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Āśraya parāvŗtti

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Naomi Worth Professor Sonam Kachru


A central goal of Buddhism is the transformation of perception, where one goes from seeing through a deluded filter to seeing reality. The Buddhist path is laid out with many prescriptions for how to go about this, with meditation as the key practice. The Yogācāra (yoga-practice) school of Indian Buddhism established the theoretical rationale and provided extensive exegesis on this topic, which they refer to as "transformation of the basis" (āśraya-parāvrtti). The storehouse consciousness (ālayavijñāna), unique among the eight types of consciousnesses posited by yogācāra, is what gets destroyed in the process whereby a regular, afflicted human becomes a realized being.

When this transformation occurs, the practitioner changes their ontological status from that of a normal, mentally afflicted person, to that of a permanently altered being who no longer relies on the ālāyavijñāna consciousness in their cognitive processing. This system is grounded in Abhidharma terminology, and described most thoroughly in the literature of the Mahāyāna Yogācāra school, who consider it to be the ultimate experience to be undergone by a Buddhist practitioner. It could be said that all of Buddhism drives to this point.

This annotated bibliography aims to delineate the main sources of literature on āśrayaparāvṛtti in the early yogācāra and abhidharma heyday, whose main authors were Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, and Sthiramati. At the same time, the annotations provide brief explication of the key aspects of the system, including: a list of the main root texts along with their emphases and extent of engagement with the topic; the five paths; the ten Bodhisattva grounds (bhūmis); the two hindrances; the clear light nature of the mind; extinction of the defilements; thusness; elimination of ālayavijñāna; undefiled consciousness (amalavijñāna); dharmadhātu; and the three bodies of a Buddha.


Primary Sources

Asaṅga, Abhidharmasamuccaya. In Ronald Davidson, "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985.

English Translation Rahula, Walpola, trans., Sara Boin-Webb french-to-english trans., Abhidharmasamuccaya: The Compendium of the Higher Teaching (Philosophy) by Asaṅga. California: Asian Humanities Press, 1971.

Of interest to a study of āśrayaparāvṛtti is the Abhidharmasamuccaya's description of the five paths which, according to Davidson, the transformation takes place on the fifth and final path (titled No More Learning). According to the text, following an experience of "lightning-like concentration, obtained from cleansing all the hindrances, the elimination of all attachments, and the realization of all the dissociations," there follows a fundamental transformation.

Jinaputra's commentary further elucidates the two hindrances that act as obstacles to such a transformation. He states that the mind is naturally made of clear light, but is obscured by proximate defilements. Fundamental transformation refers to the transformation of the underlying consciousness by means of extinction of the defilements, as well as their potential states.

Asaṅga, Dharmadharmatāvibhāga. In Ronald Davidson, "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985.

While primarily dedicated to explaining the concept of fundamental transformation, this work had little subsequent impact. It has a single commentary and there are no other references to it within Indian literature.

In the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga, fundamental transformation takes place through ten modes of penetration, the sixth of which is the basis (āśraya). In discussing the experience of fundamental transformation it states: IX.6 āsrayapraveśa. The penetration of the basis is by means of the sixfold entrance into non-conceptual gnosis: a. through the objective support, b. through the elimination of cognitive objects, c. through correct application, d. through the characteristics, e. though the benefits, and f. through total comprehension. Paramount here is the realization of thusness via three main forms of transformation: transformation of the perception of the physical world, the ideational world relating to the absolute, and the mental world. The method of transformation includes four stages in the development of realization which involve contemplations on prescribed cognitive objects that demonstrate non-reality of the perceptual objects, as well as objectless meditations. Interestingly, the Tibetan Mi pham 'Jam dbyangs rnam rgyal rgya mtsho (1846-1912) wrote a commentary which offers the possibility of tracing āśrayaparavtti into Tibet's philosophical and contemplative systems.

Asaṅga, Mahāyānasaṃgraha. In Ronald Davidson, "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985.

Primary Source Mahāyānasaṃgraha of Asaṅga (Sanskrit not extant; Tibetan versions: Tohoku, 4050 [=sDe-dge, Sems-tsam, ri, 121b-190a]; Peking, 5551. Chinese (three different translations): Taishō 1592, 1593, 1594. Translations Étienne Lamotte, ed. and trans., La Somme du Grand Véhicule d'Asaṅga (Mahāyānasaṁgraha). 2 volumes; Louvain: Institut Orientaliste, Université de Louvain, 1973. This work has a close affinity with the MSA due to an emphasis on trisvabhāva, the appearance of tathatā, and a well-defined path structure (the ten bodhisattva bhūmis). Its commentary is important to the development of āśrayaparāvṛtti.

