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The 'Buddhist Unconscious' The Alaya Vijnana in the Context of Indian Buddhist Thought Routledgecurzon Critical Studies in Buddhism

William S. Waldron ë 9 Free read

Hist unconscious illuminates and draws out aspects of current western thinking on the unconscious mind One of the most intriguing connections is the idea that there is in fact no substantial 'self' underlying all mental activity; 'the thoughts themselves are the thinker' William S Waldron considers the implications of this radical notion which despite only recently gaining plausibility was in fact first posited 2500 years a.

Characters The 'Buddhist Unconscious' The Alaya Vijnana in the Context of Indian Buddhist Thought Routledgecurzon Critical Studies in Buddhism

This is the story of fifth century CE India when the Yogacarin Buddhists tested the awareness of unawareness and became aware of human unawareness to an extraordinary degree They not only explicitly differentiated this dimension of mental processes from conscious cognitive processes but also offered reasoned arguments on behalf of this dimension of mind This is the concept of the 'Buddhist unconscious' which arose just as p.

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Hilosophical discourse in other circles was fiercely debating the limits of conscious awareness and these ideas in turn had developed as a systematisation of teachings from the Buddha himself For us in the twenty first century these teachings connect in fascinating ways to the Western conceptions of the 'cognitive unconscious' which have been elaborated in the work of Jung and Freud This important study reveals how the Budd.


2 thoughts on “The 'Buddhist Unconscious' The Alaya Vijnana in the Context of Indian Buddhist Thought Routledgecurzon Critical Studies in Buddhism

  1. says:

    Waldron presents the Yogacara theory of the alaya vijnana and explains the philosophical context from which this theory originated Overall I found the first two chapters highly informative and theoretically rich; but the last three chapters just cite passages from original texts to supplement details laid out there and so do not convey any new ideas or argument One should be wary that this is not a philosophy of mind book in the sense of providing logically tight arguments for a particular view on the nature of mind everything is pretty much stipulated; there is even no argument by appeal to our commonsense or intuitive experience since many premises about the nature of mind are uite counter intuitive Rather it is properly philosophical in the sense that the foundational thinkers behind this theory identified logical and conceptual inconsistencies from previously inherited theories and constructed this account of mind to resolve those It is very possible that the original Buddhist thinkers that Waldron deals with did do philosophy in the former sense; but at the last Waldron's book does not show that and his reconstruction of these thinkers conform only to the latter senseRoughly put the alaya vijnana refers to a distinct level or aspect of the mind that 1 is not consciously experienced by the subject persists and operates independently of the subject's willing and conscious experiences and 2 corresponds to or makes possible the seemingly objective world or mind independent environment which all organisms and species co inhabit The alaya vijnana is to be understood in contrast to the mind understood as that which we consciously access eg our sense of who we are what we see in the world the thoughts that run through our heads which always takes on a particular phenomenal object eg the self a spiderweb in the corner or the room and is phenomenally accessed by the individual subject alone Waldron introduces these two aspects of the mind and further essential background of the Buddhist soteriological project particularly karma theory in chapter 1In chapter 2 Waldron explains the philosophical context under which the original thinkers constructed the theory of the alaya vijnana This context is defined by the abhidharma project of understanding the fundamental nature of reality and the mental mechanisms that give rise to our phenomenal reality that has persisted throughout various Indian philosophical traditions and was inherited by Buddhist traditions The abhidharma project traditionally aimed at accounting for the active mental processes that generate our first personally experienced reality; these processes all implicitly appeal to person level or conscious activities such as our affirming the reality of the self performing particular actions taking our perceived world as real and affirming the apparent values and emotional affordances of the world The abhidharma project like many parts of Buddhist philosophy is soteriologically motivated The goal in Buddhism is to escape samsara the rebirth cycle; that reuires among other things understanding the true nature of reality which opposes that which we conventionally experience So the abhidharma project is aimed at uncovering the actual mental processes that go on and perpetuate this realm of conventional experience which keeps us in the vicious cycle of affirming 'delusions' viz just any feature of commonsense ordinary experience performing actions that are driven by desires and maintaining the mental processes which in turn generate this phenomenal realm which presents to us these delusions There is a major problem however with traditional abhidharma theories prior to the Yogacara tradition This problem stems from a tension between the goal of the project and the means the project undertakes to get to that goal The goal is to show how our actions and experience accumulate karma and generate our phenomenal world The means is to look at our person level or conscious activities as exhausting the possible mechanisms that lead to such accumulation and generation These are in tension because the abhidharma traditions understand person level activities to consist in purely momentary fleeting appearances Their presumed ontology rejects the possibility of anything that temporally persists and thus seemingly the possibility of diachronic causation Rather their ontology provides conceptual resources only for understanding the synchronic synthesis of the phenomenal worldWaldron argues that the theory of the alaya vijnana is the Yogacarin's solution to this problem The Yogacara tradition posits a new level or aspect of the mind that does temporally persist and account for the possibility of diachronic causation There is not just the moment to moment appearances that exist; there is also a deeper subliminal or unconscious part of the mind that keeps on going regardless at what happens at the conscious surface level The alaya vijnana contains the mechanisms and processes that allow for the karmic effects of our person level desires and actions to unfold diachronically and even in our conscious experience to appear to be delayed by a long term eg we do not notice the conseuences of an action on our character until much later in life Chapters 3 5 do not add any further points to this account They only cite passages from primary texts that demonstrate these points I am not a student of Buddhist studies and found these chapters tedious and uninteresting But readers interested in the features style and wordings of Buddhist texts themselves might like these chaptersOverall I found it very worthwhile to read chapters 1 2; they are very clear and informative about this one theory in Yogacara philosophy of mind and the broader philosophical debate in which this theory is situated I would recommend this book to readers with at least an introductory background in Buddhist philosophy; who are interested in seeing an account of the mind from a specific Buddhist tradition; or who are interested in Yogacara particularly I don't have much background in Buddhist philosophy but still want to suggest these further readings because they are just so so good for readers broadly interested in Buddhist philosophy of mind I would also recommend this stellar book on cetana a fundamental concept that is relied on in Waldron's book For readers who don't have any background in Buddhist philosophy I highly recommendthis introductory book


  2. says:

    A wonderful read that contains everything you need to know about alayavijnana in Indian thought As for it's modern metamorphosis we need another monographSo Chinese translations of Mahayana samgraha are useful to understand Indian Buddhism still wondering about the role of translated texts in understanding Buddhism in general


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