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Vasubandhu (4th or 5th century AD)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F039-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

An Indian Buddhist philosopher of the fourth or fifth century, Vasubandhu was a prolific author of treatises and commentaries. Best known for his synthesis of the Sarvāstivāda school of Abhidharma, he was sympathetic with the Sautrāntika school and frequently criticized Sarvāstivāda theory from that perspective. Vasubandhu eventually became an eminent exponent of the Yogācāra school. He also wrote short treatises on logic that influenced Dignāga, traditionally said to have been his disciple.

Probably the most original of Vasubandhu’s philosophical works are his two short works in verse, known as the Viṃśatikākārikāvṛtti (Twenty-Verse Treatise) and the Triṃśikākārikāvṛtti (Thirty-Verse Treatise). In these two works, he argues that one can never have direct awareness of external objects, but can be aware only of images within consciousness. Given that some of these images, such as those in dreams and hallucinations, are known to occur without being representations of external objects, one can never be certain whether a given image in awareness corresponds to an external object. Because one can never be sure of what is externally real but can be sure of internal experiences, he concludes, a person seeking nirvāṇa should focus attention on the workings of the mind rather than on the external world.

Citing this article:
Hayes, Richard P. and Marek Mejor. Vasubandhu (4th or 5th century AD), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F039-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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