Questions on Indian idealism

Wed Dec 20 01:49:55 UTC 2000

Satya Upadhya wrote:

> Thus the food you eat exists at
> the level of "vyahvarika satya", but at the higher metaphysical
> ("parmarthika satya") it is just a phantom conjured up by mortal
> according to both the Advaita Vedantists and the Mahayana Budhists.
This is not the Yogaacara view in my understanding.  Note that the
Buddhists often use the phrase "maayopama" and not just "maayaa" -- an
important distinction.

> From what i understand, the vijnaanavadis deny the reality of the
> but admit the reality of ideas. The sunyavadis, besides denying the
> of the world, also deny the reality of ideas.
Your classification of Buddhist schools is confused.  Yogaacaras (your
"vij~aanavaadis") were just as staunch proponents of "`suunyavaada" as
any other Mahayanist. I suppose by the latter term you actually mean
Maadhyamika.  Anyway, to say that Yogaacarins deny the reality of the
world but admit the reality of ideas is to totally misread their
position.  They deny the existence per se of the objective pole of
perception but, importantly, equally deny the existence per se of
ideas/mind. I suggest you read the latter part of Vasubandhu's
Tri.m`sika carefully and you'll see what I mean.

>  For example, there is the text
> "Alambana-pariksa" [meaning 'the critical examination of the
> objects alleged to correspond to ideas'] by the great Dignaga in
which he
> wants to prove that the admission of such objects is philosophically
> untenable.
I agree with Birgit Kellner's response to this.  Part of the problem
revolves around how one defines and understands "aalambana".

>  the ultimate or metaphysical truth ("parmartha satya").
Ultimate maybe but not metaphysical in Buddhism.

> Thanks for this hint. From what i know the Mahayana Budhists wish to
> establish their idealism both epistemologically and ontologically
> this is contrary to what Lusthaus says in his article).
This is a very sweeping statement.  I have read most of the Yogacaara
texts and do not find much evidence of ontology there.   Perhaps you
are basing your opinions on the La`nkaavataara-suutra which is
popularly thought to be a Yogacaara text.  It is not -- it is a
syncretic text that borrows Yogaacara ideas.  It is *never* quoted as
a proof-text by any of the classical Yogaacara authors.

I suspect that part of the problem for you is that Yogaacara had a
long history in India and evolved over the centuries  -- one could
divide it up into early (classical) Yogaacara, represented by
Maitreya, Asa`nga and Vasubandhu, a middle period and a late syncretic
period.  Many claims about Yogaacara seem to me to derive from late
materials -- especially the LAS.   It is regreatable that many key
tests by the early Yogaacarins have not been translated into English
(some in French and German though) and only some are even available in
Sanskrit.   The kind of influences you are speaking of would probably
derive from the late syncretic form of Yogaacara which may lend itself
to an idealistic interpretation but even this is debatable.

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

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