A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the schools of theravada buddhism: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the tenth part in the series called the “buddhist philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 10 - The Schools of Theravada Buddhism

There is reason to believe that the oral instructions of the Buddha were not collected until a few centuries after his death. Serious quarrels arose amongst his disciples (or rather amongst the successive generations of the disciples of his disciples about his doctrines and other monastic rules which he had enjoined upon his followers. Thus we find that when the council of Vesāli decided against the Vrjin monks, called also the Vajjiputtakas, they in their turn held another great meeting (Mahāsaṅgha) and came to their own decisions about certain monastic rules and thus came to be called as the Mahāsaṅghikas[1]. According to Vasu-mitra as translated by Vassilief, the Mahāsaṅghikas seceded in 400 B.C. and during the next one hundred years they gave rise first to the three schools Ekavyavahārikas, Lokottaravādins, and Kukkulikas and after that the Bahuśrutīyas. In the course of the next one hundred years, other schools rose out of it namely the Prajñaptivādins, Caittikas, Aparaśailas and Uttaraśailas.

The Theravāda or the Sthaviravāda school which had convened the council of Vesāli developed during the second and first century B.C. into a number of schools, viz. the Haimavatas, Dharmaguptikas, Mahīśāsakas, Kāśyapīyas, Saṅkrāntikas (more well known as Sautrāntikas)and the Vātsiputtrīyas which latter was again split up into the Dharmottarīyas, Bhadrayānīyas, Sammitīyas and Chan-nāgarikas. The main branch of the Theravāda school was from the second century downwards known as the Hetuvādins or Sarvāstivādins[2]. The Mahābodhivamsa identifies the Theravāda school with the Vibhajjavādins. The commentator of the Kathāvatthu who probably lived according to Mrs Rhys Davids sometime in the fifth century A.D. mentions a few other schools of Buddhists. But of all these Buddhist schools we know very little. Vasumitra (100 A.D.) gives us some very meagre accounts of certain schools, of the Mahāsaṅghikas, Lokottaravādins, Ekavya-vahārikas, Kukkulikas, Prajñaptivādins and Sarvāstivādins, but these accounts deal more with subsidiary matters of little philosophical importance.

Some of the points of interest are

  1. that the Mahāsaṅghikas were said to believe that the body was filled with mind {citta) which was represented as sitting,
  2. that the Prajñaptivādins held that there was no agent in man, that there was no untimely death, for it was caused by the previous deeds of man,
  3. that the Sarvāstivādins believed that everything existed. From the discussions found in the Kathāvatthu also we may know the views of some of the schools on some points which are not always devoid of philosophical interest.

But there is nothing to be found by which we can properly know the philosophy of these schools. It is quite possible however that these so-called schools of Buddhism were not so many different systems but only differed from one another on some points of dogma or practice which were considered as being of sufficient interest to them, but which to us now appear to be quite trifling. But as we do not know any of their literatures, it is better not to make any unwarrantable surmises. These schools are however not very important for a history of later Indian Philosophy, for none of them are even referred to in any of the systems of Hindu thought.

The only schools of Buddhism with which other schools of philosophical thought came in direct contact, are the Sarvāstivādins including the Sautrāntikas and the Vaibhāṣikas, the Yogācāra or the Vijñānavādins and the Mādhyamikas or the Śūnyavādins. We do not know which of the diverse smaller schools were taken up into these four great schools, the Sautrāntika, Vaibhāṣika, Yogācāra and the Mādhyamika schools. But as these schools were most important in relation to the development of the different systems in Hindu thought, it is best that we should set ourselves to gather what we can about these systems of Buddhistic thought.

When the Hindu writers refer to the Buddhist doctrine in general terms such as “the Buddhists say” without calling them the Vijñānavādins or the Yogācāras and the Śūnyavādins, they often refer to the Sarvāstivādins by which they mean both the Sautrāntikas and the Vaibhāṣikas, ignoring the difference that exists between these two schools. It is well to mention that there is hardly any evidence to prove that the Hindu writers were acquainted with the Theravāda doctrines as expressed in the Pāli works. The Vaibhāṣikas and the Sautrāntikas have been more or less associated with each other. Thus the Abhidharmakośaśāstra of Vasubandhu who was a Vaibhāṣika was commented upon by Yaśomitra who was a Sautrāntika. The difference between the Vaibhāṣikas and the Sautrāntikas that attracted the notice of the Hindu writers was this, that the former believed that external objects were directly perceived, whereas the latter believed that the existence of the external objects could only be inferred from our diversified knowledge[3]. Guṇaratna (fourteenth century A.D.) in his commentary Tarkarahasyadīpikā on Ṣaḍdarśanasamuccaya says that the Vaibhāṣika was but another name of the Aryasammitlya school.

