Enumeration of Phenomena

400 B.C. | 124,932 words

*english translation* The first book of the Abhidhamma (Part 3 of the Tipitaka). The Dhammasangani enumerates all the paramattha dhamma (ultimate realities) to be found in the world. According to one such enumeration these amount to: * 52 cetasikas (mental factors), which, arising together in various combination, give rise to any one of... * ......

Part VIII - On The Buddhist Notions Of "good, Bad, And Indeterminate"

By way of dhamma, rupam and cittam , by way of Buddhist phenomenology and psychology, we come at last to the ethical purport of the questions in the Manual. Given a human being known to us by way of these phenomenal states, what is implied when we say that some of them are good, some bad, others neither ?

The Dhamma-Sangani does not, to our loss be it said, define any one of these concepts. All it does is to show us the content of a number of "thoughts" known as one or the other of these three species of dhamma. In a sub- sequent passage (pp. 345-348) it uses the substantival form of "good" (kusalata; another form is kosallam) in the sense of skill or proficiency as applied to various kinds of insight, theoretical or practical.

Now if we turn to the later expression of old tradition in the Commentaries, we find, on the one hand, an analysis of the meaning of "good"; on the other, the rejection of precisely that sense of skill, and of that alone out of four possible meanings, with respect to "good" as used in Book I. Kusalam, we read[1], may mean

  1. wholesome,
  2. virtuous,
  3. skilful,
  4. felicific, or productive of happy result.

The illustrations make these clear statements clearer. E.g. of

  1. from the Dasaratha Jataka: "Is it good for you, sir, is it wholesome"?[2] Of
  2. "What, sir, is good behaviour in act? Sire, it is conduct that is blameless (anavajjo)." Of
  3. "You are good at knowing all about the make of a chariot".[3] Again: "The four girl-pupils are good at singing and dancing." Of
  4. "Good states, brethren, are acquired through good karma having been wrought and stored up".

Of these four, (c) is alone ruled out as not applicable to the eight types of good thoughts constituting dhammakusala . In so far, then, as we suffer the Buddhist culture of the fifth century to interpret the canon for us, "good", in the earlier ethics, meant that which insures soundness, physical and moral, as well as that which is felicific.

The further question immediately suggests itself, whether Buddhism held that these two attributes were at bottom identical. Are certain "states" intrinsically good, i.e., virtuous and right, independently of their results ? Or is "good", in the long-run at least, felicitous result, and only on that account so called? Are Buddhists, in a word, Intuitionists, or are they Utilitarians? Or is not a decidedly eclectic standpoint revealed in the comprehensive interpretation given of kusalana?

These are, however, somewhat modern — I am tempted to say, somewhat British — distinctions to seek in an ancient theory of morals. They do not appear to have troubled Buddhism, early or late. The Buddhist might possibly have replied that he could not conceive of any thought, word, or deed as being intrinsically good and yet bad in its results, and that the distinction drawn by the Commentator was simply one of aspects.

If pressed, however, we can almost imagine the Buddhist well content with the relative or dependent good of Utili- tarianism, so closely is his ethics bound up with cause and effect. Good, for him, is good with respect to karma — that is, to pleasurable effect or eudcemonia.

With respect to the supremely good effect, to arahatship or Nirvana, he might, it is true, have admitted a difference, namely, that this state was absolutely good, and not good because of its results. It was the supreme Eesult or Fruit, and there was "no beyond". But then he did not rank Nirvana exactly in the category of good, and precisely for this reason, that in it moral causation culminated and ceased. He spoke of it as Indeterminate, as without result — as a Freedom, rather than as a Good.

He would not then have fallen in with Aristotle's definition of Good in terms of aim, viz., as "that at which everything aims". Good was rather the means hy and with which ice aim.. But that at which we aim is, in all lower quests, Sukham, in the one high quest, Vimutti (emancipation), or Nirvana.

Nor must the substitution of these two last terms for that well-being, that well-ness, , which is the etymological equivalent of sukham,[4] be taken as in- dicating the limit of the consistent Hedonism or Eudse- monism of the Buddhist. For he did not scruple to speak of these two also (Emancipation and Nirvana) in terms of pleasurable feeling. Gotama attaining his supreme enlightenment beneath the Bo-tree is said to have "experienced Emancipation-bliss" (vimutti - sukha - patisamvedi).[5] And to King Milinda the Sage emphatically declares Nirvana to be "absolute (or entire) happiness" (ekanta - sukham).[6] And we know, too, that Buddhism defined all right conduct and the sufficient motive for it in terms of escape from ill (d u k k h a m, the antithesis of sukham) or suffering.

