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Ann Arbor Paperbacks 


First edition as an Ann Arbor Paperback 1967 
© George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1962 
All rights reserved 
Reprinted by special arrangement 
Published in the United States of America by 
The University of Michigan Press 
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This book sets out to discuss and interpret the main themes of 
Buddhist thought in India.* The time is not yet ripe for the pro¬ 
duction of a comprehensive academic handbook, and in any case such 
an undertaking would require much more space than I had at my 
disposal. There has been no room to do justice to the infinite details 
of Buddhist philosophizing, and also the references at the end have 
been kept brief and might have been multiplied indefinitely. The 
emphasis is everywhere on those aspects of the doctrine which appear 
to me to be indubitably true or significant. Throughout I have aimed 
at furthering the understanding, as distinct from the bare knowledge, 
of Buddhist thinking. It would have been easier to string together a 
lot of quotations, but what would have been gained in ostensible 
erudition would have been lost in demonstrable insight. In presenting 
Buddhist philosophy as an intelligible, plausible and valid system, I 
have never lost sight of its function as a spiritual method designed to 
win emancipation from this world. ‘As contrary to the ways of the 
whole world has this Dharma been demonstrated. It teaches you not 
to seize upon dharmas, but the world is wont to grasp at anything.’! 

‘Buddhist Thought in India’ had from the very start been planned 
as a sequel to my ‘Buddhist Meditation’ (Allen & Unwin, 1956, 1959), 
which is a collection of the most important traditional accounts of 
Buddhist meditational practices. Some familiarity with these practices 
will greatly assist the reader of this book, which derives the tenets of 
Buddhist philosophy from the meditational experiences of the Buddh¬ 
ist yogins. 

It is now thirty years since this book was first begun. Its completion 
has been postponed and its execution partly spoiled by a new threat 
to quiet contemplation which even fifty years ago was happily almost 
unknown and which never troubled the Buddhists at the time when 
their philosophy took shape. No jets ever cut them short at the decisive 
point. The ideas expounded in this book are only too easily disturbed 
by the hideous and brutish noises emanating from machines of all 

* The developments of the Mahayana in China and Japan have been omitted, 
for no other reason than that I do not know the languages. This limitation is 
not as serious as it sounds. Most of the creative work was done in India, and 
even ‘Zen* is not half as original as it has been made out to be. 

f Perfect Wisdom in 8,000 Lines , xv 305. 



kinds,* and by the constant interruption of the deep brooding indis¬ 
pensable to their comprehension. This almost universal noisiness may 
well be no more than a secondary symptom of an eclipse which has 
darkened the spiritual life for many centuries already. With increasing 
frequency I have in recent years been in the grip of the agonizing 
intellectual paralysis of which Wordsworth spoke when he said in 
his Preface to ‘Lyrical Ballads’! that ‘a multitude of causes, unknown 
to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the 
discriminating powers of the mind, and, unfitting it for all voluntary 
exertion, reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor*. And Words¬ 
worth wrote at a time when the English countryside was still unshaken 
by the eruption of noisy metal boxes. Even the Industrial Revolution, 
certainly somehow connected with the dark clouds which obscure the 
spiritual life, had barely begun. 

After reflecting for many years on the causes which might have 
demolished the spiritual tradition of mankind, I have reluctantly come 
to the almost incredible conclusion that the life of the spirit is not 
governed by natural causes. To quote St Paul,! ‘we wrestle not 
against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, 
against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual 
wickedness in high places*. 

Three stages can, in fact, be distinguished in the decline of spiritual 
knowledge. First, about five centuries ago, both in Asia and in 
Europe, spiritual creativeness began to wane, and no authoritative 
religious work of outstanding genius has been produced since that 
time. A book on bio-chemistry is normally the more informative the 
more recent it is. With religious books it is very much the other way 
round. By the nineteenth century, even spiritual perceptiveness had 
reached a low ebb, as shown, to take only two examples, by Words¬ 
worth’s statement quite at the beginning of the century, and Nietzsche’s 
remarks about God being dead towards its end. Now, in the middle of 
the twentieth century, the living tradition of spiritual knowledge is 
almost extinct, the organized centres of spiritual contemplation have 

* The list, at present, comprises cars, motor cycles, lorries, wirelesses, tele¬ 
vision sets, electric drills, helicopters, and, of course, aeroplanes roaring, whining 
and screaming overhead. I shudder to think what else will have turned up 
by 1970. 

f The Poetical Works of W. Wordsworth , ed. Th. Hutchinson, 1917, 
pp. 935-6* I owe this reference to the kindness of Richard Hoggart. 

! Eph. vi. 12.—N.E.B.: ‘For our fight is not against human foes, but against 
cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against 
the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens/ 



everywhere been smashed, ‘progress and civilization’ seem to have 
it all their own way, and a new breed of men who care for none 
of all this have crowded the earth with their presence.* Looking at 
the surface of society, one may well believe that in spiritual matters 
the age of the moron has dawned. Though what goes on in the depths is 
hard to fathom.f Nevertheless I am well aware that it is a decidedly 
Quichotic undertaking to put one’s name to a book in which these 
ancient and anachronistic ideas are treated as if they were immediately 
relevant to the conduct of life even at the present time. 

In addition to being a voice crying in the wilderness, I also attempt 
to make a contribution to philosophical thought. Mathematics took 
a big step forward when Bolyai, Lobatshevsky and Gauss created 
non-Euclidian geometries, and showed that from different postulates 
alternative valid and coherent geometries can be constructed. Philo¬ 
sophy is bound to follow suit. The rapid growth of communications 
has brought Eastern and Western cultures face to face. So far Euro¬ 
pean, and particularly British, philosophers have reacted by becoming 
more provincial than ever before. They will not be able to keep up 
this stance for ever. On the suppositions of Indian Yoga a philo¬ 
sophical system can be built which is as valid, cogent and coherent 
as those based on modern science. By showing this in some detail for 
Buddhist philosophy, I hope that European philosophers will one day 
be made to examine, question and substantiate their own latent 
presuppositions. At present the omens are, 1 admit, most unpro- 
pitious. With the honourable exception of Prof. H. H. Price, no 
Oxford or Cambridge professor would demean himself by paying 
the slightest attention to his colleagues of ancient India. The failure 
in communication was well illustrated in i960 when an extremely 
intelligent journalist was generally applauded for publishing a widely 
read book devoted to the thesis that there is nothing to the ‘wisdom 
of the East’. A closer analysis of his arguments:): showed that he just 

* The future fate of this dragon’s brood, this populus quem terra creaverat , has 
been well foretold by Ovid in Met. III. 95-130. 

Exemploque pari furit omnis turba, suoque 
Marte cadunt subiti per mutua vulnera fratres. 
f Or, as Wordsworth put it in his Preface: ‘reflecting upon the magnitude 
of the general evil, I should be oppressed with no dishonourable melancholy, 
had I not a deep impression of certain inherent and indestructible qualities 
of the human mind, and likewise of certain powers in the great and permanent 
objects that act upon us, which are equally inherent and indestructible*. 

i For the evidence see my article on A. Koesder’s The Lotus and the Robot 
in The Hibbert Journal , LIX, 1961, pp. 178-81. 



reiterated the vulgar prejudices of those who, from mere tribal 
sluggishness, are convinced that ‘Western', i.e. Judaeo-Christian and 
scientific, modes of thinking are the unfailing standards of all truth. 
It is for the purpose of breaking down this kind of blindness and 
incomprehension that this book has been written. 

In bringing out a new history of Buddhist philosophy, I must say a 
few words about my predecessors. The first attempt at a general 
survey was that of A. B. Keith, Buddhist Philosophy in India and 
Ceylon , 1923. It is now quite superseded, partly because in the mean¬ 
time many new sources have become available, and partly because the 
superciliousness of his tone belongs to a phase in the treatment of 
subject nations which has now passed. E. J. Thomas’s The History of 
Buddhist Thought (1933) is good on the Theravada, but he obviously 
had never taken much interest in the Mahayana. Stcherbatsky’s 
Buddhist Logic (1930, 1932; 1,018 pages) is a masterpiece of the first 
order, and in a class by itself. I feel almost ashamed to write on the 
same subject with so much less space at my disposal. As one would 
expect of a work published in Leningrad under Stalin’s watchful eyes, 
Buddhism is here treated as a purely rational system, and the religious 
side ignored. All I can do to repay the immense debt I owe to Stcher- 
batsky is to challenge his fundamental position (cf. pp. 246 sq.). 
Two other works deserve being mentioned. L. Silburn’s Instant et 
Cause { 1955) is fairly erudite, but deficient in intellectual acumen, clarity 
of thought and esprit de synthese . E. Frauwallners anthology, Die 
Philosophic des Buddhismus 7 1956, is an indispensable source book to 
which I owe much. The only difference between us is that I do not 
share Frauwallner’s fondness for the Yogacarins, and that with 
Prof. Murti I regard the Madhyamikas as the representatives of the 
central tradition of Buddhism. 

Some sections of this book have been printed before, and I give 
thanks for permission to reprint them to The Middle Way 7 The 
Hibbert Journal\ Philosophy East and West (III 2, 1953, pp. 117-29); 
University of Hawaii Press), The Maha Bodhi Journal\ East and West 
(Rome), The Aryan Path y Oriens Extremus (VIII 2, 1961) and Self- 
knowledge, St. Antony’s College of Oxford deserves my gratitude for 
its support in the work involved in writing this book. 

Sherborne , Dorset 





1. Tacit assumptions 17 

2. The problem of'original Buddhisrri 31 

3. The three marks and the perverted views 34 

Impermanence, 34. Ill, 34. Not-self, 3 6. The 

four perverted views, 39 

4. The five cardinal virtues 47 

Faith, 47. Mindfulness and transic concentration, 51. 
Wisdom, 53 

5. The final stages of deliverance 56 

1. The break-through to the Unconditioned, 56 

2. The three doors to deliverance, 59. Emptiness, 

59. The Signless, 61. The Wishless, 67. 

3. Nirvana, 69 

6. The cultivation of the social emotions 80 

Friendliness, 81. Compassion, 85. Sympathetic joy, 

87. Impartiality, 89 

7. Dharma and dharmas 92 

8. Skandhas , sense-fields and elements 107 


1. The eighteen schools 119 

2. Doctrinal disputes 121 

1. The status of the ‘self* 122 

2. The analysis of impermanence 134 

(a) Impermanence and momentariness, 134 

( b ) Modifications of the theory of instantaneous¬ 
ness, 137. The Pan-Realism of the Sarvastiva- 
dins, 138. ‘Possession* and ‘dispossession’, 139. 
‘Seeds’, ‘suffusions’ and ‘lineage*, 141 


3. The concept of causality 144 

(a) The range of conditions, 144, (b) The defini¬ 
tion of causality, 148. ( c ) The classification of 
causes and conditions, 150. (d) Conditioned co¬ 
production, 156 

3. The Unconditioned and the process of salvation 159 

1. Nirvana and space 159 

2. The three classes of enlightened persons 166 

3. The map of the Path 173 

(a) The Visuddkimagga 173 

(b) The Abhidharmakola 175 

4. Some Abhidharma problems 178 

1. The classification of conditioned dharmas 178 

2. The material world 180 

3* The stages of apperception 186 


1. Doctrines common to all Mahayanists 195 

1. The Mahasanghikas and the Mahayana 195 

2. The literary sources 198 

3. The range of disagreement 201 

4. The perverted views 204 

5. The six perfections 211 

6. The new role of the social emotions 217 

7. The new ontology 219 

8. The Absolute and the Buddha 225 

9. The new map of the Path 234 

2. The Madhyamikas 238 

1. The literary sources 238 

2. Description of the Madhyamika dialectic 239 

3. The motives behind the Madhyamika dialectic 241 

4. Emptiness and nihilism 242 

3. The Yogacarins 250 

1. The literary sources 250 

2. The absolute idealism 251 

3. The three kinds of own-being 257 


4. Buddhist logic 261 

1. The dialectical logic of the early Mahayana 261 

2. The later logicians 264 

5. The Tantras 270 



INDEX 298 






Many of the metaphysical theories of Buddhism must appear remote, 
inaccessible and elusive to the average reader who is unprepared for 
them. This is because they presuppose a close and long-standing 
familiarity with the laws of the spiritual universe and with the rhythms 
of a spiritual life, not to mention a rare capacity for prolonged dis¬ 
interested contemplation. In addition, Buddhist thinkers make a 
number of tacit assumptions which are explicitly rejected by modern 
European philosophers. The first, common to nearly all Indian,* as 
distinct from European, ‘scientific’, thought treats the experiences of 
Yoga as the chief raw material for philosophical reflection. Secondly, 
all ‘perennial’ (as against ‘modern’) philosophers, agree on the hierar¬ 
chical structure of the universe, as shown in (a) the distinction of a 
‘triple world’ and ( b ) of degrees of ‘reality’, and (c) in the establish¬ 
ment of a hierarchy of insights dependent on spiritual maturity. 
Thirdly, all religious (as against a-religious) philosophies (a) use 
‘numinous’ as distinct from ‘profane’ terms, and ( b ) treat revelation 
as the ultimate source of all valid knowledge. This gives us no fewer 
than six tacit assumptions which are unlikely to be shared by the 
majority of my readers. Since they define the range and context within 
which Buddhist thinking is relatively valid and significant, I must say 
a few words about each of them one by one. 

i. The mutual incomprehension of Eastern and Western philosophy 
has often been deplored. If there is even no contact between ‘empiricist’ 
European philosophy on the one side, and that of the Vedanta and 
Mahayana on the other, it may be because they presuppose two 
different systems of practice as their unquestioned foundations— 
science the one, and yogic meditation the other. From the outset all 
philosophers must take for granted some set of practices, with specific 
rules and aims of their own, which they regard both as efficacious 
and as avenues to worthwhile reality. 

* Except for the comparatively rare Carvakas, or ‘materialists*. 



It is, of course, essential to grasp clearly the difference between 
sets of practices, or ‘bags of tricks’ which regularly produce certain 
results, and the theoretical superstructures which try to justify, 
explain and systematize them. The techniques concern what happens 
when this or that is done. The theories deal with the reasons why that 
should be so, and the meaning of what happens. However gullible and 
credulous human beings may be about speculative tenets, about 
practical issues they are fairly hard-headed, and unlikely to persuade 
themselves over any length of time that some technique ‘works’ when 
it does not. 

Yogic meditation, to begin with, demands that certain things should 
be done. There are the well-known breathing exercises, which must 
be performed in certain definite bodily postures. Certain foods and 
drugs must be avoided. One must renounce nearly all private pos¬ 
sessions, and shun the company of others. After a prolonged period of 
physical drill has made the body ready for the tasks ahead, and after 
some degree of contentment with the conditions of a solitary, 
beggarly and homeless life has been achieved, the mind is at last 
capable of doing its proper yogic work. This consists in systematically 
withdrawing attention from the objects of the senses. 1 And what 
could be the aim and outcome of this act of sustained introversion—so 
strikingly dramatized by Bodhidharma sitting for nine years cross- 
legged and immobile in front of a grey wall? All the adepts of Yoga, 
whatever their theological or philosophical differences, agree that 
these practices result in a state of inward tranquillity ( [samatha ). 

Many of our contemporaries, imprisoned in what they describe as 
‘common sense’, quite gratuitously assume, as ‘self-evident’, that all 
the contents of mental life are derived from contact with external 
sense-data. They are therefore convinced that the radical withdrawal 
from those sense-data can but lead to some kind of vague vacuity 
almost indistinguishable from sleep or coma. More than common 
sense is needed to discover that it leads to a state which the Indian 
yogins, who under the influence of Sanskrit grammar were almost 
obsessed with a desire for terminological precision, called one of 
‘tranquillity’, full of ease, bliss and happiness. Likewise a Bornean 
Dayak must find it difficult to believe that hard, black coal can be 
changed into bright light within an electric bulb. There is ultimately 
only one way open to those who do not believe the accounts of the 
yogins. They will have to repeat the experiment—in the forest, not 
the laboratory—they will have to do what the yogins say should be 
done, and see what happens. Until this is done, disbelief is quite idle, 



and on a level with a pygmy’s disbelief in Battersea power station, 
maintained by a stubborn refusal to leave the Congo basin, and to see 
for himself whether it exists and what it does. In other words, it seems 
to me quite unworthy of educated people to deny that there exists a 
series of technical practices, known as Yoga, which, if applied intelli¬ 
gently according to the rules, produces a state of tranquillity . 2 

So much about the technical substructure. The ideological super¬ 
structure, in its turn, consists of a number of theoretical systems, by 
no means always consonant with each other. Theologically they are 
Hindu, Buddhist or Jain. Some are atheistic, some polytheistic, others 
again henotheistic. Philosophically some, like Vaisesika and Abhi- 
dharma, are pluralistic, others, like Vedanta and Madhyamikas, 
monistic. These two monistic systems, again, seem to be diametrically 
opposed in their most fundamental tenets—the one claiming that the 
Self ( atman ) is the only reality, the other that it is just the absence of a 
self ( nairdtmya) which distinguishes true reality from false appearance. 

On closer study these disagreements do, however, turn out to be 
fairly superficial. All these ‘yogic’ philosophies differ less among 
themselves than they differ from the non-yogic ones. They not only 
agree that yogic practices are valid, but in addition postulate that 
these practices are the avenues to the most worthwhile knowledge 
of true reality, as well as a basis for the most praiseworthy conduct, 
and that, as the source of ultimate certainty, the yogic vision itself 
requires no justification. Only in a state of yogic receptivity are we 
fit and able to become the recipients of ultimate truth. Observations 
made in any other condition concern an illusory world, largely false 
and fabricated, which cannot provide a standard for judging the 
deliverances of the yogic consciousness. 

A closely analogous situation prevails in Western Europe with 
regard to science. In this field also we can distinguish between the 
technology itself and its theoretical developments. The prestige of 
the scientific approach among our modern philosophers seems to me 
entirely due to its applications. If a philosopher assures us that all the 
‘real’ knowledge we possess is due to science, that science alone gives 
us ‘news about the universe’—what can have led him to such a belief? 
He must surely have been dazzled by the practical results, by the 
enormous increase in power which has sprung from the particular 
kind of knowledge scientists have evolved. Without these practical 
consequences, what would all these scientific theories be? An airy 
bubble, a diversion of otherwise unoccupied mathematicians, a fanciful 
mirage on a level with Alice in Wonderland . As a result of science, 



considerable changes have recently occurred in the material universe. 
Although by no means ‘more enduring than brass’, the monuments 
to science are nevertheless rather imposing—acres of masonry, count¬ 
less machines of startling efficiency, travel speeded up, masses of 
animals wiped out, illnesses shortened, deaths postponed or 
accelerated, and so on. This scientific method demonstrably ‘works’, 
though not in the sense that it increases our ‘tranquillity’—far from 
it. All that it does is to increase ‘man’s’ power to control his ‘material 
environment’, and that is something which the yogic method never 
even attempted. Scientific technology indeed promises limitless 
power, unlimited in the sense that by itself it places no limitations, 
moral or otherwise, on the range of its conquests. Very little notice 
would presumably be taken of the thought-constructions of our 
scientists if it were not for their impressive practical results. Dean 
Swift’s Voyage to Laputa would then voice the general attitude, 
including that of the majority of philosophers. 

As with Yoga, the bare technology is also here clothed in numerous 
theories, hypotheses, concepts and philosophical systems, capable of 
considerable disagreement among themselves. But all scientific 
philosophies agree that scientific research, based on the experimental 
observation of external objects,* is the key to all worthwhile know¬ 
ledge and to a rational mode of life. 

But though I were to speak with the tongues of angels, my 
‘empiricist’ friends will continue to shrug their shoulders at the sug¬ 
gestion that Yoga and other non-scientific techniques should be taken 
seriously. As professed ‘humanists’ they might be expected to have a 
greater faith in the depth and breadth of the human spirit and its 
modalities. As ‘empiricists’ they might have a more catholic notion of 
‘experience’, and as ‘positivists’ a clearer conception of what is, and 
what is not, a ‘verifiable’ fact. And even as ‘scientists’ they ought to 
have some doubts as to whether the world of sense-bound conscious¬ 
ness is really the whole of reality. But alas, a staggering hypertrophy 
of the critical faculties has choked all the other virtues. Contem¬ 
porary empiricist and positivist philosophers, in their exclusive 
reliance on scientific knowledge, are guilty of what Whitehead has 
charitably called a ‘narrow provincialism’. Usually unfamiliar with 
the traditional non-scientific techniques of mankind, they are also, 
what is worse, quite incurious about them. At best these techniques, 

* The data of introspection have given rise to much uneasiness in this scheme 
of things. The most logical solution seems to be that of Behaviourism, which 
transforms psychic events into externally observable objects. 



if noticed at all, are hastily interpreted as approximations to scientific 
ones, worked out by ignorant and bungling natives groping in the 
dark. On the wilder shores of rationalism it is even rumoured that ‘the 
poet was the primitive physicist*. 3 With a shudder we pass on. 

To judge all human techniques by the amount of bare ‘control* or 
‘power* they produce is patently unfair. Other goals may be equally 
worth striving for, and men wiser than we may deliberately have 
turned away from the pursuit of measureless power, not as unattain¬ 
able, but as inherently undesirable. A graceful submission to the 
inevitable is not without its attractions, either. A great deal might 
be said, perhaps, for not wanting more power than can be used wisely, 
and it is much to be feared that the ‘captors of an unwilling universe** 
may end as many lion tamers have ended before them. 

Of all the infinite facets of the universe, science-bound philo¬ 
sophers will come to know only those which are disclosed to scientific 
methods, with their ruthless will for boundless power and their dis¬ 
regard for everything except the presumed convenience of the human 
race, and they cannot prove, or even plausibly suggest, that this small 
fraction of the truth about reality is the one most worth knowing 
about. As for the vast potentialities of the human mind, they will bring 
out only those which have a survival value in modem technical 
civilization. Not only is it a mere fraction of the human mind that is 
being used, but we may well wonder whether it is the most valuable 
section—once we consider the ugliness, noisiness and restlessness 
of our cities, or the effects which the handling of machines has on 
workers, that of scientific tools on scientists. At present it looks as if 
this mode of life were sweeping everything before it. It also 
demonstrably sweeps away much that is valuable. 

2a. Turning now to the ‘triple world*, we find that the unanimous 
tradition of the Perennial Philosophy distinguishes three layers of 
qualitatively different facts—natural, magical and spiritual. The 
constitution of man is accordingly composed of three parts, reality 
presents itself on three levels, and threefold is the attitude we can 
adopt towards events. 

In man we have body-mind as the first constituent, the ‘soul* as 
the second, and the ‘spirit* as the third. In the objective world, the 
first level is the body of facts which are disclosed by the senses and 
scientific observation, and arranged by common sense and scientific 
theory. The second comprises a great variety of facts which with some 

* Quis neget esse nefas invitum prendere mundum 
Et velut in semet captum deducere in orbem? (Manilius II 127-8). 



justice are called ‘occult 1 , because they tend to hide from our gaze. 
They weighed heavily with our forefathers, but are now widely 
derided. An example is astrology, or the study of the correspondences 
which may exist between the position of the celestial bodies on the 
one hand and the character, destiny, affinities and potentialities of 
people on the other. In addition this second level includes the activities 
of the psychic senses, such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, pre-cogni¬ 
tion, thought transference, etc., the huge field of myths and mythical 
figures, the lore about ghosts and the spirits of the departed, and the 
working of‘magic’, which is said to cause effects in the physical world 
by means of spells and the evocation of‘spirits’. Thirdly, the spiritual 
world is an intangible, non-sensuous and disembodied reality, both 
one and multiple, both transcending the natural universe and immanent 
in it, at the same time nothing and everything, quite non-sensory as a 
datum and rather nonsensical as a concept Indescribable by any of 
the attributes taken from sensory experience, and gained only by the 
extinguishing of separate individuality, it is known as ‘Spirit’ to 
Christians, as ‘emptiness’ to Buddhists, as the ‘Absolute’ to philoso¬ 
phers. Here our senses are blinded, our reason baffled, and our self- 
interest defeated. 

The three worlds can be discerned easily in our attitudes, say, to 
cold weather. The common-sense reaction is to light a fire, to wear 
warm clothing, or to take a walk. The magician relies on methods 
like the gtum-mo of the Tibetans, which are claimed to generate 
internal heat by means of occult procedures. They are based on a 
physiology which differs totally from that taught in scientific text¬ 
books, and depend on the manipulation of three mystic ‘arteries’ 
(nadis) y which are described as channels of psychic energy, but which 
ordinary observation foils to detect, since they are ‘devoid of any 
physical reality ’. 4 Finally, the spiritual man either ignores the cold, 
as an unimportant, transitory and illusory phenomenon, or welcomes 
it, as a means of penance or of training in self-control. 

Technical progress and scientific habits of thought increasingly 
restrict us to the natural level. Magical events and spiritual experiences 
have ceased to be familiar, and many people do not admit them as 
facts in their own right. By their own inner constitution the three 
realms differ in their accessibility to experience, the rules of evidence 
are by no means the same in all three, and each has a logic of its own. 
In the infinitude of the spiritual realm no particular fact can be seized 
upon by natural means, and everything in the magical world is marked 
by a certain indefiniteness, a nebulousness which springs partly from 



the way in which the intermediary world presents itself and partly 
from the uncertainties of its relation to the familiar data of the 
bright daylight world of natural fact. Every student of the occult 
knows that in this field the facts are inherently and irremediably 
obscure. It is impossible to come across even one magical fact which 
could be established in the way in which natural facts can be verified. 
There is a twilight about the magical world. It is neither quite light 
nor quite dark, it cannot be seen distinctly, and, like a shy beast when 
you point a torch at it, the phenomenon vanishes when the full light 
is turned on. 5 

The situation becomes more desperate still when we consider the 
spiritual. Here it is quite impossible to ever establish any fact beyond 
the possibility of doubt. The Buddhists express this by saying that 
Nirvana is ‘sign-less*, i.e. it is of such a nature that it cannot be recog¬ 
nized as such (cf. p. 71). This is really a most disconcerting thought. 
Spirit is non-sensuous and we have no sense-data to work on. In 
addition, spiritual actions are disintegrated when reflected upon. If 
they are not to lose their bloom, they must be performed unconsciously 
and automatically. Further, to be spiritual, an action must be ‘un¬ 
selfish*. It is in the nature of things quite impossible ever to prove 
with mathematical certainty that an action has been unselfish, because 
selfishness is so skilful in hiding itself, because insight into human 
motives is marred by self-deception, and, in any case, at any given 
time the motives are so numerous that no one can be sure of having 
got hold of all of them. I. Kant has spoken the last word on this 
subject when he points out that ‘in fact it is absolutely impossible to 
make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in 
which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply 
on moral grounds and on the conception of duty. Sometimes it 
happens that with the sharpest self-examination we find nothing 
beside the moral principle of duty which could have been powerful 
enough to move us to this or that action and to a great sacrifice; yet 
we cannot infer from that with certainty that it was not really some 
secret impulse of self-love, under the false appearance of that idea, 
that was the actual determining cause of the will. We like then to 
flatter ourselves by falsely taking credit for a noble motive, whereas 
in fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely 
behind the secret springs of action; since, when the question is of 
moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are 
concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not 
see.* 6 



Here is one of the inescapable difficulties of the human situation. 
All the meaning that life may have derives from contact with the 
magical and spiritual world, and without such contact it ceases to be 
worth while, fruitful and invested with beauty. It seems rather stupid 
to discard the life-giving qualities of these realms simply because 
they do not conform to a standard of truth suited only to the natural 
world,* where to the scientist phenomena appear worthy of notice 
only if they are capable of repetition, public observation, and measure¬ 
ment. They are naturally more inaccessible to natural experience 
than natural things are. The methods of science, mighty and effective 
though they be, are useless for the exploration of two-thirds of the 
universe, and the psychic and spiritual worlds are quite beyond 
them. Other faculties within us may well reveal that which the senses 
fail to see. In Buddhism faith, mystical intuition, trance and the power 
of transcendental wisdom are held to disclose the structure of the 
spiritual and intermediary worlds. No one can be said to give Buddhist 
thinking a fair chance if he persists in condemning these sources of 
knowledge out of hand as completely futile and nugatory (cf. 
pp. 28 sq.). 

2b. Next, the perennial philosophy assumes that there are definite 
‘degrees of reality’. In this book we will be told that ‘dharmas’ are 
‘more real’ than tilings, the images seen in trance ‘more real’ than the 
objects of sense-perception, and the Unconditioned ‘more real’ than 
the conditioned. People at present can understand the difference 
between facts which exist and ‘non-facts’ which do not exist. But 
they believe that facts, if real, are all equally real, and that qualitative 
distinctions between them give no sense. This is the ‘democratic’ 
viewpoint in vogue at the present time, which treats all facts as equal, 
just as all men are said to be equal, j" In science nothing has any 
‘meaning’, and ‘facts’ are all you ever have. 

At the time when Buddhism flourished, this would have seemed the 
height of absurdity. Also the leading European systems of that 
time, like those of Aristotle and Plotinus, took the hierarchy of levels 
of reality quite for granted, and were indeed entirely based upon it. 

* There is also something mean and timid about the caution of someone who 
wishes everything to be established beyond any reasonable doubt, and to have 
it inspected again and again with myopic and distrustful eyes. 

f The structure of the universe always reflects the structure of society. Like¬ 
wise it is interesting to note that those who replace ontology by epistemology 
are Protestants who repudiate collective or corporate authority, whereas Roman 
Catholics, Marxists and Buddhists believe that meaningful statements can be 
made about the ‘real being’ of things. 



The lowest degree of reality is ‘pure matter’, the highest ‘pure form’, 
and everything else lies somewhere in between. The higher degrees 
of reality are more solid and reliable, more intellectually satisfying, 
and, chief of all, they are objectively ‘better’ than the lower, and much 
more worth while. Ens et bonum convertuntur . In consequence contact 
with the higher degrees of reality entails a life which is qualitatively 
superior to one based on contact with the lower degrees. This is what 
sticks in the throat of the present generation. For here we affirm that 
‘judgments of value’ are not just subjective opinions, which vary 
with the moods of people, or their tastes or social conditions, but that 
they are rooted in the structure and order of objective reality itself.* 

If the value of life depends on contact with a high level of reality, it 
becomes, of course, important to ascertain what reality is in its own¬ 
being (, svabhava ), and to be able to distinguish that from the lesser 
realities of comparative fiction which constitute our normal world of 
half-socialized experience which we have made ourselves so as to 
suit our own ends. To establish contact with worthwhile reality has 
always been the concern of the exponents of the ‘perennial* philo¬ 
sophy, i.e. of most reputable philosophers of both Europe and Asia 
up to about ad 1450. 

About this time there began in Europe that estrangement from 
reality which is the starting-point of most modern European philo¬ 
sophy. Epistemology took the place of ontology. Where ontology was 
concerned with the difference between reality and appearance, episte¬ 
mology concentrated on that between valid and invalid knowledge. 
The Occamists who set the tone for all later phases of modern philo¬ 
sophy asserted that things by themselves have no relations to one 
another, and that a mind external and unrelated to them establishes 
all relations between them. Ontology as a rational discipline then 
lost its object and all questions concerning being qua being seemed 
to be merely verbal. Science should not concern itself with the things 
themselves, but with their signs and symbols, and its task is to give 
an account of appearances ( salvare apparentias ), without bothering 
about the existence in esse et secundum rem of its hypothetical con¬ 
structions. 7 In consequence, thinkers seek for ‘successful fictions’ and 
‘reality* has become a mere word. 

* In addition, of course, the very assumption of qualitative differences in the 
worthwhileness of life has no scientific foundation, because ‘science*, as we 
know it, has no eye for quality, but only for quantity. Likewise no moral quali¬ 
fications are required of scientists, and the quality of their lives is unimportant 
when their findings are judged. 

2 5 


It is remarkable that 1,400 years before the Mahayana Buddhists 
had taught almost exactly the same (cf. pp. 197-8). When they 
realized their estrangement from reality, they looked for a reality 
more real than they found around them, i.e. for the ‘Dharma-element’ 
itself. Modern philosophy concludes that it is better for us to turn 
our backs on nebulous ideas about reality as such, and to concentrate 
on gaining power over the environment as it appears. Power by 
whom, and for whom? Here a philosophy which teaches that the par¬ 
ticular alone exists and that universal are mere words, finds refuge 
in an abstraction called ‘man*, who is somehow regarded as the 
highest form of rational being, and for whose benefit all these 
developments are said to take place. To Nagarjuna and his followers 
this by itself would seem to indicate a serious logical flaw at the very 
basis of such doctrines. 

2c. Finally, and that is much easier to understand, the hier¬ 
archical structure of reality is duplicated by and reflected in a hierarchy 
among the persons who seek contact with it. Like is known by like, 
and only the spirit can know spiritual things. In an effort to commend 
Buddhism to the present age, some propagandists have overstressed 
its rationality and its kinship with modern science. They often quote 
a saying of the Buddha who told the Kalamas that they should not 
accept anything on his authority alone, but examine and test it for 
themselves, and accept it only when they had themselves cognized, 
seen and felt it. 8 In this way the Lord Buddha finds himself conscripted 
as a supporter of the British philosophical tradition of ‘empiricism*. 
But who can do the testing? Some aspects of the doctrine are obvi¬ 
ously verifiable only by people who have certain rather rare quali¬ 
fications. To actually verify the teaching on rebirth by direct observa¬ 
tion, one would have to actually remember one’s own previous 
births, an ability which presupposes the achievement of the fourth 
dhyana ,, a state of trance extremely scarce and rarefied. And what 
width and maturity of insight would be needed to actually ‘know* 
that the decisive factor in every event is a ‘moral* one, or that Nirvana 
means the end of all ill! The qualifications are moreover existential, and 
not merely intellectual. Buddhism has much to say about the spiritual 
hierarchy of persons, for what someone can know and see depends on 
what he is. So the saint knows more than the ordinary person, and 
among the saints each higher grade more than the lower. In conse¬ 
quence, the opinions and experiences of ordinary worldlings are of 
little account, on a level with the mutterings of housepainters laying 
down the law about Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Virgin of the Rocks*. 



3. Buddhism resembles the other world religions much more than 
it resembles modern science, 9 and its religious character colours its 
thinking in at least two ways. 

3a. Until quite recently all human societies took the separation 
of the sacred and the profane for granted. 10 Certain places were set 
apart as ‘holy places*. As in the distribution of space, so in the universe 
of discourse. Some words were ‘numinous*, others rational or ordi¬ 
nary. If treated as though purely rational, numinous terms suffer a 
great deal of distortion. An easy example is the word ‘God*. ‘Natural 
theology*, or the Deists, used it as a ‘rational* term. But, as Pascal 
put it, this ‘god of the philosophers’ is something quite different from 
‘the god of Abraham and Isaac*. An Oxford don showed his blindness 
for this distinction when he criticized Jehovah for describing himself 
by the tautological phrase ‘I am that I am*, when in fact he ought 
to have told us exactly what he was. M. Eckhart’s beautiful medita¬ 
tion 11 on this phrase from the ‘Book of Exodus* shows that Ho On 
is clearly a numinous term of great profundity. No student of the 
Buddhist scriptures in the original can fail to notice that they abound 
in numinous words, such as Dharma, Buddha, Bhagavat, Arhat, 
Nirvana and Tathagata. 12 Their prominence has many important 

It accounts to some extent for the ambiguity and multivalence of 
nearly all the key terms of Buddhist philosophy. This disregard for 
the ‘first requisite of an ideal language’ which ‘would be that there 
should be one name for every simple, and never the same name for 
two different simples* 13 is unlikely to be due to mere carelessness and 
thoughtlessness. Nor can it be blamed on the poverty of the available 
Sanskrit vocabulary. In fact, Sanskrit offers a wider range of philo¬ 
sophical synonyms than any other language except Greek. Probably 
the numinous character of the terms used is responsible. On closer 
analysis words such as manasikara (attention), upeksa (evenminded¬ 
ness), dhatu (element) or akasa (space) turned out to contain a great 
variety of meanings. If the later Buddhists did not distinguish these 
meanings by separate terms,f the reason was that the traditional, 

* One of them is that parts of the doctrine were held to be so sacred that they 
had to be protected from desecration by the profane. The line between exoteric 
and esoteric shifted in the course of time, and thereby much uncertainty is 
thrown on the chronology of the doctrinal developments. We know roughly 
when certain doctrines were first made public, but among the initiated they may 
have existed a long time beforehand. See my Short History of Buddhism , i960, 
pp. 36-8. 

f As I have tried to do on pp. 89-90. 



though multivalent, terms were hallowed by the fact of their having 
been uttered by the Lord Buddha himself. It would therefore have 
been an act of impiety or sacrilege to replace them with profane, 
though perhaps more accurate, terms. 

There are other reasons also for the multivalence of Buddhist 
technical terms. Those which concern the particularly sacred core of 
the doctrine disclose their meaning in a state of religious exaltation. 
To give them a precise logical definition would seem a task too 
trivial to bother about. Furthermore, semantic distinctions become 
important to the extent that communication has broken down. 
Among lovers communication is very easy. They understand each 
other perfectly well, and each one intuitively knows what the other’s 
words mean. In the absence of such a bond of sympathy every word 
must be defined, and nevertheless misunderstandings continue to arise 
faster than they can be removed. Buddhist thinking was designed for 
a samgha , or ‘community’, of like-minded people, who at least in 
theory were more brethren than rivals, who had had the same training, 
never ceased to agree on fundamentals, and who understood one 
another’s mental processes. When they heard these terms they simply 
‘knew’ what was meant, just as an educated Englishman can read a 
piece of sophisticated prose without looking up the words in a dic¬ 
tionary, though also without being able to convey their full meaning 
to half-educated persons. In actual fact the meaning of words is defined 
by their usage among an elite of insiders, who among themselves 
rarely experience much difficulty. It is when the message has to be 
conveyed to outsiders that precise ‘definitions’, semantic distinctions, 
and so on, become necessary. A soteriological doctrine like Buddhism 
becomes a ‘philosophy’ when its intellectual content is explained to 
outsiders. 14 This is not a particularly rewarding task, but in this book 
I have undertaken it. It must never be forgotten that it involves a huge 
loss of substance. 

3b. There are four possible sources of knowledge, i.e. (1) sense- 
perception, (2) reasoning, (3) intuition and (4) revelation. Buddhists 
regard sense-perception as basically misleading. If reasoning is 
taken to mean inference from sense-data, it is condemned together 
with its basis. Alternatively, as in European rationalism, it may mean 
the apprehension of an ‘intelligible’, as distinct from the ‘sensible’ 
world. The European rationalists believed that at least four different 
kinds of things cannot be deduced from sense-data, i.e. the laws of 
logic, the laws of mathematics, moral principles (as distinct from 
moral rules) and ‘natural law’ (as distinct from the actual laws of any 



given society.* In the Buddhist scheme of things the study of the 
dharmas is a rational approach to intelligible entities. Cognition 
( jhana ) is established by paying attention to dharmas. 15 Those Buddh¬ 
ists who specialize in the Abhidharma constitute the rationalistic wing 
of this religion.f 

The rationality even of the Abhidharma does, however, require 
four qualifications, (i) The rational approach is only provisional and 
preparatory, and must be followed by a spiritual intuition, the direct 
and unconceptual character of which is stressed by the use of such 
words as ‘to see’, ‘to taste’, ‘to touch with the body’. Of the Dharma 
as the delivered ‘see’ it, the Buddha says that it ‘is profound, hard to 
see, difficult to perceive, calm, sublime, not within the sphere of merely 
abstract thought ( atarka-avacara ), subtle, to be experienced only by 
judicious sages’. 16 Ready-made concepts are of no avail here, and what 
lies beyond the perceptible world of appearances also transcends the 
realm of logical thought. (2) The choice and definition of the dharmas 
recognized by the Abhidharma is not the result of independent 
examination, but leans heavily on the pronouncements of the Lord 
Buddha. The practice of the Abhidharma presupposes not only a 
knowledge of the items reckoned by tradition as dharmas, but also a 
willingness to accept just them as ultimate facts in their own right. 
(3) Only a Buddha or Arhat has experiences sufficiently wide or deep 
to test the whole range of the truth, and their testimony is therefore 
the one ultimate source and guarantee of the truth for all except the 
fully enlightened. (4) But if the truth of the Dharma cannot be 
wholly established by reason, does the rationality of Buddhism 
perhaps consist in that it teaches nothing that is incompatible with 
reason? This has often been asserted. No objective criterion does, 
however, separate the inherently reasonable from the inherently 
unreasonable. ‘Rationality’ depends on our habits of thought, and on 
what we are brought up to believe. If sufficient thought is applied to 
it, any proposition, however absurd it may seem at first sight, can be 
made to appear plausible. This may be seen by anyone who has 
watched a Thomistically trained Catholic argue in favour of miracles, 
the virgin birth of Christ, or even the bodily assumption of the 

* Some people maintain that modem science deals with ‘conceptual con¬ 
structs *, and that their relationship to sense-data is difficult to ascertain. B. Russell 
has offered many solutions, but none of them has satisfied either him or anyone 

f There are, of course, a few modem writers who make Buddhism quite 
rational by eliminating all metaphysics, reincarnation, all the gods and spirits, 
all miracles and supernatural powers. Theirs is not the Buddhism of the Buddhists. 



Blessed Virgin. Likewise, when they see fit, the Buddhists are capable 
of displaying a great deal of sweet reasonableness, but in the end this 
reasonableness is used to beguile people into accepting the most 
amazing deviations from common sense. 

Bitter and incredible as it must seem to the contemporary mind, 
Buddhism bases itself first of all on the revelation of the Truth by an 
omniscient being, known as ‘the Buddha’, and secondly on the 
spiritual intuition* of saintly beings. In all disputes the ultimate 
appeal is, however, not to the ‘experience’ of Tom, Dick and Harry, 
but to that of the fully enlightened Buddha, as laid down in the 
‘Buddha-word’. Unlike the Christians, the Buddhists had no small, 
portable, definitive though extremely ambiguous, gospel, recognized 
and accepted by all. In consequence they had some difficulties in 
arriving at a criterion of the authenticity of a sacred text, but the 
resulting embarrassments fell outside the scope of this book . 17 

* It is difficult to give a definition of ‘spiritual intuition* which fits all cases. 
As understood in Buddhism it differs greatly from the ‘true imagination*, 'the 
sympathetic identification with the universe* or the 'cosmic understanding* of 
specially gifted people like Nostradamus, Jacob Boehme or William Blake. 




A history of Buddhist thought might be expected to begin with an 
account of the teachings of the Buddha himself, or at least of the 
beliefs current in the most ancient community. The nature of our 
literary documents makes such an attempt fruitless and impossible. 1 
The documents, as we have them, date back no farther than the 
Christian era, that is to say they were fixed five hundred years after the 
Buddha’s life on earth.* Some of their contents must surely be 
quite early, while others are certainly fairly late. In order to single 
out the earlier layers, we must compare the recensions of the different 
schools, principally the Pali Canon of the Theravadins, the Sanskrit 
scriptures of the Sarvastivadins and the few surviving texts of the 
Mahasanghikas. Where we find passages in which the texts of Thera¬ 
vadins and Sarvastivadins agree almost word by word, we can assume 
that they were composed at a time antedating the separation of the 
two schools, which took place during ASoka’s rule, roughly about 
250 bc. Where they do not agree, we may, in the absence of evidence 
to the contrary, infer their post-A£okan date. In those cases where 
we can establish a close similarity also with the Mahasanghika texts, 
we are carried back one more century, to c . 340 bc, within 140 years 
of the Buddha’s Nirvana, when the Mahasanghikas separated from 
the Sthaviras who were the ancestors of both Theravadinsf and 
Sarvastivadins. This can be done with some of the Vinaya texts. 2 
The material for a history of Buddhist thought must, however, come 
not from the Vinaya, but from the Sutras, and their Mahasanghika 
version is unfortunately lost. So the situation is rather unsatisfactory, 
and we should constantly remain aware of the limitations of our 

* Assuming that to have taken place about 560-480 bc. 

f This assumes, of course, that the Theravadins can be identified with the 
Vibhajyavadins—a particularly thorny and unrewarding problem of Buddhist 



We can now define more precisely what is meant by the ‘Archaic 
Buddhism’ to which the first part of this book is devoted. It is not 
the ‘original’ doctrine of the Buddha which is the fountain-head of 
all later thought, but which, like most catalysts, cannot be isolated 
and described as it was by itself. It precedes the ‘scholastic’ Buddhism 
of the Abhidharma period, and is laid down mainly in the Sutras. It 
is a ‘dogmatic’ doctrine in that it has for its backbone a great number 
of numerical lists which were in all probability later elaborations of 
the Buddha’s teaching. It represents the common doctrine of all 
Buddhist monks* as it may well have existed about 300-250 bc. My 
description of it is based on lists, formulas and statements found in 
the writings of all schools, and therefore likely to form part of the 
undifferentiated, pre-Hlnayana and pre-Mahayana, Buddhism of 
Anoka’s time. The views I describe in part I were common to all 
Buddhists. They were accepted not only by Theravadins and Sar- 
vastivadins, but also shared by the Mahayanists who were the linear 
descendants of the Mahasanghikas. 3 Their basic formulation is taken 
from the Sutras, but in actual fact I have made much use of later 
commentators. For the bare statements of the Sutras often become 
intelligible only with the help of the commentatorial literature. It is 
here that my treatment is most open to criticism. In a probably 
excessive reaction against some of my predecessors who, like K. E. 
Neumann, regarded the commentators as idiotic nitwits who had 
invariably misunderstood the Buddha’s message, I am inclined to 
believe that they generally caught his meaning fairly correctly. In 
consequence it may well be argued that much of what I ascribe to 
‘archaic’ Buddhism really belongs to the scholastics of part II or to 
the Mahayanists of part III. 

In our survey of Archaic Buddhism we first (ch. 3) consider the 
features of the world around us which make it into a most unsatis¬ 
factory place to live in, although we are rarely aware of their full 
significance. Dissatisfied with this world, we try to get out of it. 
In order to do so we must first of all generate five cardinal virtues, 
which are described in chapter 4. When these have done their work 
over a long period of time, we arrive (ch. 5) at the final stages of the 
process of deliverance, which ends up in Nirvana. By way of an 

* This book deals exclusively with the monkish £lite and their life of medi¬ 
tation. As a religion, Buddhism had also to make provision for the masses, whose 
bhaktic and magical beliefs are only lighdy touched upon here. The Tantra, 
which is a literary elaboration of the Stupa-worship of the laymen, therefore also 
falls outside the purview of this book. 



afterthought a few words must then (ch. 6) be said about the four 
virtues of friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy and impartiality, 
which to some extent stand outside the other Buddhist methods of 
achieving salvation. Finally (ch. 7-8) we come to the ‘Dharma-theory’ 
which, logically speaking, should have been discussed first of all, but 
which is so difficult that for pedagogical reasons it has been kept to 
the last. 

Most of the problems and ideas which interested Buddhist thinkers 
are discussed on three different levels in the three parts of this book, 
i.e. as they appeared to archaic, scholastic and Mahayana Buddhism. 
If only for reasons of space the philosophical arguments are treated 
as self-sufficient lines of thought, related only to the meditational 
practices of the monks. The connection between Buddhism and 
Hinduism is left wholly untouched. Although the Buddhists were 
in constant interaction with their Hindu environment, it is never¬ 
theless quite possible to treat Buddhism as an autonomous system 
which is perfectly intelligible on its own premises. Nor has any 
attempt been made to relate Buddhist thought to the society within 
which it developed. The historical framework has been left out, partly 
because I have described it elsewhere, and cannot repeat myself 
indefinitely. 4 There are few dates, few names, hardly any references 
to Indian history, and the bewildered reader may at times clutch for a 
few hard facts. There are none. He is here asked to take the Buddha’s 
doctrine as something which, like other great religious systems, came 
out of the blue, why we know not, independent and irrespective of the 
historical context (cf. p. 8). Like the holy Dharma itself, this 
approach is in conflict with the accepted canons of present-day 
historiography. It will nevertheless be seen that the survey of Buddhist 
ideas by itself makes a fascinating story, the mere recital of which 
must exhilarate everyone who can think. 




It is a basic tenet of Buddhism that ‘all conditioned things’, in other 
words all the factors of our normal experience, share three features, or 
‘marks’ (lakshana). They are (i) impermanent, (2) ill, (3) ‘not-self. 
Even on simple reflection this statement is bound to strike us as at 
least partly true. As the marks are better understood, some emo¬ 
tional resistance becomes inevitable, and complete conviction requires 
both meditation and philosophical reflection. 

In its simple, untechnical, meaning impermanence simply means that 
everything changes all the time. This thesis, which is held to be 
indisputable, is further developed by (1) an analysis of the process 
of change, (2) the determination of the duration of an event, and 
(3) the reviewing of the practical consequences which should be 
drawn from the fact of impermanence. 

Ad 1, we are urged to see things as they ‘come, become, go’, and to 
distinguish the three phases of rise, fall and duration. Ad 2, we are 
taught that things and persons last very much shorter than we usually 
suppose. An almost Herakleitean statement reminds us that ‘there is 
not a moment, not an inkling, not a second when a river does not 
flow’. 1 On closer investigation a factual event ( dharma ) turns out to 
last for just one moment, and, as Th. Stcherbatsky put it, ‘instantaneous 
being is the fundamental doctrine by which all the Buddhist system 
is established “at one stroke”\ ia Ad 3, everything that is transient 
should for that very reason be rejected. 2 The impermanent is auto¬ 
matically ill and should be dreaded. 3 For ‘what is impermanent, that is 
not worth delighting in, not worth being impressed by, not worth 
clinging to’. 4 The above three points constitute the minimum defini¬ 
tion of ‘impermanence’, which led to further developments in Hina- 
yana (cf. pp. 134 sq.) and Mahayana (cf. pp. 206 sq.) alike. , 

The second mark is duhkha , which may be translated as ‘ill’. The 
full import of ‘ill’ is hidden from all but the highest saint, and is 
understood only imperfectly on the lower levels of insight. 5 We 



may be content here to distinguish three stages of the comprehension 
of ill. 

For the beginner it can mean that all his experience is also ill, i.e. 
that it is in some way or other connected with suffering and unpleasant 
feelings. In its first part the first Holy Truth 6 enumerates evils which 
are either obvious ills, like old age, sickness, death, etc., or which, like 
birth, etc., are on brief reflection seen to be ills . 7 The last sentence, 
however, is in an altogether different category. To say that ‘all 
grasping at any of the five skandhas is, or involves, ill* does not carry 
immediate conviction. What is in question is the universality of ill. 
This cannot be established without some clarification of the concept 
of ‘grasping skandhas’, or rather ‘the skandhas in so far as they are 
grasped at ’, 8 as well as a complicated philosophical enquiry into why 
the sum-total of that which has been appropriated should ipso 
facto be totally ‘ill’. In addition some emotional resistance must 
be expected at this stage. What is ‘ill* is also ‘odious’ (prati - 
kula), and should be given up and rejected. As long as we have little 
willingness or capacity for renunciation we must wish to hold on to 
many things, which therefore will seem to us good or harmless, and 
not by any means ‘ill’ and undesirable. There are some things we like 
and others we dislike, and as long as we stay alive we clearly assume 
that the first outweigh the others, and no amount of disappointment 
will deter us from trying again and again to build ourselves a cosy 
home in this world. 

On the second stage, the world is regarded as predominantly ill. 
This step is promoted by a deeper understanding of the ‘ease’ (, sukha ), 
true, unchangeable and real, which is the opposite of ill. A revaluation 
of life takes place as a result of comparing it with a Nirvana which is 
gradually appreciated better and better. It becomes increasingly more 
clear that we will never be satisfied with anything short of an absolute 
and lasting happiness (cf. p. 44) which cannot possibly be derived 
from this kind of material. Even pleasant things now seem ‘ill’ merely 
because they never endure. Even a happy life is happy only while it 
lasts; since it must reckon with ‘reversal’ or change for the worse, it 
may well be a basis for future suffering . 9 The instability and general 
insecurity of life in an impermanent world now leads to disquietude 
and a wish for escape from it. On this stage the happiness derived from 
worldly things is regarded not as non-existent, but as negligible. 
What sensible person would enjoy having a boil just because it gives 
a little pleasure to bathe it occasionally? Moreover, though there may 
be some worldly pleasure of a kind, it is bought at the cost of the loss 



of supramundane happiness, and prevents us from attaining the calm 
bliss of emancipation and from realizing the inmost longings of our 
hearts. Some Mahasanghikas went so far as to maintain that there 
can be no pleasant experiences at all, and that what seems ‘pleasant* 
is in fact a variation or relief of pain. The Sthaviras rejected this thesis 
as excessively pessimistic and asserted that pleasant feelings exist, but 
do not amount to much, being unsatisfactory, riddled with anxiety, 
short-lived and trivial. Some aspects of worldly ‘ill* are understood 
more clearly as and when the properties of the otherworldly spiritual 
realm are actually experienced. Our understanding of ‘peace* grows 
with proficiency in the trances, and with increasing spiritual maturity 
we will therefore condemn much that seemed pleasant or harmless for 
disturbing the peace found in trance. Likewise our insight into the 
oppressiveness (piJa) of events must depend on our expectations of 

Finally, the insight that everything conditioned is totally ill is 
regarded as extremely difficult to attain, 10 and is reserved for the 
supreme saints, for Arhats who have got rid of the last vestige of 
the ‘perverted views*. Because only holy men can be sure of it, 
the truth of ill is called a ‘holy truth*. The Arhat is so much more 
sensitive than we are, makes so much greater demands than we do. 
No one minds feeling an eye-lash on the palm of his hand, but every¬ 
one is irritated when it drops into his eye; just so the ordinary person 
is insensitive to the ills of the conditioned, whereas they torment the 
sage. 11 Saints suffer more intensely in the highest heaven than fools 
in the most terrible hells. Arhats alone can appreciate that the ‘forma¬ 
tions* (sankhara) are the greatest of all ills, and that in consequence 
Nirvana is the highest bliss. 12 ‘Ill* here means commotion, turmoil, 
unrest or disturbance. To merely want to do something is ‘ill*, 13 and 
so is anything fashioned by conditions. The five skandhas are as 
frightful as a dead body hung round a man’s neck.* 14 ‘111* has now 
become identified with the ‘world* (Joka) or ‘becoming* (bhava) in its 

A suitable English equivalent for the third mark (andtman in San¬ 
skrit, anattd in Pali) is hard to find. At this stage it will be best to 
translate somewhat cryptically as ‘not-self* so as to avoid a decision 
on whether the term should be rendered as ‘not the self*, ‘not a self*, 

* Similarly Aristotle in his Protrepticus spoke of the Etruscan pirates who, 
when they made prisoners, used to tie a corpse tightly to a living person, leaving 
him to his fate; *so our minds, bound together with our bodies, are like the 
living joined with the dead*. 



not-?, ‘not the Self, ‘is without self, ‘unsubstantial’, etc. The 
meaning of this mark is best clarified by quoting two very ancient 
formulas which explode the notion of a ‘self by confronting it with 
the classification of the constituents of the personality into the five 

The one states the essential pragmatic core of this doctrine, as 
follows: 15 ‘Form is not the self ( anatta ). If it were, this form could not 
turn oppressive, and with regard to form it would be possible to 
achieve the intention, “let my body be thus, let my body not be 
thus”. But because the body is not the self, therefore it turns oppres¬ 
sive, and one cannot achieve the intention, “let my body be thus, let 
my body not be thus!” And so with feelings, perceptions, impulses 
and consciousness. What do you think, is form permanent or imper¬ 
manent?’ ‘It is impermanent, O Lord.’ ‘But is the impermanent ill or 
ease?’ ‘It is ill, O Lord.’ ‘But is it fitting to consider that which is imper¬ 
manent, linked to suffering, doomed to reversal as “this is mine, I am 
this, this is my self”?’ ‘No indeed, O Lord.’ And so for feelings, etc. 
‘Therefore, whatever form there is—past, future or present, inner or 
outer, gross or subtle, low or exalted, near or far away—all that form 
should be seen by right wisdom as it really is, i.e. “all this form is not 
mine, I am not this, this is not my self”.’ And so for feelings, etc. 
‘Seeing this, the well-instructed holy disciple becomes disgusted with 
the skandhas. Disgusted he becomes dispassionate; through dis- 
passion he is set free.* 

This is perfecdy clear in itself, and the very simplicity of the 
argument has the ring of truth about it. The formula is manifestly 
intended as a guide to meditation and not as a basis for speculation. 
It can easily be worked out into a ten-point meditation on anything 
that may be regarded as ‘one’s own’: (i) One may emphasize and 
watch the independent power of the object, its movements inde¬ 
pendent of one’s own will. (2) One may watch it follow its own 
course and how it arises, abides, and breaks up. (3) One may call up 
into consciousness the latent fear of its reversal, and the dread that it 
may turn oppressive. (4) One may see it as liable and exposed to 
danger and tribulation, as a target. (5) It provides no safe and impreg¬ 
nable shelter, does not solve the most urgent problems of life, and even 
postpones their solution. (6) One may see that possessions possess 
you, see their coercive power and that ‘I am theirs’ is as true as that 
‘they are mine’. (7) The actual course of events is influenced as 
much, and even more, by outside conditions than by anyone’s self- 
willed exertions. (8) The self which appears to be in control is a 



multiplicity of factors and divides itself against itself, as is shown 
clearly in temptations, self-defeating actions, phobias, etc. In an 
incompletely integrated person conflicting impulses, when they are 
more or less permanent and organized, point to different centres of 
control rather than to one unitary self. (9) The actual course of events 
is more often than not different from my wishes, and my actual 
achievements from my aims. (10) When I try to distinguish what is 
in my power from what is not, I cannot really point to anything 
definite that is really in ‘my* power. 

The same insight is systematized by a second formula, which is 
known as the satkayadrsti , 16 the ‘false view of individuality’, ‘the 
belief in I and mine’. 17 It distinguishes twenty bases of the ‘grasping 
at the word “self” ’, by considering the possible relations of the five 
skandhas to the hypothetical ‘self’. One regards 1-5. the five skandhas 
as the self; as the flame of a lamp is identical with its visual appearance; 
6-10. the self as having, or possessing, the skandhas; as a tree has 
a shadow; 11-15. the skandhas as in the self; as the scent is in the 
flower; 16-20. the self as in the skandhas; as the gem is in the 
casket.* 18 

The two formulas derive their meaning from some idea of the 
‘self’ ( atman ) which here is rejected. At this point we cannot be quite 
sure what notions of an atman were envisaged by the early Buddhists 
when they so emphatically denied it. I personally believe that these 
notions were of two kinds, i.e. (1) the ideas implied in the use of T 
and ‘mine’ by ordinary people, and (2) the philosophical opinion, held 
by the Samkhya and Vaisesika, that a continuing substratum acts as 
an agent which outlasts the different actions of a person, abides for 
one or more existences, 19 and acts as a ‘support’ to the activities of 
the individual. 20 It is, however, doubtful and a matter of much dispute 
among experts, whether the Upanishadic doctrine of the atman had 
any influence on early Buddhism. 21 ‘What in general is suggested by 
Soul, Self, Ego, or to use the Sanskrit expression Atman, is that in man 
there is a permanent, everlasting and absolute entity, which is the 

* ‘He finds something of himself in it*, as we might say. 1-5 correspond 
to *1 am’, 6-10 to ‘I have* sentences. 1-5 can mean an essential or a complete 
identity, and concern theories about the self. To theoretically identify the ‘self* 
with matter would correspond to the extreme Lokayatikas, the homme machine 
school and to Behaviourism. Likewise some philosophers have seen the essential 
and true fulfilment of a man’s self in feeling, and others, like the Voluntarists and 
Pragmatists, in striving. The various views enumerated probably correspond 
largely to actual Indian opinions of the time, but it would lead us too far to 
investigate this correspondence more closely. 



unchanging substance behind the changing phenomenal world.’* 22 In its 
core the mark of not-self is a simple corollary of the impermanence 
of everything. There can be no lasting individuality because the 
skandhas have neither permanence nor unity ( pinda ). 23 It should be 
noted that in the above basic formulas the absence of a self is 
confined to the five skandhas, and that nothing is said either way 
about its existence or non-existence quite apart from them. The 
Buddha never taught that the self ‘is not*, but only that ‘it cannot be 

An essential counterpart to the marks, to which often the ‘repul¬ 
sive’ ( asubha) is added as a fourth, are the four perverted views 
( viparyasa)^ which also form one of the more immediately convincing 
and readily intelligible items of the doctrine. This theory is funda¬ 
mental to Buddhism, although not peculiar to it. But then there is no 
reason to assume that only the distinctive features of a religion are 
vital to it. A very similar list occurs in the Yoga system of Patanjali, 2 * 
and ASvaghosha’s Buddhacarita 25 attributes at least one side of it to 
the Samkhya teacher Arada. In Europe this error of perspective has 
also not remained quite unnoticed, though professional philosophers 
have, on the whole, found the attribution of widespread and far- 
reaching self-deception to the human intellect rather distasteful. Its 
development was left to the psychologists and poets. In England 
Wordsworth’s ‘Ode to Immortality’ is known to all who went to 
school, and later on I will quote a poem by Sully-Prudhomme which 
carries substantially the same message. 

After first explaining the meaning of the term viparyasa , I will say 
a few words about the ‘perverted views’ as empirical mistakes which 
can be easily verified by ordinary observations within the reach of 
everyone. From that I proceed, by way of philosophical and psycho¬ 
logical reasoning, to show that they are based on a misconception of 
our relation to the Absolute.:): 

First, as to the ostensible meaning of this doctrine—it is well known 
that ignorance ( avidya ) is for Buddhists the root evil. In the tech¬ 
nique of meditation the concept of ‘ignorance’ is made amenable to 
analytical contemplation by being divided up into four ‘perverted 
views ’. 26 These are regularly defined by a short formula which states 

* ‘Atman means anything substantially conceived that remains eternally 
one, unchanged, and free/ Suzuki St. 387-8. 

f The further developments of the anattd doctrine must be considered in 
relation to the dharma-theory (I 7). 

$ The treatment of the viparyasa in the Mahayana will be discussed at III 1, 4. 



that under their influence one looks ‘for the Permanent in the imper¬ 
manent, for Ease in suffering, for the Self in what is not the sell j 
and for the Lovely (Jubhd) in the repulsive*. 27 In other words, they 
consist in the attempt to seek, or to find (i) permanence in what is 
essentially impermanent, (2) ease in what is inseparable from suffering, 
(3) selfhood in what is not linked to any self, and (4) delight in what i s 
essentially repulsive and disgusting. 

The noun viparydsa 28 is derived from the root as, as vi-pary-as-a. 
As, asyati means ‘to throw*, and viparydsa is used of the ‘over¬ 
throwing* of a wagon. The translation by ‘perverted views* leaves 
much to be desired, and others have preferred to translate as ‘in¬ 
version’, ‘perverseness*, ‘wrong notion*, ‘error*, ‘what can upset’, 0: 
‘upside-down views*. In any case, the viparyasas are mis-searches— 
one looks for permanence, etc., in the wrong place. They are mis ¬ 
takes, reversals of the truth, and, in consequence, overthrowers o \ 
inward calm. For no fact as such can ever upset anyone, except when 
wrongly interpreted. The Scriptures identify the viparyasas with 
‘unwise attention* 29 —the root of all unwholesome dharmas 30 —and 
with ignorance, delusion and false appearance. ‘As long as their 
thoughts are perverted by the four perverted views, beings will neve: * 
transcend this unreal world of birth and death.* 31 It is, on the other 
hand, the prerogative of wisdom to understand that which is unper¬ 
verted. 32 Wisdom has for its object the ‘unperverted own-bein£; 
(svabhava) of dharmas*, 33 to be ‘unperverted* is a synonym of‘truth*, 3- 
and the own-being of dharmas is defined as ‘the unpervertedness of 
their essential nature*. 35 So far about the philological background. 

We next proceed to consider the meaning and significance of the 
‘perverted views*. First of all, they constitute an empirical 
mistake which, once pointed out, is easily discovered. A great 
deal of anxiety and mental turmoil quite obviously comes from oui 
expecting a degree of permanence, happiness, etc., which far exceeds 
the amount of permanence, etc., found in the actual behaviour of 
events. There are many occasions when we wish for events or things 
to last longer than they do, and fret against their inevitable loss or 
decay. The happiness which we expect from the world far exceeds 
that which it can give, and so we flounder alternatively in vain hopes 
or despair. And if our ‘self’ contains the sum-total of all that wc 
possess and control, then a persistent illusion urges us on, as also the 
Stoics have insisted, to treat as within our power a vast number of 
things and possessions which, even on superficial reflection, we must 
admit to lie outside it, either altogether or in part. When someone 



fights mentally against old age or the wearing away of dear posses¬ 
sions, when he expects lasting comfort from a bank account, from 
power over others, from sexual relations or the company of his 
fellow-men, if his mind ranges, complacently or triumphantly, over 
that section of this world which he has appropriated as his own, and 
rejoices at watching persons or things apparently bending to his 
will—in each case he does violence to the actual nature of things, in 
each case he attributes to them properties which are the opposite of 
those which they actually have, in each case he heads for a fall, and 
is bound to be upset in due course. 

All this we can see quite clearly in our more lucid moments— 
though they be rather rare and infrequent. The technique of Buddhist 
meditation aims at increasing their frequency, and innumerable 
devices have been designed with the one purpose of impressing the 
actual state of affairs on our all too reluctant minds. 

The ‘perverted views’ are fourfold when we consider the features 
of the objective world which they distort. They are threefold when 
we consider their location in our minds—for they may concern 
perception, or thought, or theoretical opinions. 36 Although the com¬ 
mentaries are none too helpful, 37 this further subdivision offers no real 
difficulties to our understanding. 

To begin with the third item, people may, on critical reflection, 
formulate a theory to the effect that the world contains permanent 
or eternal objects—such as the sun, the soul, a Creator God, etc. 
Or, we may have the theoretical conviction that the sum-total of good 
in the world outweighs the suffering there is in it, and that life as we 
find it is worth living. All such ‘optimistic’ philosophies would be 
regarded as examples of ‘perverted opinion’. Many philosophers, 
again, maintain the existence of a ‘self’ as an arguable opinion, and 
they either assert or imply that in actual reality some objective reality 
corresponds to such terms as ‘belonging’ or ‘owning’. In this sense the 
philosophy of Aristode, for instance, based as it is on the notion of 
hyparcheirij would be a clear instance of dfstiviparyasa . 

The strength of the perverted views does not, however, lie so 
much in explicit theoretical formulations, as in our habitual acting 
as if things were the opposite of what they are. These habits result 
from two factors—from false vision, i.e. from the way in which 
the data of experience appear to ordinary unthinking perception, 
and from false desire, i.e. from the transformation which wishful 
thinking, almost unnoticed, works in their appearance. 38 

Perception is perverted in so far as the actual sensory experience 



often fails to contain a positive perception of the ‘marks’ of imper¬ 
manence, ill and not-self. Objects frequently look quite static and 
unchanging. Normally their perception includes neither their begin¬ 
ning nor their end. When staring at things in their brutish being, we 
generally fail to attend to their ‘rise and fall’. The duration of things, 
their arising and their breaking up, remain normally outside the field 
of perceptual vision. Similarly, a great deal of the suffering and pain 
connected with a sensory experience is concealed at the time when its 
pleasurable contents are evaluated. 39 I mention here only the hidden 
pain of others, and that which comes only in the future. As Thomas a 
Kempis observed, ‘so every fleshly lust comes with a smiling face, 
but at the end it bites and kills’. The mark of ‘not-self’, finally, is 
concealed by the fact that a person appears as one solid mass, and a 
great mental effort of analysis is needed to counteract this false appear¬ 
ance. Buddhaghosa regards inability to analyse the undifferentiated 
‘lump’ (. ghana ) into dharmas as one of the chief sources of the wide¬ 
spread resistance to the anatta- doctrine. Terms like ‘I’ and ‘self’ are 
used from mental laziness. In the same way we are, in our description 
of historical events, content to say that ‘Napoleon’ did this or that, 
when we are too indolent to enumerate the actual historical causes 
of a certain event, such as the Code Napoleon. In their treatises on 
Abhidharma the Buddhists have set out long lists of elementary 
‘dharmas’, with rules for their combination, in an effort to enable 
us to see beyond the apparent unity of persons and things, and to 
penetrate to a manifoldness of dharmic processes which allows us to 
altogether dispense with the notion of a ‘self’ (cf. pp. 103 sq.). 

We speak of a perversion by thought where the inclinations of 
the heart put a patently false construction on events and where 
their appearance is manifestly distorted by fantastic alterations 
and additions imported in deference to our wishes and fears. The 
(fourth) perverted view which regards the repulsive as attractive is 
obviously almost entirely a matter of wishful thinking. It concerns 
objects which directly appeal to our basic instincts, chiefly food and 
sex. If instincts can be defined as that which arouses an interest in 
what is inherently uninteresting, then it is easy to see that those 
objects of the outer world which feed and sustain them owe their 
lustre and fascination in the main to a rich imagination. The loveliness 
of the surface of the feminine body, when viewed under the influence 
of sex hormones, is a case in point. To counteract its temptations, the 
monks were taught to recall the repulsiveness of the human body, 
when considered in its entirety, in its functioning, or in its decay. 



Monastic circles have always made much of this fourth viparyasa. To it 
belongs the example which Buddhaghosa gives of ‘perverted thought*, 
when he refers to a woman who leered at Mahatissa the Elder with 
perverted, or corrupt, thought ( yipallatta-citta). 40 The distorting 
effect of thought is, however, just as pronounced in the first three 
perverted views. Both fear and hope will induce us to overstress the 
permanence of things, and we often deliberately avert our minds 
from the forces which threaten ruin to what we hold dear. Fear will 
also make us close our eyes to much suffering, if only to prevent 
excessive depression (cf. p. 86). And as for our ‘self* and its posses¬ 
sions, belongings and achievements, vanity and pride magnify what 
we have got, the security of our tenure is usually overestimated, and 
the significance of our existence in proportion to the universe ridicu¬ 
lously exaggerated. 

And yet, although the empirical facts can quite easily be verified 
by anyone who takes the trouble to do so, it takes years of assiduous 
practice before we are able to confront everything we meet in this 
world with the unshakable conviction that ‘all conditioned things 
are impermanent, ill and not the self*, and that ‘this is not mine, I 
am not this, this is not myself*. When we consider that all men seek 
happiness, and that yet, by nursing excessive expectations, they 
impose an enormous burden of misery upon themselves, we are led 
to the question why they should persistently make such excessive 
demands on their environment, although all the evidence points to 
their foolishness in doing so. 

When compared with the empirical facts, the perverted views are, 
as we saw, a series of empirical mistakes. When considered in relation 
to the Absolute, they are seen to result from a metaphysical error . 
One might argue that, if I am nothing else than the Absolute, if I am 
identical with the Unconditioned itself, then the demands I make for 
permanence, bliss and self-control are really quite legitimate. The 
mistake only consists in that I look for those things in the wrong 
place—in this world, not in Nirvana. The metaphysical interpretation 
of the perverted views is clearly much less self-evident than the 
empirical one. For the latter only common sense is needed, for the 
former also faith is, I am afraid, required. In due course, this faith 
can slowly be replaced by knowledge, to the extent that a fuller 
insight is gained into the true status of our personality. Though this 
insight cannot emerge from study alone, but depends on self-discipline 
becoming more firm, meditation more assured, wisdom more mature. 

Buddhism, like most religions, distinguishes two sets of facts, or 



two ‘worlds’. In the one everything bears the three marks, is imper¬ 
manent, ill, not self; in the other, which is ‘unborn, not become, not 
made, uncompounded’, all is permanence, bliss, in full possession of 
itself. The impermanent, etc., facts are actual, the permanent, etc., are 
ideal, or normative. 

This being so, it can very well be argued that all the time we seek 
to realize an absolute Permanence 41 and Ease in this world. No limit 
can be discovered to our ambitions for a permanence which we 
persist in building on the shifting sands of time—through our chil¬ 
dren, through fame and ‘lasting’ achievements, through far-flung 
illusions of personal immortality, and so on. Similarly, a desire for an 
absolute Ease seems to be behind our constant endeavours to make 
ourselves at home in this world, and to attain the kind of fool¬ 
proof happiness which is known as ‘security*. And, finally, also 
absolute Selfhood never ceases to be our usually unacknowledged 
goal. What then would an ‘absolute Self’ be like? If I call something 
‘my own’ because of the control I believe to have over it, then my 
‘real self’ would coincide with that over which—nothing short of 
almighty—I could have complete and unlimited control. Only the 
Absolute itself would deserve to be called my ‘true’ or ‘real’ self. 42 
When I have found it, everything would take place as, in complete 
liberty, I would wish it to happen. There would be no suffering, and 
also no change, at least none against my will. The standard self, in 
other words, would have the three attributes of absolute permanence, 
absolute bliss, absolute freedom. 

On reconsidering the argumentation behind the formula ‘this is 
not mine, I am not this, this is not myself’ (cf. p. 37) we find that 
anything which falls short of the standard of complete self-control 
should be seen as ‘not-self’ and should therefore not be appropriated. 
This assertion goes much beyond the tenets of common sense. 
Belonging, or a sense of ownership, are commonly held to depend 
on the degree of activity, control and liberty felt by the ‘owner’. 
Uninstructed common sense would not, however, agree to the assump¬ 
tion that only in supreme self-activity do we have something that is 
worth being called our own. Why not be content with the smaller 
amount of self-activity and control which we possess in what we 
ordinarily treat as our own? Simply because in actual fact the failure 
to obtain complete control frequently perturbs us. Our dreads, worries, 
solicitudes, outbursts of anger, etc., indicate as many abortive 
hankerings after complete ownership. In getting rid of all that restricts 
our absolute freedom, in rejecting it as ‘not our self*, we take an 



extremely exalted view of ourselves, and we may well tremble at our 
audacity. But unless we dare to be ourselves, dare to be quite free, the 
external accretions will stick to us for ever, and we will remain sub¬ 
merged, and alienated from ourselves. 

There is, I think, reason to believe that in any case we all the time 
unknowingly take this most exalted view of ourselves, and that, 
what is more, it is a healthy thing for us to knowingly do so. A well- 
known commonplace of all spiritual tradition assures us that we are 
‘spirits ill at ease’, and that our true immortal being has somehow got 
lost in this world. Sully-Prudhomme has set it out with great clarity 
in his poem L'etranger: 

Je me dis bien souvent: De quelle race es-tu? 

Ton coeur ne trouve rien qui renchaine ou ravisse, 

Ta pensee et tes sens, rien qui les assouvisse: 

II semble qu’un bonheur infini te soit du. 

Pourtant, quel paradis as-tu jamais perdu? 

A quelle auguste cause as-tu rendu service? 

Pour ne voir ici-bas que laideur et que vice, 

Quelle est ta beaute propre et ta propre vertue? 

A mes vagues regrets d’un ciel que j’imagine, 

A mes degouts divins, il faut une origine: 

Vainement je la cherche en mon coeur de limon; 

Et, moi-meme etonne des douleurs que j’exprime, 

J’ecoute en moi pleurer un etranger sublime 

Qui m’a toujours cache sa patrie et son nom. 

This spiritual postulate has gained a somewhat unexpected con¬ 
firmation from modern psychology. K. A. Menninger* 3 describes and 
illustrates in detail a number of ‘persistent phantasies of the Uncon¬ 
scious’, in which we regard ourselves as much more powerful than we 
are. He begins with the ‘Jehovah complex’, according to which ‘I am 
God himself, omnipotent, omniscient, inscrutable’. This becomes 
explicit only in a lunatic asylum. It is followed by the ‘Jesus com¬ 
plex’, by ‘phantasies of extraordinary birth and royal lineage’, by 
the ‘theme of the magic wand, which makes one omnipotent, and is a 
badge of supreme power and authority; if I possess it, the world is 
mine; by the idea of rebirth in Nirvana, or in a Jerusalem, of which 



it is said, “In thee no sorrow may be found, No grief, nor care, nor 
toil” All these phantasies are summed up in the words' 14 : ‘Behold 
me! I am God. If not God, at least his son. . . . The common earthly 
parents with whom I live are not my own, I am not one of them. . . . 
Again, I must be purified. I must secure the magic wand, the golden 
bough, the elixir of life (which I once had, but lost—or which I 
have, but am about to lose). By its power I am made invincible, 
and by it I am saved. I escape into a heaven of refuge, the very womb 
of my mother, my earliest and latest paradise. There I remain peace¬ 
fully, quietly, oblivious of time and space, for ever!’ 

This, according to Menninger, is everybody’s ‘pipe-dream’. As 
distinct from the American psychologist, the Buddhist insists that it 
should be taken seriously. Menninger naturally scoffs at the idea 
that the phantasies he has listed might be literally true. He regards 
them as pure ‘wishful thinking’, derived from childhood experiences, 
chiefly the well-known ‘Oedipus’ 45 and ‘castration’ 46 complexes. 
They spring, according to him, from clinging to ‘souvenirs of the 
balmy care-free days when reality entailed no obligations’. He would 
certainly be incredulous and displeased if told that they represent the 
recollection of our life with the Gods. 

If the interpretation of the scientific psychologist is correct, these 
phantasies of absoluteness are obviously worthless. If the spiritual 
and religious interpretation adopted by the Buddhists is correct, 
it follows that it is this world which is worthless. In their view the 
comparison of everything in this world with the Absolute, taken as a 
norm, must lead to a total rejection of the world, to a total renuncia¬ 
tion of all that is not the Absolute, as essentially alien to us. The 
religious may be preferred to the scientific interpretation as being truer 
to the facts and as leading to a life of higher quality. This is not the 
place to argue the point. 



No amount of study or reflection will bring about a full under¬ 
standing of the three marks and their opposites. What is needed is • 
a total transformation, a new birth, of the personality. This cannot 
take place without the emergence of five cardinal virtues, i.e. faith, 
vigour, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. Sense-based instincts 
and impulses govern the ordinary worldling in all he does and thinks. 
As a man progresses in the spiritual life, spiritual forces gradually take 
over, until in the end the five cardinal virtues dominate and shape all 
his deeds, thoughts and feelings. 1 The rive virtues concern us here only 
in so far as they determine the tone of Buddhist thinking. From this 
angle we must pay special attention to faith because its place in the 
scheme of things further demonstrates the irretrievably religious 
character of Buddhist thought, to mindfulness and concentration 
because they clearly show its yogic basis, and to wisdom because 
it is the chief source of philosophical understanding. 

Faith is called the ‘seed’ 2 without which the plant of spiritual 
insight cannot start growing. As a matter of fact, those who lack in 
faith can do nothing worth while at all. This is true not only of 
Buddhism, but of all religions, and even of such pseudo-religions as 
Communism. ‘Faith’ is much more than the acceptance of unproved 
beliefs, and is made up of intellectual, volitional, emotional and social 

i. Intellectually , faith is an assent to doctrines which are not 
substantiated by immediately available factual evidence. To be a 
matter of faith, a belief must go beyond what is actually known and 
the believer must be willing and ready to fill up the gaps in his know¬ 
ledge with an attitude of patient and trusting acceptance. Faith as 
an intellectual attitude has doubt and perplexity for its chief oppo¬ 
site. 3 In all religions some assumptions are taken on trust and accepted 
on the authority of Scriptures or Teachers. Buddhism, however, 
regards faith as only a preliminary step, a merely provisional state. 



In due course, direct spiritual awareness will know that which faith 
took on trust and longed to know. A great deal of time must usually 
elapse before the virtue of wisdom has become strong enough to 
support a vigorous insight into the true nature of reality. Until then 
quite a number of doctrinal points must be taken on faith, since they 
are insufficiently supported by senses, reasoning or direct spiritual 
intuition. In Buddhism the objects of faith are essentially four, viz. 4 
(i) the belief in karma and rebirth, (2) the acceptance of the basic 
teachings about the nature of reality, such as conditioned co-produc- 
tion, ‘not-self’, ‘emptiness’, the assertion that this world is the result 
of the ignorance of non-existent individuals with regard to non¬ 
existent objects, etc.; (3) confidence in the three ‘refuges’, the 
Buddha, the Dharma and the Samgha, 5 and (4) a belief in the efficacy 
of the prescribed practices, and in Nirvana as the final way out of all 

2. This sceptical age dwells anyway far too much on the intellectual 
side of faith. Sraddha , the word we render as ‘faith’, is etymologically 
akin to Latin cor , ‘the heart’, and faith is much more a matter of the 
heart than of the intellect. It is, as Prof. Radhakrishnan 6 put it, the 
‘striving after self-realization by concentrating the powers of the 
mind on a given ideal’. Volitionally , faith implies a resolute and 

• courageous act of will. It combines the steadfast resolution that one 
will do a thing with the self-confidence that one can do it. Suppose that 
people living on the one side of a river are doomed to perish from their 
enemies, from disease or famine. Safety lies on the other shore. The 
man of faith is then likened 7 to the person who swims across the river, 
braving its dangers, saving himself and inspiring others with his 
example. Those without faith will go on dithering along the hither 
bank. The opposites to this aspect of faith are timidity, cowardice, fear, 
wavering, and a shabby, mean and calculating mentality. Faith is 
closely connected with ‘determination’ ( adhimoksha ), which consists 
in acting with resolute confidence, after one has judged, decided, and 
definitely and unshakably chosen an object, and is opposed to 
slinking along like an irresolute child who thinks, ‘shall I do it, 
shall I not do it?’ 8 

3. Emotionally , faith is an attitude of serenity and lucidity. 9 The 
opposite here is worry or the state of being troubled by many things. 
Someone who has faith is said 10 to lose the ‘five terrors’, i.e. he ceases 
to worry about the necessities of life, loss of reputation, death, unhappy 
rebirth and the impression he makes on an audience. It is fairly obvious 
that a belief in karma must to some extent lighten the burden of life. 



Even an unpleasant fate can be accepted more easily when it is under¬ 
stood as a dispensation of justice, when vexations are explained as 
inevitable retributions, when law seems to rule instead of blind 
chance, when even apparent loss cannot fail to turn into true gain. 
Furthermore, if we are convinced that there is no self, what and whom 
do we worry about? Or if we believe that there is only one vast empti¬ 
ness, what is there to disturb our radiance? 

4. Socially , faith involves trust and confidence in the Buddha and 
the Samgha. The opposite here is the state of being submerged in 
cares about the social environment, from social pressure or isolation. 
The break with the normal social environment is, of course, complete 
only in the case of the monk who, as the formula goes, ‘in faith 
forsakes his home’. 11 To a lesser extent it must be carried out by every 
practitioner of the Dharma, who must ‘live apart’ from his society 
in spirit, if not in fact. The sense of security depends largely on the 
company of others and the help expected of them. To go for refuge 
to the Buddha and the Samgha means to turn away from the visible 
and tangible to the invisible and elusive. Reliance on spiritual forces 
gives the strength necessary to disregard public opinion and social 
discouragement. Some measure of defiant contempt of the world and 
its ways is inseparable from a spiritual life. A spiritual man does not 
‘belong’ to his visible environment. He is bound to feel a stranger 
in it. He belongs to the community of the saints, to the family of the 
Buddha. 12 A spiritual is substituted for the natural environment, with 
the Buddha as the father, the Prajnaparamita as the mother, the fellow- 
seekers as brothers and sisters, relatives and friends. 13 It is with these 
invisible forces that satisfactory social relations must be established. 
In carrying out this task, faith cannot get very far without con¬ 
siderable capacity for renunciation. 

Like other spiritual qualities, faith is somewhat paradoxical because 
in one sense it is a gift which cannot be obtained by mere striving, 
and in another sense a virtue which can be cultivated. A person’s 
capacity for faith varies with his constitution and social circum- * 
stances. Personality types are usually classified according to whether « 
they are dominated by greed, hatred or confusion. 14 The greedy are » 
more susceptible to faith than the others, because faith and greed are * 
closely akin. To quote Buddhaghosa 15 : ‘As on the unwholesome plane 
greed clings, and takes no offence, so does faith on the wholesome 
plane. As greed seeks out the objects of sense-desire, so faith the 
virtues of morality, and so on. As greed does not let go that which is 
harmful, so faith that which is beneficial.’ Social circumstances in their 



turn foster either faith or unbelief. Our present-day society tends to 
promote a distrust for tradition. It puts a premium on intellectual 
smartness, and faith seems to indicate a weak head and want of in¬ 
tellectual integrity. It multiplies the distractions issuing from the 
sensory world to such an extent that the calm of the invisible world is 
extremely hard to reach. At the same time the citizen is exposed to so 
great a variety of conflicting viewpoints that he finds it hard to make 
a choice. The prestige of science, the concern with a high standard of 
living, and the disappearance of institutions of uncontested authority 
are all equally deadly enemies of the virtue of faith. 

^ Asa virtue, faith is strengthened and built up by self-discipline, and 
not by discussing opinions. For among the obstacles to faith intel¬ 
lectual difficulties are not by any means the most powerful. It is a 
matter of character how the inescapable doubts are tackled. The 
first of the four ‘articles of faith’ may illustrate the situation. The 
factual evidence for karma and rebirth appears imposing to some, 16 
and quite negligible to others. In any case it is scientifically incon¬ 
clusive. The doctrine contains two fairly unverifiable statements; it 
claims (i) that behind the natural causality which links events in the 
world of sense there are other, invisible, chains of a moral causality 
which ensures that all good acts are rewarded, all bad actions punished; 
and (2) that this chain of moral sequences is not interrupted by death, 
but continues from one life to another. However plausible or im¬ 
plausible these two assumptions may seem, they become a matter 
of direct experience only to someone who has acquired two super¬ 
knowledges ( abhijna ), i.e. the recollections of his own previous 
rebirths, and of those of others. 17 Without possessing those two 
superknowledges, no one can claim to know rebirth to be true. If 
he believes it, he takes it largely on faith. And this faith is effectively 
preserved less by dialectical skill than by the bold and courageous 
willingness to take risks. Life nowhere offers complete security. 
Employed in gaining wealth, a merchant must risk his property. 
Employed in talcing life, a soldier must risk his own life. Employed in 
saving his soul, the spiritual man must risk his own soul. The stake 
automatically increases with the prospect of gain. Our beliefs may 
well be all wrong, but we must just take the consequences, and hope 
that our fund of audacity and good humour will not run out. 