According to Guṇaratna the Vaibhāṣikas held that things existed for four moments,

  1. the moment of production,
  2. the moment of existence,
  3. the moment of decay
  4. and the moment of annihilation.

It has been pointed out in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa that the Vaibhāṣikas believed these to be four kinds of forces which by coming in combination with the permanent essence of an entity produced its impermanent manifestations in life (see Prof. Stcherbatsky’s translation of Yaśomitra on Abhidharmakośa kārikā , V. 25). The self called pudgala also possessed those characteristics. Knowledge was formless and was produced along with its object by the very same conditions (arthasahabhāsi ekasamāgryadhīnah). The Sautrāntikas according to Guṇaratna held that there was no soul but only the five skandhas. These skandhas transmigrated. The past, the future, annihilation, dependence on cause, ākāśa and pudgala are but names (saṃjñāmātram), mere assertions (pratijnāmātram), mere limitations (samvṛtamātram) and mere phenomena (vya-vahāramātrani). By pudgala they meant that which other people called eternal and all-pervasive soul. External objects are never directly perceived but are only inferred as existing for explaining the diversity of knowledge. Definite cognitions are valid; all compounded things are momentary (kṣanikāh sarvasaṃskārāḥ).

The atoms of colour, taste, smell and touch, and cognition are being destroyed every moment. The meanings of words always imply the negations of all other things, excepting that which is intended to be signified by that word (anyāpohaḥ śabdārthaḥ). Salvation (moksa) comes as the result of the destruction of the process of knowledge through continual meditation that there is no soul[4].

One of the main differences between the Vibhajjavādins, Sautrāntikas and the Vaibhāṣikas or the Sarvāstivādins appears to refer to the notion of time which is a subject of great interest with Buddhist philosophy. Thus Abhidharmakośa (v. 24...) describes the Sarvāstivādins as those who maintain the universal existence of everything past, present and future.

The Vibhajjavādins are those

“who maintain that the present elements and those among the past that have not yet produced their fruition, are existent, but they deny the existence of the future ones and of those among the past that have already produced fruition.”

There were four branches of this school represented by Dhar-matrāta, Ghoṣa, Vasumitra and Buddhadeva. Dharmatrāta maintained that when an element enters different times, its existence changes but not its essence, just as when milk is changed into curd or a golden vessel is broken, the form of the existence changes though the essence remains the same.

Ghoṣa held that

“when an element appears at different times, the past one retains its past aspects without being severed from its future and present aspects, the present likewise retains its present aspect without completely losing its past and future aspects,”

just as a man in passionate love with a woman does not lose his capacity to love other women though he is not actually in love with them. Vasumitra held that an entity is called present, past and future according as it produces its efficiency, ceases to produce after having once produced it or has not yet begun to produce it. Buddhadeva maintained the view that just as the same woman may be called mother, daughter, wife, so the same entity may be called present, past or future in accordance with its relation to the preceding or the succeeding moment.

All these schools are in some sense Sarvāstivādins, for they maintain universal existence. But the Vaibhāṣika finds them all defective excepting the view of Vasumitra. For Dharmatrāta’s view is only a veiled Sāṃkhya doctrine; that of Ghoṣa is a confusion of the notion of time, since it presupposes the coexistence of all the aspects of an entity at the same time, and that of Buddhadeva is also an impossible situation, since it would suppose that all the three times were found together and included in one of them. The Vaibhāṣika finds himself in agreement with Vasumitra’s view and holds that the difference in time depends upon the difference of the function of an entity ; at the time when an entity does not actually produce its function it is future; when it produces it, it becomes present; when after having produced it, it stops, it becomes past; there is a real existence of the past and the future as much as of the present. He thinks that if the past did not exist and assert some efficiency it could not have been the object of my knowledge, and deeds done in past times could not have produced its effects in the present time. The Sautrāntika however thought that the Vaibhāṣika’s doctrine would imply the heretical doctrine of eternal existence, for according to them the stuff remained the same and the time-difference appeared in it. The true view according to him was, that there was no difference between the efficiency of an entity, the entity and the time of its appearance. Entities appeared from non-existence, existed for a moment and again ceased to exist.

