Hosso Yogacara Buddhism and the Five Natures Doctrine (via Japan: Life and Religion)

I have always had an interest in the Yogacara school of Buddhism and this recent post from the “Japan: Life and Religion” blog gave a wonderful introduction to some of the controversy over some of the school’s tenets.

One in particular states that there is a type of person that is unable to reach enlightenment by any means. The primary strength of Buddhism as a religion and as a philosophy is that it always seemed to be equitable and receptive practice, one that is open to all limited only by individual ability and striving. The idea of a “caste” of individuals that are not open to the practice seems counter-intuitive to me.

Either way, it is a great post and some insightful writing.

Throughout the history of the Hossō Buddhist sect in Japan, descended from the Yogacara school of thought from India, no one doctrine has caused more controversy or sparked debate with other schools than the Five-Natures Doctrine, or goshō kakubetsu (五姓各別). I don't necessarily endorse nor criticize this doctrine myself, but I am a big believer that a little healthy competition is good for everyone, and the Japanese Buddhist discourse in … Read More

via Japan: Life and Religion

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4 thoughts on “Hosso Yogacara Buddhism and the Five Natures Doctrine (via Japan: Life and Religion)

  1. Hi John, and thanks for the kind mention. This was one of those posts I frankly thought no one would read. :-0

    I think the term “caste” may be a bit of a loaded term here, if I may, given that Hosso Buddhism is well grounded in overall Mahayana teachings like other more familar schools. The difference I suppose is that all beings can attain liberation (except for bodhisattvas who elect not to), but may not all turn outward and save others. The same basic enlightenment is reachable by arhats, bodhisattvas and pratyekabuddhas, but how they deal with it varies depending on disposition I guess. The Pali Canon alludes to similar concepts, so I guess it’s not entirely isolated to Yogacara Buddhism, but may draw upon earlier foundations. Of course, so does the Lotus Sutra and the One Vehicle teaching as well. 🙂

    It took me some time to wrap my head around, but when I go back and read other things, it isn’t too far-fetched, though as stated in the post, I still am open to the One Vehicle approach as well.

    Nice to get people thinking in any case.

    Take care,
    Doug 🙂

  2. I think that one probably needs to read the original text in full to grasp the ramifications of the point that Doug was attempting to summarize:

    John wrote:

    > The idea of a “caste” of individuals that are not
    > open to the practice seems counter-intuitive
    > to me.

    The Yogacara school does not establish a “caste.” It wants to clarify the observable fact that at a concrete level, people demonstrate various types of proclivities toward the religious life–and there are in fact some people who seem to have no inclination whatsoever to cultivate themselves spiritually.

    There is no place in any Yogacara text to my knowledge, where it states that any person, or group of people, should be ignored or cast aside.

    According to the author of the book in question, Ven. Tagawa, the point of the teaching is to get us to reflect on our own real spiritual condition, and to begin to re-orient ourselves according to the stark reality that every thought, word, and deed we do is creating what we will become in the next minute, day, year, or lifetime.

    Charles

    • Thank you for the clarification, Charles. This was really a repost, I would expect that people would read what Doug wrote (it would be a shame not to read. It was a fantastic post).

      people who seem to have no inclination whatsoever to cultivate themselves spiritually.

      I agree that many seem to be completely void of spiritual cultivation. But I am not one to make that determination on someone. Personally, I like the Yogacara school but what was explained by Doug was a concept that I was not familiar with nor even ever heard…which is why it intrigued me so much.

      Cheers,
      John

  3. To be honest though, I could have written the article better and less confusing. Nice to hear from you both in any case. 🙂

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