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Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

The Two Truths (Savti-satya and

Paramrtha-satya) in Early Yogcra1
Dan Lusthaus
Few Buddhist or Indian concepts are more familiar than the notion of
two truths, paramrtha-satya and savti-satya, typically understood
as ultimate and relative truths, or absolute and conventional truths.
The modern understanding of these two truths is shaped by relatively
late developments in Indian Buddhism (5th century or later), so that
earlier formulations, or concurrent formulations have been eclipsed and
receive little attention from scholars. To begin to remedy that, I offer the
following exposition of how Asaga discusses the two truths in his works.
Some initial considerations:
(1) While the two truths do appear by name in many Yogcra texts,
sometimes at strategic junctures, their role in Yogcra thinking is not
nearly as prominent or foundational as in some other Buddhist schools,
such as other forms of Mahyna, notably Madhyamaka.
(2) While many different types of distinctions between two truths can
be found in the full range of Buddhist literature, especially amongst the
bhidharmikasand Yogcra usage reflects many of these (sometimes
with new twists)the not insubstantial scholarly literature on the subject
of the two truths tends to focus on a narrow range of interpretations,
namely the trajectory stemming from Ngrjunas Mla-madhyamakakrik ch. 24, most notably k.10.2 That trajectory has become the
dominant metonymy for Buddhist two-truth theory, leading to the
presupposition that all other Buddhist usages of the two-truths either fit
within the discourse of this trajectory (and thus one can interpret them
from the vantage point of the extent to which they share the concerns
and sensibilities of Madhyamaka and its offshoots), or they are atavistic
prefigurings in search of the sophisticated developments of this trajectory.
(3) Since Yogcra usage reflects a much broader spectrum of twotruth theories, much of what it says about them is susceptible to
misunderstanding when viewed reductively through the prism of that



metonymy. Scholars are aware that prior to and outside this trajectory
other versions of two-truth theory occurred, but detailed study of these
remains more a desideratum than an established set of data from which
to perform analyses. Consequently, Yogcra deployment of two-truth
theory has tended to be either analyzed in terms of its relation to the
metonymy (e.g., the relation between two-truths and trisvabhva
theories), or viewed as an appendage, possibly aberrant, to the metonymy,
or, because of all the unfamiliar and thus seemingly incongruous
usages, those passages reflecting understandings outside the metonymy
have been largely ignored. To remedy this, a fuller accounting of alternate
applications of two-truth theory in Buddhism would be necessary,
something which, in a modest, limited way, I shall try to do in this paper.
(4) By achieving a central and foundational status, the metonymic version
of the two-truth theory engenders a finite set of familiar philosophemes
which can be made to undergo permutations that the tradition and scholars
can recount, reiterate and re-parse endlessly. Reducing all of Buddhism
to two, and only two truths, everything must be made to fit into one or the
other truth. Alternate analytic pairs, such as dravya-sat vs. prajaptisat, are devalued, or atrophy, or are simply reduced to operations within
the lower truth. Deeming one of the two truths to be higher and the other
lower, obvious issues include: What makes one higher than the other?
Which of the countless Buddhist models, doctrines and practices are to
be sorted into which truth? Is the lower truth good, bad, both or neither?
What relation, if any, obtains between both truths, and how specifically
does that work? If, as was the tendency within Mahyna (Yogcra
included), the highest truth loses all or most of its concrete content,
characterized as being beyond predication or meaningful articulation,
what sort of truth does this contentless abstraction represent, or can it
even serve a representational function? Some of the Yogcra passages
to be discussed below make contributions to such questions, but perhaps
we may notice additional dimensions as well.
(5) Taking all the above into account, doing justice to how Yogcra
actually used two-truth theory and the terms associated with it (savti,
vyavahra, paramrtha, sat, satya) runs the risk of offering something
that seems out of synch with current academic discussions. The most
common strategy for sidestepping this (as mentioned in 3 above)
is to substitute ones own theorizing for the apparent lack of interest
in theorizing about the two truths in Yogcra, providing them with

Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

an argument they themselves never made, while implying that they

themselves implied just such a theory. When the two truths are compared
to the three natures, that is precisely what is being done. 3 As interesting
as such speculation might be, it merely reinforces the metonymic
version of two-truth theory, and leaves neglected much of what Yogcra
texts themselves do have to say about these terms, which, while less
familiar, is not without interest for understanding Buddhist thinking.
Therefore what follows is not an argument proffered in the name
of Yogcra, nor a metaargument that judges the aptness of Yogcra
twotruths thinking. Instead passages typical of early Yogcra usage
have been collected in an effort to indicate some of what went on in twotruth thinking beyond the metonymic version.
To proceed, a series of observations about the use of the two truths by
Yogcras will be offered, accompanied by representational passages from
the Yogcra literature. I will primarily focus on the writings of Asaga,
since it is there that we may catch a glimpse of the formative stages
of Yogcra two-truth discourse. A quick survey of some abhidharma
ideas on the two truths will be undertaken since they, more so than the
more familiar Madhyamakan frames, provide important contextual
background for recognizing what is going on in the Yogcra usage.
I will, nonetheless, propose an alternate way to interpret Ngrjunas
discussion in MMK 24 that may be closer to what he had in mind before
the metonymic version eclipsed all competing models.

I. To privilege or not to privilege the Two Truths

One of the first things one notices in surveying Yogcra literature is that
the pair savti-paramrtha is not an indissoluble dyad. Each term can
not only be found without the other term anywhere in the vicinity, but each
can be found as a component of different lists, some recurring more
often than others. To be sure, the pair does occur as a pair and some
examples of that will be discussed below. Both paramrtha and savti,
however, are often individually included in classificatory lists that omit
the other term. Significantly, in Asagas writings when the two are paired
they are always denoted as paramrtha and savti, never vyavahra.
Vyavahra taken in the metonymic version as an interchangeable
synonym for savti4 is one of a group of terms used by Asaga for
issues related to the conventional use of language, but it is never paired
with paramrtha as far as I can tell.5 (Ill return to this later.)


Even when the two-truth pair savti-paramrtha appear in tandem,

thepair is often not treated as either central or foundational, but becomes
relativized among other evaluative categories and even other types of
truths (satya). One of the more striking examples of this is a passage in
the Bodhisattvabhmi section of the Yogcrabhmi that asks:
How is the Dharma nominally set up with names (= words, nma)
That refers to what was said by the Buddha in the twelve divisions of the
scriptures6, such as the stras, etc. Next came the Buddhist Councils.7
Next, [Buddhas sayings] were codified.8 Next, they were promulgated.9
This is how the Dharma was nominally set up with names (=words).
How is truth (satya) nominally set up in names (= words)?
In innumerable ways.10 For instance:
Setting up One Truth: That means no falsity, since there is only one
truth without a second.
Or, setting up Twofold Truth: (1) savti-satya and (2) paramrthasatya.
Or setting up Threefold Truth: (1) Truth through definitions (lakaa),
(2) truth in speech (vk), and (3) truth in activities (kriy).
Or Fourfold Truth: (1) Truth of suffering (dukha), (2) Truth of
etiology (samudaya), (3) Truth of cessation (nirodha), and (4) Truth
of the Way (mrga).11
Or Fivefold Truth: (1) Truth of cause, (2) Truth of effect, (3) Truth of
knowing (jna), (4) Truth of the known (jeya),12 and (5) Foremost
Truth (agrya-satya).
Or Sixfold Truth: (1) Truth of truth (satya-satya), (2) truth of the
false (m-satya), (3) truth that will be fully understood (parijeya
satya), (4) truth of what will be forever extinguished (prahtavya
satya), (5) truth of direct realization (sktkartavya satya),
and(6) truth of cultivation (bhvayitavya satya).
Or Sevenfold Truth: (1) truth of savoring the enjoyable (svda
satya), (2) truth of misfortune (dnava satya), (3) truth of going forth
(into the Buddhist life)(nisarana-satya), (4) truth of dharmahood
(dharmat-satya), (5) truth of liberation (adhimukti-satya), (6) the
Noble Truths, and (7) the non-Noble Truths.
Or Eightfold Truth: (1) truth of suffering as due to conditioning
(saskra-dukhat-satya), (2) truth of suffering as due to
change (viparima-dukhat-satya), (3) truth of suffering due to
suffering (dukha-dukhat-satya), (4) truth of ongoing processes
(pravttisatya), (5) truth of bringing processes to an end (nivttisatya),


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

(6) truth of adventitious defilements (saklea-satya), (7) truth of
purity (vyavadna-satya), and (8) truth of correctly applied practices
Or Ninefold Truth: (1) truth of impermanence, (2) truth of suffering,
(3) truth of emptiness, (4) truth of no-self, (5) truth of [the relation
between the prattya-samutpda links] Ongoing (bhava) and
Desire (t), (6) truth of non-Ongoing and non-desire, (7) truth
of expedient means to eliminate those, (8) truth of nirva with
remainder, and (9) truth of nirva without remainder.
Or Tenfold Truth: (1) truth of oppressive suffering, (2) truth of
prestigious wealth and poverty as suffering, (3) truth of suffering from
an imbalance of elements, (4) truth of suffering from the dissolution of
what is pleasant, (5) truth of suffering from the gross [impediments]
(dauhulya-dukha-satya), (6) truth of karma, (7) truth of klea,
(8) truth of careful thinking about the Correct-Dharma one has heard
(tath-ravaa-yonio-manaskra-satya),13 (9) truth of Right View,
and (10) truth of the fruit of Right View. In such ways do Bodhisattvas
nominally set up truths in words (nma). You should know that such
distinctions can be extended without limit (aprama).14

So there are potentially innumerable truths, with the set savtiparamrtha only being one of them.
There are several interesting dimensions to the way Asaga formulates
this. The question arises in a section of the Yogcrabhmi that explicitly
examines the question of how language works a concern that Asaga
repeatedly returns to. Here Asaga is asking how truth is constructed
or transferred over to words (nma). His preamble clearly frames it as
asocial process, a process of group construction of conventions. Buddha
speaks. That is only the first step. That speech is grouped into various
categories, worked over through a variety of processes, collected, collated,
edited, codified, modified, and made communicative by groups of people,
such as Buddhist Councils. And unlimited numbers or configurations
of truths can be extracted and codified, put into words, on that basis.
Truth(s), when put into words, including the two truths, are conventions.
The insightful bodhisattva can generate them ad infinitum. They are
truths to the extent that they communicate, via conventions, communally,
some sense of Buddhas understanding, which he himself initially put
into words in the same manner, since language is precisely engaging in
conventionality par excellence.



Lest we be tempted to assume too quickly that when mentioning the two
truths this passage is evoking the metonymic version, or that the twotruth
pair appearing so high up on the list indicates a near-primacy rather than
mere enumerative order, we now turn to the first chapter of the second
of two parts of the Abhidharmasamuccaya, appropriately entitled Satyavinicaya (determination of truth), though satya here denotes the Four
Noble Truths, which are the subject of this chapter. Discussing the first
Noble Truth, suffering (dukha), Asaga lists eight kinds of suffering:15
[1] suffering of birth (jtidukha), [2] of aging (jar), [3] of disease
(vydhi), [4] of death (maraa), [5] suffering associated with what is
unpleasant (apriyasamprayoga), [6] suffering of separation from what
is pleasant (priyaviprayoga), [7] suffering if one does not obtain what
one desires (yad apcchan na labhate), and [8] in brief (sakiptena)
the five aggregates of attachment (pacopdnaskandha)

Asaga then provides further explanations for each of the eight, followed
by a list of six types of suffering16 to which, he says, the eight can be
reduced. Whether six or eight, it is the same thing (Boin-Webb, 2001,
85; a samnny aau bhavanti; ). This is followed
with the well-known list of three types of suffering: mere suffering
(dukha-dukhat), suffering caused by transformation (viparimadukhat), and suffering caused by conditioning (saskra-dukhat).
He explains:
The eight kinds of suffering are included in them the sufferings of
birth, aging, disease, death and association with what is unpleasant
are mere sufferings; the sufferings of separation from what is
pleasant and not obtaining what one desires are suffering caused by
transformation; in brief, the five aggregates of attachment are
suffering as suffering caused by conditioning. (Boin-Webb, 2001, 85)

The two-truth pair now make their brief appearance in this chapter.
It is said that there are two forms of suffering: suffering according to
conventional truth (savtisatya) and suffering according to ultimate
truth (paramrthasatya).
What is suffering according to conventional truth and what is
suffering according to ultimate truth? From the suffering of birth
up to thesuffering of not obtaining what one desires those are


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

suffering according to conventional truth. In brief, the five aggregates
of attachment are suffering that is suffering according to ultimate
truth. (Ibid.)