He objected to the Vaibhāṣika view that the past is to be regarded as existent because it exerts efficiency in bringing about the present on the ground that in that case there should be no difference between the past and the present, since both exerted efficiency. If a distinction is made between past, present and future efficiency by a second grade of efficiencies, then we should have to continue it and thus have a vicious infinite. We can know non-existent entities as much as we can know existent ones, and hence our knowledge of the past does not imply that the past is exerting any efficiency. If a distinction is made between an efficiency and an entity, then the reason why efficiency started at any particular time and ceased at another would be inexplicable. Once you admit that there is no difference between efficiency and the entity, you at once find that there is no time at all and the efficiency, the entity and the moment are all one and the same. When we remember a thing of the past we do not know it as existing in the past, but in the same way in which we knew it when it was present. We are never attracted to past passions as the Vaibhāṣika suggests, but past passions leave residues which become the causes of new passions of the present moment[5].

Again we can have a glimpse of the respective positions of the Vātslputtrīyas and the Sarvāstivādins as represented by Vasubandhu if we attend to the discussion on the subject of the existence of soul in Abhidharmakośa. The argument of Vasubandhu against the existence of soul is this, that though it is true that the sense organs may be regarded as a determining cause of perception, no such cause can be found which may render the inference of the existence of soul necessary. If soul actually exists, it must have an essence of its own and must be something different from the elements or entities of a personal life. Moreover, such an eternal, uncaused and unchanging being would be without any practical efficiency (artha-kriyākāritva) which alone determines or proves existence. The soul can thus be said to have a mere nominal existence as a mere object of current usage. There is no soul, but there are only the elements of a personal life. But the Vātsīputtrlya school held that just as fire could not be said to be either the same as the burning wood or as different from it, and yet it is separate from it, so the soul is an individual (pudgala) which has a separate existence, though we could not say that it was altogether different from the elements of a personal life or the same as these. It exists as being conditioned by the elements of personal life, but it cannot further be defined. But its existence cannot be denied, for wherever there is an activity, there must be an agent (e.g. Devadatta walks). To be conscious is likewise an action, hence the agent who is conscious must also exist.

To this Vasubandhu replies that Devadatta (the name of a person) does not represent an unity.

“It is only an unbroken continuity of momentary forces (flashing into existence), which simple people believe to be a unity and to which they give the name Devadatta. Their belief that Devadatta moves is conditioned, and is based on an analogy with their own experience, but their own continuity of life consists in constantly moving from one place to another.

This movement, though regarded as belonging to a permanent entity, is but a series of new productions in different places, just as the expressions ‘fire moves,’ ‘sound spreads’ have the meaning of continuities (of new productions in new places). They likewise use the words ‘Devadatta cognises’ in order to express the fact that a cognition (takes place in the present moment) which has a cause (in the former moments, these former moments coming in close succession being called Devadatta).”

The problem of memory also does not bring any difficulty, for the stream of consciousness being one throughout, it produces its recollections when connected with a previous knowledge of the remembered object under certain conditions of attention, etc., and absence of distractive factors, such as bodily pains or violent emotions. No agent is required in the phenomena of memory. The cause of recollection is a suitable state of mind and nothing else. When the Buddha told his birth stories saying that he was such and such in such and such a life, he only meant that his past and his present belonged to one and the same lineage of momentary existences.

Just as when we say

“this same fire which had been consuming that has reached this object,”

we know that the fire is not identical at any two moments, but yet we overlook the difference and say that it is the same fire.

Again, what we call an individual can only be known by descriptions such as

“this venerable man, having this name, of such a caste, of such a family, of such an age, eating such food, finding pleasure or displeasure in such things, of such an age, the man who after a life of such length, will pass away having reached an age.”

