A “Cittamātra” Refutation of the “Positivism” of the “Śrāvakayāna” School
I wrote this some twenty years ago and thought to present it to whomever might be interested. I will greatly relish any comments, critical or positive, so that I might work this out to some publishable form. This is the result of two years translation work with the late Geshe Lhundhup Sopa from 1995-1997 on this “Cittamātra” section of the great lCang skya II’s siddhānta or doxography, the “The Beautiful Ornament of the Limits of Proofs” (sGrub mtha’ dzes gyan). Perhaps some will argue with my use of the word “positivism” to describe what is perhaps more properly called the “reificationism” of the early schools of Buddhism, but it makes for a nice contrast with what the many consciousness schools will contend, is the “nihilism” of their opponents, the Mādhayamika or “Middle Way” School. I would say that whether any school of Buddhism can properly be called “positivist” is certainly a debatable point, but positing a “real existence” of the aggregates of personhood (the skandhas) and the like, I will argue, makes them at least relatively “positivist.” It is on this issue of positivism that the two Mahāyāna Schools will more or less agree, even employ more or less similar arguments to establish the ultimately non-entical nature of reality. The subject of this chapter are certain key doctrines of the Śrāvakayāna Schools lCang skya focuses on one school in particular, the Sautrāntika for the refutation of Buddhist “positivism.”
We are mindful that when the term positivism is used, it has a full range and context of meaning in the West. One thinks of the works of John Stuart Mill, or of the logical positivism of Bertrand Russell. Relative to arguably the majority of occidental philosophies, all three schools of Buddhism are nihilistic, rejecting as they do, the self, “essences” and the like.
In fact, it would be a concern of all three to vigorously avoid being charged with advocating a “self” notion of any sort, notably the selfhood of the person, avoiding the dread puḍgalavāda error which asserted the existence of the individual and became the bane of Buddhist writers. Nevertheless, relative to the Mahāyāna Schools, these schools appear to reify phenomena, as we shall see. We employ the term “Positivism” as a convenience for Western readers who will be familiar with this term though perhaps not with this alleged Buddhist form of it. Our term samaropa and its Tibetan translation sgro ‘dogs refer to “superimposition,” “exaggeration,” “imputation,” “entical conceptualization” and the like. Therefore one “posits” the existence of entities. As long as the fact that this is a positivism as seen “intra-Buddhism,” we see no problem with the use of this term.
The name “Sautrāntika.” According to Hsuan tsang, adherents of the Sautrāntika School venerated Ānanda as their master. According to certain Tibetan authorities, they were also known as the Uttarīya, because they were superior with regard to the Dharma, however, Bhavya states that they were so named after a dissident Sarvāstivāda scholar named Uttarīya. The place of the Sautrāntika among the early sects of Buddhism. The Sautrāntika in nearly all sources are the same as the school known as the Saṃkrantivādin, for this school held that the five aggregates transmigrated (Saṃkrānti) from one existence to another. Only the Śāriputraparipṛcchasūtra distinguishes the two.
La Vallee Poussin demonstrated that the Darśtantika denounced as heretics in the Vibhāśa were probably this same school. Vasumitra states that their doctrine approached that of the Sarvāstivāda. He notes that they rejected the doctrine of the individual (puḍgalavāda). Summary of the Sautrāntika position. To condense in summary form a great doctrinal system such as that promulgated by the Sautrāntika School is a formidable task. Some of their doctrines were roughly as follows. This school affirmed that the uncomposite (asaṃskṛta) does not really exist as distinct entity, but as pure absence. For example, space is the absence of the tangible. Nirvāṇa is the absence of a tendency towards existence; past and future entities do not really exist, for if they were to really exist, then composite entities (Saṃskrta) would exist always and would be hence, eternal, which is not the case. The uncognized (avijñāpti) also does not
Summary of the Sautrāntika position. To condense in summary form a great doctrinal system such as that promulgated by the Sautrāntika School is a formidable task. Some of their doctrines were roughly as follows. This school affirmed that the uncomposite (aSaṃskrta) does not really exist as distinct entity, but as pure absence. For example, space is the absence of the tangible. Nirvāṇa is the absence of a tendency towards existence; past and future entities do not really exist, for if they were to really exist, then composite entities (Saṃskṛta) would exist always and would be hence, eternal, which is not the case. The uncognized (avijñāpti) also does not truly exist according to the doctrines of this school. Prāpti also does not really exist, for they are perceived neither directly nor by their effect, and hence, an important doctrine of the Sarvāstivāda School was refuted by them.
Continuity and transformation. A series is the Saṃskara of the past, of the present and the future in relation to causality and which constitutes an uninterrupted continuity. Parināma is the transformation of such a continuity which is the continual “becoming otherness” (anyathātva) of the aggregate individual. Causes do not co-exist with their effect. This school holds that the non-composite is not causational, for causes (hetu) and conditions (pratyaya) are taught as impermanent and are by consequence, composite.
Mind and Body. Bodily actions also do not ultimately exist for this school, for these so-called corporeal functions are aspects of volition which place the body in action and thence one calls them bodily actions. Thought and the body and its organs are mutually seminal (semences=bijas). If a person is born in the Arupyadhātu, their form or material aspect is dormant. If however posterior to that, s/he is born into the Desire Realm, for example, the new form proceeds from the mind of the individual.
In particular, lCang skya focuses on this school’s assertion of the “real” or “factual” existence of external entities postulated by this school. For our purposes here however, we will set out elements of this school’s philosophical stance which proves most problematic for the Mahāyānist. This is the doctrine concerning dharmas or for this school, fundamental time/space units the agglomeration of which comprise all perceived phenomena. Ātmostic phenomena ultimately and actually exist. This school holds that these atomistic units are really existent and that the images we form based on the agglomeration of these units are also true and “uncorrupt” to the extent that they are based on unimpaired perception of aggregate or composite phenomena. Therefore, a configuration (Saṃsthāna) perceived by consciousness is not an entity distinct in itself, but only a designation (prajñāpti). If a configuration or were a thing in itself, it would be perceived by two organs, meaning that one visual consciousness would perceive the unit and another would perceive the subunits. A configuration is a part of form, which is defined as a particular object of the eye consciousness. Since one sees numerous configurations in a complex configuration, then it would have many forms (rūpa) in the same place, which is impossible. There are then properly speaking, no atoms perceived in a configuration.
An atom is considered to be extended and it comports to spatial division. Atoms touch each other by reason of their extension. (Digdeśābheda-pratighāta). The condition regarding the quality of an object (alambanapratyaya) is the atoms (paramānu) which are agglomerated (Saṃghātita). When visual consciousness is aware of color, it does not perceive atoms but only their agglomeration, since it ascertains the aspect of this agglomeration (tadākaratvāt), and hence one sees a mass of blue rather than atoms of blue. A discussion of these matters can be found below under the subheading, “the self-isolate and the referent category.”
Rejection of atomism by both Mahāyāna Schools. Both Mahāyāna Schools find this highly problematic. For the Mādhyamika scholar, entities are true as perceived - conventionally. They are not true as perceived ultimately. In the case of the Yogācārin, perceived entities are sheer mentation. Vasubandhu’s anti-atomism. While the groundwork for a critique of this type of dharma theory was set out by Nāgārjuna in the MMK, Vasubandhu sets forth a notable explicit refutation of Śrāvakayāna “atomism” by observing that given that atoms are conceived to have six sides through which to connect to neighboring atoms, then they are not by this fact, ultimately indivisible, for the regions of the atomic dharma or phenomenon are themselves clearly smaller divisions. The problem of the fundamental constituents of our reality for the Cittamātrin is concerned with the Mind, for it is that which discriminates, bifurcates and categorizes reality into entical and discrete particularities. Conceptualized and innate positivism.
[254:5-255:1] “For the first [topic, the identification], generally, both positivism and nihilism are [here] the objects of logical refutation. With regard to positivism, there are two [major aspects]:  the conceptualized and  the innate. [And again,] for the innate [aspect] are the two [features] of grasping at the self of  the individual and  of phenomena. With regard to the latter, [again] are the two aspects of apprehending subject and object as substantially different which will be examined later.”
Now we arrive at lCang skya’s discussion of the manner in which Cittamātrins reject “positivism,” for lack of a better word. The Tibetan term sgro ‘dogs refers to what we are translating as “entical conceptualization,” the idea that what is perceived is real as given. The innate aspect. There are two aspects of this stance, deemed a form of extremism, from the Cittamātrin standpoint: an innate and a conceptualized aspect. The first is “built-in,” and applies to all sentient beings in some form or other. For example, a lion, to hunt prey, has an innate awareness of the “real” or “actual” existence of its prey.
The conceptualized aspect. The conceptualized aspect of positivism refers to positivism involving conceptual thought. This would include something as simple as the thought, “the chair really, essentially exists” on up to the very abstruse philosophical systems which aim to prove the objective, essential reality of entities understood to be “external, different, substantial” entities. The conceptualized aspect is more easily eradicated. Of the two categories, the conceptualized aspect is considered by far the easier of the two to eliminate. Buddhist traditions affirm that the innate reifying tendency of beings is only eliminated at the Arhat level, according to some schools, or at the highest bodhisattva levels in Mahāyāna Schools. The innate aspect of positivism is not relinquished until the tenth bodhisattva level whereat the subtle-most self-view or egotistic stance is eradicated. More accessible is a grasp of lCang skya’s analysis of the conceptualized aspect of the mind’s tendency to reify objects with regard to the naive “ordinary individual” and the more subtle form of positivism found in the two Śrāvakayāna [a.k.a. “Hīnayāna”] Schools, the Sautrāntika and Vaibhaṣika. Positivism as the enticalization of phenomena.
