Read this article to learn about Buddhist Philosophical Schools!
Though the Buddha was himself absolutely rational and tried to prove everything by reasoning, yet he remained silent regarding some philosophical questions and refused to discuss some other problems. It is on these issues and problems, that the later Buddhist philosophers have very much differed from one another and have presented widely different opinions.
The seeds of positivism, phenomenalism and empiricism are to be found in the philosophy of the Buddha. His philosophy may be called positivism, because according to it one must try for the progress of this life in this very world. It may be called phenomenalism since, according to the Buddha, we may have definite knowledge of only those objects which are subject to empirical experience.
Thus some philosophers have also called Buddhist philosophy empirical, because, according to it, experience is the only proof of knowledge. Regarding the ultimate reality, some philosophers have interpreted the Buddha’s approach as agnostic while others have explained it as mystic and even transcendentalist.
Those who interpreted Buddhist philosophy empirically, called him agnostic, according to the empirical principle, the knowledge of imperceptible things is impossible. The Buddha also sometimes referred to such knowledge as being unknowable by rational argumentation, because of its being other-worldly.
The Buddha accepted Prajna as the ultimate knowledge. Prajna is beyond the senses. Hence some philosophers have interpreted the Buddha’s philosophy as transcendentalism. The Buddha has also referred to knowledge which cannot be proved by experience or logic, which is not subject to worldly thoughts, and which cannot be described in words. On this basis some other philosophers have interpreted the Buddha’s philosophy as mysticism.
In this way, discussing the various philosophical problems differently, the later Buddhist philosophers established more than thirty schools. Of these the two most important religious schools, Hinayana and Mahayana, have already been described earlier. Philosophically, the Mahayana sect was divided into two classes— Sunyavad or Madhyamik and Vijnanvad or Yogacliara the Hinayana school was also divided into two philosophical schools viz., Vaibhasika and Sautrantika.
These two schools differ on the question of the existence of external things, but both Sautrantika and Vaibhasika accepted the reality of the physical and mental objects. Hence they are known as Sarvastivadin or those believing in the existence of everything. These two schools, however, differ on the question of the source of knowledge. According to Sautrantika the external objects are not known through perception. According to Vaibhasika, on the other hand, the knowledge of the external objects can also be gained through perception.
1. Sarvastivadin School:
As has already been pointed out, the Sarvastivadins believe in the existence of everything. According to them both chitta and external object have existence and both consist of many elements. These elements are called dharmas. The dharmas are of seventy-five types. The substratum of dharmas was known as sanghat.
It is because of this that Stacherbatsky has called Sarvastivad as “San- ghatwad “. The material sanghat of chitta are of forty-six types. Only three dharmas arc not subject to sanghat. These are Akasa, Apratisankhyanirodh and Pratisankhyanirodh. Atom is the unit of matter. It is of four types: earth, water, fire and air. The five sense organs are made of five types of special atoms. The atoms are beyond the senses, only their combinations can be perceived,
2. Vaibhasika School:
The Vaibhaskas accept both chitta and matter. Both these are made up of the dharmas. There is no eternal soul. But Akasa and Nirvana are eternal. There are four elements viz., earth, water, air and fire. The earth is hard, the water is cool, the fire is hot and the air is mobile. The perceptible things are real. They are compounds (sanghat) of atoms.
The atoms have no form, sound, state or colour. They are indivisible and cannot enter into one another. The perceptible things are the conglomerations of imperceptible atoms. Here, a distinction has been drawn by philosophers between sanghat atom and dravya atom. The sanghat atom is the subtlest form of atom. The dravya atom is indivisible and without colour. It is of nine types—earth, water, fire, air, smell, taste, colour, touch and karma dhatu.
Two types of objects and experiences:
The Vaibhasika philosophers have criticised the Sautrantika view regarding perception. According to Vaibhasika philosophers, if all the external things are inferred by their knowledge, then nothing can be known by perception. In the absence of perception, there can be no relation of concomitance between the major and the minor premise without which no inference is possible.
This is opposed to actual experience. In fact, things are of two types—Grahana and Adhyavasaya. Similarly, experience is also of two types Grahana and Adhyavasaya. The formless experience by the sense organs in the first stage of knowledge is known as Grahana or reception.
This is attribute less knowledge. In the language of psychology it can be compared with sensation. When this knowledge assumes form and appears as attributed, it is called Adhyavasaya, which can be compared with perception in psychological parlance. The Vaibhasika philosophers accept the presence of the external things and conceived them as subject to perception.
