Aryasanga

Related Pages: Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, Nagarjuna

 

Aryasanga

Date Unknown
(see Biographical References)

Contents

Biographies | Works | The Yogācāra School | Quotes On


Biographies

Biographical Sketch by Universal Theosophy

AryasangaComposing a biography on Aryasanga is not an easy task. Reliable records are scant and partial at best. Thus what we will offer here is a but brief sketch covering a few basic points.

We must first acknowledge statements made by H.P. Blavatsky that there were, in fact, two distinct Aryasangas, separated by long centuries. 1 The first is said by her to have been “a direct disciple of Gautama Buddha” and to have “founded the first Yogacharya school”. This first school, Blavatsky says, is “neither northern nor southern, but absolutely esoteric”. She says further that “none of the genunine Yogâchârya books have ever been made public or marketable”, as of her time (late 19th century). Due to the esoteric nature of the original Yogācāra doctrine, and due to the absence of traditional accounts to verify the existence of the first Aryasanga 2, we are left to decide for ourselves the validity of these statements.

What is generally accepted is that there is no clear record of the historical development of the Yogācāra system prior to the historically known Aryasanga, but that many of the ideas encompassed in it can be found scattered among earlier Buddhist texts, such that it is entirely plausible that this ‘first Aryasanga’ did indeed produce an early ‘esoteric’ school of Buddhist teachings that were later popularized in an ‘exoteric’ form by the ‘second Aryasanga’.

The history of this ‘second Aryasanga’, who is commonly referred to simply as Asanga, is itself steeped in mystery and myth. The main source for biographical information on Asanga is The Life of Vasu-Bandhu 3 wherein a brief sketch of his life is given. As the story goes, there were three brothers, all of whom were named Vasubandhu (in the tradition of the time). The eldest son, who Paramartha says “was a man endowed with the innate character of a Bodhisattva”, first became a priest in the Sarvāstivāda school of Buddhism, became free of desire through meditation, and was afterwards instructed in the doctrine of nothingness of the Hinayāna and came to comprehend it. Finding no comfort in these attainments alone, he is said to have ascended to the Tuṣita heaven where Maitreya himself instructed him in “the doctrine of nothingness belonging to the Mahā-yāna”.

Through his investigation of the teachings of Maitreya, this eldest brother became enlightened. He thereafter took upon himself the name Asanga, which means “without attachment”. It is said that Asanga went back and forth between Earth and Tuṣita heaven, learning extensively from Maitreya in Tuṣita and instructing others on Earth. Elsewhere it is said that Asanga spent fifty earth-years in Tuṣita before returning as a Teacher of the Law. 4

According to the Tibetan tradition, five central works are attributed to Maitreya himself, while other works, like the famous Yogācāra-Bhūmi, were composed by Asanga 5. The Chinese tradition differs in which works are attributed to Maitreya and which to Asanga, but both traditions agree that all are based on the teachings of Maitreya. The teachings recorded in these works compose the central tenets of the popularized Yogācāra school. H.P. Blavatsky comments that the Yogācāra-Bhūmi includes “a great deal from the older system” (i.e. the esoteric Yogācāra of the ‘first Aryasanga’) but that it is also “mixed up with Sivaism and Tantrika magic and superstitions”.

However we view it, the core ideas encompassed in the Yogācāra system find their expression scattered throughout modern Mahayana Buddhism and Theosophical literature, of particular uniqueness being the concept of ālaya-vijñāna, along with specific interpretations of paraniṣpanna and parmārtha. The Yogācāra system is often constrasted with the Mādhyamika system founded upon the teachings of Nāgārjuna, these forming two ancient ‘pillars’ of Buddhist thought.

Even with our limited historical knowledge of Aryasanga one thing is clear: the teachings of Gautama Buddha were taught and in some sense systematized by at least one great teacher, if not several, into what we now recognize as the Yogācāra philosophy. The sublime and high-reaching thought of this system is itself evidence of the presence of some great teacher at some age in human history. For a wonderful introduction to this system see Philosophy of the Yogācāra, by D. T. Suzuki (see below).


^1. Theosophical Glossary, see Aryasangha. See also The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, p. 49 fn.

^2. “In none of the sacred books treating on the Mahâyâna system do we find a record of the historical development of its theories prior to the appearance of Âryâsanga (in Tibetan Chagpa thogmed), a reformer who founded the Yogâchârya school (in Tibetan, Naljor chodpa). It is impossible, therefore, to indicate, with any approximation to accuracy, either the origin, or the authors, of the divergent theories to be clearly traced in the Mahâyâna religious books, which were all of them written before Âryâsanga’s time. — Emil Schlagintweit, Buddhism in Tibet, Chapter V (1863)

“…it is beyond dispute that the Mahayana religious works were all written far before Âryasangha’s time … and that these contain all and far more of the fundamental tenets of the Yogâchârya system…” — H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary, see Aryasangha.

These refer to the ‘second Aryasanga’ – the historically known one – and demonstrate the difficulties in tracing the transmission of the Mahāyāna system of thought. We may observe, however, that core ideas interpreted and popularized by the historically known Aryasanga were present in prior Mahāyāna theory. (Ed.)

^3. The Life of Vasu-Bandhu by Paramārtha (A.D. 499-569), Translated by J. Takakusu, M.A., Ph.D.

^4. See The Door of Liberation, by Geshe Wangyal

^5. Bibliographic Guide to the Works of Maitreya, Eastern Tradition Research Institute.


Biographical Snippets from Theosophical Sources

Âryasangha (Sk.). The Founder of the first Yogâchârya School. This Arhat, a direct disciple of Gautama, the Buddha, is most unaccountably mixed up and confounded with a personage of the same name, who is said to have lived in Ayôdhya (Oude) about the fifth or sixth century of our era, and taught Tântrika worship in addition to the Yogâchârya system. Those who sought to make it popular, claimed that he was the same Âryasangha, that had been a follower of Sâkyamuni, and that he was 1,000 years old. Internal evidence alone is sufficient to show that the works written by him and translated about the year 600 of our era, works full of Tantra worship, ritualism, and tenets followed now considerably by the “red-cap” sects in Sikhim, Bhutan, and Little Tibet, cannot be the same as the lofty system of the early Yogâchârya school of pure Buddhism, which is neither northern nor southern, but absolutely esoteric. Though none of the genunine Yogâchârya books (the Narjol chodpa) have ever been made public or marketable, yet one finds in the Yogâchârya Bhûmi Shâstra of the pseudo-Âryasangha a great deal from the older system, into the tenets of which he may have been initiated. It is, however, so mixed up with Sivaism and Tantrika magic and superstitions, that the work defeats its own end, notwithstanding its remarkable dialectical subtilty. How unreliable are the conclusions at which our Orientalists arrive, and how contradictory the dates assigned by them, may be seen in the case in hand. While Csoma de Körös (who, by-the-bye, never became acquainted with the Gelukpa (yellow-caps), but got all his information from “red-cap” lamas of the Borderland), places the pseudo-Âryasangha in the seventh century of our era; Wassiljew, who passed most of his life in China, proves him to have lived much earlier; and Wilson (see Roy. As. Soc., Vol. VI., p. 240), speaking of the period when Âryasangha’s works, which are still extant in Sanskrit, were written, believes it now “established, that they have been written at the latest, from a century and a half before, to as much after, the era of Christianity”. At all events since it is beyond dispute that the Mahayana religious works were all written far before Âryasangha’s time—whether he lived in the “second century b.c.”, or the “seventh a.d.”—and that these contain all and far more of the fundamental tenets of the Yogâchârya system, so disfigured by the Ayôdhyan imitator—the inference is that there must exist somewhere a genuine rendering free from popular Sivaism and left-hand magic. — Theosophical Glossary

