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Buddhism—Schools: Yogācāra

BUDDHISMSCHOOLS: YOGĀCĀRA

The origins of Yogācāra Buddhismone of the two mainstream schools of Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism (the other being Madhyamaka)are obscure, but tradition credits its founding to two half-brothers, Asaga and Vasubandhu (c. fourth century). Many of Yogācāra's distinctive terms and models, such as eight consciousnesses, three self-natures, and vijñapti-mātra (explained later in this entry), had already appeared in certain Mahāyāna scriptures such as the Sadhinirmocana Sūtra (Sūtra elucidating the hidden connections), but the expansion of those ideas in the prolific writings of Asaga and Vasubandhu gave the school its foundation. Yogācāra attempted to absorb the full range of teachings and practices that had arisen over the centuries since the time of the Buddhafrom the elaborate scholastic schemas of the Abhidharma schools to the reformulation of Buddhist doctrine in terms of emptiness (śūnyatā ) posed by early Mahāyāna literatureto fashion a detailed, systematic, coherent, step-by-step path to unsurpassable complete awakening (anuttarā-samyak-sabodhi ) and nirvāa.

Since Buddhism identified the root problem as ignorance, Yogācāra devised methods for uncovering and correcting the cognitive errors inherent in the way the mind works. Yogācāra's sustained attention to cognitive issues such as consciousness, perception, psycholinguistic conditioning, and epistemology, coupled with claims such as "external objects do not exist," has led some to misinterpret Yogācāra as a form of metaphysical idealism. For Yogācāra, however, consciousness is not an eternal substance or immutable substrate. Rather, individual consciousnesses arise and cease each moment because of everchanging causes and conditions, these discrete moments of consciousness linked in sequential causal chains, giving the illusion of a continuous self-identity or selfhood. Overcoming ignorance meant first eliminating this false view of self and subsequently seeing things as they truly are. Yogācāra developed perhaps the most sophisticated examination and description in all of Buddhism of how the mind worksin psychological, epistemological, logical, emotional, cognitive, meditative, developmental, and soteric modes.

Historical Overview

Though the historical details of the lives of the early Yogācāras have been obscured by later legendssome so unreliable that a few scholars swayed by miscues theorized that tradition had conflated two different Vasubandhus who lived at different times, a theory no longer acceptedenough of their prolific writings has survived (though not always in the original Sanskrit) for us to appreciate the depth and complexity of their thinking. Legend holds that Asaga, after years of fruitless meditation, was about to give up when the future Buddha, Maitreya, appeared to him, instructing him in hitherto unknown scriptures. Some of his writings are ascribed to Maitreya, others to Asaga himself (the Chinese and Tibetan traditions differ on which texts to ascribe to which). Most important among his works are the encyclopedic Yogācārabhūmi (Stages of yoga practice), Mahāyānasagraha (Compendium on Mahāyāna), Abhidharmasamuccaya (Abhidharma compilation), and Madhyānta-vibhāga (Differentiating the middle from the extremes). Vasubandhu at first studied Vaibhāika Buddhism at its headquarters in Kashmir, composing a detailed summary of its doctrines titled Abhidharmakośa (Treasury of Abhidharma). Under Asaga's influence, Vasubandhu became a Yogācāra, adding a commentary to his Kośa that critiqued the Vaibhāika positions, incorporating ideas and phraseology found in Asaga's works. Along with many commentaries on Mahāyāna scriptures (most no longer extant), his most important works are his commentary on Madhyānta-vibhāga, Trisikā (Thirty verses), Viśatikā (Twenty verses), and four of the earliest Buddhist treatises on logic.

Yogācāra subsequently split into two wings: (1) an Abhidharmic wing primarily engaged in commentary writing and doctrinal exposition, its main figures being Sthiramati (sixth century), Dharmapāla (sixth century), and Xuanzang (seventh century); and (2) an epistemological-logic wing that for centuries became the vanguard of Indian epistemology and logic, its main figures including Dignāga (fifth century), Dharmakīrti (seventh century), and Ratnakīrti (c. eleventh century). By the seventh century Yogācāra dominated the leading Indian Buddhist centers at Nālandā and Vālabhi. Texts like the Lakāvatāra Sūtra blended Yogācāra with tathāgatagarbha (Buddhahood-potentiality) thought.