The choice lies between magnifying or minimizing intellectual 
doubts. Those who find the teaching difficult may blame .either the 
teaching or their own distance from the truth and their own intel¬ 
lectual and moral imperfections. How can a person expect to remember 



his past lives, if he cannot even recall hour by hour what he did during 
one single day a mere month ago! Doubts are effectively silenced not 
by argumentation, but by purifying oneself to such an extent that one 
becomes worthy of greater knowledge. We are, however, warned that 
the balance of the powers of the mind is an essentially Buddhist virtue, 18 
and that excessive faith, untempered by wisdom, easily becomes mere 
credulity.* Only wisdom can teach what is worth believing. 19 

Whereas faith and vigour, when driven to excess, must be restrained 
by their counterparts, i.e. wisdom and tranquil concentration, the 
virtue of mindfulness does not share this disability. ‘Mindfulness 
should be strong everywhere. For it protects the mind from excited¬ 
ness, into which it might fall since faith, vigour and wisdom may 
excite us;f and from indolence into which it might fall since concen¬ 
tration favours indolence. Therefore mindfulness is desirable every¬ 
where, like a seasoning of salt in all sauces, like the prime minister in 
all state functions. Hence it is said, “The Lord has declared mindful¬ 
ness to be useful everywhere. For the mind finds refuge in mindfulness 
and mindfulness is its protector. Without mindfulness there can be no 
exertion or restraint of the mind.” ,2 ° 

Although traces of it are not altogether absent in other religious 
and philosophical disciplines, in Buddhism alone mindfulness occupies 
a central position. If one were asked what distinguishes Buddhism 
from all other systems of thought, one would have to answer that it is 
the Dharma-theory (cf. I 7) and the stress laid on mindfulness. Mind¬ 
fulness is not only the seventh of the steps of the holy eightfold path, 
the third of the five virtues, and the first of the seven limbs of enlighten¬ 
ment. On occasions it is almost equated with Buddhism itself. So we 
read at the beginning of the Satipatthanasutta 21 that ‘the four applica¬ 
tions of mindfulness are the one and onlylj: way (ekdyano) that leads 

* Likewise, an excess of vigour is deprecated as endangering tranquillity. 
People with a large dash of adrenalin in their blood are always busy and perhaps 
even ‘madly efficient’, but not particularly restful. Vigour by itself leads to 
excitement, and has to be corrected by the development of concentrated calm. 

f Faith lends itself to emotional excitement; vigour to the excitement of doing 
things, and wanting to do more; wisdom to the excitement of discovery. 

^ It is interesting to compare the soft and gentle explanations of the old 
commentary, which interprets ‘only’ as ‘trodden by oneself only, without com¬ 
panion’, or as ‘the way of the one’, i.e. of the best, i.e. of the Buddha (Soma, 
pp. 19-20) with the fierceness of Dr Cassius Pereira which must owe something 
to liis Catholic ancestors. ‘And this “sole way’’, this one and only way is revealed 
only in the Buddha-dharma and nowhere else, which is why other systems of 
“religion’’, however much they may claim to own saints, are actually unaware 
of what even constitutes true Sainthood. True gold can be obtained only from 

5 1 


beings to purity, to the transcending of sorrow and lamentation, to 
the appeasement of pain and sadness, to entrance upon the right 
method and to the realization of Nirvana ’. 22 

Etymologically ‘mindfulness’ (smr-ti) is derived from the root for 
‘to remember’, and it may be defined as an act of remembering which 
prevents ideas from ‘floating away’, and which fights forgetfulness, 
carelessness and distraction .* 23 The manifold techniques of mindful¬ 
ness can be read up elsewhere. What concerns us here is the function 
of this virtue, and the theoretical assumptions which underlie its 
practice. In accordance with yogic tradition the mind is assumed to 
consist of two disparate parts—a depth which is calm and quiet, and 
a surface which is disturbed. The surface layer is in perpetual agita¬ 
tion and turmoil. Beyond both the conscious and unconscious minds 
as modern psychologists understand them, there is, at the bottom of 
the mind, a centre which is quite still. This deep calm is, however, 
usually overlaid with so much turbulence that most people remain 
incredulous when told of this submerged spot of stillness in their 
inmost hearts. 

Mindfulness and concentration are the two virtues concerned with 
the development or reconquest of inward calm. ‘Mindfulness’ is the 
name given to the measures which are taken to protect the inward 
calm which slowly grows within us. A line is, as it were, drawn 
round this tranquil domain, and watch is kept at its boundaries for 
trespassers, the principal enemies of spiritual quietude being the 
senses, the passions unless dissociated from the ego, and discursive 
thinking. Among the exercises grouped under the heading of ‘mind- 

a gold-bearing source, though others who dig may vainly point to their gold- 
seeming ores of baser metals which, however useful they may be, will ever be 
rejected by him who would fashion a crown for earth’s princes’ (Soma, p. ii). 
No parallel to sentiments of this kind could be found in die sources on which I 
have based this history of Buddhist thought, and they are in flat contradiction to 
the spirit of the holy Dharma. 

* A fine parallel are these verses of Victor Hugo: 

II sent croitre en lui d’heure en heure 
L’humble foi, l’amour receuilli, 

Et la memoire anterieure 
Qui le remplit d’un vaste oubli. 

II a des soifs inassouvies; 

Dans son passe vertigineux 
II sent revivre d’autres vies; 

De son ame il compte les noeuds. 

II sent que l’humaine aventure 
N’est rien qu’une apparition, etc. 



fulness* the ‘restraint of the senses’ 24 has the greatest philosophical 
interest, and we will hear more of it later on (p. 62). Concentration 
(samadhi ) further deepens our capacity to regain the perfect calm of 
our inward nature. As a spiritual virtue* it employs techniques, 
known as the four ‘trances’ ( dhyatia ) and four formless attainments 
( 'arupya-samapatti ) which gradually effect a shift in attention from 
the sensory world to another, subtler realm. Essentially they are a 
training in increasing introversion, achieved by progressively diminish¬ 
ing the impact of external stimuli. 25 By withdrawing from sensory data 
and renouncing all interest in them, those who are concentrated regain 
the inward calm which always dwelled in their hearts. Subjectively 
samadhi is marked by a soft, tranquil and pacified passivity, objec¬ 
tively by the abstraction into an unearthly world of experience which 
lifts us out of this world, and bestows a certainty greater than anything 
the senses can teach. 

Finally, ‘wisdom is based on concentration, because of the saying 
that “he who is concentrated knows, sees what really is” ’. 26 Is con¬ 
centration then an indispensable pre-condition of wisdom? The 
answer lies in distinguishing three stages of wisdom, according to 
whether it operates on the level of (1) learning about what tradition 
has to say concerning the psychological and ontological categories 
which form the subject-matter of wisdom, (2) discursive reflection on 
the basic facts of life, and (3) meditational development. 27 The third 
alone requires the aid of transic concentration, 28 whereas without it 
there can be proficiency in the first two. 

‘Wisdom’ is, of course, only a very approximate equivalent of 
prajna . To the average person nowadays ‘wisdom* seems to denote a 
compound made up of such qualities as sagacity, prudence, a well- 
developed sense of values, serenity, and sovereignty over the world 
won by the understanding of the mode of its operation. The Buddhist 
conception of ‘wisdom’ is not unlike this, but more precise. It is best 
clarified by first giving its connotations and then its actual definition. 
As for the connotations, we read in the Dhammasahgani™ : ‘On that 
occasion the dominant*)* of wisdom is wisdom, understanding,^: search, 

* As distinct from being a factor essential to all thought; see p. 188. 

f indriya; Asl. 122: ‘Through overwhelming ignorance it is a “dominant” 
in the sense of “dominant influence”; or it is a “dominant” because by exercising 
discernment ( dassana ) it dominates (associated dharmas).’ 

£ Asl. 123: ‘As a clever surgeon knows which foods are suitable and which 
are not, so wisdom, when it arises, understands dharmas as wholesome or 
unwholesome, serviceable or unserviceable, low or exalted, dark or bright, 
similar or dissimilar/ Similarly AK I 3, II 154. 



research, search for dharma;* * * § discernment, discrimination, differen¬ 
tiation, erudition, expert skill, subtlety, clarity,! reflection, investi¬ 
gation,! amplitude,§ sagacity,|| a guide (to true welfare and to the 
marks as they truly are), insight, comprehension, a goad (which 
urges the mind to move back on the right track); wisdom, wisdom as 
virtue, wisdom as strength (because ignorance cannot dislodge it), 
the sword of wisdom (which cuts through the defilements), the lofty 
(and overtowering) height of wisdom, the light, % lustre and splendour 
of wisdom, the treasure** of wisdom, absence of delusion, search for 
dharmas, right views.’ From mere cleverness wisdom is distinguished 
by its spiritual purpose, and we are told expressly 30 that it is designed 
‘to cut off the defilements’. 

Now to the actual definition: ‘Wisdom penetratesf f into dharmas as 
they are in themselves. It disperses the darkness of delusion, which 
covers up the own-being of dharmas.’ 31 Mindfulness and concentra¬ 
tion, as we saw, assumed a duality in the mind—between its calm 
depth and its excited surface. Wisdom similarly postulates a duality 
in all things—between their surface and their depth. Objects are not 
what they appear to be. Their true, ‘dharmic’, reality is covered up 
by their common-sense appearance, and in its essence wisdom is the 
strength of mind which enables us to discard this deceptive appear¬ 
ance and to penetrate to the true reality of dharmas as they are in 
themselves. As the unfaltering penetration into the true nature of 
objects wisdom is the capacity to meditate according to the rules of 
the Abhidharma on the dharmic constituents of the universe. It 
concerns itself exclusively with that true reality on contact with 
which, as we saw (cf. p. 25), the meaning and conduct of life are held 

* Truth; dharmas; the four holy Truths (AsL). 

t vebhabya; aniccadinam vibhavana-bAava-vasena. Or *a critical attitude*? 

$ Or ‘examination*. 

§ or ‘breadth*. Wisdom is rich and abundant, or massive. See AsL 

|| medha ; also ‘mental power*. ‘As lightning destroys even stone pillars, so 
wisdom smashes the defilements; alternatively, it is able to grasp and bear in 

Tf Mil. I 6 i y BS, p. 155: ‘It is like a lamp which a man would take into a dark 
house. It would dispel the darkness, would illuminate, shed light, and make 
the forms in the house stand out clearly.* Cf. BWB, p. 55. 

** Because it gives delight, is worthy of respect (or ‘variegated*), hard to get 
and hard to manifest, incomparable and source of enjoyment to illustrious 

ft AsL 123. ‘This penetration is unfaltering ( akkhalita ), like the penetration 
of an arrow shot by a skilled archer.* 



to depend. It is regarded as the highest virtue* because ignorance,! and 
not sin, is the root evil. 

* A holiness which is devoid of this kind of wisdom is not considered impos¬ 
sible, but cannot be gained by the path of knowledge which alone concerns us 
here. The paths of faith, love, works, etc., have each their own several laws, 
f Some of its synonyms are delusion, folly, confusion and self-deception. 




I. The break-through to the Unconditioned 

After these five virtues have been developed for some time, they bring 
about a new stage of spiritual development in which the ‘Path’ is 
entered and the ‘Unconditioned’ comes into view. No attempt is ever 
made to establish the existence of the Unconditioned by argumentation. 
It is represented as an indisputable fact to which the Yogin’s eyes are 
opened as soon as he has reached a state of gnosis which allows him 
to be evenminded towards everything conditioned. 1 Then his thought 
no longer turns to anything that might be considered a conditioned 
phenomenon, does not settle down in it or resolve upon it, does not 
cling, cleave or clutch to it; but his thought turns away, retracts and 
recoils from it, like water from a lotus leaf. Any object which is either 
a sign (cf. p. 62) or an occurrence seems to be nothing but an impedi¬ 
ment.’ 2 In other words, whenever the Yogin encounters anything 
made by a multiplicity of conditions, he simply brushes it aside. When 
this mode of reacting has become habitual, then, and only then, can 
he gain contact with ‘Nirvana, the state of Peace’ and can understand 
what is meant by its peacefulness. 3 

The progressive detachment from the world is accompanied and 
facilitated by the constant application of the three marks to all worldly 
events, and it further promotes in its turn the five cardinal virtues. 
‘As he cultivates that evenmindedness toward all conditioned things, 
develops it in his meditation and makes much of it, his faith becomes 
more resolute, his vigour more energetic, his mindfulness better 
established, his thought better concentrated, and as a result of this 
strengthening of the five virtues the gnosis which makes possible 
the evenmindedness towards all conditioned things becomes still 
keener. And he thinks, “Now at last the (supramundane) Path will 
arise!”’ 4 Once he has achieved perfect indifference to all worldly 
things, the Yogin can automatically make Nirvana into an object, 
and see it as clearly as a man sees the moon once the clouds are dis- 


pelled which concealed it. 5 He has experienced the cognition which is 
said to change his lineage 6 and to make him into a member of the clan 
or family of the Buddhas, a true son of the Buddha. 7 On that gnosis 
‘the Path follows with uninterrupted continuity. As it comes into 
being, it shatters and explodes the mass of greed, hatred and delusion, 
never shattered and exploded before’. 8 

At this point the Buddhists introduce what might be called an 
‘existentialist’ distinction 9 between two qualitatively different kinds 
of persons, the ‘holy persons’* and the ordinary people.f What a 
man’s knowledge can encompass depends on what he is. Holy men and 
ordinary people occupy two distinct planes of existence, the ‘worldly* 
and the ‘supramundane’. 10 A person becomes ‘supramundane’ on 
‘entering the Path*, i.e. when he has detached himself from con¬ 
ditioned things to such an extent that he can effectively turn to the 
Path which leads to Nirvana. The number of those who can speak 
about these ultimate questions with any degree of authority is there¬ 
fore extremely limited. The data on which a worldling bases his 
opinions are radically incomplete, because the Unconditioned is not 
one of them. 

In what way then can Nirvana become an object of thought? No 
one can ever form an adequate idea of what Nirvana is (cf. p. 67). 
Nirvana is ‘unthinkable’, or ‘inconceivable’, if only because 11 there is 
nothing general about it, and everyone must experience it personally 
for himself; because there is nothing in the world even remotely 
like it; and because reasoning (tarka) cannot get anywhere near it 
(cf. p. 29). All conceptions of Nirvana are misconceptions. In what 
sense then can it be said that the saints are so much nearer to Nirvana 
than the foolish common people? 

It is first of all obvious that ordinary people cannot possibly 
have any clear notion of what ‘Nirvana’ actually is. All that they 
believe to know is that once they have reached Nirvana they will be 
‘happy’ and less troubled than here, and it is well known that in 
popular Buddhism Nirvana becomes indistinguishable from a celestial 
paradise. But that is not what the more philosophical monks wished to 
convey. The ‘saint’, as distinct from worldly people, at the moment of 
entering the first Path is said to ‘realize’ Nirvana in the sense of 
‘seeing’ it. 12 This ‘seeing’ comprises three vital insights denied to 
the average person: 

* arya-pudgala . These are eight, i.e. the Streamwinner, Once-retumer, 
Never-returner and Arhat, as well as the candidates to each of these fruits. 

f bala-pnhag-jana , literally ‘foolish common people*. 



(i) Having meditated deeply and for long on die unsatisfactory 
nature of this world, the yogin has seen for himself that there is 
nothing in it that is not ‘ill* (cf. p. 36), and his urge towards its 
opposite becomes correspondingly more intense. 13 Because he fails 
to see its faults, the worldling bases his life on the conditioned; the 
yogin, aware of the irreparable shortcomings of all conditioned 
things, inclines to Nirvana and ‘leaps forward* to it, because it is the 
opposite of the conditioned. For a long time his idea of Nirvana is 
necessarily provisional and rudimentary. At first he sees it as the 
opposite of all unattractive features of this world; then of the attractive 
also, in so far as they are linked to suffering, future or concealed; then 
of all I-linked features; then of all those which fail to give security and 
inspire dread; 1 * then of all those which have the three marks; and 
finally of the distinctive features of this world as such (cf. p. 36). The 
whole process therefore depends on the degree of dissatisfaction with 
this world. No one can effectively be drawn towards Nirvana until 
his recoil from the world has reached a certain momentum. All hope 
of support from conditioned things must be abandoned, on the 
ground that they can give no consolation. The same process which 
repelled from the conditioned world then cannot fail to propel to its 
opposite, to the Unconditioned. (2) Once having lost interest in this 
world, the Yogin becomes correspondingly more singleminded in his 
pursuit of Nirvana. His attention to Nirvana becomes more exclusive 
because he has ceased to pay attention to anything else. 15 But though 
his whole mind is fixed on Nirvana, he can tell us no more about it 
than that it is the denial of this world as it appears. (3) A new organ 
of vision, known as the ‘wisdom eye* 16 completely transforms the 
Yogin’s outlook. Nirvana, having become more real to him than any¬ 
thing else, now can act as his ‘objective support*, not in the sense that 
he can make statements about it, but in the sense that it increasingly 
motivates his conduct. What is assumed here is that there are two 
objectively existing and mutually exclusive poles—the ever-changing 
five skandhas and the everlasting Nirvana which results from their 
cessation. 17 When the one ceases, the other takes over. Deathless 
Nirvana is in fact conceived as a kind of force which ‘bends faultless 
dharmas to itself* by means of the condition known as ‘the decisive 
influence of the object’ (cf. p. 150). Nirvana, the Ineffective, cannot, 
of course, exert any effect. All that is asserted is that the mind of 
the Yogin increasingly stresses the idea of Nirvana to the exclusion of 
everything else. 



2. The three Doors to Deliverance 

When the ‘Path’ is reached, Nirvana is then approached through the 
three ‘doors to deliverance*. Occasionally taught in the Sutras 1 they 
are (i) Emptiness ( sunyata ), (2) the Signless (animitta) and (3) the 
Wishless ( apranihita ). 2 The Udanavarga 3 links the first two with the 
condition of an Arhat whose ‘track’, ‘destiny*, or ‘rebirth’ is beyond 
anyone’s ken: 

‘Those who never accumulate, 

Those who know what their food implies, 

Their range in the Void,* in the Signless, detached,— 

Their track is very hard to trace 

Like that of birds in flight across the sky.* 

The first two members of this triad have had a decisive influence on 
Buddhist philosophizing, and require a fairly detailed explanation. 
The reader must, however, be warned that the more important a 
Buddhist doctrine, the less readily intelligible it generally is. This 
applies with particular force to the supramundane Path and the 
approaches to Nirvana. The mental processes of those who ‘dwell 
in the inner Void’ are greatly different from the mentality of those who 
‘pursue the external entanglements*. 

1. ‘Emptiness’ is much the best known. The term is used sparsely 
in the scriptures of the Sthaviras, and on occasion it may not represent 
an old tradition but indicate Mahayana influence. Impermanence, and 
not emptiness, was the central tenet of the Sthaviras. There was, in 
fact, in these circles some resistance to just those utterances of the 
Tathagata which were ‘profound, deep in meaning, supramundane, 
connected with the Void’, 4 and it is not impossible that the Mahayana 
in this respect preserved the original teaching more faithfully than 
the Sthaviras. Leaving aside idle speculations about the orthodoxy of 
the various schools, we must now proceed to the task of defining the 
meaning of the term ‘emptiness*. 

Primarily it denotes the absence of something. In accordance with 
the Abhidharma stress on the anatta doctrine it was defined as that 
which is ‘devoid of a self, or of anything belonging, or pertaining, to a 
self ( attanlya ). 5 The sublime spirituality of this teaching should not 
be underestimated. For in telling us to empty the personality of 
everything that does not belong to it, it must logically terminate in 

* Pratt ( Pilgrimage , p. 240) points out that the Void, whatever its exact 
ontological meaning, ‘meant rest from multiplicity, from change and imper¬ 
manence, from effort and longing*. 



self-extinction. Identified with the third mark of ‘not-self’, ‘emptiness’ 
was further subdivided for meditational purposes. The Visuddhimagga , 
drawing on tradition, shows how it should be comprehended 
in two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve and forty-two ways, 6 and the 
Pafisambhidamagga explains it in twenty-four ways. 7 Logically the 
term had not been thought out very well. In the Patuambhidamagga, 
in spite of its preamble, it means ‘devoid of self, etc/ in only four 
cases; 8 in others it just means ‘absent from’ (no. 2, 5, 15, 20-23), m 
others ‘nullified’ (6-10, 16-19), ^ then again it denotes the Path 
(4) and Nirvana (24). The very interesting ‘emptiness-section’ of the 
Dhammasangant 9 works out in detail the principle that any psychic 
state is nothing more than a conglomeration of given impersonal 
dharmas which soon break up. 

When applied to worldly things the word sunya means more than 
the scholastic definition conveys. It was Bodhidharma who expressed 
the essence of the matter when he said, ‘all things are empty, and 
/ there is nothing desirable or to be sought after’. Things are ‘empty’ 
in the sense that they are unsubstantial and unsatisfactory. The word 
is used to devalue, as when the inner sense-fields are compared to 
an empty, or deserted and uninhabited, village, 10 or when its meaning 
shades into ‘devoid of reality’ 11 and ‘useless’ or ‘worthless’. 12 In early 
Buddhism the connection with conditioned co-production was perhaps 
stressed less than in the Madhyamika system. Though we read in the 
Lalitavistara'P ‘Well have I comprehended the world’s voidness, 
which is due to its being produced from interconnected causes. It 
vanishes in the twinkling of an eye, and is like unto a mirage or a 
city of the Gandharvas.’ And also Buddhaghosa 14 tells us that all the 
links of conditioned co-production are empty of a personality 
(attabhava , selfhood) capable of wielding power, since they exist in 
dependence on conditions. 

x In one sense ‘emptiness’ designates deprivation, in another fulfil¬ 
ment. In the first it refers to the negative qualities of the world, in 
the second to the result of negating these negative qualities. That 
which is ‘empty* should be forsaken as worthless; as a result of treat¬ 
ing it for what it is, one is then liberated from it. Roughly speaking 
we may say that the word as an adjective (sunya) means ‘found 
wanting’* and refers to worldly things, and as a noun (Junyata) means 

* This meaning is impressively stated by St John of the Cross: ‘The soul is 
conscious of a profound emptiness in itself, a cruel destitution of the three kinds 
of goods, natural, temporal and spiritual, which are ordained for its comfort. It 
sees itself in the midst of the opposite evils, miserable imperfections, dryness and 
emptiness of the understanding, and abandonment of the spirit in darkness/ 



inward ‘freedom* and refers to the negation of this world. It thus 
becomes a name for Nirvana, if only because that lacks greed, hate 
and delusion; it is one of the doors to deliverance; two Suttas 15 teach 
a method of emptying the mind of particular ideas for the purpose of 
realizing a ‘surpassingly pure and unsurpassable emptiness*; and 
in the third formless trance, on the station of ‘nothing whatever*, 
another exalted kind of emptiness is experienced. When processes 
are considered as empty, one is said to ‘plunge into the Void* which 
is ‘the pasture of the Arhats*. ‘The entrance into the emptiness of all 
dharmas* is sometimes called ‘the seat of the Tathagata*, 16 and the 
Buddha has abided (, sthita ) for many thousands of aeons in that state 
of emptiness ( 'sunyatatva ). 17 

‘Emptiness* has its true connotations in the process of salvation, 
and it would be a mistake to regard it as a purely intellectual concept, 
or to make it into a thing, and give it an ontological meaning. The 
relative nothing (‘this is absent in that’) cannot be hypostatized into 
an absolute nothing, into the non-existence of everything, or the 
denial of all reality and of all being. Nor does ‘emptiness* mean the 
completely indeterminate, the purely potential, which can become 
everything without being anything, the ‘mass of matter* of which 
Jeremy Taylor spoke as ‘having nothing in it but an obediential capa¬ 
city and passivity*. When in China Buddhism fused with Neo-Taoism, 
‘emptiness’ became the latent potentiality from which all things come 
forth, and it became usual to say, in a cosmological sense, that all 
things go out of emptiness and return to it. 18 None of all this is 
intended here. Nor has the word any physical significance, like the 
atomic void (which was originally developed from the Eleatic non- 
being), empty space or a vacuum. It is a purely soteriological term. 
The moment it is detached from its practical basis it becomes a 
travesty of itself. In so far as there are any parallels in the West, they 
must be sought among the mystical contemplatives. As a practical 
term ‘emptiness* means the complete denial or negation of this world 
by the exercise of wisdom, leading to complete emancipation from it. 
Meditation on ‘emptiness’ serves the purpose of helping us to get rid 
of this world by removing the ignorance which binds us to it. The 
manifold meanings of the term can therefore be explained only 
in so far as they unfold themselves in the actual process of 
transcending the world through wisdom, as will be shown in greater 
detail in III 2, 4. 

2. The ‘Signless’ has received less attention than emptiness, but it 
is no less puzzling, and some explanation is needed why the Buddhists 



should have asserted that all perceptions as such ought to be aban¬ 
doned as misleading. This doctrine originated from some of the tradi¬ 
tional meditational practices, of which the ‘restraint of the senses’ 
(indriyasamvaraf 9 and the highest trances are those most imme¬ 
diately relevant.* The word ‘sign’ (nimitta) occurs conspicuously in 
the formula which describes the restraint of the senses. 20 When 
presented with an object through any one of the six senses, one should 
‘not seize on its nimitta or anuvyahjana . Here nimitta is explained as 
the general appearance, and anuvyahjana as the secondary details. 
‘That which might, as long as he dwells unrestrained as to the con¬ 
trolling force ( indriya ) of the eye, etc., give occasion for covetous, 
evil and unwholesome dharmas to flood him, that he sets himself to 
restrain; he guards the controlling force of the eye, etc., and brings 
about its restraint.’ Indriya , the Sanskrit word for ‘sense-organ’, is 
derived from indra , and best translated as ‘dominant’. It is akin to 
dynamis , ‘a power in us by which we do as we do’, 21 and denotes a 
directing, controlling, governing force, a power alien to us which 
has to be subdued. A pure sense-perception, of course, rarely exists 
entirely by itself, and usually it is embedded in all sorts of volitions 
and drives. On closer analysis it will be found that the ‘dominance’ 
of sense-perceptions stems as much from instincts, and from the 
skandha of impulses, as from the sense-organs themselves. 

In order to clarify this issue, at least three levels of the apper¬ 
ception of stimuli must be distinguished. Three kinds of ‘sign* 
correspond—the sign as (i) an object of attention, as (2) a basis for 
recognition, and as (3) an occasion for entrancement. On the first 
stage one turns towards a stimulus. This ‘adverting’ has a passive and 
an active side, in that (a) some impact has stimulated the sensibility, 
and in that ( b ) one is keen on the sense-stimulus and voluntarily 
turns towards it. The Buddhists attach great importance to this 
second component which is often neglected. The Lankavatara regards 
‘eagerness for a multiplicity of objects and their characteristics’ as one 
of the four essential conditions which enable consciousness to function 
on a sensory level. 22 Attention to a sense-stimulus is only on rare 
occasions enforced by the objective intensity of the stimulation. In 

* ‘Such enlightened men are, with a free spirit, lifted above reason into a bare 
and imageless vision wherein lies the eternal indwelling summons of the Divine 
Unity; and with an imageless bare understanding they reach the summit of their 
spirits. There, their bare understanding is drenched dirough by the Eternal 
Brightness* (Ruysbroek, quot. Stace, p. 159). The terminology differs slighdy, 
but the experience is the same. 



most cases, it is the result of an inward willingness to take notice 
of it, of the 'keenness* of the sense-dominant, or, as we nowadays 
put it, of the 'interest* taken in the object. We do not just passively 
await sense-stimuli, but reach out for them, and have a positive urge 
to look and to listen. This can be seen quite easily when the urge is 
restrained, for instance by impeding the use of the physical organ, 
as when sitting with the eyes to the nose-tip, walking with eyes 
directed only a few feet, or yards, straight ahead, or closing them 
altogether. People, of course, must have realized some degree of 
inner calm, and must make some effort to maintain it, before they 
become convinced that sense-stimuli disturb rather than satisfy. The 
keenness to look around and to listen comes from ( a ) the urge of the 
sense-organ which desires to function, ( b ) from anxiety and a desire to 
cover up the aloneness of the self left to itself, and (c) from a wish to 
find an outlet for blocked-up instincts. The eagerness is not confined 
to pleasant stimuli, but also looks out for objects on which to vent 
one’s hatred or wrath. Some people are as keen on grievances as others 
are on girls. The subjective attitude involved here is covered by the 
term abhoga , from bhuj , which can mean either ‘bend, bow*, or ‘enjoy, 
devour, eat*. It is so firmly built into our mental constitution that it 
can be overcome only on the eighth stage of a Bodhisattva fcf. 
pp. 236 sq.). What happens on the first level of apperception is an 
incipient discrimination in the sense that, turning away from inward 
calm, the object is stressed in the composite process of sense-object, 
sense-organ and sense-consciousness (cf. p. 109). In addition, attention 
is turned not only on to a mere object, but on this object rather than 
that. In Vinaya I 183 ‘to seize on a sign* means just this, i.e. to seize on 
anything as the object of one’s thought to the temporary exclusion of 
everything else. The mind, in its natural state entranced by nothing 
in particular, loses itself by turning towards the multiplicity and 
multitudinousness of irrelevant entities. 

On the second stage we have the recognition of what is perceived, 
as a sign of its being such and such a part of the universe of dis¬ 
course, and of habitually perceived and named things. At Vinaya III 17 
to ‘seize on a sign’ means to seize on it so keenly that its ‘mark’ is 
recognized. The stimulus is now interpreted ‘as a man or a woman’, 
as a bear or an owl, as a table or a flower, etc. The third stage is 
marked by the emotional and volitional adjustment to the ‘sign*. If 
the object had never on the second stage been determined as friend 
or foe, man or woman, young or old, acquaintance or stranger, if, in 
other words, the observation had been confined to the dharmic facts, 



much undesirable thinking would have been avoided, would have 
been stopped at its source. On the second stage the object was ‘recog¬ 
nized’ as being such and such, and had certain general terms appliec 
to it. Now it is further defined as something which concerns us, which 
is relevant and interesting. The attention becomes more eager, anc 
one gets quite entranced with the sign, which supplies food for sensua 
appetites, fears, etc. The object acquires meaning and significance, anc 
becomes the occasion for volitional reactions. 

In what sense then can a sense-dominant be regarded as a power 
exerting an effect? (i) It disturbs the inner calm which is the natura 
state of the mind in its innate quiescence. What is meant by ‘restraint 
of the sense-dominants’ cannot easily be grasped by those who regarc 
it as quite a natural thing that the mind should dwell on sense-linkec 
objects. Nothing could in fact be more unnatural. In its natural purity 
the mind abides in the calm contemplation of emptiness, which is th< 
emptiness of alert expectation and not of impending sleep. A mine 
which sees, hears, etc., is a distracted, malfunctioning mind. (2) The 
sense-dominant deflects from the emptiness to which the mind turns 
in its pristine purity, and overlays it with some delusive and false 
appearance, which disturbs the even flow of wisdom. (3) The activi¬ 
ties of the sense-dominants facilitate the discharge of instinctua 
drives and immensely strengthen the essentially unwholesome im¬ 
pulses, by stirring them up and providing them with a centre of 
organization. When this centre is removed, they are dispersed. It is 
therefore no wonder that ‘when he has left the door of the eye, etc., 
open’, all manner of unwholesome states ‘flood’, i.e. ‘pursue anc 
submerge’ him. 23 

To build up sense-perceptions is an undesirable misuse of the 
mind which has to be stopped. Once the process has gone as far as 
the third stage, the five methods described in Majjhima Nikaya 24 must 
be resorted to. The ‘restraint of the senses’ attempts to cut it off even 
before it has reached the second stage, and prevents the mind from 
becoming a playing field for everything and everybody. Although 
the sense-stimulus is bound to run its course, it cannot enter the 
mind or get ‘underneath one’s skin*. It is either just kept out (‘Oh, 
we have had that before, and it did not really matter!’), or devalued 
as trivial, as already passed, as nothing in particular, as of no con¬ 
cern or consequence, as something that means nothing to me, i.e. to 
my salvation and quest for Nirvana. As soon as anything is noticed, the 
adverting is at once smothered by disgust and aversion, and, instead 
of turning towards the object, one turns away from it to Nirvana. 



The task is to bring the process back to the initial point, before 
any < superimpositions , have distorted the actual and initial datum. 
The seemingly innocuous phraseology of the formula which describes 
the restraint of the senses opens up vast philosophical vistas, and 
involves a huge philosophical programme which is gradually worked 
out over the centuries in the Abhidhaima and the Prajnaparamita. ‘He 
does not seize on its appearance as man or woman, or its appearance as 
attractive, etc., which makes it into a basis for the defiling passions. 
But he stops at what is actually seen ' 15 Taken seriously, this must 
lead to an attempt to distinguish the actual sense-datum from the 
later accretions which memory, intellect and imagination superimpose 
upon it. As one accustoms oneself to disentangling sensory data from 
their often hidden emotional and personal associations, they are placed 
into an emotional void, and seem almost as they are in themselves— 
nothing in them desirable or to be sought after. ‘ He seizes only on that 
which is really there' 1 * In order to do so he must be able to distinguish 
the actual fact from the fabrications and false constructions which 
ignorance has added on to it. This is the starting-point of die con¬ 
siderations which in due course led to the concept of ‘Suchness*, 
which takes a thing just such as it is, without adding to it or sub¬ 
tracting from it. 

It is in the nature of things that all ascetic religious systems should 
condemn sense-desires. 27 Buddhism goes further and regards even 
sense-perceptions as baneful. This distrust of sense-objects as such* 
is, of course, not peculiar to Buddhism, and is shared for instance 
by the Platonist tradition of Europe, both pagan and Christian. 
St Gregory puts it very clearly when he says: 28 ‘The soul can by no 
means recollect itself by itself unless it has first learnt to restrain the 
phantasms of terrestrial and celestial images from the eye of the 
mind, unless it has learnt to reject and trample upon ( respuere atque 
calcare) whatsoever shall occur to its thinking ( cogitatio ) from cor¬ 
poreal sight, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching; so that it may 
seek itself, such as it is within, without those things/ Or likewise 
St Dionysius Areopagita: 29 ‘May you, my well-beloved Timothy, in 
your desire to arrive at mystical contemplation, compel yourself to be 
disentangled from the senses, and from the workings of the reasoning 

* Somebody is bound to quote against what I say here the injunction of 
Seng-ts‘an that we should ‘not be prejudiced against die six sense-objects'. 
Spiritual advice is fruitful only when tendered with due regard for time, place, 
person and condition. In terms of the five levels distinguished at III 2, 4 we are 
here with the doors to deliverance on the third, whereas Seng-ts‘an speaks of the 



mind, and from all that is sensible and intelligible, and from all 
that is and all that is not. To the end that you may raise yourself by 
nescience, as far as it is possible to do so, to union with Him who is 
above all being and all knowledge. So that, in other words, you may 
raise yourself, by absolute detachment from yourself and all things, 
stripped of everything and loosed from every hindrance, to that 
beam of supernatural brightness which comes forth from the divine 
obscurity/ This is indeed the authentic voice of the Dharma. 

All the forces of the soul—emotions, will, intellect, mindfulness 
and trance—are mobilized to effect a withdrawal from sense-objects. 
Emotionally we have the deliberate cultivation of an attitude of 
dread, disgust, contempt and weariness of them, as burdens, chains 
and a mere waste of time. In the sphere of the will, mortification 
counteracts their seductive influence. Intellectually, a psychological 
and philosophical analysis of sense-perception shows that it obscures 
more than it discloses, and that sense-given distinctions and boun¬ 
daries are as arbitrary as the localization of sense-qualities, the whole 
being a tissue of falsehood designed to serve the purposes of practical 
life, without any basis in reality or bearing on it. The ‘restraint of the 
senses' is a branch of mindfulness, and tries to establish the stillness of 
the spirit, undisturbed by the turmoil of the outside world. And the 
process of transic meditation , which is essentially a process of pro¬ 
gressive introversion, likewise terminates in the complete cessation of 
all reactions to sense-perceptions. It appears that to the Buddhists the 
mere attention to sense-perception was the last and most obdurate 
enemy of them all. 

The fourth of the formless trances is the ‘station of neither per¬ 
ception nor non-perception'. According to the Abhidharmakosa 30 
perception is there very feeble, though not entirely absent. This 
trance seems worth entering when one has reflected that ‘perceptions 
are a sickness, an ulcer, a barb! Their mere absence in a state of uncon¬ 
sciousness 31 is nothing but stupefaction. But this station of neither 
perception nor non-perception, that is calm, that is excellent!’ It turns 
its back on all that has an object or is conditioned, 32 and thought is 
here very much more subtle than the relatively gross thoughts con¬ 
nected with perception. 33 Buddhaghosa explains 34 that perception has 
here become exceedingly subtle. In this trance ‘perception is non- 
perceptual in so far as it is incapable of effective functioning, and 
it is not non-perceptual owing to the presence of a subtle residuum 
of the formative forces ( sankhara)\ But feelings and perceptions are 
‘quite tranquillized' 35 (cf. p. 113). 



3. The Wishless, 36 very much less important for Buddhist thought 
than Emptiness and the Signless, can nevertheless not be quite passed 
over. The word a-pra-ni-hita means literally that one ‘places nothing 
in front*, and it designates someone who makes no plans for the 
future, has no hopes for it, who is aimless, not bent on anything, 
without predilection or desire for the objects of perception rejected 
by the concentration on the Signless. This raises the problem whether 
Nirvana can be desired. If Nirvana is defined as the extinction, or stop¬ 
ping, of craving, how is it that the sage is called ‘prone and inclined to 
Nirvana*, and yet does not desire it? 

Nirvana is an object of craving only in so far as one forms a mis¬ 
taken idea of it. Under the influence of ‘sensuous craving’ one may 
strive for Nirvana because of the bliss, joy and delight associated 
with it. Under the influence of ‘craving for more becoming one may 
expect from it some kind of personal immortality, treat it as a means 
of achieving perpetuity for oneself. Under the influence of the ‘craving 
for extinction one may hope that it will fulfil the wish to get rid of 
oneself, misconceive Nirvana as a kind of death followed by mere 
nothingness, and fail to see the difference between a desire for the 
extinction of craving and a craving for extinction. As a matter of 
fact, Nirvana cannot satisfy the first kind of craving because it gives 
no sense-satisfaction, but is based on the denial thereof, i.e. on 
‘dispassion* (virago), the complete absence of delight in sense-objects. 
It cannot satisfy the second and third kinds of craving because it 
involves the cessation of personal existence, and is yet not the same as 
its bare extinction. 

While someone is still at a distance from Nirvana, he may desire it, 
strive and live for it. As long as he desires Nirvana he has not got 
it, is still distinct from it. Once it is attained, all wishing, even for 
Nirvana, will cease. While he still desires Nirvana, the nature of his 
‘desire* will depend largely on the adequacy of the notion he has 
formed of it. While that is still very inadequate the desire will differ 
little from the kind of ‘craving* normally felt for worldly things. As 
his eyes are gradually opened to die true features of Nirvana the 
yogin’s desire will no longer be a manifestation of craving, and rather 
become its negation. ‘There is no grasping with regard to Nirvana. 
For just as there is no inducement to mosquitoes to alight on a ball 
of iron which has been heated all day, so these things, by their 
excessive glory, do not attract the grasp of craving, pride or false 
opinion.* 37 

On the ‘path* still much striving and great efforts are needed to 



get away from the world. With the attainment of Nirvana all effort 
and striving will cease because one ‘has done what had to be done’. 
Whatever ‘action* there may still appear to take place is no longer 
the work of the ‘impulses* which make up the fourth skandha, and in 
consequence it is senseless to attribute it to desire, or an act of the 
will. Without disquiet the Arhat is wishlessly happy and contented, 
he no longer looks forward to a future which holds for him neither 
hope nor dread, and his supreme and irrevocable achievement leaves 
no room for wishes of any kind. 

Once the three ‘doors to deliverance* are understood, the higher 
teaching of Buddhism will present no further serious difficulties, and 
everything becomes almost self-evident. It will be noted that the 
concentration on emptiness concerns ontology, wishlessness pertains 
to the volitional sphere, and the signless belongs to the domain of 
epistemology. The later scholastics tried to establish correlations 
with some of the lists and categories which formed the backbone of 
the Abhidharma. Their explanations diverge only slightly, and thus 
offer a valuable guide to an extremely important aspect of the doctrine 
which in essentials must date back to Anoka’s time. It is also instructive 
to see how the Buddhists for meditational purposes attempted to 
co-ordinate the multifarious facets of a complicated doctrine, and we 
must mention these scholastic disquisitions at least briefly, although 
they are not always easy to follow. 

The Vibhasha : 38 says that through the three ‘doors* we view 
things from the point of view of the antidote, the objective support 
and the intention, (i) Emptiness is the antidote to the ‘false view of 
individuality*, and opposes the notions of ‘I* and ‘mine*, (2) the 
Signless rejects all objects, of eye, ear, or any other sense, and (3) the 
Wishless is the absence of all intentions ( dsaya ) or plans ( pranidhana) 
in respect of any dharma of the triple world, although there is some 
striving as regards the Path. The Abhidharmakota 39 associates our 
triad with the specifically Sarvastivadin list of the sixteen ‘aspects*:'* 0 
Emptiness corresponds to ‘empty* and ‘not-self’, the Signless to the 
four aspects of the third Truth,* and the Wishless to the remaining 
ten aspects. Because of emptiness the constituents of the personality 
are seen as not the self, and as not belonging to a self. The Signless 
refers to Nirvana as being free of ten ‘signs*, i.e. of the five sense- 
objects, of male and female, and of production, a perpetually changing 
subsistence, and destruction. The assignment of the remaining aspects 
to the Wishless is justified by the argument that impermanent, ill and 

* (1) Stopping, (2) calm quietude, (3) sublime, (4) definite escape. 



the four aspects of the truth of origination* are a source of agitation 
(i udvega ) which, if truly felt, would prevent exertion on behalf of 
worldly things; the Path, in its turn, is like a raft which must be 

The Visuddhimagga A 1 gives five reasons why the Path is named 
respectively as Empty, Signless or Wishless, and establishes a corre¬ 
spondence between the three doors and the three marks. Insight into 
‘not-self’ and the rejection of the notion of ‘a self, a being and a 
person’ leads to Emptiness. Insight into ‘ill* and the abandonment of 
all wish, hope or longing to find happiness in this world, results in 
the Wishless. Finally, the Signless is connected with ‘impermanence’. 
This by itself is not unreasonable, and we will soon show how the 
connection is made. Nevertheless it is noteworthy that at this point 
Buddhaghosa shows some uncertainty over the word ‘sign’, just as 
his contemporary Vasubandhu did when he replaced the perfectly 
straightforward definition of the Vibhasha with an enumeration of 
‘signs’ which sounds rather artificial and far-fetched. In connection 
with the Path the Visuddhimagga uses the word ‘sign’ in no fewer 
than three senses, (i) ‘The Path is called signless when one has come 
to it after having practised the reviewing of impermanence—with the 
result that conditioned things are differentiated into their momentary 
components and no longer seem to be just one dense mass ( ghana )— 
and after one has forsaken the signs of permanence, lastingness 
and eternalness’ (which inhere in their false appearance). It is also 
signless because (2) it has no sight-objects, etc., and (3) because the 
signs of greed, hate and delusion are absent in it. So much about the 

3. Nirvana 

Emptiness, the Signless and Wishless are also counted as three con¬ 
centrations {samadhi ),f which may be either worldly or supra- 
mundane. The latter alone are called ‘doors to deliverance’, and, 
according to Nagarjuna, 1 they are quite near to the true reality of 

* (1) Cause, (2) origination, (3) product, (4) condition. 

f The Mpps says on this question (206c 17, trans. Robinson, p. 91): ‘If these 
three kinds of “wisdom” did not take place on the level of transic attainment, 
they would be a mad kind of “wisdom”. One would fall into many falsehoods 
and doubts, and there would be nothing that one could do. If one abides in 
transic attainment, one can demolish all passions and penetrate to the real mark 
of all dharmas.’ 



Nirvana, at its very threshold. In consequence they look towards both 
conditioned things and the unconditioned Nirvana.* 

With regard to conditioned things they establish, 2 as we saw, by 
way of (i) Emptiness that nothing conditioned can affect our self, or 
have a significant relation to it. In their self-willed reactions to the 
things around them persons normally ‘find themselves' and experi¬ 
ence themselves as confirmed, enriched, widened, protected, expressed 
and realized. Now, at the very gate of Nirvana, the Yogin sees that 
all this meant nothing to him.f He no longer constantly loses his 
self by thinking ‘there I am' of that which is not himself, but he 
separates his self from all alienations, so that it can stand out in its 
pristine freedom and purity, empty of all that it is not. By way of (2) the 
Signless these concentrations show that the characteristic features 
by which objects as they appear are noticed and distinguished, have 
no relevance to anything that is worth knowing or doing. Whenever 
the yogin meets with the presentation of an object, he sizes it up 
and notices its short duration, as well as the vital fact that, by the 
time he comes round to reviewing it, it has happened already, has 
vanished and is no longer there. He thus becomes convinced that it 
no longer concerns him and is not worth holding on to. In conse¬ 
quence he rejects and forsakes the ‘sign', i.e. everything which points 
to a meaningful thing perceived beyond the bare purely momentary 
existence of a dharma,:j: and aspires in resolute faith towards that 
which is without a ‘sign'. As for (3) the Wishless, there is no point in 
striving for anything conditioned, and it would be foolish to expect 
great things from it, or to base upon it any hopes for the future. The 
yogin accordingly relinquishes all attempts to find ease in what he 
knows to be essentially ill. In the knowledge that efforts to ‘control’ 
outside objects can only lead to further suffering, he turns away from 
external things and withdraws into an inward tranquillity from which 
he calmly and evenmindedly watches outward happenings as ever so 

Nirvana , on the other hand, when approached through the three 
doors, will appear as follows: (1) As empty it will have no relation to 
one’s own self, and cannot be ‘had’ or ‘attained’ by oneself. The sage is 

* MN i 296: ‘There are two conditions for the attainment of the signless 
deliverance of thought—being non-attentive to all signs, being attentive to the 
signless element.* 

f jam quod magnum videbatur nil fuisse cernitur. P. Damiani. 

$ The Mahayana goes even further, and asserts diat a person ‘courses in 
signs’ if he ‘takes the data of experience for signs of actually existing realities*. 
BWB 27. 



now absolutely unrestricted, though he is not there to be in that state. 
He is content with that which does not concern him at all and which 
he cannot possibly appropriate. Nirvana is in no relation at all to his 
personal self, either positive or negative. Access to Nirvana is con¬ 
tingent on the extinction of his personal self and is possible only where 
his ‘self’ is not.* This bare negation, however, is not yet thorough 
enough, and falls short of describing the ‘stopping’ ( nirodha ) which 
is a frequent synonym of Nirvana, and which implies the rejection 
of the ‘four alternatives’ (cf. p. 219), i.e. that the self is, that it is not, 
that it both is and is not, and that it neither is nor is not, and further 
demands that even this rejection be forsaken. (2) As signless Nirvana 
has nothing by which it can be recognized. Content with its indeter¬ 
minacy, one does not fret because it is impossible to say ‘this is it’, 
‘this is not it’. (3) As wishless it is that which cannot be desired, and 
its ‘possessor’ is content with what he just ‘is’. 

This ‘Nirvana’ is surely a very strange entity which differs greatly 
from anything that we have ever met before, and has nothing in 
common with objects about which assertion is possible. In order to do 
justice to it, one must withdraw from everything by which, of which 
or with which anything can be asserted. As the final deliverance 
Nirvana is the raison d'etre of Buddhism, and its ultimate justification. 
All the Buddha’s words are said to have the taste of Nirvana, and 
‘the religious life is plunged in Nirvana, its aim is Nirvana, its end 
and outcome is Nirvana’. What then can ‘Nirvana’ possibly be, and 
how can it be described? 3 

The explanation of the unconditioned Nirvana is best begun by 
contrasting it with the three marks of all conditioned things. In this 
respect it is 4 (1) deathless, or free from death and any kind of imper¬ 
manence; (2) at peace, or free from any oppressive disturbances of its 
peaceful calm, and from any kind of suffering; (3) secure, or free 
from any threat to security by an outside not-self, and from any kind of 
self-estrangement within. We must now consider these aspects one by 

1. Nirvana as the Deathless ( a-mrta ), or Immortal, is conceived 
not as an abstraction, but as a living reality; not as a mere subjective 
state of mind, but as ‘something’ that transcends any individual mind. 
It is that freedom from death which eluded Gilgamesh, but remained 
the constant aim of the Yogins who strove ‘to emancipate man from 

* It is curious that Epicurus should have said exactly the same thing about 
death: ‘Death, then, the most dread of all ills, is nothing to us, for while we are 
here Death is not, and when death is here, we are not.* 



his human condition, to conquer absolute freedom, to realize the 
unconditioned’. 5 Within the shelter of Nirvana the yogin is beyond the 
reach of death, for ‘who, stationed in Dharma, would fear death?’ 6 
The Sanskrit word for ‘death’ is ‘Mara’, and the enumeration of four 
Maras serves to show what the Buddha achieved by his famous 
‘conquest of Mara’. 7 There is (i) the Skandha-Mara, or die five aggre¬ 
gates, because they are the ‘tenement of death’, and one must die when 
they have been bom and proceed. (2) The defilements are Mara, 
because they have brought about the rebirth which must end in 
death. (3) Mara, in the more narrow sense of‘death’, means the factors 
which fix the life span of each individual. He was defeated when, 
three months before his Parinirvana, the Buddha achieved the 
sovereign power which allowed him to fix the future duration of his 
life. And finally (4) Mara is a deity, who tries to cause difficulties to 
anyone who wants to transcend death, and who was defeated by the 
Buddha immediately before his enlightenment, when he touched the 
earth and asked her to bear witness to his prolonged compassionate 
self-sacrifice practised oyer many lives. 

The word ‘Immortal’ also means the celestial nectar or ambrosia. 
The possession of this ‘elixir of immortality’ had definite physical 
consequences. The beliefs involved may be briefly illustrated by 
Maudgalyayana’s remark on meeting Sariputra: 8 ‘Friend Sariputra, 
your countenance is pure and clear, and your senses serene. Have you, 
O venerable Sariputra, found the immortal and the Way that leads 
to the immortal? Your countenance is that of a religious man, clear 
like the blossoming lotus. Serene and calm are your senses. Where 
did you obtain the immortal whereby there has been shed over you 
this twofold shining and bright blaze of radiance?’ What is more, the 
experience of immortality is won by physical means, for it is said that 
the sage ‘touches the deathless element with his body’. By 
European standards the frequent assertion that the yogin 
‘touches Nirvana with his body’ (cf. p. 185), in other words the 
belief that the thoughtless or incognizant body is wiser than the 
wisest mind, must seem most extraordinary and nearly incredible. 9 
But then Europeans take an extremely narrow view of the body’s 
potentialities, and are generally unacquainted with the various ‘subtle’ 
or ‘exalted’ bodies which Yoga has discovered to surround and 
interpenetrate the gross visible body. In Europe both the Platonists 
and the materialists have always taken it for granted that spiritual 
reality lies outside the range of the body, the one so as to condemn 
the body as degrading, the others with the aim of rejecting spiritual 



experiences as nugatory. In Buddhism physical and spiritual reality 
are co-terminous, all spiritual experiences have their physical basis 
and counterpart,* and the body, brought to full maturity by the 
practice of Yoga, is a cognitive organ of the highest order, more 
closely in touch with transcendental .reality than the intellect can 
possibly be (cf. p. 185). 

So central to Nirvana is its "deathlessness*, that at least fifteen other 
epithets express the same idea. Nirvana is (1) permanent, (2) stable, 
(3) unchanging, (4) imperishable (< a-cyuta\ (5) without end (an-anta), 
(6) lasting endlessly ( aty-aniam\ (7) non-production (because it 
causes nothing), (8) extinction of birth, (9) unborn, (10) not liable 
to dissolution ( a-palokina) y (11) uncreated (1 a-bkutam ), 10 (12) not 
going on (a-ppavatta\ f (13) free from disease, (14) unageing, and 
(15) undying ( a-maranam ). Since deathlessness is bought at the 
price of the discontinuation of the hitherto unending sequence of 
individual lives, three more epithets may be added, i.e. (16) cutting 
off the round of rebirths, freedom from (17) transmigration (vi- 
vattam ), and (18) the passing over of consciousness into a new body 

2. In connection with Nirvana as Peace I must quote the famous 
sentence from the Mahaparinirvanasutra 11 which is the very epitome 
of Buddhist thought, and worthy of prolonged reflection: 

anitya vata samskara utpada-vyaya-dharminah 
utpadya hi nirudhyante tesam vyupasamas sukham . 

"Impermanent surely are conditioned things. It is their nature to 
rise and fall. For, having been produced, they are stopped. Their 
pacification brings ease/ This aspect of Nirvana is the object of one 
of the ten recollections (i upa&ama-anusmrti ). 12 Properly and success¬ 
fully it can be accomplished only by "saints* who have entered the 
Path. They alone can grasp the full import of the terms used, for their 
understanding depends on experience in renunciation, which alone 
can open the eyes to this "peace of God which passes understanding*. 
‘Nevertheless, also the worldling should attend to it, if he attaches 
weight to peace. For even if one only hears of it, the mind 
brightens up at the thought of peace.’ 13 Though beginners must 

* E. H. Johnston, Early Samkhya , 1937, p. 38. ‘In India we may perhaps 
represent the position by saying that all classes of phenomena are looked on 
alike as having a material basis, the difference resting merely on the degree of 
subtlety attributed to the basis.* 

f In other words, it neither comes nor goes; cf. pp. 99 sq . 



take the idea more or less on trust, and it cannot be very clear 
to them. 

‘Peace’ means the ‘appeasing of suffering’. We have in English no 
term which would correspond to both the meanings of upasamti 
intended here, i.e. (i) the appeasing, pacifying, of all ills and suffer¬ 
ings, and (2) a state of peaceful calm ( upasanta ). All men, as Spinoz;. 
has said, want peace, but few want that which makes for peace. This 
is quite obvious when we consider social peace. Why are there al 
these wars? Either because people are attached to their desire to exeri: 
power over others and wish to be able to disregard their wishes, or 
because they want to raise their own ‘standard of living*. The only 
time when there was comparative peace on earth was in the Stone 
Age when nobody had anything and when the productivity of laboui 
was so low that a man was worth no more than the food he ate, anc 
so there was no point in enslaving him, though to cannibals he might 
make quite a good meal. Unless we give up all that ‘progress’ has 
bestowed upon us, and return to the idyllic squalor lauded in the 
Tao-te-Jdng y li there will be war upon war, and as our prosperity 
grows they will become worse and worse. Even among those who 
have understood this mechanism, few would be prepared to sacrifice 
all that much for a little bit of peace. Likewise, perceiving that the 
price of inward, spiritual, peace is literally everything, most people 
prefer to stick to what they have got. As long as we hold on to any¬ 
thing, we are bound to be worried and ill at ease. The word ‘peace’ is 
unfortunately extremely ambiguous. As used in Buddhism it does not 
mean the natural peacefulness of viscerotonics, or what Americans 
call ‘relaxation’, but the resolute withdrawal from all possible causes of 
disturbance. The spiritual peace envisaged here results from an intro¬ 
verted knowledge which (1) reveals a layer of unshakable peaceful 
calm within us, (2) makes the world appear unimportant, and (3) estab¬ 
lishes contact with the ‘intermediary world’. Its special character may 
become clearer when we ponder on the five most elementary con¬ 
ditions of ‘peace’ enumerated in the Prajnaparamita. They are the 
terror felt on perceiving that one has got oneself landed with a body, 
the insight into the omnipresence of impermanence, ‘not-self’ and 
repulsiveness, and the conviction that nothing whatever holds any 
delight anywhere. If these connotations of the Buddhist conception 
of ‘peace’ are not constantly borne in mind, grave misunderstandings 
are bound to arise. 

Nirvana’s opposition to ill is expressed in at least twelve further 
epithets: (1) extinction of suffering, ^2) pacification of suffering, 



(3) what cannot be injured, or non-affliction, 15 (4) free from calami¬ 
ties ( aa-itikam ), (5) ease,* (6) ‘blessed* or ‘auspicious* (sivam), 
(7) sorrowless, (8) where all toil and striving has ended (< an-ayuhana ), 16 
(9) peaceful calm (santi) y (10) pure, (11) not tarnished ( asankilittha ), 17 
(12) at peace with itself.f 

3. Nirvana as Security, In this respect it is known as (1) the 
Secure,^: (2) the refuge, (3) shelter, (4) asylum and (5) island. As 
providing lasting security, Nirvana naturally removes all fear. 

So far we have considered the epithets of Nirvana which oppose 
it to that which is invested with the three marks. Most of the remaining 
attributes or names of Nirvana, as given in the Scriptures, can be 
classified under three further headings: 

I. Negation of the world, and opposition to it. (A) Just negation 
of the world: (1) emancipation (moksha) y (2) liberation (yimukd\ 
(3) escape (nihsararm\ (4) stopping, (5) renunciation, (6) relinquish¬ 
ment (pratinihsarga ), 18 (7) stopping of becoming, 19 (8) departure 
( parayana ?), 20 (9) separation (* viveka , aloofness, detachment), (10) un¬ 
included (in the triple world of Samsara), (11) supramundane, (12) the 
Beyond, (13) rest ( nibbuti ), (14) the Only (, kevalam , to hen \ 21 (15) the 
end of the world. 22 (B) As negation of odious features of the world: 
(1) fading away, 23 (2) extinction of craving, (3) extinction of greed, 
hate and delusion, (4) without outflows, (5) not of the flesh (nira- 
misam ), (6) free from delays or discriminations ( nishprapancam ), 2 * 

(7) freedom from the desire to settle down in a home (< analayatri ), 25 

(8) unconditioned, (9) not made (a-katam), C. As hard to find in 
the world: (1) Invisible ( a-nictassanam) y (2) hard to see, (3) astonish¬ 
ing ( aicaryam ), (4) wonderful (adbhutam), (5) subtle, (6) ineffable 
( anakkhatam y to arreton ), 16 (7) immeasurable or incomparable (a- 
pramanam ). D. In relation to the material world it is said 27 that the 
four material elements ‘find no footing* (na gadhati ) in Nirvana. 
There is a plane ( dyatana ) where there is no earth, water, fire or air, 
nor the station of boundless space, etc., to: nor the station of neither 
perception nor non-perception, neither this world nor another 
( paraloka ), nor both together, nor the sun or the moon. Here, O 
monks, I say that there is no coming or going, no staying, passing 

* Does sukha mean just ‘ease*, or positive happiness and bliss (like dnanda in 
Sivaism and perhaps the mahasukha of the Tantras), or ‘happy release*? This is 
like deciding about the mentality of children in their mother’s womb, as con¬ 
ceived by the Kabbala and Psychoanalysis, although some Pali scholars point 
to MNI 247, 398-9 in support of their thesis that it means ‘happiness*. 

t a-rapa, ‘no strife*, ‘without conflict*, an extremely rich term. See p. 213. 

j khemam , related to wohnlich, heimlich, homely. 



away or arising. It is not something fixed, it moves not on, it is not 
based on anything. This, verily, is the end of ill.* 28 

II. (i) Real Truth (satyam), true being (from as , to be), (2) true 
reality in the ultimate sense (paramanha> or ‘supreme reality’). 

HI. (1) Supreme goal (parayariam?), (2) supreme (param\ 
(3) supreme good ( parama-artha ), (4) best ( aggam ), (5) excellent 
(seyyo), ( 6 ) exalted (pranita ), (7) utmost ( an-uttaram\ (8) the one 
and only consummation (eka nittha\ (9) final release (apa-vagga). The 
finality of Nirvana lies in that ‘for a disciple rightly delivered, whose 
thought is calm, there is nothing to be added to what has been done, 
and naught more remains for him to do. Just as a rock of one solid 
mass remains unshaken by the wind, even so forms, sounds, smells, 
tastes and contacts of any kind, no desired or undesired dharmas, can 
agitate such a one (pavedhenti tadino). Steadfast is his thought, gained 
is deliverance.’ 29 

There are, of course, people who, confronted with this wealth of 
epithets, surmise that Nirvana is just nothing. They will derive com¬ 
fort from passages where Nirvana is called ‘Nothing-whatever’, 30 as 

‘Where is no-thing ( akincanam\ where naught is grasped 

This is the Isle of No-beyond ( andparam ) 

Nirvana do I call it, the utter extinction of ageing and dying’. 

Though this does not show that Nirvana is absolutely nothing, but 
only that it is nothing as far as the interest and experience of most 
people is concerned. And if one cannot say what a thing is, that 
does not make it into a nothing if the fault lies not in the thing, but in 
the words. No absolute distinction can, in any case, be drawn between 
‘negative’ and ‘positive’ statements. 31 Consider the following famous 
sentence: 32 ‘There is an Unborn, Unbecome, Unmade, Uncom¬ 
pounded; for if there were not this Unborn, Unbecome, Unmade, 
Uncompounded, there would be apparent (pannayetha ) no escape 
from this here that is bom, become, made and compounded.’ Here 
the features are negative, the ‘is’ positive. Which of the two counts 
more? Even the ‘extinction of individuality’ is not necessarily some¬ 
thing ‘negative’. As witness Tennyson: 33 ‘All at once, as it were out 
of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, individuality 
itself seemed to fade away into boundless being—the loss of per¬ 
sonality (as if so it were) seeming no extinction but the only true 

£ To sum up: Nirvana is obviously transcendental, and uncognizable 



by logical thought 34 (which is constricting, to say the least of it). 
More helpful than anything else seems to me a well-known simile, 
‘like a fire, when its fuel is burnt up, He became tranquil'. 35 The custom 
of trying to ascertain the meaning of Nirvana by collecting and 
examining many disconnected quotations cannot yield good results. 
What must be done is to approach Nirvana by the road by which 
it ought to be approached, and to reproduce in oneself the state of 
mind corresponding to the three ‘gateways to deliverance’, to which 
therefore an apparently inordinate amount of space has been devoted. 
When this has been done it will be seen that the nature of Nirvana 
has been explained with consummate clarity in one of the most 
melodious and beautiful passages of the entire Canon. 36 No one can 
improve on what has been said there. Its transposition into English 
is unfortunately impossible, to some extent because words which 
have a yogic meaning in the Pali mean something quite ordinary in 
the English, which has no vocabulary for these things. What I will 
therefore do is to print the Pali with a literal translation, indicating by 
italics those words which cannot be carried across from one language 
to the other. 

Eko aham, Sakka, mahantam ogham 
anissito no visahami taritum. 
Arammanam bruhi, samantacakkhu, 
yam nissito ogham imam tareyyam. 

Upaslva: Alone, without support , O Shakyan, 
I am unable to cross the great flood. Tell me the 
objective support , O All-seeing One, leaning on 
which I could cross that flood. 

Akihcahnam pekkhamano satima 
‘natthVti nissaya tarassu ogham 
kame pahaya virato kathahi 
tanhakkhayam nattamaha^/z//?a^a. 

The Lord: Mindfully discerning the ‘ nothing- 
whatever-anywhere\ supported by the conviction 
‘it is not ’ (there is nothing /), you will cross the 
flood . Having forsaken sense-desires, refrain 
from talk) look to the extinction of craving by 
day and by night. 



Sabbesu kamesu yo vitarago 
akincannam nissito A/mz-m-afinam 
sannavimokkhe parame vimutto, 
tit the nil so tattha ananuyayi? 

Upasiva: Who has turned away from all sense- 
pleasures^ leaning on ‘nothing whatever , having 
abandoned all else, released by the deliverance 
from perception , the foremost of all, does he 
stand therein without falling back? 

The Buddha: Yes, he does. 

Titthe ce so tattha ananuyayi, 
pugam pi vassanam, samantacakkhu, 
tatth’eva so sitisiya vimutto, 
cavetha vihhatiam tathavidhassa? 

Upasiva: If for many years he stands therein 
without falling away—when in that very 
place he is cooled and released, will there be 
consciousness of one such? 

AccI yatha vatavegena khitto 
attham paled, tia upeti saiikham , 
evam muni namakaya vimutto 
attham paleti, na upeti sankham. 

The Lord: As flame blown out by wind goes to 
rest , and is lost to cognisance, just so the sage who 
is released from name and body , goes to rest and is 
lost to cognizance. 

Atthan-gato so uda va so n’atthi 
udahu ve sassatiya arogo? 

Tam me, muni, sadhu viyakarohi, 
tatha hi te vidito esa dhammo. 

Upasiva: Does he who goes to rest not exist, 
or does he (last) forever without disease? 
That, O Sage, do well declare to me, since this 
dharma is known to you. 



Atthari-gatassa na pamanam atthi; 
yena nam vajju, tarn tassa n’atthi; 
sabbesu dhammesu samuhatesu 
samuhata vadapatha pi sabbe ti. 

The Lord: There is no measure to him who 
has gone to rest; he keeps nothing that could be 
named. When all dliarmas are abolished\ all 
paths of speech are also abolished. 




We have now described the essential message of Buddhism which 
traces out a Way leading from the examination of the three marks 
to the attainment of Nirvana. The slow ascent to the heights has not 
always been easy, and with some relief we may now turn for a while 
to something more tangible. Among the prescribed meditations we 
find a set of four, somewhat mysteriously called the ‘Stations of 
Brahma*, 1 which are meant to regulate our attitude to other people, 
and aim at the development of friendliness ( maitri), compassion, 
sympathetic joy (rnudita) and impartiality. 2 They are not specifically 
Buddhistic, occur also in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 3 and may have 
been borrowed from other Indian religious systems. For centuries 
they lay outside the core of the Buddhist effort, and the orthodox 4 lite 
considered them as subordinate practices, rather incongruous with 
the remainder of the training which insisted on the unreality of beings 
and persons (cf. p. 81). Nevertheless they are important means of self¬ 
extinction (cf. pp. 84 sq.\ and in the Mahayana became sufficiendy 
prominent to alter the entire structure of the doctrine (cf. Ill 1, 6). 

A system of religious training normally regulates the attitude of 
its adherents to at least four fields of experience: (1) the unwhole¬ 
some passions which tie them to this world and prevent them from 
reaching the freedom of the spirit; (2) the occult forces which pervade 
the universe everywhere and on all sides; (3) the spiritual reality to 
which they hope to gain access; and (4) other living creatures, be they 
men, animals or supernatural beings. In our present age we can 
observe a tendency to shift the emphasis to our relationships with 
other men. Many Christians, both inside and outside the Churches, 
seem far more concerned with their neighbour than with God, even 
among the Quakers philanthropy has superseded mystical exalta¬ 
tion, and often kindness to individuals and social work among the 
afflicted appear to constitute the sum-total of religious aspiration. 
Few outside the Communist fold would probably go so far as to 



deliberately restrict all selfless endeavour within the context of visible 
human society. Even among us, however, the importance of good 
works is readily understood, whereas faith, ascetic practices, devotion 
and wisdom are suspect as cloistered and unprofitable virtues. This v 
absorption in social duties is a modification which religion underwent 
during the last century. By atomizing society, modern civilization 
has thrown the mutual relations of people into a profound disorder 
from which it can be rescued only by conscious and sustained effort, 
and at the same time technical progress and the prestige of science 
have dimmed the immediate awareness of the spiritual world. Tradi¬ 
tional religion saw these things quite differently. There the soul of 
man was regarded as essentially solitary, the true struggle took place 
in a condition of withdrawal from society, and the decisive victories 
were won in solitude, face to face with the deepest forces of reality 
itself, ‘where men and mountains meet’, and ‘not at all by jostling in 
the street’. By comparison with the secret life of the spirit, life in 
society seemed secondary, though, of course, not entirely irrelevant. 
It was just one of the outer wings of the temple raised to the Almighty, 
but never the inner sanctum itself. The Buddha was regarded as the 
‘Buddha’ because he won enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree, alone, 
except for a retinue of Devas in the distant heavens, and while occu¬ 
pied with metaphysical, and not social, questions. 

Nevertheless, Buddhism does not believe that our relations to 
others can safely be entrusted to either chance or metaphysical insight. 
If they were left to chance, the weeds of the malice natural to the 
human race would soon choke the frail wheat of a hard-won benevo¬ 
lence. If they were governed by metaphysical insight, complete aloof¬ 
ness would ensue. For, as we saw, ultimately, as far as true reality is 
concerned, it is quite impossible to enter into a real relation with other 
individuals, for the simple reason that separate selves or individuals 
do not really exist.* 

Friendliness , to some extent the equivalent of Christian ‘love’,f is 
a virtue, but not the highest of all. Wisdom alone can set us free. 
It is noteworthy that ‘friendliness’ is not one of the steps of the 
holy eightfold Path, does not figure among the seven ‘limbs of 
enlightenment’, and is not reckoned as one of the five cardinal virtues 

* Although friendliness takes beings as they are not, it is nevertheless useful 
( kuialamula ) as an antidote to hate. AK VIII 199. 

-J- This should really be called ‘charity*, and differs from other kinds of ‘love* 
in that it is directed to a quite unworldly spiritual essence, and is equally intense 
in respect of all. 


or six perfections. The Anguttaranikdya A lists eleven advantages of the 
practice of friendliness. Nirvana is not one of them. 5 We are also 
warned that the cultivation of‘friendliness* may lead to the strengthen¬ 
ing of its ‘near enemy’, which is worldly greed, and degenerate into 
passionate and sensuous love (; raga ), or an exclusive partial affection 
which makes distinctions and tries to find a privileged place for some 
rather than others. Although maitrl is sometimes carelessly trans¬ 
lated as ‘love’,* it is more properly ‘friendliness’, because derived 
from mitray ‘a friend’, and it is so called ‘because it is to be found in a 
friend, or is (the natural) behaviour towards one’. 6 The definition of 
friendliness has remained the same throughout Buddhist history, from 
the Nikayas to the Tantras. ‘Friendliness consists in bestowing 
benefits on others, is based on the ability to see their pleasant side, 
and results in the stilling of ill-will and malice.’ 7 

In estimating the spiritual value of friendliness, the decisive ques¬ 
tion is whether it can lead to true selflessness. The great Christian 
precept that ‘you should love your neighbour as yourself’ has its 
exact parallel in Buddhism. In the process of making friendliness ‘un¬ 
limited*, 8 one should think, ‘as I myself wish to be happy and have 
an aversion to suffering, as I wish to live and do not wish to die, so 
also do other beings wish for the same’, and one should desire for 
others exactly the same happiness one desires for oneself. 9 The 
canonical formula of ‘unlimited friendliness’ contains the statement 
that one should suffuse friendliness wholeheartedly and with all one’s 
self ( sabbattatdya ), and Buddhaghosa 10 interprets this as meaning 
that a man should ‘identify himself (attatdya) with all (sabiesu), be 
they inferior, middling or superior, be they friends, foes, or indifferent, 
etc.’, that he ‘should identify them all with his own self, without 
making the distinction that they are other beings’. 

Love for oneself is thus held to indicate the level to which the 
love for others should be raised, and to constitute the measure and 
pattern of our love for others. It follows, paradoxically, that, in order 
to love others one ought to love oneself also. The natural man is 

* Because of the bewildering variety of its meanings the word causes much 
confusion in translations from the Buddhist scriptures, for instance when used 
as an equivalent for anunaya , or for sneha (as E. M. Hare does at 
Sn 36), and ‘love* is thus made to appear as a vice. On reading in Suzuki*s trans¬ 
lation of Seng-t‘san*s poem that ‘Only when freed from hate and love, It reveals 
itself fully and without disguise*, we may feel tempted to draw far-reaching 
conclusions about the Buddhist rejection of ‘love*. When consulting Arthur 
Waley*s rendering of the same verse, we read ‘Do not like, do not dislike; all 
will then be clear* (BT 211), and we are no longer sure of our ground. 



often far from wishing well to himself. St Augustine seems to have 
thought that self-love is so natural to us that a special commandment 
about it was unnecessary. If he actually did so, he was inferior in 
psychological insight to his contemporary Buddhaghosa who deems 
it necessary, during the practice of meditation on mettd , that we 
should develop friendliness also towards ourselves, and fervently 
think, ‘May I be happy and free from 111 !’ ‘May I be free from hatred, 
oppression and any kind of disturbance, may I myself lead a happy 
lifeT People often hate themselves, and much of their hatred for 
others is a mere deflection or projection of self-hate. They may love, 
and even hug, their hates, and not at all wish to be rid of them. They 
may wish to die, because life is so disappointing, or because their 
destructive impulses are excessively strong, or because some kind of 
‘death instinct’ is at work in them. They may not dare to want happi¬ 
ness, because they suffer from a sense of guilt, and feel that they 
have not deserved to be happy, but that, on the contrary, punishment 
is due for what they did or thought in the past. If a neurotic is a 
person who is both discontented with himself and unable to have 
satisfactory relations with others, then he can be made to live at 
peace with others only by first learning to endure himself. We must 
therefore agree with Aristotle when he said that only the wise man 
can love himself, and he alone, just because he is wise. ‘Such friendship 
for oneself can exist only in the good man; for in him alone all parts of 
the soul, being in no way at variance, are well disposed towards one 
another. The bad man, on the other hand, being ever at strife with 
himself, can never be his own friend/ 11 And here we come to our first 
paradox: Self-love can be maintained only by becoming less intense 
and exclusive, more detached and impartial, a mere acceptance of the 
contents of one’s own self. For, the more possessive, the more ambi¬ 
valent it will also be, the more charged with latent hate. 

But if it is really our duty to love ourselves, since our ability to 
love others depends on it, what then happens to the demand that we 
should be indifferent to ourselves? This difficulty is not a serious 
one. On the lower stages of spiritual development self-love is one 
of the decisive motives for the love of others, and only on the very 
highest is it left behind. 

True self-interest should induce us to be friendly to others, because 
to do so is advantageous to ourselves. Among the rewards of friendli¬ 
ness we are promised 12 that we will be happy, die at ease, have no bad 
dreams, win a good rebirth, etc. The friendly man wishes other 
people to be happy, and that is clearly to his own advantage since it 



makes them so much more pleasant to live with. He impedes the 
anger that is rising in his throat by reflecting that a man’s enemies are 
his best friends, and deserve his gratitude. For they deprive him of 
the dangerous impediments of wealth, fame and worldly happiness, 
and give him an opportunity to exhibit the virtue of forbearance. 
They threaten that which is dear to him, without being really his own 
—because otherwise it could not be threatened. Hostile pressure thus 
strengthens the resolution to renounce these things, and so to become 
less vulnerable and more free. Friendliness is at first taught as an 
intelligent method of self-seeking, for the simple reason that spiritual 
virtues remain empty words unless effective motives are mobilized 
on their behalf, and self-interest is the only motive which the spiritu¬ 
ally undeveloped can really appreciate. 

On the other hand, both Buddhist and Christian tradition equally 
teach that in the man who is spiritually fully developed friendliness is 
quite selfless, and ‘seeketh not its own’. No Buddhist could find fault 
with Thomas a Kempis when he says: 13 ‘One who possesses the true 
and perfect charity does not seek himself in anything, but it is his 
unique desire that the glory of God should operate in all things. 
Oh, if you had a spark of that true charity, how vain all earthly things 
would instantly appear to you!’ All those who have thought out the 
implications of such self-extinction and have tried to realize it in 
themselves, have come to see how nearly impossible, how truly 
miraculous it is. It is not so much the result of dogmatic considera¬ 
tions, as the fruit of experience and observation, when the more 
thoughtful Christian theologians despair of the possibility of achieving 
selflessness without the intervention of some supernatural agency. 
On the highest levels the Christian conception of charity, or agape , 
does not essentially differ from that of the Buddhists. They are both 
at one in the belief that the inherent selfishness of human beings 
cannot be broken either by cultivating the emotions, or by doing 
good deeds, but only by contact with spiritual reality. In other words, 
we can never find ourselves through our relations with others, but 
only through contact with a supra-individual Reality. 

According to Buddhist tradition, concentration and wisdom are 
necessary to transmute ‘friendliness’ into ‘selfless love’. The alchemy of 
the dhyanas is said to cleanse friendliness of its exclusiveness, and to 
make it ‘unlimited’. Unable to show here in detail how this effect is 
produced, I must be content with pointing out that it is the close 
connection with the practice of trance which gives to Buddhist 
friendliness the detachment and aloofness which baffles so many 



observers. Love of a more hearty, though less spiritual, type is often 
nothing but an excuse to satisfy the social instincts, and to drown 
anxiety by merging with the herd. The fear of loneliness is the icy core 
of much that passes as ‘human warmth’. True love requires contact 
with the truth, and the truth must be found in solitude. The ability 
to bear solitude, and to spend long stretches of time alone by oneself in 
quiet meditation, is therefore one of the more elementary qualifica¬ 
tions for those who aspire towards selfless love. 

Likewise there are quite obvious links between wisdom and self¬ 
less love. Spiritual love is non-sensuous, and must therefore have an 
object which transcends the senses. In Christianity this is God, and 
in Wisdom-Buddhism the dharmas. The Christian doctrine is quite 
analogous to the Buddhist and may perhaps be described as follows: 
Spiritual love for people is entirely dependent on the love for God, 
and secondary to it. Since we are bidden to love all people equally, 
we can do so only by loving them in the one respect in which they 
are equal, and that is their relation to God, whose children they are. 
The love of God is therefore the necessary antecedent to the love of 
others in its more spiritual form. The love of the neighbour is only 
a special instance of the love of and for God. God alone is truly 
worthy of our love. The neighbour is not strictly loved for himself. 
In himself, he is indeed quite unworthy of being loved. ‘He who in a 
spiritual way loves his neighbour, what does he love in him but 
God? ,u We must love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and 
all the other things because they are made by Him, and because they 
are the means of returning to Him, as to the ultimate goal. But they 
must not be loved for themselves, and there must be no enjoyment 
of what they have to offer. The quality of our love for God, in its 
turn, will depend largely on our knowledge of Him, and will grow in 
proportion to our understanding. And it is wisdom that will give us a 
true idea of God. 

Similarly in Buddhism: Normally we live in a world of false 
appearances, where I myself seem to be surrounded by other persons. 
In actual truth I have no self, nor have they; all that exists is an 
incessant flow of impersonal dharmas. True, spiritual, selfless love 
therefore must operate on the plane of true reality, and, selfless 
within, must transcend also the false appearance of a self in others, 
and be directed towards that which is really there, i.e. the dharmas. 
Since wisdom is the ability to contemplate dharmas, selfless love is 
dependent on wisdom. 

Compassion and sympathetic joy obviously belong together. 



Compassion participates in the sufferings, sympathetic joy in the 
happiness of others. Compassion makes the heart tremble and quiver 
at the sight and thought of the sufferings of other beings. 15 It ‘consists 
in that, unable to bear the sufferings of others, one strives to lead them 
away from ill, and is based on seeing the helplessness of those over¬ 
come by suffering, and results in abstention from harming others’. 
We suffer with other people, and unable to endure their suffering, 
make efforts to make them more happy. Compassion is a virtue which 
uproots the wish to harm others. It makes people so sensitive to die 
sufferings of others and causes them to make these sufferings so 
much their own that they do not wish to further increase them. The 
compassionate feels that the harm done to others is harm done to 
himself. And that is naturally avoided. Left to itself, however, the 
virtue of compassion may easily degenerate into the vice of gloom. To 
contemplate so much pain and affliction as this world actually and 
manifestly contains is bound to depress the mind. It seems quite a 
hopeless task to remove this vast mass of suffering, and helpless 
despair threatens to paralyse the will to help. Once we start identifying 
ourselves with all the pain of this world, with all its frustrations, 
miseries, calamities and horrors, we are indeed threatened with 
irremediable melancholia. 

Nevertheless, compassion is placed before sympadietic joy as being 
so much easier to achieve. To the natural man the suffering of his 
fellow-creatures is not altogether repellent, and somehow seems to 
positively attract him. The popular newspapers would not devote 
so much space to calamities if their readers were less avid to read about 
earthquakes, wars, murders, traffic accidents, atrocities, and so on. 
Psychologically speaking, compassion is closely allied to cruelty— 
which can be defined as the pleasure derived from contemplating the 
suffering of others. The two are the reverse and obverse of the same 
medal. Both the compassionate and the cruel are sensitive to the 
suffering of others, and keen on watching it. The compassionate 
derive pain, the cruel pleasure from what they see. But the division 
between pleasure and pain is not at all clear and unambiguous; in 
masochistic pleasure the two are inextricably interwoven; and in 
addition we are endowed with so striking a capacity for self-deception 
that our true motives can rarely be ascertained with any degree of 
certainty. It is, as a matter of fact, possible for a man to be secretly 
drawn to the calamities of the world, and to derive, largely unknown to 
himself, a hidden satisfaction from gloating over them, which he 
genuinely believes to be actuated by pity. That is one of the reasons 



why Buddhism insists that the practice of friendliness should precede 
the development of compassion. For it is the function of friendliness to 
purify the heart of hatred and ill-will, both manifest and latent. 

But it must really be left to the practice of sympathetic joy to over¬ 
come the negative sides of compassion, i.e. despondency and cruelty. 
Sympathetic joy sees the prosperous condition of others, is glad about 
it, and shares their happiness. Logically speaking, one might expect 
that we should welcome the happiness of our fellow-men more than 
their misery. In fact, nothing is farther from our distinctly misan¬ 
thropic natural inclinations. Homo homini lupus. Language is one clue 
to our true feelings. Prof. D. W. Harding points out that ‘the Oxford 
English Dictionary shows that we have never managed to fix linguis¬ 
tically the concept of generous admiration for good fortune or 
achievement that goes beyond our own; any word used for this pur¬ 
pose seems at some point in its history to convey the sense of a 
grudge or ill-will against the superiority of others’.* 

In the deeper layers of their minds, people harbour a definite 
aversion to dwelling on the happiness of others. Envy and jealousy 
are strong, deep-seated, though rarely admitted, counterforces. All 
the time we jealously compare our lot with that of others, and grudge 
them the good fortune which eludes us. The very fact that we are 
concentrating, or are believed to be concentrating, on spiritual values 
may militate against feeling sympathy with the happiness of others. 
For happiness can be of two kinds, worldly or spiritual. To most 
people success means material prosperity. When they are elated by 
having made some money, having got a better job, or a new house, or 
because their children get on in the world, the spiritually minded are 
easily tempted to respond to this elation with a mixture of derision 
and pity. To those trained in die laws of the spiritual life it seems 
greatly foolish to be happy about things like that, and wisdom seems 
to prompt the reflection that this kind of prosperity cannot possibly 
last, is usually bought at the price of spiritual enslavement, and likely 
to lead to great sufferings in the future. To rejoice with the children 
of the world in what they value as successes requires a rare spiritual 

* Social Psychology and Individual Values , p. 150. Other languages are 
perhaps better placed in this respect. In war time propagandists did not tire to 
point out that the Germans have the word Schadenfreude for the happiness felt 
at the misfortune of others, and that this throws a rather sinister light on the 
German national character. In fairness one must, however, add that the Germans 
can also express the joy felt at the happiness of others in the simple word 
Mitfreude, which contrasts directly with Mitleid (for ‘compassion’), whereas 
we must do with ‘sympathetic joy’, a rather clumsy circumlocution. 



perfection. It demands a complete and total indifference to material 
things, because nothing else can deaden the spirit of rivalry. Only then 
can we ungrudgingly approve of the joy over them, just as a grown-up 
person rejoices with a baby who has just learnt to walk, or with the 
athletic prowess of a young boy, or with the beautiful sand castles 
built by children at the sea shore. All that lies quite outside the field in 
which he competes and in which his self-esteem is at stake. 

But it is, of course, not only material but also spiritual happiness 
which evokes sympathetic joy. The Mahayana in particular 16 regards 
it as a praiseworthy exercise to dwell lovingly in detail on the great 
achievements of spiritual heroes, be they Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or 
saints, and to reflect that such achievements are taking place even 
today and will continue to take place in the future. The world and its 
misery is a fact, and in compassion we suffer with it. The overcoming 
of the world and the conquest of the absolute happiness of the Beyond 
are also facts, and the practice of sympathetic joy enables us to share 
to some extent in this victory and its fruits. When we can be happy 
with the world in its brief intervals of worldly happiness, then this is 
a test by which we can know that we have overcome in our hearts the 
cruelty which may so easily masquerade as pity. When despondency 
over the seemingly endless misery and stupidity of this world threatens 
to paralyse us, the contemplation of the bliss which spiritual endeavour 
so obviously confers gives us some hope. In addition, sympathetic 
joy with the spiritual world-conquerors will also root out the self- 
pity which so often corrodes the pursuit of the spiritual life. The 
textbooks of Buddhist meditation point out 17 that it is one of the 
chief rewards of the practice of sympathetic joy that it removes 
the discontent engendered by the privations of a secluded life, and by 
the mental aridity which accompanies some of the more advanced 
spiritual states. A life of renunciation brings many inconveniences in 
its train, and can never shake off the threat of being once more 
engulfed by the world. Only at the very end of a long journey can 
we reap the reward of a happiness greater than the world can bestow. 
To sympathize with the happiness of the saints anticipates to some 
extent this final stage of bliss, and helps us to regain zest and courage 
to persevere. Compassion can be so wearying to the mind because 
suffering is easily felt as a contagious force. When witnessing disaster 
or deformity, we are inclined to feel that we might have to endure 
the same, that it is really only by a quite incomprehensible privilege 
that we should be spared the same kind of fate. In the background 
there is always the fear that, if luck or privilege should fail, the 



misfortune will jump over on us* The practice of sympathetic joy lifts 
us above these dreads, because we feel tangibly that we are indeed 
privileged, somehow belong to the community of the saints, and 
sense that the day is drawing near when the world can no longer 
touch us* 

In that they raise the yogin above the ordinary cares and con¬ 
cerns of social life, the higher levels of sympathetic joy prepare for 
the fourth stage of the process. The Sanskrit word for Impartiality is 
upeksha , from upa + iksh, which means literally ‘to overlook’ that 
which does not concern one. The term is applied to a great variety of 
situations. 18 In English the different meanings can be distinguished by 
separate terms, which do not, however, fit quite exactly because they 
have not been coined with an eye on these specifically Buddhistic 
categories and virtues. 

