācāra School of Buddhism: A Bibliography. ATLA Bibliography Series 27. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1991.

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    The most comprehensive bibliography in English. It includes references to all the important editions of Yogācāra texts in their Sanskrit originals and Tibetan and Chinese translations, their modern critical editions, as well as works by traditional Tibetan and modern scholars from around the globe. Lists no publications beyond 1991.

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  • Tagawa Shun’ei. Living Yogācāra: An Introduction to Consciousness-Only Buddhism. Translated by Charles Muller. Boston: WisdomPublications, 2009.

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    A nontechnical introduction to the basic ideas of Yogācāra, heavily influenced by East Asian perspectives. Accessible and engaging.

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Classical Yogācāra in India

Although most of the comprehensive works on Indian Yogācāra are written in Japanese (e.g., Yūki 1935), works in Western languages have increasingly placed Yogācāra within its historical context of abhidharma and Madhyamaka Buddhism. King 1994 and Coseru 1997 argue for much more continuity than discontinuity between Mādhyamika and Yogācāra than has previously been appreciated, while King 1998 and Waldron 2003 demonstrate that specific Yogācāra doctrines need to be understood in terms of Abhidharmic analyses of mind and mental functions. Chatterjee 1987 represents the standard interpretation, as its title suggests, against which much of the recent historicizing work has argued. See also Treatises by Vasubandhu for further discussions by Anacker 1984 and Kochumuttom 1982.

  • Chatterjee, Ashok Kumar. The Yogācāra Idealism. 2d ed. Varanasi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.

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    An early philosophical treatment of Yogācāra philosophy whose interpretation, like many contemporaneous Indian works, is strongly influenced by a fascination with Kantian idealism and Hegelian absolutism. First published in 1962 (Varanasi, India: Banaras Hindu University).

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  • Coseru, Christian. “The Continuity between Madhyamaka and Yogācāra Schools of Mahāyāna Buddhism.” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 37.2 (1997): 48–83.

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    A historically and textually informed analysis of the important relations between these two major Mahayana schools.

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  • King, Richard. “Early Yogācāra and Its Relationship with the Mādhyamika School.” Philosophy East and West 44 (1994): 659–684.

    DOI: 10.2307/1399757Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article argues for a historical, rather than doxographical, interpretation of Yogācāra by detailing the strands of Yogācāra thought that borrow and reinterpret the Mādhyamika philosophy of emptiness.

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  • King, Richard. “Vijñaptimātratā and the Abhidharma context of Early Yogācāra.” Asian Philosophy 8 (1998): 5–18.

    DOI: 10.1080/09552369808575468Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article argues for more historicized interpretation of Yogācāra by showing how Yogācāra thought builds upon and develops Abhidharmic modes of analyzing mind and mental processes.

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  • Waldron, William. The Buddhist Unconscious: The Ālaya-vijñāna in the Context of Indian Buddhist Thought. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

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    An analysis of the development of the key Yogācāra concept of ālaya-vijñāna (the “storehouse” consciousness, a form of unconscious mental process) in light of early Buddhist and Abhidharmic analyses of mind. It includes translations of crucial Yogācāra texts and passages.

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  • Yūki, Reimon. (結城令聞). Shinishikiron yori ni itaru yuishiki shisōshi. Tokyo: Tōhō Bunka Gakui Tōkyō Kenkyōjo, 1935.

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    (A history of mind-only from the perspective of theories of mind and consciousness.) A massive textual study of the development of Yogācāra thought in India as understood in prewar Japan. Still useful for a broad overview.

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Yogācāra Philosophy of Mind

Yogācāra thought is deeply concerned with the analysis and transformation of mind, and the various problems raised in systematically conceptualizing this transformation. Urban and Griffiths 1994 presents the basic terminology in which many of these problems are discussed. Griffiths 1986 and Kritzer 1999 discuss Yogācāra responses to the problem of continuity and causality raised by the processes of meditative cessation and death and rebirth, respectively. Many of these problems are connected with the core Yogācāra concept, ālaya-vijñāna (“storehouse” consciousness), whose complex historical development is reconstructed in painstaking detail in Schmithausen 1987. The latter’s chronological reconstruction is strongly contested by Buescher 2008 based on much the same text-critical methodology. The collection of essays in Hakamaya 2001, one of Japan’s foremost experts on Yogācāra, addresses nearly every pertinent issue in Yogācāra philosophy in rich historical and textual detail. Matilal 1974 provides a useful critique of Buddhist “idealism,” while Waldron 2002 engages Yogācāra thought with aspects of modern philosophy of mind and cognitive science.

