By C.A.F. Rhys Davids
I should like to be permitted to comment on the essay in the Journal Asiatique, Sept.-Oct., 1902, by Professor de la Vallee Poussin on "Dogmatique bouddhiste." The article, which is of extraordinary interest, is the fruit of untiring labour in untrodden fields, and marks a new departure in the exegesis of Buddhist literature. It is an inquiry whether and how far certain tenets, of cardinal importance according to the Pali Pitakas, appear as elaborated, modified, or otherwise evolved in the Sanskrit sources of Buddhism.
The tenets in question are the negation of atman (Pali, atta) or soul, and the acquiescence in the current belief in karmaphala, or moral retribution in the after-life. To Western minds the nihilism of the one tenet and the persistent individuality implied in the other form an antinomy or paralogism which implies either muddle-headedness, or sophistry, or esotericism, or all three in early Buddhism. The difficulty of reconciliation was not unnoticed even by original adherents.
(1) And Professor Poussin's inquiry turns, as might have been expected, on the nature and function assigned, in both Pali and Sanskrit sources, to that constituent of the Buddhist moi biologique (I thank the author for that word!) which might replace the more obviously transcendental atman--to wit, vijnana (Pali vinnana). The inquiry is of necessity lengthy and discursive, but the erudition of the author has brought together a considerable mass of citations in text(2) and footnotes. These, together with the author's lucid presentments of ideas, should make the essay a guidepost which no one can afford to neglect, but which will, on the contrary, be gratefully consulted. Professor de la Vallee Poussin finds a very positive evolution of vijnana-theory in certain Sanskrit-Buddhist
1 M. III, 19; cf. I, 8, 258; S. III, 103. See the present writer on Majjhima Nikaya, J.R.A.S., 1902, p..480.
2 On p. 287, for XXVII of Samyutta, read XXII.
texts. The term samtana is joined to or substituted for it--a term which seems to approximate to our own neopsychological concept of mind as a 'continuum' or flux. And he infers from certain contexts that this vijnana-samtana was regarded, not as one permanent, unchanging, transmigrating entity, as the soul was in the atman-theory, but as an "essential series of individual and momentary consciousnesses," forming a "procession vivace et autonome." By autonomous he means independent of physical processes. According to this view the upspringing of a new vijnana at conception, as the effect of the preceding last vijnana of some expiring person, represents no change in kind, but only, to put it so, of degree. The vijnana is but a recurring series, not a transferred entity or principle. Hence it is more correct, if less convenient, to speak, not of vijnana, but of the samtana of pravrtti-vijnanani.
This notion, he holds, gives us a continuous `I,' yet susceptible of interruptions. And hereby the extremes of negation and affirmation in the early tradition are bridged over; and we get a coherent system, vindicating for Buddhism the claim of its founders to teach a Mean Doctrine (majjhena dhammam) between the Eternalism of sabbam atthi and the Nihilism of sabbam natthi.(1) He concludes that since in place of Soul the Buddhists substituted a protagonist who played the part of soul so uncommonly well, we must put into the background all their reiterated rejection of the Atta.
Now I venture to think that in breaking up the notion of an abstract vijnana - entity into a series of intellectual processes or force-moments, Professor Poussin shows true insight into Buddhist thought Dimly and crudely without scientific language or instrument, the early Buddhists were groping, under the crust of words, after that view of phenomena which we are tending to make fundamental in our science of to-day. They were feeling out after a dynamic conception of things--after a world-order of becoming, movement, process, sequence, force.
1. S.II, 17, 20, 23, 61, 76; III, 135: cf. II, 49, bhutam idan ti Sariputta passasi?
Heracleitus, with his flux of becoming, had preceded them in a rudimentary fashion. Aristotle, with an inherited tradition of soul as a kind of motion, and with his own theory of soul as informing energy, actualizing the potential, was groping with them. Hume resolved a soul-being, for us, into 'particular' processes. Wundt has done much the same for the "fine old crusted" Seele of Germany. Matter itself is melting away as substance.
For the relatively static and material notion of an indivisible soul-monad dwelling in one concrete perishable cage after another, Gotama substituted the idea of a series of wholly transient compounds (sambhavo), organisms, personal nexus, living beings. Living revealed itself as a congeries of manifestations (patubhavo, uppado) of becomings and extinctions. Part of the compound was relatively stable, to wit, the body (rupa, kaya); but the rest--and this, pace the four other skandhas, virtually amounted to affective reaction or vedana, and intellectual reaction, or mano, citta, or vinnana--was in a state of constant flux, "by day one thing as it arises, another as it wanes." To call this by the name of a substance, conceived as permanent and unchanging, were the last absurdity (S.II, 94-5). And with respect to its destiny, the faithful are forbidden to hold any view "about the coming, going, transmigration, rebirth, growth, development of vinnana apart from what is hereon taught respecting the other skandhas" (S.III, 53 foll.).