First of all it applies to neutral feelings^ which are neither pleasant nor 
unpleasant (cf. p. 107). Secondly it is an attitude of serene unconcern 
which takes place during the practice of concentration , on the third 
and fourth level of dhyana . This unconcern is a ‘sameness of thought* 
(cittasamata ) and a factor which causes thought to remain identical 
with itself, and not to lose its self-identity by turning to anything 
else ( anabhoga ). 19 In the third dhyana it is a zest ( priti ) undirected 
towards any object. Whatever object the yogin may perceive, he is not 
attracted and feels no gladness, is not repelled and feels no sadness; he 
just refuses to turn towards it ( nabhujad ) and remains mindful and 
in full possession of himself. 20 Thirdly it denotes the final stage of 
‘worldly* wisdom , just before the Path is reached, when evenmindedness 
towards all conditioned things is achieved (cf. p. 56). Fourthly, it 
is the equanimity of the Arhat who ‘never abandons his natural 
state of purity’ when presented with desirable or undesirable objects. 
Similar to this is the equanimity of a Buddha, which is often lauded 
in the Scriptures. 21 The equanimity of Buddhas and Arhats is also 
unaffected by the reception their teaching may receive, and they feel 
no joy when it is accepted, no displeasure when it is rejected, 22 but 
remain unmoved and fully mindful. The equanimity of the saints is 
fifthly contrasted* with the dull indifference of a foolish person, 23 
which is profane ( gekasita ) and unintelligent ( annana ) and not pre¬ 
ceded by intelligent reflection ( apratisamkhya ). For instance, not to be 
alive to the peril of all conditioned things, or to close one’s mind to 
the sufferings and joys of others, surely shows ‘indifference’, but far 

* As ‘connected with renunciation' vs. ‘connected with worldly life' at 
MN III 219. 



from indicating that one has risen above these things, the indifference 
is attributable to stupidity, or to a thick-skinned and self-centred 

And sixthly, as the fourth of the 'Stations of Brahma*, upekshd is 
an attitude of impartiality , which has living beings for its object, 
removes aversion ( patigha ) to them as well as the desire to win their 
approval ( anunaya ),* and has the advantage of permitting the con¬ 
tinuance of undisturbed quiet calm within oneself. 24 It is an antidote 
to both ill-will and to the 'sensuous greed which becomes attached 
to people as father, mother, son or relative by becoming specially 
fond of them*, 23 and is sometimes 26 identified with non-cupidity 
( alobha ). 

This impartiality results from two intellectual achievements: 

(1) One sees the equality in all beings, 27 who as 'beings* are all essen¬ 
tially the same, i.e. non-existent. 28 The four 'Unlimited* may be 
summed up in the form of brief formulas, 29 which state: 'May beings 
be happy!* 'How unhappy beings are!* ‘Rejoice with these beings!* 
and ‘Just beings!* 'Beings, just considered as beings and without 
making any distinctions among them, are the object of impartiality.’ 

(2) One ignores the effect which beings have on oneself, and con¬ 
siders the reason why they act as they act and endure what they 
endure. If everyone’s karma determines whether he is happy or 
unhappy, then he himself determines his own fate; whatever befalls 
him, he has brought it upon himself; only he himself can alter his fate. 
The insight into the workings of karma thus leads to an understanding 
that whatever is is so because it must be, that everyone must manage 
his own affairs, 30 and that no one can discharge him from this responsi¬ 
bility. In consequence the yogin becomes a disinterested onlooker of 
the social scene and does not busy himself with events over which he 
has no actual influence. 31 

In the graded training of social behaviour which we have surveyed 
in this chapter, the achievement of an impartial non-interference 
represents the highest possible pointf On reaching its perfection, the 
social attitude also seems to become distinctly a-social. For now we 
can understand why the four 'stations of Brahma* cannot lead to 
ultimate deliverance from the world. They are concerned with the 
social world and with living beings, who represent a deceptive, 

* anunaya is a difficult term. It means that someone is friendly and courteous 
to others, tries to please them and to comply with them so that they should be 
friendly to him. 

t Ueber alle Barmherzigkeit stelle ich die Abgeschiedenheit. M. Eckhart. 



diminished and alienated reality, and the final effect of the Brahma- 
viharas is to push them out of the way and to allow the yogin to 
peacefully withdraw from them. Deliverance depends on the ability 
to break out of this charmed circle in which non-existent individuals 
are constantly interfering with one another, and to penetrate to the 
dharmic reality which lies beyond them. The next chapter will try to 
make clear what the yogin finds when he gets there. 

9 * 



What others call ‘Buddhism’, the Buddhists themselves call ‘Dharma’. 
In its essentials the Dharma-theory is common to all schools, and 
provides the framework within which Buddhist wisdom operates. 
It was the merit of Th. Stcherbatsky 1 to have discerned that views 
on ‘Dharma’ are shared by all varieties of Buddhism, that they are 
the basis of all the more advanced forms of meditation and theo¬ 
rizing, and the starting-point of all later developments. Before him 
scholars had been so intent on making the Buddha appear as a moralist 
that the significance of the philosophical analysis of reality into its 
factors, or ‘dharmas’, was either overlooked or dismissed as a later 
scholastic elaboration. Stcherbatsky, however, believed that an inter¬ 
pretation of Buddhism in close dependence not only on the Indian 
commentaries, but on the continuous living tradition of Tibet, 
Mongolia, China and Japan is more likely to bring us nearer to the 
original doctrine of the Buddha than the arbitrary reconstructions of 
modem European scholars. 

In this very difficult chapter we will first briefly explain the seven 
most important meanings of the word ‘dharma’ (pp. 92-ti); then 
we consider in some detail ‘dharmas’ as ‘truly real events’, defined 
both negatively and positively (pp. 96-^7), survey the three steps 
by which these ‘dharmas’ are said to come into view (pp. 97—103) 
and also the ways in which they exclude the false notion of a ‘self’ 
(pp. 103 sq.). 

The Sanskrit word dharma is derived from the root dhr, ‘to uphold’, 
which is at the basis also of such words as thronos,jirmus,fretus. In its 
Buddhist usage it is ambiguous and multivalent (cf. p. 27). Of its 
manifold meanings 2 seven are philosophically important. 

1. In an ontological sense Dharma is 

1 a. a transcendental reality which is real in absolute truth and in 
the ultimate sense. 3 Nirvana is ‘the dharma which is the object of 
supreme knowledge, or the supreme dharma’, 4 and it is in Nirvana that 



someone takes refuge when he takes refuge in the Dharma . 5 Here 
Pharma* has a position similar to that which atman and brahman 
occupy in some Hindu systems. 

ib. Dharma is ‘the order of law of the universe, immanent, 
eternal, uncreated *. 6 ‘Whether Tathagatas do or do not arise (or 
appear), that state of things, that established order of dharma (or its 
enduring nature, dhammatthitita ), that fixed sequence of dharma (or its 
regulative principle, dhammaniyamata) is firmly established, i.e. that 
all compounded things (dharmas) are impermanent, ill, not-self .’ 7 So 
the Sthaviras. Other sources speak of ‘this true nature ( dharmata ) of 
dharmas, which is firmly established whether Tathagatas are produced 
or not produced, the established order of dharma(s), the fixed sequence 
of dharma(s), Suchness, Not-falseness, unaltered Suchness, the 
Reality-limit ’. 8 ‘The true nature of dharmas' is here conditioned co¬ 
production which operates quite irrespective of the appearance or 
non-appearance of the Tathagatas who alone are capable of discovering 
it. Another good example occurs in a verse of the Dhammapada : 9 
‘Never can hatred be appeased by hatred; it will be appeased only by 
non-hatred. This is an everlasting dharma ( eso dhammo sanantano , 
esha dharmah sandtanah), 

ic. ‘a truly real event’, things as seen when Dharma is taken as 
the norm. A dharmic fact, or the objective truth. This aspect of 
‘dharma’ is so difficult to understand that it will be explained later on 
(pp. 96 sq.). 

id. objective data whether dharmically true or untrue, mental 
objects or mental percepts, i.e. the objects or supports of mind which 
is reckoned as the sixth sense-organ. 

ie. characteristic, quality, property, attribute. This meaning also 
pertains to the use of dharma as an adjective (- dharma , -dharmin ), e.g. 
‘doomed to fade away (yaya-dharma) are all compounded things’, 
where - dharma can also be rendered as ‘subject to’, ‘following the 
law of’, ‘essentially’ (< eides ), ‘destined to be’, ‘being constituted*, 
‘having the inherent quality (as based on natural law or the rational 
constitution of the universe)’ (see ib). When he sees a corpse, a 
monk says to himself, on comparing his own body: ‘Also this body of 
mine is of the same nature ( evam-dhammo ), of the same kind, and 
it has not gone beyond this.’ 

2. As reflected in the conduct of life, dharma means the moral law, 
righteousness, virtue, right behaviour, duty and religious practice. 
The opposite a-dharma means ‘unrighteousness, injustice, wrong 
conduct, immorality’, and dharmika means ‘righteous, pious’, dharmena 



‘with justice, rightly, fitly, properly’. The ‘dharma’ in this sense is 
the whole of the religious life as governed by nos. i and 3, and it 
has five portions ( skandha ), i.e. morality, concentration, wisdom, 
deliverance and the vision and cognition of deliverance. 10 They 
constitute the ‘five-limbed Dharma-body, and indicate (sucyate) 
Nirvana’. 11 The frequent term dharmacarya refers to the ‘practice of 
the dharma’, which is the way to Nirvana (ia), or is so called also 
because it obstructs {vidharana) rebirth in the states of woe. 12 ‘The 
dharmacarin lives at ease in this world as well as in the world beyond.’ 13 
And occasionally 14 ‘dharma’ is used to denote the Path, which is also 
known as the ‘stream of Dharma’ ( dhammasota ), first reached when 
an aspirant becomes a ‘Streamwinner’, the lowest of the holy men. 

3. The dharmic facts of 1 and 2 as interpreted in the Buddha’s 
teaching. The word then means ‘doctrine*, ‘scripture*, ‘truth’ (cogni¬ 
tive, and not ontological as at ia), ‘sacred text’ or a ‘doctrinal text* 
(often as distinct from Vinaya). This is often called sad-dharma, the 
‘true’ or ‘good* Dharma, though even here some ambiguity creeps in, 
and the ‘true dharma’ is either teaching ( dgama , as no. 3) or practice 
( adhigama. , as no. 2). 15 The ‘Dharma-seat’ is the stone, mat, etc., on 
which a priest sits while preaching. The ‘preacher of Dharma’ is one 
who ‘opens the wisdom-eye of others, explains what is good and what 
is bad, and builds up the immaculate body of the Dharma’. 16 The word 
dharmadana, ‘gift of the Dharma’, is opposed to ‘material gifts’, and 
may therefore be rendered as ‘spiritual gift*. 

Frequently it is not at all easy to determine which one of these 
various meanings is intended in a given case. 17 When the Buddha 
said, ‘those who know the discourse on Dharma as like unto a raft 
should forsake dharmas, still more so no-dharmas’, the Sthaviras 
take the word ‘dharmas’ in its moral, the Mahayanists in its onto¬ 
logical sense. 18 Dharma-rdja can mean ‘king of the Doctrine’ (of the 
Buddha), or ‘legitimate, righteous king* (of the world-ruler). Here the 
context makes it easy to decide who is meant. On the other hand many 
technical terms concerning the more advanced teaching had been 
handed down from venerable antiquity, and the sects could not always 
agree on their true meaning. This applies to such terms as ‘Dharma- 
body*, 19 ‘Dharma-eye’, 20 the ‘analytical knowledge of dharma’, 21 the 
‘investigation (pravicaya ) into dharma(s)*, ‘the cognition of the 
stability of dharma(s)’ (< dharma-sthitijnana ), 22 and so on. And once 
the Mahayana had identified the causally interrelated dharmas with 
the one and only Dharma, the very distinction between ‘dharma’ and 
‘dharmas’ had to be abandoned. 



Often the difference in interpretation is more one of emphasis than 
of opinion. Generally speaking the Sthaviras stress the sober and 
matter-of fact meaning of the terms, whereas die Mahayanists tend to 
give them a more exalted, religious meaning. The term dharma-dhatu , 
‘the element of dharma(s)*, generally means for the Sthaviras the 
seventeenth of the eighteen elements (cf. p. 109), i.e. the objects 
of the mind-organ in so far as they are factors contributing to our 
mental processes.* But even they occasionally take the word in the 
sense of ‘dharmic truth*, as when it is said that the Tathagata is 
omniscient because he has entered into the dharmadhatu , 23 and on 
one occasion 24 it is said of disciples like Sariputra that ‘they know 
the truth as an element, in its basic form ( Urgestalt , Geiger, p. 69), and 
not merely its single manifestations’. Among the Mahasanghikas and 
in the Mahayana dharmadhatu quite regularly denotes the absolute 
Dharma (no. ia), which is a factor additional to all the contingent 
constituents of our experience, f ‘Dharma-element* becomes one of 
the synonyms of the Absolute (cf. p. 225), and its meaning is not 
epistemological but frankly religious, to such an extent that the term 
may be rendered as ‘the sphere of religion*. 25 Undefiled, and synony¬ 
mous with emancipation, it is the spiritual basis ( airaya ) which 
extends everywhere (, sarvatraga ), and supports Disciples, Pratyeka- 
buddhas and Bodhisattvas. 26 It is the vast expanse of die Dharma, 
which is ‘auspicious, pure and deathless*, and the sphere of the cogni¬ 
tion of the Tathagatas. Its significance seems to be not only spiritual, 
but also cosmic, as indicated by the cryptic phrase which speaks of the 
world ‘which has as its highest development the Dharma-element, 
and the space-element as its terminus*, 27 and also to some extent by the 
theory that a Bodhisattva on his eighth stage abandons his perishable 
body, and ‘acquires a body bom of the Dharma-element*. 28 

For the Sthaviras the word ‘dharma-ness* (dharmata) generally 
signifies that something is ‘normal* or ‘in the nature of things*. 29 In 
the Mahayana formula, ‘Ah the Dharma, ah the Dharma, ah the 
dharmahood of Dharma!* 30 the word ‘ah* (aho) means ‘ah, how 
wonderful, how miraculous!* 31 and ‘dharmahood* or ‘Dharma’s true 
nature’ becomes an object of religious awe. 32 Though even among 

* E.g. Vbh. 89 identifies with the dhammdyatana and DhS with the dhamma - 
rammana. SN II 144-5: through the dhammadhatu as efficient cause arises 
dhammasanfia, and therefrom dhammasankappa^ -chanda, -parilaha and pariyesana. 
See pp. 108 sq. 

f In the Sthavira view also the Absolute was included in the dharma-element, 
as being one of the objects of mind. 



the Sthaviras the ‘nature of things* was called ‘profound, and beyond 
the range of reasoning*. 33 Only holy men, who are above all fear, can 
possibly know it. 34 And at times the word has almost the meaning of 
‘perfection’, 35 or refers to the overriding power of the Buddha’i 
spiritual might. 36 All this gives us a tantalizing glimpse into the 
common substratum which preceded both Hlnayana and Mahayana. 

We now can return to the meaning no. ic. A ‘dharma*, in the sense 
of a ‘truly real event’, can be defined either (A) negatively, or (B) posi • 

A. Negatively, the dharma-theory differs from common sense in 
that it avoids three mistakes: (i) No ‘persons’ and ‘things’ are set up 
against events and processes, and no ill-defined ‘self’ is accorded the 
status of a fact in them. (2) Facts are not arranged into units in accord 
ance with ill-defined ideas of ‘belonging* and ‘owning*. (3) Th<i 
student of dharmas does not identify himself with some parts of the 
sensory and sense-linked world, and does not believe that wha: 
happens to them happens also to himself. As against these three error i 
dharmas represent the ontological law itself undisturbed by notions 
about a ‘self’, they are events in their own-being, as facts, truly seen 

B. Positively, the ontological status of the dharmas fulfils th<t 
following five requirements: (1) They ‘carry themselves,’ 37 i.e. they 
are not, as attributes or belongings, supported by, or attached to, any 
person, thing, or self. They are facts in their own right, and neither 
own, nor are they owned. (2) Each dharma ‘carries’ its own mark,* 31 
and has some particular feature which defines its essential nature iii 
its difference from others. Consciousness denotes the state of ‘being; 
aware’, ignorance ‘lack of cognition’, and so on. A ‘mark’ is some¬ 
thing which defines an event and is identical with it. An even : 
{dharma) itself is equivalent to its mark, a mark is equivalent to the 
dharma itself, and an event is nothing but its mark. (3) They ‘carry 
also the alleged persons and things, because they are ‘ultimates’,*’ 
simple and elementary constituents of emancipating cognition, and al 
persons and things can be understood as combinations of elementa 
dharmas. (4) They come very much nearer to what is really there 

* By contrast we have LS 116: ‘Like a log on the waves of the ocean, thi: 
Disciple, obsessed with particular marks, is tossed up and down along the strean 1 
of existence. Therefore, without the realization of the emptiness of dharmas, 
there can be no real emancipation.’ 

f They are not ‘ultimates* in the sense that abstract analysis would necessarily p 
lead to them. They are ‘ultimates* to the analysis bent on salvation by th > 
Buddhist method of meditation, and respecting, in faith, the conventions of tha t 
method (cf. p. 29). 



than the units of everyday experience, because they are shorn of all 
that the greed, aggressiveness and delusion of struggling and deceptive 
selves carry into the presentation of that experience. They are truly 
there, unfalsified by greed, etc. 39 (5) They are ‘carried’ by conditions 40 
and, though separate ( prthak ) in their existence, they nevertheless 
co-operate (. samsarga ). It is not easy for us to realize that at this point 
‘dharmas’ (in the sense of no. ic) are very closely related to ‘Dharma’ 
in the sense no. 2 (as ‘moral law’) because the causality is essentially 
a moral one. In this Order of the Dharma ‘the rational and the ethical 
elements are fused into one’. 41 

For an understanding of Buddhist philosophy it is vitally important 
that one should appreciate the difference between ‘dharmas’ on the 
one hand, and ‘common-sense things’ on the other. In agreement with 
the majority of philosophers, Buddhists regard common-sense things 
around them as a false appearance. The ‘dharmas’, i.e. the facts which 
are ultimately real, are normally covered from sight by ignorance, and 
nothing but the special virtue of wisdom (cf. p. 54) will enable us to 
penetrate to them. No rational approach can be content to accept 
the crude data of common sense as ultimate facts. The scientific 
propositions of modern science refer to abstract entities, or ‘con¬ 
structs’, such as atoms, molecules, electromagnetic fields, etc., and to 
their properties, tendencies and habitual behaviour. Common-sense 
data are thus retraced to, transformed into, or replaced by concepts 
which are both more intelligible and ‘fundamental’. Similarly the 
Buddhist science of salvation regards the world as composed of an 
unceasing flow of simple ultimates, called ‘dharmas’, which can be 
defined as (1) multiple, (2) momentary, (3) impersonal, (4) mutually 
conditioned* events. 

Wisdom requires first of all that we should get the dharmas, like 
the skandhas, etc., into view. This involves three steps: (I) an act of 
differentiation , the breaking up of the apparent unity of persons and 
thingsf into a conglomeration of elementary dharmic events; 42 
(II) an act of depersonalization , the elimination of all references to ‘I’, 
‘me’ or ‘mine’; 43 (III) an act of evaluation , in that description in terms 
of dharmas is felt to be superior to description in ordinary terms. 44 

* Strictly speaking, dharmas are either conditioned or unconditioned. The 
latter are Nirvana and, or, space (cf. pp. 159 sq.). In this section we confine 
our comments to the conditioned dharmas. 

f ‘The reality of a jar is the reality of a patch of colour (one thing), of a 
shape (another thing), of something hard (a third thing), of an image (a thing 
again), etc.; but there is absolutely no such real thing as their unity in a jar. The 
jar is imagination/ BL I 507. 



We must consider diese three steps one by one. It should, however, 
always be remembered that the ‘dharma-theory’ is essentially a 
technique of meditation, and that mental drill 41 and savoir faire con¬ 
tribute more to its understanding than mere theorizing can do. 

I. Differentiation applies to both persons and things. What 
appears as ‘one person* is analysed, allegedly without residue, into five 
impersonal skandhas, and any statement made about that ‘person* 
can be transposed into one about these five ‘groups*. For instance, ‘I 
am very happy today*, becomes: (i) there are changes in featuresand 
bearing, which express, as well as physiological changes which accom¬ 
pany, the state of happiness; (2) there are mentally pleasant feelings; 
(3) there are perceptions of those objects which are held responsible 
for the happiness, as well as of the internal state of happiness; (4) there 
are greed, zest, excitedness, and many other ‘impulses*; (5) there are 
acts of consciousness which accompany the feelings, perceptions and 
impulses, and which in their turn imply a number of factors found in 
all mental activity (cf. p. hi). The same analysis would apply to ‘I 
am quite furious’, except that the feelings are mentally unpleasant 
and in the fourth skandha ‘hate* will occupy a prominent place. These 
extremely elementary and simplified examples incidentally suggest 

* For readers who want to back up their faltering comprehension with some 
practice, I will give one very simple example of this ‘drill’. One may, for instance, 
observe one of the skandhas in combination with other dharmas. The skandha 
of feeling is' the easiest to do. The task is to watch feelings as they come up, and 
to determine each one as either (1) pleasant, (2) unpleasant, or (3) neutral. In 
the case of (1) and (2) one can furthermore distinguish physical and mental 
pleasure. No. 3 should be registered either where no particular feeling tone can 
be observed, or where the feeling seems to be an obscure and confused mixture 
of pleasure and pain, or gladness and sadness. It is helpful to count with a string 
of beads. When, say, fifty feelings have been noted, one may proceed to their 
proximate cause> which is some kind of sense-contact. A jet-plane overhead 
leads to: ‘there is an unpleasant feeling from ear-contact*, a lovely sweet to ‘there 
is a pleasant feeling from taste-contact*, the thought of a friend to ‘there is a 
pleasant feeling from mind-contact*. When this has been done, say, 100 times, the 
karmic effect of these feelings may be considered. For all these meditations greatly 
stress the karmic side as being practically more important than any other. 
Pleasant feelings strengthen our greed, tempting us to make ourselves at home 
in the world and to taste more and more sensuous enjoyment; unpleasant 
feelings will increase the proclivity to hate, providing or registering the frus¬ 
tration which leads to future aggressiveness; and neutral feelings are conducive 
to delusion or confusion. This therefore gives us another triad: ‘There is a 
pleasant feeling from x-contact, beware of greed!*, ‘There is an unpleasant 
feeling from x-contact, beware of hate!*, ‘There is a neutral feeling from x-con¬ 
tact, beware of delusion!* 



that the impersonal statements reproduce the personal descriptions not 
without a certain loss of what in them seemed important, intimate, 
personal and interesting. This is deliberately intended (cf. pp. 103 sq .). 

Attempts at differentiation meet with two obstacles, i.e. (1) the 
attachment to T, ‘mine*, etc., and (2) reification (or hypostasization), 
which is the tendency of natural man to superimpose on the concrete 
flux of events, conditions, activities and sense-data by abstraction a 
superstructure of relatively independent and more or less permanent 
‘things', which he endows with a variety of properties. Among 
European philosophers, Henri Bergson has amply demonstrated the 
extent to which ‘reification* falsifies, and has also convincingly shown 
that this falsification can be traced back to our desire to use events for 
our own purposes, instead of disinterestedly contemplating that which 
actually takes place. His works are a fine introduction to the Dharma- 
theory, except, of course, that he could replace the ‘thing-world' 
only by a vague ‘intuition* which no one has ever properly understood, 
and that the positive teaching about dharmas was hidden from him. 

A person can be said to have got ‘dharmas' into view, and to have 
grasped how they differ from ‘things’, if he is (1) able to observe 
their ‘rise and fall', and to watch how they ‘come, become, go’, and 
(2) if he can assent to a much-used formula 45 which states that ‘they 
do not come from anywhere and do not go to anywhere'. After some 
meditational practice this formula becomes perfectly self-evident, and 
to those who do not practise I cannot in a few words convey the 
impact which such practising has on the mind. Two difficulties stand 
here in the way of the ready acceptance of the ‘dharma-theory'. 

1. The first is mere lack of skill in applying it. To watch the rise 
and fall of objects, one must first decide from which angle to view 
them. Only then can we make sure when an ‘event’ actually started, 
for how long it abides, and when it terminates. A ‘cat' taken as a 
‘cat' began when it was bom, stops when it dies, and abides in between. 
Instead I may watch the cat as it frisks about in my front garden, 
and attend to it as a sight-object. The stages then will be: black cat 
comes within sight, stays within sight for a short while, moves out 
of sight. The trouble is that on the dharmic plane there are no ‘cats' 
and no ‘front gardens’, and the experience must therefore be re¬ 
formulated in dharmic terms before anything can be done at all. This is 
a matter of technique, and falls outside the scope of this book. 

2. The second difficulty is a widespread inability to distinguish 
between the concrete and the abstract, between the actual and the 
hypothetical, between ‘the' object and ‘this’ object just here and now. 



No object stands absolutely by itself, but of necessity an object 
corresponds to an act of perception, and the actual and concrete 
experience has both an objective and a subjective side. No single per¬ 
ception can be held for much longer than about a second (cf. p. 136). 
After that it is bound to be replaced by some other perception, 
although another perception of the ‘same’ object may well recur quite 
soon afterwards. Suppose I see a ‘candle’ at n hours 35 minutes 
25 seconds. Then the concrete experience in which an extremely 
short-lived sight-perception was combined with an extremely short¬ 
lived object has vanished again by 11 hours 35 minutes and 26 seconds. 
If at 11 hours 35 minutes and 28 seconds I attend to the ‘candle’ again, 
I may well recognize it as the same ‘candle’, but dharmically speaking 
the object is different if only because the act of perceiving is a new 
one. There is a tendency to believe that, because the second object 
‘candle’ is very similar to the first one, a permanent, abiding, con¬ 
tinuous ‘thing’ has persisted from one ‘exposure’ to the next. This 
‘thing’ is, however, merely inferred, and never actually ‘given’.* For 
practical purposes ‘candle’ no. 1 and ‘candle’ no. 2 may be the same, 
but not so their actual being. The difference between the two objects, 
brushed aside as irrelevant to practical adaptation, must be stressed 
where contact with actual reality is the aim. It is surprising that people 
who readily admit the successiveness in the acts of seeing should find it 
so hard to agree to the successiveness in that which is being seen. Not 
only does the perceiving change from second to second, but also the 
sight-object has changed some of its properties, is viewed from a 
slighdy different angle, in a slightly different light, with a slightly 
different background, etc. Nevertheless, the illusion of continuous 
permanence persistently clings to sight-objects. They are believed 
to go on even when no one looks at them, and also when it is too 
dark for them to be seen. The dharma-theory is not interested in 
theories about the ‘perceptible’, and concentrates on the actually 

May I conclude this argument with a slightly mundane and unyogic 
example. Feelings are much less liable to ‘reification’ than sight- 

* Likewise, to account for memory, people believe that a memory-image 
has, in the interval between the occurrence of an experience and its recall, been 
‘stored up', preferably in the ‘brain*. This familiar assumption is not quite as 
cogent as it may seem. One may sneeze on Monday at 2.30 and on Tuesday at 
3.30, and nevertheless no one would ask where the sneeze has been for twenty- 
five hours in the interval. In a memory it is not the perception, feeling, etc., 
which recurs. The act of remembering is a new, different act of consciousness, to 
which the old, remembered experience contributes as one condition. 



objects.* Suppose you have a brief glimpse of a pretty girl who walks 
along in the street while you are racing past her in a car. The result 
can be formulated as ‘a pleasant feeling from sight-contact*. This 
particular feeling, which is existentially quite different from all the 
similar feelings aroused by girls at any other time in the past or 
future, arises when the necessary conditions are present, i.e. the con¬ 
tact of sight-organ and sight-object.f In other words, before these 
conditions came together, this feeling did not come into being, though 
a similar one might have arisen some time ago and under similar 
circumstances another one very much like it will arise again. It dis¬ 
appears when the conditions have ceased. It may, of course, linger on, 
but then it is not a continuous process of pleasant feeling about the 
girl, but goes in waves, and all the time other notions interrupt it. 
Now it is said of this particular feeling which began when the girl 
was seen and stopped the very moment when attention, even briefly, 
turned to something else, that ‘it was not before it arose, and that it 
is no more when it has ceased*. This particular feeling from this particu¬ 
lar sight-contact did obviously not exist as such before it arose, or 
at least we cannot get at what it was like before it became. It did not 
come from anywhere. Some of its conditions perhaps existed before¬ 
hand, but not all. It results from the conditions, but ‘it comes from 
nowhere*, since it was not there before it was. Because it does not 
exist after its ‘fall*, it ‘does not go anywhere’, or at least we cannot 
say where it went to. All this is self-evident once it has been under¬ 
stood. A dharma arises when the full complement of its conditions is 
present. This full complement of conditions is not likely to stay to¬ 
gether for long, and the dharma soon disappears. And what sense does 
it give to ask where a headache has gone to? Change, in this system, 
is not a transformation of pre-existing material, but a succession of ever 
new dharmas, disparate in their being though linked by conditions. 

And yet, though as an existent entity a dharma is soon extinct, as 
a condition it persists. The thought of the girl in question may enter 
as a condition into future events, e.g. by facilitating interest in the 
subject on future occasions. As the Lord has said: ‘Actions (karmdni) 

* So are sounds. Successive sounds are rarely interpreted as recurrences of the 
same old sound, but as repetitions. When repeated, the sound may be practically 
the same, but it is taken as individually different, as another. 

f This, of course, oversimplifies matters. There are at least seven conditions: 
(i) this sight-object, (2) this sight-organ, (3) this sight-organ-consciousness, 
(4) the contact between (1), (2) and (3), (5), this mind-organ, (6) this mind- 
consciousness, (7) this mind-contact. And, of course, many others of a volitional 



persist, sometimes for aeons and aeons. They come to fruition at the 
appropriate time when the full complement of conditions is reached’ 46 
(cf. pp. 147 , 137 sq.). 

II. The resolute depersonalization of dharmas, though it may be 
consonant with the methods of modern scientific psychology, encoun¬ 
ters three kinds of difficulties, (1) linguistic, (2) emotional and 
(3) intellectual. 

1. Whenever an event is described, the word ‘self’ must never be 
used, nor any of the terms which imply it, such as T, ‘mine’, or ‘my’, 
or a ‘living being’, a ‘soul’, a ‘person’, a ‘personality’, an ‘individual’, 
a ‘man’, a ‘youth’, ‘one who does’, ‘one who knows’, ‘one who sees’. 47 
To English-speaking people the elimination of personal words must 
raise endless difficulties. In fact they must find it almost impossible to 
do this convincingly, though it may be worth their while to make 
the attempt for at least a few hours, if only to realize the extent to 
which the Buddha’s Dharma is opposed to the ways of the world. It 
is very hard to transform into impersonal propositions sentences with 
‘I am’ and ‘I have’ in them. To replace ‘I am a rotten gardener’ with 
‘this conglomeration leaves much to be desired as a gardener’, does not 
seem quite right, and sounds stilted, artificial and humourless. Or 
take, ‘my beard is turning grey’. To say ‘there are grey hairs in this 
beard’ leaves out the main point of the statement, which is that it is 
my beard which is getting grey (never mind other people’s beards!), 
and that it is I who object to growing old. Or take, ‘I smoke again a 
cigarette before breakfast’. If T is replaced by ‘this bundle of 
skandhas’, the main point is lost, which is the opposition between my 
ego and my ego-ideal. Difficulties of this kind would not, of course, be 
equally acute in all languages. In Japanese, for instance, impersonal 
phrases come very much easier.* 

* To quote from the letter of a Japanological friend: ‘Personal pronouns, 
“I, you, he”, etc., are not used except when one’s meaning would be hopelessly 
ambiguous without them, and except when one wants to put particular stress 
on them. So often you find verbs floating apparendy unanchored in a sentence— 
though usually it is obvious from the context who is indicated. Phrases like “I 
think I’ll go today”, or “he said he would come tomorrow” certainly would not 
need “I” and “he” translated. Usually one doesn’t bother to indicate singular or 
plural in nouns too—so that hito could be either “man” or “men”.*—It is an 
interesting question whether this is due to the long hold which Buddhist modes of 
thinking and feeling have had on those who speak Japanese. Probably not, 
because in the early literature also personal pronouns seem to be almost as little 
used. It is worth comparing *1 think therefore I am’ with ‘Cogito ergo sum’. 
Where the * 1 ’ is not a separate element in linguistic expression, there is litde 
inclination to find out what it actually is. 



2. The prolonged contemplation of dharmas demands great 
instinctual sacrifices. Unless the five cardinal virtues to some extent 
regenerate our personality, we have not the strength to withdraw for 
any length of time from the ordinary perspective. Normally things 
interest us for what they mean to us personally; here we are bidden 
to attend to what they are in themselves. Attention to dharmas forces 
us to periodically withdraw from the habit of reacting to things with 
greed, hate and delusion. Many years ago I tried to meditate on these 
lines, and soon began to understand why the ‘investigation of dharmas' 
is the prerogative of monks. Among other things my ability to cope 
with my social environment was almost completely paralysed. To the 
claims which this environment made upon me I reacted by feeling 
peevish, sad, left out and utterly lacking in ‘surgency’. Such are the 
trials of the beginner. The dharma-theory is bound to cause consider¬ 
able emotional difficulties to anyone who is not quite dispassionate, 
because it deprives objects of all basis for sensory gratification, fear, 
love, hope and tribal sentiments, and because it is very hard to actually 
feel that it makes no difference whether this outside heap of skandhas 
is a boy, girl, little girl, grown girl, old woman, old man, Smith, Jones 
or Green. William James seems to have had a kindred experience: 
‘Conceive yourself, if possible, suddenly stripped of all the emotion 
with which your world now inspires you, and try to imagine it as it 
exists , purely by itself, without your favourable or unfavourable, 
hopeful or apprehensive comment. It will be almost impossible for 
you to realize such a condition of negativity and deadness. No one 
portion of the universe would then have its importance beyond 
another; and the whole collection of its things and series of its events 
would be without significance, character, expression, or perspective. 
Whatever of value, interest or meaning our respective worlds may 
appear endued with are thus pure gifts of the spectator’s mind.’ 

3. As the supreme antidote to the belief in a ‘self’, the dharma- 
theory must try to account for the course of events without any 
reference to a ‘self’, and must explain what actually happens on the 
assumption that the ‘self’ is not an active or actual factor. Of the five 
functions of the alleged ‘self’, two are rejected as fictitious, and the 
other three accounted for by other factors. 

1. The ‘self’ is that which appropriates and owns. This function is 
simply denied. ‘Owning’ and ‘belonging’ are dismissed as categories 
invented by people swayed by craving and ignorance, who superim¬ 
pose their own imaginations on the real facts as they exist. The dharmic 
world knows no difference between a ‘thing’ on the one side and its 



‘attributes’ on the other. Each dharma has only one attribute, and is 
identical with it. 

2. The ‘self’ is that permanent factor within the concrete per¬ 
sonality which somehow unites (and maintains) its successive activi¬ 
ties.* * * § This function is also denied. For (i) there is nowhere a permanent 
factor, (2) actual experience never reveals this kind of a ‘self’ as a 
separate entityf and (3) in the absence of identifiable properties this 
‘self’ is a mere word. 

3. The ‘self’ is that which acts and initiates . In fact there is action 
(karma), but no agent (kdraka). Our responsible actions are not the 
work of a ‘self’, but of the constituents of the fourth skandha. In 
relation to the ‘I* they are all equally involuntary and impersonal, $ and 
the impulses behind them are regarded as ‘alien’, ‘foreign’ and ‘unruly’ 
because control over them is very imperfect and they break up just 
when T do not want to, at their own time and not ‘mine’, ignoring 
‘my’ convenience altogether. 

4. The ‘self’ is the subject which ‘knows or sees’. In fact there is 
knowing but no knower; there is consciousness, but no one who is 
conscious. It would be unwise to regard thoughts as free creations of a 
thinking self, or to assume that they proceed from a ‘self’ or a ‘soul’ 
which would have the intrinsic nature of producing them. ‘Mind- 
element* and ‘mind-consciousness-element’ (cf. pp. 111 sq.) are made 
to do the work of the ‘thinking self’.§ A multiplicity of impersonal 
agents is considered less pernicious and delusive than an apparently 
unified agent on whom unthinking speech fathers all the ‘deeds’ of an 

5. The ‘self’ is that which distinguishes one person from another. 
So many things seem private and personal to me, especially my 
memories and my karma, that this side of the idea of a ‘self’ had to be 
acknowledged to some extent by (a) ascribing some validity to the 
distinction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ (adhyatmika, ajjhatt(ik)a in 

* Kant, Critique B 134: ‘only through that I can comprehend the manifold 
(of my ideas) in one consciousness, I call them all my ideas; for otherwise I would 
have a self as multicoloured and variegated as the ideas of which I am conscious’. 

f This has also been pointed out by Hume in a famous passage. But cf. p. 208. 

$ This does not mean that the Buddhists take sides in the controversy about 
the pseudo-problem of the ‘freedom of the will*. When stated popularly, it 
concerns the question whether *1 can do what I want to do*, or whether ‘I can 
want what I want*. As trying to determine what the T can do as against outside 
forces, the whole problem is meaningless for Buddhists. 

§ The actual working out of this scheme is unbelievably complLated and I 
must refer the reader to the surviving Abhidharma texts. 



Pali; bdhya ), and by {b) recognizing the existence of separate lines of 
continuity ( santana ). 

(a) ‘Things are “inward”, “of self”, or “one's own” when, on con¬ 
sidering their relation to a “self”, one intends to convey that “we are 
going to take as (belonging to) ourselves things which thus pro¬ 
ceed”. H8 The division of ‘inward' and ‘outward’ is therefore pre¬ 
sented not as an ultimate fact, but as a provisional meditational 
device. In the Abhidharma, in connection with the reviewing of 
dharmas, ‘dharmas proceeding in one's own continuity, and pertaining 
to each person are called “personal” (or “of self”)'.* So also the 
Vibhdska : 49 ‘inward’ and ‘outward* are distinguished from the point 
of view of the series, or continuity. Those which are in the person 
himself ( sva-atmabhava ) are ‘personal’; those which are in others, or 
unintegrated with any living being, are ‘external’. The Abhi- 
dharmako&a 50 also states that ‘form is internal when it forms part of 
the series known as “my self” *. 51 It also raises the pertinent question 
how, when there is no ‘self’ or ‘person’, one can speak of ‘personal* 
elements. Vasubandhu answers that it is really ‘thought’ which people 
mistake for their ‘self*, and therefore ‘thought’ is metaphorically called 
atman.f The sense-organs and the six kinds of consciousness are quite 
near to the thought to which the name of ‘self’ is given; they are, in 
fact, its basis; that is why, as distinct from the objects of conscious¬ 
ness, they can be called ‘personal’ or ‘internal*. 

(b) To questions about the factors responsible for individualizing 
thought no clear answer is ever given. The word ‘continuity’ is 
proffered as a solution to all such problems. 52 The ‘continuity’ is 
defined as the activities, past, present and future, which, in mutual 
causal interrelation, constitute a continuous and uninterrupted series. 
It is a stream of consciousness which remains identical with itself in 
spite of the perpetual change of its elements. While ultimately, probably 
due to ignorance, it is nevertheless treated as a (provisional?) fact in 
its own right (cf. pp. 132 sq.). 

* This is the Abhidharma meaning. In other contexts adhyatma may mean: 
(2) ‘subjective*, as in ‘the six subjective sense-fields*; (3) ‘range* (sphere, gocara ) 
as in ‘inwardly rapt and concentrated*; (4) domain (vzsaya), as in ‘This is the 
dwelling to which the Tathagata has fully awoken, i.e. that he dwells unattentive 
to all signs, attaining the inner Void*, ‘For the attainment of fruition by the 
Buddhas is called their “domain** \ The whole subject deserves further investi¬ 

f This becomes obvious when these verses from the Scriptures are com¬ 
pared, i.e. ‘By having well tamed his self, the sage wins heaven*, and ‘It is good 
to tame thought; a well-tamed thought brings happiness*. 




III. In conclusion we may state briefly in what sense the dharma- 
theory is held to be superior to the common-sense view, (i) It is more 
rational in that it takes account only of intelligible entities which 
have been carefully defined. (2) It is more true to what is really 
there, 53 because impersonal statements are scientifically more accurate 
in that they have discarded a number of obvious fictions, like the 
‘self’, etc. (3) It is spiritually more salutary because a description of 
experiences which assigns them their place in the scheme of dharmas 
is more conducive to salvation than their description in everyday 
terms. For the latter clearly disturbs inner calm and clouds the mirror 
of original wisdom. 



Three classifications of dharmas are common to all Buddhist schools, 
i.e. the five skandhas, the twelve sense-fields, and the eighteen 

i. The skandhas (‘heaps* or ‘groups*) are the five constituents of 
the personality as it appears. On analysis, all the facts of experience, 
of ourselves and of objects in relation to us, can be stated in terms 
of the skandhas. The purpose of the analysis is to do away with the 
nebulous word ‘I*. The skandhas ‘define the limits of the basis of 
grasping after a self, and what belongs to a self*. 1 They include any¬ 
thing and everything we might grasp at, or seize, as our self, as 
belonging to it, as concerning it. They are taught to save, by an 
appeal to reason, those who have fallen into a state in which they 
grasp after a ‘self*. 

What appears to our untrained vision and ignorant conception as 
a seemingly unified being or thing, as one apparently solid lump 
( ghana ), is broken up into five heaps {rasi ) 2 or clusters, a mere con¬ 
glomeration of pieces plus a label, a mass made up of five diverse 
constituents. As the stars in a constellation do not really belong 
together, but it is we who have arranged them into an arbitrary unit, 
so also our ‘personality* is a mere conventional grouping of disparate 
elements, all of which belong to one of the five groups, known as the 

The first four skandhas present no difficulties, and there is no 
doubt on what is intended, (i) Form, rupa, is the material or physical 
side of things; it is that which remains of persons and things after the 
subtraction of their moral and mental qualities. (2) Feelings, 3 vedana , 
are pleasant (= what one wants to continue), unpleasant (= what 
one wants to cease) and neutral. 4 (3) Perceptions, samjnd , are six, 
corresponding to the six sense-organs. (4) Impulses, samskara (or 
‘coefficients*), are all active dispositions, tendencies, impulses, voli¬ 
tions, strivings, emotions, etc., whether ‘conscious* or repressed, 



though always linked with consciousness in the Buddhist sense.* 
(5) Consciousness (vijnana) is the most important and elusive of the 
skandhas. It is the most important because the other four are said to 
‘depend on* it. In the formula of conditioned co-production, con¬ 
sciousness precedes and conditions ‘name and form’, which is an 
archaic term for the psycho-physical organism, and in the Abhi- 
dharma analysis the other three mental skandhas are held to be deter¬ 
mined by consciousness.! 

2. The twelve sense-fields ( ayatana ) are (i) eye, (2) sight-objects; 
(3) ear, (4) sounds; (5) nose, (6) smells; (7) tongue, (8) tastes; 
(9) body, (10) touchables;! (11) mind and (12) mind-objects. The ety¬ 
mology of the word ayatana seems to be extremely doubtful, 5 but its 
Buddhist usage is made quite clear by its being explained as aya- 
dvaraf literally ‘the door of coming into existence', ‘the door of 
arrival', dya being the ‘rise* which precedes vyaya, the ‘fall*. Perhaps 
‘source’ would be a tolerable equivalent, since ‘door’ has the meaning 
of ‘cause' or ‘means’. 

As the meditation on the skandhas sets out to demolish the belief 
in a ‘self', so meditation on the sense-fields is concerned with the 
origin of mental dharmas, of ‘thought and its concomitants’, 7 and 
views them as happening because of the collocation or conjunction of 
sense-organs and sense-objects. The sense-fields are the reason 
( kdrana ) why mental events originate or take place, and are their 
‘birthplace, as the Deccan is the locality where cattle are bom'. 8 It 
is wrong for me to regard ‘my’ thoughts as free creations of ‘my’ self, 
or ‘consciousness’. Manifestly they are in the bondage of organ and 
object, which must be in contact for any act of consciousness to arise, 
and both of which are alien to me, for I cannot claim to have made 
either my biological constitution, or the objects of my thought. Both 
are given and imposed upon me. 

* It seems reasonable to postulate some degree of awareness in unconscious 
mental processes. In sleep, trance, anaesthesia, repression and hysterical disso¬ 
ciation a ‘subsidiary self* continues to function, and individual consciousness 
is therefore never quite absent. About the Buddhist ‘subconscious* see p. 132. 

f Consciousness is the ‘support* (nissaya) of the other three mental skandhas, 
and has a predominant influence ( adhipau ) over them. It may be condition in 
19 ways; 1, 10,13,17, 18 being inapplicable (cf. pp. 150 sq). 

! This term is not confined to the objects of what is usually called the ‘sense 
of touch*. Speaking in terms of modern psychology, it comprises also tempera¬ 
tures, physical pain (as a sensation), kinesthetic objects, balance and un¬ 
balance, and somatic objects (i.e. sensory information about conditions in the 
inside of our bodies). 



3. The eighteen elements ( dhatii ) are the six sense-organs, the six 
sense-objects, and the corresponding six sense-consciousnesses. The 
word dhatUy from dha, ‘to place’, is capable of many meanings. 9 The 
most important are ‘element* or ‘cause* ( [hetu ), and ‘sphere* or ‘plane*. 
In this context it seems to mean ‘constituent* or ‘factor*. Meditation on 
the eighteen elements has the purpose of ‘bringing home’ by a simple 
and easy method the truth of what in Europe is known as ‘pheno¬ 
menalism*, at the same time using this philosophical theorem as the 
starting-point for a characteristically Buddhistic conclusion. 

Suppose you see an orange in front of you. In terms of the ‘elements* 
this experience presupposes at least three factors—a sight-object, the 
sensitivity of a sight-organ, and an act of sight-consciousness. The 
‘orange* as a datum of experience, as the sight-object which is seen, 
should not be mistaken for the objective fact ‘orange*, as it is ‘out 
there*, for the simple reason that the objective fact, when presented 
to the mind, is modified by two additional factors, having undergone 
the effect of the organ and the act of consciousness.* No one can 
possibly know what really goes on if the contribution of the other 
two elements is subtracted. No one can get at the object as it is by 
itself, but only at the ‘orange* as modified and falsified by subjective 
processes. To those whose minds are intent on reality itself, this dis¬ 
covery cannot easily be neglected. 

So far the consideration of the elements has done no more than 
confirm the ‘phenomenalism* which also played a decisive part in 
European philosophy, from the days of Protagoras onward. The 
Buddhists, however, do not stop at this point, but further ask them¬ 
selves: Why, if the total datum consists of three equally essential 
factors, do we almost invariably turn to the first, i.e. to the object, 
to such an extent that the awareness of the other two factors is almost 
completely obliterated? The answer is that the average worldling 
has got into the habit of thinking that his happiness depends on 
manipulating objects. Buddhism believes him to be wrong, and expects 
better results from focusing attention on the subjective factors which 

* In actual fact, of course, many more ‘elements’ are involved on the sub¬ 
jective side, and condition the presentation of the orange. For this orange which 
we see before us is more than a bare sight-object (i.e. a blur of orange colour 
plus a roundish shape). It has a distinct smell, its taste can well be anticipated, 
and it has a certain consistency (difficult to define, but ‘less hard than a golf 
ball’). Mind-element and mind-consciousness-element also play their parts in 
that (1) they combine the various sense-data into one ‘thing’, and (2) in that 
they attach to it the conventional label ‘orange’ which is not ‘given’ to any of the 
five physical senses. 



are usually ignored. On analysis, the subjective components have an 
overwhelming influence in shaping the appearance of an object, 
which, as a ‘thing in itself’, is quite inaccessible. Likewise the regula¬ 
tion of these subjective factors promises greater rewards than the 
manipulation of objects. We are constantly reminded that it does not 
matter what the world does to us and that everything depends on how 
we react to its challenge. To reform the outside world is regarded as 
a waste of time. Once we have reformed our own minds, nothing can 
harm us any longer. 

Man’s inwardness is denoted by the terms ‘consciousness’ (the 
fifth skandha), ‘mind* (the eleventh sense-field and twelfth element), 
and ‘mind-consciousness’ (the eighteenth element). Limitations of both 
space and knowledge prevent me from doing full justice to this side 
of Buddhist thinking, and I will say no more than is absolutely 
necessary for the understanding of the later developments described 
in parts II and III of this book. First we must understand how ‘con¬ 
sciousness’, taken as a ‘dharma’, is related to the ‘self’, secondly 
define the three basic meanings of the word ‘consciousness*, and 
thirdly survey the vital role which consciousness plays in the process 
of liberation from the world. 

I. ‘Consciousness’, as we saw (p. 105), is held to account for one 
of the functions often ascribed to a ‘self*. There are, we are told, no 
‘subjects’, but there are acts of objectifying, of awareness, of knowing. 
In using the word ‘consciousness’, Buddhists try to speak in an 
impersonal manner of the fact that all my mental experiences happen 
to ‘me’, are known to ‘me’, are discerned by ‘me’. In all references 
to ‘consciousness’ the ‘I* is all the time in the background, though it 
must never be mentioned. ‘Consciousness’ is the ‘soul’ or the ‘self’,* 
since it is the skandhic component which, more than any other, 
suggests the appearance of individuality. Great care is taken to 
desubstantialize it: (a) It is not a thing, but a successive series of 
acts; ‘mind, by day and night, is ever arising as one thing, ceasing as 
another’ ; l 0 (b) it is not a personal possession or possessor, but the result 
of a lawfully conditioned course of impersonal events. 

II. In different contexts the word ‘consciousness’ may mean 
(1) pure awareness, (2) a thought, (3) mind. 

1. It is easy to define ‘consciousness* as ‘pure awareness’, or dis¬ 
crimination (the vi- has the force of £s\ but almost impossible to 
actually experience it in its purity. This is partly due to the extreme 

* In modem psychology also the term ‘consciousness* came into use when 
the concept of a ‘soul*, as a ‘substantial form*, lost ground. 



difficulty of attending to an act of awareness without at the same 
time paying some attention also to its object, in other words to our 
deep-seated unwillingness to withdraw from everything besides the 
pure act of being aware. In addition, ‘consciousness* is so elusive 
because, as the ultimate subject of all mental activities, it cannot 
be made into an object of investigation without losing its specific 
character. Once objectified or perceived the subject ceases to be seen 
as what it is. When conscious of itself, the mind splits into subject 
and object. The perceived subject is then no longer the perceiving 
subject, and I can no more hope to get hold of my consciousness by 
introspection, than I can catch my own shadow. 

Consciousness is just mental activity considered more or less 
abstractly; it is the subject in action, viewed more or less by itself. By 
contrast the three other mental skandhas are concretely determined 
by specific activities or objects. ‘Consciousness* in this sense is identi¬ 
fied with ‘thought* (< citta ), and the three other mental skandhas are 
called ‘mentals’ ( caitasika ), or mental concomitants, of which it is 
said that they are consecutive to thought, associated or conjoined with 
it, and that they have sprung from thought, have come into being 
together with it. In perception the object dominates, in consciousness 
the subject; in perception ( sam-jna , ‘together-knowing’) one is aware 
of this or that, consciousness is the awareness itself apart from 
( yi-jhana ) the adverting to the object; perception gives a detailed 
awareness of attributes, consciousness a general awareness of there 
being an object. 

2. In its concrete being, and not in abstraction, an act of con¬ 
sciousness is a thought {citta). Here the term is used not for the 
thinking alone, but for the thinking as related to an object. 11 A con¬ 
crete act of awareness has always two immediate antecedents (organ 
and object) which so greatly determine its character that ‘conscious¬ 
ness* falls into six kinds, i.e. eye- or sight-consciousness, etc., to mind- 
consciousness. A thought often has karmic consequences, and invari¬ 
ably contains a number of constituents. According to theTheravadins, 
in addition to feeling and perception five factors are found in all 
mental activity, i.e. contacting, will, mental life, concentration and 
attention.* Through ‘contact’ an outward process becomes, as it were, 
a part of the mind, an inward event which sets off mental processes. 

* The Sarvastivadins in their turn assume that there are ten general caitasika 
d/iarma present in all thought, i.e. (i) feeling, (2) perception, (3) volition, 
(4) contact, (5) urge ( chanda ), (6) intelligence (mafz), (7) memory, (8) attention, 
(9) determination, and (10) concentration. 



Unless the six inner sense-fields had created a sphere of inward¬ 
ness against a region of outwardness, no contact could take place. 
‘Will' means that something is done about this newcomer to the 
mind. One gets busy about it and purposive action takes place. 
Through ‘mental life* one is able to keep on doing something about it, 
the stream of thought being continually renewed. ‘Concentration' 
furnishes the thought with (a) the oneness it requires—singleness of j 
object and unification of mind; (b) exclusiveness, by selective attention 
with a view to sustained mental effort; (c) corresponding withdrawal 
from other objects. And finally ‘attention' responds to variation (in the 
stimulus) and introduces alteration (into the mental attitude) (cf. 

p. 188). 

3. Frequently ‘consciousness' is taken to mean ‘mind’ ( [manas ). In] 
that case we may speak of ‘intellection', and the ‘dharmas' which] 
correspond to it may be called ‘objects of ideation'. In intellection, 
which is the sixth sense-organ, the self-activity of the mind is more 
pronounced than in the five physical sense-organs. There it gives 
most of itself (in the way of the construction of data), and takes least 
from the outside (by way of the reception of data). Four functions 
have been attributed to ‘mind'. (1) It is a special receptor-organ, 
sensitive to five classes of mind-objects, i.e. feelings, perceptions ancj 
impulses (which it perceives as a kind of ‘inner sense'), mind-givenl 
invisible, subtle form (cf. II 4, 2) and to some extent Nirvana (cf, 
p. 57). (2) Mind organizes the data of the other senses, unifies 
them and turns them into perceptions of things and persons, i.e. into 
what we may call thought-objects. (3) As ‘representative intellection' 
it exercises the functions of reasoning, judgment, memory, planning 
and imagining. (4) It is the mind which distinguishes, with regard to 
all objects, between what belongs to the self and what belongs outside, 
and it is therefore mainly responsible for acts of ‘I-making' (aham ■ 
kdra ). 

Of all the sense-organs, ‘mind' is the one most decisive for our 
welfare, in that its activities alone can be karmically wholesome and 
unwholesome. ‘It is due to the thought behind it that a physical c r 
vocal act is wholesome or unwholesome.' 12 In a verse which w<s 
considered sufficiently important to be placed at the beginning of tl e 
DhammapaJa all dharmas are said to be dominated, governed arm 
created by mind. 13 ‘If a man speaks or acts with a corrupted mind, the n 
suffering follows him, as the wheel of the wagon follows the hoofs of 
the bullock. But if he speaks and acts with a pure mind, then ea< e 
follows him, just as his shadow that is always with him.' In oth *r 



words, all that we are, both physically and mentally, has been shaped 
by what we have thought. The world of ‘hard facts’ has not been 
brutishly imposed upon us, but everyone has, by what he has thought 
in the past, chosen his material environment and created his own 
character, capacities and dispositions. Mind-training alone can there¬ 
fore improve our circumstances, inward or outward. This doctrine is 
of the essence of Buddhism, though it must sound strange to modem 

III. It is an axiom of all introspective and mystical philosophy that 
the Truth dwells in the most inward inwardness of man.* Conscious¬ 
ness, or thought, is that part of ourselves where we are most of all 
ourselves. It is that in man where he can most easily think that he is 
himself, alone himself by himself. Pure consciousness, when reached 
not by way of intellectual abstraction, but by realizing the inmost 
core of one’s self, would therefore be the same as pure and simple 
‘spirit’, by itself in permanent peace. There has been some tendency 
among Buddhists to draw this conclusion, and the isolation of con¬ 
sciousness has been regarded as one method of winning Nirvana. 
Though paradoxically the pure thought, once it has come to itself, 
turns out to be essentially no-thought. 

All the formless trances are ways of overcoming and discarding 
the object, the dependence on it, the being supported by it. The 
second attends exclusively to an attenuated consciousness which has 
nothing but empty space for its object, and which is very calm 
and peaceful, almost free from disturbance or the threat of disturb¬ 
ance, almost undefiled and pure. As consciousness, by withdrawal 
from what is not itself, comes more and more to be by itself, it 
becomes weaker and weaker. ‘Taking no delight in feelings from 
within or from without, he courses mindfully, and puts a stop 
to consciousness.’ 14 (cf. p. 66.) In the trance of ‘neither perception 
nor non-perception’ consciousness approaches its extinction, and there 
‘thought is neither thought nor non-thought’. 15 

Beyond that there is the ‘attainment of cessation' ( nirodhasamapatti ), 

* ‘There appear to be two main distinguishable types of mystical experience, 
both of which may be found in all the higher cultures. One may be called extro- 
vertive mystical experience, the other introvertive mystical experience. Both are 
apprehensions of the One, but they reach it in different ways. The extrovertive 
way looks outward, and through the physical senses into the external world 
and finds the One there. The introvertive way turns inward, and finds the One at 
the bottom of the self, at the bottom of the human personality. The latter far 
outweighs the former in importance both in the history of mysticism and in the 
history of human thought generally.' Stace, p. 15. 



also known as the ‘cessation of perception and feeling*. Buddha- 
ghosa 16 defines it as ‘the non-proceeding of all dharmas pertaining 
to thought and its concomitants, owing to their progressive cessa¬ 
tion*. It seems desirable to those who are tired of coping continually 
with conditioned things which soon break up, and who resolve to 
be at ease in this very life by being without thought ( a-cittaka ), and 
reaching temporarily, say for seven days, a cessation which is equiva¬ 
lent to Nirvana. 17 The reason why the Yogin is without thought is 
that his efforts are directed to cessation, 18 and that fact marks his 
thoughtlessness off from mundane empty-headedness. On emerging 
from his trance, he is further confirmed in his inclination towards 
detachment and permanent Nirvana. 19 And so nearly transcendental 
is the attainment of cessation that it cannot be called either conditioned 
or unconditioned, worldly or supramundane, ‘because it has no 
[definite] being of its own* ( sabhavato natthitaya ). 20 This is the mys¬ 
terious trance, marked by the absence of perception and thought, 
which is close to the ultimate goal, although its place on the Path is 
rather uncertain. 21 It is very similar to Nirvana, and a Buddha obtains 
it at the moment of winning Buddhahood. 22 ‘On emerging from it, 
the yogin is as though he had gone to Nirvana and returned from it.* 23 
So Vasubandhu, whose account substantially agrees with that of 

In addition the Abhidharmakosa makes a special effort to define 
the ‘no-thought* which is held to be characteristic of the attainment 
of cessation. It first discusses whether there is absolutely no thought 
at all, or whether an extremely subtle subconscious thought still 
persists. 24 Secondly, assuming that ‘no-thought* means what it says, 
and that actually there is no thought, no consciousness, no awareness 
of an object, would it not follow that this trance is a mere state of 
stupor which is not in contact with anything, least of all with the 
sublime reality of Nirvana? Nevertheless, even in the absence of all 
mental activity the physiological processes of the body still go on, 
and it is said that the Yogin ‘touches Nirvana with his body*. Vasu¬ 
bandhu also tells us that ‘the great primary elements are placed into a 
state of equality which impedes the production of thought*. 25 This 
is a special physical condition which also prevents a person in the 
trance of cessation from being burned by fire, drowned in water, 
wounded by a sword, or killed by anyone. In fact, he cannot be 
harmed in any way (cf. p. 66). Thirdly, the term ‘no-thought* readily 
lends itself to misunderstandings. An electronic computer, or a piece 
of rock, is ‘without thought*, but no nearer Nirvana than any of us. 



Once the Yogin has advanced beyond a certain point on his road 
to Nirvana, he walks, as it were, on a razor’s edge, and, what is more 
perturbing, according to the very presuppositions of Buddhism no 
immediately convincing reason can be put forward why he should not 
aim at a much inferior goal. Three examples will make this clear. 
The pursuit of emptiness is very hard to distinguish from a philo¬ 
sophical nihilism which regards all aims as equally dubious, all truths 
as equally suspect, all practices as equally fruitless. Secondly, if 
liberation from ill is the purpose of Buddhism, why should anyone, 
not content with saving himself, take upon himself the excessive 
burdens of a Bodhisattva or Buddha (cf. p. 168)? And thirdly, if 
the sufferings which we dislike and dread so much are bound up 
with our perceiving and being conscious of something, why do we 
not try to terminate them by achieving a state of relatively permanent 
unconsciousness, such as was offered in Buddhist cosmology by the 
‘unconscious gods’, 26 and which could be reproduced by Yogins in 
the ‘attainment of unconsciousness’ which may follow on the fourth 
trance? 27 Sleep must seem as attractive as awakening {bodhi\ though 
its direct opposite. And what, in any case, is the practical difference 
between unconsciousness and the trance of the cessation of per¬ 
ception and feeling? 

In trying hard to define this difference the Abhidharmakosa makes 
it quite clear that Buddhism is not just concerned with shirking 
unpleasant experiences, but motivated by the vision of a higher level 
of reality. The attainment of unconsciousness and that of stopping 
have in common that they both stop thoughts and its concomitants. 28 
The force ( dharma ) which for a long time obstructs the mental 
processes {dharma) among the unconscious gods acts like a dyke 
which stops the flow of a river’s water. But the difference lies in that 
the ‘unconscious beings’ are only a superior kind of ‘gods’ who must 
die after a time. When consciousness is reawakened in them, they 
are reborn in the world of sense-desire, and their long sleep thus 
terminates in a rather sad awakening. Moreover, the unconscious 
gods are inspired by the hope of ‘escape’ (nihsarana) from this world, 
the attainment of cessation by a positive conception of peaceful 
calm (santa ). 19 ‘Unconsciousness’ does not exclude all further rebirth, 
and is practised only by ordinary people, whereas the ‘saints’ look 
upon this attainment ‘as a precipice and calamity’, 30 which only 
postpones salvation. Ordinary people cannot, on the other hand, 
produce the attainment of cessation because they are afraid of being 
annihilated, and also, because, since it presupposes that the Path acts 



as an effective force, only those who have ‘seen* Nirvana (cf. p. 58) can 
resolve upon it. 

In the writings of the Theravadins the words a-citta y a-cittaka occur 
very rarely, 31 and are nearly always used in a derogatory sense, 
meaning ‘without understanding, senseless, thoughtless and uncon¬ 
scious'. Nevertheless they would not disagree with Nagarjuna 32 when 
he says: ‘When the sphere of thought has ceased, the nameable ceases; 
Dharma-nature is like Nirvana, unarising and unceasing.' And in 
Ch‘an Buddhism ‘no-thought' was praised as the highest achievement. 
This discrepancy in terminology does not necessarily preclude a 
fundamental identity of outlook and aspiration. 





The first five centuries of Buddhist history saw the development of 
a number of schools, or sects, which are traditionally counted as 
eighteen. The historical traditions about them are uncertain, contra¬ 
dictory and confused. Many attempts have been made to ascertain the 
actual facts, and I am content to follow A. Bareau 1 whose account 
seems to me more plausible than others. The following diagram 
shows the affiliations of the schools. I have italicized those which are 
often mentioned in the remainder of this narrative. 

Nirvana of the Buddha (= o B.E.) 
140 | B.E. 

Maha* anghikas* Sthaviras 

200 B.E. 





V ibhaj y a vadins S arvastivadins 









The Sthaviras were ‘those who (at the Council of Pataliputra) 
stood for the tradition of the Elders’, and prided themselves on their 
seniority and orthodoxy. In this book the word is used as a collective 
term for all the descendants of the original Sthaviras who form the 
subject-matter of part II, whereas the Mahasanghikas and their 
descendants will be discussed in part III. The Pudgalavadins were 
* For their subdivisions see p. 195. t For their subdivisions see p. 123. 



‘those who teach the existence of a Person’. The Vibhajyavddins are 
‘those who make distinctions’, and to historians have remained 
somewhat of a mystery. The Sarvdstivddins teach that ‘everything 
exists’, i.e. past, future and present, as well as space and Nirvana. The 
Theravadins have dominated Ceylon for two millennia; their affiliations 
with the sects of the Indian continent are uncertain. The Sautrantikas , 
finally, regard the Sutras as authoritative, but reject the authenticity 
of the Abhidharma works. 

The literature of only two of these schools has been preserved 
to any extent. The nature of our sources thus forces us to devote 
a quite disproportionate amount of space to the views of the Sarva- 
stivadins and Theravadins, and we cannot describe with any certainty 
what happened in other Hinayana circles. For part II we must rely 
mainly on the Abhidharma works of these two schools, though 
occasionally we refer to the Abhidharma of the Yogacarins 2 which 
follows mainly the tradition of the MahiSasaka school to which 
Asanga originally belonged. That this does not by any means exhaust 
the wealth of ideas once displayed in works on Abhidharma we know 
from one of Nagarjuna’s works which alludes to a quite different tradi¬ 
tion. 3 The chief textbooks are, for the Theravadins the Atthasalini* a 
commentary to the Dhammasangani , 5 and Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhi - 
ma gg a \ for the Sarvastivadins the Abhidharmakosa and its commen¬ 
taries; and for the Yogacarins the Abhidharmasamuccaya . 6 

The topics discussed in part II are the same which occupied us in 
part I. Now they are considered from the point of view of the 
developed Hinayana. In the estimate of conditioned things (ch. 2) the 
marks of not-self and impermanence, as well as the whole concept of 
conditioning, come in for further scrutiny. Secondly, with regard to 
the Unconditioned (ch. 3), the almost inevitable disputes about the 
nature of Nirvana now harden into definitely formulated conflicting 
views, the classification of those who have attained Nirvana leads to 
the elaboration of three distinct and definite types, and the Path is 
mapped out with a precision unknown to the previous period when 
many actually traversed it. Finally, in ch. 4 I will discuss a few 
of the problems treated in the Abhidharma which dominated the 
thinking of the sectarian Hinayana and which systematized the original 




In view of the predominantly intellectual approach of the Buddhist 
quest for salvation, it was only to be expected that ontological prob¬ 
lems would soon come to the fore. Ignorance, the cause of all evil 
and suffering, must be overcome by true knowledge, which is the 
one and only reliable source of lasting salvation. Everything depended 
therefore on distinguishing the fictitious objects of ignorance from 
the truly real objects of wise cognition. The exact dividing line 
between these two classes of objects naturally gave rise to much 
controversy. The following diagram indicates the items over which 
the discussion ranged: 




Conditioned Unconditioned 

dharmas dharmas 

past future present Space Nirvana 

All dharmas «- 

All dharmas < - 

Quite tran¬ 

The Person 

No Buddhist thinker, as we saw, doubted that the appearance and 
presentation of common-sense objects is everywhere shot through 
with illusions and misconceptions. But, once this was admitted, it 
became all the more important to decide what it is that really exists, or, 
in Buddhist terminology, what can be reckoned as a ‘dharma’, a 
truly existing object. 

Historically speaking, the first division of opinion was between 
those who thought that only the present exists, and those who main¬ 
tained that the past and future are as real as the present (cf. pp. 138 sq). 
Furthermore, two dharmas were often counted as unconditioned, 
Space and Nirvana. Some schools, however, doubted whether space 
is either real or unconditioned. On the other hand, while no one seems 
ever to have disputed the unconditioned nature of Nirvana, there was 



no agreement on what kind of reality should be assigned to it. Some 
believed that it had none at all, while at the opposite extreme others 
asserted that it alone should be regarded as truly real (cf. p. 197). A 
third development led to a complete re-moulding of Buddhist theory. 
The reality character of all dharmas, both conditioned and uncon¬ 
ditioned, was called into question, on the ground that, like the things 
of the common-sense world, they represent only a conventional 
reality. This trend began already with the Mahasanghikas, who 
maintained that everything, the contingent as well as the Absolute, is 
fictitious, a mere concept, mere verbal chatter, without any substance 
of its own (cf. Ill 1, 1). The totality of these fictitious ‘dharmas’ was 
then contrasted with a ‘Dharma-element’ or ‘Dharmahood’, which 
was further identified with one vast Emptiness into which all dharmas 
are absorbed (cf. part III). And, fourthly, there is the problem of the 

1. The status of the ‘self 3 

Among all the tenets of Buddhism none has occasioned more con¬ 
troversy and misunderstanding than the anatman theory, which 
suggests that nowhere can a ‘self’ be apprehended. The prospect of 
complete self-extinction, welcomed by the true Buddhist, seems so 
bleak and arid to many students of the Dharma that they dream up a 
‘true Self’ which, they say, will be realized by the extinction of the 
false, empirical self. This misinterpretation has proved so popular in 
Europe 1 that one may be tempted to regard it as either an expression 
of the typical concern of modern Europeans for ‘individuality’ and 
‘personality’, or as a remnant of the Christian belief in an immortal 
‘soul’. In fact it is not confined to European Christians or ex-Chris- 
tians. Everywhere, even in India, it voices the murmurings of the un¬ 
regenerate Adam when faced with the more magnificent vistas of 
Buddhist thought. Two centuries after the Buddha’s Nirvana it gave 
rise to the sect of the Pudgalavadins. 

All orthodox Buddhists agree that impersonal events alone can be 
real. Personality is a token of falsehood and no idea of‘self’, in which¬ 
ever form it may appear, ought to have a place in the conception of 
true reality. The Pudgalavadins, or ‘Personalists’ as we will call 
them, caused a great stir with their view that, in addition to the 
impersonal dharmas, there is still a Person to be reckoned with. They 
deliberately challenged the fundamental dogma of all the other 
Buddhists. Their motives can be easily understood, for their reaction 


to the dharma-theory was the same as that of everyone who first 
hears of it. 

Within the Samgha the position of the Personalists was rather 
ambiguous. They are regularly counted among the eighteen schools, 
and even their opponents admit, though grudgingly, 2 that they belong 
to the Buddhist fold and are capable of winning salvation. Unlike 
the Brahmins or Jains they are not full-fledged ‘outsiders’ ( drthika ). 
They are described as ‘outsiders in our midst’, 3 or ‘heretics’ as we 
would put it. A constant thorn in the flesh of the other sects, they 
were the target of ceaseless polemics. 4 

The Personalists themselves acknowledged the authority of the 
Buddhist scriptures, although they had their own ideas about what 
constituted the ‘Buddha-word’. Their Canon, probably recited in 
Apabhramsa, was shorter by one-third than that of the other schools. 
Vasubandhu indignantly notes that they rejected as unauthentic some 
of the texts by which he refutes them. 5 Their monastic organization was 
similar to that of the other schools, with just a few trifling par¬ 
ticularities of dress and habit. Numerically they seem at times to have 
formed a substantial portion of the Buddhist community. In the 
seventh century Yuan Tsang counts 66,000 Personalist monks, out 
of a total of 254,000 in the whole of India. They may well have been 
the weaker brethren, but obviously there were plenty of them. 

The Personalists fall into two principal, and five subsidiary sects. 
Their affiliation is shown in the following diagram. 





AD 650 

AD 1200 

SAMMITIYA Dharmottariya Bhadravanlya Sannagarika 

I I? I? ! ? 

Avantakas Kaurukullas 

The Vatslputriyas are so called after their founder. According 
to Paramartha, Vatslputra was a disciple of Sariputra, and their Abhi- 
dharmapltaka was called Sariputra-abhidharma . If this is true, 



Vatsiputra seems to have been one of those disciples who move into 
a position directly and diametrically opposed to that of their teacher. 
The name of the Sammitiyas is capable of many interpretations, for 
which I refer to Bareau . 6 They, and the other three branches of the 
Vatslputriyas, had their disagreements about the deliverance of the 
Arhat, but we can no longer say what it was that kept them apart. 

The literature of these sects is almost entirely lost. Three short 
books are all that has survived: a brief treatise on Vinaya, preserved 
in a Chinese translation (T. 1641); an Abhidharma text, of which 
Prof. Tucci has found a palmleaf manuscript in Tibet; 7 and a short 
treatise, called Sdmmitiya-nikdya-sdstra y in defence of their special 
position, preserved in Chinese (T. 1649), hut almost untranslatable. 
As with so many other exponents of minority opinions we must rely 
on the testimony of their opponents for most of our information 
about them. Even from our very limited and secondary sources it 
appears, as we shall see, that the Personalists had developed a fairly 
consistent and intelligible position of their own. 

It would be unreasonable to assume that the theories of the Per¬ 
sonalists were in direct conflict with the teaching of the Buddha 
himself. He probably had said nothing either way on a problem which 
became acute only centuries later, at a time when his teaching had 
been identified by some with the dharma-theory in its most uncom¬ 
promising form. The Personalists represented a reaction against 
the dogmatic thoroughness with which the Abhidharmists pursued 
their depersonalizing tendencies. 

That the pudgala is often mentioned in the Scriptures is obvious 
and incontestable. For instance, as the Personalists were fond of 
quoting, ‘One person ( eka-pudgala) y when he is born in the world is 
bom for the weal of the many. Who is that one person? It is the 
Tathagata’. 8 Or: ‘After he has been reborn seven times at the most, a 
person puts an end to suffering, and becomes one who has severed all 
bonds.’ 9 Even in the Abhidharma the eight types of saints were 
generally known as the ‘eight personages’ (pudgala) (cf. p. 57 n.). 
Special weight attached to the Burden Sutra y which has been a favourite 
also with those who have attempted to revive the Personalist position 
in recent years. ‘I will teach you the burden, its taking up, its laying 
down, and the bearer of the burden (bhara-haram). The five skandhas 
(which are the range) of grasping are the burden. Craving takes up 
the burden. The renunciation of craving lays it down. The bearer of 
the burden is the person: this venerable man, with such and such a 
name, born so and so, of such and such a clan, who sustains himself 



on this or that food, experiences these pleasures and pains, lives for just 
so long, stays here for just so long, terminates his life-span in just this 
way/ 10 The Vatslputriyas could claim with some justice that here the 
person was clearly distinguished from the five skandhas. For, if 
person and skandhas were identical, then the burden would carry 
itself, which is absurd. 11 

The orthodox teachers had to admit these passages, but maintained 
that they do not mean what they say. The ‘person* who is spoken of 
here is a mere designation of something that does not exist, and in 
these passages the Buddha only conformed to the linguistic usage of 
an ignorant world. For the ‘self* is a mere fiction—and what is a 
person without a ‘self* at his centre? In technical language, the ‘person* 
is said to belong to conventional, and not to ultimate reality (para - 
maftha ), and it can, as the phrase goes, not be perceived, or ‘got at* 
(upalabhyate\ for the quite simple reason that there is nothing there 
to be perceived as real. By contrast, the basic tenet of the Personalists 
is the belief that ‘the Person can be got at (upalabkate) as a reality in 
the ultimate sense (paramatthena), and it can become an object of true 
experience (sacchikatthaf. 

What then are the functions of this pudgalai A diagram will show 
them at a glance: 


lives++psycho-physical intermediary psycho-++ Nirvanized 
organism (say a being physical Saint 

horse) organism 

(say a man) 



Memory j 

11 in i m 1111111 M n n 1111 n m i m i n i m m m i 

11 ii i it 1111111111111111111111111111 m 1111 ii 111 j 11 




11 11111111 in 11111111111 n n_n 11 n n i 

m i n 11 m .... ffi 1111111111111111* 

The hypothetical pudgala serves as a kind of substance which pro¬ 
vides a common factor for the successive processes occurring in 
a self-identical individual. We must, however, remember that in 
Buddhism, the life of an individual is both longer and more eventful 
than we are accustomed to think. In addition to comprising (i) the 
events of one life, from the cradle to the grave, it (2) also extends 
over many lives, 12 and not only is it the same person who reappears 

I2 5 


again and again in ever new rebirths, but (3) it is also the same person 
who is first an ordinary man and then, at the end, totally transformed 
by his Nirvana. 

Of these three items, nos. 3 and 2 hold more interest for 
the Buddhist theoreticians, no. 1 for us at present. The third 
in particular would occupy quite a central position, because 
the man who has won Nirvana, the Tathagata, is the pudgala 
par excellence , the prototype of all pudgalas, and, as Stcherbatsky 
points out, the Vatslputriyas intended ‘to support the doctrine of a 
supernatural, surviving Buddha from the philosophical side’. 13 It 
seemed to them important to stress the identity of die man who had 
won salvation with the man who had sought it. The Buddha himself, 
when he recalls his former lives, expresses himself in words which lend 
themselves to a Personalist construction. ‘This sage Sunetra, who 
existed in the past, that Sunetra was I.’ H Since all the psycho-physical 
elements have changed, it can only be the ‘person’ himself who 
makes the Buddha and Sunetra identical. Similarly, when the Buddha 
says, ‘in the past I have had such a body’, the word T can refer only 
to the person. 15 

This leads us to the second point. To the Vatslputriyas transmi¬ 
gration seemed inconceivable without a person. On the occasion of 
death, life ceases, and with it all the other constituents ( dharmas ) of 
an individual, which therefore cannot move on into the next life. 
But the person can, because he does not cease. He wanders from 
existence to existence in the sense that he gives up the old skandhas, 
and ‘takes up’ ( upadana ), or acquires, new ones. As the Buddha had 
said, ‘he rejects one body and takes up another’. 16 If there is no 
person, who then transmigrates? Who else could wander, if not the 
person? For it is absurd to say that it is the Wandering (samsdra) which 
wanders. 17 On death an individual changes into an ‘intermediary 
being’, who, generated spontaneously and all at once, links two 
consecutive lives. 18 

There are, further, in each individual a number of factors which 
outlast the fleeting moment. Memory is a fact, but how is it possible 
for a thought-moment which has instantly perished to be remembered 
later, how can it remember, how can it recognize? ‘If the self is not 
real, who then remembers, who recognizes things, who recites and 
memorizes the books, who repeats the texts?’ ‘There must be an “I” 
which first experiences and then remembers what it has done. If there 
were none, how could one possibly remember what one has done?’ 19 
A similar reasoning may also be applied to karmic actions, and their 



retribution. It is the same person who first acts, and then reaps his 
reward or punishment. Otherwise there would be no justice in the 
universe, and the chief motive for doing the right thing would be 

In addition, a pudgala is needed to provide an agent for the activi¬ 
ties of an individual. It is the pudgala who sees, the eyes being only 
his instruments . 20 It is the pudgala who knows, and not some imper¬ 
sonal knowledge, as most Buddhists allege. How could the Buddha 
otherwise be omniscient? If all acts of knowledge are instantaneous, 
none can know all things. A lasting personality, on the other hand, 
would provide a possible basis for omniscience . 21 Knowledge in any 
case implies a knower, a subject who knows, and the pudgala is that 
subject. Likewise, that which is bound and freed is the person, and 
not just impersonal ‘thought* (pitta). 

Finally, if there were no persons, the practice of friendliness would 
fall to the ground . 22 The meditation on friendliness bids us to concen¬ 
trate on a formula which says, ‘may all sentient beings be happy!* 
How can anybody be friendly to a conglomeration of impersonal and 
unsubstantial elements? 

All these arguments have the advantage of being easily under¬ 
stood. The Personalists seem to just reiterate the commonplace 
conceptions to which the ordinary worldling has become habituated. 
Prolonged meditation on the Dharma would, so the majority of the 
Buddhists believed, easily dispel their objections which would seem 
quite baseless on a higher level of philosophical profundity and 
spiritual maturity. In that the reasoning of the Personalists makes no 
appreciable contribution to salvation, or to detachment from the 
world and its ways, we can appreciate why it was none too well 

What then is the relation of the Buddhist Personalists to the other 
philosophical views current in India about the Self? Their pudgala is 
certainly quite different from either the purusha(s) of the Samkhya, 
or the one universal atman of the Vedanta. Both of these are inactive— 
the purusha , or spirit set free, is a mere witness and spectator, and 
both atman and purusha are identified with consciousness, here 
reckoned among the skandhas distinguished from the pudgala. And 
for the Samkhyas, in any case, not the pudgala , but a ‘subtle body* is 
the ‘basis of rebirth, as well as the principle of personal identity in 
the various existences *. 23 As already Kamalasila has seen, the Per- 
sonalist views have a close affinity to the reasoning characteristic 
of the Nyaya logicians. Like the Pudgalavadins, so the Naiyayikas 



‘define the dtman (or pudgala ) as follows: (i) as the doer of different 
deeds, pure and impure; (2) as the recipient of the fruit, desired o * 
undesired, of the deed he has himself done, and (3) as the “enjoyer’ 
who wanders in Samsara, in that he gives up the old skandhas anc 
takes hold of new ones’. 2 * Both schools put forward the same argu¬ 
ments, and both share the same mentality. There is the same concern 
over a substantive soul which by its continued persistence provides 
a self-identical agent and a basis for memory and karma, accounts for 
the multiplicity of different persons, furnishes a subject for cognitive 
actions, explains why an individual is not conscious of the feelings 
and thoughts of everybody else, takes up bodies for a time, makes a | 
person the same in childhood and old age, and sees to it that moksha 
is not the destruction of self, but only of bondage. 25 Aversion to 
speculative flights and an endeavour to safeguard the data of common 
sense are the powerful motives behind this kind of argumentation. 

Nevertheless, as Buddhists the Pudgalavadins felt bound to pre¬ 
serve the essence of the anatta doctrine, and the Buddha’s teachings 
about satkayadfsti and the viparyasas . They took great care to define 
the relation of the Person to the skandhas in such a way that an 
‘erroneous belief in a self’ was excluded. For this is the second part of 
their thesis: ‘The Person is neither identical with the skandhas, nor 
is he in the skandhas, nor outside them.’ He cannot be identical with 
the skandhas, for then he would appear and disappear when they do. 
He is not different from them, for then he could also be without 
them, and in addition he would be eternal and without attributes, 
and therefore, like space, could not do anything. As their formula 
goes, ‘the Person can be conceived in correlation with the skandhas 
which have been appropriated at any given time inwardly’. 26 From 
general Indian tradition, which regarded Samsara as a process of 
burning, the Buddhists evolved the equation: as fire to fuel, so person 
to psycho-physical elements (upadanaskandha) . 27 Fire, so the Per- 
sonalists assert, is not just a continuous series of momentary flashes of 
ignition, but a substance, independent, existing by itself, consuming 
the fuel, just as ordinary unphilosophical thinking assumes. Although 
it is always found in correlation with the fuel it burns and on which it 
thrives, and is never apart from it, by itself, nevertheless, it is real, and 
not a mere fiction; it has a nature of its own, which is heat, and it does 
something, has an effect ( karya ). Impatient of the ‘subdeties’ of their 
opponents, 28 the Personalists proclaimed diat the self likewise manifests 
itself through the psycho-physical elements, and therefore co-exists 
with them, not as a separate thing, but as a kind of‘structural unity’. 



From a slightly different angle they distinguished five kinds of 
cognizables ( jheyd ). The first three are conditioned dharmas, i.e. the 
past, future and present; the fourth is the Unconditioned; and the 
fifth the ‘Ineffable’, 29 in other words the pudgala . The Person cannot 
be conditioned, because then He would have only a momentary 
existence, and could not function as the abiding substratum of a 
succession of momentary dharmas. Nor can He be unconditioned, 
because then He would be inactive, and could not do anything. The 
pudgala is therefore in a category by himself. The Person is undefinable 
in every respect ( prakdra ) whatsoever. One can, for instance, not 
determine whether He is permanent or impermanent, whether He is 
one or many. 30 A man’s true, transcendental, Self is indeed so subtle 
that only the Buddhas can see it. 

The Personalists were thus anxious to show that their doctrine 
did not contradict the essential principles of the Buddha’s teaching. 
They also insisted that the belief in a self, as formulated by them, 
does no harm to the spiritual life. Normally speaking, someone who 
believes in T and ‘mine’ will form an attachment to that part of the 
universe which he has come to consider as his own, and will thereby 
be prevented from winning salvation. But, as they point out, it is only 
when one mistakes for the true Self something which is not it, that 
one will feel affection for that pretended self. If, however, one sees, 
as the Buddhas do, the Ineffable Person as the true Self, then no 
affection is thereby engendered. With whatever ignorant people may 
identify the Person, all that is indeed only one of the skandhas, mere 
fiction and denomination, and does not belong to the Person himself. 
‘It is a mistake (“perverted view*’) to consider as a self that which is 
not the self; but (nowhere does the Buddha say that) it is a mistake 
to consider as a self that which is the self.’ 31 

The Personalists thus could make out a case to show that their 
thesis was fairly innocuous to the Buddhist way of life. The question 
remains whether they did anything to promote it. The Sarvastivadin 
Vijhanakaya 32 argues that ‘even if your pudgala exists, he is not useful 
for salvation, does not promote welfare, or dharma , or the religious 
life, produces no superknowledge, enlightenment or Nirvana. Because 
there is no use for him, therefore the pudgala does not exist’. In fairness 
we must, however, add that not the Personalists, but the Abhidhar- 
mists had first started to deviate into spiritually unfruitful philo¬ 
sophical statements. The persistence of the Personalists for so many 
years, as well as the helpless animosity they aroused among 
their brethren, seem to suggest that they fulfilled a useful function. 



