See D. T. Suzuki, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra (1930); S. Radhakrishman and C. A. Moore, A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (1957); A. K. Chatterjee, The Yogacara Idealism (1962); C. L. Tripathi, The Problem of Knowledge in Yogacara Buddhism (1972).
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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...attaches importance to the religious practice of yoga as a means for attaining final emancipation from the bondage of the phenomenal world. The stages of yoga are systematically set forth in the treatises associated with this tradition.
Keenan, et al. (2003) states that:
...the Yogācāra thinkers did not simply comment on Mādhyamika thought. They attempted to ground insight into emptiness in a critical understanding of the mind, articulated in a sophisticated theoretical discourse.
The origins of the scholarly Indian Yogācāra tradition were rooted in the syncretic scholasticism of Nālandā University where the doctrine of Cittamātra was first extensively propagated. Doctrines, tenets and derivatives of this school have influenced and become well-established in China, Tibet, Japan and Mongolia and throughout the World via the dissemination and dialogue wrought by the Buddhist diaspora.
Yogacara discourse views that all phenomena is mind. This view is founded on the existential truth of the human condition: there is nothing that humans experience that is not mediated by mind.
Later Yogācāra views synthesized the two, in particular Shantarakshita whose view is attributed as Yogacara-Svatantrika-Madhyamika. In his view the Mādhyamika position is ultimately true and at the same time the mind-only view is a useful way to relate to conventionalities and progress students more skillfully toward the ultimate. This synthesized view between the two positions — which also incorporated views of valid cognition from Dignaga and Dharmakirti — was one of the last developments of Indian Buddhism before it was extinguished in the eleventh century during the Muslim incursion.
This view was also expounded by Xuanzang, who after a suite of debates with exponents of the Madhyamaka School, composed in Sanskrit, the no longer extant three-thousand verse treatise on "The Non-difference of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra".
Later Yogācāra teachings are especially important in Tantric Buddhism, which evolved within their development in India.
Current debates among Tibetan schools between the Shentong (empty of other) versus Rangtong (empty of self) views appear similar to earlier debates between Yogācāra and Mādhyamika but the issues and distinctions have evolved further. Though the later Tibetan views could be said to have evolved from the earlier Indian positions, the distinctions between the views became increasingly subtle especially once Yogācāra incorporated the Mādhyamika view of the ultimate. In the 19th century rime movement commenter Ju Mipham — in his commentary on Shantarakshita's synthesis — wrote that the ultimate view by both schools is the same and the result of each path also leads to the same ultimate state of abiding.
...came to the conclusion that the many disputes and interpretational conflicts permeating Chinese Buddhism were the result of the unavailability of crucial texts in Chinese translation. In particular, he [Xuanzang] thought that a complete version of the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra, an encyclopedic description of the stages of the Yogācāra path to Buddhahood written by Asaṅga, would resolve all the conflicts. In the sixth century an Indian missionary named Paramārtha (another major translator) had made a partial translation of it. Xuanzang resolved to procure the full text in India and introduce it to China.
Moreover, Dan Lusthaus charts the different dialectic and divergent traditions of Buddhism within India and China discovered by Xuanzang and mentions the Buddha-nature, Awakening of Faith, Tathāgata-garbha:
Xuanzang also discovered that the intellectual context in which Buddhists disputed and interpreted texts was much vaster and more varied than the Chinese materials had indicated: Buddhist positions were forged in earnest debate with a range of Buddhist and non-Buddhist doctrines unknown in China, and the terminology of these debates drew their significance and connotations from this rich context. While in China Yogācāra thought and Tathāgata-garbha thought were becoming inseparable, in India orthodox Yogācāra seemed to ignore if not outright reject Tathāgata-garbha thought. Many of the pivotal notions in Chinese Buddhism (e.g., Buddha-nature) and their cardinal texts (e.g., The Awakening of Faith) were completely unknown in India.
Tibetan sources consider the scriptural heart of the Yogācāra tradition to be the "Five Treatises of Maitreya." These texts are said to have been related to by the Buddha Maitreya. They are as follows:
Most of these texts were also incorporated into the Chinese tradition, which was established several centuries earlier than the Tibetan. However, the Ornament for Clear Realization (Abhisamayalankara, is not mentioned by Chinese translators up to the 7th Century, including Xuanzang, who was an expert in this field, which suggests it may possibly have emerged from a later period than is generally ascribed.
Muller (2005) furthermore states that:
There is no special need to try to assess whether one of these approaches is better than the other, for indeed, in the vast and complex system that is known as Yogācāra, all of these different approaches and categories are ultimately tied into each other, and thus, starting with any one of them, one can eventually enter into all of the rest.
Also, regarding perception, the Yogācāra emphasized that our everyday understanding of the existence of external objects is problematic, since in order to perceive any object (and thus, for all practical purposes for the object to "exist"), there must be a sensory organ as well as a correlative type of consciousness to allow the process of cognition to occur.
The answer given by the Yogācāra was the store consciousness (also known as the base, or eighth consciousness; Sanskrit: 'ālayavijñāna') which simultaneously acts as a storage place for karma and as a fertile matrix that brings karma to a state of fruition. It may be ultimately traceable to the "luminous mind" of the agamas. The likeness of this process to the cultivation of plants led to the creation of the metaphor of seeds (Sanskrit, bijas) to explain the way karma is stored in the eighth consciousness. The type, quantity, quality and strength of the seeds determine where and how a sentient being will be reborn: one's species, sex, social status, proclivities, bodily appearance and so forth.
On the other hand, the karmic energies created in the current lifetime through repeated patterns of behavior are called habit energies (Sanskrit: vasana). All the activities that mold our bodymind, for better or worse--eating, drinking, talking, studying, practicing the piano or whatever--can be understood to create habit energies. And of course, my habit energies can penetrate the consciousnesses of others, and vice versa--what we call "influence" in everyday language. Habit energies can become seeds, and seeds can produce new habit energies.
As one Buddhologist puts it, "Although meaning 'absence of inherent existence' in Madhyamaka, to the Yogacarins [śūnyatā] means 'absence of duality between perceiving subject and the perceived object.'
This is not the full story however, as each of the three natures (above), has its corresponding "absence of nature". ie:
Each of these "absences" is a form of sunyata, ie. the nature is "empty" of some particular qualified quality.
That the scriptural tradition of Yogācāra is not yet that well known among the community of Western practitioners is perhaps attributable to the fact that most of the initial transmission of Buddhism to the West has been directly concerned with more practice-oriented forms of Buddhism, such as Zen, vipaśyanā, and Pure Land. Also, it is a complicated system, and there are still not really any good, accessible, introductory books on the topic in Western languages. However, within Tibetan Buddhism more and more Western students are becoming acquainted with this school. Very little research in English has been carried out on the Chinese Yogācāra traditions.
Yogācārins, those that hold to the tenets of Yogācāra, generally uphold the doctrine of the Ālaya vijñāna: a fundamental, root or base consciousness. The ālaya vijñāna is the fecund matrix, the substrate fabric of consciousness and being. The ālaya vijñāna houses the karmic bīja that "seed" our experience of reality and "perfume" our worldview. The Ālaya vijñāna and the Tathāgata-garbha doctrine developed and resolved into the Mindstream or the "consciousness-continuity" doctrine (Sanskrit: citta santāna) to avoid being denounced as running counter to the doctrine of Śūnyatā and the tenets of Anātman. These developments, whether perceived as evolutions, devolutions or hybridizations are contentious, often divisive between and within schools and traditions.