In the Abhidhamma, e.g. the Dhamma-Sangani, there appears already a tendency to substitute the plural vinnanani for the term groups of vinnana (cha vinnanakaya) of the Sutta Pitaka. But if the early Buddhists did not find fitting terms for the view they were seeking to realize so ready to hand as Aristotle did, it should be remembered that they had not a body of scientific tradition and terminology, however imperfect, to draw upon as he had.
It is true that they did not guard their position as well as they might have done, had they fully realized its great issues. They used now and again the traditional animistic expressions as to the 'descent'(1) of vinnana or namarupa into the womb at conception (D. II, 63; S. II, 91, 101); as to laying down this body and taking another (S. IV, 60, 400), and so on. And they incorporated into their canon, with so much other mythical lore, the Marchen about Mara seeking the vinnana of the suicides Godhika and Vakkali (S. I, 122; III, 119-124)--a fanciful, almost humorous legend which even M. Poussin, with all his sense for 'ironie subtile,' takes as seriously as other Paliists have done. Again, they use the conventional phraseology of transmigration in making a person speak of his past births and his future destiny. But the great mass of sober argument and positive exposition in the Pitakas goes to show both that the Buddhists resolved soul-entity into psychological process, and also that a future personal complex or self like unto, and the effect of, yet not identical with the present self, would reap the Karma harvest sown here..When, however, M. Poussin defines what he thinks is meant by the samtana of pravrtti-vijnanas, it seems to me that he draws, from the later sources he quotes, implications very heavy for them to bear. He finds the psychology of the Nikayas superseded by a metaphysical hypothesis of Sanskrit commentators. He will not admit that this flux of vijnanas is "the sequence of states of mind caused by the casual impact of sense and object "(the Nikaya doctrine).
No, it is an autonomous continuum of vijnana-moments: "leur serie essentielle, leur procession vivace et autonome." These are his own words. But the quotations he supplies hardly bear him out in this metaphysical elaboration of vinnana-psychology. He does not claim that this hypothesis exists in the Nikayas. They indeed affirm of vinnana the merely phenomenal nature which he transcends. Far from being autonomous, vinnana, for them, is not, does not arise (uppajati), unless there is contact by way of sense or
1 This term is used in Samy. III, 46, to mean simply the 'arising' in consciousness of certain feelings or of ideas about them:--pancannam indriyanam avakkanti hoti.
image (see e.g. M.I., 258-9). And I have not yet traced the samtana-hypothesis in the traditions of the southern scholasticism, although pavatta for psychological process is a favourite term with Buddhaghosa.
It is easy to call vijnana a protagonist of the atman when it has been elaborated into a hypothetical quasi-noumenal continuum of self-induced flashpoints of consciousness. I am not denying that this heterodox elaboration came to pass. On such a dynamic ego further light will be most welcome. But, however strongly its place in Indian thought becomes substantiated, it cannot dwarf the significance, as M. Poussin suggests it can, of Gotama's original position with respect to soul.
The rejection of atta, was based, it is true, on a logical interpretation of individual experience and consistency of terms. But its import was, in face, profoundly ethical and social. Gotama was making a stand against priests and gods and sacrificial ritual. And where soul was believed in, there Oversouls and the claims of the soul's `medicineman' could not be kept out. That belief he undermined by breaking up the notion of the person as consisting of two distinct homogeneous substances, and by resolving him into a number of impermanent elements and activities-- activities that were only potential till called into temporary actuality by natural law-governed antecedent causes. path he hewed was inevitably rough and ill guarded. was the work of a great pioneer.
Intellect and the Khandha Doctrine Davids, C.A.F. Rhys
We know that Buddhist doctrine, as revealed in the Pali Canon, frequently analyses the human being, in set terms, into a number of bodily and mental constituents. The analysis recurring most frequently is that known as the five Khandhas (Sanskrit: Skandhas). And it is affirmed that this analysis is exhaustive.
Again, in that Canon we find these five constituents frequently decried and depreciated in very strong terms of what we should call Puritan or evangelical ethics.
Yet again, in the same Scriptures, we meet with the paradox, that not only does acceptance of and progress in true doctrine depend on an effort of the human being so constituted, but that intelligence, intellect, knowledge, whatever be its place among those constituents, is appreciated and extolled exceedingly. On these three points the following slightly sketched considerations may be of interest. The essential pre-occupation of early Buddhism with the analysis of the human individual will be readily granted. How fundamental for ethical regeneration this was held to be I have tried to show elsewhere.
(2) The whole content of individual experience, of experience as referred to a "Me" or as "Mine," was to be considered as disinterestedly as if it were a cabinet of geological specimens, disintegrated,.classified, with the pragmatic intention of breaking up the "ego-making," "mine-making" superstition of egomania, and revealing
1 The following remarks are slightly enlarged from a paper read before a section of the Oxford Congress of the History of Religions, 1908, entitled " Knowledge and Intuition in Buddhism." Re-cast and compared with European thought, they formed a paper read before the London and Liverpool Buddhist Societies.
