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Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 2-2-4

Topic 4 - Refutation of the Bauddha Realists

Sutra 2,2.18

समुदाय उभयहेतुकेऽपि तदप्राप्तिः ॥ १८ ॥

samudāya ubhayahetuke'pi tadaprāptiḥ || 18 ||

samudāye—The aggregate; ubhaya-hetuke—having for its cause the two; api—even; tat-aprāptiḥ—it will not take place.

18. Even if the (two kinds of) aggregates proceed from their two causes, there would result the non-formation (of the two aggregates).

This Sutra begins the refutation of the Bauddha school.

There are three principal schools of Buddhism, i.e.

the Realists, who accept the reality of both the outside and the inside world, consisting respectively of external things and thought; the Idealists, who maintain that thought alone is real; and the Nihilists, who maintain that everything is void and unreal.

But all of them agree that everything is momentary—nothing lasts beyond a moment.

The Realists among the Bauddhas recognize two aggregates, the external material world and the internal mental world—both together making up the universe.

The external world is made up of the aggregation of atoms.

These atoms are of four kinds —atoms of earth, which are hard; atoms of water, which are viscid; atoms of fire, which are hot; and atoms of air, which are mobile.

Of the internal world, the five Skandhas (groups) are the cause.

They are—Rūpa Skandha, comprising the senses and their objects; the Vijñāna Skandha, comprising the series of self-cognitions which give rise to the notion of ‘I’;

the Vedanā Skandha, comprising pleasure, pain, etc.; the Saṁjñā Skandha, comprising the cognition of things by names, as, he is a man;

and the Saṁskāra Skandha, comprising attachment and aversion, Dharma (merit), Adharma (demerit), etc.

By the aggregation of these Skandhas the internal aggregate or the mental world is produced. These are the two internal and external aggregates referred to in the Sutras. Sutras 18-27 refute the Realists’ view.

The question now arises, how are these aggregates formed? Is there an intelligent principle behind as the cause, the guide, of the aggregation, or does it take place spontaneously?

If there is an intelligent principle, is it stationary or momentary?

If it is stationary, the Buddhist doctrine of momentariness is contradicted. If it is momentary, then we cannot say that it comes into existence first and then unites the atoms, for that would mean that the cause lasts for more than one moment.

Again, if there is no intelligent principle as guide, how can the non-intelligent atoms and the Skandhas aggregate in a systematic way? Moreover, the activity would be eternal, and there would be no destruction or Pralaya.

For all these reasons the formation of aggregates cannot be accounted for, and in their absence there cannot exist the stream of mundane existence. Consequently, the doctrine of this school of Bauddhas is untenable.

 Sutra 2,2.19

इतरेतरप्रत्ययत्वादिति चेत्, न, उत्पत्तिमात्रनिमित्तत्वात् ॥ १९ ॥

itaretarapratyayatvāditi cet, na, utpattimātranimittatvāt || 19 ||

itaretara-pratyayatvāt—Because of successive causality; iti cet—if it be said; na—no; utpatta-mātra-nimittatvāt—because they are merely the efficient cause of the origin.

19. If it be said (that the formation of aggregates is possible) because of the successive causality (of Nescience etc. in the Bauddha series),

(we say), no, because they are merely the efficient cause of the origin (of the immediately subsequent thing in the series, and not of the aggregation).

The series are as follows:

Nescience, Saṁskāra (attachment, aversion, etc.), Vijñāna (self-conscious-ness), name (earth, water, etc.), colour (the rudimentary ingredients of the body), abode of the six (i.e. the body and the senses), contact, experience of pleasure etc., desire, movement, merit and demerit, etc.

In this series the immediately preceding item is the cause of the next, and so we can explain the mundane existence without any combining principle, as demanded in the previous Sutra.

These constitute an uninterrupted chain of cause and effect, revolving unceasingly, and this cannot take place without aggregates. So aggregates are a reality.

The Sutra refutes it by saying that though in the series the preceding one is the cause of the subsequent one, there is nothing which can be the cause of the whole aggregate.

That the atoms cannot combine of themselves even when they are assumed to be permanent and eternal, has been shown in refuting the Vaiśeṣikas. Much more is their combination by themselves impossible when they are momentary, as the Buddhists hold.

Again, the individual soul, for whose enjoyment etc. this aggregate of body etc. exists, is also momentary and cannot therefore be an enjoyer; and whose again is Liberation, since the individual soul is momentary?

