Like a lotus in muddy water: Achieving purity in an impure world according to the Yogacara-Vijnanavada three natures theory /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Brennan, Joy Cecile, author.
Ann Arbor : ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, 2015
Description:1 electronic resource (317 pages)
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago. degree granting institution.
Notes:Advisors: Matthew Kapstein Committee members: Dan Arnold; Paul Copp.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 77-02(E), Section: A.
Summary:This dissertation argues that the three natures theory in early and middle period Yogacara-Vijnanavada thought in India and China grapples with a paradox that it takes to be a feature of human life. This paradox is represented in the three natures theory put forth by ten core texts from this school by an illuminating tension: one of the three natures, the dependent nature, is understood as both the basis of transformation on the path to Buddhahood and the object of abandonment on that path. I argue that this tension represents the 'tradition-defining problem' of the Yogacara-Vijnanavada school, which I call the paradox of purity. Like Abhidharma path theories, the three natures path theory that instantiates this paradox assumes that the task of the path is to transition from being constituted by and living within impure elements of experience to being constituted by and living within pure elements. According to this path theory, this movement can occur only by means of the perception and cognition of impure elements, since all elements of experience have an impure aspect. Just as a lotus attains its pure form based only on the nourishment it gets from the muddy water it lives in, the three natures theory argues that a person attains the purity of cessation only through engagement with the impurities of self and world. This is the paradox of purity. The identification and discussion of this paradox is intended both to serve as a corrective to the field's current understanding of the three natures theory, according to which certain features of the theory are thought to be incompatible and thus read as pertaining to distinct models, as well as to offer an interpretation of the significance of the theory itself. The source texts used here include the earliest sutra and sastra literature in Sanskrit and Chinese that present ideas distinctive of the Yogacara-Vijnanavada school, like the three natures theory and the corresponding mind-only claim.