2 Buddhism (Rangoon), 1903, V01. I., Pt. 1, "The Threshold of Buddhist Ethics. "
the transient congeries in which illusion had seen a principle of permanent being. It appears to have been in virtue of this preoccupation that Buddhists were called, and called themselves 'Vibhajjavadins'--"of the Analytic School."
An interesting testimony to the deep-seated and long- lived bent imparted to the doctrine by the prominence given to analysis, may perhaps be inferable from a passage in the itinerary of Yuan Chwang, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim. He therein alludes to finding public debates being held in 'Peshawar', in Kashmir, on what the translator calls "the nature of the sense-perceptions."
(1)The product of this scientific habit of mind with which we are now most familiar is the doctrine of the five Khandhas. It should not, however, be concluded.that this resolution of the personal complex into a logically distinguishable congeries of five aggregates-aggregates of happenings rather than static elements--held the field from first to last, or exclusively at any time. Ten or twelve such schemes of division may be collected from the 'Pitakas'; for instance, 'nama-rupa' or 'Kaya' and citta (or 'vinnana')--divisions tantamount to our own body and mind--again, 'rupa' and 'vedana'; 'kaya', 'vedana', citta, 'dhamma'; 'kaya', 'ayu', 'usma' (life and heat) and vinnana. Again, there is the concept of body as com-mental or savinnanako, or as conscious and com-mental (sanni samanako), and so on.
With the exception, however, of the first of these--'nama-rupa'--none of them attains to the importance, as formula and as doctrine, of the Khandhas. We do not know to what extent the fivefold division was pre-Buddhistic, but it is introduced, as a set of terms needing no introduction as such, into the Buddha's second sermon to the Five Bhikkhus.(2) And it is invested with extreme antiquity in the 'Digha Nikaya' (II., 35), in being appended to the Bo-tree meditations of each of the seven Buddhas, although it finds no place in the corresponding Vinaya tradition (op. cit. 78).
.1 On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India, A.D. 629--645. By T. Watters. I., 212.
2 The " Anatta-lakkhana-sutta." Vin. Texts, I., 100.
This importance and pervasiveness of the Khandha division in early Buddhism is due to the association of the fivefold formula with the central tenet of 'anatta' or non-soul. With the later advance in Buddhist psychology on Abhidhamma(1) lines, the more archaic Khandha division was practically superseded by the division of 'rupa', citta, and cetasika, or elaboration of the traditional content of 'nama-rupa'. But in the Sutta-Pitaka the Khandhas are nearly always mentioned in this special connection, namely, the negation of 'atta', or (Sanskrit) 'atman', as permanent, super-phenomenal entity, co- inhering, somehow, with the individual, and re-indi- vidualised after each individual decease. The individual's components could, all five of them, be shown to be essentially such that the 'Atman' could not be any one of them. They were by nature creatures of growth and decay; they involved suffering; they were subject to natural laws, and limited by them. The Atman was, as absolute, unitary, noumenal, above change, decay and suffering. It was "super grammaticam." Else it was not 'Atman'.
The further question: why the Khandha-summary of the individual was chosen to serve in negating Atman, in place of any of the other summaries given above, is not altogether easy of solution. If we are not satisfied with the reply that it was the classification most in vogue at the time, or that the founders of Buddhism deliberately chose it as, on the whole, presenting a more excellent conspectus than its rivals, we may find some ground for its service- ableness in the many-tentacled tenaciousness of the doctrine they so earnestly repudiated.
For the Khandha division does not, on the surface, commend itself to our logic. The first, 'rupa', lit. visible form or object, but extended, as Khandha, to mean material qualities, answers well enough to our "body." But it is difficult to endorse the division of the rest of the intelligent individual into feeling ('vedana'), perception
1 This is evident in the classic manual, 'Abhidhammattha-sangaha', a translation of which by Mr. Shwe Z. Aung will be shortly published by the Pali Text Society.
('sanna'), concomitant mental factors ('sankhara') and cogniton or consciousness (vinnana). From the point of view of the mutually exclusive species of our Hellenic logic, there is here a chaotic.overlapping, and no effectual resolution of the compound into the simple or elemental. Three of the four terms are expressions for awareness, or recipient and reacting intelligence; the other representing the co-ordinated factors in its expression. All except 'vedana' are used with varying scope and implication in the 'Pitakas'. But then we must not forget that to describe, define, and classify, in the ancient methods revealed in the Pali Canon, is to cover the entire range of a field of thought (e.g., " intelligent individual ") by means of mutually overlapping names.
