Similar to Jainism the school of Buddhism also originated as code of conduct against Brahmanism and later got the philosophical form. It was established by Lord Buddha whose no original script is available because Buddha delivered his preaches verbally which was learnt by his disciples. Later on the scripts of Buddhism were compiled in the form of Tripitakas through Bauddh Sangitis. Four popular branches of Buddhism are known as Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Shunyavada and Vijnanvada in which first two are Hinyani and last two are Mahayani. These four branches are in chronological order and we can see a process from gross realism to idealism in them, but Shunyavada is supposed as highest philosophical theory. Although in his Ashtadasnikay shashtra, Vasumitra has mentioned about eighteen branches of Buddhism. Sometimes silence of Buddha over inexplicable questions is supposed as the cause of so many branches. Actually Buddha was a practical thinker and that’s why according to him indulging in metaphysiocal problems is actually wastage of time and energy. According to him, since the highest suffering is Dukkha that’s why he delivered his preaches of four noble truths based on sufferings in which we can see the seeds of all Buddhists theories.
As far as Vaibhashikas are concerned then they have got this name because they are based upon a commentary titled Vibhasha. Among the prominent scholars of this branch in addition to Vasubandhu we can also name Sangbhadra, Dharmkirti etc. in which Vasubandhu firstly went into the direction of Sautrantika and later on he was converted into a scholar of Vijnanvada which was a branch of Mahayanis. The main source of knowledge about Vaibhashika is Bhidhammkosha of Vasubandhu in which he not only has accepted the material objects of the world but also said that we know the objects of the world through perception so their theory is known as Bahyapratyakshavada and that’s why they can be compared with Moore in western philosophy.
But in course of time another school got highlighted as Sautrantika against Vaibhashika which got this name because it is supposed to be based upon Suttapitaka. Among the prominent scholars of this btranch in addition to Vashubandhu we can name Kumarlata, Srilabha, Dharmatrata etc. since it is also a branch of Hinyanis that’s why it is similar to Vaibhashikas but on the basis of pramana we can distinguish them because according to Sautrantika the Bahyapratyakshavada of Vaibhashika can’t be accepted because it is not compatible with the Kshanikavada and goes against it. That’s why Sautrantika had propounded their theories as Bahyaanumeyavada which means we do the inference of external objects on the basis of their ideas left by them in our mind. Here we can compare Sautrantikas with the representative realism of Locke in western philosophy.
So here we can easily make difference between Vaibhashika and Sautrantika and similarly we can also differentiate Hinyana and Mahayana as well. These names are indicating as small vehicle and big vehicle respectively.
As far as SHUNYAVADA is concerned then it is an important branch of Mahayanis and it was propounded by Nagarjuna but we can also name the scholars like Ashwaghosh, Shantideva, Shantirakshit, Chandrakirti etc. main scripta of Shunyavada is Moolmadhyamikakarika of Nagarjuna in which he has established his Shunyavada.
The Sunya is main subject of Shunyavadis and the common meaning of sunya is absence or nothing but Shunyavadis have taken a specific meaning of Sunya because according to them there are four types of rational explanation are possible:—
- Firstly the reality or existence.
- Secondly the unreality or non existence.
- Thirdly both.
- And fourthly neither of them.
But we can not categorisse the Tatva or highest reality in any of the above categories and that’s why according to them the highest reality is beyond the above four categorization of rationality and that’s why they have called the highest reality as Cattuskotivinirmukta which means the highest reality is Cattuskotivinirmukta i.e. abstract or can’t be known through our sense organs and understanding because they can be the means of knowledge of material objects of the world which are changeable and perishable while the absolute reality is unchangeable and eternal such as Nirvana.
Altogether according to Shunyavada neither we can say that the highest reality is positive because in this case he will come under the cause and effect and thus will become perishable as well, nor we can say that the highest reality is negative because negative is always relative to positive and so it will lose its absoluteness, nor we can say that the highest reality is both positive and negative because they are contradictory like lightness and darkness, nor we can say that the absolute reality is not both because we can not believe in any such existence which is neither positive nor negative that’s why according to Shunyavadis the highest reality is Cattuskotivinirmukta which can’t be explained through language and this was the reason behind the silence of Lord Buddha over the metaphysical questions or highest reality.
