Experience and Doctrine in Yogācāra

Wed., Aug. 20th, 09:00-12:30

Meditation and Theory of Pratītyasamutpāda: Mainly in the Śrāvakabhūmi

Abe, Takako (Taisho University, Kokubunjisi, JPN)

The Śrāvakabhūmi (ŚBh) is generally said to indicate the experience of yoga practitioners. The yogins, however, did not practice freely; rather they based their practice on doctrines that were already established. In general, the ŚBh relies on teachings found in the Āgamas. The compilers skillfully combined many passages from the sūtras, to instruct practitioners on how to contemplate and to record the master’s teaching to his disciples. It is necessary for us to confirm how doctrine was introduced into the meditative system in the ŚBh, and to consider how its expression developed ideologically in the other chapters in the Yogācārabhūmi (YBh).

From this point of view, I will focus on the meditation of idampratyayatā pratītyasamutpāda. Although the ŚBh seems to include the meditation as one of the Five Gates of Meditation under the influence of meditation manuals such as the Yogācārabhūmi of Saṃgharakṣa (Xiūxíngdào dì jīng 修行道地経), its explanations differ from these manuals. There is very little explanation of pratītyasamutpāda in the ŚBh, but by examining the passages carefully, we can identify both the texts on which the ŚBh relies and the yogin’s meditative reflections.

In addition, there is an important issue regarding the pratītyasamutpāda theory of the Yogācāra school. The concept of the so-called “One Fold Causality Spanning the Two Lifetimes 二世一重因果 ” is found in the YBh [Matsuda 1983]. However, it is somewhat different from the more systematized model in the Abhidharmasamuccaya [Kritzer 1999], which was inherited by Chéng wéisí lùn 成唯識論, finally becoming a typical teaching of the Hosso School 法相宗 in Japan [Harada 2004]. Passages that represent the pratītyasamutpāda theory of the YBh mostly appear in the Savitarkādibhūmi and also occur with much the same wording in the Vastusaṃgrahaṇī. However, the theory of pratītyasamutpāda in the Savitarkādibhūmi and the Vastusaṃgrahaṇī, particularly in comparison with the ŚBh, has not been sufficiently studied. With this in mind, I will discuss the logical relationship between the version in the ŚBh and those found in other chapters of the YBh.

In the early Yogācāra school, the yogins practiced based on a doctrine that was already established, and by verbalizing the experience, they constructed a new theory. To help to verify this, I examine the pratītyasamutpāda theory, which was based on the yogins own meditative experience.


Meditative Experience and Hermeneutical Fiddling in Yogācāra Buddhism

Deleanu, Florin (International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, Tokyo, JPN)

The paper will examine how apparently similar meditative experiences can be assessed, and arguably practised, differently when hermeneutical criteria and paradigms are shifted. I shall focus on three major strategies of dealing with mainstream meditation practices in such Yogācāra sources as the Śrāvakabhūmi, Bodhisattvabhūmi, Viniścayasaṃgrahaṇī, Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, Mahāyānasaṃgraha, etc. (1) The first strategy, which I call ‘subsumption’, makes use of old canonical techniques such as mindfulness of breathing (ānāpānasmṛti), absorptions (dhyāna), etc. not (only) for their traditional goals but (also) as an exercise in eliminating (vibhava) ideations (saṃjñā). (2) ‘Re-evaluation’ refers to approaches such as the downgrading or upgrading of meditative states or paradigms like śamatha or vipaśyanā, described in more or less similar terms, in order to accommodate new epistemic and soteriological priorities. (3) The more drastic process of ‘substitution’ implies such strategies as the replacement of the content of a traditional structure like the five paths of spiritual progress with entirely or partly different practices. The analysis will be set against the background of the growing stress placed upon the role and attainment of non-conceptual cognition (nirvikalpakajñāna).


Abhidharma Works of the Yogācāras and Their Practical Uses

Delhey, Martin (Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), University of Hamburg )

On the one hand, the encyclopedic basic work of the Yogācāra school of Buddhism, viz. the Yogācārabhūmi, has often been regarded as a summa of Buddhist scholasticism by the tradition itself. And this holds true not only for later Buddhist scholars but (at least partly) even for the very authors and compilers of this text. Accordingly, attempts to build a complex and coherent dogmatic edifice and to justify it from an exegetical point of view prevail in most, though not all, parts of this bulky and heterogeneous work.

On the other hand, the very title of this work suggests that it is spiritual practice rather than theoretical issues that formed the main concern of the Indian Buddhist circles in which this work and simultaneously the Yogācāra school of Mahāyāna Buddhism originated.

Therefore, one might wonder how these two fundamentally different concerns relate to each other. Is the study of abhidharma works in this school a necessary prerequisite, a useful preparation, or (at least in certain cases) an impediment for successful spiritual practice? Did these books, apart from soteriological aims, serve other practical ends as well?

In examining the questions mentioned above, I will take relevant text passages from the Yogācārabhūmi and several later works into consideration. The interesting remarks on the purpose of abhidharma texts in Sthiramati’s Pañcaskandhakavibhāṣā will serve as a starting-point for the investigation. Through examination of these passages, I hope that the present investigation into the sitz im leben of the Yogācāra abhidharma works will also prove to shed some new light on other related issues discussed during the panel.


Aśubhā in Yogācārabhūmi: Meditation, Systematization, and Sources.

Kritzer, Robert (Kyoto Notre Dame University, Kyoto, JPN)

Aśubhā bhāvanā, meditation on the impure, appears frequently in Yogācārabhūmi, most notably but not exclusively in Śrāvakabhūmi. As is the case elsewhere in other texts, we can find both descriptive and prescriptive passages of the meditation and passages that explain where the meditation fits in the scheme of the spiritual path. Through careful analysis of these passages, I shall discuss how meditative experiences were organized into doctrinal systems, and how doctrinal traditions in turn influenced meditative practice. 