Asaṅga, Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra. In Ronald Davidson, "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985. Commentary by Vasubandhu Translations Levi, Sylvain, ed., Mahāyāna Sūtrālaṅkāra: Exposé de la doctrine du grand véhicule selon le système Yogācāra. Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion, 1911. Jamspal, Lobsang, Robert Clark, Joseph Wilson, Leonard Zwilling, Michael Sweet, Robert Thurman, trans., Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature Mahayanasutralamkara (Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences). New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2004. Mahayana-Sutralankara (mdo sde’i rgyan), MaitreyaAsaṅga with commentary by Jamgön Mipham, Padmakara, forthcoming translation. Terms: āśrayaparāvṛtti; buddhatvasya śaraṇatva; āśrayaparivṛtti; anābhogāpraśrabdhakriyā; anāsravadhātu; dharmadhātuviśuddhi; tathatā; tathāgatagarbha; trikāya: svābhāvika, sāṃbhogya, nairmāṇika; gotra.

An amalgamation of topics convene in this text to provide a thorough presentation of early Yogācāra thought, including mere cognition (vijnaptimātra), the three natures (trisvabhāva), incorrect conceptualization (abhūtaparikalpa), a doctrine of illusion (māyāvāda), ideas about the absolute as either thusness (tathatā) or thatness (tattva), and the realm of the dharma (dharmadhātu). Its twenty-one chapters describe the practices of a Mahāhyāna Bodhisattva, and the term āśrayaparavṛtti is in more than forty passages.

Of special note is a discourse on the presence of the absolute within the individual, which is considered through two theoretical branches: lineage (gotra), and the embryo of the Tathāgata (tathāgatagarbha).

Chapter nine, on enlightenment (bodhi) and its circumstances discusses Buddhahood and awakening in terms of obtaining omniscience (sarvākārajñatāpti), which is described as being free from obscurations (āvaraṇa) because they have been destroyed. The eleventh chapter lays out an early doctrine of fundamental transformation via a discussion of the three natures.

A verse on the transformation of the bases, using the phrase "anyathāpti" for transformation, reads: IX.12 The seed of the obscurations, defilement and the knowable, which has always followed along for such a long time, becomes destroyed in "buddhity" by all the wellextended varieties of elimination: this "buddhity" is the transformation of the fundament (āśrayasya-anyathāpti), being endowed with the best qualities of the bright characteristics; its acquisition is through the path of gnosis, non-conceptual, very pure, and great in its range. IX.22 refers to buddhity as thusness.

Verses IX.41-44 describe different types of transformation, and are summarized in the following chart Object of Transformation Result Verse five senses power over the functioning of objects and "the arising of the 1200 qualities of all the senses" IX.41 intellect (manas) power over stainless, nonconceptual gnosis IX.42 appropriation and its object (udgraha and sārthodgraha) power over the purity of the field, for the display of enjoyment as one desires IX.43 conceptualization (vikalpa) power over the unimpedance of all action and knowledge through all of time IX.44 locale power over non-localized nirvāna, the immovable state of the Buddhas IX.45 copulation power over the blissful residence of the Buddhas and over the vision of women without the arising of passion IX.46 spacial ideation power over the accomplishment of whatever object is conceived, and over the manifestation of any form IX.47

immeasurable power over the pure foundation of the Buddhas, and the achievement of inconceivable activity IX.48

Asaṅga, Yogācārabhūmi, Viniścayasaṃgrahanī Section. In Ronald Davidson, "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985.

The Yogācārabhūmi is a definitive and foundational text for the Yogācāra school. In it, the spiritual states, practices and fruits that occur along seventeen stages leading to Buddhahood are discussed over the course of the text's five main divisions.

The second division called Viniścayasaṃgrahanī describes the process of the elimination of foundational consciousness (ālayavijñāna), indicating transformation of the basis (āśrayaparavṛtti) as the pivotal moment of change in ontological status when the ālayavijñāna has been irreversibly abandoned.

Cīlabhadra, Buddhabhūmi sūtra. In Ronald Davidson, "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985.

This text is known only through the Mahāyāna Sūtrālaṃkāravṛttibhāsya of Sthiramathi (510-570). It is arranged according to the five dharmas as they are presented in the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, which basically refer to a state of purity, and then four different types of gnosis. While these are not directly connected with fundamental transformation, they correlate to the soteriological process by equating the dharmdhātu with the purity of thusness, and include a process equivalent to transformation of the hindrances. These are the five dharmas: 1.   dharmadhātuviśuddhi. This is the realm of the dharma, and is characterized as pure and free from the two obscurations. 2.   ādarśajñāna. A mirror-like gnosis, this is an important cognitive experience to be gained along the Buddhist path. The three bodies of a Buddha appear in this section. 3.   sanatājñāna. The gnosis of equality is a type of nirvāṇa called "non-localized," and is accompanied by loving kindness and compassion. 4.   pratyavekṣaṇakajñāna. The gnosis of specific inspection is the demonstration of every psychic power, cutting off doubts. 5.   kṛyānuṣṭhānajñāna. The gnosis that is effective in that it acts for the benefit of all beings.

