by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081
This page describes the philosophy of the doctrine of causal connection of early buddhism: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fourth part in the series called the “buddhist philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.
The word Dhamma in the Buddhist scriptures is used generally in four senses:
- Scriptural texts,
- quality (guṇa),
- cause (hetu)
- and unsubstantial and soulless (nissatta nijjīva).
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 entity 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 passing 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 (paṭicca-samuppāda) dependent origination. But it is difficult to understand what is the exact nature of this dependence. The question as Saṃyutta Nikāya (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, pass 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 (jāti), so they depend on birth.
But on what did upādāna depend?
It occurred to him that it was desire (taṇhā) on which upādāna depended. There can be upādāna if there is desire (taṇhā).
But what being there, can there be desire ?
To this question it occurred to him that there must be feeling (vedcinā) in order that there may be desire.
But on what does vedanā depend, or rather what must be there, that there may be feeling (vedanā)?
To this it occurred to him that there must be a sense-contact (phassa) in order that there may be feeling. If there should be no sense-contact there would be no feeling.
but on what does nāmarūpa depend ?
It occurred to him that without consciousness (viññāna) there could be no nāmarūpa.
But what being there are there the saṅkhāras?
Here it occurred to him that the saṅkhāras can only be if there is ignorance (avijjā).
If avijjā could be stopped then the saṅkhāras will be stopped, and if the saṅkhāras could be stopped viññāna could be stopped and so on.
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 (Jarāmaraṇa) could not have happened if there was no birth. This seems to be clear. But at this point the difficulty begins. We must remember that the theory of rebirth was enunciated in the Upaniṣads. The Bṛhadāranyaka says that just as an insect going to the end of a leaf of grass 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.
All schools of philosophy except the Cārvākas believed in it and so little is known to us of the Cārvāka sūtras 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 emancipated 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 Candrakīrtti 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 Upaniṣad note “as a man does so will he be born” (Yat karma kurute tadabhisampadyate, Bṛh. IV. iv. 5). Candraklrtti’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 Upaniṣads and was used in the Pāli 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 upādāna.
In the Upaniṣads we read,
“whatever one betakes himself to, so does he work”
(Yatkratur-bhavati tatkarmma kurute , Bṛh. IV. iv. 5).
As this betaking to the thing depends upon desire (tṛṣṇa), it is said that in order that there may be upādāna there must be taṇhā. In the Upaniṣads also we read “Whatever one desires so does he betake himself to” (sa yathākāmo bhavati tatkraturbhavati). Neither the word upādāna nor tṛṣṇā (the Sanskrit word corresponding to taṇhā) is found in the earlier Upaniṣads, but the ideas contained in them are similar to the words “kratu” and “kāma” Desire (taṇhā) is then said to depend on feeling or sense-contact. Sense-contact presupposes the six senses as fields of operation. These six senses or operating fields would again presuppose the whole psychosis of the man (the body and the mind together) called nāmarūpa. We are familiar with this word in the Upaniṣads but there it is used in the sense of determinate forms and names as distinguished from the indeterminate indefinable reality.
Buddhaghoṣa in the Visuddhimagga says that by “Name” are meant the three groups beginning with sensation (i.e. sensation, perception and the predisposition); by “Form” the four elements and form derivative from the four elements. He further says that name by itself can produce physical changes, such as eating, drinking, making movements or the like. So form also cannot produce any of those changes by itself. But like the cripple and the blind they mutually help one another and effectuate the changes.
But there exists no heap or collection of material for the production of Name and Form ;
“but just as when a lute is played upon, there is no previous store of sound; and when the sound comes into existence it does not come from any such store; and when it ceases, it does not go to any of the cardinal or intermediate points of the compass ; ...in exactly the same way all the elements of being both those with form and those without, come into existence after having previously been non-existent and having come into existence pass away..”
Nāmarūpa taken in this sense will not mean the whole of mind and body, but only the sense functions and the body which are found to operate in the six doors of sense (salāyatana). If we take nāmarūpa in this sense, we can see that it may be said to depend upon the viññāna (consciousness). Consciousness has been compared in the Milinda Paṅha with a watchman at the middle of the cross-roads beholding all that come from any direction. Buddhaghoṣa in the Atthasālini also says that consciousness means that which thinks its object. If we are to define its characteristics we must say that it knows (yijānana), goes in advance (piibbah-gama), connects (sandhāna), and stands on nāmarūpa (nāmarūpa-padatthānani). When the consciousness gets a door, at a place the objects of sense are discerned (ārammana-vibhāvanatthāne) and it goes first as the precursor. When a visual object is seen by the eye it is known only by the consciousness, and when the dhammas are made the objects of (mind) mano, it is known only by the consciousness.