Further Shunyavadis also said that if we don’t believe in Sunya then we have to believe in Asunya, which will go in the direction of permanent existence of the world and in this case the distress of the world will become permanent and the preaches of Buddha will lose its relevancy. That’s why according to Shunyavada everything is Sunya. This world is Sunya because it is Sunya from highest reality and the highest reality is sunya as well because it is sunya from the phenomena of the world. So according to Shunyavadis only those can blame Sunya who are unknown from the preaches of Lord Buddha because the actual meaning of sunya is relativity and in order to give emphasis over it Buddha has precisely mentioned that the objects of dream are completely real so far we are dreaming and their falsity can be highlighted only when we get up and join the superior stage of the practical world. Similarly the falsity of the practical world can be highlighted only when we will realize the highest reality of the transcendental world.
Now if we evaluate the Shunyavada then sometimes its meaning has been taken as absence or nothing but it shall not be taken because the actual meaning of Shunya is relativity. Even Shamkaracarya in order to criticize Shunyavada said that it is SARVAVAYANASHIKA and also said that criticizing Shunyavada is just like to honour it and I don’t like to honour it at all but even then he can’t keep himself away from the blame of being a Crypto Buddhist. Actually it is unfortunate that the opponents have focussed upon pure nihilism which is the weakest feature of Shunyavada but did not pay their attention upon the relativity which is the strongest feature of Shunyavada.
As far as VIJNANVADA is concerned then it is another important branch of Mahayanis, and among the renowned scholars the name of Asanga and Maitreyanath can be included. But it was Vasubandhu, who consolidated and strengthened Vijnanavada.
Vijnanavada is that branch of Buddhist philosophy which only accepts the vijnanas or ideas. Actually it is based upon the criticism of Sautrantika because Sautrantikas although accepted the existence of external objects but established the theory of Bahyaanumeyavada which means the external objects are the subject matter of inference because according to Sautrantika’s the external objects before changing leave their ideas in our mind and we do infer the material objects on the basis of ideas. In order to criticize Sautrantikas the Vijnanavadis have said that if we have no direct contact with external objects, then what is the need to accept their existence?
The answer of Sautrantika’s is, for the origin of the ideas external objects are necessary while according to Vijnanavadis it is not the case at all. Here in order to give the example of dream, Vijnanavadis have said that, the ideas also originate in the dreaming condition where there is no material object present in front of us, why this is not possible at practical level? In brief Vijnanavadis totally rejected external object and said them unreal or illusion.
But is it possible? If yes, then how? Vasubandhu in his ‘Lankavatar Sutra’ proved this and has given three strong arguments.
- First of all, according to Vasubandhu, some times the existence of external objects is accepted on the basis of substance – attribute principle, and the substance is supposed as the shelter of attribute. But according to Vasuvandhu this can’t be accepted at all because our contact is only upto the attribute, and apart from the attribute we don’t have any contact with objects then how we can we accept the existence of object.
- In order to give his second argument- Vasuvandhu said that- on the basis of wholepart relation the external objects are supposed to be whole consisting of different parts. But Vasubandhu also refuted this and said that if we make a question- ‘what is the relation of part and the whole? Then on the basis of dialectic following options are available. Different,Indifferent, Both and Not both. In the first option we have to accept, the production of real from unreal, and in the second option the part and whole became identical, the third option is not possible because they are contradictory like lightness and darkness and the fourth option is not possible as well because norelation can be suposed which is neither different nor indifferent. Therefore acceptance of external objects is not possible on the basis of whole- part relation.
- The third argument of Vasubandhu is, sometimes the existence of material objects is accepted in the form of composition of atoms but according to Vasubandhu this also can’t be accepted because the question is whether the external object is in the form of atoms or composition of atoms? It can’t be in the form of atoms, because atoms are not the subject matter of perception and if they are composition of atoms then they are perishable and in this condition we can’t accept them as real therefore the external objects are not existing at all.