Here then again their psychological proclivity is manifested. They analyzed feeling, or subjective experience, into three modes : sukham, dukkham, adukkharu-asukham. And in Good and Bad they saw, not ends or positions of attain- ment, but the vehicles or agencies, or, to speak less in abstractions, the characteristic mark of those kinds of conduct, by which well-being or ill-being might re- spectively be entailed.

The Buddhist, then, was a Hedonist, and hence, whether he himself would have admitted it or not, his morality was dependent, or, in the phrase of British ethics, utilitarian, and not intuitionist. Hedonist, let us say, rather than eudsemonistic, because of the more subjective (psycho- logical) import of the former term. And he found the word sukham good enough to cover the whole ground of desirability, from satisfaction in connexion with sense — compare Buddhaghosa's traveller refreshed obtaining both joy and ease[7] — up to the ineffable "Content" of Nirvana.[8] He did not find in it the inadequacy that some moral philosophers have found in our "Pleasure". His ethical system was so emphatically a study of consequences — of karma and vipaka (effect of karma) — of seeing in every phenomenon a reaping of some previous sowing — that the notion of good became for him inevitably bound up with result. As my late master used to say (ex cathedra) : If you bring forward consequences — how acts by way of result affect self and others — you must come to feeling. Thence pleasure becomes prominent. And did not folk suffer loose, lower associations to affect their judgment, there would be no objection to Hedonism. For pleasures are of all ranks, up to that of a good conscience.'

A reflection may here suggest itself to readers in this country who have, at the feet of Spencer, Bain, and Leslie Stephen, learnt to see, behind Nature's device of Pleasur- able Feeling, the conservation of the species — "quantity of life, measured in breadth as well as in length" — as the more fundamental determinant of that which, in the long- run, becomes the end of conduct. Namely, that there seems a strange contradiction in a philosophic position which is content to find, in the avoidance of pain and the quest of pleasurable feeling, its fundamental spring of moral action while, at the same time, it says of life — apart from which it admits no feeling to be possible — that the attainment of its last phase is the one supremely happy event,[9] Pleasurable feeling, from the evolutionist's stand- point, means, and is in order to, the increase, "intensive and extensive", of life. Yet to the Hedonistic Buddhist, the dissolution of the conditions of renewed existence is a happy event,  i.e., an event that causes pleasurable feeling in the thoughtful spectator.

I believe that the modern ethics of evolution would have profoundly interested the early Buddhists, who after their sort and their age were themselves evolutionists. And I believe, too, that they would have arisen from a discussion with our thinkers on this subject as stanch Buddhists and as stanch Hedonists as they had sat down. I admit that with respect to the desirableness of life taken quantitatively, and in two dimensions, they were frankly pessimistic. As I have already suggested,[10] and have put forward elsewhere,[11] to prize mere quantity of living stood by Gotama con- demned as ignoble, as stupid, as a mortal bondage, as one of the four Asavas or Intoxicants.[12]

The weary, heart- rending tragedies immanent in the life of the world he recognised and accepted as honestly and fully as the deepest pessimist. The complexities, the distractions, the burdens, the dogging sorrow, the haunting fear of its approaching tread, inevitable for life lived in participation of all that the human organism naturally calls for, and human society puts forward as desirable — all this he judged too heavy to be borne, not, indeed, by lay followers, but by those who should devote themselves to the higher life. To these he looked to exemplify and propagate and transmit his doctrine. Theirs it was to Hft the world to higher standpoints and nobler issues. Life in its fulness they at least could not afford to cultivate.

But if we take life of a certain quality where selective economy, making for a certain object, cuts off some lines of growth but forces others on — then Buddhism, so far from "negating the will to live" that kind of life, pronounced it fair and lovely beyond all non-being, beyond all after-being. If final death, as it believed, followed inevit- ably on the fullest fruition of it, it was not this that made such life desirable. Final dissolution was accepted as welcome, not for its own sake, but as a corollary, so to speak, of the solved problem of emancipation. It merely signified that unhealthy moral conditions had wholly passed away.

Keeping in view, then, the notion of Good in thought, word and deed, as a means entailing various kinds of felicific result, we may see in Book I. of our Manual, first, the kind of conscious experience arising apart from syste- matic effort to obtain any such specific result, but which was bound, none the less, to lead to hedonistic consequences, pleasant or unpleasant (pp. 1-42). Next, we see a certain felicific result deliberately aimed at through self-cultivation in modes of consciousness called Good (pp. 43-97). And, incidentally, we learn something of the procedure adopted in that systematic culture.