The sense organs are material. They know the objects of their knowledge without any contact with them. In acquiring such knowledge no external contact of the sense organs with the object is perceived. These sense organs are—eyes, ears and the mind, other sense organs must come in contact with the things to know them.
Hence due to defect in these senses there may be a difference in the knowledge attained through them. A type of samskara occurs in the sense organs when they come in contact with the external world. By these samskaras, the chitta is enlightened and there is the manifestation of consciousness in it.
After it there follows the arousal of different types of knowledge in the chitta. According to Vaibhasika School, it is pramana by which direct knowledge is possible. The pramanas are of two types: pratyaksha (perceptual) and anumana (inferential). Both these pramanas are known as samvagjnana (right knowledge) and it is by these that all the purusarthas are attained.
Perception is the knowledge devoid of imagination and error. This knowledge is of four types:
1. Indriya Jnana:
This is the knowledge attained through the senses.
This refers to sensual knowledge in the form of samanan- tara pratyaya (parallel concept) after the acquisition of knowledge through the senses. This parallel concept is a mental modification in the absence of which there may be no knowledge, even after continued sense perception. Thus Mano-Vijnana is born of both the object and the consciousness.
Atma-Samvedana is the manifestation of chitta and its dharmas as pleasure and pain in their real form. This perception is attributeless, without error and of the nature of self-realization.
4. Yogic Jnana:
Yogic Jnana is the ultimate knowledge of the things perceptible through various means. The object of perception is swalakshana. Swalak- shana is that object in which there is difference in the form of knowledge because of the presence or absence of contact. It is by it that a thing acquires the capacity to do anything. Hence, it is said to be paramartha satya having ontological existence.
Inference is of two types—swartha (for the self) and Pararatha (for others). In the former, the linga is inferential, e.g., in the inference, there is fire on the hill, the hill is linga and the fire is inferential. In it, the linga remains in the self (svapaksha), just as in kitchen. The linga docs not remain in the opposite side (Vipaksha), e.g., a pool of water.
In the words of Dharma Keerti “Swarthanumana or inference for oneself is the knowledge which is born of Anumeya mroop linga.” This is knowledge (Jnana) while Pararthanumana or the inference for others is merely description (Kathana). According to Dharma Keerti the description of three-fold linga is known as Pararthanumana. These three forms of the linga are as follows:
The non-attainment of anything is known as anupalabdhi. For example, if a pitcher is not available at the spot where it is usually found in spite of the presence of the sense of its existence, it is anupalabdhi. In this example, the inference is based on the Hetu Anupalabdhi.
According to Dharma Keerti, Swabhava Hetu is that which is found in Swa-Satta Matra Bhavi Sadhya. Swa-SattaMatra-Bhavi Sadhya is the object which is established only by its own hetu and does not require another Hetu. e.g., this is an animal because this is a cow. Here it is an animal because of its being a cow.
Karya is the inference of the existence of anything by seeing its effect, e.g., we say, there is fire here because there is smoke. In this judgment, the fire is inferred by the presence of its effect, viz., smoke.
In the above-mentioned three hetus, the second and the third point to the existence of the object while the first alludes to its non-existence. The Parar- thanumana has been further divided into two forms: Sadharmyavat and Vaidhar- myavat. In these two forms, there is no difference of meaning, but only a difference of application.
In the Vaibhasika School, the ultimate principles have been discussed from two standpoints—objective and subjective. Before discussing these two standpoints in detail, it would be relevent to analyse the meaning of the word ‘Dharma’ which has been very widely used in Buddhist philosophy.
The word dharma has been used for those subtle elements physical as well as those of chitta, whose action and reaction cause the creation of the whole universe. Thus, the world is a conglomeration of the dharmas. All the dharmas owe their origin to some cause. All are free and everyone has its own existence. Dharmas are momentary because they are changing from moment to moment. Hence, the world made by dharmas is also momentary.
The objective division of the world:
From the objective standpoint, the Vaibhasika philosophers have divided the dharmas of the world into two classes— Asanskrita dharmas and Sanskrita dharmas. Asanskrta dharma means that which is eternal, permanent, pure and which does not originate from a cause. They are unchanging. The sanskrita dharmas, of the other hand, are ephemeral, impermanent and impure. They are born’ out of the construction of things. According to Sarvastivadins asanskrta dharmas are of three types: Pratisankhyanirodha, apratisankhyanirodh and Akasa. These are explained below:
Pratisankhyanirodh means prajna or knowledge. Hence pratisankhyanirodh dharmas are those which are negated by knowledge. By it all the sastrava dharmas i.e. attachment, aversion etc, are annihilated.