Chagpa-Thog-med is the Tibetan name of Âryâsanga, the founder of the Yogacharyâ or Naljorchodpa School. This Sage and Initiate is said to have been taught “Wisdom” by Maitreya Buddha Himself, the Buddha of the Sixth Race, at Tushita (a celestial region presided over by Him), and as having received from Him the five books of Champai-chos-nga. The Secret Doctrine teaches, however, that he came from Dejung, or Sambhala, called the “source of happiness” (“wisdom-acquired”) and declared by some Orientalists to be a “fabulous” place. — Blavatsky Collected Writings, Volume 14 Page 451

Yogâchârya (Sk.). (1) A mystic school. (2) Lit., a teacher (âchârya) of Yoga, one who has mastered the doctrines and practices of ecstatic meditation—the culmination of which are the Mahâsiddhis. It is incorrect to confuse this school with the Tantra, or Mahâtantra school founded by Samantabhadra, for there are two Yogâchârya Schools, one esoteric, the other popular. The doctrines of the latter were compiled and glossed by Asamgha in the sixth century of our era, and his mystic tantras and mantras, his formularies, litanies, spells and mudrâs would certainly, if attempted without a Guru, serve rather purposes of sorcery and black magic than real Yoga. Those who undertake to write upon the subject are generally learned missionaries and haters of Eastern philosophy in general. From these no unbiassed views can be expected. Thus when we read in the Sanskrit-Chinese Dictionary of Eitel, that the reciting of mantras (which he calls “spells” !) “should be accompanied by music and distortions of the fingers (mudrâ), that a state of mental fixity (Samâdhi) might he reached”—one acquainted, however slightly, with the real practice of Yoga can only shrug his shoulders. These distortions of the fingers or mudrâ are necessary, the author thinks, for the reaching of Samâdhi, “characterized by there being neither thought nor annihilation of thought, and consisting of six-fold bodily (sic) and mental happiness (yogi) whence would result endowment with supernatural miracle-working power”. Theosophists cannot be too much warned against such fantastic and prejudiced explanations. — Theosophical Glossary

Yogacharya (Sanskrit) Yogācārya [from yoga union + ācārya teacher] A teacher of yoga; a mystic and highly esoteric school founded by the original Aryasangha, who lived at a date long preceding the pseudo-Aryasangha of the 5th or 6th century who taught the doctrines of the Tantra besides some of the elements of the Yogacharya system. The earlier Aryasangha was an arhat and founded the original Yogacharya school, a thoroughly esoteric institution; the latter’s school is a branch of the Mahayana, and is of a truly spiritual type, its teachings being identical in essence with those of theosophy. This Yogacharya school must not be confused with the Mahatantra school which was founded by Samantabhadra, whose teachings were later collected and glossed around the 6th century by the pseudo-Aryasangha in connection with litanies, formularies, spells, etc. This school is wholly exoteric, popular, and its works are largely composite of Tantric worship and ritualism that can lead the student only to black magic and sorcery. — Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

 

Traditional Biographical Sources

Life of Vasubandhu, by Paramartha

The Life Of Vasu-Bandhu

by

Paramārtha (A.D. 499-569)

Translated By

J. Takakusu, M.A., Ph.D.


Full Text Online (PDF)

 

Modern Biographies

On Aryasanga & Maitreya, from 'The Door of Liberation'

“Nine hundred years after the parinirvāna of Gautama Buddha, Ārya Asanga was born. In his youth he completed intensive studies in a monastery and in middle life withdrew to a cave to meditate. He determined not to give up his meditation until Maitreya, the bodhisattva of love and compassion and the buddha-to-come, manifested himself openly before him.

When, after three years, he had no results, Asanga became discouraged and left his cave. Nearby, he met a man who was making a needle from an iron spike by rubbing it with a piece of cotton. Seeing this, Asanga’s patience returned, and he went back to his cave and meditated unceasingly for six more years. Still Maitreya did not manifest himself Disheanened that he had meditated for nine years without even a sign of success, Asanga again lefr his cave. Outside he saw how a rock had been completely worn down by single drops of water and the bearing wings of passing birds. Again his patience returned, and he resumed his meditation; this time for another three years. But finally, Asanga despaired completely of realizing his aim and set out on the journey to return to his monastery.

On the outskirts of Acinta he saw an old she-dog whose hindquarters were raw and crawling with maggots. He felt great pity for her and wanted to relieve her suffering, but he could not bear to harm the maggots. Instead, he cut a piece of flesh from his own thigh and placed it near the dog. He then put out his tongue and prepared to transfer the larvae one by one, but the sight of the wound was so disgusting that he had to close his eyes. Suddenly, there was a great ringing in his ears, and he opened his eyes. Standing before him, in a magnificent, radiant light, was Maitreya. Despite his joy, Ārya Asanga exclaimed without thinking, “Why did you never come to me during the twelve years I earnestly meditated?”

Maitreya answered, “I was with you all the time, but you could not see me, because you did not yet have great compassion. If you do not believe me, carry me through the town on your shoulders and try to show me to the people.”

Then Ārya Asanga raised Maitreya on his shoulder and carried him through the town, hoping to let everyone see the wonderful buddha. But no one in the town saw Maitreya, and only one old woman saw a dog on his shoulder.

