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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

For as all appearances are non essential


Buddhistic writers like Nagarjuna and Candrakirtti took advantage of this attitude of early Buddhism and interpreted it as meaning the non-essential character of all existence. Nothing existed, and therefore any question regarding the existence or non-existence of anything would be meaningless. There is no difference between the worldly stage (_sa@msara_) and Nibbana, for as all appearances are non-essential, they never existed during the sa@msara so that they could not be annihilated in Nibbana.

Upani@sads and Buddhism.

The Upani@sads had discovered that the true self was ananda (bliss) [Footnote ref 1]. We could suppose that early Buddhism tacitly presupposes some such idea. It was probably thought that if there was the self (_atta_) it must be bliss. The Upani@sads had asserted that the self(_atman_) was indestructible and eternal [Footnote ref 2]. If we are allowed


[Footnote 1: Tait, II.5.]

[Footnote 2: B@rh. IV. 5. 14. Ka@tha V. 13.]


to make explicit what was implicit in early Buddhism we could conceive it as holding that if there was the self it must be bliss, because it was eternal. This causal connection has not indeed

been anywhere definitely pronounced in the Upani@sads, but he who carefully reads the Upani@sads cannot but think that the reason why the Upani@sads speak of the self as bliss is that it is eternal. But the converse statement that what was not eternal was sorrow does not appear to be emphasized clearly in the Upani@sads. The important postulate of the Buddha is that that which is changing is sorrow, and whatever is sorrow is not self [Footnote ref 1]. The point at which Buddhism parted from the Upani@sads lies in the experiences of the self. The Upani@sads doubtless considered that there were many experiences which we often identify with self, but which are impermanent. But the belief is found in the Upani@sads that there was associated with these a permanent part as well, and that it was this permanent essence which was the true and unchangeable self, the blissful. They considered that this permanent self as pure bliss could not be defined as this, but could only be indicated as not this, not this (_neti neti_) [Footnote ref 2]. But the early Pali scriptures hold that we could nowhere find out such a permanent essence, any constant self, in our changing experiences. All were but changing phenomena and therefore sorrow and therefore non-self, and what was non-self was not mine, neither I belonged to it, nor did it belong to me as my self [Footnote ref 3].

The true self was with the Upani@sads a matter of transcendental experience as it were, for they said that it could not be described in terms of anything, but could only be pointed out as "there," behind all the changing mental categories. The Buddha looked into the mind and saw that it did not exist. But how was it that the existence of this self was so widely spoken of as demonstrated in experience? To this the reply of the Buddha was that what people perceived there when they said that they perceived the self was but the mental experiences either individually or together. The ignorant ordinary man did not know the noble truths and was not trained in the way of wise men, and considered himself to be endowed with form (_rupa_) or found the forms in his self or the self in the forms. He


[Footnote 1: _Sa@myutta Nikuya_, III. pp. 44-45 ff.]

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