Category

THE YOGĀCĀRAS

4. THE YOGĀCĀRAS

We have discussed the Sautrāntika School. There are reasons to think that a section of the later Sautrāntikas coalesced with the Vijñāna- vādins (“idealists").

According to Sautrāntikas, though the external world has its reality it cannot be perceived, but is known only by infer­ence, while the Vijñāna-vādins ignore its existence altogether.

It is clear that originally Vijñāna-vāda is based on a number of Upaniṣadic passages containing the words jñāna and vijñāna referring to ātman (“self") or Brahman (the Absolute) in their Vedāntic interpretation.

Ātman, Brahman, jñāna and vijñāna are identical in the sense in this connection. There are passages which can very easily be interpreted from the idealistic point of view.

The followers of idealism are naturally known as Vijñāna-vādins. They are also called Yogācāras. The word Yogācāra (literally, a practiser of yoga) originally meant an ascetic, but gradually it was employed for an idealist or the School.

According to the commentary by Bhāskarācārya on the Brahma-sūtra, II. 2. 28, yoga means that way which leads one to the destination by śamatha (samādhi) (abstract meditation) and vipaśyanā(prajñā) (transcendental wisdom)—these two means being just like two bullocks tied to the yoke of a cart and leading to a destination. Thus one who proceeds along with yoga is Yogācāra.

The idealistic thought in Buddhism is already found in Mahāyāna- sūtras, but its first systematization is made by Maitreyanātha, the master of Asanga.

The idealistic current as a system with its own Śāstras may safely be placed at about the end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth century A.D. Then there flourished a number of teachers of whom Diṅnāga was a prominent one.

The fundamental discourse, said to be of the Buddha himself, on which the idealism of the Buddhists is based, is the following:

“O the sons of the Victorious One (i.e. the Buddha), all these three planes are only consciousness. The teachers also of this School declare that all this objective world is nothing but an appearance, for it does not exist in fact,

just as to a man who suffers from an eye disease called timira appears a knot of hair, or such other things as two moons, the existence of which cannot even be imagined.

The objects do not exist apart from the subjects perceiving them."

Here the following objections may be raised:

If the consciousness of a particular object is without that object and not from that object, then why is it that in a particular place we have that consciousness and not in every place?

Again, why is it that the consciousness is in a particular time and not always?

On the contrary, why and how is it that the same person or thing can be seen always and not in a particular time, and in all places and not in a particular place, and by all persons and not a particular person, as in the case of a man suffering from partial blindness called timira?

Further, why is it that with things that a person with his defective eyes sees, such as a knot of hair, or two moons, no actual purpose of him is served, but it is done so with the things other than them?

Or take another example. In a dream one may take food and drink, but in reality one's stomach is not filled up, but is it not so with other foods and drinks?

Why is this difference? Therefore, if one does not accept the existence of an object there can in no way be any adjustment.

All these objections are, however, met with the help of dream experi­ences.

For, it is well known that in one's dream though there is no object whatsoever it is seen there and also in a particular time and place. Even a function may also be caused by the dream experiences.

From another point of view the idealists repudiate the existence of objects. They say that anything such as a piece of cloth cannot be accepted as real, for you cannot take it as one in the form of the whole as do the Vaiśeṣikās,

for the whole is not an entity other than the parts; nor can you take it as many in the forms of atoms, for each of the atoms cannot be perceived. Nor can atoms be thought to be combined into one object.

For, if on the six points (i.e. east, west, north, south, and up and down) of an atom six atoms are united at the same time, it must be admitted that the atom has its six parts, and in that case it cannot be atom, for that is the atom which has no part whatsoever.

Maitreyanātha's Madhyānta-vibhaṅga-kārikā (I. 2) says of this theory:

There is the false ideation (abhūta-parikalpa); there do not exist the two; but there exists voidness (śūnyatā), and it also (i.e. the false ideation) exists in this (i.e. the Voidness).

There are four statements here:

(1) The first declares: There is the false ideation. It implies that there are some who hold that there is absolutely nothing (sarva-dharma-Śūnyatā) just like a horn of a hare.

This cannot, however, be held, for in that case there is nothing to do for one's nirvana. Therefore, it is said that there is the false ideation and an aspirant to nirvana strives after it.

(2) The second statement is: The two, i.e. the subject and object do not exist there, as they are mere appearances, phantoms of our minds, endless series of mental states, having no begin­ning but ending with one's nirvana. They are related to one another in a relation of cause and effect and this forms the saṁsāra.

(3) The third statement is that there exists voidness (śūnyatā). Here voidness is to be taken in the sense of the state of being void of both the qualities of a subject and an object.

(4) The fourth statement is that in the voidness, too, there is the false ideation, because in the meditation of the voidness as its support (ālambana) one has that false ideation, for without it there is no meditation.

As we have already seen, in accordance with this School the world is only consciousness (citta), therefore, its followers cannot but admit that this consciousness does the functions of three, i.e.

of that which is to be known (vedya), i.e. the object, of that who knows (vedaka), i.e. the subject, as well as of the function of knowledge (vedanā).

But one which has no parts cannot be endowed with such three different characteristics.

