A History of Indian Philosophy Part 12

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[Footnote 1: _Mahaparinibbanasuttanta_, _Digha_, XVI. 6, 8, 9.]


such a study can be collected. But from what we now possess it is proved incontestably that it is one of the most wonderful and subtle productions of human wisdom. It is impossible to overestimate the debt that the philosophy, culture and civilization of India owe to it in all her developments for many succeeding centuries.

Early Buddhist Literature.

The Buddhist Pali Scriptures contain three different collections: the Sutta (relating to the doctrines), the Vinaya (relating to the discipline of the monks) and the Abhidhamma (relating generally to the same subjects as the suttas but dealing with them in a scholastic and technical manner). Scholars of Buddhistic religious history of modern times have failed as yet to fix any definite dates for the collection or composition of the different parts of the aforesaid canonical literature of the Buddhists. The suttas were however composed before the Abhidhamma and it is very probable that almost the whole of the canonical works were completed before 241 B.C., the date of the third council during the reign of King Asoka. The suttas mainly deal with the doctrine (Dhamma) of the Buddhistic faith whereas the Vinaya deals only with the regulations concerning the discipline of the monks.

The subject of the Abhidhamma is mostly the same as that of the suttas, namely, the interpretation of the Dhamma.

[email protected] in his introduction to _Atthasalini_, the commentary on the [email protected]@ni_, says that the Abhidhamma is so called (_abhi_ and _dhamma_) because it describes the same Dhammas as are related in the suttas in a more intensified (_dhammatireka_) and specialized (_dhammavisesatthena_) manner. The Abhidhammas do not give any new doctrines that are not in the suttas, but they deal somewhat elaborately with those that are already found in the suttas. [email protected] in distinguishing the special features of the suttas from the Abhidhammas says that the acquirement of the former leads one to attain meditation (_samadhi_) whereas the latter leads one to attain wisdom (_pannasampadam_). The force of this statement probably lies in this, that the dialogues of the suttas leave a chastening effect on the mind, the like of which is not to be found in the Abhidhammas, which busy themselves in enumerating the Buddhistic doctrines and defining them in a technical manner, which is more fitted to produce a reasoned


insight into the doctrines than directly to generate a craving for following the path of meditation for the extinction of sorrow.

The Abhidhamma known as the _Kathavatthu_ differs from the other Abhidhammas in this, that it attempts to reduce the views of the heterodox schools to absurdity. The discussions proceed in the form of questions and answers, and the answers of the opponents are often shown to be based on contradictory a.s.sumptions.

The suttas contain five groups of collections called the Nikayas.

These are (1) _Digha Nikaya_, called so on account of the length of the suttas contained in it; (2) _Majjhima Nikaya_ (middling Nikaya), called so on account of the middling extent of the suttas contained in it; (3) [email protected] Nikaya_ (Nikayas relating to special meetings), called [email protected] on account of their being delivered owing to the meetings ([email protected]_) of special persons which were the occasions for them; (4) [email protected] Nikaya_, so called because in each succeeding book of this work the topics of discussion increase by one [Footnote ref 1]; (5) _Khuddaka Nikaya_ containing _Khuddaka [email protected], Dhammapada, Udana, Itivuttaka, Sutta Nipata, Vimana-vatthu, Petavatthu, Theragatha, Therigatha, Jataka, Niddesa, [email protected], Apadana, [email protected], [email protected]_

The Abhidhammas are [email protected]@thana, [email protected]@ni, Dhatukatha, Puggalapannatti, [email protected], Yamaka_ and _Kathavatthu_.

There exists also a large commentary literature on diverse parts of the above works known as atthakatha. The work known as _Milinda Panha_ (questions of King Milinda), of uncertain date, is of considerable philosophical value.