From at least two points of view they corrected errors which had 
crept in: 

1. It was clearly a mistake of lesser minds to deny categorically 
that the self exists. As the Personalists pointed out, it had been said 
that ‘to say that the self does not exist, in truth and reality (satyatah 
sthititah ), is a wrong view’. 33 Every statement must be viewed con¬ 
cretely, in the context of the discussion, and in each case one must 
consider what is asked, what are the needs of the questioner and his 
mental level, what is liable to be misunderstood, etc. Everywhere 
the compassionate intention of the Buddha must be taken into account. 
For the Buddha was out to help, not to make theories. One must dis¬ 
tinguish between a specific negation, stating that the self cannot be 
identified with a clearly defined range of items, such as the skandhas, 
and a general negation, which says that ‘the self does not exist any¬ 
where’. The latter is a universal theoretical proposition, 34 which is of 
no use in any context except that of philosophical disputation, answers 
no worthwhile questions, removes no misunderstanding, and does 
nothing to further salvation. The non-apprehension of a self—essen¬ 
tial to a religious life on Buddhist lines—is greatly cheapened when it 
is turned into a philosophical statement proclaiming that the self does 
not exist. Candrakirti has well shown 35 that under certain circum¬ 
stances it may be useful to teach that there is a self, 36 under others that 
there is none, under others again that there is neither a self nor a not- 
self. But all these statements are circumscribed by their context, and 
outside it they lose their significance. In the context of salvational 
practices an absolute ‘is’ or ‘is not’ is useless and misleading. The 
Buddha, as a matter of fact, in a famous dialogue with Vatsagotra had 
refused to commit himself on the question of the existence of the 
self. 37 

2. In another respect also the one-sided philosophizing of the 
Abhidharmists was bound to produce its own opposite. Each one¬ 
sided thesis must, as the Ratnavali reminds us (cf. p. 209), in due 
course lead to a counter-thesis, and neither of them can be true. 
The Abhidharmists, by insisting that only isolated momentary events 
are real, held on to processes to the exclusion of all substance, and 
gloried in denying the relative permanence of objects, as well as their 
relative unity. The numerous improbabilities and auxiliary hypotheses 
involved in this standpoint (cf. pp. 137 sq.) were bound to provoke a 
reaction. The Mahayana philosophers were as dissatisfied with the 
Abhidharma position as the Personalists were, but they built better. 
As our diagram (p. 121) shows, the pudgala is closely analogous to the 



Suchness, or Emptiness, of the Madhyamikas. As die pudgala is related 
to the skandhas, so Suchness to all dharmas . Suchness, like the pudgala , 
cannot be determined conceptually ( 'anirvacariiya ). 38 But the Madhya¬ 
mikas go further, and believe that that which transcends conceptual 
thinking cannot usefully be described as a ‘Person’, since by doing 
so one would determine the indeterminate. The second difference lies 
in that the Personalists were essentially Hlnayanists in assuming that 
in addition to the indefinable pudgala the separate dharmas exist as 
definable entities, whereas the Mahayana cannot believe in the existence 
of dharmas with properties so improbable as those postulated by the 
Abhidharmists. In a sense the Pudgalavadins were the forerunners not 
only of the Madhyamikas, but also of the Yogacarins, whose ‘store- 
consciousness’ had many of the functions which the Personalists 
assigned to the pudgala . They even appear to have anticipated the 
doctrine of a seventh consciousness. For, when asked for the sense- 
organ which perceives the Person, they agreed that it falls outside the 
range of the traditional six kinds of consciousness, and attributed its 
perception to a special seventh one. 39 

The inner logic of the fundamental doctrine of the ‘perverted views’ 
would, as we saw (p. 44), predispose us to believe that, just as the 
Permanence and Ease of Nirvana contrast with the impermanence and 
ill of worldly things, so also the true Self ought to be contrasted 
with the false self. It is all the more remarkable that there is not one 
canonical passage in which the existence of such a true Self is ever 
clearly stated. To some extent it may be that the Pudgalavadin theory 
was so universally rejected because it was based on a fundamental 
misconception of the purpose and function of Buddhist philosophy. 
Unconcerned with accounting for appearances as they appear to 
ordinary men, it is fired with the conviction that these appearances 
should not be so much explained as abolished, together with the 
ordinary man whom they deceive. Though, of course, since the Per¬ 
sonalists can no longer speak for themselves, we cannot be quite 
sure that they actually ignored the needs and perspectives of the 
higher spiritual life. Their opponents may well have maligned them, 
and I sometimes suspect that their main crime consisted in acting 
like the boy who honestly said that the emperor had no clothes 
on. Everyone else knew that this was so, but pretended that it 
was not. 

The urge to deviate from the strict Abhidharma interpretation of 
anatta was felt in many sections of the Buddhist community, alike 
among Sthaviras, Mahasanghikas and Mahayanists, and I do not see 



how one can avoid the conclusion that the Theravadin and Sarvast 
vadin orthodoxy narrowed the original teaching so as to make t 
logically more consistent with itself. So strong indeed is the practice 1 
and theoretical need for the assumption of a permanent factor ii 
connection with the activities of a ‘person', that in addition to the 
Pudgalavadins other schools also felt obliged to introduce it more or 
less furtively in a disguised form, though the word ‘self' remaine< 
taboo at all times. These ‘pseudo-selves' are not easy to study, parti] 
because there is little precise information, and partly because the 
concepts themselves are distinctly indefinite. 

Personal ‘continuities’ (cf. p. 105) perform at least two functions 
of a ‘self' in that (1) each continuity is separate from others, ana 
(2) is constantly there, though not ‘permanent'. The Buddhists reject a 
‘self' which runs like a single thread through a string of pearls. There 
are only the pearls, and no thread to hold them together. But the 
collection of pearls is one and the same because strictly continuous, 
i.e. each pearl sticks to the one before and the one behind, without any 
interval between. The Sthaviras saw little reason to comment on the 
multiplicity and separateness of these ‘continuities', which they seem 
to have just accepted as one of the facts of life. But they took great 
care that this chain of events, though continuously replacing its 
constituents, should be constantly there, and that no interstices 
should interrupt the continuous flow of causality through the thread- 
less pearls, packed closely to one another. 40 In order to definitely 
eliminate the disruptive effect of such gaps, the later Theravadins put 
forward the theory of a ‘life-continuum' (ihavanga ) 41 which is sub¬ 
conscious* and subliminal. Even when nothing happens in the surface- 
consciousness the subconscious supplies the continuous process 
required, since the mind, otherwise unoccupied, never ceases to 
function even for a moment, though lapsed into subconsciousness. 
Likewise the Sautrantikas taught the ‘continuous existence of a very 
subtle consciousness' and also the Mahasanghikas had a basic (mula) 
consciousness 41 and believed that karma matures in the subconscious 
mind where thought has no definite object. 43 

The hankering after a permanent personality hardens still further 
when another sect, the Samkrantikas, teach that the skandhas trans¬ 
migrate from one life to another. Or when the MahlSasaka distinguish 
three kinds of skandhas, those which are instantaneous, those which 
endure during one life, and those which endure until the end of 

* It is, however, never completely ‘unconscious', but always accompanied by 
some degree of awareness (cf. p. 108 «.). 



Samsara. Concepts like these were designed to escape from the 
straitjacket of the Abhidharma, and try to establish the equivalent 
not only of an empirical but also of a true self. We hear of the ‘skandha 
of one single taste*, which consists of the seeds that continue to exist 
from time immemorial without ever changing their nature, and, 
identical with the continuously proceeding subtle consciousness, is 
at the root ( mula ) of the five skandhas. In this way a link is forged 
not only between the various lives of a ‘person* within Samsara, but 
also between the ‘continuity* or ‘person* which is first bound in 
Samsara and then delivered in Nirvana. In spite of their professions to 
the contrary, the Buddhists were constantly drawn to the belief in a 
‘true self*, which would act as a permanent constituent (< dhatu ) behind 
the ever-changing ‘continuity*. The Sautrantikas postulated an incor¬ 
ruptible ‘seed *of ‘goodness* which leads to Nirvana, exists from time 
immemorial, never changes its nature, and abides with us in all our 
lives. It is the ‘seed of emancipation’ of which the Buddha speaks 
when he says, ‘I see this extremely subtle seed of salvation like a 
seam of gold hidden in metal-bearing rock*. 44 An innate, indestruc¬ 
tible and absolutely pure factor therefore resides within the processes 
which are transient, phenomenal and impure. Both Sautrantikas and 
Yogacarins maintain that some innate wholesome dharmas can never 
be annihilated; they remain in the form of ‘seeds’ intact in the ‘con¬ 
tinuity*, and new wholesome dharmas will arise from them under 
favourable conditions. 45 An ordinary person possesses within himself 
the potentiality of becoming a Buddha, because his ‘continuity’ (or 
‘person’) contains the aryadharmas , or pure seeds ( anasrava-bija ) 
which are subtle and incorruptible. 46 Likewise, all Buddhist schools 
have a tradition of a naturally translucent thought, all lucidity and 
spontaneity, which is essentially and originally pure, but defiled by 
adventitious afflictions. 47 While the Theravadins minimize its impor¬ 
tance by interpreting it as the ‘subconscious thought*, 48 others identify 
it with Dharmahood, Suchness and the Dharmabody of the Buddha, 49 
and others again call it the ‘embryonic Tathagata* (cf. pp. 229 sq.). 

All these theoretical constructions are attempts to combine the 
doctrine of ‘not-self’ with the almost instinctive belief in a ‘self*, 
empirical or true. The climax of this combination of the uncombinable 
is reached in such conceptual monstrosities as the ‘store-conscious¬ 
ness’ ( alaya-vijnana ) of Asanga 50 and a minority of Yogacarins, which 
performs all the functions of a ‘self* in a theory which almost voci¬ 
ferously proclaims the non-existence of such a ‘self’. 51 The ‘store- 
consciousness* is a fine example of ‘running with the hare, and hunting 



with the hounds'. Most Buddhists rejected it as a soul in disguise, 52 )r 
called it an ‘arrow shot into the dark'. Like the self, it exercises the 
function of appropriating: 

‘The profound and subtle appropriating ( adana ) consciousness 
Flows with all its seeds like a turbulent stream. 

I did not teach that to the fools 

Lest they should imagine it to be a “self”.’ 53 

It provides a substratum for the activities of a ‘continuity’ over 
some length of time, and acts as the bearer of ‘psychic heredity . 

In that it accounts for the cohesion between the causally interrelated 
moments of one ‘continuity’, it gives rise to the illusory notion of ar 
‘individual* or ‘person’. It also acts as a receptacle for all the seed; 
which will bring fruit at a future period, for, in agreement with 
Sautrantika tradition, this consciousness, also called ‘basic’ and ‘seed 
consciousness, is the depository of good and bad seeds yielding new j 
seeds in the series of the mind. Moreover it is a kind of ‘Buddha- 
self’, and the substratum of our quest for Nirvana. Naturam expellas 
furca , tamen usque recurret. 

2. The analysis of impermanence . (a) Impermanence and momentariness j 

Having enumerated in part I (p. 34) the three propositions which ! 
make up the basic meaning of‘impermanence’, we must now consider 
their further development. This consisted in inquiring more closely j 

into the exact duration of an event, thereby delimitating its ‘rise and ( 

fall’ with great precision. An attempt was made to size up the datum, ! 

and to arrive at a clearer idea of how long it actually lasts. As we saw J 

(pp. 95 sq.) ‘previous to its rise it was not’, ‘after having been it is \ 

no longer’, and the interval between its rise and fall, in other words j 

its strict presence as it exists, was generally agreed to be extremely I 

brief. A difference of opinion, however, arose as to whether, as the j 

Sarvastivadins and Theravadins thought, it comprises a few ‘moments’ > 

(kshana\ or just one ‘instant’ (kshana\ as the Sautrantikas believed. •! 

In the Sautrantika view 1 an event persists for just one instant, and j 

perishes as soon as it has arisen, immediately after acquiring its being * 

( dtmalabha ). Its destruction is spontaneous ( akasmika ), and requires J 

no additional cause. As a nothing (< abhava ) destruction is not some- j 

thing that has to be done, and therefore not an effect requiring a cause. 

Things perish by themselves, simply because it is their inherent \ 
nature to do so. < 



The Sarvastivadins and Theravadins, however, assume that an 
event lasts for three, four or even more moments. For all mental events 
the Theravadins define the strict present as that which is included 
within the three moments of genesis, stability and break-up. 2 Accord¬ 
ing to the Sarvastivadins each single conditioned event must go 
through four ‘moments* or phases, i.e. (i) its birth or origination, 
(2) subsistence, (3) decay, and (4) destruction ( anityata ’, vinasa ). 
These are conceived as four active and real factors exercising (as 
samskaras) their power over all conditioned things. For instance, 
once ‘subsistence* has begun, it would by itself go on indefinitely, 
and never cease to be; but a new force, ‘decay*, immediately appears 
on the scene, reduces the strength of‘subsistence*, and hands a dharma 
over to the last force which brings about its extinction, or rather 
terminates its efficacy. It is possible that the late mediaeval Cey¬ 
lonese Theravadins preserve an old tradition in treating material as 
different from mental events. Form not only goes through four phases, 
as every dharma does for the Sarvastivadins, but in addition 3 a unit 
of matter lasts longer than a thought-unit. It is said to last for seven¬ 
teen thought-moments, i.e. one half short genesis moment, sixteen 
moments for the period of stability, or subsistence, and one half short 
break-up moment. 

If it were dependent on the ability to actually perceive momen¬ 
tary change, the contemplation of the ‘rise and fall of dharmas*, which 
is one of the cornerstones of Buddhist meditation, would lie outside 
the reach of nearly everyone. To familiarize the mind with the subject 
of impermanence, it is therefore advisable 4 to also consider larger 
units and longer durations. (1) The event may be considered as 
beginning with reconception and ceasing with decease; the ‘present 
duration* then extends over one whole life. In effect this amounts to a 
meditation on death. 5 (2) One may treat as one event a continuous 
process set up by one common factor. (3) We may take as the present 
that which proceeds during a specified period of time, such as half an 
hour, an hour, etc., the length of time chosen being quite arbitrary. 

There still remains the question how ‘instants’ can be experienced. 
Are they observable units of perceptual time, or intellectually definable 
units of conceptual time, or units experienced directly before either 
perception or conception have come into play? The situation is not 
quite as clear as we would wish it to be, and we either have misunder¬ 
stood the teaching or expect greater precision than the Buddhists cared 
to provide. 

In perceptual time the conditions of perceiving impose a limit on 



the subdivision of time, and the ‘specious present*, which is the 
smallest unit we can reach, probably comprises numerous ‘instants*. 
Neither can the waves of attention reveal instantaneous events. Nevei - 
theless, instants are not unrelated to clock time, and the Buddhist!i, 
though with varying results, 6 have tried to estimate their length. 
Some of their estimates concur fairly well with the minimum dura ■ 
tions of the pulsations of mental life as measured by modem psycho ■ 
logy. 7 It may be, however, that experiment and observation wer: 
held to be of no avail, because thought-units have an extremely shor: 
duration. ‘Monks, I do not see any other single dharma so light ii 
transformation as this thought. 5 If this saying were combined witl 
our present knowledge, we would indeed not even attempt to measure 
a thought-moment. For, if light travels 186,000 miles in one second, 
and if in one second electrons move 1,000,000,000,000,000 times 
round the nucleus, how swift by comparison must be the passage of a 
thought! No simile, as it has been said, 8 can illustrate the shortness of 
a thought-moment. 

To some extent the ‘instant 5 is a conceptual construction, meaning 
an infinitesimal duration, a duration at its vanishing-point. Many 
attempts were made to find a criterion by which the present could j 
be differentiated from the past and the future. 9 Vasubandhu accepts 
Vasumitra’s solution, which distinguishes the three periods of time 
with reference to a dharma 5 s activity (kdritra). If it has not yet accom¬ 
plished its operation, it is future; while it performs it, it is present; it 
is past when its operation is completed. 

Instantaneous events are, however, not merely inferred, but 
‘sensed 5 directly on a level of apperception (no. 3 on p. 189) which 
precedes both perception and conception. On this level the world of 
things as they are ultimately by themselves, i.e. as momentary flashes 
of energy, each one unique in its concrete being which is shared by 
nothing else, impinge on the mind, only to be lost sight of very soon 
by the superimposition of imaginary and arbitrary thought-con¬ 
structions. The series of indivisible point-instants which is dis¬ 
closed here is the only thing in the universe that is not a fictitious 
construction, but the real basis on which our whole erroneous view 
of the universe ultimately rests. These immediate data are unutterable, 
we can only say of them ‘this 5 or ‘now 5 , and no perceptual image, or 
concept, corresponds to them. 10 

If a filing’s being coincides with its strict presence, the world will 
be nearly annihilated, for the present is a point almost without dura¬ 
tion. Just when a dharma is, it has already ceased to be. As a perpetual 



transition between the immediate past and the immediate future, it will 
be a nothing in between two nothings. ‘There is in the very next 
moment not the slightest bit left of what has been existent in the 
former moment. Every moment, i.e. every momentary thing is 
annihilated as soon as it appears, because it does not survive in the 
next moment.* In this sense everything represents its own 
annihilation/ 11 

2 b. Modifications of the theory of instafltaneousness 

It is fairly easy to understand the doctrine of the instantaneousness 
of all conditioned dharmas, and tempting to subscribe to it. It is 
another thing to remain undismayed by its implications. This is the 
kind of doctrine which intoxicates, but cannot nourish for long. For 
the thesis that the world consists of separate and disparate dharmas 
which exist only for one fleeting instant and then vanish without 
residue, effectively does away with the world as we know it. It is 
destructive not only of common sense, but also of the practice of the 
spiritual life. ‘Common sense* could be dismissed as the raving of 
ignorant people who know no better. What perturbed the doctors of 
the Church was that the doctrine of universal instantaneousness 
corroded all the presuppositions on which the practice of salvation 
was based. Once having formulated the momentariness and 
instantaneousness of dharmas in an extreme and uncompromising 
form, the Sthaviras had to introduce new concepts to undo the harm 
which they had done. The chief difficulties concern the following 
points: 12 

1. The first casualty threatens to be the doctrine of karma and 
retribution. How can a dharma cause an effect after it has vanished 
completely? An unwholesome thought which happens now will be 
punished, say, twenty years later. If it had disappeared immediately 
on arising, how can it produce an effect when it is no longer there? 
What is it that bridges the time-lag which separates deed and 

2. Furthermore, saints are credited with a number of possessions 
and achievements which are lasting in the sense that they are not 
lost as soon as the present moment has passed. A Streamwinner need 
never again be reborn in a state of woe, and thus has won a quality 

* Bergson (BL i 107), ‘the world the mathematician deals with is a world 
that dies and is reborn at every instant*. There is therefore no substance at all 
(BL i 109). 



which he will always have. The Arhat, according to some, can never 
fall away, and the acquisition of Nirvana is final and definitive, and 
can never again be lost. The dispassion of Nirvana means the absolute 
future non-existence of evil states, which are once for all forsaken 
and abandoned. How can a tiny instantaneous dharma carry ti e 
weight of such far-reaching and long-lasting consequences? 

3. Thirdly, it is usual to speak of mental states which seem tp 
last longer than one moment, and which look like trends of relatively 
long duration, such as the ‘roots’ of wholesome and unwholesone 
actions, the ‘seeds’ of good and evil deeds, or the ‘latent biases’ or 
tendencies (< anidayd ). Even while he does not actually realize it, a sain: 
has the power to realize at his will this or that attainment, and thu 
possesses it potentially. The fact that a mental state is definitely 
abandoned or definitely established lies outside the momentarj 
series of states, and so does permanent ownership or potential owner¬ 
ship of a spiritual skill. One also speaks of a person being ‘destined’ 
(niyata) for some future condition, and asserts that he will certainly 
obtain it. For instance people are said to be ‘destined for Nirvana’, or 
‘to be destined’ either for salvation (samyaktva) or perdition (mith- 
ydtva). It looks as if not only actualities but also potentialities must 
be accepted as real. People not only do things but have the ‘power’ 
to do or not to do them. A person can call upon such powers, in the 
same way in which one is said to ‘know’ French, although no French I 
word may occur in the present moment of consciousness. It is very 
hard to maintain the view that a person should at any given time be 
identified with just the one dharma which is in him from moment to 
moment. In addition he is a certain ‘kind of person’, say either an 
‘ordinary man’ or a ‘saint’. 

Just as the dogmatic assertion of the non-existence of a ‘self’ had 
to be supplemented by various ‘pseudo-selves’, so the dogmatic 
assertion of instantaneousness could be made credible only by intro¬ 
ducing a number of pseudo-permanencies. Three doctrines owe their 
origin to a desire to nullify those implications of the doctrine of 
instantaneousness which threaten the fruitfulness of the spiritual 
life. They are (1) the ‘pan-realism’ of the Sarvastivadins, (2) their 
doctrine of ‘possession’ and ‘dispossession*, and (3) the Sau- 
trantika doctrine of germs (Jnja ) 7 suffusions ( yasana ), and kindred 

1. According to the Sarvastivadins, dharmas can be considered 
either in their actual being as phenomena or in their ideal being as 
noumena. They manifest themselves only in the moment of their 



activity, but in essentia they exist also before and after. 13 A dharma, 
as it is, exists always, i.e. during all time, and travels, as it were, 
through the three periods of time. This theory took account of the 
ancient tradition that a dharma is something long-lasting and infinite, 
and not just some puny pulse of activity, shorter than a breath. The 
Sarvastivadins also tried to hold fast to the tradition of the Brah - 
manas ‘which considered all factors which constitute the individual 
as participating in something transcendental’. 1 * They gave four 
reasons for their theory: 15 (i) The Buddha has taught it explicitly. 16 
(2) Mind-knowledge arises from the contact between mind and its 
object. If past and future dharmas did not exist, they could not 
produce the mind-consciousness which has them for object. (3) With¬ 
out an object no knowledge can arise, and all our knowledge would 
be restricted to the bare present. (4) If the past does not exist, how 
can a good or bad action produce a fruit in the future? For at the 
moment when the fruit is produced the cause of the retribution is past. 

This ‘panrealism’ teaches that ‘the becoming and arising of dharmas 
is not a real arising and disappearing, but a wandering of always 
existent entities from one period of time to another. Entities which 
seem to have newly arisen, in fact wander from the future into the 
present, and, when they perish, they are transferred into the past 
period. In the personal continuity also events do not arise and perish, 
but the continuity is a stream which flows from the future into the 
past. Salvation means that the personal continuity is interrupted and 
goes on no longer. It has definitely and finally been transferred into 
the past. It has not been annihilated, but gone to rest.' 17 

2. The Sarvastivadins further tried to dispel the difficulties by 
admitting the category of ‘belonging’ which tradition had rejected as 
fictitious (cf. p. 103), in a barely disguised form under the name of 
‘possession’ ( prapti ). 18 In order that any dharma can be inserted into 
a series of dharmas, or a ‘personal series’ ( santana, , a polite word for 
the ‘individual’), one must assume a separate dharma called ‘posses¬ 
sion’, which is distinct from ‘dispossession’. ‘Possession’ in this 
system is an actual fact {dravya-dharma) , an ultimately real entity, a 
definite causal agent, and not, as in the other schools, a mere designa¬ 
tion {prajnap ti- dharma). 

The prapti is defined as ‘(1) the acquisition of that which was not 
obtained {prapta) before, or which had been lost; (2) the possession 
of that which, having been obtained, has not been lost. The a-prapti 
is the opposite.’ 19 Possession and dispossession apply to both con¬ 
ditioned and unconditioned dharmas. One ‘possesses’ or does not 



‘possess’ passions, deeds, etc., past, present or future. The dharmss 
which one ‘possesses’ are those which ‘have fallen into one’s ow 1 
continuity’ (. sva-santana-patita), as distinct from those which are i: 1 
another person’s continuity, or those which do not belong to any 
living being (cf. p. 105). The acquisition or possession of Nirvana 
an unconditioned dharma,* should be understood as meaning that, bj 
means of the Path, the ascetic obtains as the fruit the ‘possession’ oi ’ 
disjunction from impure dharmas, or their stopping. When one 
‘obtains’ salvation, when one ‘adheres to’, ‘achieves’ or ‘realizes’ 
enlightenment or Nirvana, the Nirvana would in a sense be linked 
permanently to this continuity, at least until that ceases altogether. 
There would not only be die production of Nirvana, but also its 
acquisition (i.e. its repeated production by which one would become 
master of the attainment), and finally the possession, or permanent 
production, of the wholesome dharmas constituting Nirvana. An 
attempt at putting it impersonally would be to say 20 that one takes 
‘possession’ of stopping, cessation or Nirvana the moment that the ] 
prapti of the defiling dharmas is cut off, i.e. at the moment when one 
can no longer be possessed by them. 

With the help of the term ‘possession’ some of the more permanent 
combinations between dharmas and personal continuity can be re¬ 
stated. For instance the defilements can be said to be definitely and 
finally abandoned by a cognition of the truths because, since their 
‘possession* is cut off by that cognition, the conditions necessary for 
their arising are no longer complete. 21 Similarly, the quality of being 
an ordinary person consists in the ‘dispossession’ of the holy ( arya ) 
dharmas, which as a dharma acts as a force preventing their possession. 
If only present momentary dharmas were real, there could be no 
difference between an ordinary person and a saint who has a worldly 
thought. In fact, however, there is a difference because the saint, even 
while nursing a worldly thought, is ‘in possession’ of a number of pure 
dharmas. 22 

It is difficult to come to a clear decision about the philosophical 
value of this ingenious solution of the difficulties which the dharma- 
theory carried in its train. The restriction of reality to instantaneous 
dharmas had tended to atomize experience and deprive permanent 
units of a factual basis. The Sarvastivadins made amends by intro¬ 
ducing in their list of dharmas one special dharma which has no other 
function but to act as a kind of glue which sticks the dharmas together 
into more or less permanent units. The weakness of the solution 
* There is no possession of Ether. 



was so patent that all other schools regarded it as a merely verbal 
evasion of the problem, and that the Mahayana was provoked into a 
violent reaction which made it deny all validity and reality to this 
‘possession’, which it suspected of being just another form of self- 
assertion and self-seeking (cf. p. 231). The term prapti obviously sails 
very near the concept of a ‘person’ or ‘self’. ‘Possession’ is a relation 
which keeps together the elements of one stream of thought, or which 
binds a dharma to one ‘stream of consciousness’, which is just an 
evasive term for an underlying ‘person’. Similarly, ‘dispossession* is a 
relation which keeps in abeyance from the actual stream, and at the 
same time from the ‘person’ underlying it. ‘Possession’ implies a 
support which is more than the momentary state from moment to 
moment, and in fact a kind of lasting personality, i.e. the stream as 
identical with itself, in a personal identity, which is here interpreted as 

3. The prapti theory thus proved to be a dead end. The Sautrantikas 
tried to eliminate the undesirable consequences of the dharma-theory 
by introducing the auxiliary concepts of ‘seed’, ‘suffusion’ and 
‘lineage’. These proved to be more acceptable, and did much to 
mould later Buddhist thinking. Before turning to the Sautrantika 
solution we must, however, emphasize that in intention it differs 
radically from that of the Sarvastivadins. The Sarvastivadins had 
tried to explain what actually happens in the dharmic world, whereas 
the Sautrantikas only proffer what in modern times we would call a 
‘hypothesis’. The Sarvastivadin theories were meant to be verified 
by deep meditation aiming at contact with reality, and when verbal¬ 
ized they led, as we saw, to clumsy circumlocutions. The Sautran¬ 
tika theories, on the other hand, are offered as no more than convenient 
descriptions which permit us to account with some degree of verbal 
economy for events as they appear. The concepts which they employ 
are fruitful fictions ( prajnapd ) unrelated to ultimate reality, should not 
be taken too serioqsly, and belong to the context of discussion rather 
than meditation. 

It is the purport of the ‘“seed” theory to reconcile the abiding 
nature of the santati with the momentary flashes of dharmas’. 23 The 
Sautrantikas deny 24 that when we abandon or not abandon some 
passion the prapti of that passion appears or disappears. They 
explain renunciation by a certain ‘state of the substratum’. 25 ‘In the 
Aryas, by the force of the Path, the substratum is modified, becomes 
different from what it was. Once destroyed by the force of the Path, 
the passion can no more manifest itself. As the seed, burnt by fire, 



becomes different from what it was, is no longer capable of germi¬ 
nating, just so it is said of an Arya that he has abandoned the passions 
because his substratum no longer contains the seed (blja) capable of 
producing them/ On the other hand, a substratum is said not to have 
abandoned the passions if their seeds are neither burned nor damaged. 
As for the 'possession* of wholesome dharmas, they are either inborn 
or acquired by effort. In the first case the substratum possesses without 
hindrance the quality of being a seed-bed for these wholesome 
dharmas; in the second, after the wholesome dharmas have arisen, 
the substratum’s capacity to reproduce them is unhindered. 

‘Possession* is therefore not a separate dharma but a ‘state’ ( avastha ) 
capable of producing such and such an effect. A ‘seed* is defined as 
the psycho-physical organism, or the complex of the five skandhas, 
in so far as it is capable of producing a fruit, either mediately or 
immediately, by means of the culmination of the evolution {pariqama - 
visesa ) of the mental continuity. The ‘evolution* is the modification 
(anyathdtva) of that continuity, the fact that at each moment it arises 
as different from itself. The ‘culmination* of the evolution is the 
moment of the series which has the capacity to immediately produce 
the effect, or the fruit . 26 

This hypothesis also accounts for the anutayas , which are ‘seeds of 
evil*. The word means ‘a bias, a proclivity, a persistence of a dormant 
or latent disposition of mind leading to all kinds of evil volitions ’. 27 
‘This form of seed is simply an inherent power of mind to produce a 
[new] passion which is itself born of a past passion. It is comparable 
to an inherent power of yielding rice found in a sprout which is also 
bom of rice .* 28 The orthodox Sarvastivadins strongly objected to the 
‘seed* theory, and their main objection was that a ‘seed* could neither 
be identical with, nor different from thought. The Sautrantikas 
remained unmoved, and said that a ‘seed* is indeed neither identical 
with thought, nor different from it, for the simple reason that it is not 
a separate real, but only a nominal dharma . 29 

Over and above the stream of thought which proceeds from 
moment to moment the Sautrantikas introduce a ‘st^stratum* (<dsraya ), 
again a polite word for the ‘person’, in which they anchor all the 
possibilities of this continuity. The ‘substratum* is the psycho¬ 
physical organism, or the body endowed with organs, and it is the 
support of thought and its concomitants . 30 This complex organism is 
of such a kind, in such a specific state , 31 or its character is such that 
certain lines of development are open and others closed to it. This‘state* 
explains why a person is fit for this or that, destined for this or that. 



On these assumptions it is easy to explain how a deed, though it 
has passed away, can cause a fruit at a later time. ‘A volition perfumes 
the mental series and creates a potentiality in it. It is through the 
culmination of the evolution of this potentiality that later on a definite 
fruit will arise / 32 Although the instantaneous act itself be destroyed, 
the mental series, ‘perfumed’ by this act, can nevertheless through this 
special evolution of its potentiality procure a good or bad fruit. It is 
like a seed which, through intermediary stages, begets a fruit out of 
itself. This theory of the Sautrantikas is to some extent shared by 
Mahasanghikas and Mahfsasakas . 33 It is closely paralleled by the Sam- 
mitlyas who say that a karmically relevant action causes a ‘liability to 
retribution’ ( avipranasa ), i.e. registers a debt which must in due 
course be paid , 34 or, more precisely, deposits in the mental series a 
special dharma, existing by itself, which is called ‘non-disappearance’ 
(avipranasa ) by some, and ‘accumulation’ (iipacaya) by others, and it is 
thanks to this dharma that the future fruit is realized . 35 The Sautrantikas 
differ from these merely verbal restatements of the alleged connection 
by emphasizing the simile of an organic development, which is surely 
appropriate enough. In this respect, far from being complete inno¬ 
vators, they develop hints given already in the Sutras . 36 

‘Suffusion’ (yasana) in common language signifies imparting a 
scent. As a technical term it denotes a bias, a ‘natural capacity ’, 37 the 
after-effect of a past experience which ‘perfumes’ or ‘impregnates’ 
the series, the influence of a former experience which engenders a 
habit, a habitual way of thought or life . 38 Alternatively it is possible 
to speak of the ‘trace’ of a volition, which remains, matures and one 
day becomes efficacious. 

Finally, one more important term must be mentioned. ‘Lineage’ 
(gotra ) is a synonym of ‘seed’, ‘capacity ( samarthya ) of thought’, and 
‘remote cause’ (hetu)? 9 To some extent it amounts to what we call 
‘class’. Low-class people have low-class, high-class people have high- 
class thoughts, and in either case these thoughts are habit-forming, 
because they ‘perfume the series’. 40 In an ascetic the idea of a ‘woman’ 
is followed immediately by that of the detestation of her bod}', 
whereas worldly persons immediately think of her husband or son, just 
because they are that type of person (cf. p. 150). In a more special 
application the gotra determines the ‘family’, or ‘group’ to which a 
saint belongs, and which depends on the quality of his wholesome 
roots, and the keenness of his faculties, 41 as well as on whether he 
follows the methods of the Disciples, Pratyekabuddhas or Buddhas 
(cf. pp. 166 sq). A1 In the Mahayana the gotra is then identified with 



‘the Dharma-element, which is the source and substratum of die 
dharmas of a Buddha, and the true essential nature of a BodhisattvaV 3 

3. The concept of causality . (a) The Tange of conditions 

Except for Nirvana, or perhaps space, all dharmas are conditioned 
(samskrtaX i.e. ‘made by the combination and concurrence of con¬ 
ditions’. 1 This looks fairly unobjectionable, but the difficulties begin 
when we actually try to meditate on the conditioned nature of all 
things around us, and it is not immediately obvious how we should 
go about our task. And yet, the insight into conditions was regarded 
as a valuable tool which set free from the attachment to this world, 
and formed an important part of the meditational practices of the 

An investigation of conditions is, as a matter of fact, centrally 
important. Subtly and step by step it must undermine the belief in 
the fixity and ultimate validity of the sense-given distinctions between 
things around us. Convinced that mental health depends on the 
ability to make contact with the actual reality behind the data of 
experience, Buddhists search for what a thing itself is, in other words, 
they try to find its ‘own-being* (svabhdvaX That is more difficult than 
may appear at first sight. A thing is never found by itself alone, but 
always together with others which ‘stand around it*, and constitute 
its ‘circumstances*. As soon as we try to find out where a thing ends 
and where its circumstances, or conditions, begin, we no longer know 
where we stand. 

Let us first consider the conditions of the presentation of an object . 
If you take anything which you can see, any sight-object, like a rose, a 
vase or a piece of paper, then the sight-object can never be had by 
itself, but is invariably embedded in a great deal of extraneous 
matter. Always it is seen on a background, and its appearance varies 
with its context. The ingenuity of Gestalt psychologists has provided 
many illustrations of the almost complete transformation which the 
visual appearance of an object can undergo when the background is 
changed. The appearance further depends on the light in which the 
thing is seen, and varies with its colour and intensity. The rose will 
look quite different in artificial light, or in sunlight, or in blue or 
red light, and it is hard to decide which kind of light will reveal the 
true rose. Similarly, it is impossible to say what the rose looks like in 
total darkness, because light of some degree of intensity must be 
present for the rose to appear as a sight-object at all. In addition, the 



rose looks to us as it does because of the structure of our visual appara¬ 
tus, i.e. of the eye, the optical nerve, and its cerebral connections. If 
we had faceted eyes like bees, or if the optic nerve transformed the 
stimulations of the retina in the brain otherwise than it does, the whole 
picture would change. And once we ask whether the actual reality of 
the object is reflected more accurately by lens-shaped or by faceted 
eyes, we are clearly stumped for an answer. 

The survey of the conditions under which a datum of experience 
is presented to consciousness has had an honoured place in the tradi¬ 
tion of Buddhist meditation. As we read in the Salistamba Sutra : 1 
‘Eye-consciousness comes into being dependent on (at least) five 
factors, (i) There must be the eye as the inner support, (2) a sight- 
object as the outer support, (3) light to illuminate the sight-object, or 
to make it visible, (4) an unobstructed field of vision between eye and 
sight-object, and (5) appropriate attention which directs the mental 
processes to the situation. When any of these factors is absent, or 
rendered ineffective by other conditions, eye-consciousness is not 
produced. The production of eye-consciousness results from the 
combination of these five factors/ With the help of the modem 
psychology of perception this kind of reflection could be made into a 
most impressive means of demonstrating the deceptiveness of sensory 
experience. Here it is sufficient to point out that an object of per¬ 
ception is swallowed up by the conditions which govern its presenta¬ 
tion, and cannot be separated from them. 

The same holds good when we regard a thing not as a datum but 
as a process or event , and consider the conditions which produce it. 
No event is ever brought about by only one condition, but a multi¬ 
plicity of conditions is required. Common sense, it is true, is inclined 
to obscure this fact by making a distinction between ‘causes* and 
‘conditions*, which on more mature reflection cannot be sustained. 

Suppose that somebody has been killed by a bullet, then for prac¬ 
tical reasons, e.g. in order to assign legal responsibility, we may be 
content to say that the bullet and the man who fired it were the ‘cause* 
of his death. But not so where we are disinterestedly concerned with 
the reality of what actually happened. The bullet is one condition of 
the man*s death, but merely one out of many. If he had not been in 
the way of the bullet, he would not have died from it. And there 
were many conditions which made him stand just where he stood. If 
he had not in the past acquired a mortal body, he could not have died. 
Similarly there must have been reasons why the bullet was fired, and 
why no effective obstacle stood between the gun and the man. There 



was the gun itself, which had to be made, delivered to a shop and 
bought; there was the man who fired it, and his hands, eyes, brain, 
and mind all had something to do with it. So, on reflection we must 
admit that even in a simple instance like this quite a number of con¬ 
ditions have combined to bring about one event. Many other con¬ 
ditions are just as essential to the event as the bullet, for without them 
the effect in its concrete particularity could not have occurred. As a 
matter of fact, the conditions of any single event are, if not positively 
infinite, at least indefinite in number.* ‘The omniscient alone can 
know all the causes which bring about the glittering shine in a single 
eye of a peacock’s tail. Their infinite variety exceeds the knowledge of 
others .’ 3 

How far, then, are we going to spread our net in the search for 
relevant conditions? They would not necessarily have to lie spatially 
within the neighbourhood of the event itself. Suppose our man was 
killed in battle, then we may have to go up as high as the sun to find 
some of the conditions of his death. If he was killed by day, the sun 
of course helped the other man to see him, but there is more to it 
than that. If, as quite a number of economists affirm, sunspots are 
one of the causes of an economic crisis, and if the best way of dealing 
with an economic crisis is to blow up both surplus men and surplus 
goods in a modern war, then the spots on the sun can be shown to be 
one of the conditions for the man’s death by a bullet. We may even 
have to go farther afield than the sun—to the stars themselves. For 
was it a mere accident that the man died just at that moment, or was 
it perhaps due to some particularly deadly conjunction in the heavens 
to which he was sensitive as the result of his birth-horoscope? But 

* The Buddhist doctrine of the multiplicity of conditions seems to make a 
decision on the ‘freedom of the will* unnecessary (cf. p. 104, n ). If the total 
number of conditions is unlimited, and most of them are unknown, it is impos¬ 
sible to say which condition of necessity brings about which event. In conse¬ 
quence it is impossible in any given case to prove by observation that one event 
necessarily follows from just these and only these conditions. Inevitable causality 
is therefore a mere surmise, and there is plenty of room for caprice and for the 
unusual (as the Virgin birth of Christ or the Buddha’s descent as a white ele¬ 
phant). The determinisms disbelief in the possibility of anything extraordinary is 
not substantiated by the Buddhist definition of causality. Certain conditions are 
‘normally* required to produce a certain effect; but the norm is capable of 
exceptions which, though improbable, are not necessarily impossible. Observed 
facts point neither to determinism nor to indeterminism. Fata ducunt sed non 
trahunt. It is therefore foolish to either assert or deny the freedom of the will. 
This is, however, just my own opinion which is contradicted by what Stcher- 
batsky, no mean authority, says in BL I 131-4. 



this would be leaving the natural causality for the realms of magic 
and the occult, into which few readers will wish to follow. 

But even if he should reject the occult, any Buddhist will have to 
look beyond the natural sequence of events for two kinds of causality 
which normally fall outside the ken of the ordinary man in the street. 
He must of necessity pay special attention to both the karmic and the 
‘spiritual’ conditions of an event. The karmic, or moral, conditions 
may, as we saw (p. 102), go back far in time, even for aeons. 

The ocean’s water may dry up, 

Mount Sumeru may waste away, 

The actions done in former lives 
Are never lost, but come to fruit 
Though aeons after aeons pass, 

Until at last the debt is paid.’ 

Even more important is that which for want of a better term I will 
call the ‘spiritual’ causality. Birth was the cause , and the bullet no more 
than the occasion of this man’s death. That he would die was a cer¬ 
tainty the moment he was born, though when and how he would die 
depended on an unspecified set of further conditions. And what 
determined his having been bom as he was? The deeds of his past 
which conditioned his rebirth in such and such a state. And so we 
have to go back along the twelve lines of conditioned co-production, 
from ‘becoming* to ‘ignorance’ as the basis of it all. 

There is a fundamental difference in the investigation of conditions 
from worldly and from unworldly motives. Where conditions are 
investigated from interest in survival, comfort or discomfort, danger 
or security, there those conditions will be regarded as most interesting, 
relevant and decisive which are the most specific to the event which 
has occurred. In our example above, the bullet will be regarded 
as specially important. More general conditions, like the existence 
of the atmosphere, the gravitation of the earth, and so on, will seem 
to be fairly irrelevant supporting conditions. It is quite different when 
we are concerned with salvation, and regard the contemplation of the 
event as an opportunity to promote emancipation from the world as a 
whole. Then interest must centre on its more general factors. Buddhists 
meditate on conditions in order to win salvation from all conditioned 
things, for they desire to reject them in so far as they are conditioned, 
and to thereby win through to the Unconditioned. In ordinary life we 
are too absorbed in doing something about this particular object to 
lay stress on its general conditions, especially those within ourselves, 



which we are apt to take for granted. We are too much lost to the 
things of the world to care much about their distance from true 
reality. In meditation, however, the emphasis is placed more on the 
inward rather than the outward, and likewise more on the common 
than the specific and distinctive conditions. Each new experience 
illustrates always the same kind of problem, i.e. the false attitude of a 
false person to a false appearance. From the point of view of our salva¬ 
tion the most essential fact about any worldly experience is that such 
a kind of object should occur to such a separate, ignorant and self- 
infatuated self. The differences between two objects, A and B, weigh 
less than the fact, common to both of them, that they are given to a 
person who, a Spirit ill at ease, finds himself in the samsaric world. 
The worldling is interested in the particular effects, favourable or 
unfavourable, which particular objects have on the course of his life; 
the spiritual man tends to ignore these. Instead he concentrates on the 
one basic common denominator of all his worldly experiences, which 
lies in that they happen to someone who has lost his way, has gone 
astray and finds himself in a fallen state. 

We seek for causes to remove a wrong. Ordinary practice stresses 
specific causes and neglects the general and usual ones, taking them 
for granted and understood. In meditational practice we aim at 
indifference to objects in general, and their distinctiveness does not 
matter much. Instead of handling this object and remoulding it to suit 
our own convenience, we treat it as an occasion to withdraw from all 
this kind of thing. We concentrate on the fact, worked out in detail 
in the twelve links of conditioned co-production, that all our experi¬ 
ence is ‘brought along* by self-deceived blindness, and that it pre¬ 
supposes a self which builds itself up against an outside world and 
which has sunk into suffering, unrest and entanglements as a result of 
its individualization. All the central facts of our individual existence 
and experience can be connected with the links of conditioned co¬ 
production, and this connection allows us to both understand and 
overcome them. 

3 b. The definition of causality 

The first thing to remember is therefore the law of the ‘multi¬ 
plicity of conditions*. No event has one single cause, but invariably 
the co-operation of a multitude of conditions is involved. 4 What is 
necessary for an effect to take place is that the ‘full complement’ 
( sdmagri ) of the conditions must be present. ‘The effect itself, indeed, 



is nothing but the presence of the totality of its causes. If the seed and 
the necessary quanta of air, soil, heat and moisture are present in it, 
all other elements not interfering, the sprout is already there. The 
effect is nothing over and above the presence of the totality of its 
causes/ 5 If the totality of antecedents is incomplete, if one only is 
missing, the effect cannot come about. Therefore, until the very last 
moment some obstacle may still intervene, some contrary force which 
will prevent the effect. The future is never quite certain, one should 
not count on it too much, and it can be predicted with certainty only 
by an omniscient being. 6 For us ‘the accomplishment of the result can 
always be jeopardized by some unpredictable event'. 7 By contrast, the 
modem idea of causality is governed by the ideal of prediction. The 
concrete totality of events is set aside, certain sectors are ‘isolated' and 
observed on their own, with the intention of ‘controlling' events. 
Buddhists pursue a different path (cf. p. 182). The same unwillingness 
to face events in their concrete individuality which causes such 
difficulties to modern Europeans in relation to the Buddhist concep¬ 
tion of impermanence (cf. pp. 99 sg.) also makes it hard for them to 
grasp what is here meant by ‘causality'. When they speak of a cause 
they mean the general cause of this kind of event, taken in the abstract , 
whereas the Buddhists are interested in the concrete conditions of this 
particular concrete event. Once this is understood, the Buddhist theory 
becomes self-evident. 

The word ‘conditioned' is said to mean ‘where this is (or becomes), 
there that is (or becomes)*. 8 This rule applies to all conditioned 
phenomena, and defines the relation between condition and condi¬ 
tioned. According to Buddhaghosa, a condition has the function to 
‘assist' or ‘render service' (upakara). A condition is a dharma which 
aids another dharma to abide or arise. The conditioned depends on 
the condition, which must be as it is so that something else can occur. 
It would be misleading to say 9 that the cause is an active agent which 
does something to ‘produce' or ‘generate' the effect. In fact, apart 
from ‘being there' it does nothing at all (<avyapara , akimcit-kara ), and 
the effect arises in functional dependence upon the conditions. ‘There 
is no real production; there is only interdependence.' At the time 
when the effect arises the ‘cause' cannot operate any longer, because 
not the slightest bit of reality survives in the next moment after the 
‘cause' has had its being. There is no room here to compare the 
Buddhist definition of causality with other conceptions current in 
India or Europe. 10 Suffice it to point out that it is the inevitable 
corollary of the doctrine of momentariness. 



3c. The classification of causes and conditions 
To guide meditation in this field, the Abhidhamma of the Theravadins 
compiled a list of twenty-four conditions (paccaya ), which the monk 
had to apply systematically to all the data of his experience. 11 It must 
be noted that they are chiefly concerned with mental processes and 
their conditions because of the overriding importance of mental 
attitudes (cf. p. 112). 

Four of these conditions, i.e. nos. (2), (9), (13) and (21), are con¬ 
sidered in elementary teaching, 12 and I begin with them. 

No. (2). One dharma conditions another, or assists it by way of 
being its object , or ‘objective support’. Just as a weak man gets up and 
can stand upright by leaning on a stick or hanging on to a rope, so 
thought and its concomitants arise through having sights, etc., to: 
mind-objects for their objective support, and through them they also 
maintain themselves. No conscious (as distinct from a subconscious) 
thought can exist without an object. 

No. (9). Decisive influence . This is a powerful condition and the 
conditioned finds it hard to reject its promptings or inducement. It 
is threefold: (9a) Decisive influence of object . This means that in con¬ 
templating moral conduct, proficiency in the trances, and so on, one 
takes hold of an object, makes much of it, stresses its importance until 
it outweighs all other considerations and acquires an overwhelming 
and almost irresistible force.* (9c) Habitual decisive influence. 
‘Habitual’ (literally ‘natural’, pakata ) may mean either the food, 
climate, etc., to which one is accustomed, or it may refer to mental 
habits. Someone who has become accomplished ( nipphadito ) in the 
practice of faith, as a result of his having practised it for long, will 
find it so much easier to produce further acts of faith. And so for the 
other virtues. Once they have become habitual they in their turn lead 
with some ease to the giving of gifts, observance of the moral rules, and 
the arising of trances, insight, the Path and the super-knowledges.f 

* (9b) the decisive influence by way of proximity will be explained at Group HI, 
p. 153. 

f Condition no. (9) is a more intensive form of condition no. (3), i.e. pre¬ 
dominant influence , in which one event assists another in the sense of being 
‘superior*, ‘prominent* or ‘foremost*. It is of two kinds, by way of co-nascence 
and by way of object. The first means that concentrated desire-to-do, vigour, 
thought and investigation are predominant factors on the occasion when, in the 
practice of the four bases of psychic power, predominance is given to one or the 
other of them. The second (corresponding to (9a)) occurs when one object 
becomes particularly powerful, is stressed and made much of, is regarded as the 
most agreeable, lovable, pleasing and worth paying attention to. 



No. (13). Karma . This operates by the kind of action which in¬ 
volves exertion of thought (' citta-payoga ). (a) Worldly volitions, 
wholesome or unwholesome, which appear as bodily, verbal or mental 
actions, condition the skandhas which arise later, and which result 
from them. ( \b ) Co-nascent volitions condition co-nascent associated 

No. (21). Presence . The condition is simultaneous with the con¬ 
ditioned, and assists and consolidates it by just being present. In this 
way the four mental skandhas assist one another, the four great 
primaries assist one another as well as the material objects derived 
from them, the eye-element assists the eye-consciousness element, and 
so on. 

The remaining conditions may be distributed into three groups, as 
follows: Group I concerns events which are (A) simultaneous, 
(B) pre-nascent, (C) post-nascent, and (D) all three. 

IA. (6). Co-nascent: the condition arises together with the condi¬ 
tioned, like lamp and lamp-light. (7) Mutuality: As the three sticks 
in a tripod help one another to stand up, so the condition and the 
conditioned mutually assist each other, by mutually arousing and 
consolidating each other. (8) Support: co-nascent states aid others 
in the manner of a foundation, or support, just as trees have the 
earth for their foundation, or as an oil painting rests on a canvas. 
(19) Association: mental states assist each other by having one and 
the same physical basis, object, rising and stopping. (24) Non-dis¬ 
appearance: one event helps another by remaining present, by not 

IB. (10) Pre-nascence: a condition which precedes the conditioned, 
assists it by going on and remaining present. For instance, a sight- 
object arises and persists for a while; this renders possible the eye- 
consciousness element. Without the pre-arising of the visual organ, 
etc., no eye-consciousness could take place. 13 Here the five sense- 
organs, five sense-objects and the ‘heart-basis’ may act as conditions; 
the five sense-consciousnesses, as well as the mind and mind-conscious¬ 
ness, and their associated states, are the conditioned. 

IC. (11) Post-nascence: post-nascent mental states prop up, or 
support, pre-nascent physical states, ‘just as the appetite of young 
vultures for food is a condition for the upkeep of their bodies’. 

ID. (20) Dissociation: this refers to the relation between material 
and immaterial events. The condition aids the conditioned through not 
being one in physical basis, etc. (as distinct from (19) see at IA). In 
this way ( a ) co-nascent wholesome dharmas condition thought- 

* 5 * 


produced form; (b) post-nascent wholesome dharmas condition this 
body, in so far as it is pre-nascent; (c) the six pre-nascent physical bases 
condition the six kinds of consciousness. 

Group II. Various modes of conditioning in different circum¬ 
stances: (i) root-cause: all co-existent wholesome events are rooted 
in the absence of greed, hate and delusion, whereas all co-existent 
unwholesome consciousness is rooted in greed, hate and delusion. 
Mental states which have such roots are firm and stable, like trees with 
deep roots. Those which lack them are less well fixed, like moss 
which has roots no bigger than sesamum seeds. (14) Karmaresult: a 
karma-resultant dharma, itself effortless, calm and passive, conditions 
other dharmas associated with it by inducing in them a state of 
passivity and quietude. (15) Nutriment: Material food props up the 
body (i.e. prevents eventual inanition). The three immaterial nutri¬ 
ments, i.e. contact, mental volition and consciousness, prop up, or 
support, the associated states and the form which originates from 
them. (16) Dominants assist by exercising a dominating influence. 14 

(17) Jhana: the seven factors of trance 15 help to bring about a 
state of meditational trance together with its material consequences. 

(18) Path: the twelve ‘path-factors’ are considered in the sense 
that they lead away (niyyana) from this or that, ‘this* being the 
world, and ‘that’ being Nirvana.* 

Group III concerns the relations between events when they are 
considered as a continuous succession of thought-moments bringing 
about the maturation of a full-grown thought (cf. pp. 186-91). 
Each such thought, as we shall see, rises, like a wave, through certain 
levels of apperception. Six conditions belong to this group: (4) Two 
thought-moments are conditioned by way of proximity when there is 
no interval (antara) between them. These thought-moments do not 
succeed one another just anyhow, but their development must go 
through regular stages, and the next stage cannot be reached before the 
previous one has been traversed. The previous stage then assists the 
next by immediately preceding it, for without it doing so the due 
order of the thought-process could not be accomplished, and the 
next thought-moment could not arise. ‘This is the fixed order of 
thought (cittaniyamo) that first there is eye-consciousness, then 

* (1) wrong views, (2) wrong speech, (3) wrong conduct, and (4) wrong 
livelihood lead away from Nirvana; (5) cognition, (6) correct thinking (?, vitakka\ 
(7) right speech, (8) right conduct, (9) right livelihood, (10) vigour, (11) mind¬ 
fulness, and (12) concentration lead away from the world. This is a very difficult 
item, and I cannot claim to have fully understood it. 



mind-element, then mind-consciousness element; and this is accom¬ 
plished only when the thoughts proceed in due order, and not other¬ 
wise; therefore a thought-moment which is competent to arouse a 
suitable thought-moment immediately after it, is a condition by way 
of proximity/ (5) The immediate antecedent is said by Buddhaghosa 
to be the same as (4), only that it stresses the immediacy of the two 
moments which have nothing interposed 16 between them. (9b) Deci¬ 
sive influence by way of proximity refers to the occasions when a pre¬ 
ceding thought-moment strongly induces the one immediately 
following to arise. (12) Repetition forms a habit, as when we learn 
by heart. When such repetition takes place, a thought-moment assists 
the one which follows immediately upon it by making it more familiar 
and strong. This condition applies only to the seventh level of apper¬ 
ception. Each wholesome volition facilitates the emergence of another 
wholesome volition immediately following upon it. And so with the 
unwholesome volitions. Likewise specific reactions, by anger, lust, 
conceit, compassion, etc., are apt to become habitual. And so do the 
merely functional impulsions, probably in the sense that some tech¬ 
nical skill is built up. (22) Absence. Mental events which have just 
passed assist those which immediately succeed by making room for 
them. By themselves ceasing they thus give them an opportunity to 
arise and to proceed. (23) Disappearance differs only verbally from 
(22). By disappearing the event which precedes makes room for the 
one which follows. 

Even this succursory survey will show that in Buddhism the term 
‘condition* has a much richer meaning than we usually associate with 
it. In order to make quite sure to catch all the conditions of an event, 
the Theravadin behaves like the Sioux brave who gallops in circles 
round the wagon of the trappers and shoots forth his arrows from all 
directions and angles.* 

The Sarvastivadin enumeration of conditions is slightly less com¬ 
plicated. It shows sufficient resemblance to the Theravadin scheme 
to make it probable that in their original form both were evolved 
before the two schools separated. It shows sufficient dissimilarities to 
suggest that the evolved scheme was thought out after their separa¬ 
tion. Four conditions ( pratyaya ) and six causes ( hetu ) 17 are here 

* I regret that there is not the space to bring these categories to life in con¬ 
crete instances. The reader must be warned that the meditation on conditions 
was regarded as one of the highest achievements of Buddhist thought, and before 
dismissing the 24 conditions as the confused phantasies of ignorant natives 
he ought to grasp what the scheme was meant to do, and learn to operate it. 



distinguished. The four conditions are: (i) the object, (2) the immel 
diate antecedent, (3) the predominant condition (< adhipad ), anc 
(4) the co-operating condition. 

The first refers to the appropriate object of mental processes. The 
second also applies only to mental events, and refers to the imme¬ 
diately preceding moment in the stream of thought which by ceasing 
facilitates the immediately subsequent emergence of another thought. 
All thoughts exert this causality, except for the last thought of an 
Arhat at the moment of Nirvana, which cannot be followed by 
another thought. The third is the decisive, dominating, specific con¬ 
dition, the reason (karana) for the arising of something else, that 
which seems to ‘generate* it ( janaka ), as sight-organ and sight-object 
for sight-consciousness, the seed for the sprout, etc. The ‘co-operating 
condition’ finally is illustrated as the contribution which light, etc., 
make to visual sensation. 

The six ‘causes* are in all probability a later addition. 18 The first 
is the comprehensive, generic, or general and indirect cause of an 
event. Each conditioned dharma is the ‘general cause* for all entities 
except itself. It is a co-present cause, and comprises all the ‘per¬ 
missive* conditions of an event, which offer no obstacle ( avighna) to 
its arising, and do not interfere with it, although they could do so, 
thereby constituting a continuous menace in the background.* 
Secondly we have co-existence ( sahabhu ). Here co-existent dharmas 
mutually condition one another, as the great primaries and their 
derivatives, as thought and its concomitants, or as the four marks, 
birth, etc. (cf. p. 179) and the dharmas to which they apply. The 
dharmas which always accompany a thought (cf. p. in) have as to 
time the same birth, duration and ending as the thought itself, for 
thought and its concomitants arise, last and perish together; they 
have the same fruit and the same karma-result; where the one is 
wholesome, unwholesome or neutral, so is the other. The Sautrantikas 
objected that a cause, as the word is normally used, must precede its 
effect, and cannot be simultaneous with it. The Sarvastivadins replied 
with examples to the contrary, among them the lamp and the lamp¬ 
light, which we met before at p. 151. In the case of co-existent dharmas, 
as they are defined, they all exist where one exists, and none exists 
where one of them is missing. Therefore they mutually condition one 
another. Likewise we find the example of the tripod (cf. p. 151) to 

* ‘That means that nothing short of the condition of the universe at a given 
moment is the ultimate cause of the event which appears at that moment’ 
(BL I 131). 



illustrate the mutual support of simultaneous dharmas. This tradition 
must therefore be very old.* 

Similar to ‘co-existence* is thirdly ‘association*. It applies only to 
mental events. Consciousness (< citta ), although a separate dharma, 
never, as we saw (p. in), appears alone, but always in the company of 
other mental events (caitta). Citta and caitta are related by association 
if they have the same single (abhinnd) substratum. For instance , 19 a 
momentary activity of the sight-organ may be the substratum not 
only for a visual consciousness but also for the feelings, etc., which 
are associated with it. Just as those who accompany a caravan use the 
same food, drink, etc., just so associated dharmas have the same 
substratum, object, aspect, time and constituents . 20 The second and 
third cause are obviously intended to replace the category of ‘inher¬ 
ence* assumed by other philosophers in India. 

The fourth cause, ‘homogeneity*, is ‘intended to explain the homo¬ 
geneous run of point-instants which evokes the idea of duration and 
stability’ in objects. Similars cause similars, wholesome events facili¬ 
tate wholesome events, unwholesome dharmas facilitate unwholesome 
dharmas, and this applies to all dharmas of the same category and 
level, just as rice produces rice, and wheat produces wheat. The cause 
is here always antecedent to the effect. Just as those who accompany 
a caravan can travel safely because of the help they give one another, 
just so dharmas which are related by ‘similarity* or ‘homogeneity* 
sustain each other. 

Fifthly, the ‘all-pervading* (sarvatraga) cause refers to the causality 
exerted by the latent evil proclivities. The subject is so difficult that I 
must refer to the original sources , 21 and confine myself to quoting 
Stcherbatsky’s summary: ‘under this name the different passions and 
habitual ways of thought of the ordinary man are understood, which 
prevent him from seeing the origin and essence of empirical reality and 
thus prevent him from becoming a Saint*. Finally the sixth cause, of 
retribution (vipaka = karmaresult), covers all unwholesome dharmas, 
and those wholesome dharmas which are with outflows, because it is 

* Elsewhere also (AK ii 275) the Sarvastivadins stress that the conditions need 
not precede the conditioned. Past and present dharmas can be ‘all-pervading* 
and ‘similar*; present and future dharmas can be ‘associated*, ‘co-existent* and 
‘karmaresultant’; the conditioned dharmas of the three periods of time can be 
‘generating causes*. The co-existent and associated cause, as well as the object- 
condition, act on a dharma which arises together with them, and which is present 
and in the process of perishing. Three, the similar, universal and karmaresultant, 
act on a future dharma, one which is in the process of arising, and so does the 
immediately antecedent condition. See also BL 1 120. 



their nature to lead to a karma-result. Wholesome dharmas withoi 
outflows, as being free from craving, do not act in this way. 

3 d. Conditioned co-production I 

The discovery of the twelve links of the chain of causation, or morel 
literally ‘conditioned co-production* {pratityasamutpada ), was con¬ 
sidered as the highest insight of a Buddha which immediately preceded 
his enlightenment; it was a subject of constant meditation, and the 
monk was continually reminded of it by the samsaramaridala> the 
‘circle of birth-and-death*, better known as the ‘wheel of life*, which 
was painted in the vestibule of monasteries. 22 The formula of this 
doctrine has been given in my Buddhist Meditation 9 followed by the 
Theravadin interpretation derived from Buddhaghosa. 23 Of this 
formula it was rightly said that ‘it is deep, and it also looks deep*, 
and it would be easy to write a long book about it. Confined to 
essentials by limitations of space, I will have to concentrate on defining 
its exact purpose. What does this much-vaunted formula set out to 
achieve, what does it want to explain? Eight points must be considered: 

1. As a correlate to the second and third Truths it explains the 
origin of ill, as well as its cessation, in other words, the possibility of 
salvation. It explains why things have gone wrong with us, and tells 
us where we can do something effectively to put them right again, the 
attack being directed chiefly against ignorance and craving. 

2. It reminds us that our present condition is quite abnormal, that 
we are in what might be called a ‘fallen* state, and that whatever we 
may think or do is thoroughly corrupted by ignorance and craving. 
‘Bondage comes from clinging to ignorance, release from letting it 
go.* The conviction that life is just one long disease is well brought 
out by Buddhaghosa*s similes 24 for the twelve links: The first is like a 
blind man who does not see what is in front of him; (2) he stumbles, 
(3) he falls, (4) he develops an abscess, (5) the abscess ripens and 
matter accumulates in it, which (6) presses on the abscess, and 
(7) hurts; (8) he longs for a cure, (9) has recourse to the wrong 
medicine, (10) uses the wrong ointment, (11) with the result that 
the abscess swells up, and (12) bursts. So this doctrine reduces our 
precious and cherished personality to the status of a ‘boil*! 

3. It makes clear to us that what we call our ‘experience’ or ‘know¬ 
ledge* of the world is in fact linked to ignorance, and that the total 
negation of ignorance, by the wise contemplation of emptiness, is the 
only way out of this welter of confusion. 



4. It accounts for the mechanism of rebirth. In this context we must 
consider the possibility that the chain of twelve links, as presented 
by the orthodoxy of the Theravadins and Sarvastivadins, is a later 
scholastic version of a slightly different earlier theory. It has 
often been remarked that some scriptural texts give a version of 
‘conditioned co-production* which differs to some extent from the 
one adopted later on. 25 Not only is ignorance not always the first, 
but it is preceded by upadhi , ‘affections* (?) in the Suttanipdta and by 
the outflows ( asavd ) in Majjhima Nikaya. In addition some of the 
older lists introduce conditions missing in the stereotyped formula, 
such as ‘perceptions* and ‘multitudinous concepts* {papahca ) which 
play a decisive role in the soteriology of the Mahayana. Leaving aside 
other variations, the most important seems to be that in the most 
archaic formulas four of the links appear to be missing. They are 
(4) name-and-form, (5) six sense-fields, (11) birth, and (12) decay and 
death. This leaves (1) ignorance, (2) karma-formations, (3) conscious¬ 
ness, (6) contact, (7) feeling, (8) craving, (9) grasping, and (10) be¬ 
coming. Now it is easy to see that the four omitted items (4,5,11,12) 
are precisely those which give, as it were, body to the transmigration 
of the individual and express the fate of the organism which trans¬ 
migrates. It is therefore not impossible that originally the formula 
had nothing to do with the problem of rebirth, and that its distribution 
among three lives is a scholastic addition. The remaining eight 
factors (1-3, 6-10) could be interpreted as giving the basic mental 
conditions which, operating at any given time, account for the origin 
of suffering and of erroneous conceptions. The formula may perhaps 
originally have explained nothing but the origination and cessation 
of ill, without any direct reference to a series of successive lives. 

5. What is more certain is that also the scholastics did not regard 
the links as merely consecutive, but as simultaneously present in one 
and the same experience. The Abhidharmakoid 16 tells us that in one 
and the same moment, when a man who is a prey to defilement 
commits a murder, all the twelve links are realized. There is (1) his 
moha , or befogged state of mind, (2) his volition or purposive actions, 
(3) his discriminating consciousness of a certain object, (4) the four 
skandhas co-existing with that consciousness, (5) the activity of the 
sense-organs, (6) the contacts involved in their activity, (7) the 
experience of that contact, (8) greed, (9) the ‘obsessions* ( paryavas - 
thana) associated with greed, like the lack of sense of shame, etc., 
(10) the corporeal and vocal acts which proceed, (11) the production 
(birth) of all these dharmas, and (12) their maturity and breaking up. 



6 . The teaching dispels the doubts one may feel about one’s own 
fate, as ‘did I exist in the past, how, and as whom?’ ‘How did I get there 
and from where?’ ‘Where will I go from here, and how?’ ‘Who or 
what will I be after I am dead?’ 

7. It explains how it is possible for an individual to appear to haw \ 
come into being without the existence of a permanent self, which 
would be the subject of his deeds and experiences and the recipieni 
of the pleasure and pain which result from his deeds. At every point 
impersonal factors are brought into play, and there is no one who 
knows, touches, feels, craves, grasps, becomes, is bom, decays or 

8. It gives a fuller understanding of the conditioned nature of all] 
events. In the Sutras conditioned co-production meant only the twelve 
links beginning with ignorance or the factors determining the rebirth 
of an individual. The Abhidharmists developed this into a more 
general theory, which made conditioned co-production synonymous 
with the sum-total of conditioned reality.* 27 

* Some schools maintained that conditioned co-production is unconditioned. 
As one may say that nothing is permanent except impermanence, so also that 
nothing is unconditioned except that everything is conditioned. This had great 
consequences for the future. 





I. Nirvana and space 

Having described the conditioned, we now turn to the Unconditioned. 
The Absolute occurs in an impersonal form as the ‘Unconditioned' or 
‘Nirvana', and in an apparently personal form as the ‘Buddha' or 
‘Tathagata' (cf. pp. 171 sq.). The Sutras had spoken of the transcend¬ 
ence of Nirvana in deeply felt poetical language. The bulk of the 
Abhidharma literature is concerned with an analysis of the con¬ 
ditioned. Statements about the Unconditioned are fairly rare and in 
the main deal with three themes. The first of these has been discussed 
at length in part I, where Nirvana was defined in relation to the three 
marks of all conditioned things (cf. pp. 71 sq .). The second and third 
concern its relation to causality and existence, and require a few 
words here. It is only with the Mahayana that interest definitely shifts 
to the Unconditioned which becomes the almost exclusive topic of 
discussion, its transcendence being guarded against misunderstandings 
not only by piling negation upon negation, but also by continuous 
attempts at defining the exact significance of the negative sentences 

By its very definition the Unconditioned transcends not only all 
thought, but also all karma and causality. The Dhammasangani 1 here 
and there incidentally states some of the attributes of the ‘uncon¬ 
ditioned element*. In relation to thought it is ‘not sprung from 
thought’, not something coming into being together with thought, and 
not consecutive to thought. In relation to karma it is indeterminate, 
i.e. productive of neither good nor bad karma; neither a karma- 
result nor liable to one. In relation to causality it is not a cause, has 
no concomitant cause, is not associated with a cause. The Questions of 
King Milinda 2 put the essence of the matter quite clearly: Nirvana is 
not the result of a cause ( a-hetu-jam ). There is no cause for the pro¬ 
duction of Nirvana, but there is a Path which leads to its realization. 



Nirvana itself is unproducible ( anuppadamya ) because it is ‘made by 
nothing at air. One cannot say of it that it has been produced or no 
produced, or that it can be produced, or that it is past, future oi 

So far so good. But a scholastic system, left to its own momentum, 
will always aim at greater and greater precision by the inordinate 
multiplication of subtler and subtler distinctions. In this way the 
European scholastics of the sixteenth century had, as compared with 
the relative simplicity of St Thomas, reached an almost incredible 
degree of conceptual refinement. As a result their system became 
unwieldy, attracted only the timid and the mediocre, and was rudely 
pushed aside by bolder spirits like Martin Luther and Francis Bacon. 
Likewise in the Abhidharma the praiseworthy desire for greater 
precision led over the centuries to an almost complete dead¬ 
lock. As its subtly balanced thought-constructions yielded less and 
less insight, the Mahayanists lost patience with them and countered 
with violently paradoxical affirmations which, while stressing the fact 
that Nirvana and this world are quite incommensurable, gave up all 
attempts at explaining how anyone can ever reach Nirvana. For a 
brick, however much it may be polished, will never become a mirror. 
In the same way no amount of effort, no amount of moral striving, 
meditational practice and wise insight into reality can ever lead to 
the attainment of Nirvana. And yet Nirvana has been attained, is 
being attained, and will be attained. In this way the Mahayana distaste 
for Abhidharmic attempts at achieving self-consistency encouraged 
the opposite method of proclaiming the truth by boldly self-contra¬ 
dictory pronouncements. 

Already in the Abhidharmakosa? it had become obvious that the 
Abhidharmist endeavour to define the miraculous in strictly rational 
terms was bound to defeat itself and had run into quite insuperable 
difficulties. It would be tedious to describe these in full detail, and I 
am content to give just the gist of what Vasubandhu has to say: 
The Unconditioned has no cause or fruit (effect) but it is both cause 4 
and fruit. 5 It has no fruit because it is outside the three periods of 
time. No cause can produce it, and as inactive it can produce no effect. 
The Unconditioned cannot have a cause because ‘stopping* which is 
eternal cannot arise at any time after not having been before. 6 It may 
be objected that Nirvana cannot be eternal because a wise gnosis 
(pratisamkhya) is its necessary antecedent without which it is not. 
This gnosis culminates in the ‘cognition of non-production* (cf. 
p. 167). This ‘non-production has always existed by itself. 



Where there is no cognition of it, dharmas arise; where there is, they 
absolutely do not arise. The efficacy of the cognition with regard 
to non-production consists only in that (i) before the cognition inter¬ 
vened, there was no obstacle to the arising of conditioned dharmas; 
(2) once it has intervened, it prevents the conditioned dharmas from 

So far about the Unconditioned ‘having’ no cause or effect. The 
corollary, i.e. that it ‘is’ both cause and effect, was the subject of 
much controversy. Some objected that, if the Unconditioned ‘is’ an 
effect it must ‘have’ a cause, or that, if it ‘is’ a cause, it must ‘have’ 
an effect. The Sarvastivadins nevertheless maintained that the Uncon¬ 
ditioned is an effect of the Path, because through its force the ‘pos¬ 
session’ of disjunction from all conditioned things is obtained. The 
Path, it is true, cannot ‘cause’ the disjunction, but nevertheless the 
disjunction is the ‘fruit’ of the Path. For the Path produces the 
‘possession’ of the disjunction. In addition the Unconditioned is 
‘cause’ in two ways, since (1) it belongs to the generic causes which 
cause no obstacle to the arising of other dharmas (cf. p. 154), and 
(2) it is a condition by way of object to the cognition which con¬ 
templates it. The Sautrantikas objected that causality is confined to 
conditioned and impermanent things only, and the Sarvastivadins 
agreed with them that Nirvana is not a cause in the sense that it 
produces something. The debate in fact degenerates into pure 
scholasticism, and loses sight of the spiritual realities it professes to 

Next a few words about the relation of Nirvana to the categories 
of ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’. In view of the frailty of human 
nature it need not greatly surprise us that the later Buddhists should 
have debated at some length the inherently futile question whether 
Nirvana ‘exists’ or ‘does not exist’. The difference of opinion between 
Sarvastivadins, Theravadins and Mahlsasakas on the one side, 
and the Sautrantikas on the other, led to prolonged controversies 
on whether Nirvana is an existent ( dravya :)* or a non-existent 
( abhava ). 7 With its usual simplicity the MilincLapanha 8 says that 
‘Nirvana is; it is discernible by the mind; with a mind which is pure, 
exalted, straight, unobstructed and spiritual ( niramisa ), the holy dis¬ 
ciple who has progressed rightly actually sees Nirvana’. By contrast 
the Sautrantikas assert that Nirvana is not a real and distinct entity, 
but the mere absence of one. Just as space is nothing more than the 

* Or ‘real*. This became an equivalent of a separate dharma in the Sarvastiva- 
din school. 



absence of a solid body (cf. p. 164), so Nirvana is the mere absence 
of the tendency to act and of the liability to be reborn. 9 It is the mere 
non-existence of the five skandhas, and to attribute a separate exist¬ 
ence to this non-existence would be simply absurd. 10 The Uncon¬ 
ditioned is not cognizable by direct sensory evidence ( pratyaksha ), 
nor can it be cogently inferred (« anumana ). Therefore it has no marks 
by which it could be recognized, and does not exist as a separate 
recognizable entity. 11 One might object that the Sutra speaks of aj 
monk ‘having obtained Nirvana in this very life’; if Nirvana is a mere 
nothing, how could he be said to obtain it? The Sautrantika replies 
that by having, through the development of the Path, gained an anti¬ 
dote or counterforce, the monk has obtained a substratum which is 
incompatible with the defilements and with rebirth in a new life. 12 
Finally the Sautrantikas appealed to the Sutra which says of the fully 
delivered saint that ‘like the extinction (j nirvanam ) of a flame, so is the 
deliverance of his thought (< cetasah , or “heart”)*, and asked how 
anyone could regard the passing-away (aty-aya) of a flame as a 
thing in or by itself. 

More complicated, as usually, is the theory of the Sarvastivadins 
which owed a great deal to both their ‘Pan-realism* and to their theory 
of ‘possession*. They distinguish two kinds of cessation: one is due 
to the comprehension, by wisdom, of the four holy Truths {prati- 
samkhya\ the other takes place not through premeditated intellectual 
effort, but results from the incompleteness of the sufficing forces. 
The first of these is Nirvana 13 which is defined as a dharma which 
brings about the ‘possession* of ‘disjunction* (visamyoga) from all 
impure dharmas, this disjunction itself being eternal and not produced 
by causes. The second kind of cessation or stopping (nirodha) is a 
dharma which renders absolutely impossible, in him who ‘possesses* 
it, the birth of this or that dharma, and it prevents the arising of future 
dharmas, not through wisdom, but because the complement of 
necessary conditions has been rendered incomplete and insufficient. 
To take an example. A sight-organ and a mind-organ are occupied 
with a certain sight-object. All other objects of sight, sound, etc., then 
pass from the present into the past. In consequence, acts of conscious¬ 
ness which might have those sights, sounds, etc., for their objects, 
cannot arise; for a sense-consciousness cannot seize its proper object 
when that object is past. Because the causes of their birth are insuffi¬ 
cient, there exists an absolute obstacle to the birth of those acts of 
consciousness. The second kind of ‘cessation’ is thus defined as the 
‘possession* of the stopping of those dharmas which can never, under 



any circumstances, arise in the future, because the dharma ‘stopping* 
prevents them from doing so* 

The disagreement between Sautrantikas and Sarvastivadins is, 
however, less pronounced than it is made to appear in some European 
textbooks. It should be noted that in this context the word ‘is* has 
the force of ‘is not*, and that even during these controversies the 
Buddhists did not become so enmeshed in logical categories that they 
lost sight of the original teaching according to which the Buddha’s 
way was the middle way between ‘it is* and ‘it is not\ H In Satyasid- 
dhisastra , for instance, the Sautrantika says: ‘Is there then no Nir¬ 
vana? That is not so. For if there were no Nirvana, then birth and 
death would last for ever, and there could be no salvation. The 
breaking of a pot or the felling of a tree are facts, but they are not 
real separate entities.* 15 Nevertheless, these controversies do not show 
the Buddhist theoreticians at their best. Of the Buddha, when he 
became enlightened, it was said that ‘like fire, when its fuel is burnt 
up, he became tranquil*. 16 What is the use of discussing whether this 
‘tranquillized* fire, after it has burnt itself out, has existence or non¬ 

In this question of Nirvana the real clash was between rationalists 
and mystics. The Sautrantika outlook was, as far as we can judge, 
extremely rationalistic and almost irreligious. It could not be shared 
by those for whom Nirvana was a centre of fervent religious emotions 
and not just another philosophical concept, and who felt that flatly 
negative statements could do no justice to its transcendental dignity. 
How, so the Sarvastivadins objected, 17 could Nirvana, if it were not, 
have been called ‘the best ( dgra ) among all conditioned and uncon¬ 
ditioned dharmas*? If something is not, in what sense could it be the 
best, the most praiseworthy, the most distinguished among all the 
other things which are equally non-existent? Some Mahasanghikas 
further asked themselves whether the sublime reality of Nirvana could 
possibly have the same kind of existence as the ordinary, short-lived 
and soiled dharmas of the conditioned world. Assuming that the 
reality of things is a quality which grows with their worth, they con¬ 
cluded that only supramundane things really exist, whereas mundane 
things do not. That was the position of the Lokottaravadins (cf. 
p. 195) who developed those aspects of the Buddha’s teaching about 
the Absolute which the Sthaviras in their quest for logical consistency 
had neglected. 

Nirvana and space (akasa) are often treated as closely akin. Six 
sects reckon akasa among the unconditioned dharmas, 18 three do 



not. 19 The semantic range of the term is rather wide, and differs to 
some extent from what we would expect. Akasa means (i) local, and 
(2) infinite space. The first is (a) a hole between things, and (b) a 
synonym for the ‘sky’, ‘firmament’ or ‘high up in the air’. Infinite 
akasa is either (a) the vast empty space, or (b) something like our 

(ia.) The Abhidharmakotd 20 defines local space as a hole or cavity 
in which there are no material objects, but which, like the mouth or 
the aperture of a gate, is near them and can be perceived. The Thera- 
vadins concur by describing it as the gaps, interstices, vacua, holes, 
apertures, etc., which occur between visible, etc., objects, as for 
instance doors, windows, mouth or nose cavities. In them there is 
nothing to be seen or felt, but they delimitate forms, set bounds to 
them, environ them and make them manifest, and are the basis of 
such notions as ‘below’, ‘above’, ‘across’, etc. Local space is just lack 
of matter, and is finite, visible and conditioned, (ib.) Where we would 
say ‘in the air’ or ‘in the sky*, Buddhist texts speak of ‘in space’, as in 
the phrase ‘just as birds fly about in space, so the saints move about 
in the Realm of Nirvana ( mbbanadhatii )\ 21 This frequent expression, 
though metaphorical, further strengthened the tendency to regard 
‘space’ and ‘Nirvana’ as closely related concepts. 

(2a.) ‘Space is that which does not impede.’ 22 Its essence lies in 
offering no obstacle, in non-impeding or non-resistance. Space cannot 
impede material things, nor can space be impeded, or dislodged, by 
them. The Vibhasha 23 distinguishes infinite clearly from local space 
when it describes (2a) as immaterial, invisible, non-resistant and 
unconditioned, whereas (ia) is a part of the material universe. As a 
primary element akasa (cf. p. 182) is infinite, omnipresent and eternal. 
For the Sarvastivadins it is an entity (yastu), for the Sautrantikas 24 a 
pure nothing, the mere absence of a touchable or resistant body 
(sa~pratigha-dravya) . (2b.) At the same time, and without any sense 
of being inconsistent, the Buddhists treat akaia as something which has 
a material and positive nature, as a finely material, ethereal fluid 25 
which is eternal and omnipresent. This ether is itself unsupported by 
anything ( aprat'tshthitam andlambanam\ but it supports all the other 
primary elements. First the element of air rests on it, and then again 
water and earth rest on the air below them. 26 Finally the ancient 
traditions of India induced the Buddhists to treat this ether as self- 
illuminating, and to derive the word akasa from the root kaJ y 
‘to shine’. Aryadeva 27 tells us that the absence of matter is called 
a-kai-a , because things therein ‘shine brilliantly’, and in this sense 



Saramati 28 can say that Buddhahood shines brilliantly like the sun or 
the ether. 

Identification with akasa is one of the avenues through which 
salvation may be attempted. The first formless attainment rises from 
the contemplation of empty space (ia) to that of infinite space (z ). 29 
The canonical formula declares that akasa is free from three things, 
i.e. from (a) form, (, b ) impact ( patigha ) and (c) manifoldness. It is 
thus without (a) the disadvantages which harass those who, as a result 
of long-standing karmic predispositions, have acquired a solid body;* 
(£) the impact involved in perceptions ; 30 and (c) ‘a varied domain 
(gocara) in which sight-objects, etc., have various own-beings ’. 31 
Space, on the other hand, is endless ( an-anta ) because both its arising 
and its disappearance cannot be conceived , 32 and to those disgusted 
with form and all its implications it must appear most attractive. 

Sthavira texts occasionally 33 compare the attributes of Nirvana and 
space. Both exist, though their form, location, age and measure are 
unascertainable. Both are unobstructed, supportless and infinite, 
without origin, life or death, rise or fall. In meditation space can be 
considered as a sort of likeness of the emptiness which is the ultimate 
reality. A vast capacity , 34 it is not nothing. Not subject to conditions 
or restrictions it is free from obstructions and obstacles, and cannot 
be impeded or impede. In it everything is absent that might offend, 
resist, fetter, entrance, estrange or lead astray. It is everywhere, and 
everywhere it is the same. In it nothing is wanting, nothing owned. 
In perfect calm it remains by itself outside time, change and action. 
Nothing can be predicated of it, and nothing adheres to it as its 

A good European parallel is afforded by Henry Moore 35 who, under 
the influence of the Jewish mystical literature which had described God 
as the ‘space of the world’,f identified space with the omnipresence 

* Such as hunger and thirst, blows and diseases, and many other torments. 
VM x i, Lamotte, Traite , 1032. 

f Impressive as the experimental foundations of modern science may seem 
to some, it is nevertheless rather curious that Einstein and Freud, the two most 
influential Jewish scientists of the last generation, should have derived their 
leading ideas from a system as blatantly ‘unscientific* and fantastic as the Kabbala. 
This fact is hard to explain on the presuppositions of empiricism. Not to men¬ 
tion Einstein’s earlier teachings about light, ‘shortly before his death* ‘he for¬ 
mulated the quintessence* of his world-view in these words: ‘Space has devoured 
ether and time; it seems to be on the point of swallowing up also the field and 
corpuscles, so that it alone remains as the vehicle of reality* (R. Thiel, And There 
was Light , 1958, p. 345). 


of God. He spoke of it as ‘a certain rather confused and vague 
representation of the divine essence or essential presence’, 36 a spiritual 
substance which is ‘one, simple, immobile, eternal, perfect, inde4 
pendent, existing by itself, subsisting through itself, incorruptible, 
necessary, immense, uncreated, uncircumscribed, incomprehensible, 
omnipresent, incorporeal, permeating and embracing all things, 
essential being, actual being, pure actuality’. 37 

The Mahayana then identifies all things with Nirvana, and so 
their properties are also said to be the same as those of ‘space’ 
( akdia-sama ). 38 It must, however, be borne in mind that all these 
Buddhistic statements about dkdsa become meaningless and uncon¬ 
vincing when understood of the ‘mathematical space’ with which we 
are familiar. They refer to the ‘cosmic space’ of the mystical seers 
of old, and communication between the ‘rational’ and the ‘mystical’ 
conceptions of‘space’ is very hard to achieve. 

2. The three classes of enlightened persons 

Next we must deal with the apparently ‘personal’ definition of the 
Absolute. The Saints (arya) are all those who have won the ‘Path’ (cf. 
p. 57), that is those whose conduct is largely determined by the urge 
for the Unconditioned {asamskrta-prabhavita)} At the end of their 
quest, when they have completed their training, the ‘saints’ become 
‘adepts’. They are then swallowed up in the Absolute and lose their 
distinctive personalities. Nevertheless, and it is almost impossible to 
explain this, they do not all become the same, but retain some separate 
and distinctive features, and the Buddhist tradition of the Sthaviras 
speaks of three kinds of persons as being ‘adepts’, or ‘enlightened’, or 
as ‘having’ Nirvana. They are the Arhats, Pratyekabuddhas and 

To begin with the Arhats , in the older texts the word ‘Arhat’ is 
used without any great precision. It may be an epithet of the Buddha, 
or a name for the eighth of the ‘holy persons’, the one who has won 
final sanctification. That person is sometimes distinguished from the 
Pratyekabuddha. At other times, 2 however, the ‘Arhat’ is either a Dis¬ 
ciple {savaka) who must ‘hear’ the doctrine from a Tathagatha, or a 
Pratyekabuddha. Etymologically, ‘Arhat’ means one who is ‘worthy*, 
‘deserving of honour and offerings’, but Buddhist etymology 3 also 
interprets the term as meaning one who has slain (han) the enemies 
(cri), i.e. the defilements, or one who is ‘qualified’ to help others. 

What then exactly is the Arhat said to have achieved? The texts 

1 66 


give us two sets of descriptions, the one more poetical and laudatory, 4 
die other more scholastic and precise. The most current formula 
begins with ‘extinct are his outflows’ (asrava), and thus uses a tech¬ 
nical term commonly employed also by the Jains in connection with 
their ‘Arhats’. Whatever may have been its connotations at the time 
of the Buddha, in dogmatic Buddhism the term ‘Arhat’ is tailored to 
fit the first holy Truth. For an Arhat is there someone who has com¬ 
pletely eliminated all ‘ill’ as defined by that Truth. In that the Arhat 
had achieved the aim of most Buddhists, he could rightly be called 
the one who ‘had done what had to be done’. The Abhidharma adds 
further precision by analysing the two ‘cognitions’ which mark the 
entrance to Arhatship and constitute enlightenment. They are the 
‘cognition of extinction’ and ‘the cognition of non-production’. 5 The 
first arises as soon as the last traces of the outflows, like ignorance, 
and so on, have stopped. It is the definite and justified conviction that 
they are extinguished. If, after that, the saint cannot fall back and has 
become ‘unshakeable’ (akopya)* he advances 6 to the cognition that 
his outflows will no more be produced in the future. By the first 
cognition he knew that his task was accomplished, by the second that 
no more need be done in the future. 7 The Arhat has now won com¬ 
plete sovereignty over his own thought, and ‘all the good dharmas 
come towards him, as the vassals present their homage to the prince 
who has become a supreme king’. 8 

The traditions about the Pratyekabuddha are not always very clear. 
He is 9 a Buddha for himself alone, who, unlike the Arhat, has, as 
one ‘self-begotten’ ( svayambhu), 10 won his enlightenment by his own 
effort without instruction from others, but who, unlike the Buddhas, 
does not proclaim the truth to others. As the word stands at present, 
it is derived from praty-eka ,, ‘single, individual, personal, private’. 
The synonym ‘rhinoceros’ (khadgin) likewise refers to his living alone 
by himself, as the rhino does. 103 A continuous tradition of indi¬ 
vidualism is attested for all periods of Buddhist history, and the first 
two ‘adepts’ represent the ideals of the individualists. Having got used 
to leading a solitary life, after his enlightenment the Pratyekabuddha 
does not want to be bothered 11 with people, and avoids them so as 
not to be distracted from his rapt contemplation. Humans are not 
inherently lovable, and the practice of trance in particular was apt 
to beget or confirm a positive distaste for their company, 12 like that 

* The question whether Arhats at this stage are still liable to lose what they 
had gained was debated interminably, and the whole question of the ‘irreversi¬ 
bility* ( avaivartya ) of the various saintly persons would deserve special study. 



of Gulliver after his visit to the Houyhnhnms. Alternatively these 
adepts are known as pratyayabuddha ,, 13 because ‘by a thorough under¬ 
standing of causes and conditions ( pratyaya ) they hope to win final 
Nirvana for themselves ’. 14 In other words, their knowledge, though 
more extensive than that of the Arhats, still remains within the orbit 
of the four Truths, with the only difference that they pay more 
attention to conditioned co-production, which is a corollary to the 
second and third Truth. 

