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yogacara seminar

Posted on 2008.12.10 at 11:48
Current Location: blue cafe
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Tags: ,
Whilst on my travels I went to Birmingham for a seminar on the Yogacara with Saramati and Sagaramati. I found it fascinating. We were studying the Sandinirmocana sutra and the Mahayana-samgraha early Yogacara texts, both by Asanga. One of the best things about the seminar was getting a better understanding of the whole historical context of the Yogacara, which may not sound that thrilling but really it was… lots of pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Something about understanding what led up to this particular phase of Buddhism and then how it influenced what followed. In a sense that is how we understand anything, is it not? I remember on retreat at Tiratanaloka that we sometimes watched the ‘early days of the movement’ videos and I think that really helped people to understand how the movement is now, by seeing how it came to be that way. It is the same with people, I know that sometimes I’ve heard people’s life story and I suddenly understand how and why they are how they are!

The focus of the seminar was the Alaya, it was subtitled ‘the Buddhist unconscious’, and we had to imagine that when these teaching were being unfolded there was no such concept as ‘the unconscious’. The big question for Buddhists at that time was how to account for continuity if there is no thing that continues over time. So if there is no self then what is the point of practice? What is the point of, say, practicing the precepts if there is nothing that ‘holds’ the effect of that practice? One of the things that I find interesting about the Yogacara is that it does provide an explanation for how it is that practice works. As Saramati was keen on saying, “how is it that my positive actions don’t bare fruit in your life?” What is it that causes us to ‘hang together’ as it were? Well I am still digesting it all and will try to write something soon as it does really help me take things deeper. For now I’ll leave you with a little quote from the seminar that I have been pondering - “everything exists in the alaya as results and the alaya exists in everything as causes”.

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