  • Buescher, Hartmut. The Inception of Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda. Beiträge zur Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens 62. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.

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    A largely philological and historical study attempting to reconstruct the chronology of early Yogācāra, placing ālaya-vijñāna at the core of Yogācāra’s new ontological model. Assumes substantial knowledge.

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  • Griffiths, Paul. On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem. La Salle, III: Open Court, 1986.

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    A crisp and well-informed analysis, utilizing analytic philosophy. Examines the problem of cessation of all mental processes in deep meditation (nirodha-samāpatti) in three contemporaneous schools of Indian Buddhism, including Yogācāra.

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  • Hakamaya, Noriaki (袴谷憲昭). Yuishiki shisō ronkō (唯識思想論考). Tokyo: Daizo shuppan kabushiki geisha, 2001.

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    An eight-hundred-page tour de force of eighteen seminal articles by one of Japan’s leading Buddhist scholars, exemplifying the text-critical method at its best.

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  • Kritzer, Robert. Rebirth and Causation in the Yogācāra Abhidharma. Vienna: Arbeitskreis fur Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universitat Wien, 1999.

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    An excellent examination of the problem of rebirth in classical Indian Yogācāra thought, based upon a careful text-critical analysis of all the relevant texts. Extremely detailed study.

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  • Matilal, B. K. “A Critique of Buddhist Idealism.” In Buddhist Studies in Honour of I. B. Horner. Edited by L. Cousins, Arnold Kunst, and K. R. Norman, 139–169. Boston: D. Reidel, 1974.

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    A critical philosophical examination of aspects of Yogācāra thought from the point of view of traditional Indian and modern Western analytic philosophy.

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  • Schmithausen, Lambert. Ālayavijñāna: On the Origin and the Early Development of a Central Concept of Yogācāra Philosophy. 2 vols. Studia Philologica Buddhica Monograph Series. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1987.

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    A painstaking philological study attempting to identify the first instance of the term ālaya-vijñāna in Indian Yogācāra texts. Assumes the reader has substantial knowledge of the subject matter.

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  • Urban, Hugh, and Paul Griffiths. “What Else Remains in Śūnyatā? An Investigation of Terms for Mental Imagery in the Madhyāntavibhāga-Corpus.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 17.1 (1994): 1–25.

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    A useful catalogue of the basic terms used in Yogācāra analyses of mind.

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  • Waldron, William. “Buddhist Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Thinking about ‘Thoughts without a Thinker.’” Eastern Buddhist 34.1 (2002): 1–52.

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    An exploratory essay linking core themes of Yogācāra philosophy with current trends in modern phenomenology, philosophy, and cognitive science: our “cognitive domains” (loka) are constructed, collective, and largely unconscious.

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Ultimate Reality and Buddhahood

Yogācāra conceptions of buddhahood have influenced nearly all subsequent Mahayana traditions, regardless of philosophical orientation. Keenan 1982, Hakamaya 1980, and Sponberg 1979 provide useful introductions to key aspects of the Yogācāra conception of awakening: its foundations, qualities, and activities, respectively. Makransky 1997 meticulously traces the evolution of the notion of Buddha-bodies over centuries of Indian and Tibetan thought. Griffiths and Hakamaya 1989 translates and interprets a key Yogācāra text that describes the myriad qualities of awakened beings. Griffiths 1994 frames evolving traditions of “Buddhalogy” as a form of doctrinal systematization, akin to the project of Western theology.

  • Griffiths, Paul. On Being Buddha: The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood. Albany: State University of New York, 1994.

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    An excellent study of the notion of buddhahood in Indian Yogācāra in light of Western analytic philosophical and theological modes of thinking.

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  • Griffiths, Paul, and Hakamaya Noriaki, trans. The Realm of Awakening: A Translation and Study of the Tenth Chapter of Asanga’s Mahāyānasaṃgrāha. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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    An exhaustive translation and study by a team of first-rate scholars. Examines a chapter of a key Yogācāra text and its classical commentaries describing the characteristics and qualities of buddhahood.