The Commentary leaves us no room to doubt whether or not the phase rupupapattiya maggam bhaveti ("that he may attain to the heavens of Form he cultivates the way thereto") refers to a flight of imaginative power merely. "Form = the rupa-bhavo", or mode of existence so called. "Attainment = nibbatti, jati, sanjati" — all being terms for birth and rebirth.[13] So for the attaining to the Formless heavens. Through the mighty engine of "good states", induced and sustained, directed and developed by intelligence and self-control, it was held that the student might modify his own destiny beyond this life, and insure, or at least promote, his chances of a happy future. The special culture or exercise required in either case was that called Jhana, or rapt contemplation, the psychology of which, when adequately investigated, will one day evoke considerable interest.

There was first intense attention by way of "an exclusive sensation",[14] to be entered upon only when all other activity was relaxed to the utmost, short of checking in any way the higher mental functions. After a time the sensation practically ceases. The wearied sense gives out. Change, indispensable to consciousness, has been eliminated ; and we have realized, at all events since Hobbes wrote, how idem semper sentire et non sentire ad idem recidunt. Then comes the play of the "after-image", and then the emergence of the mental image, of purely ideational or representative construction. This will be, not of the sense-object first considered, but some attenuated abstraction of one of its qualities. And this serves as a background and a barrier against all further invasion of sense-impressions for the time being.

To him thus purged and prepared there comes, through subconscious persist- ence, a reinstatement of some concept, associated with feeling and conation {i.e., with desire or aspiration), which he had selected for preliminary meditation. And this conception he now proceeds by a sort of psychical involution to raise to a higher power, realizing it more fully, deepening its import, expanding its application.

Such seems to have been the Kasina method according to the description in the Visuddhi Magga, chap, iv.,[15] but there were several methods, some of which, the method, e.g., of respiration, are not given in our Manual. Of the thoughts for meditation, only a few occur in the Dhamma Sangani, such as the "Sublime Abodes" of thought — love, pity, etc. But in the former work we find numerous lists for exercise in the contemplative life, with or without the rapt musing called Jhana.[16]

In the exercises calculated to bring out re-birth in the world of Form, it was chiefly necessary to ponder on things of this life in such a way as to get rid of all appetite and impulse in connexion with them, and to cultivate an attitude of the purest disinterestedness towards all worldly attrac- tions. If the Formless sphere were the object of aspiration, it was then necessary, by the severest fetches of abstraction, to eliminate not only all sense-impression, but also all sensory images whatever, and to endeavour to realize conditions and relations other than those obtaining in actual experience.[17] Thus, in either method a foretaste of the mode of re-becoming aspired after was attempted.

But besides and beyond the sort of moral consciousness characterizing these exercises which were calculated to promote a virtuous and happy existence in any one of the three worlds, there were the special conditions of intellect and emotion termed lokuttaram cittam.[18] Those exercises were open to the lay pupil and the bhikkhu alike. There was nothing especially "holy", nothing esoteric, about the practice of Jhana. The diligent upa- saka or upasika, pursuing a temporary course of such religious and philosophic discipline as the rising schools of Buddhism afforded, might be expected to avail himself or herself of it more or less.

But those "good" dhammas alluded to were those which characterized the Four Paths, or Four Stages of the way, to the full "emancipation" of Nirvana. If I have rendered lokuttaram cittara by "thought engaged upon the higher ideal" instead of select- ing a term more literally accurate, it is because there is, in a way, less of the "supramundane" or "transcendent", as we usually understand these expressions, about this cittam than about the aspiring moods described above. For this sort of consciousness was that of the man or woman who regarded not heaven nor re-birth, but one thing only, as "needful": the full and perfect efflorescence of mind and character to be brought about, if it might be, here and now.

The Dhamma-Sangani never quits its severely dry and formal style to descant on the characteristics and methods of that progress to the Ideal, every step in which is else- where said to be loftier and sweeter than the last, with a wealth of eulogy besides that might be quoted. Edifying discourse it left to the Suttanta Books. But no rhetoric could more effectively describe the separateness and un- compromising other-ness of that higher quest than the one word Apariyapannam. — Unincluded — by which reference is made to it in Book III.

Yet for all this world of difference in the quo vadis of aspiration, there is a great deal of common ground covered by the moral consciousness in each case, as the respective expositions show. That of the Arahat in spe differs only in two sets of additional features conferring greater richness of content, and in the loftier quality of other features not in themselves additional.

