Yogacarabhumi-sastra

The Yogācārabhūmi-Śāstra (YBh, Sanskrit; Treatise on the Foundation for Yoga Practitioners) is a very influential, large encyclopedic compendium, associated with north Indian Sanskritic Mahāyāna Buddhism.[1] It is generally associated with the Indian Yogācāra school because it contains certain unique Yogācāra doctrines, like the eight consciousnesses and the ālaya-vijñāna. According to Ulrich Timme Kragh, "its overall objective seems to be to present a coherent structure of Buddhist yoga practice with the Mahāyāna path of the bodhisattva placed at the pinnacle of the system", but substantial parts also deal with non-Mahāyāna "mainstream" practices.[1] The text also shows strong affinity to the Abhidharma works of the Mainstream Buddhist Sarvāstivāda school, adopting many of its technical terminology and classifications of phenomena (dharmas).[2]

While it likely contains earlier materials, the YBh is thought to have reached its final redaction in the fourth century CE.[3] Traditional sources name either the Indian thinker Asaṅga (ca. 300-350) or the bodhisattva Maitreya as author, but most modern scholars hold that it is a composite text with different chronological textual layers and various authors, though this does not rule out the possibility that Asaṅga was among them.[4][5]

The YBh was studied and transmitted in East Asian Buddhist and Tibetan Buddhist translations. It remained influential in these traditions, however, because of massive size and complexity, it was eventually abandoned in monastic seminaries.[6] Besides the Chinese and Tibetan translations which survive in full, at least 50% of the text survives in nine extant Sanskrit fragments.[7]

The complete YBh comprises five major sections, which can be divided into the Basic Section and the Supplementary Section.

The first section, which is the largest (49.9 % of the work), is the "main stages division" or "the basic section" (Skt. *Maulyo Bhūmayaḥ, Ch. 本地分 Běn dì fēn, Tib. Sa'i dngos gzhi) and contains fourteen books that describe the successive seventeen levels (bhūmi), which cover the entire range of mental and spiritual stages of practice in Mahayana Buddhism.[8][9] However, according to Ulrich Timme Kragh, "in the present context, the word bhūmi appears in many cases to imply a 'foundation' in the sense of a field of knowledge that the Yogācāra acolyte ought to master in order to be successful in his or her yoga practice."[10] Most of the Basic Section which includes such seminal works as the Bodhisattva-bhūmi and the Śrāvaka-bhūmi survives in Sanskrit, but little survives from the other parts. The following list is based on the Chinese arrangement, which seems to be closer to the original order.[10]

This part is made up of four 'collections' or 'compendia' (saṃgrahaṇī, shè 攝, bsdu ba), which supplement the Basic Section:[13]

The Chinese version also contains a Compendium of Abhidharma, missing from the Tibetan translation.

An Indian commentary was also written on the YBh, called the Yogācārabhūmivyākhyā.[14]

By the end of the Sui dynasty (589-618), Buddhism within China had developed many distinct schools and traditions. In the words of Dan Lusthaus:

[ Xuanzang ] came to the conclusion that the many disputes and interpretational conflicts permeating Chinese Buddhism were the result of the unavailability of crucial texts in Chinese translation. In particular, he [Xuanzang] thought that a complete version of the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra (Yuqielun, 瑜伽論), an encyclopedic description of the stages of the Yogācāra path to Buddhahood written by Asaṅga, would resolve all the conflicts. In the sixth century an Indian missionary named Paramārtha (another major translator) had made a partial translation of it. Xuanzang resolved to procure the full text in India and introduce it to China.[15]

The leader of Nalanda, Śīlabhadra taught this shastra to Xuanzang and other audiences three times in nine or fifteen months. The Xuanzang version consists of one hundred fascicles (juan), and was translated into Chinese between 646-648 CE at Hongfu Monastery (Chinese: 弘福寺) and Dacien Monastery (Chinese: 大慈恩寺).

Before Xuanzang's version, Dharmakṣema, Guṇabhadra (394-468) and Paramartha had translated part of it.

The Tibetan version was done by team of Indian scholars including Jinamitra, Prajñāvarma and Surendrabodhi together with the renowned Tibetan translator, Yéshé Dé (Wylie: ye shes sde) lotsawa. In East Asia, authorship is attributed to Maitreya-nātha, while the Tibetan tradition considers it to have been composed by Asanga, but in all probability it is the work of several writers who compiled it during the 4th century CE.

A subsection of the work, the Bodhisattva-bhūmi, was translated into English by Artemus Engle and is part of the Tsadra series published by Shambhala Publications.