Only so much description can be understood, but we have never a direct acquaintance with the individual; all that is perceived are the momentary elements of sensations, images, feelings, etc., and these happening at the former moments exert a pressure on the later ones. The individual is thus only a fiction, a mere nominal existence, a mere thing of description and not of acquaintance; it cannot be grasped either by the senses or by the action of pure intellect. This becomes evident when we judge it by analogies from other fields. Thus whenever we use any common noun, e.g. milk, we sometimes falsely think that there is such an entity as milk, but what really exists is only certain momentary colours, tastes, etc., fictitiously unified as milk; and “just as milk and water are conventional names (for a set of independent elements) for some colour, smell (taste and touch) taken together, so is the designation ‘individual’ but a common name for the different elements of which it is composed.”

The reason why the Buddha declined to decide the question whether the “living being is identical with the body or not” is just because there did not exist any living being as “individual,” as is generally supposed. He did not declare that the living being did not exist, because in that case the questioner would have thought that the continuity of the elements of a life was also denied. In truth the “living being” is only a conventional name for a set of constantly changing elements[6].

The only book of the Sammitīyas known to us and that by name only is the Sammitīyaśāstra translated into Chinese between 350 A.D. to 431 A.D.; the original Sanskrit works are however probably lost[7].

The Vaibhāṣikas are identified with the Sarvāstivādins who according to Dīpavaṃsa v. 47, as pointed out by Takakusu, branched off from the Mahīśāsakas, who in their turn had separated from the Theravāda school.

From the Kathāvatthu we know

  1. that the Sabbatthivādins believed that everything existed,
  2. that the dawn of right attainment was not a momentary flash of insight but by a gradual process,
  3. that consciousness or even samādhi was nothing but a flux and
  4. that an arhat (saint) may fall away[8].

The Sab-batthivādins or Sarvāstivādins have a vast Abhidharma literature still existing in Chinese translations which is different from the Abhidharma of the Theravāda school which we have already mentioned[9].

These are

  1. Jñānoprasthāna Sāstra of Kātyāyanl-puttra which passed by the name of Mahā Vibhāṣā from which the Sabbatthivādins who followed it are called Vaibhāṣikas[10]. This work is said to have been given a literary form by Aśvaghoṣa.
  2. Dharmaskandha by Sāriputtra.
  3. Dhātukāya by Pūrṇa.
  4. Projñaptiśāstra by Maudgalyāyana.
  5. Vijñānakāya by De-vakṣema.
  6. Sañgītiparyyāya by Sāriputtra and Prakaranapāda by Vasumitra.

Vasubandhu (420 A.D.— 500 A.D.) wrote a work on the Vaibhāṣika[11] system in verses (kārikā) known as the Abhidliar-makośa , to which he appended a commentary of his own which passes by the name Abhidharma Kośabhāṣya in which he pointed out some of the defects of the Vaibhāṣika school from the Sautrāntika point of view[12]. This work was commented upon by Vasumitra and Guṇamati and later on by Yaśomitra who was himself a Sautrāntika and called his work Abhidharmakośa vyākhyā ; Sañghabhadra a contemporary of Vasubandhu wrote Samayapradipa and Nyāyānusāra (Chinese translations of which are available) on strict Vaibhāṣika lines. We hear also of other Vaibhāṣika writers such as Dharmatrāta, Ghoṣaka, Vasumitra and Bhadanta, the writer of Samyuktābhidharmaśāstra and Mahāvibhāṣā.

Diṅnāga(48oA.D.),the celebrated logician, a Vaibhāṣika or a Sautrāntika and reputed to be a pupil of Vasubandhu, wrote his famous work Pramānasamnccaya in which he established Buddhist logic and refuted many of the views of Vātsyāyana the celebrated commentator of the Nyāya sūtras; but we regret to say that none of the above works are available in Sanskrit, nor have they been retranslated from Chinese or Tibetan into any of the modern European or Indian languages.

The Japanese scholar Mr Yamakami Sogen, late lecturer at Calcutta University, describes the doctrine of the Sabbatthivādins from the Chinese versions of the Abhidharmakośa , Mahāvibhā-sāśāstra , etc., rather elaborately[13]. The following is a short sketch, which is borrowed mainly from the accounts given by Mr Sogen.