The creation of this hybrid figure seems to show that large sections 
of the community regarded the Buddha’s teaching as a system of self¬ 
training, based on the four holy Truths, which was beneficial chiefly to 
those who underwent it and had no marked altruistic component. 
They would conceive of ‘enlightenment’ as of an individual, and not 
a social or cosmic achievement, which by itself would imply no 
relation to other people or to the universe as a whole. The inner 
logic of their approach would make it difficult for them to explain 
why the Lord Buddha had actually proclaimed the doctrine, and had 
not acted like a Pratyekabuddha. No really convincing reason could 
be found why he should have troubled to teach others, and most 
scriptural accounts invoke a miracle, i.e. divine intercession on the 
part of Brahma and Indra . 15 It was this excessive self-absorption which 
provoked the Mahayanists into singing their paeans in praise of a 
Bodhisattva’s unselfish service. Their doctrine must be understood 
as a reaction against the strong individualistic trend in the Order, 
a reaction which, as so often with overcompensations, is not entirely 
free from excesses. In due course the outlook changed so completely 
that, as the Hinayana had found it hard to believe in an enlightened 
person who bothers to teach the unteachable, so some Mahayanists 
felt that it was impossible for anyone to know the truth without 
communicating it. Pratyekabuddhas, so they say, instruct through 
thought-transference, and can dispense with the crude method of 
uttering words, on which Disciples must rely . 16 So the wheel had now 
turned full circle. 

The Buddhas enlightenment is marked off from that of the other 
two adepts by being described as insuperable ( anuttara ) and complete 
( sambodhi ). As the number of Arhats in the community diminished, it 
became obvious that the Buddha’s penetration to the full truth was 
the ultimate guarantee of the whole intellectual edifice, and there can 
be little doubt that the Buddha’s stature steadily increased as the years 
went by. Gone are now the days when one could be content to say 
that the Buddha is ‘the one who has thoroughly understood what 



should be understood, has developed what should be developed, has 
forsaken what should be forsaken’.* 17 The Abhidharma defines the 
difference of the Buddha from the other two adepts by lists of attri¬ 
butes, specific to him, or by epithets which are said to be inapplicable 
to either Arhats or Pratyekabuddhas. The attributes are usually 
eighteen dharmas special to a Buddha, 18 i.e. according to the Vaibha- 
shikas the ten powers, 19 four grounds of self-confidence, 20 three kinds 
of equanimity (cf. p. 89), and the great compassion. As for epithets, 
he is called ‘the Lord* ( Bfiagavan),\ the ‘Conqueror of Mara’, the 
‘King of Dharma’, the ‘superman’, the ‘Tathagata’, the ‘victor unvan¬ 
quished’, and so on. The Buddha’s superiority shows itself in five 
ways, in his relation to (1) dharmas, (2) living beings, and (3) the 
cosmos, and also in (4) his body and (5) his preparations. 

1. In the list of the eighteen special dharmas, all except the last 
are regarded as cognitions, dr their results. In addition the special 
achievement of the Buddha as to the cognition of dharmas is four¬ 
fold. 21 (1) It has been acquired by his own effort, and what he knows 
he has not learned from anyone else; (2) it is universal ( sarvatra ) in 
that he knows all the marks peculiar to each and every dharma; (3) it 
is all-comprehensive ( sarvatha ) in that he knows all modes ( prakara ) 
of existence; (4) it is effortless in that he knows everything by merely 
wishing to know it. We may also say that the Buddha is ‘omniscient’ 
( sarvavid ) in a sense in which the Arhats are not. The further definition 
of this omniscience consists in (1) stating what he knows, and in 
(2) making a few desultory attempts to explain how he knows it. 
As to the first, we are assured that ‘omniscience’ means what it says, 
i.e. that the Buddha knows everything there is, not only its essence 
but also the details. As to the second, we have such hints as that the 
Buddha knows the future not by inference, or by various portents or 
omens which allow fortune-tellers to guess it, but by seeing it 
directly before his own eyes. 22 But generally it is agreed that the range 
of a Buddha’s knowledge is ‘incomprehensible’, 23 and no further 
elucidation is attempted. Nevertheless the Abhidharmists were aware 
that this assertion of omniscience is rather incredible, and that to 
believe it demands considerable faith. 2 * Vasubandhu explains 25 that 
the Lord Buddha alone has destroyed ignorance in its entirety, and is 
wholly free from that which prevents us from seeing things as they 

* abhinneyam abhinnatam bhavetabban ca bhavitam, 

pahatabbam pahinam me tasma Buddho’smi brahmana. 

f which means that he is the most precious and glorious person in the whole 
world. Mpps 116. 



are. ‘The Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas have freed themselves from the 
delusion which is soiled by the defilements; but in them the ignorance 
which is unsoiled by the defilements continues to operate. They do 
not know the special attributes of a Buddha, nor objects which are 
very distant in time or space, nor the infinite complexity of things.’ 
The Arhat is content to know everything which concerns him per¬ 
sonally, the Pratyekabuddha in addition knows conditioned co¬ 
production, but still the bulk of the universe lies beyond. 26 

2. The ‘great compassion’ 27 differs from ordinary compassion in 
being much more extensive. It is aroused not only by obvious but 
also by concealed suffering (cf. p. 35), and not only by the ills found 
in the world of sense-desire, but also by those of the world of form 
and of the formless world. In addition it is felt equally for all beings, 
whether they seem to suffer or not, has abandoned not only hate, but 
also delusion, and is more than mere commiseration in that it actually 
manages to protect being from the terrors of Samsara. That is why 
Buddhist art so often depicts the Buddha in the ‘gesture of fearless¬ 
ness’ ( abhayamudra ). For the Buddha can help beings more than an 
Arhat can, and bestow greater benefits upon them. He can definitely 
liberate people from the states of woe and the sufferings of trans¬ 
migration, and can install them in the three vehicles or in favourable 
conditions of rebirth. 

3. With regard to the cosmos the Buddha is credited with 
sovereignty ( yasitva ) or prabhava , ‘power’ or ‘might’. 28 Possessing 
to a superior degree the miraculous powers attributed to all saints, 29 
the Buddha can at will create, transform and conserve external objects, 
shorten or extend his life-span, move through solid bodies, travel 
rapidly for long distances through the air, reduce the size of material 
bodies, etc. In this way he is by his very nature endowed with the 
faculty of working manifold miracles. 30 The great events of his 
life are accompanied by startling cosmic phenomena. 31 A Buddha is 
not an individual alone by himself, but around him he has a ‘Buddha- 
field’, which according to Buddhaghosa is threefold: 32 ‘the field of his 
birth is bounded by the ten thousand world systems which quaked 
when the Tathagata was born’, won enlightenment, and entered his 
final Nirvana. ‘The field of his authority’ is even more extensive. 
‘The field of his scope is boundless and immeasurable. Of it it has 
been said, “as far as he wishes” (AN i 228), since the Tathagata knows 
anything anywhere that he wishes to know’. 

4. The Buddha’s material body has four unique features. 33 (1) It is 
adorned with the thirty-two marks of a superman, and with the eighty 



secondary marks. (2) It has a tremendous power and must, according 
to some, be infinite because otherwise it could not support an infinite 
cognition. In the same vein we hear 34 that the Buddha realizes his 
‘adamantine trance* on the ‘adamantine seat* or ‘terrace of enlighten¬ 
ment*, in the very centre of Jambudvipa, ‘because no other place is 
strong enough to support this trance*. (3) On being cremated, it 
contains an adamantine and indestructible substance, called iarlra , or 
‘relics’. (4) It emits rays brighter than a hundred thousand suns, for 
the glory of the Lord penetrates the entire universe. 

5. The Buddha’s preparation for Buddhahood is on a truly colossal 
scale. Even after he has, at the time of the Buddha Dipankara, resolved 
to win full enlightenment, he still has to spend more than three 
incalculable aeons in the preparatory state of a Bodhisattva before he 
can reach his goal. 

It is, of course, a fallacy to regard the Buddha as a ‘person* in the 
ordinary sense of the term. In the older Buddhism of the Sutras 
the Buddha’s personality was so unimportant that H. Oldenberg’s 
classical work on the ‘Buddha’ can devote to him just 7 out of 
401 pages. Oldenberg admits that it seems rather strange that the 
dogmatic definition of the Buddha ‘should, as it were, be treated as an 
afterthought (Anhang) to other more essential considerations’, but 
justifies his attitude by the remark that ‘in all its essentials the Buddhist 
doctrine would remain what it is, even if the concept of a Buddha 
were omitted’. 35 As distinct from the Abhidharmists the older texts 
showed little interest in the gradations among those who were saved. 
Salvation was all that mattered, and the Buddha was no more than a 
primus inter pares . But even in the Abhidharma the Buddha’s per¬ 
sonality as such remains in the background. Far more than a person 
he is (1) an impersonal metaphysical principle, (2) a supernatural 
potency, and (3) a type. 

1. The actual living Buddha is a combination of the impersonal 
metaphysical principle of Dharma with a ‘vile body’, and it is 
obvious which one of the two matters. 36 The Buddha has at all times 
been subordinated to the Dharma, and his significance lies in being 
a channel of its eternal Truth. Since ‘persons’, as we saw, do not 
exist, even the procedure of ‘taking refuge’ with the Buddha must 
take account of the dharma-theory. What in fact happens 37 is that 
refuge is taken with the dharmas which make a Buddha or which 
lead to someone being called a ‘Buddha*. ‘His body, born of his 
parents, consists of impure dharmas, and is not worth taking refuge in; 
refuge is taken in the dharmas of an adept, which bring about 



enlightenment, and constitute the Dharma-body.’ 38 Others say th; it 
the eighteen special dharmas of a Buddha are the refuge sought for. 

2. The Buddha, as we saw, is clearly more than a solitary individua 1 
who quietly fades out from this world. His actions or deeds have great 
repercussions for this world and those who live in it. 

3. When the Buddha is called a ‘Tathagata’* his individual per¬ 
sonality is treated as of no account. Tathagatas are ‘types’ who a; 
certain predestined times appear in solemn procession in this world 
from the unthinkable past to the unthinkable future. The period 
of each Tathagata is fixed beforehand, and each one undergoes a 
stereotyped career and follows the same Path, fixed once and for all 
for all of them. The Tathagatas differ only in trivial details, 39 but in 
essentials, in their Buddha-dharmas, they are all alike. 

In conclusion we must remind the reader 40 that the distinction of a 
triple body was found by way of suggestion already in the Sutras. 
The three there are (1) the corruptible body, (2) ‘mind-made’ bodies ] 
which allow the Buddha to visit the heavens, etc., and (3) his Dharma- 
body which is His teaching. The Sarvastivadin Abhidharma sys¬ 
tematized these hints, and distinguished the following three bodies: 
(1) The material body ( rupakaya ) which is the result of past karma. It 
is corruptible, though in other ways superior to that of ordinary 
beings (cf. no. 4 on p, 170). (2) The Buddha can through his magical 
power conjure up fictitious bodies ( nirmaiyikaya ) which allow him to 
appear anywhere. (3) Finally there is the Dharma-body, which 
consists of the five ‘portions of Dharma’ (cf. p. 94), the possession of 
which makes a Bodhisattva into a Buddha. In this form the trikaya 
doctrine was taken over by the Mahayana, where it underwent some 
further modifications (cf. pp. 232 sq.\ partly from its being combined 
with the Docetism of die Mahasanghikas (III 1,1), and pardy from the 

* ‘Tathagata* is one of the fairly numerous Buddhist technical terms which, 
like satkdyadrsp. (view of individuality), Pratyekabuddha, pratisamvid (analytical 
knowledge) or parijaya (mastery) are not amenable to satisfactory grammatical 
analysis. Their original meaning is somewhat obscure, and their usual inter¬ 
pretation does not reflect the original usage, but the constructions of later 
grammarians and commentators. As a Sanskrit term, Tathagata can only be 
understood as tatha-gata or tatha-agata , ‘thus gone* or ‘thus come’, ‘thus* 
meaning traditionally ‘as the previous Buddhas* have come or gone. But the 
word may well be a Prakrit, or perhaps even a pre-Aryan term, of which the 
meaning is now lost (see Mpps 126 n, JAs 1952, p. 2 66), At times it is useful 
to remember that Buddhism, according to the Buddhists themselves, is not so 
much a creation of the Buddha Sakyamuni, as a revival of notions which go 
back to the dim beginnings of history. 



impact of the Bodhisattva-ideal and of the new ontological concep¬ 
tions of the Mahayana. 

3. The map of the Path 

1. Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga gives a masterly survey of the 
stages on which wisdom unfolds itself. If no one can comprehend more 
than he has experienced, the range and depth of everyone’s insight 
must depend on the degree of his spiritual maturity. By mapping out 
these degrees it is possible to determine what can and what cannot 
be grasped at a given stage. 

A. Wisdom has two roots (mula ), the purity of morality and the 
purity of thought. They correspond to the five cardinal virtues which 
must precede mature wisdom. The ‘purity of thought’ consists in the 
eight meditational attainments, and corresponds to the virtue of con¬ 
centration. The ‘purity of morality’ consists of (1) ‘restraint by the 
Patimokkha rules’, corresponding to faith; (2) ‘purity of livelihood’, 
(3) ‘the restraint of the senses’, and (4) ‘the non-inclination to the 
requisites of life’, 1 corresponding respectively to vigour, mindfulness 
and wisdom. 

B. The foundation (bhumi) of wisdom is the acquaintance with the 
skandhas, sense-fields, elements, dominants, truths, and dependent 
origination (ch. 14-17). 

C. The body (sarlra ) of wisdom is subdivided into five insights: 

I. Comprehension of what has been learnt 2 (in B). It is concerned 
(1) with the marks which dharmas have individually by themselves, 3 
and (2) the thorough knowledge of name-and-form together with their 
causal relations. 4 

(1) Ch. 18. Purity of views. Name and form are discerned according 
to fact, 5 and in such a way that the notion of a ‘being’ is transcended. 6 
Ch. 19. (2) Purity of getting over ( yitarana ) doubts. The conditions of 
the psycho-physical organism are grasped, 7 and the law of cause and 
effect ( dhammatthiti ) understood. 8 

II. Comprehension which settles the worth? It has for its object the 
general marks of dharmas. 10 (3) Ch. 20. Purity in the cognition and 
discernment of what is and what is not the Path. Here one understands 
that the complexes are not the Path, but that Nirvana is. The skandhas 
are reviewed by first 33, and then 200 considerations. If that carries 
no conviction, nine ways of sharpening the faculties are recom¬ 
mended. 11 Alternatively, complexes are considered by applying to 
them the three marks. 12 (4) Ch. 21. Purity in the cognition and 



discernment of the steps of progress. Here one progresses to he 
Aryan Path. The first step is (a) the reviewing of rise and fall. 13 

III. The comprehension which leads to forsaking. Here the th-ee 
marks are applied to all objects. This application may be divided into 
eighteen insights, 14 or alternatively it may be said to consist of the 
following eight items: (b) the reviewing of breaking up, 15 (c) tie 
cognition of the presence of danger, 16 (< d) the cognition of tribu a- 
tion, 17 (e) the reviewing cognition of disgust, 18 (f) the cognition if 
the desire for release, 19 ( g ) the reviewing cognition of sizing up, 
(A) attribution of the three marks to all complex things, 20 (B) the 
reviewing cognition of emptiness, 21 ( k ) the cognition of evenmindei l- 
ness as regards conditioned things, 22 (i) the cognition of adaptation. 13 

IV. The cognition of‘adoption', which leads to the change of lineagi. 
The Yogin now ‘adverts to the Path’. 24 He then ‘passes out of tie 
lineage, category and plane of ordinary men and enters the lineage , 
category and plane of the saints’. As a result of III (z) every indicatio 1 
of a conditioned object appears as a mere impediment (cf. p. 56), an 1 
as a result of IV the yogin ‘makes Nirvana into his objective support, 
as that which is signless, does not proceed, is uncompounded, and 
stopping’. ‘This is the first adverting to, the first concern (< abhogA 
for, the first taking to heart (samannahara) of Nirvana as objective 
support, and acts in six ways as condition for the Path, i.e. by waj 
of proximity, immediate antecedent, frequency, decisive influence 
absence and disappearance.’ 25 (cf. pp. 150-3.) The yogin now sees 
Nirvana as someone may see a king riding on an elephant; though he 
has not really ‘seen’ him because his business with the king has not 
been transacted. Likewise, when one has not yet done what had to be 
done, i.e. forsaken the defilements, one cannot speak of the ‘discern¬ 
ment’ of Nirvana which begins with the Path. 26 

V. The cognition of the Path then initiates the spiritual rebirth 
(cf. p. 57) by which the saint, on the supramundane plane, is able to 
penetrate to the Truths. As he moves from one path to the next, un¬ 
wholesome dispositions are steadily removed, and the four ‘holy 
persons’ emerge one after the other. It is characteristic of Buddhist 
mentality that the stages can be described not so much by what is 
gained, as by what is renounced, the latter being the condition of the 
former. Buddhaghosa distinguishes four kinds of‘forsaking’* 27 (1) The 
insights and cognitions of C. I—III act as antidotes to as many faulty 
and harmful views which by them are forsaken. (2) At C. V the 

* A fifth kind refers to the temporary suppression of the hindrances to 
trance (VM xxii in), and does not concern us here. 



cognition of the Path uproots the fetters, etc., with the result that they 
are forsaken in the sense that they never recur, for the Path smashes 
them as a thunderbolt smashes a tree. (3) On attaining the fruition of 
the paths, the defilements are forsaken in the sense that they are com¬ 
pletely tranquillized. (4) When Nirvana is reached, everything con¬ 
ditioned has been forsaken in the sense that one has definitely escaped 
from it. 

Buddhaghosa is content with a succursory survey of the higher 
stages, which were quite above the possible spiritual experience of 
most of his readers, and in that he differs from the Sarvastivadins and 
Mahayanists. There is indeed no better guide than the Visuddhimagga 
to Buddhist thinking in its more practicable aspects. 

2. The Abhidharmakosa , roughly contemporary with the Visuddhi¬ 
magga, presents a slightly different picture. 28 It distinguishes five stages 
of the Path. They are: I. The path in which the initial equipment is 
gradually accumulated ( sambhara-marga ). Then follows II. the ‘path 
of endeavour* ( prayoga-marga ), which is defined as the process of 
training which directly precedes the entrance into the supramundane 
Path ( = III), and corresponds to C. I-IV in the scheme of Buddha¬ 
ghosa. Here, however, it is divided into four Aids to Penetration 
( nirvedha-bhaglya ), 29 which are a superior form of the meditation on 
dharmas and in which no longer their particular and general marks are 
considered, but the sixteen aspects of the four holy Truths. They are 
called respectively (1) Heat, (2) Summits, (3) Patience and (4) Supreme 
worldly dharmas, and each one is again subdivided into three stages, 
(a) weak, (b) medium and (c) strong. That is nearly all we know 
about them, and no detailed Sarvastivadin account of this vital subject 
seems to have been preserved. 30 The last step on the ‘path of en¬ 
deavour* is the ‘unimpeded concentration’ ( anantarya-samadhi ) which 
marks the full possession of the supreme worldly dharmas. 

It is followed immediately by III, the Path of Vision , which is the 
supramundane vision of the Truths, 31 in which wisdom is exercised 
free from outflows, perverted views 32 and passions, occupies itself 
with the general marks of the Truths in their sixteen aspects, and 
gradually eliminates the intellectual defilements which can be aban¬ 
doned by right views. It is divided into fifteen ‘thought-moments’. 
(1) The first, called the ‘acceptance of the fact of ill*, deals with ill in the 
world of sense-desire. At this point the yogin becomes convinced that 
‘without any doubt all dharmas in the world of sense-desire are 
impermanent, ill, empty and without self!* By forsaking his doubts 
about this proposition, 33 and abandoning the passions which follow 



from holding the opposite to be true, the yogin enters the first Pa h, 
becomes an arya, and it is now certain that one day he will win 
Nirvana. 34 This insight is completed by (2) a firm conviction of tie 
impermanence, etc., of all dharmas in the world of sense-desire, and a 
deliverance ( yimuktimargd ) which gives possession of the stopping < >f 
those passions; (3) deals with the ill of the world of form, and (4) with 
that of the formless world. Analogously, (5-8) deal with ‘origination , 
(9-12) with ‘stopping’, and (13-15) with the ‘Path’ up to die worli 
of form. The passions connected with the false view of individual^ r 
are now destroyed. But others are left, and love, hate, the desire fo: 
pleasant feelings, and so on, still trouble the yogin. 

We then come to IV, the Path of Development ,* of which the firs 
step is the sixteenth thought-moment which considers the Path in 
relation to the formless world. This corresponds to the first Fruit . 35 
From now on deliverance is certain, and after no more than seven 
lives Nirvana will be reached. In the further course of this Path 
one reaches the condition of a Once-Retumer 36 who will be reborn 
only once in the world of sense-desire, and a Never-Retumer 37 who 
will never again be reborn in it. This path is further subdivided 38 into 
eighty ‘moments’, in which the remaining defilements are gradually 
removed—first nine for the world of sense-desire, then thirty-six for 
the heavens corresponding to the four dhyanas, and thirty-five corre¬ 
sponding to the four formless attainments. Then follows finally V, the 
Path of the Adept ( cdaiksa-marga ), where the weakest defilements 
relating to the summit of existence ( bhavdgra ) are eliminated. The 
entrance into it is marked by the adamantine ( yajropama) concentra¬ 
tion 39 which represents a sudden illumination by which the ‘candidate’ 
is changed into an ‘adept’. Now he is delivered of all possible defile¬ 
ments {klesa) and impurities ( asrava ). This Path is also known as 
vifesa-mdrga i0 and the saint is now an Arhat, in possession of the two 
cognitions characteristic of Arhats (cf. p. 167). At this point they 
have for their object the ‘summit of existence’, the most refined level of 
reality to which die Arhat is still tied. When a man dies from a poisoned 
wound, the poison which had first invaded the entire body is at the 
moment of death concentrated in the wound itself. Just so before the 
very end the cognition of the Yogin is concentrated on the last object 
he must abandon, i.e. the skandhas of the bhavdgra , and he considers 
the ill which oppresses him there, as well as its origin . 41 

Two things are significant about this scheme which became the 

* Which is defined as repeated consideration (of the Truths) and prolonged 
effort to grasp them. 



starting point of Mahayana thinking on the subject, (i) Without 
any close relation to actual experience, traditional categories are 
arranged into a neat scheme by way of mathematical permutations. 
(2) Interest centres on the later rather than the earlier stages. While 
there is practically no information about the ‘Aids to Penetration’, 
much space is devoted to the meticulous distinction of dozens of kinds 
of Arhats and Never-Retumers. The Abhidharmakosa treatment of the 
stages of the Path is not a guide to action, but to the reverent con¬ 
templation of the achievements of others. 




I. The classification of conditioned dharmas 

Not content with classifying facts into skandhas, sense-fields and 
elements (cf. pp. 106-16) the scholastics felt in the course of time the 
need to draw up an overall list of dharmas, thus arriving at some 
definite inventory for the purposes of meditation on the constituents 
of the universe which were held to influence salvation. The Thera¬ 
vadins counted 82 dharmas, the Sarvastivadins 75 and the Yogacarins 
100. Most of these are conditioned.* The lists agree on essentials and it 
would be a waste of space to print all three. 1 But since it is important 
to know what kind of things the Abhidharmists regarded as Tacts’, it 
will be useful to first enumerate the items on which all schools 
known to us substantially agree, and then to note the more important 
divergences. The three schools of Abhidharmists of whom we 
have any knowledge! agree on everything except the arrange¬ 
ment and grouping of the dharmas, the order of their enumera¬ 
tion and some details of terminology. Their disagreements are quite 
insignificant, and concern only minor points*! The bulk of the list 
had obviously been compiled before Sarvastivadins and Thravadinse 
had separated, and also the Yogacarins rarely departed from the well- 
established tradition, although here and there they added their own 
peculiar notions. This is the common list, arranged according to the 
five skandhas: 

I. Form: The five sense-objects and five sense-organs. II. Feelings . 

* The Theravadins have one unconditioned dharma (Nirvana), the Sarvasti¬ 
vadins three (space and two kinds of Nirvana, cf. pp. 159-66), and the Yoga¬ 
carins six. For the four asam skrtas of the Pahcaskandhakam see F 117-18. 

f In the remainder of this section I use the following abbreviations: Th. = 
Theravadins, S. = Sarvastivadins, Y = Yogacarins. 

t E.g. IV A 10 of Th. is a virtue for S., IV A 11 is counted as an aspect of 
feeling, for IV B 2 the S. have ‘friendliness*, for IV B 10 ‘non-harming*; they 
take IV B 7 as indeterminate, and ‘intelligence* {matt) is the term used for 
reason and wisdom. 



wisdom. They are: (8) agility, i.e. the capacity for changing easily, as 
opposed to feeling sluggish, inert and heavy; (9) elasticity, i.e. the 
flexibility, non-rigidity of the body; (10) wieldiness, as opposed to 
obsessional states which result from physical fatigue. Then follow 
the four phases of form, i.e. (11) its initial production, (12) its con¬ 
tinuity, (13) its decay and (14) its disappearance (cf. p. 135). Finally 
we have (15) material food. This does not refer to the visible appear¬ 
ance of food or its taste, but to the ‘nutritive essence' which it embodies 
and which makes it nourishing and capable of being assimilated. 

In place of these fifteen dharmas the Sarvastivadins have only one 
additional dharma, i.e. ‘unmanifested form' (< avijnapti-rupam ). This 
is a term for the hidden imprints on our bodily structure which are 
brought about by such actions as committing a murder, taking up 
the disciplines, performing dhyana or viewing the Truths on the 
Path. They make a man into a different kind of person, and con¬ 
tinue to grow until their reward or punishment is reached. An act of 
the will may manifest itself externally and materially in gestures and 
words. At the same time a good or bad action for which the person 
is responsible may result in an unmanifested and invisible modification 
of a person's material structure—for instance if he arranges for 
someone to be killed without contributing to the killing by either 
words or overt deeds. 

The above selection of material categories must at first sight seem 
grotesque to a citizen of the twentieth century, but is perfectly sensible 
when the purpose of this system is considered. It singles out those 
aspects of the material world which the Yogin would encounter in 
his practice of Yoga. ‘Femininity' and ‘masculinity’ are two features of 
persons which may easily entrance him and lead him astray, and which 
he should just overlook. ‘Life', more properly ‘life-span', is important 
to him because he should always be mindful of death. Gestures and 
words have obviously a ‘meaning' in addition to what is seen and 
heard, and the yogin would be bewildered if this ‘meaning’ had no 
place in the scheme of the five skandhas. The religious connotations 
of‘space’ have been discussed before (p. 165). Nos. 8-10, since they 
concern the fitness for meditation, are of manifest interest to everyone 
who meditates. Then 11-14 are an attempt to come to grips with the 
fundamental fact of impermanence, and finally, 15, ‘food’ is the object 
of one of the monk's standard meditations. 4 An ascetic must find his 
freedom severely circumscribed by the mere fact that he has to eat, and, 
what gives joy to the average man, humiliates and constricts the 


The same kind of attitude governs the use to which the theory c f 
the ‘great primary material elements’ is put. Generally, either fou 
or six*, are enumerated.! The four are those of the almost universe 1 
tradition of mankind, i.e. earth, water, fire and air (wind). Th; 
scholastics identify them with the qualities of being solid, fluic, 
calorific and causing motion ( samucbrana , or being ‘distended’, 
vitthambana). They are used only as the basis for a meditation 5 oil 
the body, with its thirty-two parts, 6 as composed of these primaries, <, 
meditation which enables us to ‘get immersed in emptiness’. 7 Th< 
‘concept of a being’ is likely to disappear when the body is considerec 
as a fortuitous collocation of its elemental constituents. This enables 
us ‘to conquer fear and dread’, 8 because the whole process does not 
concern us at all. Each of these elements should be regarded ‘as mere 
element, without sentience ( nissattato , or “not as a being”) and 
without soul*, 9 as ‘a particular component of the body, without 
thought, indeterminate, void, not a living being’. 10 In addition one 
should remain mindful of the fact that the primary elements, by 
having been transformed into the material objects we find around us, 
are liable to deceive. 11 These are the lessons derived from an investiga¬ 
tion of the material ‘elements’. In modem language the same message 
could be conveyed by pointing out that all but one-thirtieth of the 
body weight consists of C, H, O and N, and the remainder of S, P, Fe, | 
L, Na, Ca, Mg, etc. In addition stress would be laid on the fact that 
these elements come together of their own free will, that we, as persons, 
have little say in the matter, and that these biochemical processes just 
automatically take their courses. But apart from moral reflections of 
this kind the Buddhists show no interest at all in these physical 
elements, and are not particularly concerned about what they actually 
are and do.! They never felt any curiosity about the physical world, 
not even to the extent of the Pre-Socratics who in their own ways 
tried to explain thunder, the tides, and so on. J. Needham, who has 
studied the influence which Buddhism exerted on Chinese science and 
scientific thought, is of the opinion that ‘there can be little doubt that 
on the whole its action was powerfully inhibitory’. 12 He speaks of ‘the 
remarkable failure of Buddhist ideas of law to give rise to natural 

* The fifth and sixth are space and consciousness. 

f Their position is rather ambiguous. The Theravadins count them as separate 
dharmas, but probably not so the Sarvastivadins, though they recognize their 
existence. See also Jaini LSOAS xxii, 1959, 534. 

t T may not hope from outward forms to win The passion and the life, whose 
fountains are within* (Coleridge). 



III. Perceptions , IV. Impulses . Here the Th. counted 50, the S. 44 
samskaras . The main items are: A. Constituents of mental activity: 
(1) contact(ing) (cf. p. 189), (2) will (cetana) (p. 190), (3) mental life, 

(4) concentration (p. 188), (5) attention (p. 188), (6) reflections 
applied and (7) discursive (p. 191), (8) the urge, or wish, to act, 

(9) determination (cf. p. 48), (10) vigour, (11) zest. B. Virtues: 

(I) non-greed, (2) non-hate, (3) non-delusion, (4) sense of shame, 

(5) dread of blame, (6) faith, (7) mindfulness, (8) equanimity or even¬ 
mindedness (cf. pp. 89 sq.\ (9) tranquillity, (10) compassion, and 

(II) sympathetic joy. C. Vices: (1) greed, (2) hate, (3) delusion, 
(4) lack of sense of shame, (5) lack of dread of blame, (6) excitedness, 
(7) sloth and torpor, (8) wrong views, (9) conceit, (10) worry (or 
sense of guilt), (11) envy, (12) meanness, or stinginess, and (13) doubt. 
V. Consciousness. 

These are the more significant additions which the schools make 
to the common list: I. Th. add fifteen items to the ten mentioned 
above, S. only one (cf. pp. 180 sq.). IV. B. Th. add twelve conditions of 
kdya (== skandhas 2, 3, 4) and citta (= the fifth skandha): tran¬ 
quillity (cf. IV B 9), lightness, plasticity, wieldiness, fitness and 
straightness; three abstinences: from misconduct in bodily action, 
speech and livelihood. S. adds: wakefulness (< apramada ), the diligent 
development of wholesome dharmas. IV C.S. add: carelessness 
(pramada), lack of faith; and, as subsidiary defilements: anger, hypoc¬ 
risy, gloom, harming, enmity, deceit, dishonesty, intoxication. The Y. 
add three more. S. also add: IV D. Indeterminate: remorse, repug¬ 
nance. IV E. Fourteen dharmas disjoined from thought 2 (but re¬ 
sembling thought in not being form; neither mental nor physical): 
(1) possession, (2) dispossession (cf. pp. 139-40), (3) generic simi¬ 
larity (sabhdgata) : features common to several living beings, which 
cause resemblance among them; (4) life-force (cf. p. 180). Four marks 
of the conditioned: (5) birth, (6) subsistence, (7) decay, (8) destruc¬ 
tion (cf. p. 135). (9) Unconsciousness, i.e. that dharma which, among 
‘unconscious beings’, stops thought from arising (cf. p. 115), 

(10) attainment of unconsciousness (cf. p. 115), (11) attainment of cessa¬ 
tion (cf. p. 113); (12) words (i ndmakdya ), (13) sentences (padakaya ) 
and (14) letters (yyanjanakdya). At V S. count only one dharma, 
which is pure consciousness without any objective content, i.e. 
thought (citta); so do the Th. but, since consciousness never exists by 
itself alone, but always in combination with other dharmas, they dis¬ 
tinguish eighty-nine cittani , or states in which thought is combined 
with various psychic factors; the Y. distinguish eight, and sometimes 



nine, kinds of consciousness, i.e. in addition to the six kinds of sense- 
consciousness (7), the ‘soiled consciousness’ which wrongly mis¬ 
takes (8), the store-consciousness for a ‘self*. 

2. The material world 

In view of the over-emphasis on the material side of life from which 
we are suffering at present, it may be of some interest to see how the 
Buddhists dealt with this aspect of the universe. In addition to the 
four primary elements (cf. p. 182), the five sense-organs and five sense- 
objects, the Theravadins count fifteen* further factors, 1 the Sarvasti¬ 
vadins only one, i.e. ‘unmanifested form’.f 

The Theravadins first list three organic forces, i.e. (1) femininity, 
(2) masculinity, and (3) physical life. Organic, as distinct from 
psychic, life is ‘the persistence of material states, their subsistence, 
their going on, their being kept going on, their progress, continuance, 
preservation’. It is their ‘steady renewal from moment to moment* 
which is the basis of organic stability, and limited to the karmically 
determined life-span. 2 Then follows (4) the physical basis of mind 
and mental processes, or the physical support of mind-element and 
mind-consciousness element, which is the heart-basis . Like all ancient 
nations the later Theravadins 3 name the heart rather than the brain, 
with about equal justification,^: whereas the Sarvastivadins, like the 
canonical writings of the Theravadins themselves, do not commit 
themselves to any definite statement about the physical basis of the 

Then follow two intimations , or ‘notifications’. (5) ‘Body intimation’ 
is the configuration or movement of the body (e.g. gestures) by 
which persons give meaningful expression to their thoughts; and 
(6) ‘speech intimation’ refers to the articulate sounds by which they 
express themselves. After that we have (7) space (cf. pp. 164-5). Then 
three conditions of fitness of the body , for meditation or exercising 

* Though they do count the tangible element among the primary elements, 
and in consequence the total is twenty-eight, and not twenty-nine. See 
Klanamoli, The Path of Purification, 1956, p. 489. 

f The Sarvastivadins admit most of the items of the Theravadin list, but 
prefer to book them differently. For instance (1) and (2) are counted as ‘faculties’ 
but not as ‘dharmas’, (3) is one of the dharmas ‘dissociated from thought*, (5) and 
(6) are not treated as separate dharmas, but as acts resulting from volition. These 
minor details need not detain us here. 

i For, if the mind can be localized at all, it can only be in the organism as a 
whole, and not in any particular organ. 



science. There were presumably two reasons for this. First there was 
no incentive to do any serious thinking about the non-human, non- 
moral universe, conceived as it was in terms of mdya , a kind of dis¬ 
agreeable cinema performance which one was compelled to watch, or 
going on in a hall from which one has the greatest difficulty in getting 
out. Secondly, though the operation of the “law” of cause and effect, as 
such, may seem to modern minds quite obviously morally neutral, the 
moral functions attributed to it were really the only part which 
interested the Buddhists at all. In a sense, impersonal cosmic inevita¬ 
bility was only a superficial dress with which they clothed their 
profound religious belief in divine justice. It was therefore useless as a 
catalyst of causal science/ 13 ‘In the last resort, Buddhism was a pro¬ 
found rejection of the world’, ‘but other-worldly rejection of this 
world seems to be formally and psychologically incompatible with the 
development of science’. 14 

Innocent though the Buddhists were of actual ‘science’ in Professor 
Needham’s sense, by way of compensation they possessed a great deal 
of information about layers of the material world which are inaccessible 
to the ‘scientist’. Our account of the Buddhist doctrine of the material 
world would be seriously incomplete without a brief reference to the 
views which all schools shared about those ‘bodies’ which result 
from the practice of Yoga and which we may generically call ‘inter¬ 
mediary’ bodies because they belong to the ‘intermediary world’ as 
defined on p. 22. Our difficulty lies in that this aspect of the teaching 
was ‘esoteric’ (cf. p. 271) and thus never received systematic treatment 
in documents accessible to the general public. A few scattered hints 
and allusions can give some notion of what the Buddhist yogins had 
in mind, but in their precise details the various ‘subtle’ bodies postu¬ 
lated by yogic physiology are now beyond our reach, partly because 
we have insufficient knowledge of traditional beliefs and partly 
because we are unable to perform the practices which would allow 
us to see for ourselves. 

One important class of yogic ‘bodies’ are those known as mono - 
maya or ‘mind-made*. 15 They are so called partly because they result 
from yogic mind-training, and partly because they are ‘mental’ in the 
sense 16 that they can move about with great speed unobstructed by 
mountains, and so on, just as the mind, when recollecting scenes it 
has observed before, can travel to them immediately, how far away 
they may be from the physical body (Jarira) in which it is confined. 
Of one such ‘mind-made’ body we are told that the yogin at a certain 
stage pulls it out of a hollow space within his physical body, ‘as one 



pulls a reed from its sheath, a sword from its scabbard, a snake froii 
its slough’. 17 In addition, many of the large class of beings who ar; 
‘miraculously bom’ (jupapaduka ) 18 have ‘mind-made bodies’, e.g. th<i 
higher gods, 19 or the ‘intermediary beings’ ( antarabhava ) who linl 
two existences and persist for about forty-nine days.* Likewise, the 
first men at the beginning of the aeon had ‘mind-made’ bodies. 20 So 
have the Never-retumers in the interval between their decease and 
their arrival at Nirvana. Also the higher Bodhisattvas are credited with 
a variety of ‘mind-made bodies’, and in this context we may speak of 
‘will-bodies’. Referring to the version of this theory in the Lankava - 
tdra 21 D. T. Suzuki 22 well expresses the basic idea: ‘Whatever is most 
vehemently desired by the Buddha or Bodhisattva whose interest 
extends over the whole field of beings, must take effect in one way or 
another in this world even of our ordinary life. To have, however, a 
wish realized successfully, one may have frequently to exceed the limi¬ 
tations of this physical body, which is tied to space-time limitations. 
A body not so limited will be needed in this case—a body that can be 
manifested anywhere at any time that is wished.’ We cannot here go 
into the details of this beautiful conception.! The Lankavatara dis¬ 
tinguishes three kinds of ‘will-bodies’, and I am content to quote part 
of the description of the second, which begins to materialize on the 
eighth stage (cf. p. 236). ‘It is a body capable of the various sovereign 
powers and superknowledges, swift as the mind, resembling a magical 
illusion ( maya\ a dream or a reflected image, not a product of the 
primary elements (abhautikam) though not unlike that which they 
produce, and able to exhibit the full variety of all possible material 
forms.’ 23 As the Bodhisattva approaches Buddhahood, further bodies 
emerge, fashioned by cognition (jnana-kaya) or Dharma ( dharma - 
kaya) f and there is also the ‘body of the Tathagata’ which is ‘omni¬ 
present and whose visible forms have no limiting conditions’. 24 

* Their bodies are ‘mind-made’ because they issue from mind and are not 
based on external elements. AK iii 122. 

f On p. 331 Suzuki speaks of ‘the deep human longing for a body of trans¬ 
figuration. We are not satisfied with our corporeal existence, we are all the time 
oppressed by the feeling of imprisonment, our spirit soars away from this world 
of physical limitations, we long for ever for a manomayakaya (will-body). This 
physical body does not fully express the meaning of the spirit, it deranges, it 
tyrannizes. In fact all the religious struggles and aspirations we experience in 
this life are centered on the control of this body. Theosophists, Swedenborgians, 
and the Taoists, and the Indian philosophers—they all have the idea of an imma¬ 
terial body which we can assume when we are favoured by a divine gift, or 
when our moral discipline reaches its culmination. This is in one sense our 
longing for immortality.’ 



This does not yet exhaust the range of the bodies known to Yoga, 
though not to science. Elsewhere we hear of‘subtle’ ( sukshma ) ethereal 
bodies which ‘wander about like sunbeams’, or of ‘magical bodies’ 
(mayadeha ) which are ‘characterized by the image in a mirror. Their 
spread, by the “moon in the water” like a rainbow, consists of colours.’ 25 
But we must hurry on. Suffice it to remind the reader that our sources 
give us ample and elaborate information about the anatomy and 
physiology of some of these invisible bodies, 26 which is in fact the 
physiology of meditation.* Some of the details may be late, but the 
essential principles are as old as Buddhism, and even older. We must 
bear them in mind when trying to appreciate the puzzling assertion 
(cf. p. 72) that the immortal Nirvana can be ‘touched’ with the body. 
So we read in Katha Upanishad: 27 ‘There are a hundred and one 
arteries (nadT) of the heart. One of them leads up to the crown of the 
head. Going up by it, one goes to immortality.’ Behind all theories 
there is a technique of Yoga which aimed at the transfiguration of the 
body into an ‘adamantine’, incorruptible and ‘divine’ ( divya ) body 
which alone would be an adequate vehicle of salvationf and ‘the most 

* Eliade 233-5: ‘ “Subtle physiology” was probably elaborated on the basis 
of ascetic, ecstatic and contemplative experiences expressed in the same symbolic 
language as the traditional cosmology and ritual. This does not mean that such 
experiences were not real ; they were perfectly real, but not in the sense in which a 
physical phenomenon is real . . . the experiments are performed on levels other 
than those of daily secular life . . . the experiences in question are transphysio- 
logical, and all these “centres” represent yogic states—that is, states that are 
inaccessible without preliminary ascesis. . . . The essential and indispensable 
factor remains meditation, spiritual “realization”. . . . Now, we must not forget 
that the Yogins performed their experiments on a “subtle body” (that is, by making 
use of sensations, tensions and transconscious states inaccessible to the uninitiate), 
that they become masters of a zone infinitely greater than the “normal” psychic 

t From the standpoint of Cartesianism and Platonism Buddhism could be 
classed as a ‘materialistic’ philosophy. As S. Schayer (OLZ 1935, 405) put it: 
‘In this connection it must be strongly emphasized that the concept of a non- 
spatial Being, especially the hypostasis of a psychic, non-extended reality which 
has been current in Occidental philosophy since Descartes remained foreign to 
the Indian systems.’ It seems to me that the Buddhist ‘materialism’ is similar 
to that of the Stoics, who also refused to tear apart body and mind in an absolute 
dichotomy, and who nevertheless were not in any way inimical to either 
spiritual practices or religious views. The Stoic pneuma is both fire, a material 
substance, and the reason {logos spermatikos ) which is the divine principle per¬ 
vading and animating the entire universe. The effortless and unquestioning 
transition from ardor or ca/or, to sensus atque ratio , and to sapientia , ratio and 
natura divina can be seen in Cicero, De nat. deor. II, ix-xii. It seems that also the 
Buddhists assume that there are no really immaterial states, but only gross and 



reliable and effective instrument at man’s disposal for “conquering 
death” \ 28 At the same time, Yoga strives to transsubstantiate the 
body into a microcosm in which the entire universe is somehow 
mirrored and contained, 29 so that it becomes ‘dilated* and 

3. The stages of apperception 

The eight stages of apperception have been clearly worked out only 
by the Theravadins. Other schools may have been aware of them, but 
left no documents which formulate the theory except by implication. 
Derived from the practice of the ‘restraint of the senses’ (cf. pp. 62 sq.\ 
the Theravadin Abhidhamma elaborates a Sutra passage which says: 1 
‘Visual consciousness (3) arises because of eye (1) and sight-objects 
(2); the meeting of the three is contact (4); feelings (5) are because of 
contact; what one feels one perceives (6); what one perceives one 
reasons about ( yitakketi ) (8); what one reasons about obsesses one 
( papanceti ) (7); what obsesses one is the origin of a number of notions 
and obsessions which assail a man in regard to sight-objects cognizable 
by the eye, past, future and present.’ The Abhidhamma claimed that 
a fully grown thoughtf goes through eight successive stages of 
apperception. 2 Their tabular survey will be followed first by two 
similes and then by a brief explanation. This is the survey: 

1. A shock, or disturbance, from a stimulus (affects the sense-organs) 

2. Adverting (to sense-object) 

3. Six consciousnesses (sense-consciousnesses arise from 1 and 2) 

4. ‘Reception’ or ‘acceptance’ (contacts) 

5. ‘Examining’ or ‘judging’ (feelings) 

6. ‘Determining’ (perceptions) 

7. ‘Full apperception’, or ‘impulsions’ (volitional reactions) 

8. ‘Registering* or ‘Reflecting on that object*: reflections applied and 


fine matter, and that explains also why the mind (as fine-material) can be treated 
on the same level with the other five (gross-material) sense-organs. Nevertheless 
it must be admitted that the whole problem teems with difficulties, and that 
AK viii 137-43 for instance does not appear to bear out my interpretation of the 
Buddhist position. 

* Eliade (135) speaks of ‘a process of transforming the human body into a 
cosmic body, in which the veins, arteries, and the real organs play a decidedly 
secondary role in comparison with the “centres” and “veins” in which cosmic 
or divine forces can be experienced or “awakened” \ 

f This is supposed to have some sensory content. In a pure ‘mind-perception' 
the stages would be fewer. 



Now to the similes, (i) The wind stirs the branches of a tree; a 
fruit drops down, grazing a man’s ear. (ia) An object of sight, etc., 
enters the avenue of the eye, etc., and causes a shock to eye-sentiency, 
etc. (ib) The shock vibrates the subconscious continuum (cf. p. 133) 
which is (ic) cut off, or stopped. (2) The man wakes up. There is 
awareness that there is something to be seen, etc.; there is some 
stimulus; one is stimulated. (3) He opens his eyes and looks. There is 
awareness that something is seen, heard, etc.; something is seen; 
there is seeing. (4) Picking up the fruit. One agrees to pay attention 
to the stimulus. (5) Inspecting the fruit, by squeezing it. One decides 
whether an object is as one wishes, or as one does not wish it to be, 
and examines it to find out whether it is agreeable, disagreeable, or 
neutral. (6) Apprehending the fruit, and its attributes, by smelling it. 
Full perception. Attributes are noted and allocated to the object. 
(7) Eating the fruit, and experiencing its taste. In a wholesome or 
unwholesome manner one reacts to a thing in that context, with such 
and such a meaning and significance. (8) After-taste, from swallowing 
the last morsels left in the mouth. Here there is retrospection on the 
object of the seventh stage, and an awareness that a thing of that 
kind was perceived. Just so water is cleft, and follows a boat a little 
distance when it crosses a fierce stream, and then goes again along with 
the current.* 

We must now go over the eight stages one by one so as to under¬ 
stand this essential corollary to the Buddhist attitude to signs and the 
signless (cf. pp. 61 sql). 

1. When speaking of the stimulation of the sense-organs, we must 
distinguish (1) the region of the physical organ and its physical 
structure; (2) the terminal receptor part of the organ and its neural 
connections; (3) the receptive reactive sensibility, which alone is 
intended here. 

2. When speaking of ‘adverting’ to the six sense-objects we must 
define ‘sense-object’ and ‘adverting’. Here (1) the object as a stimulus,\ 

* Another simile has always struck me as rather charming, though less con¬ 
vincing. Many boys sit in the middle of a road, and play with dust (this corre¬ 
sponds to the proceeding of the subconscious continuum).(i) A coin hits the 
hand of one of them; (2) he says, ‘what is it that has hit my hand?*; (3) then 
one boy says, ‘this is a white thing*; (4) another grasps it firmly together with 
the dust; (5) another says, ‘it is broad and square*; (6) another says, ‘this is a 
kahdpana coin*; (7) then he takes it and gives it to his mother, who uses it in 
some jewellery work. 

f The ‘stimuli* as understood here should not be confused with those of 
Behaviourist psychology. That describes its ‘stimuli* either in physico-chemical 



i.e. that which, from the object-side, conditions the perception by 
acting on the sense-organ, must be distinguished from (2) the fully 
developed object as it appears to perception; (1) is intended here. 
There is no such thing as a particular sense-object as such by itself. 
All we can get is a sense-object on a certain level of apperception, 
presentation, and assimilation to what we feel to be our needs. When 
all the later additions are taken away, all that can be said about the 
object as it appears is that ‘there is something which is seen, heard, 
etc’. But what exactly is seen cannot be described. That is revealed, or 
rather constructed, only on the sixth stage. 

The ‘adverting’ which takes place at this stage must not be confused 
with ‘attention*. In fact we must distinguish three different, though 
cognate activities: (1) Adverting , the turning towards an object, which 
is attributed to mind and mind-consciousness, and not to any com¬ 
ponent of the fourth skandha. (2) Attending , the selective act of 
attending to an object is one of the effects of ‘concentration’, which 
belongs to the fourth skandha.* (3) Attention ( manasi-kara , lit. 
‘mind-work’), another dharma belonging to the fourth skandha, 
means the variation of attention round one object or task, and refers 
to the alterations which take place in the mind when an object is 
viewed from various angles. By, or in, attention the mind is differen¬ 
tiated from itself, i.e. the mind as it was before is different from what 
it is now because it attended to some slightly different feature of the 
same object. ‘Attention’ makes the mind face, or confront, a thing 
for quite a time, and as regulating the repeated approach to it is 
likened to a charioteer. By comparison, ‘adverting’ is a very simple 
and rudimentary attitude. 

terms, as rays, vibrations in the air, chemical substances dissolved in air or fluid, 
etc., or physiologically in relation to the receptor organ, as photo-chemical 
action, vibrations in the endolymph, deformations of the skin, etc. These 
Behaviourist ‘stimuli* are objects of mind-perception (though to some extent 
visualized), and differ from the appropriate sense-object intended here. 

* From the virtue of ‘concentration* (cf. p. 53) we must distinguish ‘con¬ 
centration* as a factor essential to all thought. One-pointedness of mind is its 
essential feature. It is defined by six attributes (cf. p. 112): ( a ) Stability; standing 
unshaken in or on the object, like a flame in a windless place; (£) kneading 
together the co-nascent states in the object; it binds together the states of mind 
that arise with it, as water binds the lather of soap; (c) being immersed, or 
absorbed, in the object; (</) absence of distraction ( avisaro ) and confusion 
(vikhhepo ), which might be due to excitedness or doubt; (e) unperturbed; 
(/) calmness is a concomitant. In some forms of thought, concentration is not 
present in full strength, and exists only in the sense of (a) because they are so 
weak that they have only the capacity to keep going, or to persist. 



3. The six sense-consciousnesses are acts of awareness, directed to a 
sight-stimulus, etc., and, as the naked, unadorned, apprehension of 
each stimulus they are 3 feeble and indistinct. 

4. The word contact can have three meanings: (1) In the case of the 
five senses, but not in that of mind, it is the physical collision of a 
physical object with a physical organ, as the clash of two cymbals 
or the butting of two goats. An organ is struck by the impact of an 
object, and reacts to it. This precedes stage 3, and is not meant here. 
(2) A coincidence, a ‘falling together*, a meeting, an assemblage, a 
collocation—of organ, object and consciousness. (3) Those voli¬ 
tional states, belonging to the fourth skandha, which bring organ, 
object and consciousness into contact with one another. No. 2 is 
intended here. The object conditions ‘contact*, according to the 
Sarvastivadins, by way of ‘object’, the sense-organ by way of pre¬ 
dominant condition, and the sense-consciousness by way of ‘imme¬ 
diate antecedent’ (cf. p. 54).* 

5. Then come the feelings , i.e. pleasant, unpleasant, neutral. In 
most cases it takes some doing to actually observe the feeling-reaction 
as preceding the act of perception. What one is supposed to do is to 
first feel, ‘there is a disagreeable sight’, and then ask, ‘what is it?’ In the 
case of sounds that is often quite easy. ‘What is this abominable 
noise?’ ‘Is it a lorry?’ ‘No, it is a jet-plane.’ Also with smells this 
sequence can often be easily observed. Noises and smells are probably 
per se intimately connected with the pleasant or unpleasant character 
of a total experience. To use a somewhat undignified phrase, a pre¬ 
liminary ‘be-sniffing’ of the object takes place at this stage. Often 
much more obvious than this initial feeling-reaction to a stimulus 
are the later feelings* which accompany the volitional reactions of 
stage 7 and the cogitations of stage 8, while thoughts go round and 
round the idea of the object. At stage 7 the feeling is embedded in a 
definite conative process, and one reacts to the object by either 
becoming keen on it and greedy for the pleasure it gives, or by 
resenting and hating it. On the eighth level one looks back on the 
experience of the seventh stage and appraises it. When the experience 
was that of a desirable object, one has a mentally pleasant feeling. 
But if it was undesirable, it leads on the eighth level to an 
indifferent, neutral feeling tone. If, however, one kicks against the 

* Feelings do, however, arise already at the earlier stage 3, where there may be 
a physically painful or pleasant excitement of the body, without, however, 
a clear awareness of its objective cause. Strictly speaking, ‘feeling’ exists there¬ 
fore on four stages, i.e. 3, 5, 7 and 8. 



undesirability, the emotion of hate leads to a mentally unpleasant, or 
sad, feeling. 

6. Then follows the stage of perception which is the subjective 
correlate of the world of common sense. Here no fewer than nine 
transformations of the original datum take place. I. One (i) notes, 
and (2) recognizes sense-qualities , and (3) determines, discriminates, 
classifies them by means of words (e.g. ‘there is green*). II. One 

(1) regards sense-qualities as signs of objects of sense or mind, 

(2) recognizes those objects by them, as a carpenter recognizes a piece 
of wood that he had marked previously, treating the sign as a sufficient 
reason for recognition, as wood-cutters do with logs; (3) discriminates 
an object and its qualities from its surroundings; (4) and all this largely 
by means of words. (5) One reshapes the sensory occasion by means of 
fanciful interpretations, just as the perception of‘men* arises to young 
deer when they see scarecrows. (6) One takes up the sign, seizes 
upon it, produces in oneself an inclination towards it, and even an 
attachment to it, clings to it, and arrives at a wrong conviction about, 
a one-sided interpretation of the sense-data, as in the case of the blind 
men and the elephant. 5 The object of the perception, and that which is 
perceived are manifestly different from (1) the sensory stimulus (on 
stage 2), and (2) what is really there. Unlike wisdom, perception 
cannot penetrate to true reality. 

7. The volitions are the most important part of the entire process, 
in that they alone affect karma or future happiness. This stage is also 
said to take more time than the others. It occupies seven moments, 
whereas stage 1 takes three, 2-6 one each, and 8 two. 

Will (cetana) is one of the dharmas. Volition, purposive reaction, 
is a process of activity, toil and exertion, which co-ordinates, orders, 
directs, urges on, and makes strenuous and energetic. It is compared 
to an energetic farmer who bustles about his labourers to get in the 
harvest; a senior apprentice at a carpenter’s who works himself and 
supervises the tasks of others; the leader of a warrior band who both 
fights and incites to fight. 

It is of great practical importance to sort out composite ideas into 
volitions, perceptions and feelings, especially when they seem to 
greatly concern the individual self. To take a few examples: ‘There 
may be no fuel this winter; my tooth will have to come out; I may 
get the sack; my penknife is lost; what will he do to get his own 
back?’ Such thoughts are liable to drag thought away from the 
Dharma, but it is quite clear that their volitional content (fear, hate, 
greed, etc.) greatly outweighs the sensorial, and that sense-perception 



is not only embedded in a volitional attitude, but smothered by it, 
and has usually little weight in these woes. 

8. This stage occurs only when stage 7 reacted to a powerful 
object which seemed particularly worthwhile. It is marked by ‘reflec¬ 
tions applied and discursive’ ( yitakka , vicar a). For these two terms 
no satisfactory English equivalent has yet been found. It is, however, 
quite clear what is meant. If you let your mind go wherever it pleases, 
or if you try to fix it on some unrewarding subject such as Nirvana, 
you will find that soon it will settle down on some ‘interesting* topic 
or other, as a bird settles down on a tree, and start thinking on it. 
That is vitakka. The vicar a is then the sustained thinking on that 
same topic, the moving about, over, around and along it, the dis¬ 
coursing on it, the prolonged cogitation on it. It is interesting to note 
that this kind of‘thinking’ is held to be retrospective and is denied any 
cognitive value. Such ruminations must in fact cease before trance 
can be even approached. 





i . The Mahasanghikas and the Mahayana 

In part II we have considered the Sthaviras who about 140 years 
after the Buddha’s Nirvana separated from the Mahasanghikas, who 
in their turn provided about the beginning of the Christian era the 
starting-point for the Mahayana. The Mahasanghikas, ‘those who 
represent the great assembly’,* got their name either from their being 
the majority at the Council of Pataliputra, or perhaps more probably, 
as those who represented the viewpoint of the laymen against the 
monkish party. They were divided into the following sub-sects: 


200 B.E. 

Ekavyavaharikas Gokulikas 

Lokottaravadins Bahusrutlyas Prajnaptivadins 

300 B.E. 

Purva§ailas Aparasailas Rajagirikas Siddharthikas 

While it is more than probable that many leading ideas of the 
Mahayana antecede by centuries its emergence as a separate trend, 
we have little direct information about the proto-Mahayana. What 
we have consists (I) of inferences drawn from the Canon of the Stha¬ 
viras, and (II) of brief indications of some Mahasanghika tenets derived 
from the treatises about the sects (all of them after ad 300). 

I. The Canon of the Sthaviras contains occasionally ideas which 
conflict with their own orthodoxy. Some Polish scholars have 

* A term very much like bolsheviki vs. menshcviki. The derivation of the names 
of the sub-sects is not always obvious, and I must refer to Bareau. 



argued 1 that they belong to a very old, ‘pre-Canonical’ tradition, 
which was too venerable to be discarded by the compilers of the 
Canon. How otherwise could one account for the numerous references 
to a ‘person’? 2 Then there is the special role assigned to ‘conscious¬ 
ness’. The Saddhatusutra assumes an eternal consciousness, and the 
Absolute, or Nirvana, is identified with an ‘invisible infinite conscious¬ 
ness, which shines everywhere’. 3 Side by side with the oft-repeated 
negation of an atman there are traces of a belief in consciousness as the 
non-impermanent centre of the personality which constitutes an 
absolute element in this contingent world. The idea of an absolute 
Thought which is perfectly pure and translucent ( prabhasvard ) in its 
own nature, its own being, its own substance, and which remains 
so for ever, does not fit in very well with the dharma-theory of the 
Sthaviras. They accordingly did not quite know what to do with it 
(cf. p. 133), whereas the Mahasanghikas and the Mahayana gave 
it a central place in their scheme of things. Though Nirvana is gener¬ 
ally kept transcendentally remote and defined only by negations, there 
are distinct vestiges of a more positive concept, and of an unorthodox 
ontology, which regards Nirvana as a place ( pada) or an entity (and 
not merely a state), identical with the eternal and absolute reality 
(dharma ) and with the translucent Thought or consciousness. De¬ 
liverance is then conceived as the gradual purification of this con¬ 
sciousness which finally attains to the summit of the ‘Realm of 
Dharma’ ( dharmadhatti ), from which it will no longer fall back 
(acyuta). The treatment of the Buddha shows a similar inconsistency. 
Normally presented as a man who has found the truth, at times he 
is shown as a supernatural being, the mythical pre-Buddhistic Tatha- 
gata, the earthly manifestation of the absolute principle (dharma). 
The faithful are recommended to have trust in His spiritual authority, 
which is guaranteed by the radiant blaze of His supernatural body, 
whereas in general the Scriptures of the Sthaviras play down the role 
of faith, and teach that no one can save another and that each one 
should judge for himself. 

For the theme of this book it does not really matter whether these 
‘aberrant’ doctrines represented a ‘pre-Canonical’ stratum of Budd¬ 
hism, or whether they were concessions to popular demand, just as 
the lower goal of rebirth in heaven (svarga) came to be admitted side 
by side with Nirvana. 4 Whatever the date of their introduction, there 
were these ‘aberrant’ doctrines, the Sthaviras mentioned them in 
passing, and the Mahasanghikas both emphasized and probably 
developed them. 



II. According to the treatises on the sects the Mahasanghikas made 
at least four contributions of philosophical importance: 

1. The Sthaviras had subordinated the Buddha as an historical 
person to the Buddha as a metaphysical principle (pp. 171 sq.). The 
Mahasanghikas went farther and regarded 5 everything personal, earthly, 
temporal and historical as alien to the real Buddha, who was trans¬ 
cendental, altogether supramundane, had no imperfections or impuri¬ 
ties whatsoever, was omniscient, all-powerful, infinite, and eternal, 
forever withdrawn into trance, never distracted or asleep. The his¬ 
torical Buddha was only a magical creation of the transcendental 
Buddha, a fictitious creature sent by Him to appear in the world, 
conform himself to its ways and teach its inhabitants. With His 
Nirvana He has not altogether disappeared, but with a compassion as 
unlimited as the length of His life He will until the end of time conjure 
up all kinds of messengers who will help all kinds of beings in diverse 
ways. Nor are Buddhas found on this earth alone, but they fill the 
entire universe, and exist here and there everywhere, in all the world 

2. The schism between Sthaviras and Mahasanghikas was occa¬ 
sioned by the question of the status of the Arhat. The latter took the 
line that in several ways the Arhats fell short of the god-like stature 
which the Sthaviras attributed to them. Arhats were not yet entirely 
free, because, among other things, they could still be troubled by 
demons, had their doubts, and were ignorant of many things. This 
emphasis on the imperfections of Arhatship was the first step in a 
lengthy process which gradually re-defined the ideal type of person 
whom the follower of the Dharma was bidden to emulate. With the 
Mahayana the Arhats have become worthy, but crabbed and selfish 
people, and philosophical statements are no longer based on their 
experiences, but on those of the ‘Bodhisattvas’ who unselfishly 
prepare themselves for Buddhahood during aeons and aeons of self- 
sacrificing struggle. 

3. Empirical knowledge tended to lose all objective value. Some 
Mahasanghikas taught that the very belief in the reality of any worldly 
thing constitutes a ‘perverted view* (cf. p. 205) and that only ‘empti¬ 
ness’ is real, an emptiness which transcends all worldly things and in 
which they are all absent. Others considered all propositions to be 
equally invalid, on the ground that they consist of words to which 
nothing corresponds in reality, because they are pure denominations 
(prajnapti J, resting on arbitrary social conventions. All verbal state¬ 
ments are ipso facto out of touch with that which actually is, and do 



not refer to really existing dharmas, be they conditioned or uncon¬ 
ditioned, but to fictitious conceptual thought-constructions of our 
own make. The absolute, unconditioned world of ‘Nirvana*, as 
tradition describes it, is therefore as fictitious and unreal as the relative 
world of Samsara. The Mahayana accepted this radical criticism, and 
its ontology was largely shaped to meet its challenge. 

4. The term ‘emptiness* was not only very popular with the 
Mahasanghikas, but also acquired a wider meaning than the Sthaviras 
were willing to concede. For them it was the denial of a personal 
‘self’ in persons, whom the Abhidharma analysis dissolved into a 
conglomeration of impersonal dharmas. The Mahasanghikas, on the 
contrary, maintain that a dharma cannot be anything of or by ‘itself*, 
that separate dharmas are as unreal (< dharma-nairatmya ) as separate 
selves ( pudgala-nairatmya ), and that both persons and dharmas are 
equally ‘empty’. 6 This wider meaning of ‘emptiness* thereafter per¬ 
vaded the entire doctrine of the Mahayana. The term ‘own-being- 
empty’ ( svabhava-sunya ) meant for the Sthaviras that, by reason of 
their own-being, dharmas, or all actual existent constituents of the 
universe, are ‘empty of a self* such as persons imagine to have. 
‘Emptiness’, however, as we saw before (p. 60), may designate either 
deprivation or fulfilment. In the first sense it lends itself to rational 
analysis, in the second to mystical fervour. Aiming at a more perfect 
and profound understanding of the vast emptiness which sets us 
free, the Mahasanghikas and Mahayanists felt confined by the presence 
of so many actually existent dharmas, and contended that those 
impersonal dharmic events themselves must be seen as empty, and 
that ultimately, by comparison with ultimate reality, also they do not 
exist as separate entities. The Kasyapaparivarta compares their 
emptiness to vast space, whereas that of the Sthaviras is like a termite 
hole—termites bore a hole into a piece of wood (absence of self in 
persons), but all around they leave thin outer walls standing (dharmic 
events). Some Mahasanghikas 7 went even farther, and identified 
emptiness with the nature of the Buddha. For them ‘all beings, both 
worldly and supramundane, have the Void for their basis. 8 The Void 
is the Buddha-nature 9 and the great final Nirvana. The Buddha-nature 
must therefore necessarily exist in all beings* (cf. pp. 229 sq .). 

2. The Literary Sources 

The slow gestation of the Mahayana wirhin the Mahasanghika 
schools is still wrapped in obscurity. What we believe to know is 



that between ioo bc and ad ioo the Mahayana emerged as a separate 
trend of thought, which increasingly turned away from the ‘Dis¬ 
ciples and Pratyekabuddhas’, who stood for what is now awkwardly 
called ‘the Hinayana*. The Mahayanists were prolific writers, their 
literature is very vast and we are still in the first stages of slowly 
gathering any material that may be at hand. Our picture of the 
Mahayana is still somewhat like that of the old nineteenth-century 
maps of Africa, with some coloured patches here and there at the 
edges, but with the vast interior left empty and white, filled only with 
conjecture and surmise. The best and most authoritative writings are 
anonymous, and in the form of Sutras preached by the Lord Buddha. 
The Sutras as we have them are, however, later developments of 
earlier very brief ‘seminal* Sutras which rarely, if ever, now exist 
separately, and are usually embedded in the later expanded texts. 
Many comparative studies and much critical acumen will be needed 
before we learn to isolate them. 1 Until we are better acquainted with 
these ‘seminal* Sutras, we do not really know what the Mahayana 
was like at its inception, and still less how it originated and developed, 
or how it was related to earlier forms of Buddhism. 

The Sutras as we now have them are either extensive ( yaipulya ) 
works, composed over many generations, or relatively short treatises. 
First of all we must for their great philosophical importance mention 
the numerous Prajndpdramitd Sutras. 2 If philosophy is interpreted 
in the ancient sense as a way of living based on an understanding 
of the true nature of reality, then the Prajndpdramitd Sutras are replete 
with it. Not that they are philosophical treatises in the European sense 
of the word. To begin with, they do not develop their doctrine by 
reasoned argumentation, but rely on simple dogmatic affirmation.* 
As Sutras they were held to be taught by the Buddha himself, and His 
authority seemed to provide sufficient support for their veracity and 
truth. Secondly, they do not wish to expound some novel philo¬ 
sophical theory about the constitution of reality, or the nature of the 
universe, but were composed to promote religious emancipation, or 
salvation. Large portions of their contents are thus devoted to reli¬ 
gious, or ‘theological*, problems. And finally, as distinct from most 

* Zimmer (quot. Stace, p. 84) gives a good idea of their style: ‘The Illumined 
Ones behave in a way that should be rather shocking and confusing to any sound 
thinker, who, from habit and firm determination, is resolved to keep his feet on 
the ground. In a sort of mocking conversation, these Buddhas and Bodhisattvas 
entertain themselves with enigmatical statements of the unstatable truth. . . . 
Then, most artfully, they always elude the cleverly placed hazards and hidden 
pitfalls, and engage in a glorious trans-Olympian laugh/ 



European works on philosophy, these texts are often more intent bn 
mystifying the reader than on clarifying the problems they discuss. 
In addition to the Prajndpdramita Sutras we must mention the ‘Lo us 
of the Good Law’, 3 a religious classic of breath-taking grandeur, aid 
the Avatamsaka , a truly colossal work, which awaits more detailed 
study/ Philosophically important are further the Samddhirdja 5 (T le 
King of the Concentrations'), and among shorter works the ‘Explara- 
tions of Vimalakirti' 6 and the ‘Story of the Juggler Bhadra'. 7 Mu :h 
incidental information can also be gained from the ‘Sutra which* is 
Splendid like the Finest Gold’, 8 and from several smaller worts 
accessible in translation. 9 The bulk of the Mahayana Sutras appears 
to have been composed during the first three centuries of the Christi< n 
era. Many are now lost, and Santideva's Sikshasamuccaya 10 (‘The 
Compendium of Training') is a valuable collection of extracts fro n 
Mahayana Sutras still available 1,200 years ago. By a division of 
labour, the Buddhists left reasoned argumentation to another class of 
works, called Sdstras . Without in any way altering the ideas of tl e 
Sutras, the treatises of the Madhyamika school from Nagarjura 
onwards supply the philosophical argumentation behind the r 

Numerically speaking, perhaps 5 per cent of the Mahayana Sutras 
have so far been reliably edited, and perhaps 2 per cent intelligibl r 
translated. It is clear that inferences drawn from the scanty materk 1 
at our disposal must remain rather dubious. Also, in spite of F. Edger ■ 
ton's excellent Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary (1953), much of 
the technical vocabulary is still unexplored, and only too often wo 
must guess where we do not know. This neglect of the Mahayana in 
rather strange at a time when the most obscure writings of other tradi 
tions elicit floods of ink from scholars all over the world. The complete 
lack of encouragement for these studies seems to point to their having 
no relation to the needs of any significant section of contemporar} 
society. In consequence the study of the Mahayana Sutras is eithei 
left to outsiders lodged precariously on the margin of society, 01 
carried on for reasons unrelated to their actual message—such as an 
interest in linguistic problems, or a desire to bolster up Indian national 
self-esteem, so unsure of itself in this present generation. The deep- 
seated antipathy of our industrial civilization for the revelations of the 
Mahayana is in itself not at all surprising. The problem lies else¬ 
where. Nearly every day we meet people who almost frantically yearn 
for some Shangri-la to take them away from the horrors of this 
civilization, for some island which will do for them what Tahiti did 



for Paul Gauguin. Nothing could satisfy their longings better than the 
quiet splendours of the Mahayana, and yet no one ever seems to be 
able to see that. An analysis of this paradoxical situation would throw 
as much light on the mentality of the denizens of our civilization 
as on the nature of the Mahayana, and I regret that for reasons of space 
I cannot pursue the problem any further. 

3. The range of disagreement 

The Mahasanghikas and Mahayanists were, in a sense, ‘mystics’ 
opposed to the ‘rationalism’ of the Sthaviras. In using the words 
‘rationalists’ and ‘mystics’ we must, of course, beware of taking them 
in their European sense. No Buddhist ‘rationalist’ was ever bitterly 
hostile to religion in the way in which Edward Gibbon, David Hume, 
Lady Wootton and the Rationalist Press Association reject it as a 
degrading superstition. No Buddhist ‘mystic’ ever turned against 
rational thinking as such with the fervour of a Petrus Damiani, a 
William Blake, or the ‘obscurantist’ wing of the French, Spanish or 
Irish Catholic Church. 

The difference was really one between the rational mysticism of 
the Mahayana, and the mystically tinged rationalism of the Theravadins 
or Sarvastivadins. They had much common ground on the middle 
ranges of the path where the ascetic strove for emancipation in a 
quite rational and businesslike manner. Neither side denied that 
below these there was the comparative irrationality of the popular 
religion, and above it the super-rationality of the higher stages of 
the path and of the top levels of samadhi and prajnd. They differed 
only in the emphasis which they gave to these phenomena. The proto- 
Mahayanists and the Mahayanists themselves looked more kindly upon 
the religious needs of ordinary people, 1 and in addition they had 
much more to say about the higher stages of the path, and in particular 
about the transcendental knowledge, or intuition, of the Absolute or 

The author of an interesting and valuable book 2 on the essentially 
rationalistic Buddhism of Burma sees the specifically religious element 
in the assumption of a ‘thought-defying ultimate’, i.e. of ‘The 
Immortal’, or Nirvana, which ‘is marked by the paradox of affirmation 
and negation, of sustaining faith and halting language’. When they 
talk $0 much more freely than the Sthaviras about the Absolute 
and its immediate approaches, we need not necessarily assume that 
the Mahayanists were more familiar with them. Quite possibly the 



Sthaviras were perfectly contented with formulating only that which 
could be formulated with some ease, and deliberately left the remainder 
to look after itself. The Mahayanists, on the other hand, regarded it 
as a worthwhile task to combat all possible mistaken verbal formula¬ 
tions of the highest and most unworldly spheres of spiritual experience. 
I cannot help feeling that this was connected with some loss of 
expertise within the Samgha after the first five hundred years had 

The Mahayana writings, and in particular the Prajndpdramita 
Sutras, are almost exclusively concerned with the problem of the 
Unconditioned, nothing but the Absolute over and over again. On 
the face of it there could be nothing more dreary and uninteresting 
than the ‘Unconditioned*—a grey patch, a wan abstraction, an elusive 
will-o’-the-wisp. But it is a fact of observation that in the course of 
their spiritual struggle people actually come to a stage where this 
abstraction miraculously comes to life, gains a body, fills, sustains anc 
irradiates the soul. It is then that these writings become interesting anc 

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The lengthy 
writings on Perfect Wisdom are one long declamation in praise 
of the Absolute. Everybody knows of course that nothing can usefully 
be said about the Absolute. This had prompted the Sthaviras to keep 
silent, or at least nearly silent about it. The Mahayanists, on the 
other hand, consider everything that might reasonably be said about 
it, and expressly reject it as untrue and inadequate. In any case they 
observe the precaution of always cancelling out each statement by 
another one which contradicts it. Everywhere in these writings contra¬ 
diction is piled upon contradiction. Whatever is said about the 
Absolute gives really no sense, but, on occasions, people feel impellec 
to say it. Likewise what we think and say about people we love is, 
strictly speaking, never quite true. But it would be unnatural not tc 
say or think it. So with the Absolute. The metaphysics of the Mahayana 
expresses a state of intoxication with the Unconditioned, and at the 
same time attempts to cope with it, and to sober it down. 

These Mahayana Scriptures should never be mistaken for ele¬ 
mentary texts which can be grasped apart from the traditions which 
lead up to them. To understand diem one must be fairly familiar with 
the Tripitaka of the Sthaviras, for its sayings are all the time in the 
background of the discussion. In particular, one should be acquaintec 
with the terminology of the Abhidharma, and with its methods anc 
the results that can be expected from its more or less prolongec 



practice. In every way the Mahayana attempts to correct misconcep¬ 
tions which the practices of the Abhidharma may have fostered. The 
Abhidharma had convinced us that there are no ‘beings’ or ‘persons’, 
but only bundles of dharmas. Yet, although beings are not there, from 
compassion they must nevertheless not be abandoned, and their 
welfare, though strictly non-existent, must be furthered by ‘skill in 
means’. The Abhidharma had rejected all conditioned things as 
perilous. Now it is the peril of keeping them apart from the Uncon¬ 
ditioned which is stressed again and again. The Abhidharma had 
cultivated wisdom as the virtue which permits insight into the ‘own¬ 
being’ of dharmas. Now the perfection of wisdom in its turn regards the 
separateness of these dharmas as merely a provisional construction, 
urges us on to see everywhere just one emptiness and condemns all 
forms of multiplicity as arch enemies of the higher spiritual vision 
and insight. When duality is hunted out of all its hiding-places, the 
results are bound to be rather startling. Not only are the multiple 
objects of thought identified with one mysterious emptiness, but 
the very instruments of thought take on a radically new character when 
affirmation and negation are treated as non-different, as one and the 
same. Once we jump out of our intellectual habits, emptiness is 
revealed as the concrete fullness; no longer remote but quite near; no 
longer a dead nothingness beyond, but the life-giving womb of the 
Tathagata within us. 

It would be a fruitless labour to try to derive the Mahayana from 
the Theravadins because, in the words of Professor Murti , 3 they ‘had 
little or no direct influence on the development of Buddhist schools 
in India’. In the later stages of scholastic elaboration some of the 
formulations of Mahayana beliefs arose from controversies with 
Sarvastivadins and Sautrantikas, but practically never with Thera¬ 
vadins. In so far as the Mahayana ‘derives’ from anything it is from 
the Mahasanghikas. Even this is only partly true and it appears that at 
first, far from introducing any innovations, the Mahayana did no 
more than place a new emphasis on certain aspects of the commonly 
accepted traditional material . 4 By almost imperceptible stages this new 
emphasis led to what in effect was almost a new religion, nearly as 
different from the Sthavira doctrine as Christianity is from Judaism. 

In Buddhist history every five centuries 5 the very means and 
objects of emancipation are apt to turn into new objects and channels 
of craving. Attainments may harden into personal possessions, spiritual 
victories and achievements may foster self-conceit, merit is hoarded 
as treasure in heaven which no one can take away, enlightenment and 



the Absolute are misconstrued as things out there to be gained. Ii 
other words, the old vicious trends continue to operate in the ne\ 
spiritual medium. The Mahayana was designed as an antidote to th 
more subtle forms of self-seeking which replaced the coarser form 
after the spiritual life had reached some degree of maturity in th 
Abhidharma. | 

The remainder of part III will once more discuss most of th 
problems which have been considered in part I from the point d 
view of archaic Buddhism, and in part II from that of the Sthaviras 
First, remembering the basic importance of ‘ignorance’, we wi 
explain the new interpretation of the ‘perverted views’ (no. 4 corre 
sponding to I ch. 3 and II ch. 2, 1—2), and its revolutionary conse 
quences. Then follow the six ‘perfections* (no. 5), which took th 
place of the five ‘cardinal virtues’ of earlier Buddhism (I ch. 4), ani 
thereafter (no. 6) a few words will be said about the extraordinary 
proliferation of the social emotions (corresponding to I ch. 6). Th 
Dharma-theory (I ch. 7-8) and the Abhidharma doctrines (II ch. 
and 4) now issue forth in a new ontology (no. 7), which for prc 
fundity and consistency is equalled in the history of human thougl 
only by that of Plato and Aristotle. These new developments inevi 
ably affected the interpretation of the Absolute, the Buddha and d 
Path, and it is these which we consider in nos. 8 and 9 (correspondin 
to I ch. 5 and II ch. 3). 

4. The perverted views 

Taking the traditional enumeration of the four perverted vie\> 
(cf. I ch. 3) for granted, 1 the Mahayana makes six innovations: (1) 
adds a fifth viparyasa.> ‘the realistic error’, which it regards as mo 
fundamental than the other four; (2) it maintains, in other words, th 
any form of discrimination amounts to an intellectual perversioi 
(3) it claims that, like everything else, the perverted views, as well; 
their objects, have no real existence, (4) repudiates the distinctic 
between conditioned and unconditioned dharmas, on which the Hin 
yana theory of the viparyasas was based, (5) distinguishes sever 
stages in the rejection of the perverted views, and (6) believes th 
only a Bodhisattva, steeped in perfect wisdom, can complete 
overcome them. 

1. The belief which holds that dharmas have objective realit 
although in fact they are unreal, non-existent, devoid of own-beir 
and merely imagined, has arisen ( [samutthita ) from a new kind 



‘perverted view’, 2 which is often called the asad-viparyasa , 3 and 
which consists in confusing reality with a mirage or a dream, mistaking 
things for what they are not, ‘forming with regard to something 
unreal the notion that it is rear. 4 ‘To say that “there is something’* is 
the prattling of fools, and not the talk of holy men.’ 5 Or, as another 
Sutra 6 puts it: If someone ‘falls in love’ with the phantom of a woman 
created by a conjurer, he may well try to purge his mind of greed by 
reflecting on that non-existent woman as impure, impermanent, etc. 
His activities are nevertheless rather futile, and so are those of the 
Sthaviras who strenuously think of dharmas as impermanent, etc., 
when in fact they are unproduced and unborn. They surely labour 
under a delusion. The man in question ‘produces the notion of a 
woman with regard to what is not a woman, and imagines something 
which is not real’. What he does is to superimpose a fiction on some¬ 
thing which does not exist. 7 

2. Furthermore, any kind of discrimination is regarded as a per¬ 
version, and so is any affirmation or negation, 8 any assumption of 
separate reality. Suchness alone lies outside the range of perverted 
knowledge. 9 To seize on anything as existent or non-existent, on any 
kind of multiplicity ( vicitrita ), that is ‘perversion’; in fact, perversion 
is the automatic result of assuming multiplicity of any kind. 10 The 
very belief in separate dharmas is due to a ‘perverted perception’. 11 
Any kind of dualism as such is pernicious, a sign of fall from grace. 

3. Since discrimination is the basic error, the recognition of the 
‘perverted views’ as perversions cannot be regarded as true or ulti¬ 
mately valid knowledge; for even their rejection makes between 
permanence and impermanence, ease and ill, self and not-self, the 
lovely and the repulsive, a distinction which is ipso facto untenable. 12 

4. Nor is it any longer possible to assume that the conditioned 
dharmas are actually impermanent, ill, etc., and definitely distinct 
from the Unconditioned, which is actually permanent, etc., for in 
emptiness the distinction between the conditioned and the uncon¬ 
ditioned is swallowed up. Nagarjuna points out that obviously ‘the 
impermanent does not exist in the empty’, 13 and Candrakirti 14 infers 
that ‘if impermanence has no existence, how can a permanence, or 
an assumption of permanence, which contradicts it, constitute a 
perversion?* Nagarjuna devotes an entire chapter 15 to the subject, and 
his arguments, as interpreted by Candraklrti, can be summed up as 
follows: Greed, hate and delusion, the basic klesas , result from 
imaginations. 16 In greed we are attracted by what is agreeable, falsely 
and by mere superimposition; in hate we are repelled by what appears 

2C 5 


to be disagreeable, without sufficient reason, arbitrarily and by mere 
superimposition; the delusion results from the four perverted views 
which superimpose permanence, ease, self and attractiveness on the 
data of experience which do not contain them. Since it is obviously 
wrong to conceive the impermanent as permanent, one might wel 
believe that it is right to regard the impermanent as impermanent. In 
the Hinayana this inference had indeed been intended. But, so the 
Mahayana argues, it would be clearly untrue to attribute imper¬ 
manence, ill, etc., to emptiness, or to dharmas which are empty or 
own-being, or to dharmas of which the own-being has never beer 
produced. Both permanence and impermanence are misconception* 
indicative of perversity. 17 ‘Since there is thus nothing that is not « 
perverted view, in relation to what could there be a perversion ?’ The 
implication here is that correlative terms give sense only in relation 
to one another, and that one of the pair alone and by itself can neithe ■ 
exist nor be conceived. In other words, in a universe where there i» 
only perversion there can be no perversion at all, at least by way of an 
attested fact. Some of Nagarj una’s, or perhaps Candraklrti’s, argu¬ 
ments in support of this somewhat paradoxical thesis seem to hi 
invalidated by equivocations. The viparyasas are sometimes treated 
as psychological attitudes, sometimes as logical propositions, and 
sometimes even as an ontological condition, with the result that it is 
hard to avoid the suspicion that a certain amount of sophistry is 

Nevertheless the conclusion, whatever may be the route that hss 
led to it, is quite sound, as can be seen when we consider one by or e 
the four dualities which form the theme of the perverted views. 

In the case of the fourth viparyasa. , the fictitious nature of tie 
opposition between the lovely and the repulsive is quite obvious. 
The elaborate meditations on alubha , which are so often recon - 
mended, are clearly no more than the self-defence of celibate monl s 
who resist the pressures exerted on their libido. They do not, however, 
reflect the factual existence of things, their ‘own-being’, or their 
dharmic constitution. The offensiveness of entrails is no more zn 
ultimate fact than the allure of swelling breasts seen through silk i n 
the sun. 

As for the distinction between permanence and impermanence , the 
Mahaydnasamgaraha 18 observes that the Lord has on some occasions 
pronounced dharmas to be permanent, 19 on others described them 


impermanent, 20 and on others again as neither permanent nor imper¬ 
manent. Asanga attempts to account for these divergences by tie 



special categories of the Yogacarins, which do not concern us here. 
The most extensive Mahayana treatment of the problems posed by 
the relationship of permanence and impermanence is found in the 
Lankavatarasutra , although its meaning is not always very clear. 
Pages 204-10 discuss the question whether the Buddha assigned 
impermanence to all worldly things, when he taught that ‘imper¬ 
manent indeed are all composite things, doomed to pass away once 
they have been produced’. The Buddha concludes his exposition by 
saying 21 that he is ‘neither for permanence nor for impermanence*. 
It would, indeed, be futile to describe things as either permanent or 
impermanent, because there are no external existents, but merely one’s 
own mind; because a variety of marks is inacceptable; because all 
duality is the result of that false discrimination which begets and 
nourishes karma and all its evil consequences; and because the three 
marks (i.e. impermanence, ill and not-self) have issued from nothing 
but verbal discriminations. 

The Lankavatara is very concerned to show that ultimate reality 
is neither permanent nor impermanent, not only in the sense that both 
these marks are merely absent and inapplicable, but in the sense that 
they are transcended. ‘The Permanent and Unthinkable’ which is 
ultimate reality and the ‘Suchness which the Tathagatas have attained 
within themselves through their holy ( arya ) cognition’ is speci¬ 
fically called ‘permanent, because it is like space, Nirvana and stop¬ 
ping’. 22 Here ‘permanent’ may, however, well mean ‘non-imperma- 
nent’, as suggested by the somewhat cryptic remarks on pp. 60, 
13-61, 2 and 61, 9-12. For in fact the Tathagata, ‘who has gone 
beyond all idle reasonings (sarva-prapanca-atua )\is neither permanent 
nor impermanent. 23 Pages 217-19 explain why that should be so, and 
why in fact the Tathagata is in a condition in which he is positively 
not impermanent, and also not permanent in the usually accepted 
sense. ‘The triple world, as distinct from the Tathagatas, originates 
from the discrimination of unrealities. Where there is duality, there is 
permanence and impermanency, but from non-duality (these two 
can) not (arise). The isolated is indeed non-dual, because all dharmas 
are marked with non-duality and non-production. For that reason the 
Tathagatas are neither permanent nor impermanent. As long as there 
is verbal discrimination, so long there are the faulty notions of per¬ 
manence and impermanence. Fools seize upon these notions which are 
impeded by the extinction of all those mental [or intellectual] processes 
which are based on discrimination, but not on those which are based 
on the insight into the (absolute) solitude [or isolatedness].’ 



