Primer of Consciousness-Only Yogacara Philosophy


The term wei shi (literally, consciousness-only), is a tenet of Yogacara, an influential school of Buddhist philosophy and psychology, which flourished within Indian Mahayana Buddhism around the fourth century. It affirms that there is an infinite number of ideas and signals the importance of knowledge as the object of consciousness, in contrast to the more practical realism of the Madhyamika school of Mahayana. Wei shi stresses human intelligence in determining the sense of things and analyzes the main factors in the process of understanding and awareness, as seen through meditative and yogic practices. The central discourse of Yogacara is that there is nothing that human beings experience that is not mediated by the mind. Yunfeng, a monk at the Yitai Temple during the Yuan dynasty (1271‒1368), first wrote on the subject. This printed work, based on Yunfeng’s Wei shi kai meng wen da (Primer of consciousness-only Yogacara), was issued during the reign of the last Ming emperor, Chongzhen (1628‒44). It was compiled by another Buddhist disciple, Dahui (1564‒1636) of Wulin, and edited by Min Mengde (1565‒1628), a literary writer and high official. It is written in a question-and-answer format, with no prefaces or postscripts. Juan 1 consists of 78 questions and answers and Juan 2 of 68, expounding the theories of wei shi. The discussions also compare the different philosophies of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism. The book is marked with red-ink punctuation.

Last updated: January 10, 2018