2. Apratisankhya Nirodh:
This is the stage where there is annihilation without consciousness e.g., spontaneous destruction of the sastrava dharma. The sastrava dharmas are born out of some causes. The destruction of these causes leads to the destruction of these dharmas even in the absence of prajna. The dharmas thus destroyed are not born again. In fact, in pratisankhyanirodh there is only awareness of annihilation, while in the apartisankhyanirodh there is actual annihilation.
The absence of covering is known as Akasa. It neither restricts anything nor is restricted by anything. It is eternal, unchanging and of the nature of existence.
The sanskrta dharmas have been divided into four types—Rupa, Citta, Chaitasika and Citta-Viparyukta.
Anything which creates impediment is known as rope. Thus all the physical elements and things of the world are rope. Rupa has been divided into eleven kinds— five external sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin), their five objects (from, sound, flavour, taste and touch) and Avijnapti. In Abhidhamma Kosa, these also have been further divided.
Citta is born out of the interaction of senses and their objects. By the destruction of this interaction, the citta is also destroyed. The words Citta, Mana and Vijnan have been used in the same sense. According to Vaibhasika philosophers, citta is the main element. All the samskaras remain in citta. It is this which transmigrates from world to world. It has no independent existence because it is born of Hetu Pratyaya. It is changing every moment. It is one, but due to modifications it appears to be divided.
Caitasika are the mental processes closely related with the citta. According to Abhidamma Kosa, there are forty six types of Caitasika dharmas.
4. Chitta Viparyukta:
These are the dharmas which cannot be classified either in rupa dharmas or in chitta dharmas. They are said to be fourteen in number.
The Subjective Division of the World:
From the subjective standpoint, the world has been divided into three parts- The skandhas arc changing. The Jiva is made of five skandhas viz, Rupa, Vedana, anjna, Samskar and Vijnan. All the physical elements and the physical objects arc included in the Rupa skandha which also forms the physical body of the jiva.
In the Vedana skandha there are the feelings of pleasure, pain etc. In the Sanjna skandha various types of knowledge arc included, while in the Samskara skandha there arc tendencies born out of the past birth. The Vijnan skandha is consciousness.
The substratum of knowledge is known as Ayatan. It includes the senses and their objects. It is on the basis of these that one knows the objects Ayhatans are twelve in number. They comprise six sense organs, including the mind and their six objects. According to the Vaibhasika, there is no existence of anything beyond these.
Hence the Buddhist philosophers do not admit soul because it is neither known though the senses nor is it the object of any senses. The mana Ayatan, also known as dharma Ayantan, includes sixty four dharmas. The remaining eleven Ayatans have one dharma each.
According to Vasubandhu, the Dhatus arc those subtle elements whose groupings lead to the generation of knowledge. In Buddhist philosophy, dhatu means ‘Swalakshana i.e., having independent existence. The dhatus are of eighteen kinds. Thus the eighteen dhatus include six senses, six objects of the senses and six types of consciousness born out of these objects.
Of these, the first twelve are the Ayatans. In them the dharma dhatu includes sixty four dharmas. The ten dhatus except Mana have one dharma each. Thus, as has already been pointed out, according to Sarvastivadins, there are seventy-five dharmas.
Nirvana is the stage which the Arhata attains by following the path of truth. It is independent, one, eternal and substratum of knowledge. In it there are no distinctions or divisions. It is uncaused. It is of the nature of existence (Bhava Rupa). The Sarvastivadins include nirvana among the asanskrta dharmas.
According to Abhi Dharam Kosa it is the attainment of the nirvana dhatu. It has no relation with Citta or Caitasika element. It is infinite, unlimited and ineffable like ether. By its attainment all the sastrava dharmas are destroyed.
The other school of Buddhism was known as Sautrantika School. It was based on Sutta Pitaka. Like the Vaibhasika School, the Sautrantikas were separated from them. They have no faith in Abhidhamma Pitaka and Vibhasa. It is due to faith in Vibhasa that the other school has been called Vaibhasika. As has been already pointed out, Vaibhasikas believe that the external things are known to perception, while according to Sautrantika School they are subject to inference.
