Classical Indian Philosophy Yogacara School-Mahayana Buddhism for Maharashtra PSC Exam

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Yogacara School - Mahayana Buddhism

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  • Yogacara is a school of Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Asanga is commonly believed to be the founder of the school but some scholars regard Maitreyantha to be the founder of Yogacara.
  • Maitryantha was the teacher of Asanga.
  • Vasabandhu, Dignaga are the two famous leaders of the school.
  • Lankavatara-sutra is one of the most important literature belonging to the Yogacara school.
  • According to the literature, all Dharmas, except the consciousness are unreal. So, consciousness is the only established truth preached by Buddha.

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The School of Idealism

  • The Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism is also known as Vijnana-vada or Idealism.
  • It is called so because it admits that there exists only one reality, that is the mind.
  • In other words, according to them, the nature of consciousness or VI jnana is the only reality and all the other external or material objects in the world are nothing but really ideas or states of consciousness.
  • This theory is also described as subjective Idealism because according to it the existence of an object perceived is no different from the subject, the consciousness or the perceiving mind.
  • In other words, according to Yogacara school, the objects perceived in the world are all ideas in the mind because the objects cannot be proved to have an existence independent of the mind or consciousness.
  • Note: The school of Vijnana-vada shares a lot of similarity with the philosophy of the Western philosopher, Berkeley. Berkeley՚s philosophy expounds the idea of subjective Idealism. Subjective Idealism is also known as empirical idealism, it is a monistic metaphysical theory according to which only mind and the mental states alone are real or they alone exist. It is generally identified with Immaterialism. Immaterialism is a philosophical doctrine according to which material things or objects do not exist.

The Concept of Alaya-Vijnana

  • According to the Yogacara school, mind is considered in all its aspects as a store-house or home of all the impressions.
  • This is called by Vijnanavadins as alaya-vijnana.
  • In other words, mind as the home of all the latent ideas is called alaya-vijnana.
  • Simply put, like other schools of Indian philosophy treat soul or atma, Yogacara school gives the same status to mind.
  • According to them, mind is the only ultimate reality for it is an unchanging substance and is nothing but a stream of continuously changing states.
  • Through yoga or culture and self-control the mind or alaya-vijnana can gradually stop the arising and awakening of undesirable mental states, for instance, desire, thoughts, attachments, etc.
  • Yogacara believes that these undesirable mental states bind one into the shackles of the fictitious external world of material things and objects. So, mind must be kept away from such undesirable mental states for this is the only way via which one can attain the state of Nirvana.
  • In other words, according to Yogacara school, “mind is the only ultimate reality for it can make heaven of hell and hell of heaven.”

The Meaning of the School

  • The school is named as Yogacara school because either the vijnanavadins used to practice yoga by which they came to realise that the sole reality is mind or alaya-vijnana.
  • Or, because they used both, critical inquisitiveness or yoga and good conduct or acara.
  • Or, because they emphasised on the importance of yoga for attaining the real knowledge (bodhi) . Hence, they are named as Yogacara.

The Philosophy of Yogacara School of Mahayana

  • According to Yogacara, mind or citta is real in nature.
  • Rather, mind alone is the only reality.
  • The school of Mahayana Buddhism believes that the nature of consciousness or VI jnana is the only reality.
  • All the other external or material objects in the world are nothing but really ideas or states of consciousness.

Similarity and Difference between Madhyamika and Yogacara

  • The major similarity between the two schools, that is Madhyamika and Yogacara is that they both reject the reality of the external world full of material objects and things. According to them both, the external world is unreal.
  • On the other hand, the major difference between the two schools is that Madhyamika rejects the reality of mind or it regards mind as unreal. Whereas, according to Yogacara, mind cannot be regarded as unreal. They criticise the philosophy of Madhyamika for regarding mind as unreal because they say, “to say everything (mental and non-mental) is unreal, is suicidal in nature for if mind is regarded as unreal then Madhyamika could not have established their own arguments and philosophy.”


1. Yogacara shares a lot of similarities with the philosophy of

A. Berkeley

B. Spinoza

C. Locke

D. Both A and D

Answer: A

2. According to Yogacara, ________ is the only reality

A. Mind or citta

B. Consciousness

C. VI jnana

D. All of these

Answer: D

3. Both, Yogacara and Madhyamika share the common view, the common view is

A. Mind is real

B. Material objects are real

C. Both A and B

D. None of these

Answer: D

4. Select the correct code of statements with reference to the philosophy of Yogacara

1. Mind is the store-house or home of all expressions

2. Vijnanavadins are also called alaya-vijnana

3. They give mind the highest status just like other school՚s regard soul to be the highest reality

4. “mind is the only ultimate reality for it can make heaven of hell and hell of heaven.”


A. All the statements are true

B. All except 3 are true

C. All except 4 are true

D. None of them are true

Answer: A

5. Immaterial is a philosophical doctrine associated with the philosophy of

A. Berkeley

B. Both Berkeley and Yogacara

C. Spinoza and Yogacara

D. Yogacara alone

Answer: B





# VI jnana

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