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  • Hakamaya Noriaki. “The Realm of Enlightenment in Vijnaptimātratā: The Formulation of the ‘Four Kinds of Pure Dharmas.’” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 3.2 (1980): 21–41.

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    This short article outlines the progress toward and characteristics of the awakened state in classical Yogācāra thought.

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  • Keenan, John P. “Original Purity and the Focus of Early Yogācāra.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 5.1 (1982): 7–18.

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    A seminal article discerning the trajectory toward a notion of the original purity of mind as articulated in a succession of early Indian Yogācāra texts.

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  • Makransky, John. Buddhahood Embodied. Sources of Controversy in India and Tibet. Albany: State University of New York, 1997.

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    An exhaustive treatment of the Buddha-body theory as articulated in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra of Maitreya (see Five Treatises of Maitreya) and its Indian and Tibetan commentaries.

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  • Sponberg, Alan. “Dynamic Liberation in Yogācāra Buddhism.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 2.1 (1979): 44–64.

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    A succinct treatment of dynamic relationship between the awakened state and worldly activity, that is, how a buddha thinks and acts in the world, according to classical Yogācāra texts.

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Key Yogācāra Texts

Several sutras—texts purporting to be the word of the buddha—are closely associated with the Yogācāra school. The most influential of these for later Buddhist traditions are the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra and the Lankāvatāra-sūtra. In addition to these, the multiple treatises attributed to Maitreya, Asaṅga, and Vasubandhu comprise the corpus of classical Yogācāra literature.

Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra

The Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra (The sutra that unravels the hidden intent), which introduced many Yogācāra ideas, is best known for its concept of the “Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma.” This is the idea that in his various and seemingly contradictory discourses the buddha intentionally taught different doctrines to different beings according to their distinct needs and abilities, leading to the final, definitive teaching in the “Third Wheel” (i.e., Yogācāra). The introduction to Keenan 1997 succinctly discusses the historical context and doctrinal rationales for the hermeneutical principles outlined in the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra, an interpretation that Powers 1993 examines at length and, for the most part, rejects. Both of their translations of the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra itself (Keenan 2000, Powers 1993) are largely reliable but, like Buddhist texts in general, difficult to read without copious explanation and annotation. Schmithausen 1984 grounds his discussion of the core Yogācāra notion that all phenomena are nothing but appearances (vijñapti-mātra) in solid philology. See Hopkins 1999 (cited under Yogācāra in Tibet) for interpretations of this sutra in Tibetan traditions.

  • Keenan, John P., trans. Wisdom of Buddha: The Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra. Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 1994.

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    A translation of the sutra largely based on the Tibetan text, with references to Chinese translations and commentaries throughout.

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  • Keenan, John P. Dharmapāla’s Yogācāra Critique of Bhāvaviveka’s Mādhyamika Explanation of Emptiness: The Tenth Chapter of Ta-Ch’eng Kuang Pai-Lun Shih Commenting on Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka Chapter Sixteen. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1997.

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    An English translation of a Chinese translation of an Indian Yogācāra text defending its doctrines against the criticisms of a Mādhyamikan author. His introduction contextualizing the development of Indian Buddhist thought in general and the dispute between Yogācāra and Mādhyamika in particular is astute and insightful.

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  • Keenan, John P., trans. The Scripture on Explication of the Underlying Meaning. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Translation and Research, 2000.

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    A translation from Xuanzang’s Chinese translation of the Sanskrit sutra (T. 676) with, however, a minimum of annotation or explanation.

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  • Powers, John. Hermeneutics and Tradition in the Samdhinirmocana-sūtra. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1993.

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    An extensive (yet often tendentious) discussion of the content and hermeneutical intent of the sutra. Assumes knowledge of the literature.

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  • Schmithausen, Lambert. “On the Vijñaptimātra Passage in Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra VIII.7.” In Studies of Mysticism in Honour of the 1150th Anniversary of Kobo-Daishi’s Nirvāṇam, Acta Indologica 6 (1984): 433–455.

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    A philologically based article explicating one of the key passages explaining the meaning of “mind-only” (vijñapti-mātra).