It is worth pointing out that the introduction of the two truths is prefaced
by it is said that (yad ukta dvividhe dukhe iti, ), framing
what is to follow as thoroughly enmeshed in language and retelling.
Asaga is often very sensitive to the interplay of language and that
towards which language purports to point. That is the main theme of the
Tattvrtha chapter of the Bodhisattvabhmi. As well see in a moment,
distinguishing between vastu, prajapti, dravya, etc., are crucial to his
analysis. Alsoworthy of note is that in the passage just cited Paramrthasatya is given clear and specific content, viz., the five appropriational
skandhas (skandha-updna) which Asaga had just explained are
synonymous with saskra-dukhat, suffering caused by conditioning.
This indicates that paramrtha signifies a type of discourse or
understanding that points to what, below the obvious surface, is actually
transpiring. It is language speaking with precision and true accuracy.
The first seven types of dukha are ways of thinking about dukha;
theeighth, the dynamics of the five appropriational skandhas thatis,
the way a person is is, at bottom, what dukha is, the first seven
merely indicating facets of those skandhas. The first seven still contain
traces of selfhood thinking (whats pleasant to me, my goals, obstructions
to me, etc.); the eighth indicates purely impersonal processes driven by
appropriation (updna).
Paramrtha here has specific content, namely the appropriational
dynamics of the skandhas. To see things from that perspective is to
see things as they are. This, as well see, is not an uncommon usage.
However, Asaga elsewhere will undermine this type of application of
paramrtha-satya. We will return to this as well.
Finally, and this is perhaps the most significant point to take away from
this passage, the two truths are explicitly treated as reductive forms of
discourse that are not intended to replace or eclipse the other models
(the eight, six and threefold enumerations), but are merely summations,
shorthand (sakiptena) from which the other models may be extrapolated
at any time. This illustrates the point made in the Yogcrabhmi passage
about the ten truths, namely that Dharma-speech can expand or contract,


as the need arises. The implication seems to be that the deeper ones
understanding, the less that needs to be said or enumerated. But given
the imperative to benefit others that is one of the signature notions
of Mahyna, the ability to expand and enumerate on concise doctrinal
statements is indispensable. Truths can be extrapolated, or they can be
reductive. One might say that savti-satya and paramrtha-satya in this
case are both cases of vyavahra.
Savti and/or paramrtha are commonly found listed along with
additional sat-s or satyas. For instance, the final section of the
Yogcrabhmi states:
Briefly it is said that there are three types of existents (sat).
(1)dravyasat, (2) prajapti-sat, and paramrtha-sat.


The passage goes on to define dravya-sat as the denotative use of language

through which a thing (vastu) can be obtained or realized (*adhigam).
A dravya is explained as a thing or process that is always actually
operating, to which such words refer. For instance, rpa, and so on,
amongst groups of dharmas ().17 According to this
passage, things such as vehicles, forests, grass, trees, robes, food can be
denoted this way.
Prajapti-sat consists of six types: (1) prajapti of a group
(*smagr-prajapti), (2) prajapti as cause (hetu-prajapti),
(3) prajapti as effect (phala-prajapti), (4) prajapti of what
has been done, (5) prajapti of situations (*avasth-prajapti),
and (6) positing something where it is not present (*apekprajapti).18 After explaining each of the six in greater detail, it asks:
What is paramrtha-sat? It is that from which all language and
all prajaptis are forever eliminated, it is apart from conceptual
proliferation (prapaca) and apart from conceptual construction
(kalpan). It is expressed through skillful means (upya-kaualya)
[bysuch terms as] dharmat, tathat, bhtakoi, nyat, nairtmya,
and so on, as [was discussed in] the Bodhisattvabhmi, in the Tattvrtha
[chapter], concerning the fourth type (of knowledge of real things),19
viz. the cognitive sphere completely purified of obstructions to
theknowable (jeyvaraa) [attained by high-level Bodhisattvas and


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

Buddhas] (jeyvarana-viuddhi-jna-gocara). You should know
that images (*nimitta) of it are contradictory to the higher (truth).
You ought to know it is not an existent.20


We notice that savti did not appear in this discussion instead

dravya-sat and prajapti-sat accompany paramrtha-sat. Paramrthasat can be articulated, via expedient means, through synonyms, such as
tathat, dharmat, etc. Such strings of synonyms for paramrtha are
common occurrences in Asagas texts, perhaps the best known example
being the synonyms (paryya) for nyat in Madhynta-vibhga 1:15:
tathat bhtakotica-animittam paramrthat | dharmadhtuca paryya
nyat samsata (In sum, the synonyms for emptiness are tathat, the
limits of reality [bhtakoi], animitta, paramrthat, and dharmadhtu.)
Prefiguring Digngas definition of perception as thoroughly excluding all
forms of language and conceptualization (kalpanpoha), Asaga here
offers the same exclusions to define paramrtha-sat, adding prapaca,
prajapti, and language as a whole to the list of exclusions.
The cross-reference to the Tattvrtha chapter is intriguing, since not only
does Asaga define there the type of purified cognition available only
to bodhisattvas and Buddhas (and not to rvakas, Pratyekabuddhas,
or others) namely the fourth type he refers to here but the entire
chapter is concerned with the relation between language (prajapti,
artha, etc.) and non-linguistic, non-conceptual realities (tattva, dravya,
vastu, etc.). He emphasizes more than once that all Buddhist discourse,
up to and including terms such as mah-parinirva, is prajapti.
Atthe same time he firmly rejects nominalism, encouraging us to cognize
beyond linguistic-conceptuals in order to see tattvas as they truly are
but in anon-dual manner that doesnt reject the linguistic sphere.
Hence the chapters title: tattva + artha, things and the words that
refer to them.
One or the other term savti or paramrtha can also be used
without the other in different evaluative lists or mtks. For instance,
in Abhidharmasamuccaya Asaga uses the following thirteen items as
anevaluative mtk for determining aspects of kuala (beneficial karmic


activity), in which paramrtha is the fifth item: distinct nature (svabhva),

connections (sambandha), outcome (anubandha), emergence (utthna),
ultimate significance (paramrtha), attaining birth (upapattilbha),
application (prayoga), veneration (puraskra), granting favor (anugraha),
receiving (parigraha), counteracting (pratipaka), tranquility (upasama)
and the result that flows from a process (niyanda). Each is applied
to kuala. For instance: What is favorable [kuala] by nature?
The eleven mental associates (caittas) beginning with faith (raddh),21
i.e.,theeleven kuala caittas of the Yogcra list of dharmas.22 What is
kuala as outcome? Its own habitual tendencies (vsan). And so on.
For paramrtha, Asaga states: What is favorable as ultimate reality?
It is suchness (tathat).23
A slightly shorter and slightly different list is used to analyze akuala
(non-beneficial): distinct nature (svabhva), connections (sambandha),
outcome (anubandha), emergence (utthna), ultimate significance
(paramrtha), attaining birth (upapattilbha), application (prayoga),
veneration (puraskra), offending (upaghta), receiving (parigraha),
counter-case (vipaka), and obstructive adversity (paripantha).
For instance: What is akuala as outcome? Its own habitual tendencies
(vsan). For paramrtha, Asaga asks: What is akuala as ultimate
reality? The whole continuity of existence (sarva-sasra).24
The same type of mtk is then applied to the karmically neutral
(avykta). What is neutral as ultimate reality? Space (ka) and
cessation without acquired knowledge (apratisakhy-nirodha).25
The paramrtha (ultimate significance or goal) of kuala is tathat;
the paramrtha (ultimate referent) of akuala is the entirety of sasra;
andwhat avykta figuratively implies in an ultimate sense are concepts
of the unconditioned as neutrality, non-obstructive, non-productive,
such as ka and apratisakhy-nirodha.
Another example: Using a fivefold distinction (nimitta, nma, vikalpa,
tathat, jna), Asaga, in the Yogcrabhmi (fascicle 72), asks whether
each of these should be called savti-sat or paramrtha-sat. But before
asking about the familiar two satyas, he asks whether they should be
considered existent or nonexistent (sat or asat), and then whether each is
dravya-sat or prajapti-sat.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

[Sat or Asat?]
Q: Should a nimitta be called an existent (sat) or a nonexistent (asat)?
A: It should be called an existent.
Q: As to what is established because of positing (prajapti) self-natures
(svabhva) or particularity (viea), should this be called an existent?
A: It should be called a nonexistent.
Q: As to discriminating the range of experienced objects (, *gocara,
*criylambana), should this be called an existent?
A: Such should be called existent. For a bodhisattva who possesses the
nature (for attaining Buddhahood), because he has attained skillfulness
( *kaualya, *kuala), there are images (nimitta) that are analyticallyperceived ( *vykaraa, *vy kt) as existent, analyticallyperceived as nonexistent, analytically-perceived as both existent
and nonexistent, and analytically-perceived as neither existent nor
nonexistent. Because he analytically-perceives in this way, he is far from
the two extremes of increase or decrease, and so practices the middle
way; the dharmadhtu is [the cognitive range] for his skill.
Q: This image (nimitta) when considered as a referent (artha) of language,
should it be called existent? When considered as a referent apart from
language, should it be called existent?
A: Both referents should be called existent. Why? If language is set up and
stable (pada-sthna), such that referents (are apprehended) by means of
language, then one should say (the referent) is existent. If [one realizes]
that the designation of a self-nature (svabhva-prajapti) or the designation
of a particular ( viea-prajapti) refers to [self-natures and
particularites as] unconsummated (aparinipanna),26 just in this way the
referent that is separate from language should be called existent.
Q: Should suchness (tathat) and correct cognition (jna) be called existent
or non-existent?
A: They should be called existent.
[Dravya-sat or prajapti-sat?]
Q: Should nimittas be called dravya-sat or prajapti-sat?
A: During [certain] practices they should be called dravya-sat.
During [certain other] practices they should be called prajapti-sat.
There are nimittas of both types.
Q: Should name (= word, nma) be called dravya-sat or prajapti-sat?
A: It should be called prajapti-sat since it is only nominally posited of the



Q: Should vikalpa be called dravya-sat or prajapti-sat?

A: It is both types of sat.
Q: Should tathat be called dravya-sat or prajapti-sat?
A: It should be called dravya-sat, since it is classified as paramrtha.
Q: Should correct cognition (jna) be called dravya-sat or prajapti-sat?
A: It should be called both sat-s. As to these, [correct] cognition [itself]
is dravya-sat. If the cognition entails classifying citta and caittas,
naming them as cognition, [etc.,] then call it prajapti. Hence [cognition]
possesses both types of sat.
[Savti-sat or paramrtha-sat?]
Q: Should nimittas be called savti-sat or paramrtha-sat?
A: Nimittas should be called savti due to two causes and conditions:
(1) Because they produce adventitious defilements (gantuka-klea);
(2)because [they stimulate] the positing (*prajapti) of a representational
[realm] based on utilitarian value (bhjana).
Q: Should nma be called savti-sat or paramrtha-sat?
A: It should be called savti-sat due to three causes and conditions:
(1) Because it produces adventitious defilements; (2) because
[it stimulates] the positing of a representational [realm] based on
utilitarian value; (3) because it is the basis (raya) of figurative language
( *vk, *upacra, *prajapti, *abhidhna, *vyavahra, etc.).
Q: Should vikalpa be called savti-sat or paramrtha-sat?
A: It should be called savti-sat due to four causes and conditions:
(1) Because it produces adventitious defilements (gantuka-klea);
(2) because [it stimulates] the positing (*prajapti) of a representational
[realm] based on utilitarian value (bhjana); (3) because proclivities
(anuaya) are consequent on conventional language (vyavahra),
(4) because Awakening (prati-buddh; vibuddhi) is consequent to
conventional language (vyavahra).
Q: Should tathat be called savti-sat or paramrtha-sat?
A: It should be called paramrtha-sat since it is a pure cognitive object
Q: Should correct cognition (jna) be called savti-sat or paramrtha-sat?
A: The first cognition [which simply and directly sees the object] is called
paramrtha-sat; the second cognition [which reflects on and conceptually
analyzes the components of the initial cognition] should be called both


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

II. Language: Savti, vyavahra, prajapti, sketa, etc.

Prajapti is a wide-ranging term, deployed in multifarious ways
with many different meanings and implications. As above, it can be
contrasted with dravya (a real process that is in some sense irreducible,
notasubstance). Prajapti may indicate a composite of distinct dravyas
conflated under a single umbrella term or concept, such as conflating the
five skandhas into a single person (pudgala), or conflating wheel, axle,
etc., into a chariot. By this definition, any whole composed of parts is
a prajapti. Prajapti can also signify a purely nominal entity that exists
in name only, such as an eternal, invariant self (tman).
Sometimes texts distinguish between prajapti and savti, since, despite
both involving and being implicated in language to some extent, dravyasat
may also be savti; in such instances, since dravya and prajapti are
mutually exclusive, obviously prajapti-sat would be excluded.
Since, sometimes, prajapti is used in certain Buddhist texts as asynonym
for vyavahra, and prajapti is differentiated from savti, one may
speculate that a distinction between savti and vyavahra was also
assumed or possible, though I havent found a passage in aYogcra text
that makes this fully explicit. Nonetheless, the two-truths, forYogcra,
are just two of many truths, as shown above.
In the cintmay-bhmi of the Yogcrabhmi, Asaga defines speech
using linguistic signs (sketika vda) thus:
Speech whose conventions are shared by the multitude (smketiko
vdah),29 is sixfold: (1) features of things (vastu-lakaa), (2) features
of the known (vijeya-lakaa), (3) features of purity, etc., (ubhdilakaa), (4) pleasant, etc., features (anugrahdi-lakaa), (5) features
of conventional language (vyavahra-lakaa), and (6) features of
false assumptions (mithypratipattydi-lakaa).