Altogether we can say that the approach of Vasubandhu goes beyond Nagarjuna because in his Shunyavada, Acharya Nagarjuna have discussed only the relative Sunyata, while Vasubandhu has surprisingly rejected the existence of external objects and even called them unreal. But in this condition, the question can be made to Vasubandhu that if the external objects are unreal then what is real? According to Vasubandhu only Ideas or Vijnanas and it was named by Vasubandhu as Vijnaptimatrata. Because according to Vasubandhu the negation of ideas or vijnana or consciousness is not possible as it will prove them itself. But still the problem does not end becasue the question is how the creation of world can be explained on the basis of Vijnaptimatrata. In answer Vasubandhu said that in this process first of all-
- Aalayavijnana originated in which all ideas are existing in the form of seeds. It has mainly two functions – firstly to collect all the ideas in it and secondly in course of time and in favourable condition to project the ideas in the form of external objects. But these projected external objects will be unreal or illusion.
- After ‘Aalayavijnana, Manas originated. It is also known as ‘Klishtamanovijnana’ because right from here sufferings start.
- After Manas, ‘Pravrittavijnana’ originates which are six in number, which have their one subject each which is known by one sense.
- The subject of Cakshuvijnana is ‘Rupa’ and the sense organ is eye.
- Ghrana – Smell – Nose
- Shrauta – Sabda – Ear
- Rasan – Rasa – Tongue
- Twak – Sparsha – Skin
- Manovijnana – Chetna – Manas
Therefore we can say that Vasubandhu not only accepted the Vijnanas or ideas but also solved the probable problems. But even then – later on Samkaracharya bitterly criticized the Vijnanavada and said that in the absence of external objects no intellectual can say that the ideas appear in the form of material objects. In addition if the material objects are not present then how can we explain our feelings for them and accordingly behaviour. In addition Samkaracarya also mentioned that the Vijnanavadis have straight away said them unreal or illusion like snake in the rope. But we can’t say them unreal and therefore the theory of Vijnanavada is also not acceptable.
As far as main theories of Buddhism are concerned then Lord Buddha was a practical thinker and believed that to get entangled in metaphysical questions is wastage of time and energy that’s why he called them indetermined questions. Actually, according to Lord Buddha the biggest practical problem is related to sufferings and that is why he delivered his preaches of four noble truths which include-
- The world is full of sufferings. But Lord Buddha shall not be considered as pessimist on this basis.
- There is cause of this suffering. This is known as Pratityasamutpada.
- The cessation of suffering is possible.
- There is also a path of liberation. Here the theory of eight fold path has been recommendedi)
- Samyak Drishti (Right view)- which means the knowledge of four noble truths or the vision of reality.
- Samyak Samkalp (Right resolve)- which means commitment of following the path of noble truth.
- Samyak Vak (Right speech)- Simplicity in speeches i.e.sweet and soft spoken.
- Samyak Karmanta (Right conduct)- To perform right conduct.
- Samyak Ajiva (Right livelihood)- livelihood by means of right means.
- Samyak Vyayama (Right effort)- To do constant effort to root out all evil thoughts.
- Samyak Smriti ((Right mindfulness)- To recall noble truths regularly.
- Samyak Samadhi (Right concentration)- This is the last stage. Here the right knowledge gets highlighted and the divine and spiritual knowledge is possible.
The above eightfold path recommended in the Buddhism is also known as the middle path because it is the middle path between rigorous sainthood and gross materialism. It is also classified into Triratna’s (Three gems) which are-Pragya, Sheel and Samadhi.
As far as Pratityasamutpada is concerned, it is the central theory of Buddhism and it originated from the second noble truth which explains the origin and end of life full of sufferings. It is also the theory of causation of Buddhism.
Actually Pratityasamutpada is made of two words- Pratitya and Samutpada. Here pratitya means, in certain condition and Samutpada means, it happens. They are cause and effort respectively.
But Hinyani’s and Mahayani’s explanation of pratityasamutpada is different and the Mahayani explanation is recognized, which is related to the relative causation, because in his preaches Buddha said that:—
- The effect will originate if the cause is present.
- The effect will not originate if the cause is not present.
- If we destroy the cause the effect will be demolished itself.
The above points are according to the theory of causation and to explain it the Panch Karini method has been mentioned in Buddhism, which consists of five steps- Absence of both cause and affect, Origin of cause, Origin of effect, Demolition of cause and therefore Demolition of effect.