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Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra

Although less important in India or Tibet, the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra strongly influenced East Asian Yogācāra with its equation of ālaya-vijñāna (“storehouse” consciousness) with the idea of buddha-nature (tathāgata-garbha). The Suzuki 1932 translation of the sutra is worthwhile, but Suzuki 1999 is disorganized, outdated, and often misleading. Sutton 1991 is challenging and more up to date.

  • Sutton, Florence G. Existence and Enlightenment in the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra: A Study in the Ontology and Epistemology of the Yogācāra School of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York, 1991.

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    A philosophical study of the sutra with many interesting ideas; not addressed to beginners.

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  • Suzuki, Daisetz T. The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra: A Mahāyāna Text, Translated for the First Time from the Original Sanskrit. London: Taylor and Francis, 1932.

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    An early but still useful translation of the main Indian sutra connecting Yogācāra thought with the tathāgata-garbha tradition.

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  • Suzuki, Daisetz T. Studies in the Lankāvatāra Sūtra (One of the Most Important Texts of Mahayana Buddhism in which Almost All Its Principal Tenets Are Presented, Including the Teaching of Zen). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 1999.

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    A classic but unsystematic study of this important sutra, lacking most of the historical contextualization, knowledge, and nuance now considered de rigueur. First published in 1930 (London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul).

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Five Treatises of Maitreya

The most significant Yogācāra treatises (śastra) were written by or attributed to two scholar/monks: Asaṅga and his half-brother, Vasubandhu. Some of the most important Yogācāra treatises, however, are believed to have been taught by Maitreya, the future buddha, who transmitted them to Asaṅga while in deep meditative trance. These are (1) Dharmadharmatā-vibhaṅga, Distinguishing Phenomena (dharma) from Dharmatā (ultimate reality or pure being); (2) Madhyānta-vibhāga, Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes; (3) Abhisamālaṃkāra, Ornament for Clear Realization; (4) Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, Ornament of Mahāyāna Sūtras; and (5) Uttaratantra-śastra, Treatise on the Supreme Continuum (also called Ratnagotra-vibhāga, Distinguishing the Jeweled Lineage). These texts are notoriously terse and/or technical and virtually unintelligible without extensive commentary. For this purpose, Takasaki 1966 is a model of clarity, comprehension, and rigor (as the subtitle suggests). The two works Mipham 2004 and Mipham 2006, while challenging, are still relatively accessible, as is Lévi 1907. The translations in Conze 1954 and Thurman 2004 require extensive prior knowledge.

  • Conze, Edward, trans. Abhisamālaṃkāra. Serie Orientale Rome. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1954.

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    A clear translation by a master scholar of this terse text, an immensely influential outline of the path to awakening; requires some prior knowledge.

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  • D’Amato, Mario. Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes: A Study and Annotated Translation of the Madhyāntavibhāga, along with Its Commentary, the Madhyantāvibhaga-bhāṣya. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2009.

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    A modern translation and study of this key Yogācāra treatise, explaining the nuanced Yogācāra view of emptiness and including a lucid introduction to Yogācāra philosophy.

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  • Lévi, Sylvain, trans. Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, exposé de la doctrine du grand véhicule selon le systéme Yogācāra. Paris: Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, 1907.

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    Sanskrit text and French translation of Maitreya’s root text and Vasubandhu’s commentary defending and outlining Mahayana ideas and practices.

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  • Mipham. Maitreya’s Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being: Commentary by Mipham. Translated by Jim Scott. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2004.

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    An accessible translation and 19th-century Tibetan commentary on this key text of Maitreya concerning the distinction between the phenomenal world of experience (dharma) and the ultimate realization of ultimate reality (dharmatā).

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  • Mipham. Middle beyond Extremes: Maitreya’s Madhyāntavibhanga with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham. Translated by Dharmachakra Translation Committee. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2006.

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    An accessible translation and relatively recent Tibetan commentary on this key Yogācāra text explicating some of the most abstract Yogācāra ideas, such as nonduality, the middle between existence and nonexistence, and “Suchness.”

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  • Takasaki Jikido. A Study of the Ratnagotra-vibhāga (Uttraratantra), being a treatise on the Tathāgatagarbha Theory of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1966.