The doctrines and views incorporated in the above literature is generally now known as Sthaviravada or Theravada. On the origin of the name Theravada (the doctrine of the elders) [email protected]_ says that since the Theras (elders) met (at the first council) and collected the doctrines it was known as the Thera Vada [Footnote ref 2]. It does not appear that Buddhism as it appears in this Pali literature developed much since the time of [email protected] (4OO A.D.), the writer of _Visuddhimagga_ (a compendium of theravada doctrines) and the commentator of _Dighanikaya, [email protected]@ni_, etc.

Hindu philosophy in later times seems to have been influenced by the later offshoots of the different schools of Buddhism, but it does not appear that Pali Buddhism had any share in it. I


[Footnote 1: See [email protected]'s _Atthasalini_, p. 25.]

[Footnote 2: Oldenberg's [email protected]_, p. 31.]


have not been able to discover any old Hindu writer who could be considered as being acquainted with Pali.

The Doctrine of Causal Connection of early Buddhism [Footnote ref 1].

The word Dhamma in the Buddhist scriptures is used generally in four senses: (1) Scriptural texts, (2) quality ([email protected]_), (3) cause (_hetu_) and (4) unsubstantial and soulless (_nissatta nijjiva_ [Footnote ref 2]). Of these it is the last meaning which is particularly important, from the point of view of Buddhist philosophy. The early Buddhist philosophy did not accept any fixed ent.i.ty as determining all reality; the only things with it were the unsubstantial phenomena and these were called dhammas. The question arises that if there is no substance or reality how are we to account for the phenomena? But the phenomena are happening and pa.s.sing away and the main point of interest with the Buddha was to find out "What being what else is," "What happening what else happens" and "What not being what else is not." The phenomena are happening in a series and we see that there being certain phenomena there become some others; by the happening of some events others also are produced. This is called ([email protected]_) dependent origination. But it is difficult to understand what is the exact nature of this dependence. The question as [email protected] Nikaya_ (II. 5) has it with which the Buddha started before attaining Buddhahood was this: in what miserable condition are the people! they are born, they decay, they die, pa.s.s away and are born again; and they do not know the path of escape from this decay, death and misery.

How to know the Way to escape from this misery of decay and death. Then it occurred to him what being there, are decay and death, depending on what do they come? As he thought deeply into the root of the matter, it occurred to him that decay and death can only occur when there is birth (_jati_), so they depend


[Footnote 1: There are some differences of opinion as to whether one could take the doctrine of the twelve links of causes as we find it in the [email protected] Nikaya_ as the earliest Buddhist view, as [email protected] does not represent the oldest part of the suttas. But as this doctrine of the twelve causes became regarded as a fundamental Buddhist doctrine and as it gives us a start in philosophy I have not thought it fit to enter into conjectural discussions as to the earliest form. Dr E.J. Thomas drew my attention to this fact.]

[Footnote 2: _Atthasatini_, p. 38. There are also other senses in which the word is used, as _dhamma-desana_ where it means religious teaching.

The [email protected]_ described Dharmma as [email protected] dharmma_, i.e.

Dharmmas are those which are a.s.sociated as attributes and substances.]


on birth. What being there, is there birth, on what does birth depend? Then it occurred to him that birth could only be if there were previous existence (_bhava_) [Footnote ref 1]. But on what does this existence depend, or what being there is there _bhava_. Then it occurred to him that there could not be existence unless there were holding fast (_upadana_) [Footnote ref 2]. But on what did upadana depend? It occurred to him that it was desire ([email protected]_) on which upadana depended. There can be upadana if there is desire (_tanha_) [Footnote ref 3]. But what being there, can there be desire? To this question it occurred to him that there must be feeling (_vedana_) in order that there may be desire. But on what does vedana depend, or rather what must be there, that there may be feeling (_vedana_)? To this it occurred to him that there must be a sense-contact (_pha.s.sa_) in order that there may be feeling [Footnote ref 4]. If there should be no sense-contact there would be no feeling. But on what does sense-contact depend? It occurred to him that as there are six sense-contacts, there are the six fields of contact (_ayatana_) [Footnote ref 5]. But on what do the six ayatanas depend? It occurred to him that there must be the mind and body (_namarupa_) in order that there may be the six fields of contact [Footnote ref 6]; but on what does namarupa depend? It occurred to him that without consciousness (_vinnana_) there could be no namarupa [Footnote ref 8].

