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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Yogācāra

Sanskrit meaning “the practice of Yoga.” It is the name of a school of MAHĀYĀNA Buddhist philosophy which proclaimed a form of subjective idealism. It maintained that consciousness, which they term vijñāna, is the sole reality, hence it is also called Vijñānavāda. It states that the basic or “store-house consciousness” (ālaya-vijñāna) warps itself into individual centers of consciousness which imagine forth a world of apparently objective reality. It was begun by ĀRYĀSANGA (whose monastic name means “member of the Aryan [i.e., Buddhist monastic] Order) and his brother Vasubandhu (whose monastic name means “associated with excellent [people]”) who lived in the 4th or 5th cent. CE. It was then developed by the great Buddhist logicians Dignāga and Dharmakīrti (6th-7th cent. CE). The school uses a form of yogic meditation, hence its name. Its chief rival was Mādhyamika, developed by Nāgārjuna (2nd cent. CE). Helena P. BLAVATSKY suggests that the Ālāya is essentially equivalent to Anima Mundi (“the World Soul”) or the “Over-Soul” of Ralph Waldo Emerson (SD I:48), but that it is not equivalent to nirvāṇa, but rather is “a condition next to it” (idem). She also points out that other schools of Buddhism accused Yogācārins of being “Vedāntins in disguise” while other schools of Vedānta accused Advaita Vedāntins of being “Buddhists in disguise!” (SD II:637).

R.W.B.

 

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