Buddhaghoṣa also refers here to the passage in the Milinda Paṅha we have just referred to. He further goes on to say that when states of consciousness rise one after another, they leave no gap between the previous state and the later and consciousness therefore appears as connected. When there are the aggregates of the five khandhas it is lost; but there are the four aggregates as nāmarūpa, it stands on nāma and therefore it is said that it stands on nāmarūpa. He further asks, Is this consciousness the same as the previous consciousness or different from it? He answers that it is the same. Just so, the sun shows itself with all its colours, etc., but he is not different from those in truth; and it is said that just when the sun rises, its collected heat and yellow colour also rise then, but it does not mean that the sun is different from these. So the citta or consciousness takes the phenomena of contact, etc., and cognizes them. So though it is the same as they are yet in a sense it is different from them.
To go back to the chain of twelve causes, we find that jāti (birth) is the cause of decay and death, Jarāmaraṇa, etc. Jāti is the appearance of the body or the totality of the five skandhas. Coming to bhava which determines jāti, I cannot think of any better rational explanation of bhava, than that I have already suggested, namely, the works (karma) which produce the birth. Upādāna is an advanced tṛṣṇā leading to positive clinging. It is produced by tṛṣṇā (desire) which again is the result of vedanā (pleasure and pain). But this vedanā is of course vedanā with ignorance (avidyā), for an Arhat may have also vedanā but as he has no avidyā, the vedanā cannot produce tṛṣṇā in turn. On its development it immediately passes into upādāna. Vedanā means pleasurable, painful or indifferent feeling. On the one side it leads to tṛṣṇā (desire) and on the other it is produced by sense-contact (sparśa). Prof. De la Vallee Poussin says that Śrllābha distinguishes three processes in the production of vedanā. Thus first there is the contact between the sense and the object; then there is the knowledge of the object, and then there is the vedanā. Depending on Majjhima Nikāya, iii. 242, Poussin gives the other opinion that just as in the case of two sticks heat takes place simultaneously with rubbing, so here also vedanā takes place simultaneously with sparśa for they are “produits par un mēme complexe de causes (sāmagrī)”
Sparśa is produced by ṣaḍāyatana, ṣaḍāyatana by nāmarūpa, and nāmarūpa by vijñāna, and is said to descend in the womb of the mother and produce the five skandhas as nāmarūpa, out of which the six senses are specialized.
Vijñāna in this connection probably means the principle or germ of consciousness in the womb of the mother upholding the five elements of the new body there. It is the product of the past karmas (saṅkhāra) of the dying man and of his past consciousness too.
We sometimes find that the Buddhists believed that the last thoughts of the dying man determined the nature of his next birth. The manner in which the vijñāna produced in the womb is determined by the past vijñāna of the previous existence is according to some authorities of the nature of a reflected image, like the transmission of learning from the teacher to the disciple, like the lighting of a lamp from another lamp or like the impress of a stamp on wax. As all the skandhas are changing in life, so death also is but a similar change; there is no great break, but the same uniform sort of destruction and coming into being. New skandhas are produced as simultaneously as the two scale pans of a balance rise up and fall, in the same manner as a lamp is lighted or an image is reflected. At the death of the man the vijñāna resulting from his previous karmas and vijñānas enters into the womb of that mother (animal, man or the gods) in which the next skandhas are to be matured. This vijñāna thus forms the principle of the new life. It is in this vijñāna that name (nāma) and form (rūpa) become associated.
The vijñāna is indeed a direct product of the saṃskāras and the sort of birth in which vijñāna should bring down (nāmayati) the new existence (upapatti) is determined by the saṃskāras, for in reality the happening of death (maranabhava) and the instillation of the vijñāna as the beginning of the new life (upapatti-bhava) cannot be simultaneous, but the latter succeeds just at the next moment, and it is to signify this close succession that they are said to be simultaneous. If the vijñāna had not entered the womb then no nāmarūpa could have appeared.
