The first argument for Sarvastivada

by David Bastow

Asian Philosophy

Vol. 5 No. 2 Oct.1995


Copyright by Asian Philosophy

. THE FIRST ARGUMENT FOR SARVASTIVADA ABSTRACT Philosophers belonging to the Buddhist school of Sarvastivada believed in the real existence of past and future dharmas. This paper explores the implications, soteriological and philosophical, of an argument for this belief presented at the beginning of an early abhidharma text. The argument is two-fold: that past states of mind can be directly perceived; and that the temporal and causal context of these states of mind, including their karmic future and the possibility of an alternative saving future, can also be directly perceived. The paper relates the Sarvastivadins' theory of time to Buddhist concerns with self-knowledge and with conditional-ivy; and suggests that the argument is an early example of their adherence to the epistemological position of Direct Realism. From the very beginnings of Buddhism, different interpretations of the Buddha's message began to appear. Around the time of Asoka these differences began to be formalised, and gave rise to different schools. Sarvastivada was one of the major schools which arose about this time; as distinct from the Mahasanghikas, the Sthaviras and the Pudgalavadins. On the whole these different schools shared the material of the Sutra Pitakas; but the abhidharma texts they severally produced were more sectarian, more concerned with their different doctrinal theories. One of the books of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma Canon, the Vijnanakaya (probably composed about 200 BCE), has as its first section a chapter called the Maugdalyayana-skandhaka. [1] This chapter consists of various arguments designed to establish the Sarvastivadin belief in the real existence of past and future dharmas, and to refute the opinion expressed in its first sentence: The sramana Maugdalyayana says: The past and the future do not exist; the present and the unconditioned (asainskrta) exist. Many arguments are given in the chapter; but most of them are variants of that with which it begins. It is with this main argument of the chapter that the present paper will be concerned. (This argument does not appear in the summary of the Sarvastivadin position expounded and criticised by Vasubandhu in the Abhidharmakosa, which of course was written about six hundred years later; and so it is not part of the debate, which has received some modem attention, between Vasubandhu and Sanghabhadra. [2]) In the paper's three sections I present the argument and give an analysis of its structure; I discuss the doctrinal context of the argument; and I consider matters related to its cogency as a philosophical proof. Two themes run throughout these three sections: the possibility of self-awareness, seeing one's own states of mind; and the philosophical theory of conditionality, of the causal and therefore ontological interdependence of dharmas, and its 'religious' expression in the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths. Section 1 In this section I shall give a close paraphrase of the argument as it appears in the text; [3] and then an account of its argumentative structure as I see it. The argument begins with a reference to a pronouncement of the Buddha taken from a Sutra text--probably Anguttara Nikaya III section 69 (i.e. A i 201-3). "There are three akusala-mulani (roots of ill, roots leading to bad consequences). These are lobha, greed; dvesa, anger; and moha, confusion." From this agreed premise the argument proceeds, first taking the case of lobha. There is no doubt then that there has been, is, will be a seeing that lobha is akusala (otherwise translated: a seeing of akusala--presumably meaning akusala-dharmas--in or through lobha). The lobha that is thus seen--is it past, present or future? If it is past or future, then it must be admitted that past or future exist. So could it be present? To allow this would involve admitting that there are in one pudgala two simultaneous cittas, states of consciousness; but this cannot be admitted. However, there must be seeing of either past lobha, or future lobha, or present lobha; otherwise it could not be that someone sees that lobha, akusalamula, is akusala. And in that case it would not happen that someone becomes repelled by lobha, detached, freed from lobha, obtains nirvana (or has obtained or will obtain nirvana). The same argument is then applied to other things that can be seen with respect to lobha: it can be seen that lobha is a fetter, a bondage, an anusaya; and further that lobha is to be rejected, to be left behind, to be abandoned, to be fully known (prajna). Later in the chapter other variants of what is essentially the same argument appear. They all use the same crucial move about the non-simultaneity of two cittas. One variant [4] refers directly to Sutra texts on mindfulness: [5] when someone has, for example, eye-bondage--that is the fetter of lustful visual perception--he truly knows that he has eye-bondage. Another variant, [6] again based on a Sutra text, [7] relates to the use of one's mind to discipline one's mind. "With teeth against teeth, with tongue against the palate, by thought (cetasa) he tames, disciplines, subdues thought (cittam)." In all the variants it is argued that the two states of consciousness cannot be simultaneous; so if the seeing, the true knowing, the taming, are happening now, at the present time, then what is seen, truly known, tamed, must exist at some time other than the present. To return to the first form of the argument, relating to the seeing of lobha; this is now taken up again in a slightly different way. There has been, there is, there will be a seeing that lobha produces suffering in a future life (or, a seeing of future-life suffering in lobha). Is what is thus seen of the past, the present or the future? Again the crucial move in the argument is a principle which rules out the possibility of what is seen being present. Here what is seen is to be understood as the future suffering; the 'non-simultaneity principle' this time is that it cannot be allowed that the same person at the same time performs an action and experiences its karmic consequences. [8] That is, the lobha and its karmic effects must be separated in time. But what is seen must exist in the past, the future or the present; otherwise it could not be that someone sees that lobha akusalamula produces in the future a painful retribution. And so on as before. The same argument is then said to apply to the other akusala-mulani, dvesa and moha; and to a long list of akusala actions and states of mind, mostly motives related to attachment, asravas, hindrances, etc. I shall now summarise the structure of this argument as I interpret it. In fact there are two arguments, one deriving from the possibility of seeing lobha, and the other deriving from the possibility of seeing various truths about lobha. [A 1] It is possible to see one's own state of mind (or in other variants it is possible truly to know one's own state of mind, or it is possible to grapple with, to subdue one's own state of mind). [A 2] The seen state of mind cannot be simultaneous with the seeing of it. [First principle of non-simultaneity.] [A 3] However, whatever can be seen must exist, must be real. So if the act of seeing is present, then the seen state of mind must be real in some non-present mode. [B 1] It is possible to see certain truths about this state of mind, this lobha; to see certain things in or through the lobha. Namely: (i) lobha, greed, is