Sthiramati, Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkārabhāsya. In Ronald Davidson, "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985.

This is likely to be the last work of Sthiramati (ca. 510-570 CE). Describing āsrayaparāvṛtti in his introduction to root verses IX.12-18, he posits that the foundation refers to the five aggregates of a person, from form to consciousness. In eliminating the two obscurations— the defilements and the knowable—they become extreme purity in the realm of the dharma and non-conceptual gnosis. This is the transformation. Upon purification of the underlying consciousness, it becomes "mirror-like gnosis".

Sthiramati, Ratnagotravibhāga. From Takasaki, Jikido. A Study on the Ratnagotravibhāga (Uttaratantra): Being a Treatise on the Tathāgatagarbha Thoery of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2014.

Vasubandhu, Triṃśikā-kārikā. Translated by Sāgaramati. Accessed at https://thebuddhistcentre.com/system/files/groups/files/thirty_verses_trans.pdf.

Two verses treat āśrayaparāvṛtti: [5] The cessation of this ‘stream’ takes place when one attains Arhantship. With the ālaya as support (āśritya), there originates the vijñāna called manas, which has the ālaya as its object. It has the nature of ‘mentation’. [29] This [[[state]]] is unthinkable (acitta), ungraspable (anupalambha), is supermundane (lokottara) knowledge, the revolution of the basis (āśrayasya parāvṛtti) due to the abandonment of the twofold impediment (i.e. kleśāvaraṇa and jñeyāvaraṇa).

Secondary Literature

Anacker, Stefan. Seven Works of Vasubandhu. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1984.

In his introduction to this monograph, a narrative that attempts to reconstruct the life and work of Vasubandhu (ca. 316-396), Anacker engenders the spirit of Vasubandhu himself when he states, "Vasubandhu… seems interested in introducing concepts only for the dissolving of previously held ones, and these new concepts remove themselves later. They are provisional…. They are makeshift rafts, and once they have taken us across a turbulent stream, we do not need to carry them on our backs. It is a "revolution of the basis" (āśrayaparāvṛtti) which Vasubandhu's works point towards— a state of consciousness where all previous modes of thought are abandoned." (pp. 3).

In his Commentary on the Separation of the Middle From Extremes (Madhyānta-VibhāgaBhāṣya), the original work being by Asaṅga, Vasubandhu first situates his readers within the exegesis of the five paths framework, a stage-wise spiritual progression that leads to enlightenment. The third path, the Path of Seeing, contains sixteen subparts, the sixteenth of which is the great transformation that takes place due to realizing non-dual emptiness.

The paradigm then shifts to the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva, the first stage of which is the last moment of the Path of Seeing. Stages two through seven of the Ten Stages of Bodhisattva are characterized by both contemplative cultivations, and resultative experiences, due to what was seen. The eighth, ninth and tenth states pertain to aspects of transformation to the state of complete enlightenment.

Cox, Collet. "Attainment through Abandonment: The Sarvāstivadin Path of Removing Defilements." In Paths to Liberation: The Mārga and Its Transformation in Buddhist Thought, edited by Robert E. Buswell, Jr. and Robert M. Gimello, 63-105. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992.

Cox makes a formidable contribution in explaining complex issues in the study of Abhidharma. While advanced, her essay would serve as an excellent primer for the study of Abhidharma in terms of path, praxis and results. In an attempt to contain the numerous unwieldy factors at play, Cox organizes her essay according to the all-inclusive path (mārga) structure. The specific factors she aims to situate include: numerous meditative states, cosmic realms, and cognitive stages; varieties of aspirations associated with each state, realm or stage; specific techniques of religious practice; and attainments and powers that appear with practice. Cox treats āsrayaparavṛtti briefly and generally as an aspect of the path.

Davidson, Ronald M. "Buddhist Systems of Transformation: Āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti Among the Yogācāra." PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1985.

One has to wonder why Davidson did not publish this very useful contribution to the field of Buddhist Studies whose main subject matter is all aspects of āśraya-parivṛtti/-parāvṛtti. In well-formed prose, Davidson does a seemingly thorough job of defining his topic along four main sections that pertain to the history of thought, categories of transformation, textual sources, and path systems. The monograph continues to unfold the story of how the basis is transformed, so therefore this piece of literature is better used as a whole than in parts for reference lest one should err on Davidon's stance or the conceptual presentation over all. If interested in this topic, this is a must first-read as it provides entry points into the issues at stake, as well as ample references to relevant primary and secondary literature.