(1) Perhaps, however, as I have already hinted, the real object in opposing to 'rupa', not one mind-Khandha, or at most two, viz., mind-receptive and mind-reactive, cognition and volition, but four mental Khandhas, was the result of a solicitude not to omit any current term for mind that might serve as a nest and refuge for the insidious heresy of soul. The favourite method of setting forth this heresy is to represent a fivefold delusion of supposing that one Khandha or the other is the soul, or its bearer. And the repudiation is effected by a thorough elimination of soul from one and all of them. This was at any rate the reason for the adoption of the fivefold division that commended itself as both orthodox and sufficient to the worthy Buddhaghosa. Why, he asks in his Visuddhi Magga,(2) did the Blessed One say there were five Khandhas, no less and no more? Because these sum up all classes of compound things, because these chiefly afford a foothold for soul and the animistic ('attattaniya-gaha-vattnu'), and because they are a depository for others.(3)
1 This has been discussed in my Buddhist Psychological Ethics, XXIX., and my edition of the 'Vibhanga', xvii., and n.
2 The passage is given in Warren's Buddhism in Translations, 156.
3 'Annesan ca avarodhato', i.e., either other divisions or other footholds. I have tried to render this quotation more literally than Warren has done, although his freer rendering seems correct enough.
Now if the Khandhas were held to cover all the component energies or modes of energy of the normal individual, and if they included no 'Atman', then it follows that any spiritual process or faculty mentioned by the founders of Buddhism must, for them, have been classified, or held classifiable, under the five Khandhas. The Buddhist could not say, in the words of the Aitareyya Upanishad, "mind, cogitation, understanding, insight, decision, intention, memory.. . are all names for intellect ('prajna'), " and 'Prajna'--the base, the guiding principle of all that.is--is the self ('Atman').(1) The Buddhist could not say, with Plotinus, that intuition, intellect ('nous'), thought, memory, were all powers of the psyche, and quasi-divine. The Buddhist could not say, with the Christian Fathers--with, e.g., Gregory of Nyssa,(2) that cognition is psyche detaching itself from body, or with Augustine that the soul (psyche) is the cognising subject, and that " when we know, it is God knowing in us." For he rejected 'Atman' and psyche as in or of the Khandhas. And he affirmed that if 'Atman' was borne in or by any human constituent, the bearer must be one of the Khandhas.
(3) More than this: he not only denuded the Khandhas of the divine energising of an indwelling 'Atman', but he substituted nothing to retrieve the face value, ethical or religious, of the five Khandhas, so called. The whole weight of the puritanical, austere, anti-world, anti-flesh, anti-devil, anti-" pride of life," monastic, ascetic side of Buddhist doctrine is brought to bear with deprecatory emphasis on these poor five factors, and on the mistaken sentiment of complacency in them, either for themselves, or as informed by anything so transcendently superhuman, superphenomenal as the currently conceived 'Atman'. We can only follow the Buddhist 'an-atta' argument if
1 " And that self is Brahman, is Indra, is 'Prajapati'." Ait. Up. 'Aranyaka', 2, 6.
2 Quoted in Siebeck's Geschichte der Psychologie, II., 379 ff.
3 " All recluses and Brahmins who consider the 'atta' as borne in different ways ('anekavihitam'), consider that it is borne by the five Khandhas, or by one of them." 'Khandha-Samyutta' in 'Samyutta' 'Nikaya', III., 46.
we keep in view this " current conception," distinguishing between Eastern and Western pantheism. With the puny things the West has called souls--the poor fluttering sprites of Greek vases, the melancholy shades of Vergil's underworld, the errant, fallible, doubled self we meet with in mediaval books sacred and secular, the Animula vagula blandula Pallidula rigida nudula of Hadrian, the Buddha might have quarrelled; but it would have been otherwise. Whether with one Vedantist school we say that the Over-soul was My soul, or with another that My soul was Over-soul, Atman was not differently conceived in India as were "souls" in the West.
And the Khandhas, thus denuded, stand exposed as the vehicles of pain and misery, and as "a burden" taken up ever again by craving ever-reborn--craving of sense-desires, craving for rebirth. Thus exposed,.missiles from the rich stores of Indian similes are aimed at them in the pages of the 'Pitakas', likening them to diseases, to knives and javelins, to murderers with uplifted swords, to serpents, to bubbles of foam, to a mirage, to the conjurer's trickwork. Things alien, evil, of the world: distaste for them is to be cultivated, not mere dispassionateness.
It might, and very likely would, be objected here by a Buddhist, that the obloquy heaped upon the Khandhas is intended not for them as such, but only when and in so far as they are, in Warren's rendering, "coupled with depravity and attachment,"(l) that is, when the individual, in mind and body, shows himself infected with the 'Asavas' and the four kinds of "grasping." The Buddha is represented as saying: " I will teach you, bhikkhus, the five Khandhas and the five 'grasping '-Khandhas,"(2) and then proceeding to enumerate the five in the usual
1 'Sasava upadaniya', Warren, op. cit. 155. The four "graspings" are "after sense pleasures, speculative opinions, rites and conventions, and theories of soul." Sir Charles Eliot very kindly reminded me of the distinction indicated above.
2 I.e., of grasping, 'upadanakkhandha'. My rendering is not less uncouth than warren's '' attachment-groups. "
phraseology of inclusive description. In the case of the second five, the two words quoted below are the only specific difference introduced.