‘Those who always see the Buddhas 

As free from both permanence and impermanence, 

And yet as brought forth from ( prabhavitd ) these two, 
They are not swayed by the false views. 

With either permanence or impermanence 

Efforts made for enlightenment are bound to be futile. 

Knowledge based on discrimination is worthless; 

May all thought of permanence and impermanence 



III and ease are also both equally unreal. Nagarjuna devotes His 
twelfth chapter to showing that ‘ill* is not real, partly because its prj) 
duction cannot be explained, and partly because those who believe 
experience it are as unreal as the objective factors which seem 
occasion it. Since ill is about as real as ‘the scent of flowers growing 
in the sky (khapushpa)\ its apparent reality is indeed nothing but 
delusion and a result of viparyasa. The irreality of sukha seems, on t le 
other hand, not to have attracted much comment, very largely 
because it is only too obvious to all thinking and sensitive people. 

Likewise, both self and not-self are equally alien to true reality. 
Nagarjuna 24 states that in some places the Buddhas have spoken :>f 
a ‘self *, 25 in others they have taught a ‘not-self *, 26 and in addition th :y 
have also taught that there is neither a self nor a not-self . 27 Candr a- 
kirti 28 convincingly explains this aphorism by pointing out that tie 
Buddhas are physicians rather than teachers, that they always consic er 
the mentality and spiritual maturity of their interlocutors, and vary 
their teachings accordingly. There are exceedingly coarse-grain 
people, like the Carvahas , corresponding in Europe to the mechani< al 
materialists and to David Hume, who deny the existence of a self in 
such a way that they deprive the spiritual life of all meaning. r !o 
convert them, the Buddhas have spoken of a ‘self*. There are othe :s, 
more refined, who are still given to egoism and confirmed in th iir 
self-seeking by a belief in the existence of a self. The Buddhas teajch 
them the non-existence of a self so as ‘to weaken their attachment to 
the false view of personality and to engender in them a desire for 
Nirvana*. Other people, finally, are ‘near to Nirvana, free from all 
love for self, and capable of really understanding the true words of 
the Buddha*. They are taught that there is neither self nor not-self. In 
fact, the view of a not-self is no more true than that of a self, to whi ch 
it is an antidote. ‘Just as people who have no cataract do not perce ve 
the hairs, flies, etc., seen by those who suffer from this eye-disease, so 



the Buddha cannot at all see as real the self or not-self which fools 
have imagined.* Likewise in his Ratnavali 29 Nagarjuna says: 

‘In real truth no self or not-self can be got at. 

The Great Sage has made us ward off all views about them. 

What can be seen or heard He has pronounced to be neither truthful 
nor fraudulent. 

Any thesis must lead to a counter-thesis. Neither one nor the other 
is to the point ( arthatah ).* 

This theory is not confined to the Madhyamikas, and had already been 
stated in the Kasyapaparivarta : 30 ‘To believe in a self is an extreme 
view; to believe in a not-self is an extreme view.’ In the middle 
between the two lies the Middle Way, ‘the contemplation of dharmas 
as they really are*. 31 

5. On the basis of these new insights three stages in the removal 
of the perverted views were distinguished. (I) On the first, we recog¬ 
nize them for what they are, acquire the belief that they are likely to 
be erroneous, and intellectually cease to regard things as more per¬ 
manent, bliss-bestowing and owned than they actually are. We also 
come to understand that we can never be upset by anything that 
actually happens, but that the disturbance invariably derives from 
the way we view it, and that, once the perverted views are withdrawn 
from the situation, all upsets can be traced to some disordered passion 
in ourselves, for which the external event merely provides the 

(II) On the second we reject them also with our will and emotions. 
We cease to seek for permanence in what is impermanent, give up all 
hope of deriving happiness from any kind of worldly things, and it 
would not occur to us to call anything our own. For the first stage 
only intelligence is required, for the second an uncommon capacity 
for detachment and self-effacement. In fact on this stage the growth 
of two cardinal virtues provides us with an ever more impenetrable 
armour against the upsets of life, in that trance ( samadhi ) generates 
an unshakable inward calm, while wisdom ( prajha ') shows the dis¬ 
turbing event to be utterly insignificant. 

(III) The first two stages can be reached also by the Sthaviras, 
whereas the third is accessible only to those who apply the methods 
of the Mahayana and who through them completely reject 32 and over¬ 
come 33 the perverted views. We step above, or transcend, perverted 
views when (1) we see no longer any difference between impermanence 
and permanence, etc., and (2) if we meet with no object with which we 



could associate either the three marks or their opposites. 3 * Abolished 
is then the difference between impermanence and permanence, suffer¬ 
ing and ease, self and not-self, delight and disgust, and the yogin has 
truly stepped above all that can upset. 

It is obvious from the Samad/iirajd * 5 that the Mahayana sets out 
to describe the universe as it appears on the highest spiritual level of 
effortless and completed self-extinction. That Sutra identifies the 
man who has crossed to the other shore with the man who is ‘free from 
perverted views (aviparyasta-cittah)\ and then proceeds to define his 
freedom from the viparyasa as the state in which he does not review 
or apprehend any dharma which might cause greed, hate or delusion. 
According to Candrakirti 36 the insight into the paradox of the absence 
of all perversions (cf. p. 206) is greatly beneficial in that it removes 
ignorance and all its consequences. The deeper understanding of 
ignorance, which now incidentally includes within it all that the 
Sthaviras prized as ‘wisdom’, automatically eliminates it by showing 
that it is not there. It is not by fighting against the perverted views, 
but by simply not apprehending them that the yogin puts a stop to 
ignorance. And the Suvikrdntavikramipariprccha : 37 adds: ‘Where non¬ 
perversion has been understood (in the sense that perverted views are 
unreal, cf. p. 205), no perverted view is left, and there is also no more 
need to practise (carya).’ When someone no longer discriminates 
about his practice, his practice may well be called a ‘non-practice’. 

6. In Buddhism, ontological and soteriological views always go 
hand in hand, and the fuller and deeper understanding of the per¬ 
verted views is closely tied up with the distinctive features of a 
Bodhisattvas life. 

People may be said to make a difference between permanence and 
impermanence if they hurry out of this impermanent world into the 
permanence of Nirvana. They may be said to ignore that difference 
if they postpone their entry into everlasting Nirvana, do not object 
to living in the impermanency of ‘birth-and-death’, and do not mind 
how long it takes them to reach personal liberation—treating time 
as the insignificant thing that it is. ‘Seeking all-knowledge without 
seeking it before the appointed time—this is the Bodhisattva’s course.’ 38 

The identity of ill and ease is not disclosed to those who wish to 
avoid suffering at all costs. But it can be experienced by those greatly 
compassionate heroes who joyfully welcome suffering if and when 
it helps other creatures, for to them ‘suffering endured for the sake 
of others brings happiness*. 39 Men have made many attempts to drive 
out the fear of suffering by some kind of spiritual reasoning: they 



have seen it as part of the beneficial purpose of the Absolute; have 
found cosmic and karmic reasons for it; argued that it adds to the 
harmony of the whole; endowed it with a ‘sacramental’ meaning 
which sanctifies our life; proved that evil is really nothing, only the 
good being something; and so on. To the sufferer all this is rather 
cold comfort, and Candide has, on the whole, found more followers 
than Pangloss. Not content with inducing people to acquiesce in their 
sufferings, the Mahayana more ambitiously attempts to transcend 
suffering by identifying it with its opposite. The recipient of this 
teaching will, of course, feel no better off than before if he is lacking 
in the highmindedness expected of him. 

The identity of self and not-self cannot be fully understood by 
people who in actual practice oppose their own advantage to that of 
others. If a man exerts himself for the purpose of obtaining salvation 
and liberation for himself, and if he enters the freedom of Nirvana 
which cuts him off from the other suffering creatures whom he leaves 
behind, he can be said to make a difference between himself and 
others. Not so the Bodhisattva.* 0 

These doctrines thus clearly aim at producing a certain type of 
person. The theory of the ‘perverted views’ is very much akin to the 
philosophy of Epiktetos, according to which the origin of all our 
troubles lies in that we mistake that which is in our power for that 
which is not. In consequence we make things do that which is not in 
them, instead of just following the ‘nature of things*. The difference 
between the Stoa and the Mahayana lies in that the Stoics try to main¬ 
tain the Nus , or Reason, at all costs against unreason, whereas for the 
Buddhists reason and nonsense are one and the same. Because they 
feel that they have something definite to maintain, the Stoic sages 
are apt to be a bit rigid, ponderous, humourless, sour and censorious, 
whereas the Bodhisattvas, who have nothing to defend, are cheerful, 
free and easy, and a bit naive. Logic and consistency, so much prized 
by the Stoics, are all right as far as they go. The Mahayana abandons 
them for the rhythm of a spiritual life which is a law unto itself and 
leaves them far behind. 

5. The six perfections 

The ethical teaching of the Mahayana is laid down in the doctrine of 
the ‘Perfections’ ( paramita ), originally six,* i.e. the perfections of 

* Later on, when there was growing interest in the activities of the ‘celestial 
Bodhisattvas*, their number was raised to ten. 



giving, morality, patience, vigour, concentration and wisdom.* 
There is no need here to reproduce even the gist of all that has been 
said about them. 1 After commenting on one aspect of the perfection 
of morality which had a decisive influence on the ‘tone’ of Buddhist 
philosophizing, I will be content to consider briefly the ontological 
side of the teaching concerning the paramitas , and the general attitude 
involved in their practice. 

‘Morality’ means, of course, the five precepts, the first being the 
injunction not to take life. This is the old Indian ideal of ahimsa , and 
I cannot hope to make it perfectly clear in a few words. It is not 
derived from an abstract principle, such as the ‘sanctity’ or ‘oneness 
of life’. The nearest to the formulation of a general ‘principle’ is this 
well-known saying of the Buddha: ‘My thought has wandered 
through the world in all directions; yet I have not met with anything 
that was dearer [to anyone] than himself. Since to others, to each 
one for himself, their self is dear; therefore let him, who desires his 
own advantage, not harm another.’ 2 This is, however, not very 
conclusive, and this particular appeal to their ‘own advantage’ will 
fall flat with all those who regard themselves as more or less unique, 
and cannot see other beings on the same level as themselves. Nor 
is ahimsa a universal principle in the sense that anyone would expect 
to be able to live without doing some harm to others. 3 

Ahimsa is best described as a state of mind, as a condition of the 
heart. It may be illustrated by two little incidents. A traveller is 
invited to tea by Tibetan monks; a fly falls into his cup; there is a 
big ado, until the fly has been fished out, safely placed on a dry spot, 
and gently blown upon so that its wings may dry quickly; whereafter 
the cup is courteously returned to the guest. Similarly there was the 
Chinese abbot who was asked for his views on an antimalarial scheme 
which involved the draining of a lake. He finally turned it down with 
the words, ‘but what will happen to the dragons and fishes?’ This is 
ahimsa , ‘non-violence’, ‘non-harming’, ‘non-interference’ in a nutshell. 
The average European will remain unimpressed, partly because he 
believes that humans have a perfect right to discard the wishes of 
‘dragons and fishes’, not to mention flies and mosquitoes, but also 
because in his insatiable desire to do good to others he cannot 

* They replace the five cardinal virtues of archaic Buddhism. Of these, 
‘mindfulness* is reckoned as just an elementary stage of concentration. ‘Faith’ 
rather surprisingly reappears under the heading of ‘patience*, which is both a 
moral and an intellectual virtue, and also comprises the intelligent acceptance, 
on faith, of the higher teaching on Dharma before it is fully understood. 



appreciate the Buddhist reluctance to interfere with the course of 
events as determined by the karma of the creatures involved. 

What concerns us here is the application of ahimsa to philosophy. 
The tradition of intellectual ‘peacefulness* is indeed very old in 
Buddhism. The Buddha himself stated that ‘I do not fight with the 
world, but the world fights with me; for one who knows about 
Dharma never fights with the world*. 5 In the Sutta Nipata 6 the 
Buddha says: 

‘The partisan who hugs the creed he fancies most, 
brands rival creeds as “stuff**. And so strife dogs his days. 
Unprejudiced and free, not based on learning’s stores, 
owning no sect or school, holding no theories; 
when things of sense all fail to wake a conscious thought 
—how place this Brahmin true, who holds no theories?* 

Likewise ‘the Madhyamika does not have a thesis of his own’, 7 and 
for Aryadeva the Dharma itself is identical with ahimsa . 7a . The 
Scriptures 8 specially mention the courtesy of the Tathagata who 
‘speaks no words which are untrue, incorrect, not conducive to 
people’s welfare, or disagreeable or displeasing to anyone*. ‘Apt 
speech* is always kindly, never harms anyone, but is welcomed by 
others. 9 Subhuti, next to the Buddha the most authoritative expounder 
of the Prajhaparamita doctrine, is expressly called ‘the foremost of 
those who dwell in Peace* ( arana-viharin), 10 who can abide without 
fighting, and who, themselves at peace, can bring peace to others. 

These examples could be multiplied almost indefinitely. What is 
expected of a Buddhist is that he should do no violence to others 
by imposing his views upon them.* Non-interference with the dignity 
of others thus becomes a prime consideration in the presentation 
of a doctrine. Hard though it may be, one must learn to bear with 
the presence of those who think otherwise, and to refrain from 
coercing them, if only by argument, or from annihilating them, if only 
by dubbing them ‘fools*. Before wisdom has won final certitude, no 
amount of argumentation is likely to demolish all the objections 
which may be raised against tenets held largely on faith. It is the 
difference of a Buddhist sage from what is regarded as a ‘philosopher’ 
at present that he does not wish to settle questions by argument. 

Not that the Buddhists have always lived up to their own ideals, 

* Likewise Pyrrho ‘resolved to exert no pressure on anybody’s mind’. See 
B 142. Cicero, Acad. II, iii non possumus quin alii a nobis dissentiant recusare; 
. . . qui verum invenire sine ulla contentione volumus. II, xx nihil opinari. 



but it is at this point that Buddhist philosophy becomes nearly incom¬ 
prehensible to modern Europeans. For, as Lin-yu-tang once said, 
‘for some centuries now European intellectuals seem to have been 
born with knives in their brains’. Mr Koestler, a typical intellectual of 
the twentieth century, at one time of his life seemed to be more of a 
machine gun than a human being. 11 In consequence he was completely 
baffled by the ethos of the Easterners he met, so strikingly different 
from the ruthless rough and tumble of European disputants. Both in 
India and in Japan he noted an aversion to clear-cut affirmations. 
‘Nothing could be more shocking to a Japanese than the injunction 
“Let your communication be Yea, yea, Nay, nay”. He would regard it 
as inconceivably rude.’ 12 Deprived of any food for his logomachia, 
Mr Koestler was most disappointed to meet again and again with the 
refusal to fight when attacked. And though he thus had plenty of 
opportunity to study ahimsa at first hand, it taught him nothing except 
contempt for the ‘logical confusion’ 13 of its practitioners. 

In order that I may not seem to air my own personal prejudices on 
this vital matter, I will say what I have to say in the words of Professor 
E. A. Burtt’s brilliant article on the subject. 14 Professor Burtt speaks of 
the ‘argumentative cantankerousness’ of contemporary Western 
philosophy, of its ‘aggressive belligerence’, and of the ‘pugnacious 
atmosphere of philosophical discussion’. ‘Occidental philosophy 
typically makes what progress it does through the medium of hostile 
argumentation.’ ‘This makes for spicy debates and hilarious argu¬ 
mentation; when two redoubtable pugilists engage in such intellectual 
sparring the rest of us crowd the side-lines in the philosophical 
journals and watch the fray with excited absorption’, for it satisfies 
our ‘belligerent instincts’. Nevertheless all this is a ‘serious handicap 
in comparison with thinkers who can grow toward the larger truth 
without battering each other through these obstructive conflicts’.* 

Many modern historians have treated Buddhist as if they were 
European philosophers, with the result that their perspective has 
been seriously distorted. Used to the pugnacity of modem Europe 
they take it for granted that Buddhist philosophers felt impelled to 
formulate their specific doctrines because they thought somebody 
else to be in the wrong. In this way we are told that Nagarjuna, 
having found fault with the Sarvastivadin doctrine of a plurality of 
substantial and distinct dharmas, by opposition introduced a Monism 

* Professor Burtt connects the difference in the ‘atmosphere’ of Buddhist and 
modern philosophy with their different attitudes to the principle of contra¬ 
diction, about which see below, pp. 261 sq. 



based on the assumption that all dharmas are equally empty. It does, 
however, scant justice to a doctrine which wishes to avoid all dualism, 
to accuse it of positing a dualism between the One and the manifold. 
Similarly, the Yogacarin theories are often represented as if they had 
arisen from a discontent with the solutions offered by the Madhyami- 
kas. Textbook after textbook tells us that the Yogacarins believed 
the Madhyamika treatment of the Absolute to be too ‘negative’, and 
that they gave a more ‘positive’ description of it. This is not borne 
out by a study of the texts, and in any case words like ‘positive’ and 
‘negative’ have in this context almost no ascertainable meaning 
(cf. p. 76). Both systems carefully adhere to the basic norm of all 
Buddhist ontology, which equally condemns affirmation and negation 
(.cf. pp. 219 sq.). 

In my account of Buddhist thought I have scrupulously avoided 
presenting it as a kind of ping-pong game, and I nowhere attribute 
new doctrines to the criticism of somebody else’s position. Buddhist 
thinkers based their conclusions on some quite definite experience 
in the spiritual world, which seemed to call for a positive appraisal. 
In this way the system of the Madhyamikas was based on the implica¬ 
tions of a vision of the Absolute, that of the Yogacarins on those 
of the experiences of transic meditation. Only very rarely do Buddhist 
philosophers cast a sidelong glance at their rivals. Each school is 
content to stay within its own ‘province of interest’, 15 and to build 
up its system from its own material and presuppositions. Mutual 
criticism is very rare, and does not always show the doctors of the 
Church at their best. 16 In other words, as distinct from most of my 
predecessors I assume that the Buddhists were as averse to strife and 
disputes as they claimed to be, and that they never lost sight of the 
basic fact that, like the blind men in regard to the elephant, they 
expressed only one facet of the whole truth, true in its own way but 
inadequate by itself. 

So far about the rather elusive virtues of inoffensiveness, gentleness 
and unbounded tolerance. 

The six Mahayana virtues become ‘perfections’ only when practised 
in the spirit of perfect wisdom. Then they are marked by what is 
technically known as the ‘threefold purity’. When giving, for instance, 
one gives without grasping at any ideas concerning the gift, its reci¬ 
pient, or the reward which may accrue to oneself. Likewise one is 
patient without any idea of patience, or of oneself as being patient, 
or of the one who gives an opportunity to be patient. This attitude 
of complete inner freedom can also be extended to other actions, for 



instance when the faithful pay homage to an image of the Buddha. 
There what is seen and touched, what is felt and thought, must be 
disregarded as a mere stepping-stone, as raw material which must be 
denied as soon as it arises, in die hope that the perpetual denial will 
in the end set free the affirmation of the Buddha-nature itself, which 
is no other than emptiness. 

The practice of the ‘perfections’ implies four psychological 

1. Non-apprehension . If there are no separate dharmas, cognitive 
activities directed towards them will be without a factual basis. It 
would be a mistake, therefore, to regard such cognitive activities as a 
means of approaching reality. The apprehension ( upalabdhi ) of a 
multiplicity of separate entities actually gets us away from true 
reality, or emptiness. It should, therefore, be avoided. Even emptiness 
should not be apprehended. 17 

2. The emotional concomitants of non-apprehension are summed 
up in the term anabhinivesa , which might be rendered as ‘ no settling 
down. Its meaning is threefold: (a) There should be no conviction 
that dharmas are real. ( b ) There should be no inclination towards 
dharmas, no turning towards them (equivalent to anabhoga, , cf. 
pp. 63, 236). (c) There should be no attachment to them (equivalent to 
asahga). It would be quite futile to establish a relation with that which 
is essentially unrelated. 18 

3. Perfect wisdom gains body in the virtue of non-relying , which is 
taught ‘through an almost infinite variety of expressions’. 19 ‘Dharmas, 
because they lack in either single or manifold own-being, are un¬ 
worthy of reliance.’ 20 In consequence, the mind of the Tathagata is 
not supported on anything, 21 those who wish to emulate him should 
‘raise a thought which is not supported anywhere’ 22 and should aim 
at a Nirvana which is ‘not permanently fixed’, 23 or, more elegantly, 
at a ‘non-exclusive Nirvana’.* It is in the practice of the six perfections 

* This is a consequence of the teaching which identified Samsara and Nirvana. 
The defilements are rejected, but Samsara is not abandoned (Ms IX 1). Ordinary 
people are immersed in this world, the Disciples and Pratyekabuddhas wish to 
escape into Nirvana. ‘From self-interest a Bodhisattva has supreme wisdom, and 
so the defilements have no power over him; out of concern for others he has 
the ‘great compassion* and does not cease to live among the beings who need 
him* (Ms, p. 59). When the cognition has been reached that Samsara and 
Nirvana, both equally empty, are just the same, then one sees no reason to either 
leave Samsara or to obtain a Nirvana distinct from it. One does not stay in 
Samsara, because it has lost its samsaric character, and one does not lack in 
Nirvana, because it has been realized within Samsara itself (Ms, p. 265). 



that the Bodhisattva learns to lean on nothing whatever, since he 
carried them out in a spirit of complete disinterestedness and inward 

4. Finally, the attitude of the perfected sage may be said to be 
one of non-assertion . His individual self is extinct, and so he will 
not assert himself in any way. And, since he has no belief in separate 
things, he will not affirm anything about any of them. This twofold 
non-assertion must lead to logical rules which differ radically from 
those commonly accepted (cf. pp. 261 sq.). 

< 5 . The new role of the social emotions 

The Mahayana, as is well known, places a new emphasis on the social 
emotions (cf. I ch. 6). A show of benevolence is so much more welcome 
to the contemporary mind than a profound insight into reality, that 
this side of the Mahayana has been written up extensively, and I 
need not repeat here what has been said at length elsewhere. How far 
all this propaganda in favour of friendliness and compassion affected 
the practical lives of the adherents of the Mahayana is difficult to 
determine. It would be necessary to compare the standard of com¬ 
passionate benevolence in Mahayana countries (e.g. Japan) with that 
prevailing in Hinayana countries (e.g. Burma), but I do not believe 
that anyone has ever tried to do so, nor can I imagine that much 
difference will be found. All that concerns us here is the effect which 
the new teaching about the social emotions had on Buddhist thought. 
The specific features of the new doctrine are the following: 

r. Friendliness and compassion, from being subordinate, become 
cardinal virtues of prime importance. Compassion, in particular, 
impels the Bodhisattva as stronglv as wisdom, and provides the motive 
why, not content with personal salvation, he strives to advance to 
full Buddhahood (cf. p. 168). The Abhidharma tradition had set up an 
opposition between friendliness and compassion on the one side, and 
wisdom, the highest virtue, on the other.* If one can be friendly, or 
have compassion, only with a person and not with a dharma, then, in 
view of the fictitiousness of persons, friendliness and compassion 
seem to be without a factual basis and concerned with illusory appear¬ 
ances (cf. p. 81). The Mahayana tries to remove this apparent conflict 
between wisdom and the social emotions by distinguishing three stages 

* This opposition was probably alien to the original Buddhism, in which the 
Abhidharmic prajhd did not even form one of the stages of the eightfold path, 
much less the highest one. 



of friendliness and compassion: 1 ‘In Bodhisattvas who have first 
raised their hearts to enlightenment it has beings for its object. In 
Bodhisattvas who progress on the course it has dharmas for its 
object’. After the eighth stage ‘it has no object at all.’ This distinction 
is not at all unreasonable. Anger, for instance, is sometimes caused 
by an object which gives offence; in most cases it springs from an 
angry mind, which owes its anger to long past frustrations and to inner 
tensions without any clear objective counterpart, and which looks 
out for something or somebody to vent its wrath on. So it is with 
those whose hearts overflow with a friendliness and compassion which 
just radiate outward, and who search for something or somebody 
to give expression to the ‘love’ that is within them. Their ‘love’ then 
does not owe its existence to the ‘persons’ on whom it is directed, but 
to an inward condition of the heart which is one of the manifestations 
of spiritual maturity. 

2. Sympathetic joy is enriched with a new altruistic component, 
which is technically known as the ‘dedication of merit’. 2 This is a 
corollary to a Bodhisattva’s infinite compassion. Even after he has 
solved his own personal problems, a Bodhisattva continues to do 
good deeds for aeons and aeons. The merit from these is of no use 
to him, and he can transfer it to others, thereby facilitating their ulti¬ 
mate enlightenment. 

3. ‘Impartiality’ is clearly and unmistakably defined as including 
friendliness and compassion, 3 when at first sight it seemed to exclude 
them. 4 Far from excluding compassion, impartiality ensures that the 
Buddha is equally compassionate to all, ‘as if they were his only 
son’, and ‘it is the desire that comes of its own accord to do good to 
all beings without the least craving for their love’. Some may find 
this hard to believe. It is, however, largely a waste of time to concern 
oneself overmuch with the apparent inconsistencies of the transcen¬ 
dental world of self-extinction. No service is done to the mysteries 
of the spiritual world by trying to flatten them out into the appearance 
of commonplace occurrences. Paradox and contradiction are in¬ 
separable from all statements that can be made about selfless behaviour. 
The Bodhisattvas ‘practise compassion, but are not given to petty 
kindnesses; they practise loving kindness, but are not given up to 
attachments; they are joyous in heart but ever grieved over die 
sight of suffering beings; they practise indifference, but never cease 
benefiting others’. These paradoxes cannot possibly be translated into 
the ordinary logic of common sense, because that is based on self- 
centred experiences which are here set aside. 



7. The new ontology 

In Aristotelean metaphysics the principle of contradiction governs all 
that is (to on ). 1 Quite different is the supreme and unchallenged 
principle of Buddhist ontology, which is common to all schools and 
has been formulated on many occasions. 2 It states that the truth 
‘lies in the middle’ between ‘it is’ and ‘it is not’. ‘Not approaching 
either of these dead ends, 1 * the Truth-finder teaches Dharma by the 
middle Way.’ 3 Or, more poetically, ‘unless one has the special pene¬ 
tration of Holy Intelligence, how can one fit one’s spirit to the inter¬ 
stice between the existent and the non-existent? M The pattern taken 
for granted as providing the basic instrument of logical understanding 
is the principle of ‘Four-cornered Negation’, 5 or the ‘tetralamma’ 
(catushkoti) which considers four alternatives: (1) x exists, (2) x does 
not exist, (3) x neither exists nor does not exist, and (4) x both exists 
and does not exist. Having reviewed these possibilities, the Buddhists 
then tend to reject all four as merely so many kinds of attachment, 
for instance when defining the mode of existence which an Arhat or 
Tathagata has after death. 6 The second, in particular, has always 
appeared to them to be particularly pernicious, and we often hear 7 
that those who misunderstand the doctrine of emptiness as a belief 
in the non-existence of all things are in greater spiritual danger than 
those who blindly believe in their existence. The third and fourth 
members of the tetralemma may seem to us to be rather contradictory 
and absurd, and to violate essential logical law, and their interpretation 
requires further research.*)* What is certain, however, is that all 
Buddhists were followers of the ‘middle way’, attempted to avoid the 

* anta , i.e. ‘it is’ and ‘it is not\ The first is also known as ‘Eternalism’, i.e. 
the theory ‘that all things have been what they are and remain for ever as such’. 
The second is identified with ‘Annihilationism’, i.e. the theory that ‘there is 
nothing in the world that is real, eternally abiding, and diat will retain its identity 
for ever’. ‘Buddhism goes the middle way between the two extremes; for, 
according to it, existence is neidier temporal and forever vanishing, nor eternal 
and forever abiding.’ Suzuki St. 123. 

f For instance, Robinson (85-6) suggests that ‘the four lemmas differ in die 
quantity of dieir constituent terms’, so that we would have (1) all x is A, (2) no 
x is A, (3) some x is A, and some x not A, and (4) no x is A, and no x is not A. 
It is, however, quite possible that the canons of European formal logic have 
unduly overawed him, and the reader may usefully refer to Burtt (PhEW v, 1955, 
pp. 203-5) who duly stresses not only the connection with ‘the blind men and 
the elephant’, but also with the Buddhist conviction that there is no such thing 
as an isolated proposition outside die context provided by its asserter, the situa¬ 
tion in which it arises, and its purpose. 



extremes of both ‘being’ and ‘non-being’, and sought for some 
position which lies in between ‘it is’ and ‘it is not’. Many Europear 
commentators, convinced that the Aristotelean principle of contra¬ 
diction is everywhere the unvarying law of all valid thought, have 
misinterpreted the Buddhist ontology through sheer inability to grasp 
its fundamental principle. At all times and everywhere one-sidec 
affirmation and negation have been rejected as erroneous, in favoui 
of some ‘non-dual’ reality which is free from both being and non- 

In considering the ontological status of dharmas, we can rely mainlj 
on the Prajndparamita Sutras, which define it in seven ways: 

1. All dharmas as regards their ‘own-being’ (cf. pp. 239 sq.) are 
empty. The Sanskrit term is svabhavasunya. This is a tatpurusha com¬ 
pound* in which svabhava may have the sense of any oblique case.-} 
The Mahayana^ understands it to mean that dharmas are empty of 
any own-being, i.e. that they are not ultimate facts in their own right, 
but merely imagined and falsely discriminated. Each and every dharnu 
is dependent on something other than itself. From a slightly differenr 
angle this means that dharmas, when viewed with perfected gnosis 
reveal an own-being which is identical with emptiness, i.e. in their 
own being they are empty. This basic idea can be expressed in a 
variety of ways: All separate dharmas lack an own-being (they arc 
nih-svabhavd), and in that sense they are called empty. All multiplicity' 
is relegated to a lower plane, and denied ultimate validity. Or, each 
separate entity can be said to be devoid of itself.§ Alternatively, in thi 
same way and by the same argument, emptiness is the ‘own-mark’ o: 
all dharmas. The own-being of dharmas actually consists in emptines > 
and the absence of own-being. 

2. Dharmas are ultimately non-existent . ‘What has no own-being, 
that is non-existent.’ 8 As Candrakirti puts it: ‘Now this own-being o : 
entities which is identical with Non-production (see no. 6) is at the 
same time pure non-being, and that in the sense that it is not anything 
in particular. Therefore the (absolute) own-being is a negation o : 
(pluralistic) own-being, and it is in this sense that one must understand 
our thesis that the own-being of entities is unreal.’ 9 

* One in which the last member is qualified by the first without losing its 
grammatical independence. 

f The Sutras, by so often speaking of svabhdvena sunyah , suggest that thi: 
Instrumental is the case which applies here. 

$ As distinct from the Sthaviras; cf. p. 198. 

§ E.g. ‘form should be seen as empty of form*, or ‘name is empty of name, 
sign is empty of sign', and so on. 



3. Dharmas have a purely nominal existence. They are mere words, 10 
mere products of conventional expression ( yyavahara ). ‘The dharmas 
on which beings seek a false support are names and signs; they are 
not, they are imagined, artificial adventitious designations which 
are added on to what is really there/ 11 Or, as another passage 12 
expresses it, they are ‘mere words’, and ‘words are merely artificial 
constructions, which do not represent dharma’, but constitute ‘adven¬ 
titious designations, imagined and unreal*. A Bodhisattva ‘does not 
expect to find any realities behind those words, and, in consequence, he 
does not settle down in them. The dharmas themselves are inexpres¬ 
sible.’ 13 The emptiness of all dharmas likewise cannot properly be 
stated in words, 14 and ‘the Buddha is the same as speechless silence’. 15 

4. Dharmas are ‘ without marks , with one mark only, i.e. with no 
mark’. 16 A ‘mark’ is defined as the distinctive property which keeps 
dharmas apart. The most essential mark of a dharma is, however, that 
it is empty, and this mark swallows up all the others, so that all dharmas 
have one and the same mark, i.e. to be empty. 17 In one typical pas¬ 
sage 18 Sariputra asks, ‘what then is the own-being of form, etc.?’ 
Subhuti answers: ‘Non-existence is the own-being of form, etc. It is 
in this sense that form is lacking in the own-being of form. And so 
with the other skandhas. Moreover, form is lacking in the mark which 
is characteristic of form. The mark, again, is lacking in the own-being 
of a mark. The own-being, again, is lacking in the mark of being own¬ 
being.’ The absence of marks is often expressed by a standard formula 19 
which says that ‘dharmas are not conjoined nor disjoined, immaterial, 
undefinable (or invisible), non-resisting, with one mark only, i.e. no 
mark’. This formula harks back to what the older scriptures had said 
about the self, space and the Tathagata. The self and the Tathagata 
had been called ‘immaterial’, 20 and space both ‘immaterial and 
invisible’. 21 Anidarsatia properly means ‘with no attributes’, 22 that 
which cannot be characterized, and therefore cannot be ‘pointed out* 
as something definite. 23 ‘Non-resisting’ ( a-pratigha ) means that 
dharmas do not react or impinge on each other, do not resist and 
obstruct one another. 

5. Dharmas are isolated (vivikta ), 14 absolutely (atyantd) isolated. 
The Sutras treat this term as a familiar synonym of ‘empty’, and 
nowhere explain it. A dharma is called ‘empty’ when one considers 
that it has no properties, ‘isolated’ when one considers that it has no 
relations to other dharmas. As isolated, dharmas cannot act on each 
other, and therefore they are neither made nor produced. 

6. Dharmas have never been produced, never come into existence; 



they are not really ever brought forth; they are unborn; they have 
never left the original emptiness. In order to understand why the aspei :t 
of non-production is so much emphasized in these Sutras, one must 
bear in mind the tradition within which they stand. To contemplate 
the rise and fall of dharmas had been recommended as one of the 
central practices of the Abhidharma. It is on this kind of Abhidharma 
meditation that the Prajftdparamita now comments, saying that th* 
experiences made, while probably salutary, referred to nothing but a: \ 
illusion. Furthermore, the emancipation of the Arhat was traditional! r 
carried out by means of a ‘cognition of extinction* followed by 1 
‘cognition of non-production* (cf. p. 167). The Mahayana now 
takes up this term, and gives it an ontological significance to the effect 
that for the enlightened there is no production of any dharma at all. 2 ! 5 
And even before enlightenment is reached, one of the most dis¬ 
tinctive virtues of the Mahayanistic saint is the ‘patient acceptance o 
dharmas which fail to be produced*. 27 The bom metaphysician is 
person who, unlike the ordinary run of mankind, is astonished at the 
fact that there is anything at all. He wonders why that should be 
so and looks for an explanation. The Semitic traditions tell hin 
that things exist because God created them. Here, however, the answer 
is that they are uncreated, absolutely uncreated, 25 and that is the 
sense in which they exist. 

7. A number of similes have the function ‘to inform about non¬ 
production *. 28 If dharmas do not exist, are without own-being, have! 
never been produced, the question may well be asked how they cad 
appear to be so different from what they are. The answer is that, just as 
things in a dream, though illusory, appear to exist during sleep, so 
all dharmas appear to exist although they do not. The Astasakasrikd 
knows only six such similes, i.e. dreams, magical illusions, echoes , 29 
reflected images , 30 mirages , 31 and space. The Satasdhasrika , in an 
often repeated standard list , 32 raises the number to ten by adding the] 
comparison with the moon reflected in water, a village of the Gan- 
dharvas, a shadow and a magical creation ( [nirmdna ). The Diamond 
Sutra y again, in its final verse 33 gives nine similes for all ‘conditioned 
things*. There are many others in other Sutras . 34 

It would be a mistake to interpret these similes as unqualified 
assertions of the non-existence of the things we see around us. It 
would be simply ridiculous to claim that the chair on which I sit 
‘does not exist’, because it obviously does; otherwise I would not be 
able to sit on it. The Buddhists are not concerned with setting up 
futile debating-points, but the similes which they propound have two 



distinct functions, (i) They try to bring home the fact that things, 
or dharmas, ‘do not exist in such a way as the foolish common people 
are wont to suppose. But as they are not found in everyday experi¬ 
ence, so they exist. Since therefore they do not exist (as they appear) 
except for ignorance, they are the result of ignorance/ 35 In other 
words, the truthfulness of dharmas, as they appear, is suspect because 
ignorance, with its attendant cognitive errors, has greatly conditioned 
their appearance.* (2) As a branch of the ‘perennial philosophy’, 
Buddhist thinking is concerned with a ‘reality’ which admits of 
degrees, rather than with an ‘existence’ which does not (cf. pp. 24-5). 
In consequence, if something is called ‘unreal’, this is not an absolute, 
but a comparative statement which tries to convey the meaning that 
it is unreal on a higher level of experience, though real on a lower. 
For instance, during a dream one is taken in by the images and ideas 
of objects which seemed to occur in it; in fact, however, there were no 
real objects, and this is realized after one has woken up. Likewise 
those who are immersed in the dream of this life believe in the reality 
of the objects around them, but those who have awoken to a know¬ 
ledge of reality know, looking back, that they were only ideas and 
could not possibly have been real entities. 36 In other words, these 
similes are not used to deny the existence of the objects to which 
they are applied, but to devalue them and to stress their imper¬ 
manence, relative unimportance, weakness, worthlessness, deceptive¬ 
ness and insubstantiality. When we say of a person that he is a 
‘non-entity’, we do not intend to say that he does not exist, but that 
he is rather a ‘negligible quantity’. It is in the same vein that the 
Buddhists call the world an ‘illusion’, although there are slight differ¬ 
ences between Sthaviras, Madhyamikas and Yogacarins on this 

I. The Sthaviras contrast (1) the relative unreality of conditioned 
dharmas or things with the supreme reality of Nirvana, and (2) they 
compare the reality of ‘things’ unfavourably with that of ‘dharmas’. 

Ad (1) they give 37 a set of five similes, one for each skandha. Form, 
or the body, is like a mass of foam, because easily crushed. ‘Like the 
dew on the mountain, Like the foam on the river, Like a bubble on 
the fountain, Thou art gone and forever.’ Feeling is compared to a 
bubble , because it bursts soon. Perception is like a mirage , because it 
deludes, and imposes upon us. A mirage holds out, suggests and 

* For the Sthaviras this means that the world, as conditioned, is an illusion, 
compared with the reality of Nirvana, the standard of full Truth; for the Maha- 
yana that both this world and Nirvana are equally fallacious and untrue. 



promises to be a source of satisfaction for our thirst and longings. But 
there are no real fountains in it. Likewise that which we perceive 
springs from thirst and desire, and is bound to disappoint. Impulses ar; 
like die trunk of a plantain tree , because without essence, substance, 
pith or marrow. The banana tree {Musa sapientium) is often used a» 
a symbol of frailty. Its sheath-like leaves form a false stem-lik; 
structure, and when each leaf is peeled off, nothing remains. Finally, 
consciousness is like a magic show —because it deceives and cheats us. 

Conditioned dharmas are not said to be irreal; diey are in fact real, 
but not much so. They are less solid than they seemed to be, loosely 
knit and full of cracks and holes. 38 To some extent they resemble 
the atoms of Eddington, in which the solid matter corresponds tc 
seven wasps buzzing about in Waterloo Station. They are frail, short 
lived, and fleeting, have no power to resist change, and lack strength, 
breadth and depth in their own-being. There is much less to these 
conditioned dharmas than we usually think, they cannot stand up tc 
much and are at the mercy of overtowering external circumstances 
The degree of a thing’s reality corresponds, as we saw (p. 25), to its 
importance and value, and once conditioned dharmas are seen tc 
amount to nothing, it is easy to grasp that they ought to be forsaken 
This is for the Sthaviras the relative irreality of the conditioned worlc 
as compared with the Unconditioned. 

2. Likewise the common-sense world as it is perceived is irreal as 
compared with the dharmas. For: (a) its appearance demonstrably 
owes more to the conditions of perception than to that which is 
actually perceivable in the object; (b) it leads astray from the more 
salutary attention to dharmas (cf. p. 106); (c) demonstrably the differ¬ 
ence of the sensory appearance (the ‘sign’) from the dharmas is due to 
the influence of an infatuation which, driven on by thirst and desire, 
looks out for a spurious satisfaction; (d) ‘things’ are less real than 
‘dharmas’ because they have no inner unity; each ‘thing* is a for¬ 
tuitous conglomeration of dharmas, and where you thought that there 
was one thing, there are in fact at least five, and really many more. 
As the Yogin persists in his contemplation of ‘dharmas*, ‘things’ are 
bound to appear more and more delusive and deceptive, more anc 
more remote and dreamlike, and to the extent that he manages to 
withdraw his interests from them (cf. p. 103) they become indistin¬ 
guishable from ghostlike apparitions. 

II. With the Madhyamikas likewise these similes do not postulate 
the actual non-existence of things or dharmas, but only deny theii 
ultimate reality, in that they are said to be just as real as ‘illusory 



men who are called into being by other illusory men\ 39 They do 
not deny but define their reality, and show how they can appear at 
all. In comparing the world to maya, to a mirage, etc., one does not 
wish to teach its absolute non-existence, but its deceptiveness. A 
magical illusion appears to be real, and it is a tangible or visual fact. 
But the deception lies in that it is mistaken for what it is not. 40 The 
objects seen in a dream do exist, but they are not ‘given’, and have 
been built up arbitrarily by our own creative imagination; though 
they ‘are there’, they are not genuine and we should take no serious 
notice of them. Whether the ghostly city of the Gandharvas be real 
or not, no one would think of making his home in it. ‘To be’ does not 
apply because multiple dharmas, as distinct from their conditions 
which are alien to them, have no being of their own; ‘not to be’ does 
not apply because they are not completely not there. Annihilationist 
views are false because dharmas are not inexistent, etemalist because 
they are not existent. 

III. To Nagarjuna separate dharmas seemed illusory because 
logically impossible, to the Yogacarins because they were merely 
ideas or representations. For them the external world is really mind 
itself, and illusion consists in regarding the objectification of one’s own 
mind as a world independent of that mind which is really its source. 
Things do not exist, in the sense that they are unreal as we imagine 
them to be. They do not, however, not exist in each and every way 
because their inconceivable basis, called ‘the mere entity’ ( vastuma - 
tram), the ‘thing in itself’, is real. Aware of the misunderstandings 
which the theory of the illusory character of all dharmas and things is 
liable to encounter, the Yogacarins evolved their theory of the ‘three 
kinds of own-being’, to which we will turn on pp. 257-60. 

8. The Absolute and the Buddha . /. The Absolute 

First a few words must be said about the designations or synonyms 
of the Absolute. 1 As ‘Suchness’ it is unalterable, without modification, 
unaffected by anything, and a mark common to all dharmas. ‘Empti¬ 
ness’ is the absence of all imagination. The ‘Reality-limit’ is that which 
reaches up to the summit of truth, to the utmost limit of what can be 
cognized, and is quite free from error or perversion. The ‘Signless’ is 
the absence of all marks, like form, etc. The Absolute is further 
‘ultimately true’, or the ‘supreme object’ (parama-artha), because 
reached by the supreme (agra) cognition of the saints. It is the 
‘Dharma-Element’ as the root cause (Jietu) of the pure dharmas of 



the saints, just as a gold-mine is a source of gold, ‘because the dharmas 
of the saints are brought forth in dependence on it’. Other synonyms 
are ‘non-duality’, ‘the realm of non-discrimination’, ‘non-production’, 
‘the true nature of Dharma’, ‘the inexpressible’, ‘the unconditioned’, 
‘the unimpeded’ (; nishprapanca ), ‘the actual fact’ (- tattva ), ‘that which 
really is’ ( yathabhuta ;, ‘the truth’ (satya), ‘the true reality’ Qhhutata ), 
‘Nirvana’, ‘cessation’, ‘Buddhahood*, and also ‘wisdom’, ‘enlighten¬ 
ment’, ‘the cognition which one must realize within oneself’, the 
Dharmabody, the Buddha, etc. 

The Sthaviras had .distinguished the deliverance of the Arhat from 
that of the Buddha (cf. pp. 166 sq.). This is now developed into a 
distinction between two kinds of Nirvana—the provisional Nirvana 
of the Arhats, which is but ‘a temporary repose’ and the ‘final’ Nirvana 
of the Buddha. Their difference has been clearly described in The 
Lotus of the Good Law . 2 Omniscience, 3 or ‘the understanding of all 
dharmas’ is also with the Mahayana the special feature of a Buddha’s 
Nirvana. The Mahayana went, however, beyond the Sthavira formu¬ 
lations by adding that two obstacles ( avarana ) must be surmounted 
before final Nirvana can be reached. 4 The first is the ‘obstacle of the 
defilements’ (Jdesa) which the Arhat has removed once and for all, 
with the result that no faulty actions any longer drive him into new 
rebirths. The other is the ‘obstacle of the cognizable’ ( jneya ). In order 
to win final freedom the Arhat must break through the thick walls of 
‘non-culpable’ ignorance which still surround him, and slowly acquire 
a knowledge of everything that ‘ought to be known’ {jneya ). The 
Lotus of the Good Law addresses it as a reproach to the Arhat that 
‘when you are inside your room, enclosed by walls, you do not know 
what takes place outside, so tiny is your mental power’. All limitations 
of sheer knowledge must be overcome before Buddhahood can be 
achieved. The Arhats have only understood the egolessness of persons 
whom they know to be nothing but groups of skandhas or dharmas. 
In addition one must also understand that these very dharmas con¬ 
stitute an obstacle, and advance to that ‘supreme Suchness which is the 
outer limit of the cognizable’. 5 

The most startling innovation of the Mahayana is, however, the 
identification of the Unconditioned with the conditioned. 6 In all 
religious thinking of the mystical type statements about the Absolute 
are as unavoidable as they are impossible. On the one side the true 
nature of things can be found only in their relation to an inexpressible 
Absolute. On the other, all this talk about man’s relation to the 
Absolute is clearly essentially erroneous, because the very definition 



of the Absolute (as the Un-related) excludes the possibility of such a 
relation* Any relation we may postulate between the finite and the 
Infinite is only provisionally manufactured in order to achieve some 
practical purpose, and any statement about it is objectively no more 
true than its opposite. Either their difference may be emphasized, 
thereby extolling the transcendence of the Absolute, or their identity, 
thereby exalting its Immanence. Comparing everything in this world 
to its disadvantage with the Absolute, the Sthaviras aimed at the 
total rejection of the world, at a total renunciation of all that is not 
the Absolute, as essentially alien to us. The Mahayana points out 
that once someone has given up everything for the Absolute, he 
simply is the Absolute, and nothing in him is any longer different 
from it. 

Whether transcendence or immanence is stressed depends on the 
practical context. Wherever the Absolute is an object of worship, 
wherever moral striving is pursued or the renouncing of the ties which 
bind to the world, there the difference between the Creator and the 
creation, the Perfect and the imperfect, the Sinless and the sinful, 
the Pure and the defiled is likely to figure prominently. These con¬ 
siderations have tended to dominate the traditions of both orthodox 
Christianity and the Hinayana form of Buddhism. ‘According to the 
theistic religions, there is a“great gulf”between God and man, Creator 
and creature. Nothing can ever abolish or pass over this gulf .’ 7 In 
Christian thought, to be ‘almighty’ is the prerogative of the Creator, 
and it would seem blasphemous to claim to be like Him. A puny indi¬ 
vidual who either claims to be identical with the Absolute or who 
dares hope to reach identity with it, would seem to be guilty of 
unbounded presumption and laughable hubris . When so obviously 
buffeted about and hemmed in by conditions on all sides, how can 
he think that he ‘is’ the Unconditioned? A mere reflection on his status | 
as compared with that of the Godhead ought to induce him to feel 
contempt for himself and a sense of hopeless unworthiness, and he 
must be utterly mad to think that he is God himself. So the theistic 

On the other hand the immanence of the Godhead, excluded by 
these considerations, is suggested by others. What is it that separates 
me from the Absolute? Only the act of appropriating a part of the 
universe to myself. Where that act is surrendered, no barrier is left. 
Once all is given up for the Absolute, where is the difference between 
oneself and It? In states of mystical exaltation, where this complete 
renunciation is considered as achieved, and where worldly things, 



which separate from God, appear as just insignificant, void and illu¬ 
sory, there the identity of the contemplator with the Absolute seems 
to have the value of a self-evident immediate fact of experience. Even 
within Roman Catholicism the contemplative mystics are in perpetual 
danger of sliding into what the ecclesiastical authorities condemn as 
‘pantheism*. ‘By its very nature mysticism seeks to go beyond all 
dualism and to rest only in one absolute unity .* 8 To attain a state 
where there is no division whatsoever, that is what all mystics try 
to experience. But in monotheistic religions orthodoxy demanded 
that the division between God and a created soul should never be 
obliterated. To appease the orthodox the mystics had therefore to 
introduce some kind of division into the ‘union* between God and 
the soul, and were forced to keep them somehow separate . 9 In them 
mystical experience and Church doctrine were in perpetual conflict. 
Jewish mysticism interprets the ‘union* as a mere ‘adhesion’ (< devekuth ), 
whereas at the opposite pole we have many Sufi and Vedantist varia¬ 
tions on the theme that ‘I am God*. Their ‘immanentist’ position is 
very similar to that of the Mahayana. 

Ordinary persons confuse conditioned and unconditioned things, 
mistaking the one for the other, and hoping against hope that they 
will realize their true and absolute self by identifying themselves with 
the things of this world which in every way are the reverse of the 
Absolute (cf. p. 44 ); the Sthavira saints neatly keep them apart, and 
claim that people are upset because unable to make the division; the 
Mahayanists again proclaim their sameness , and emphatically identify 
them. If all dharmas are non-different, they are by that very fact 
all the same (sama). Buddhist writings generally prefer negative 
terms, and the positive term ‘sameness* is used very sparingly . 10 
Sometimes it is coupled with ‘Suchness*, which is reached by abstract¬ 
ing from the differences between dharmas and noting only that which 
is the same in all of them. 

In an ontological sense it first of all means the straightforward 
identity of Nirvana and Samsara. ‘Nothing of Samsara is different 
from Nirvana; nothing of Nirvana is different from Samsara. The limit 
of Nirvana is the limit of Samsara; there is not even the subdesi 
something separating the two .’ 11 ‘The entity which when appro¬ 
priating or dependent wanders to and fro, is declared to be Nirvarn 
when non-dependent and unappropriating .* 12 The Avatamsaka Sutn 
is largely devoted to the implications of this idea of ‘sameness*, anc 
transforms it from an ontological into a cosmic concept. The ‘same¬ 
ness* or identity of everything is considered as the ‘interpenetration’ of 



every one element in the world with all the others. The one principle 
of the cosmos is present everywhere, and in this way everything 
harmonizes with everything else. Each particle of dust contains in 
itself all the Buddha-fields and the whole extent of the Dharma- 
element; every single thought refers to all that was, is and will be; and 
the eternal mysterious Dharma can be beheld everywhere, because it 
is equally reflected in all parts of this universe. Each particle of dust 
is also capable of generating all possible kinds of virtue, and therefore 
one single object may lead to the unfolding of all the secrets of the 
entire universe. To understand one particular object is to understand 
them all. The ‘mirror of sameness’ holds within it the images of all 
things, and there is never any obstruction between one thing and 

Thirdly the concept of ‘sameness’ is used to emphasize the imma¬ 
nence of the Unconditioned. ‘Just as within all material dharmas there 
is an element of space, so within all dharmas there is a Nirvana- 
nature. This is called “the element of Dharma”.’ 13 The most emphatic 
proclamation of the immanence of the Absolute is probably Saramati’s 
Ratnagotravibhaga (‘Treatise on the lineage of the Tathagatas’). H To 
appreciate its reasoning we must bear in mind that for the Buddhists 
of this period not only the ideas of ‘Sameness’ and ‘Suchness’, but 
also those of ‘Suchness* ( tathatd ) and the ‘Tathagata’ were closely 
connected. 15 It is because Suchness is the same in all dharmas that all 
beings are said to be embryonic Tathagatas. The Absolute in this 
system is defined as the spotless and translucent Spirit, which is also 
Suchness, and is usually called the ‘Element’ ( dhatu ), i.e. the supremely 
real Element, the Dharma-element or the Buddha-element. This pure 
and eternal factor is the basis of the entire world of appearance, and in 
the absence of any limitations it is the omnipresent germ 16 of Buddha- 
hood which indwells all beings. 

‘If the Element of the Buddha did not exist (in everyone), 

There would be no disgust with suffering, 

Nor could there be a wish for Nirvana, <• 

Nor striving for it, nor a resolve to win it*. 17 

‘Just as space, essentially indiscriminate, reaches everywhere, 

Just so the immaculate Element which in its essential nature is 
Thought is present in all.’ 18 

It is therefore theTathagata within us who makes us long for Nirvana 
and who sets us free. ‘Spirit, like the element of space, knows no reason, 



no cause, no full complement of conditions, no arising, no passing 
away and no abiding.’ 19 This theory answers the difficult question 
how, if Nirvana is in every way the opposite of this world, a worldly 
person can ever change so totally as to attain it. One possible answer 
is to say that all the time he had Nirvana within himself, and that 
enlightenment meant no more than that the obscurations covering the 
Absolute have definitely and finally dropped off.* The ‘element of 
the Tathagata’ is the cause, and indeed the only possible cause, of 
Buddhahood.f 20 We can become Tathagatas because potentially we' 
already are Tathagatas, and if we were not, this transformation of the 
impure into the pure would be quite impossible (cf. p. 160). 

A particularly bewildering consequence of the doctrine of ‘same¬ 
ness’ is that the saints are said to be ‘the same’ as the ordinary people. 
This is one of the most intractable among the problems which bedevil 
the study of the Mahayana. To return to the perverted views, the 
foolish common people affirm them, the Sthavira saints deny them, 
and the Mahayanists negate that negation. The negation of the nega¬ 
tion may easily be mistaken for an affirmation, and the appearance may 
be created that the Mahayanistic saint has again become an ordinary 
person. Whatever they may say, the perfected saints do not really 
return to the condition of ordinary people. They may be despicable 
beggars without any social position, but their charisma clings to them. 
They may disguise themselves as prostitutes, but Samantabhadra as 
a courtesan or the Ma-lang-fu Kwan-yin 22 are not quite like the tarts 
who used to patrol the pavements round Piccadilly Circus. These sages 
may be said to drift passively, but they nevertheless arduously con¬ 
tinue their struggles. In other words, what the perfected sages do 
can indeed be done, but it cannot be thought. Nine-tenths of tho 
paradoxes and obscurities of the Mahayana scriptures result from 
the inability of ordinary language to do justice to the manifold 

* The Yogacarins combined the notion of the tathagatagarbka (which shoul i 
not be mistaken for an atman , Suzuki St 388) with the Sautrantika concept 
of a ‘substratum* ( dsraya ) and described salvation as the ‘transformatioi 1, 
or revolution, of the substratum (asraya-paravftti* 1 . The individual is regarded 
as made up of pure and impure components, and as he makes progress 
the ‘basis’ of his actions gradually shifts from the latter to the former. Thjs 
process can be described either as it happens in the psychic complex, or 
something which takes place in the pure Spirit. In the first case the descriptioi is 
become extremely complicated (F 332, 342 sq. y 348-9) without adding anything 
substantial to the traditional doctrines about the Path. 

f This is very much like M. Eckhart’s doctrine of the ‘divine spark’ witran 
us, which was one of the main reasons why he was criticized and condemned f Dr 



connotations of the two simple words ‘not ’ 23 and ‘is’. It is possible, 
though not very probable, that the much-vaunted methods of modern 
logic will one day clarify the issue . 24 In the meantime there is much 
scope for misunderstanding.* 

It should be quite obvious that no one can reach the third stage 
without first going through the second, and becoming totally changed 
in the process. Otherwise the thesis that all things are the same, and 
that one should not want one thing more than another, will be regarded 
as equivalent to the levelling of all values, and to the proposition that 
one thing is as good as another, that Shakespeare is no better than 
shove-halfpenny. In fact, however, we have to deal with an identifica¬ 
tion of all values which leaves their differentiation intact. It is very 
hard to find words with which to distinguish the transcendental state 
from that of the ordinary people. But that is merely the fault of the 
language we use. The well-known saying that ‘there is nothing holy 
here* might be cited in support of the profanization of a world which 
finds no longer any room for inviolably sacred things. A passage in the 
Lankavatara 25 shows that something very much more subtle is 
intended. There we hear that this world, which is but a whirl of con¬ 
fusion and error (< bhranti ) 26 also appears to holy men (arya), though 
they remain without intellectual perversion or non-perversion, as 
long as they are free from the ideas of existence and non-existence. 
But if some outsider makes a distinction between a perverted and an 
unperverted attitude to this bhranti , then he arrives at a duality of 
clans—that of the holy men, and that of the foolish common people. 

One may be tempted to see the difference between the wise and the 
fools, between the dryas and the ordinary people, in that the first 
have obtained Nirvana, or are on the Way to it, whereas the others are 
blind or indifferent to Nirvana, and far distant from it. This will, 
however, not do, because in this system no attainment ( prapd ) of 
Nirvana is possible. No person can ‘have*, or ‘possess’, or ‘acquire’, or 
‘gain’ any dharma. There is no person who could be there to get, reach, 
achieve or realize anything. This is a simple consequence of the anatta 
doctrine. There is no entity that could be got. That is a simple conse¬ 
quence of the doctrine of non-production. Not only is attainment, 
or the more or less permanent combination between a dharma and a 
personal continuity, impossible as a fact. The selfless also have no 
motive to desire it. As Subhuti expresses it, ‘I do not wish ( icchami ) 
for the attainment of an unproduced dharma, nor for re-union ( abhisa - 

* To some extent European ‘Zen* is die religion of people who believe diat 
they can win the highest without in the least altering or reforming themselves. 

2 3 J 


maya) with one’. 27 It has become clear by now that the Mahayana 
dialectics will stop at nothing in its efforts to deprive us of all and 
everything and to prevent us from hugging and cherishing even the 
tiniest reward for all our renunciations and sacrifices. In fact the 
teachings become quite logical and unavoidable when regarded as the 
ontological counterpart to a completely selfless and disinterested 

2. The Buddha . The originality of the Buddhology of the Mahayana 
has often been overestimated. The three ‘bodies’ of the Buddha had 
already been distinguished quite clearly by the Sarvastivadins (cf. 
pp. 172-3). There are only three tangible innovations: 

1. Accepting the docetism of the Mahasanghikas (cf. p. 197) the 
Mahayana teaches that what the Madhyamikas call the Buddha’s 
‘visible physical body’ ( rupakaya ) and the Yogacarins his ‘transforma¬ 
tion body’ ( nirmanakaya)* is unreal and fictitious. Little significance 
is attached to the historical Buddha who is a mere phantom body 
conjured up by the Dharma-body. Unlike official Christianity Budd¬ 
hism is not a historical religion, and its message is valid independently 
of the historicity of any event in the life of the ‘founder’, who did 
not found anything, but merely transmitted a Dharma pre-existing 
him since eternity. 

2. As a metaphysical principle the Buddha was identified with 
the absolute Dharma itself, and to this aspect corresponds his ‘Dharma^ 
body*. The word ‘body* is here taken in a special sense, and means 
‘support* ( asraya ), i.e. the support of the mastery over all dharmas. 2 * 1 
This ‘Dharma-body’ is now analysed in the light of the new onto¬ 
logical conceptions of the Mahayana. It will suffice to say a few 
words about its ‘non-duality*. As we saw, any kind of division 29 is 
alien to the Dharma, and likewise ‘the dharmic nature of the Tathagata 
has not been brought forth from duality. 30 Therefore the efforts of 

* Suzuki, St. 145: ‘the Buddha is able if he wills to manifest himself as a 
Nirmanakaya in response to the earnest desire of his followers or in order to 
execute his own purposes*. 347 speaks of a ‘spiritual body able to take on any 
form as desired either by oneself or by others*. 355: ‘In fact the Tathagata is 
not at all dividing himself; if it seems so, it is due to the discrimination of his 
devotees. The Transformation-body is thus a creation on their part, it is not 
an emanation of the Tathagata.’ 310: ‘The essence of Buddhahood is the Dharma- 
kaya, but as long as the Buddha remains such, there is no hope for the salvation 
of the world of particulars. The Buddha has to abandon his original abode, and 
must take upon himself such forms as are conceivable and acceptable to the 
inhabitants of this earth. The Holy Spirit emanates, as it were, from Absolute 
Buddhahood and is seen by those who are prepared by their previous karma to 
see him.’ 



those who course in duality are not right, but all wrong/ 31 The 
Dharma-kaya is non-dual in at least three ways: 32 (a) it does not not 
exist, because the own-being constituted by emptiness does really 
exist; and it does not exist because all dharmas are imaginary and non¬ 
existent; ( b ) it is unconditioned because it is not conditioned by 
karma and passions; it is not unconditioned because it has the sovereign 
power to manifest itself as something conditioned, and does so 
repeatedly; (c) it is essentially one, because only the belief in a self 
introduces such divisions as self and other, this or that; it is also 
manifold, because, since innumerable persons reach it one after the 
other, worldly convention can rightly say that there are many Buddhas. 
‘Since the Dharma-bodies transcend all levels of reasoning, one can 
adhere to them only by resolute faith, and cannot think them out/ 

The Dharma-body is eternal, immutable and omnipresent, it acts 
without interruption everywhere, and its activities never come to an 
end as long as there are beings to be saved. As Suchness the Absolute 
is withdrawn from all that seems to be, and as Buddhahood it is spread 
out through the entire universe. 33 This is not unlike some of the 
theories of Nicolas of Cues. While to philosophical reflection the 
Dharma-body must seem to be a rather abstract concept, to the Yogin 
it is a matter of concrete experience. ‘One experiences the Dharma- 
kaya, Joyful, equal to the sky, for only one instant: At the time of 
(i) death, (2) a faint, (3) going to sleep, (4) yawning, and (5) coitus/ 34 
No information is, of course, available about the details of these and 
kindred experiences. 

Between the Dharma-body and the physical body there are other 
‘intermediary’ bodies. When considered as the Dharma-body, the 
Buddha is seen by the saints as he is in himself, in relation to the 
Dharma which makes him into a Buddha. His physical body is the 
appearance he presents to gods, men, animals and ghosts on the 
occasions when he comes into the world to be seen by all. There is 
thirdly the appearance which he presents to the faithful. Faith can 
open the eyes to aspects of reality hidden from those who lack in this 
virtue, and reveal the various ‘supernatural’ bodies of the Buddha. 
The traditions about them belong to the more esoteric side of Budd¬ 
hism, and the scattered statements we have about dozens and dozens 
of such ‘intermediary’ bodies 35 cannot at present be interpreted or 
systematized with any degree of certainty. The only systematic 
account we possess is that of the Yogacarins who regard the Bodhi- 
sattvas as the principal part of the faithful. They speak of a sambhoga - 
kaya, a term which can either be translated as the ‘Enjoyment-body’, or 



as the ‘Communal body’. 36 Like other Buddhists before them, they 
derive the word kaya somewhat unetymologically from the root a, ‘to 
pile up’, and maintain that the ‘Enjoyment-body’ is the one seen by 
‘an assemblage ( caya) of a multitude of great Bodhisattvas in the pure 
Buddhafields, such as Sukhavatl, and so on’. 37 This body appears in 
those pure Buddhafields, in which both the Buddha and the Bodhi¬ 
sattvas share in the joy about the Dharma of the great vehicle, and is 
the support of the immaculate and unobstructed cognition of these 
Bodhisattvas. This is quite an intelligible and rational explanation, 
but there is no reason to believe that it applies to all the ‘intermediary’ 
bodies which are mentioned in various Mahayana texts belonging to 
the first centuries of our era. 

9. The new map of the Path 

The most obvious difference between the Hinayana (cf. pp. 173 sq.) 
and Mahayana schemes lies in that the first map out the stages leading to 
Arhatship, the second those which lead a Bodhisattva to Buddhahood. 
The Mahayana evolved a scheme of first seven, and later on ten, 
stages (bhumi). The word bhumi as used by the Mahayanists may mean 
either ‘level’ or ‘stage’. In the first sense we have the three ‘levels’ ol 
the Disciples, Pratyekabuddhas and Buddhas. These levels are parallel, 
and each leads to its own form of enlightenment (cf. pp. 166 sq ). Ir 
the sense of ‘stage’ it denotes either ( a ) the seven successive stages o: ‘ 
the Hinayana which end in Arhatship, 1 or (b) the ten successive 
stages of the Mahayana which end in Buddhahood,* or (c) some par • 
ticularly important phase of a Bodhisattva’s career, like the ‘irre¬ 
versible stage*, the stage of a ‘beginner’, the stage of a Crown Princ 5 
(i kumara ) (i.e. the last birth of a Bodhisattva), the ‘stage* where medi- 
tational quietude and wise insight are in perfect equilibrium, and s) 
on. It is in the sense of (b) that we consider it here. 

The literature on the subject is fairly rich. The two most author; - 
tative sources are the Dasabhumika Sutra 2 and Candrakirti’s Madhyc - 
makavatara? There is agreement on all essentials, and, given ten 
bhumisy their actual distribution was almost inevitable. The Mahavastu 4 
states expressly that ‘it is by taking the perfect Buddha Sakyamu li 

* The later scholastics of the Mahayana tried to work out the corresponden :e 
between the Hinayana and Mahayana schemes, and pp. 107-10 of my *T le 
Prajnaparamita Literature’, i960, show the results they arrived at. These n< at 
arrangements were prompted by the desire to maintain the unity of all forms of 

2 34 


as a type that the ten bhumis are explained*. From the Jatakas 
and other biographical documents about the lives of the Bodhisattva 
who later on became the Buddha Sakyamuni, four fixed points stood 
out in his career: (i) the prediction of Dlpankara, (2) the stage when 
he became irreversible, (3) the sojourn in the Tushita heavens, and of 
course (4) the attainment of Buddhahood. The tenth stage would be 
that of the fully developed Tathagata, i.e. of the Buddha after his 
enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree. The ninth would be the last life 
of the Bodhisattva before his enlightenment, corresponding to the 
time between his descent from the Tushita heaven to his defeat of 
Mara and the insights he thereafter gained under the Bodhi-tree. The 
first would mark the beginning of his career as a Bodhisattva, at the 
time of Dlpankara, when he resolved to win enlightenment for himself 
and for all beings, in other words when he had his first ‘thought of 
enlightenment* ( cittotpada ). The first six bhumis could well be co¬ 
ordinated with the six perfections, in the sense that the practice of one 
of them dominates each stage. This leaves one further item to be 
fitted in, i.e. the moment had to be determined when a Bodhisattva 
would be ‘irreversible* (avaivartika). This topic of ‘irreversibility* 
aroused a quite extraordinary interest around the beginning of our 
era. Like other Buddhist key terms the word ‘irreversible* is not 
without its ambiguities. It means (1) a condition in which a person can 
no more be reborn in the ‘states of woe*, i.e. in the hells, or among 
animals or ghosts. For he has become so pure that he has no affinity 
with these forms of life, is no longer drawn to them, does no more 
fall into them. (2) It means that one cannot lapse from any of the 
bhumis one has attained, does not ever again lose a given spiritual 
achievement or aptitude. Like everyone else the Buddhists seem to 
have longed for a definite achievement which cannot again be lost, and 
they attempted to define the practices which would insure the Yogin 
against the future loss of what he had attained. (3) It means a condition 
in which a Bodhisattva is inevitably bound to become a Buddha, 
either (a) because he has been predicted by a Buddha who preceded 
him (as Sakyamuni by Dlpankara), or (b) because he is incapable of 
switching over to the methods of salvation practised by the Arhats 
and Pratyekabuddhas, and for that reason is unable to give up the 
quest for perfect enlightenment. In the huge literature on the attri¬ 
butes of an irreversible Bodhisattva these four meanings are not 
always very clearly distinguished. The bhumi scheme is concerned 
with the meaning (3£), and locates this event normally in the seventh 
or eighth stage. 5 Once the Bodhisattva has become irreversible from 



full enlightenment, he is in virtual possession of the qualities of a 
Buddha. His acquisition of Buddhahood is now quite definite ( niyama ), 
and the Bodhisattva is no longer free to deviate from his goal, nor 
have outward circumstances the power to prevent him from reach¬ 
ing it. 

On the sixth stage the Bodhisattva has fully comprehended the 
wisdom teachings which reveal everywhere one ‘emptiness*. At this 
point his position is equivalent to that of the Arhat in that no mor< t 
need be ‘done*, and in that he could withdraw from the scene anc 
enter Nirvana. His compassion, coequal with his wisdom (cf. p. 217) 
prevents him, however, from immediately taking this step and induce; 
him to postpone entry into Nirvana. He spends the remaining bhumis 
in the practice of ‘skill in means’, entirely devoted to the welfare 
of others. On the eighth and ninth stages in particular he becomes 
one of those ‘celestial’ Bodhisattvas who played such a big role 
in the popular piety of the Mahayana.* These ‘saviours’ were ai 
innovation of the first century of our era, the addition of three 
extra bhumis to the original seven served the purpose of finding a 
place for them in the scheme of the ‘Path’, and the meticulous descrij >- 
tion of the mentality 6 of the ‘celestial’ Bodhisattvas provided a 
philosophical foundation for the popular cult. 

While halting for a while at the threshold of Nirvana, the Bodhi¬ 
sattva abides, as it were, within the ‘doors to deliverance’, and his ov t- 
look is entirely governed by the old triad of Emptiness, the Signle $s 
and the Wishless (cf. pp. 59-69). With the seventh bhumi he ended 1 is 
active life which had up to then been marked by effort (abhoga) and 
intellectual activity ( abhisamskara ). From now on he takes no longer 
the slightest interest in any particular event (nimitta) and dwells 
permanently in the trance of cessation ( nirodha ) (cf. p. 114). He s<es 
no more any being or dharma, and is irrevocably convinced ( kshanu ) 
that nothing whatsoever has ever been produced. Both his wisdom a id 
his compassion have become infinite, the wisdom because content 
with emptiness, the compassion because it is exercised without obj 2ct 
or effort, quite mechanically ( anabhisamskdra) y without any notions of 
T or ‘mine’, etc. It may be objected that a person who pays no atten¬ 
tion to sense-objects will be unable to live for long. This is no pr< >b- 
lem, however, for the celestial Bodhisattva who has no solid, putrid < md 
perishable body, but a dharmic body which has issued from the 
dharmadhatu (cf. p. 95), and which has the ability to conjure up 

* E. Lamotte, however, states that ManjuSrI, AvalokiteSvara, Maitreya, etc. 
are Bodhisattvas of the tenth stage. T”oung Pao XLVIII, 10-11, 13. 



fictitious physical bodies ( nirmita ) which go to all parts of the world.* 
Endowed with this dharmic body and a mind entirely governed by 
wisdom and compassion, the Bodhisattva has won ‘sovereignty* over 
the universe. He ‘works without effort like the moon, the sun, a 
wishing jewel or the four primary elements’. 7 The Dasabhumika 8 
illustrates this effortlessness by comparing it ‘to a great seafaring boat. 
When the boat is not yet at sea, much labour is needed to make it 
move forward, but as soon as it reaches the ocean, no human power is 
required; let it alone and the wind will take care of it. One day’s navi¬ 
gation thus left to itself in the high seas will surely be more than equal 
to one hundred years of human labouring while still in the shallows. 
When the Bodhisattva accumulating the great stock of good deeds 
sails out on to the great ocean of Bodhisattvahood, one moment of 
effortless activity will infinitely surpass deeds of conscious striving.’ 

There is no need to say any more about the attributes of the celestial 
Bodhisattva except that, when formulated, they seem at times rather 
paradoxical and self-contradictory, f The Bodhisattva is both active 
(in the sense that results are produced) and inactive (in the 
sense that he himself does nothing); he is both the same as ordinary 
people (cf. p. 230) and yet quite different from them; he is all-benevo¬ 
lent and almighty, and yet unable to save many of those whom he 
wants to save (because of their invincible ignorance). And so on. 

* They also go to the states of woe, for in the developed Mahayana the stress 
on tlie unselfish benevolence of a Bodhisattva led to a modification of ‘irreversi¬ 
bility* in its first sense (cf. p. 235). Just because the Bodhisattva is so pure on 
the higher stages, he can, voluntarily and of his own free will, appear to be 
reborn among those beings so as to comfort them. 

f An interesting parallel is the Christian doctrine of the communicatio idio - 
matum , which deliberately ascribed irreconcilable attributes to the person of 
Christ. For the details see SW 373. 

2 37 



I. The literary sources 

The Madhyamika theories are well documented. They originated 
about 650 be with Nagarjuna and Aryadeva, both South Indians. 1 
About twenty-five different works are attributed to Nagarjuna. The 
most important are the Madhyamikakarika , 2 the Vigraha-vyavartani' 
(‘Repudiation of Contests*), the Ratnavali A and perhaps the Mahaya 
navimsaka. 5 A very extensive commentary to the Large Prajhapdra ■ 
mita 6 is also attributed to a Nagarjuna who may, or may not, havs 
been the same person as the author of the ‘Verses on the Madhyamik; 1 
doctrine*. No one doubts, however, that it expounds authoritatively 
the point of view of his school as it developed in the North-West cf 
India. An almost unbelievable wealth of information is spread befor 2 
us in this truly encyclopedic work which was composed at a perio i 
when the vigour of Buddhist thought was at its very height. Of Aryi - 
deva we have chiefly the Catuhsataka 1 (400 verses). Of great import¬ 
ance are the commentaries to the Madhyamikakarika . The mo»t 
useful of these is the Prasatmapada : 8 (‘The Clear-Worded*) of 
Candraklrti (1150 be). Essentially an exposition of Candraklrtrs 
point of view is also Professor T. R. V. Murti’s The Central Philosophy 
of Buddhism (1955) which combines sustained intellectual effort ar d 
lucidity with scrupulous scholarship and metaphysical passion. Of 
the later Madhyamika works the most important are Santidevc*s 
c. ad 700) Bodhicaryavatara 9 (‘Entrance to the practice of enlightei- 
ment*), Santirakshita’s (c. 760) Tattvasamgraha 10 (‘Compendium of 
Reality*) and Kamala6Ila*s (ad 793) three works on BhavanakramaP 
So prolific has been the literary output of the Madhyamikas, that 
even now much of it has barely been touched. Many of their religious 
teachings are still buried in the untranslated pages of Nagarjun fs 
gigantic commentary. Aryadeva has so far received almost no attentic >n. 
We still have no clear idea of Bhavaviveka’s Svatantrika system, 12 



which can be studied only in Tibetan translations, and which seems 
to have upheld the well-nigh incredible thesis that in Madhyamika 
logic valid positive statements can be made. Likewise we continue 
to be puzzled by the teachings and affiliations of the Yogacara- 
Madhyamikas who were responsible for the final synthesis of the 
Mahayana in India. 

2. Description of the Madhyamika dialectic 

The Madhyamikas were interested in one problem only—the con¬ 
ditions which govern the transcendental intuition of the Absolute, 
and they devoted an enormous amount of ingenuity to distinguishing 
absolute from mere empirical knowledge, which was ipso facto held 
to be false. To see dharmas as they really are in themselves, is to 
see their own-being ( svabhava ). According to Candraklrti, 1 Buddhist 
tradition used the term ‘own-being’ in at least three ways: 

1. It may mean the essence, or special property, of a thing . A con¬ 
crete fire is a ‘thing’, and heat is its ‘own-being’. This kind of ‘own¬ 
being’ is defined as ‘that attribute which always accompanies the object, 
because it is not tied to anything else’. 2 

2. It may be the essential feature of a dharma .* The ‘own-being’ 
is that which carries its own-mark. 3 Each dharma, as a separate entity 
( prthag-dharma ), carries one single mark, no more than one. In a 
sense, ‘own-being’ and ‘own-mark’ are, therefore, one and the same 
thing, f 

3. Finally, ‘own-being’ may be defined as the opposite of ‘other- 
being’.* 1 Then it is that which looks only to itself, and not to anything 
outside. 5 It is what we call the ‘Absolute’, compared with which all 
separate dharmas are parabhava (relative). The mark (fakshaiia) of this 
‘own-being’ is that it is not contingent, not conditioned, not related 
to anything other than itself. 6 It therefore implies full and complete 
ownership and control.^ 

The Madhyamikas reject the first two kinds of ‘own-being* as mere 
provisional constructions. The third alone is ultimately real, and the 

* In the words of Candraklrti, the data of experience are here not taken 
as 4 ‘sprouts”, etc., but as samskaras. 

f The Satasahasrika 1410-1 gives a survey of the ‘own-marks’ which define 
thirty basic dharmas. The marks of the four mental skandhas are respectively 
‘experiencing, taking up, together-making, being aware*. 

£ Pras ., p. 263, svabhava is equal to svo-bhdva y Sein an sich. It is atmlya , a 
term which implies rightful ownership (as of one’s own slaves), as distinct from 
what is the property of others, or what is lent for a time only, a borrowed article. 



one and only standard of truth. The own-being of all separate things 
or dharmas is obviously contingent and tied to conditions. Heat, as 
the essential feature of fire, for instance, depends on the co-operation 
of such various factors as a match (or a lens and the sun), fuel, oxygen, 
etc. Of all this kind of ‘own-being' one can say that ‘previously noi 
having been, it is subsequently produced'. Change is incompatible 
with true ‘own-being’ which must be independent of conditions anc 
be owned for ever, at all times.* Once ‘own-being’ is defined in sue! t 
a way, no separate own-being can be found for separate entities 
( bhava :). ‘There is no own-being of a dharma [acting] in causal con • 
nection, because of conditioned co-production.' 7 ‘Own-being is ths 
unpervertedness of essential nature’, 8 but ‘there are not two essenti; l 
natures of dharma(s), but just one single is the essential nature c f 
all dharmas’, 9 and Dharma is in fact ‘the unbroken unity of all 
dharmas’. 10 

This definition of ‘own-being’ is the starting point of the Madhy; l- 
mika system. It is offered not as a speculative assertion, but as the 
result of prolonged meditation on ‘conditioned co-production’. Logical 
deduction may suggest that dharmas have no own-being at all, b it 
ultimate certainty comes from meditational experience. When tie 
various kinds of conditioning (cf. pp. 150 sq .) are considered in detul 
and applied to any given event, it will be seen to be identical with the 
sum total of its conditions—positive or negative, antecedent or 
present, immediate or remote, contributive or permissive (cf. 
pp. 150*?.), and as entirely dependent on the co-operation of otiter 
events which act as props or supports for its persistence, or as a ds 
to its originating. The own-being of the thing is then dissolved into 
the conditions of its happening. All the concrete content belongs to the 
interplay of countless conditions. Any ‘own-being’ that would, by o )n- 
trast, be something of its own is seen to be no more than an abstraction, 
an empty spot covered by a word. Neither produced nor maintai led 
by itself, a thing by itself is nothing at all. And this is equivalen: to 
the insight into the emptiness of all dharmas. Whatever may seer 1 to 

* ‘It is a striking feature of the Stanzas that all predicates seem to be ass< rted 
totally of the whole subject. Existential quantifications are denied, because the 
discussion is concerned, not with the denial or affirmation of common-! ense 
assertions such as “some fuel is burning, and some is not**, but with the con :epts 
of own-being and essence. What pertains to part of an essence must of o jurse 
pertain to the whole essence. A defining property is either essential or non- 
essential. If it is non-essential, it is not really a defining property of an es< ence. 
If it is essential, then the essence is never devoid of the property/ Robi ison, 



disturb this emptiness and the free flow of the wisdom which con¬ 
templates it, is of course actually there, but only conditionally, not on 
its own, as an unsatisfactory appearance, ultimately unreal and 
unworthy of serious consideration. In this way the understanding of 
the conditioned, when carried on long enough, automatically leads 
to the appreciation of the Unconditioned. 

Nagarjuna and his school did not, however, rely on meditation 
alone. In order also to appeal to the intellect of opponents who might 
not share their vision of the One, they developed the method of 
prasanga , an ‘argumentation which demolishes all possible alterna¬ 
tives’ and which aims at the reducdo ad absurdum of all beliefs. ‘By 
drawing out the implications of any view the Madhyamika shows 
its self-contradictory character/ He ‘disproves the opponent’s thesis, 
and does not prove any thesis of his own’. 11 ‘The reducdo ad 
absurdum is for the sole benefit of the holder of the thesis, 
and it is done with his own logic, on principles and procedure fully 
acceptable to him/ 12 The famous motto of Nagarjuna’s chief work is 
the verse: 

‘Not by itself nor by another, nor by both, nor without cause 

Do positive existents ever arise in any way whatsoever/ 

Each of the four theses is accepted hypothetically, and then rejected 
as self-contradictory, 13 with the result that ‘Non-production’ emerges 

3. The modves behind the Madhyamika dialectic 

It must be admitted that this kind of philosophy gives little comfort 
to common sense, and must leave the average person gasping with 
bewilderment. Nevertheless as a method of thinking it is perfectly 
consistent with itself. The difficulty lies in that it does not draw its 
inspiration from the interests and concerns of the man in the street, 
but from the religious aspirations of what may, by contrast, be called 
‘the man in the forest’. Though his discourse is couched in intellectual 
terms, Nagarjuna was traditionally regarded as ‘a mystic of high attain¬ 
ments’, 1 and he was believed to have reached the first bhumi and to 
have moved after his death to the Pure Land of SukhavatL A concern 
for religious values and for a holy life has manifestly shaped the 
leading tenets of the Madhyamikas who, consonant with the Prajiia- 
paramita, describe the world as it appears on the highest spiritual level 



of effortless and completed self-extinction. That is its justification, and 
the source of both its strength and limitations. 

If selfless renunciation is the essence of die religious life, then these 
teachings reach the highest possible summit of unworldliness. If non¬ 
attachment is a virtue, then the negation of the multiplicity of all 
dharmas is the intellectual counterpart to the desire ‘to abandon all 
the points to which attachment could fasten itself'. 2 If our basic 
anxiety is merely perpetuated when we rely on something, and is 
rooted out only when we give up searching for a firm support, what 
could be more conducive to depriving us of any stable support than , 
a perpetual concentration on the self-contradictory nature of all our 
experience? And if a peaceful attitude to others is the test of religious 
zeal, it must be greatly furthered by a doctrine which tells us not to 
insist on anything, nor to assert anything (cf. pp. 212 sq.). Where it is 
actually believed to be true, this kind of ontology must lead to calm 
and evenmindedness. There is no calm like that of the One, because 
it is withdrawn from all that could possibly disturb. ‘The Dharma - 
element could be upset ( yikopita ) if there were any other dharma 
outside it. But no dharma different from it can be apprehended outsic e 
it. If, however, one could be apprehended there could indeed be < n 
upsetting of the Dharma-element.’ 3 The teaching of the sameness of 
everything cannot fail to promote the virtue of evenmindedness. 
‘A Bodhisattva, who courses in perfect wisdom, produces an even 
state of mind towards all beings. As a result he acquires insight into 
the sameness of all dharmas, and learns to establish beings in tpis 
insight.' 4 The perfectly evenminded must also overlook the difference 
between Nirvana and this world. Near to Nirvana even in this life, 
the saved do not isolate themselves from the world, but become its 
saviours. And finally, the Madhyamika system is throughout inspired 
by the ideal of spiritual freedom 5 which it seeks to assure by showing 
the unreality of everything which is not the absolute Spirit and by 
unremittingly proclaiming the ‘emptiness' of everything that js or 
can be. 

4. Emptiness and Nihilism 

The doctrine of emptiness has baffled more than one enquirer] As a 
theoretical proposition it gives little sense, and seems to amount 
to a mere assertion of nihilism. The teaching of ‘emptiness’ does not, 
z however, propound the view that only the Void exists. It is quite 
meaningless to state that ‘everything is really emptiness'. It is even 

242 I 


false, because the rules of this particular logic demand that also the 
emptiness must be denied as well as affirmed. The Large Sutra on 
Perfect Wisdom mentions as the fourth of its eighteen kinds of 
emptiness the ‘emptiness of emptiness’, which is defined by saying 
that ‘the emptiness of all dharmas is empty of that emptiness ’. 1 If 
truth cannot be found in ‘it is’, or ‘it is not’, but in the middle between 
them, what is the use of any assertion or negation? How can one insist 
on anything at all, or claim to know anything definite? The destruction 
of all opinions also includes the opinion which proclaims the empti¬ 
ness of everything. 

As salt flavours food, so £unyata y or emptiness, should pervade 
the religious life, and give flavour to it. By themselves neither salt 
nor emptiness are particularly palatable or nourishing. When ‘empti¬ 
ness’ is treated as a philosophical concept by untutored intellects 
which have no wisdom, it causes much bewilderment and remains 
barren of spiritual fruits. All that it is then good for is to produce 
futile assertions of the type that ‘emptiness is not nothingness’, and 
so on. As soon, however, as the spiritual intention behind this doctrine 
is considered, everything becomes perfectly clear. The aim is to 
reveal the Infinite by removing that which obscures it. The finite, 
one-sided, partial nature of affirmative propositions is rejected not 
in order then to be replaced with just another proposition (affirmative 
in effect, though negative in its grammatical form), but^with an^^ye 
to transcending and eliminating all affirmation, which is but a hidden '* 
form^of self-assertion. The Void is brought in not for its own site, 
but as a method which leads to the penetration into true reality. It 
opens the way to a direct approach to the true nature of things j 
( dharmata ) by removing all adherence to words, which always detract j 
or abstract from reality instead of disclosing it. Emptiness is not a f 
theory, but a ladder which reaches out into the infinite, and which 
should be climbed, not discussed. It is not taught to make a theory, , 
but to get rid of theories altogether. Its traditional use is to express 
wisdom’s negation of this world. All that it aims at is the complete 
emancipation from the world around us in all its aspects. As a severely 
practical concept it describes the attitude of non-assertion which alone 
can assure lasting peace. Thus it embodies an aspiration, not a view. 
Its only use is to help us to get rid of this world and of the ignorance 
that binds us to it. As a medicine it is of use to us only as long as we 
are ill, but not when we are well again. 

The investigation of emptiness is the chief task of Buddhist wisdom. 
Only systematic meditation can disclose its profundity. Emptiness is 



essentially an object of rapt contemplation, and inconclusive chatter 
about its being, or not being, ‘nothingness* deserves only contempt. 
It would be a mistake to treat the views of the Madhyamikas as 
though they were the result of philosophical reasoning, when in fact 
they derive from age-old meditational processes by which the intuition 
of the Absolute is actually realized. 