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    An excellent study and translation of this important text, using rigorous text-critical methodology. Great for graduate students.

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  • Thurman, Robert A. F., ed. Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature (Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra). Translated by Lobsang Jamspal. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2004.

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    A thoroughly modern translation of the text into an idiosyncratic English idiom that often needs its own interpretation.

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Treatises by Asaṅga

The individual treatises of the half-brothers, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, along with their multiple commentaries, constitute the second main corpus of Yogācāra treatises (after the Five Treatises of Maitreya). Asaṅga’s texts include the Abhidharmasamuccaya (Compendium of abhidharma), ably translated by the illustrious Sri Lankan monk Walpola Rahula (Rahula 1980) and explained, along with two other classic abhidharma treatises, in Guenther 1976. Asaṅga’s Mahāyāna-saṃgraha (Compendium of Mahayana) has been translated in Keenan 1992 for the Numata translation series and hence lacks sufficient explanation for stand-alone study. Lamotte 1938 includes extensive extracts from several classical commentaries, making it the text for serious (French-reading) students to start with. The Yogācarabhūmi (Stages of yoga practice) is an encyclopedic work attributed to Asaṅga whose voluminous contents and multiple topics have begun to be explored by modern scholarship, illustrated here by Willis 1979, Deleanu 2006, and Sakuma 1990.

  • Deleanu, Florin. The Chapter on the Mundane Path (Laukikamārga) in the Śrāvakabhūmi: A Trilingual Edition (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese), and Annotated Translation and Introductory Study. Studia Philologica Buddhica Monograph Series 20. Tokyo: International Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2006.

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    A philologically sound study of the important section of the Yogācarabhūmi that outlines the path of the Disciple (śrāvaka).

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  • Guenther, Herbert. Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma. Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1976.

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    An excellent synopsis of abhidharma thought and practice in Indian Buddhism, based on three contemporaneous schools, Theravāda, Sarvāstivāda, and Yogācāra.

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  • Keenan, John P., trans. The Summary of the Great Vehicle. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Translation and Research, 1992.

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    An English translation of Paramārtha’s Chinese translation of this key text (Mahayana-saṃgraha) summarizing Mahāyāna from the Yogācāra point of view, treating in particular ālaya-vijñāna, the “Three Natures,” and the state of buddhahood.

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  • Lamotte, Etienne, trans. La Somme du Grand Véhicule d’Asaṅga (Mahāyānasaṃgraha). Louvain, Belgium: Museon, 1938.

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    A French synoptic translation of this key text, based upon both Chinese and Tibetan canonical translations, and including extensive translations of key passages from the two traditional commentaries. Thorough and reliable study.

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  • Rahula, Walpola, trans. Le compendium de la super-doctrine (philosophie) (Abhidharmasamuccaya) d’Asaṅga. Publications de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient 78. Paris: École française d’Extrême-Orient, 1980.

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    A translation of this important Yogācāra text based upon Sanskrit manuscripts augmented by Tibetan and Chinese translations. The text comprises primarily definitions of the major terms used in the Abhidharmic mode of analysis adapted by the Yogācāra school. English edition published as Abhidharmasamuccaya: The Compendium of the Higher Teaching (Philosophy), translated by Sara Boin-Webb (Fremont, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 2001).

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  • Sakuma Hidenori. Die Āśrayaparivṛtti-Theorie in der Yogācārabhūmi. Stuttgart, Germany: Steiner, 1990.

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    A thorough discussion of the issue of “converting the basis,” the liberating experience of turning from cognitive and emotional error to awakened insight and compassion.

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  • Willis, Janice Dean. On Knowing Reality: The Tattvārtha Chapter of Asaṅga’s Bodhisattvabhūmi. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

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    An early study of Yogācāra focusing on the problem of reality from one section of Asaṅga’s compendium, the Yogācarabhūmi. A good introduction to some basic issues.

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Treatises by Vasubandhu

Anacker 1984 and Kochumuttom 1982 provide workable translations of many of Vasubandhu’s texts, although often marred by idiosyncratic and unsupported interpretations. Lacking better alternatives, these are still useful.

  • Anacker, Stefan. Seven Works of Vasubandhu. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984.

