Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Ceisiwr
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Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

Post by Ceisiwr »

Would it be fair to say that Yogācāra is another, albeit later, northern Abhidhamma? There doesn’t seem to be much in it that relies upon Mahāyāna and it did grow out of the Sautrāntikas who in turn were a sub-sect of the Sarvāstivādins.
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liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

Post by Caodemarte »

Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:39 am Would it be fair to say that Yogācāra is another, albeit later, northern Abhidhamma? There doesn’t seem to be much in it that relies upon Mahāyāna and it did grow out of the Sautrāntikas who in turn were a sub-sect of the Sarvāstivādins.
No, it is neither fair nor accurate.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

Post by Coëmgenu »

Caodemarte wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:36 pm
Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:39 am Would it be fair to say that Yogācāra is another, albeit later, northern Abhidhamma? There doesn’t seem to be much in it that relies upon Mahāyāna and it did grow out of the Sautrāntikas who in turn were a sub-sect of the Sarvāstivādins.
No, it is neither fair nor accurate.
I think I might know how you are framing this, that "it is neither fair nor accurate," but it puzzles me a bit. I think you are saying, no, it is not "an Abhidhamma," because a) it is not based on any one sectarian Abhidharma basket of scripture, and b) it is not a Śrāvaka Ābhidharmika school like the Sarvāstivādins, Theravādins, Mahāsāṃghikas, Dharmaguptakas, etc., and c) Abhidhammas are, technically speaking, texts not schools.

But Venerables Maitreyanātha, Asangha, etc., are Ābhidharmikas by my reckoning, just of a different sort, and they work with pre-existing Śrāvaka Ābhidharma materials, like substantial divisions of the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra, etc. For instance, Venerable Asangha's Abhidharmasamuccaya is treated as the de facto Māhāyānika Abhidharma text in some circles of Tibetan Buddhism.
If you see a river, pray that beings gain entrance into the stream and into the ocean of wisdom. If you see a reservoir, pray that beings swiftly taste the one taste of the Dharma. If you see a pond, pray that beings become great in locution and skillful in preaching. If you see a well, pray that beings draw deep from the well of reason to disclose all dharmas. If you see a spring, pray that beings have inexhaustible roots of virtue. If you see a bridge, pray that beings carry all across to safety, as via a bridge. If you see a waterfall, pray that all beings cleanse the stains of delusion.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:39 am Would it be fair to say that Yogācāra is another, albeit later, northern Abhidhamma? There doesn’t seem to be much in it that relies upon Mahāyāna and it did grow out of the Sautrāntikas who in turn were a sub-sect of the Sarvāstivādins.
Coëmgenu wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 12:01 am...But Venerables Maitreyanātha, Asangha, etc., are Ābhidharmikas by my reckoning, just of a different sort,...
To suggest that the Yogacara is just another northern Abhidhamma or that Yogacara is an Abhidharma philosophy just does not work.

Of course, we are dealing with the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma when we talk about Yogacara in its early stages. It is true that “important Yogācāra ideas can be seen as developments of Abhidharma concepts” as held by the Sarvastivada. Vasubandhu famously converted or developed from being an expert on the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma, albeit with Sautrantika views, to being a Mahayanist and a founder of Yogācāra. However, his presentation of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma presents it in such a way that its accepted orthodox principles could be used to justify “radical” Mahayana ideas. It may be that he was already a Mahayanist at heart.

It is questionable if the Sautrantikas ever existed as sub-sect of any kind (they left no texts, ordination rituals, etc. In any case the whole point was to deny Sarvastivadin theory. It is better to think of them as a set of more or less common views critical of the Sarvastivada.