[255:1-255:4] “The manner in which one cleaves to the selfhood of phenomena, which is adhering to the establishment of the conceptualized [[[nature]]] by means of its own inherent characteristics, is this. “This form is one of the aggregrate [constituents of a sentient being]” is the essence, and “this form arises” is the imputation of a particular definition and signifier to that mere essence, and [thus, on this level] the aggregates, etc., are established. However, though, establishing the aggregates, etc., by virtue of their own inherent standpoint or by their own inherent characteristics to that essence, [lies] within the extreme of positivism.
This is an apprehension in the following manner: in this section, positivism will entail cleaving to the selfhood of phenomena. Here, according to the Legs bShad sNying po [where Tsong kha pa] engages in an abbreviated refutation which [accomplishes] the goal (don) of the extensive doctrine by way of warding off the arguments of outsiders, will be restated here.”
The essence and its attributes. There are again, two aspects to conceptualized positivism: an idea of the “essence” and the “attributes” which are imputed to that which initiates conceptualization (i.e. the “essence”). “Form” is taken as the major example, though it applies to all entical conceptualization.
“Form” is the essence or basis for the particular characteristics applied to it, and in this case, “form arises” is one of its signifiers, along with “extension” etc.. “Form” is established in this manner, but not ultimately. This is a Cittamātrin deployment of the concealing truth. However, when one asserts that “form” exists “by way of its own inherent standpoint” or “by virtue of its own inherent characteristics” - this is the extreme of positivism. Tsong kha pa’s understanding of this topic in the MS. Following will be an elucidation of Tsong kha pa’s clarification of this extremist thinking in the section of The Heart of Thorough Elucidation (LSN), wherein he refutes the thinking of opponents thinking with regard to how the MS is to be understood. By doing this, he establishes the proper understanding of Asaṅga’s thought, in his view. First is an analysis of the Saṃgrāha itself and following this, a logical investigation of the issues. The self-isolate and the referent category.
[255:4-256:1] “Again, if a certain [opponent] should say,
‘By you, form, etc., are incorrectly asserted as the [type of] positivism which is the object of refutation in this section, [i.e., holding] the basis of an essence and particular characteristics as established by means of its own inherent characteristics. It is also incorrect to further assert the [[[existence]] of the] self-isolate for the direct object of words and of conceptualization that manner. [This is so] because it is incorrect to assert along with that the form and so forth which would be the basal isolate for that [[[form]] and so forth].
The first proof. If one establishes the direct object of words and expressions (brjod bya) by means of its own inherent characteristics, then, even the Sautrāntika therefore hold this conceptualization as positivism, because to the Sautrāntika, the assertion of form as the direct object of conceptualization is as a generic image (don spyi) which does not in reality exist. For this reason, it is very improper to assert the selflessness of phenomena by proving their emptiness through merely that [argument].
The second central proof (tsa ba’i rtags gnyis pa grub). When one desires to refute the establishment of form, etc., by its own inherent characteristics, it would be the basal category for those characteristics, therefore it would be nihilism according to this [[[Yogācāra]]] system, since it would not establish the other-dependent [[[nature]]] by means of its own inherent characteristics.’
An opponent’s mistaken notion of the self-isolate. The opponent has a mistaken notion of the self-isolate. He states that positivism is not the object of refutation in this section of the Saṃgrāha. Asaṅga is referring neither to the self-isolate nor to the basal isolate. Even the Sautrāntika hold the generic image to be positivism. If it were referring to the self-isolate, then the generic image which arises from a composite structure such as form has already been examined and determined to be false from the “lower” schools (as Mahāyānists refer to the Śrāvakayāna Schools): “even the Sautrāntika” who are among those schools Asaṅga claims are guilty of “positivism” due to their dharma theory, hold that this mental generic image is false because it arises from atomic substructures which are actually ultimate.
The opponent’s second argument: the basal referent and the other-dependent. The second proof that positivism is not the aim of the refutation is that if Asaṅga is rejecting the idea that the basal referent as existing by way of its own inherent characteristics, then this would violate the Cittamātrin’s own assertion of the other-dependent nature existing by way of its own inherent characteristics. If this is rejected, then one would be maintaining “nihilism” as analyzed in chapter three.
Positivism as correspondence between signifier and signified.
[256:1-5] In this section, where the Venerable Omniscient [[[Tsong kha pa]]] explains the answer to that, it is not held to be a proof for the Sautrāntika, and not only that, this method of cleaving to the selfhood of phenomena which is the reverse theory (bzlog phyogs) of that, is contradicted in the doctrine of both schools of the Śrāvaka[[[yāna]]]. Further, the identification of positivism according to the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha [is as follows]:
On that [point], the naive, it should be known, are strongly attached to an essence [for a phenomenon] [an essence] which conforms exactly to the name and exactly to the expression [applied to it] according to the five reasons (rgyu lngas) [applied] to entities (dngos la) which [serve] as objects of expression.
Well, with the exception of the Venerable Lama of Myriad Doctrines [[[Tsong kha pa]]], because of great unfirmness [in understanding], awareness (gtol ma) [of the meaning of these issues] has not occurred to many. Therefore, the [[[spiritual]]] Sons of the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa]]], Thu po mKhas grub, with the illumination of the statements (smra ba’i nyi mas), the sTong Thun [[[Chen]] mo], the beautiful eye (sKal bSang mig) for the examination (‘byed du) of a mind to which appeared the consciousness to which appears the objective by the power of a propensity to express the doctrines of the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha, and the aspect of the appearance by the power of a propensity towards an egotistic standpoint (bdag du lta ba, ātmadṛṣṭi) and appearance to the consciousness due to a propensity towards the limbs of existence, from the three [of them].”
It has been noted that there are two dangers as recounted in the Kathāvatthuppakānam. Logical formulations were intended to avoid two extremes which he locates as the realms of the extreme sceptism to which Śūnyavāda could lead versus the possibility of absorption into Brahminist systems on the other. Further, Singh continues, Sautrāntika School is anti-idealistic. The fact of the reality of atoms which comprise sense data is enought to distinguish this school from that of the Yogācāra, who do, of course, deny the existence of external objects. He upholds Sautrāntika basic understanding by pointing out that this school’s approach “shakes the foundations” of Yogācārin “Idealism” by its turning away from “mere mentality” in favor of objectivity. Tsong kha pa’s response. Tsong kha pa explains that Asaṅga is not providing a proof to refute the Sautrāntika position here. He is providing the identification of positivism in the Saṃgrāha. He is simply expressing the fact that “positivism” refers to a naive belief in things existing the way they appear and in the concomitant naivete which ascribes the same reality to words and expressions which are employed to characterize an entity. lCang skya then proceeds to praise Tsong kha pa’s deep awareness of the issues and the lamp which illumines obscurity in even his own thought, which is the sTong Thun Chen mo, written by one of his foremost disciples, mKhas grub. Naive versus sophisticated positivism.
[256:5-257:1] “The first [issue] is the manner of appearance of appearing by virtue of a propensity towards verbal expression. To the eye consciousness, etc., the mode of appearance and the appearance itself of form, etc., exists as real. Having discerned the clarification of the dissimilarity of that from the Sautrāntika system, [[[mKhas grub]]] engages in a precise clarification of the thought of the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa]]].
If such is [the case], still, when researching the understanding of the great texts, from an inner method (ngang tshul) of the intellect which does not distinguish what is accepted by a child, even though along with being not even a little bit an Āryan, [they] elucidate, dispute and compose holding themselves, (pur ‘dzin) and it appears that there barely exist (srid mtha tsam) [those] who know the exact explanation of the thought in the myriad doctrines of the [[[spiritual]]] father [and] both [his] sons, since [these] would be like slivers of diamonds (rdo rje tshig) [since they are so difficult to crack].”
mKhas grub elucidates the differences in thinking between Asanga’s description of the type of positivism which characterizes the naive and that of more astute Sautrāntika analysis. To the naive, the mode of an entities appearance to the eye consciousness exists as real because of a conceptual propensity to verbal expression. lCang skya laments the fact that so many who (erroneously) deem themselves great scholars, have missed the point. They aim, like children, to decipher the difficult points of doctrine which are to them like shards of diamonds, impossible to crack. Corrupt versus uncorrupt modes of appearance.
[257:1-257:4] “Now, I myself, should express to some small extent the definitive approach. The most important point (shin tu gal che ba’i gnas) for understanding the meaning of the great doctrine of the Venerable Mahātma [[[Tsong kha pa]]] is this. The Sautrāntika hold that an object appearing to the sense consciousness is not corrupt. An appearance exists as established by means of its own characteristics as a basis for the essence and particularity of form, etc., and the Sautrāntika themselves, accept that [the perception of form, etc.] are not corrupt in that manner.