Translators introduced Yogācāra writings to China in the early fifth century, where it dominated for the following two centuries. It became influential in Korea and Japan in the seventh century, and though it eventually was overshadowed by other forms of East Asian Buddhism that themselves were offshoots of Yogācāratathāgatagarbha hybrids, periodically East Asians have renewed interest in Yogācāra. Yogācāra was also influential during the formative years of Tibetan Buddhism, and has remained part of the Tibetan Buddhist curriculum until the present.

VijÑapti-MĀtra

The core of Yogācāra doctrine is expressed by the term vijñapti-mātra, usually translated "consciousness-only" or "representation-only." Despite repeated strenuous denials in Yogācāra texts that vijñapti-mātra means that only consciousness exists or that consciousness alone is real, over the centuries many non-Yogācāras have interpreted it that way. Since consciousness (vijñāna ) is the domain in which all contemplation, examination, theorization, and knowledge about reality occurs, its facticity is undeniable, though, for Yogācāra, consciousness is neither ultimate reality nor the solution to life's problems. Rather, consciousness itself is the problem. The grammatically causative term vijñapti means "what makes known," signifying that consciousness actively constructs the appearances it apprehends and appropriates. Since to appear within a perception or cognition means to appear within an act of consciousness, we are usually not directly aware of anything outside of consciousness. Whatever one is aware of or thinks about necessarily occurs to one only within consciousness. Vijñapti-mātra means that we confuse our imaginary projections for the world itself. Since this confusion pervades ordinary mental operations, it ends only when those operations cease.

Yogācāra explains that each individual is a distinct consciousness stream or mental continuum (cittasantāna ) that, like a river, changes moment by moment in accord with causes and conditions, giving the illusion of a continuity of identity despite the perpetual reconfiguring of the water. It has no fixed, invariant identity or self. The stream flows from moment to moment and from life to life. These distinct consciousness streams can affect and communicate with other streams, learning from and teaching each other, and mutually influencing each other. Hence, Yogācāra rejects both solipsism and the idea of an overarching universal mind. If, as solipsists claim, each mind is closed off from others, how could Buddhas and others teach anyone anything? If we cannot learn from others, then Buddhism itself becomes superfluous and untenable. If everything shares a single mind, then that mind would have to be either deluded or enlightened. If deluded, then enlightenment for individuals would be impossible; if enlightened, then either unenlightened individuals should be impossible, or else they are already enlightened just as they are, which again would render individual practice and Buddhism meaningless.

Vijñapti-mātra is not the denial of anything real outside an individual mind. Even rūpa (sensorial materiality) is accepted, since physicality is known through the senses and cognition; sensations should not be confused, however, with abstract concepts or theories about materiality. Sensation is real (Asaga calls the five senses pure); conceptualization is not real in the same way, especially when it imports notions of selfhood or substantialism, or posits appropriational entities. That would be the sort of error the term vijñapti-mātra is designed to caution against.

Everything we know, conceive, imagine, or are aware of, we know through cognition, including the notion that entities might exist independent of our cognition. Cognitive objects appear within acts consciousness; Yogācāra never denies that. By definition, they cannot appear elsewhere. What Yogācāra denies in the term external object is the concept of externality, not the object itself. Although the mind does not create the physical world, it generates the interpretative categories through which we know, classify, and interact with the physical world, and it does this so seamlessly that we mistake our interpretations for the world itself. Those interpretationsconditioned conventionalisms expressed as desires, preferences, and anxietiesbecome obstructions (āvaraa ) that prevent us from seeing what is actually the case. In simple terms, we are blinded by our own self-interests, our own prejudices, our desires. We think like others because we have undergone similar conditioning and reinforce that conditioning by congregating with those who are like-minded. Such consensus is bred from tautology, not universality.

Unenlightened cognition is an appropriative act. Yogācāra texts do not speak about subjects and objects; instead, perception is analyzed in terms of sentient beings and cognitive fields, or, more often, graspers (grāhaka ) and what is grasped (grāhya ). The Buddhist notion of karma is intimately connected to the notion of appropriation (upādāna ). As explained in the earliest Buddhist texts, suffering and ignorance are produced by karma. Karma is defined in Buddhism as any intentional activity of body, speech, or mind. Intention is the crucial factor, and, since intention is a cognitive condition, whatever is noncognitive must be also nonkarmic and nonintentional. Thus, by definition, whatever is noncognitive can have no karmic implications or consequences. Intention means to direct one's attention toward some thing or purpose, to desire something. Physically, linguistically, or mentally, we try to "get it."

