Consciousness Only School

(Chan Meditation Center Sunday Dharma Talk) @Article by Harry Miller @Photo by Chang Xun   Ven. Changhwa gave a series of talks from October to December, 2020 on Yogacara teachings and doctrines. Yogacara is an important school of Buddhism that emphasizes practice through understanding of perception, cognition, and consciousness. Ven. Changhwa provides extensive background on the history of this important school. She speaks about Asanga and Vasubandhu (both of whom flourished in India in the 5th century CE) who are considered the founders of the Yogacara school; and she covers Xuanzang (7th century CE), the great Tang Dynasty monk who travelled to India from China. Xuanzang studied at Nalanda University in India, learned Sanskrit, and sixteen years after his departure returned to China with a great number of sutras. He translated some of the most important Mahayana sutras and is considered the founder of the Yogacara School in China, where it is called Weishi (唯識), or the Consciousness Only School. Ven. Changhwa explains that the purpose of Yogacara is to help ordinary sentient beings recognize their own ignorance. Fundamental principles of the teaching include dependent origination (pratityasamutpada), "non-self" (anitya), and that all phenomenal existence is fabricated by consciousness. The ultimate purpose of Yogacara practice is to transcend the mundane world in order to experience the supermundane world. This "transcendence" is really about a change of mind, not place. Ven. Changhwa poses fundamental questions to us: What is the self? How do we perceive the outside world and what is our relationship to it? What is the origin of life? How and why does it start and end? How do we transcend the self? How do enlightened ones perceive phenomena? She shows that we can investigate these questions by seeing how our ordinary minds organize the world in terms of concepts, laws, science, philosophy, religion, time and space. I