This chain of twelve causes extends over three lives. Thus avidyā and saṃskāra of the past life produce the vijñāna, nāmarūpa, ṣaḍāyatana, sparśa, vedanā, tṛṣṇā, upādāna and the bhava (leading to another life) of the present actual life. This bhava produces the jāti and jarāmaraṇa of the next life.
It is interesting to note that these twelve links in the chain extending in three sections over three lives are all but the manifestations of sorrow to the bringing in of which they naturally determine one another.
Thus Abhidhanimatthasañgciha says
“each of these twelve terms is a factor. For the composite term ‘sorrow,’ etc. is only meant to show incidental consequences of birth. Again when ‘ignorance’ and ‘the actions of the mind’ have been taken into account, craving (trṣnā), grasping (upādāna) and (karma) becoming (bhava) are implicitly accounted for also.
In the same manner when craving, grasping and (karma) becoming have been taken into account, ignorance and the actions of the mind are (implicitly) accounted for, also; and when birth, decay, and death are taken into account, even the fivefold fruit, to wit (rebirth), consciousness, and the rest are accounted for.
And thus :
Five causes in the Past and Now a fivefold ‘fruit.’
Five causes Now and yet to come a fivefold ‘fruit’ make up the Twenty Modes, the Three Connections (i. saṅkhāra and viññāna, 2. vedanā and taṇhā, 3. bhava and jāti) and the four groups (one causal group in the Past, one resultant group in the Present, one causal group in the Present and one resultant group in the Future, each group consisting of five modes).”
These twelve interdependent links (dvādaśāñga) represent the paṭiccasamuppāda (pratītyasamutpāda) doctrines (dependent origination) which are themselves but sorrow and lead to cycles of sorrow. The term paṭiccasamuppāda or pratītyasamutpāda has been differently interpreted in later Buddhist literature. Samutpāda means appearance or arising (prādurbhāva) and pra-tītya means after getting (prati+i+ya); combining the two we find, arising after getting (something). The elements, depending on which there is some kind of arising, are called hetu (cause) and paccaya (ground). These two words however are often used in the same sense and are interchangeable. But paccaya is also used in a specific sense.
Thus when it is said that avijjā is the paccaya of saṅkhāra it is meant that avijjā is the ground (ṭhiti) of the origin of the saṅkhāras, is the ground of their movement, of the instrument through which they stand (nimittaṭṭhiti), of their āyuhana (conglomeration), of their interconnection, of their intelligibility, of their conjoint arising, of their function as cause and of their function as the ground with reference to those which are determined by them. Avijjā in all these nine ways is the ground of saṅkhāra both in the past and also in the future, though avijjā itself is determined in its turn by other grounds.
When we take the hetu aspect of the causal chain, we cannot think of anything else but succession, but when we take the paccaya aspect we can have a better vision into the nature of the cause as ground. Thus when avijjā is said to be the ground of the saṅkhāras in the nine ways mentioned above, it seems reasonable to think that the saṅkhāras were in some sense regarded as special manifestations of avijjā. But as this point was not further developed in the early Buddhist texts it would be unwise to proceed further with it.
Footnotes and references:
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 Saṃyutta Nikāya as the earliest Buddhist view, as Saṃyutta 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.
Atthasālinī, p. 38. There are also other senses in which the word is used, as dhamma -desanā where it means religious teaching. The Laṅkāvatāra described Dharmma as guṅadravyapūrvakā dharmmā, i.e. Dharmnias are those which are associated as attributes and substances.
This word bhava is interpreted by Candraklrtti in his Mādhyamīka vṛtti, p. 565 (La Vallee Poussin’s edition) as the deed which brought about rebirth (putiarbhava - janakatn kar?na samutthāpayati kāyena vācā manasā ca).
Atthasālinī, p. 385, upādānantidalhagahaṇam. Candrakīrtti in explaining upādāna says that whatever thing a man desires he holds fast to the materials necessary for attaining it (yatra vastuni satṛṣṇastasya vastuno ’rjattāya viḍhapanāya upādānamupādatte tatra tatra prārthayate). Mādhyamīka vṛtti, p. 565.
Candrakīrtti describes tṛṣṇā as āsvādanābhinandanādhyavasānasthānādātmapriyarūpairviyogo mā bhūt, nityamaparityāgo bhavediti, yeyam prārthanā—the desire that there may not ever be any separation from those pleasures, etc., which are dear to us. Ibid. 565.
