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Gandharan monk and Yogacara philosopher Vasubandhu as Chan patriarch in a Chinese illustration.
Occupation Buddhist monk
Known for Cofounder of the Yogacara philosophical school.
Religion Buddhism

Vasubandhu (Sanskrit; traditional Chinese: 世親; ; pinyin: Shìqīn; Wylie: dbyig gnyen) (fl. 4th century) was a Buddhist monk from Gandhara and, along with his half-brother Asanga, one of the main founders of the Yogacara school of Buddhist philosophy. Vasubandhu is one of the most influential figures in the entire history of Buddhism. In Jōdo Shinshū, he is considered the Second Patriarch. In Chan Buddhism, he is the 21st Patriarch.


  • Biography 1
  • And Buddhist logic 2
  • Two Vasubandhus 3
  • Notes 4
  • Works 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Born a brahmin[1] Vasubandhu was the half brother of Asanga, another key personage in the founding of the Yogacara philosophy. He and Asanga are members of the "Six Ornaments"[2] or six great commentators on the Buddha’s teachings.

Vasubandhu lived at Kosambi (near modern Allahabad) where he was trained in the Sarvastivada school of Buddhism, which had its seat there. He was contemporaneous with Chandragupta I, father of Samudragupta. This information temporally places this Vasubandhu in the 4th century CE.[3]

Vasubandhu is said to have trained in the Kashmiri Vaibhāṣika teachings as presented in the Mahāvibhāsa when he initially studied abhidharma. Dissatisfied with those teachings, he wrote a summary of the Vaibhāṣika perspective in the Abhidharmakośa in verse and an auto-commentary, the Abhidharmakośa-bhāsya, which summarised and critiqued the Mahāvibhāsa from the Sautrāntika viewpoint.

He is later said to have converted to Mahayana beliefs under the influence of his brother, whereupon he composed a number of voluminous treatises, especially on Yogacara doctrines. Most influential in the East Asian Buddhist tradition have been the Vimśatikāvijñaptimātratāsiddhi, the "Twenty Verses on Representation Only" and the Triṃśikā-vijñaptimātratā, the "Thirty Verses on Representation-only". These two texts are companions. Vasubandhu also wrote a large number of other works, including:

  • Commentary to the Mahāyāna-samgraha
  • Ten Stages Sutra
  • Catuhśataka-śāstra
  • Mahāyāna śatadharmā-prakāśamukha śāstra
  • Amitayus sutropadeśa
  • Discourse on the Pure Land
  • Vijnaptimatrata Sastra
  • Karmasiddhiprakarana ("A Treatise on Action")

And Buddhist logic

Vasubandhu: Wood, 186 cm height, about 1208 CE, Kofukuji Temple, Nara, Japan

Vasubandhu contributed to Buddhist logic and is held to have been the origin of formal logic in the Indian logico-epistemological tradition. Vasubandhu was particularly interested in formal logic to fortify his contributions to the traditions of dialectical contestability and debate. Anacker (2005: p. 31) holds that:

A Method for Argumentation (Vāda-vidhi) is the only work on logic by Vasabandhu which has to any extent survived. It is the earliest of the treatises known to have been written by him on the subject. This is all the more interesting because Vāda-vidhi marks the dawn of Indian formal logic. The title, "Method for Argumentation", indicates that Vasabandhu's concern with logic was primarily motivated by the wish to mould formally flawless arguments, and is thus a result of his interest in philosophical debate.[4]

Two Vasubandhus

Erich Frauwallner, a mid-20th-century Buddhologist, sought to distinguish two Vasubandhus, one the Yogācārin and the other a Sautrāntika, but this view has largely fallen from favour in part on the basis of the anonymous Abhidharma-dīpa, a critique of the Abhidharmakośa which clearly identifies Vasubandhu as the sole author of both groups of writings.[5] According to Dan Lusthaus, "Since the progression and development of his thought ... is so strikingly evident in these works, and the similarity of vocabulary and style of argument so apparent across the texts, the theory of Two Vasubandhus has little merit."[6] Scholarly consensus on this question has generally moved away from Frauwallner's "two-authors" position.[7][8]


  1. ^ P. 34 Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 2001 By Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
  2. ^
  3. ^ Dharma Fellowship (2005). Yogacara Theory - Part One: Background History. Source: [2] (Accessed: November 15, 2007)
  4. ^ Anacker, Stefan (2005, rev.ed.). Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass. (First published: 1984; Reprinted: 1986, 1994, 1998; Corrected: 2002; Revised: 2005), p.31
  5. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1958). "On the Theory of Two Vasubandhus". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (1): 48–53.  
  6. ^ Dan Lusthaus, "What is and isn't Yogacara.".
  7. ^ Anacker, Stefan (2005). Seven Works of Vasubandhu. Delhi: MLBD. pp. 7–28. 
  8. ^ Gold, Jonathan C. "Vasubandhu". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition). Stanford University. 


  • Abhidharma Kosha Bhashyam 4 vols, Vasubandhu, translated into English by Leo Pruden (based on Louis de la Vallée Poussin’s French translation), Asian Humanities Press, Berkeley, 1988-90.
  • L’Abhidharmakosa de Vasubandhu, traduit et annoté par Louis de la Vallée Poussin, Paul Geuthner, Paris, 1923-1931 vol.1 vol.2 vol.3 vol.4 vol.5 vol.6 Internet Archive (PDF)
  • Stefan Anacker, Seven Works of Vasubandhu Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1984, 1998
  • Ernst Steinkellner and Xuezhu Li (еds), Vasubandhu's Pañcaskandhaka (Wien, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008) (Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region, 4).
  • Dharmamitra, trans.; Vasubandhu's Treatise on the Bodhisattva Vow, Kalavinka Press 2009, ISBN 978-1-935413-09-7


  • David J. Kalupahana, The Principles of Buddhist Psychology, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1987, pp 173–192.
  • Francis H. Cook, Three Texts on Consciousness Only, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Berkeley, 1999, pp 371–383 ("Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only") and pp 385–408 ("Twenty Verses on Consciousness Only")
  • Erich Frauwallner, The Philosophy of Buddhism, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2010.
  • Li Rongxi, Albert A. Dalia (2002). The Lives of Great Monks and Nuns, Berkeley CA: Numata Center for Translation and Research
  • Thich Nhat Hanh Transformation at the Base (subtitle) Fifty Verses on the Nature of Consciousness, Parallax Press, Berkeley, 2001; inspired in part by Vasubandhu and his Twenty Verses and Thirty Verses texts
  • Takakusu, J., trans. (1904). The Life of Vasubandhu by Paramartha, T'oung-pao 5, 269 - 296

External links

  • Vasubandhu entry by Jonathan C. Gold in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Vasubandhu: Entry at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Multilingual edition of Triṃśikāvijñapti in the Bibliotheca Polyglotta
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