Ālambana-pratyaya and the Question of Other Minds in Later Chinese Yogācāra
Jingjing Li (McGill University)

May 12, 2017, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Society for the Phenomenology of Religious Experience

the Lecture hall
1735 Le Roy Avenue
Berkeley 94709
United States

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This paper mainly addresses the question of other minds in the Yogācāra school of Buddhism. Modern philosophy of mind provides two models to account for the way in which we access other minds: the theory-theory (TT) and the simulation theory (ST). The former argues that we infer other minds through a framework qua a commonsense theory whereas the latter contends that we use our own mind as a mirror to project others (Goldman 8, 17). Both models, however, are characterized by egocentricity, or, in Zahavi’s terms, by “a circuit through self” (Zahavi 2008, 519). This characteristic suggests that since my mind is closed off from others, I can only interact with other minds through a causal relation, the first cause either as a universal common theory or as my own mind. Buddhist clerics, who contest this egocentric worldview, approach the question of other minds quite differently. Being critical of egocentricity, Buddhist clergy highlight the interdependence of my own mind with others’. By referring to the writings of Xuanzang (602-664CE) and Kuiji (632-682CE), I argue that for later Yogācārins in China, we do have perception of other minds insofar as other minds serve as the background for all our mental acts. To expound on this conception of other minds, I first introduce the answer to the question of other minds offered by Xuanzang in the Vijñāptimātratāsiddhi (henceforth, the Siddhi) and then attempt to interpret this answer in modern terms. Through this analysis, I contend that Chinese Yogācārins examine the other mind not only for their justification of ‘consciousness-only’ but also for the goal of realizing emptiness and compassion.

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