According to Sautrantika School, there are four conditions of knowledge which are as follows:
Alamban is the condition of the external objects like a jug, because the knowledge of form comes through it.
This is so-called because it is only after the previous mental stage of alamban that the consciousness of this stage is attained.
The senses have been called the Adhipati Pratyaya or the normative, cause of knowledge. Without the sense there can be no external knowledge even after the presence of the first two causes mentioned above. The knowledge of form, touch, etc., of the external object depends on the existence of the senses.
4. Sahkari Pratyaya:
These are the subsidiary conditions necessary for knowledge, e.g., light, requisite distance, form, etc., without which knowledge becomes almost impossible.
The knowledge of the external objects becomes possible due to the above mentioned four causes or conditions. The Sautrantika philosophers do not admit that the external objects have no existence and all knowledge is in the consciousness. Nor do they believe like the Vaibhasika philosophers that we acquire the knowledge of an object only by direct perception.
As opposed to Vijnanvadins, they maintain that since the object and its knowledge are contemporary and coexistent, they cannot be identical. In the perception of the jug there is a clear experience of the existence of the jug outside and the presence of its knowledge in our consciousness.
Had there been no distinction between the jug and myself, I should say that I am the jug. Hence, the object is different from its knowledge. Again, in the absence of the existence of external objects, there can be no distinction between the knowledge of one object and another e.g., that of the jug and a piece of cloth, because both are mere knowledge.
But all admit the distinction between the jug and the piece of cloth and hence such a distinction must exist. Thus the object is external to knowledge. But the Sautrantikas maintain as against the Vaibhasikas that we have no direct perception of die external objects but only the knowledge of their appearance.
It is by the distinction in the knowledge of their appearance that we infer the distinction of the external objects. It is these appearances which are the basis of knowledge. Hence they are in the mind itself, though the things which they represent as external objects are known by their perception, but by the inference based upon the mental modifications aroused by them. This view is known as Bahyanumeyavad. It is representationalism or indirect Realism.
From the metaphysical standpoint, the following are the important considerations found in the Sautrantika School:
There is no causality in two objects having spontaneous existence.
There is no past or future besides the present.
3. Self Evidence of knowledge:
Sautrantikas believe that knowledge is self- evident and requires nothing to prove it. It is self-enlightened like a lamp. Thus the Sautrantikas are Swatahpramanyavadin.
Word is non-eternal because it has no existence before orgination and after destruction.
5. Destruction of the object:
There is no cause of destruction of the object, the object is itself destroyed.
6. Atoms and their organisation:
The atoms have no parts. Hence they are neither combined nor does their number increase. Thus even their organisation is atomic.
7. Pratisankhya and Apratisankhya nirodh:
Unlike the Vaibhasika philosophers, the Sautrantikas maintain that there is not much difference between Pratisankhyanirodh and Apratisankhyanirodh. In the former, all the sufferings of the aspirant are destroyed by the arousal of Prajna and he does not suffer in future. In the latter, the sufferings will be removed by the destruction of klesas and the aspirant will be free from the cycle of the world.
8. Nature of Nirvana:
Nirvana is not an asankrita dharma. It is asatya because in it there is the absence of klesas and the destruction of Kasayas. Nirvana means to be extinguished like the lamp. In Nirvana there is absolute destruction of all dharma. By it the aspirant attains the stage in which there is no klesa in the attainment of any new dharma.
4. Madhyamik or Sunyavada:
According to the Sunyavadins, the ultimate reality is Sunya. Hence the name Sunyavad. According to Nagarjuna the ultimate reality is neither existent nor non- existent, neither both existent and non-existent nor different from both. Thus the ultimate reality is entirely different from the four categories. It is attibuteless. Nagarjuna has called ‘Sunyata’ by the name of Pratityasamuptpad as well. The element is Swalakshana.
Hence whatever is born of material cause depends on something other than itself. Its origination is not in fact i.e., it is Sunya. These philosophers were called Madhyamikas because they adopted the middle path (Madhyam Marga) of the Buddha. The Buddha adopted a middle path between activism and renunciation. He neither passed his life as a recluse in the forest nor lived as a wordly being. Living in the world he aimed at the welfare of all living beings.
