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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Or whether a Tathagata existed after death or not


style="text-align: justify;">believe in the existence of a power-possessor separate from the power.

Brief survey of the evolution of Buddhist Thought.

In the earliest period of Buddhism more attention was paid to the four noble truths than to systematic metaphysics. What was sorrow, what was the cause of sorrow, what was the cessation of sorrow and what could lead to it? The doctrine of _pa@ticcasamuppada_ was offered only to explain how sorrow came in and not with a view to the solving of a metaphysical problem. The discussion of ultimate metaphysical problems, such as whether the world was eternal or non-eternal, or whether a Tathagata existed after death or not, were considered as heresies in early Buddhism. Great emphasis was laid on sila, samadhi and panna and the doctrine that there was no soul. The Abhidhammas hardly give us any new philosophy which was not contained in the Suttas. They only elaborated the materials of the suttas with enumerations and definitions. With the evolution of Mahayana scriptures from some time about 200 B.C. the doctrine of the non-essentialness and voidness of all _dhammas_ began to be preached. This doctrine, which was taken up and elaborated by Nagarjuna, Aryyadeva, Kumarajiva and Candrakirtti, is more or less a corollary from the older doctrine of Buddhism. If one could not say whether the world was eternal or non-eternal, or whether a Tathagata existed or did not exist

after death, and if there was no permanent soul and all the dhammas were changing, the only legitimate way of thinking about all things appeared to be to think of them as mere void and non-essential appearances. These appearances appear as being mutually related but apart from their appearance they have no other essence, no being or reality. The Tathata doctrine which was preached by As'vagho@sa oscillated between the position of this absolute non-essentialness of all dhammas and the Brahminic idea that something existed as the background of all these non-essential dhammas. This he called tathata, but he could not consistently say that any such permanent entity could exist. The Vijnanavada doctrine which also took its rise at this time appears to me to be a mixture of the S'unyavada doctrine and the Tathata doctrine; but when carefully examined it seems to be nothing but S'unyavada, with an attempt at explaining all the observed phenomena. If everything was


non-essential how did it originate? Vijnanavada proposes to give an answer, and says that these phenomena are all but ideas of the mind generated by the beginningless vasana (desire) of the mind. The difficulty which is felt with regard to the Tathata doctrine that there must be some reality which is generating all these ideas appearing as phenomena, is the same as that in the Vijnanavada doctrine. The Vijnanavadins could not admit the existence of such a reality, but yet their doctrines led them to it. They could not properly solve the difficulty, and admitted that their doctrine was some sort of a compromise with the Brahminical doctrines of heresy, but they said that this was a compromise to make the doctrine intelligible to the heretics; in truth however the reality assumed in the doctrine was also non-essential. The Vijnanavada literature that is available to us is very scanty and from that we are not in a position to judge what answers Vijnanavada could give on the point. These three doctrines developed almost about the same time and the difficulty of conceiving s'unya (void), tathata, (thatness) and the alayavijnana of Vijnanavada is more or less the same.

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