Altogether in Pratityasamutpada the relative causation has been accepted. Whatever is partityasamutpada practically is the ‘Nirvana’ spiritually. Here only the attitude is different. The example is even after gaining the highest knowledge, Buddha also passed his life in the world but now his attitude became spiritual. This is the difference of attitude.
Therefore we can say, through pratityasamutpada Buddha has followed a middle path between extreme eternity and extreme nihilism which means neither any object of this world is eternal nor we can accept the nihilistic approach for the material object but actually, an object originates other one and destroys itself. This condition only indicates towards the nonpermanency and this is the essence of partityasamutpada.
Altogether, Lord Buddha preached of non-permanency through pratityasamutpada and tried to explain the life full of sufferings and gave its twelve fold chain (Dwadas Chakra) (Dwadas Nidaan). These are twelvefold moves from both cause to effect and effect to cause.
If we move from cause to effect then the order of the twelve steps are as below-
- Avidya (Ignorance)- It is the root cause of suffering.
- Samskara- It originates due to the Avidya and it is the last active state of past life.
- Vijnana- It originates due to Samskara and it means consciousness, when a Jiva exist in embroyo, it is known as Vijnana because it is the first consciousness the first stage of present life.
- Nama- Rupa- When the Jiva develops its body it is the Nama-Rupa which is made up of Panch-Skandhas- Rupa, Sanjna, Vedna, Samskara and Vijnana. Under Rupa skandha Earth, water, fire and air come, while other four skandhas are related to consciousness.That is why, in Buddhism the composition of Panch skandha is known as soul.
- Sadayatan- It is the development of six senses with mind.
- Sparsh- The contact of senses with the material objects is sparsh.
- Vedana- Through the contact of senses with objects the feeling of sorrow and happiness originate.
- Trishna- Due to the happy feelings, the thirst originated is Trishna.
- Upadana-The desire of enjoying the material objects is upadana.
- Bhava- To enjoy the material objects, the desire of taking birth is Bhava.
- Jati- Taking birth is Jati.
- Jaramarana- The old age and death are certain after taking birth.
Altogether we can say that through this twelvefold chain Lord Buddha has explained the origin and end of life full of sufferings. These twelvefolds are related to past, present and future life as well because where the first two folds are related to past life then the last two stages are related to future life while remaining eightfolds are related to the present life.
Now if we evaluate the pratityasamutpada, then first and foremost question is how the folds have defined twelve in number and neither less nor more. In addition, in order to reach
the causes of suffering why we stop at avidya why we do not make efforts to search the cause of avidya. Numbers of opponents have said that it is the copy of Brahmanchakra presented in Upanishada, because there also twelve folds have been mentioned. In addition, the theories like Kshanikvada and Nairatmyavada are the outcomes of pratityasamutpata itself. Even after these weaknesses, Lord Buddha made his efforts to explain sufferings and human accountability through pratityasamutpada without taking the shelter of sprituality.In other words human beings are responsible for their sufferings and they can get rid of sufferings through their efforts.
As far as the KSHANIKVADA is concerned then it originated from pratityasamutpada because through pratityasamutpada Lord Buddha has followed a middle path between eternity and nihilism and accepted the non-permanency, essence of which is, no objects of the material world is permanent. In course of time, the diciples converted Buddha’s preaches of non permanency into momentariness and therefore the theory of kshanikvada got highlighted. According to which all the objects of the world are just momentary means they are changing every moment and are changing very fast that’s why it appears permanent. To prove their opinion Buddhist scholars gave the example of continuity of lighting in the lamp. In addition, Buddhist philosophy believes that whatever is momentary is real because here the reality has been defined as productivity and changingness is necessary for productivity. In Buddhist philosophy two forms of Kshanikvada has been explained- i) Santanvada ii) Samghatvada. In Santanavada, the materialness and consciousness of substances scatters while in Samghatvada, they mutually get composed and make samghata. Their best example is Namrupa because, so far the material body continues till then it exists like Samghata of Panchskandha while after the death, all five skandhas scatter and even all four material elements of rupa are also separated.
Altogether in Kshanikvada momentary existence of material world has been accepted and they are in permanent changing or in flux. Same theory was presented by a great Greek thinker Heraclitus who was contemporary of Lord Buddha who in order to prove the permanent changing gave his historical statement that we can’t take bath, twice in the same stream of the river. Apart from these thinkers, there are number of thinkers who have accepted the concept of permanent changing such as Hume, James, Schilar, etc.