Samvritti and Paramartha Satya:
Nagarjuna, the greatest philosopher of Madhyamika School, admitted two forms of reality. According to him, “There are two truths on which the Buddha’s teachings regarding religion are based. One is the empirical truth (Samvritti Satya). It is for the ordinary person.
The other is the transcendental truth (Paramartha Satya) those persons who do not know the distinction between these truths cannot understand the subtle secrets of the Buddha’s teachings.” The empirical truth is only a means for the attainment of transcendental truth.
According to Nagarjuna the transcendental truth cannot be known without the help of the empirical and without knowing the transcendental truth, Nirvana cannot be attained. Truth is known by untruth and ultimate reality by Maya. Similarly, the knowledge of the empirical truth is necessary for the attainment of transcendental truth.
Empirical truth is also called Avidya (ignorance), Moha (attachment), Viparyaya etc. It is other-dependent and hence perishable. It is also of two types—Loka Samvrtti and Mithya Samvritti. Loka Samvritti is that object or phenomenon which is born out of some cause and through which all the activities of the worldly beings go on. Thus Loka Samvritti is the truth in the world. Mitliya Samvritti is the phenomenon which is also due to some cause, but which is not admitted to be true by all, nor does it help all in their behaviour.
The Madhyamika philosophers believe in the transcendental Reality. Along with the physical world, they also discuss the ultimate Existence. All the things of the world are relative. Thus the Sunyavad can also be called relativism. The dharmas of the worldly objects depend upon other objects and their existence requires the existence of other objects.
Nothing has its own definite, absolute and independent nature. All these are empirical truths. The transcendental truth is directly opposed to them. Its experience is absolute. It is attained only in Nirvana. It is beyond the empirical objects. It is eternal, absolute and devoid of ordinary worldly dharmas.
It is also called Sunyata, Tathata, Dharma Dhatu etc. In fact, the transcendental truth has no attributes at all. In it there are no names and forms, subjects and objects. It can be known neither through speech nor through the mind. This truth can also not be explained through words. The knower experiences it through immediate experience.
Negation of Everything:
Nagarjuna starts his famous book Madhyamika Karika, by saluting the great teacher Buddha who preached the doctrine of dependent origination and say that from the transcendental standpoint Pratyasamutpad is itself Nirvana, and all the multiplicity closes into it. From the transcendental standpoint there is neither negation, nor origination, nor annihilation, nor eternity, nor Sunya. There is neither deduction nor induction.
Nagarjuna condemns the entire creation. Using his logic of fourfold categories, he proves the non-existence of all the objects. Nothing can be born by itself, nor through others; nor both through itself and others, nor in the absence of both. Hence creation is impossible.
After it Nagarjuna condemns the four concept of Hinayana viz., Alamban, Samanantar, Adhipati and Sahakari. Thus, he proves that cause and effect are relative and merely empirical truths. Similarly, he also proves motion and perception to be impossible.
The five skandhas are also non-existent. For example, if they are there, they will have no cause and if they are not there even then they will have no cause, because the non-existent thing, like the hare’s horn cannot have any cause. Hence rupa is impossible. Similarly, the four great truths, Triratna, Buddha, Sangha, Dharma, etc., all are non-existent (Asata).
Both bondage and liberation are negated and hence are non-existent. There is none bound, none liberated, none both bound and liberated and no one neither bound nor liberated. Hence there can be neither boundage nor liberation. Whatever is in the skandhas and whatever is not in them, can neither be bound nor liberated.
Similarly, Nirvana has no existence because, if it had, like other things in existence, it should also have a beginning and an end, and then it should also have a cause and depend on skandhas like other Sanskrita dharmas. Similarly, Nirvana cannot be nonexistent, because, this is self contradictory. Again, nirvana cannot be neither existent nor non- existent, because then it cannot even be thought of. Hence nirvana is neither existent nor non-existent, nor both. It is mere illusion.
Philosophers, including Samkara, have called Sunyavad to be nihilism (Vainasika). According to Samkaracharya, Sunyavad is not even worthy of the honour of being condemned because it is contrary to all proofs. But this only shows Samkara’s antipathy towards Sunyavad and not any attempt to understand it. The above-mentioned discussion of the views of Nagarjuna makes it amply clear that according to him non-existence or Sunya is relative.
In fact, the word Madhyamika itself proves that the Sunyavadins are on the one hand against positive absolute eternity and, on the other hand against absolute nihilism. There is the middle path, i.e., according to them, the Reality is neither eternal nor non-eternal. Secondly, when Nagarjuna proves everything to be non-existent, it is only from the transcendental standpoint.
