The Buddhist Philosophy of Universal Flux

by Satkari Mookerjee | 1935 | 152,014 words | ISBN-10: 8120807375

A systematic and clear presentation of the philosophy of critical Realism as expounded by Dignaga and his school. The work is divided into two parts arranged into 26 chapters. Part I discusses the Nature of Existence, Logical Difficulties, Theory of Causation, Universals, Doctrine of Apoha, Theory of Soul and Problem of After-life. Part II deals wi...

Chapter X - The Soul Theory of the Digambara Jainas

Like the followers of Jaimini the Jainas of the Digambara school postulate the existence of a self, of the nature of pure consciousness, having the twofold character of continuity and change in accordance with its dual nature as substance and modes. As substance consciousness continues uniformly through all the diverse states and as modes it varies at every transition. The consciousness that continues is the substance and the states of pleasure and pain are the modes. And these are not distinct and discrete, because the modes happen in consciousness and the two are never found to be dissociated. Thus the self combines the two-fold character of continuity and diversity, uniformity and change and there is no contradiction, as it is attested by direct experience. The Jainas hold that there can be no contradiction in experience, which is the final court of appeal in the matter of validity. A proposition is thought to be invalid, if it has not the sanction of experience and not otherwise. The Jainas accordingly dictate us to change our idea of contradiction in the light of experience and not submit to any a priori abstract principle. The abstractionistic tendency of our intellectual thought; which attaches absolute logical value to one of the aspects of reality, is a vicious superstition, as truth is multiform and has many facets, in which no one aspect should be given absolute value to the exclusion of the rest.[1]

The Jainas further maintain that substance and its modes are neither absolutely different nor are they absolutely identical. They are found to be identical in respects of time, place and nature; thus, the table and its form and colour and the like occupy the same place and time and they have the same essential nature, viz., materiality. And in view of this fundamental unity they cannot but be regarded as identical. But they cannot for that reason be regarded as absolutely identical, as they differ in other respects, to wit, in number, (saṅkhyā), differentia (lakṣaṇa), name (saṃjñā), and function (artha). Thus, the substance is one, but the modes, e.g., pleasure, pain and the like in the case of consciousness, are multiple; this constitutes the difference in number. They differ in specific differentiae also, thus, continuity is the character of substance, while transition (break of continuity) is the character of the modes. The difference of name also is significant, thus the substance is called the self or the jar, as the case may be, whereas the modes are styled ‘colour’ or ‘pleasure,’ etc. The difference in function is equally a distinguishing trait, thus, the pot functions as drawer of water, while colour has such uses as dyeing of clothes and the like. The same line of demarcation can be drawn between the self and its varying moods. Thus we shall have to accept on the authority of experience the twofold character of all things, identity and difference, and certainly we cannot repudiate experience on the ground of their supposed contradiction at the dictate of abstract logic.

But the Buddhist refuses to subscribe to the dictum of the Jainas and asks him point-blank if the self that relates itself with the diversified states, makes any departure from its pristine nature or not in the process of relationing. In the former alternative, it will cease to be eternal, because there is no continuing principle in the various states. In the latter, the self cannot be regarded as a changing principle, as it does not undergo any modification but remains fixed and uniform in all the successive states. Because, modification spells a departure from the original state.[2]

The Buddhist has strongly denounced the interpretation of experience by the Jainas. Certainly experience has to be accepted as the ultimate tribunal, but experience has to be interpreted by logical thought. We cannot abandon our mental constitution and adopt convenient ways of thinking at the dictate of the Jainas. The demand is preposterous in all conscience; it could as well ask us to suspend all thinking. So if there is identity of nature, they must be identical; and if they are identical they cannot be different. Because, identity and difference are contradictory and as such cannot coincide. Either of them can be real and not both. So you should say that substance and moods are different and distinct; and if you insist on regarding them as identical in spite of their contradictory character, you must repudiate all distinctions in the world.and the consequence will be that even blue and yellow will be one and the same.[3]

Thus there can be no compromise between continuity and change which are the connotations of substance (dravya) and modes (paryāya). And if they are identical, your so-called substance must be transitory like the modes, because two identical things cannot possibly have contradictory attributes or in the alternative the so-called modes will be continuous like the so-called substance, they being absolutely identical. You cannot have it both ways, as that involves a contradiction in terms. So the idea of a continuous underlying self or substance has to be abandoned and the states of consciousness;[4] are to be regarded as absolutely fluxional, each perishing irrevocably when the other succeeds. Or the idea of variable modes has to be surrendered and things are to be regarded as absolutely immutable and fixed, as mutation and continuity cannot be predicated of one and the same thing.[5]

The statement that the underlying, continuing entity is known by direct perception is a baseless error. Because, no such entity is perceived as something distinct from the transitional modes. And as it is posited that the self is an entity and is competent to direct cognition, we must set it down as a purely illusory idea like that of a sky-lotus or a barren woman’s son, because if it was a real existence, it could not but be perceived. The Jaina’s demand that it is perceived by him must be dismissed with scant courtesy, as in that case there could arise no dispute about the existence of the self.[6]