But what being there would there


[Footnote 1: This word bhava is interpreted by Candrakirtti in his _Madhyamika [email protected],_ p. 565 (La Vallee Poussin's edition) as the deed which brought about rebirth ([email protected] karma samutthapayali kayena vaca manasa ca_).]

[Footnote 2: _Atthasalini_, p. 385, [email protected]@[email protected] Candrakirtti in explaining upadana says that whatever thing a man desires he holds fast to the materials necessary for attaining it (_yatra vastuni [email protected]@[email protected] vastuno 'rjanaya [email protected] upadanamupadatte tatra tatra prarthayate_). _Madhyamika [email protected]_, p. 565.]

[Footnote 3: Candrakirtti describes [email protected]@[email protected] as _asvadanabhinandanadhyavasanasthanadatmapriyarupairviyogo ma bhut, nityamaparityago bhavediti, yeyam prarthana_--the desire that there may not ever be any separation from those pleasures, etc., which are dear to us. _Ibid._ 565.]

[Footnote 4: We read also of pha.s.sayatana and pha.s.sakaya. _M. N._ II. 261, III. 280, etc. Candrakirtti says that [email protected]@[email protected] [email protected]@[email protected] pravarttante prajnayante. [email protected] @[email protected] [email protected][email protected] @[email protected][email protected] pravarttante. M.V._ 565.]

[Footnote 5: ayatana means the six senses together with their objects.

ayatana literally is "Field of operation." [email protected] means six senses as six fields of operation. Candrakirtti has [email protected]_.]

[Footnote 6: I have followed the translation of Aung in rendering namarupa as mind and body, _Compendium_, p. 271. This seems to me to be fairly correct. The four skandhas are called nama in each birth. These together with rupa (matter) give us namarupa (mind and body) which being developed render the activities through the six sense-gates possible so that there may be knowledge. Cf. _M. V._ 564. Govindananda, the commentator on [email protected]'s bhasya on the _Brahma sutras_ (II. ii. 19), gives a different interpretation of Namarupa which may probably refer to the Vijnanavada view though we have no means at hand to verify it. He says--To think the momentary as the permanent is Avidya; from there come the samskaras of attachment, antipathy or anger, and infatuation; from there the first vijnana or thought of the foetus is produced, from that alayavijnana, and the four elements (which are objects of name and are hence called nama) are produced, and from those are produced the white and black, s.e.m.e.n and blood called rupa. Both Vacaspati and Amalananda agree with Govindananda in holding that nama signifies the s.e.m.e.n and the ovum while rupa means the visible physical body built out of them. Vijnana entered the womb and on account of it namarupa were produced through the a.s.sociation of previous karma. See _Vedantakalpataru_, pp 274, 275. On the doctrine of the entrance of vijnana into the womb compare _D N_ II. 63.]


be vinnana. Here it occurred to him that in order that there might be vinnana there must be the conformations ([email protected]_) [Footnote ref 1]. But what being there are there the [email protected]? Here it occurred to him that the [email protected] can only be if there is ignorance (_avijja_). If avijja could be stopped then the [email protected] will be stopped, and if the [email protected] could be stopped vinnana could be stopped and so on [Footnote ref 2].

It is indeed difficult to be definite as to what the Buddha actually wished to mean by this cycle of dependence of existence sometimes called Bhavacakra (wheel of existence). Decay and death (_jaramarana_) could not have happened if there was no birth [Footnote ref 3]. This seems to be clear. But at this point the difficulty begins. We must remember that the theory of rebirth was


[Footnote 1: It is difficult to say what is the exact sense of the word here. The Buddha was one of the first few earliest thinkers to introduce proper philosophical terms and phraseology with a distinct philosophical method and he had often to use the same word in more or less different senses. Some of the philosophical terms at least are therefore rather elastic when compared with the terms of precise and definite meaning which we find in later Sanskrit thought. Thus in _S N_ III. p. 87, "[email protected] [email protected]_," [email protected] means that which synthesises the complexes. In the _Compendium_ it is translated as will, action.