As empirical truths, all are real. Samkara has himself declared even God and non-existent from the transcendental standpoint. In fact, the philosophy of Sunyavad is so much similar to the non-dualism of Samkara that Samkara is again and again found trying to differentiate between the two. This, however, does not mean that Samkara was a crypto-Buddhist.
There is no restriction of space and time in the world of ideas and experiences. In spite of their living in different times and places, the two philosophers could have exactly similar ideas.
This only shows the fundamental unity and similarity of human experience and thinking.
Empirical and Transcendental Standpoint:
Hence Sunyavad is neither absolute nihilism nor denial of all knowledge. It maintains that from the transcendental standpoint all things of the world are self-contradictory and relative and hence mere empirical truths. It is true that the words used by Sunyavadins, e.g., Bhrama (Illusion), Swapna (Dream), Mrg Trisna (Mirage), Akasa Kusum (sky flowers) and Bandhya Pulra (son of a barren women) etc., prove absolute non-existence of things.
But the purpose behind all these seems to prove the absolute non-existence of the empirical things from the transcendental standpoint. The Sunyavadins have themselves repeated again and again that absolute negation is impossible. Both negation and affirmation are relative. Many things which are illusory from the transcendental standpoint are perfectly true in the world.
But even in the empirical truth, the transcendental truth explains itself. The Reality is absolute, non-dual and beyond the intellect. Though immanent in the world, it is beyond it. According to Nagarjuna, Reality is that which can be known only directly, which is calm and blissful, in which the manyness is dissolved, which is attributeless, non-dual, homogeneous and perfect.
This Reality is Sunyata. As a matter of fact, Sunyata itself has two aspects. It is dependent origination and relative and means that the worldly objects are not transcendental truths. According to Nagarjuna, this is the middle path which, in the end, is both beyond affirmation and negation. The cycle of dependent origination cannot stop without the destruction of ignorance and that is possible only through real knowledge.
Hence from transcendental standpoint, it is neither Sunya nor not- Sunya, nor both nor neither. Relativity is itself relative and this is an empirical truth. Relativism cannot be absolute truth. Nagarjuna has himself said.’ “We do not say that our particular statement is true while all others are untrue.’ We say that all statements are Sunya from the transcendental standpoint.” He again says, “But from the empirical standpoint, we admit the truth of the statement because the empirical cannot be contradicted by its own logic.”
In fact, it is the other-dependent nature of things, their change ability and their own effability which are conveyed through the word Sunya. All the qualities are Sunya because the origination of all of them depends 011 some tiling else. The transcendental existence is beyond the perceptible world and is inevitable. It cannot be known through ordinary worldly concepts.
Hence it is said to be Sunya. In the Lankavatar Sutta it has been said that the real nature cannot be known through the intellect. As has been shown earlier, Nagarjuna has-used the criterion of fourfold categories to examine the truth of things. Whatever is beyond these four categories is Sunya.
Thus all the things of the world come to be non-existent because it is not decided by the intellect whether their real nature is true, untrue, both true and untrue, or neither true nor untrue. Nagarjuna says in Ratnawali, “The Reality is beyond all the concepts of the intellect.” Only he who has known the meaning of Sunya may understand the real significance of things and may be able to explain them. On the other hand, he who has not understood the truth of sunya is unable to understand the significance of things or to explain them.
According to Sunyavad, the transcendental truth is known through self-experience. It requires samadhi in the form of the concentration of citta. The practice of samadhi leads to the arousal of prajna and the aspirant has a balanced chitta. This leads to the experience of the ultimate reality. Samadhi also requires renunciation as well as the knowledge and practice of six Parmitas.
These six Parmitas are charity (Dan), good character (Sila), peacefulness (Shanti), Virility (Veerya), concentration (Dhyana) and spiritual consciousness (Prajna). The transcendental truth cannot be known without the practice of these. Penance is the most important duty. It leads to annihilation of misery and the attainment of knowledge. Thus the aspirant realises the Sunya both through knowledge and action.
5. Yogachara or Vijnanvad:
Another philosophical school of the Mahayana sect is known as Yogachara or Vijnanvad. It is known as Vijnanvad since according to it all thing are consciousness. It is also called Yogachara because in it the aspirant must go through the practice of Yoga and pass through its ten states before becoming Buddha. The understanding of Alaya Vijnan also requires yoga.
