Yogacara Buddhism as a distinct and important school first attracted the attention of Western scholars early in the Twentieth century. The enormity and complexity of Yogacara has posed a daunting, but rewarding challenge to the Western scholars who have attempted to tackle it.
Yogäcära is sometimes treated by Buddhologists as if it were a unique school, a notion that gets reinforced when scholars concentrate exclusively on the novel concepts associated with Yogacara, such as the eight consciousnesses, the alaya-vijnana, trisvabhava, and vijnapti-matra. Yogacharin texts deal with many other topics as well, and when these are ignored, not only do the novel concepts risk being misunderstood by becoming decontextualized, but Yogacara itself becomes more novel, more isolated from other forms of Buddhism. Even when Yogäcära materials are contextualized by those schools most proximate to it, such as Sarvästiväda, it risks being understood under the same isolation, since, sadly, many Buddhologists are not as conversant with Sarvästiväda and Abhidharma as perhaps they should be. In order to counter the propensity to treat Yogäcära as a school apart from other Buddhist schools, I have gone back to the early and medieval Pali materials instead of restricting myself to texts like the Abhidharmakosa and Mahävibhäsa. Most of the questions and problems that Yogäcära wrestled with have their roots there. As Parts Two and Three show, Buddhism was phenomenological from the outset. It becomes easier to understand a text like the Ch’eng wei
shih lun when the preYogacaric phenomenological basis on which it draws has already been spelled out. Since nowhere else has this been spelled out, I devote a major portion of this book to providing this necessary context. Most Buddhologists believe they know the models discussed in Part Two well, possibly even intimately. Perhaps they will find some food for thought there nonetheless.