So the series, though it stands in a relation of successive causality, cannot fee the cause of the aggregates, and there being no permanent enjoyer, there is neither any need of these aggregates.

So the Bauddha doctrine of momentariness is untenable.

The Sutra can also be explained as follows:

The Bauddhas say, if we hold that the atoms stand in a relation of causality, then no combining principle of the atoms would be necessary; in that case they would join of themselves.

The latter part of the Sutra refutes this saying that the causality will explain only the production of the atoms of the pot of a subsequent moment by the atoms of the pot of a previous moment,

but will not explain the combination of the atoms into an aggregate, which can take place only if there is an intelligent agent behind, for otherwise the combination of inert and momentary atoms cannot be explained.

 Sutra 2,2.20

उत्तरोत्पादे च पूर्वनिरोधात् ॥ २० ॥

uttarotpāde ca pūrvanirodhāt || 20 ||

uttarotpāde—At the time of the production of the subsequent thing; ca—and; purva-nirodhāt—because the antecedent one has ceased to exist.

20. And because at the time of the production of the subsequent thing (even in the series of successive causality) the antecedent thing has already ceased to exist, (it cannot be the cause of the subsequent thing).

The Sutra now refutes that even the successive causality spoken of the series Nescience, Saṁskāras, etc. is untenable.

Since everything is momentary, the antecedent thing would already have ceased to exist at the next moment, when the subsequent thing is created; so it cannot be the cause of the other.

The clay that exists at the time the pot is created, is alone the cause of the pot, and not that which existed before and has ceased to exist then.

If it be still maintained to be the cause, then we have to accept that existence comes out of non-existence, which is impossible.

Again the acceptance of the doctrine of momentariness would go against the principle that the effect is the cause in a new form. This principle shows that the cause exists in the effect, which means that it is not momentary.

Again on account of the momentariness of things ‘origination’ and ‘destruction’ will be synonymous, for if we say there is difference between the two, then we shall be forced to say that the thing lasts at least for more than one moment, and consequently we shall have to abandon the doctrine of momentariness.

 Sutra 2,2.21

असति प्रतिज्ञोपरोधो यौगपद्यमन्यथा ॥ २१ ॥

asati pratijñoparodho yaugapadyamanyathā || 21 ||

asati—If non-existence (of cause) be assumed; pratijña-uparodhaḥ—contradiction of the proposition; yaugapadyam—simultaneity; anyathā—otherwise.

21. If non-existence (of cause) be assumed, (the effects being produced in spite of it) (there will result) contradiction of their (Bauddhas’) proposition. Otherwise (there would result) simultaneity (of cause and effect).

If, to avoid the difficulty shown in the previous Sutra, the Bauddhas say that effects are produced without a cause, then they would contradict their own proposition that every effect has a cause.

If on the other hand a cause be assumed, then we have to accept that the cause and effect exist simultaneously at the next moment, i.e. the cause lasts for more than one moment, as already shown in the last Sutra, which would falsify the doctrine of momentariness.

 Sutra 2,2.22

प्रतिसंख्याप्रतिसंख्यानिरोधाप्राप्तिः, अविच्छेदात् ॥ २२ ॥

pratisaṃkhyāpratisaṃkhyānirodhāprāptiḥ, avicchedāt || 22 ||

pratisaṃkhyā (nirodha)-apratisaṃkhyānirodha-aprāptiḥ—Conscious destruction and unconscious destruction would be impossible; avicchedāt—owing to non-interruption. 

22. Conscious and unconscious destruction would be impossible owing to non-interruption.

The Bauddhas maintain that universal destruction is ever going on, and that this destruction is of two kinds, conscious and unconscious. The former depends upon an act of thought, as when a jar is broken by a man with a stick, while the latter is the natural decay of things.

The Sutra says that either kind of destruction would be impossible, for it must refer either to the series of momentary existences or to the single members of that series.

The series are continuous and can never be stopped. Why?

Because the last momentary existence before such destruction must be assumed either to produce its effect or not to produce it.

If it does then the series would continue and will not be destroyed. If it does not produce the effect, the last momentary existence ceases to be a fact at all, for according to the Bauddhas existence (Sattā) means causal efficiency.

Again the non-existence of the last momentary existence would lead backward to the non-existence of the previous momentary existence and so on of the whole series.

Again these two kinds of destruction cannot be found in the individual members of the series also.