Linguistic signs can be used to articulate and give linguistic form to

actual things (vastu); what one is conscious of (vijeya); notions of purity
and impurity (ubhubha); evaluative judgements such as deeming
certain things to be pleasant, unpleasant, etc.; discussions of language
itself as the common medium of communication; and as a means for
giving ones false assumptions, presuppositions and opinions the illusion


of reality. Signs (sketa), in other words, entail a spectrum stretching

from discussing actual things, to analyzing and evaluating such
articulated things, togiving life to erroneous ideas (as well as the tools
for analyzing why those ideas are erroneous). As Asaga explains this:
Features of things (vastu-lakaa) are grasped by consciousness
(vijna). Features of the known (vijeya-lakaa) are grasped by
focusing attention (manaskra) arising from consciousness. The pure
and wondrous, etc., is grasped by contact (spara); the pleasant, etc.,
isgrasped by pleasure-pain sensation (vedan); conventional linguistic
marks (vyavahra-nimitta-lakaa) are grasped by associativecognizance (sajn); and the features of false assumptions are
grasped by volition (cetan). 30

Five of the six graspers mentioned here (manaskra, spara, vedan,

sajn, and cetan) are the five sarvatraga caittas, that is, the mental
associates that are always active in every and any cognition. The remaining
grasper, consciousness (vijna), would be classified as a citta dharma,
not a caitta. Here we have an example of vyavahra appearing in a list
that has no obvious link to the two truths. Importantly, vyavahra is
linked with sajn, which besides its well-known use as the third of
the five skandhas (and, as is obvious, the five sarvatraga caittas echo the
five skandhas, replacing vijna with manaskra and rpa with spara),
always carries linguistic connotations in Asagas texts, drawing on,
amongst other things, the sense of sajn developed in the Pinian
grammatical system. By associating not only consciousness, but each of
the sarvatraga caittas with sketa, Asaga informs us that many levels
of our cognitive processes are always poised to grasp linguistic signs.
Sketa is only one type of language usage, the sharing of conventional
signs. Sketa here is not a subset of vyavahra; it is the other way
around: vyavahra is a subset of sketa. Vyavahra, which is a term
Asaga uses often, appears in numerous models similar to this one,
in a variety of configurations with other terms; but never, as far as Ive
discovered, paired with paramrtha as the second truth.

III. Vyavahra and savti / sammuti

As previously mentioned Ngrjuna in MMK treats vyavahra and
savti as synonyms or does he? Might the vyavahra in the famous
MMK 24:10 be a sub-category of savti (i.e., a deliberate echo of

Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

thePalisammuti), reiterated from the opponents evocation of savyavahr

at 24:6?31 Ngrjuna repeats the opponents term sarva-savyavahr
at MMK 24:36, turning the opponents criticism back on the opponent
with nearly the same language used by the opponent. Nonmadhyamakan
literature, including Yogcra texts, suggests that it might.
Here are the passages in MMK 24 in which either vyavahra or savti
nyat phalasadbhvam adharma dharmam eva ca |
sarvasavyavahr ca laukikn pratibdhase || MMK 24:6
[The opponent complains:]
Your emptiness is an assault on the actual existence of the fruit
[of practice], and even on adharma and dharma (improper and proper
actions), as well as all the conventions of the world.
dve satye samupritya buddhn dharmadean |
lokasavtisatya ca satya ca paramrthata || MMK 24:8
[Ngrjuna replies]
The teaching of the Dharma of the Buddhas is entirely based on two truths;
worldly conventional truth (loka-savti-satya) and the ultimately true.
vyavahram anritya paramrtho na deyate |
paramrtham angamya nirva ndhigamyate || MMK 24:10
Without vyavahra as a basis, paramrtha cannot be taught;
if paramrtha is not realized, nirva will not be ultimately realized.
sarvasavyavahrca laukikn pratibdhase |
yatprattyasamutpdanyat pratibdhase || MMK 24:36||
You are assaulting all the conventions of the world if you assault the
emptiness [related to] conditioned co-arising (prattya-samutpda).

In other words, Ngrjuna contends, it is not emptiness that threatens the

everyday world of conventions, the moral (dharma and adharma) codes
and sensibilities that these conventions entail, nor the actual attainment
of the fruit of practice; emptiness understood in terms of conditioned
coarising contextualizes, but never destroys them. It is failing to properly
understand conditioned co-arising and emptiness that threatens the
peaceful fulfillments of the ordinary world.



It may be significant that vyavahra is not explicitly called atruth (satya)

in these passages. The text never says vyavahra-satya. Only savti,
inits single appearance in MMK at MMK 24:8c, is called savti-satya.
If and this is merely speculation vyavahra and savti were not
isomorphic synonyms for Ngrjuna, but rather vyavahra was a subset
of savti, just talk that communicates, as it were, then not only its
pedagogic value, but its necessity, even for Madhyamakas own debate
method, suddenly becomes clearer.
As is well known, savti is a distortive Sanskritization of the Pali term
sammuti, which, like the Pali vohra (Skt. vyavahra), meansconventional
discourse. While some have traced explicit discussions of the nirukta
of savti as covered or enveloped only to Candrakrti (7th8th
century), that interpretation is already discussed in the Mahvibh.
As Dhammajoti (2007, 95 n.33) notes: Already in the MV (548b),
we are told that the Grammarians (abdika) take this to be from v,
to cover: This savti-satya is concealed by ajna, like that which
is inside a vessel is concealed/covered by the vessel. The Sanskrit
Buddhist tradition generally interprets it in terms of sa + vt/v.
Thisetymology is also found in Yogcra-related texts. 32

IV. Conventions and Abhidharma

Yogcra texts deploy the two truths in accord with the conventions of
various literatures. The early Yogcra literature (e.g., Asaga) more
often than not tends to follow abhidharma usages. Yogcra uses the two
truths (alone or in conjunction with additional truths) in different ways
in different passages, reflecting the sources of the ideas and models they
are adopting. So a study of Yogcra usage should also be a study of the
different usages by different Buddhist schools and literatures over time.
(I will not attempt a comprehensive survey here, however, but will give
a few illustrations of shifting meanings.)
Since the excellent study of Sarvstivda Abhidharma by Bhikkhu KL
Dhammajoti (2007) contains much pertinent material, I take the liberty
of quoting it at length:
Succinctly, an bhidharmika is one who specializes in the abhidharma
and takes the abhidharma as the final authority. For him, the abhidharma


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

is definitive (lkaika) and represents the true intention of the Buddha,
taught at the level of absolute truth (paramrtha-satya), with fully
drawn out meanings (ntrtha). In contrast, the stra-s do not represent
the Buddhas true intention (bhipryika). They generally represent
the expedient (aupacrika) teachings whose meanings are yet to be
fully drawn out (neyrtha). (Dhammajoti, 18-19)

This is an extremely important issue, not just for Abhidharma but for
Yogcra as well. Above all, the two truths serve as a value system,
a prioritizing of some things over other things. Savti and paramrtha
are evaluative labels, for things in general, but most especially for the
components of Buddhist doctrine. The value or degree of definitiveness
the truths assign are not necessarily ontological though their
use doesnt exclude ontological determinations either. Nonetheless,
they are not limited to ontological concerns. The Yogcrabhmi, and
indeed many Yogcra texts, are more concerned with linguistic issues,
linguistic-conceptual problems and their solutions, the relation of words
(nma) to real things (vastu), etc. Certain teachings, models, concepts,
etc., aredeemed definitive, of the highest order, while others are given
a lower, provisional status. Hence savti and paramrtha are also
synonymous with or parallel to the pair ntrtha (explicit) and neyrtha
(implicit), especially when in hermeneutic contexts.
Put another way, savti and paramrtha are themselves hermeneutic
labels for evaluating how specific items and qualities treated within the
variety of Buddhist teachings are to be classified and hierachized, and as
such are synonymous in function to the neyrtha-ntrtha distinction
(some texts make this explicit33). Which of the teachings are provisional,
and which are definitive? As the sprawling mass of Buddhist literature and
its proliferating categories exploded exponentially, generating countless
new models and doctrinal enumerations, many of which did not fit well
or easily with other models, finding keys to how to make all cases of
buddhavacana accord with each other became an increasingly urgent matter.
Is prattya-samutpda understood as the twelve links a provisional
or definitive teaching? Which interpretation of prattya-samutpda was
most accurate and best accounted for things as they are? Which teachings
were primarily therapeutic expedients that served as transitional
considerations (transitioning to a higher or deeper understanding)?
Teachings that one school considered definitive, anothermight declare
merely transitional. 34 In short, the savti-paramrtha distinction is less



about levels of reality or even levels of epistemological approaches,

and rather is about classification of Buddhist doctrine by Buddhists.
That entailed questions of the reality described by various Buddhist
teachings and those perspectives which were condoned or rejected or
given provisional status, and even allowed for unsayable realities
that resisted rational articulation (another gift from the Vtsputryas).
For each type of Buddhism, paramrtha finally stands for the definitive
statement by a thinker or school on what ultimately is the case and goal of
Buddhist thinking and practice. To attain full enlightenment is to realize
paramrtha. Everything else is savti, and any goal wrongly envisioned
as paramrtha will lead to less than fully satisfactory consequences.
[Quoting Saghabhadras Nyynusara:] By stra is meant that
which subsumes and contains all the words which accord with the
firm principles of both the savti- and paramrtha-satya-s. Stra-s
in this sense are either discoursed by the Buddha or the disciples,
for [the latter] discoursed because [the content was] approved by
theBuddha.35 (Dhammajoti, 21)

Buddhas speech is both savti and paramrtha. The same is true of

the subsequent formulations and reformulations by his disciples, and by
extension, all subsequent clear-thinking Buddhists. By declaring the
stras to contain both types of truth, Saghabhadra is inviting us to
engage them as a hermeneutic enterprise.
Dhammajoti (p. 16 n.14) writes: AKB [Abhidharmakoa-bhya] 459.
Also cf. MV [Mahvibh] 917c, where the Saddharma is subdivided
into the conventional and the absolute (paramrtha) ones. The former
comprises the verbal teachings of the tripiaka; the latter is the noble
path, i.e., the outflow-free indriya, bla, bodhyaga and the mrgga.36
Here, as we saw in one of the examples from Asagas Abhidharmasamuccaya,
paramrtha refers to specific doctrinal content, content that should be
taken as ultimately true.
Dhammajoti translates the following discussion in Mahvibh on the
relation between the two truths:
Question: Is the fact of conventionality (; *savtitva?) in the
conventional [truth] existent from the standpoint of the absolute truth
or is it non-existent from the standpoint of the absolute truth?...


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

Answer: It should be said that the fact of conventionality in the
conventional [truth] is existent from the standpoint of the absolute
truth. If the fact of conventionality in the conventional [truth] is/
would be non-existent from the standpoint of the absolute truth, then
the Buddhas discourse on the two truths would be false
Question: If so, there should be only one truth, the absolute truth.
Answer: There indeed is only one truth, the absolute truth.
Question: If so, why are two truths established?
Answer: The two truths are established in terms of differences in
perspective (; different reasons), not in terms of substance [
vastu]: In terms of substance, there is only one truth, the absolute
truth; in terms of difference in perspective, two types [oftruth] are
established. The absolute truth is not established from the same
perspective from which the conventional truth is established.
Theconventional truth is not established from the same perspective
as the absolute truth
Question: Is it also possible to designate the conventional and the
absolute as being each distinct, without the two mingled?
Answer: It can also be so designated. How is this? According
to Venerable Vasumitra: The word that reveals is conventional;
thedharma that is revealed is absolute. He states further: thatwhich
accords with conventional usage37 is conventional [savti];
that which accords with what the ryas say is absolute. According
to the Bhadanta: The speech generated from a thought that not
untrue, speaking of things like sentient beings, vase, garment, etc.,
isconventional truth. The speech generated from a thought that is not
untrue, speaking of principles such as conditioned co-arising, etc.,
isabsolute truth. 38
(Dhammajoti, 78f; square brackets mine)

Dhammajoti (pp. 79-80) translates the distinction that the Abhidharmakoabhya draws between savti and paramrtha thus:
That, the buddhi of which does not arise when it is broken into parts
(avayavao bhinne), is conventionally existent; for instance, a pot.
For therein, when it is broken into pieces, the buddhi of a pot does not
arise. And therein, when the [constituent] dharma-s [of a thing] are
mentally removed (apohya), the buddhi of it does not arise that too
is to be understood as a conventionally existent; for instance, water.