The Sabbatthivādins admitted the five skandhas, twelve āyatanas, eighteen dhātus, the three asaṃskṛta dharmas of pratisaṃkhyānirodha apratisaṃkhyānirodha and ākāśa, and the saṃskṛta dharmas (things composite and interdependent) of rūpa (matter), citta (mind), caitta (mental) and cittaviprayukta (nonmental)[14]. All effects are produced by the coming together (saṃskṛta) of a number of causes. The five skandhas, and the rūpa, citta, etc., are thus called saṃskṛta dharmas (composite things or collocations— sambhūyakāri). The rūpa dharmas are eleven in number, one citta dharma, 46 caitta dharmas and 14 cittaviprayukta saṃskāra dharmas (non-mental composite things); adding to these the three asaṃskṛta dharmas we have the seventy-five dharmas. Rūpa is that which has the capacity to obstruct the sense organs.

Matter is regarded as the collective organism or collocation, consisting of the fourfold substratum of colour, smell, taste and contact. The unit possessing this fourfold substratum is known as paramāṇu, which is the minutest form of rūpa. It cannot be pierced through or picked up or thrown away. It is indivisible, unanalysable, invisible, inaudible, untastable and intangible. But yet it is not permanent, but is like a momentary flash into being. The simple atoms are called dravyaparamānu and the compound ones sanighātaparamānu. In the words of Prof. Stcherbatsky “the universal elements of matter are manifested in their actions or functions. They are consequently more energies than substances.” The organs of sense are also regarded as modifications of atomic matter. Seven such paramāṇus combine together to form an aṇu, and it is in this combined form only that they become perceptible. The combination takes place in the form of a cluster having one atom at the centre and others around it.

The point which must be remembered in connection with the conception of matter is this, that the qualities of all the mahābhūtas are inherent in the paramāṇus. The special characteristics of roughness (which naturally belongs to earth), viscousness (which naturally belongs to water), heat (belonging to fire), movableness (belonging to wind), combine together to form each of the elements; the difference between the different elements consists only in this, that in each of them its own special characteristics were predominant and active, and other characteristics though present remained only in a potential form. The mutual resistance of material things is due to the quality of earth or the solidness inherent in them; the mutual attraction of things is due to moisture or the quality of water, and so forth.

The four elements are to be observed from three aspects, namely,

  1. as things,
  2. from the point of view of their natures (such as activity, moisture, etc.),
  3. and function (such as dhṛti or attraction, samgraha or cohesion, pakti or chemical heat, and vyūhana or clustering and collecting).

These combine together naturally by other conditions or causes. The main point of distinction between the Vaibhāṣika Sarvāstivādins and other forms of Buddhism is this, that here the five skandhas and matter are regarded as permanent and eternal; they are said to be momentary only in the sense that they are changing their phases constantly, owing to their constant change of combination. Avidyā is not regarded here as a link in the chain of the causal series of pratītyasamutpāda; nor is it ignorance of any particular individual, but is rather identical with “moha” or delusion and represents the ultimate state of immaterial dharmas. Avidyā, which through saṃskāra, etc., produces nāmarūpa in the case of a particular individual, is not his avidyā in the present existence but the avidyā of his past existence bearing fruit in the present life.

“The cause never peṛṣes but only changes its name, when it becomes an effect, having changed its state.” For example, clay becomes jar, having changed its state; and in this case the name clay is lost and the name jar arises[15]. The Sarvāstivādins allowed simultaneousness between cause and effect only in the case of composite things (sainprayukta hetu) and in the case of the interaction of mental and material things. The substratum of “vijñāna” or “consciousness” is regarded as permanent and the aggregate of the five senses (indriyas) is called the perceiver. It must be remembered that the indriyas being material had a permanent substratum, and their aggregate had therefore also a substratum formed of them.

The sense of sight grasps the four main colours of blue, yellow, red, white, and their combinations, as also the visual forms of appearance (samsthāna) of long, short, round, square, high, low, straight, and crooked. The sense of touch (kāyendriya) has for its object the four elements and the qualities of smoothness, roughness, lightness, heaviness, cold, hunger and thirst. These qualities represent the feelings generated in sentient beings by the objects of touch, hunger, thirst, etc., and are also counted under it, as they are the organic effects produced by a touch which excites the physical frame at a time when the energy of wind becomes active in our body and predominates over other energies ; so also the feeling of thirst is caused by a touch which excites the physical frame when the energy of the element of fire becomes active and predominates over the other energies.

