We will be exploring the Abhidharmasamuccaya, a text that belongs to the later development of Buddhism. Early Buddhism is known as Theravadin or Hinayana Buddhism. Later Buddhism is known as Mahayana Buddhism. It has two schools: Madhyamika, the school of the middle way, and Yogacara, the practitioners of yoga.
Yoga, in this case, has very little to do with physical dexterity, with how you can twist your arms or fiddle your toes. It is very much related with learning how to meditate properly and relate to one's own mind, with trying to understand the sort of mental states we go through in meditation and so on. The Abhidharmasamuccaya presents that kind of overall structure, in the fullest sense. The founder of Yogacara, the school of practice, was Asanga. As has happened so many times, it's very hard to be able to really grasp or understand what he was like as a person or what sort of things really took place, because he lived, roughly, in the fifth century, and historical facts seems to be somewhat secondary in this case. So many myths and legends revolve around a person when that person lived in such a remote age. Once we dispense with that, we get to Abhidharmasamuccaya.
Asanga composed a lot of texts and among them the Abhidharmasamuccaya has a very prominent position. It is one of his most essential texts and it's also one of the most psychologically oriented. It provides a framework, as well as a general pattern, as to how a practitioner is to follow the path, develop oneself and finally attain Buddhahood.
Rather than go into great detail about the Abhidharmasamuccaya, which might confuse, rather than enlighten you, we are just going to concern ourselves with basic concepts. We can just get the gist of Yogacara psychology or philosophy. Yogacara philosophy, as I've already mentioned, is not so much concerned with intellectual activities as with practice. At the same time, it gives some psychological explanations about how we function, how we exist, how we relate to the world and so on.
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