Refer to the section of this bibliography on "Primary Sources" for several summaries of Davidson's research. The topics covered in this work include: a general introduction to the yogācāra; history and myth around the main authors of this topic, including Maitreya, Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, Sthiramati, Paramārtha, and Xuanzang; doxography and systems theories; a discussion of idealism; the three natures; tathāgatagarbha and gotra; the basis (āśraya); the five paths and ten Bodhisattva bhūmis; the five aggregates; dharmadhātu; the two hindrances; cessation; nondual gnosis; and more. He continually comes back to the dual prospects for the basis as gotra or tathāgatagarbha, discusses the process of transformation by the removal of the two hindrances and the cultivation of goodness, and how the ālayavijñāna is replaced with the clear light (prabhāsvara).

Epstein, Ronald. "The Transformation of Consciousness into Wisdom in the Chinese Consciousness-Only School According to the Cheng Wei-Shi Lun." Vajra Bodhi Sea, Jan., Feb., Mar., 1985. Accessed at http://online.sfsu.edu/rone/Buddhism/Yogacara/TRANSFORMATION%20OF%20CONSCIOU SNESS.htm

The path according to the Chinese Consciousness-Only School of Buddhism is explained in a concise manner, briefly describing key topics, including transformation of the basis, along the five-stage path of a Bodhisattva, including the ten grounds.

Gethin, Rupert. The Buddhist Path to Awakening. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2001.

Chapter six of Gethin's work presents the Noble Eight-Factored Path. Where other texts have pointed out factors of cultivation, Gethin makes the point that these are the eight factors that "occur as a unit at the time of the arising of the transcendent path of consciousness (pp. 197)." As such, his discussion provides key details describing the referents of various cultivations mentioned by authors such as Schmithausen, Takasaki, and Davidson who refer to hearing the dharma, a process which is addressed in more detail in this chapter.

He also offers a hearty discussion of "stream attainment," the crucial spiritual transformation. The primary aim of spiritual practice is to cause the eight-factored path to arise, and stream attainment is when that happens. Moreover, the fruits of the eightfold path are stream-attainment, once-returner, non-returner, and arhatship. Rather than a causal model, the stream itself is the eightfold path. Among the eight factors, right concentration is primary and is supported by the other seven factors.

Germano, David F. and William S. Waldron. "A Comparison of Ālaya-Vijñāna in Yogācāra and Dzogchen." In Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research: Transcending the Boundaries, edited by D.K. Nauriyal, Michael S. Drummong and Y.B. Lal, 36-68. New York: Routeledge, 2006.

This chapter provides an overview of ālāyavijñāna couched in terms of the "unconscious," as the yogācāra section appears to have been written by Waldron. When Germano's voice commences, he provides a description of "fundamental consciousness" (kun gzhi rnam par shes pa) as the Great Perfection cognate of ālāyavijñāna. It is unclear on what basis kun gzhi rnam par shes pa and ālāyavijñāna are equivalents except for terminologically and also generally, because it is clear that the former has taken on a different narrative and explanation in terms of origin as well as theory. This essay provides an interesting foray into how the concept of ālāyavijñāna developed in Tibet.

Griffiths, Paul J. On Being Buddha : The Classical Doctrine of Buddhahood. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1994. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed December 13, 2015).

keyword: tathatāśrayaparivṛtti In Griffiths' typical style of precise and well-researched prose, this monograph on the fascinating subject of the characteristics of a Buddha briefly touches upon āśrayaparivṛtti in terms of a related term, tathatāśrayaparivṛtti. He provides a grammatical analysis of the term, describing the metaphysical implications of two possible glosses that provide for different theoretical justifications oriented toward arguments seen in other secondary sources about whether the basis is transformed or unobscured.

Griffiths, Paul. “The Attainment of Cessation in the Yogācāra Tradition.” In On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem, 76-106. LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1986.

Griffiths, Paul. “Pure Consciousness and Indian Buddhism.” In Robert Forman, ed., The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy, 71-97. Oxford University Press, 1990.

Griffiths, Paul. Review of Die Āśrayaparivṛtti-Theorie in der Yogācārabhūmi. 2 Vols., by Hidenori S. Sakuma. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 2, No. 3, Nov. 1992, 472-474.

Griffiths provides a summary of topics covered in the only other Western monograph besides Davidson's unpublished work on the topic of āśrayaparivṛtti. The reviewed work is in German. Griffiths points out that many of the author's claims are at variance with Davidson's.

Hattori, Masaaki. “The Transformation of the Basis (āśraya-parāvṛtti) in the Yogācāra System of Philosophy.” In Dieter Henrich, ed., All-Einheit: Wege eines Gedankens in Ost und West. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 100-108.

Hattori begins this essay by situating the Buddhist concept of no-self (anātman) within the Vedic/Upaniṣadic milieu of the ātman/Brahman complex into which it was born, in order to show that the Buddhists recognize the existence of a self but posit that this is an erroneous notion. However, according to the early Buddhists, while normal conceptions of a self fail under analysis, Ultimate Reality dwells within all beings and is conceptualized through the literature on tathāgatagarbha, whose first major treatise is Sthiramati's Ratnagotravibhāga.