For therein, when the dharma, rpa, etc., are removed mentally,
thebuddhi of water does not arise.
A conventional notion (savti-sajn) is made with regard to those
very things. Thus, those saying that a pot or water exists by virtue of
convention speak truly and not falsely; thus this is conventional truth
(savtisatya). 39
Absolute truth (paramrthasatya) is other than this. Therein,
evenwhen [a thing] has been broken, the buddhi of it definitely arises
and likewise, even when its [constituent] dharma-s are removed
mentally that is [to be understood as] an absolute existent
(paramrthasat). For instance rpa: for, therein, when the thing is
broken into the atoms (paramua), and when the [constituent]
dharma-s taste, etc., have been removed mentally, the buddhi of the
intrinsic nature of rpa definitely arises. Vedan, etc., are also to be
seen in this way. This is called absolute truth as the existence is in the
absolute sense (etat paramrthena bhvt paramrthasatyamiti).40

When mental, conceptual features are removable from something,

excluded, if a cognition (buddhi) of it does not arise, then it is savtisatya. Leaving aside possible implications of this for Digngas apoha
theories (he clearly draws on similar ideas in his lambana-park),
what we find is that, for Vasubandhu, savti here is being defined in
more or less the same terms by which prajapti is usually differentiated
from dravya, thereby implying an equivalence or strong similarity
between savti and prajapti.
What is notable is that, even here, in his supposedly pre-Yogcra days,
Vasubandhu is using buddhi i.e., a knowledge-producing cognition
as the criterion by which the truths can be distinguished from each other,
viz., the ability to form a clear cognitive object, even an intellective
rather than perceptual one. What, after the conceptual features have
been removed, still produces a buddhi, is paramrtha. If a buddhi fails
to arise from a deconstructed object, then that object is savti. Since he
explicitly indicates that the paramrthic cognition of a rpa is one from
which sensations like taste, have been excluded, this implies that
the irreducible cognitive object of a paramrthic buddhi is primarily
intellective, rather than sensate, even when that of which it is a cognition,
such as a material object, is itself a sensory item. Note the Sarvstivdin
sense of what makes something real is its intrinsic nature which is
atemporal in the sense that a buddhi of it arises even when the features
which arise and cease temporally are excluded (apohoya).

Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

It is exactly this abstract intellective idea of things such as rpa,

etc., that Asaga criticizes, as well see shortly when we turn to his
Paramrtha gth. The idea (sajn) of rpa, etc., is prajapti, not
(dravyato sti), nor is it paramrtha-sat. Such ideas, Asaga says,
areonly parikalpita-svabhva.
Saghabhadra carries Vasubandhus idea one step further (Dhammajoti, 81):
This is divisible into two: What exists truly (dravyo sti) and what
exists conceptually (prajaptito sti), the two being designated on the
basis of savti-satya and paramrtha-satya, [respectively]. If, with
regard to a thing, a buddhi is produced without depending on anything
else, this thing exists truly e.g., rpa, vedan, etc. If it depends on
other things to produce a buddhi, then it exists conceptually/relatively
e.g., a vase, army, etc.
Those that exist truly are futher divisible into two: Those that have
only their essential natures (svabhva/svarpa) and those that,
[in addition,] have activities (kritra). Those that have kritra are
again of two types: with or without function (smarthya/vypara/
akti) Those that exist relatively [prajapti-sat] are also of two
types: having existence on the basis of something real [dravya-raya]
or on something relative [prajapti-raya], like a vase and an army,

There are all sorts of problems, as well as interesting ideas, in this short
passage, but we will move on.
Dhammajoti (77-78) translates the following discussion from the
Mahvibh on the various theories held by different bhidharmikas
on the existent. Words in square brackets are added by me.
Regarding the existents, some say that they are of two kinds:
1. Existents as real entities (dravyata sat) the skandha, yatana, etc.;
2. Existents as concepts (prajaptita sat) male, female, etc.
Some say they are of three kinds: 1. What exists relatively a given
thing [vastu] exists relatively to this but does not exist relatively to
that; 2. What exists by virtue of an assemblage a given thing exists
here but does not exist there; 3. What exists at some given time
a given thing exists at this time but does not exist at another time.



Some say they are of five kinds: 1. what exists in name (only)
[nma-sat ] a tortoises hair, a hares horn, a garland of [sky]
flowers, etc.; 2. what exists as a real entity (dravyato sti [])
all dharma-s each of which is abiding in its own-nature (svabhva);
3. what exists conventionally [prajapti-sat ] a vase, garment,
vehicle, army, forest, house, etc.; 4. what exists as an assemblage
[ *saghta-, *smagr-sat, etc.] a pudgala is designated with
regard to an assemblage of the skandha-s; 5. what exists relatively42
[ *apek-sat, *apekana-sat] this shore [exists relatively
to] thatshore, a long thing [exists relatively to] a short thing, etc.43

Here we have a fivefold distinction that fails to explicitly mention either

savti or paramrtha, though each of these with the exception of the
first, that which exists in name only (nma-sat) could be construed
as aspects of savti-sat. It is unclear whether for some bhidharmikas
the second kind, dravya-sat, would qualify as paramrtha; Yogcra texts
(following the Sautrntika position) make clear that dravya-sat should also
be included in savti on those occasions when all the sat-s are subsumed
in the two satyas. Cheng weishilun, for instance, explicitly argues that
while consciousness is dravya-sat, it is so only in terms of savti-sat.
Dhammajoti (567) translates the following passage from the Mahvibh
which comments on what the stra refers to in speaking of the profound
Abhidharma. Starting with paramrtha, it takes up the three phases
of practice rutamay, cintmay and bhvanmay in reverse
(i.e.,descending rather than ascending) order, since, in terms of practice,
one first engages in rutimay, then cintmay, etc., until eventually
attaining paramrtha:
In the absolute sense (paramrtha), the intrinsic nature of Abhidharma
can only be the outflow-free faculty of understanding (prajendriya).
From this very perspective, those which bring about the excellent
(viia) worldy understanding derived from cultivation (bhvanmay praj) namely, warmed up, summits, receptivities and
the worldly supreme dharma-s can also be called Abhidharma
on account of their ability to discern the four noble truths separately.
Again from this very perspective, those that bring about the excellent
understanding derived from reflection (cintmay praj) namely,
contemplation on the impure, mindfulness of breathing, etc., can
also be called Abhidharma on account of their ability to discern the
aggregates (skandha) separately and collectively.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

Again from this very perspective, those that bring about the
excellent understanding derived from listening (rutamay praj)
[namely,] the analysis and establishment of the intrinsic and
common characteristics44 destroying the delusion with regard to
existent entities and cognitive objects (lambana) can also be called
Abhidharma on account of the fact that they neither superimpose
(sa--ruh) nor deny (apa-vad) with regard to dharma-s.45

As well see, Asagas description of the three may-s is significantly

different. What the Mahvibh includes in the rutamay Asaga treats
in the cintmay instead. The rutamay-bhmi for Asaga is concerned
with the paca-vidys, the five sciences that a learned Buddhist is
supposed to study.
The cintmay-bhmi is, as expected, sandwiched between the rutamaybhmi and bhvanmay-bhmi. This well-known triad ruta, cint,
bhvan prescribes the sequence of practice. First, listen to the
teachings (ruta), then think about and reflect on what one has heard
(cint), and then cultivate and develop this to fruition via meditation and
other means (bhvan) (as one continues to listen to further teachings,
etc.). The rutamay-bhmi is one of the most interesting sections of the
Yogcrabhmi, since it deals with the pacavidy, devoting particular
attention to hetu-vidy (logic and epistemology) and abda-vidy
(grammar and linguistics). In other words, the bhmi of rutamay is
not simply listening to or memorizing the scriptures per se, but involves
acquiring the methodological skills to listen well.
Cintmay-bhmi, on the other hand, deals with hermeneutics,
how to interpret, or better, how to tease deeper meanings out of well
known scriptural and buddhavacana-type statements, i.e., the type of
sayings that would strike all Buddhists as extremely familiar, perhaps to
the point of mind-numbing clich.

V. Paramrtha Gth
Since we have been snatching passages from various parts of Asagas
works, one might get the impression that the two truths make frequent
appearances throughout his corpus. Actually, they appear infrequently, and
tend to be concentrated in specific sections of his texts. In Yogcrabhmi,



for instance, the most sustained discussion comes in the cintmay-bhmi,

which contains a long verse text (gth) aptly titled Paramrtha gth.
Mention of the two truths occurs sporadically in the later sections of the
Yogcrabhmi (which are interpretive reiterations of the first half of the
text), as well as briefly in the Bodhisattvabhmi, and virtually nowhere else.
Asaga does not conduct his workshop on hermeneutics in the cintmaybhmi by didactically setting down rules or principles. Instead he
demonstrates how to bring out meanings from verses he composed,
drawing on scriptural passages and sayings that were probably well
known during his day.46 Asaga is attempting to show how one reenergizes
the common rhetoric that has grown stale with familiarity,
The Paramrtha gth consists of forty-four verses. This is followed by
adetailed vykhy, or explanation that incorporates key words or phrases
from the main text. Below is a translation of the vykhy for vs. 16-26.47

Selection from the Verses on Ultimate Meaning

(Paramrtha gth )
From the Cintmay-bhmi of the Yogcrabhmi
Sanskrit (Asaga)-Chinese (Xuanzang)-English (Dan Lusthaus)
16 cintmay-bhmi ()
ata para vyavadnpaka darayati | yath parkyamno vyavadyate |

The next section [of the verses] explicates purification, since when
[one engages in] correct investigation ( yath-parikyamna48) one
attains purification.
svalakaato rpdn phenapidyupamay

This may be [correct investigation in terms of] sva-lakaas, i.e., contemplating

that rupa, etc., are like a heap of foam [phena-pia], etc.49
smnya-lakaata saskta-lakaasmnyd ekotpatti-sthiti-nirodhataya

Or this may be [correct investigation in terms of] smnya-lakaas,

i.e.,contemplating that conditioned (things) are the same in that they share the
characteristics of arising, abiding and ceasing.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

savti-paramrtha-satyatas ca | tath hi na kacid mohako na ca | moho nsti
prattya samutpanna savty ca moho mohayatty ucyate |

Or this may be [correct investigation in terms of] savti and paramarthasatya, i.e., although there is no deluder (), nor is it the case that delusion
arisen from a multitude of conditions is nonexistent, because of savti-satya
one says that delusion deludes.50
yan nmhasyyoniomanaskra tasmd asau moha na mohayatti |

Moreover, [the verse] reveals that not being nondeluded [arises from]
unfocused attention51 ( na-amhasya-ayonio-manasikra). It is,
therefore, that which deludes the deluded.52
paridpayati | tath hi vijna puydisaskropagam ucyate savty
paramrthatas tu nopagacchati |

Further, from [the perspective of] savti, [the verse] teaches that the various
consciousnesses are consequent on the fortuitous, [nonfortuitous and neutral]
saskras. Once paramrtha is achieved, that linkage no longer follows.53
trividh mat ity attngatapratyutpann |

Further, the three that should be known are past, future and present.
trividha cpi yat karmeti kydikarma

The three types of karma are bodily, [speech, and mental] karma.
sarvam etad asagata | parasparesamadhnt tath

All are not conjoined since [two items in] face-to-face mutual influence
[can] not be conjoined ().54

hi prabhgur vartamn | atit na kvacit sthit | ajt pratyaydhin
citta cpy anuvartaka |
[or ]
The present quickly dissipates; the past abides nowhere; what is to come is
based on a multitude of conditions; nonetheless the mind complies (with those
circumstances; anuvartaka).



tea yat tat saprayuktam |

If that and this are associated with each other...

ato yath puyadn saskr sagamo nsti | tath tat saprayuktasypi
cittasyeti katha tasyopagatatva bhaviyati |

...just as saskras such as the fortuitous, etc., have no conjoining [i.e., they
remain distinct types], the same case [would apply] to the mind and those
associates.55 How will that have come into existence consequent on this?56 For
what reason?
yad dhi citta yena saskrea saprayukta v | viprayukta v | na ta
tena |

As to whether the mind and those saskras are associated, or not associated,
that doesnt (follow from) this;
kadcid asaprayukta v | aviprayukta v bhavati |

sometimes they are not associated; sometimes they are not disassociated.
na ca sarvasya cittasya saprayogo v viprayogo v | eva paramrthata
cittasyopagatatvam asiddha |

Again, not all mental [moments] are associated or disassociated. In this

way, from [the perspective of] paramrtha, the coming into existence of the
mind in consequence [of those associates] is not established [as a constant
citta copagam ucyate | savty yena kraena tad darayati |

Now it should be explained that [it is] from [the perspective of] savti that
it is said that the mind comes into existence consequent on a variety of
causes and conditions.
tasmin srotasya vicchinna iti gthy savti kriyate tv iyam ity upagam ity
e yath csati krake |

From this flows ceaselessly -- now in this verse, it shows that savti-satya
is not inactive so that [things] come into existence [causally] consequent to


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

vedake ca paramrthata svaya-ktopabhoga savty nirucyate |

Again, from [the perspective of] paramrtha, there is no doer or [consequent]

enjoyer [of action];58 it is, therefore, from [the perspective of] savti that we
get the teaching concerning doer and enjoyer.
yath ca puna sa karoti | sa prativedayate | anyo veti no vykriyate | tat
paridpayati |

Again, one cant say whether doer and enjoyer are the same or different.
Themeaning is thus illuminated [according to savti and paramrtha].
paurvparyea cyatvd iti | gthay eva paramrthata

Next, the verses explain the differentiation of before and after according to
(T.30.1579.364c26- 365a18)59