It is essential to these meditations that they exist on different levels, 
which depend (a) on the degree of maturity which the faculty of 
wisdom has attained, and (b) on the aspect of the Dharma which has 
come into view. The word ‘emptiness* gains meaning only in context 
with a definite spiritual attitude (cf. p. 61). Outside that it has 
none. The various meanings of ‘emptiness’ do in fact unfold them¬ 
selves on the successive stages of the actual process of transcending 
the world through wisdom. A brief sketch of these stages will not 
only enable us to lay bare the undisputable core of the ‘emptiness* 
doctrine, but also allow us to recapitulate what we have learnt so far I 
in the course of this book and to place each facet of the doctrine in 
its proper perspective. A close study of tradition shows that it is 
useful to distinguish thirty-two kinds of ‘emptiness*, corresponding 
to the five levels of insight to which the Heart Sutra alludes in its 
mantra .* The first three levels are identical with the procedure 
explained in chapters 14 to 23 of the Visuddhimagga (cf. pp. 173 sq.) 
the fourth is the specific contribution of the Mahay ana; the fifth again 
is common to all Buddhists. The reader is advised to first look at the 
Survey before proceeding to the descriptions which define each levil 
by the aspect of Dharma attended to, the exact meaning of ‘empti¬ 
ness’, and the kind of wisdom required. 1 

1. Dharmic Emptiness . First of all one must attend to the empti¬ 
ness of dharmas, i.e. one must understand what a dharma is, as distinct 
from a thing or person, must learn the Abhidharma teachings jin 
their many details, and acquire some skill in reviewing everyqay 
experiences in terms of dharmas. Those who omit to take this pre¬ 
liminary step will never get any further in this quest for ‘emptiness*, 
because they do not develop even the ‘foundation’ of that ‘wisdom’ 
which is the subjective counterpart of ‘emptiness’. 2 Acquaintance 
* ‘Gone*—from the data of common sense to the dharmas, and their empti¬ 
ness. ‘Gone’—from the infatuation with conditioned dharmas to their renuncia¬ 
tion, because of their emptiness. ‘Gone Beyond*—to the Unconditioned, and to 
its emptiness. ‘Gone altogether Beyond*—even beyond the difference between 
the world and Nirvana, to a transcendent non-duality, in which affirmation and 
negation are identified in one emptiness. ‘O what an awakening!* the finaljstage 
of transcendental emptiness, in which the long sleep is at last over. | 





1.1. Dharmas come into view in their own-being. 

They are: (a) impermanent, ( b ) ill, (c) not-self. 

1.2. They are bound to conditions. 

One considers (a)-(c) in relation to conditions. 

1.3. Relative reality 

(of dharmas as compared with common-sense things). 

1.4. Relative worth 

(of dharmas as compared with common-sense things). 






2.1 The three marks: 

3.1 The doors to freedom: 

1 a. Impermanence 

1 a. The signless 

ib. Ill 

ib. The wishless 

ic. Not-self. 

ic. The empty. 

2.2. Devoid of being uncon¬ 

3.2 Freedom from conditions 


2a. Deathless 

2a. Not steadfast 

2b. At peace 

2b. Not calming 

2C. Secure. 

2c. Not reliable. 

3.3 The real Truth. 

2.3 Relative reality (illusory). 

3.4 Its worth: The supreme 

2.4 Relative worth (to be for¬ 






4.1. Beyond the three marks, (a), (£), (c). 

4.2. Unconditioned non-duality 
2a. Unborn 

2b. Non-doing 

2c. Without own-being. 

4.3 True Suchness. 

4.4. Non-attainment. 






with the tradition about dharmas is the first step toward emptiness, 
for by definition these dharmas are void of self. 

Aspect of Dharma attended to: Features which define dharmas as 
dharmas, and each dharma as what it is. 3 ‘ Empty means that wisely 
seen dharmas are devoid of all those features which in the appearance 
of common-sense things and persons spring from the illusion that 
individual selfhood is really there. Wisdom is developed to the extent 
necessary to remove those illusions which prevent dharmas from 
standing out as dharmas. 4 

1.1. Dharmas, such as skandhas, sense-fields and elements are got 
into view in their own-being. 1.1a. Impermanence . Dharmas last but 
one moment, and lack in the apparent stability of things and persons. 
1.1 b. Ill . All dharmas included within the five grasping skandhas 
are bound to be disturbed and ill at ease, and the happiness derived 
from them is deceptive, i.ic. Not-self. No entity in the world of 
dharmic fact corresponds to such words as ‘self’, T or ‘mine', or 
their derivatives, such as ‘soul', ‘substance', ‘property', ‘inward 
essence', ‘belonging', ‘owning', ‘beings’, ‘persons', etc. On this stage 
the sober intellectual conviction that dharmas are in fact void of a 
self does not altogether smother self-seeking activities. 

1.2. Conditions . A dharma lacks in independence or self-depend¬ 
ence. It is bound to conditions, i.e. (a) it is dependent on a multiplicity 
of other events which surround it, and which condition it by standing 
by, propping up, bringing about or giving way (cf. pp. 144 sq.\ and 
(b) it is linked to suffering and ignorance through the twelve links 
of conditioned co-production. 1.2 a. Impermanence and conditions . 
The rise and fall of each dharma depends on conditions not its own. 5 
1.2 b. Ill and conditions: Dharmas ‘idly' ( nirlhakato ) just take their 
course; when they combine and ‘in the course of events' bring about 
results, they are unoccupied ( avyapara ) with the busy strivings, 
exertions and preoccupations of our imaginary selves, or with our 
excited concern about results. 6 1.2c. Not-self and conditions: Weak in 
itself, each dharma lacks in inner strength 7 and must rely on others 
to generate and support it. 

1.3. Relative reality . I. To interpret experience as a succession of 
interrelated dharmas is more true to what is really there than the 
ordinary view which arranges the data of experience into things and 
their attributes, or into persons and their doings. 8 II. Those who 
practise the contemplation of dharmas, automatically see the objects 
of the common-sense world around them as increasingly less solid and 
reliable, and as increasingly more delusive , deceptive, remote and 



dreamlike, much more so at least than they are usually thought to be. 

1.4. Relative worth . Dharmas deserve more attention than common- 
sense things. 

2. Conditioned Emptiness . Next a distinction is made between con¬ 
ditioned and unconditioned dharmas, and those features of all con¬ 
ditioned dharmas receive attention which distinguish them from the 
unconditioned dharmas. Influenced by the ‘perverted views’ we norm¬ 
ally attribute properties to conditioned dharmas which are in fact 
exclusively found in the Unconditioned. On this stage also a clearer 
notion is gained of man’s true spiritual nature, which is satisfied with 
nothing less than eternity, unmixed bliss and omnipotence. The 
Unconditioned further provides a standard by which the conditioned 
is increasingly measured and found wanting, with the result that 
the longing to regain the Unconditioned is intensified. Those who 
persist in these meditations for some length of time will clearly see 
that all conditioned dharmas are ‘empty’ in the sense that they lack a 
true self, lack anything that is worth being called a ‘self’. 

Aspect of Dharma attended to: marks common 9 to all conditioned 
dharmas, as opposed to the unconditioned dharma. 10 ‘ Empty means 
that conditioned dharmas lack in features which, while in reality 
exclusive to the unconditioned dharma, are through perverted per¬ 
ceptions, thoughts and views falsely attributed to them. Wisdom 
is developed to the extent necessary to remove the illusions which 
prevent Nirvana from revealing itself in its true nature. 11 

2.1. The three marks . The three marks are methodically applied 
and considered as essential to conditioned dharmas; as more weighty 
than any other properties they may have; as contrasted with their 
opposites. 12 2.1a. Impermanence: Conditioned dharmas cannot pro¬ 
vide the permanence for which we long. z.ib. III: They cannot 
provide the ease for which we hope. 13 2.1c. Not-self: They are devoid 
of the selfhood falsely ascribed to them. When measured by the 
standard of complete self-control, no conditioned event is worth being 
called a ‘self’ or ‘belonging to a self’. 

2.2. Devoid of being unconditioned. That dharmas are conditioned, 
as compared with Nirvana, is now seen as their most decisive feature. 
The insight rests on the observation of conditions (as at 1.2), on an 
understanding of the three marks, and on the longing for a Nirvana 
yet barely conceived. Not content to state the mere facts, it dwells 
on their disadvantages and goes far to remove attachment to con¬ 
ditioned things. 14 2.2a. Not steadfast: Conditioned dharmas are 
doomed to perish. 13 2.2 h. Not calming: They are unavoidably perilous 



and to be dreaded. 16 2.2c. Not reliable: They are doomed to fail us, 
since they are devoid of anything that we could hold on to, and can 
provide no reliable point of attachment, no refuge or support, no 
home or security. 

2.3. Relative reality: Conditioned dharmas are devoid of true 
existence and substantial reality. Their appearance, conditioned by 
ignorance, is untruthful ( vitatha ). Measured by the standard of full 
Truth (Nirvana) they are illusory. 17 

2.4. Relative worth: Conditioned dharmas are not worthwhile 
( riktaka , tucchaka); and thus to be forsaken, and in the end viewed 
with evenminded indifference. 18 

3. Not-conditioned Emptiness . When all conditioned events are felt 
as not worth having, as something to be forsaken, Nirvana, or the 
Unconditioned can at last become an object of endeavour. 19 

Aspect of Dharma attended to: Nirvana as opposed to this world. 

‘ Emptiness means the unconditioned dharma*s freedom from this 
world. 20 Wisdom enters on a new phase when the vision 21 ( darsana ) of 
the Path 22 and of Nirvana 23 revolutionize the life of the disciple. 
‘Worldly* up to now, wisdom becomes ‘supramundane*; a ‘worldling* 
up to now, the disciple turns into a ‘holy person’ (< dryapudgala ). 

3.1. The three doors to deliverance (cf. pp. 59 sql). 3.1 a. The Sign¬ 
less . I. As freedom from any sign of conditioned (worldly) things. 
II. As that which cannot be recognized as such. 3.1 b. The Wishless . 

I. As freedom from any (worldly) reactions to conditioned things. 

II. As that which cannot be desired. 3.1c. The Empty . I. As freedom 
from any identification with anything conditioned that is besides or 
outside our true self. II. As that which does not concern one at all. 

3.2. Freedom from conditions (cf. p. 71). 3.2a. Deathless: Freedom 
from death or any kind of impermanence. 3.2^. At peace: Freedom 
from any oppressive disturbance to peaceful calm, or from any kind 
of suffering. 3.2c. Secure: Freedom from any threat to security by an 
outside not-self, or from any kind of self-estrangement. 

3.3. The real Truth: Freedom from the deceptiveness of the illusory 
world, and from any of the qualities and ideas derived from false 
appearance, i.e. the true reality and the real truth. 24 

3.4. Its worth: Freedom for the worthwhile, or the supreme value. 25 

4. Transcending Emptiness . After these three progressive stages of 
meditation have been patiently traversed, it is possible to advance 
from ‘wisdom* to ‘perfect wisdom*. Stages 2 and 3 were based on the 
distinction and contrast between the conditioned and the uncon¬ 
ditioned. Now that distinction must again be undone. The theme of 



stage 4 is the identity of the world and Nirvana, with the aim of 
transcending both their identity and their difference. Emptiness is 
now regarded as the identity of yes and no, and a vast realm of para¬ 
doxes therewith opens before us. 

Aspect of Dharma attended to: the one Nirvana both as one with 
and as opposed to this world. ‘ Emptiness means that all discrimination 
is transcended by a Dharmahood which goes beyond both the identity 
and difference of conditioned and unconditioned dharmas. Wisdom, 
as the ‘perfection of wisdom* reaches its climax in the Buddha-to-be, 
as he ascends the stages of his career. 

4.1. Beyond Marks . Beyond all separate marks whatsoever—both 
particular and universal, 26 because of their unconditioned identity. 
4.1 a. Beyond the difference of permanence and impermanence , 27 
4.i£. of ease and suffering 28 4.1c. of self and other . 29 

4.2. Unconditioned non-duality: Beyond all difference and dis¬ 
crimination. 30 4.2a. Unhorn: As unproduced it is beyond all possi¬ 
bility of change; but even as originated a dharma remains undis¬ 
tinguished from the original Void. 31 4.26. Non-doing: As inactive it 
is beyond all possibility of suffering; but the peaceful calm of Nirvana, 
and struggling, impure, self-active exertion, are not mutually 
different. 32 4.2c. Without own-being: As devoid of own-being it is 
beyond all possibility of growth or diminution, of gain and loss, by 
self-identification; but the fulness of reality is undiscriminated from 
the separate, exclusive, deficient selves. 33 

4.3. True Suchness: As the identity of subject and object it is 
beyond all possibility of misconception, beyond all categories of 
thought, including ‘existence* and ‘non-existence*. Those who dis¬ 
criminate between subject and object go astray into an irreal illusion, 
though they never truly get away from the One. 34 

4.4. Non-attainment: Beyond all possibility of attainment—by 
body, word or thought—and yet it saves all. 

5. Transcendental Emptiness . When the paradoxes of the fourth 
stage have succeeded in removing all attachment to logical modes 
of thinking, they again must be left behind. On the highest level an 
eloquent silence prevails. Words fail, and the spiritual reality com¬ 
municates directly with itself. 




i. The literary sources 

The Yogacarins,* the second large school of Mahayana thought, 
developed slowly from the second century ad onwards, reached the 
height of their productivity in the fourth century with a large number 
of works attributed to Vasubandhu and Asanga, and then for some 
centuries continued to produce a great variety of ideas. During the 
fourth century the Yogacarins were great systematizers, and in view¬ 
ing their literary productions we must not lose sight of their encyclo¬ 
pedic intentions. A great deal of what they wrote consisted in just 
‘working up’ traditional fields of knowledge, such as the Abhidharma 1 
or the Prajndpdramita , 2 or in giving a definitive form to traditional 
concepts like the ten ‘stages’, or the three ‘bodies’ of the Buddha (cf. 
pp. 232 sq .). Much that is usually attributed to them is Sautrantika 
or Mahisasaka doctrine with a slight Mahayana slant. In this chapter 
we are not concerned with the Yogacarin works which just absorb 
traditional views, adding a slight sectarian tinge to them here and 
there, 3 but only with the distinctive basic ideas of this school. 

The literature of the Yogacarins is so enormous, and so much of 
it has been preserved only in Tibetan and Chinese translations, that 
up to now no one has been able to sort out its different strands. I 
must be content to concentrate on two of their more significant 
philosophical ideas, and explain them as clearly as I can. It should also 
be remembered that, while some European scholars may regard the 
Yogacarins as ‘the most important school of the Mahayana’, 4 their 
views have never stirred the East to the extent that the Emptiness 

* The word yogacarin properly means a ‘practitioner of Yoga*, and has by itself 
no sectarian significance. It has been given to this school largely because the term 
yogacara occurs in the title of Asanga’s chief work (cf. p. 251), but so it does in 
that of the Madhyamika Catuhsataka of Aryadeva, which is called bodlusattva - 
yogacara. If precision were the only consideration, it might be better to speak of a 
Vijhanavada school. 

2 5 ° 


doctrine has moved it. The contemplation of the Void manifestly 
sets the mind free, whereas speculations about the ‘store-conscious¬ 
ness’ (cf. p. 133) merely provide it with some additional puzzles. 
Finally, apart from the doctrines which I have singled out, the origi¬ 
nality of die Yogacarins consists chiefly in that they supply new 
names for old concepts. These terminological innovations are the 
delight of some historians, but can well be ignored in a book devoted 
to the elucidation of Buddhist thought. 

From a philosophical point of view, the most important Yogacara 
works are the following: Two Sutras, the Sandhinirmocana , 5 and the 
Lankavataraf a work of quite exceptional spiritual profundity. Two 
short works of Vasubandhu, the ‘Twenty Verses’ 7 with his own, and 
the ‘Thirty Verses’ 8 with Sthiramati’s commentary. Asanga’s Malta - 
yana-samgraha 9 with some excellent commentaries, and two works 
attributed to Maitreyanatha, 10 i.e. the Mahaydnasutrdlamkara 11 and the 
Madhyantavibhaga , 12 And finally Yuan-tsang’s Vijnaptimatra - 
tasiddhi , 13 which reflects chiefly the views of Dharmapala, a pro¬ 
fessor at Nalanda in the sixth century. The large Summa of the 
school, the Yogacarabhumisdstra, is a gigantic work which vainly 
attempts to effect a synthesis of all Buddhist knowledge, and suffers 
from excessive diffuseness and imprecision. 14 

Madhyamikas and Yogacarins supplement one another. They come 
into conflict only very rarely, and the powerful school of the Madhya- 
mika-Yogacarins demonstrated that their ideas could co-exist in 
harmony. They differ in that they approach salvation by two different 
roads. To the Madhyamikas ‘wisdom’ is everything and they have 
very little to say about dhyana , whereas the Yogacarins give more 
weight to the experiences of ‘trance’. The first annihilate the world 
by a ruthless analysis which develops from the Abhidharma tradition. 
The second effect an equally ruthless withdrawal from everything by 
the traditional method of trance. 

2. The absolute idealism 

The most characteristic doctrine of the Yogacarins is their so-called 
‘idealism’, which is ‘subjective’ with regard to the empirical and 
‘absolute’ with regard to the transcendental subject. As to the first, 
it denies the independent reality of an external object, and merely 
continues the traditional ideas about the primacy of ‘thought’ over 
all objects (cf. p. 112), though it may perhaps give them a somewhat 
sharper edge and a more pronounced epistemological content than 

25 1 


they may have had before. In every mental act thought and its con¬ 
comitants are of decisive importance, and the ‘object* is a shadowy 
appearance largely shaped and to some extent conjured up by thought. 1 

This assertion about the non-existence of objects is, however, a 
soteriological device and its main function consists in acting as the 
first step of a meditation on the perverted views. The basic perverted 
view (cf. p. 204) is now once more re-defined and said to consist in 
mistaking an idea for an object. 2 ‘First the Yogin breaks down the 
external object, and then also the thought which seizes upon it. Since 
the object does not exist, so also the consciousness which grasps it; 
in the absence of a cognizable object there can also be no cognizer.* 3 
The intention therefore is to effect a withdrawal from both the 
empirical object and the empirical subject. This does not lead to 
another subject opposed to an object, but to something which never 
occurs in ordinary experience, i.e. to a transcendental subject which is 
identified with its object, and which is the same as the ‘absolute 
thought* of which we have heard before (pp. 133 and 196). Exemplify¬ 
ing once more the Buddhist passion for terminological ambiguity the 
Yogacarins often call their doctrine ‘Thought-only* ( citta-matra ), 4 
where citta can stand both for ‘empirical thought* and ‘transcendental 
Thought*. This ambiguity makes it hard to explain their theory 
without confusion, and philosophers must be warned against ignoring 
the enormous amount of mental training which must precede the 
change-over from the empirical to the transcendental statement. 

The ultimate fact is the undifferentiated identity of subject and 
object, known as ‘pure Thought* or ‘pure Spirit*. If subject and object 
are really one, then, of course, an object independent of a subject 
cannot exist, and that which we seize upon by way of object ( grahya ) 
must be ultimately unreal. The bare statement denying the existence 
of external objects belongs to a fairly low and preliminary stage of 
realization, and though it may loom large in the philosophical dis¬ 
cussions with rival schools, 5 it is no more than a stepping stone to 
better things. The real point of asserting the unreality of an object qua 
object is to further the withdrawal from all external objective supports 
( alambana ), both through the increasing introversion of transic medi¬ 
tation and through the advance on the higher stages of a Bodhisattva’s 
career when, as we saw (pp. 236-7), no longer tied to an object he 
acts out of the free spontaneity of his inner being. For a long time, i.e. 
until he has overcome the last vestige of an object, the subject ( gra - 
haka) must seem more real to the Bodhisattva than the object. But 
at the very last stage of his journey he comes to realize that with the 



final collapse of the object also the separate subject has ceased to be 
and that also thought and its concomitants, in so far as they take an 
object, do not constitute an ultimate fact. 

As Asanga has clearly seen, 6 there are only three decisive arguments 
for this transcendental idealism. They are (i) the direct intuition of 
reality (tattva) on the part of those who have awoken to it; (2) the 
report which the Buddhas give of their experience in the holy scrip¬ 
tures.* Nothing short of the ‘undifferentiated cognition’ (1 nirvikalpa - 
jhanaf of the fully emancipated can dispel all doubts on the subject, f 
(3) Thirdly Asanga appeals to the experience of transic meditation. 
Our empirical mental processes are not all on the same level, and some 
are less estranged from ultimate truth than others. In ordinary sense- 
perception the estrangement has gone very far, but not so in transic 
meditation, because ‘the concentrated see things as they really are’ 
(cf. p. 53). Unfortunately the Buddhist theory of transic experiences 
is one of the least explored parts of Buddhism, and much of it we 
simply do not understand. 

Asanga’s third argument runs as follows: Assuming that a man in 
trance is nearer reality than someone who is distracted, what then 
is the status of the images 8 he sees ‘within the range’ of his trance? 
Obviously there are no blue objects, skeletons, etc., actually to be 
seen. Nor are his visions, as some seem to believe, memory images of 
blue objects and skeletons he has seen before. For these images are 
not vaguely remembered but seen directly before the eyes with full 
sensory vividity. In consequence thought must perceive itself, because 
in that state there is nothing apart from thought.^ The images seen in 

* i.e. one quotation each from Da&abhumika and Sandhinirmocana, That 
is all! 

f The ‘undiscriminate cognition* knows first the unreality of all objects, then 
realizes that without them also the knowledge itself falls to the ground, and 
finally directly intuits the supreme reality. Great efforts are made to maintain 
the paradoxical character of this gnosis. Though without concepts, judgments 
and discrimination, it is nevertheless not just mere thoughdessness. It is neither 
a cognition nor a non-cognition; its basis is neither thought nor non-thought, 
for though it does not think and reflect it issues from wise attention. Its object 
is the inexpressible Dharmahood of dharmas which consists in their selflessness 
( nairatmya ). There is here no duality of subject and object. The cognition is not 
different from that which is cognized, but completely identical with it. ‘When the 
undiscriminate cognition takes over, no more object appears. One then knows 
that there is no object, and in its absence no idea ( vijnapti ) either/ 

t Even if the yogin were confronted with memory images, they would have 
the past for their object, and, since the past is not real, he would perceive only 

2 53 


transic concentration are exactly like those reflected in a mirror. 
At first sight one may assume that there are two different things, i.e. 
a body out in space and the same body in the mirror; everyone, 
however, knows that one of them, i.e. the mirror image, does not 
exist. Likewise in trance there is just one single stream of thought, 
which manifests itself as split into a double aspect, i.e. a thought which 
sees and a thought which is seen. In fact, however, these two are not 
different, but one and the same thing, i.e. thought. ‘The images seen 
in trance arise conditioned by memory, imagination, etc., and, though 
not different from thought, they appear to be so.* 

This may seem to be rather a tortuous way of arguing. It would 
probably appear less unsatisfactory if we knew more about what the 
Buddhists believed to happen to the object of perception ( nimitta) 
when reshaped in trance. The assumption behind Asanga’s argument 
is, of course, that when in a prescribed and disciplined manner and with 
spiritual intent 9 we move in trance away from the empirical reality of 
a given stimulus, we do not thereby move off into a realm of mere 
phantasy, but come into contact with something more ‘ideal’ in the 
‘intermediary world’, which, springing as it does from meditation 
(bhavanamaya ), is truer to what is really there than that which we 
found in the sensory world. 

Theravadin sources contain quite a lot of information about the 
subject, 10 though in the absence of direct experience we cannot always 
be sure how to interpret it. We must apparently distinguish three 
stages 11 in the presentation of an object, (i) First we have the ‘pre¬ 
paratory sign’, 12 i.e. the sense perception of the object of meditation. 
This may be one of the kasinas , like a dawn-coloured disk of clay, 
or a basket filled with blue flowers, etc. Or it may be one of the 
ten ‘repulsive things’, beginning with the ‘swollen corpse’ and ending 
with die ‘skeleton’. 13 This ‘sign’ must be viewed hundreds of thou¬ 
sands of times, until next (2) the ‘grasped sign’ 14 emerges. At this 
stage the image persists although no longer before the eye. In other 
words, the yogin has produced a memory image which is as vivid 
as the original sensation. (3) Finally there is the ‘sublimated sign’, 15 
an ideal copy of the original. It is defined as follows: 16 ‘In the “grasped 
sign” any imperfections in the device (kasina) still show themselves. 
But the “sublimated sign” makes its appearance as if bursting out 
from the “grasped sign”, and is a hundred times, a thousand times 
more purified (’ suparisuddham , clearer), like the disk of a mirror 
taken from its case, like a well-polished mother-of-pearl dish, like the 
full moon issuing from behind the clouds, or like cranes against a 

2 54 


thunder cloud.' 7 But it has neither colour nor shape; for if it had, it 
could be discerned by the eye, would be gross, could be grasped 
( sammasanupaga\ and would be stamped with the three marks. But 
it is not like that. It is born only of perception 18 in one who has 
obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance. As soon 
as it arises the hindrances are quite suppressed, the defilements sub¬ 
side, and the mind becomes concentrated in access concentration/ 
Though some believed 19 this sign to be no more than a hallucination, 
the orthodox valued this transformed ‘reflex’ of the originally per¬ 
ceived object, now quite detached from its sensuous basis, as some¬ 
thing extremely precious, which ‘ought to be guarded diligently, as 
if it were the embryo of a universal monarch’. 20 It is to such an extent 
severed from the limitations of ordinary perception, that it can be 
extended at will, until it fills the entire universe. 21 

The exact nature of this experience is so much bound up with 
the practice of Yoga that a European parallel is not easy to find. 
For what exactly is meant here? Are these hallucinations, i.e. mental 
impressions of sensory vividness occurring without an external 
stimulus? Or are they subjective impressions of a non-existent object, 
as when Theodoric saw the head of a fish as the head of Symmachus 
whom he regretted to have killed? Are they akin to images seen in 
delirium, in toxic states, as a result of brain tumours and irritations 
of the occipital lobe, or under the influence of ether, hashish, opium, 
mescalin or schizophrenia? 22 Or are they pseudo-hallucinations, in 
which a person has a vivid sensory experience, but realizes that it has 
no external foundation? Or are they ‘illusions’, i.e. perceptions in 
which external sense-stimuli are combined with images which do not 
belong to them, so that the two cannot be distinguished—as when a 
rope is taken for a snake, or a tree trunk seen as a man in the dark? 
Or are they delusions, i.e. hallucinations which persist and are more 
or less well-knit, as the conviction that ‘there are snakes everywhere’? 
Or are they ‘eidetic images’, or ‘visions’ as seen in a crystal, or are they 
akin to the ‘photisms’ which seem to issue from the source of life 
itself, 23 or perhaps to the experience of Jacob Boehme who, when 
gazing at a surface of shining pewter, seemed ‘to behold the inward 
properties of all things in nature opened to him’? We just do not know 
where we are. 

So great is at present the conviction that perceptual images reflect 
something somehow outside ourselves, that no one has properly 
investigated the images which are more or less detached from external 
sensory stimuli. The experiences of the Buddhist yogins must there- 



fore at present remain unrelated to kindred phenomena. Nevertheless, 
we cannot entirely dismiss their claim that these ‘reflected images’ 24 
come nearer to what actually exists than the ‘perceptions’ of ordinary 
people, who are so scatter-brained that their outlook on the world 
scarcely deserves to be seriously considered by those who can think. 

In addition to these three decisive arguments in favour of their 
‘idealism’ the Yogacarins have naturally thought out numerous 
counter-arguments to the objections which the instinctive realism of 
common sense is bound to raise against it. Designed not so much to 
establish its truth as to defend its plausibility, they are mere debating 
points of no great interest. Of greater value are four ‘cognitions’ 
which are put forward not as arguments, but as ‘insights’ which a 
Bodhisattva should set himself out to win and upon which he should 
meditate. 25 They are: (i) One and the same object, say a river, leads 
to totally different ideas on the part of hungry ghosts, animals, men 
and gods. This suggests that the perceived object (nimitta) is a 
transformation of inward thought, a ‘pure phantasy’ as we might 
say, and that for all practical purposes the external object does not 
exist. The hungry ghosts, by way of retribution of their past deeds, 
see nothing but pus, urine and excrement; fishes find there a home; 
men see fresh and pure water which can be used for washing and 
drinking; the gods of the station of infinite space see only space.* 
(2) One must give due weight to the instances when ideas occur 
without an object being present—as when we think about the past or 
the future, or in dreams, etc. (cf. p. 139). (3) If objects were perceived 
as they are, then people would automatically know the truth and be 
emancipated without effort. All Buddhists agree that common-sense 
objects present a false appearance; the Yogacarins alone believe that 
this falsehood consists in their being objects. (4) Finally we have the 
appeal to the evidence of higher magical and spiritual states which 
achieve a remarkable independence from objects: (a) To those who 
have achieved the sovereignty of thoughtf objects appear in trance 
as and when they wish, by the mere power of their resolution; (1 b ) to 
yogins who, deep in trance, practise insight into dharmas, objects 
appear at the precise moment of their paying attention to them; 
(c) to Buddhas, who have won the ‘indiscriminate cognition’, no 
object ever appears, and yet they see things as they are (cf. p. 253). 

* Lamotte quotes a pretty parallel: The ascetic, the lover and the dog have 
three different conceptions of the same woman; she is a carcass, a mistress or 
a meal. 

f Which allows them to change earth into water, etc. 


The doctrine of Mind-only led to a re-definition of salvation. 26 
No one is saved as long as he conceives of an object and a subject. 
If he should seek refuge in a ‘bare thought devoid of an external 
object’, he would still apprehend his own consciousness and thereby 
miss ‘the true nature of thought’. Aware that concepts naturally tend 
to become exclusive and antagonistic, Vasubandhu made a valiant 
attempt at excluding all misunderstandings by saying that: ‘When 
cognition no longer apprehends an object, then it stands firmly in 
consciousness-only; because where there is nothing to grasp there 
is no more grasping.’ The accomplished yogin does not take as real 
any object whatsoever outside Thought, ‘and that because he sees 
that which really is, and not because he is as one born blind’. ‘At that 
time there is a forsaking of the grasping at consciousness, and the 
yogin is established in the true nature of his own thought.’ ‘The 
absence of an object results in the absence also of a subject, and not 
merely in that of grasping. It is thus that there arises the cognition 
which is homogeneous, without object, indiscriminate and supra- 
mundane. The tendencies to treat object and subject as distinct and 
real entities are forsaken, and thought is established in just the true 
nature of one’s own thought. When thought thus abides in repre¬ 
sentation-only, then how can one describe it? It is without thought, 
without basis, a supramundane cognition. The revolution of the 
substratum (cf. p. 230 n.) results from the loss of the twofold cor¬ 
ruption (cf. p. 226). This is the Element without outflows, incon¬ 
ceivable, wholesome and stable, the blissful body of emancipation, 
the Dharma-body of the great Sage.’ 

Only the teachings of the mystics, as distinct from epistemological 
speculations, can furnish parallels to this doctrine. The mystical 
doctrine is rather paradoxical 27 because consciousness is still conscious¬ 
ness, although it has no objects, and no consciousness of anything, 
even of consciousness. It is ‘pure’ consciousness, without any empirical 
contents and without departing from undifferentiated unity. In one 
way it is a positive thing because it is actually consciousness and has a 
positive affective tone, being identified with peace, beatitude, joy and 
bliss. At the same time it is sheer emptiness, because none of the 
objects and contents of the mind is left to disturb its peace. 

3. The three kinds of own-being 

This side of Yogacarin doctrine is well documented, 1 relatively easy 
to understand, and obviously designed to facilitate meditation on 



the ‘absence of own-being’. It teaches that all data of experience can 
be considered from three points of view, (i) as ‘imagined’ ( parikalpita , 
or ‘contrived’), (2) as ‘interdependent’ ( paratantra ), and (3) as ‘abso¬ 
lute’ (pariniskpanna , lit. ‘perfected’). We may begin our exposition 
with a simple example: 2 The water in a mirage, which has been pro¬ 
duced with the mirage as a cause, is real as an appearance; that is its 
interdependent aspect. This appearance manifests itself to a demented 
traveller as real water; that is its imaginary aspect. In no way whatso¬ 
ever has the water in the mirage the marks of real water; that is the 
absolute aspect. The three viewpoints are considered either as ‘aspects’ 

(lakshana ) of experience, or as kinds of own-being ( svabhava ), or as 
varieties of the non-existence of own-being (nihsvabhavata), the 
intelligent and discriminating establishment of the latter being the 
main purpose of this distinction. 3 The ‘imagined’ has no own-being 
because it has no marks, and in consequence any own-being attri¬ 
buted to it is merely imaginary, 4 just as the marks are the product of 
name and convention; 5 the ‘interdependent’ has no being of its own 
( svayam-bhava ) since it has its origin ( utpatd ) not in itself but in 
conditions which lie outside; and the ‘absolute’ is without own¬ 
being because it is the true reality of dharmas which have no self 
of their own, the Suchness of all of them being at all times both ‘just 
so’ and a mere idea. 6 The first aspect can be compared to a fictitious 
flower blooming in the sky ( khapushpa ), the second to a magical illu¬ 
sion, the third to space. 7 The first aspect should be forsaken, the second 
cognized, the third realized. Through insight into the first dharmas 
are known as signless or without marks, insight into the second 
reveals their state of defilement, and the third discloses them as they 
are in their state of pristine purity. 8 Three degrees of reality are here 
distinguished, from the absolutely fanciful by way of the relatively 
real to the absolutely real. 9 

1. First of all the world of common sense is considered just as it 
appears to ordinary people, composed of many things with their 
own attributes and names. The deceptiveness of the world as per¬ 
ceived had always been taught. The Yogacarins add that it consists in 
that ‘something appears as an object when in fact there is none, but 
only an idea’. 10 The common-sense world is pure imagination or 
fabrication,* but instead of seeing it as such one interprets it as a 

* The ignorance which creates a fictitious world covering up the true reality 
(dharmata or dharmadhatu) is in this school called ‘the imagination of something 
which is actually unreal* ( abhutaparikalpa ). 


duality of object and subject, and the error ‘implies not only an intel¬ 
lectual mistake but some affective functions set in motion along with 
the wrong judgment’. 11 Words play a big part in building up this 
imagination, 12 which ‘is born from the conjunction of signs and 
names’. 13 This complete dependence of our ordinary conception of 
things on words is not, however, readily understood at once, but it is 
only ‘after a Bodhisattva has accumulated an immense amount of 
knowledge and merit, and has long thought about the teachings of the 
Dharma and become clear in his mind about them, that he comes to 
know that the conception of objects is dependent on speech’. 14 All 
these imaginations arise from the ‘sign’ (cf. p. 62), consist in ‘settling 
down’ ( abhinivesa ) in entities and their signs and marks, in inner and 
outer dharmas and their particular and general marks, 15 and for 
meditational purposes were classified into lists, ranging from two to 
twelve. 16 

2. Secondly, as regards the ‘interdependent’, we consider the various 
objects as they mutually cause and condition each other, and are 
causally dependent on one another, according to the formula ‘where 
this is, that becomes’. The interdependent arising of dharmas ‘is the 
basis of the manifestation of non-existent and fictitious objects’. 17 
Though it does not exist as it appears, the ‘interdependent own-being’ 
is, unlike the ‘imaginary own-being’, not entirely non-existent.* 
It has in fact the reality-character of an illusion, 18 is valid as far as it 
goes, but no further, and is held to account for the fact of defilement, 
just as the absolute aspect accounts for the fact of purification. 19 In 
addition the interdependent nature is said to be partly imaginary and 
partly absolute, 20 thereby accounting for the Mahayana teaching 
about the non-distinctness of Samsara and Nirvana. Through its 
imaginary part the interdependent nature is Samsara, through its 
absolute part Nirvana. 21 

3. Thirdly we penetrate by means of pure thought to the absolute 
aspect of the data of experience. Absolute knowledge, or ‘right 
cognition’, has immutable Suchness 22 for its object, and for it the 
empirical object does absolutely not exist in the manner in which it is 
imagined. 23 It is free from all discrimination of signs, names, entities 
and marks, and is achieved through ‘the inner realization of noble 

* ‘The characteristic feature of this knowledge is that it is not altogether a 
subjective creation produced out of pure nothingness, but it is a construction 
of some objective reality on which it depends for material. Therefore, its definition 
is “that which arises depending upon a support or basis ( asraya )” (LS 67)/ 
Suzuki St. 158. 

2 59 


wisdom’. 24 On this level one can either say that nothing exists or that 
that which exists is free from either existence or non-existence. 25 It 
will be seen that all these formulations nowhere diverge from 
the traditional teaching, which is only slightly rephrased here and 




i. The dialectical logic of the early Mahay ana 

‘Dialectics* is that form of logic which, without denying the validity 
of the principle of contradiction,* maintains that all truth must be 
expressed in the form of self-contradictory statements. Although it 
is the admitted standard of all true statements about what is, the 
principle of contradiction can never be actually observed in proposi¬ 
tions which concern true reality itself (as distinct from the world 
which we have manufactured around us as a kind of environment to 
suit our biological and social needs). The presence of contradictions 
indicates a radical flaw in whatever may contain them. They show 
that something is either completely irreal and false (as movement when 
subjected to the paradoxes of Zeno of Elea), or only partially true (as in 
the dialectics of Hegel), or in the process of annihilating itself (as in 
Marxism when applied to the ‘contradictions’ of capitalism). In the 
Mahayana, where everything apart from the Absolute is false and 
unable to maintain itself, all non-absolute events will be shot through 
with contradictions which are the tokens of their ultimate irreality. 
The Absolute itself, again, will also have to be defined in contra¬ 
dictory terms, because only a ‘superlogic’f can do justice to it. 

* Nagarjuna twice explicitly invokes the principle of contradiction (MMK 
7.30 and 8.7) and die law of excluded middle (MMK 2.8 and 2.15). Likewise 
his treatment of the principle of identity ‘is not a denial of the concept of identity, 
but simply a denial that identity to the exclusion of difference, or vice versa, can 
be attributed to anything existential’ (Robinson, 76). 

f So D. T. Suzuki. ‘One may ask, why these contradictions? The answer is, 
They are so because of tathata. They are so just because they are so, and for no 
other reason. Hence, no logic, no analysis, and no contradictions. Things, 
including all possible forms of contradictions, are eternally of tathata . “A” 
cannot be itself unless it stands against what is not “A”; “not-A” is needed to 
make “A” “A” which means that “not-A” is in “A”. When “A” wants to be 
itself, it is already outside itself, that is, “not-A”. If “A” did not contain in itself 
what is not itself, “not-A” would not come out of “A” so as to make “A” what 
it is. “A” is “A” because of this contradiction, and this contradiction comes out 



When talking of the Absolute the Mahayanists do nor speak like 
men who ‘are full of new wine’, in a state of ecstatic inebriation for¬ 
getful of reason. Their ‘anti-rational intuitionism’ prefers lucid 
paradoxes which always remain mindful of logic and deliberately 
defy it. For they do not mind contradicting themselves.* It is at 
this point that Westerners with their ‘mixture of childlike innocence 
and adolescent arrogance' 1 have the greatest difficulty in appreciating 
the position of their Oriental colleagues. When confronted with a 
radical criticism of the laws of thought ‘most philosophers have felt 
uncomfortable in their presence until it has been shown that these 
ideas can be so interpreted that these ancient laws of logic—at least 
the principle of non-contradiction—are not violated after all’.f 2 In 
‘Buddhist philosophy the situation is different. Their thinkers have 
shown themselves quite capable of respecting these laws in circum¬ 
stances where such respect is necessary in the interest of clarity and 
consistency. In fact, Buddhism is the one great religion of the world 
that is founded on a coherent systematic logical analysis of the problem 
of life.' 3 But as soon as the transcendental is brought in, formal logic 
is replaced by the dialectics. 

Each single statement as such is ultimately false, because it violates 
the Dharma by implying duality and discrimination. In consequence 
the logical structure of those statements is a dialectical one. Dis¬ 
crimination ( yikalpa ) is the core of the ignorance which begets this 
whole world of suffering. The empirical world, with all the ills that 
attend it, is a thought-construction derived from false discrimination. 
The Tathagata, however, is one who has ‘forsaken all thought- 
constructions and discriminations’.' 1 Imitating the Tathagata a 

only when we logicize. As long as we are in tathata , there is no contradiction 
whatever. Zen knows no contradictions; it is the logician who encounters them, 
forgetting that they are of his own making.* Existentialism , Pragmatism and Zen , 

* R. Otto ( Mysticism East and IVest, 45) speaks of the ‘peculiar logic of 
mysticism, which discounts the two fundamental laws of natural logic: the law 
of contradiction, and of the excluded middle. As non-Euclidean geometry sets 
aside the axiom of parallels, so mystical logic disregards these two axioms; and 
thence the “coincidentia oppositorum**, the “identity of opposites’* and the 
“dialectic conceptions’* arise*. The fullest and best-documented survey of dia¬ 
lectical systems is still my Der Sat$ vom JViderspruch , 1932. 

f Burtt quotes in support of his statement the remark of C. I. Lewis who 
says: ‘anything which could appropriately be called a “world** must be such 
that one or the other of every pair of contradictory propositions r wo uld apply 
to or be true of it, and such that all the propositions thus holding of it will be 
mutually consistent*. 



Bodhisattva should therefore ‘course in non-duality’. 5 But if the 
assumption of anything apart from the non-dual Dharma ‘upsets’ 
the Dharma-element, 6 how can any true statement ever be made at all? 

Affirmation and negation, existence and non-existence, should not 
be held apart as if they were two. It is the same to be as not to be. 
If existence and non-existence are equalized, if yes and no are identi¬ 
fied, then the disorder of the mind is said to disappear. This step 
abolishes the principle of contradiction in the sense that it is abro¬ 
gated in emptiness. For, where true reality is concerned, logical 
asserting and denying are not ultimately valid operations. It is obvious 
that to say ‘A is empty of the own-being of A’ amounts to identifying 
a dharma with its own negation. In a bold and direct manner the 
Prajndpdramita Sutras explicitly proclaim the identity of contra¬ 
dictory opposites, and make no attempt to mitigate their paradoxes. 
What is essential nature is no essential nature, 7 what is practice is 
no practice, 8 and so on. In a celebrated passage 9 the absolute thought, 
which is ‘without modification or discrimination’ and to which one 
should aspire, is identified with no-thought. But ‘that thought which 
is no-thought is not something which is, because one cannot find in 
it either a “there is” or a “there is not” ’. The‘self’, which is the epitome 
of all that is unreal and false, deceptive and undesirable, is identified 
with perfect wisdom and with the Tathagata. 10 Some of the great 
prestige of the Diamond Sutra derives from the fact that throughout 
it makes a point of observing that each one of the chief Buddhist 
concepts is equivalent to its contradictory opposite, and employs a 
special formula to express this thought, i.e. ‘a mass of merit, a mass of 
merit, as a no-mass has that been taught by the Tathagata. In that 
sense has He spoken of it as a “mass of merit” \ u Or, as Seng-chao 
put it, 12 ‘ “Having attainment” is the counterfeit name for “having no 
attainment”; “having no attainment” is the absolute name for “having 
attainment” ’. 

As in the case of other dialectical systems, it is, of course, the 
introduction of the Absolute which plays havoc with the rules of 
formal logic. The Absolute has about the same kind of effect on 
logical reasoning which a vast subterranean mass of iron would have 
on the magnetic needle of a compass. In its apparent illogicality the 
Mahayana aims at working out the principles of a logic of the Absolute. 
Our traditional logic is adapted to a world of relatives. It must lose its 
bearings where the relations between the relative and the Absolute are 
considered, between the conditioned and the unconditioned, between 
the world of becoming and Nirvana. Any relation into which the 



Absolute enters must ipso facto become an "absolute relation’, la 
contradiction in terms, a thing not easy to recognize, quite different in 
its behaviour from what is usually called a ‘relation’. There is room fc r 
surprise in this field of‘absolute relations’. The Mahayana teaches thz t 
Nirvana is the same as this world of birth-and-death, that ‘the ver j 
defilements are Nirvana’. The unconditioned is identified with th^ 
conditioned, the ever-changeless with the ever-changing, the pure wit 1 
the defiled, the complete with the deficient. But, and this must b; 
borne in mind, the identity thus postulated is an absolute identity and 
does not exclude an absolute difference. In a logic which identifies 
yes and no it is only logical that the identity of the world and of empti¬ 
ness should lead to their complete separateness, and vice versa. It is 
fairly easy to understand why an absolute difference should be equiva¬ 
lent to an absolute identity; as follows: Nirvana and I are absolutely 
different. I cannot get it, and it cannot get me, I can never find it, 
because I am no longer there when it is found. It cannot find me, 
because I am not there to be found. But Nirvana, the everlasting, is 
there all the time. ‘Suchness is everywhere the same, since all dharmas 
have already attained Nirvana.’ 13 What keeps me apart from it, now, 
in me? Nothing real at all, since the self is a mere invention. So even 
now, in truth, there is no real difference at all between me and Nirvana. | 
The two are identical. 

The Heart Sutra conveys the same message by first identifying 
Emptiness with what it is not, i.e, the five skandhas, and then pro¬ 
claiming that it is not empty of that which it excludes, but that it 
includes it, is identical with it, is full of it; and immediately afterwards 
asserts that Emptiness is without those skandhas. This is not at all 
strange when one remembers that Emptiness is a self-contradictory 
unity of yes and no, and that where it is the subject of a proposition, 
the ‘is’ is as well an ‘is not’, and the ‘is not’ as well an ‘is’. 14 

2. The later logicians 

Both because of their historical importance, and the current interest 
in logic, we must briefly allude to the principles of Buddliist logic 1 
as developed by the school of Dignaga, Dharmaklrti and Dhar- 
mottara in extensive works from ad 450 (930 be) onwards. 2 The 
Buddhist logicians were occupied with four fairly distinct, though 
related, topics: (1) In the field of ‘logic’ in its proper sense they 
tried to elaborate the rules of debate, and to distinguish valid from 
invalid inferences; 3 (2) they also treated of‘epistemological’ problems, 



principally the sources of valid knowledge, or ‘means of proof’, and 
the meaning of words; (3) in favour of Buddhist tenets, particularly 
those pertaining to ontology, they elaborated arguments which relied 
on reasoning alone; and (4) they refuted by reasoning the views of 
their opponents, e.g. the belief in the existence of God, of permanent 
entities, of a continuum outside the mind, etc., as well as their objec¬ 
tions to Buddhist views. 

Buddhist logic, studied only by one section of the Yogacarins, 
failed to win approval elsewhere, and aroused the misgivings of many 
who condemned it as an utterly profane science.* At variance with 
the spirit of Buddhism, it can indeed be tolerated only as a manifestation 
of‘skill in means’. Logic was studied ‘in order to vanquish one’s adver¬ 
saries in controversy’, 4 and thereby to increase the monetary resources 
of the Order. 5 Its methods implied a radical departure from the spirit 
of a/iimsa and tolerance which was so characteristic of Buddhism in 
its heyday (cf. pp. 212 sq.). Buston 6 quotes two passages 7 which give 
a just estimate of the relation of this ‘logic’ to traditional Buddhist 
thought. Disposed to argue interminably logicians dispense with the 
realization, or intuition, of the absolute truth as it is vouchsafed to 
the saints alone, and are content with the endowments of ordinary 
worldlings. Dignaga’s Pramanasamuccaya admits that ‘the Dharma 
is not an object of logical reasoning’, and adds, ‘he that leads to the 
absolute truth by way of logical reasoning will be very far from the 
teaching of the Buddha, and fail’. Moreover logic is ‘uncertain’ 
(1 aniyata ), merely empirical and confined within the limitations of 
conventional truth ( sdmvrta ), of interest only to foolish people 
( balasrayo ) and ‘tiresome’ or ‘tedious’ ( khedavati ). Not only is the 
style of the logical treatises dull, dry and scholastic, but the refutations 
very often 8 consist in nothing more dian the bald assertion that the 
second member (hetu) of the syllogism has been used wrongly, thus 
trying to give an appearance of cogency which was not always felt by 
the opponents to whom these arguments were addressed. The treatises 
on Abhidharma also had been dull, dry and scholastic, but at least 
they had furthered the realization of the truth by men engaged in silent 
meditation. Here the whole effort is put into wrangling with others, 
an activity often condemned as particularly pernicious in the older 

* These misgivings must have been further increased when, observing the 
behaviour of people like Dharmakirti (BL I 36, Gnoli, p. xxxvi) one could not 
fail to notice that this branch of studies produces people who are boastful and 
inclined to push themselves forward. 



Of the four possible sources of knowledge (cf. pp. 28 sq .), or ‘means 
of proof, the logicians admitted only two, i.e. perception and infer¬ 
ence. They have no recourse to Scripture and appear to spurn the 
intuitions of the saints because of the context withir which they 
operate. For when the Dharma is debated with outsiders, it must 
be detached from its spiritual background and the medinational prac¬ 
tices which give it life and meaning, and be reduced to a series of 
bare propositions established by assumptions shared with the out¬ 
siders 9 for whom the Buddhist scriptures and the intuitions of Buddhist 
saints have no evidential value. In their desire to be all things to all 
men, the Mahayanists would naturally vary their exposition of the 
Dharma to suit the audience they had in mind. Three levels of exposi¬ 
tion can readily be distinguished: 

(1). The first would be addressed to believers in the Mahayana, as 
in the Prajndpdramita Sutras . It relies entirely on direct spiritua. 
intuition, argumentations and scriptural quotations are rare, and 
sense-data conspicuous by their absence. The doctrine is here not 
distorted at all, under no constraint, and everybody is quite at his 
ease. If, however, (2) chiefly Hlnayanists are addressed, as according 
to Seng-jui 10 in the Madhyamakakarikd of Nagarjuna, there will be 
much appeal to scriptural passages common to the two trends, and 
otherwise die treatise will overwhelmingly rely on reasoning. A 
comparison of the ‘Perfect Wisdom in 8,000 Lines’ and the ‘Middle 
Stanzas’ ‘shows that Nagarjuna and the Sutra were in fundamental 
agreement on all topics that they have in common’. 11 But ‘they differ 
radically in style, though each is systematic in its own way’. Their 
vocabulary also shows some striking differences. 12 The Sutra, for 
instance, never uses the ‘logical operators’ which play such a big 
part in the Stands , and which consist of words lik eyujyate (is admis¬ 
sible), upapadyate (occurs) or sidhyate (is proved). Or the other 
hand, with an eye on his Sthavira audience Nagarjuna in his Stands 
denies himself the use of words such as ‘the thought of enlighten¬ 
ment’, ‘compassion*, ‘skill in means’, ‘Suchness’, the ‘Realm of 
Dharma’, the ‘Dharma-body’, etc., which all have their distinctive 
Mahayana connotations, and even the word ‘Bodhisattva’ occurs only 
once, 13 and then in a sense in which it is also acceptable to Hmayanists. 
In that it can take less for granted, the exposition of the Stints must 
dierefore omit many topics particularly dear to the hearts of the 

(3). Finally one may address outsiders ( bahya , or tlrthika ) who 
belong to the tradition of Indian philosophy and use its traditional 



concepts. A good example is Santarakshita’s Tattvasamgraha with 
KamalaSIla’s commentary, which is available in an adequate transla¬ 
tion. 14 The common ground then consists only of perception and 
inference, as well as of assumptions taken for granted by Yogins, but 
rarely made explicit. There had, of course, always been contact with 
outsiders, and during the first millennium after the Nirvana Buddhists 
had occasionally rebutted and ridiculed them, defined their own 
position with regard to them, absorbed a certain amount of their 
teachings without acknowledgment of its source, or made even 
desultory attempts at reasoning with them, and both the Kathavatthu 
and Nagarjuna showed some interest in the rules of formal reasoning. 
The conversion of these outsiders to the Dharma was, however, 
always expected from their perceiving the spiritual fruits to be obtained 
from it, and not from logic-chopping or public debates in which 
bkikshus strutted about like so many resplendent peacocks. Now, 
when the social basis of Buddhism was disintegrating, attempts were 
made to coerce the outsider by argument, and to most Buddhists this 
naturally seemed most distasteful. The importance, validity and 
usefulness of Buddhist logic is circumscribed by its social purpose, 
and the works of the logicians can therefore exhibit the holy doctrine 
only in a distinctly truncated form. 

If it were taken at its face value, the thesis that sense-perception 
and inference are the only sources of valid knowledge should endear 
these later logicians to our present generation of philosophers and 
prove utterly destructive of all spiritual teaching. In fact the candour 
of Dharmaklrti and Dharmottara is only apparent, and the intuition 
of the saints and the revelations of the Buddhas are smuggled in 
through the back door. 

What, first of all, in this context is ‘sense-perception’ ( pratyaksha )? 
Its basic definition makes it about as unlike common-sense perception 
as anything can possibly be. It is 15 (i) direct, as distinct from all 
indirect knowledge which comprises thought-construction, con¬ 
ception, judgment and inference. It is pure sensibility, the very first 
moment in die process of apperception (cf. p. 187), which signalizes 
the presence of a concrete, particular and quite unique and undefinable 
object. It is the pure sensation which memory and productive imagina¬ 
tion then build up into a perception. It is the indispensable condition 
of all real and consistent knowledge, but cannot by itself be got 
hold of. 

In addition, three further kinds of ‘direct knowledge’ are distin¬ 
guished. There is (2) ‘mental sensation* (manasa-pratyaksharrif 6 



which follows immediately on ‘pure sensation’ as an unreflecting 
mental (as distinct from sensory) reaction to the same object, and very 
roughly corresponds to the third stage of apperception (cf. p. 189). 
(3) ‘Introspection’ (sva-samvedana) is the act of self-consciousness 
which according to the logical school accompanies all consdousne s, 
for every awareness of an external object is said to imply at the same 
time an awareness of that awareness. 17 And as no. (4) we then have 
the ‘intuitions of the Yogins’ ( yogi-pratyaksha ). 18 So in fact the 
intuitions of holy men are admitted as a separate source of know¬ 
ledge, only that they are booked under direct perception. ‘Mystic 
intuition is that faculty of the Buddhist saint {arya) by which he is 
capable completely to change all ordinary habits of thought and con¬ 
template directly, in a vivid image, that condition of the universe 
which has been established by the abstract constructions of the 
philosophers.’ This intuition is mental, and not at all sensuous. But 
as direct knowledge it is non-constructive, non-illusive, not contra¬ 
dicted by the experience of the transcendental object, and much more 
vivid than abstract thought-constructions can be. ‘The object is 
perceived just as dearly as though it were a small grain on the palm 
of one’s hand.’ In this way the four holy Truths, as well as Empti¬ 
ness and the identity of Samsara and Nirvana become objects of 
direct knowledge. This ‘yogic intuition’ is acquired when a man is 
changed completely into an arya (cf. p. 57) and it is therefore a 
‘supramundane’ faculty. It is the ‘unperverted vision of an unlimited 
number of entities’, 19 and reaches its perfection in the supreme Yogin, 
who is the Buddha whose intuition of the undifferentiated Absolute 
implies his knowledge of everything whatsoever. 

Secondly, ‘inference’ also can establish the existence of an omni¬ 
scient being, i.e. of the Buddha, and once this is done all His sayings 
automatically become authoritative. The second chapter of Dharma- 
kirti’s Pramanavarttika , which is the fundamental treatise of the 
Buddhist logicians, treats of the Buddha as the ‘embodiment of valid 
knowledge’ {pramana-bhuta) and shows that he is an absolute and 
omniscient being. 20 Likewise the last chapter of Santarakshita’s 
Tattyasamgraha is devoted to proving die omniscience of the Buddhas. 
The school of Prajnakaragupta 21 as well as the later tradition of 
Tibet 22 saw all the critical, logical and epistemological parts of Dharma- 
kirti’s system as having no other aim than to clear the ground for a 
justification of the religious and metaphysical doctrines of Buddhism. 
This is, indeed, the true context of these works, and to represent 
these authors as agnostics, rationalists and empiricists in the sense in 



which the twentieth century understands these words must lead to a 
constant distortion of their meaning. 

The sharp differentiation between direct and indirect knowledge 
led to an interesting theory concerning the import of words. Direct 
perception is directed on the unique particular. All formulated and 
conceptual knowledge concerns the universal. But words, in this 
theory , 23 do not signify an essence, or a universal, or anything positive, 
but the mere exclusion ( apoha ) of all other things, the negation of 
everything else. ‘Every word or every conception is correlative with 
its counterpart and that is the only definition that can be given. 
Therefore all our definitions are concealed classifications, taken 
from some special point of view. The thing defined is characterized 
negatively. What the colour “blue” is, e.g. we cannot tell, but we 
may divide all colours into blue and non-blue. The definition of blue 
will be that it is not non-blue, and, vice versa , the definition of non¬ 
blue that it is not the blue / 24 Or, as Dignaga 25 puts it, ‘a word can 
express its own meaning only by repudiating the opposite meaning". 
‘Language is not a separate source of knowledge and names are not 
the adequate or direct expressions of reality. Names correspond to 
images, or concepts, they express only Universal. As such they are 
in no way the direct reflex of Reality, since reality consists of par¬ 
ticulars, not of universals .’ 26 Direct knowledge is pure affirmation of 
a thing ‘such as it is", but the indirect knowledge can cognize a thing 
only in relation to its own negation. In this way the logicians re¬ 
formulate in their own way the old doctrine, first put forward by the 
Mahasanghikas, that verbal knowledge has no direct relation to what 
really exists, and is essentially misleading. 




We have now come to the end of our story. In the course of one 
millennium the many potentialities inherent in the Buddha’s Dharma 
had been actualized one after the other. By about ad 500 or 600 the 
lotus of this Dharma had unfolded all its petals. When looking back 
on the narrative of the last 270 pages, the reader will realize that 
throughout we had to deal with one and the same doctrine, and that 
the differences were no more than the facets of a diamond which light 
up as and when it is turned this way or that. After roughly tooo be no 
new facets have been discovered and the next, Tantric, phase of 
Buddhism is not a straightforward continuation of the philosophical 
doctrines we have expounded here, but has its beginnings elsewhere. 

From the very start there had been two kinds of ‘Buddhi sm’. There 
was the Buddhism of the monks who meditated on the four Truths, 
the three marks, the perverted views, and such topics, and who 
aspired to achieve mystical union and final deliverance through yogic 
practices. And there was the Buddhism of the laymen and kings who 
aimed at a better rebirth, and relied on the observance of the moral 
rules, on generosity, and on a ‘faith’ which was acted oul in rituals 
centering round the relics of the Tathagata and the worship of 
Stupas. 1 In the course of time the laymen became more and more pre¬ 
dominant, and, although the basic terms and concepts of the monastic 
philosophical tradition were often used to embellish the utterances 
of the Tantras, Tantric thought itself 2 descends directly from the 
lay Buddhism which for many centuries ran parallel to monastic 

For at least four reasons it falls, I am sorry to say, outside the scope 
of this book: 

First of all, the Buddhist thought which we have described here 
was the rationalization of experiences gained in the course of medita¬ 
tions which are comparatively rational, and could be described fairly 
adequately within the compass of less than two hundred pages in my 



Buddhist Meditation. Now, with the Tantras, an entirely new set of 
meditations comes to the fore, which no one has yet described in 
intelligible terms. Their rational content is negligible, and they are 
almost entirely concerned with concepts which pertain to the magical 
tradition of mankind. It is possible, though not very likely, that 
someone will some day compose a handbook of these meditations and 
tell us what exactly they are. Then, and only then, would we have a 
starting point for deducing the rational constructions which were 
superimposed on these practices. 

Secondly, the original documents in which any study of Tantric 
thought must be based, are written in a code which no one has yet 
been able to break. Their language is not only cryptic and designed 
to conceal rather than reveal their meaning; they are deliberately so 
constructed that they remain a dead letter in the absence of the holy 
guru whose oral teachings are held to be absolutely indispensable for 
the explanation of these texts.* To be a member of a Tantric con¬ 
fraternity means to do and to be something. Any ‘thought’ there may 
be is quite secondary and interchangeable. 

Thirdly, these doctrines are essentially esoteric, or secret ( guhya ). 
This means what it says. Esoteric knowledge can—and this is a quite 
impassable barrier—under no circumstances be transmitted to an 
indiscriminate multitude. An interminable literature is addressed to 
a credulous public which expects to buy these secrets for a few shil¬ 
lings in a bookshop. A plumber from Plymouth who posed as a 
Tibetan doctor wrote a positive best-seller, and an aura of fraudulence 
and deceit vitiates the works of everyone who pretends to speak from 
the inside. In this field certainly those who know do not say and 

* So far the only full-length Tantra to have been treated scientifically by a 
really competent scholar is the Hevajra (ed. and trsl. by D. L. Snellgrove, 1959). 
Though I have read every line of it and diligently studied the commentaries, 
it has taught me very little. Celebrated though this Tantra may be, it turns 
out to be a work of slight literary merit, composed by members of the lower 
classes who knew Sanskrit only imperfectly. Its construction is positively 
chaotic, and each topic is dropped almost as soon as it has been raised. The primi¬ 
tive swing and vigour of the original, naturally lost in the English version, will 
often stir the modern reader, but the contents will rarely edify him. This Tantra 
attempts in fact to combine the lofty Madhyamika-Yogacara philosophy 
with the magical and orgiastic rites current in Indian villages living on the level 
of the Old Stone Age. That was certainly worth doing at the time, but the result 
can scarcely convey an immediate message to people living in our own extremely 
artificial and urbanized social environment. Though a document of great his¬ 
torical importance, tliis text contains little that can at present be readily 



those who say do not know. There are two, and only two alterna¬ 
tives. Either die author of a book of this kind has not been initiated 
into a Tantra; then what he says is not first-hand knowledge. Or he 
has been initiated. Then, if he were to divulge the secrets to all and 
sundry just to make a little profit or to increase his reputation, he has 
broken the trust placed in him and is morally so depraved as not to be 
worth listening to. 

The ‘mystery religions’ of classical antiquity have also been a 
singularly unpromising subject for scientific research, and should act 
as a warning to explorers of the secrets of the Tantra. It will be 
sufficient to consider just one publication, ‘The Mysteries’, in which 
thirteen leading experts in 1955 explained in 476 pages what was 
known by then. These religions, as is well known, worked on the 
assumption that spiritual truth should be reserved for the initiates 
who are ripe for it, and that, conversely, it should be concealed from 
the profane. This does not, of course, prevent the profane from 
trying to puzzle out what was never meant for them, and the above 
volume is filled with manifold learned speculations about the Greek 
mysteries of Eleusis, Orpheus, etc., the ‘mysteries’ of ancient Egypt 
which turn out never to have existed, the mysteries of Mithras and 
the Gnostics, and so on. It is gratifying to find that the precautions 
which the ancient mystagogues took against the profanization of 
sacred things have proved fairly effective, and that the eager investi¬ 
gators of modem times are quite at sea. The authors never tire of 
complaining that the texts are ‘all too brief’, that ‘many regrettable 
gaps remain to be filled’, that ‘we have by far the most information 
concerning what interests us least’ and that ‘we shall never know’ 
what the initiates saw. In their zest for truth they also accuse their 
colleagues of ‘totally false assumptions’, ‘scientific nonsense’, ‘inven¬ 
tions based on no evidence whatever*, and so on. Theirs is not an 
attitude conducive to spiritual rebirth. There is something both 
indecent and ridiculous about the public discussion of the esoteric 
in words which can be generally understood. The effect of these 
investigations is that of a prolonged striptease, with the vital differ¬ 
ence, however, that the end-product is not the feminine body in all 
its glory, but a few tattered remains of some ancient stuffed doll. 
Just as some people who are at a loss what to do with their lives climb 
mountains for the sole reason that ‘they are there’, so others must 
needs probe into everything just because it has happened. At present 
people are not trained to appreciate the difference between forbidden 
and permitted knowledge, or even between fruitful and barren 



information. But at least they ought to be aware that some problems 
are soluble, and others not. The insatiable curiosity of the learned ants 
who have invaded the deserted sanctum can do no more than carry 
away a few specks of gravel. ‘The kid has fallen into the milk!’ 

Finally, the monastic thought of the first millennium can be easily 
detached from the mythology of Hinduism, which enters into it 
merely by way of adornment. It was the product of monks who turned 
their backs not only on the world around them and on their social 
environment,* but who also, without rejecting the mythological ideas 
and magical practices of that environment, treated them as like so 
many superstitions which did not greatly affect the issue of salvation. 
With the Tantras the tribal imaginations of the Hindu race re-assert 
themselves, and without a profound knowledge of the Vedas and 
the Brahmanas it is quite impossible to understand the significance 
of many of the mythological figures who occur here, there and 

It is for these reasons that an attempt to describe the thought 
of the Tantra must not only occupy hundreds and hundreds of pages, 
but is also likely tc remain a travesty of the actual facts. While insist¬ 
ing that the magical teachings of the Tantras are quite beyond our 
reach, by way of conclusion I want, however, to briefly comment on 
the psychological interest of some of the Tantric precepts. To some 
extent they deal with the repercussions of the traditional Buddhist 
practices on the unconscious mind which they irritate and on the occult 
forces which they activate. In the long run our mental health will, of 
course, greatly benefit from Buddhist methods of living and contem¬ 
plation. In the short run the reverse often happens. The stresses of a 
deliberately unnatural mode of living, which sets out to thwart all 
instincts and natural inclinations, may well bring latent neurotic 
tendencies to the fore. Spiritual progress requires long periods of 
solitude. Social isolation begets anxiety, which is the fear of nothing 
in particular, all the more intense, heart-rending and bowel-shaking 
for its inability to find anything tangible to be afraid of. The constant 
curb imposed on our egoistic inclinations and desires must cause a 
sense of frustration with all its attendant mental disturbances, par¬ 
ticularly because the resulting anger should not be ‘sublimated* into 
religious fanaticism or the zealous persecution of others, nor the 
resulting depression stifled by drugs or alcohol. What is more, 

* Us sont le fait de docteurs travaillant en cellule, loin des bruits de la foule 
incapable de saisir la portee des travaux executes et discutes entre clercs. Lamotte 
HBI 686. 



self-restraint must bring with it a severe conflict between the con¬ 
scious and the unconscious minds, because the conscious effort to 
suppress an instinctual urge intensifies it in the Unconscious. Finally, 
a number of unsuspected forces, both occult and spiritual, are 
awakened, slowly or suddenly. Without the help of a really competent 
spiritual guide we may frequently be at a loss how to handle them. 

These psychic disturbances were well known to medieval contem- 
platives under the name accidia , the dullness and sourness of a mind 
thoroughly bored, and Hakuin spoke of them as the ‘Zen sickness’. 3 
The complacency of people who never exert any pressure upon 
themselves is startled, and secretly gratified, by the spiritual, mental 
and physical disorders of those who really attempt to do something. 
These disturbances, like the ‘Dark Night of the Spirit’, are not signs 
of failure, as the untutored worldling is apt to suppose, but signs of 
growth—the creaking of the rheumatic joints foretelling the ir eventual 
mobility. Nevertheless, a great deal of suffering and waste of time 
could be avoided if we knew how to dispel these disorders. In the 
great days of the Dharma people took these troubles in their stride 
and dealt with them just anyhow by rule-of-thumb methods no 
longer known or accessible to us. One thousand years after the 
Buddha’s Nirvana, when social conditions became increasingly 
adverse to the spiritual life, they began to present a real problem, and 
the Tantras were to some extent evolved to cope with them by 
special methods which help the practitioner to regain his innate 
radiance and calm. 4 



I i 

i. This saying from Bhagavadgita II 58 may well be regarded as the clue to 
all Yoga: 

yada samharate cayam kurmo hganiva sarvasah 
indriydnindriyarthebhyas tasya prajna pratistihita . 

‘He who draws away the senses from the objects of sense on every side, as a 
tortoise draws in his limbs (into the shell), his intelligence is firmly set (in 
wisdom)’ (Radhakrishnan).—2. The most comprehensive and authoritative 
textbook is M. Eliade, Yoga. Immortality and Freedom, 1958.—3. K. Nott, 
The Emperor’s Clothes, 1953, p. 248.—4. So A. David-Neel, With mystics and 
magicians in Tibet, p. 203. For further information about the nadis see G. Tucci, 
Tibetan Painted Scrolls, 1949, and S. B. Dasgupta, An introduction to Tantric 
Buddhism, 1950.—5. For a further discussion of the difficulties of getting hold 
of the facts about the ‘intermediary world’ see my article on ‘The triple world’ 
in The Aryan Path, xxv 5, 1954, pp. 201-2. Very instructive is also TLS 28.1.1956 
on ‘New concepts of healing’.—6. I. Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, trsl. T. H. 
Abbott, 1879, P- 33-—7* For further particulars see SW, pp. 205-66, and the 
summary in English in the Marxist Quarterly, 1937, pp. 115-24.—8. MN I, 
p. 265; T. 26, k. 54, p. 769b. Ch. A. Moore, Buddhism and Science: Both Sides, 
in ‘Buddhism and Culture*, Kyoto, i960, p. 94.—9. This has been shown con¬ 
vincingly by Moore in his article (n. 8).—10. On diis subject see M. Eliade, 
Das Heilige und das Profane, 1957.—11. Meister Eckhart, trsl. J. M. Clark and 
J. V. Skinner, 1958, pp. 225-30.—12. See BS 13-15.—13. B. Russell quot. 
PhEW viii 111.—14. For the dependence of Buddhist thought on Buddhist 
life see Suzuki St. 163, 169 and 285. Also F 61.—15. VM 132, 485.—16. Grimm, 
PP- 3°> 389-94. Ad. f. 222a.—17. See E. Lamotte, La critique d’authenticit£ dans 
le Bouddhisme, in India Antiqua, 1947, pp. 213-22. 


1. For a more detailed argumentation see my article in The Middle Way, 
xxxiv 1, 1959, pp. 6-12.—2. Comparing ten recensions of the Pratimoksha 
rules, W. Pachow (1955) has shown that all sects agree about most of them, and 
that therefore they must have been formulated within the first century after the 
Buddha’s Nirvana. Professor Frauwallner, The Earliest Vinaya and the begin¬ 
nings of Buddhist Literature, 1955, has proved almost conclusively that before 
ASoka a great work, the Skandhaka , was produced, which divided and arranged 
the enormous material concerning monastic rules according to a well-conceived 
plan.—3. Though there must always remain some element of doubt on that 
issue.—4. In B and A Short History of Buddhism, i960. 


1. AN IV, p. 137; I, p. 10; Lamotte HBI 665.—ia. BL I, 1932, p.554.— 

2. Among the three marks, impermanence was the one which carried most 

2 75 


weight to Buddhist mentality. There are many examples of this in BS.—Enc. Bu. 
4-8.—3. For the relation between impermanence and the other two marks see 
BM 146-9.—4. yad aniccam tarji ndlam abhinanditum , ndlam abhivaditum , ndlam 
ajjhositum. MN II 263.—5. The following account of duhklia is btsed on AK 
vi v. 3, Pras. xxiv 475-6, DN iii 216, MN i 138, VM xvi 34-5, AKP n. 9 and 
p. no, IC 220-2. Like so many other basic Buddhist tenets, the division of 
duhkha into three kinds is also duplicated in the Yogasutra II 15. Dcussen refers 
also to Samkhya-karika 12.—6. e.g. B 43-8.—7. BM, pp. 140-2.—8. upadana- 
skandha. —9. This is explained in detail in Saund. xi 32-62.—10. SN v 454.— 
11. AK vi 126-7, Pras. xxiv 476.—12. Dhp. 203; cf. 202.—13. In this con¬ 
nection it is salutary to reflect on the fear of doing nothing.—14. Asl. 225.— 
15. Anattd-lakkhana-sutta , SN xxii 59.—16. The etymological derivation of this 
very archaic term presents great and almost insuperable difficulties. See e.g. 
AK v, pp. 15-17. For literature see Traite, p. 737.—17. So AK v 15.—18. So 
Buddhaghosa. The Sarvastivadin accounts are more complicated. Also the 
similes vary in other sources; e.g. Robinson D 28, after Daichidoron: 1-5 like 
a lord, 6-10 like a slave-boy, n-15 like an ornament, 16-20 like a vessel.— 
19. AK iii 56-7.—20. AK iii 82.—21. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the 
extent of the disagreement which exists on this issue. Some deny all contact 
between early Buddhism and Vedanta, others say that there was some, and 
others again regard the influence of the Vedanta as decisive. The problem is 
too difficult to be treated in a note. The MMK still regard the Sainkhyas and 
VaiSesikas as the main tirthikas. Robinson 101-5.—22. Rahula, p. 51.—23. AK 
v, p. 17.—24. Yogasutra II 5. Wood's trsl. gives the useful cy-s by Veda- 
Vyasa and Vacaspatimisra.—25. xii 25-6.—26. Netti 27. sabba-d/iamma - 
yathdva-sampativedha-lakkhana avijja. tassa vipallasa padatthanam. Ignorance 
has the mark of being unable to penetrate to dharmas as they are. Its proximate 
cause are the perverted views.—27. anicce niccan ti , dukkhe sukhan ti , anattani 
attd ti , asubhe subban ti. The four perverted views are often mentioned in Buddh¬ 
ist writings of all schools and periods. A very good description of the Hinayana 
view in Candrakirti, Pras. xxiii 460, 7-461, 8, trsl. in my article on ‘The Mahayana 
treatment of the viparydsas * in the Lessing Festschrift.—28. also viparyaya; 
vipallasa in Pali, or vipariyesa , vipariyaya; viparita , and in Pali vipallatta , and 
in Skr. viparyasta are the corresponding verbal forms. Netti 85: viparita-gaha- 
lakkhanio vipallaso. —29. ayonisa manasikaro , at Vibh. 373.—30. SN I 91, VM 
542.—31. caturbbir viparyasair viparyasta-cittah sattva imam abhutarn. samsaram 
na-atikramanti. A Sutra quot. Pras. xvi 296.—32. pahha-sampattiyd aviparltam 
pdjdnati , Ud-A 222, 17. ‘Unperverted’ is a synonym of ‘truth* ( saccam , yatha- 
vam) y Nidd. I 291, Pv-A 231.—33. Ud-A 20. In AK v p. 33 the viparita-alam- 
bana-prajna, a speculation which is mistaken, is opposed to satyam , and in 
VM 496 it is equated with mayd (illusion). M-v-t., p. 50. bhutam satyam avipari - 
tam ity arthah. For ‘real* means ‘unperverted* and ‘true*.—34. Nidd. I 291.—35. 
P.198, svabhavo hi prakrtir-aviparitata .—36. samjna-viparydsa, citta-v ., drsti-v. 
AN ii 52, Pts ii 80-1, Vibh. 376.—37. Petakopadesa 120-1. AAA, p. 333.— 
38. According to Nettipakarana, the false vision ( ditthi ) is more decisive in our 
attitude to permanence and selfhood, the false desire ( tanha ) in that to happiness 
and loveliness.—39. For the details see B 45-7.—40. VM 20-1. The monk 
acquired perception of the foul in her teeth-bones, tassa dantatthike asubha - 
sahham patilabhitvaj he saw only a lump of bones, atthisanghato , not a man or a 



woman.— 41. MN i 138. —42. It may also be called our ‘true* or ‘real* self. 
This phrase is nearly always avoided.—43. The human mind, 1930, pp. 312-51. 
—44. p. 351.— 45 - p- 312. — P- 344 - 


1. cf. e.g. VM xxi 128.—2. Sn 76, 181.—3. VM xiv 177. Another oppo¬ 
site is the dull unawareness of the things which are worth believing in.— 
4. BT no. 170. AK ii 157 gives only the first three.—5. See BM 45-52.— 
6. The Bhagavadgita, 1948, p. 343.—7. BS 153. VM 464.—8. VM 466.— 

9. prasada. This is its essence acc. to AK ii 156. Mil. in BS 152-3. VM 464.— 

10. The five terrors in Vibh. 379.—11. AN iii 5.—12. buddhaputra .—13. Gan- 
davyuha EZB iii 133-4.—14. BS 116-21.—15. VM iii 75. BS 116.—16. See 
e.g. Chr. Humphreys, Karma and rebirth, 1942.—17. BS 131-3.—18. VM 
150-1.—19. More about this in The Middle Way xxviii 2, 1953, pp. 58-9.— 
20. VM iv 49.—21. MN I 57.—22. The cy has been translated in Bhikkhu 
Soma, The way of mindfulness, 1949, pp. 18-31.—23. AK ii 154. VM xiv 141.— 
24. BS 103-4.—25. For the details see B 100-1, BM 20-1, 113-18.—26. SN iii 
13, VM 438.—27. e.g. AK vi 142-4.—28. Tri 26.—29. 16; cy Asl. 147-9.— 
30. Mil. BS 151-2.—31. VM xiv 7. dhammasabhdva-pativedhalakkhatTLd paftfia; 
dhammanarp sabhavapaticchadaka-mohandhakara-viddhamsanarasa. 

I 5 > 1 

1. See BM 158-68 for the ‘eight cognitions’, of which this is the last.—2. VM 

xxii 4.—3. VM xxi 64.—4. VM xxi 128.—5. VM xxii 7-10. Asl. 354, 392: 
attani anavajja-dhamme nametu —6. Cf. VM, p. 138. gotrabhu. —7. breast- 
born; see SN ii 221.—8. VM xxii 11.—9. See BWB 38-9.—10. Asl. 214.— 

11. So Ms 271-4 for the Dharmakaya.—12. dassana; VM xxii 127.—13. VM 
xxi 18.—14. VM at the stage of the fourth cognition: The mind of him to 
whom all aspects of becoming stand out clearly as fearful, is thereby inclined to 
their opposites; and thus to Nirvana as the goal of the tranquil Path.—15. VM 

xxiii 9.—16. VM xvi 76. catu-sacca-papvedhaya pappannassa yogino nibbana- 
rammanam avijjdnussaya-samugghdtakam panfid-cakkhu. —17. VM 611. 

I 5 > 2 

1. For references see AK viii 184. PsS knows 1 and 2, DN iii 219 all three. 
Also LalV 296, 1, 6.—2. Sanskrit and Chinese sources usually give them in 
the order 1, 3, 2.—3. xxix 23 sq. Similarly Dhp. 92-3.—4. AN i 72= SN ii 
267. T 99, k. 47, p. 345b.—5. e.g. MN i 297, ii 263, SN iv 54. Sn 1119 opposes 
‘to view the world as surtna* to the attanudiphu —6. BM 169-73.—7. II, p. 177.— 
8. 1, 11-13; perhaps 14; 3 has sabhdvena Surinam. —9. 122-45.—10. SN iv 
173-4.—11. MN i 145, SN iii 167, iv 54, 296.—12. MN i 683; Divy. 421: 
nirananda sunya mama .—13. 375, 11.—14. VM xvii 283. paccaydvattavuttita 
vasavattanabhutena attabhavena ca suftna .—15. MN 121, 122.—16. SP x 234.— 
17. So LalV 414.—18. See e.g. Coates and Ishizuka, Honen the Buddhist saint, 
1930, x-xii; Suzuki ZJC 33.—19. For indriyasamvara see BM 78-83, BS 103-5, 
184.—20. BM 78-82, also SS no. 49.—21. Plato Rep. v 477; so Mrs Rhys 
Davids DhS LVIII.—22. BM 151.—23. BM 80.—24. 20. BM 83-5.—25. BM 
79.—26. BM 79.—27. See BM 85-6.—28. lib. II in Ezech. homil. 17.— 



29. Myst. theol. i 1.—30. viii 143-4.—31. Cf. AK ii 198-202.—32. AK viii 
207.—33. AK viii 208.—34. x 49-50.—35. xxiii 24.—36. The argument of 
pp. 67-8 has been stated at greater length by L. J. Rosan, who speaks of 
‘desirelessness*, in PhEW v 1955, 57-60.—37. DhS 254 n. 2.—38. 104.— 
39. viii 184-90.—40. BM 142-6.—41. VM xxi 120-7; cf. Asl. 221. 

1 5,3 

1. Mpps 323.—2. VM 695.—3. For a good collection of Theravadin statements 
see BT no. 84-99. The most useful books are L. de la Vallee-Poussin, Nirvana, 
1925, and Th. Stcherbatsky, The conception of Buddhist Nirvana, 1927. For 
further literature see Lamotte HBI 43. Also Eliade 162-7.—4- VM xv 42 asah - 
khata pana dhatu amatato santato khemato ca datthabba. kasma? sabbanatthapati - 
pakkhabhutatta . Because it counteracts all harmful things.—5. Eliade, p. 95.— 
6. AryaSura, quot. IIJ iii ,1959, 61.—7. The following after Asariga, IIJ iii, 
1959, 112-18.—8. Mv trsl. iii 63. See also at BS 53-4 the description of the 
Buddha after he had attained Nirvana.—9. Some Theravadin scholars deny that 
kaya has the meaning of‘body' in this context, and believe that it means ‘person*; 
cf. I. B. Homer, Middle Length Sayings, II 151, 152.—10. Or: not becoming, 
not come to be. ajdtam abhutam akatam asamkhatam. It. 37.—11. ed. Wald- 
schmidt, 1951, p. 398; cf. sahkhdrupasamam sukham Dhp. 368.—12. VM, 
see BM 107-9.—13. cf. also VM 226 sq .—14. ch. 80.— i^.a-vydpajj(h)am; 
see CPD 485, Edgerton 79-80.—16. Or dyuhana may mean the accumulation of 
karma. Nirvana is not caused by karma, and it does not accumulate in the Arhat 
who is in the presence of Nirvana. Nirvana is ‘non-doing* ( akarana ), AN ii 
332 = anayubanena. cf. Pts-cy i 92, 262.—17. MN i 163.—18. VM viii 236.— 
19. AN v 9, SN ii 117.—20. This term is almost untranslatable; see e.g. SN i 
38.—21. Perhaps (the) Unity, the Integration (?), where you are whole and 
entire, or what is whole and entire, ‘islanded’, with no rise and fall, nc coming or 
going, nothing to be added, nothing to be tamed or suppressed.—22. SN i 61: 
‘Where one does not get born, nor grow old, nor die, nor decease, nor get 
reborn; that end of the world ( [lokassa antam ), I say, you are not able by walking 
( gamanena ) to come to know, see or reach.*—23. cf. VM 290.—24. papanca is 
(1) obstacle, delay, (2) diffusiveness, (3) diversification by (a) craving, (Jb) con¬ 
ceit and (c) wrong views. MN-cy i 157, 183. nishprapanca is lack of diversifica¬ 
tion, complete integration, wholesomeness.—25. alaya besides ‘home*, is what 
you desire or rely on, and can mean ‘reliance*. Analaya then means relying on 
nothing, without reliance. ‘Without an abode’ means, you cannot say of it 
that it is either here or there.—26. Dhp. 218.—27. e.g. SN i. 15.—28. BT 95.— 
29. AN iii 378-9.—30. Sn 1093 = BT 91.—31. See Stace, p. 134, who has 
some pertinent remarks in connection with Dionysius’s ‘negative theology*. 
Are ‘rest*, ‘darkness* or ‘silence* positive or negative terms?—32. Udana viii 3, 
p. 80, AN iii 378-9 = BT 95.—33. Stace 77-8.—34. Grimm 392-4.—35. BS 
50.—36. Sn 1069-76. 


1. Brahma-vihara. The current explanation in VM ix 105-6. Also or e is reborn 
in Brahma’s heaven.—2. For literature see VM ch. 9, Asl. 258-63, Har Dayal 
226 sq ., AK viii 196 n. Friendliness and compassion have been discussed in much 
greater detail in The Middle Way, 1954.—3. I 33.—4. V 342.—5. Even some 



passages like Itiv. I, m 7 and Dhp. 368, which some have regarded as prote¬ 
in ahayanistic do not state expressly that maitri can win Nirvana.—6. VM ix 92. 
mitte va bhava y mittassa vd esd pavatti ti pi mettd .—7. VM ix 93. In my article 
on the Mahayana in ‘Living Faiths’, ed. R. C. Zaehner, 1959, pp. 300-1,1 have 
discussed the difficulties attending the desire to actively do good to others.— 
8. BM 126-33 gives the basic explanation of all the four ‘Unlimited*.—9. VM 
297.—10. VM 308.—11. Magna Moralia 1211a.—12. AN v 342.—13. I ch. 15. 
—14. S. Augustine, In ev. Jo. tract. LXV, 2.—15. That includes animals and 
ghosts as well as men.—16. BT no. 128. Bcv. ch. 3.—17. VM ix 96.—18. VM 
iv 156-71, Asl. distinguish 10 kinds of upekkha. My account omits four.— 
19. AK ii 159.—20. AK viii 148.—21. e.g. Cariyapitaka III 15, 3. Hob. 272a 
trsl. a beautiful description from a late Prajnaparamita text (T. 261).—22. AK 
vii 76-7. In the Sutras the three smftyupasthdna of a Buddha refer to this kind of 
equanimity. Ms. 287-8.-23. VM ix 96, ioij AK iii 114.—24. BM 133.— 
25. AK viii 197.—26, AK viii 197.—27. sama-bhava, VM ix 96.—28. VM ix 
123.—29. AK viii 198.—30. VM ix 108.—31. VM ix 109. 