akusala; (ii) greed is an anusaya, a binding proclivity or habitual motive; (iii) greed ought to be set aside; (iv) greed leads to future suffering. [B 2] All these four clauses in different ways involve seeing the future. With respect to clause iv, an argument is given: the effects of greed cannot be simultaneous with the act of greed itself. [Second principle of non-simultaneity.] [B 3] However, what can be seen must exist, must be real. So if the lobha is present, these seen futures for lobha must be real in a non-present mode. The 'second principle of non-simultaneity' is part of the general theory of karma, and needs no special comment. But perhaps an explanation is needed of what I have called the 'first principle of non-simultaneity'. As far as I know this is not stated as a principle in the Sutras, but it seems to have been generally accepted by the abhidharmikas; it follows from their account of the structure of the mind, and it has its own plausibility. [9] There were many variants of the Buddhist reductive analysis of the mind, differing in detail; but its main principles were not controversial. According to dharma theory, the person is to be analysed into a complex series of short-lived psychophysical experience-events. This series changes all the time, and so has diachronic complexity; but any momentary cross-section will itself reveal another dimension of synchronic complexity. Analyses of this momentary cross-section will reveal a group of causally related mental states; but always at the centre of the group is consciousness--in the sense of awareness and intentionality (citta/vijnana). All mental activity involves a grasping of something other than itself. But this consciousness-dharma is always accompanied by a variety of simultaneous mental factors (cetasikas)--attention, volition, thought of one kind or another, moods and motives which may be good, such as faith, mindfulness, equanimity; or bad such as delusion, hate, conceit. Some of these are always present, some vary from time to time, from moment to moment. But consciousness is always there. The non-simultaneity principle then is that an analysis of a state of mind at one time, one moment, can contain only one consciousness element. If an analysis did contain two consciousnesses, each would have its associated mental factors, which might in fact be incompatible with each other, opposed to each other, as would be hate and equanimity, passion and dispassion. So consciousness-dharmas must succeed each other. [10] The argument in the Vijnanakaya applies this general principle of non-simultaneity of cittas to mental activity of a special kind of complexity; when the person is aware of his or her own mental state. This introspective serf-consciousness is of course of fundamental importance for the Buddhist path. Only by applying oneself in intense meditation to a detailed knowledge of the elements which are wrongly synthesised into a person belief can the wayward mind be controlled, wisdom and detachment substituted for ignorance and desire. So when one 'sees lobha', there are two levels of consciousness: the greed-occurrence of which one is aware is itself a first-level mental complex, with consciousness at its centre, grasping the object of desire. But then the mindful seeing of the greed is a second-level consciousness. If these cannot be simultaneous, the seen lobha must be past or future with respect to the seeing of it. Presumably it will typically be in the past, though the text does not say so. Since whatever is seen must exist, the past lobha-dharma must exist. That is, although it is past, there must be a sense in which it is real at the time of the seeing. Section 2 In this section I wish to explore two themes which are implicit in the Vijnanakaya arguments about time. They are (a) self-awareness in time; and (b) the idea that conditioned dharmas necessarily exist in a context of causal and therefore temporal relationships. Themes (a) and (b) are prominent respectively in arguments [A] and [B] as described in section 1. A question which naturally occurs to the Western student of Sarvastivada is: why should a Buddhist school think it important to work out a position on the metaphysics of time? As far as I know this question is not directly addressed by any Sarvastivadin text, so perhaps even to ask it involves some misunderstanding. What can be shown is that an understanding of the interrelations between past, present and future is crucial for the (ultimately reductive) self-awareness and self-understanding of the Buddhist person; and also for this person's awareness of his soteriological predicament. The Sarvastivadina were sufficiently impressed by the importance of these interrelations to make the further ontological move: that the reality of the present implies the reality of the context with which it is intertwined. The ancient doctrine of impermanence (later interpreted as momentariness) does not by itself constitute an adequate theory of time for the Buddhist; it must be developed to take account of the doctrine of conditionality. (a) Self-awareness in time The first move in the Vijnanakaya argument is the postulation of 'seeing'--which must mean some kind of direct knowledge (the perceptual metaphor will be discussed in my final section)--of a state of mind. The use of the non-simultaneity principle in the text makes it obvious that the two states of consciousness, the seeing and what is seen, belong to the same pudgala. So we have an example of what may be called self-awareness; though of course in Buddhist thought reference to the self is no more than a facon de parler. Self-awareness plays many different roles in Buddhist theory. To understand the present example we need to place it in its context, and to distinguish it from other types and levels of serf-awareness important in Buddhist thought. At the fundamental level is the self-awareness which is necessary for self-construction. Our belief in our own existence as persons, as abiding selves, rests ultimately on the grasping by one consciousness-dharma of a series, a history, of other consciousness-dharmas. The basic Buddhist vision, explicated in terms of dharma-theory, is reductive; instead of an abiding self, to which from time to time various experiences are appended, there is a stream of short-lived dharmas, psychophysical experiential elements, with no abiding substantial core. But a full account of what constitutes the ordinary person must obviously include something that binds the elements together; what makes us people is our awareness of ourselves as people. So there must be synthetic activity; self-construction (one of the several meanings of samskara). The agent, the subject of this constructive activity, must itself lie within the stream of dharmas--for the stream of dharmas is all that there is. Out of the dharmas a self is constructed, by 'running through and holding together' (to use Kant's potent phrase) past experiences, and perhaps also images of possible futures. That is, a present dharma--a consciousness dharma--has available to it, in one way or another, a temporally ordered series of experiences. Out of them it constructs a self, by claiming them as its own. [11] Thus I have available to me certain experiences, as from the inside, of being a child, a young man, etc.; my self-awareness, my belief in myself as David Bastow, involves my adopting these experiences, thinking of them as part of my own life, regarding my present awareness of them as my memories. But persons are not just contemplators of the past, of what