This work focuses upon an explicit notion of unconscious mind formulated by the Yogacara school of Indian Buddhism in a series of texts from the third to the fifth centuries CE. These texts describe and defend this “Buddhist” unconscious through a variety of exegetical and metapsychological arguments whose rationales are analyzed in terms of their historical and contemporary context. The work thus first presents the multivalent conception of consciousness (vijñana) within the early teachings of the Buddha, and then demonstrates how the Abhidharma emphasis upon momentary and conscious processes of mind was widely understood to make the continuity and multidimensionality of consciousness problematic in several crucial ways. The Yogacara thinkers addressed these multiple problems with a new model of mind centered upon the Buddhist unconscious, whose meaning and purpose is now made accessible to Western readers for the first time.
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.
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