1. Yogācāra School

Maitreya Bodhisattva
Maitreya Bodhisattva


Yogācāra (literally "yoga practice"; "one whose practice is yoga") is an influential tradition of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing the study of cognition, perception, and consciousness through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices.

It is also variously termed Vijñānavāda (the doctrine of consciousness), Vijñaptivāda (the doctrine of ideas or precepts) or Vijñapti-mātratā-vāda (the doctrine of 'mere representation), which is also the name given to its major epistemic theory.

There are several interpretations of this main theory, some scholars see it as a kind of Idealism while others argue that it is closer to a kind of phenomenology or representationalism, aimed at deconstructing the reification of our perceptions.

The 4th-century Gandhāran brothers, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, are considered the classic philosophers and systematisers of this school, along with its other founder, Maitreya.

It was associated with Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism in about the 4th century, but also included non-Mahāyāna practitioners of the Sautrāntika School.

Yogācāra continues to be influential in Tibetan Buddhism and East Asian Buddhism. However, the uniformity of a single assumed "Yogācāra school" has been put into question.


Yogācāra philosophy is primarily meant to aid in the practice of yoga and meditation and thus it also sets forth a systematic analysis of the Mahāyāna path of mental training.

Yogācārins made use of ideas from previous traditions, such as Prajñāpāramitā and the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma, to develop a new schema for spiritual practice.

Yogācāra is meant to be an explanation of experience, rather than a system of ontology:

For this reason, Yogācārins developed an Abhidharma literature set within a Mahāyāna framework.

In its analysis, Yogācāra works like the Saṅdhi-nirmocana Sūtra developed various core concepts such as vijñapti-mātra, the ālaya-vijñāna (store consciousness), the turning of the basis (āśraya-parāvṛtti), the 3 natures (tri-svabhāva), and emptiness.

They form a complex system, and each can be taken as a point of departure for understanding Yogācāra.