"What seems to be relatively clear, however, is that the Sautrāntikas (at least
as described by Vasubandhu) disagreed with the eponymous doctrine of the
Sarvāstivāda, the idea that things in all three times exist.¹²⁶ Some authors
argued that the Sautrāntikas do not appear to be ‘a group having a defined
set of doctrinal positions’, apart from the fact that their ‘perspective can be
characterized only by a rejection of the definitive Sarvāstivāda position that
factors exist in the three periods of time’.¹²⁷ So far it might be most satisfactory
to consider the term ‘Sautrāntika’ to refer to a broader range of positions
unified by the fact that they put special emphasis on the sūtras and reject the
Sarvāstivāda theory of transtemporal existence."

It not clear what is meant by suggesting that Yogacara does not rely on Mahayana. It is the Mahayana, or at least one of its two major schools.

All direct quotes are from "The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy" by Jan Westerhoff (Oxford university Press, 2018).
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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I agree with much of the above, but do we know for sure that it was strictly Sarvāstivādin Abhidharmas the early Yogācārins worked with, or did they synthesize whatever met their ends from a variety of sources? For instance, Venerable Vasubandhu links the alaya to the bhavanga, meaning he must have been consulting Theravada-esque material.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Sun Sep 20, 2020 5:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
If you see a river, pray that beings gain entrance into the stream and into the ocean of wisdom. If you see a reservoir, pray that beings swiftly taste the one taste of the Dharma. If you see a pond, pray that beings become great in locution and skillful in preaching. If you see a well, pray that beings draw deep from the well of reason to disclose all dharmas. If you see a spring, pray that beings have inexhaustible roots of virtue. If you see a bridge, pray that beings carry all across to safety, as via a bridge. If you see a waterfall, pray that all beings cleanse the stains of delusion.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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It not clear what is meant by suggesting that Yogacara does not rely on Mahayana. It is the Mahayana, or at least one of its two major schools.
I’m not so sure about this. I don’t see why someone who adopts Yogācāra has to also adopt Mahāyāna ideas? For example, I can see how someone can agree with Yogācāra yet rely purely on the Agamas or suttas. I don’t see anything in Yogācāra, as far as I’m aware, that requires the adoption of Mahāyāna ideas and practices?
"Analysis and synthesis are praised by the wise,
liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

Post by Coëmgenu »

Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:49 am
It not clear what is meant by suggesting that Yogacara does not rely on Mahayana. It is the Mahayana, or at least one of its two major schools.
I’m not so sure about this. I don’t see why someone who adopts Yogācāra has to also adopt Mahāyāna ideas? For example, I can see how someone can agree with Yogācāra yet rely purely on the Agamas or suttas. I don’t see anything in Yogācāra, as far as I’m aware, that requires the adoption of Mahāyāna ideas and practices?
I suppose it depends on how interlinked the storehouse consciousness is with tathāgatagarbha thought.
If you see a river, pray that beings gain entrance into the stream and into the ocean of wisdom. If you see a reservoir, pray that beings swiftly taste the one taste of the Dharma. If you see a pond, pray that beings become great in locution and skillful in preaching. If you see a well, pray that beings draw deep from the well of reason to disclose all dharmas. If you see a spring, pray that beings have inexhaustible roots of virtue. If you see a bridge, pray that beings carry all across to safety, as via a bridge. If you see a waterfall, pray that all beings cleanse the stains of delusion.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:49 am I don’t see why someone who adopts Yogācāra has to also adopt Mahāyāna ideas? For example, I can see how someone can agree with Yogācāra yet rely purely on the Agamas or suttas. I don’t see anything in Yogācāra, as far as I’m aware, that requires the adoption of Mahāyāna ideas and practices?
One has to differentiate the dialectical fabrications of conventional realities from the "salvation" narratives of Mahayana and Theravada that appeal to the faculty of religious belief exclusively. When the "salvation" narratives are stripped off then yogacara, madhyamaka or abhidamma dialectical philosophies can be combined with either Mahayana or Theravada or used as stand-alone frames of reference.
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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Coëmgenu wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:18 am I agree with much of the above, but do we know for sure that it was strictly Sarvāstivādin Abhidharmas the early Yogācārins worked with, or did they synthesize whatever met their ends from a variety of sources? For instance, Venerable Vasubandhu links the alaya to the bhavanga, meaning he must have been consulting Theravada-esque material.
We do know what the early Yogacarins quoted. Theravada probably did not exist then as a school and was never influential or apparently even known in northern India until after the extinction of Buddhism in India so I can only assume you are referring to the common heritage of Buddhist ideas and, of course, all Buddhists use these. So it would have to be the other way around. Yogacara may have influenced the formation of Theravada, but it would seem impossible for the reverse to happen.

