This thesis is a textual, historical, and hermeneutical study of the Samdhinirmocana Sutra (Abrr. SNS), a fourth century founding scripture of the Yogacara school. The thesis is divided into three parts. Part One attempts to reconstruct the formation of the early Mahayana-Yogacara school. Part Two provides a hermeneutical analysis of the major doctrines of the SNS. Part Three is a selected English translation of the SNS.
After Chinese and Tibetan sources are introduced, the structure of the SNS is examined, and the dates of composition are calculated, Part One attempts to clarify an obscure process of mahayanization that occurred within the Abhidharma milieu during the third and fourth centuries. This research concludes that the Mahayana-Yogacara resulted from the Sravaka-Yogacara's encounter with the Prajnaparamita movement.
Part Two contends that the Yogacara hermeneutic is designed to disclose the construction of the samsaric life-world. It explains how the samsaric life-world is constructed through the circular relationship between the appropriating consciousness and the appropriated object, and between consciousness and language. Finally, it demonstrates how liberation can be attained through reading and meditation.
In Part Three, the first eight chapters of the SNS are translated into English on the basis of Hsuan-tsang's text. I also consult other Chinese translations and Yuan-t'se's commentary.