they count as their own past; they are agents in the world. Deliberate action on my part involves my looking into the future, seeing various possible futures, acting with the intention that one of them will come about. This activity of self-projection into the future is analysed in the ancient Buddhist causal cycle (Pali paticca-samuppada, Sanskrit pratitya-samutpada) which explains the causality of the round of rebirth, the perpetuation of the self or rather of self-construction, the continued fabrication of an artificial and insubstantial self. The fundamental motivating agent in this round of self-fabrication is desire, thirst, greed, grasping after the future. So the first level of self-awareness is that basic awareness of the past and future which contributes to self-construction. The pudgala thus constructed is an interweaving of the present with the past and the future; a being which exists purely in the present moment cannot be said to be a person. [12] The Buddha's attitude to such self-construction by awareness of dharmas across time is complex. Ultimately the constructed self is to be seen for what it is; the misguided synthesis is to be brought to an end. So as Dhammapada 348 says: "Let go the past. Let go the future. Let go the present ..." [13] But an initial stage on the path of self-deconstruction may be described as taking oneself seriously. Here a higher level of self-awareness comes into play. We may use a distinction from an entirely different perspective to explain this. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, in his first book Either/Or, [14] distinguishes initially between two ways of life; what he calls the aesthetic and the ethical. The aesthetic person lives a life ruled by feeling, by immediate impulse. [15] So he lives from day to day, takes no thought for the morrow, never considers the meaning of his life, the overall pattern of his past and future actions. His actions arise in the moment, . from his immediate desires and needs. But Kierkegaard gives us reasons for rejecting this style of life. He says that the aesthetic person never really becomes a self, a person, an individual; he never makes any real choices, so cannot be said to be really free. By contrast, the key idea of the ethical life is choosing oneself, taking responsibility for one's past; and making commitments, actively projecting oneself into the future. In general to set out on the ethical life is to think of oneself as 'having a life', which embraces past, present and future, and is to be given a shape, a purpose, a meaning. This involves a heightened form of self-awareness, more explicit than that involved in basic self-construction. We may call this 'taking oneself seriously' the second level of self-awareness. There is no doubt that the Buddha's initial advice to those who wished to follow him was to choose themselves, to take responsibility for themselves, to realise their autonomy. He explicitly rejected the autonomy-denying fatalisms and nihilisms of his day [16]. Partly this was a matter of taking one's actions and one's motivations seriously because of their long-term karmic consequences; but his primary message was of the possibility of realising true freedom by a transcendence of the karmic cycle of action and consequence. How is this to be done? The peculiarly Buddhist answer to this question crucially involves a further kind, a third level, of self-awareness; and this is what is involved in the Vijnanakaya argument. This is a mindful awareness of one's own mental states, which in general is aimed at self-deconstruction, but in particular is aimed at changing one's mental make-up so as to be free of greed, hatred, confusion, the three roots of ill. This awareness must be analytical and objective. As the Vijnanakaya text says, it is seeing lobha for what it is that leads to rejection of it, to detachment and liberation from it. Though the greed itself is akusala, a cause of bad consequences, the seeing of it is typically kusala, leading towards freedom. The seeing, as opposed to the seen, is dispassionate, realistic, unfettered; or rather it is potentially such. To be aware of one's greed is for the moment to transcend the greed; the awareness is not itself greedy. But of course to be aware of greed is not in itself to be free of the fetter of greed. Action, the path of self-mastery and wisdom, is necessary to bring this freedom to fulfilment. text) of reactions to the seeing of lobha, that is rejection, detachment, etc., can be interpreted in two ways: as a project of self-change in time, and as a project aimed at the transcendence of time. The first undertaking is that of Kierkegaard's ethical person, who becomes a fully realised person only as he is committed to a day-to-day working out of life-projects, enterprises which give life a meaning. Kierkegaard's examples are marriage and a career which is a vocation. Similarly the Buddhist path could be thought of as a life-project with the aim of serf-fulfilment. In that case, awareness of one's own greed is knowledge which is valuable for its pragmatic usefulness in the path-project, like a racing driver becoming aware of a fault in the engine of his car. The seeing of greed is a step towards the freedom to act without greed; this is an example of what Sartre calls consciousness's ability to nihilate, surpass, transcend, move beyond what it is conscious of. But the notions of path, goal, self-realisation are paradoxical in the context of the Buddhist rejection of ideals of selfhood. So we need to bear in mind another way of interpreting the seeing of lobha and the project of liberation which should arise from it. This is that, while the first order act of greed is in time, in the moment, the seeing of it is already a transcendence of the moment, and indeed of the constraints of the temporal order. It is a distancing from the serf pursuing its projects in time, a partial realisation of freedom from action, from conditionality, from time itself; a preliminary glimpse of an end of projects. [17] (b) Causal and temporal relationships Argument [B] goes beyond self-awareness, the seeing of a state of mind. It is concerned with the placing of the state of mind, for example lobha, in a context--primarily the context of its possible futures. Lobha has these futures in that it is tied to them by various types of causality. So what is seen is not a future detached from the present, as would be a future event seen in a crystal ball, but rather a causal web by which dharmas of the three times are linked together. In this subsection I wish to suggest that a motive for the Sarvastivadins' concern with the ontological status of past and future dharmas was their vivid appreciation of the importance of this causal web. Not that causality was a new concern within Buddhism; the doctrine of paticca-samuppada was always central in the Buddhist understanding of the world of samsara, and paticca-samuppada itself was to be understood in the context of the Four Noble Truths. That is, as the Second of the Truths it places present suffering in the context of the past karmic activity which has brought it about, and present desire in the context of the future suffering which will follow from it. But also the Third and Fourth Noble Truths tell of a different causality leading to freedom from ignorance, from desire and therefore from suffering. Why then should an appreciation of the Four Noble Truths and their ontological implications be particularly associated with the Sarvastivadins? In brief, because they made 'vision' of the Truths central to