This quality is due to the mental awakening or enlighten- ment of sambodhi. And the added factors are three constituents of the Noble Eightfold Path of conduct (which are, more obviously, modes of overt activity than of consciousness) and the progressive stages in the attainment of the sublime knowledge or insight termed a anna.[19] Our Western languages are scarcely rich enough to ring the changes on the words signifying "to know" as those of India did on j n a and v i d, d r s and pas. Our religious ideals have tended to be emotional in excess of our intel- lectual enthusiasm. "Absence of dulness" has not ranked with us as a cardinal virtue or fundamental cause of good. Hence it is difficult to reproduce the Pali so as to give im- pressiveness to a term like anna as compared with the mere nana m,[20] usually implying less advanced insight, with which the "first type of good thought" is said to be associated.

But I must pass on. As a compilation dealing with positive culture, undertaken for a positive end, it is only consistent that the Manual should deal briefly with the subject of bad states of consciousness. It is true that akusalani, as a means leading to unhappy result, was not conceived as negatively as its logical form might lead us to suppose. Bad karma was a "piling up", no less than its opposite. Nevertheless, to a great extent, the difference between bad types of thought and good is described in terms of the contradictories, of the factors in the one kind and in the other. Nor are the negatives always on the side of evil. The three cardinal sources of misery are positive in form. And the five "Path-factors" go to constitute what might have been called the Base Eightfold Path.

We come, finally, to the third ethical category of avyakatam, the Inexplicit or Indeterminate. The subject is difficult if interesting, bringing us as it does within closer range of the Buddhist view of moral causa- tion. The hall-mark of Indeterminate thought is said to be "absence of result"[21] — that is, of pleasant or painful result. And there are said to be four species of such thought:

  1. Vipako, or thought which is a result;
  2. Kiriya , or consciousness leading to no result;
  3. form, as outside moral causation;
  4. uncompounded element (or, in later records. Nirvana), as above or beyond the further efficacy of moral causation.

Of these four, the third has been dealt with already; the fourth I cannot discuss here and now.[22] It is conceivable that the earlier Buddhists considered their summun honum a subject too ineffably sublime and mysterious for logical and analytical discussion. Two instances, at least, occur to me in the Nikayas,[23] where the talk was cut short, in the one case by Gotama himself, in the other by the woman- apostle Dhammadinna, when the interlocutor brought up Nirvana for discussion of this sort. This is possibly the reason why, in a work like our Manual, the concept is pre- sented — in all but the commentarial appendixes — under the quasi-metaphysical term "uncompounded element". It is classed here as a species of Indeterminate, because, although it was the outcome of the utmost carrying power of good karma, it could, as a state of mind and character, itself work no good effect for that individual mind and character. These represented pure effect. The Arahat could afford to live wholly on withdrawn capital and to use it up. His conduct, speech and thought are, of course, necessarily "good", but good with no "heaping-up" potency.

Of the other two Indeterminates, it is not easy to say whether they represent aspects only of states considered with respect to moral efficacy, or whether they represent divisions in a more rigid and artificial view of moral causa- tion than we should, at the present day, be prepared to maintain. To explain : every thought, word and deed (morally considered) is for us at once the effect of certain antecedents, and the cause, or part of the cause, of sub- sequent manifestations of character. It is a link, both held and holding. But in vipako we have dhammas considered, with respect to cause, merely as effects; in kiriya[24] we have dhammas considered, with respect to effect, as having none. And the fact that both are divided off from Good and Bad — that is to say, from conduct or consciousness considered as causally effective — and are called Indeterminate, seems to point, not to aspects only, but to that artificial view alluded to.

Yet in this matter I confess to the greater wisdom of imitating the angels, rather than rushing in with the fools. Life presented itself to the Buddhist much as the Surrey heath appeared to the watchful eyes of a Darwin — as a teeming soil, a khettam[25], where swarmed the seeds of previous karmas waiting for "room", for opportunity to come to effect. And in considering the seed as potential effect, they were not, to that extent, concerned with that seed as capable of producing, not only its own flower and fruit, but other seed in its turn.

However that may have been, one thing is clear, and for us suggestive. Moral experience as result pure and simple was not in itself uninteresting to the Buddhists. In dealing with good and bad dhammas, they show us a field of the struggle for moral life, the sowing of potential well-being or of ill. But in the Avyakatas we are either outside the struggle and concerned with the unmoral E u p a m , or we walk among the sheaves of harvest. From the Western standpoint the struggle covers the whole field of temporal life. Good and bad "war in the members" even of its Arahats. The ideal of the Buddhist, held as realizable under temporal conditions, was to walk among his sheaves "beyond the Good and the Bad".[26] The Good consisted in giving hostages to the future. His ideal was to be releasing them, and, in a span of final, but glorious existence, to be tasting of the finest fruit of living — the peace of insight, the joy of emancipation. This was life supremely worth living, for

"leben heisst In Freiheit leben und mit freiem Geist !"[27]

The Good, to take his own metaphor, was as a raft bearing him across the stream of danger. After that he was to leave it and go on.