Put another way, only cognitive acts can have karmic repercussions. Cognitive acts include meaningful bodily gestures that communicate intentions (such gestures are also called vijñapti ). Thus, to overcome ignorance and suffering by eliminating karmic conditioning, Buddhists need only focus on what occurs within the domain of cognitive conditions (citta-gocara ).

Categories such as external object and materiality (rūpa ) are cognitive constructions. Materiality is a word for the colors, textures, sounds, and so on that we cognize in acts of perception, and it is only to the extent that they are perceptually apprehended and ideologically grasped, thereby becoming objects of attachment, that they have karmic significance. Materialism is not the problem. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about gold, for example; rather, our ideas about gold's value and uses, which we project and then act upon, lead to good or bad consequences. The incessant propensity (anuśaya ) to appropriate what consciousness projects is the problem. These projections are not just things, but moral qualities, status, ideals, religious and national doctrines and identities, the holding of opinions, whatever we can make our own, or make ourselves to be. For Buddhism, attachment to ideas and theories is much deeper and more problematic than attachment to physical things, since the latter is rooted in and merely an expression of the former.

A deceptive trick is built into the way consciousness operates at every moment. Consciousness constructs a cognitive object in such a way that it disowns its own creation, pretending the object is "out there," to render that object capable of being appropriated. Even while what we cognize is occurring within our act of cognition, we cognize it as if it were external to our consciousness. This is called abhūta-parikalpa, imagining something exists in a locus in which it is absent. Realizing vijñapti-mātra means exposing this trick at play in every act of consciousness, catching it in the act, as it were, and thereby eliminating it. Consciousness engages in this deceptive game of projection, dissociation, and appropriation because there is no self. The most deep-seated erroneous view to which sentient beings cling, according to Buddhism, is ātmadi, the view that a permanent, eternal, immutable, independent self exists. No such self exists, and deep down we know that. This makes us anxious, since it entails that no self or identity endures forever. To alleviate that anxiety, we attempt to construct a self, to fill the anxious void, to do or acquire something enduring. Projecting objects and ideas that one can appropriate and cling to is the way consciousness contributes to this project. If I own things (e.g., ideas, theories, identities, and material objects), then "I am." If there are eternal or universal objects that I can possess, then I, too, must be eternal or universal. To undermine this erroneous appropriative grasping, Yogācāra texts say: Negate the object, and the self is also negated (e.g., Madhyānta-vibhāga, 1:4, 8).

Intentional acts also have moral motives and consequences. Since effects are shaped by their causes, an act with a wholesome intent would tend to yield wholesome fruits, while unwholesome intentions produce unwholesome effects.

Three Natures

Yogācāra devised a model of three self-natures (trisvabhāva ) to explain vijñapti-mātra more concisely. The pervasive mental constructions that obstruct our view of what truly is the case are called parikalpita (imaginative construction). The actual webs of causes and conditions at play are called paratantra (dependent on other [causes]). Other-dependence is so-called to emphasize that no thing exists independently, self-caused, eternal, invariant; everything arises dependent on causes and conditions other than itself, in the absence of which it ceases to be. Ordinarily, paratantra is infested with parikalpita. Parinipanna (consummation) is the removal of parikalpita from paratantra, leaving only purified paratantra.

Since the notion of self-nature is itself a parikalpic idea that presumes selfhood, it, too, must be eliminated. Thus, the three self-natures are actually three nonself-natures (tri-nisvabhāva ). Parikalpita is devoid of self-nature since it is unreal by definition. Paratantra lacks self-nature, since other-dependence precludes self-nature. Parinipanna the Yogācāra counterpart to the Madhyamaka notion of śūnyatā (emptiness), which signifies the lack of self-nature in everythingis defined as the absence of self-nature. Thus, the three self-natures are ultimately understood as three nonself-natures.