For owing to the momentary existence of each member no conscious destruction of it is possible. Neither can it be unconscious destruction, since the individual member is not altogether destroyed; for when a pot is destroyed we find the existence of the clay in the sherds.

Even in those cases where it seems to vanish, as when a drop of water disappears on account of heat, we can infer that it continues to exist in some other form, i.e. as steam.

 Sutra 2,2.23

उभयथा च दोषात् ॥ २३ ॥

ubhayathā ca doṣāt || 23 ||

ubhayathā—In either case; ca—and; doṣāt—because of objections.

23. And in either case (i.e. whether Nescience with its offshoots meets with conscious or unconscious destruction resulting in final release) because of the objections (that arise, the Bauddha position is untenable).

Nescience, according to the Bauddhas, is the false idea of permanency in things momentary. They say that on the destruction of it Moksha or Freedom is attained.

Now this destruction of Nescience must be one of the two kinds referred to in the last Sutra.

If it is a conscious destruction, depending on the effort of the individual—his penance and knowledge then this would go counter to the Buddhist doctrine of momentariness, according to which Nescience will also be momentary and cease to exist after a moment of its own accord.

And if we say that the destruction of ignorance is spontaneous, then the Buddhist instruction ac to the ‘path’ is useless. So in either case the Bauddha position is untenable.

Sutra 2,2.24

आकाशे चाविशेषात् ॥ २४ ॥

ākāśe cāviśeṣāt || 24 ||

ākāśe—In the case of Ākāśa (space); ca—also; aviśeṣāt—there being no difference.

24. The case of Ākāśa also not being different (from the twofold destruction, it also cannot be a non-entity).

According to the Bauddhas, besides the twofold destruction Ākāśa or space is a third non-entity. It means the absence in general of any covering or occupying body.

It has been shown in Sutras 22-23 that the two kinds of destruction are not absolutely devoid of positive characteristics and so cannot be non-entities. The case of Ākāśa is also similar.

Just as earth, air, etc. are recognized to be entities in consequence of their being the substratum of properties like smell etc., similarly Ākāśa also on account of its being the substratum of sound ought to be recognized as an entity.

Earth etc. are experienced through their attributes, and the existence of Ākāśa also is experienced through its attribute, sound. Consequently it also must be an entity.

Sutra 2,2.25

अनुस्मृतेश्च ॥ २५ ॥

anusmṛteśca || 25 ||

anusmṛteḥ—On account of memory; ca—and.

25. And on account of memory (the permanency of the experiencer has to be recognized).

A further refutation of the momentariness of things is given here. If everything is momentary, the experiencer or enjoyer of something must also be momentary.

But that the enjoyer is not momentary and abides longer is realized from the fact that people have the memory of past experiences.

Memory is possible only in a person who has previously experienced it, for what is experienced by one man is not remembered by another.

So the agent of the experience and the remembrance being the same, he is connected with at least two moments—which refutes the doctrine of momentariness.

Sutra 2,2.26

नासतः, दृष्टत्वात् ॥ २६ ॥

nāsataḥ, dṛṣṭatvāt || 26 ||

na-Not; asataḥ—from non-existence; dṛṣṭatvāt—because this is not seen.

26. (Existence does) not (result) from non-existence, because this is not seen.

The Bauddhas say that from anything that is eternal and non-changing no effects can be produced; for that which does not change cannot give rise to effects.

So they say that the cause undergoes destruction before the effect is produced. The seed undergoes destruction, and then the sprout comes out. In other words, existence springs from non-existence.

The Sutra refutes this by saying that if it were so, then the assumption of special causes would be meaningless. Anything might spring from anything; for non-entity is the same in all cases.

There is no difference between the non-entity of a mango stone and that of an apple seed. Consequently we could expect an apple tree to come out of a mango stone.

If there are distinctions between non-existences, with the result that the non-existence of a mango stone differs from that of an apple seed, and therefore they produce certain definite results, then they will no longer be non-entities, but something positive.

Sutra 2,2.27

उदासीनानाम् अपि चैवं सिद्धिः ॥ २७ ॥

udāsīnānām api caivaṃ siddhiḥ || 27 ||

udāsīnānām—Of the effortless; api—even; ca—and; evam—thus; siddhiḥ—attainment of the goal.

27. And thus (if existence should spring from non-existence, there would result) the attainment of the goal even by the effortless.

Mere inactivity would result in the fulfilment of all ends, for there would no longer be the necessity of the cause, activity. Even final Freedom would result without any effort.