Those who have the experience of Samadhi very well know that in the state of samadhi the entire physical world seems to disappear in citta and it is only after awakening from samadhi that the things of the external world are gradually perceived. It is on the basis of this experience that the yogachara philosophers have concluded that Citta is everything. This Chitta is known as Alaya Vijnan, In Mahayana Samparigrah Sutta, Asanga has enumerated the following important characteristics of the Yogachara School:
(1) Alaya Vijnan pervades all living beings.
(2) Knowledge is of three types-illusory, relative and absolute.
(3) Both the external and the internal world are a manifestation of the Alaya.
(4) The six parmitas arc compulsory.
(5) For the attainment of the state of Buddha, one must pass through the ten states of Bodhisatva.
(6) Mahayana is far superior to Hinayana which is selfish, individualistic and narrow and which has misinterpreted the teachings of Buddha.
(7) The ultimate aim is to be one with the Dharmakaya of Buddha through spiritual experience (Bodhi).
(8) Transcending the dualism of subject and object, one must identify oneself with consciousness.
(9) From the transcendental standpoint, there is no difference between the world and liberation. With the attainment of equanimity and negation of multiplicity liberation may be attained here and now.
(10)The Reality is Dharmakaya i.e., the perfect pure consciousness which is Nirmankaya from the worldly standpoint.
According to Lankavatar Sutta all the Dharmas, except Vijnan, are un-real. Buddha has only preached about Vijnan Nama, Rupa and Aroop, the three worlds, are mere transformations of this consciousness. No external thing has any existence. Whatever is, is Vijnan. Similarly, according to Vasubandhu as well, Vinjnan is the only reality. It is expressed through subject and object.
Hence the Buddha has pointed out two bases of knowledge— internal and external. There is no individual soul nor external things because both are the manifestations of Vijnan which cannot be known through the intellect. It is known through direct experience. It can be known through purity of person which is beyond the dualism of subject and object.
Vijnan is of two kinds—Pravrtti Vijnan i.e., personal consciousness and Alaya Vijnan or absolute consciousness. Individual consciousness is again of seven types—Chakshu Vijnan, Short Vijnan, Dharma Vijnan, Rasana Vijnan, Kama Vijnan, Mano-Vijnan, and Klista Vijnan. Of these the first six have been admitted by Sarvastivadins.
The seventh is the mediating link between the sixth and Alaya Vijnan. The first five types of consciousness lead to the knowledge of the things. Manovijnan leads to thought on them and Klista Vijnan helps in their perception. Alaya Vijnan or Citta is that which unites all these.
All these seven Vijnans of the personal consciousness are born in the absolute consciousness and disappear into it. All these are momentary and changing. Thus, in fact, the personal consciousness depends upon absolute consciousness.
Thus Alaya Vijnan is the alaya, the home or store— house of different types of Vijnans. Hence in it are stored the passions in the form of seeds of all the Vijnans. In time the seeds manifest in the practical world in the form of behaviour and again merge into alaya. Hence this alaya vijnan is itself the empirical individual self. All types of knowledge remain in it. It is the basis of transmigration. It is also called Citta and Tathagatagarbha.
According to Yogachara, the physical world has no existence apart from consciousness. Even if the existence of anything outside consciousness is admitted, it cannot be known. However, if there is any external thing, it is either atomic or made of several atoms. If it is atomic it cannot be perceived because, atom is very subtle and minute.
Again, if it is made of several atoms, even then the whole thing cannot be perceived together. Now, if there is the question of perception of one part the difficulty is the same, that either it is made, of one atom or more than one atom and, in both the conditions, it cannot be perceived as has been discussed earlier. Thus, there are many difficulties in accepting the existence of things external to the mind.
According to Vijnanvadins, if the thing is not conceived apart from mental knowledge all these difficulties are removed. Hence Vijnanvadins believe that all things external to mind are mental modifications. According to Dharmakirti, there is no difference in the blue colour and its knowledge because the two are not independent of one another. Knowledge is necessary to know the things.
Hence the thing cannot have any existence apart from knowledge. It is a mere illusion to see things different from knowledge. Seeing two moons means defect of the eyes and not that there are actually two moons. Just as in dreams things are seen as external and yet they are in the mind, similarly, in the ordinary waking state as well, things appear to be external in spite of their being in the mind.
