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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

And so are all his teachings Footnote ref 3


The

Madhyamaka or S'unya system does not hold that anything has any essence or nature (svabhava) of its own; even heat cannot be said to be the essence of fire; for both the heat and the fire are the result of the combination of many conditions, and what depends on many conditions cannot be said to be the nature or essence of the thing. That alone may be said to be the true essence or nature of anything which does not depend on anything else, and since no such essence or nature can be pointed out which stands independently by itself we cannot say that it exists. If a thing has no essence or existence of its own, we cannot affirm the essence of other things to it (_parabhava_). If we cannot affirm anything of anything as positive, we cannot consequently assert anything of anything as negative. If anyone first believes in things positive and afterwards discovers that they are not so, he no doubt thus takes his stand on a negation (_abhava_), but in reality since we cannot speak of anything positive, we cannot speak of anything negative either [Footnote ref 2].

It is again objected that we nevertheless perceive a process going on. To this the Madhyamaka reply is that a process of change could not be affirmed of things that are permanent. But we can hardly speak of a process with reference to momentary things; for those which are momentary are destroyed the next moment after they appear, and so there is nothing which can continue to justify a process.

That which appears as being neither comes from anywhere nor goes anywhere, and that which appears as destroyed also does not come from anywhere nor go anywhere, and so a process (_sa@msara_) cannot be affirmed of them. It cannot be that when the second moment arose, the first moment had suffered a change in the process, for it was not the same as the second, as there is no so-called cause-effect connection. In fact there being no relation between the two, the temporal determination as prior and later is wrong. The supposition that there is a self which suffers changes is also not valid, for howsoever we

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[Footnote 1: See _Madhyamikav@rtti_ (B.T.S.), p. 50.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_. pp. 93-100.]

142

may search we find the five skandhas but no self. Moreover if the soul is a unity it cannot undergo any process or progression, for that would presuppose that the soul abandons one character and takes up another at the same identical moment which is inconceivable [Footnote ref 1].

But then again the question arises that if there is no process, and no cycle of worldly existence of thousands of afflictions, what is then the nirva@na which is described as the final extinction of all afflictions (_kles'a_)? To this the Madhyamaka reply is that it does not agree to such a definition of nirva@na. Nirva@na on the Madhyamaka theory is the absence of the essence of all phenomena, that which cannot be conceived either as anything which has ceased or as anything which is produced (_aniruddham anntpannam_}. In nirva@na all phenomena are lost; we say that the phenomena cease to exist in nirva@na, but like the illusory snake in the rope they never existed [Footnote ref 2]. Nirva@na cannot be any positive thing or any sort of state of being (_bhava_), for all positive states or things are joint products of combined causes (_sa@msk@rta_) and are liable to decay and destruction. Neither can it be a negative existence, for since we cannot speak of any positive existence, we cannot speak of a negative existence either. The appearances or the phenomena are communicated as being in a state of change and process coming one after another, but beyond that no essence, existence, or truth can be affirmed of them. Phenomena sometimes appear to be produced and sometimes to be destroyed, but they cannot be determined as existent or non-existent. Nirva@na is merely the cessation of the seeming phenomenal flow (_prapancaprav@rtti_). It cannot therefore be designated either as positive or as negative for these conceptions belong to phenomena (_na caprav@rttimatram bhavabhaveti parikalpitum paryyate evam na bhavabhavanirva@nam_, M.V. 197). In this state there is nothing which is known, and even the knowledge that the phenomena have ceased to appear is not found. Even the Buddha himself is a phenomenon, a mirage or a dream, and so are all his teachings [Footnote ref 3].


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