In this [[[Yogācāra]]] system, that mode of appearance itself is corrupt, and [this system] asserts that mode of appearance is established in an accordingly [corrupt manner] since it is conceptualized later. The reason for refutation in this section is positivism and cleaving to the selfhood of phenomena, and it is only this doctrine of the omniscient mKhas grub which one needs to identify that mode of appearance in the beginning, since it is difficult for the intellect to engage [this subject] of the way in which the mode of appearance is accordingly [appearing] to the sense consciousness.”
The definitive approach according to lCang skya II. He then attempts to express what he thinks is the definitive approach, to the best of his ability. He identifies the following as one of the most important doctrinal topics of Tsong kha pa’s corpus, employing mKhas grub’s insights. The manner in which the Sautrāntika cleave to positivism. He states that the Sautrāntika accept that the sense consciousnesses are correct in their ascertainment of the appearance of an entity and that it is the conceptualized image which appears immediately after sense perception. The Sautrāntika system asserts the “real existence” of external entities. Objects are “out there” (as opposed to being purely mentated realities) and appear to the sense conscousnesses objectively by virtue of their being composed of the fundamental time-space atomic building blocks called “dharmas.”
This tendency to “positivism” in Sautrāntika thought is bolstered by Amar Singh’s appellation in the title of his book, The Sautrāntika Analytical Philosophy. He states that all Sautrāntika thinkers were empiricists. Direct cognition pratyakṣa - which he calls “sensation,” is the foundation of this school’s thought. His study verifies the interpretation above by noting that sensible objects are real, and that denial of sensorial awareness is the “denial of all knowledge.” The five types of objects are real by way of being conglomerations of atoms. The Cittamātrins: even sense perception is corrupt. Proponents of “mere mentation” themselves hold that even this appearance itself is corrupt. The difficulty is the juncture between the conceptualizing mind and its conceptual object. According to the Yogācāra, even this very process of sensation is corrupt with regard to appehending the way things really are.
[257:4-258:1] “The mode of appearance of those [[[phenomena]]] is this. According to [[[mKhas grub]]], when we see something like a pot by means of mental focus, the belly of the pot is made manifest to the eye consciousness, and not only that, the belly appears as the basis of the verbalized conceptualization which declares, ‘this is a pot.’
Furthermore, the belly is not merely established by the name and signifier, but we call it a pot by virtue of its own standpoint, and this appears as the establishment as a basis for locating (‘jug pa) the signifier.
If one should inquire how [one can be] certain that appearance [occurs] in that manner, [then the response is that,] having become attached (zhen nas) to that mode of appearance to the sense consciousness, later conceptualization declares, “This is a pot.” The conceptualization, verbalization and sense consciousness are certain knowledge; therefore there is no necessity of another continuum but it is elicited bey means of its own power.”
Sautrāntika: immediacy of sense perception. When one sees even simply the belly of a pot, one’s mind immediately thinks, “This is a pot.” “No other continuum” refers to this immediacy: there is no need for another mediating consciousness or cause to inspire this thought in the mind other than this objectively, really existent pot-belly. It is not the case that appearances are simply names and signifiers imputed by the mind onto phenomena.
[258:1-258:4] “Then if that is the reasoning, when others ask, what is the essence of the object of the expression, “This is a pot”? The mode of appearance and manner of attachment (zhen tshul) [are uncorrupt] by virtue of the reality of the essence of the object. One says, “The belly exists” and “due to the belly, there is a pot;” one would not say, “there is a pot due to nominal imputation.” According to the Legs bShad sNying po,
‘One says, “Form is the essence for that object of the expression we call ‘form,’” and one does not say, “the essence of that object of expression ‘form’ is merely some nominal imputation. Therefore, when conventionally imputing what one calls ‘form,’ there is a basis for the conventional conceptualization of a blue form, and when one sees an appearance such as this, it appears just as established by virtue of its own inherent reality and not as established nominally or by a signifier.”
Cleaving to the establishment [of a phenomenon] as it appears, just as that blueness, for it is positivism which cleaves to the establishment by its own inherent characteristics in nominally imputing, ‘form exists for blueness’ and this statement is the meaning.
Does one strictly imagine entities? Again, to ordinary perception, things are as they appear and names attached to things seem to have an inherent connection to them. In distinction to what is (wrongly) commonly understood to be the Madhyamaka position, this view asserts that it occurs to no one to think that entities exist by imagining them into their particular existence. This seems absurd.
There must be a basis for phenomena. Unlike the Yogācāra position however, the basis is not the “dependent-upon-other” which serves as the basis for all perceived entities, for this second of the three natures is only fully realized when one has “emptied” it of conceptualization. For “positivism,” the basis for entities is their appearance just as they appear. Means of cognition (pramāṇa, tsad ma) validly establish entities. For Singh, this Sautrāntika School is “anti-sceptical,” by which he means, among other things, anti-Madhyamaka. He interpretes Madhyamaka thought as asserting that no definite knowledge is possible and nothing is true. This type of thinking is self-contradictory, undermining the very foundation (logic) upon which it stands. While we do not agree with his interpretation of Madhyamaka thought, the above aids the interpretation of Sautrāntika thought as related by lCang skya II. [258:4-259:1] The reason Sautrāntika [[[scholars]]] accept this mode of appearance as correct [is this]. Since form, etc., is an external object, it is of a different nature than the awareness [of it], and it is [therefore] truly established. Therefore, when [an external object] appears to the non-erroneous sense consciousness, it of necessity appears by virtue of its own standpoint, for that mode of appearance is the basis of nominal designation since it necessarily appears just like it exists, by way of its own standpoint. Therefore, it exists as a mode of appearance by means of focus (gtad pa) upon an external object.
Because of this, that mode of appearance is not only uncorrupted, (ma ‘khrul ba) since the conceptualization of the mode of appearance [occurs] later, likewise the attachment (zhen pa) and mode of apprehension (zhen tshul) are unmistaken (ma ‘khrul ba), although the conceptualization of that entity (ngos yul ) which is the referent of the word vase [which is a mental] is not established by its own inherent characteristics and that this is the sole superimposition; these statements are what is asserted [by Sautrāntika scholars].”
Sautrāntika: the fundamental difference of consciousness and its object. According to the Sautrāntika School, appearances are based on the fact of external objects, which are fundamentally different in nature from the sense consciousness which first acquires raw sense date. The sense consciousness acquires data based on this factual existence of external entities, and in this sense what it perceives is as it appears, and serves as a true basis for the nominal designations applied to them by the fixated (zhen pa) consciousness.
Unmistaken and uncorrupt consciousness. There are three features of consciousness referred to here. One is that the sense consciousness is uncorrupted, meaning what it perceives is not itself a superimposition of the consciousness onto the “external world,” as Yogācārins will maintain, and further, the mode of fixation or apprehension is unmistaken, meaning that the immediate term we apply to “vase” is also based on fact. Sautrāntika: the generic image is not ultimately established. The only aspect of consciousness which the Sautrāntika maintain is not truly established in fact is the conceptualization at a later time when the entity is not present to initiate first the sense consciousness into perceiving the entity, and second, the apprehending consciousness into applying a name and mental image to it. The third process refers to the generic image one employs to think abstractly about a “pot” or “form.” This is a “mixture” or “corruption” which fuses past awareness of entities into one generic image, which is a relatively false picture when compared to the image one perceives from direct sense experience. [259:1-259:5] In this system, since an external object is not established, an external object arises as an appearance from consciousness by virtue of habituation towards external objects. On that [point], endlessly [one is aware that] “this blue exists as this blue,” and so on, again and again, and an appearance as a basis for verbalization of such [a thing] occurs by virtue of a propensity for verbal expression. Accordingly, that appearance of form is merely of the nature of inner consciousness, but because of this, it is not an external object which is unrelated (‘brel ba med pa) [to consciousness] having been proven (gtan nas) as such. That appears as a basis of nominal designation, however therefore, it is an appearance by virtue of habituation towards inner verbal expression.
That mode of appearance is not proper as a mode of appearance which appears by virtue of its own inherent standpoint, as an independent object for establishment nominally and through a signifier. [It follows] from that, that otherwise, that sort of form, etc., being a basis for verbal designation, even though it would not proven dependent upon consciousness, and if that is the case, that form and the consciousness would be substantially different; this is incorrect by way of refutability through many reasons.” and these statements [are those this system] accepts. The Yogācārin position concerning external entities: propensities and habituation. Again, we have a restatement of the Yogācārin position. “External objects” according to this school, arise through the maturation of seminal mental propensities towards their perception. They appear as the basis of our thought and nominal designation of them, however, were they truly external and independent, this would lead to the conclusion that the object and the consciousness which apprehends it are of fundamentally different natures.
The place wherefrom propensities arise is the basal or ālaya consciousness. These propensities are seminal potentialities which lie latent in the basal consciousness and “mature” or “ripen” when causes and conditions permit.