Paramrtha would mean, it seems, understanding via the Middle

Way, in which neither things nor qualities are reified with selfhood,
in which change, movement, transference, and even causal influence
involve neither discrete entities, nor qualities and forces that pass in
either self-same or radically different forms from one thing or time to
another. Although rhetorically different from, for instance, Ngrjunas
MMK, its underlying arguments and conclusions are virtually the same.
Without evoking the rhetoric of emptiness, etc., Asaga has carefully
deconstructed the first three links of prattya-samutpda (and by ellipsis
implies that that analysis could be extended to the remaining nidnas),
removing all traces of selfhood from each, as well as from the relation
between them, while still allowing that the doctrine of karma can be
taught from the perspective of savti-satya. Extirpating all traces of
saskric conditioning has always been the underlying Buddhist project.
The karmic activities of ignorance, saskras, and consciousness
are cured simply by paying careful attention (yonio-manasikra) to
conditions, investigating (park) them; karmic entrapment comes from
lack of such attention, careless thinking.
In terms of two-truth theory, the important point made by Asaga is
a shifting in what paramrtha applies to. We have seen in Abhidharma
treatments, paramrtha points to and validates certain central doctrines,


such as the Four Noble Truths, the Mrga, and so on. Asaga himself,
in an Abhidharmasamuccaya passage discussed above, indicated that
the paramrtha-satya of dukha is the five appropriational skandhas.
In his vykhy, Asaga removes all the items other Buddhists put on the
paramrtha side of the divide between the two-truths, and repositions
them as savti-satya. Chapter 19 of Buddhaghosas Visuddhimagga
covers ground very similar to the Paramrtha gth-vykhy,60 sometimes
in very similar language. A careful comparison between these two
texts would be interesting, but in the interest of time, I will restrict my
comments to one point. Buddhaghosas chapter is entitled Kakhvitaraavisuddhi-niddesa, Description of Purification by Overcoming Doubt,
just as Asaga framed his own discussion as an explanation of how
paying attention is euphemistically purification. Buddhaghosa begins:
Knowledge established by overcoming doubt about the three divisions
of time by means of discerning the conditions of that same mentalitymateriality [i.e., the five aggregates DL] is called Purification by
Overcoming Doubt.61 Dealing with causality, kamma, conditioned
coarising, kamma-phala, and so on, Buddhaghosa also offers an extended
poem in this chapter on kamma (PTS 602-03; amoli 700-01):
There is no doer of a deed,
Or one who reaps the deeds result;
Phenomena alone flow on
No other view than this is right.
Sectarians, not knowing this,
Have failed to gain self-mastery,
They assume a being, see it as
Eternal or annihilated.
Adopt the sixty-two wrong views,
Each contradicting the other.
A monk, disciple of the Buddha,
With direct knowledge of this fact
Can penetrate this deep and subtle
Void conditionality.
There is no kamma in result
Nor does result exist in kamma;
Though they are void of one another,
There is no fruit without the kamma.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

Phenomena alone flow on
Cause and components their condition.62

The similarities between these sample verses and Asagas discussion

should be obvious. Many more similarities are to be found in
Buddhaghosas chapter. However, despite his evoking of empty
conditions (sua paccaya) and empty dhammas (sua dhamm63),
his counterpart to Asagas paramrtha remains doctrinal (the conditions
of conditional coarising, and, as he said at the beginning of the chapter,
nma-rpa, i.e.,the five aggregates; cf. Asagas Abhidhammasamuccaya
passage above), and he explicitly frames this as a doctrinal matter,
something exclusively within the domain of monks, disciples of the
Buddha, who avoid sectarianism (which means: do not hold views
contrary to Buddhaghosas own views). At its core, this is still about
doctrinal affirmation and confirmation, reassurance that if one can see
deeply (gambhra) one will confirm what the doctrine promises is
the case. Whatone sees deeply is what the doctrine asserts. In contrast,
Asaga encourages us simply to pay attention and investigate the activity
of our own mind in order to purify it of saskric influence. For
Buddhaghosa, even on the paramrthic level, dharmas and conditions are
flowing; forAsaga, suchclaims are only valid from the perspective of

VI. Paramrtha and savti in the Buddhabhmyupadea

In a previous article (Lusthaus 2008) I discussed a section of the
Buddhabhmyupadea (BBh-U) that entertained opposing interpretations
of Dignga in the course of commenting on a passage in the Buddhabhmistra. I will not revisit the details here, but summarize quickly some
salient points in order to see how it concludes its discussion of this topic
with an appeal to the two truths.
In Abhidharmasamuccaya Asaga distinguishes cognition into two
components, an object that offers its image (nimitta) and an observer
who sees it (darana). To these two components Yogcras appended
Digngas svasavitti, making it a third component. There is seeing
(darana) of the object (nimitta), and there is also being aware of the
seeing (svasavitti, ), i.e., realizing that one is seeing. To this,
not without some controversy, some added a fourth component, a being
aware of being aware of the seeing (*svasavitti-savitti, ).


The Buddhabhmy-upadea passage debates several alternate proposals

supporting the viability of these four-components, or, more accurately,
attention is entirely focused on the proposed relations between
darana, svasavitti, and svasavitti-savitti. Nimitta is initially
overlooked. Once the debate about the three cognizing components is
complete, attention turns to the nimitta. We are not given a definitive
pronouncement as to its ontic or ontological status, but are immediately
told that its status is philosophically inconclusive (, *anaikntika,
*anicita). Then a three-sided debate on the status of the nimitta ensues.
Once the positions have been laid out and argued, the discussion ends
with the following statement:
Such distinctions (vikalpa) are only from the conventional point of view
(savti), as explained logically. They are not from the [perspective]
of ultimate meaning (paramrtha); the ultimate meaning is apart
from words and deliberation. From the perspective of the imageless
(nirkra-di ) one already is incapable of speaking of citta,
caittas, and so on.64 It is beyond fictional proliferation (prapaca
) and incapable of being conceptualized (acintya ).


This passage, in the light of what we saw Asaga say about paramrtha
earlier, should serve as a caution for those still insisting that the name
Yogcra entails some sort of metaphysical or absolutist idealism.
From the point of view of the two truths, all talk of citta and caittas,
eight consciousnesses, various partitions of consciousness, etc., are only
conventionalisms. Ultimately (paramrthata), to speak of such things
is to still dabble to some extent in prapaca and conceptualisms
(cintya). Ultimately uncontaminated cognition is devoid of prapaca
and its cognitive-object is nonconceptual (acintya). This is confirmed
by Sthiramati in his Triik-vijapti-bhya and by Cheng weishilun,
since they both characterize the first sixteen verses precisely those
that discuss the laya-vijna and the other seven consciousnesses as
upacra, figurative expressions.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

VII. Concluding Remark

Surveying a larger cross-section of Buddhist uses of the two truths than
is usually considered in discussions of the metonymic version such as
presented above from the writings of Asaga and the bhidharmikas
suggests that, in the last analysis, the two truths are less about metaphysics
per se, and rather are indicators of exegetical or doctrinal stances.
Paramrtha-satya is invariably a positive value, even if sometimes expressed
apophatically. Savti-satya has both positive and negative modes.
Itincludes the domain of language. Language leads to conceptualization,
which can engender false and pernicious views. Language also is the
medium of communication and teaching, and hence is indispensible
for communicating the Dharma, for orienting students to teacher, and
for achieving analytic clarity about mental activities. Savti can entail
prajapti what has only nominal reality or dravya actual causal events.
In Asagas texts the word paramrtha can denote a variety of referents,
including a domain devoid of kalpan and prapaca. When Dignga
adopts and applies that sense of paramrtha to perception (pratyaka),
which he does in Nyyamukha and Pramasamuccaya, one consequence
is that savti and language acquire additional negative connotations,
while being moved a step away from the reality only available to
perception. Dignga does not emphasize this new burden on savti;
infact, it may have been unintentional and an unrecognized consequence
of his formulations. The negative savti that has become familiar in
modern treatments, awaited Dharmakrti and Candrakrti for fuller
articulation, but that is beyond the scope of the present study.
The two truths are a kind of panjiao , an evaluative hierarchization
of doctrines. Paramrtha-satya, in whatever way a particular text or
thinker defines it, represents the non-negotiable doctrinal commitment
that is being held as literally true, the doctrinal notion that is ultimate
and indispensible. Savti-satya, by contrast, represents negotiable
doctrinal expedients, negotiable in the sense that they are possibly useful,
but expendable. In sectarian disputes between Buddhists, savti-satya
may be what other Buddhists mistakenly adhere to as literal truths.
In other words, paramrtha-satya is less a recognition of an ultimate
metaphysical reality, than it is a declaration that this or that idea available
amongst the Buddhist doctrines is the one that I and my school consider


the most important, indispensable and non-negotiable. It is, in fact,

the holding of that idea as ultimate that makes it metaphysical for the
one holding it. As Asaga suggests, even paramrtha is vyavahra, and,
if Buddhists are not careful, prapaca.

Passage #1:
[Pradhan, 37,13-38,9]
api khalu dukhalakaaprabhed aau | jtir dukha jar dukha
vydhir dukha maraa dukham apriyasaprayogo dukha
priyaviprayogo dukha yad apcchanna labhate tad api dukha
sakiptena pacopdnaskandh dukha || jti kim updya
dukham | sabdhadukhat tadanyadukhrayat copdya
| jar kim updya dukham | kle vipariatidukhatm updya ||
vydhi kim updya dukham | bhteu vipariatidukhatm updya ||
maraa kim updya dukham | jvitavipraadukhatm updya
|| apriyasaprayoga kim updya dukham | sayogajadukhatm
updya || priyaviprayoga kim updya duhkham | viprayogajadukhatm
updya || yad apcchanna labhate tat kim updya dukham
pacopdnaskandh kim updya dukham | dauhulyadukhatm
updya || evam aau saghtni a bhavati | sabdhadukha
vipariati dukha saprayogadukha viprayogadukha
kmyaphalbhvadukha dauhalyadukha ca || eva a
bhulyenau bhavanti | a samnny aau bhavanti || yadukta tisro
dukhat | tsu aau dukhni saghtni bhavanti | tatra katha
tisu saghtny aasu v saghts tisra |
praparyalakaasagraht | jtir dukha jar dukha
vydhir dukha maraa dukham apriyasaprayogo dukham iti
santnadukhadukhat | priyaviprayogo dukha yad apcchanna
labhate tad api dukha tadviparimadukhat | sakiptena
pacopdnaskandh dukha tat saskradukhat || yad ukta dvividhe
dukhe iti | tat savtisatyena dukha paramrthasatyena dukha ca
| katamat savtisatyena dukha katamat paramrthasatyena dukham
| jtir dukha yvat yad apcchanna labhate tad api dukham iti
savtisatyena dukham | yad uktam sakiptena pacopdnaskandh
dukham iti paramrthasatyena dukham

Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra


Passage #2:
[Gokhale 23,6-24]
katha kuala, kati kualni, kimartha kualapark | svabhvato
pi, sabandhato pi, anubandhato pi, utthnato pi, paramrthato
pi, upapattilbhato pi, prayogato pi, puraskrato pi, anugrahato pi,
parigrahato pi, pratipakato pi, upaamato pi, niyandato pi, kuala
draavyam | skandhn, dan dhtn, catur cyatann
pradea | dharmayukttmbhiniveatyjanrtham ||
svabhvata kuala katamat | raddhdaya ekdaa caitasik dharm ||
sabandhata kuala katamat | tatsaprayukt dharm || anubandhata
kuala katamat | tem eva y vsan | utthnata kuala katamat |
tatsamutthita kyakarma vkkarma || paramrthata kuala katamat
| tathat || upapattilbhata kuala katamat | em eva kualn
dharm prvbhysam gamya tadrp vipkbhinirvtti, yath tev
eva praktypratisakhyya ruci satihate || prayogata kuala katamat
| satpuruasasevm gamya saddharmaravaa yonio manaskra
dharmnudharmapratipatti kualasya bhvan || puraskrata kuala
katamat | yat tathgata v purasktya caitye v purastagate v citragate
v, dharma v purasktya dharmdhihne pustake pjkarma
|| anugrahata kuala katamat | yac caturbhi sagrahavastubhi
sattvnughata || parigrahata kuala katamat | yaddnabhayena
puuakriyvastun v lamayena v, svargopapattiparigraho v, hyo
ccakulopapattiparigraho v, vyavadnnuklyaparigraho v || pratipakata
kuala katamat | yo vidapratipaka, prahapratipaka, d



yogapratipaka, klevaraapratipaka, jeyvaraapratipaka

|| upaamata kuala katamat | yattatparydya rga[praha],
parydya dvea[praha], parydya moha[praha], parydya sa
rvakleapraha,sajnvedayitanirodha, sopdhieo nirupdhieo
nirvadhtu, apratihitanirva ca || niyandata kuala katamat
| upaamaprptasya taddhipatyena vaieik gu abhijdayo
laukikalokottar sdhrasdhra ||


(CBETA, T31, no. 1605, p. 669, a26-b21)