their account of the Path. The Vijnanakaya text is an early manifestation of Sarvastivadin doctrinal developments not merely in that it argues to the real existence of past and future dharmas ('sarvasti'), but also in that the details of the arguments reveal the background concerns which made this 'real existence' important for the school. These doctrinal developments have been surveyed and analysed by Erich Frauwallner, [18] and especially in a recent comprehensive analysis by Collett Cox. [19] The developments were concerned mainly with the Buddhist path; with its aim and with its method. The Sarvastivadins gradually produced a newly focused and systemafised account of the path, as the abandonment, the setting aside of 'anusayas'. This term occurs relatively rarely in the Sutras (though the sutra term 'asrava' is an enigmatic equivalent); but it does occur in our Vijnanakaya text, associated with the notions of lettering and bondage. The term means something like a long-term habit of mind and of motivation, deep-seated and recalcitrant to change. There are various more or less elaborate lists of these mental fetters. The lists always contain the three akusala-mulani, greed or desire, hatred, and ignorance or confusion, but as the tradition develops there comes to be more and more emphasis on the cognitive element, the conquest of ignorance, doubt, confusion. These constraining habits of mind are on the Sarvastivadin account seen as the root cause of suffering; their removal is the key to liberation. How are they to be removed? The answer is a consolidation and systematisation of the culmination of the path as described in the Samannaphalasutta: . . . he applies and bends his mind to the knowledge pertaining to the extinction of all asavas. He knows as it really is [the Four Noble Truths as related to suffering]. He knows as they really are 'these are asavas; this is the origin of asavas; this is the extinction of asavas; this is the path leading to the extinction of asavas'. To him thus realising, thus seeing, his mind is set free from the asavas of sensuous desire, of existence, of ignorance. [20] In the Sarvastivadin texts, the primary method for the abandonment of the anusayas is vision (darsana) of the Four Noble Truths. On many accounts, vision has to be supplemented by cultivation (bhavana); but as Cox makes clear these two paths were complementary, and basically similar in mode of operation. With respect to each anusaya the application to it of the Four Noble Truths must first be understood, and then experientially realised. Cox summarises the path-structure as follows: Praxis consists of a gradual process through which one is sequentially disconnected from specific defilements through the application of vision and cultivation, culminating in the complete abandonment and future non-arising of all such defilements. [21] It seems to me that we have in this refocused understanding of the path two linked motives for the Sarvastivadin concern for the reality of past and future. First, the notion of an anusaya, a long-term habit of mind, itself emphasises the temporal interconnections which constitute a person. This is a powerful causality which has to be broken down, a new interpretation perhaps of pratitya-samutpada; to break it down one has to understand it and grasp its whole temporal extension into past and future. Second, and more importantly, the renewed and systematic emphasis on the Four Noble Truths is itself an emphasis on the importance of appreciating the reality of past and future. As explained earlier, the Truths operate precisely by placing suffering in its causal and temporal context. So the reality of this context--the causal web in which our present existence is situated--needs to be metaphysically safeguarded; and it also needs to be epistemologically justified. These are precisely the concerns of the Vijnanakaya arguments. The four characterisations of lobha in the Vijnanakaya argument [B] restate and redescribe this causal and temporal web. These characterisations are that lobha is: (i) akusala (ii) a fetter, an anusaya (iii) to be abandoned (iv) a cause of future suffering. The first summarises the other three, so need not be commented on separately. Clause iv refers to a structurally simple type of causality, the simple karmic link between action (in this case the mental act of greed) and experience (in this case suffering). The 'seeing' here is a straightforward confirmation of the second of the Noble Truths. The causality is one-directional and not in itself serf-perpetuating. Action leads karmically to experience; but experience, being resultant and therefore not karmically potent, does not necessarily lead to renewed action. Clause ii refers to a more complex kind of psychological causality. The text says that as it can be seen that lobha is akusala, so it can be seen that lobha is samyojana, bandhana, anusaya, upaklesa, paryavasthana. [22] Cox says that this is "a stylised list used frequently to refer to all varieties of defiling factors" p. 69. Of the five terms anusaya came to be taken as the generic term for these akusala habits of mind. The metaphor of bondage is obvious in the first two elements of the list, samyojana and bandhana. The point is that an occurrence of lobha is inadequately understood unless it is seen as one phase and manifestation of a self-perpetuating system, reaching into the past and the future. These mental characteristics are long-term, persistent, difficult to get out of. They are felt by those striving for freedom as a constraint, and are recalcitrant to their efforts towards freedom. They are not to be removed by a simple act of will. To see, as in the Vijnanakaya argument, that greed is a fetter, is to see the future, in that the present instance of greed will unless drastic action is taken be followed whether one likes it or not by future greedy acts, all karmically potent. The complex psychological implications of the metaphor of bondage are very well articulated by Vasubandhu at the beginning of his lengthy chapter on anusayas in the Abhidharmakosa (v la). The picture is one of positive feedback--an occurrence of greed itself results in a series of such occurrences; it leads to a strength-erring of the bond, tying the defilement more securely to the person; it leads to ignorance and error about the true nature of the object of the desire; and it strengthens its own cause, namely ayoniso-manaskara, misdirected thought or attention. Clause iii in the Vijnanakaya text describes quite a different future which may be seen in lobha. Lobha is to be set aside, discarded, fully and ultimately known. This makes it clear that the positive feedback of the anusayas is not inevitable; though it is typical, and for ordinary people almost universal. The reflective person though sees in lobha not only its typical akusala future, but also its proper future, that future which is in accordance with true values. To see lobha as it is to see not only that it leads to suffering, but also that it should be rejected, discarded. So the Sarvastivadins' belief in the reality of past and future does not commit them to an absolutely fixed future, to a deterministic universe. A true vision and comprehension of the present dharmas sees them as nodes with at least two types of future latent within them. (As was made explicit in later texts, future dharmas exist which as a matter of fact never become present.) According to the developed Sarvastivadin doctrine of the Path, what makes the difference between these two futures is the persistence or abandonment