The Vijnanvadins prove the non-existence of the external things on the basis of momentarism as well. Things are known only after their creation, but they are destroyed in the very moment of creation. Hence, there should be creation of the things and their knowledge both in the same moment. Now, thing is the cause of knowledge and knowledge is its effect. But cause and effect cannot be in the same time; the effect must be posterior to the cause.
On the other hand, the thing is destroyed in the same moment and the question of its knowledge does not arise after its destruction. Thus the knowledge of the eternal things is impossible. Hence the thing which appears to be eternal should be taken as a mere mental concept.
It can be questioned here that if the object is a mere concept of the mind, why does it not appear, disappear and change as desired. To this the Vijnanvadins reply that the mind is a stream in which the past experiences remain in the form of impressions and whenever there is a favourable condition for a certain impression, the same impression manifests and results into knowledge. This can be proved by the example of memory. There are many impressions in the mind, but at a particular time, only a particular impression is recalled.
The Vijnavadins do not accept the empirical self as ultimately real. The man is the self born of ignorance. Had there been any real self, there should have been either liberation without effort or no liberation at all. The Vijnanvadins have called the empirical self as Manovijnan.
It is based on the Alaya Vijnan and along with it are attached four types of miseries—self thought, selfillision, self-pride and self- love. As soon as the false idea of Manovijnan is destroyed, these miseries also disappear. According to Vasubandhu, when the unreality of the external things is known, Manovijnan becomes unreal, because the subject cannot remain without the object, and the aspirant stays in absolute truth.
It should be noticed here that Asanga and Vasnbandhu have called only the empirical self as unreal. Pure consciousness or universal consciousness is the only reality. It is self-enlightened. Knowing that this world is a conglomeration of impressions, that the self and the object have no existence and that all this is suffering, the wise man will leave behind the narrow life of the empirical self and attain universal consciousness.
Following the great path, and understanding the true principles of no-soul and the real meaning of Sunyata, the wise men, leaving the personal existence, attain pure consciousness and become one with the universal consciousness. Some persons believe that Alaya Vijnan is an ever changing stream of consciousness. But according to Lankavatar Sutta it is permanent, immortal and unchanging.
It is beyond the dualism of subject and object. It is .beyond origination, sustenance and destruction. It can be known through pure consciousness. It is the substratum and object of the tendency of the creation of the world. Hence creation is due to the eternal tendency which is motivated by ignorance.
It is the manifestation of the personal Alaya vijnan. Pravrtti Vijnan or the personal consciousness cannot be said to be either Alaya or different from it. It is intellect alone which differentiates between the Alaya and the personal consciousness. In the end, from the transcendental standpoint, there is no difference between them.
Alaya is inevitable and beyond the reach of the intellect. It is also called Tathagatgarbha because it contains seeds of all the consciousness. It is eternal, original, pure, permanent, of the nature of light and the essence of all. It is attributeless. Thus, though the Buddhists have tried to distinguish the Alaya from the self, as described in the Upanishads, this distinction is hardly cognisable.
From the multiple point of view, Vijnanvadins admit two types of knowledge—Grahana and Adyavasaya, Grahana is indirect and Adhyavasaya direct inference. The Vijnanvadins believe that the proof of things depends on something else (Paratah Pramanyavad). They made two distinctions in the empirical truth, viz., paratantra and parikalpita. The former is relative while the latter is imaginary.
It is improper to compare Vijnanvad with the subjective idealism in Berkeley’s philosophy. In fact, Vijnanvad is absolute idealism. Thus Samkara has misinterpreted both Vijnanvad and Sunyavad. The fact is that there is hardly any difference in Alaya Vijnan and the self of Upanishads.
The Vijnanvadins have confined momentarism to the external or empirical world. The Reality is neither momentary nor eternal. But from the empirical standpoint, it is eternal, immortal and permanent. The world is the manifestation of this Alaya Vijnan. The Tatlwgat- garbha is not created through Manovijan or personal consciousness.
By saying that the external world is unreal, one means that it has no existence apart from the universal or pure consciousness. Even when comparing the external world with a dream, a distinction has been made between the relative and imaginary.
The world is relative while the dream is imaginary, though both are only real in the Alaya Vijnan and unreal outside. The Vijnan pervades all things of the world and is their substratum. In the words of Sthiramati, “Vijnan alone is eternal and .imperishable. It is blissful, because it is eternal. Whatever is eternal is bliss and whatever is momentary is misery.”