Yogācāra vinjnanavada, does it agree with early buddhism?

Yogācāra was associated with Indian Mahayana Buddhism in about the fourth century. Asaṅga and Vasubandhu are considered the classic philosophers and systematizers of this school.

What is the origin of the doctrine?

How much does it agree with the early Buddhism?

The origin of the Yagacara doctrine can be found in SA (Saṃyukta-āgama), which is connected with the earliest Buddhism.

The sūtra-mātṛkā (sūtra matrix, 契經, 摩呾理迦 or 本母), essentially a commentary on a portion of SA, found in the Vastusaṅgrahaṇī of the Yogācārabhūmi, follows the sequence of SA.

This discovery confirms that the Sarvāsti­vāda tradition regarding SA is attested to in the Yogācārabhūmi.

The sūtra-mātṛkā contains these seven topics:

  1. Discourses Connected with the Aggregates
  2. Discourses Connected with the Sense Spheres
  3. Discourses Connected with Causal Condition
  4. Discourses Connected with the Nutriments
  5. Discourses Connected with the Truths
  6. Discourses Connected with the Elements
  7. Discourses Connected with the Path: the Stations of Mindful­ness, etc., of the Enlightenment Factors.

These seven topics are considered by Ven. Yinshun to be the most funda­mental and earliest portion of the ‘Connected Discourses’ (相應教, saṃyukta-kathā) of SA.

They are found in the five major sections (varga) on aggregates, sense spheres, causal con­dition (including nutriments, truths and the elements) and path of the extant SA/SN.

These sections of the ‘Connected Discourses’ are identified by Ven. Yinshun as the sūtra-aṅga portion of SA/SN

See pp. 898-9 in Choong Mun-keat, 2020 “Ācāriya Buddhaghosa and Master Yinshun 印順 on the Three-aṅga Structure of Early Buddhist Texts” .

https://www.academia.edu/44055729/%C4%8 (“Ācāriya Buddhaghosa and Master Yinshun 印順 on the Three-aṅga Structure of Early Buddhist Texts” 2020) (ORCID)


The Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy has a nice introduction - Vasubandhu (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Indeed. Lamotte has this nice paper on the topic

You may also want to check out “the thirty verses of consciousness only

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It’s worth noting that Vasubandhu himself noted that the key doctrine of the ālayavijnana was the same as what the Theravadins call bhavaṅgacitta, or the Mahasanghikas, the mūlacitta. (Source, unreliable memory, please correct me!)

I’m no expert, but I believe this is wrongly translated; or so has been argued by Kalupahana. The Sanskrit is vijñaptimātra, where vijñapti is a causative form, and hence functionally identical to the Pali manomaya “made by mind”, while -mātra does not mean “only”, but “mere”.

A better translation would be “mere expressions of consciousness” or “mere products of consciousness”. Vasubandhu was pointing to the way our experience of the world is formed by our intentions and perceptions. He wasn’t advocating an ontological idealism. Translators are overly-influenced by later schools that were indeed idealist.


SA 57 contains the expression “subject to arising conditioned by mind” (p. 71):
Pages 70-2 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (199.9 KB)


Many thanks for the information…

This article has some insite to the matter.

Ālaya-vijñāna in the Yogācāra School & Bhavaṅga-citta in Theravāda Abhidhamma in Relation to the Process of Rebirth