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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

At first a liberal Sarvastivadin


Mahayana doctrine has developed on two lines, viz. that of S'unyavada or the Madhyamika doctrine and Vijnanavada. The difference between S'unyavada and Vijnanavada (the theory that there is only the appearance of phenomena of consciousness) is not fundamental, but is rather one of method. Both of them agree in holding that there is no truth in anything, everything is only passing appearance akin to dream or magic. But while the S'unyavadins were more busy in showing this indefinableness of all phenomena, the Vijnanavadins, tacitly accepting


[Footnote 1: _A@s@tesahasiihaprajnaparamita_, p. 16.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid p. 177.]

[Footnote 3: Ibid p. 21.]

[Footnote 4: Ibid p. 177.]


the truth preached by the S'unyavadins, interested themselves in explaining the phenomena of consciousness by their theory of beginningless illusory root-ideas or instincts of the mind (_vasana_).

As'vagho@sa (100 A.D.) seems to have been the greatest teacher of a new type of idealism (_vijnanavada_) known as the Tathata philosophy. Trusting in Suzuki's identification of a quotation in As'vagho@sa's _S'raddhotpadas'astra_ as being made from _La@nkavatarasutra_, we should

think of the _La@nkavatarasutra_ as being one of the early works of the Vijnanavadins [Footnote ref 1]. The greatest later writer of the Vijnanavada school was Asa@nga (400 A.D.), to whom are attributed the _Saptadas'abhumi sutra, Mahayana sutra, Upades'a, Mahayanasamparigraha s'astra, Yogacarabhumi s'astra_ and _Mahayanasutrala@mkara_. None of these works excepting the last one is available to readers who have no access to the Chinese and Tibetan manuscripts, as the Sanskrit originals are in all probability lost. The Vijnanavada school is known to Hindu writers by another name also, viz. Yogacara, and it does not seem an improbable supposition that Asa@nga's _Yogacarabhumi s'astra_ was responsible for the new name. Vasubandhu, a younger brother of Asa@nga, was, as Paramartha (499-569) tells us, at first a liberal Sarvastivadin, but was converted to Vijnanavada, late in his life, by Asa@nga. Thus Vasubandhu, who wrote in his early life the great standard work of the Sarvastivadins, _Abhidharmakos'a_, devoted himself in his later life to Vijnanavada [Footnote ref 2]. He is said to have commented upon a number of Mahayana sutras, such as _Avata@msaka, Nirva@na, Saddharmapu@n@darika, Prajnaparamita, Vimalakirtti_ and _S'rimalasi@mhanada_, and compiled some Mahayana sutras, such as _Vijnanamatrasiddhi, Ratnatraya_, etc. The school of Vijnanavada continued for at least a century or two after Vasubandhu, but we are not in possession of any work of great fame of this school after him.

We have already noticed that the S'unyavada formed the fundamental principle of all schools of Mahayana. The most powerful exponent of this doctrine was Nagarjuna (1OO A.D.), a brief account of whose system will be given in its proper place. Nagarjuna's karikas (verses) were commented upon by Aryyadeva, a disciple of his, Kumarajiva (383 A.D.). Buddhapalita and Candrakirtti (550 A.D.). Aryyadeva in addition to this commentary wrote at


[Footnote 1: Dr S.C. Vidyabhushana thinks that _Lankavatana_ belongs to about 300 A.D.]

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