of anusayas, mental dispositions to false and confused world views and to the passions which manifest and nurture these world views. Abandonment is achieved by a vision of the Four Noble Truths, that is of the complex causal context of the dispositions. The Vijnanakaya argument [B] is concerned precisely with the vision of the causal and temporal context of lobha as one of these dispositions. Section 3 Finally I wish to consider the arguments in the Vijnanakaya as philosophical arguments. My aim here is not to make a final judgement on their validity, but rather to indicate the more general philosophical issues which are raised by them. It seems to me that large areas of philosophical debate are opened up by all the central aspects of these arguments. As I said in my first section, there are really two distinct arguments: the argument [A] from the seeing of lobha, which is presumably meant to show the reality of a limited set of past dharmas; and the argument [B] from the seeing of the temporal and causal context of the lobha dharma. It is worth remarking how limited these claims are. The matter at issue is not, at least as far as these arguments are concerned, the reality of all dharmas in the past and future history of the universe. The Buddhist theoretician is concerned only with making sense of soteriological understanding and practice; the Sarvastivadins were working out a metaphysics of time which they thought would underpin that soteriology. The two arguments [A] and [B] have a similar form. Both begin (1) with an 'empirical' claim, that a certain kind of dharma can be seen. Both then argue (2) that these seen dharmas cannot be present at the time of the seeing; they must be past or future dharmas. And both conclude by invoking the principle (3) that whatever can be seen must be real, must exist, at the time of the perception. So past and future dharmas must be real. [A 1] States of mind such as greed may be 'seen'. As I have argued in section 2(a) above, this is a reference to the analytical 'self'-awareness involved in the Buddhist meditative technique of mindfulness. As such it is for the Buddhist non-controversial; and insofar as it makes an empirical claim about what is possible for the Buddhist practitioner I have 'no comment to make on it. [A 2] What is seen (when greed, etc. is seen) cannot be simultaneous with the seeing of it. I have explained (in section 1) the context of this in abhidharmic psychological analysis; but there is also a context of philosophical debate, which should be mentioned here. In Kathavatthu V.9 (this is a Theravadin (Sthaviravadin) abhidhamma text from about the same time as the Vijnanakaya) there is a brief debate in which the following questions are asked: Is there knowledge of the present? Is there knowledge of that knowledge by that same knowledge? Is there knowledge that the knowledge is knowledge by that same knowledge? Is the knowledge the object (arammana) of that same knowledge?[23] The only arguments given in answer to these questions seem to support the denial of the identification of the first- and second-order knowledges. They present analogies, at first ambivalent--'Does one feel a feeling by that same feeling?'; but finally more decisive: Does one cut a sword with that same sword? Does one touch a finger-tip with that same finger-tip? The Commentary links the debate clearly with the Vijnanakaya argument: 'Because two knowledges cannot be simultaneous in one self-conscious subject, knowledge of the present cannot be known by the same act of knowledge.' Mrs Rhys Davids' comment (on the Commentary) is pertinent: 'In other words, self-consciousness is really an act of retrospection; its object is not present but past'. [24] But the Kathavatthu passage can also be seen as prefiguring a much later debate, described in chapter 5 of Bimal K. Matilal's Perception. [25] This is about whether an awareness-event (vijnana) is self-revealing, so that to be aware of something is by virtue of the activity of that same dharma to be aware that one is aware; or whether a second-order awareness-event is necessary for such self-consciousness. As Matilal describes the debate (pp. 148-149), the Nyaya position is that for serf-awareness two knowledges are necessary; Dinnaga though believes that mental events are by their nature serf-luminous, sva-samvedana. As in other matters, the position taken in the Vijnanakaya seems to be closer to Nyaya than to Dinnaga. But in my view the matter is more complex than 'one vijnana or two vijnanas'; self-awareness, knowledge of knowledge, is not a unitary concept. The distinctions described in my section 2 (a) are relevant here. Whether or not there is a sense in which conscious states are self-luminous, what I described earlier as the three levels of serf-awareness cannot be identified with their object, for the object consciousness may well exist in their absence. A mental dharma can well exist without being made part of a synthesised person-construct; without being part of a meaningful 'life'; and without being the object of mindful introspective analysis. In the seeing of lobha there are two distinct states of consciousness, playing the distinct roles of object and subject of perception. As for the pastness of the perceived lobha, this is guaranteed by the 'first principle of non-simultaneity'. But even without this principle it can plausibly be argued that some memory-knowledge of our own states of mind has at least the appearance of direct perception; for example my vivid present recollection of my greedy desire for the last piece of cake at the party I attended yesterday evening. Two philosophical comments on the self-awareness theme remain to be made. The first is about the possibility of introspection. For reasons which will become apparent my discussion of this will follow my remarks about [B 1]. The second relates to the interpretation of 'seeing' as direct immediate cognition; and the argument (3) that what is directly cognised must exist. Comment on this will form the final part of this Section. [B 1] To see a dharma as it is involves seeing at least something of its past and its possible futures. The 'empirical' 'claim here is that it is possible in seeing lobha to see its karmic consequences in future-life suffering; and also its alternative possible future leading towards liberation and its long-term status as an anusaya, a fetter. Obviously there is need of some metaphysical theory to explain the possibility of the seeing of dharmas from the three times. The Sarvastivadins later developed a sophisticated theory of 'karitra', according to which past, present and future modes of reality are distinguished by their functions, their causal powers. But what is needed for the Vijnanakaya argument is a theoretical account of the relation between lobha and its past and futures which makes possible the seeing of them through it. Just such a theory is to be found in the Maha-vibhasa. [26] It lies behind the arguments in that text for the reality of past and future dharmas. The theory rests firmly on the concept of conditionality which pervades the early texts. The dharmas we are considering here are conditioned, samskrta; that is, they are by their nature interrelated with the complex set of dharmas involved in their causation, and are themselves part of the causal conditions for future dharmas. The claim is that to see them for what they are is necessarily to see them within this system of interrelationships, linking past, present and future dharmas. What they are includes their interrelations with other