Now if we evaluate the Kshanikvada, then again we can say that, although this theory originated from the theory of causation but it has no compatibility with causation.
- If all the objects are changing regularly then their knowledge is not possible at all.
- It is also against karma theory.
- It is against the theory of bondage and liberation.
Finally the theory like Nairatmyavada or Anatmyavda originated from Kshanikvada.
As far as Anatmyavada is concerned then Lord Buddha delivered the non-permanency on the basis of pratityasamutpada, which was converted into momentariness by his disciples and if the theory of momentariness is imposed on an element like soul then the theory like Nairatmyavada or Anatmavada will originate, which generally mean that the soul is not existing or in Buddhist philosophy no concept of soul is accepted, or Lord Buddha does not believe in
But, if we analyze Nairatmyavada then we come to know that the concept of soul has not been totally rejected in Budsdhism but actually, the composition of Panch-skandha is known as soul. If we do more analysis and look entire Indian Philosophy then the term Atman or soul has been used in three forms- First as the practical knower. In this sense definitely the soul is accepted even in Buddhism otherwise there is no relevancy of preaches of Lord Buddha and their understanding by his disciples. In the second sense, the metaphysical soul which is different from the material body and has spiritual entity and which does not end even after death. Definitely in this meaning, the soul has not been accepted in Buddhism. The third meaning is pure consciousness or the highest or supreme being, such as Brahman of Advait Vedanta. In this purified form, the soul is accepted in Buddhist philosophy. But it has been used as Nirvana. The Nirvana in Buddhist philosophy has the same place as the Brahman in the philosophy of Vedanta. That is why, whatever attributes have been put in the Brahman of Vedanta, the same have been put in the Nirvana of Buddhism and similarly its negative explanation has been done as well. That is why, in Buddhist philosophy, in order to explain the Nirvana it has been mentioned that it is higher than mountain, deeper than ocean, sweeter than honey etc.
Altogether we can say that in Buddhist philosophy the soul is rejected only as a metaphysical soul and not in other meanings. Regarding this metaphysical or eternal soul Buddha has stated that the love or affection with the eternal soul is just like affection with such a beautiful woman who has never been touched, seen or even heard. In addition in Buddhist philosophy it has also been mentioned that the searching of eternal soul is similar to search a black cat in dark room where in reality no cat exists. If we take any other meaning, apart from above then at number of places we can see that statements have been mentioned in favour of soul such as the Atman is the composition of five skandhas and they are- Rupa, Sanjna, Vedna, Samskara, Vijnana, and even it is proved through example of a chariot, which is a composition of throne, wheel, canopy etc. similarly Atman is a composition of five skandhas.
Therefore, technically the theory of Buddhism shall not be named as anatmavada but it shall be named as Anityaatmavada because here only the concept of eternal soul has been rejected and it is also a middle path, which neither rejects the soul straightway nor accepts the eternal soul because both are extreme theories while Buddhist philosophy followed the middle path.
In Buddhist philosophy, two types of Anatmavada have been discussed as Pudgal Nairatmya and Dharma Nairatmya.
As far as pudgal nairatmya is concerned, then contrary to Jainism, in Buddhism the term pudgala is used for conciousness and the term nairatmya means non-permanency. Therefore, the meaning of pudgala nairatmya is that this material body, full of consciousness can’t be supposed as soul, in other words this material body, full of consciousness is not permanent. After having such knowledge, the ‘Kleshavarana’ will disappear which is supposed necessary by the Hinyani for the liberation while on the other side the term Dharma in Buddhist philosophy has been used for material objects and their attributes, therefore the meaning of ‘Dharma nairatmya’ is that the material objects of the world are not permanent. After having such knowledge the ‘Jneyavarna’ will disappear. It has been accepted by Mahayanis that is why according to Mahayanis, for liberation only the knowledge of Pudgal Nairatmya is not sufficient but the knowledge of Dharma Nairatanya is also necessary. In other words only the disappearance of ‘Kleshavarana’ is not sufficient but the disappearance of ‘Jneyavarana’ is also necessary.