Something magically created through the force of a mantra May appear as if it had the character of an elephant, But there is merely an appearing aspect there And no elephant at all exists. [27]

The elephant is the imaginary nature, Its appearance is the other-dependent, And the nonexistence of the elephant there Is held to be the perfect. [28]  –Vasubandhu, “Instruction on the Three Natures” (Brunnhölzl, Straight from the Heart)



  • A Mahayana school of Indian Buddhism that does not assert external phenomena, but which does assert the true existence of dependent phenomena. One of the four Indian Buddhist tenet systems studied by all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The Mind-Only School.
    Synonym: Mind-only School (Berzin Definitions)
  • Mind-Only School; Chittamātra; Proponent of Mind Only (Hopkins)

rnal ‘byor spyod pa

  • Another name for the Chittamatra school of Indian Buddhism. (Berzin Definitions)
  • Yogāchāra; practice of yoga (Hopkins)

Cognition-only (Hopkins)
rnam pa rig pa tsam

  • ‘Mere representation’; the Yogācāra theory that the contents of everyday, unenlightened experience are merely a false superimposition upon actuality of dualistic concepts generated by the mind that prevent direct experience of reality as it truly is (yathā-bhūta). Some later forms of Yogācāra lend themselves to an idealistic interpretation of this theory but such a view is absent from the works of the early Yogācārins such as Asaṇga and Vasubandhu. (A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press)

Sutra Sources

Samdhinirmocana Sutra
Unraveling the Intent
dgongs pa nges ‘grel

  • Buddhavacana Translation Group. 2020. The Noble Great Vehicle Sūtra “Unraveling the Intent.” 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. 84000
  • Cleary, Thomas F, trans. 1995. Buddhist Yoga: A Comprehensive Course. Shambhala. JABL
  • Keenan, John P., trans. 2000. The Scripture on the Explication of Underlying Meaning. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. WorldCat
  • Powers John, trans. 1995. Wisdom of Buddha: The Saṁdhinirmocana Sūtra. Dharma Publishing. JABL

Lankavatara Sutra
Discourse of the Descent into Laṅka
lang kar bshegs pa’i mdo
Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra

  • Sutton, Florin Giripescu, trans. 1991. Existence and Enlightenment in the Laṅkāvatāra-Sūtra: A Study in the Ontology and Epistemology of the Yogācāra School of Mahāyāna Buddhism. SUNY Press. JABL
  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro, trans. 1999. The Lankavatara Sutra: A Mahayana Text: Translated for the First Time from the Original Sanskrit. Motilal Banarsidass. JABL

Indian Sources

Transmitted from Maitreyanātha to Asaṅga

Ornament of Clear Realization
mngon par rtogs pa’I rgyan
Sanskrit   Tibetan

  • Maitreyanātha, Arya Vimuktisena (Vrtti), Haribhadra (Aloka), and Gareth Sparham, trans. 2015. Abhisamayālaṃkāra with Vr̥tti and Ālokā. V. 1-4. Jain Publishing Company. JABL
  • Maitreyanātha, Jeffrey Hopkins and Jongbok Yi, trans. 2015. Maitreya’s Ornament for the Clear Realizations. UMA Institute for Tibetan Studies. UMA-Tibet

Ornament of the Mahāyāna Sutras
theg pa chen po mdo sde’i rgyan zhes bya ba’i tshig le’ur byas pa
Sanskrit   Tibetan   Tsadra 

  • Asaṅga, Maitreyanātha, Robert A. F. Thurman, L. Jamspal, and Vasubandhu. 2004. The Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature = Mahāyānasūtrālaṁkāra. American Institute of Buddhist Studies. JABL
  • Maitreyanātha, Gzhan-dga Gzhan-phan-chos-kyi-snaṅ-ba, and Lama Mipham. 2014. Ornament of the Great Vehicle Sūtras: Maitreya’s Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra with Commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham. Snow Lion. JABL

Distinguishing the Middle and the Extremes
dbus-dang mtha’ rnam-par ‘byed-pa
Sanskrit   Tibetan   Tsadra