After this, Maitreya magically transported Ārya Asaitga to Tuṣita heaven, where he stayed for fifty earth-years studying the Dharma. When he returned to India, he brought with him the five treatises of Mairreya, the central teachings of the lineage of compassion, used in the Tibetan tradition as root texts for the study of abhidharma and the prajñāpāramirā.” — Geshe Wangyal, The Door of Liberation

On Asanga, from the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism

Asanga. A great early formulator of the Yogâcāra system who was a native of Puruṣapura in Gandhāra in northern India during the fourth century CE, but lived mostly in Ayodhyā. born the son of a Brahman, said to be the eldest brother of Vasubandhu. He was originally an Abhidharmist of the Mahīśāsaka school, but converted to Mahāyāna. He is attributed with the composition of several fundamental texts on Yogâcāra philosophy and practice, including the Mahāyānasaṃgraha-śāstra and Prakaranâryavāca-śāstra. In the Tibetan tradition, he is also attributed with the authorship of the Yogâcārabhūmi-śāstra. Legend says that he often visited Tuṣita Heaven to receive the teaching from Maitreya. His younger brother Vasubandhu further developed Yogâcāra doctrine. [cmuller]



Works

Though none of the genunine Yogâchârya books (the Narjol chodpa) have ever been made public or marketable, yet one finds in the Yogâchârya Bhûmi Shâstra of the pseudo-Âryasangha [Note: see Biographical Snippets above] a great deal from the older system, into the tenets of which he may have been initiated. It is, however, so mixed up with Sivaism and Tantrika magic and superstitions, that the work defeats its own end, notwithstanding its remarkable dialectical subtilty. — Theosophical Glossary

 

Traditional Accounts of Works

“According to traditional accounts, the Indian teacher Asanga was able to ascend to the Tuṣita Heaven where Maitreya dwells, and receive teachings from him. These teachings were then written down by Asanga. …
The five treatises of Maitreya, written down by Asanga, are listed below. They are written in verse.

l. Mahāyāna-sūtrālaṃkāra
“Ornament to the Scriptures of the Great Vehicle”

2. Abhisamayālaṃkāra
“Ornament to the Realizations”

3. Madhyānta-vibhāga
“Analysis of the Middle and the Extremes”

4. Dharma-dharmatā-vibhāga
“Analysis of Phenomena and Their True Nature”

5. Ratna-gotra-vibhāga (or Mahāyāna Uttara-tantra Śāstra)
“Analysis of the Lineage of the [Three] Jewels”
(or “Treatise on the Later Doctrine of the Great Vehicle”)

Such is the Tibetan tradition. In Chinese tradition the works of Maitreya are, first and foremost, the great Yogācāra-Bhūmi, and two of the five treatises listed above, the Mahāyāna-sūtrālaṃkāra, and the Madhyānta-vibhāga. The Yogācāra-Bhūmi, a massive work in seventeen sections, is also found in the Tibetan Buddhist canon. It is said in Tibetan tradition to be by Asanga rather than Maitreya, even though acknowledged to be based on Maitreya’s teachings.”

— David Reigle, Bibliographic Guide to the Works of Maitreya


The Yogācāra School

Entries from Theosophical Glossaries

Yogâchârya (Sk.). (1) A mystic school. (2) Lit., a teacher (âchârya) of Yoga, one who has mastered the doctrines and practices of ecstatic meditation—the culmination of which are the Mahâsiddhis. It is incorrect to confuse this school with the Tantra, or Mahâtantra school founded by Samantabhadra, for there are two Yogâchârya Schools, one esoteric, the other popular. The doctrines of the latter were compiled and glossed by Asamgha in the sixth century of our era, and his mystic tantras and mantras, his formularies, litanies, spells and mudrâs would certainly, if attempted without a Guru, serve rather purposes of sorcery and black magic than real Yoga. Those who undertake to write upon the subject are generally learned missionaries and haters of Eastern philosophy in general. From these no unbiassed views can be expected. Thus when we read in the Sanskrit-Chinese Dictionary of Eitel, that the reciting of mantras (which he calls “spells” !) “should be accompanied by music and distortions of the fingers (mudrâ), that a state of mental fixity (Samâdhi) might he reached”—one acquainted, however slightly, with the real practice of Yoga can only shrug his shoulders. These distortions of the fingers or mudrâ are necessary, the author thinks, for the reaching of Samâdhi, “characterized by there being neither thought nor annihilation of thought, and consisting of six-fold bodily (sic) and mental happiness (yogi) whence would result endowment with supernatural miracle-working power”. Theosophists cannot be too much warned against such fantastic and prejudiced explanations. — Theosophical Glossary

Yogacharya (Sanskrit) Yogācārya [from yoga union + ācārya teacher] A teacher of yoga; a mystic and highly esoteric school founded by the original Aryasangha, who lived at a date long preceding the pseudo-Aryasangha of the 5th or 6th century who taught the doctrines of the Tantra besides some of the elements of the Yogacharya system. The earlier Aryasangha was an arhat and founded the original Yogacharya school, a thoroughly esoteric institution; the latter’s school is a branch of the Mahayana, and is of a truly spiritual type, its teachings being identical in essence with those of theosophy. This Yogacharya school must not be confused with the Mahatantra school which was founded by Samantabhadra, whose teachings were later collected and glossed around the 6th century by the pseudo-Aryasangha in connection with litanies, formularies, spells, etc. This school is wholly exoteric, popular, and its works are largely composite of Tantric worship and ritualism that can lead the student only to black magic and sorcery. — Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

 

Traditional Perspectives

Philosophy of the Yogācāra, by D. T. Suzuki

Philosophy of the Yogācāra

The Mādhyamika and the Yogācāra.


The Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism, as far as it is known in China and Tibet, divides itself into two great schools, the Mādhyamika and the Yogācāra. Though a close investigation of the Chinese Sanskrit literature reveals the existence of some other doctrines than the above two, they seem not to have been recognised in India as distinct schools. For we notice in I-tsing’s Correspondence from the Southern Seas that “Mahāyānism has no more than two kinds, one is tho Mādhyamika and the other the Yogācāra. According to the Mādhyamika the vṛta (phenomenal) exists [sensually], but the paramārtha (transcendental) is çūnya, [that is, supersensual], and empty in its essence. According to the Yoga, the external [viṣaya] does not exist, but the inner [vijñāna] does, things having existence only in our inner senses (vijñā-nāni).1

The Mādhyamika and the Yogācāra are generally contrasted, one as a system of negation or emptiness and the other as that of affirmation. The ultimate object of the Mādhyamika school is çūnyatā and that of tbe Yogācāra is dharmalakṣaṇa or ālīyavijñāna. Philosophically speaking, the former treats more of ontology and the latter chiefly of cosmogony or, better, psychology.