It may be legitimately urged, however, that if there is no substance as a unitary principle underlying all the manifold modes, then why should there be such distinctions as of number, name, differentia and functions? If an underlying reality over and above the plurality of modes is posited, then these distinctions become intelligible. But the Buddhist answers that such distinctions are purely intellectual fictions and they have no being in the real existents. The entities, though absolutely distinct and different entities in and by themselves, have two sets of functions and practical uses, one common and another specific. When emphasis is laid upon the common nature of the functions concerned, these entities, in spite of their mutual differences, come to be labelled with a single epithet for the sake of convenience by an intellectual fiction. On the other hand, when attention is paid to their specific functions, they are designated by different names.' The distinction of number and name is thus a matter of convenience, absolutely imposed by the intellect. The distinction of functions is due to an analogous operation of the intellect; thus, when the similarity of the common functions is emphasised, the function is conceived to be one and when the diversity of the specific functions is accentuated, they are regarded as different and manifold. The distinction of differentiæ is also purely conceptual, arising from the operation of the ‘Law of Causation.’ Thus, the structure of the pot is reduplicated in all the various stages; the black pot in its unbaked state and the red one are absolutely two distinct entities. But the structural similarity gives rise to illusion of identity and so continuity comes to be regarded as its differentia. And when the transition of colours is contemplated, the difference and diversity come to be regarded as the differentiating character of these modes.[7] In reality, however, there is no continuity at any one of the stages and so the entities are diverse and discrete every moment. But there is an innate tendency of the intellect to synthesise those diverse aspects, which have a similar look, into one category. The similarity is only apparent and does not imply any continuity whatsoever. So the Jainas by adjudging the nature of reality from surface appearances of things, which are created into a category by the abstractionistic tactics of the intellect, only betray sad lack of philosophical insight and logical ineptitude.

It has, however, been urged that the twofold character (dvirūpa) of substance and modes is merged in one concrete whole, and this whole being one impartite identity like the man-lion deity, the distinctive individuality of the two characters escapes detection. But this involves a contradiction in terms. If -the whole is one impartite identity, it cannot have a twofold character, as character means distinctive individuality and two characters would imply of necessity two individual existences and certainly an identical entity cannot have two distinct existences, as it is manifestly absurd. And the analogy of the man-lion is quite irrelevant, as the man-lion too is not one substance with two distinct individualities. The man-lion is an aggregate of manifold atoms and so having a plurality of natures, it appears as twofold.

To sum up: the Jaina theory of soul as a multiple entity with a duplicate nature of continuity and change is vitiated by self-contradiction. It can be accepted if we give up or revise our idea of the ‘Law of Contradiction.’ But as the constitution of our minds cannot be changed, we cannot accept the theory, which flagrantly violates a fundamental law of thought. And so long as our logical sense refuses to be coaxed or coerced into acceptance of a contradictory proposition, the Jaina metaphysics must remain an intolerable and unacceptable system, though it might excite our admiration as a monument of philosophical sophistry or imagination gone mad.

Footnotes and references:


nanu bhedābhedayoḥ parasparaparihāreṇā’vasthānād anyatarasyai’va vāstavatvād ubhayātmakatvam ayuktam iti cet—tad ayuktaṃ, bādhe pramāṇābhāvāt. anupalambho hi bādhakaṃ pramāṇaṃ, na so’sti. samasteṣu vastuṣv anekāntātmakalvasya syādvādino mate suprasiddhatvād ity alam.
      S. D. S., p. 69.


tatrā’py avikṛtaṃ dravyaṃ paryāyair yadi saṅgatam |
na viśeṣo’sti tasye’ti pariṇāmi na tad bhavet |
      T. S, Śl. 312.


svabhāvābheda ekatvaṃ tasmin sati ca bhinnatā |
kathañcid api duḥsādhyā paryāyātmasvarūpavat | 
      T. S, Śl. 316.

(Cf. also) “......... bhede’pi yady ekatvaṃ tat kvacid api nīlapītādau bhedo na syāt. uktaṃ hi, ayam eva bhedo bhedahetur vā yad viruddhadharmādhyāsaḥ kāraṇabhedaś ce’ti”
      Kāvyaprakāśa, Ch. V.,—p. 244 (Jhalkikar’s edn).

The ‘Law of Contradiction’ and the ‘Law of Excluded Middle’ have been formulated by Udayana in his Kusumañjali in the following couplet:

parasparavirodhe hi na prakārāntarasthitiḥ |
nai’katā’pi viruddhānām uktimātravirodhataḥ’ |
      III. 8.

“Between two terms exclusive of each other, there is no third term possible. Nor can there be any identity between the two, as it is a contradiction in terms.”

A thing can be supposed to be ‘A’, or not ‘A’, or both, or neither. The last two alternatives are impossible.

‘na prakārāntarasthitiḥ, na nobhayātmakatvaṃ nai’katā’pi na bbāvābhāvātmakatvam api’

‘na prakārāntarasthitir ity asya vivaraṇaṃ na nobhayātmakatvam iti, nobhābhyām anyatvam ity arthaḥ, na bhāvābhāvobhayabhinnatvam iti yāvat.’
      K. T., C. K. Tarkālaṅkāra.


Cf. Huxly, “Consciousnesses” would be a better name, but it is awkward. I have elsewhere proposed psychoses as a substantive name for mental phenomena” Hume by Huxly. Ch. II. p. 62. F. N. 1.


tato nā’vasthitaṃ kiñcid dravyam ātmādi vidyate |
paryāyāvyatiriktatvāt paryāyāṇāṃ svarūpavat |
na co’dayavyayākrāntāḥ paryāyā api kecana |
dravyād avyatiriktatvāt taddravyaniyatātmavat |
tato niranvayo dhvaṃsaḥ sthiraṃ vā sarvam iṣyatām |
ekātmani tu nai’va sto vyāvṛttyanugamāv imau |
      T. S., Śls. 319-21.


na co’palabhyarūpasya paryāyānugatātmanoḥ |
dravyasya pratibhāso’sti tan nā’sti gaganābjavat |
      Op. cit., śl. 822.


vividhārthakriyāyogyās tulyādijñānahetavaḥ |
tathāvidhārthasaṅketaśabdapratyayagocarāḥ |
      Op. cit., śl. 323.

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