Bhavanga, a Pali word, is used in Theravada to refer to a Theravada doctrine that has been compared to the Yogacara, but is not the same. The Sanskrit and other language versions use the equivalent term to refer to the mind with various technical definitions.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

Post by Coëmgenu »

Caodemarte wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 6:31 pm Theravada probably did not exist then as a school and was never influential or apparently even known in northern India until after the extinction of Buddhism in India so I can only assume you are referring to the common heritage of Buddhist ideas and, of course, all Buddhists use these.
AFAIK, I'm referring to Venerable Vasubandhu comparing the ālāyavijñāna to the bhavāṅgacitta. I'll try to find the source in a bit when I have time. But the above is potentially true, that is why I said "Theravāda-esque." He could have gotten the notion of "bhavāṅgacitta" from potentially the Abhidharma traditions of the Dharmaguptakas or any other minority Vibhajyavāda-derived school in northern India that later became extinct.
If you see a river, pray that beings gain entrance into the stream and into the ocean of wisdom. If you see a reservoir, pray that beings swiftly taste the one taste of the Dharma. If you see a pond, pray that beings become great in locution and skillful in preaching. If you see a well, pray that beings draw deep from the well of reason to disclose all dharmas. If you see a spring, pray that beings have inexhaustible roots of virtue. If you see a bridge, pray that beings carry all across to safety, as via a bridge. If you see a waterfall, pray that all beings cleanse the stains of delusion.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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Well, this is surprising. Instead of the eclectic Venerable Vasubandhu, it is Ven Maitreyanātha who is familiar with the bhavāṅgacitta, which he relays at Mahāyānasūtrālaṁkārakārikā XI.32:
svadhātuto dvayābhāsāḥ sāvidyākleśavṛttayaḥ |
vikalpāḥ saṃpravartante dvayadravyavivarjitāḥ ||

svadhātuta iti bhāvāṅgād ālayavijñānataḥ | dvayābhāsā iti grāhyagrāhakābhāsāḥ | sahāvidyayā kleśaiś ca vṛttir eṣāṃ ta ime sāvidyākleśavṛttayaḥ | dvayadravyavivarjitā iti grāhyadravyeṇa grāhakadravyeṇa ca | evaṃ kleśaḥ paryeṣitavyaḥ |

32. Discriminative constructions evolve from their own realm with a dualistic appearance, functioning with addictions and misknowledge; (yet in reality) they are devoid of any substantial duality.

