free ebooks

A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

The Madhyamika or the S'untavada school


doctrine seems to be more in agreement with the view of an absolute unchangeable reality as the ultimate truth than that of the nihilistic idealism of _La@nkavatara_. Considering the fact that As'vagho@sa was a learned Brahmin scholar in his early life, it is easy to guess that there was much Upani@sad influence in this interpretation of Buddhism, which compares so favourably with the Vedanta as interpreted by S'a@nkara. The _La@nkavatara_ admitted a reality only as a make-believe to attract the Tairthikas (heretics) who had a prejudice in favour of an unchangeable self (_atman_). But As'vagho@sa plainly admitted an unspeakable reality as the ultimate truth. Nagarjuna's Madhyamika doctrines which eclipsed the profound philosophy of As'vagho@sa seem to be more faithful to the traditional Buddhist creed and to the Vijnanavada creed of Buddhism as explained in the La@nkavatara [Footnote ref 1].

The Madhyamika or the S'untavada school.--Nihilism.

Candrakirtti, the commentator of Nagarjuna's verses known as "_Madhyamika karika_," in explaining the doctrine of dependent origination (_pratityasamutpada_) as described by Nagarjuna starts with two interpretations of the word. According to one the word pratityasamutpada means the origination (_utpada_) of the nonexistent (_abhava_) depending on (_pratitya_) reasons and causes


style="text-align: justify;">[Footnote 1: As I have no access to the Chinese translation of As'vagho@sa's _S'raddhotpada S'astra_, I had to depend entirely on Suzuki's expressions as they appear in his translation.]


(hetupratyaya). According to the other interpretation pratitya means each and every destructible individual and pratityasamutpada means the origination of each and every destructible individual. But he disapproves of both these meanings. The second meaning does not suit the context in which the Pali Scriptures generally speak of pratityasamutpada (e.g. _cak@su@h pratitya rupani ca utpadyante cak@survijnanam_) for it does not mean the origination of each and every destructible individual, but the originating of specific individual phenomena (e.g. perception of form by the operation in connection with the eye) depending upon certain specific conditions.

The first meaning also is equally unsuitable. Thus for example if we take the case of any origination, e.g. that of the visual percept, we see that there cannot be any contact between visual knowledge and physical sense, the eye, and so it would not be intelligible that the former should depend upon the latter. If we interpret the maxim of pratityasamutpada as this happening that happens, that would not explain any specific origination. All origination is false, for a thing can neither originate by itself nor by others, nor by a co-operation of both nor without any reason. For if a thing exists already it cannot originate again by itself. To suppose that it is originated by others would also mean that the origination was of a thing already existing. If again without any further qualification it is said that depending on one the other comes into being, then depending on anything any other thing could come into being--from light we could have darkness! Since a thing could not originate from itself or by others, it could not also be originated by a combination of both of them together. A thing also could not originate without any cause, for then all things could come into being at all times. It is therefore to be acknowledged that wherever the Buddha spoke of this so-called dependent origination (_pratityasamutpada_) it was referred to as illusory manifestations appearing to intellects and senses stricken with ignorance. This dependent origination is not thus a real law, but only an appearance due to ignorance (_avidya_). The only thing which is not lost (_amo@sadharma_) is nirva@na; but all other forms of knowledge and phenomena (_sa@mskara_) are false and are lost with their appearances (_sarvasa@mskaras'ca m@r@samo@sadharma@na@h_).

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us