Yogacara


Yogacara
or Vijnanavada

Idealistic school of Mahayana Buddhism.

It rejects the complete realism of Theravada Buddhism and the practical realism of the Madhyamika school, preferring a more complicated position in which the reality perceived by humans does not exist but only appears to do so by virtue of the capacity of the mind to perceive patterns of continuity and regularity. Yogacara emerged in India about the 2nd century and was introduced into China in the 7th century by Xuanzang. It was transmitted to Japan in the mid-7th century as Hossō.

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▪ Buddhist school
(Sanskrit: “Practice of Yoga [Union]”),also called  Vijñānavāda 

      (“Doctrine of Consciousness”), an important idealistic school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Yogācāra attacked both the complete realism of Theravāda Buddhism and the provisional practical realism of the Mādhyamika school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. The name of the school is derived from the title of an important 4th- or 5th-century text of the school, the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra (“The Science of the Stages of Yoga Practice”).

      The other name of the school, Vijñānavāda, is more descriptive of its philosophical position, which is that the reality a human being perceives does not exist, any more than do the images called up by a monk in meditation. Only the consciousness that one has of the momentary interconnected events (dharmas) that make up the cosmic flux can be said to exist. Consciousness, however, also clearly discerns in these so-called unreal events consistent patterns of continuity and regularity; in order to explain this order in which only chaos really could prevail, the school developed the tenet of the ālaya-vijñāna, or “storage consciousness.” Sense perceptions are ordered as coherent and regular by a store of consciousness, of which one is consciously unaware. Sense impressions produce certain configurations (samskaras) in this unconscious that “perfume” later impressions so that they appear consistent and regular. Each being possesses this storage consciousness, which thus becomes a kind of collective consciousness that orders human perceptions of the world, though this world does not exist. This doctrine was cheerfully attacked by the adherents of the Mādhyamika school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, who pointed out the obvious logical difficulties of such a tenet.

      Apart from human consciousness, another principle was accepted as real, the so-called suchness (tathatā), which was the equivalent of the void (śūnya) of the Mādhyamika school.

      The school emerged in India about the 2nd century AD but had its period of greatest productivity in the 4th century, during the time of Asaṅga and Vasubandha. Following them, the school divided into two branches, the Āgamānusariṇo Vijñānavādinaḥ (“Vijñānavāda School of the Scriptural Tradition”) and the Nyāyānusariṇo Vijñānavādinaḥ (“Vijñānavāda School of the Logical Tradition”), the latter subschool postulating the views of the logician Dignāga (c. AD 480–540) and his successor, Dharmakīrti (c. AD 600–660).

      The teachings of the Yogācāra school were introduced into China by the 7th-century monk-traveler Hsüan-tsang (Xuanzang) and formed the basis of the Fa-hsiang school founded by Hsüan-tsang's pupil K'uei-chi. Because of its idealistic content it is also called Wei-shih (“Ideation Only”).

      Transmitted to Japan, as Hossō, sometime after 654, the Yogācāra school split into two branches, the Northern and the Southern. During the 8th century it enjoyed a period of political influence and produced such celebrated priests as Gembō and Dōkyō. In modern times the school retained the important temples of Horyū, Yakushi, and Kōfuku, all located in or near Nara and all treasure-houses of Japanese religious art.

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Universalium. 2010.

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