The founder of the Mādhyamika is commonly recognised to be Nāgārjuna, whose doctrine was ably supported and brilliantly expounded by Āryadeva. The Mādhyamika-Çāstra (Nanjio, 1179) by Nāgārjuna, the ÇataÇāstra (N. 1188) and the Drādaçani-kāya-Çastra (N. 1186) by Aryadeva, are the principal works of this school. The scriptural foundation of the Mādhyamika system is, according to the Chinese Buddhist scholars, the sutras of the Prajñāpāramita class.

The most prominent expounders of tho Yogācāra school in India were Asaṅga and Vasubandhu. The following is a list of canonical and expository works belonging to this school and translated into Chinese in various periods :

(1) Gaṇḍaavyāka-Sūtra (Nanjio, no. 87)

(2) Sandhinirmocana-Sūtra (Nanjio, no. 246)

(3) Lakāvatara-Sūtra (Nanjio, no. 175)

(4) Yogācārabhūmi-Çāstra (Nanjio, no. 1170)

(5) Mahāyānasamparigraha-Çāstra (Nanjio, no. 1247)

(6) Abhidharmasamyuktasagīti-Çāstra (Naojio, no. 1178)

(7) An Exposition of the Sacred Doctrine (Naojio, no. 1177)

(8) Madhyāntavibhāga-Çāstra (Nanjio, no. 1248)

(9) Vijñānamātrasiddhi-Çāstra (Nanjio, no. 1197)

In China the Yogācāra is more generally known as the Dharma-lakṣaṇa or Vijñānamātra sect.

The Ten Features of Excellence.

Before proceeding to explain the important tenets of the Yogācāra school, it may be found better to sketch first those points which the school has in common with Mahāyānism generally. For this purpose let me enumerate the ten essential characteristics of the Mahāyāna Buddhism as conceived by the leaders of this school 2, as they at the same time substantially point out the peculiarities of Mahāyānism in general.

The ten “features of excellence” are : 1) Mahāyānism excels in its conception of a fundamental reality or principle, from which starts a universe. (This refers to the conception of Ālīyavijñāna.) 3 2) It excels in its interpretation of the object of knowledge, that is, of an external world which is dependent on the Ālīya. 3) It excels in its idealistic world-conception. 4) It excels in its method of discipline, whereby the Mahāyānist attains a realisation of the idealistic world conception. (The discipline consists in the six paramitas.) 5) It excels in its gradual ascension toward the summit of Bodhisattvahood. (The ascension is graded into ten stages, bhūmīs.) 6) It excels in its moral precepts, for it teaches the three Mahāyānaçīlas. 7) It excels in its wonderful power of meditation (samādhi). 8) It excels in its attainment of transcendental knowledge (prajñā). 9) It excels in its perfection of Nirvana called apratiṣṭhitanirvāṇa (Nirvana that has no abode.) 10) It excels in its realisation of Dharmakāya, by which the Mahāyānist purifies the Ālīya of all its ignorance and destroys all its evil propensities.

Of these ten “excellent features” that preeminently distinguish the Mahāyāna from the Hīnayāna as well as from all the Tīrthaka systems, the following may fairly be considered the most essential teachings of the Yogācāra specifically. 1. The classification of knowledge into three forms instead of two as by the Mādhyamika : 2. The hypothesis of Ālīyavijñāna: 3. A new conception of Nirvana4. Beside these, what is most noticeable in the Yogācāra philosophy is its decided tendency toward a psychological investigation and its laborious systematisation of the subject-matter.

Epistemology.

In Mahāyānism knowledge or world-view is ordinarily classified into two. The one may be designated relative knowledge, or conditional truth (samvṛtisatya), or common-sense world-view ; and the other, absolute knowledge, or unconditional truth (paramārthasatya), or philosophical world-view. While acknowledging this classification, however, the Yogācāra proposes its own method of dealing with the human understanding. According to the Sandhinirmocana-Sūtra, the three knowledges or world-views are Parikalpita-lakṣana, Paratantra-lakṣana, and Pariniṣpanna-lakṣana.

Parikalpita-lakṣana is a world-view based on a wrong assumption that takes falsehood for truth and superficiality for ultimate reality. This assumption does not penetrate into the essential nature of things, but erroneously recognises them as they appear to our senses. As far as our deceptive sensual perception goes, the objective world looks like an ultimate fact, fully confirming our common-sense materialistic world-view. This view, however, is not supported by a sound reasoning, for things are not in reality and in truth what they appear. Asaṅga finds similarity between this kind of knowledge and the well-known parallelism of the vision of a man who erroneously takes a piece of rope for a snake. Both are merely an uncoordinated and unconfirmed perception and are doomed to lead us to a fatal end.

By Paratantra-lakṣanaone recognises the relativity of all existence, depending on a combination of causes and conditions. By this knowledge we come to perceive that the phenomenal world is devoid of finality, that it will disappear as soon as its causes and conditions are dissociated, that there is nothing in this relative world which is not subject to ultimate dissolution, and that as things are thus transient and impermanent the belief in them is not conducive to the salvation of the soul. To refer to the rope-and-snake simile again, Paratantra-lakṣana is compared to the knowledge, of which the man comes in possession after a closer inspection of the dreaded object, that the object is really a piece of rope and not a snake. The rope is composed of fibres and as such is not an ultimate reality. To sum up, Paratantralakṣana recognises the unreality of particulars as such, and induces us to go further in order that we may finally come to something absolute and permanent.

Pariniṣpanna-lakṣana is perfect knowledge. When we come to the perception of an ultimate reality which lurks behind the clouds of transient existences, our knowledge is said to have attained its perfection. For it is the comprehension of Paramārthasatya (supreme truth), or Bhūtatathatā (suchness), between these two the idealistic Buddhism making no real distinction. Transcending all forms of reality and conditionality, the truth or Suchness pervades in the Dharmadhātu : it illuminates all sentient and non-sentient beings : it abides in the universality of things. To finish the analogy of rope and snake, the Pariniṣpanna is the knowledge by which we come to the final salvation as to the real nature of the rope. The rope is not by itself an ultimate reality, for its is made of flax or straw or cotton. There must be something beside, which makes up the raison d’etre of the existence of the rope as well as its constituent, flax or straw, and the knowledge of which awakes us from the universal illusion veiling our light of intelligence. By the Pariniṣpanna we know that the world in which we live is not final, but it is a manifestation of a higher reality. To reach this final perfection of knowledge, says tho Yogācāra, is the gist of all the teachings of Buddha.

Ālīya-vijñāna.

What most distinguishes the Yogācāra from the other Mahāyāna schools, is their conception of Ālīya-vijñāna as the ultimate reality, from which originate our experiences of multitudinous particulars. This is a very complicated notion, showing what a deep psychological insight they had and also how far they have been influenced by the Sāṁkhya philosophy. In the following pages I shall present the Yogācāra’s view in a condensed form from Asaṅga’s Mahāyānasamparigraha-Çastra. Occasional references will be made to Vasubandbu’s commentary on the same and also to his own work called Vijñānamātra-Çastra.