The indriyas (senses) can after grasping the external objects arouse thought (vijñāna); each of the five senses is an agent without which none of the five vijñānas would become capable of perceiving an external object. The essence of the senses is entirely material. Each sense has two subdivisions, namely, the principal sense and the auxiliary sense. The substratum of the principal senses consists of a combination of paramāṇus, which are extremely pure and minute, while the substratum of the latter is the flesh, made of grosser materials. The five senses differ from one another with respect to the manner and form of their respective atomic combinations. In all sense-acts, whenever an act is performed and an idea is impressed, a latent energy is impressed on our person which is designated as avijñapti rūpa. It is called rūpa because it is a result or effect of rūpa-contact; it is called avijñapti because it is latent and unconscious; this latent energy is bound sooner or later to express itself in karma effects and is the only bridge which connects the cause and the effect of karma done by body or speech.

Karma in this school is considered as twofold, namely, that as thought (cetana karma) and that as activity (caitasika karma). This last, again, is of two kinds, viz. that due to body-motion (kāyika karma) and speech (vācika karma). Both these may again be latent (avijñapti) and patent {vijñapti), giving us the kāyika-vijñapti karma, kāyikāvijñapti karma, vācika-vijñapti karma and vācikāvijñapti karma. Avijñapti rūpa and avijñapti karma are what we should call in modern phraseology sub-conscious ideas, feelings and activity. Corresponding to each conscious sensation, feeling, thought or activity there is another similar sub-conscious state which expresses itself in future thoughts and actions; as these are not directly known but are similar to those which are known, they are called avijñapti.

The mind, says Vasubandhu, is called cittam, because it wills (cetati), manas because it thinks (mauvate) and vijñāna because it discriminates (nirdiśati). The discrimination may be of three kinds: (i) svabhāva nirdeśa (natural perceptual discrimination), (2) prayoga nirdeśa (actual discrimination as present, past and future), and (3) anusmṛti nirdeśa (reminiscent discrimination referring only to the past). The senses only possess the svabhāva nirdeśa,the other two belong exclusively to manovijñāna. Each of the vijñānas as associated with its specific sense discriminates its particular object and perceives its general characteristics; the six vijñānas combine to form what is known as the Vijñānaskandha, which is presided over by mind (mano).

There are forty-six caitta saṃskṛta dharmas. Of the three asaṃskṛta dharmas ākāśa (ether) is in essence the freedom from obstruction, establishing it as a permanent omnipresent immaterial substance (nlrūpākhya, non-rūpa). The second asaṃskṛta dharma, aprati-saṃkhyā nirodha, means the non-perception of dharmas caused by the absence of pratyayas or conditions. Thus when I fix my attention on one thing, other things are not seen then, not because they are non-existent but because the conditions which would have made them visible were absent. The third asaṃskṛta dharma, pratisaṃkhyā nirodha, is the final deliverance from bondage. Its essential characteristic is everlastingness. These are called asaṃskṛta because being of the nature of negation they are non-collocative and hence have no production or dissolution. The eightfold noble path which leads to this state consists of right views, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right rapture[16].

Footnotes and references:


The Mahāvaṃsa differs from Dīpavaṃsa in holding that the Vajjiputtakas did not develop into the Mahāsaṅghikas, but it was the Mahāsaṅghikas who first seceded while the Vajjiputtakas seceded independently of them. The Aīahābodhivaṃsa, which according to Professor Geiger was composed 975 A.D. —1000 A.D., follows the Mahāvaṃsa in holding the Mahāsaṅghikas to be the first seceders and Vajjiputtakas to have seceded independently.

Vasumitra confuses the council of Vesāli with the third council of Pātaliputra. See introduction to translation of Kathāvatthu by Mrs Rhys Davids.


For other accounts of the schism see Mr Aung and Mrs Rhys Davids’s translation of Kathāvatthu , pp. xxxvi-xlv.