We read also of phassāyatana and phassakāya. M. N. II. 261, III. 280, etc. Candrakīrtti says that ṣaḍbhirāyatanadvāraiḥ kṛtyaprakṛyāḥ pravarttante prajñāyante. tannātnarūpapratyayaṃ ṣaḍāyatanamucyate. saḍbhyaścāyatanebhyaḥ ṣaṭsparśakāyāḥ pravarttante. M. V. 565.
Āyatana means the six senses together with their objects. Āyatana literally is “Field of operation.” Salāyatana means six senses as six fields of operation. Candrakīrtti has āyatanadvāraiḥ.
I have followed the translation of Aung in rendering nāmarūpa as mind and body, Compendium, p. 271. This seems to me to be fairly correct. The four skandhas are called nāma in each birth. These together with rūpa (matter) give us nāmarūpa (mind and body) which being developed render the activities through the six sense-gates possibleso that there may be knowledge. Cf.M. V. 564. Govindānanda, the commentator on Śaṅkara’s bhāsya on the Brahma-sūtras (n. ii. 19), gives a different interpretation of Nāmarūpa which may probably refer to the Vijñānavāda view though we have no means at hand to verify it. He says—To think the momentary as the permanent is Avidyā; from there come the samskāras of attachment, antipathy or anger, and infatuation; from there the first vijñāna or thought of the foetus is produced; from that ālayavijfiāna, and the four elements (which are objects of name and are hence called nāma) are produced, and from those are produced the white and black, semen and blood called rūpa. Both Vācaspati and Amalānanda agree with Govindānanda in holding that nāma signifies the semen and the ovum while rūpa means the visible physical body built out of them. Vijñāña entered the womb and on account of it nāmarūpa were produced through the association of previous karma. See Vedāntakalpataru , pp. 274, 275. On the doctrine of the entrance of vijñāña into the womb compare D. N. 11. 63.
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. HI. p. 87, “Sañkkatatn abhisañkharonli saṅkhāra 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 saṅkhāra khandha (viz. mental states). We get a list of 51 mental states forming saṅkhāra khandha in Dhamma Sañgaṇi, p. 18, and another different set of 40 mental states in Dharmasamgraha, p. 6. In addition to these forty cittasamprayuktasamskāra , it also counts thirteen cittavi-prayuktasamskāra. Candrakīrtti interprets it as meaning attachment, antipathy and infatuation, p. 563. Govindānanda, the commentator on Śaṅkara’s Brahma-sūtra (11. ii. 19), also interprets the word in connection with the doctrine of Pratītyasamutpāda as attachment, antipathy and infatuation.
Saṃyutta Nikāya, II. 7-8.
Jarā and marana bring in śoka (grief), paridevanā (lamentation), duhkha (suffering), daurmanasya (feeling of wretchedness and miserableness) and upāyāsa (feeling of extreme destitution) at the prospect of one’s death or the death of other dear ones. All these make up suffering and are the results of jāti (birth). M. V. (B. T. S. p. 208). Śaṅkara in his bhāsya counted all the terms from jarā, separately. The whole series is to be taken as representing the entirety of duhkhaskandha.
The attempts to prove the doctrine of rebirth in the Hindu philosophical works such as the Nyāya, etc., are slight and inadequate.
The word āyatana is found in many places in the earlier Upaniṣads in the sense of “field or place,” Chā. I. 5, Bṛh. 111. 9. 10, but sadāyatana does not occur.
Candrakīrtti interprets nāma as Vedanādayo’rūpiṅaścatvāraḥ skandhāstatra tatra bhave nāmayantīti nāma. saha rūpaskandhena ca nāma rūpavi ceti nāmarūpamucyate. The four skandhas in each specific birth act as name. These together with rūpa make nāmarūpa. M. V. 564.
Warren’s Buddhism in Translations , p. 184.
Ibid. p. 185, Visuddhimagga , Ch. xvii.
Ibid. pp. 185-186, Visuddhimagga , Ch. xvii
Warren’s Buddhism in Translations , p. 182. Milinda Paṅha (62s).
Atthasālini , p. 112.
Ibid. p. 113, Yathā hi rūpādīni upādāya paññattā suriyādayo na atthato rūpā-dīhi aññe honti ten’ eva yasmin samaye suriyo udeti tasmin santaye tassa tejā-saṅkhātam rūpaṃ pīti evaṃ vuccamāne pi na rūpādihi añño sttriyo nāma atthi. Tathā cittam phassādayo dhamme upādāya paññapiyati. Atthato pan’ ettha tehi aññam eva. Tena yasmin samaye cittam uppannaṃ hoti ekaṃsen eva tasmin samaye phassādihi atthato aññad eva hotī ti.