He quotes the Ratnagotravibhāga to clarify: The innate nature of mind is brilliant | And, like space, has no transformation at all | It bears, however, the impurity by stains of desires, etc. | Which are of accident and produced by wrong conception |

Hattori makes a case for the origins of the yogācāra concept of "I-consciousness" in the Upaniṣads and Brāhmaṇas, and then gives a general overview of the system of āśrayaparavṛtti. The essay therefore serves to both summarize this system of transformation of the basis, as well as grounding it in pre- and concurrent non-Buddhist theories of the self.

Keng, Ching. "On the Notion of the "Transformation of the Basis" in the Yogacara Tradition— A Re-consideration of Schmithausen's Critique of Takasaki." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the AAR (year and location unknown).

In this paper, Keng commendably tries to settle the debate around the two versions of the term transformation— parivṛtti and parāvṛtti— that has been going on since the 1960s, started by Takasaki, counter-argued by Schmithausen, and then dealt with rather equivocally by Davidson. Keng's first argument is philological, where he debases the claim that there is a definitive grammatical different between the two versions of the term. Next he consults the literature by Asaṅga and Vasubandhu to show that while the grammar does not prove a difference in systems, in actuality Asaṅga and Vasubandhu do not agree on āśrayaparāvṛtti because they provide two different descriptions for the dharmakāya that require different processes. For Asaṅga, the dharmakāya refers to excellent wisdom (viśiṣta-jñāna), which is developed by re-shaping defiled cognition into pure and correct cognition. For Vasubandhu, the dharmakāya refers to Thusness, and does not require re-shaping, but rather is uncovered naturally upon the elimination of defilements that obscure it.

Overall, Keng succeeds in clarifying an important point in this argument: that there are two systems at play within the literature on āśrayaparāvṛtti. One emphasizes transformation of the basis, while the other posits an uncovering of a pure ultimate reality. Moreover, the grammatical role of parivṛtti and parāvṛtti are not what demarcates these systems.

Keng, Ching. "Yogacara Buddhism Transmitted or Transformed? Paramartha (499-569) and His Chinese Interpreters." PhD diss., Harvard, 2009.

The main argument in Keng's dissertation is that "Yogācāra Buddhism transmitted by the Indian translator Paramārtha underwent significant transformation due to the influence of his later Chinese interpreters," and that this phenomenon went largely undocumented by previous scholars. Keng provides later Chinese Yogācāra commentaries such as the verse quoted below that demonstrates Paramārtha's views on āsrayaparavṛtti: The supramundane transformation of the basis (Ch. chushi zhnanyi tHIftfiMR; Skt.*lokdttarasraya-paravrtti) is like this. As the power of the base consciousness (Ch. benshi ^aH; Skt. mula-vijMna) gradually diminishes and the permeation of hearing (Ch. wenxunxi Hfll!f|; Skt. srutavasana), etc., increase step by step, the basis for worldlings (Ch. fanfuyi R^ffi;, Skt. *pṛthagjandsraya) is discarded and the basis for saints (Ch. shengrenyi HAIfc Skt. *aryāśraya) is made. What is called "the basis for saints" comes from the mixture between the permeation of hearing and iiexins (wenxunxi yujiexing hehe IHItlf I^PPttf P'n"). With this being the basis, all saintly paths are born." ( Keng's translation) Keng provides three similarly relevant passages on āsrayaparavṛtti on pages 254 and 262.

King, Richard. "Vijnaptimatrata and the Abhidharma context of early Yogacara." Asian Philosophy Vol. 8 No. 1 (1998); 5-18.

King argues that previous contemporary scholastic portrayals of early Mahayana Buddhist schools (Madhyāmaka and the Yogācāra) stand in opposition to the nonMahayana Abhidharma schools (Theravada and the Sarvastivada). However, he contends that early Abhidharma philosophy fits in with broader Abhidharma debates including both Madhyāmaka and Yogācāra.

As a bridge between the previous and later incarnations of Buddhist thought, King takes Vasubandhu's verses on āsrāyaparavṛtti to demonstrate that the pure-mind concept present in early Buddhism appears as the basis (āśraya) in yogācāra, and then the same concept appears again as the tathāgatagarbha in Mahāyāna literature.

Makransky, John. “Embodiment of Buddhahood in its Own Realization,” and “Enlightenment’s Paradox.” In his own Buddhahood Embodied: Sources of Controversy in India and Tibet. New York: SUNY Press, 1997.

Muller, Charles. "The Yogācāra Two Hindrances and Their Reinterpretations in East Asia." JIABS 27 (2004): 207-235. Accessed at http://www.acmuller.net/yogacara/outlines/YBhsummary.html.

This topically oriented essay on the "two hindrances" traces their ideology from fourth century Indian Yogācāra presentations through the keyhole of Xuanzang (600-644, China), up through ninth century Korea and China via the commentators Wonhyo (617686, Korea) and Zongmi (780-841, China).