Seeing, however, that a lamp illuminates not only the other things around, but also itself, the teachers of vijñāna-vāda argue that the con­sciousness in the same way knows also itself,

but the Mādhyamikas, refute it quoting a Scripture. It runs as follows:

“Having not seen the conscious­ness (citta) he (Bodhisattva) investigates the current of the consciousness and asks whence it arises. Then it occurs to him: Consciousness arises only when there is an object.

Now if it is so, is it that the object is one thing and consciousness is another? Or are they identical? If the former, how can consciousness recognize itself through consciousness?

It does not or cannot do so. For instance, none can cut an edge of a sword by the same edge of the sword. Nor can a man touch the tip of a finger with the same tip of the finger."

In the same way the same consciousness cannot be cognized by itself.

Besides, the lamp illuminates things other than itself and not also itself, because there is no darkness that can cover it.

In order to establish the self-consciousness of thought the idealists argue that if it is not admitted to be so, no thought can be remembered, but we all know that we remember our thoughts, and it is well known that nothing is remembered that is not perceived.

The teachers say that among the people and in Scriptures there are various denominations of self and elements of existence or things (dharmas), for instance:

“self" (ātman), “living being" (jīva), etc., and “aggregates" (skandhas), “elements" (dhātus), etc.

The application of these two kinds of denominations with regard to self and the elements of existence respec­tively is not primary, because they are not applied to actual self and the elements of existence respectively.

Why? Because they are mere trans­formation (pariṇāma) of consciousness as they do not exist outside.

Here from the receptacle consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna) which continues like the stream of a river or the flames of a lamp and in which the impressions (vāsanās) of the imagination of self, matter, etc., are developed, such forms as self and matter, etc., come into existence.

They are taken as external, though they are not actually so. This goes on from the time without beginning, even though, in fact, there is no self, nor matter outside.

The denial of self and elements of existence is nothing but the two most important theories commonly accepted by the Yogācāras and the Mādhyamikas, i.e. pudgala-nairātmya and dharma-nairātmya.

The word nairātmya radically means here the state of being devoid of ātman which signifies in this case svabhāva, “own being," i.e. innate character which never under­goes any change, nor depends on anything for its being.

The self is called ātman, because according to those who believe in its separate existence, it has the nature just described and of which it is never devoid and conse­quently it is held to be eternal.

Now pudgala is nothing but what we know by such terms as “man," “person," etc., i.e. the self. Thus by pudgala- nairātmya we understand that what is believed to be a pudgala or self has no independent nature of its own,

and consequently no existence in fact, and therefore it is not a thing in reality (vastu-sat), but exists merely in imagination, a convention for serving our purpose of ordinary life.

Simi­larly, dharmas or elements of existence have not their ātman “nature," because they depend for their being on the causes and conditions (pratītya- samutpāda). This is dharma-nairātmya.

In this School things are viewed from three different aspects, i.e. imaginary (parikalpita), dependent (paratantra) and perfect (pariniṣ-panna).

These aspects are known as lakṣaṇa (characteristic) or svabhāva (nature).

Let us take here the example of a magician who by dint of his power shows an elephant before us. That we see an elephant here cannot be denied, but this elephant is of imaginary character.

It is also clear here that the form of the elephant depends on its cause and conditions, other­wise the animal could not appear before us.

Therefore, the elephant is also of dependent character. Finally, that there is absolutely no elephant at all is quite clear, and thus it is of perfect character.

Now when this citta has no support (i.e. object, ālambana) whatsoever, and consequently does not perceive anything there being nothing per­ceptible, it rests in itself.

This state is called vijñapti-mātratā or vijñāna- mātratā, i.e. only consciousness pure and simple. This can be realized by the disciplines advised, i.e. deep meditation (śamatha) and supreme wisdom (vipaśyanā).

This state of citta resting in vijñāna-mātratā is described variously owing to the variety of the aspects, It is called there—lokottara-jñāna (super-mundane knowledge) and āśraya-       parāvṛtti (turning back of the source), i.e. the ālaya-vijñāna, in other words, the conscious   subject or self.

It means that owing to the elimination of the two sorts of evil states (dauṣṭhulya), i.e. covers or obstruction (āvaraṇas),

i.e. “the knowable" (jñeya), and the passions (kleśas), such as sensuality (rāga), aversion (dveṣa), and bewilderment (moha), the ālaya-vijñāna turns back to its natural state in the form of advaya-jñāna, i.e. “the knowledge free from the two, i.e. the subject and object.

In other words, the ālaya-vijñāna which was before covered or obscured, the cover or obstruction being now removed," gets its own innate state, i.e. the state of advaya-jñāna. This is anāsrava-dhātu (undefiled element), and vimukti (deliverance).

It is clear that this vijñapti-mātratā is, in the Vedāntic language of Gauḍapāda, the spiritual guide of Śaṅkarācārya, Brāhman, as the older Vedānta, the Āgama-śāstra of Gauḍapāda shows. It is rather strange that this point has no place in the classical Vedānta.

Here it may be observed that Gauḍapāda's Brāhman points on one side the state of kaivalya, i.e. “the state of being not connected with anything else" or “the resting of the self (draṣṭṛ or puruṣa) in himself" as described in the Yoga-sutra (I. 3),

and on the other to the resting of the citta in itself (vijñapti-mātratā) of the Vijñāna-vādins.