Jātirdehajcinma pañcaskandhasamudāyaḥ Govindānanda’s Ratnaprabkā on Śaṅkara’s bhāṣya, 11. ii. 19.
Govindānanda in his Ratnaprabhā on Śaṅkara’s bhāsya, 11, ii. 19, explains “bhava” as that from which anything becomes, as merit and demerit (dhcirmādi). See also Vibhaṅga , p. 137 and Warren’s Buddhism in Translations, p. 201. Mr Aung says in Abhidhammatthasaṅgaha, p. 189, that bhavo includes kammabhavo (the active side of an existence) and upapattibhavo (the passive side). And the commentators say that bhava is a contraction of “ kammabhava" or Karma—becoming i.e. karmic activity.
Prof. De la Vallee Poussin in his Thiorie des Donze Causes, p. 26, says that Sālistambhasūtra explains the word “upādāna” as “tṛṣnāvaipulya” or hyper-tṛṣnā and Candrakīrtti also gives the same meaning, M. V. (B. T. S. p. 210). Govindānanda explains “upādāna” as pravrtti (movement) generated by tṛṣnā (desire), i.e. the active tendency in pursuance of desire. But if upādāna means “support” it would denote all the five skandhas. Thus Madhyamaka vṛtti says upādānam pañcaskandhalaksaṇam... pañcopādānaskandhākhyam tipādātiam. M. V. XXVII. 6 .
Poussin’s Thiorie des Douze Causes, p. 23.
The deities of the gardens, the woods, the trees and the plants, finding the master of the house, Citta, ill said “make your resolution, ‘May I be a cakravarttī king in a next existence,’” Saṃyutta, iv. 303.
“sa cedānandavijñānam mātuḥkukṣim nāvakrāmeta, na tat kalaJam kalalatvāya sannivartteta”. V. 552. Compare Caraka, Sārīra, ill. 5-8, where he speaks of a “upapāduka sattva” which connects the soul with body and by the absence of which the character is changed, the senses become affected and life ceases, when it is in a pure condition one can remember even the previous births; character, purity, antipathy, memory, fear, energy, all mental qualities are produced out of it. Just as a chariot is made by the combination of many elements, so is the foetus.
Madhyamaka vṛtti (B.T. S. 202-203). Poussin quotes from Dīgha, II. 63, “si le vijñāna ne descendait pas dans le sein maternel la namarupa s’y constituerait-il ?” Govindānanda on Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtras (11. ii. 19) says that the first consciousness (vijñāna) of the foetus is produced by the samskāras of the previous birth, and from that the four elements (which he calls nāma) and from that the white and red, semen and ovum, and the first stage of the foetus (kalala-budhudāvasthā) is produced.
This explanation probably cannot be found in the early Pāli texts; but Buddha-ghosa mentions it in Sumañgalavilñsinī on Makānidāna suttanta. We find it also in Abhidhammattkasaṅgaha , viii. 3. Ignorance and the actions of the mind belong to the past; “birth,” “decay and death” to the future; the intermediate eight to the present. It is styled as trikāndaka (having three branches) in Abhidharmcikośa , ill. 20-24. Two in the past branch, two in the future and eight in the middle “sa pratītyasatmitpādo dvādaśāñgastrikāṇṣakaḥ pūrvāparāntayordve dve madhyeṣṭau .”
Aung and Mrs Rhys Davids’ translation of Abkidhammattkasaṅgaha, pp. 189-190.
The twelve links are not always constant. Thus in the list given in the Dialogues of the Buddha, 11. 23 f., avijjā and saṅkhāra have been omitted and the start has been made with consciousness, and it has been said that “Cognition turns back from name and form; it goes not beyond.”
M. V. p. 5 f.
See Patisambhidāmagga, vol. I. p. 50; see also Majjhima Nikāya , I. 67, saū-khārā.-.avijjānidānā avijjāsamudayā avijjājātikā avijjāpabhavā.
In the Yoga derivation of asmitā (egoism), rāga (attachment), dvesa (antipathy) and abhiniveśa (self love) from avidyā we find also that all the five are regarded as the five special stages of the growth of avidyā (pañcaparvā avidyā).