There is a sizable literature on the meditation that precedes or is approximately contemporaneous with even the oldest portions of Yogācārabhūmi, including Sarvastivāda abhidharma texts, such as Vibhāṣā, and meditation sūtras, such as Damoduoluo chan jing and Zuochan sanmei jing. However, at least in the case of the three most important passages in Śrāvakabhūmi, the sources are by no means clear. As Paul Demiéville has noted, Yogācārabhūmi shares with the meditation sūtras a category of five types of meditation, one of which is aśubhā. Interestingly, however, the most striking feature of the aśubhā material in the meditation sūtras, namely the pure meditation on the white bones, is completely absent from Śrāvakabhūmi, suggesting that it takes an approach more in line with traditional āgama and abhidharma sources. Nevertheless, it displays a degree of systematization not found in other relevant sources. In comparing the descriptive and systematic passages from Yogācārabhūmi with relevant portions of other texts, I shall discuss both originality and conservativeness in treatments of aśubhā bhāvanā in Yogācārabhūmi, especially Śrāvakabhūmi. In doing so, I hope to shed new light on the relationship between doctrinal traditions and meditative practice in Yogācāra.


Is Yogācāra Phenomenology? Some Evidence from the Cheng weishi lun

Sharf, Robert (University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, USA)

Several attempts have been made of late to read Yogācāra through the lens of Western phenomenology. The growing popularity of this approach is not difficult to fathom. In the last few decades philosophers in the West have been drawn to developments and findings emerging from cognitive neuro-science, developments that bear on issues such as the relationship between mind and matter, the nature of consciousness awareness, and what it means to be a person. Psychological phenomena such as brain-fission, blind sight, inattentional blindness, Capgras syndrome, and so on pose conceptual puzzles that seem to undermine the common-sense belief in a singular “self” or “cogito.” Philosophers are accordingly drawn to theories of consciousness that are not predicated on the existence of a unified subject. Buddhist theories of consciousness and the relationship between the perceiving subject and perceived object take as their starting point the absence of an abiding self or soul, and this allows scholars to argue that the Buddhist account of cognition, honed by centuries of philosophical reflection and debate, has something to bring to the table. Moreover, some argue that the Buddhist theories are enriched by meditative technologies developed by yogis who explored the outer limits of human experience. Yogācāra is supposedly the culmination of this tradition; it brings together Buddhist analytic psychology and philosophy on the one hand, and empirical methods for disciplined introspection on the other, resulting in a system that has something in common with the philosophical tradition stemming from Brentano and Husserl.

My paper will approach the relationship between Yogācāra and phenomenology primarily through the Cheng weishi lun 成唯識論. Specifically, I will look at two topics in the Cheng weishi lun that would seem to bear on issues of current philosophical interest. The first is its analysis of the “five omnipresent mental factors” (pañca-sarvatraga, wu bianxing xinsuo 五遍行心所), namely, contact (sparśa, chu 觸), attention (manaskāra, zuoyi 作意), sensation (vedanā, shou 受), conception (saṃjñā, xiang 想), and intention (cetanā, si 思). The second topic is the “four aspects” (sifen 四分) of cognition, under which falls the complex issues associated with “self-awareness” (svasaṃvedana, svasaṃvitti, zizheng 自證).

The topics of the five omnipresent mental factors and the four aspects of cognition would seem, at least on the surface, to bear on issues at the very forefront of current philosophical debate—issues such as the status of “qualia” and the relationship between perception, language, memory, and self-awareness. But I will suggest that the Cheng weishi lun approach is not “phenomenological” in the proper sense of the word. The categories and modes of analysis in the Cheng weishi lun do not emerge from or aver to an empirical and systematic reflection on the nature of “lived experience,” so much as they are focused on metaphysical entities and processes that belong to the domain of the noumenal.


Theory and Practice in the Context of Ālayavijñāna, Focusing on Its Physiological Functions

Yamabe, Nobuyoshi (Tokyo University of Agriculture, Atsugi, Kanagawa, JPN)

The issue of how the concept of ālayavijñāna was introduced into the doctrinal system of Yogācāra is controversial. Some scholars, both Western and Japanese, argue that ālayavijñāna was purely theoretical, constructed to account for problems of personal continuity in the absence of an everlasting Self in Buddhism. Other scholars suspect that ālayavijñāna was directly based on meditative experience. In this paper, I readdress the issue of the roles of theory and practice in the introduction of the concept of ālayavijñāna.

In an extensive monograph on this matter, Lambert Schmithausen has suggested that ālayavijñāna was introduced as a “gap-bridger” that maintains the seeds of the “forthcoming” forms of mind (pravṛttivijñāna) and keeps the body alive during the Absorption into Cessation (nirodhasamāpatti). In his opinion, ālayavijñāna was tied to, but not directly derived from, meditative experience. Rather, in his view, theoretical reflection on nirodhasamāpatti led to the introduction of this new concept.

Referring to Schmithausen’s research, I focus on the importance of the physiological aspect of ālayavijñāna. As Schmithausen has already noted, ālayavijñāna’s physiological (in his terminology, “biological”) function of keeping the body alive (upādāna) is highly emphasized in the early Yogācāra sources. In addition, Yogācāra texts indicate that the transformation brought about by meditative practice has a physical aspect and is not just a mental process, and ālayavijñāna seems to be cardinal in the process of this transformation. To me, these points suggest that ālayavijñāna was more closely tied to meditative experience than Schmithausen believes. In my paper I shall examine relevant passages and test the validity of this hypothesis. 


IABS 2014 | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien