by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words
This page describes “conditioned dharmas cannot have the three marks (lakshana)” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.
Question. – All conditioned phenomena (saṃskṛta) have a transitory (anitya) nature: that is an absolute mark. Why do you say that the transitory is unreal (asatya)? Conditioned dharmas (saṃskṛta), by virtue of the marks of arising (utpāda), duration (sthiti) and cessation (bhaṅga), first arise, then last, and finally perish; why do you say that the transitory is unreal?
Answer. – Conditioned dharmas cannot have these three marks (lakṣaṇa). Why? Because these three marks are not real. If birth, duration and cessation were marks of the conditioned, these three marks would equally have to be present at the arising of the conditioned, for arising is a mark of the conditioned. In the same way, these three marks each would equally have to be present separately everywhere, which would be absurd. It would be the same for duration and cessation. Since birth, duration and cessation, taken separately, do not each [and per modum unius] have birth-duration-cessation, they cannot be called marks of the conditioned (saṃskṛtalakṣaṇa). Why? Because the marks of conditioned dharmas do not exist. Consequently, the transitory nature of dharmas is not of the absolute order.
Furthermore, if every real entity (bhūtasvabhāva) were transitory (anitya), retribution of actions (karmavipāka) could not take place. Why? Because transitoriness is the cessation after arising. Just as as a rotten seed (pūtika bīja) [60c] cannot produce a fruit (phala), thus there would be no action (karman) and, the act not existing, how could there be retribution (vipāka)? Now every good doctrine (āryadharma) accepts retribution. That which should be believed by a person of good knowledge (kuśalajñāna) should not be denied. Therefore the dharmas are not transitory. For innumerable reasons of this kind, we say that the transitoriness of the dharmas cannot be affirmed. [What is said here about the alleged transitory characteristic of the dharmas] is also true for their nature of suffering (duḥkhe), of non-self (anātmaka), etc. Characteristics of this kind are called the therapeutic point of view.
d. The absolute point of view (pāramārthikasaddhānta). – Every essence (dharmatā), every category of speech (upadeśābhidhāna), every dharma and adharma, may be subdivided (vibhakta), broken into pieces (bhinna) and scattered (prakīrṇa), one after the other; but the true Dharma (bhūtadharma), the domain (gocara) of the buddhas, pratyekabuddhas and arhats can neither be broken apart nor scattered. That which has not been understood (t’ong) in the preceding points of view is completely understood here. What is meant by ‘understood’? By ‘understood’ is meant the absence of any defect (sarvadoṣavisaṃyoga), unchangeability (apariṇāmatva), invincibility (ajeyatva). Why? Because if one deviates from the absolute point of view, the other teachings (upadeśa), the other points of view (suddhānta) are all destroyed. Some stanzas in the Tchong yi king (Arthavargīya sūtra) say:
If the refusal to accept the system of another (paradharma)
Is the action of a fool (bāla),
Then all the teachers (upadeśin)
Are, in truth, fools.
If being based on personal views [61a]
In order to produce futile nonsense
Constituted pure knowledge,
There would be no-one of impure knowledge.
In these three stanzas, the Buddha is concerned with the absolute point of view.
[First stanza]. – It is said that ordinary people depend on wrong views (dṛṣṭi), on systems (dharma), on theories (updeśa) and therefore stir up quarrels (vivāda). Futile nonsense (prapañca) is the origin of quarrels and futile nonsense gives birth to wrong views (dṛṣṭi). A stanza says:
The yogin who knows this does not accept any system (dharma), does not accept any nonsense (prapañca), adheres to nothing and believes in nothing. Not really taking part in any discussion (vivāda), he knows the taste of the ambrosia (amṛtarasa) of the Buddhadharma. To act otherwise is to reject the doctrine.
[Second stanza]. – If all of those who do not accept the systems of others (paradharma), who do not know them and who do not adopt them, were ignoramuses, then all the masters (upadeśin) would be ignoramuses. Why? Because, taken individually, each one reject the systems of his neighbors [to adhere to his own]. Actually, a system that affirms itself to be absolutely pure (paramārthaśuddha) is denigrated by others as being impure. Such, for example, are the mundane penal laws (daṇḍadharma), by virtue of which executioners carry out punishments (daṇḍa), executions (vadha) and impurities (aśubha) of all kinds. Worldly people accept them and hold them to be absolutely pure, whereas others, pravrajitas and āryas, consider them to be impure. According to the customs of the tīrthikas and the pravrajitas, one stays between five fires, one stands on one leg, one tears out one’s hair, etc. – What the Ni k’ien tseu (Nirgranthaputras) hold as reasonable, other people call foolishness. In the various systems of the tīrthikas, pravrajitas, śvetābaras, brāhmanas, etc., each considers good what his neighbor denigrates. – In the Buddhist system as well, there are Tou tseu (Vatsiputrīya) bhikṣus who say: “Just as there is a dharma ‘eye’ (cakṣus) by the coming together of the four great elements (caturmahābhūtasaṃyoga), so there is a dharma ‘individual’ (pudgala) from the coming together of the five aggregates (pañcaskandhasaṃyoga). In the Tou tseu a pi t’an (Vātsīputrīyābhidharma) it is said: “The five aggregates (skandha) are not separate from the pudgala and the pudgala is not separate from the five aggregates. It cannot be said that the five aggregates are the pudgala nor that there is a pudgala apart from the five aggregates. The pudgala is a fifth category, an ineffable (avaktavya) dharma, contained in the piṭaka.” The adepts of the Chouo yi ts’ie yeou (Sarvāstivāda) say: “The pudgala is not established in any way, in any time, in any text (dharmaparyāya). It is non-existent like the horns of a hare (śaśaviṣaṇa) or the hairs of a tortoise (kūrmaroman). Furthermore, the eighteen elements (dhātu), the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) and the five aggregates (skandha) truly exist, but the pudgala is not found among them.” On the other hand, in the Buddhist system, the adepts of the Fang kouang (Vaipulya) say: “All dharmas are unborn (anutpanna), non-destroyed (aniruddha), empty (śūnya) and non-existent (akiṃcana). They are non-existent like the horns of [61b] a hare (śaśaviṣāṇa) or the hair of a tortoise (kūrmaroman).” All these teachers boast about their own system but reject that of others: they say: “This is true, the rest is false (idam eva saccaṃ mogham aññaṃ).” It is their own system that they accept, it is their own system that they respect (pūjayanti), it their own system that they practice (bhāvayanti). As for the system of another, they do not accept it, they do not respect it: they criticize it.
[Third stanza]. – If by the sole fact [of having a system of their own] these teachers were pure and attained the absolute good, then there would not be any impure teachers, for they are all of them attached to a system.
Footnotes and references:
The marks of the conditioned dharma (saṃkṛtadharmalakṣaṇa) have already been mentioned in the canonical scriptures: (1) two marks, arising (utpāda) and cessation (vyaya), in Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 49); (2) three marks, arising (utpāda) cessation (vaya) and change of that which lasts (ṭhitassa or ṭhitānaṃ aññathatta), in the corresponding Pāli Nikāyas: Saṃyutta, III, p. 37; Aṅguttara, I, p. 152: katamesam dvuso…pañnnāyati; (3) the third mark, ṭhitassa aññāthattam, is corrected to sthity-anyathātva in the corresponding Sanskrit Āgama (Documents sanskrits de la seconde collection. A. Stein, JRAS, 1913, p. 573; Madh. vṛtti, p. 145): trīṇīmāni bhikṣavaḥ saṃskṛtasya…prajñāyate; – (4) the Abhidharma allows only three marks: Kathāvatthu, I, p. 61; Visuddhimagga, p. 431, 473; Aung, Compendium, p. 25. – Some scholars omit even duration or sthiti (cf. Aung, Points of Controversy, p. 374–375).
In general, the scholarly treatises speak of four marks: birth (utpāda), old age (jarā), duration (stithi) and impermanence (anityatā): P’i p’o cha, T 1545, k. 38, p. 198c9; Kośa, II, p. 222. The marks of the conditioned occur in the definition of kṣaṇa, the instantaneous duration of phenomenon. See the study by LAV., Notes sur le moment des Vaiibhāṣika et des Sautrāntika, MCB, V, 1937, p. 134–158. As real entities, they are rejected by the Sautrāntikas (Kośa, II, p. 226–228), the Madhyamikas (Madh. vṛtti, chap. VII: Saṃskṛtaparīkṣā, p. 145–179) and the Vijñānavādins (Siddhi, p. 64–68). In its refutation, the Mppś takes its inspiration especially from the Madh. vṛtti.
The argument is taken up in Madh. kārikā, VIII, 2, p. 146: utpādādyās trsyo…katham ekadā.
Tr.: The three marks, arising, etc., taken separately, are incapable of filling the rôle of marks of the conditioned. Taken together, how could they occur in one single category at the same time? – The commentary (p. 146–147) explains: At the time of duration, birth and cessation do not exist. Thus duration belongs to something which lacks arising and cessation. But a category that lacks arising and cessation does not exist. Consequently, duration cannot be applied to a category as nonexistent as a sky-flower… On the other hand, the three marks cannot occur in one single category at the same time, for they are opposite to one another like desire and renunciation or light and shadow. Who could reasonably claim that one and the same category lasts and perishes at the very moment that it is born?
For Buddhists, belief in the after-life and the retribution of actions is the corner-stone of morality. Negation of good and evil is the wrong view (mithyādṛṣṭi) par excellence (Kośa, IV, p. 36, 137, 167). – On the other hand, the Buddha recognized the Jaṭilas, worshippers of fire, and admitted them without noviciate (parivāsa) “because they believe in karma” (Vinaya, I, p. 71).
All dharmas are transitory (anicca), perishable (vayadhamma), non-self (anattā) and of suffering (dukkha). Cf. Saṃyutta, III, p. 44 (the corresponding Sanskrit of which may be found in JRAS, 1913, p. 573, and the Chinese version in Tsa a han, T 99 (no. 84), k. 3, p. 21c): rūpaṃ bhikkhave aniccam…anupādāya āsavehi. – Other references in Rhys Davids – Stede, s. v. saṅkhāra, in fine.
Expressions to designate the absolute are not lacking in Buddhist texts. LAV. in Siddhi, p. 748–750 cites some lists which are given here:
1) Ta pan jo lo mi to king T 220, k. 360, p. 853c10: tathatā, dharmatā, avitathatā, avikāratathatā, niyāmatā, dharmaniyama, dharmasthiti, ākāśadhātu, bhūtakoṭi, acintyadhātu.
2) Pañjikā, p. 421: bodhir buddhatvam ekānekasvabhāvaiviktam….saṃvṛtim upādāyābhidhīyate.
3) Long list of synonyms in the Vijñānavādin sūtras. Cf. Saṃdhinirmocana, p. 28: paramārtha, tathatā, dharmatā, dharmadhmatu, bhūtakoṭi, vijñaptimātra, viśuddhālambana, svabhāvabiḥsvabhāvatā, dharmanairātmya, śūnyatā. – Laṅkāvatāra, p. 192–193: anirodha, anutpāda, śūnyatā, tathatā, satyatā, bhūtakoṭi,dharmadhātu, nirvāṇa, nitya, samatā, advaya.
4) All these words are repeated and defined in the Vijñānavādin treatises. Madhyāntavibhaṅga, p. 49–51: tathatā bhūakoṭiś cānimittaṃ…sāsataḥ; – Saṃgraha, p. 121: prakṛtivyavasāna, tathatā, śūnyatā, bhūtakoṭi, animitta, paramārtha, dharmadhātu; – Tsa tsi louen, T 1606, k. 2, p. 702b: tathatā, nairātmya, śūnyatā, ānimitta, bhūtakoṭi, paramārtha, dharmadhātu; – Fo ti king louen, T 1530, k. 7, p. 323a24: tathatā, dharmadhātu, tattva and bhāva, śūnyatā and abhāva, bhūtakoĪi, paramārtha.
These Arthavargiyaṇi sutrāṇi, Aṭṭhakavagga in Pāli, constitute one of the earliest of the primitive Buddhist documents.
In Pāli, the Aṭṭhakavagga “Section of the Eight” is a group of sixteen sūtras forming the fourth chapter of the Suttanipāta, which itself is the fifteenth work of the Khuddhakanikāya, fourth and last collection of the Suttapiṭaka (cf. Winternitz, Literature, II, p. 92–98; Law, Pāli Literature, I, p. 232–260). Under the name Aṭṭhakavaggika or Aṭṭhakavaggikāni, this book is cited in Vinaya, I, p. 196; Saṃyutta, III, 12; Udāna, p. 59.
There exists in Sanskrit an Arthavarga, or rather Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi, “Section on Meaning”, of which fragments have been found in eastern Turkestan (cf. M. Anesaki, JPTS, 1906–1907, p. 50 seq.: R. Hoernle, JRAS, 1916, p. 709 seq.; 1917, p. 134). These Arthvargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi are cited in Divyāvadāṇa, p. 20, 35; in Bodh. bhūmi, p. 48, and according to Kośavyākhyā, p. 33, they are part of the Kṣudrakāgama (arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi Kṣudrake paṭhyante). Under the title Arthavargīyasūtra, in Tibetan Don gyi tshoms kyi mdo, it is cited in the Dulva.
It has been translated into Chinese by Tche k’ien, between 223 and 253, under the name Yi tsou king (123 and 7; 157; 120 and 7), literally, “Sūtra of the Feet of Meaning”. T 198, IV, p. 174–188.
The work is often quoted in the Chinese Tripiṭaka, unfortunately under very different titles that often do not permit immediate identification. Here are some references:
(1) Transliterated titles: A t’o p’o king (Arthavargīya sūtra) in Mppś, T 1509, k. 1, p. 63c. – A t’o po k’i sieou tou lou (Arthavargīya sūtra) in the Sarvāstivādin Vinaya, T 1435, k. 24, p. 174b.
(2) Translated titles: Yi p’in (Section on meaning or Arthavarga) in Saṃyuktāgama, T 99 (no. 551), k. 20, p. 144b and c: Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 34, p. 176a; Hiuan tsang’s translation of the Koś, T 1558, k. 1, p. 3b; Yogacaryābhūmiśāstra, T 1579, k. 36, p. 489a.
Yi pou (Section on Meaning or Arthavarga) in Paramārtha’s translation of the Kośa, T 1559, k. 1, p. 164a.
Tchong yi king (Sūtra of all Meanings) in Mppś, T 1509, k. 1, p. 60c.
Tchong yi p’in (Section of all meanings) in Vibhāṣā, T 1545, k. 4, p. 17a; k. 137, p. 706a.
Chouo yi (Explanation of Meaning) in the P’i ni mou king, T 1463, k. 3, p. 818a.
Che lieou yi p’in king (Sūtra of the Sixteen Sections of Meaning) in the Mahīśāsaka Vinaya, T 1421, k. 21, p. 144b.
Pa po k’i king (Sūtra of the Eight Sections or Aṣṭavargīyasūtra) in the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya, T 1425, k. 23, p. 416a.
Che lieou yi kiu (Sūtra of the Sixteen Phrases of Meaning) in the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, T 1428, k. 39, p. 845c.
These stanzas probably mean: (1) The real truth consists of not adhering to any system, in not entering into any acholastic quarrel. – (2) Indeed, all the teachers are fools: they treat as fools those who do not accept their ideas and themselves are treated as fools by their adversaries. – (3) All claim to have found the truth and, if they were to be believed, in the world there would be only impeccable philosophical systems.
These three stanzas roughly correspond to the first five strophes of the Cūlaviyūhasutta, the twelfth sutta of the Aṭṭhakavagga (Suttanipāta,, v. 878–882; tr. Fausböll, p. 167–168; tr. R. Chalmers, Buddha’s Teachings, Cambridge M, 1932, p. 211). The Pāli text differs considerably from the citation of the Mppś given here, as well as the Chinese translation of Tche k’ien in T 198, k. 2, p. 182a–b).
(1) Sahaṃ sahaṃ…ahevait do.
(2) Evam pi viggayha…kuśala vadānā.
(3) Parassa ce dhammaṃ…ime diṭṭhiparibbasānā.
(4) Sandiṭṭhiyāce pana…pi tathḥa samattā.
