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Buddhist doctrine of Momentariness or the doctrine of Impermanence

According  to Buddha, ‘ All the existing things have been originated due to some cense. All these things are non-eternal in every way. ‘Whatever appears to be eternal and permanent is also perishable. Whatever appears to be gret has also its decline. Where there is union there is also separation. Where  there is birth there is also death. Five things are absolutely necessary. Whoever can be old he must become old, whoever can be ill he must fall ill, whoever is subordinate to death he must die, whatever is perishable is destruction is imperative and what  ever is non-eternal is must go. These rules cannot be violated by any world by or divine power. This view is a  middle way between the views of absolute existence and absolute nihilism. All things exist, this is a one sided view, nothing exists, this is another one-side view. Leaving both these one-sided views, Buddha teaches the middle path and the essence of the middle doctrine is that the life is a becoming, it is Bhavarup. Everything in this world is merely a conglomeration of perishable qualities. Everything is momentary. This world is determined by the principle of dependent animals, Gods, plants, things, bodies, forms, substance etc. all are perishable. Everything has a beginning, existence and extinction.

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This doctrine of impermanence of Buddha was gives the form of the doctrine of momentariness by his disciples. As a matter of fact the doctrine of momentariness follows from the principle of dependent origination. Whatever is born will also be destroyed and whatever may be destroyed cannot be thought to be permanent. Hence everything is momentary. Thus the doctrine of momentariness goes further than the principle of impermanence. It not only means that everything is impermanent, but according to it everything exists only for a moment.

The Buddhist philosophers have given several arguments in support of the doctrine of momentariness. Of these one of the most important arguments is that of Arthakriyakarita. i.e. the argument form the power of generating action. According to this principle only that thing can produce effect which has existence and whatever cannot produce effect has no existence. Similarly, so far as a certain thing has the power of producing effect, it has existence. When it ceases to produce any effect. If at this time a, thing produces effect and at the next moment another effect is observed or no effect is observed, then one should suppose that the former thing has ceased to exist, because one thing can produce only one effect in one moment. e.g., a seed cannot develop in the same way in any two moments. When the seed is in the bad, it will not sprout in the form of a plant; when sown in the earth, it sprouts in the form of a plant. This plant agarn develops from moment ot moment. In this process of development no two moments are similar or identical. Hence there can be no one cause of the effect observed in two moments or in other words the plant is changing from moment to moment and so by the principle of the power of producing effect the seed is also changing from moment to moment.

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Similarly, all the things of the world are momentary. The soul is momentary because no man can remain identical in two moments. This principle is known as the doctrine of momentariness. The Buddhist principle of karma and the doctrine of no-soul are very much related with the principle of impermanence or that of momentariness. Hence the criticism of the principle of momentariness will be covertly the criticism of the principle of Karma and the theory of non-soul.

Samkara has advanced the following main arguments against the theory of momentariness.

If the self is momentary, knowledge is impossible. The Buddhist philosophers have not differentiated between the self and its modifications. Whatever is subject to modification cannot know another thing which is being modified. The knowledge of change requires an unchanging knower. Samkara differentiates between Bodhi and Pratyaya, knowledge and ideation. Idea is changing, knowledge is eternal. Knowledge pre-supposes a knower which can unity the automatic experience coming through different sense organs. Perception requires the unification of the scattered sensations. This is the function of the self. To experience change one must himself be beyond change. Only because of some similarities, some states cannot be called to be the states of one thing. For it, all these states must have some common permanent element. Similarly, if the soul is momentary, the processes of comparison, memory and other mental activities are impossible.
The cause and effect relation cannot be explained on the basis of the principle of momentariness. If a cause remains only for a moment and absolutely disappears next moment, it cannot produce an effect because it not only requires the existence of the cause but the cause must continually act. Thus if the cause is momentary, the effect will be conceived to born out of nothing and  if this is so any effect can be born from any cause or effect can be generated even without cause which is clearly impossible. The relation of cause and effect is impossible without continuity between the two and any sort of continuity is against the principle of momentariness. The origination, sustenance and destruction cannot be in the same moment and if they are in different moments and the different stages of the same thing, that cannot be called to be momentary.

The Jaina Acharya Hem Chandra has advanced five arguments against the principle of momentariness.

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Krta pransa:

The Karma of human beings cannot be explained on the basis of the principle of momentariness. this also annihilates ethics. If a man has done an action and the next moment he is another man, how can this other person be given the fruits of the action of the former simply on the basis of similarity. The Buddhist philosophers have not answered this question of the king Millinda that if the self is merely a process of momentary modification, who is the door of them and who gets their fruits.

Krta Karma Bhog:

Similarly, the bearing of the fruits of Karma also cannot be explained on the basis of the principle of momentariness. If the self is changing from moment to moment then the bearing of its fruits should be changing.

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Bhava Bhanga:

On the basis of the principle of momentariness the world also cannot be explained nor it has any meaning.

Moksha Bhanga:

When the individual is momentary then his efforts to get rid of the miseries should be useless because even the miseries must be conceived to be momentary. Again, it is another person who shall get rid of the miseries because on who makes effort is also momentary and ceases to exist after a moment. Thus the principle of momentariness cutsat the root of the first great truth advocated by Buddha and also the remaining three great truths depending upon it. Nirvana can have any meaning only if it is taken as the transcendental truth and monetarism as the pragmatic truth.

Smrti Bhang:

Like Samkara, Hem Chandra has also raised the objection that on the basis of the principle of momentariness the various mental process, e.g. memory, recognition etc. cannot be explained.

As a matter of fact, the Buddhist philosophers have exclusively emphasized the phenomenon of change and forgotten the eternal aspect of the self. The self has two aspects, the transcendental and the Psychological. As the Upanishads have pointed out, both being and becoming are two equally important aspects of the ultimate truth and reality.

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