dharmas, past and future; their reality implies the reality of the whole causal web of which they are merely one node. This relational ontology is implicit in the Sutta expositions of paticca-samuppada, where the theory of conditionality is a middle way between existence and non-existence, between eternalism and annihilationism (Samyutta Nikaya, Sutta 12 (Midanasamyutta), for example section 15, section 17; S ii 15-19). There certainly are links between past, present and future, but they are not substantial (as in eternalism), and they are not merely external (as in annihilationism). The remaining possibility is that the momentary dharmas are in their very nature internally related to the past which conditions them and the future (or futures) which they condition. The idea is abstractly expressed in one version of the Maha-vibhasa argument: the present could not be the present except in the context of past and future. So if past, present and future dharmas are (though in a sense momentary) internally related to each other, then it makes sense to claim that someone who sees a present dharma as it is will see its context of conditioning and conditioned dharmas; for they are a part of what it is. So to see in the fullest sense a present lobha-dharma (actually by argument [A] not present but past), is to see not the past and future phases of this particular dharma but other past and future dharmas which are internally related to it. The position has clear analogies with the Sankhya theory of satkaryavada, that the effect is present in the cause. In fact in Abhidharma-kosa v 26 Vasubandhu criticises one version of the Sarvastivada theory of time as being indistinguishable from the Sankhya theory of parinama. But there are also clear distinctions, as Braj Sinha argues in chapter 8 of Time and Temporality in Samkhya-Yoga and Abhidharma Buddhism. [27] The Sankhya view depends on a strong theory of substance; of abiding elements which are merely rearranged in the process of change and evolution. The Sarvastivadin theory operates without substantial continuity; the relations between present and past and future, between cause and effect, are real but merely causal. I now turn back briefly to the 'self-awareness' theme prominent in argument [A]. Is lobha, greed, the kind of thing that can be inwardly seen, introspected? Modern philosophical psychologists have cast doubt on the appropriateness of a perceptual model for what seems to be direct knowledge of our own states of mind, such as my knowledge of my own greedy desires. For example, Gilbert Ryle in The Concept of Mind: Motives and moods are not the sorts of things which could be among the direct intimations of consciousness, or among the objects of introspection, as these factitious forms of 'Privileged Access' are ordinarily described. They are not experiences, any more than habits or maladies are experiences. [28] Here Ryle moves from his own analysis of such statements as 'I greedily desired that piece of cake' to a rejection of the possibility of this greedy desire being an object of introspection, in the sense of direct perceptual (though non-sensory) knowledge of the state of mind. For Ryle, terms such as desire and greed serve as action explanations not because they name a mental episode which precedes and precipitates the action; but rather because they indicate the general context in which the action was done. For example, 'the action was motivated by greed' would be analysed as equivalent to something like 'the action was aimed at short term self-gratification without much thought for its effects on other people.' So knowledge that an action was done from greed would rest on an understanding of this context. This would involve knowledge of mental episodes, but none of these episodes would in itself constitute greed. Similarly for motives of hatred and confusion; these cannot be introspected, for one cannot introspect a context or a propensity. What would be the Sarvastivadin response to such a counter-theory? My view, perhaps surprisingly, is that the Sarvastivadin would find some aspects of the modern theory congenial. This follows from principle [B 1]. As I argued above, this implies that present reality can be understood only in the context of past and future reality--in fact the very idea of the present implies the existence of a past and a future. The 'realism' of Sarvastivadin dharma-theory does not imply the existence of dharmas as self-contained isolated quanta of existence; in fact this is the very opposite of the truth. So the Rylean and the Sarvastivadin positions meet in the assertion that the under- standing of greed, etc. involves not just presently occurrent phenomenological states, but a whole context of past and future thoughts and actions. Both would agree for example that greed is only greed if it rests on an acquisitive belief in the self, and leads to a certain type of morally deficient action. There is though a fundamental difference between the two accounts. For Ryle the links between a greedy state of mind and the consequential actions would be logical; without a particular pattern of thought and action it would not count as greed. That is just what greed means. In the Vijnanakaya argument also, the links between past, present and future phenomena are necessary, but here the necessity is real rather than merely nominal. So also the epistemology is different, being not a matter of linguistic analysis but of direct knowledge of the structure of consciousness, as in the true dispassionate phenomenological epoche in which the essential structure of a state of consciousness is known. So for Ryle mental states cannot be introspected, directly intuited, because they logically involve a past and future context. The Sarvastivadins agree that mental states do involve a past and future context; but to see these states as they really are is, as in the Vijnanakaya argument, precisely to intuit this complex causal and temporal context. [A 3, B 3] My final discussion is of the epistemological principle (3) which is crucial to both arguments, [A] and [B]. Put at its simplest, this is the principle that 'if x can be seen, then x exists'. This seems innocuous, almost tautological, but is here put to powerful use. In fact the Vijnanakaya argument uses an extension of the principle, for the knowledge of lobha is not literally by sight; mental rather than visual consciousness is involved. But the analogy with visual cognition is important; it is no doubt meant to imply that this 'knowledge by the mind' is in some way direct (knowledge by acquaintance) rather than by description. This is certainly a plausible account of mindfulness, and of short term memory images. But the application of the principle to past and future dharmas implies a more specific meaning for 'direct knowledge'. That is, it must be assumed that in this 'seeing' the perceptual consciousness grasps the very object (the lobha-dharma) itself, not an intermediary representation. For only on this interpretation is the argument at all plausible. If what is presently grasped (in argument [A]) is not the past greedy desire itself but some representation of it, perhaps causally derived from a memory trace, there is no reason to conclude that the past desire is now real. Similarly argument [B] has little force if what is now grasped is an imagined representation of a predictable future. So what the argument implies is that the cognitive consciousness grasps not representations of the past and future dharmas (however fight might be the causal story linking representations