Now it is true that, in the many passages wherein the ethical undesirableness of the Khandhas is expounded, they are called not simply Khandhas, but "grasping''- Khandhas, that is to say, in those cases where the term "five Khandhas" is introduced. But where it is not introduced-where the five are depreciated severally and simply, as rupa and the rest, there is no saving clause whatever qualifying the condemnation. In judging of a creed or doctrine as a whole, those which really count in the long run as its main features, are those that are most emphasised. One can find everything in any scriptures. The test as to whether any feature found is to rank as a tenet is: What emphasis is laid upon its utterance, in repetition and impressive phrasing? Judged by this, judged by the fact that, in the discourse referred to, the distinction drawn is not used to show to what sublime development the Khandhas, purged of the 'asavas' and 'upadanas', might attain, the distinction loses significance when the trend of the doctrine is considered as a whole.
Bearing all this in mind, let us look at certain powers imputed in the same books to the human mind,.and rated at the opposite extreme of the scale of religious values. The Buddhists were by no means second to the Greeks, or the heirs of the Greeks, in the exalted estimate they formed of the possibilities of "intellect." If the lofty function of Plato's " intellect " ('nous') was, by exercising itself as wisdom (sophia), to discern the supreme good, even as the eye discerns the sun through light, so for the Buddhist was it by 'panna' ('prajna') or 'nana' that the highest fetches of intuition, the sublimest ethical insight was attained. Buddhism and Platonism have this in common, that our discernment of truth or good, of things as they are, of things in their right perspective, is described, not as dianoia or reasoned understanding, but as an inner vision.
Now 'panna' (or 'vijja' or 'abhinna' or 'nanadassana') covers a number of highly-ranked mental faculties or processes, allusions to which, under more specific names, run all through the Sutta 'Pitaka'. The English reader may refer to, e.g., the 'Ambattha' Suttanta, translated in Rhys Davids's Dialogues of the Buddha (I., pp. 123--5). The Buddha having said that righteousness ('sila') and 'panna' make the true brahmin, not birth, is asked: " What is that 'panna'?" The reply is that (involved inseparably with the habit and state of virtue) 'panna' consists in cer- tain forms of intellectual exercise, to wit, the graduated stages of rapt absorption called 'Jhana', insight into the nature of an individual as such (here be it noted divided into body and mind ('vinnana') only), the power through creative will to project a temporary double of one's self, other supernormal powers classed as 'iddhi-vidha', (1) such as what is termed among ourselves levitation, etc., celestial or super-normal hearing, intuitive knowledge of another's subjective experience, commonly known here as thought-reading, thought-transference or telepathy, reminiscence of one's own past lives, i.e., of more or less of them, for they are infinite in number, celestial or super- normal vision, and finally and, for the enlightened Buddhist, infinitely greater than the rest, the discernment and total eradication of the four mighty tendencies involving rebirth which the Canon calls 'Asavas', i.e., drugs or poisons.
(2) In a little sketch there is no scope, even if there were in the sketcher the competency, to enter into each of these modes of exercising the faculties in what India has conceived to be the highest levels of potency. Judged by this bare catalogue, the faculties engaged seem to make very light of both the interests and the limitations of sense-experience. And some may be inclined to say, " This is not bad as a summary of the subjective experience
.1 On this see Dialogues, loc cit. 88, n. 4, and Introduction. The ten (not nine) modes ('vidha') referred to by Buddhaghosa only, are now known to occur in the Canon itself:-Palisanlbhid-magga, II., 205 (ed. in 1907 by Dr.A. C. Taylor). But there the preceding creative potency is ranked under the ten as 'adhitthana-iddhi', i.e., fixation (of will). This work is obviously much later than the 'Digha Nikaya'
2 That is, sense-desire, becoming or lust for living as such), opinion, ignorance.
of an angel, or of one of Mr. H. G. Wells's Martians. Anyway, it is very old, and therefore no doubt entirely mythological." Or again: "There's not overmuch of what we should call 'intellect' about it." Now, I trust that no reader of The Buddhist Review will consider this very ancient and venerable list in an uncritical spirit, nor, on the other hand, dismiss it with criticisms so hasty and superficial.
Let me say here that Buddhism, at least in Further India, has never yet relegated this ancient con- spectus to the cupboard for ideas outgrown and obsolete. It has been taught as a series of states and powers attainable, not by angel, fairy, wizard, or Martian, but by man; from the days of Asoka and centuries later, from Buddhaghosa down to the actual present. The phrase of Semitic belief: "And God said, Let us make man in Our image," has often been inverted by modern criticism and anthropology. But it would seem as if the Indian, who centuries ago made that inversion for himself, was convinced that, if man had made gods in his own image, it was a god-like mind and will that made them. His were, given the right conditions and development, the powers that had been projected into deities.