"From their own realm" refers to [the bhavāṅga,] (53) which is the fundamental consciousness. The appearance of duality is the appearance of subject and object. These (constructions) function together with misknowledge and addictions. They are free of any substantial duality, (without any) substantial subject or any substantial object. Addiction should be investigated in this way.
The footnotes from the translator explain the need for the square brackets:
(53) "Following Lévi's suggestion (based on the Tibetan rang gi sa bon) to read svabījād in place of Ms. bhāvāṅgād (LI, p. 63.5), which is obviously corrupt.
So it seems bhavāṅga appears in the Sanskrit but Tibetan translators, possibly unfamiliar with the term, render it as "their own seeds."
If you see a river, pray that beings gain entrance into the stream and into the ocean of wisdom. If you see a reservoir, pray that beings swiftly taste the one taste of the Dharma. If you see a pond, pray that beings become great in locution and skillful in preaching. If you see a well, pray that beings draw deep from the well of reason to disclose all dharmas. If you see a spring, pray that beings have inexhaustible roots of virtue. If you see a bridge, pray that beings carry all across to safety, as via a bridge. If you see a waterfall, pray that all beings cleanse the stains of delusion.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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Coëmgenu wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 6:46 pm
Caodemarte wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 6:31 pm Theravada probably did not exist then as a school and was never influential or apparently even known in northern India until after the extinction of Buddhism in India so I can only assume you are referring to the common heritage of Buddhist ideas and, of course, all Buddhists use these.
AFAIK, I'm referring to Venerable Vasubandhu comparing the ālāyavijñāna to the bhavāṅgacitta. I'll try to find the source in a bit when I have time. But the above is potentially true, that is why I said "Theravāda-esque." He could have gotten the notion of "bhavāṅgacitta" from potentially the Abhidharma traditions of the Dharmaguptakas or any other minority Vibhajyavāda-derived school in northern India that later became extinct.
He could have theoretically learned any other common word like "Buddha" from a non-Sarvastivada source he did not mention and we don't know about for a reason we can't understand even though he was trained in Sarvastivada in the area where it was strongest, but it seems rather pointless to speculate along those lines when the point is how he uses it and defines it.
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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SteRo wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 8:36 am
Ceisiwr wrote: Sun Sep 20, 2020 4:49 am I don’t see why someone who adopts Yogācāra has to also adopt Mahāyāna ideas? For example, I can see how someone can agree with Yogācāra yet rely purely on the Agamas or suttas. I don’t see anything in Yogācāra, as far as I’m aware, that requires the adoption of Mahāyāna ideas and practices?
One has to differentiate the dialectical fabrications of conventional realities from the "salvation" narratives of Mahayana and Theravada that appeal to the faculty of religious belief exclusively. When the "salvation" narratives are stripped off then yogacara, madhyamaka or abhidamma dialectical philosophies can be combined with either Mahayana or Theravada or used as stand-alone frames of reference.
According to Yaroslav Komarovski the distinction is:
Although Yogācāras in general do not accept the existence of an external material world, according to Satyākāravāda its appearances or “aspects” (rnam pa, ākāra) reflected in consciousness have a real existence, because they are of one nature with the really existent consciousness, their creator. According to Alikākāravāda, neither external phenomena nor their appearances and/in the minds that reflect them really exist. What exists in reality is only primordial mind (ye shes, jñāna), described as self-cognition (rang rig, svasamvedana/ svasamvitti) or individually self-cognizing primordial mind (so so(r) rang gis rig pa’i ye shes).[72]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogachara#cite_ref-74

It seems that Satyākāravāda-Yogācāra would be somehow 'closer' to Theravada doctrine than Alikākāravāda-Yogācāra which seems to be somehow 'closer' to Madhyamaka.
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
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Re: Yogācāra and Abhidhamma

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You can use or adapt some one else’s ideas to formulate your own philosophy as long as acknowledge what you are doing. It is usually best to first understand those ideas in their own context. Separating any Buddhist philosophy from its soteriological purpose misses the point, distorts the thought in question, and would horrify or amuse its originators. Note that Yogacara thinkers DO NOT hold that there is a primordial consciousness that really exists as the equivalent of an atman or super soul or reject the external world in favor of a really existing internal world. Nor is the Madhyamaka a nihilist school. Together they form the mainstream of current Mahayana Buddhism, especially in East Asia, and are not as distinct as claimed by those using a partisan lens.

“ D. T. Suzuki noted as early as 1928 that

Most Buddhist scholars are often too ready to make a sharp distinction
between the Madhyamika and the Yogacara, taking the one as exclusively
advocating the theory of emptiness (sunyata) while the other is bent
single-mindedly on an idealistic interpretation of the universe. They
thus further assume that the idea of emptiness is not at all traceable
in the Yogacara and that idealism is absent in the Madhyamika. This is
not exact as a historical fact.[1]”
http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ADM/king.htm
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