The Ultimate Reality.

The Mahāyānasamparigraha-Çastra opens with the proclamation that the text is based on the Mahāyāna sūtras and proceeds to enumerate ten “points of excellency” they have over the Hīnayāna. As seen above, the first point is the excellence of its conception of a fundamental reality. Now the Mahāyānists call this Ālīyavijñāna (later Ālayavijñāna). It is declared by Buddha in the Mahāyāna-Abhidharma5 as “existing from eternity and forming : the foundation of all dharmas, and without which neither the existence of all creations nor the attainment of Nirvāna is possible. This vijñāna supports and sustains everything, is a storage where all the germs of existence are stowed away : therefore it is called Ālīya. This I preach only to men of higher intellectual power. Asaṅga comments on this and says : “It is called Ālīya, because all living beings and all defiled [i.e. particular] objects arc therein secretly stored in the form of a seed, and also because this vijñāna, being secretly stored within all objects, is the raison d’etre of their existence, and again because all sentient beings taking hold of this Vijñāna imagine it to be their own ego.” He then quotes a stanza from the Sandhinirmocana, which reads :

“The vijñāna that bears and sustains is deep and subtle :
“The seeds of dharmas are eternally flowing [therein].
“To the vulgar I preach [this] not,
“[For] that thing is conceived by them as their ego.” 6

This Vijñāna is also called Ādhāna, because it carries and supports all physical organs [of our being], becoming their substratum when they come to existence. Why? If not carried and supported by this Vijñāna, all our physical organs would collapse, be lost and incapable of continuing activity. Again, the birth of a sentient being would have been impossible if this vijñāna did not gather around itself the skandhas and thus call into being the six forms of creation. Tho reunion and resuscitation of the skandhas is only possible by the presence and support of this Vijñāna. Therefore, it is called the Ādhāna.

Citta and Manas.

Ālayavijñāna is again called Citta or soul. Citta is to be distinguished from Manas, mind, as Buddha distinctly speaks of them as two. Manas is essentially intelligence-will, and wrongfully reflecting on Citta imagines it to be the substratum of the ego-consciousness. Manas itself has nothing in it which suggests the existence of an ego behind its activities, if not for the presence of Citta, that is, Ālayavijñāna. Manas performs a peculiar function in our intellectual field : it perceives an external world through the six vijñānas and at the same time reflects within itself. When it does the latter, it recognises there the presence of a vijñāna which persistently makes itself manifest to the Manas. And this is the chamber where lurks “absolute ignorance”. This is the storage where all the seeds of former karma are securely preserved waiting for favorable conditions to germinate.

Why not explicitly taught ?

One may ask here, Why did not the Tathāgata teach the existence of the Ālīya to Çrāvakas? Asaṅga says : Because it is too subtle to be comprehended by them. They have no intelligence that enables them to acquire Sarvajñatā (all-knowledge) as Bodhisattvas : and again, adds Vasubandhu, they show no aspiration for a universal salvation of all beings, being contented with their own self-deliverance only.

But Buddha did not leave the Hīnayānists altogether ignorant of the fact of Ālayavijñāna. For he gave them some hints on the subject in many places, not very clear for them possibly, but explicit enough for the Mahāyānists. For instance, we read, says Asaṅga, in the Ekottara Āgama to the effect that “To those people in the world who take delight in the Ālīya, long for the Ālīya, practise themselves in the Ālīya, cling to the Ālīya, the Tathāgata preaches the right Dharma to let them put an end to the Ālīya. Here Buddha only hinted at the name of Ālīya, not revealing its true nature and significance.

In the Āgama of the Mahāsaṅghika the Vijñāna is known by the name of fundamental (mula ?) Vijñāna, for it stands in relation to other vijñānas as the root does to the stem, branches, and leaves of a tree.

The Mahīçāsaka designated this by “That which transcends the mortal skandhas”. All things that are physical or mental are necessarily subject to the cadence of birth and death. They never continue to exist eternally or act incessantly. But that which lies within these perishable phenomena and gathers in itself all the seeds, knows no interruption.

It is thus straight and flat “as the royal road”… the way paved by Buddha toward the legitimate conception of the Ālīya ; only the Hīnayānists did not have an insight penetrating enough to look into the bottom of the matter.

Misrepresented by Other Schools.

This Vijñāna was altogether wrongfully interpreted by other schools of Buddhism than those already mentioned. Some thought that between Citta (Ālīya) and Manas there was no distinction to be made ; others, that the Tathāgata meant by Ālīya, as when speaking of people taking delight in it, the clinging to worldliness ; others, again, that the Ālīya was our body consisting of the five skandhas, to which we are liable to cling as a final reality ; still others, that the Ālīya was the ātman, or pudgala, or kāya. But, as we have seen above, all these views are altogether inadequate and do not tally with the true doctrine of Buddha.

What is the Ālīya ?

The Ālīya is a magazine, the efficiency of which depends on the habit-energy (hsi ch’i in Chinese 7) of all defiled 8 dharmas, and in which all the seeds are systematically stowed away. In one respect this vijñāna of all seeds is the actual reason whereby the birth of all defiled dharmas becomes possible, but in another respect its own efficiency depends on the habit-energy which is discharged by multitudinous defiled dharmas since beginningless time. In other words, the Ālīya is at once the cause and the effect of all possible phenomena in the universe.

The habit-energy might be said to be a sort of subtle substance which is left behind by every object, or a sort of force which emanates from an act and is left behind when the act is finished. As the odour emitted by a flower remains even after its destruction, so every deed and every existence leaves something in its trail oven after its departure. All the mental activities, good or evil, may be destroyed with the destruction of the mind itself, but this habit-energy remains and is invisibly stored in the Ālīya in the form of a seed.

The Ālīya is not a mere aggregation of all these latent seeds, but it keeps them according to definite laws. In one respect the Ālīya and the seeds are two separate things, but in another they are one. They act reciprocally. Their relation to each other is like that of the candle to the flame. It may also be likened to a bundle (kalāpa) of reeds or sticks, which stands together in a definite form.

Two Forms of Activity.

The activity 9 of the Ālīya may be said to exhibit two forms, philosophical and moral. The first is called by Asaṅga the activity that differentiates itself; the second, the activity that distinguishes between the desirable and the undesirable. By the philosophical activity, so called, heterogeneity of particular dharmas is unfolded out of the essentially one Ālīya, where the multitudinous seeds are merged together. By the moral activity it is meant that from the Ālīya there issue forth three dharmas: desire (kleça), act (karma), and its effect. Original desire which is harboured in the Ālīya is the impetus, by dint of which all deeds characterised sometimes as desirable, sometimes as undesirable, and sometimes as indifferent are produced.