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    A pioneering attempt at translating and interpreting the major works of Vasubandhu. The sheer range of works in this collection makes it useful, but it is limited by idiosyncratic translations and lack of sufficient explanations and annotations.

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  • Kochumuttom, Thomas A. A Buddhist Doctrine of Experience: A New Translation and Interpretation of the Works of Vasubandhu the Yogācārin. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982.

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    Adequate translations of many of Vasubandhu’s works; provides a sometimes strained attempt to interpret Yogācāra as “critical realism,” in contrast to the prevailing interpretation of Yogācāra as some form of idealism.

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Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa (Treatise Establishing Action)

This text marks a transition between Vasubandhu the Abhidharmist and Vasubandhu the Yogācārin. He uses the Yogācāra idea of ālaya-vijñāna (“storehouse” consciousness) to resolve problems in karmic theory generated by Abhidharmic analyses of momentary mental processes. Anacker 1972 succinctly outlines the problem and the Yogācāra solution. Lamotte 1936 provides a detailed background and full translation of the text, along with a masterful synopsis of scholastic Buddhist thinking on the mechanisms of karma.

  • Anacker, Stefan. “Vasubandhu’s Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa and the Problem of the Highest Meditations.” Philosophy East-West 22.3 (1972): 247–258.

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    A succinct analysis of the problem of the attainment of cessation (nirodha-samāpatti) and the Yogācāra response to it, specifically the notion of ālaya-vijñāna.

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  • Lamotte, Étienne. Le Traité de l’Acte de Vasubandhu, Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa. Mélange chinois et bouddhiques 4. Bruges, Belgium: Sainte Catherine, 1936.

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    More than a mere translation, this text is a virtual compendium on the problem of karma in Abhidharmic and early Mahayana thinking. English edition published as Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa: A Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu, translated by Leo M. Pruden (Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1987).

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Trisvabhāvanirdeśa (Treatise on Three Natures)

The “Three Natures” (trisvabhāva) is a distinctive Yogācāra theory describing the transformation from a false mode of perception to a clear realization of ultimate reality, centered on the pivotal notion of dependent arising of consciousness. There is continued debate about how to properly interpret this text. Garfield 2002, Tola and Dragonetti 1983, and Tola and Dragonetti 2004 interpret these “natures” as essential ontological modes of being, while Hopkins 2002 and Sponberg 1982 consider more epistemological approaches. Mukhopadhyaya 1939 provides the original texts.

  • Garfield, Jay. “Vasubandhu’s Treatise on Three Natures: A Translation and Commentary.” In Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation. By Jay Garfield, 128–150. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    Translation and commentary interpreting the “Three Natures” ontologically—as three distinct, yet simultaneously existing essences (svabhāva)—rather than epistemologically—as a description of progressive awakening to reality.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-Natures in the Mind-Only School; Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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    Massive study of various Tibetan scholastic responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s critique of the “Three Natures” theory.

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  • Mukhopadhyaya, Sujitkumar. Trisvabhāvanirdeśa of Vasubandhu: Sanskrit Text and Tibetan Versions. Calcutta, India: Visvabharati, 1939.

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    This volume contains the Sanskrit and Tibetan editions, along with an English translation, of this interesting but variously interpreted text.

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  • Tola, Fernando and Carmen Dragonetti. “The Trisvabhāvakārikā of Vasubandhu.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 11 (1983): 225–266.

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    A modern translation of the text with useful philological notes, which interprets the “Three Natures” ontologically rather than epistemologically. Contains much useful bibliographical information.

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  • Sponberg, Alan. “The Trisvabhāva Doctrine in India and China: A Study of Three Exegetical Models.” Bukkyō Bunka Kenkyū-jo Kiyō 21 (1982): 97–119.

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    A succinct outline of different ways of interpreting the theory of “Three Natures.”

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  • Tola, Fernando, and Carmen Dragonetti. Being as Consciousness: Yogācāra Philosophy of Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2004.

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    Accessible translations and studies of this enigmatic text, contextualizing it within the larger framework of Indian Buddhism thought in general and Yogācāra in particular, following the traditional (though currently controversial) interpretation of Yogācāra as idealism.

