Born a brahmin 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" or six great commentators on the Buddha’s teachings.
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:
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.
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. 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." Scholarly consensus on this question has generally moved away from Frauwallner's "two-authors" position.
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.
Thich Nhat HanhTransformation 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