Eight Consciousnesses

According to Buddhism, consciousness arises as a by-product of the contact of a sense organ with its corresponding sphere of sense objects. The eye contacting visibles (e.g., colors and shapes) produces visual consciousness; likewise for the remaining four senses (hearing, smell, taste, and touch). The mental organ, manas, operates similarly. Coming into contact with the sphere of mental objects (mano-dhātu ), mental consciousness (mano-vijñāna ) arises. Hence, there are six sense organs and six corresponding sense realms, which, combined with the six types of resultant consciousnesses, makes eighteen factors altogether. Yogācāra accepted these eighteen factors but found them inadequate to explain several issues that had become important for Buddhists, including the sense of selfhood, appropriative propensities, continuity of experience, and how projection worked. To address these issues, Yogācāra expanded the mental level, resulting in eight rather than six types of consciousness. Mano-vijñāna became the sixth sense organ, a kind of empirical consciousness that discerns mental objects as well as the activities of the five senses; manas became the seventh consciousness, responsible for appropriating experience as "mine" and thus infesting experience with a sense of selfhood (thus also called klia-manas, "defiled mind"). The eighth consciousness, ālaya-vijñāna, was a novel innovation.

Yogācāra used a seed metaphor to describe the process of karmic conditioning. Experience engenders a seed that is planted out of sight (unconsciously retained in the ālaya-vijñāna ), where it remains latent until catalytic conditions bring it to fruition (karmic result, vipāka ), engendering new seeds of the same type. This was a powerful metaphor in agrarian societies. As a warehouse (ālaya ) to these seeds, the ālaya-vijñāna was called the all-seeds consciousness (sarva-bījāka-vijñāna ). Since it was the conduit and repository of their fruitions, it was also called vipāka-vijñāna (karmic requital consciousness). Since the ālaya-vijñāna always operates, even when the other seven consciousnesses temporarily cease (e.g., in deep sleep), it was also called foundational consciousness (mūla-vijñāna ). Although it stores karmic seeds and engenders their projection, the ālaya-vijñāna is a karmically neutral mechanical process (anivta, avyākta ). Manas appropriates the activities of the other consciousnesses, thinking they are "my" experience, and appropriates the ālaya-vijñāna as a "self."

Karmic continuity ceases by overturning the basis (āśraya-parāvtti ), in which the ālaya-vijñāna and the other consciousnesses cease to function. The consciousnesses (vijñāna ) lose their discriminative (vi-, compare the English prefix dis- ) projective propensities and become direct cognitions (jñāna ). Ālaya-vijñāna becomes the "great mirror cognition" (mahādarśa-jñāna ), no longer appropriatively storing or engendering new seeds; instead, like a mirror, it reflects everything impartially without attachment. Manas loses its self-prejudicial nature and becomes the equalizing immediate cognition (samatājñāna ), equalizing self and other. Mano-vijñāna, which discriminates cognitive objects, becomes immediate cognitive mastery (pratyavekamā-jñāna), and properly discerns the particular and general characteristics of things. The five sense consciousnesses, now unhindered by the mental obstructions of the sixth and seventh consciousness, become immediate cognitions that accomplish what must be done (ktyānuhāna-jñāna), thereby engaging the world effectively. Yogācāra texts differ on which overturning occurs at which stage of practice, but they agree that full enlightenment entails accomplishing all of them.

Asaga on Language and Nonlinguistic Things

In his textsnotably the Madhyānta-vibhāga and the tattvārtha ([relation of] referents and real things) chapter of the Yogācārabhūmi Asaga challenges the Madhyamaka claim that emptiness (śūnyatā ) is the ultimate and final position, the true Middle Way, not by denying the importance and validity of emptiness, but by taking the analysis one extra step. For Asaga, emptiness is a tool for eliminating false views, especially the false view of selfhood attributed to beings or things. But once these views are emptied, something remains, namely reality understood as emptied of false conceptualizations.

A quick summary of the tattvārtha chapter of Asaga's Yogācārabhūmi may illustrate how he refashioned rival teachings, in this case redefining emptiness (śūnyatā ) and the Middle Way, while providing a useful summary of his philosophy. For Madhyamaka the Middle Way (madhyamā-pratipad, from which Madhyamaka derives its name) entails that all things are empty (śūnya )meaning they are devoid of self-essence or own-being (svabhāva )because they are dependently arisen from causes and conditions that are themselves empty. Thus, existent things are conventionally real but ultimately empty.