The two hindrances are key to the process of āśrayaparavṛtti, as they encompass the broad range of ways humans suffer, acting as direct impediments to liberation and obstructing the possibility of holding a non-deluded worldview at any level.

The bifurcation of hindrances into two categories is delineated first by those that are afflicted, which refers the long list of negative emotions that cause one to act, action being the jumping off point for the continuity of karma. This impels further suffering in the ever-revolving wheel of life, moment-by-moment, as well as over lifetimes. The second category of hindrances are cognitive, referring to the way cognition is structured, which for a being who has this hindrance is unequivocally erroneous. Most problematic of this latter hindrance is the fundamentally mistaken imputation of a self upon the five aggregates of a person, which obscures reality.

Gadjin, Nagao, “Connotations of the Word Āśraya (Basis) in the Mahāyāna- Sūtrālaṃkara.” Mādhyamika and Yogācāra, 75-81.

Gadjin examines the use of the term āśrayaparavṛtti in the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra (MSA). He provides several non-traditional definitions for āśraya, glossed from the MSA: "(1) substratum, support, (2) basis, (3) seeking shelter, (4) origin, source, (5) agent or subject, in the grammatical sense, (6) physical body, sometimes the six sense organs, (7) the total of (human) existence, (8) dharma-dhātu (sphere of dharma), (9) basis of existence (āsraya) which is to be turned around (āsraya-parāvrtti)." He provides a lengthy discussion of the basis.

However, when it comes to transforming said basis, Gadjin favors the definition "the total of human existence" because it can account for the two consciousnesses needed for the transformation: the before-and-after consciousnesses. This term is inclusive of both the storehouse consciousness (ālayavijñāna) as a basis to be removed, and also the resultant undefiled consciousness (amalavijñāna) which must take its place. He defines "the total of human existence" as the deepest level of the unconscious.

Paul, Diana Y. Philosophy of Mind in Sixth Century China: Paramārtha's 'Evolution of Consciousness'. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984.

This monograph presents a translation of Paramārtha's (6th Centrury CE) Chuan shih lun (Treatise on the Evolution of Consciousness), which is the first Chinese translation of the Triṁśikākārikā by Vasubandhu, along with Paramārtha's own commentary.

The section that deals with āśrayaparāvṛtti falls in the fourth chapter, titled "Philosophy of Mind," an examination of central yogācāra concepts as they appear in the Chuan shih lun. Paul notes that the underlying structure and functions of conscious activity, and the different types of consciousnesses, are relevant only up until a fundamental transformation (āśrayaparāvṛtti) occurs during the highest form of meditation. Moreover, the Bodhisattva path should be understood as the "process of understanding the relationship between mind and its world, eliminating false views and attachments (pp. 109)." The classical list of two hindrances, or obstacles to be eliminated, are termed obstacles of defilement and of knowledge. When the advanced stages of Bodhisattvahood and Buddhahood are reached, the main necessary transformation is āśrayaparāvṛtti, which changes the basic structure of consciousness and results in non-discriminative wisdom (nirvikalpa jñāna). One then flops over into a mode of operation within the amala-vijñāna instead of the ālaya-vijñāna. This supposition of a ninth level of consciousness, the amala-vijñāna, is Paramārtha's innovative contribution to the exegesis of transformation.

Ruegg, David Seyfort. La Théorie du Tathāgatagarbha et du Gotra: Etudes sur la Sotériologie et la Gnoséologie du Bouddhisme. Paris: Ecole Francaise D'Extreme-Orient, 1969.

Written in French, this monograph is an analysis of the Ratnagotravibhāgha Mahāyānottaratantrśāstra (ca. 3rd century CE), which identifies itself as a study of “absolute reality” according to Mahāyāna philosophy.

Ruegg defines the term gotra as "spiritual lineage," but also provides the alternative translations as "mine," "matrix," "germ," and "lineage." He maps out five lineages based on the vehicle of spiritual practice—Self-Made Buddhas, Individual Buddhas, the lineage of the Tathāgata, one of undetermined spiritual lineage, and one of no spiritual lineage— all of which are described according to individual spiritual disposition. Describing gotra theory according to Vijñānavāda doctrine, gotra itself is divided into natural and acquired. The natural gotra refers to the six different types of cognitive bases; anything acquired by the different bases is obtained through the practice of meritorious deeds.

