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āśraya-parāvṛtti (also āśraya-parivṛtti; T. gnas yongs su ‘gyur pa; C. zhuanyi) refers to a transformation from an impure state (e.g. confusion) to a pure state (e.g. wisdom). This term has been translated into English as "fundamental change," "fundamental transformation," "transformation of the basis," etc.

Contemporary scholar Karl Brunnholzl writes:

In its use in Buddhist texts, both the origin and the context of the term āśraya-parivṛtti are usually soteriological in nature, indicating (in one way or the other) a change from samsaric confusion and suffering to nirvanic wisdom and freedom. Thus, the term generally emphasizes the result of the process rather than the process itself or its origin. However, there is a great variety of different explanations as to what exactly changes into what. Also, often no real change of anything into anything is implied, but the result of the fundamental change is simply the revelation of the underlying true reality of all phenomena. This result can be the new state of that foundation (such as the state of the purity of suchness or buddha nature) or the foundation itself in this new state (such as suchness or buddha nature itself, once it has been purified).[1]

Within the Yogacara school

Āśraya-parāvṛtti is a key concept in the Yogacara school. In this context, it refers to the transformation of the consciousness from an impure state (under the influence of kleshas) to a pure state (in which the kleshas have been eliminated).

Dan Lusthaus writes:

Yogācārins describe enlightenment as resulting from Overturning the Cognitive Basis (āśraya-paravṛtti), i.e., overturning the conceptual projections and imaginings which act as the base of our cognitive actions. This overturning transforms the basic mode of cognition from consciousness (vi-jñāna, dis-cernment) into jñāna (direct knowing). The vi- prefix is equivalent to dis- in English - dis-criminate, dis-tinguish, dis-engage, dis-connect - meaning to bifurcate or separate from. Direct knowing was defined as non-conceptual (nirvikalpa-jñāna), i.e., devoid of interpretive overlay.[2]

Alternate translations

Alternate translations for this term are:

  • Fundamental change (Brunnholzl)[1]
  • Fundamental transformation (Dharmachakra Translation Committee)
  • Fundamental transmutation (Buswell)
  • Transformation of the basis (Buswell; D'Amato)
  • Conversion of the basis (King)
  • Manifestation of the basis (Keown, Dictionary of Buddhism)
  • Overturning the Cognitive Basis (Lusthaus)
  • Revolution of the basis


Further reading

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