1. The central conception of Buddhism and the meaning of the word ‘Dharma*. 
1923. Reprinted in 1956. Very valuable is also H.v. Glasenapp, Zur Geschichte 
der buddhistischen Dharma-theorie. ZDMG 1938, pp. 383—420.—2. There are 
many others. The most thorough philological investigation is still M. and W. 
Geiger, Pali Dhamma. Abh. d. bayr. Ak. xxxi 1, 1920. In more popular usage, 
dhamma can often be loosely rendered as ‘thing* or ‘phenomenon*. On p. 4 
Geiger gives the three Pali commentatorial passages which define dhamma, cf. 
also Suzuki St. 154-5.—3. Pras. xvii 304. cf. xxvii 592: Nirvana is called 
‘dharma* because it obstructs (vidhdrana) further transmigration.—4. AK i 4, also 
Geiger 12-13.— 5 * AK iv 78.—6. PDc 171.—7. AN i 285.—8. e.g. P 188. 
For further references to this formula see E. Lamotte, India Antiqua, 1947, 
p. 214 n. 5. Robinson D 15, 19.—9. Dhp. 5, Udanavarga iv 34.—10. see 
AK vi 297.—11. Pras. 48.—12. Pras. xvii 304; cf. note 3.—13. Dhp. 168-9.— 
14. e.g. AK vi 293-4.—15. AK viii 218-19.—16. AK iv 240.—17. BS 14-15.— 
18. see BWB 34-6.—19. Edgerton, p. 277, AK vi 77, 217, vii 79, 81.—20. e.g. 
DN cy i 237, P 79-82.—21. Vibh. 293, AK vii 89^.—22. Geiger, p. 12.— 
23. DN II 8-10, MN I 396.—24. SN II 56.—25. Edgerton, s.v. At Mv i 137 
dharmadhatu is the name of a Buddha.—26. MSL xi 44.—27. P 24, 87, S 1444, 
LS 290.—28. Mpps 711-12.—29. PDc 175, Edgerton 278. Geiger p. 28. ‘what 
is usual, general usage, norm.* esd amhdkatri dhammatd , ‘this is usual with us 
monkeys.*—30. A ii 48.—31. aho = acchariya Vv-A 103. cf. JRAS 1911, 
785 sq. aho dharmah is also attested for Anoka’s fourth Rock Edict and the 
Mv.—-32. see also V 26b.—33. AK v 65.-34. AK iv 128.—35. Th 1. 712. 
uttamam dhammatam patto .—36. sudhammata at DN ii 272.—37. Asl. 39, 
attano sa-bhavam dharenti ,—38. syalaksanadharanad, Pras. xvii 304, xxiii 456, 
AK i 4.—39. Asl. dhariyanti yathd sa-bhdvato. —40. Asl. dhariyanti paccayehi; 
dhamma as hern , as conditioned by Law.—41. PDc 171.—42. VM 477.— 
43. VM 594.—44. VM 526.—45. VM 484 for the sense-fields, VM 489 for the 
elements, A xxx 494, 511, xxxi 512-16 for the Tathagatas.—46. KSP 82.— 
47. e.g. P 150.—48. Asl. 46. VM 450. At this crucial point the authors behave 
like cats on hot bricks, and resort to circumlocutions which yield no precise 



meaning. Asl. says: attanam adhUcdrarp katva. Exp. 60 corrects into adhikaranam. 
VM 450 has attabhavam adhikicca , for the rendering of which see Nyanatiloka, 
p. 511, fJaijamoli, p. 503. See also HBI 619.—49. 138.—50. I 35.—5c. I 73-4. 
—52. See AK i 106, ii 23c.—53. VM 479, 486, 526. 


I. VM xiv 216, 218.—2. VM 478, AK i 37.—3. It is misleading to trans¬ 
late as ‘sensations*, because many psychologists also describe ‘red, hard*, 
etc., as ‘sensations*.—4. The ‘neutral* are not easy to understand. See e.g. 
BM 71-2, AK ii 115, v 88.—5. It is perhaps derived from a-YAM, ‘to spread, 
extend*, or a-YAT, to enter, etc. The Vibhasha gives 11 etymologies. AK i 37. 
VM xv 4-6. Asl. 140-1.—6. AK i 37; cf. VM xv 10. S 1410, P. 516-7. AK i 37. 
—8. VM xv 5.—9. Edgerton 282-4. VM 85. AK i 37.—10. SN ii 94-6.— 

II. Asl. 63. — 12. KSP 89. — 13. Dhp. VV. 1-2. manopubbahgamd dhamma ma - 
nosetthd manomaya. By taking dhammas as ‘mental natures*, Radhakrishnan 
(pp. 58-9) somewhat misses the point.— 14. Sn mi.— 15. VM x 50. — 
16. xxiii 18. — 17. xxiii 30. AK ii 204 n. 3. iv 123. According to the Vibhasha 
(AK ii 207 n. 2) 7 days are the very limit of its duration.— 18. xxiii 43. — 
19. xxiii 50. — 20. xxiii 52; or ‘because in fact it has no existence of its own*? 
cf. the discussion at AK ii 214. — 21. see AK vi 225 n. 3. — 22. AK ii 205.— 
23. AK ii 208. — 24. AK viii 207-8, II 211 n. 3, 212. The first thesis is that of 
the Vaibhashikas, the second that of Vasubandhu, the Darsfantikas, Sautrantikas 
and Vibhajyavadins. cf. Ms 71—8. — 25. AK ii 213. mahabhutasamatapadanam . — 
26. asamjnika. They occupy one of the heavens of the plane of form, whereas 
the mrodhasamapatti takes place in the bhavagra , the ‘summit of existence*, which 
is the highest degree of the formless world. AK ii 209-10. — 27. AK ii 201. For 
a good discussion of mystical ‘unconsciousness* see Stace 17-18. — 28. AK ii 
799, 211. — 29. AK ii 200 n. 1. — 30. AK ii 202. — 31. acc. to CPD.— 32. MMK 
13.7= Pras. 364; cf. Kamalaslla SOR IX 2, 211-4. 

n. 1 

1. Les sectes bouddhiques du petit vehicule, 1955. For a more recent account see 
HBI 571-606.—2. H. V. Guenther, Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhi- 
dharma, 1957, has given a useful survey of the Abhidharma of Theravadins, Sar- 
vastivadins and Yogacarins in one volume.—3. Vigrahavyavartanl, v. 7. a list of 
119 wholesome dharmas, discussed in IHQ xiv, 1938, 314-23.—4. ed. PTS 
1897; ed. Bapat and Vadekar 1942. trsl. P. M. Tin and C. A. F. Rhys Davids, 
The Expositor, 1920-1.—5. ed. PTS 1885; ed. P. V. Bapat and Vadehar 
1940. English trsl. by C. A. F. Rhys Davids 1900; French trsl. by Bareau, 
1951 ; German trsl. by Nyanaponika, 1950.—6. ed. P. Pradhan, 1950. 

II 2, 1 

1. e.g. C. A. F. Rhys Davids, Gotama the Man, 1928. A Manual of Buddhism for 
advanced students, 1932. Outlines of Buddhism, 1934. Jennings, The Vedaotic 
Buddhism of the Buddha, 1947, etc., etc. The fallacies of this approach have 
been lucidly and conclusively demonstrated by H. von Glasenapp, Vedanta 
und Buddhismus. Ak. d. Wiss. u. d. Lit., Jahrg., 1950, no. 11, pp. 1013-28.— 

2. see AK vi 228, 273.—3. antaicaratirthika % Bcv-p.455.—4. cf. HBI 673 n. 



In the Kathavatthu the first, and by far the longest, chapter is devoted to them 
(a), and Vasubandhu rounded off his Abhidharmakosa with a ninth chapter 
which is exclusively occupied with the refutation of this heresy (A). The doctors 
of the Church, like the Sarvastivadin Abhidharmists (c), Nagarjuna (</), Asanga 
( e ), Candrakirti (f), Santideva (g) and KamalaSila (A) never tired of castigating 
them: (a) Points of controversy, trsl. S. Z. Aung and C. A. F. Rhys Davids, 
1915. Also The Debates Commentary, trsl. B. C. Law, 1939. (A) trsl. AK ix 
227-302. Also: Th. Stcherbatsky, The Soul Theory of the Buddhists, Bull, de 
l’acad. des sciences de Russie, 1919, pp. 823-54, 937-58. Extracts in BS 192-7. 
(c) e.g. Vijnanakaya, II, Pudgalaskandhaka, trsl. Etudes Asiatiques, 1925, 
pp. 358-76. (< d ) Mpps 735-50. ( e ) Sutralamkara viii 92-103. (/) Pras. ch. IX, X, 
XVIII. (g) Bcv ix 57 sq. (A) Ts ch. 7. A German trsl., with valuable analysis 
and comments, by S. Schayer, in RO 1934, pp. 68-93.— 5 * AK ix 251.— 
6. p. 121.—7. Sanghatrata, Abhidharmasamuceayakarika. 26-27 leaves. To be 
published in SOR.—8. AK ix 259. AN i 22.—9. This refers to the Stream- 
winner.—10. The above is a summary of the Sutra as quoted in YaSomitra’s 
Vyakhya to AK (AK ix 256). The parallel at SN iii 25 differs in some details, but 
agrees word by word in the decisive sentence at the end : bharaharah katamah? 
pudgala iti syad vacanlyam yosav ayusmarx evam-nama . . . evam-gotra. . . — 
11. According to the orthodox view the preceding skandhas oppress the subse¬ 
quent ones, and are therefore the burden, the latter being the bearer of the 
burden. AK ix 257, Kamalasila RO viii 88-9. 1-12. In Buddhist usage this is the 
basic connotation of the word pudgala . An individual is called a ‘person’ in so far 
as he is successively reborn in a variety of different places. See V, p. 10 n.— 
13. Nirvana, p. 31 n. 1.—14. AK ix 271.—15. AK ix 253.—16 SN iv 60. AK 
ix 259-61.—17. AK ix 271.—18. upapaduka sattva . Kamalasila RO viii 87. 
AK ix 258 sq. T. 1649 ch. 3.—19. So the Personalists according to AK ix 273.— 
20. So even Cullaniddesa 234: cakkhuno puriso alokati rupagatani .—21. AK ix 
254.—22. Vijnanakaya EA 366-7.—23. S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, 
II 284.—24. Ts-cy. 336.—25. It is sufficient to refer the reader to S. Rad- 
hakrishnan’s account of the Nyaya, II 144—52.—26. pratyutpanna-adhyatmtka - 
upatta-skandhan upadaya pudgalah prajhapyate . AK ix 233.—27. See SN iv 399.— 
28. Pras. X, RO viii 41.—29. anahhilapya, anirvacaniya , avacya, avaktavya. — 
30. From a European point of view it would appear most unsatisfactory that 
we are not told clearly whether a multiplicity of persons, or one single Person, 
was intended. This is not so in the climate of Indian philosophy, where also the 
Samkhyas and VaiSesikas vacillated on this issue ; see Radhakrishnan II, pp. 322 
and 190. It is even possible that S. Schayer is right when he says (RO viii, p. 71) 
that ‘the pudgala is the superpersonal which only in correlation with the psycho¬ 
physical elements is individualized as a “person” ’. Also Traite, p. 738: Mats 
vous parley d*un dtman universel ( vyapin ), quit faudrait aussi attribuer aux autres 
personnes .—31. AK ix 252.—32. EA, pp. 368-9, which clearly refers to SN 
v 43.—33. AK ix 270.—34. vidhiy Kamalasila RO viii, p. 91. ibid. p. 93: The 
Mimamsa distinguished vidhi from anuvada , e.g. ‘form is not the self’ is said 
with reference to a specific heresy, and is not a proposition about the existence 
or non-existence of an dtman . —35. Pras. xviii 354-8.—36. e.g. against the 
materialists, who denied the continuity of karman and its results, and thereby 
took away the philosophical basis of morality.—37. SN iv 400. Sarnyukta 34,15. 
cf. AK ix 264-6.—38. See also the fivefold cognizable at S 1465 which repro- 



duces exactly the Personalist list.—39. Vijnanakaya, p. 369. But in AK ix 238 sq. 
nothing is said of the seventh consciousness. There the pudgala is discerned by 
the six kinds of perception, but in each case indirecdy ( prativibhayati ). It is 
neither the perception of the sight-object, etc., nor other than that.—40. Buddh¬ 
ist tradition suggested such interstices on at least two occasions: (1) during 
the ‘unconscious concentration’, and (2) during the ‘attainment of cessation*.— 
41. E. Saratchandra, The Buddhist psychology of perception, 1958.—42. IC 
237.—43. IC 243.—44. quoted in AK-cy, p. 644. moksa-biiam aham hy asya 
susuksmam upalaksaye , dhatu-pasana-vivare nilinam iva kahcanam. The word 
dhatu in this verse may well be identical with ‘suffusion’, ‘substratum’ or ‘lineage’ 
as in Vibhasaprabhavjrtti on v. 496.—45. Jaini, pp. 246-7.—46. see Jaini, 
p. 236.—47. So AN i 10. A i 5, P 121-2, etc.; Samadhiraja xxii.—48. AN-cy I, 
p. 60. For the Sarvastivadins Bareau 147.—49. Jaini, p. 249.—50. Sources for 
dlaya-vijnana Ms II 49-86, 3* sq. Hob. s.v. araya. —51. IC 253-4.—52. BL ii 
329, Suzuki St. 257.—53. Sandh. IIJ iii 1959, p. 67, n. 1. 

II 2, 2 

1. AK iv 5-8. MCB v 1937, 148-59-—2. VM 431, 473.—3. VM 614-15.— 
4. VM 472-3, 431-2.—5. BM 86-95.—6. Mahavibhasa: 1 day = 86,400 
seconds = 6,499,099,980 instants = 1/75,221 sec. per instant. AK: 2,880: 
216,000 = 1/75 sec. = 13 rns. per instant. Others, mentioned by McGovern 
60-4. 500 = 1/75 sec.—7. Many observations about this in Woodworth. A 
single pulse of attention normally lasts 1 sec., but it can vary between 0.1 and 
5 sec. The reaction time to a stimulus is between 100 and 150 ms. While reading 
there is no shift in the fixation for 100 ms. The lowest limit of subdivision of 
time for our perception: interval needed to perceive discontinuity, or twoness, 
of two isolated, successive stimuli: two successive sounds, 10 ms (ticks of 
clock), 2 sparks (visual) apart, 50-100 ms, 2 touches 25 ms. A perception needs 

10 ms for figure-ground differentiation, 11-14 for contour.—8. Asl. 60-1, AN 
i I0 .—9. AK v 52-4.—10. This is very well explained in BL, esp. I 78-118, 
17$, 179-80, II 14-46, 192. Stcherbatsky (I 109) regards this rightly or wrongly 
as a very late refinement.—11. BL i 95, based on Santiraksita.—12. For a 
clear account of the stereotyped objections, commonly raised in India against 
the instantaneousness of all entities see Mallishena, Syadvadamanjari, ch. 18, trsl. 
F. W. Thomas, i960.—13. Past and future dharmas exist as realities ( dravya ); 
as conditioned they are, however, not eternal, in that they have the marks of the 
conditioned. AK v 50 sq. HBI 667.—15. AK V v. 25. HBI666.—16. In Samyuk- 
tagama III 14.—17. F 140—1.—18. pra-apti. ap — to reach, obtain, attain; ti 
denotes a feminine action noun. ‘Attainment, acquisition, gain.*—19. AK ii 36.— 
20. AK ii 55d.—21. AK i 247.—22. AK i 191, 197, 183.—23. Jaini, p. 244.— 
24. AK ii 183-5. For a useful account see P. S. Jaini, The Sautrant ka theory of 
blja, BSOAS xxii, 1959, pp. 236-49.—25. dsraya. AK ii 5 and 6, 44d.—26. AK 

11 v. 35b, AK-cy 147-8.—27. Jaini, p. 239. See ibid. 239-41 about Sarvastivadin 
and Theravadin attempts to avoid this conclusion.—28. Jaini, p. 242, based on 
AK-cy, p. 444.—29. Jaini, pp. 242-3. It is interesting to note that also the 
Vatsiputriyas claimed that their pudgala is neither different nor idendcal with the 
skandhas; see p. 128.—30. AK iii 41. G. M. Nagao, Connotations of the word 
diraya (basis) in the Mahayanasutralamkara. Liebenthal Festschrift, 1957? PP- 
147-55, distinguishes nine meanings of the term.—31. avastha AK i, p. 214.— 



32. KSP, 88-9.—33.KSP p. 81 n.—34. KSP 86-7. Pras. 317-23. Lamotte KSP 86 
adduces some Christian parallels.—35. HBI 674 n.—36. e.g. AN iii 404-9, 
where a ‘wholesome root* is compared to ‘an undamaged seed, sown in a culti¬ 
vated field, capable of yielding abundant fruits*.—37. BL ii 261.—38. cf. 
BL ii 367-8.—39. AK vi 168, vii 49. AK-cy 583—4: bijam samarthyam cetaso 
gotram id .—40. AK ix 282-3.—4 1 * AK vi 252.—42. AK vi 175. AO ix, 1931, 
97 sq. LS 63-5. AAA 77.—43. AAA 76. 

II 2,3 

1. BM 107.—2. BM 150-1. For similar formulations see ibid. 149-51.—3. AK 
ix 284, BL i 130.—4. BL i 127. For a proof that the world does not proceed 
from a single cause, be it God or something else, see AK ii 310-13.—5. BL i 
131.—6. BL i 129. Also Dllp. 286. antarayam na bujjhad. —7. BL i 131.— 
8. For the etymology of paccaya see VM 532; for patitya VM 526, AK ii, p. 78. 
Imasmim sad idam hod is explained at AK ii 81.—9. BL i 119-21, 125, 157—8.— 
10. For India see e.g. BL i 122, 123 n. 2, ii Index s.v. cause, etc.; for Europe 
BL i 141-5.—11. They are set out in detail in the Patthana, a huge work of 
3,120 pages. They have been explained more briefly in VM xvii 66-100 and more 
recently by Nyanatiloka in his ‘Guide through the Abhidhamma Pitaka*, 1938, 
pp. 97-109. There is some useful information also in Patthan Sayadow U 
Withuddha, An approach to Patthana, Rangoon, 1956. So that the reader can 
check on my tentative translation, here is the Pali original: (1) hetu, (2) arammana , 
(3) adhipad , (4) anantara , (5) samanantara , (6) sahajata , (7) ahhamanha , 
(8) nissaya , (9) upanissaya , (10) purejata , (11) pacchajdta , (12) asevana , 
(13) kamma , (14) vipaka , (15) ahara , (16) indriya , (17) jhdna , (18) magga, 
(19) sampayutta , (20) vippayutta, (21) atthi , (22) natthi , (23) vigata , (24) avi- 
gata. —12. By the Abhidhammatasanghaha.—13. Except when they first 
appear at birth; sight-object and eye-consciousness element are then co-nascent.— 
14. For the details and qualifications see VM xvii 91.—15. They are thought 
applied, thought discursive, zest, gladness, sadness, serene unconcern, concen¬ 
tration.—16. santhana = diasthema in Ar. Phys. 213a. In later times there 
seems, however, to have been some uncertainty about the exact difference 
between (4) and (5). VM xvii 74-6.—17. See McGovern, A manual of Buddhist 
philosophy, I 164-7, 184-205. CPB 170-2. AK ii 244-331. BL i 130-1, 138-40. 
There are other arrangements, like the six conditions of LS 83, and AK ii 277 
n. 1(5).—18. BL i 138 and 140 n. 13.—19. AK ii 268-9.— 2 °* AK ii 177-8.— 
21. AK ii 268-70.—22. Divy. 300.—23. BM 152-7. For the Sutras dealing 
with conditioned co-production see F 27-60.—24. VM 582-3.—25. e.g. Sn 
727-53, 862 sq., DN ii 62, MN i 48; for the details see IC 197-9, AK iii 70-2, 
etc., P. Oltramare, La formule bouddhique des douze causes, 1909, pp. 27-36.— 
26. Ill 24d.—27. BL i 135-6. 

II 3,1 

1. See Rhys Davids, pp. 367-9.—2. 268-71. BT no. 98.—3. ii 257-8.— 
4. AK ii 50a.—5. AK ii 57d.—6. AK ii 292.—7. VM xvi 67-74 (= BT 99) 
argues against the Sautrantika view. The passage is very much clarified by 
Dutt*s analysis, pp. 172-6.—8. p. 271.—9. AK ii 278-87. The Sautrantika 
view is stated very clearly in Satyasiddhisastra, MCB v 1936-7, 208-10, F 



136-9.—10. F 138.—11. AK ii 283, F 137.—12. AK ii 284.—13. AK ii 
291 sq. —14. cf. BT 108.—15. F 139.—16. Buddhacarita xiv 84. Also BT 107.— 
17. AKii 282.—18. Sarvastivadins, Mahasanghikas, MahlSasakas, Uttarapathakas; 
Sautrantikas, Satyasiddhi; also Yogacarins.—19. Theravadins, Vatsiputriya, 
Sariputrabhidharma.—20. AK i v. 28.—21. Mil. 271.—22. AK i v. 5. dka&am 
andvftih .—23. 75.—24. AK ii 279.—25. McGovern i no, Heiler 27, Olden- 
berg, Vorwissenschaftliche Wissenschaft, 38 sq .— 26. AK iii 139; Keith, 
p. 186.—27. AK i 8.—28. Rgv. II 3.—29. AK viii 143; but VM x 1, last 
sentence, seems to contradict this.—30. VM x 16.—31. VM x 20.—32. VM x 
23. The cy (PM 323) adds, ‘it has neither rise nor fall because it is a dhamma 
without own-being*, Nyanamoli, p. 360.—33. e.g. Mil., pp. 268, 271. This 
was probably originally a Sarvastivadin work. See also P 234-6 for a com¬ 
parison of the ‘great vehicle* with ‘space*.—34. cf. okaso , room, opportunity 
for life and movement; Rhys Davids DhS xlviii. Also Hui-neng, Sutra spoken 
by the sixth patriarch, 1930, p. 12.—35. Wolf, 666.—36. Ench. Met. viii 14.— 
37. Ench. Met. viii 7.—38. e.g. A i 24, viii 196-7, xxix 479, Sa 27a, P 231, 
234, f. 289, Ad. 219a, 254a. 


I. V 98-9, BWB 38-9.—2. So cy to Mahavamsa (p. 29). Sravaka is the term 
most often used for the Arhat by the Mahayana.—3. Traits 127, AK vi 230.— 

4. For these see e.g. B 93—4.— 5. AK vi 282.—6. AK vi 240.—7. For the 
relation of the two cognitions to the four Truths see AK vii 9-10 and to the 
16 aspects see AK vii 27-8.—8. AK vii 62.—9. AK iii 194-6, VM viii 22, Enc Bu 
57—63.—10. VM viii 22.—10a. Sn 35 sq. VM viii 22. Edgerton 202-3.— 

II. AK iii 196.—12. Bcv = BM 110-13. For the Mahayana answer to this 
‘selfishness* see Mpps, Traite, p. 984.—13. Edgerton 375-6.—14. SP ch. 3, 
p. 80. BS, p. 209.—15. e.g. Mv. iii 302^. BS 52.—16. AAA 155-6. aiabda - 
dharma-desana .—17. Sn 558.—18. The Mahayanizing sects had in addition 
another set of 18 special Buddhadharmas; see BT 145; see AK vii 66-7.— 
19. See BT 116.—20. See BT 117. In the older Sutras they are sometimes 
attributed also to the Arhats. AK vii 74 n.—21. AK vii 82.—22. AK ii 303-5.— 
23. As in Ekottaragama 18, 16.—24. See Mpps 146-61 on the omniscience of 
the Buddha.—25. AK i 2.—26. For further superiorities of the Buddha see 
VM xiii 16, viii 23.—27. AK vii 77-9.—28. AK vii 83.—29. See BS, p. 131.— 
30. AK vii 83.—31. e.g. BS 63-4.—32. BT 120. VM xiii 31.—33. AK vii 
84.—34. AK iii 145-6.—35. p. 339.—36. BT 103.—37. AK iv 76-9.— 
38. Vibhasha 34.—39. BT 115, AK vii 179.—40. HBI 689-90. 

11 3 > 3 

I. paccaya-sannissita-sila. —2. hdta-parinfid. —3. VM 606.—4. VM 693.— 

5. yathava 587.—6. 597.—7. 598, 607.—8. 604.—9. tirana-parihha. —10. VM 
607.—11. VM 613-18.—12. VM 618-28.—13. BM 158-60.—14. VM xx— 
89 j^., xxii 113-21.—15. VM 640-5, BM 160-1.—16. VM 645-7, BM 162.— 
17. VM 647-50, BM 163-4.—18. VM 650-1, BM 164-5.— r 9 * VM 651, BM 
165-6.—20. VM 652-3, BM 166-7.—21. VM 653-6, BM 169-73.—22. VM 656-7, 
BM 167-8. This is followed by the ‘three doors to deliverance* (VM 657-60) and 
‘Emergence* VM 661-3.—23. VM 669-70.—24. VM xxii 1.—25. VM xxii 5.— 



26. Asl. 43.—27. VM xxii 111-22, Asl. 351-2.—28. HBI 678-86.—29. For litera¬ 
ture see Lamotte, Somme, II 34*.—30. AAA 63 is too Yogacarin to be a guide to 
die intentions of the Sarvastivadins. HBI 680 n.—31. AK vi 143-93.—3 2 - V 9.— 
33. AK vi 61 28, 65.—34. samyaktva-niydma-avakrdnti. See AK vi 120.— 
35 - v 5 -—3 6 -, vii 35c; see v 43.—37. vi 34.—38. vi 33.—39. vi 44d.—40. v6i, 
vi 32, 65.—41. AK vii 6 n. 3. 

II 4,1 

1. The lists can be found in Takakasu, Jaini BSOAS xxii, 1959, 533-5. HBI 
658—60, 662-3. F no—4.—2. About the citta-viprayukta-dharmas See P. S. 
Jaini, BSOAS xxii, 1959, 531-47. I give the list of the Kosa. An older list by 
Ghoshaka has 17, and the Yogacarin list 23 items; see Jaini, p. 536. For their 
definition see F 115, 117. 

II 4,2 

1. Jaini BSOAS xxii, 1959, 533-5. — 2. DhS 635, Jaini BSOAS xxii, 539-42.— 
3. As shown by VM 544 as compared widi DhS 596. Also Jaini BSOAS xxii, 
533 n. 2.—4. BM 100-3.—5 - VM xi 27-117.—6. See BM 95-100.—7. VM xi 
II 7*—8. VM xi 117.—9. VM xi 41.—10. xi 81.—n. xi 98, 100.—12. Science 
and Civilization in China, II, 1955, p. 417.—13. ibid., p. 419.—14. ibid., 
pp. 430-1.—15. For the suffix -maya see AK iv 234. At A ii 41 manomaya is 
equivalent to nirmita . For a list of ‘subtle bodies* see Eliade 236. — 16. LS 
81.—17. BS 129.—18. AK iii 28. — 19. AK ii 209. Suzuki St. 209-12.— 
20. AK iii 204.—21. pp. 81, 136.—22. St 209. See the whole section 208-17. — 
23. LS 137.—24. Suzuki St. 337-8, cf. 318.—25. Svadhisthanakrama 19, 23.— 
26. See Eliade 133-4, 227-49.—27. II 3 , 16.—28. Eliade 227.—29. Eliade 
2 35 -<S. 

II 4,3 

1. MN 18. trsl. after I. B. Horner. She renders papanca as ‘obsession*, but it 
may also mean ‘differentiation’?—2. Asl. 72, 140, 269. VM xiv 110-24, Ms. ii 
8*—10*, HBI 661—2.—3. AK i 14, 16.—4. BL ii 311.—5. Ud. vi 4. 

Ill 1, 1 

1. St. Schayer. C. Regamey, Der Buddhismus Indiens, 1951, pp. 248-64. Le 
probleme du Bouddhisme primitif et les derniers travaux de Stanislas Schayer, 
RO xxi, 1957, pp. 37-58. M. Falk, II mito psicologico nell’India Antica, 1939. 
Namarupa and dharmarupa, 1943.—2. See BS 195-7, and pp. 124 sq. of this 
book.—3. vlhhdnam anidassanam anantam sabbato pabham. DN xi 85.—4. For 
a discussion of this issue see The Middle Way xxxiv 1, 1959, p. 13.—5. HBI 
690—3.—6. So perhaps the Mahasunnatavadins mentioned in the cy to Katha- 
vatthu ch. 17, 167 + 77, acc. to Kimura 151. So also the Ekavyavaharikas acc. 
to Kimura 67, the sunyatma-sunyadharma-vada acc. to Paramartha in cy. on 
Nikaya-avalambana-sastra.—7. So the Vibhavyavadins, a branch of the Sthaviras 
which was greatly influenced by the Mahasanghikas (Bareau 167-80) acc. to 
Vasubandhu, Hob. 185.—8. asraya y upadhi y origin?—9. buddhata y buddhasva- 



III i, 2 

i. At present we possess no more than a few hints, e.g. de Jong Jas, 1954, 
545-6, J. Nobel's Introd. to his ed. of Suvarnaprabhasa; cf. Ill 1, 3 n. 4.—2. For 
a full bibliography see my PL, i960.—3. Saddharmapundarika. S ed. BB 1912. 
Wogihara 1933-5. N. Dutt 1955. Kern’s translation (1884) is now quite inade¬ 
quate, and often positively misleading on vital points of doctrine. W. E. Soot- 
hill’s (1930) abbreviated version from the Chinese has not stood the test of 
time.—4. Only in Ch. and Tib. 2 parts in S: Dasabhumika, cf. Ill 1, 9 n. 2 
and Gandavyuha, ed. Suzuki and Idzumi 1934-6.—5. S: ed. N. Dutt 1941-54.— 
6. E: from Ch. by R. Robinson, 1953 (Ms).—7. Trsl. K. Regamey, 
1938.—8. Suvarnaprabhasa, ed. J. Nobel, 1937; ubs. J. Nobel (from Ch.) 
1958.—9* e.g. ‘The question of Rashtrapala’, ed. BB 1901, trsl. J. Ensinck 
1952.—10. BB 1897-1902. The translation (1922) is none too reliable. 

Ill 1, 3 

1. e.g. Rahula 8, 7 6 sq. —2. R. L. Slater, Paradox and Nirvaia, 1951.— 
3. p. 69.—4. I have tried to show this for the first two chapters of the Ratna- 
gunasamcayagatha, which I regard as the original Prajnaparamita, in the Comm, 
volume for Suzuki’s ninetieth birthday.—5. i.e. about o and ad 500. See my 
Short History of Buddhism, i960, pp. ix-x, 74-5. 

Ill 1, 4 

I. For references see my article in the Lessing Festschrift. Likewise die Mahayana 
writings continually refer to the corresponding three marks, but subject them 
to a radical re-interpretation. For instance in Vimalakirtinirdesa ch. 3 Vimala- 
klrd says to Mahakatyayana: ‘Ultimately all die elements neither arise nor 
cease; this is the meaning of impermanence. The five grasping skandhas are 
empty through and through, and do not spring from anything; this is the mean¬ 
ing of suffering. There is no duality of self and not-self; diis is the meaning 
of no-self' (p. 19 of Robinson’s typed trsl. (1953); cf. also p. 35 ibid.—2. Suv. 
64b-65a. Pras. xxiii 457-8. Cy to Ms II 1, 1938, p. 90.—3. For references see 

J. May, p. 166 n. 519.—4. Suv. vii 98b~99a. Also A vi 151.—5. LS 106-7; 
similarly A vi 139 and AAA 333-4.—6. Quoted Pras. xxiii 463.—7. asat- 
samaropa. See J. May, p. 195 n. 645.—8. M-v-t., p. 50.—9. ibid, tatkatd: vikalpa- 
analambanatvan na viparyasavastu. —10. LS, p. 279 v. m; pp. 280—1, vv. 
120-6.—11. SP xiii 278.—12. Suv. vii 98b; 66b.—13. MMK xxiii 13, na- 
anityam vidyate sunye . — 14. Pras 461.—15. i.e. chapter xxiii.—16. samkalpa = I 
vitarka , ‘discursive reasoning’ acc. to Candrakirti.—17. vaiparitya , Pras. xxiii 
462.—18. Lamotte, II 1, p. 126.—19. e.g. LS, p. 116. Here tie text seems 
corrupt, and Nanjio’s edition offers a choice of no fewer than five readings. 
Only the first part seems fairly certain, ‘because the genesis of their marks is really 
a non-genesis’. The second either says diat all dharmas are permanent because 
of their permanence (so Tib.), or because of their impermanence (so the other 
documents). In other passages some things are being called ‘permanent’, but 
not, as would appear from Suzuki’s translation on p. 204, gold, vajra and die 
relics of the Buddha. They do not ‘remain the same until the end of time', but 
for a kalpa, and are instanced as exceptions to the universality of momentariness, 
which is die topic of pp. 234-6.—20. e.g. LS 115-16; ‘because the genesis 



of their marks involves impermanence*.—21. pp. 208-9. BT no. 180.— 
22. pp. 59-61. On p. 218 the same is said of the ‘cognition which marks his 
attainment of re-union ( abhisamaya)’. —23. pp. 189-90.—24. xviii 6.—25. See 
the quotations at Pras. xviii 354. They are made much of by the Pudgalavadins 
and their modern successors.—26. See die quotations ibid.—27. In this con¬ 
nection one may also remember the canonical account of the occasion when the 
Buddha refused to tell the Wanderer Vacchagotta whether die self exists or not. 
See E. Lamotte, Traite, pp. 32-3, H. Oldenberg, Buddha, 1959, pp. 287-8, 
508.—28. xviii 356-60.—29. II 3-4.—30. p. 87.—31. For a good explanation 
of this term see S. Schayer, AKP, p. 70, n. 50.—32. parivarjayitavya , P. 221 = 
S 1465, in the description of die fifth bhumi. The commentary to the Vibhanga 
says that eight of the vipallasa are forsaken on the path of the Streamwinner; 
the perverted perceptions and thought which mistake die repulsive for the lovely 
are attenuated on the path of die Once-Returner, and forsaken on the path of a 
Never-returner; the perverted perceptions and thought which mistake ill for 
ease are forsaken on die path of the Arliat. The correlation of the abandonment 
of the perverted views with die bhumis of the Maliayana is rather obscure, and 
requires further study; cf. Da-Bhu, pp. 29, 12 and 63, 3.—33. atikranto in the 
Heart Sutra. See BWB, p. 97.—34. sarva-vastundm-anupalabdhitdm upadaya , 
P 221.—35. quot. in Pras. xxiii 472.—36. Pras. xxiii 469.—37. vi 67a; cf. also 
S 1411 = P 198, quot. in n. 35 to I 3.—38. Vimalakirtinirdesa, ch. 5, p. 38 of 
Robinson’s typed trsl. (1953).—39. Candragomin: para-arthe duhkham sukham: 
quot. in Har Dayal, p. 159.—40. For more details see Har Dayal 16-18, 179-81. 

HI 1, 5 

1. BT 135-8, SS 35-50, Mpps 621-1113.— 2 * B 61-6.—3. Ud. V 1.—4. As a 
particularly telling example of European bewilderment I refer to the comments 
which a well-meaning Communist made about ahimsa as practised in Tibet, 
where it is probably the greatest obstacle to industrialization; cf. A. Winnington, 
Tibet, 1957, pp. 56, 78, 86, 109, 133, 149, 183, 197.—5. SN iii 138.—6. 796-803. 
I here quote vv. 796, 800 and 802 after Lord Chalmer’s trsl. For a more literal 
rendering see E. M. Hare, Woven Cadences, 1944, pp. 119-20.—7. Murti, p. 132; 
cf. 160-4.—7a. Catuhsataka xii 23. BT, p. 169.—8. MN i, p. 395.—9 Sn 450-2.— 
10. Many meanings are packed into this term. Some are explained in V 97-8, 
BWB 45. A fine monograph is M. Walleser, Die Streidosigkeit des Subhuti, Stzb. 
Heid. Ak. d. Wiss., 1917.—zi. A. Koestler, Arrow in the Blue, p. 213.— 
12. The Lotus and the Robot, p. 219.—13. ibid. 225.—14. What can Western 
philosophy learn from India? PhEW v, 1955, pp. 195-210.—15. Suzuki, St. 
17°*—16. e.g. Ms II 3od. Murti 319, AAA 79, BS 190-217. Candrakirti’s criticism 
of vijndnavada and the three svabhavas Pras. 274 and Museon 1910, 312-58; 
1911, 236-55; cf. de la Vallee-Poussin on ‘conflit Madhyamaka-Yogacara* in 
MCB ii 47-54.—17. The terminology is here very technical, and there is no 
room to explain it.—18. See A xxii 399.—19. B 137.—20. AAA, p. 123.— 
21. apratisthitamanaso ki Tathdgato A ii 37.—22. V 10c.—23. BWB 47. Ms ii 

47 *- 8 \ 

III 1, 6 

1. BT 168.—2. BT 128. B 148-9.—3. B. Bhattacharyya,The Indian Buddhist 
Iconography, 1958, p. 21.—4. At times the Hinayana comes very near to 



identifying impartiality with an indifferent aloofness, as e.g. at VM ix 88 and 

in 1, 7 

1. SW. 92-5.—2. SNII, 17, III 135, Pras. 269, Samadhiraja 30, 7-10. Kasyapa- 
parivarta. Murti 38-40.—3. SN II 19-20.—4. Chao-Lun II 15233.—5. so Burtt 
PhEW v, 1955, p. 202. See P. T. Raju, The principle of four-cornered negation 
in Indian philosophy, Review of Metaphysics vii, 1954, pp. 694-713. Murti. 
129-31.—6. MT 63, 72; MMK 25, 17-18, 22. 11, Trait£ 153^., Pras. 370, 
Robinson D 39 n. 42.—7. Nagarjuna in Murti 231-6, 329-34; Asanga e.g. 
F 277-9.— 8 * P 5°5b.—9. Pras., p. 264, after Schayer.—10. e.g. A i 16, 25, 
ix 200. —11. S LXIV f. 456a.—12. S, pp. 118-19.— 1 3* A. xix 360.—14. A 
xviii 347-8.—15. Sa, p. 221.—16. See e.g. S LIX f. 343b.—17. e.g. A vii 
192.—18. P, pp. 136-7.—19. e.g. P, pp. 164, 225, 244, 258, 261-2.—20. DN i 
31 and MN i 127.—21. MN i 127.—22. DN i 123 sq. —23. tam nidassana - 
abhdvato . In A xii 265 it is identified with lack of marks (alaksanatvd) and with 
being ‘invisible* ( adfsya ).—24. e.g. A vi 149-50, vii 177, viii 192, ix 204-5, 
xii 276, xxii 399, 405, xxvii 445-6.—25. The exact meaning of being ‘unborn* ‘in 
its absolute, unconditioned sense* has been well explained in Suzuki St. 122-3, 
287-307.—26. e.g. AAA, p. 879.—27. Suzuki St. 125-7, 226-7, 381, 396, 
398.—28. anutpdda-vijhapanatdm upadaya. A ix 205.—29. A viii 198, ix 201, 
205, xxx 484.—30. pratiihasa. A ix 205, xxvi 442, xxx 484. Si 261 of a mirror 
image.—31. A ix 205.—32. For the details see Lamotte, Traite I 357-87.— 

33. ch. 32a, explained by Vasubandhu. BT 150, BWB 68-70; cf. SS 83-8.— 

34. Suzuki, St. 114-21, 392; LS 90-6 in BT 183; cf. also no. 184.—35. P. 147.— 
36. Ms ii 6.—37. VM 479. B, p. 133.—38. BT 148, p. 154.—39. 17, 31.—40. cf. 
B 172. 

mi, 8 

1. Ms 121. BT 156. For Mpps, see Robinson, D 16-20.—2. v 59-83. BT 
no. 123.—3. B, pp. 137-40; also 120.—4. e.g. Bodhisattvabhuini I 4 in F 
272-3.—5. Asanga in F 273.—6. see BWB 82-5.—7. Stace 127.—8. Stace 
128.—9. On the whole subject, see Stace, pp. 128-30, 160-1, 187-8 (St John of 
the Cross’s formulation, the most balanced I have ever met), 201-2, 220, 238. 
Very interesting are also the intellectual difficulties in which a comparatively 
moderate and accommodating mystic like Father Baker (Holy Wisdom, 1876, 
vti, 319-20, 541-6) finds himself placed.—10. e.g. A ix 206, xxix 476, xxxi 526, 
V 23, Suv. ii 20a.—11. MMK 25, 19-20, Pras. 535.—12. MMK 25. 9.— 
13. Mpps. 299316, Siddhi 753.—14. ed. E. H. Johnston, etc., JBRS xxxvi 1, 
1950; trsl. (from T) E. Obermiller, Uttaratantra, AO ix, 1931, 81-306.—15. e.g. 
Suzuki St. 341-5. — 16. gotra — hlja with the Sautrantikas; cf. p. 143.—17. BT 
no. 169 v. 40.—18. ibid, v 49.—19. II v. 62.—20. pp. 72-3, BT no 185.— 
21. - parivrtti , -parivartana are also sometimes used. See Ms I 16*-17*. Suzuki, St. 
184-5, 365, 390-1. Nagao, Liebenthal Festschrift, pp. 152-5.—22. See e.g. 
EZB iii, 1934, p. 372, and F. Sierksma, The gods as we shape them, i960, pi. 28.— 
23. This was quite obvious on p. 207, in connection with the LS views on 
permanence and impermanence.—24. Robinson PhEW vi 1957, 291-308; viii 
1958, 99-120; cf. IIJ iv, i960, 68-73.— 2 5* PP* 106-7.—26. This is a word 
often used for the object of perverted perception, cf. AAA, pp. 341-2.— 
27. A i 30 = P, p. 261.—28. Ms 266. This is worked out in a list of 10 kinds 



of sovereignty 269-71. A very detailed description of the dharmakaya ibid. 266- 
329.—29. prabhedciy Pras. xxiii 463; cf. Ill 2, 2 n. 10.—30. na dvaya-prabhdvita. 
See J. May, p. 194 n. 638 and V 98-9.—31. quot, in Pras. xxiii 463.—32. Ms 
271-4.—33. F 302.—34. Mukhagama, IIJ, iii., 1959, p. 57.—35- e -g- asenaka 
in PW xv ; Rgv iii 2-3. Suzuki St. 142-6, 308-38, Suvarnaprabhasa ch. 3. trsl. 
J. Nobel, 1958, pp. 41-79.—36. A. W. Macdonald JAs 1955, 229-39.— 
37. Ms 267, P 523b. AOKM 530-1. 

m 1,9 

1. These are often mentioned in Mahayana writings, e.g. P 225, 235; S pp. 1473, 
1520. See also Mpps, p. 49, p. 411a; Siddhi, p. 727; AAA, p. 104. E. Obermiller, 
The Doctrine of Prajnaparamita, pp. 48-51; Analysis of the AAA II, p. 178; 
N. Dutt, Aspects of Mahayana Buddhism, p. 241.—2. DaSabhumika Sutra, c. 
AD 100, ed. S: J. Rahder, 1936; R. Kondo, 1936 (with gatha). Also Bodhisattva- 
bhumi, c. ad 400. S ed. U. Wogihara, 1930-6. cf. RO xxi, 19579 109-28.— 
3. Madhyamakavatara, c. ad 650. T: BI 1912. French up to ch. 6, i.e. first 
288 pages of T, in Museon, 1907, 1910, 1911. A more tentative and unsystematic 
phase is represented by the Mahavastu (I 76 sq,\ a Mahasanghika work, and by 
the Large Prajnaparamita (S 1454-73 = P 214-25). A few texts are preserved 
only in Chinese, e.g. T. 309 (cf. Rahder’s Intr. to his edition).—4. p. 161.— 

5. This uncertainty is already found in Mv, pp. 133-4 compared with p. 105.— 

6. Suzuki St. 216, 224-8, 378-9.—7. LS 161.—8. p. 67. quot, from Suzuki 
St. 226. 

Ill 2, 1 

1. Their biographies are extant in Chinese, T. 2047-8. Bibl. Regamey, pp. 54-8. 
—2. ed. as Prasannapada, cf. n. 8.—3. MCB ix, 1951, 1-54* E: G. Tucci, Pre- 
Dignaga, etc., 1929. F: JAs 1929, 1-86.—4. s, e: JRAS 1934 and 1936.—5. S 
(reconstructed), E: V. Bhattacharya 1931; E: EB iv 56-72, 169 sq. But see 
Murti, p. 91 n. 3.-6. Only in Ch. See PL 41, 93—4. For some opinions about 
the authorship of this work see Robinson 48-53. E. Lamotte has so far translated 
one-fourth of this great work. The first volume deals with the Mahayana con¬ 
ceptions of the Buddha and Bodhisattva, and the second gives a very detailed 
description of the six perfections.—7. The subtide is Bodhisattvayogacara. 
Only partly in S ed. (ch. 1—16), V. Bhattacharya, 1931. The SataSastra is probably 
only a ‘reshuffled' form of the CatuhSataka (Murti, p. 93).—8. S: BB 1903—14. 
> e: ch. 1, 25 Stcherbatsky 1927. f: ch. 17 MCB iv 1935-6; ch. 18-22, J. W. de 

Jong, Cinq chapitres de la Prasannapada, 1949, ch. 2-4, 6-9, 11, 23-4, 2 6-7 J. 
May 1959; g: ch. 5, 12-16, S. Schayer, AKP 1931. ch. 10, RO vii 1930.—9. ed. 
with cy of Prajnakaramati (1075), BI 1900-14.—10. ed. GOS 30-1, 1926. E: 
G. Jha GOS 80, 1937, 83, 1939.—11. AM vii, 1959, 230-1, WZKSO v 144: 
I. SOR ix 2, 1958. II. Only in Tib. III. JGIS ii, 1935, 1—11. P. Demi4ville, Le 
Concile de Lhasa, I 1952, 336-53.—12. Of importance is his cy to 
Madhyamakarika, and Madhyamika-hrdayakarika, 930 w., both only in Tib, 

III 2, 2 

1. Pras. esp. ch. 15.—2. Pras. xiii 241.—3. svalaksaria. —4. svato bhava vs. 
parabhava .—5. nirapeksah svabhdva . —6. Pras. 262; 259, 260.—7. nasti sarnyogi - 
kasya dharmasya svabhdva pratitya-samutpannatvad. P. p. 197; cf. 252. Candra- 



kirti expresses the same idea by saying: sarva-dharma-pratityasamutpada- 
laksand svabhdva-sunyatd, Pras. p. 515.—8. quot. I 3 n, 37.—9. A viii 192.— 
10. sarvadharmapam asambhedah P p. 171.—11. Murti, p. 131.—12. Murti, 
p. 132.—13. For the details see Murti 132-6. 


1. So by the Chinese Madhyamika school at Kumarajiva’s time. Robinson 87.— 

2. A viii 192.—3. P. f. 545a.—4. P p. 90.—5. Murti 258-60. 

Ill 2, 4 

I* P. 196.—2. VM 438.—3. sa-lahkhandy paccatta-lakkhand , sabhava-lakkhana; 
cf. VM 368.—4. By tad-ahga-ppahanam acc. to VM 694.—5. udayabayam 
paccayato , BM 159-60. cakkhu-rupadi-paccayayattavutthitaya aniccatan ca , 
VM xv 32 of dhatus . AK vii 31, anitya: pratyayadhinatvat. —6. BM 151—2. & 
225. VM 484, 585, 594-5.—7. dubbalo , attadubbala; nittejam VM 596. para - 
paccayato VM 597. asara? —8. VM 479 (after SN iii 140 sq.). VM 486 sabhdvato 
vyjamand (of dhatus ). VM 526: paramatthato avijjamanesu itthi-purisadisu 
javatiy vijjamdnesu pi khandhadisu na javati ti avijja. —9. samanna-lakkhand. 
Their application VM 609-10, 618, 639—40, 657-8.—10. asamskfta - 

dharma .—11. By 7 anupassanani. —12. nicca-pafikkkepato , etc. VM 618.— 
13. AK-vy. 23: drydndm pratikulatvdt duhkham iti, sarpskdra-duhkhataya 
drydndm tat pratikulam .—14. sankhata-dosa , abhinivesa. —15. vayadhamma 
sank hard, viparindma-dhammata. —16. They are doomed to oppress, pilanam ,, 
pidana: duhkha yatra sakta, yena badhyate, yatas ca moksam . ayuhana ‘toiling*, 
drambhoy abadha (disturbance). VM 368: Four elements khayatthena-anicca; 
bhayatthena dukkhaj asarakatthena anatta . bhayaffhena = bhayavaham VM 
610. cf. VM 609-11, 618.—17. Dhp. asanta. VM 496 asatd , SN 9-13, vi-tatha. 
LalV xiii; te ca samskara na santi tattvatah ,* avidyamana . VM 479.—18. also 
nalam . For five kinds of pahdna cf. p. 174.—19. Asl. 392.—20. Pts. 179 no. 
4 and 24.—21. cf. Asl. 54, 409.—22. Dhs 1031 sq. Asl 45 def. VM 673, 699, 
437,495, Asl 214, VM 509.—23. cf. p. 56.—24. saccam, satyam, paramartha. VM 
497: ekam hi saccam na dutiyan ti (Sn 884) adisu paramattha-sacce Nibbane ceva 
magge ca. Also VM 496.—25. parayanam , par am , aggam , seyyam , panitam , 
anuttaram 7 nittha. —26. laksana-iunyata LS no. I; viparyasa-atikranto of 
Hrdaya; EZB iii 134.—27. LS cf. pp. 207-8.—28. Har Dayal 159.—29. Har 
Dayal 16—18, 79—81. atma-parinirvana-hetoh vs. sarvasattva-parinirvana-hetoh; 
svartha vs. parartha; para-atma-samata, para-dtma-parivartana. —30. samata y 
eka-agra advaya .—31. anutpannd aniruddha. —32. amald avimald . apracarita- 
iunyatd LS no. 3.—33. anuna aparipurna .—34. prajhapdramita f hdnam advayam . 

m 3, 1 

1. cf. p. 120.—2. see PL 20, 94 sq. —3. F 297 and 331 says that no synthesis 
of the traditional views is achieved, but that they are merely schematically incor¬ 
porated.—4. F, p. 264.—5. Only Ch and Ti. F: E. Lamotte, L’explication 
des mysteres, 1935.—6. S: ed. B. Nanjio 1923, trsl. D. T. Suzuki, 1932. Very 
valuable is also Suzuki, Studies in the LS, 1930.—7. S. ed. S. Levi, 1925. E from 
Ch by C. H. Hamilton, 1938. F: S. Levi 1932. G: Kitayama, Metaphysik des 
Buddhismus, 1934, 234-68.—8. S. ed S. Levi, 1925. F: S. Levi, 1932.—9. Only 



Ch and Ti. F: E. Lamotte, La somme du grand vehicule d’Asanga, II, 1938.— 
10. About his existence see PL 101.—11. S. ed S. Levi, 1907. F: S. Levi, 1911.— 
12. S. ed. Yamagucchi, 1934. ch. 1. trsl. Stcherbatsky BB 1936, D. L. Friedman, 
1937. ch. 3 trsl. Mon. Nipponica ix, 1953, 277-303.—13. Ch T. 1585 x. F: La 
Siddhi, trad, et annot£e par L. de la Vallee-Poussin, 2 vols., 1928-30. Index 
1948.—14. Frauwallner, an admirer of the Yogacarins, p. 265, speaks of ‘einer 
verwirrenden und fast betaubenden Ausfuhrlichkeit’, a ‘tropisch wuchemden 
Erlosungsscholastik’, and says that it is written ‘in einem eigenartigen, um- 
standlichen und weitschweifigen Stil*. For further literature about the Yogacarins 
see Ms II1, 1*—2*. 

Ill 3, 2 

1. Suzuki St. 180, 247.—2. Ms ii 9.—3. F 329, 338-9. Asanga sometimes 
uses the terms ‘sign-portion* and ‘vision-portion* for subject and object.—4. So 
Da-Bhu, p. 49. LS. Others speak of vijfiapti-matra, where vijhaptt , ‘idea*, ‘inti¬ 
mation*, ‘representation* is declared to be synonymous with ‘thought*. Ms 93. 
BL i 525. Suzuki St. 179-82, 241-63, 278-82, 398-402, 440-1, 454-5.—5. BL 
i 513-21, 524-6. II 343-400. ‘The leading idea of this Idealism is that the hypo¬ 
thesis of an external world is perfectly useless. . . . Everything remains, under 
another name in another interpretation.* For instance, the regular course of 
perceived events is explainable by the ‘store-consciousness’, which replaces 
the material universe; etc., etc.—J. Sinha, Indian realism, 1938 gives a good 
account of the philosophical discussions to which the Vijnanavada gave rise in 
India.—6. Ms ii 6-8. For the proofs of LS see Suzuki St. 267-87.—7. The 
fullest account in Ms viii. It is also mentioned in the Prajnaparamita Sutra, e.g. 
SS 90-2.—8. giugs-brnan. This is more likely to be pratibhdsa than Lamotte’s 
pratibimba .—9. This vital factor is stressed again and again, e.g. VM iv 27, 
v 40-2, MM p. 7. The presence of the right motive, i.e. to attain greater renun¬ 
ciation ( nekkhamma ) distinguishes these practices from laboratory experiments.— 
10. VM ch. iv, v, vi. Comp. 206-7, MM 72-9. de la Vall6e-Poussin, Etudes et 
Mat£riaux, 94 sq, Eliade.—11. This, is a simplified account limited to what is 
essential for the argument of this chapter. The situation is further complicated 
by the introduction of such difficult terms as attha-paHnatti (‘concept*? cf. 
Comp. 198), nimitta-pannatti (‘conceptualized sign*?) and paccavekkhana-nimitta , 
‘contemplated sign*, ‘Zeichen der Betrachtung* (Beckh ii 47), a supra-sensory 
phenomenon which comes as an immediate result of meditation and in retro¬ 
spection confirms its success. There is also the dassanaH ca rupanam of MN iii 
157 which K. E. Neumann, comparing Tao-te-king ch. 21, interprets as the 
spiritual concept of the Grundbegriffe , i.e. the Urbilder of things; cf. also I. B. 
Homer, The Middle Length Sayings, III, 1959, xxi-xxii, 202, 206; and VM vi 
81.—12. parikammanimitta, —13. BM 103-7. The same terms also occur in a 
slighdy different form in the breathing exercises.—14. uggaha-nimitta. def. VM iv 
30. Or the ‘seized*, ‘absorbed* sign; Nanamoli: ‘learning sign*, Nyanatiloka, 
‘aufgefasste Bild*. There is some similarity with what Fechner called ‘Sinnesge- 
daechtnis* (Elemente der Psychophysik II 499 sq.). For examples see Froebes, 
p. 205.—15. pattbhaga-nimitta. Nanamoli ‘counterpart sign*, Nyanatiloka 
‘Gegenbild*. Shwe Zan Aung, Comp., p. 54 (cf. also pp. 5-6, 206): ‘By this pre¬ 
liminary concentration, the image, when it is turned into a concept (panfiatti), is 
divested of its reality and its faults, and becomes a sublimated copy, an abstract, 



yet still an individual. This conceptualized image, or after-image, which can no 
longer be depicted to sense or imagination as a concrete individual, is now termed 
patibkdga-nimitta .’—16. VM iv 31 for the earth device. See VM v 4, 8, 11, 14, 
23,26 for other devices, and vi 66,70-77,80 for the 10 repulsive things. Also MM, 
67-8, 85.—17. cf. PsBr 307-8.—18. sannajam = sannanidanam, sahhdpa - 
bhavam VM 324, S 135.—19. Kathavatthu v 46.—20. VM iv 34.—21. VM iv 
127-9; c f- also MM about the breathing exercises.—22. For schizophrenia see 
Henderson-Gillespie 202.—23. For examples, see Leuba 377-9. Article ‘Glory’ 
in Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible.—24. pratthhdsa y Edgerton 366-^7.—25. Ms 
ii 4.—26. Tri 26-30. BT no. 181.—27. Stace, p. 22. 

m 3,3 

1. Sandhinirmocanasutra ch. 6-7, LS 67-8, 130-3. Suzuki St. 157-62. Asanga, Ms 
ch. 2 (pp. 87-152). Further references in Ms II 1, 17*.—2. Ms 90-1.—3. Tri 
v. 23.—4. LS 163.—5. Sandh.—6. Tri w. 24-5. Sandh.—7. Sandh.—8. So 
Sandh.-—9. BL i 12.—10. Ms p. 90.—11. Suzuki St. 159.—12. Ms 108-9.— 
13. LS 131 v. 193.—14. MSL vi 6.—15. LS 67.—16. Ms 21.* Also PL, pp. 98- 
100 for the list of 10 vikalpas. —17. Ms pp .89,107.—18. Ms ii 27.—19. Ms ii 25.— 
20. Ms ii 28.—21. This is a very simplified description which takes no account 
of some additional statements, like that of LS 67 and MSL xi 39 which say 
that the paratantra arises from the separation of subject and object, or of the 
11 vijnaptis with which Asanga identifies it in Ms (F 329).—22. LS 68.— 
23. Ms 110.—24. LS 67. So Suzuki’s trsl, p. 60, for the cryptic tathatd-aryajhdna- 
gau-gamana-pratydtma-drya-jhdna-gati-gocara .—25. LS 132 w. 198-9, 202. 

ni 4 ,1 

I. E. A. Burtt, PhEW v, 1955, pp. 196-7.—2. Burtt, p. 201.—3. Burtt, p. 202.— 
4. A xix 358, sarva-kalpa-vikalpa-prahino hi Tathdgatah .—5. P f. 486.—6. Ad 
f. 252a, P 508, 537b.—7* A viii 192.—8. S LII 279b.—9. S iii 495-502. SS 
no. 96.—10. Sa 221 =• SS no. 98. For further examples see SS no. 95-100.— 

II. For a full list of this type of reasoning see V 11-12.—12. Robinson, p. 231, 
D 105.—13. A xxix 476.—14. BWB 84-5, 89-90. 

Ill 4, 2 

1. Hetu-vidyd , doctrine of logical reasons; tarka. Other synonyms BL i 2.— 

2. Bibl. until 1950 in C. Regamey, Buddhistische Phibsophie y 1950, pp. 65-9. 
Much has been published since. Of special importance is R. GnoU’s edition of 
the first chapter, with the auto-commentary, of Dharmaklrti’s Pramariavdrttika . 
SORxxiii, i960. Also E. Frauwallner, about Dignaga WZKSO iii, 1959, 83-164. 
Landmarks in the history of Indian logic WZKSO v, 1961, 125-48.—3. 
For this subject, and for the whole theory of syllogism (parartha-anumand ) and 
the classification of the fallacies I must refer to the superb analysis of Stcher- 
batsky.—4. Buston, p. 44.—5. See B 164-5. BL i 34. Also i 35, which shows 
the futility of all these disputations.—6. pp. 45—6.—7. Vyakhyayukti and 
MSL i 12. Candrakirti rejected Dignaga’s logical reform altogether, and pre¬ 
ferred the realistic logic of the brahmanical school of Nyaya, BL i 45.—8. For 
instance in Ratnakirti’s Ratnakirtinibandhavdli , ed. A. Thakur, Patna, 1957.— 
9. ‘In the intention of its promoters the system had apparently no special 



connection with Buddhism as a religion, i.e. as the teaching of a path towards 
Salvation. It claims to be the natural general logic of the human understand¬ 
ing’ BL i 2. ‘The greatest men of this period seem to have been freethinkers’, 
BL i 13-14. The others evolved the Tantras, we suppose?—10. Robinson 42, 
191, 193, D 68. ‘When the cedar-beamed mansion (of the Mahayana) arises, 
it makes the tumbledown thatched cottage (of the Hlnayana) look mean.’— 
11. Robinson 97. D 1-4.—12. Robinson 94-7.—13. 24. 32.—14. G. Jha 1937 
and 1939 (GOS). The Sanskrit original (GOS 1926) extends to 936 pages.— 
15. BL i 146-61. ii 14-25, 33 sq .—16. For the details see BL i 161-2, ii 26-8, 
311-39.—17. See BL i 163-9, ^ 28-30.—18. See BL i 162, ii 30-3.—19. apra - 
meya-vastunam aviparita-drstik . quot. BL ii 32. It seems to me that Stcherbatsky 
has misunderstood this sentence.—20. BL i 38, 43.—21. BL i 43-5.— 22 - BL i 
57.—23. For the literature see BL ii 404-5; WZKM 1930, 1932, 1933. For 
references to Jain, etc., criticism see Syadvadamanjari, p. 90 n. 28. See also 
BL i 457-505, ii 403-32.—24. BLi 147.—25. Pramanasamuccaya V 1.—26, BL 
i 458. 

HI 5, 1 

1. HBI 11 sq.y 686 sq. —2. The most reliable works on Tantric thought are: 
H. v. Glasenapp, Buddhistische Mysterien, 1940; G. Tucci, Tibetan Painted 
Scrolls, 3 vols., 1949; S. B. Dasgupta, An introduction to Tantric Buddhism, 
1950, and Obscure religious cults as background of Bengali Literature, 1946; 
D. L. Snellgrove, Buddhist Himalayas, 1957.—3. H. Dumoulin, Zen, 1959, 
pp. 259-62. He described it in his Yasen Kanna, trsl. R. D. M. Shaw and W. 
Schiffer, pp. 127. Mon. Nipponica xiii, 1957, pp. 101.—4. Much psychological 
knowledge is hidden away in the obscure language of the Tantric writings. 
The Oedipus complex occurs in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, p. 179. Some 
further suggestions in my Hate, Love and Perfect Wisdom in the Mahabodhi 
62, 1954, 3-8. Also G. Tucci, The Theory and Practice of the Mandala, 1961. It 
was H. V. Guenther’s merit to have perceived the task in ‘Yuganaddha, The 
Tantric view of life’, 1951, but wilfulness has so far prevented him from saying 
much of lasting value. 



A Astisahasrika Prajnaparamita, ed. R. Mitra BI 1888, trsl. 
E. Conze, BI 1958. 

AAA Abhisamayalarikaraloka, by Haribhadra, ed. U. Wogihara, 1932-5. 
Ad Astadasasahasrika Prajnaparamita; cf. PL 45 sq. 

AK Abhidharmakosa, by Vasubandhu, = L. de la Vallee-Poussin, 
L'AK de Vasubandhu, trad, et annote, 6 vols, 1923-31. 

AKP S. Schayer, Ausgewaehlte Kapitel aus der Prasannapada, 1931. 
AM Asia Major. 

AN Anguttara Nikaya. 

AO Acta Orientalia. 

AOKM Akten des 24ten Internationalen Orientalisten* Kongresses 
Munchen, 1959. 

Asl Atthasalinf, by Buddhaghosa (cy to DhS), ed. PTS 1897, trsl. as 
‘The Expositor', 2 vols., PTS 1920-1. 

B Buddhism, E. Conze, 1951. 

BB Bibliotheca Buddhica. 

Bcv Bodhicaryavatara, by Santideva. 

Bcv-p cy (panjika) to Bcv by Prajnakaramati, ed. BI 1901-5. 

B.E. Buddhist Era. 

Beckh H. Beckh, Buddhismus, 1928. 

BI Bibliotheca Indica. 

BL Buddhist Logic, Th. Stcherbatsky, 2 vols., BB 1932, 1930. 

BM Buddhist Meditation, E. Conze, 1956. 

BS Buddhist Scriptures, E. Conze, 1959. 

BSOAS Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 

BT Buddhist Texts, ed. E. Conze, 1954. 

Buston Bu-ston, History of Buddhism, trsl. E. Obermiller, 2 vols., 

BWB Buddhist Wisdom Books, E. Conze, 1958. 

Comp. Compendium of Philosophy, by Z. Aung and C. A. F. Rhys 
Davids, 1910 (a trsl. of Anuruddha's Abhidhammaita-sangaha). 
CPB Manual of Buddhist Philosophy, W. M. McGovern, I, 1923. 

CPD Critical Pali Dictionary, 1924^. 
cy commentary. 

Da-Bhu. Dasabhumikasutra, ed. J. Rahder, 1926. 

Dhp Dhammapada, ed. and trsl. S. Radhakrishnan, 1950. 

DhS Dhammasangani, ed. PTS 1885; trsl. A Buddhist Manual of 
Psychological Ethics, C. A. F. Rhys Davids, 1900. 

Divy. Di vyavadana, ed. Cowell and Neil, 1886. 

DN Digha Nikaya. 

Dutt N. Dutt, Aspects of Mahayana Buddhism and its relation to the 
Hinayana, 1930. 

EA Etudes Asiatiques. 

EB Eastern Buddhist. 



F. Edgerton, Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit grammar and dictionary, 

Enc Bu 


Har Dayal 

1953 - 

Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 1957. 

The Expositor; see at Asl. 

Essays in Zen Buddhism, D. T. Suzuki. 

E. Frauwallner, Die Philosophic des Buddhismus, 1956. 

J. Froebes, Lehrbuch der experimentellen Psychologie, 1923. 
Gaekwad Oriental Series. 

G. Grimm, The doctrine of the Buddha, 1958. 

The Bodhisattva doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit literature, 1932. 
Histoire du Bouddhisme Indien. E. Lamotte, I 1958. 

Heiler F. Hciler, Die buddhistische Versenkung, 1922. 
Henderson-Gillespie Textbook of Psychiatry, 1936. 











Hobogirin, 4 fasc., 1929-37. 

Instant et Cause, L. Silburn, 1955. 

Indian Historical Quarterly. 

Indo-Iranian Journal. 

Journal Asiatique. 

Journal of the Bihar Research Society. 

Journal of the Greater India Society. 

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 

A. B. Keith, Buddhist philosophy in India and Ceylon, 1923. 

R. Kimura, Historical study of the terms Hinayana and Mahayana, 



Karmasiddhiprakarana, trad. E. Lamotte as Le traite de l’acte 
de Vasubandhu, MCB iv 1936. 

J. May 

Lalita Vistara, ed. S. Lefmann, 1902-8; trad. Foucaux, 1884-92. 

J. H. Leuba, The Psychology of Religious Mysticism. 

Lankavatara Sutra, ed. B. Nanjio 1923; trsl. D. T. Suzuki, 1932. 
Candrakirti Prasannapada Madhyamakavrtti. Douze chapitres 
traduits, etc., 1959. 

MCB Melanges Chinoises et Bouddhiques. 

Mhvy Mahavyutpatti. 

Mil Milindapanha, ed. Trenckner, 1880; trsl. T. W. Rhys Davids, 






SBE, 1890-4. 

Manual of a Mystic, PTS 1916. 

(Mula) Madhyamakakarika, ed. BB 4, 1903-13. 

Majjhima Nikaya. 


Mahayanasamgraha, trad. E. Lamotte, La somme du grand 
vehicule d’Asanga, 2 vols., 1938-9. 





Mahayanasutralamkara, ed. S. Levi, 1907. 

Middle Treatise (Chung-lun), T. 1564. 

T. R. V. Murti, The central philosophy of Buddhism, 1955. 
Mahavastu, ed. S. Senart, 3 vols., 1882-97. trsl. J. J. Jones, 3 vols., 

1 949-56. 



Madhyantavibhagatika, by Sthiramati, ed. S. Yamagucchi, 1934. 
The Path of Purification (= VM), trsl. Bhikkhu ISIanamoli, 1956. 






























Suzuki St. 







Visuddhi-magga oder der Weg zur Reinheit, uebs. Nyanatiloka, 
1952 . 

Orientalistische Literaturzeitung. 

Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita; Bibl. in PL 42 
The Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary. 

Philosophy East and West. 

The Prajnaparamita Literature, E. Conze, i960. 

Prasannapada, by Candrakirti, ed. BB 4, 1903-13. 
Patisambhida-magga, ed. PTS, 2 vols., 1905, 1907. 

Pali Text Society. 

Petavatthu cy ed. PTS, 1894. 

The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, E. Conze, 1961. 

W. Rahula, What the Buddha taught, 1959. 

C. Regamey, Buddhistische Philosophic, 1950 (Bibliography). 
Ratnagotravibhaga, ed. E. H. Johnston and T. Chowdhury, 1950. 
Rocznik Orientalistyczny. 

R. H. Robinson, Madhyamika Studies in Fifth-century China. 

London Thesis. 1959. 

Satasahasrika Prajnaparamita. Bibl. PL 37. 


Saptasatika Prajnaparamita; Bibl. PL 62-3. 

Saundarananda-kavya, by A6vaghosha, ed. E. J. Johnston, 1928, 
trsl. Johnston, 1932. 

Sacred Books of the East. 

Siksasamuccaya, by Santideva, ed. BB I 1897-1902. trsl. Bendall 
and Rouse, 1922. 

La Siddhi, trad, et annotee par L. de la Vall6e-Poussin, 2 vols. 

Samyutta Nikaya. 

The way of mindfulness, 1949. 

Serie Orientale Roma. 

Saddharmapundarikasutra, ed. U. Wogihara and C. Tsuchida, 

1 935 - 

Selected Sayings from the Perfection of Wisdom, E. Conze, 1955. 
W. T. Stace, The teachings of the mystics, i960. 

Suttanipata, ed. Lord Chalmers, 1932. 
Suvikrantavikramiparipjxcha, ed. R. Hikata, 1958. 

D. T. Suzuki, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra, 1930. 

Der Satz vom Widerspruch, E. Conze, 1932. 


Taisho Issaikyo. 

J. Takakusu, The essentials of Buddhist philosophy, 1947. 
Theragatha, ed. PTS 1883. 

Times Literary Supplement. 

Le traite de la grande vertue de sagesse, E. Lamotte, 2 vc-ls., 1944, 

TrimSika by Vasubandhu, ed. S. L£vi, 1925. 

Tattvasamgraha, by Santirakshita with cy of Kamalasila, ed. GOS, 

2 vols., 1926, trsl. GOS, 2 vols., 1937-9. 














Udana PTS, 1902. 
cy to Udana. 

Vajracchedika ed. E. Conze, SOR 1957. 

Visuddhimagga, by Buddhaghosa; ed. C. A. F. Rhys Davids, 
2 vols., PTS 1920-1 (quoted by pages); ed. H. C. Warren, 
I 95° (quoted by chapters and paragraphs), 
cy to Vimanavatthu ed. PTS 1901. 

History of science in die seventeenth century. 

Experimental Psychology. 

Wiener Zeitschrift zur Kunde des Morgenlandes. 

Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde Slid- und Ostasiens. 

Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenlandischen Gesellschaft. 

Zen and Japanese Culture, D. T. Suzuki, 1959. 



Abhidharma 29, 32,42, 59, 65, 104 n, 
10511, 108, 120, 124, 129-31, 150, 
167, 169, 171, 178-91, 202-3, 2I 7, 
222, 244, 250-1, 265 
abhoga 63, 89, 216, 236 
absolute ( parinishpanna ) 258-60 

Absolute 43-6, 95, 122, 159, 166, 
196, 201-3, 21 h 2I 5> 22 5-<>> 2 39> 
244, 261-4, 2 ^8 
activity ( karitra ) 136 

adamantine 171, 185 
adepts (as-WXr/a) 166, 171, 176 
adhyatma 105 
adverting 188 
ahimsa 212-15, 2 ^5 
Aids to Penetration (four) 175 
alternatives (four) 71, 219 
arnfta (deathless) 71-3 
anabhiniveia 216 
anidarJana 221 
Annihilationism 219 n, 225 
anunaya 90 
anus ay a 142 

anxiety 40, 85, 242 
apoha 269 

apperception (8 stages of) 186-91; 

apranihita 67 

Arhat(s) 36, 5711, 59, 61, 68, 89, 124, 
138, 154, 166-9, i 7 < 5 - 7 , 197 , 219, 
222, 226, 234-6 

Aristotle 24, 36 n, 41, 83, 204, 

_ 219-20 

Aryadeva 164, 238, 250 n 
Asariga 120, 133, 206, 250-1, 253-4 
aspects (16) 68-9, 175 

ASvaghosha 39 

atman 19, 38, 39 n, 127-8, 196, 230 n 
attainment (prapti) 231-2, 249, 263 
attainment of cessation 113-16, 236 
attention 112, 188 
Augustine, St., 83 
Avatamsaka 228-9 
avipranasa 143 

ayatana (plane) 75; (sense-fields) 

Bhagavan 169 

bhavahga (life-continuum) 132 
Bhavaviveka 238 
bhumi 234 
Bodhidharma 18, 60 
Bodhisattva 63, 168, 197, 210-11, 
2 *8, 233-7, 252, 256, 259, 263, 266 
body 72-3, 114, 127, 170-1, 182-6, 
196, 232, 236-7; triple 172, 232-4, 

Buddha, the 30, 49, 57, 61, 81, 89, 
114-15, 126-7, I2 9“3°> *33, 168-72, 
196-7, 199, 208, 226, 232-4, 253, 
256, 268 

Buddhafield 170,229,2^4 
Buddhaghosa 42-3, 49, 60, 69, 82-3, 
114, 120, 149, 153, 156, 170, 173-5 
Buddha-nature 198, 216 
Buddha-self 134 

Buddhism: its rationality 26; origi¬ 
nal 31; archaic 32-3; scholastic 
33; ‘pre-canonical* 196 

calm 40, 50, 52-3, 63-4. 66, 242, 274 
Candraklrti 130, 205-6, 208, 210, 
220, 234, 238-9 
Carvakas 17 n, 208 
Ch’an 116 
Cicero 185 n, 213 n 
cognition ( jnana ) 29 

communicatio idiomatum 237 
compassion 85-8, 170. 197, 203, 

217-18, 236 

concentration ( samadhi ) 52-3, 69, 84, 
112, 173, 188, 255; unimpeded 

175; adamantine 176 
conditioned 36, 56, 58, 89, 129, 144, 
149 , 2 05 > 22 4 > 2 33 , 2 4 >, 2 47 - 8 , 259, 

conditioned co-production 60, 108, 
148, 156-8, 168, 170, 240, 246 
conditions 144-56, 168. 240, 246 
consciousness 108, 1 jo-16, 127, 

131-3, 162, 179-80, 189, 196, 224, 
226, 252, 257 
contact 111-12, 189 
continuity 105, 132-4, 139-41, 231 
contradiction(s) 202, 2x4 n, 218-20, 
237, 241-2, 261-4 

Behaviourism 20 n, 187 n 
Bergson, H. 99, 137 n 



craving (3 kinds) 67 
Cues, N. of 233 

Damiani, P. 70 n 
dedication of merit 218 
Dharma 92-106, 171, 196, 213, 232, 
244-9, 2 59> *62, 265 
dharmas 97-106, 121, 138-9, 171-2, 
178, 180, 196, 198, 203, 209, 214-16, 
22 3 ~ 4 , 2 39 > 2 44~8 

Dharma-body 94, 133, 172, 184, 226, 

2 3 2 _ 5 , 2 57 

Dharma-element 26, 95, 122, 144, 
196, 225-6, 229, 236, 242, 263 
Dharmakirti 264, 265 n, 267-8 
dharmata (‘Dharmahood’) 93, 95-6, 
122, 133, 243, 253 n 
Dharmapala 251 
Dharmottara 264, 267 
dhyana 89, 251 
dialectics 232, 239-42, 261-4 
Dignaga 264-5, 2 <$9 
Dionysius Areopagita 65 
Diparikara 171, 235 
Disciple ( [sravaka ) 166,168, 199, 234 

discrimination 205, 207-8, 210, 262 
discursive thinking 52, 191 
Docetism 172, 197, 232 
dream 222-3, 22 5 
duality 203, 205, 207, 215, 220, 228, 
2 3 I- 3 » 2 4 °, 2 53 n , 2 59 , 2 <>2 

ease ( sukha ) 35 

Eckhart, M. 27, 90 n, 230 n 
elements: (18) 95, 109-10; (4) 114, 

182; (6) 182 

Eliade, M. 185 n, 186 n 
emptiness 22, 48-9, 59-61, 64, 115, 
122, 131, 165, 174, 182, 197-8, 203, 
205, 216, 219-22, 225, 233, 236, 
240-50, 257, 263-4, 268 
enlightenment 168, 203, 208, 230, 
2 35 

Epicurus 71 n 
epistemology 25 
esoteric 183, 271-2 
Eternalism 219 n, 225 
evenmindedness 56, 89, 242 

faith 24, 43, 47—50, 169, 173, 196, 
212 n, 213, 233, 270 
feelings 89, 98 n, 100-1, 107, 189-90 
form ( rupa ) 107, 135, 178, 180-6, 223 

forsaking (five kinds) 174-5 
Frauwallner, E. 10 
freedom of the will, 104 n, 146 n 
friendliness 81-5, 127, 217-18 

Gilgamesh 71 

God 27, 41, 46, 165, 222, 227-8, 265 
Gregory, St. 65 

Harding, D. \V. 87 

Hegel 261 
Hinduism 33, 273 
holy persons ( arya-pudgala ) 57, 96, 

124, 140-2, 166, 174, 225, 230-2, 
248, 268 

Holy Truths 140, 162, 168, 174, 181, 
268; first 35-6* 167; second and 
third 156, 168 
Hugo, V. 52 n 
Hume, D. 104 n, 201, 208 

ignorance (avidya) 39-40, 55, 97, 
121, 147, 156, 169-70, 204, 210, 223, 
226, 237, 243, 246, 258 n, 262 
‘ill’ ( duhkha ) 34-6, 58, 156, 208, 

210-11, 246-7, 249 
imagined ( parikalpita ) 258-9 

I-making 112 
immaterial 185 n, 221 
immortality 67, 71-3, 185 
impartiality 89-90, 218 
impermanence 34, 39, 59, 134-44, 
206-8, 210, 246-7, 249 
impulses 107-8, 224 
indriya 62 
inference 266-8 
instant 134-7 

interdependent {paratantra) 258-9 
intermediary world 22, 74, 183, 254 
interpenetration 228-9 
introspection 268 
introversion 18, 53, 252 
intuition 29, 30 n 
irreversible (< avaivarttika ) 235-6, 

237 n 

isolated ( vivikta ) 221 

John of the Cross 60 n 

Kabbala 75 n, 165 n 
Kamalasila 127, 238, 267 
Kant, I. 23, 104 n 
kaya 234 



karma 48, 50, 90, 101, 104, 111-13, 
126-7, 137, 147, 151, 159, 172, 183, 
211, 213 
kasina 254 
Keith, A. B. 10 
Koesder, A. 9, 214 

life: mental 112; physical j8o-i 
lineage ( gotra ) 57, 143-4, 174 

Lokayatikas 38 n 
Lokottaravadins 163, 195 

Madhyamikas 60, 131, 209, 213, 215, 

22 4 “ 5 , 2 3 2 , 2 3 8 " 49 , 2 5 * 
magical 22-3 

Mahasanghikas 31-2, 36, 95, 119, 
1 22 , 132, 143, 163, 172, 195-8, 203, 
232, 269 

Mahayana 94-5, 141, 143, 159-60, 
166, 168, 172-3, 177, 195 S <1- 

Mahisasaka 119-20, 132, 143, 161, 

Maitreyanatha 251 
maitri (mettd , friendliness) 82 
Manilius 21 n 
Mara 235; fourfold 72 
mark(s) (< laksana ) 221, 239; three 

34 56, 69, 71, 173-4, 207 , 210, 

2 47 , 255 

Marxism 24 n, 261 
may a 225 
memory 100 n, 126 
Menninger, K. A. 45-6 
mental sensation 267-8 
mind 112-13 

mindfulness ( smfti ) 51-2, 66, 173, 

212 n 

moment(s) 134-5 
Moore, H. 165-6 
morality 212 

multiplicity 165, 203, 205, 216, 220, 

Murti, T. R. V. 10, 203, 238 
mystery religions 272-3 

Nagarjuna 69, 116, 120, 200, 205-6, 
208-9, 214, 225, 238, 241, 261 n, 

nddis (‘arteries’) 22, 185 
Needham, J. 182-3 
Neumann, K. E. 32 
Nietzsche 8 
nimitta 62 

nirodha (stopping) 71, 162-3, 236 

Nirvana 26, 35-6, 43, 45, 48, 56-8, 
60-1, 64, 67-79, 82, 92, I 12-14, 
116, 121-2, 129, 131, 133-4, 138. 
M 4 , 154 , i 59 - 66 > i68 > ' 7 °, 173-6, 
185, 191, 196, 198, 201, 207-8, 
2IO-II, 2l6, 223, 226, 228-3I, 236, 
242, 244 n, 247-9, 259, 163-4, 268 
nirvikalpa-jndna 253, 256 
non-apprehension 216 
non-assertion 217, 243 
non-production 160-1, 167, 220-2, 
231, 241 

non-relying 216-17 
non-resisting ( apratigha ) 221 

no-thought 114-16 
not-self ( nairatmya , etc.) 19, 36—9, 

4 2 > 49 , 59 , * 22 > 133 , lo8 “ 9 , 2 ”, 
226, 231, 246-7, 249, 253 n 
numinous 27 
Nyaya 127-8 

obstacles (2) 226, 257 

Occamists 25 
occult 22-3, 80, 147 
Oldenberg, H. 171 
omniscience 169, 226, 2 63 
ontology 25 
optimism 41 

outflows ( asrava ) 167, 176 

Ovid 9 

own-being (. svabhdva ) 25, 40, 54, 

114, 144, 198, 206, 220-2, 224, 233, 
2 39 - 4 °, 249, 257-60 

pan-realism 138-9, 162 
Pascal 27 
Patanjali 39, 80 

Path 56-7, 59, 60, 69, 81, 114, 

141-2, 152, 161-2, 166, 173-7, 

230 n, 234-7 

patience (kshanti) 212 n, 215, 222, 

peace 36, 56, 73-4, 213, 142-3, 257 
perception(s) 66, 107, hi, 190, 

22 3 ~ 4 , 2 55 , 266 
perfections (six) 211-17, 235 
perverted views 36, 39-46, 129, 131, 
197, 204-11, 228, 230, 247, 252 
phenomenalism 109 
philosophy 28 
Plato(nism) 65, 72, 204 
Plotinus 24 

power 20-1, 26, 38, 41, 60 
Prajnakaragupta 268 



Prajnaparamita 49, 65, 74, 199-200, 
202, 213, 220-2, 238, 241, 250, 263, 

prdpti (possession) 139-41, 162 
prasahga 241 
Pratt 59 n 

Pratyekabuddha 166-70, 199, 234-5 
Price, H. H. 9 
Protagoras 109 
pudgala (person) 124-8 
Pudgalavadins 119, 122-34 
Pyrrho 213 n 

Radhakrishnan 48 
reality 24-6, 54, 197, 199, 223-4, 
* 43 , 2 53 > *58, 263 
Reality-limit 225 
reasoning 28 
rebirth 48,50 
reification 99, 100 
representation-only 257 
repulsive (asubha) 39, 40, 42-3, 206 
restraint of the senses 53, 62, 65, 186 
Russell, B. 29 n 
Ruysbroek 62 

iamatha 18 
sambhoga-kdya 233-4 
Sameness 228-32,242 
samgha (‘community*) 28, 48, 49 
Samkhya 38-9, 127 
Saipkrantikas 132 
Sammitiyas 124 
santati (continuity) 141 
Santideva 200,238 
Santirakshita 238, 267-8 
Saramati 165, 229 
Sarvastivadins 31-2, 68, 111 n, 
119-20, 129, 132, 134-5, 138-42, 
I 53 _ 5> l6 h 163-4,178 sq., 201, 203, 
214, 232 

satkayadfsti 38 

Sautrantikas 119-20, 132-4, 141-3, 
154, 161-4,203, 230 n, 250 
science 19-21, 24, 27, 50, 182-3 
security 44,75 
seed(s) 133-4, 141-3 
self 19, 37-9, 4 i, 43 , 70-1, 81-2, 
96, 102-7, no, 122-34, 141, 198, 
208-9, 211, 221, 228, 233, 246-7, 
258, 263 

self-assertion 243 

self-extinction 80, 84, 122, 210, 

217-18, 242 

self-love 82-3 
Seng-chao 263 
Seng-jui 266 
Seng-t*san 65, 82 
sense-data 65,266 
sense-desires 65 

sense-objects 18, 53, 65-6, 187-9, 


sense-organs 187, 189 
sense-perception 28, 62-6, 253, 267 
sign (i nimitta ) 56, 62, 69, 70, 187, 

224, 236, 254-5, 259 

signless 23, 59, 61-4, 68-71, 187, 

225, 236, 248, 258 
Silbum, L. 10 

skandhas 35-9, 58, 72, 97-8, 107-8, 
124-6, 128, 130-3, 162, 173, 188, 
223-4, 226, 239, 246, 264 
skill in means 203, 236, 265 
space ( dkdsa ) 121, 128, 144, 161-6, 

207, 221, 229, 256, 258 
Spirit 229-30, 242 
spiritual hierarchy 26 
spiritual world 8, 22, 23 
station of neither perception nor non¬ 
perception 66, 113 
Stcherbatsky, Th. 10, 34, 92, 126, 
146 n 

Sthaviras 36, 59, 94-6, 119, 132, 
165-6, 195-8, 201-2, 209, 223-4, 
227-8, 230, 266 
Sthiramati 251 
Stoics 40, 185 n, 211 
store-consciousness 131, 133-4, 18°, 
* 5 * 

substratum (airaya) 141—3, 162, 
230 n, 257 

Suchness 65, 131, 133, 205, 207, 
225-6, 228-9, 2 33> 249, 2 5 8 “9> 264 
suffering 210-11, 246, 262 
suffusion (yasana) 143 
sukha 75 n 

Sully-Prudhomme 39,45 
superknowledges 50 
supramundane 57, 248, 268 
Suzuki, D. T. 184, 232 n, 261 n 
Swift 20 

sympathetic joy 87-9, 218 

Tantras 32 n, 270-4 
Tathagata 61, 172, 196, 203, 207, 
213, 216, 219, 221, 229-30, 235, 

Taylor, J. 61 
Tennyson 76 



Theravadins 31-2, hi, 116, 119-20, 
x 3 2 ~ 5 » 150, 153 , i 5 6 , 161, 178^., 
201, 203, 254 

Thomas a Kempis 42, 84 
Thomas, E. J. 10 

thought 105, 108, 111-12, 114-16, 
127, 133, 136, 142, 152-3, 155, 
179-80, 196, 229, 251-4, 256-7, 263 
Thought-only 252 
trance(s) 26, 36, 53, 66, 113-16, 167, 
191, 209, 251-6 
tranquillity 18-20, 70, 77 

udvega (agitation) 69 
Unconditioned 24, 43, 56-7, 129, 
158-66, 201-3, 2 °5> 22 4> 226-31, 

2 33 , 2 4 1 j 2 47 ~ 9 , 2 ^4 
unconsciousness 66, 108 n, 115, 132 
unmanifested form 181 
Upanishads 38 
upasama (peace) 74 
upeksha (impartiality, etc.) 89-90 

Vaibhashikas 169 
VaiSesika 38 

Vasubandhu 69, 105, 114, 123, 136, 
169, 250-1, 257 
Vasumitra 136 

Vatsagotra 130 
Vatsiputriyas 123-4 
Vedanta 127, 228 
Vibhajyavadins 31 n, 119-20 
vicar a 191 
viparydsa 40, 206 
vitakka 191 

Whitehead 20 
will 112, 190-1 

wisdom 24, 40, 48, 51, 53-5, 64, 8i, 
85 . 89 . 97 , 106, 173 , > 9 °, 203, 
209-10, 215-17, 226, 236, 241, 

2 43 ~ 9 > 2 5 «> 2 «3 
wisdom eye 58 
wishless 59, 67-71, 236, 248 
Wordsworth, W. 8, 9 n, 39 

Yoga 9, 17-21, 39, 52, 77, 181, 
183-6, 250 n, 255-6 
Yogacarins 120, 131, 133, 178^., 
207, 215, 225, 230 n, 232-3, 250-60, 

Yogin 56, 268 
Y iian-tsang 251 

Zen 7 n, 231 n, 262 n, 274 
Zeno of Elea 261 

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