and dharmas), but these very dharmas themselves. The plausibility of the argument as a whole depends therefore on the possibility of theoretical support for this account of the relation between the perceiving consciousness and its object. Such support may be found in the epistemological theory known as Direct (or Naive) Realism. In modern epistemology little attention has been paid to this theory, for it has been thought to collapse rapidly into Representative Realism. For surely direct perception implies true and complete perception, whereas it is easy to show that perceptual knowledge is often partial, subjective, misleading. So what is immediately perceived must be an internal object, at a remove from the external reality which it aims to represent. If general perception involves an internal representation, then it would seem that this could easily be invoked as above, to defeat the Vijnanakaya argument of the reality of past and future dharmas. Indeed the Vijnanakaya arguments rely on an unusually extreme version of Direct Realism. One could be a Direct Realist with respect to the perception of present trees and chairs, but invoke mediating representations to explain our knowledge of past and future experiences. On the other hand, the Vijnanakaya's Direct Realism with respect to past and future would seem a fortiori to imply Direct Realism with respect to the present. It follows that a full defence of our argument would require a strong defence of Direct Realism as an epistemological theory, with an attack on the notion of representations as internal objects; or at least a demonstration that the postulation of such internal objects is unnecessary. The present paper is not the place for such a defence. I wish instead to comment briefly on the historical context. There are good reasons for thinking that Direct Realism was in Indian philosophical debate seen as a viable and sophisticated theory; and that the Sarvastivadins themselves did in their epistemological arguments see things from a Direct Realist point of view. The wider context of Indian philosophical epistemology is admirably presented in Bimal K Matilal's Perception. [28] This book is largely concerned with the debate in classical Indian philosophy between adherents of Direct and Representative Realism (and also the theories of Phenomenalism and Idealism, which standardly develop out of the two Realisms). It is one of the many fascinations of the book for the student of Sarvastivada that Matilal shows how Direct Realism, which has a strong initial plausibility, can be developed in a far from naive way; and was so developed by Nyaya and Mimamsa. Matilal's main theme is the contrast between Nyaya realism and Buddhist phenomenalism; for him the main stream of Buddhist epistemology is represented by Dinnaga and Dharmakirti, and he does not link his extended discussions of Direct Realism to the Sarvastivada tradition. [29] For Matilal Direct Realism naturally goes with a belief in the real existence of external objects, trees and horses; whereas the Buddhist ontology ultimately reduces these to briefly manifested dharmas. Still, the Direct Realist view can survive in these changed surroundings, emphasising the distinction between perceiving dharmas and perceived dharmas, and insisting that no perceptual event can take place unless there is an object, a collection of object dharmas, to be apprehended. [30] This Direct Realist refusal to accept the possibility of perception with no external object is evident, for example, in a central Sarvastivadin (Vaibhasika) text, though one written many centuries later than the Vijnanakaya. This is Sanghabhadra's defence of Sarvastivada against Vasubandhu's attack in the Abhidharma-kosa. [31] In Vasubandhu's account of the debate on the Sarvastivada theory of time he presents four arguments supporting the Sarvastivada position. The second and third of these are versions of the abstract argument already noted in the Vijnanakaya: [32] vijnana arises only in the presence of sense organ and sense object; manovijnana may have as its object past and future dharmas; so these dharmas must exist. In his (Sautrantika) criticism of these arguments Vasubandhu makes the standard Representative Realist move. He allows that there is a sense in which past and future dharmas may be the object of present vijnana; obviously we can now think about and even have knowledge of the past and the future; but this has no implications with respect to external reality. 'Object' (alambana) in this sense can for Vasubandhu mean no more than internal representation. In the debate which follows, in the Abhidharma-kosa and in Sanghabhadra's response, the issue is generalised. Surely, says the Sautrantika, there are many cases of vijnana with a non-existent object (asadvisayalambaka), i.e. with an internal object, alambana, but with no external object, visaya. He cites for example dream objects, the mistaken idea of the 'self', the knowledge of someone who hears a sound that before the sound arose there was no sound ... In each case the Sarvastivadin is at pains to show that the perception is a grasping of some existing thing. The perceived object may not be correctly known; there may be confusion about its temporal status (as in dreams where something that is actually past is thought to be present). But the principle is at all costs to be preserved, that vijnana must have an object, and that not merely an internal object. In fact for the Direct Realist the external existent takes the place of the internal object. Conclusion The Vijnanakaya argument is worthy of attention not just because of the intrinsic philosophical interest of debates on the nature of time, but also because the argument draws its conclusions from two central areas of Buddhist concern: self-awareness and self-analysis, and conditionality. Many different types of self-awareness are involved in the Buddhist understanding of the person; the seeing of lobha which is invoked in our argument is a direct unmediated grasping of a mental element, part of a dispassionate analysis of the stream of consciousness which outside the Path is falsely taken to constitute a self. But the mental element thus Chosen to play the central role in the 'first argument' has a particular potency. As a form of desire it is a basic cause of the suffering cycle of samsara; as an anugaya it is a manifestation of a long term self-perpetuating character trait. So its present reality is inextricable from its relations with past and future dharmas. These complex causal relations are the burden of pratitya-samutpada and of the Four Noble Truths; it was in support of the reality of those causal relations, of that causal web, that the Sarvastivadins argued to the reality of past and future dharmas. NOTES [1] This chapter is in DE LA VALLEE POUSSIN, LOUIS (1925) Le controverse du temps et du pudgala dans le Vijnanakaya, Etudes Asiatiques publiees a l'occasion du 25me anniversaire de l'Ecole Francaise de l'Extreme-orient (Paris), pp. 346-358, which is a translation of the first pan of Nanjio 1281, Tokyo, XXIII, 9, pp. 1-72. I have with the help of Mr Victor He, University of Sunderland, compared de la Vallee Poussin's translation with Taisho 26.1539, 531a-536a. This comparison revealed only one substantial problem of translation, which is noted below (note 8). [2] This first chapter of the Vijnanakaya does contain (DE LA VALLEE POUSSIN, op. cit., note 1, pp. 352-353) a version of an argument about vijnana: that vijnana relating to past and future cannot be analambana vijnana; for the Buddha clearly defined vijnana as that which discerns or grasps its object, the visible, sound, smell, taste, the tangible, dharmas. This argument is reported and commented on by Vasubandhu in Abhidharma-kosa v 25 a-b. It may be an abstract version of the argument discussed in the present paper; but as it stands it is too schematic for its import to be clear. The 'first argument' of the Vijnanakaya makes clear, as the vijnana argument does not, what precisely is meant by awareness of past and future. [3] DE LA VALLEE POUSSIN, op. cit., note 1, pp. 346-349. [4] Ibid., p. 350. [5] Samyutta Nikaya iv 89. [6] DE LA VALLEE POUSSIN, op. cit., note 1, p. 352. [7] Majjhima Nikaya i 242. [8] At this point de la Vallee Poussin's translation is misleading. 