The Buddhist Unconscious : The Alaya-vijñana in the context of Indian Buddhist Thought book cover
1st Edition

The Buddhist Unconscious
The Alaya-vijñana in the context of Indian Buddhist Thought

ISBN 9780415406079
Published June 6, 2003 by Routledge
288 Pages

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Book Description

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 philosophical 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 Buddhist 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 2,500 years ago.

Table of Contents

Part I - The Background and Context of the Ãlaya-vijñãna Part II - The Abhidharma Context 15. The Abhidharma Project and its Problematic Part III - The Alaya-vijñana in the Yogacara Tradition, The Alaya-vijñana in the Early Tradition Part IV - The Alaya-Vijñana in the Mahayana-samgraha I : Bringing It All Back Home Part V - The Alaya-Vijñana in the Mahayana-samgraha II: Looking Beyond

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William S. Waldron received his PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of Wisconsin after studying extensively in India, Nepal and Japan. He currently teaches South Asian religions and Buddhist philosophy at Middlebury College, Vermont. His research areas include the Yogacara school of Indian Buddhism, and comparative psychologies and philosophies of mind.


'This work weaves together into one fabric yards spanning some one thousand years of Indian Buddhist thought, and will prove to be an invaluable source of information for scholars of Buddhist literature.' - East and West Series