Kuījī, also known as Ji, an exponent of Yogācāra, was a Chinese monk and a prominent disciple of Xuanzang. His posthumous name was Cí'ēn dàshī, The Great Teacher of Cien Monastery, after the Daci'en Temple or Great Monastery of Compassionate Grace, which was located in Chang'an, the main capital of the Tang Dynasty. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was built in Daci'en Temple in 652. According to biographies, he was sent to the imperial translation bureau headed by Xuanzang, from whom he later would learn Sanskrit, Abhidharma, and Yogācāra.

The nature of reality, consciousness and compassion

Imagine you’re in a room filled with , each reflecting a slightly different version of yourself. As you look around, it’s challenging to determine which reflection is the real “you”.

Are you the image closest to the mirror’s surface, or is the true “you” hidden within the depths of the glass?

This intriguing scenario mirrors a fundamental philosophical question that has puzzled scholars and thinkers for centuries: the nature of reality and .

The ’s Perception

In the realm of , there exists a captivating conundrum concerning how , beings dedicated to the well-being of all sentient beings, perceive sentient beings.

At first glance, one might assume that Bodhisattvas should possess an unerring ability to perceive others in their truest form.

After all, isn’t synonymous with seeing reality as it is, unclouded by illusion or misconception and it seems logical to expect that Bodhisattvas, with their elevated spiritual status, would effortlessly discern the true nature of sentient beings.

The nature of perception in Yogācāra

Following the Yogācāra thought, Bodhisattvas might not perceive sentient beings in a straightforward manner.

The complex nature of perception in Yogācāra thought is characterized by “vijñapti-mātra” (-only).

These ideas emphasize that what we perceive is not a direct apprehension of external, objective reality but rather a product of our consciousness, which is deeply influenced by past experiences and mental habits.

This implies that the perception of sentient beings by enlightened beings like Bodhisattvas is not as straightforward as it may seem on the surface.

The ultimate nature of reality in Madhyamaka

, on the other hand, emphasizes the doctrine of śūnyatā, often translated as “emptiness.”

This , founded by Nāgārjuna, posits that all phenomena are empty of inherent existence or inherent nature (svabhāva).

Madhyamaka doesn’t claim that everything relies on the ; instead, it argues that no phenomena possess inherent, self-sustaining existence.

Unlike Yogācāra, which explores perception’s intricacies, Madhyamaka focuses on the philosophical consequences of emptiness.

Compassion and Engagement

Yogācāra philosophy places a strong emphasis on and the transformative power of consciousness.

It suggests that understanding the mind’s role in constructing reality can lead to compassionate engagement with others, as seen in the Bodhisattva path.

Madhyamaka also recognizes the importance of compassion but emphasizes the emptiness of all phenomena as a means to break free from conceptual limitations.

It sees emptiness as a way to dismantle the cognitive constructs that bind us to .

As we can see, the primary difference between Yogācāra and Madhyamaka philosophies lies in their views on the nature of reality and the role of consciousness.

Yogācāra asserts the primacy of consciousness and mind-only, while Madhyamaka emphasizes emptiness as the ultimate nature of reality.

Both schools have contributed significantly to thought and offer distinct perspectives on the path to enlightenment and the perception of sentient beings.

References

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