Asaga responds by describing four types of people, each experiencing a different phenomenological sphere of reals (tattva ) and conceptual-linguistic referents (artha ): (1) ordinary people, (2) philosophers, (3) Hīnayāna adepts, and (4) Mahāyāna adepts, the latter denoting accomplished Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. The first are naive realists, immersed in a cognitive field of compulsive presuppositions (niścitādhimukti-gocara ), who accept things as established by convention. What appears to be real to an ordinary person has been conceptually and linguistically constructed from one's own discriminative imaginings (vikalpa ) and remains unquestioned. Philosophers apply rational epistemological methods to logically investigate things and accept as real what has been logically proven by an articulate, discursive person. Hīnayāna adepts who have eliminated the affective obstructions (kleśāvaraa ) realize there is no real referent corresponding to the notion self. They see a person as the five aggregates only (skandha-mātra ; the five are form, hedonic tone, linguistic conceptualizing, embodied karmic conditioning, and consciousness), conditionally arisen, devoid of an imagined self.

By seeing that not only people, but all things lack selfhood, Mahāyāna adepts eliminate all obstructions to knowable realities (jñeyāvaraa ). Asaga then enters a detailed discussion on the relation between the linguistic ideational sphere (nominal reality, prajñapti ) and its cognitive basis (nonarticulable, nonconceptual things, vastu ), providing numerous reasons for why they are not reducible to each other, nor entirely separable from each other. For Asaga emptiness signifies cleansing cognition of erroneous conditioning and views, so that reality is cognized nonerroneously. Emptiness is not a final state, but a purificatory, antidotal process that eliminates erroneous conceptualizations; once they are eliminated what remains is reality. Since this remainder is nonconceptual and therefore nonlinguistic, it cannot be adequately rendered in words without re-reducing it to the conceptual sphere.

Put simply, to perceive something blue is nonlinguistic (and hence indescribable to a blind person), though one can conceive of it as "something blue." The concept blue is neither the same nor different from the perception. Without vastus, referential articulations (abhilāpya ) would have no basis; without such articulations, the nature of vastus could not be defined or intellectually understood. To think that vastus are merely nominal realities is more pernicious than believing in self, Asaga argues, since believing in self is to be mistaken about only one type of knowable, whereas to reject all vastus is to be mistaken about everything. Not holding the extreme views that (1) nonexistent things (like self) exist or (2) that all cognizables are nonexistent is, for Asaga, the true Middle Way. Neither prajñapti nor vastu is rejected completely or accepted naïvely.

In his Madhyānta-vibhāga, implicitly deploying the theory of three natures to explain Buddhist practice, Asaga illustrates how emptiness and cultivating positive insight (parinipanna ) act as an antidote (pratipaka ) to the pervasive false mental constructions (parikalpita ) one projects as lived experience, resulting in reality being experienced just as it is (purified paratantra ). In the Mahāyānasagraha Asaga asserts that bondage and liberation cannot be explained coherently without reference to the ālaya-vijñāna, since it conveys the seeds and habits (vāsanā ) that make bondage and liberation possible. Even brief contact with true Buddhist teachings (saddharma ) may instill a propensity (śruta-vāsanā ), outside one's conscious awareness, toward enlightenment and Buddhahood. Asaga claims this propensity, called mano-jalpa (mental murmuring), is utterly different from and irreducible to the ālaya-vijñāna ; it gradually destroys the ālaya-vijñāna from within, like a germ infecting a host. Eliminating the ālaya-vijñāna results in Buddhahood. To label Asaga an idealist would be a gross mischaracterization.

Vasubandhu's Twenty Verses

In the Viśatikā (Twenty verses) Vasubandhu, following Asaga's lead, refutes the realism of naive and philosophical realists. The realists assert that the objects we perceive exist outside of consciousness, which is the reason that these objects remain stable through (1) time and (2) space; (3) different people can have differing perceptions of a thing and yet reach a consensus about it; and (4) the objective world operates by determinate causal principles, rather by than imaginary, ineffective fantasies.

Vasubandhu addresses each of these four claims with numerous counterarguments, including an analogy to dreams. In dreams seemingly external objects appear as if in time and space, even though no actual external object is present to cause them, thus proving that while consciousness is a necessary and sufficient condition for objects to appear in perception, the presence of actual external objects is neither necessary nor sufficient. For Vasubandhu, as for Asaga, the perceptions of ordinary people are like a dream, a mental projection based on conditioned predispositions. That different beings have differing perceptions of the purportedly same thing proves this. Updating Vasubandhu's example, that flies and humans perceive and react to excrement in radically different ways, demonstrates that what each perceives is a projection based on its own conditioning, or its own mental seeds (bījās ) acquired from past experiences (perhaps in past lives). Moreover, karma (action) is collective, in that we gravitate toward beings or types who perceive as we do, erroneously justifying the seeming universality of our group perspective.