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

Asaga. Abhidharmasamuccaya.
(1) (2003) Abhidharmasamuccaya and Abhidharmasamuccayabhya, Composite
edition. Shiga, Japan. PDF available at
yugagyo/ contains Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan versions of Asagas text and
Sthiramatis commentary, including:
V.V. Gokhale, ed. Fragments from the Abhidharmasamuccaya of Asaga, JRAS,
Bombay Branch, New Series 23, 1947, pp. 13-38;
P. Pradhan, ed. Abhidharma Samuccaya of Asaga, Viva-Bharati Series 12.
Santiniketan, 1950;
Nathmal Tatia, ed. Abhidharmasamuccaya-Bhyam, Tibetan Sanskrit Works
Series 17, Patna: K.P.Jayaswal Research Institute, 1976 (Sthiramatis commentary).
(2) T.31.1605, tr. by Xuanzang.
(3) (Sthiramatis commentary) T.31.1606, tr. by Xuanzang.
(4) Abhidharmasamuccaya: The Compendium of the Higher Teaching (Philosophy).
(2001). Translated into English by Sara Boin-Webb from the French translation
by Walpola Rahula. Fremont, CA: Asian Humanities Press.
Asaga. Mahynasamgraha.
(1) T.31.1594, tr. by Xuanzang. (Vasubandhus bhya:
T.31.1597, tr. by Xuanzang).
(2) Lamotte, tienne. (1973) La Somme du Grand Vhicule dAsaga
(Mahynasagraha). Louvain-la-Neuve: Universit de Louvain, Institut
Orientaliste. 2 vols.
Asaga. Yogcrabhmi. T.30.1579, tr. by Xuanzang. (also see Wayman
1984, Dutt 1966, and Wogihara 1971).
Boin-Webb (2001). (see Asaga, Abhidharmasamuccaya)
Buddhaghosa. Visuddhimagga.
(1) PTS edition.
(2) Eng. Tr.: (1975) The Path of Purification: Viuddhi Magga. Tr. by Bhikkhu
amoli. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society.
Dhammajoti, Bhikkhu KL. (2007) Sarvstivda Abhidharma. Hong Kong: Center of
Buddhist Studies, University of Hong Kong, 3rd ed.
(DDB) Digital Dictionary of Buddhism, edited by Charles Muller. <http://buddhism-dict.
net/ddb>. Edition of 12/16/2007.
Dutt, Nalinkasha, ed. (1966) Bodhisattvabhmi. Patna: K.P. Jayaswal Research Institute,
(Tibetan Sanskrit Works Series, 7).
Lusthaus, Dan. (2002) Buddhist Phenomenology. London; NY: RoutledgeCurzon.
Lusthaus, Dan. (2008) A Pre-Dharmakrti Indian Discussion of Dignga Preserved in
Chinese Translation: The Buddhabhmy-upadea, Journal of Buddhist Studies, vol.
VI, 2008, 19-81.
Lusthaus, Dan. (2009) Pudgalavda Doctrines of the Person, in Buddhist Philosophy:
Essential Readings, edited by William Edelglass and Jay Garfield, Oxford and New
York: Oxford University Press, pp. 275-285.



Mahvibh. T.27.1545, tr. by Xuanzang.
(MW) Monier-Williams, Monier. (1899) A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford:
Saghabhadra. Nyynusara. , T.29.1562, tr. by Xuanzang.
Schmithausen, Lambert. (1987) layavijna. Tokyo: The International Institute for
Buddhist Studies. 2 vols.
Sthiramati. Triik-vijapti-bhya.
(1) Buescher, Hartmut. (2007) Sthiramatis Triikvijaptibhasya: Critical Editions of
the Sanskrit Text and its Tibetan Translation. Vienna: sterreichische Akademie
der Wissenschaften.
Vasubandhu. Abhidharmakoa-bhya
(1) Abhidharmakoabhyam of Vasubandhu. (1975) Edited by P. Pradhan, Patna: KP
Jayaswal Institute.
(2) , T.29.1558, tr. by Xuanzang.
(3) T.29.1559, tr. by Paramrtha.
(4) LAbhidharmakoa de Vasubandhu. (1980 rpt) Louis de la Valle Poussin,
Bruxelles, Institut Belge des Hautes tudes Chinoises. 6 vols.
(5) Abhidharmakoa bhyam. (1989) translated from Valle Poussins French by Leo
Pruden, Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press.
Wayman, Alex. (1984) Asagas Treatise, the Paramrtha-gth. In Buddhist Insight.
Edited by George Elder. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 333-352.
Wayman, Alex. (1999) A Millenium of Buddhist Logic. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Willis, Janice Dean. (1979) On Knowing Reality: The Tattvrtha Chapter of Asagas
Bodhisattvabhmi. NY: Columbia University Press.
Wogihara Unrai, ed. (1971) Bodhisattvabhmi. Tokyo: Sankibo Buddhist Book Store.
(originally publ. 1930-36)


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the XVth Congress of the International
Association of Buddhist Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, June 23-28, 2008.

vyavahram anritya paramrtho na deyate | paramrtham angamya nirva

ndhigamyate || MMK 24:10. Without vyavahra as a basis, paramrtha cannot be
taught; if paramrtha is not realized, nirva will not be ultimately realized. Note not
only the indispensability claimed here, but the implication of a positive function for

This is not to deny that there are indeed a handful of relatively small passages in
which Yogcra texts do juxtapose the two truths with the three self-natures. E.g., cf.
Cheng weishilun T.31. 1585.47b16-c16; Yogcrabhmi, fasc.78,T.30.1579.732b7-15;
and fasc. 16, 362c21-363a7, though here five types of existences (astit) are presented,
rather than only three natures (svabhva):

pacavidhstit katam | parinispannalaksanstit paratantralaksanstit

parikalpitalaksanstit viesalaksanstitvaktavyalaksanstit ca |

Here, in addition to parinipanna-lakaa, paratantra-lakaa, and parikalpita-lakaa,

two additional astit-s are given: viea-lakaa-astit (existence characterized by
discreteness) and avaktavya-lakaa-astit (existence characterized as incapable of
being rationally articulated). This final term, avaktavya, is also how the pudgalavdins
characterize the prajaptic pudgala.
This no doubt derives from the seeming interchangeability of vyavahra and savti
in MMK 24, specifically k.8 (dve satye samupritya buddhn dharmadean | lokasavti-satya ca satya ca paramrthata), in which the term savti occurs for the
one and only time in MMK. Elsewhere in this chapter (ks. 6, 8, 10, and 36) vyavahra
is used; vyavahra makes only one other appearance at MMK 17:24.

This has to be qualified by the fact that not all of Asagas writings are available in full
in Sanskrit, which limits our ability to make definitive assertions. While, for instance,
Xuanzang tends to use distinct Chinese equivalents for savti[-satya] ( []) and
vyavahra (; ; ; ), it is not clear that he does so with infallible consistency.

The twelve genres of Buddhist scriptures are:

stra (also translated as or simply ; Buddhas discourses);
geya (translated as and ); summary or segue verses.
gth (translated as and ); verse part of a discourse.
nidna (translated as ); historical narratives
itivttaka (translated as ); activities of Buddha or his disciples in past
jtaka (translated as ); Buddhas past life stories.
adbhuta-dharma (); Buddhas miraculous acts.
avadna (); legends.
upadea (); didactic lessons.
udna (); teachings offered by the Buddha without prompting.
vaipulya (); expanded teachings.
vykaraa (); guarantees of future attainment.



DDB s.v. . On the nine (Theravda) and twelvefold divisions of the scriptures,
cf. Maeda Egaku, (1961), Genshi bukky seiten no seiritsushi kenky, Tokyo, pp. 181549, esp. pp. 224-5. For an English translation of Asagas discussion of the twelvefold
division in Abhidharmasamuccaya, cf. Boin-Webb (2001) 178ff.
In contradistinction to the standard understanding, Asaga in Abhidharmasamuccaya
defines vykaraa as the exposition of various present existences of the noble disciples
(rya-rvaka) in relation to their distant past in different locations. Or it is clarification
of a point indicated in discourses, since it is the open exposition of an abstruse meaning
(abhisadhi). Boin-Webb (2001) 179.
The councils in which the Sagha gathered to collect, memorize, edit, canonize,
and establish official interpretations of the sayings of the Buddha. The mainstream
tradition lists three such councils; other Buddhist literature adds additional councils
while offering alternate details of the main three. Current scholars have questioned the
historical veracity of the councils as transmitted in Buddhist tradition.

means to settle, to properly establish, or to install and enshrine a Buddhist image.

means to establish, set forth, and here translates vyavasthna-samyogah;

it can also be used as an equivalent for prajapayanti, praj, and upacra.


Xuanzang adds this phrase here in Chinese; it occurs at the end of the list of satyas in
the Sanskrit, where he again translates it.


The Sanskrit, expecting readers to know the Four Noble Truths, merely says truth of
dukha up to truth of the mrga. Xuanzang fills in the two satyas in between.


Skt: jeya; the Chinese has , which is commonly used for viaya. (Jeya is more
commonly rendered .)


Yonio-manaskra means thinking carefully, or paying careful attention, and is touted

in many Buddhist sources as a vital ingredient in progressing on the path. The Chinese
rendition of this truth (tath-ravana-yonio-manaskra-satyam) carries a suggestive
implication: . = saddharma; = yonio-manaskra;
= ravana, heard. The Chinese phrase implies ruta-vsan, i.e., careful attention to
the saddharma that one has heard.


All translations are my own, unless otherwise noted. The Sanskrit and Chinese
[From the Bodhisattva-gua-paalam
(Chapter 1.18) of the Bodhisattvabhmi:]
prajapti-vyavasthnam yuktiprajapti-vyavasthnam yna-prajaptivyavasthnam ca.
tatra y dvdagasya strdikasya
vaco-gatasynuprva-racan anuprvavyavasthna-samyogah. idam ucyate
punar anekavidham avitathrthena tvad
ekam eva satyam. na dvityam asti.
dvividham satyam. samvrti-satyam
paramrtha-satyam ca.




Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

trividham satyam. laksana- satyam vksatyam kriy-satyam ca.
caturvidham duhkha-satyam yvan mrgasatyam.

pacavidham satyam. hetu- satyam phalasatyam jna-satyam jeya-satyam agrya

(foremost)-satyam ca.
sadvidham satyam. satya-satyam mssatyam parijeya satyam prahtavya
satyam skstkartavya satyam
bhvayitavya satyam ca.
[Dutt: satya-satya m-satya parijeyasatya prahtavya-satya sktkartavyasatya bhvayitavya-satya ca]
saptavidham. svda-satyam dnavasatyam nihsarana-satyam dharmatsatyam adhimukti-satyam rynm satyam
anrynm ca satyam.
astavidham. samskra-duhkhat-satyam
viparinma-duhkhat-satyam duhkhaduhkhat-satyam pravtti-satyam nivttisatyam samklea-satyam vyavadna-satyam
samyak-prayoga-satyam ca.
navavidham. anitya-satyam duhkha-satyam
nyat-satyam nairtmya-satyam bhavatsn-satyam vibhava-tsn-satyam tatprahnopya-satyam sopadhiesa- nirvnasatyam nirupadhiesa-nirvna-satyam ca.
daavidham satyam. aupakramika-duhkhasatyam bhoga-vaikalya-duhkha-satyam
dhtu-vaisamya-duhkha-satyam priyaviparinma-duhkha-satyam dausthulyaduhkha-satyam karma-satyam klea-satyam
samyag-dsti-satyam samyag-dsti-phalasatyam ceti.
idam ucyate bodhisattvnm satyaprajapti-vyavasthnam. prabhedaah
punar etad apramnam veditavyam.


Wogihara (1971) 111b-112a; Dutt (1966)

Boin-Webb (2001) 84. For Pradhans reconstructed Skt, see Appendix, Passage #1

The six are: (1) suffering due to obstruction, (2) suffering due to transformation,
(3)suffering due to association, (4) suffering due to separation, (5) suffering due to
non-obtaining of the desired result, (6) suffering due to agitation.





Contrary to the expectations of those who believe Yogcra represents Buddhist

idealism, here is only one of countless examples of a root Yogcra text declaring
explicitly that rpa (material form) is a dravya, a real thing.









In the Tattvrtha chapter, Asaga distinguishes four types of knowledge:

(1) What is generally accepted by the world (nave realism), (2) what is generally
accepted through logical reasoning, (3) the cognitive field (jnagocara) fully
purified of kleic obstructions (klevaraa), attained by rvakas and Pratyekabuddhas, and (4) and the cognitive field completely purified of obstructions to the
knowable (jeyvaraa), attained by high-level Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. sa punar
eva tattvrthah prakra-prabhedata catur-vidhah | loka-prasiddho yukti-prasiddhah
klevarana-viuddhi-jna-gocarah jeyvarana-viuddhi-jna-gocara ca.

(T.30.1579.486b12-15). Cf. Willis (1979) 70.

The final phrases are difficult: . It is not clear whether

what is not an existent is simply the image one might form of paramrtha satya or
paramrtha-satya itself (i.e., it is not an existent entity). That the final phrase begins
with you ought to know (), while the issue of the image also begins with
you should know () seems to signal that the subject (image) has changed to
something else. Adding to the difficulty is that xiang can be used for a variety of
terms. I am taking it here as representing nimitta, but xiang is also commonly used
for lakaa (definition, characteristic), kra (in the sense of mental image, or the
features of an object), and liga (defining mark), each of which could yield different
interpretations of this line. No Sanskrit which could help clarify the meaning is
currently available for this portion of Yogcrabhmi.


Boin-Webb (2001) 45.


For the standard list of the Yogcra One Hundred Dharmas, cf. Lusthaus (2002)
Appendix One.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra


Boin-Webb (2001) 46. Actually, the Sanskrit is more succinct: paramrthata kuala
katamat | tathat.


