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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Whatever is existent is momentary


It

is not important to enlarge upon the second part of Ratnakirtti's arguments in which he tries to show that the production of effects could not be explained if we did not suppose

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[Footnote 1: The distinction between vicious and harmless infinites was known to the Indians at least as early as the sixth or the seventh century. Jayanta quotes a passage which differentiates the two clearly (_Nyayamanjari_, p. 22):

"_mulak@satikarimahuranavastham hi du@sa@nam. mulasiddhau tvarucyapi nanavastha nivaryate._"

The infinite regress that has to be gone through in order to arrive at the root matter awaiting to be solved destroys the root and is hence vicious, whereas if the root is saved there is no harm in a regress though one may not be willing to have it.]

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all things to be momentary, for this is more an attempt to refute the doctrines of Nyaya than an elaboration of the Buddhist principles.

The doctrine of momentariness ought to be a direct corollary of the Buddhist metaphysics. But it is curious that though all dharmas were regarded as changing, the fact that they were all strictly momentary (_k@sa@nika_--i.e. existing only for one moment) was not emphasized in early Pali literature.

As'vagho@sa in his _S'raddhotpadas'astra_ speaks of all skandhas as k@sa@nika (Suzuki's translation, p. 105). Buddhaghosa also speaks of the meditation of the khandhas as kha@nika in his _Visuddhimagga._ But from the seventh century A.D. till the tenth century this doctrine together with the doctrine of arthakriyakaritva received great attention at the hands of the Sautrantikas and the Vaibha@sikas. All the Nyaya and Vedanta literature of this period is full of refutations and criticisms of these doctrines. The only Buddhist account available of the doctrine of momentariness is from the pen of Ratnakirtti. Some of the general features of his argument in favour of the view have been given above. Elaborate accounts of it may be found in any of the important Nyaya works of this period such as _Nynyamanjari, Tatparyya@tika_ of Vacaspati Mis'ra, etc.

Buddhism did not at any time believe anything to be permanent. With the development of this doctrine they gave great emphasis to this point. Things came to view at one moment and the next moment they were destroyed. Whatever is existent is momentary. It is said that our notion of permanence is derived from the notion of permanence of ourselves, but Buddhism denied the existence of any such permanent selves. What appears as self is but the bundle of ideas, emotions, and active tendencies manifesting at any particular moment. The next moment these dissolve, and new bundles determined by the preceding ones appear and so on. The present thought is thus the only thinker. Apart from the emotions, ideas, and active tendencies, we cannot discover any separate self or soul. It is the combined product of these ideas, emotions, etc., that yield the illusory appearance of self at any moment. The consciousness of self is the resultant product as it were of the combination of ideas, emotions, etc., at any particular moment. As these ideas, emotions, etc., change every moment there is no such thing as a permanent self.


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