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[[Asanga]] ([[Bodhisattva]]) 

Together with his Teacher the Bodhisattva Maitreya, Asanga was the founder of the Yogachara, or consciousness-Only]], school of Mahayana Buddhism.

The oldest of Three sons, all called Vasubandhu, born in Purusapura (Peshwar) who were members of the Kausika family of Indian Brahmins. All Three became Buddhist Bhikshus. Asanga's youngest br[[other was known as Virincivatsa, while the Middle br[[other was known merely as Vasubandhu (see entry).

Asanga was a man who was endowed with the innate character of a Bodhisattva. He became a Bhikshu of the Sar[[vastivada]] school, but afterwards he practiced meditation and became free from desire. Though he investigated the doctrine of emptiness, he could not understand it. He was about to commit suicide. P[[Indola]], an Arhat, who was then in eastern purvavideha, having perceived this, came to him from that region and expounded the doctrine of emptiness peculiar to the Hinayana. He arranged his thoughts according to what he was taught and at once comprehended it.

Though he had attained the doctrine of emptiness peculiar to the Hinayana, he, nevertheless, did not find comfort in it. thinking that it would not be right to drop the matter altogether, he went up to the Tushita Heaven using the supernatural power peculiar to the Hinayana and inquired of Maitreya, the Bodhisattva, who expounded for him the doctrine of emptiness belonging to the Mahayana. When he returned to Jambudvipa]], he investigated according to the methods explained to him and soon became enlightened. While he was engaged in investigation, the earth began to quake (of its own accord) in six ways. Since he understood the doctrine of emptiness, he called himselfAsanga”, which means “without attachment”.

He afterwards often went up to the Tushita Heaven in order to ask Maitreya about the doctrines of the Mahayana Sutras]]. The Bodhisattva explained them extensively for him. Whenever he acquired any new understanding, he would come back to Jambudvipa]] and teach it to others. Most of those hearing him did not believe him. Asanga, Teacher of the Dharma, then prayed, saying, “I now intend to bring all beings to believe fully in the doctrine of the Mahayana. I only pray that you, O Great Master, come down to Jambudvipa]] to expound the Mahayana so that all beings may become fully convinced of its Truth.” Maitreya, thereupon, in accordance with his prayer, came down to Jambudvipa]] at night, flooding it with Great rays of light, had a large Assembly of those connected with the Dharma called in a lecture hall, and began to recite the _SaptadasaBhumi Sutra. After having recited a pasSage, he would explain its purport. The seventeen _Bhumis_ were finished during the nights of four months. Although all were together in one and the same hall listening to the discourse, it was, nevertheless, only Asanga, Teacher of the Dharma, who had access to the Bodhisattva Maitreya, while the others could merely hear him from afar.

At night, all together heard the religious discourse by Maitreya, while in the daytime Asanga, Teacher of the Dharma, commented once again, for the sake of others, upon what had been taught by the Bodhisattva. In this way all the people could hear and believe in the doctrine of the Mahayana. Maitreya, the Bodhisattva, taught Asanga, Teacher of the Dharma, to learn the “sunlightSamadhi. As he learned according to what he had been taught, he subsequently attained entry into that Samadhi. After he attained entry into that Samadhi, what he formerly could not understand all became intelligible. Whatever he heard or saw was never forgotten, his memory having become retentive, whereas he formerly could not fully understand the Sutras of the Mahayana, such as the _Avatamsaka_, previously taught by the Buddha. Maitreya explained for him all these in the Tushita heaven; thus the Teacher of the Dharma became well-versed in them and remembered them all. Afterwards in Jambudvipa]] he composed several _upadesa_ on the Sutras of the Mahayana, in which he expounded all the teachings of the Mahayana taught by the Buddha. (Paramartha, “The life of Vasubandhu”, J. Takakusu, tr. [with some editing], pp. 273-275)

1) Chinese: wu zhao_ ; 2) Sanskrit: Asanga.

See Also: Maitreya (Bodhisattva), Vasubandhu (Bodhisattva), Consciousness-Only School.

BTTS References: HD 9-12; UW 1-3.

Asaṅga 阿僧伽, 無著, Thogs med

Indian author, 3rd-4th Century A.D.

-Ratnagotravibhāga (Ratnagotravibhaga), see Johnston (1950) (also attributed to Maitreyanātha; see below)

-Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra (Mahayanasutralamkara) Maitreyanātha (彌勒, mGon po Byams pa):

Scholars are divided on the issue of whether Maitreyanātha was a historical figure or not. Tibetan sources tell of how Asaṅga after extensive meditative retreat travelled to Tuṣita Heaven where he received from the bodhisattva and Buddha-to-be Maitreya a series of works, of which the Yogācarabhūmiśāstra, the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga, the Madhyāntavibhāgakārikā, the Abhisamayālamkāra, and the Ratnagotravibhāga are usually mentioned. The question is therefore whether, as this account states, Asaṅga wrote the texts under some sort of divine inspiration from Maitreya, in which case they should be attributed to Asaṅga, or whether Maitreyanātha was in fact a historical person working together with Asaṅga, in which case they should be attributed to Maitreyanātha. As for the name Maitreyanātha, it can be understood as the Protector Maitreya, or as the one protected by Maitreya, in which case it might in fact refer to Asaṅga himself.