Ibid, 48, modified. [Gokhale 23,25-24,1] katham akuala, katy akualni, kimartham
akualapark | svabhvato pi, sabandhato pi, anubandhato pi, utthnato pi,
paramrtho pi, upapattikbhato pi, prayogato pi, puraskrato pi, upaghtato pi,
parigrahato pi, vipakato pi, paripanthato py akuala draavyam | skandhn,
dan dhtn, caturm yatann pradea | adharmayukttmbhiniveaty
janrtham || svabhvato kuala katamat | mnasaprayukta rpryvacara ca
klea sthpayitv tadanya kleopakleo ducaritasamutthpaka || sabandhato
kuala katamat | tair eva kleopakleai saprayukt dharm || anubandhato
kuala katamat | tem eva vsan || utthnato kuala katamat | [tat] samutthpita
kyavkkarma || paramrthato kuala katamat | sarvasasra || upapattilbhato
kuala katamat | yathpi tadakualbhysas tadrpo vipko abhinirvartate, yenkuala
eva ruci satihate || prahogato kuala katamat | yathpi tadasatpuruasasevm
gamysaddharmaravaam ayoniomanaskra kyena ducarita carati vc
manas ducarita carati ||


(T.31.1605.669b22-c13). For the previous

passage on kuala in Sanskrit and Chinese, see Appendix, Passage #2.

Boin-Webb (2001) 49. ka and apratisakhya-nirodha are unconditioned dharmas

in the dharma lists of Yogcra and Sarvstivda; according to Asaga and Cheng
weishilun, both are prajapti. Pratisakhya-nirodha (another unconditioned dharma)
involves deliberately dissociating or disentangling from negative conditions,
through meditative analysis. Apratisakhya-nirodha signifies the utter absence in a
person, atacertain time, of certain negative conditions; since they are fully absent,
extirpated, nothing that would depend on them to arise can come into existence. ka
(spatiality) stands for the absence of resistance, as usually occurs between two physical

While two physical objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, ka can
share its locus with any object. Both ka and apratisakhya-nirodha are neutral
in that they represent the absence of anything karmically disadvantageous (akuala),
but nonetheless involve no karmically advantageous (kuala) countermeasures.
Both nconditioned dharmas stand for absences. One of the more interesting statements
in the avykta passage is: What is neutral in delight [upabhoga]? It is the fact of
delighting in ones fortune without reflecting and without having an impure mind
(apratisakhyklia-citta). Ibid.

This alludes to another segment in the Tattvrtha chapter of the Bodhisattvabhmi.

There Asaga discusses four types of investigation (paryea) and four types of



complete knowing (parijna). The focus of both sets of four are: (1) names (nma),
(2) things (vastu), (3) self-nature, and (4) knowing particulars (viea). To fully know
names is to realize they are nothing-but-names (nma-mtra); knowing things knowing
they are nothing-but-things (vastu-mtra); knowing svabhva is to see that svabhvas
are nothing-but-figurative expressions (prajapti-mtra); knowing particulars is to also
see that they are nothing-but-figurative expressions (prajapti-mtra). The third type
of knowledge (recognizing that svabhvas are prajapti-mtra) is called knowing just
as it is the object of the most profound cognitive field (yath-bhta-parijnam sugambhrrtha-gocaram). The fourth, knowing particulars fully is described thus:

What is knowing precisely, in detail, the investigated designations for particularity?

Itis that knowing whereby the bodhisattva, after having investigated the designations
for particularity as designations only attached to the things [vastu] called form,
etc., seesthe designations for particularity as having a non-two meaning. The thing
is neither completely present nor completely absent. It is not present, since it is not
perfected (parinipannatva) owing to its expressible self. And it is not altogether
absent, since in fact it is determined to have an inexpressible essence. Thus from
the stance of absolute truth (paramrtha-satya), it is not formed (rp), yet from the
stance of relative truth (savti-satya) it is not formless, since form is attributed to it.
As with presence and absence, and formed and formless, just so is whatever is shown
or not shown, etc.All the enumerations of designations for particularity should be
understood in just the same manner. He [the bodhisattva] knows in detail as having
a not-two meaning, whatever be the designations for particularity. This is knowing
precisely, in detail the investigated designations for particularity. (Willis 1979, 172)

viesa-prajapty-esan-gatam yath-bhta-parijnam katamat | yata ca bodhisattvah

viesa-prajaptau prajapti-mtratm paryesya tasmim rpdi-samjake vastuni
viesa-prajaptim advayrthena payati | na tad vastu bhvo nbhvah | abhilpyen
tman a-parinispannatvn na bhvah | na punar abhvo nir-abhilpyen tman
vyavasthitatvt | evam na rpi paramrtha-satyatay | n-rpi samvti-satyena tatra
rpopacratay | yath bhva c-bhva ca rpi c-rpi ca | tath sa-nidarannidarandayo viesa-prajapti-paryyh sarve anena nayenaivam veditavyh | iti
yad etm viesa-prajaptim evam advayrthena yath-bhtam prajnti | idam ucyate
viesa-prajapty-esan-gatam yath-bhta-parijnam |
36 4


Note that this seems to contradict the passage cited earlier from fascicle 100 of
Yogcrabhmi in which Asaga said of paramrtha-sat and any possible image of
it: You should know it is not an existent (). That passage, following the
argument in the Tattvrtha chapter, is attempting to avoid reification and objectification
in the form of taking nominal realities to properly represent vastus. Here the focus
has shifted to tathat, which itself is a prajapti for what occurs in correct cognition.
Thatentails seeing objects purified of mental distortions (klevaraa and jeyvaraa).
Put another way, paramrtha-sat is a way of seeing, while tathat is a euphemism
forwhat is seen when one is perceiving correctly.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra


The two types of correct cognition are explained immediately prior to the passages
translated above:
72 [2]

(T.30.1579.696a6-21) [2]



What is correct cognition? Briefly, there are two types. (1) Correct cognition that is
exclusively transmundate (lokuttara); and (2) correct cognition that is mundane and
transmundane (lokiya lokuttara).
What is called correct cognition that is exclusively transmundane? It is by this that
rvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas fully understand tathat.
Moreover, it is due to this that those Bodhisattvas skilled in the five sciences
(paca-vidy-sthna) cultivate expedient means, since in multiple abodes such
as this, theyeverywhere cultivate cognition of tathat, quickly realizing complete
purification from the obstruction to the knowable (jeyvaraa).
What is called correct cognition that is mundane and transmundane? Once rvakas
and Pratyekabuddhas have fully understood tathat by means of the first correct
cognition, they attain this subsequent cognition (phalabdha-jna) of the
mundane and transmundane. By positing such truths (vyavasthna-satya), they
make minds that are corrupted ( vi-d) in the Triple World pass beyond
grief, experiencing the tranquility of blissful samdhi. Moreover, due to abundant
peaceful abiding like this, they quickly realize complete purification from the
obstructions by mental disturbances (klevaraa). Moreover, it precisely is this
cognition of an artha unfamiliar (*asastavrtha) [to ordinary people] that is called
transmundane. Takingfor its lambana linguistic expressions (*vk, *upacra) and
images (*nimitta) as the referents (artha) of its cognitive field (*viaya-gocara)
is also called mundane. Thus it is called [both] mundane and transmundane.
The World Honored One, based on this implicit intention, spoke such words
[e.g., in the Sayukta gama #37, T.2.99.8b16-28, or Sadhinirmocana stra
T.16.675.682a20-22]: I say there are mundane cognitions and transmundane
cognitions. As to having mundane and transmundane cognitions, if a cognition
includes vikalpa, it is exclusively called mundane. The first cognition is classified
as a cognition that is exclusively transmundane, while the second cognition is
classified as a cognition that includes the mundane and transmundane.

Sketa is convention, something reached by common consent, such as a sign

given significance by a consensus that assigns it that meaning. The Chinese
literally reads: speech by conventional designations shared by the multitude.
Inaddition to sketa, is used for prajapti, upacra,abhidhna, and related terms.



(T.30.1579.362a29-b7; cintmay-bhmi ) smketiko vdah
katamah | sadvidhanimittalaksane vyvahrikah svabhvaprajaptivdah | sadvidham
nimittalaksanam katamat | vastulaksanam vijeyalaksanam ubhdilaksanam
anugrahdilaksanam vyavahranimittalaksanam mithypratipattydinimittalaksa
nam ca | vastulaksanam katamat | yad vijnena ghnti | vijeyalaksanam katamat
| yan manaskrena vijnasyotpattaye samvartate | ubhdilaksanam katamat
| yat sparena ghnti | anugrahdilaksanam katamat | yad vedanay ghnti |
vyavahranimittalaksanam katamat | yat samjay ghnti | mithypratipattydinimittal
aksanam katamat | yac cetanay ghnti ||

Vyavahra appears in MMK only one time outside the verses of Ch. 24 about to be
cited: MMK 17:24.


E.g., the commentary on the Diamond Stra ascribed to Asaga and Vasubandhu, tr.
into Chinese by Yijing in 711, Vajracchedik-prajpramit-stra-stra
, at T.25.1513.881b12-20 and 884a27-29: and
; Dharmaplas commentary on Vasubandhus Viatik, also tr. into Chinese by
Yijing, in 710, , T.31.1591.79b19-c4 and 94a2-4.





For instance the Mahvibh states: 9

(this is neyrtha) (that is ntrtha)
(this is based on
savti) (that is based on paramrtha)

The case of the so-called pudgalavdins is illustrative of this. Once almost every
Buddhist agreed that antman was an indispensable and essential tenet, pudgalavda
was doctrinally ostracized. Though, as Ive argued elsewhere, in terms of sheer
numbers, longevity and influence the Vtsputrya and Samitya schools should be
considered mainstream Buddhism their doctrines, even their explanation of the
pudgala, were not very different from that of their opponents, and in fact they drove
many of the subsequent developments in Buddhist thought but they refused to
declare outright that pudgala should not even have provisional status (all surviving
pudgalavda texts declare forcefully that the pudgala is a prajapti). Rehabilitating
their reputation should become a higher priority among scholars today if we want to
understand the evolution of Buddhist thought in India and China more accurately.
E.g., the term pudgala occurs 832 times in the Yogcrabhmi; 67 times
in the Abhidharmasamuccaya, 36 times in the Mahynasagraha, 12 times in the
Madhynta-vibhga-bhya, etc., and virtually never in a negative light, but as a type
of person [cf. Puggala-paati] or person in general. Pudgalavdins would have
no problem with the statement There is no eternal self in the pudgala (pudgalanairtmya). In fact, they would insist on it. Cf. Lusthaus 2009.

The Koa passage reads:
dhynn rpadhtau tu tbhy dharmataypi ca ||838||


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

rpdtau dhynotpdanametbhy hetukarmavalbhy dharmatay ca

savartankle | tadn hi sarvasttv evdharabhmikstaddhacynamutpdayanti |
ktsnn dharmmudbhtavttitvt | kiyaccira punaraya saddharma sthsyati |
yatreme dnm dharm prakr prajyante |
saddharmo dvividha sturgamdhigamtmaka |
tatrgama stravinaybhidharm adhigamo bodhipaky ityea dvividha
saddharma |
dhtrastasya vaktra pratipattra eva ca ||839||
gamasya hi dhrayitro vaktra | adhigamasya pratipattra | ato yvadete
sthsyanti tvatsaddharma iti veditavyam | te tu varasahasra mavasthnamhu
| adhigamasyaivam | gamasya tu bhysa klamityapare | yo yamiha stre
bhidharma ukta kimea eva strbhidharmo deita |
pryo may ya kthito bhidharma |
yaddurghta tadihsmadga
saddharmantau manaya pramam ||840||
pryea hi kmravaibhik ntydisiddha eo smbhirabidharma dhyta |
yadatrsmbhirdurghta so smkamapardha | saddharmantau tu punarbuddh
eva prama buddhapunnca |
nimilite stari lokacakui
kaya gate skijane ca bhyas |
adatattvairniravagrahai kta
kutrkikai sanametadkulam ||841||
[Pradhan, p. 459, ln.4460, ln.7; cf. Valle Poussin (1980 rpt) v.5, 217-22 (VP numbers
these verses 38-40) ; Pruden (1989) v.4, 1280-82]

Xuanzangs Chinese rendering:



The Mahvibh passage (917c) (tr. by Xuanzang):





This literally reads what accords with worldly expressions .



Dhammajoti (p. 95 n.37) adds this footnote: Cf. Saghabhadras explanation that the
two truths are really two aspects of the one, absolute truth, Ny [= Nyynusara, T.29.
1562.] 666a ff. [square brackets added]


yatra bhinnena tadbuddhiranypohe dhiy ca tat |

gharthavatsavtisat paramrthasadanyath ||604||

yasminnavayavao bhinne na tadbuddhirbhavati tat savtisat | tadyath ghaa | tatra

hi kaplao bhinne ghaabuddhirna bhavati | tatra cnynapohya dharmn buddhacy
tadbuddhirna bhavati taccpi savtisadveditavyam | tadyathmbu | tatra hi buddhacy
rpdndharmnaohymbubuddhirna bhavati | teveva tu savtisaj kteti
savtivat ghaacmbu cstti brbanta satyamevhurna metyetatsavtisatyam
| atonyath paramrtha satyam | tatra bhinne pi tadbudhirbhavatyeva | anyadharmpohe
pi buddhacy tat paramrthasat | tadyath rpam | tatra hi paramuo bhinne vastuni
rasrhnapi ca dharmnapohya buddhacy rpasya svabhvabuddhirbhavatyeva | eva
vedandayo pi draavy | etat paramrthena bhvt paramrthasatyamiti |

[Pradhan p. 334, ln.1ln.11] Cf. Valle Poussin, v.4, pp. 139-41; Pruden, v. 3, pp. 910-11.


