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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

118belonging to a permanent entity


style="text-align: justify;">[Footnote 1: I am indebted for the above account to the unpublished translation from Tibetan of a small portion of _Abhidharmakoia_ by my esteemed friend Prof. Th. Stcherbatsky of Petrograd. I am grateful to him that he allowed me to utilize it.]


belonging to a permanent entity, is but a series of new productions in different places, just as the expressions 'fire moves,' 'sound spreads' have the meaning of continuities (of new productions in new places). They likewise use the words 'Devadatta cognises' in order to express the fact that a cognition (takes place in the present moment) which has a cause (in the former moments, these former moments coming in close succession being called Devadatta)."

The problem of memory also does not bring any difficulty, for the stream of consciousness being one throughout, it produces its recollections when connected with a previous knowledge of the remembered object under certain conditions of attention, etc., and absence of distractive factors, such as bodily pains or violent emotions. No agent is required in the phenomena of memory. The cause of recollection is a suitable state of mind and nothing else. When the Buddha told his birth stories saying that he was such and such in such and such a life, he only meant that his past and his present belonged to one and the same lineage of momentary existences. Just

as when we say "this same fire which had been consuming that has reached this object," we know that the fire is not identical at any two moments, but yet we overlook the difference and say that it is the same fire. Again, what we call an individual can only be known by descriptions such as "this venerable man, having this name, of such a caste, of such a family, of such an age, eating such food, finding pleasure or displeasure in such things, of such an age, the man who after a life of such length, will pass away having reached an age." Only so much description can be understood, but we have never a direct acquaintance with the individual; all that is perceived are the momentary elements of sensations, images, feelings, etc., and these happening at the former moments exert a pressure on the later ones. The individual is thus only a fiction, a mere nominal existence, a mere thing of description and not of acquaintance; it cannot be grasped either by the senses or by the action of pure intellect. This becomes evident when we judge it by analogies from other fields. Thus whenever we use any common noun, e.g. milk, we sometimes falsely think that there is such an entity as milk, but what really exists is only certain momentary colours, tastes, etc., fictitiously unified as milk; and "just as milk and water are


conventional names (for a set of independent elements) for some colour, smell (taste and touch) taken together, so is the designation 'individual' but a common name for the different elements of which it is composed."

The reason why the Buddha declined to decide the question whether the "living being is identical with the body or not" is just because there did not exist any living being as "individual," as is generally supposed. He did not declare that the living being did not exist, because in that case the questioner would have thought that the continuity of the elements of a life was also denied. In truth the "living being" is only a conventional name for a set of constantly changing elements [Footnote ref 1].

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