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Asaṅga (Sanskrit: असङ्ग; traditional Chinese: 無著; pinyin: Wúzhuó; Romaji: Mujaku) was a major exponent of the Yogācāra tradition in India, also called Vijñānavāda. Traditionally, he and his half-brother Vasubandhu are regarded as the founders of this school. The two half-brothers were also major exponents of Abhidharma teachings, which were highly technical and sophisticated hermeneutics as well. Contents [hide]

   * 1 Early life
   * 2 Meditation and teachings
   * 3 Abhidharma Samuccaya
   * 4 Questions of authorship
   * 5 References
   * 6 External links

Early life

Asaṅga was born as the son of a Kshatriya father in Purushapura (present day Peshawar in Pakistan), which at that time was part of the ancient kingdom of Gandhāra. He was perhaps originally a member of the Mahīśāsaka school or the Mūlasarvāstivāda school but later converted to Mahāyāna.[1]

In the record of his journeys through the kingdoms of India, Xuanzang wrote that Asaṅga was initially a Mahīśāsaka monk, but soon turned toward the Mahāyāna teachings.[2] Asaṅga had a half-brother, Vasubandhu, who was a monk from the Sarvāstivāda school. Vasubandhu is said to have taken up Mahāyāna Buddhism after meeting with Asaṅga and one of Asaṅga's disciples.[3] [edit] Meditation and teachings

Asaṅga spent many years in intense meditation, during which time tradition says that he often visited Tuṣita Heaven to receive teachings from Maitreya Bodhisattva. Heavens such as Tuṣita Heaven are said to be accessible through meditation, and accounts of this are given in the writings of the Indian Buddhist monk Paramārtha, who lived during the 6th century CE.[4] Xuanzang tells a similar account of these events:[2] “ In the great mango grove five or six li to the southwest of the city (Ayodhya), there is an old monastery where Asaṅga Bodhisattva received instructions and guided the common people. At night he went up to the place of Maitreya Bodhisattva in Tuṣita Heaven to learn the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra, the Mahāyāna-sūtra-alaṃkāra-śāstra, the Madhyānta-vibhāga-śāstra, etc.; in the daytime, he lectured on the marvelous principles to a great audience. ”

Asaṅga went on to write many of the key Yogācāra treatises such as the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra, the Mahāyāna-samgraha and the Abhidharma-samuccaya as well as other works, although there are discrepancies between the Chinese and Tibetan traditions concerning which works are attributed to him and which to Maitreya.[5]

Abhidharma Samuccaya

According to Walpola Rahula, the thought of the Abhidharma-samuccaya is invariably closer to that of the Pali Nikayas than is that of the Theravadin Abhidhamma.[6]

Questions of authorship

The Tibetan tradition attributes authorship of the Ratnagotravibhaga to him, while the Chinese traditions attributes it to a certain Sthiramati or Sāramati. Peter Harvey finds the Tibetan attribution less plausible.[7]


  1. ^ 'Doctrinal Affiliation of the Buddhist Master Asanga' - Alex Wayman in Untying the Knots in Buddhism, ISBN 81-208-1321-9
  2. ^ a b Rongxi, Li. The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions., Numata Center, Berkeley, 1996, p. 153.
  3. ^ Rongxi, Li. The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions., Numata Center, Berkeley, 1996, pp. 154-155.
  4. ^ Wayman, Alex. Untying the Knots in Buddhism: Selected Essays. 1997. p. 213
  5. ^ On Some Aspects of the Doctrines of Maitreya (natha) and the Asanga - Giuseppe Tucci, Calcutta, 1930.
  6. ^ Dan Lusthaus, Buddhist Phenomenology. Routledge, 2002, page 44, note 5. Lusthaus draws attention to Rahula's Zen and the Taming of the Bull.
  7. ^ Peter Harvey, "An Introduction to Buddhism." Cambridge University Press, 1993, page 114.

External links

  • Digital Dictionary of Buddhism (type in “guest” as userID)
  • Vasubandhu: Entry at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata by Asanga and Maitreya By: Thrangu Rinpoche

Fair Use Source: Retrieved from “” Categories: 300 births | 4th-century deaths | 4th-century philosophers | Buddhist philosophers | Indian philosophers | Indian Buddhists

This page was last modified on 22 May 2011 at 17:02.

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