The Sāṁkhya philosophy does not know the first activity of the Ālīya as it considers Prakṛti the cause of birth and death. Nor does the Lokāyatika, as it dos not adhere to tho doctrine of former deeds. Nor does the Vaiçeṣika, as it does not adhere to the Ātman with eight virtues. Some adhere to the theory of the manifestation of Īçvara. Some contend that there is no such thing as a first cause.

Those who fail to appreciate the second activity of Ālīyavijñāna imagine that there is really a substance called ego, there is really a sufferer who suffers the result of his deeds. They thus fail to perceive the true significance of the Twelve Chains of Dependence proceeding from the Ālīya.

The ignorant are like those blind men who fervently discuss what the real elephant looks like 10.

The Ālīya as the Storage of Seeds.

Now there arc several reasons why the Ālīya is to be called the storage of all seeds and why it is subject to the “infection” of all dharmas and karmas.

1) The Ālīya is not a permanently fixed substance : it is not an absolutely rigid, inflexible reality, which is incapable of change and modification. On the contrary, it is nothing but a series or locus of constant transformations. It waxes and wanes, it comes and departs, it rises above the horizon and sinks in the abyss. It is an eternal moving, it is a succession of events. For otherwise the Ālīya could not be more than a dead corpse.

2) It is thus subject to the law of causation. Here is a cause and there must be its effect. Now is a movement and there must be its result. Whatever is done by the Ālīya, it is not outside of the pale of universal causation.

3) As there is a time for all seeds to stop germinating because of their old age or of their decay, so there is an occasion for the Ālīya to perish and lose all its efficiency. This is the time when Vajracitta (Diamond-Heart) replaces Ālīyavijñāna. Then the latter ceases to be a storage which furnishes an inexhaustible supply to the nourishment of our egoistic prejudices. Its original function of accumulation and transformation is still in full force, but it is no more the source of ignorance and egoism, and is now known as Ādhāna, which holds only the seeds of immaculate karma.

4) The Ālīya does not fail to be the cause of reproduction after it has taken in a seed. That is, when it is infected with the result of a karma, it will definitely reproduce it, as soon as it comes under favorable circumstances.

5) The Ālīya waits to be efficient till different causes are differently matured. One cause is not capable of becoming tho cause of all different effects.

6) The Ālīya reproduces the original dharmas whose seeds have been conceived by it. A cause bears its own fruit and no other’s. Tho Ālīya gives out only what was given to it.

For these reasons the Ālīya is well qualified to be called the Vijñāna of Seeds.

The Infection of the Ālīya.

1) Only those things that are stationary or definite in their successive movements are liable to be infected, or “perfumed”, as expressed by the Yogācāra. Therefore, the wind cannot be made to remain perfumed : it is in too constant movement in all directions to be so affected.

2) Things are infected (or ‘perfumed’) only when they are neutral, that is, when they do not have an odor of their own. Therefore, highly scented objects such as onions or musk or incense are not liable to be affected by other odors.

3) There are things whose very nature refuses to be perfumed, for instance, stones and metals.

4) To make the perfuming process elective, the perfuming and the perfumed must agree. By this it is meant that they must be identical in their nature and activity and substance.

From these considerations it becomes evident that : 1) the Ālīya is definite and stationary as far as its formal aspect is concerned, 2) but it is indeterminate in its character, 3) there is a possibility in it which makes it susceptible to outer influences, 4) and finally it is liable to be affected by the karma of the same personality in whom it resides. (That is to say, an Ālīya is infected only by its own karma.)

* * *

Asaṅga now proceeds to establish the reasons why the hypothesis of Ālīyavijñāna is necessary, and points out that if we did not allow its existence, our impulses, passions, and deeds, whether moral or immoral or neutral, would be impossible, our reincarnation could not be effected, our world of particulars as they present themselves to our vijñānas would not exist, and finally, our attainment of Nirvāṇa and enlightenment would be an idle talk. He also insists that in the Samādhi where all mental operation is said to vanish, the Ālīya alone must be rationally considered to continue existing.

The Ālīya’s Relation to Manas.

To thoroughly understand the significance of the Ālīya, we must know its relation to Manas, by virtue of which alone it becomes efficient and productive. The Yogācāra admits the existence of three forces or factors or causes in our subjective realm, through their cooperation the universe being considered to make a start. The first is the Ālīya or Citta or Hṛdaya : the second is Manas : and the last is the six vijiñānas or senses. Manas is what we ordinarily understand by mind or consciousness, and the six senses are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking (manovijñāna).

The difference between the sixth sense, Manovijñāna, and Manas (consciousness) is more fundamental, according to the Buddhists, than modern psychologists think. Manovijñāna, properly speaking, is the mind and does all kinds of mental operation such as memory, judgment, imagination, desire, decision, willing, etc. But all these functions performed by Manovijñāna are superficial when compared to the work of Manas, for the latter is the deeply seated consciousness in the soul, which ignorantly clings to the ego-conception and to the reality of an external world. Manas in a sense is the Will of Schopenhauer, and constantly asserts itself influencing or infecting, as the Yogācāra says, the whole fabrication of mental activities.

Philosophically, therefore, Manas is to be distinguished sharply from Manovijñāna, the sense whose “base” is on Manas. If the work performed by Manovijñāna is not refered to Manas, that is, if all the mental activities are not attended by the unity of consciousness, they will certainly lack coordination and the entire individuality will collapse. The consciousness “It is I that think or do this and that” is ascribed by the Mahāyānists to the presence of Manas. Manas then is made the author of this self-consciousness as it ignorantly interprets the significance of the Ālīya. Manas constantly reflecting on the Ālīya thinks that the latter is the real self, simple, and absolute, and weaving the net of all mental operations.

The Ālīya itself is wholly innocent of all this operative illusion on the part of Manas. It supplies, so to speak, the vital energy to our mental activities and makes the entire system go : and when this work leaves the “habit-energy” behind and infects the seeds stowed away in the Ālīya in its former lives, the latter mechanically reproduces according to its definite laws, all the while, however, being devoid of any consciousness. But there takes place the intrusion of Manas, and the consciousness looms up suddenly above the horizon with its assertion and clinging.