(5) Na vāham etaṃ…ti paraṃ dahanti.
Transl. The Disciple. – (1) Fixed in personal views, many [masters], quarreling amongst themselves, affirm that they are [the only] wise ones [and say]: “Those who accept that understand the [true] doctrine; those who reject that are imperfect.” – (2) Quarreling thus, they debate and say: “My adversary is a fool, an ignoramus.” Then what is the true doctrine among all of these, because all these [masters] claim to be [the only] wise ones?
The Buddha. – (3) If he who does not recognize the doctrine of his adversary is a fool, an inferior being of little intelligence, then all of these [masters] are fools of little intelligence, [for] all hold to their own [personal] views. (4) Or, if they are truly purified by their own views, if they are of pure intellect, wise and mindful, no-one among them is of little intelligence for their views are equally perfect. – (5) But I do not call ‘reality’ that which these fools say to one another. They make the truth of their own view; that is why they treat their adversary as a fool.
The horror of the Buddha and his disciples for any argument, more pretended than real, is well known:
Suttanipāta, v. 897: yā kāc’ imā sammutiyo…khantim akubbamāno. – Sanskrit text in Bodh. bhūmi, p.48–49: yāḥ kāścana saṃvṛtayo…kāntim asaṃorakurvan. – Tr.: The Muni does not take up the opinions that are current in the world, for he is independent. How could the person who feels no attraction to what he sees and hears submit himself?
Saṃyutta, III, p. 138: nāham bhikkhave lokena…tam atthiīti vadaÎi. – Sanskrit text in Madh. vṛtti, p. 370: loko mayā sārdhaṃ…tan nāsti saṃātam. Tr.: It is the world that argues with me, it is not I who argue with the world. That which is accepted in the world is also accepted by me, that which is rejected by the world is also rejected by me. – Chinese translation in Tsa a han, T99 (no. 37), k. 2, p. 8b.
Madh. vṛtti, p. 57: The silence of the āryas is the abslute (paramārtha hy āryāṇāṃ tūṣṇīṃbhāvaḥ).
Saṃdhinirmocana, II, par. 4: Cognizable by intuition, neutral domain, ineffable, destroyer of ordinary experience: that is the absolute. Its nature transcends all speculation.
For penal punishments, see Jolly, Recht und Sitte, p. 129–131.
Compare Āryadeva’s Po louen, T 1569, k. 1, p.168b. – Several sūtras inform us about the ascetic practices at the time of the Buddha, e.g., Majjhima (no. 12), I, p.68–83; (no. 14), I, p. 91–95. LAV. Histoire, I, p.290–314, has an important chapter on Hindu asceticism, mendicant and monastic life and the sects of the Buddhist epoch.
Belief in the personality or Pudgalavāda, defended by several Buddhist sects (LAV., Nirvāṇa, p. 34), is generally attributed to the Vatsīputrīya-Sāṃmitīyas (see Kośavyākhyā, p. 699). The only text of the school that has come down to us, the San mi ti pou louen, T 1649, has not yet been studied (cf. Przyluski, Concile, p. 73; LAV., Introduction to the Kośa, p. LX-LXII). The Pudgalavāda is especially known by the texts that oppose it and the general works on the Buddhist sects. See Vasumitra, p. 53–57; Bhavya in Walleser, Sekten, p. 87; Katthāvatthu, p. 1 (tr. Aung, Points of Controversy, p. 8–14); L. de La Vallée Poussin, La controverse du temps at du Pudgala dans le Vijñānakmaya, EA, p.358–376; Kośa, chap. IX, p. 227–302 (important document from which later treatises have drawn widely); Sūtrālaṃkāra, ed Lévi, p. 154–160 (tr. Lévi, p. 259–265); Bodhicaryāvatāra, IX, v. 73, and Pannjikā, p.471–484; Madh. vṛitti, p. 340–481; Madh. avatāra, p. 233–287 (tr. LAV., Muséon, 1911, p. 282–328); Tattvasaṃgraha, I, p. 125–130 (tr. S. Schayer, Karmalaśīlas Kritik des Pudgalavāda, RO, VIII, 1932, p. 68–93; tr. Jha, I, p. 217–226; Siddhi, p. 14–15.
