Through the Mirror: The Account of Other Minds in Chinese Yogācāra Buddhism


This article proposes a new reading of the mirror analogy presented in the doctrine of Chinese Yogācāra Buddhism. Clerics, such as Xuanzang 玄奘 (602–664) and his protégé Kuiji 窺基 (632–682), articulated this analogy to describe our experience of other minds. In contrast with existing interpretations of this analogy as figurative ways of expressing ideas of projecting and reproducing, I argue that this mirroring experience should be understood as revealing, whereby we perceive other minds through the second-person perspective. This mirroring experience, in its allusion to the collectivity of consciousness, yields the metaphysical explication of mutual interdependence and the prescription of norms for compassionate actions.

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I want to express my gratitude to the comments from two anonymous reviewers that helped me improve the article. I am also grateful to Antoine Panaïoti for his suggestions on the earlier draft, and to Shaun Retallick for his editorial advice. Finally, I hope to thank Le Programme de Bourses d'Excellence pour Étudiants Étrangers (PBEEE) from the Quebec government for supporting my research.

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Correspondence to Jingjing Li.

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Li, J. Through the Mirror: The Account of Other Minds in Chinese Yogācāra Buddhism. Dao 18, 435–451 (2019).

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  • Chinese Yogācāra Buddhism
  • Other minds
  • Interdependence
  • Compassion
  • Second-person perspective