In reply to the second remark, I would point out that, in the Western traditions, we have so long divorced intellectual energy from action, that we lose sight of the relative identity, from the Indian standpoint, of thought with thought transference, of synthesis with synnergy. We recognise in speech, it is true, a fusion of thought and action, or a translation of the one into the other. But for us intellect is receptive and ratiocinative. It receives but it only reacts as thought, or in informing what we are pleased to call "will." But for the Indian mind, thought can translate itself into material energy not less than material energy can, by way of sense, translate itself into consciousness. For that mind the problem of afferent consciousness that puzzles us is matched by the corresponding mystery--and fact--of efferent translation. We, on the other hand, relegate action to hands, limbs and voice, and in all other effects produced where these.p.108 agencies are apparently inoperative, see only the maya of the conjurer, and the illusions of the credulous.
The theory of mental reaction to sense-stimuli expounded in the Pitakas is more soberly scientific than the analyses of the pre-Aristotelian Greeks. The theory of association and of memory in the later Questions of King Milinda are no less sober and scientific so far as they go. So is the still later and more subtle analysis of the process of cognition in Buddhaghosa's works,(1) an analysis that is still taught in Buddhist Further India. So far we may find, in early Buddhist psychology, an anticipation of our own current theories at least as interesting as the investigations of Aristotle, on which our own analyses are mainly based. But we cannot rightly conclude therefrom that Buddhists would be satisfied with being termed Sensationalists, or those who derive all knowledge from sense. It is true that there is no word in their literature accounting for transcendent powers of mind, save by the two great factors of the effect of past Karma on the one hand, and the effect of special and strenuous training on the other. Nevertheless, it was reckoned as erroneous theory to hold that the supernormal faculty of the so-called " celestial eye " was abnormal intensification of physical sight."(2) This view is refuted by a quotation from the Buddha's word,(3) that there were three distinct sorts of vision: the physical, the celestial, and the eye of insight (panna), by which I think must be meant that which is elsewhere called " the
1 'Atthasalini, Visuddhi-magga', and 'Sammoha-vinodani'.
2 This is in the 'Katha-vatthu' of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. Had the heretical notion become orthodox, we should have 'panna', in one of its modes at least, classed under the 'rupakhandha' or bodily, physical factor of the individual! The heresy is suggested by the description, contained in an orthodox work of the Canon, the 'Patisambhidamagga', of how the Celestial Hearing and Eye might be evolved by practice:--the latter, by so fixing the consciousness on light, or some radiant surface, that, in time, discrimination between light and dark is suspended, and a vision arises transcending the environment of sense-impression and attaining a purview of the passing and pageant of human lives (I., p. 112, J.R.A.S., 1906, 242). Of course the "fleshly eye" is here really numbed by sustained stimulus, while the intent contemplative tension of the mind is maintained, and imagination, or, if you will, intuitive insight, is given the better play.
3 ltivuttaka, translated by Dr. J. H. Moore, New York, 1908, p. 72. I do not hold with the translator's interpolated " (Is)."
Dhamma-eye, " i.e., understanding of the Dhamma. Buddhaghosa, however, in the 'Atthasalini' (306), follows the 'Digha', in adopting a twofold division only: natural sight and 'panna'-sight.
An eloquent illustration of the scope of this other or " second " sight occurs in another suttanta of the 'Digha Nikaya',(1) which incorporates an old Indian tale. 'Payasi', a noble, sceptic and agnostic as to the existence of all other worlds, and of rebirth other than human, is debating with the venerable apostle 'Kumara-Kassapa', and goes on to say: "But who lets Master Kassapa know all these things: that there are Three-and-Thirty Gods, or that the Three-and-Thirty Gods live so many years? We do not believe him when he says these things." "That, Prince, is just as if there were a man born blind who could not see objects as dark or bright, as blue, yellow, red or brown; who could not see things as smooth or rough, nor the stars, nor moon, nor sun. And he were to say: 'There are none of these things, nor any one capable of seeing them. I don't know them, I don't see them; therefore they don't exist.' Would one so speaking, speak rightly, Prince?"
"Not so, Master Kassapa. The visual objects of which you speak do exist, and so does the faculty of seeing them. To say 'I don't know them, I don't see them; therefore they don't exist': that would not be speaking rightly."
" But even so, methinks, do you, Prince, talk like the blind man in my parable when you say: 'But who lets Master Kassapa know that there are Three and-Thirty Gods, or that the Three-and-Thirty Gods live so many years? We do not believe him when he says these things.' For, Prince, the other world is not, as you imagine, to be regarded with this fleshly eye. Those 'Samanas' and Brahmans who haunt the lonely and remote recesses of the forest, where noise, where sound there hardly is, they there abiding strenuous, ardent, aloof,
1 A translation of this is in Dialogues of the Buddha, Vol. II., "The 'Payasi' Suttanta."
purify the eye divine; they by that purified eye divine, passing the vision of men, see both this world and that other world, and beings reborn not of parents. In this way, Prince, is the other world to be seen, and not, even as you imagine, by this fleshly eye. Let this be a proof to you that there is another world, that there are beings reborn not of parents, that there is fruit and result of deeds well.done and ill done.''
