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Buddhist Phenomenology: A Philosophical Investigation of Yogacara Buddhism and the Ch'eng Wei-shih Lun (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) Paperback – January 8, 2003
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'His unique approach ... both in content and style, may be the most formidable aspect of this discursive, incisive, often brilliant, 600 page work.' - H-Buddhism, H-Net Reviews
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Dense, monolithic, dizzying, and masterfully executed, Buddhist Phenomenology is a massive tome of scholarship. By no means is it an easy read, nor should it be, for Dan Lusthaus is a preeminent expert in Yogacara, a complicated and highly influential system of Buddhist thought. The book is nothing short of flawlessly thorough in every detail. Honestly, I am shocked that any single human being could know so much about one subject. It's beyond impressive.
So if Yogacara isn't a form of idealism, what exactly is it? If you've ever read a Yogacara or hybrid-Yogacara text like the Lankavatara Sutra, you'll remember there's a lot of mention of 'mind-only'; according to Lusthaus, this is not a denial of external reality, but rather a recognition that all experience occurs within consciousness. For this reason, he identifies Yogacara as a type of phenomenology a la Edmund Husserl. Lusthaus's primary text of reference is the Ch'eng Wei-Shih lun, written in the 7th century CE by the Chinese monk Hsuan-tsang.
Yogacara, like its also-Indian cousin Madhyamaka, is not interested in asserting any ontological statement about reality. What it is interested in is waking people up; it does this by attacking our attachments, namely the human propensity to objectify (or to use Lusthaus's term, "appropriate") reality.Read more ›
Although I'm hardly a Ken Wilber fan, his statement, "Every man is a philosopher of his level of evolutionary adaptation," particularly pertains to Dan Lusthaus. To the spiritual cognoscenti, those who have "cracked the cosmic code," it couldn't be clearer that that Lusthaus is no more than a pseudo-profound talking head when it comes to Buddha Dharma. His vast erudition and boundless vocabulary can't hide the fact that he is "uninitiated" (by the Dharma Cloud/Stream, or Sambhogakaya); hence he doesn't know what Buddhism, and more specifically Yogacara, are really about.
Before I proceed with my review, I should caution readers about Lusthaus' book: it's only for intellectual types. Unless you're somewhat of a wonk, you'll struggle with the prose. Here's an example of Lusthaus' writing: "The relation between consciousness and the hyle is neither genitive nor ablative; whether it is locative, instrumental or dative is arguable; it is accusative."
In the subchapter What is(n't) Yogacara at the beginning of the book, Lusthaus presents the essence of his thesis: Yogacara (Mind-only Buddhism) is not metaphysical idealism. The idea that Mind (or Consciousness)-only refers to a universal, all pervading Mind -the One Mind - which has manifested as the all, is absurd to him, and he flatly rejects this point of view, which is that of D.T Suzuki, Edward Conze, W.Y. Evans Wentz, numerous other Buddhist scholars, and countless masters in all the Great Spiritual Traditions.Read more ›