[259:5-260:1] “[With regard to] those [points], according to the Legs bShad sNying po,
‘There is for the Śrāvaka [Schools], this very acceptance of the tenet of cleaving to the establishment by means of its own inherent characteristics of form, etc., on which essence and particularity are nominally superimposed and which is positivism, which is the counter-thesis (zlog phyogs) of that [position taken by Yogācāra scholars]’
‘That manner of apprehension is held to be correct by the two [schools] which assent to the existence of external objects, however, since they assert that the self-isolate, which is the object of verbal expression, is superimposed conceptually, (rtog btags) but then the basal isolate [or referent object is said to] emerge inherently characterized; and how are [these two isolates] the same? This is the thought [of Tsong kha pa].”
The Yogācāra position: no external entities. Basically, this passage by Tsong kha pa reiterates themes elucidated by lCang skya above. The Yogācārin position is a position opposite to that of the two schools which assert the fundamental, factual existence of external objects. This thesis is of course in particular opposed to the Yogācārin doctrine of the substantial non-differentiation of subject and object.
Agreement of all schools of Buddhism: the generic image is a false construct. There are two types of objects of expression (brjod bya): the self isolate and the basal isolate. These two schools (Yogācāra and Sautrāntika, and thus all Buddhist schools) will affirm with their Mahāyāna counterparts that the rang ltog or “self-isolate” which is the generic term (sgra spyi) or generic image (spyi don) which is conjured up in the mind when one sees the belly of a pot and thinks, “this is a pot” or the image one has when one mentally visualizes a pot separate from any concrete, visible and specific example of a pot, agree that this is “imputation by thought” and thus illusory. Buddhist disagreement concerning the referent object. However, the two major systems (both Mahāyāna and Śrāvakayāna schools) disagree about the basal isolate (gzhi ltog) which is an actual pot experienceable by direct perception. This pot is actual, real, fact, according to the Śrāvaka Schools, while it too is imputation or superimposition arising from habituations as “seeds” in the sub or basal consciousness, at least according to the Yogācāra School.
[260:1-2] Therefore, the manner of assertions of both the Sautrāntika and Yogācāra Schools are dissimilar, and the [issue] rests only on whether or not form, etc., itself and the apprehending awareness are [considered] substantially different.
When one understands the issues in this way, then it is also easy to know the way to enter into [the doctrine of] consciousness-only by this method of emptiness, and then even the logical refutation of positivism according to the teachings of the Saṃgrāha and its method of refutation are easily known.”
The final distinction for positivism: the existence or non-existence of external objects. Here we have the pivotal issue by which lCang skya has the Yogācāra School class the Śrāvakayāna Schools as “positivism.” The two schools clearly are to be distinguished primarily as to whether or not the existence of external objects is asserted. The two extremes in Buddhist thought - according to the Yogācāra - have been laid out. The Madhyamaka system is said to deny any basis whatsoever for phenomena, asserting a mere nominalism of sorts. The Sautrāntika position, which is though hardly “positivist” or “realist” in a Western sense by virtue of its assertion that the generic image is indeed illusory superimposition, is nevertheless realist from the point of view of the other two schools. Within the Buddhist framework of thought - at least according to both Mahāyāna Schools - this system is one touting what we are translating as “entical conceptualization.”
‘In this section, in the same appearance to a sense consciousness which originates from firm habituation, the object of such a mode of appearance  exists established by its own inherent characteristics as other-dependent and it  exists in [the nature of] superimposition from its mere establishment by name and signifier, and  as a strictly [intramental] conceptual imputation [as an object] which cannot be established as existent even by means of name and signifier, thus [a perceived object] is explained as existent in this third of three parts.
Among the four conditions, Asaṅga and his brother [[[Vasubandhu]]] held the habituation towards similar types (rigs mthun) to be a causal condition (rgyu rkyen, hetupratyaya) [in their] elucidation [of these issues]. This may appear to be the unsurpassable, excellently clear intention (dgongs pa) of the Mahātma [[[Tsong kha pa]]], however, there are individuals who mainly repeat the words of the texts, who may recite the text a hundred or a thousand times, though indeed, it appears difficult to generate certainty in the full measure of the complete elucidation [as occurs] in [many] explanatory [treatises].”
Yogācāra: the three aspects for the existence of an apparently external object. This passage explains, according to mKhas grub, the three aspects for the existence of an object. This does not refer to all of the three natures, for in the final, perfected nature, one attains to objectlessness (dmigs pa med pa). As we have read above, an object has establishment by means of its own characteristics at the level of being enmeshed-with-other. It has a bare, basic establishment as verbal expression at the level of the conceptualized nature, though at this level it is not established “by means of its own inherent characteristics” but by mere imputation or superimposition. Finally, the third of these three parts refers to the existence of an object as strictly imaginary, purely a mental concoction with no connection to an other-dependent nature aiding the generation of this third, completely fictitious object. Among these sorts of objects one must include the famous “rabbit’s horn” or “tortoise’s hair” - classical examples regularly employed in Buddhist philosophical works to illustrate the existence of that which does not by definition, exist.
Habituation towards similar types of object. The “habituation towards similar types” (rigs mthun) refers to the fact of similar types of objects engender verbal reference to other objects of a similar kind. One may see, in our example, only the belly of a vase. Because the belly is commonly associated with vases, one concludes, “This is a vase” when in reality, upon further reflection, one might wish to conclude that it would be better labelled a “bowl” or a “cup.” That idea, according to the text, is allocated by Asanga and his brother Vasubandhu to the classification of the four conditions under the sub-heading “causal condition,” (hetupratyāya) because the similarity of one thing to another becomes a cause for associating the two.
[260:5-261:2] “Since the logical points of the doctrines of the Bodhi[[[sattva]]]bhūmi and the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha are the same with regard to elucidating the [[[Yogācāra]]] method of refutation [of positivism], which is the second [topic], and is [thus given] as follows. According to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasamgrāha,
 ‘Prior to a name, intellection does not exist.  Because of the multiplicity [of names], therefore [an entity] is not mixed-up with [many entities] and  it would establish a contradiction that that [entity’s] nature is [both a] multiple nature and an adulterated nature’, as it is taught.’
Among the three logical [[[reasons]]], the first is [as follows]. A pot belly is the subject. It would follow that [the pot] completely does not depend upon the sign (rda) [which is the pot belly] which is set up (‘jog pa) as the basis of the verbal expression “pot,” because that [pot-belly] is established by virtue of its own inherent reality (gnas lugs) which exists as the basis of such a verbal expression [i.e., in connection with “pot.”]
If that is asserted, then it follows that the arising in the intellect of the thought “this is a pot” emerges independent of the sign which is that [pot-belly which serves as signifier for “pot”]. If that is accepted, it follows that there arises in the intellect the thought, ‘this is a pot’ from merely seeing the pot-belly even though prior to this there is no imputation of the word ‘pot.’”
Three principal arguments establishing the imputation of names. These are central points establishing the Mind-only perspective in the MS. lCang skya will address each issue more extensively, so we shall take them in turn in successive paragraphs.
Prior to a sign, no intellection exists. The first issue is to be understood as follows.  Before one ascribes a name to a perceived phenomenon, the intellectual distinguishing of it does not exist. This pot-belly is our continuing example. When one glances at a part of a pot, in this case the belly, then from this, an image emerges in one’s mind of some sign that “this is a pot.” The logical structure of the argument here is somewhat terse and hard to follow. It may be verbally expressed explicitly or simply that the signifier of a pot may arise as part of the intellection of the pot-belly as denoting a “pot.” If the belly is demonstrated to be existent by virtue of its own inherent reality and not simply imputedly, then it should not form the basis for the expression “pot” for both should exist inherently. If the pot arises in the intellect devoid of imputation and so does the pot-belly, then to state “this is a pot” based on observing the pot-belly is impossible. Therefore, prior to the name or signifier, intellection does not exist.
[261:2-261:4] “The second reason [is as follows]. Furthermore, there is no approach to the epithets, “powerful,” “widely traversing” to the same individual. Locating (‘jug pa) those epithets by virtue of the standpoint [that they are] functional entities for that [same] individual would result [as a consequence] through establishing this by means of its own inherent standpoint as a basis for locating those names to that individual. If that is asserted, then to that [same] individual, it would follow that there would be many standpoints gnas pa even to [one] object which would not correspond to (ma bzhin du) [each] name.”
Many names equate to many entities. The idea here is that if names correspond to objects on a one-to-one basis, then for each of these epithets of Brahma there should be either a different Brahma for each activity for which the epithet was received, or a different aspect of Brahma within Brahma, so to speak, which corresponds to each epithet.
The incoherence of sphoṭa theory. This idea lies in opposition to a view of language and words prevalent among Vedic Schools of philosophy, the sphoṭa theory. This idea asserted that words emerge spontaneously due to the inherent nature of the objective referent. This is in contrast to the idea, in particular elucidated by Dharmakīrti of apoha whereby words merely “cleave away” what an entity is not rather than inherently emerging from the entity’s essence. In this case, to say that Brahma is “widely striding” is to say that he is not widely swimming nor weakly striding.