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Vijñapti-matratā-siddhi (Establishing Appearance-Only)

Vasubandhu’s Vijñapti-matratā-siddhi, comprising two verse texts, the Twenty Verses and Thirty Verses, outline the entire Yogācāra tradition. These succinct verse texts, however, require extensive explanations to understand. Yamada 1977 provides a useful preliminary outline of the Thirty Verses and its ideas, which Ganguly 1992 further explains, drawing upon the work of Xuanzang, the great 7th-century Chinese translator. Vallée-Poussin 1928–1929 translates Xuanzang’s magnum opus, the Cheng Wei Shi Lun (Establishing Appearance-Only), traditionally considered a compilation of commentaries on Vijñapti-matratā-siddhi, correlating them with a wide range of other Indian texts. Lévi 1932 translates the two verse texts, relying on the famous commentary of Vasubandhu’s near-contemporary, Sthiramati, and based upon the Sanskrit texts published in Lévi 1925. These texts have been newly edited in the text-critical edition of Buescher 2007.

  • Buescher, Hartmut. Sthiramati’s Triṃśikāvijñaptibhāṣya: Critical Editions of the Sanskrit Text and its Tibetan Translation. Beiträge zur Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens Series 57. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007.

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    A modern critical edition of this crucial text based on textual fragments of the Thirty Verses and its commentary, as well as other affiliated Yogācāra Sanskrit texts discovered and palm-leaf manuscripts reexamined since its first publication in Lévi 1925.

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  • Ganguly, Swati. Treatise in Thirty Verses on Mere Consciousness. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1992.

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    A translation and analysis of Xuanzang’s translation of Vasubandhu’s Thirty Verses, along with selected passages from Xuanzang’s Cheng Wei Shi Lun. Useful for its reconstruction and explanation of the innumerable Sanskrit categories in which Yogācāra Abhidharma is discussed, though it uncritically interprets Yogācāra as an absolute idealism.

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  • Lévi, Sylvain. Vijñaptimatratāsiddhi. Deux Traités de Vasubandhu. Viṃśatikā (La Vingtaine) accompagnée d’une explication en prose et Triṃśika (la Trentaine) avec le Commentaire de Sthiramati. Paris: Honoré Champion (Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, 245), 1925.

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    Sanskrit text of the Twenty Verses and Thirty Verses, along with Sthiramati’s famous commentary on the latter (Triṃśikabhāṣyam).

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  • Lévi, Sylvain. Matériaux pour l’Étude du Système Vijñaptimātra. Paris: Honoré Champion (Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études), 1932.

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    French translations of the Twenty Verses and Thirty Verses, along with Sthiramati’s commentary. Interestingly, it interprets Yogācāra notions of signs and designators as semiotic signifiers.

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  • Vallée-Poussin, L. Vijñapti-matratā-siddhi: La Siddhi de Hiuan-tsang. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1928–1929.

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    A translation of Xuanzang’s massive commentary on these texts (Cheng Wei Shi Lun) into French, with copious citations from and correlations with other Indian Buddhist texts. Extremely useful for scholars.

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  • Yamada, I. “Vijñaptimātratā of Vasubandhu.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1977): 158–176.

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    An accessible outline of Vasubandhu’s Triṃśika, peppered with Sanskrit terms.

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Yogācāra in Tibet

There is an extensive indigenous Tibetan literature on Yogācāra topics. Sheehy 2006 and Germano and Waldron 2006 discuss developments of Yogācāra analyses of mind within the Kargyu and Nyingma Tibetan traditions, respectively. Sparham 1993 looks at the Gelukpa scholar Tsong khapa’s analyses of many of the same themes. Hopkins 1999, Hopkins 2002, and Hopkins 2006 compile, translate, and comment upon various, mostly Gelukpa, interpretations and critiques of Yogācāra “idealistic” philosophy as a whole; none of these are for the faint hearted. The two more contemporary commentaries by the 19th-century scholar and adept Ju Mipham (see Five Treatises of Maitreya) provide accessible explanations of two of Maitreya’s Five Works.

  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence. Vol. 1, Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

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    An annotated translation of Dzong-ka-ba’s major text analyzing the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence. Vol. 2, Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-natures in the Mind-Only School. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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    An annotated translation of Dzong-ka-ba’s major text analyzing the “Mind-Only” theory.