The two visions are also illustrated in another book of the Canon by the simile of a man standing where he can see into the doors of two houses.'(1) "Even so doth a bhikkhu by the celestial eye, purified, transcending the human eye, see beings dying and being reborn, going to weal or woe even according to their deeds (Karma)."
We may put aside these transcendent powers, and take a definition of intellect, understanding or insight more on all fours with our own more grey and sober outlook; that, for instance, describing equally 'pannindriyam' (faculty of 'panna'), sampajannam' (conscious understanding) 'vipassana' (insight) and 'sammaditthi' (right or perfect view): -- "Understanding, search, research, searching the truth (dhamma), discernment, discrimination, differentia- tion, sagacity, proficiency, subtlety, criticism; reflection, analysis, breadth, grasp, intuition, self-introspection,'' and the metaphors applied to these: "a guide, a spur or goad, a sword, a lofty platform, light, radiance, splendour, a jewel."(2) Thus does the Abhidhamma group all the cognate terms used in the Sutta 'Pitaka' to describe human intelligence. And there is, in all its definitions, none indicative of any higher appreciation than that which is here ascribed to the intellect of the five Khandha'd individual.
Calling both the foregoing categories for convenience' sake 'panna' (I refer to the list quoted from the 'Digha Nikaya' and that taken from the Abhidhamma book), we may ask whether 'panna' is anywhere classed under one
1 'Majjhima Nikaya', I., 279; II., 21; III., 178. The passages are simply assertions of the fact of the intuitive faculty, as in the Digha N. reference; not arguments as to the difference between the two kinds of " eye."
2 See pp. 17--25 of my Buddhist Psychological Ethics. I do not pretend to have given more than an approximate rendering of the abstract terms.
of the Khandhas? If it is, why are the Khandhas so hardly spoken of, seeing that in them lies the capacity of developing the saintly supernormal intellect?
For all their denunciatory zeal as religious reformers, the founders of Buddhism(1) were too sincere in their psychology and their logic, to exclude panna from their classifications. They do find a place for it, if not always under the same Khandha.
In the Sutta 'Pitaka', and in one of its leading."gospels,'' the 'Majjhima Nikaya, panna' is classed with the 'vinnanak-khandha'. The bond and the difference between the two is discussed by two leading bhikkhus, 'Maha Kotthita' and 'Sariputta'. "What is it to have 'panna'? " " To discern ('pajanati') the Four Truths." "What is 'vinnana'? " " To be conscious of happiness, of sorrow, of neutral feeling." "Are the two connected or distinct? " "Connected: what we discern, of that we are conscious; what we are conscious of, that we discern." '' Is there no difference? " "Yes, 'panna' is to be cultivated; 'vinnana' is to be thoroughly understood. That is the difference.'' Thus, every ordinary person has 'vinnana', intelligence or cognition, which reacts to sensory stimuli, and imagines and co-ordinates his sense-derived experience. This instrument, with all its exposure to evil, needs to be well studied and its function understood. But when applied to and trained in the objects and methods of higher life and thought, it may become, raised to a higher power, the instrument of intuitive insight, widened reminiscence, intensified perception, moral self-mastery, and so forth, called 'panna'. Such is the view we find centuries later developed in the Visuddhi Magga. To Buddhaghosa, somewhat in accordance with the psychical theory of Aristotle, 'sanna, vinnana and panna' all formed one evolutionary concept of mind at a lower, higher, and highest power of involution, so to speak.(2)
1 I have here no definitely-named individuals in mind, but those unknown recorders who, in compiling the pali 'Pitakas', founded for us the Buddhism that, so far as we at present know, is the nearest to the original teaching.
2 See my Bud. Eth. Psychology, pp. 7, 8, n. 2.
in the 'Dhamma-Sangani', however, of the Abhidhamma, where concrete states of mind are resolved into a number of factors, and the attempt is made, with no very helpful result, to bring in the Khandha classificltion, 'panna' is included, as both 'indriya' and 'bala' (faculty and force or power), under the varying content of the 'Sankharakkhandha'.
As such, it figures, not as the receptive, reacting consciousness itself, but as a factor in concrete mental syntheses or synnergies. When Buddhaghosa, however, discusses the 'sankharakkhandha' in his 'Visuddhi Magga', he omits 'panna', but reserves all the last third of the book for it in all its modes, defining it as " insight and knowledge ('vipassana-nanam'), associated with moral consciousness.''
We have seen that the early Buddhists, in rejecting an indwelling 'Atman' identical in substance with the world-soul, and the organ or seat of all.higher insight and inspiration, conceded to the five Khandhas(1) they decried, the power of developing, given the right disposition and proper training, into instruments of supreme knowledge and volition. Are they, then, wholly inconsistent in heaping contumely as preachers on the Khandhas, while magnifying the functions of 'panna'?