Mādhavācārya’s Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha, chapter II. Sāstradīpikā, the discussions on Pratyaksa, Amalānanda’s commentary (on Bhāmalī) Vedāntakalpaiaru, p. 286,

vaibhāṣikasya bāhyo'rthah pralyakṣah, sanlrāntikasya jñānagatākāravaicitryeṇ anumeyah.

The nature of the inference of the Sautrāntikas is shown thus by Amalānanda (1247-1260 A.D.)

ye yasmin satyapi kādācitkāḥ te tadatiriktāpekṣāḥ”

(those (i.e. cognitions) which in spite of certain unvaried conditions are of unaccounted diversity must depend on other things in addition to these, i.e. the external objects) Vedāntakalpataru, p. 289.


Guṇaratna’s Tarkarahasyadīpikā, pp. 46-47.


I am indebted for the above account to the unpublished translation from Tibetan of a small portion of Abhidharmakośa by my esteemed friend Prof. Th. Stcherbatsky of Petrograd. I am grateful to him that he allowed me to utilize it.


This account is based on the translation of Aṣṭamakośasthānanibaddhah pudgala-viniścayah, a special appendix to the eighth chapter of Abhidharmakośa , by Prof. Th. Stcherbatsky, Bulletin de PAcadtfmie des Sciences de Russie, 1919.


Professor De la Vallee Poussin has collected some of the points of this doctrine in an article on the Sammitīyas in the E. R. E. He there says that in the Abhidhar-makośavyākhyā the Sammitīyas have been identified with the Vātsīputtnyas and that many of its texts were admitted by the Vaibhāsikas of a later age.

Some of their views areas follows:

  1. An arhat in possession of nirvāna can fall away;
  2. there is an intermediate state between death and rebirth called antarābhava;,
  3. merit accrues not only by gift (tyagānvaya) but also by the fact of the actual use and advantage reaped by the man to whom the thing was given (paribhogānvaya punya);
  4. not only abstention from evil deeds but a declaration of intention to that end produces merit by itself alone;
  5. they believe in a pudgala (soul) as distinct from the skandhas from which it can be said to be either different or non-different.

“The pudgala cannot be said to be transitory (anitya) like the skandhas since it transmigrates laying down the burden (skandhas) shouldering a new burden; it cannot be said to be permanent, since it is made of transitory constituents.”

This pudgala doctrine of the Sammitīyas as sketched by Professor De la Vallee Poussin is not in full agreement with the pudgala doctrine of the Sammitīyas as sketched by Guṇaratna which we have noticed above.


See Mrs Rhys Davids’s translation Kathāvatthu , p. xix, and Sections I. 6, 7; 11. 9 and XI. 6.


Mahāvyutpatti gives two names for Sarvāstivāda, viz. Mūlasarvāstivāda and Āry-yasarvāstivāda. Itsing (671-695 A.D.) speaks of Āryyamūlasarvāstivāda and Mūlasarvāstivāda. In his time he found it prevailing in Magadha, Guzrat, Sind, S. India, E. India. Takakusu says (P. T.S. 1904-1905) that Paramārtha, in his life of Vasubandhu, says that it was propagated from Kashmere to Middle India by Vasubhadra, who studied it there.


Takakusu says (P. T.S. 1904-1905) that Kātyāyanīputtra’s work was probably a compilation from other Vibhāsās which existed before the Chinese translations and Vibhāsā texts dated 383 A.D.


See Takakusu’s article J. R. A. S. 1905.


The Sautrāntikas did not regard the Abhidharmas of the Vaibhāsikas as authentic and laid stress on the suttanta doctrines as given in the Suttapitaka.


Systems of Buddhistic Thought, published by the Calcutta University.


Śaṅkara in his meagre sketch of the doctrine of the Sarvāstivādins in his bhāsya on the Brahma-sūtras II. 2 notices some of the categories mentioned by Sogen.


Sogen’s quotation from Kumārajīva’s Chinese version of Aryyadeva’s commentary on the Mādhyamika śāṣa (chapter xx. Kārikā 9).


Mr Sogen mentions the name of another Buddhist Hīnayāna thinker (about 250 A.D.), Ilarivarman, who founded a school known as Satyasiddhi school, which propounded the same sort of doctrines as those preached by Nāgārjuna. None of his works are available in Sanskrit and I have never come across any allusion to his name by Sanskrit writers.

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