[261:4-6] “The third reason [is as follows]. When one applies an identical name [shared] in common, say, to two individuals, there is an [unwanted] consequence of locating those by virtue of the enticality (or actuality) of that name to those two [[[Wikipedia:individuals|individuals]]], which is the result of establishment by virtue of its own inherent standpoint as the basis for applying that same name to those two individuals. If that is asserted, it would follow that one object is applied to whatever that same name to those two. If that is accepted, it would follow that those two individuals would be mixed up into one [[[mental]]] continuum. Since this reasoning is even proven by the implicit [proofs known as prasaṅgas or consequential logic] by all three arguments, then as a result of those errors, it is not established by its own inherent characteristics as a basis for the location of the verbal expressions referring to entities.”
Point three: a single name applied to several entities. If one ascribes enticality and one-to-one correspondence between name and entity, then it would follow that two persons with one name, in this case, then if they are inherently or intrinsically their “essence” (in this case defined as their mental continuum) should be identical.
Syllogism and consequential reasoning. The type of argumentation employed here is rang rgyud or svatantra - arguments which stand alone to demonstrate logical proofs. This is a type of syllogism which has these three parts: 1) the subject, the 2) mark and 3) predicate. lCang skya’s point is that these three proofs are easily accomplished by the Prāsaṅgika approach. No one will deny the absurd results arising from this type of theory of language when put into the context of this framework. In consequential or Prāsaṅgika logical discourse, one need not revers the mark to the predicate and predicate to mark, for implicitly, by stating the mark, one establishes the predicate.
‘When the posterior conceptualization of the term for pot [arises] from the existence of the pot-belly which is prior, then when that name is not [understood as] imputed, then the intrinsic essence of that object would not exist. However, when not imputed, even in the posterior conceptualization for the existence of the essence, there would arise in the intellect the thought ‘this is a pot’ even prior to the [supposedly] unimputed name.’
And thus this [view] is refuted.”
Opposition to the conception of a “basal” consciousness: the Bodhicittavivāraṇa. The notion of this basal consciousness was vigorously rejected by notables of the Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka. If we accept it as authentically Nāgārjunan, the Bodhicittavivāraṇa presents the most direct and polemical attack on this notion.
Agreement among the Madhyamaka Masters: the basal consciousness is illusory. Opposition continues through the writing of Candrakīrti and Tsong kha pa. Tsong kha pa cites Bhāvaviveka’s opposition to this sort of fundamental consciousness. Candrakīrti: logically, ultimately there is no such thing as potentiality. Candrakīrti (MA) sets out the Yogācārin position which he contends postulates the consciousness of blue arising from the potentiality to perceive blue, which has as its source, its own cognition. Candrakīrti relates the Yogācāra position as maintaining that the perception of blue arises from the seed of this potentiality to perceive blue apart from any externally apprehended “real” or “actual” blue.
The blind would see blue. Again, in his Prāsaṅgika formulation of this theory, “blue” arises not from an external object. As part of his Prāsaṅgika response, he notes that if blue appears from the seed of an inner consciousness, then why does not a blind man also perceive the existence of blueness? Candrakīrti (MA) rejects this whole notion of the ripening of propensities towards certain habitual actions. Concomitant to the Yogācārin thesis of the arising of, in our text, a consciousness of blue being dependent upon its emergence from the basal consciousness is strictly dependent upon a notion of potentiality. Potentiality is an erroneous notion, ultimately. He states that objects which have already been produced cannot possess potentiality for existence, neither could the opposite possibility, that unproduced entities could have a potential for existence. A basis of a qualification cannot exist separated from that which qualifies it and by which it is known. If that were so, one might presume, as he puts it, that there might be potential for the son of a barren woman.
The inefficaciousness of Yogācārin meditation: the basal consciousness as “hindrance.” As Candrakīrti states, Yogācārins do negate a substantially existent self, but assert that the basal consciousness exists by means of its own inherent characteristics. Their meditations on the lack of a substantially existent self or “soul” are not efficacious however because they have not eradicated the notion of a basal consciousness which is the repository of habitual propensities towards the perception of form, etc., as presented by lCang skya. Tsong kha pa: the difficulties of no doctrine concerning a basal consciousness. Tsong kha pa admits that inborn propensities are difficult to interpret in the absence of a doctrine concerning a repository of consciousness. Tsong kha pa (TKP) adds that when blue arises in a dream of one who is possessed of good vision, then it should arise in the consciousness of a blind man who is awake. Along with Candrakīrti, he understands the Yogācārin position to maintain that the blind man’s inability to perceive blue arises not from his lack of an eye, but rather from the latent but unmanifest potentiality for the arising of this perception.
Tsong kha pa quotes Candrakīrti with regard to the lack of necessity of a basal consciousness. For the Prāsaṅgika, ultimately, nothing ceases. An entity or event which has ceased, has only apparently or conventionally ceased. Since this is so, it can still be efficacious, its subtle influences are still felt.
The “interpretable” nature of the doctrine of the basal consciousness. For Candrakīrti as for Tsong kha pa, a basal consciousness is an “interpretable” rather than definitive doctrine. Tsong kha pa quotes from Candrakīrti’s autocommentary (the MAV) to establish this. The basal consciousness is a provisional doctrine the intention of which is to initiate the elimination of the notion of a naive reality of external objects as this idea might exist for certain would-be disciples of the Mahāyāna who cling ardently to the existence of such. The evidence for this is cited by Tsong kha pa (LSN) in that most central of texts which establish the Yogācārin standpoint: the Laṅkāvatarasūtra. Therein one finds the explanation the Buddha gives to Mahāmati that the “inner meaning” of all his doctrines point to emptiness, including that central tenet of the Prāsaṅgika School, niḥsvabhāvavāda, or the “doctrine of non-self-entity.”
Both Mahāyāna Schools are in agreement about the concrete, real, actual, etc., existence of atomistic dharmas understood in the “positivistic” or reifying manner lCang skya described above. The disagreement about the precise nature of external objects hinges on the root source of all aspects of the “great debate” between the two schools: the nature of consciousness.
Preliminary Conclusions: The Middle Way between the Extremes
“A great Yogin without learning is like one with mutilated hands climbing a craggy cliff. Thus, it is said that one who wishes to be a great yogin without any study is like a man with his fingers cut off trying to climb to the peak of a high mountain.
There is a level at which the disputes between the two schools can to some extent be summed up generally by the above passage. The ‘two extremes’ of Mahāyāna Buddhism can from one perspective be seen as an overemphasis on praxis to the detriment of theory or vice-versa. To the extent that these disputes involve a dispute over the primacy of theory versus praxis, the two schools can be viewed as representing a polar tension which exists, arguably, in all religions. We will touch upon this issue below. A major aim of our conclusion is to tentatively answer the question: are the two schools essentially identical or essentially different? Or both? Or neither? I think it is clear that at this point the fact of the distinctiveness of the two schools has been effectively demonstrated in spite of the fact that much more could have been stated.
In passages following, we will set out the Mind-only School position as lCang skya demonstrates it and conclude with a discussion of various authoritative presentations by modern thinkers about the nature of the relationship of the two schools. Some views affirm the harmonious aspect of their relationship, while others emphasize the distinctive qualities. The last three chapters demonstrated primarily negative proofs for the Yogācāra position. Rejection of nihilism and positivism leave one with the Middle Path as construed by the Mind-only School. What remains to be considered is a positive demonstration of the definitive truth of the Yogācārin system. This lCang skya does through discussion of the four “complete investigations” and the four “complete knowledges.” Through this four-fold analysis and conclusion, respectively, a disciple is led to firm, positively established fact of the truth of Yogācārin doctrine.
[262:1-263:1] “By means of the the third, is the actual manner of entry into the reality of the Consciousness-only School and is the explanation in particular of the reasoning (rigs pa) which refutes the substantial difference of subject and object (gzung ‘dzin).
[With regard to] the first [of the four investigations - the complete investigation of the object (don yong su tshol ba)], furthermore, entry into the Consciousness-only [School] is emptiness throughout of a substantial difference of subject and object by way of this manner of emptiness which was just immediately fully explained as elucidated as according to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha and the Bodhi[[[sattva]]]bhūmi and it is taught also by the Venerable Father [[[Tsong kha pa]]] and his [[[spiritual]]] sons [rGyal tsab and mKhas grub].
Having relied upon them, continuing on, a certain [opponent] among some scholars explains that there is the selflessness of phenomena which is the emptiness of establishment by means of its own inherent characteristics as the basis of attachment which conceptualizes the cleaving to the self of form, and the selflessness of phenomena which is empty of the substantial difference of cleaving to the selfhood of form; the former is more coarse than the latter which is more subtle.
[According to another] certain [opponent],
On that [point], even both [types of selflessness] are the unchanging perfected [[[nature]]] and are the subtle selflessness of phenomena; this appears to be the intention of the [great scholars of the] Mahāyāna and the Venerable [[[Tsong kha pa]]]. It appears that the category of the difficulty or ease of inner realization (nang gsas kyi rtogs) does exist.
According to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha,
‘When one does not see as characteristics of an object an essence along with particularity, one enters into mere consciousness in realizing (rnam par rtog pa) the mental appearance of the object and its referents (yi ge) by means of the the four complete investigations and the four complete knowledges which [apprehend] purity, [[[reality]]] just as it is.’
Here, as stated above, is the positive approach to entry into the Mind-only system as presented by lCang skya. The first of the four investigations examines the emptiness of the substantial difference of subject and object, and these are presented in the MS and the BB as well as in the myriad texts of Tsong kha pa, rGyal tsab and mKhas grub.
