Yogachara (IAST: Yogācāra; literally "yoga practice"; "one whose practice is yoga") is an influential school of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing phenomenology and ontology through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices. It was associated with Indian Mahayana Buddhism in about the fourth century, but also included non-Mahayana practitioners of the Dārṣṭāntika school.
Yogācāra discourse explains how our human experience is constructed by the mind.
The earliest text of this tradition is the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra which might be as early as the first or second century CE. It includes new theories such as the basis-consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna), and the doctrine of cognition-only (vijñapti-mātra) and the "three natures" (trisvabhāva). However, these theories were not completely new, as they have predecessors in older theories held by previous Buddhist schools, such as the Sautrāntika theory of seeds (bīja) and the Sthavira nikāya's abhidharma theory of an unconscious Bhavanga. Richard King has also noted the similarity of the Sautantrika representationalism and the Yogacara:
The Sautrantika accept that it is only the form (akara) or representation (vijñapti) of an object which is perceived. Where the schools differ is in the Yogacara refusal to accept the validity of discussing external objects as causes (nimitta) given that an external object is never (directly) perceived.
The Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, as the doctrinal trailblazer of the Yogācāra, inaugurated the paradigm of the Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma, with its own tenets in the "third turning". The Yogācāra texts are generally considered part of the third turning along with the relevant sutra. (Some traditions categorize this teaching as within the "fourth turning" of the wheel of Dharma.) Moreover, Yogācāra discourse surveys and synthesizes all three turnings and considers itself as the final definitive explanation of Buddhism.
The orientation of the Yogācāra school is largely consistent with the thinking of the Pāli nikāyas. It frequently treats later developments in a way that realigns them with earlier versions of Buddhist doctrines. One of the agendas of the Yogācāra school was to reorient the complexity of later refinements in Buddhist philosophy to accord with early Buddhist doctrine.