"And ye, brethren, learn by the parable of the raft that ye must put away good conditions, let alone bad".[28]

It is not easy for us, who have learnt from Plato to call our Absolute the Good and our Ideal a siunmun honum, to sympathize really with this moral standpoint. Critics see in it an aspiration towards moral stultification and self- complacent egoism.

Yes, there is little fear but that in the long-run fuller knowledge will bring deeper insight into what in Buddhism is really worthy of admiration for all time. If it is now accused of weakening the concept of individuality by reject- ing soul, and, at the same time, of fostering egoistic morality, it is just possible that criticism is here at fault. On the ruins of the animistic view. Buddhism had to reconstruct a new personality, wholly phenomenal, impermanent, law- determined, yet none the less able, and alone able, by indomitable faith and will, to work out a personal salva- tion, a personal perfection. Bearing this in mind and surveying the history of its altruistic missionary labours, we cannot rashly cast egoistic morality at it to much effect. Nor has it much to fear from charges of stultification, quietism, pessimism and the like.

We are misled to a certain extent herein by the very thoroughness of its methods of getting at the moral life by way of psychical training. We see, as in our Manual, and other canonical records, elaborate systems for analyzing and cultivating the intellectual faculties, the will and feeling, and we take these as substitutes for overt moral activity, as ends when they are but means. And if the Dhamma-Sangani seems to some calculated to foster introspective thought to a morbid extent, it must not be forgotten that it is not Buddhist philosophy alone which teaches that, for all the natural tendency to spend and be spent in efforts to cope, by thought and achievement, with the world without, "it is in this little fathom-long mortal frame with its thinkings and its notions that the world"[29] itself and the whole problem of its misery and of the victory over it lies hid.

If I have succeeded to any extent in connecting the contents of this Manual with the rest of the Buddhist Pitakas, it is because I had at my disposal the mass of material accumulated in my husband's MS. Pali dictionary. Besides this, the selection of material for Sections II. and III. of my Introduction is his work. Besides this I owe him a debt of gratitude indefinitely great for advice and criticism generally.

Footnotes and references:


Asl. 38.


The two adjectives are kusalam, anamayam.


Cf. M. ii. 94.


Cf. p. 12, n. 3.


Yin. i. 2, 3, quoted Jat. i. 77.


Mil. 313.


Below, p. 12, n. 3.


Santutthi. See p. 358, n. 2.


Cf., e.g., M. P. S. 62 ; Maha Sudassana-sutta, S. B. E. xi. 240, 289.


See above, pp. Ixix, Ixx.


In an article "On the Will in Buddhism", J. E. A. S., January, 1898.


Cf. below, p. 290 et seq.


Asl. 162. See below, pp. 43 et seq., 71 et seq.


See above, p. Ixix.


Translated in Warren's "Buddhism in Translations", p. 293 et seq. Cf. below. Book I., Part I., chap. ii. Cf. also Rhys Davids "Yogavacara's Manual", Introduction.


J. P. T. S., 1891-1893. Synopsis of the Vis. Mag., Parts II. and III.


In translating the formula of the Third Aruppa or meditation on Nothingness, I might have drawn attention to Kant's development of the concept of None or Nothing, in the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (end of Div. i. of Transc. Logic). Some great adepts were credited with the power of actually partaking in other existences while yet in this, notably Maha Moggallana (e.g., M. i.).


P. 82 et seq. Cf. n. 2 on p. 81.


Viz, : Anannat annassamitindriyam, annindriyam, annatavindriyam. Pp. 86, 96, 97, 150. Cf, Dh. K. 53.


Contra, cf, M. i., 184.


Asl. 39.


See Appendix II.


S. v. 2I8 ; M. i. 304.


I am indebted to the Eev. Suriyagoda Sumangala, of Eatmalane, Ceylon, for information very kindly given con- cerning the term kiriya or kriya. He defines it as "action ineffective as to result", and kiriya-cittam as "mind in relation to action ineffective as to result". He adds a full analysis of the various modes of kiriya taught by Buddhists at the present day.


"Origin of Species", p. 56. A. i. 223, 224. Cf. Asl. 360.


 Nietzsche on Buddhism in "Der Antichrist".


A. Pfungst, "An Giordano Bruno".


See the third quotation, p. vii.


See second quotation, p. vii.

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