The first “opponent” suggests that the two types of the selflessness of phenomena - one conceptualized and the other, innate, i.e., the awareness of even the sense consciousnesses that there is no fundamental existence of subject and object - that the former of these two is a more coarse type of selflessness of phenomena and the latter, the innate, is a more subtle type of selflessness of phenomena. This idea is to be rejected. The next opponent states that both types of selflessness the unchanging, perfected nature, or pariniṣpannasvabhāva also also referred to in its perceived form as the perfected characteristic pariniṣpannalakṣana - are extremely subtle. This is the thought of the Venerable Tsong kha pa. lCang skya agrees that rather than the coarseness or subtlety of the selflessness, it is the relative difficulty or ease of inner realization of the two types of selflessness which is at issue.
When one has sought the end result of the four investigations, one enters into “consciousness-only” in viewing both words and objects as merely mentation. At this point, one attains to reality “just as it is” which is ultimately pure. The innate aspect of realizing the selflessness of phenomena is the more difficult, and is attained to at only the highest among the bodhisattva levels.
[263:1-263:4] “The way of entry into the cognition-only [system], is this. When refuting establishment by it own inherent characteristics, that basis for conceptualized attachment and the standpoint of nominal verbalization for the phenomena from form on up to omniscience [with regard to all] aspects, through the earlier explanation of the three reasonings in that manner, having relied upon the name which initiates [[[verbal]]] expression, the object which is the object of expression, and the connection (‘brel pa) of the name and object, and having identified (ngos nas) its manner of existence (gnas tshul) and that object as the particularity and essence of the object of expression, having appeared established in this way, the conceptualization of the mind of attachment is confusion in the manner of [its] apprehension in that manner.
Therefore, the object of attachment (zhen ba’i don) does not exist just as it appears. Blue, etc., since it is fully understood out of confusion, [i.e.] that form, etc., exist as cut-off and at a distance (gyang chad du) and externally. For the manner of attachment of inner awareness, since it is conceptualized in that manner, it is only on the part of appearance (snang cha) which is internal, but, from that, an object as [“]other[“] does not exist; this is entry into cognition-only, which is the non-duality of subject and object in thought.”
Here begins this positive establishment of the doctrine of Mind-only, Consciousness-only or Cognition-only, all of which are here referred to virtually synonymously as a convenience, by the term Yogācāra. Having rejected possible ways in which objects might exist (“by virtue of their own standpont” or “by means of their own inherent characteristics,” etc.), all of this is pulled together by means of the four thorough investigations, which would not be established logically apart from the prior refutation of positivist or nihilist approaches.
These four categories are the subject of the investigations: the name, its object and dependent upon these two, the “essence” and particularity imputed to these. The way these are normally conceptualized is “confusion” meaning that mental attachment to objects seen as having names inherently tied to them, and both name and object together maintaining inherently existent essential and particular qualities. Seeing these four elements of phenomena as “cut-off” from oneself, and “at a distance” is an internal mental confusion, for things only appear in this manner, for objects as “other” than or different from one’s own mind are falsely construed. Each of these four elements are recapitulated by means of the quotes from the MS and BB below.
‘...as entry by means of the four knowledges and the four investigations. A name is not imputed by virtue of its own real standpoint (gnas lugs) for its object, is imputation only. Therefore, a name as an object of expression is adventitious (glo bur), as one investigates.’
The investigation of names. Here then is the first of the four investigations, the investigation of names. That a name is “adventitious” means that it is temporary and somewhat capriciously applied to an object. Names are simply “slapped on” through mere imputation or superimposition, not because of some inherent quality of the object that elicits a particular name over another.
The BB concurs: bodhisattvas see names as merely names and nothing else, i.e., they regard names as strictly illusory, with no further claim to reality except in their function as an aspect of the conceptualized nature.
The MS phrases this differently but maintains the same point. A name is stricly mentally conceptualized and has no reality apart from consciousness. Names are “mental composites” one might say, made up as they are of further “mentally constituted” syllables and letters.
[263:6-264:2] “The complete investigation of the object [is as follows]. This is investigating whether or not that object is established from its real standpoint or beginninglessly as a basis of application (‘jug gzhir) for that name. Furthermore, just as was [explained] earlier [with regard to a name], it is in an adventitious way a basis of application for that.
According to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha,
The investigation of the object. Basically the points to be made about the status of the object to which names are applied are the same as those to be made concerning the name itself. “Objects” are not established inherently “from their own side” or “objectively” (so to speak), but again, are adventitious - “temporary,” more or less randomly distinguished, as in the distinction made in arguments above concerning the pot-belly in relation to a pot.
An “object” (don) is that upon which one superimposes a name, rather than a permanent, “functional,” entity (dngos po), “beginninglessly” a basis for the application of the appropriate names. It is strictly a mentally expressed reality, which relies upon composite elements as do names. When one refers to objects, one may distinguish the syllables with which one refers to the object as “pot” or “pot-belly,” for the name and object are linked, though conceptually they may be distinguished.
[264:2-264:4] “The investigation of the conceptualization as essence [is as follows]. Having relied upon the mutual connection of the object which is the object of expression and the name which effects expression, [this is] investigating whether or not there is a standpoint by virtue of reality with regard to even the connection or juncture of [both] the object of an expression and that which effects the expression. When, having investigated [the issue] accordingly, one conceptualizes [this] as mere imputation, as not established by virtue of reality (gnas tshod) as the essence of what is to be expressed for that name.
[264:4-6] “Investigating the conceptualization of particularity [is as follows]. Having relied upon the mutual connection of that which effects expression and the object of expression, [this is] investigating whether or not it is established by virtue of its own real standpoint (gnas tshod) as a basis of conceptualization of the inherent particularity for that object. One regards as merely imputation, unestablished by its own inherent standpoint even that, by investigating it that way.
According to the [[[Mahā]]]yānasaṃgrāha,
The last two are demonstrated together.”
Finally, comes the investigation of the particular or “distinctive qualities” of an “entity” or a phenomenon essentially conceived. “That which effects expression” is a name and the “object of expression” is the entity conceptualized mentally. Dependent upon a conceptualized or mental connection of name and object, essence and here, particularity arise. This too is “unestablished by its own inherent standpoint.” This distinctiveness (bye brag tu as the BB states it) or particularity (khyad par du in the words of the MS) is, like the above four topics, existent as mere imputation only. Finally, lCang skya notes that these two are to be analyzed and included together, for both are dependent upon the prior connection between the name and its object. After one has nominally designated the name “circle” to, for example, a perception of the moon, one may assert “roundness” as the essence of that circle and “this circle arises” as a characteristic, attribute or particular feature of that circle. Prior to this connection of name and object, to assert the essential or particular is not possible.
[264:6-265:2] “Accordingly, by the four investigations, a name and object are the basis of expression and having relied upon the connection of name and object, there is investigation of the imputation of distinctiveness and the imputing of essence, and having relied upon thorough, logical investigation accordingly, the four knowledges [arise], when one disestablishes [the above as existent] by virtue of their own inherent standpoint those four [aspects investigated], the complete knowledges [regard them] as mere imputation.
With regard to the the manner of [acquiring] this knowledge, [first,] it is through a generic image at the time of the [[[paths]] of] Accumulation and Preparation, and as both direct knowledge [and as generic image] exist at the time of the Āryan [on the path of Vision].
The Four Investigations establish the Mind-only position negatively. It is clear then that the Four Investigations aim to demonstrate positively the lack of inherent existence of the name, object, essence and particularity of any phenomenon, to demonstrate that all phenomena and all aspects of phenomena are mentalized imputation, mere conceptualized “realities.”
At the point a sentient being enters the first of the five paths, the “Path of Accumulation” (sambhāramārga, tshogs lam), these ideas are merely “generic images,” i.e., one may have acquired an intellectual awareness of the arguments stated above. Still, the idea that names, objects, essences and particularities are strictly imputed remains a “generic image” for that person. When a being has progressed to the third of the five paths, the “Path of Seeing,” (darśanamārga, mthong lam) attaining the status of an “Āryan” in Mahāyānist terminology, then beyond a mere generic image, it is said that a bodhisattva attains to a “direct perception” of the fact of these aspects of a phenomenon’s existence as “mere imputation” and can see the name, object, essence and particularity for what they are, i.e., mere mentated, conceptualized phenomena.
‘If one asks, “What are the four complete knowledges as purity, [i.e. reality] ‘just- as- it-is’ (ji lta ba bzhin du), “it is ‘The complete knowledge exactly and properly would be or the investigation of the name,’ etc.”, and the remaining three [[[elements]], object, essence and particularity] are conjoined together (sbyar ba) also in the same way.’
According to the Mahāyānasaṃgrāha,
‘Therefore, since it is stated that it is as well regarding as strictly (zad pa nyid) mere mentalized expression, this complete knowledge of the investigation of the name, and through stating also that the imputation as a particular and essential object along with the name, is the complete knowledge of the investigation of the object, and when one does not see the [[[objective]]] characteristic of the object along with the essence and particularity, then both the complete knowledge of the imputation of essence and the complete knowledge of the imputation of particularity are shown.’