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra



(T.29.1562.621c21- 622a2)
more literally means "mutually dependent, interdependent." While seems
to imply something like apek, more typically Xuanzang uses or or simply
for apek.






Intrinsic and common characteristics = svalakaa and smnya-lakaa ,



Schmithausens tentative speculation that the verses and their explanation may have
come from different authors seems to miss the point. Cf. Schmithausen (1987) v.1,
160-64 and Appendix 1.





The Sanskrit text is taken from Alex Wayman, Buddhist Insight, pp. 333-352. Skt texts:
verses pp. 335-341; Asagas vykhy on pp. 341-344; Wayman also offers anEnglish
translation, but I follow the Chinese and my own reading of the Sanskrit. This is
a diplomatic translation, drawing on both the Sanskrit and Chinese, which differ
from each other in a number of details. Where they differ, I tend to follow the Chinese,
sometimes offering a footnote to explain the difference, but sometimes, if the reading
is better or the meaning clearer, I follow the Sanskrit. Both texts have their difficulties,
and are profitably read together. Nonetheless, my translation is tentative in places.
Note that Xuanzangs text grouping and the Skt grouping (marked by | ) dont always
align. The verses and vykhy that come before and after the selection presented here
are helpful for framing the meaning of the matters discussed in this portion, but in the
interest of time and space I omit them.
Note that rushiguan sometimes also renders *yathbhta-pratyavek and
*bhta-pratyavek. Yath parikyamna would mean one examines or sees things
as they actually are. Shortly this will be opposed to ayonia-manasikra, unfocused
attention, or careless thinking.
Cf. Sayutta-nikya III.22.95 - Pheapipama sutta:

Pheapipama rpa vedan bubbuupam

Maricikupam sa sakhr kadalpam,
Mypamaca via dpit diccabandhun.



Form is like a lump of foam,

Feeling like a water bubble;
Perception is like a mirage,
Volitions like a plantain trunk,
And consciousness like an illusion.

(tr. by Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, v.1, pp. 952-53.)
Asaga quotes this as part of the Paramrtha gths in Yogcrabhmi as follows:


phenapiopama rpa vedan budbudopama |

marcisad sajn saskra kadaknibh |
myopama ca vijnam uktam dutyabandhun |

, , ,,

(T.30.1579.363b20-22); see below.

Note that moha/mha (, ) here acts as a synonym for avidy (), the first
link of conditioned co-arising (prattya-samutpda; ). The subsequent discussion
will continue through the next two links saskra and vijna , raising questions
about the nature of their linkage. To paraphrase this line: There is no X that is
the deluder an agent with distinct, singular selfhood that causes delusion.
Delusion arises from multifarious conditions. But, by savti, one assumes the
convenience of speaking of things like a deluder, even if that is identified as delusion
itself, i.e., delusion deludes. This is a prajaptic selfhood.


Richard Hayes has proposed careless thinking for rendering ayonio-manaskra,

which captures another of its implications, i.e., failing to fully and successfully
investigate and analyze something to the point of properly understanding it.


The Sanskrit and Chinese seem to diverge in the last phrase, Xuanzangs Chinese
providing a gloss on the implication of the Sanskrit rather than strictly reproducing
it. The Chinese reads: It is, therefore, that [i.e., ayonio-manisikra] which deludes
the deluded, whereas the Sanskrit is phrased negatively: tasmd asau moha na
mohayatti, therefore it doesnt delude delusion. While, at first blush, these appear to
be opposite statements, in fact, they make the same point, since the it (asau) refers to
delusion in the tautology of the previous line: Delusion deludes.

Previously Asaga allowed that, speaking savtically, one might say delusion
deludes. This tends to imply that delusion is a self-existent thing acting as an agent;
It is that which causes the delusion. Here we are told that delusion is a metaphor for
ayonio-manasikra and its effects. In other words, unfocused or careless attention and
thinking not something called delusion or the deluder is what causes delusion,
i.e., delusion itself is a metaphor for this type of non-perspicacious mental activity.
TheSanskrit states this in stark negative terms:
Delusion doesnt delude (since ayonio-manasikra does that), while the Chinese
expresses the same conclusion by saying: That (ayonio-manasikra), therefore,
iswhat deludes the deluded.

Note that while the Sanskrit follows moha na mohayat with an iti, implying this is
a direct citation of the gth, that exact wording actually is not found in the gth.
Therelevant verses, 19 and 20, state: na moho mohayed moha para naiva ca mohayet
| na paro mohayaty ena na ca moho na vidyate || ayonio-manaskrt samoho jayate
sa ca | ayonio-manaskro nsamhasya jyate. It is possible that by moha na
mohayatti the vykhy is not suggesting a verbatim quote from the verse, but instead


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

is offering a telescoped version of both verses 19 and 20, taking the accusative moha
from moha para naiva ca mohayet (19b), the mohayati from 19c, and the na from its
repetition in 19 and its modification (najyate) of asamuhasya in 20d.
This begins the questioning of the relation between the second and third nidnas of
prattya-samutpda, viz. saskra and vijna. Fortuitous, non-fortuitous, etc., indicates
the type of karmafortuitous or non-fortuitousthat saskras embody due to past
actions that will be passed on to present awareness (vijna) and circumstances. Note the
Sanskrit is using the verb upagaccha(ti), which implies what is carried over, transmitted,
goes from one place or time to another (Ch: ). The idea of such transference,
including the problem of what goes from one life to another, underlies this discussion,
since this precisely is the problem of self or continuity of identity. The vykhy begins
by framing the entire Paramrtha gth as an antidote (pratipaka) that presents
the non-self of persons (pudgala-nairtmya) paramrthically (paramrthatas) so as to
counteract (pratipaka) the two extremes of projective reification (samropa) and denial
(apavda), explicitly declaring that to be the main topic (adhikra) of the verses.


(pudgala-nairtmya paramrthatas tad-adhikrt paramrtha gth |

samroppavdntadvayapratipakea) 16


Both the Chinese and Sanskrit are somewhat unclear. The Chinese, I believe, reads as
Ive translated it above. The Sanskrit might suggest something different however. Note
that the verb previously introduced upagacchati, i.e., upagama is at play here
again, this time in the form of asagata, which literally implies the negative of being
put together or moved into the same place. Asaga is trying to get us to shift our focus
from nouns (substantives, nominals, accusatives, etc.) to verbs, i.e., whatis sometimes
viewed as the relations and linkages between nouns. Verbs are actions, movement;
and movement is time. The go verbs and noun derivatives (upagacchati, upagata,
[a-]sagata, gata/gata/angata, etc.,) are movements, temporalizations. It is those
relations that give the illusion of continuities, of a substratum to actions that persists as
the activities and modifications fluxuate, i.e., selfhood. Paying attention to the verbs
which Asaga has carefully selected and employed provides important clues on
how to understand his point.
As for this line, parasparesamadhnt: parasparea = by mutual influence; asama
= not the same; dhna = a place, seat, habitation. Thus: because they influence each
other from different places, i.e., they occupy different loci, and thus are notconjoined.
E.g., saskras are in time/place X while so-called resultant vijnas are in time/place
Y, and these vijnas subsequently engender further saskras. So while mutually
influencing, they nonetheless remain separate items with their own distinctive
characteristics and loci. The same would apply to the three types of karma (body, speech,
mind), the three times (past, present, future), the fortuitous vs. nonfortuitous types of
saskras, and so on. Again, the issue is what transfers between them, what connects
them while leaving them distinct and apart. Nothing can transfer if they are collapsed
into the same locus (sagata), hence they are asagata. Being both apart and connected
at the same time is a type of middle way. More importantly, being apart and staying
apart is a necessary condition for having a connection. In order to be mutual, they must
be distinct.

That is, how could these types of saskras, being distinct from each other, nonetheless
all be conjoined with the mind, which is distinct from all of them? According to




prattya-samutpda, saskras are the conditions that give rise to vijnas. But the
question being raised is how can that causal relation occur if these are dissociated in
some absolute sense?

The translation follows the Chinese. The Sanskrit asks: How would there be
an upagatvam of saprayukta? Upagata another variant on the upagacchati,
sagata, etc., verbs is a rich term. It means both gone to and to approach.
Monier-Williams gives this range of meanings: gone to, met, approached (esp. for
protection or refuge); attained, obtained; arrived, occurred, happened; undergone,
experienced; agreed, allowed; promised; near at hand; passed away, dead. It is
a movement, a promise, an act of possession. For upagam he gives: to go near to,
come towards, approach, arrive at, reach, attain, visit; to come upon, attack; to press
hard upon; to occur, happen, present itself; to undertake, begin; to approach (a woman
sexually); to enter any state or relation, undergo, obtain, participate in, make choice
of, suffer; to admit, agree to, allow, confess. For upaga: approaching, going towards;
being or staying in or on; following, belonging to; fit for, conducive to; approached;
furnished with; covered (as a female). Saprayukta is a relation, an association
between two or more things. Ileave the reader to sort out the nuances.


This is not an ontological statement about the mind and its associates, but an expression
of the anticipatory perspective of paramrtha in which saskras will no longer
karmically condition vijna; this is another way of describing enlightenment, i.e., the
end of karmic conditioning. If, sometime in the future, saskras will not cease to
condition vijna, then enlightenment is impossible.


Doer and enjoyer are the performer of an action and the subsequent recipient of its
consequences, respectively, which implies a theory of self (tma-di) by which the
doer is the same person as the receiver of its consequences.


The verses on which the above is commenting (with a few additional verses)

[16] kalpyate nubhta ca kalpyate |

andimanta saskr di vaivopalabhyate ||

[17-18] phenapiopama rpa vedan budbudopama |

marcisad sajn saskra kadaknibh |

myopama ca vijnam uktam dutyabandhun |

ekotpd ca saskr ekasthiti-nirodhina ||

[19] na moho mohayed moha para naiva ca mohayet |

na paro mohayaty ena na ca moho na vidyate ||

[20] ayonio-manaskrt samoho jayate sa ca |

ayonio-manaskro nsamhasya jyate ||


Lusthaus: The Two Truths in Early Yogcra

[21] puy apuy nijy saskrs trividh mata |

trividha cpi yat karma sarva etad sagatam ||

[22] prabhgur vartamn att na kvacit sthit |

ajt pratyaydhin citta cpy anuvartaka ||

[23] atyantika saprayogo viprayogas tathaiva ca |

na ca sarvair hi sarvasya citta copagam ucyate ||

[24] tasmin srotasya vicchinne sadsade puna |

tmady-anusrea savti kriyate tv iya ||

[25] bhidyate rpa-kyas ca nma-kyo pi nayati |

svayakto pabhoga ca paratreha nirucyate ||

[26] paurvparyea cnyatvt sva-hetu-phala-sagraht |

sa eva kart vett ca anyo veti na kathyate ||

[27] hetu-vartmnupacchedt smagry vartate kriy |

svasmd dheto ca jyante kurvanti ca parigraha ||

[28] prapacbhirati hetu tath karma ubhubham |

sarvabjo vipka ca inia tath phala ||

[29] sarvabjo vipko bhijyate tmadarana |

pratytmavedanyo sau arp anidarana ||

[30] kalpayanty antartmna ta va bl ajnak |

tmadaranam ritya tath bahvya va daya ||

[31] piagrhtma-bjc ca prvbhyst sahyata |

ravad anuklc ca jyate tma-darana ||



[32] snehas tatpratyaya caiva adhytmam upayyate |

anugrahbhila ca bahi sneho mamyita ||

[33] yato bibheti loko ya tan mohtma haraty asau |

prva niveana ktv tenopaiti prapacita ||

[34] yat tan niveana kta tad ry dukhato vidu |

yena dukhit sad bk kaa-mtram upaamito na hi ||

[35] vairpyaparigata cittam cinoti dukha tathvidha |

yad citta bhavati blnm ahakra-sukha-dukha-pratyaya ||

[36] yatra sakt sarvablia pake patati kujaro yath |

samohas tatra cdhika sarvatraga sarvaceite tatpara ||


I thank Rev. Dhammadipa for bringing this to my attention. I would also like express
my appreciation to Dhammadipa and Wei-jen Teng who read through the Chinese and
Sanskrit of the vykhy with me at Harvard. Both offered helpful suggestions.


This and other translations are from amoli (1975). Ch. 19 appears on pp. 693-703,
and in the PTS Pali edition, pp. 598-605.


Kammassa krako natthi vipkassa ca vedako,

Suddhamm pavattanti eveta sammadassana.
Etamatthamanaya titthiy asayavas.

Sattasaa gahetvna sassatucchedadassino,

Dvsahdihi gahanti aamaa virodhit.
Evameta abhiya bhikkhu buddhassa svako,
Gambhra nipua sua paccaya paivijjhati.
Kamma natthi vipkamhi pko kamme na vijjati,
Aamaa ubho su na ca kamma vin phala.
Sua dhamm pavattanti hetusambhrapaccayti.

amoli renders sua dhamm as phenomena alone, the same English phrase he
used earlier and more appropriately for suddhamm. Why he chose to avoid
voidphenomena here (mimicking his equivalents) is unclear.


This final tag is crucial. It is not extolling an ineffable reality, but making clear that
the basic components of Yogcra doctrine, such as mind (citta), mental associates
(caittas), etc., are all only vyavahra, conventional descriptive terms, not the names of
ultimate realities, much less anything absolute.