The early Yogācāra theory of no-self

Jenny HUNG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


I reconstruct early Yogācāra theory of no-self based on works by Asaṅga and Vasubandhu. I introduce the idea of the cognitive schema (CS) of the self, a conception borrowed from the developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget. A fundamental CS is a psychological function that guides the formation of perceptions. I propose that Manas can be understood in terms of being the CS of the self, a psychological mechanism from which perceptions of external objects are formed. In addition, I argue that non-imaginative wisdom can be regarded as an experience during which the CS of the self does not function, such that one only possesses pure sensations without perceptions of external objects. After the repeated experience of non-imaginative wisdom, the CS of the self is changed to the purified CS of no-self. It still supports interactions with the external world, but in a way that does not allow the four afflictions (self-delusion, self-belief, self-conceit, and self-love) to arise. Abbreviations: MS: Mahāyānasaṃgraha; TS: Triṃśikā-kārikā; TSN: Trisvabhāvanirdeśa; VVS: Viṃśatikā Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-331
Number of pages16
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

I am extremely thankful to Philip J. Ivanhoe for his inspiring comments on my essay and encouragements to submit it for publication. I want to thank Galen Strawson, who gave me detailed comments on my draft during my visit at The University of Texas at Austin. I am also thankful for the helpful suggestions from Andrea Sauchelli, my supervisor at Lingnan, and the useful comments given by Wai-wai Chiu, Jonardon Ganeri, and Zhihua Yao. This article was presented at the 2017 APA Eastern Division Meeting. I am grateful to the audiences for their feedback.


  • bodily boundary
  • enlightenment
  • perception
  • Self
  • sensation
  • Yogācāra


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