What is ascertained with regard to “name” is the same for the other three complete knowledges. While there are four aspects with regard to perceived phenomena, i.e., “name,” “object,” “essence” and “particularity,” at a fundamental level, these are all mentated, conceptualized phenomena according to the Yogācāra School.
In demonstrating the imputation of “name,” the other four follow. That which is known as an “object” is known as such via the mental imputation of a mental signifier or “name.” The object and name together give rise to the imputation of two categories which characterize what is known as an object, i.e., its essence and particular characteristics. These also, are demonstrated as mere mental fictions following upon the demonstration of name and object as “entities” comprised of cognition, consciousness, or in short, as “mind-only.”
[265:5-] “If that is the case, the Four Investigations, even though one does not abide on the path, the Four Knowledges exist, having obtained a bit of certainty with regard to the selflessness of phenomena, it is necessarily applied, however (‘jog dgos kyi), the assertion that the Four Knowledges are not existent at the level of the ordinary individual is incorrect, because of the doctrine that the Four Knowledges exist in superior insight (lhag mthong, vipawyāna) meditation (bsgom pa) which is the realization of emptiness. Therefore from this, this doctrine is an entry into the cognition-only by way of the four knowledges.”
The terminology “the Four Complete Knowledges” are meant in no way to indicate that one must be a realized master to acquire them. These terms do not refer to full awakening or any of the omnisciences. Certainly it does not imply the eradication of the innate aspect of positivism which afflicts the sense consciousnesses which refers to the inborn “ego-view” (ātma-dṛṣṭi) afflicting all sentient existences. Rather, the four complete knowledges are accessible to one beginning on the path.
Is this the Yogācāra system? With this, the positive demonstration of the Yogācāra stance is concluded. One begins on a negative path and ends with positive affirmation. The question has arisen whether this presentation of the school is really the standpoint of the school. Here with lCang skya’s presentation of the tenets of the Mind-only tradition, we conclude he avoided presenting the tradition as a simple “Idealism.” This Western term connotes “essentially existent mental essences” and ur-ideen. DesCartes’ well-known cogito with a basis in these notions. One of the entries in Webster’s dictionary would appear at first glance to apply: “a theory that the essential nature of reality lies in consciousness or reason” does not apply to a tradition that roots the conceptualization of the ego in “interwovenness-with-other,” or paratantra. Consciousness itself, though principally forming the world we perceive, is not the ultimate basis of reality in Yogācāra tradition.
Where among the Western Idealisms does the notion of the “other-dependent,” a doctrine of a basal consciousness and its propensities, etc., among many other doctrines, arise in the occident? Where are the doctrines of rebirth and karma, and where to we find as a goal, the “snuffing” or nirvāṇa of the cogito. Analogues may exist, however the subtle and gross distinctions should be kept in mind. In our opinion, one should eschew simple comparisons of philosophical systems separated by such vast geographical and mythic worlds as Christian Idealist traditions and Buddhist mentalist traditions. In spite of the overemphasis (from the Madhyamaka standpoint) of the Yogācāra School on consciousness, the two share a common pedigree. One should never lose sight of the fact that these two traditions share membership in the same family of traditions, the Mahāyāna traditions.
Scholars inclined to a Yogācārin stance. There are those who see the Madhyamaka School useful for establishing certain negative critique, but criticize this school for what is seen as its strict “negativism.” It hardly engenders a positive regard for the Path. Some scholars are more willing to emphasize the similarities between the two schools, while basically subordinating the Madhyamaka into the Yogācāra system. Nagao. Nagao Gadjin is one of the better known examples. As J. W. de Jong states, Nagao is one of the foremost interpreters of Yogācāra philosophy in the modern period, and “has always attempted to see the connections between the philosophies of both schools.” He asserts that Asaṅga and Vasubandhu “complemented the śūnyatā philosophy with various positive theories...” [my emphasis]. The Yogācāra maintains a positive approach. This school is said to be “positive” because
Nagao cites Vasubandhu’s Trisvabhāvanirdeśa (Treatise on the Three Natures) which affirms that the other-dependent is that which appears, while how it appears is the conceptualized (kalpita). Finally, the point at which that which appears (khyātṛ) is devoid of appearance (yat khyānam) is the perfected (pariniṣpannasvabhāva). This certainly does not negate anything lCang skya’s Yogācārin affirmed, as far as we are able to ascertain. The appearer is devoid of appearance finally, but not devoid of entity.
The other dependent is a foundation and mediator. The other-dependent is the “basis” or āśraya for the other two natures. Nagao defines the other-dependent as an “axis” or “mediator” around which “the world turns.” It serves as a support (āśraya), ground or basis for all that is conceptualized, all appearance in Saṃsāra and yet through which the perfected nature also becomes manifest.
The other-dependent, according to Nagao, becomes the basis for cryptic statements found particularly in Mahāyāna literature such as “Saṃsāra is no different from nirvāṇa.” In any ordinary, conceptual sense, this statement is incoherent, however, from the standpoint of the other-dependent, the pivot of the transformation from profane to sacred, these enigmatic aphorisms make sense.
This notion of it being a basis leads to the idea of the transformation or convertability of that basis. The other-dependent, in its role as a basis, can be transformed into either the conceptualized nature or imagined world, or into the perfected nature, which Nagao calls the “consummate nature.” It is in this way a “mediator.”
The bridge between the sacred and profane. Nagao refers to it as the “bridge” between the sacred and profane world, and credits the Vijñānavāda with being nearly the only religious tradition to establish the “bridge” from the profane to sacred on a firm logical footing. The “leap” is not possible in the conceptualized world, for the imagined world, for this is the nexus of the problem, and likewise, from the standpoint of the perfected or consummate nature, the problem has been solved.
Madhyamaka: nihilism with regard to the subject. He states that the idea of the other-dependent “is the appearer, a subjective existence.” The “-er” (-tṛ) in appearer, he continues, was “totally denied in the Mādhyamika treatise” and was “revived in the Vijñānavāda treatise as a ‘subject.’” Without such a subject, there could be no “turning around” from defilement to nirvāṇa.
Madhyamaka: nihilism with regard to existence. Nagao states that while Nāgārjuna denied essence, he did not fully explain the nature of existence, as did the Vijñānavāda, by way of clarifying the nature of subjectivity with regard to soteriological interests.
Nagao declares the other-dependent to be virtually a synonym for the classic Buddhist notion of co-originating inter-relationship (pratītyasamutpāda). He states that this central concept of Buddhism is that by which the relativity of all things was taught by the Buddha and all absolutes were thence denied. It was Nāgārjuna, he affirms, who elucidated the “zero” or “empty” (śūnya) nature of phenomena by way of interdependent co-arising, devoid of any absolute. This universe of the other-dependent is only accessible by a Buddha, while ordinary individuals, through attachment to ego, etc., grasp what they perceive by means of ordinary faculties as absolutes, and thus live in an imaginary world. Only when imagination is eradicated and the actual fact of “other-dependence” is apprehended does the imagined nature transform into the perfected.
Alex Wayman. Wayman corroborates the above interpretation. Asaṅga does not deny that nothing external to mind exists, but as lCang skya relates it, he speaks of the “emptiness of a substantial difference of grasper and grasped” - i.e., the “grasped” or what is deemed the external world is not fundamentally separated from consciousness and vice-versa. He notes what he terms the “Genesis” story in the Aggabbasutta asserts the existence of a sentient world (sattvaloka) and what he translates as a “support world” (bhājanaloka). Therefore, to hold that Vasubandhu would in such a way contradict an important doctrine like this not to be believed, according to Wayman.
The basal consciousness is required to provide a logical foundation for rebirth theory. This is the principal reason it was formulated by Asaṅga in the manner he did. Professor Wayman continues on to relate the important distinction to be made between the two schools. He states that the three natures theory
He cites Nāgārjuna’s Acintyāstava, 44-45, wherein it is stated that “an entity (bhava) when imagined does not exist, but (exists) when its dependence on others is found.” Wayman, agreeing with lCang skya’s account, notes that the only difference of this verse of Nāgārjuna’s and that of Vasubandhu’s assertion that the perfected nature emerges when the other-dependent nature is bereft of the conceptualized nature. These are the terms lCang skya employs to describe the perfected nature.
Wayman sees the Mind-only tradition as improving upon Madhyamaka initial success. This is a view common among East Asian forms of Buddhism where one may plausibly argue that Yogācāra tradition held sway. Among East Asian schools where the Yogācāra School has had its biggest career, the schools are not equated, but rather the Yogācāra School is seen as a more comprehensive advance over the Madhyamaka. This a quite common ranking among the pan chiao systems which delineated the evolution of increasingly awakened states of personhood, and which virtually invariably place the Yogācārin personality “ahead” of or “above” the Mādhyamika.
Keenan. John Keenan seeks support for Nagao’s “thesis of the organic relationship between Yogācāra and Mādhyamika....” He focuses on the Hsung-Chung -Lun, a commentary on the MMK ascribed to Asaṅga. Though it has no corresponding Sanskrit nor Tibetan translation, he notes that “modern Japanese scholars” accept Asaṅga as its author.”