'Ce qui est l'object de cette vue, est-ce l'attachement passe? est-ce l'attachement futur? est-ce l'attachement present?' But for the object of the seeing here to be lobha would make nonsense of the argument; what is seen (in or through the lobha) must be the suffering which derives from and is temporally distinct from the lobha. And the Chinese in fact asks merely: 'Is what is seen of the past, the present or the future?' [9] Compare COX, COLLETT (1988) On the possibility of a non-existent object of consciousness: Sarvastivadin and Darstantika theories, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 11 (1), footnote 52: 'According to the Sarvastivadins and Darstantikas, two instances of thought (citta) or perceptual consciousness (vijnana) cannot occur simultaneously.' Our passage in the Vijnanakaya is the earliest text to which Collett Cox refers to justify her statement. See also Abhidharmakosa ii 34d: the citta and caittas which have the same object are simultaneous, but 'at a given moment only one single citta can arise'. [10] It is interesting that Gilbert Ryle uses as what he admits is a rather feeble argument against the possibility of introspective self-awareness the implausibility of 'attending twice at once': "... the occurrence of such an act of inner perception would require that the observer could attend to two things at the same time. He would for example be both resolving to get up early and concomitantly observing his act of resolving;" RYLE, GILBERT (1949) The Concept of Mind (London, Hutchinson) p. 164. Of course from the Sarvastivadin point of view this objection simply begs the question. [11] For a fuller analysis of this constructive synthetic activity, see BASTOW, DAVID (1986) Self- construction in Buddhism, Ratio, XXVIII (2), pp. 97-113. [12] See BASTOW, DAVID (1995) Becoming a changed person, Philosophical Investigations, 18 (1), pp. 49-64. [13] It is significant, and in accord with Sarvastivadin thinking, that when the past and the future are abandoned, so is the present. As will be argued later in this paper, past, present and future are inextricably intertwined. The realisation of impermanence and no-self cannot be understood as a mode of living purely in the present. [14] KIERKEGAARD, SOREN (1959) Either/Or (New York, Anchor Books). First published 1843. [15] This is not the only type of aesthetic life described in Either or, but it is pertinent here, as a realisation of 'momentariness' which is obviously far from the Buddhist ideal. [16] BASTOW, DAVID (1994) Levels of self-awareness in Pali Buddhism, Scottish Journal of Religious Studies, XV (1), especially pp. 5-9. [17] This interpretation of Sarvastivada finds no direct support in my text, so I shall not discuss it further. But in his important book: Time and Temporality in Samkhya-Yoga and Abhidharma Buddhism (New Delhi, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1983), and especially in Chapter 9, Brai M. Sinha discusses "the significance of reflection as a special mode of being and the central role that it plays in the transcendence of temporality" (p. 143). Sinha's notion of 'reflection' points to the ability of consciousness to step outside its own subject-object structure; in the present case a radical depersonalising of lobha. [18] FRAUWALLNER, ERICH (1971) Abhidharma-Studien III. Der Abhisamayavadah, Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde Sudund Ostasiens, 15, pp. 69-102. [19] COX, COLLETT (1993) Attainment through abandonment: the Sarvastivadin path of removing defilements, in: R. E. BUSWELL & R. M. GIMELLO (Eds) Paths to Liberation (Honolulu, HI, Kuroda Institute; University of Hawaii Press) pp. 63-105. [20] Digha Nikaya i 84. [21] COX, op. cit., note 19, p. 77. See also Abhidharma-kosa v 3, 4 and 5. [22] DE LA VALLEE POUSSIN, op. cit., note 1, p. 347; see also COX, op. cit., note 19, p. 69 and footnote 27. Upaklesa and paryavasthana refer particularly to the occurrent manifestations of the dispositions. [23] Kathavatthu (Pali Text Society 1979) p. 314. See BASTOW, DAVID (1995) Debates about time in the Kathavatthu, Buddhist Studies Review, forthcoming. For reasons explained in that paper, the PTS translation (Points of Controversy) by S. Z. Aung & C. A. F. Rhys Davids (London, 1960) Luzac for the Pali Text Society is radically misleading, being an interpretation based more on the Commentary (Kathavatthuppakarana-Atthakatha, Pali Text Society 1989) than on the text oft he Kathavatthu. [24] AUNG & RHYS DAVIDS, op. cit., note 23, p. 183, footnote 1. [25] MATILAL, BIMAL K. (1986) Perception (Oxford, Clarendon Press) chapter 5: 'Knowing that one knows'. [26] The Maha-vibhasa is an immense survey of Sarvastivadin doctrine dating from several centuries after the Vijnanakaya (see for example HIRAKAWA, A. A History of Indian Buddhism, Honolulu, HI, 1990; pp. 135-136). The relevant arguments about time are translated by Louis DE LA VALLEE POUSSIN (1937) Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques V, pp. 8-25. For a full discussion of these arguments, see BASTOW, DAVID (1994) The Maha-vibhasa arguments for Sarvastivada, Philosophy East and West, 44 (3), pp. 489-499. [27] SINHA, op. cit., note 17, p. 125 "While for Abhidharma Buddhism temporal becoming exemplifies the constancy of the "continuum" (samtana), the Samkhya-Yoga speaks of the constancy of the continuant (samtani).' [28] RYLE, op. cit., note 10, p. 115. [29] MATILAL, op. cit., note 25. The first sentence of the Introduction is 'Naive Realism is not really naive'. [30] Except in the 'Chronological Table of Philosophers' at the beginning of the book, where he says (p. xiii) 'Vaibhasika phenomenalistic realism believes that percepts are as much real as the perception itself and the external world is directly grasped in our conception-free perception'. [31] The most complete account of early philosophical developments in this area is the paper by Collett Cox, op. cit., note 9. Professor Cox does not explicitly link her description of these debates to the choice between Direct and Representative Realism, but there seems little doubt that this is what is at stake here. That is, to take the title of Cox's paper, the question 'Can there be a non-existent object of consciousness?' really means: can vijnana take as its object an internal representation, for which there may be no similar or simultaneous external objective grounding? For the Darstantika, who believes in internal representations, there is no problem here; for Sarvastivada there are no internal objects, so the only possible objects of perception are external, so in the absence of such external objects perception is impossible. [32] Vasubandhu's discussion is in Abhidharma-kosa V 25-26. Sanghabhadra's response in the Nydyanusara is translated in DE LA VALLEE POUSSIN, op. cit., note 26, pp. 25-128. [32] See note 2 above.