Thus, the varying perception argument supports rather than undermines the Yogācāra position. Note that the dream example and the varying perception example not only neglect to disprove that something outside the activities of consciousness may play a role in its perceptions; on the contrary, both require that there be such a thing for the examples to make sense at all. The observation that dreams imitate waking perceptions minus the presence of actual objects requires that we appreciate the contrast; the object in contention between flies and humans is obviously not reducible to the perceptual projections of either.

Vasubandhu is not arguing for either a subjectivism or a metaphysical relativity, but he is pointing out that we mistake our imaginings for reality, obstructing our view of things as they are. Projective imaginings blocking our vision can have powerful karmic consequences, as Vasubandhu shows in his response to the realist's claim about causal efficacy. He uses the example of a wet dream. Though the erotic cognitive object is a mental construction, without an actual external or physical corresponding object present, the imaginative act causes actual seminal emission, a physical effect produced outside the dream and recognized as such on awakening. The monastic vow of celibacy treats wet dreams as an infraction of the monastic code. Even though dreams are only fantasies, they have real karmic consequences. The deluded mind produces real effects that can only be fully known after awakening, once delusion has ceased. Awakening means enlightenmentthe term bodhi (awakening) can also mean "enlightenment"the cessation of the deluded mind. Even though we act in a collective deluded world of our own construction, our actions have real causal consequences.

The realist objects that objects perceived while awake seem stable in time and space, whereas objects in dreams do not. Vasubandhu replies that objects and events seem less clear and consistent in dreams because one's mind is overcome by sleepiness so one is not "thinking clearly." Furthermore, one does not know that the objects in a dream are only dream-objects until one awakens. Vasubandhu's reply to the question of whether we can know other minds extends the dream analogy: Even our own minds are opaque to us since our mental capacities are dim and sleepy. However, one who is awakened (the literal meaning of Buddha ) can know other minds more clearly than we know our own. Not only can we know other minds (if we awaken), but we constantly influence each other for better and for worse (though we may not notice that within our individual dreams). Thus, karma is intersubjective. Moreover, since the more awake one is the more causally effective one's mind becomes, sages and buddhas can exert powerful effects on the world, including devastating destruction, and even life and death.

The Five Stages

Precise details of the stages in which the mental stream is purified of pollutants (āsrava ), filtering out karmically unwholesome seeds while nourishing and fortifying the wholesome ones, vary across different Yogācāra texts. A five-stage model is found in several foundational texts and has become the standard account:

(1) During the provisioning stage (sabhārāvasthā ) one gathers and stocks up on "provisions" for the journey. The provisions consist of orienting oneself toward the pursuit of the path and developing the proper character, attitude, and resolve to accomplish it. This stage commences at the moment the aspiration for enlightenment (bodhicitta ) arises.

(2) Next is the experimental stage (prayogāvasthā ), in which one converts Buddhist theory into praxis. Prayoga also means "intensifying effort," or applying oneself with increasing vigilance. While increasing meditative abilities, one begins to suppress the grasper-grasped relation and commences on a careful and detailed study of the relation between things, language, and cognition.

(3) The next stage is deepening understanding (prativedhāvasthā ), also called the Path of Corrective Vision (darśana-mārga ). One works on realizing the emptiness of self and dharmas while reducing the obstructions (kleśāvaraa and jñeyāvaraa ). This stage ends when one acquires some insight into nonconceptual cognition (nirvikalpa-jñāna ), that is, cognition devoid of interpretive or imaginative overlay.

(4) In the Path of Cultivation (bhāvanā-mārga ), nonconceptual cognition deepens. The grasper-grasped relation is utterly eliminated, as are all cognitive obstructions. This path culminates in the full Overturning of the Basis, or enlightenment.

(5) In the final stage (nihāvasthā ) one abides in unsurpassable complete awakening and engages the world through the four immediate cognitions (mirror cognition and so on). All of one's activities and cognitions are postenlightenment (phalabdha ), and one compassionately endeavors to alleviate the suffering and ignorance of others.

See also Buddhism.

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Dan Lusthaus (2005)

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