The commentary states that Asaṅga understood points in the works of Nāgārjuna not clarified by the great master. He in no way rejected Mādhyamika thought but remained faithful to it throughout his career. The work may reflect an early stage of the development of Asaṅga’s thought. Of course, it may represent a later period, for according to certain Tibetan traditions, Asaṅga was at heart a Mādhyamika. The Yogācāra is for dGe Lugs pa like lCang skya, an upāya, a useful but provisional approach, prone to reification.
Professor Keenan affirms the fact that Nagao understands the Yogācāra through the major work, the MV, as the “text used by Nagao to outline the Yogācāra developments [my emphasis] of the Mādhyamika notion of the middle path.” The picture that emerges from Keenan’s remarks, is that of an Asaṅga deeply appreciative of the Madhyamaka tradition. This was true especially in the earlier years of his intellectual development, after which he embarked upon the path of his true genius, the Yogācāra, elements of which can be seen in his commentary on the MMK.
Harris. Harris’ reliance on Japanese sources is a feature of his efforts to harmonize the two schools. Basically, in his presentation one has only the Yogācārin position itself represented. This position relegates the Madhyamaka to the position of clarifying only the emptiness of phenomena and the artificiality of language, not as its adherents claim, the full range of existence and reality. No Buddhist tradition known denies itself the role of definitive interpreter of the Buddhadarma.
There are a multitude of arguments which exist among Tibetan traditions which affirm that the Madhyamaka School itself is the repository of the definitive, ultimate truth of the Buddha. A strict cleaving to the tenets of the Yogācāra School would be a “falling away” from the most profound doctrine. These arguments are missing from Harris’ work, or where it is addressed, this idea is rather summarily dismissed. The other extreme is represented by Theravāda scholars and occidental scholars of Buddhism who are informed by these scholars. Here, the two Mahāyāna Schools are over-differentiated, in our view. It has been and continues to be a commonplace notion that the Madhyamaka represents a Buddhist nihilism or skepticism and the Yogācāra School is a type of Buddhist Idealism or Phenomenalism. This extreme view is also patently false. Nāgārjuna nowhere claims to be skeptical about how one demonstrates as best one can through conventional verbal expression, the ultimate truth of the Buddha and the final truths of the path.
While certainly lCang skya’s Yogācārin sketch presents the Madhyamaka School as a type of “nihilism ” (med par lta ba), but this is with regard to what scholars of other Buddhist schools will argue is the basic unwanted, unforeseen result of Madhyamaka views. It is not the case that anyone would claim that the Mādhyamika refer to themselves in these terms. In fact, they emphatically deny that the doctrine of non-self-entity or essencelessness (niḥsvabhāvavāda, ngo bo nyid med par smra ba) is nihilismistic save to those inclined to positivistic viewpoints who do not understand its world-view. Rather, failure to accept this doctrine in favor of essentialist perspectives leads ultimately to a nihilistic view, in the sense that a non-acceptance of Madhyamaka doctrine is a denial of reality as it really is.
Likewise, those who refer to the Yogācāra School as a type of Idealism are, in our view, falsely superimposing an occidental system onto an Asian philosophical school. While there exists a superficial similarity between Berkeleyian, Kantian or Husserlian ideas, a deeper level of analysis demonstrates the deep kinship with the Madhyamaka School which ultimately makes this label inaccurate. One might as well say that all Mahāyāna Schools are Idealist, or, as some have suggested, that all Buddhism is a type of Idealism or even as was said, a form of Nihilism . The elucidation of numerous disputed issues notwithstanding, one ought never to lose sight of the fact that these two schools are contained within the larger system of Mahāyāna Buddhism. As we say in the last section on positivism, both schools argue more or less in unison for the refutation of the Buddhist “positivism” represented by the Sautrāntika. If any occidental label at all were to be applied to both Mahāyāna Schools it would be something akin to “anti-positivism.”
Affirmation of the two schools’ identity as Mahāyāna traditions does not dismiss, however, the very important distinctions between them. We have established just above the affirmation that the Yogācāra tradition affirms the existence of a pivot, bridge, support, basis, etc., variously describing in these terms the other-dependent nature or the basal consciousness. This is a tremendous distinction from the world-view of the Madhyamaka that asserts no such foundation for reality. One can see here an echo of the long-standing dispute over the puḍgala or personal self asserted by the so-called puḍgalavāda traditions. Indeed, the role of a support or pivot for reality is tempting and useful as a heuristic device. In the end however, it might and has been argued by our representatives of the Prāsaṅgika scholars in the chapters above that these Mind-only traditions fail to demonstrate at the most profound level of verbal expression, the depths of the selflessness of self and phenomena.
While the tradition is no Idealism, we can say along with [pseudo?]Nāgārjuna that the tradition inhabits a place in the spectrum of possible world-views that is “svacitta.” This does not mean that particular Yogācārin thinkers necessarily come to realize the most profound revelation of selflessness, as definitively expressed by the Prāsaṅgika tradition.
Mind-only traditions: an upāya and love for the system qua system? We agree with Huntington: the Mind-only traditions demonstrate a system and a world-view which are relatively prone to reification and, as this term is employed in our text, positivism. Later ramifications of the dispute. Certainly the Zen tradition (quite subsumed in Yogācāra view) in particular relates many stories where reason and the study of scriptures are denigrated in favor of direct intuition, one might say, of “no mind” etc., in deep samādhi . While this is not necessarily our view, some have maintained that the various dhyāna or Meditation Schools (Chin. Chan; Jap. Zen) of Mahāyāna Buddhism extant in the modern world share a mistrust of rationcination and verbalized reality that borders on anti-intellectualism.
From the Gelukpa Madhyamaka standpoint, if emptiness is truly an omnipresent reality, it should be manifest in language and logic, and however obscured, should be evident through careful examination. A Mahāyāna disciple should train in the disciplines of logic and language to hone his/her comprehension of ultimate truth as well as increasing the intensity of mental focus as is obtained through meditative praxis, or dhyāna. The danger in this, according to our dhyāna adherent, is that one may fall into the mental trap of reifying words and the dogma construed from them. The very use of language entails the risk of being ensnared by it. Certainly if the ultimate truth is not to be contained in systems of dogmatic statements, but rather lies in the meditative state of the highly realized, then it is perhaps preferable to avoid doctrine, theory and verbalized convention altogether.
While to some extent the relative emphasis on praxis versus theory in the Zen and Gelukpa traditions is evident, the connection between these two highly influential modern schools and ancient Madhyamaka and Yogācāra disputes may not be so evident. Tracing the distinctions of the two modern schools back to the classical debates in India would be the subject of another book, provisionally I would like to state that at the core of differences between Central and East Asian forms of Buddhism, lies the dispute over the nature of consciousness.
What finally can we say of the disputes between the two schools? We think we have demonstrated that these two schools should in no way be seen as identical. Obviously, were they identical, there would be no good reason to name them differently. Yogācāra translates from the Sanskrit as “Yoga-praxis” with the inclusive of “meditation-praxis. As a number of scholars have maintained, elements can be found in the earliest Buddhist writings which evolved into what became known as the Yogācāra and the Madhyamaka Schools. The roots of the Great Debate lie deep in Buddhist tradition. Whether one affirms a relative something or a relative nothing is indeed itself, a relative truth from a certain point of view. One person’s nihilism is another’s positivism. Arguably all schools of Buddhism are relatively “nihilismistic” when compared with other traditions. This would seem to be the case for Thomistic and Augustinian theologies, in which real discrete entities are posited. They are relatively “positivist” from the point of view of the classical materialist ancient Cārvaka School, which repudiated the existence of karma, rebirth, deities and salvation beyond this world, and as well perhaps with regard to Deconstructionist perspectives which over-negate the possibility of the expression of truth in verbal terms. This the Prāsaṅgika even reject. Nietzsche made a God of the concrete, historical self, having only one opportunity to acquire an ultimate reality defined in finite, historical, individualistic terms. These comments just touch upon subjects that are worthy of continuing study and reflection to help place Madhyamaka tradition within the spectrum of global philosophies.
Demonstration of our thesis. We sought here to provide evidence of the existence of major disputes between the two schools. This was done throughout the chapters of this work. A major aim of this work was to balance interpretations of the distinctions to be made of the two schools which “over-harmonize” the two, ignoring obvious distinctions and avoiding a presentation that mistakes a supposed Madhyamaka “nihilism” opposed to a Yogācāra “Idealism.” In short, we have attempted to present our own Madhyāntavibhāga – Analysis of the Middle and the Extremes – with regard to this topic, aiming to avoid the extremes.
Whether the Mind-only traditions as defined in this work are evolutions or devolutions relative to the Madhyamaka remains a disputed topic and is most likely defined in the terms of Tibetan philosophical traditions as ngor bden pa - “truth from a certain point of view.” Arguments can and will continue to be made asserting the claim to “definitive” status among the three major wings of Buddhist tradition, i.e., the Vibhajyavāda/Theravāda, Yogācāra /Ch’an-Zen and Madhyamaka/dGe lugs pa ancient and modern traditions. Perhaps though this investigation may not claim “definitive” status in the sense of having exhausted all the issues, it may initiate further investigation of the claims and counter-claims each tradition has made and continues to make against the other.