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  • Germano, David, and William Waldron. “A Comparison of Ālaya-vijñāna in Yogācāra and Dzogchen.” In Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research: Transcending the Boundaries. Edited by D. K. Nauriyal, 36–68. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Traces the development of the notion of ālaya-vijñāna (“storehouse” consciousness) in Indian Yogācāra into ālaya as primordial awareness in the Nyingma Dzogchen traditions.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Absorption in No External World: 170 Issues in Mind-Only Buddhism. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2006.

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    A collection of debates among various Tibetan Buddhist scholars regarding topics in Yogācāra thought.

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  • Sheehy, Michael. “Rangjung Dorje’s Variegations of Mind: Ordinary Awareness and Pristine Awareness in Tibetan Buddhist Literature.” In Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research: Transcending the Boundaries. Edited by D. K. Nauriyal, 69–92. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    A translation of a text by the Third Karmapa (b. 1284–d. 1339) that develops and synthesizes Yogācāra theories of mind, both deluded and awakened.

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  • Sparham, Gareth. Ocean of Eloquence: Tsong Kha pa’s Commentary on the Yogācāra Doctrine of Mind. Albany: State University of New York, 1993.

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    A translation and commentary on Tsong Khapa’s commentary on Asaṅga’s Mahāyāna-samgraha, focusing in particular on ālaya-vijñāna.

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Yogācāra in East Asia

Yogācāra has been widely influential in East Asian Buddhism at different times and places, most prominently in the 6th and 7th centuries with the proliferation of Yogācāra translations and schools. Paul 1984 examines the life and work of the early Indian translator, Paramārtha, who was instrumental in transmitting Yogācāra to China. Lusthaus 2002 and Katsumata 1969 examine the development of Yogācāra traditions in India and their transmission to China at the hands of Xuanzang, as seen in his great work, the Cheng Wei Shi Lun. Cook 1999 provides a bare-bones translation of that text, while Vallée-Poussin 1928–1929 (cited under Vijñapti-matratā-siddhi [Establishing Appearance-Only]) deeply contextualizes the Cheng Wei Shi Lun within Indian Buddhist thought and literature. Shih and Lusthaus 2001 translates an important work of Xuanzang’s direct disciple, Kui-ji, on the Yogācāra interpretation of emptiness and the path toward its realization. Muller 2004 focuses on the two hindrances and illustrates the practical side of Yogācāra thinking in the work of the contemporaneous Korean monk and scholar, Wonhyo.

  • Cook, Francis H. Three Texts on Consciousness-Only. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 1999.

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    New and lucid translations of Xuanzang’s Chinese translations of Vasubandhu’s Vijñapti-matratā-siddhi as well as of Xuanzang’s own Cheng Wei Shi Lun, one of the pivotal Yogācāra treatises in East Asia.

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  • Katsumata Shunkyō (勝又俊教). Bukkyō ni okeru shinshikisetsu no kenkyū. 3d ed. 山喜房仏書林: Tokyo, 1969.

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    (A study of citta-vijñāna thought in Buddhism). A hallmark study of the sources of Xuanzang’s Cheng Wei Shi Lun, both in India and China, investigating doctrines from abhidharma, Yogācāra, and tathāgatha-garbha strands of thought.

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  • Lusthaus, Dan. Buddhist Phenomenology: A Philosophical Investigation of Yogācāra Buddhism and the Ch’eng Wei-shih Lun. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002.

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    A fascinating but idiosyncratic exploration of philosophical issues raised by Yogācāra in general and Xuanzang’s Cheng Wei Shi Lun in particular.

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  • Muller, A. Charles. “The Yogācāra Two Hindrances and Their Reinterpretations in East Asia.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 27 (2004): 207–235.

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    An excellent synopsis of the important concept of the two hindrances, based largely on the work of the 8th-century Korean Yogācāra master, Wonhyo.

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  • Paul, Diana. Philosophy of Mind in Sixth-Century China: Paramārtha’s “Evolution of Consciousness.” Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1984.

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    A study of the life and work of one of the most important Indian translators of Yogācāra texts, Paramārtha.

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  • Shih, and Dan Lusthaus. A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heart Sutra by K’uei-chi. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2001.

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    A translation of a Yogācāra commentary on the Heart Sūtra by Kui-ji, Xuanzang’s foremost disciple.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0181

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