The Vātsīputrīyābhidharma has been lost, if the Mppś is to be believed (below, k. 2, p. 70a), at least ionsofar as it here concerns the Śāriputrābhidharma, T 1548, particularly respected by theVātsīputrīyas,. – But the text cited here is found in the San mi ti pou louen, T 1649, k. 1, p. 465b29: It cannot be said that the skandhas and the ātman are different or non-different… The ātman also is ineffable (avaktavya). – Kośa, IX, p. 232: The Vātsīputrīyas accept a pudgala that is neither identical with the elements nor other than the elements: ibid. p. 237. The Vāsīputrīya maintains that the pudgala is ineffable (avaktavya) concerning its relationship, identity or non-identity, with the elements… He distinguishes five categories of phenomena capable of being cognized (pañcavidhaṃ jñeyam): (1–3) conditioned phenomena (saṃskṛta) or, in other words, past, present and future phenomena; (4) non-caused phenomena (asaṃskṛta), and (5) the ineffable or pudgala. – Madh. avatāra, p. 268: Some maintain the real existence of a pudgala of which one cannot say that it is identical with the skandhas or different from the skandhas, permanent or impermanent; it is cognized by the six vijñānas; it is the object of the concept of self.
The Sarvāstivādin doctrine is that the self is merely a designation of the series of elements and a self does not exist in it. No proof, no proof of evidence, no proof of induction, establishes the existence of a self independent of these elements. That which in common language is called soul, self, vital principle, person, is merely a series (saṃtāna, saṃtati), of which the elements are in the relationship of cause and effect, subject to the law of causality (pratītyasamutpāda). This solution, outlined in the Canon, Dīgha, III, p. 105 (viññānasota), Saṃyutta, III, p. 143 (saṃtāna), was adopted and developed by all the schools of the Lesser Vehicle which reject belief in a pudgala and profess nairātmya. For the school of the Pāli language and its doctrine of bhavaṅga, an explanation and some references will be found in Saṃgraha, p. 8–10. For the Sarvāstivādin-Vaibhāṣika ‘series’ on the one hand and the Sautrāntika ‘series’ on the other hand, consult Kośa, II, p. 185: good resumé in LAV., Morals, p. 196–200: Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa, Introd., p. 15, 23–27.
Cf. Kośa, IX, p. 247: The Bhagavat said to a brāhman: “If I say that everything exists, it is a matter of the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana).” The pudgala not being included in these twelve āyatanas, it does not exist. – The sūtra to which the Kośa alludes here is in Tsa a han, T 99 (n0. 319), k. 13, p. 91a: Everything, i.e., the twelve āyatanas, eye, etc. – Compare Saṃyutta, IV, p. 15, sabbaṃ is defined by the enumeration of the twelve āyatanas, from the eye up to dharmas; Mahāniddesa, p. 133: sabbaṃ vuccati dvādasāyatanāni; Kośa, V, p. 64.
Nihilistic statements of this type abound in the sūtras of the Greater Vehicle, e.g., Saṃdhinirmocana, VII, v. 1: niḥsvabhāvāḥ sarvadharmā…prakṛtiparinirvṛtāḥ. – Tr. All dharmas are without self nature, unborn, non-destroyed, calm from the beginning and essentially nirvāṇic. – Identical phrases in Ratnameghasūtra, cited in Madh. vṛtti, p. 225, and Subhāṣitasaṃgraha, Muséon, Iv, 1903, p. 394; Sūtrālaṃkāra, ed. Lévi, XI, v. 51, p. 67; Saṃgraha, p. 128; Gauḍapādakmarikā, IV, 93.
The horn of a hare (śaśaviṣeṇa) or the hair of a tortoise (kūrmaroman) – also the sky-flower (khapuṣpa) or the son of a barren woman (vandhyāputra) – are comparisons often used to designate impossibilities. Cf. Jātaka, III, p. 477; Laṅkāvatāra, p. 41, 51, 52, 53, 61, 104, 188, 291, 341; Kośa, IX, p. 263.
An old phrase used in arguments as conclusion to a thesis, cf. Majjhima, II, p. 169: aham etaṃ jānāmi…mogham añnnan ti.