Mr. Aung thinks that it means the same as karma; it is here used in a different sense from what we find in the word [email protected] khandha (viz mental states). We get a list of 51 mental states forming [email protected] khandha in _Dhamma Sangam_, p 18, and another different set of 40 mental states in _Dharmasamgraha_, p. 6. In addition to these forty [email protected]_, it also counts thirteen [email protected]_. Candrakirtti interprets it as meaning attachment, antipathy and infatuation, p 563. Govindananda, the commentator on [email protected]'s _Brahma sutra_ (II. ii. 19), also interprets the word in connection with the doctrine of _Prat.i.tyasamutpada_ as attachment, antipathy and infatuation.]

[Footnote 2: _Samyutta Nikaya_, II. 7-8.]

[Footnote 3: Jara and marana bring in s'oka (grief), paridevana (lamentation), duhkha (suffering), daurmanasya (feeling of wretchedness and miserableness) and upayasa (feeling of extreme dest.i.tution) at the prospect of one's death or the death of other dear ones. All these make up suffering and are the results of jati (birth). _M. V._ (B.T.S.p. 208). [email protected] in his bhasya counted all the terms from jara, separately. The whole series is to be taken as representing the entirety of duhkhaskandha.]


enunciated in the [email protected] The [email protected]@nyaka says that just as an insect going to the end of a leaf of gra.s.s by a new effort collects itself in another so does the soul coming to the end of this life collect itself in another. This life thus presupposes another existence. So far as I remember there has seldom been before or after Buddha any serious attempt to prove or disprove the doctrine of rebirth [Footnote ref 1]. All schools of philosophy except the Carvakas believed in it and so little is known to us of the Carvaka sutras that it is difficult to say what they did to refute this doctrine. The Buddha also accepts it as a fact and does not criticize it. This life therefore comes only as one which had an infinite number of lives before, and which except in the case of a few emanc.i.p.ated ones would have an infinite number of them in the future. It was strongly believed by all people, and the Buddha also, when he came to think to what our present birth might be due, had to fall back upon another existence (_bhava_).

If bhava means karma which brings rebirth as Candrakirtti takes it to mean, then it would mean that the present birth could only take place on account of the works of a previous existence which determined it. Here also we are reminded of the [email protected] note "as a man does so will he be born" (_Yat karma kurute tadabhisampadyate_, Brh IV. iv. 5). Candrakirtti's interpretation of "bhava"

as Karma (_punarbhavajanakam karma_) seems to me to suit better than "existence." The word was probably used rather loosely for _kammabhava_. The word bhava is not found in the earlier [email protected] and was used in the Pali scriptures for the first time as a philosophical term. But on what does this bhava depend? There could not have been a previous existence if people had not betaken themselves to things or works they desired. This betaking oneself to actions or things in accordance with desire is called upadana. In the [email protected] we read, "whatever one betakes himself to, so does he work" (_Yatkraturbhavati tatkarmma kurute_, [email protected] IV. iv. 5). As this betaking to the thing depends upon desire [email protected]@[email protected]_}, it is said that in order that there may be upadana there must be tanha. In the [email protected] also we read "Whatever one desires so does he betake himself to" (_sa yathakamo bhavati tatkraturbhavati_). Neither the word upadana nor [email protected]@na (the Sanskrit word corresponding


[Footnote 1: The attempts to prove the doctrine of rebirth in the Hindu philosophical works such as the Nyaya, etc., are slight and inadequate.]


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A History of Indian Philosophy Part 12 summary

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