Manas, however, is not blind will. It is rather intelligent will, for it is capable of enlightenment. It is due to its ignorance only that it tenaciously clings to the conception of ego and contaminates the whole mentation with its onerous prejudices. As soon as it realises the full import of the Ālīya, it is denuded of its egoistic prejudices and opens the way to Nirvāṇa. Manas, therefore, is the pivot on which turn our spiritual deliverance and subjective ignorance. The six senses and the Ālīya are Manas’s neutral or innocent fellow-workers, or even its subordinate officers who become infected, sweetly or odiously, according to the attitude assumed by their ever-vigilant master. In passing we may remark here that the Sāṁkhya philosophy has played a strong influence on the development of the Yogācāra system.

Açvaghoṣa’s Ālīyavijñāna.

We can now see how different is Açvaghoṣa’s conception of the Ālīya as expounded in his Awakening of Faith in The Mahāyāna. His Ālīya which is more generally known among the Chinese Buddhist scholars as Tathāgata-garbha, is a sort of world-soul from which evolves this universe of particalar objects, while that of the Yogācāra is an individual soul, so to speak, in which all the karma-seeds infected through the agency of that particular being are registered. The former is ontological and comparatively simple in its constitution, being a form of Suchness, though full of possibilities : while the latter is individual and psychological and is heavily laden as it wore with all the seeds formerly sown, but in itself indifferent tho their development, somewhat like Sāṁkhya Prakrti. The Tathāgata-garbha is a stage in the evolution of Bhūtatathatā. In its apparently simple organisation there are all the possibilities of the most complex system known as a universe.

Nirvāṇa.

The Yogācāra conception of Nirvāṇa is not characteristically different from that of other Buddhist schools, but as it is not very well known among. European scholars of Mahāyāna Buddhism and also as it is expounded generally in a special treatise belonging to the Yogācāra, it may not be altogether out of place to lightly touch upon the subject here.

Its Four Forms.

According to Vasubandhu (Commentary on Asanga’s Mahāyānasamparigraha-çāstra), there are four forms of Nirvāṇa : l. Nirvāṇa in its purest original identical form ; 2. Nirvāṇa that leaves something behind; 3. Nirvāṇa that leaves nothing behind ; 4. Nirvāṇa that has no abode.

In this classification it is evident that the term Nirvāṇa is not used in the sense of final beatitude, merely a blissful state of mind after liberation from egoism. In Mahāyānism Nirvāṇa seems to have acquired quite a different significance at least from the commonly understood sense of Hīnayānism. The first Nirvāṇa, that is, Nirvāṇa in its purest original, self-identical form, is nothing but synonym of Bhūtatathatā or Suchness which is considered by all Mahāyānists to be inherent in all beings, though in most minds it is found eclipsed by their subjective ignorance. In this sense Nirvāṇa is not a state of mind but a quality inherent in it.

The second Nirvāṇa that leaves something behind is a state of Suchness which though liberated from the bondage of desire 11 is still under the ban of karma. It is the Nirvāṇa attainable by the Çrāvakas in their lifetime. When they are Arhats they no more cherish any egoistic desires and impulses, but they are yet succeptible to the suffering of birth and death, for their mortal material existence is the result of their former karma which cannot be extinguished until its due course has been run.

The third Nirvāṇa in which nothing remains is a state of Suchness released from the suffering of birth and death, that is, at the time of material extinction. With our egoistic desires and impulses exterminated and with our corporeal being brought to its natural end, we are said to be entering into eternal Nirvāṇa, in which nothing leaves its trace that is likely to entangle us again in the whirlpool of transmigration. According to the Mahāyānists, this is supposed to be the goal of the Hīnayānists.

The last Nirvāṇa that knows no dwelling is a state of Suchness obtained by the extermination of the bondage of intellect. And it is claimed by the Mahāyānists that this is the Nirvāṇa sought by all their pious followers. At this stage of enlightenment there are awakened in the soul of a Mahāyānist infinite wisdom and infinite love. By the wisdom that transcends the limitations of birth and death, he does not cling to the vicissitudes of the world. By the love that is free from the dualism of love and hate, he does not “dwell” in the beatitude of Nirvāṇa. On the contrary, he mixes himself among the masses, lives the life of an average man, subjects himself to the law of a material world. But in his innermost be is rid of all egoistic impulses and desires, and his infinite love devises for his fellow-creatures every means of salvation and enlightenment, for he is not content with his own spiritual bliss.

By the attainment of this final Nirvāṇa the Ālīya is no more a storage of defiled seeds, for it has been deprived of all the causes and conditions which made this accumulation possible. Manas no more wrongfully reflects on the Ālīya to take it for the ego. The six senses are no more contaminated with ignorance and egoism.

The Ālīya at this stage is called Dharmakāya 12

* * *

There are many other things in the Yogācāra as well as in Mahāyānism in general, which ought to be made accessible to occidental public or at least to the students of Buddhism. But the time seems not to have come yet for this kind of work, and I have to be contented with the above brief and therefore necessarily imperfect exposition of the Yogācāra system.

Lasalle, Ill. U.S.A.

D. Teitaro Suzuki.

Additional Note.

The Chinese equivalent for Ālīyais a-li-ya 13 and that for Ālayais a-lai-ya 14. The entire Chinese translation of the Buddhist documents beginning with the Sūtra of Fourty-two Sections by Mo T’ēng (69 A. D.) is commonly divided into two classes, old and new, and the dividing line is placed at the time of Hsüan Ts’ang when he came back to China with many Sanskrit Sūtras and Çāstras (649 A. D.). In all the Chinese texts before him a-li-ya was uniformly used by such translators as Kumārajīva, Paramārtha, etc. It was Hsüan Ts’ang who reformed the old system of translation and tried to reproduce the original as accurate and faithful as the Chinese language permitted, though this considerably injured classical purity and made the translation read altogether like a foreign language unintelligible to the uninitiated. Then a-li-ya came to be replaced by a-lai-ya. According to Pao Ts’ang, the most noted Chinese commentator of Açvaghosa’s Awakening of Faith, who was well versed in Sanskrit and helped the Hindu translators in their great work which was done in the seventh and eighth century A. D., “A-lai-ya or a-li-ya vijñāna is a local dialect of Sanskrit. Paramārtha literally translated it by wu mo shih 15 (not-hidden vijñāna) while Hsüan Ts’ang according to the sense rendered it by ts’ang shih 16 (storing vijñāna). Ts’ang shih here means skē ts’ang 17 (that is containing, embodying, comprehending, embracing, etc.), and wu mo means pu shih18 (that is, not losing, not letting go, etc.). Though the characters are different,the sense is the same”.

A commentator on the Vairocana Sūtra, whose date I am unable at present, to ascertain, understands a-lai-ya in the sense of store containing things within. Literally it is a chamber or room. All the skandhas are produced here and vanish here. It is the nestling place of all the skandhas.