Judged by the consistency we should demand from a system of psychological religion,(2) elaborated by one academic mind for chosen followers, the teaching of early Buddhism may seem inconsistent. But in a pioneer movement for ethical and intellectual reform we do not expect to find thoroughgoing consistency, not at least when the movement has grown vast and unwieldy. Think what it means to be one's self the outcome of certain traditions and environment, and yet be trying to alter the traditions the better to suit one's environing society, to alter society by altering its traditions. The clinging grip of usage, the mortmain--the dead hand--of tradition
1 'Rupa' need not be omitted as the one clog to the flights of the mental Khandhas. The phrase, " touching with the body" ('kayena phassitva'), is a Pali idiom, however meant, used to describe an ecstatic attainment of mind. It should interest students of Neo-platonism.
2 I borrow the late Max 'Muller' term.
is not so easily thrown off. The reformer is himself not out of their clutches. It was no new thing for Buddhists, any more than it was, later, for Christians, to be denouncing both " this vile body" and the mind or heart "out of which proceed evil thoughts." It was part of the business--if one may say so--it was in part the 'metier', of those intensely earnest religious upheavals, those great protests against the twin tyranny of formalism, and the vice which that formalism suffered to prevail, to denounce whole- heartedly the whole organism of the sinner; and besides this, judging by the Buddhist and other religious literatures of India, Buddhism did not originate anti-ritualism, anti-sacerdotalism and evangelistic ethics in that country. It handed on the torch of a very ancient Protestant tradition, kindling therewith, as it did so, certain possibly quite original intellectual fires.
As revivalists they were bound to denounce. As reformers in mental science, ethics and education, they considered man under another aspect: not as a sinner to be plucked from the burning, but as plastic material, as force running to waste, which, under proper training, was fraught with the highest promise. So they flagellated the bundle of fivefold modes of sense-reaction in a world of sensuous.experience, while they found no pedestal too high for the new mental organism, evolvable from those Khandhas as butterfly from caterpillar, as diamond from carbon. As the Christian became a "new man " when he had, as Paul said, " put on the Lord Jesus Christ,"-- (" the mind that was in Christ Jesus," so what we might call " the higher psychology of the Buddhist" discerns in the sekha, working to become asekha (the student who would become adept) a quasi new set of faculties and processes. These, summed up, came to be called the 'Bodhi-pakkhiya Dhamma', or conditions appertaining to enlightenment. But they are no longer spoken of under the atomic or static simile of khandha, i.e., heap, mass, aggregate. They are all dynamically conceived, as process, potency, ways of progress. For the five indriyas of sense -- the five senses-- we have substituted the five indriyas of moral sense: --faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, insight (or 'panna').
Other processes or faculties were the four Inceptions [Institutes or Applications] of Mindfulness, the four Bases or Preliminaries to Potency (iddhi), the four right struggles, the seven Factors of Enlightenment, the Aryan Eightfold Way. The man or woman who had so glorified the body of Khandhas by evolving out of them, by developing them into, this wondenful new consciousness of other interests and contrasted ideals, was no longer a mere vehicle or compound of sense-determined Khandhas.
And it is because of this evolution of mind and character and ideals that the Buddhists no doubt were " not careful to answer " critics in this matter, not more careful to class the higher regenerate intelligence under one Khandha or another. We need not trouble ourselves either to apologise for their logic or their want of it. "Illogical" is often applied to what is only a greater logic, i.e., a reasoning with other and expanded data.
Khandhas and the whole machinery of experience by way of sense might serve well enough in analysing the average sensual man or woman, with only such activities and interests as belonged to that world of sense-experience. But once you substitute the new interests and ideals, the rising above worldly aims, then the whole training and machinery of the individual is practically covered by what I have for want, for sad want, of a good word called Intellect--'panna, vijja, abhinna'-synonyms almost all of them, of vipassana which corresponds exactly to our insight and which, in later Buddhist works, came largely to be substituted for the two latter terms. Emotional enthusiasm came into the training and so did strenuous sustained energy, desire, purpose--the--fullest expression of will. But the central aim was ever intellectual--intellectual grasp, and the wider and deeper view. And this each one had to attain for himself and herself..It may seem wise not to hurl out of sight the ladder whereby a higher standpoint has been reached. It was by the poor body and mind of this indisputable senseexperience that Indian seers and saints had climbed. Traditional standpoints of religious revivalism on the one hand, and the traditional view of the difference, not in degree but in kind, between mundane knowledge and supramundane intuition and will, affected their judgment and their methods. But at all events the Buddha did not compromise as Aristotle did, who cut the knot of the problem of intellect by declaring that "it alone enters from without and is alone divine."(1) As for ourselves, we can afford at this time of day to look without fear and with hope and admiration at the brave upward way of man, evolving his finer instrument of panna out of the homely and everyday tools of the Khandhas.
1 De Gen. Animalium, II., 3.
Return to Singapore DharmaNet