  • Maitreyanātha, Vasubandhu, Sthrimathli, and Th. Stcherbatsky, trans. 1992. Madhyānta-Vibhāga: Discourse on Discrimination between Middle and Extremes Ascribed to Boddhisattve Maitreya and Commented by Vasubandhu and Sthiramati. Sri Satguru Publications. JABL
  • Vasubandhu and Stefan Anacker. 1984. Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor. Motilal Banarsidass. JABL (


Bodhisattva Grounds
sa las byang chub sems dpa’i sa

  • Asaṅga and Artemus B. Engle, trans. 2016. The Bodhisattva Path to Unsurpassed Enlightenment: A Complete Translation of the Bodhisattvabhūmi. Translated by Artemus B Engle.  Snow Lion. JABL
  • Asaṅga and Janice Willis. 1979. On Knowing Reality: The Tattvārtha Chapter of Asaṅga’s Bodhisattvabhūmi. Columbia University Press. JABL

Compendium of the Mahāyāna
theg pa chen po bsdus pa

  • Asaṅga, Karl Brunnhölzl, and Tsadra Foundation. 2018.A Compendium of the Mahāyāna: Asaṅga’s Mahāyānasaṃgraha and Its Indian and Tibetan Commentaries. Snow Lion


Instructions on the Three Natures
rang bzhin gsum nges par bstan pa
Sanskrit   Tibetan

  • Vasubandhu and Karl Brunnhölzl, trans. 2007. Straight from the Heart: Buddhist Pith Instructions. Snow Lion. JABL
  • Vasubandhu and Stefan Anacker. 1984. Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor. Motilal Banarsidass. JABL (

Twenty Verses and Commentary

  • Vasubandhu and Stefan Anacker. 1984. Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor. Motilal Banarsidass. JABL (

Thirty Verses and Commentary
nyi shu ‘grel pa

  • Vasubandhu and Stefan Anacker. 1984. Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor. Motilal Banarsidass. JABL (

Separation of Middle from Extremes and Commentary
dbus dang mtha’ rnam par ‘byed pa’i ‘grel pa
Sanskrit   Tibetan

  • Vasubandhu and Stefan Anacker. 1984. Seven Works of Vasubandhu: The Buddhist Psychological Doctor. Motilal Banarsidass. JABL (

Mind-only School in Tibetan Buddhism

  • Friquegnon, Marie-Louise. 2011. Studies on Śāntarakṣita’s Yogācāra Mādhyamaka. Global Scholarly Publications. JABL
  • ​​Hopkins, Jeffrey. 2002. Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-natures in the Mind-only School. University of California Press. JABL
  • ​​———. 2003. Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism. University of California Press. JABL


Contemporary Scholarship

  • Gajin Nagao, and Leslie S. Kawamura. 1991. Mādhyamika and Yogācāra: A Study of Mahāyāna Philosophies: Collected Papers of  of G.M. Nagao. SUNY Press. JABL
  • Garfield, Jay L., and Jan Westerhoff. 2015. Madhyamaka and Yogacara: Allies or Rivals? Oxford University Press. (WorldCat)
  • Schmithausen, Lambert. 2007. Ālayavijñāna: On the Origin and the Early Development of a Central Concept of Yogācāra Philosophy. International Institute for Buddhist Studies (Tokyo). JABL
  • ———. 2014. The Genesis of Yogācāra-Vijñānavāda: Responses and Reflections. International Institute for Buddhist Studies (Tokyo). JABL
  • Westerhoff, Jan. 2018. The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy. Oxford University Press. JABL
  • Wood, Thomas. 1991. Mind Only: A Philosophical and Doctrinal Analysis of the Vijñānavāda. University of Hawaii Press. JABL

Other Resources

  • Madhyamaka und Yogacara: Vortrag (Lecture), Jay L. Garfield. English and German. YouTube
  • Madhyamaka und Yogacara: Fragen (Questions), Jay L. Garfield. English and German. YouTube
  • “Seminar on Tsong-kha-pa’s The Essence of Eloquence on the Mind-Only School.” August 29, 1996-December 5, 1996. University of Virginia. Classes 1-27. UMA-Tibet