What we can conclude from these various interpretations of the term, is that the original Sanskrit or Prakrit was either ālīya or alīya or ālaya.


Footnotes

1. See I-tsing. Takakusu, p. 15.

2. The lahayinasamparigraha.

3. This is one of the most essential doctrines of Yoga philosophy. [J’ai fait observer à M. T. Suzuki que la forme ālīya (= ālaya) m’était inconnue ; on verra ci-dessous p.115 comment il croit pouvoir la justifier.—[L. V. P.]

4. This is not exactly peculiar to the Yogācāra, but its classification may be considered to be original with them.

5. This work was never translated into Chinese.

6. In Vasubandhu’s notes the prose part of the Sūtra explaining the gāthā is quoted. See also in the Sūtra the chap. treating of “Citta, Manas, and Vijñānani.

7. Giles 4087, 1064.

8. “Defiled” does not mean immoral or unlawful, but particular, individual, conditional, relative, etc. Defiled dharmas are particular existences, or individual objects, or phenomena. But dharma in its broadest sense sometimes even implies the sense of karma and is equivalent for act or deed.

9. The original Chinese for activity is yüan shēng (Giles, 13737, 9865), condition-generation. It is the generating activity of the Ālīya which is manifested when its conditions are matured. The Ālīya, as it stands by itself, is absolutely neutral and indifferent to action.

10. Andhagajanyāya.

11. Two hindrances (āvaraṇa) are recognised by the Mahāyānists, which lie in the way to final salvation : hindrance of desire and hindrance of intellect. The first is moral and comes from egoism, while the second is philosophical and the outcome of limited knowledge. The first hindrance is destroyed when our instinctively egoistic desires are subdued. The second is removed when we acquire all-knowledge (sarvajñatva) which belongs to Bodhisattvahood.

12. I am tempted in this connection to enter on a so far not yet quite explored field of Buddhism, which concerns itself with the question of Dharmakāya and Bhūtatathatā. But this being impossible in a limited space I have to wait for another occasion.

13. Giles, 1, 6942, 12832.

14. I, 6699, 12832.

15. 12753, 8016, 9928.

16. 11601, 9928. .

17. 9806, 11601.

18. 9456, 9951.

Living Yogācāra, by Tagawa Shun’ei, tr. Charles Muller

See Also

Doctrinal Position of the Wisdom Religion: Great Madhyamaka

 


Selected Quotes on Aryasanga

  1. On the Historical Development of Buddhist Theory Prior to Aryasanga

    In none of the sacred books treating on the Mahâyâna system do we find a record of the historical development of its theories prior to the appearance of Âryâsanga (in Tibetan Chagpa thogmed), a reformer who founded the Yogâchârya school (in Tibetan, Naljor chodpa). It is impossible, therefore, to indicate, with any approximation to accuracy, either the origin, or the authors, of the divergent theories to be clearly traced in the Mahâyâna religious books, which were all of them written before Âryâsanga's time. In the works relating to this system two divisions essentially different are apparent: the first illustrating the principles of Nâgârjuna, which have been adopted by the Madhyamika schools (Tib. Bumapa); the second, which is the more developed one, being appropriated by the Yogâchârya school, or the contemplative Mahâyâna. — Emil Schlagintweit, Buddhism in Tibet, Chapter V (1863)
  2. On Aryasanga

    "Aryasanga was a pre-Christian Adept and founder of a Buddhist esoteric school, though Csoma di Koros places him, for some reasons of his own, in the seventh century A.D. There was another Aryasanga, who lived during the first centuries of our era and the Hungarian scholar most probably confuses the two." — Secret Doctrine, Vol 1, p. 49 fn.
  3. On Aryasanga

    "Examination of the historical facts will show that minor sages and seers have sprung up from time to time in Buddhism, such as Nagarjuna and Aryasanga, founding schools, or taking them over from their predecessors; teaching each one a new version of the ancient Buddhist wisdom, yet all faithful followers of the Lord Buddha; and whatever their differences as individuals may have been, all these various schools look to the great master as the fountainhead of their respective and more-or-less differing wisdoms. Most, if not all, of the great men who succeeded the Buddha as heads of the different Buddhist schools were genuine initiates, profound, thoughtful, and high-minded men who, because of their own spiritual and intellectual and psychical degree of evolution, developed in their respective fields the teachings of the Buddha-Gautama dealing with different parts of the widely inclusive range of Buddhist philosophy." — G. de Purucker, The Esoteric Tradition
  4. On the founding of Buddhist Schools

    "Every Orientalist knows that after the passing of the Buddha there gradually arose a number of schools which after one or two centuries became grouped under two main heads of philosophical thought: the Hinayana and the Mahayana. The different Mahayana schools of northern Buddhism are all highly philosophic, but the mystical element predominates. In the Hinayana system of southern Asia, the technical philosophical element is dominant, but to those who know how to read its writings the rather closely veiled mystical thought and even esoteric wisdom in them become apparent enough. It has been stated by the greatest of the Mahayana teachers that the Hinayana represents the 'eye doctrine' of the Lord Buddha, whereas the Mahayana system and its writings comprise the esoteric teachings originally given by the Buddha to his arhats and later elaborated by them and their descendants, and hence these teachings are called his 'heart doctrine' — mystically signifying the hid essence of the Buddha's inner thought.

    Both these schools, however, have more or less crystallized into formalisms. Certain branches of the Mahayana school have become largely intermixed with tantrika ideas and symbols, and the followers of two or three of these sects actually teach to a certain extent the magic of the 'left hand.' Thus if we desire to gain a clear picture of the fullness of the Buddha's teaching, in so far as it has reached our own times, we should conjoin the mystical esotericism of the original Mahayana with the teaching of the Hinayana, the former elucidating the latter.

    There were a number of really great men who initially built up the structure of the Mahayana system considered as a whole; they were high initiates who gave out as much of the genuinely esoteric Buddhism as they could in the times in which they taught, or as they were allowed to do by the Mahachohan whose representatives for this special work they were. Two such were Nagarjuna and Aryasangha, generally looked upon today by adherents of the Mahayana as having been bodhisattvas.

    Nagarjuna was the founder of the Madhyamika school — meaning the Middle Way; whereas Aryasangha, the one who was a direct disciple of Gautama the Buddha himself, was the founder of the original or primitive Yogachara school. Now both these schools as they now exist contain a large amount of tantrika teaching, and therefore have greatly degenerated. The student may be interested to read what H.P.B. says in her Theosophical Glossary under the head, 'Aryasangha.'" — G. de Purucker, Fountain-Source of Occultism

© 2017 Universal Theosophy