In the third part of this formidable monograph, titled "Analyse Du Ratnagotravibhāga et de Sa "Vyākhyā," Ruegg provides the following translation of RGV 1.42-44 regarding āśrayaparavṛtti: V. La catégorie de la connexion (yogārtha) (I.42-44) En verbu de sa connexion (samanvāgama=yoga) avec la cause, le dhātu est la cause pureté du dharmakāya (dharmakāyaviśuddhihetu), de l'obtention de la Gnose de buddha (buddhajñānasamudāgama), et de l'action de la Grande Compassion (mahākaruṇāvṛtti) du tathāgata (1.43). Et par sa connexion avec le fruit (phalasamanvāgama), le dhātu est la superscience quintuple (abhijñā), la Gnose de l'épuisement de l'impureté (āśravakṣayajñāna) et la non-séparation d'avec l'Ainsité pure (vaimalyathatā, c'est à dire l'āśravakṣaya du a l'āśrayaparivṛtti) (1.44). Cette notion du yoga se rapporte à l'inséparabilité des qualités du dhamradhātu. After offering this poetic description of the gnostic bases which provide a connection to the dharmadātu upon the clearing away of defilements, in part four there is an entire chapter on "La Luminosité de la Pensée et L'Āśrayaparivṛtti Dans le Ratnagotravibhāga et sa "Vyākhyā," where Ruegg makes several strong arguments for the connection between the natural clear light of the mind and the purity of the tathāgatadhātu. He concludes that the process of āśrayaparivṛtti is actually the attainment (prāpti) of this gnostic basis.

Schmithausen, Lambert. Ālayavijñāna: On the Origin and the Early Development of a Central Concept of Yogācāra Philosophy. Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1987.

This was the first attempt at a whole-scale treatment of the concept of storehouse consciousness (ālayavijñāna) in Western literature, and remains preeminent in its field which continues to be populated by few other works. The first five chapters cover the origins of the concept of ālayavijñāna, and stand as the heart of the work. The second half, however, deals with aspects of yogācāra that diverge from his main aim of elucidating the storehouse consciosuness, including āśrayaparāvṛtti.

In the greater context of a work on ālayavijñāna, it is noteworthy that in Schmithausen equates the storehouse consciousness itself with the basis of personal existence (āśraya), which contains all seeds, and fundamentally acts as an objective basis for the notion of "I," and the creation of a self-identity. However, since the storehouse consciousness acts outside of conscious awareness, the form of mind termed manas was created as a category for the experience of notions of "I" and "mine" within the map of the mind.

Supplement III, Mystical experience, elimination of ālayavijñāna, and the question of vijñāptimātratā in the ālayavijñāna Treatise in the beginning of the Viniścayasaṃgrahanī contains a translation of the Viniścayasaṃgrahanī Section of the Yogācārabhūmi structured according to the developmental stages of bhāvanā. In it, the ālayavijñāna is described as the root of pollution that ceases through the cultivation of spiritually wholesome factors. Cultivation of wholesome factors alone does not lead to a cessation of the basis, because one must see the Truth (adṛṣṭasatya) and perceive the Four Noble Truths directly on the path of seeing (darśanamārga), whereby one has the type of insight that is capable of penetrating into True Essence (dharmadhātu). A person who has undergone that experience either does so as a Hearer (śrāvaka) or as a Bodhisattva. At that time (i.e. on the Path of Seeing), one directly perceives the reality of their life situation thus far, a state of being outwardly attached to phenomena (nimitta bandhana) and inwardly bound to badness (dauṣṭhulya bandhana). Knowing that the ālayavijñāna contains the seeds for those two fetters, one concentrates on gathering them together. Taking reality (tathatā) as the object of concentration, one transmutes the basis (āśrayaṃ parivartayati) by means of the concentration on reality itself. As soon as the basis is transformed, the ālayavijñāna is automatically abandoned, which is the moment when Arhatship is attained.

Schmithausen emphasizes the importance of destroying the ālayavijñāna altogether in this system, but that the other types of consciousness remain intact so as to deal with the problem of complete extinction of the person.

Takasaki, Jikido. A Study on the Ratnagotravibhāga (Uttaratantra): Being a Treatise on the Tathāgatagarbha Thoery of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2014 (first print 1966).


The book form of a dissertation completed under the supervision of the famed Buddhologist Giuseppe Tucci, this monograph requires close reading and may best be used as a reference tool. The main subject matter is the Ratnagotravibhāga, but he also considers the Mahāyānasūtralālaṅkāra because it is the only treatise (śāstra) quoted in the Ratnagotravibhāga.

Takasaki points out an important theoretical divide into two schools based on how āśrayaparāvṛtti is defined, which sparks a debate that will continue over many years in Western scholarship. In the Mahāyānasūtralālaṅkāra, the basis (āśraya) refers to the storehouse consciousness (ālayavijñāna). However in the Ratnagotravibhāga the basis is either Buddha nature (tathāgatagarbha) or the lineage (gotra). Furthermore, pointing out two alternate spellings for the second member of the compound, parāvṛtti/parivṛtti, Takasaki argues that parāvṛtti delineates a change or transformation of a basis (from A to B), while parivṛtti can only be taken to mean manifestation, as in the uncovering of reality which is lying dormant. On the basis of this distinction Takasaki translates āśrayaparivṛtti as "Perfect Manifestation of Basis," which is what arises from the seed of the Three Jewels.

While later Western scholars took up Takasaki's assertion as a point of contention, it is possible that Takasaki acknowledged unity of these two streams of thought. Later in the monograph he points out the amalgamation of garbha theory with trisvabhāva and ālayavijñāna in the Ratnagotravibhāga, so that these seemingly oppositional concepts work together to elucidate different aspects of a complex system. Takasaki, Jikido. Collected Papers on the Tathāgatagarbha Doctrine. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2014.

Printed almost 50 years after his first monograph, this book is a collection of papers written on the tathāgatagarbha theory of Buddha nature, and is ancillary to his two books on the same topic, one being in Japanese. Part I extricates scriptures that use tathāgatagarbha as their main subject, covering the Tathāgatagarbha sūtra, Anūnatvapūrṇatvanirdeśa, Śrīmālādevīnirdeśa, Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra, and the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra for the sake of describing the theory as a whole. The second part of the book, which is more relevant to the study of āśrayaparivṛtti, deals with terms that pertain to tathāgatagarbha theory before its full development, including gotra, dhātu, tathāgatagotra, tathāgatopattisaṃbhava, āryavaṃśa, buddhaputra, dharmadhātu, dharmakāya, and cittaprakṛti.

Based on suppositions made in Takasaki's 1966 work where he established gotra as one of two possibilities for what the basis to be transformed is, it is interesting to see how this term is further defined and elaborated on. The Ratnagotravibhāga offers several facets for consideration. First, dharmakāya, tathatā and gotra are said to be three aspects of the tathāgata dhātu, which is the essence of beings but remains polluted by the defilements. The threefold body of a Buddha originates from this essence.

For the sake of understanding the concept of upādāna, which he translates as taking, affection or clinging in the realm of cognition, Takasaki takes Vasubandhu's Trimśikā kārikās to explain how the process of upādāna happens completely separately from the ālayavijñāna. This leaves the ālayavijñāna available for different treatment than the other components of the mind, and also neatly groups obstacles under the rubric of grasping in a general way.

Finally, in clarifying the term gotra, Takasaki offers several descriptions of the term, most of which pertain to Mahāyāna exegeses of tathāgatagarbha theory. The descriptions most relevant to the Yogācāra system of transformation belong to the Dharmaguptaka sect where ten stages of personhood leading to completion of the path are enumerated, gotrabhūmi being one of them. He quotes, "Why is it called gotrabhūmi? If one would be sitting in the Buddha's vicinity and having listened to his teaching, would strive with body and mind, and would accomplish moment by moment his practice, then he would, die to this mind, suddenly realize the dharma by himself and would attain the state of stream-enterer (pali: srotaāpatti). This srotaāpatti is the gotra (i.e. cause or seed) of [transworldly] virtues.

Waldron, William S. The Buddhist Unconscious: The ālaya-vijñāna in the context of Indian Buddhist thought. New York: Routlesge, 2003.

At the same time highly technical and yet argumentative, this monograph is a newer attempt to uncover the origins of the concept of ālayavijñāna, with an emphasis on its unconscious aspect. As a description of a complex system of psychological interactions, Waldron emphasizes the nature and character of the mental continuum throughout the book. He traces are the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra, Yogācārabhūmi, and Mahāyanasaṃgraha.

Waldron only briefly touches on āśrayaparavṛtti in the context of describing the Yogācārabhūmī section titled Viniścayasaṃgrahanī that was also taken up by Schmithausen. He describes the transformative experience of the cessation of the roots of the defilements as liberation itself, and the locus of spiritual progress. Relying on the text, he points out that the ālayavijñāna itself is actually the Noble Truth of Suffering, because it is what "brings forth the sense-faculties with their material bases and the forms of arising cognitive awareness," thus implying that cognitive awareness is the primary problem.

The fact that the body remains after the transformation has taken place is an interesting point emphasized by Waldron. "Free from…spiritual corruption, only the mere conditions of physical life remain. (pp. 125-126)" This is a somewhat misleading translation of the Yogācārabhūmī (Pravṛtti Portion (5.b)C.3) because it fails to treat other aspects of consciousness while asserting the mere existence of a physical world. Waldron himself does not treat liberation as merely physical in subsequent passages. However, it is possible that the verbiage of only physical elements as remainders of the transformation process is in order to continue with his emphasis on the impersonal quality of being human, which happens when there is no false supposition of a self upon the removal of the ālayavijñāna.

Liberation happens based on the cultivation of "karmically skillful dharmas" as opposed to the cultivation of their opposite which occurs naturally in lieu of their application. No longer driven into action by cognitive and emotional affliction, a liberated being has a mind infused with wisdom and compassion.







āśraya parāvŗtti, "revolution of the basis",