Kalupahana on nirvaa.na
By
Tyson Anderson

Philosophy East & West
40:2 (1990.04)
pp. 221-234

Copyright 1990 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, USA


Tyson Anderson is a professor in the Division of Philosophy and Theology at Saint Leo College in Florida.

 

 

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    David Kalupahana maintains that it was the teaching both of the Buddha and of Naagaarjuna that at death the freed person "ceases to exist" but that the condition of the freed one after death was a "metaphysical" issue about which nothing was to be said, "primarily because there was no epistemological basis on which any predication can be made." [1] I want to argue, on the contrary, that both the early Buddhist texts and Naagaarjuna suggest that the condition of the tathaagata after death is positive but not describable in terms which those who are not tathaagatas would find easy to understand. I believe, moreover, that this thesis is a logical development out of Kalupahana's idea that "the way our minds are conditioned" makes the understanding of some Buddhist concepts difficult, [2] and that the thesis is harmonious with some of Kalupahana's stimulating contributions to our understanding of Buddhist philosophy, such as his emphasis on the importance of "dependent arising," his finding a "close affinity" between Buddhism and the thought of William James, [3] and his reading of Naagaarjuna in the light of the Kaccaayanagotta-sutta.

 

I

    According to Kalupahana, dependent arising or the causal process (paticca-samuppaada) "is operative in all spheres, including the highest state of spiritual development, namely, nirvaa.na," [4] which means that early Buddhism (and Naagaarjuna) does not entertain the notion of an "absolute" or "unconditioned" in the sense of something that lies outside the causal process. [5] While nirvaana is said to be "the element of the unconditioned or uncompounded (asa^nkhatadhaatu)..., it was never described as 'the uncaused' or 'the independent' (appaticcasamuppanna)." [6] This point does seem to be worth stressing, for without the distinction made here the attainment of bodhi and nirvaa.na would become fortuitous, thus rendering the Four Noble Truths and the Path misleading descriptions of an impossible effort. [7] Nirvaa.na is often described as the absence of the "three roots" of evil -- greed, hatred, and delusion. According to the "twelvefold formula" of dependent arising (not "twelvefold chain," since there is no absolute beginning), ignorance is "the most important factor to eliminate" in seeking enlightenment, for it is ignorance that determines dispositions which, in turn, shape consciousness and personality in this life and the next. [8] Ignorance is eliminated through the attainment of a~n~naa or realization. This realization is usually the result of a discipline that cultivates concentration and insight. Nirvaa.na itself is basically "a state of perfect mental health..., of perfect happiness..., calmness or

 

 

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coolness..., and stability...attained in this life," [9] in which one is aware that "one has put an end to birth" and that "there is no future existence." [10]

    Nirvaa.na follows the attainment of enlightenment, which, in turn, is typically the result of a process of cultivation (bhaavanaa). What does this process work upon? In the early texts there are references to "the luminous mind" that is "tainted by adventitious defilements," [11] and the process of attaining freedom and insight through mental culture is sometimes compared to refining gold ore. [12] On Kalupahana's reading, this refining process would proceed in accordance with dependent arising, and ideally -- as in the case of the Buddha -- the person undergoing such a process would develop proficiency in the four preliminary and five higher jhaanas, thereby gaining freedom of mind (cetovimutti), and he would attain the sixfold higher knowledge, thereby gaining freedom through insight (pa~n~naavimutti). "Both these processes...seem to converge when one attains enlightenment" [13] or realization (a~n~naa).

    An analogy similar to gold ore is found in the Dhammapada chapter on "Blemish," where it is imagined that a person is near death and the following advice is given.

    Make an island unto yourself....Purged of blemishes and free from impurities, you will not come to birth and decay again.

    Little by little..., let a prudent man gradually purge (himself of) his blemishes, even as a smith (removes the impurities) in silver.

    Even as a blemish (rust) arisen from iron, rising therefrom corrodes it itself, even so his own deeds lead the one who overindulges in his deeds to an evil bourn. [14]

    This kind of analogy is not unusual in religious writers. Thus we read in Gregory of Nyssa:

    Though it might once have been black, as soon as it has been cleaned of rust with a whetstone it begins to shine and glisten and give off rays in the sun. So it is with the interior man....Once he has scraped off rust-like dirt that has accumulated on his form because of evil degeneration, then he will become good once more and shine forth in the likeness of his archetype. [15]

    Of the three images, gold is the more conceptually potent since unlike silver and iron it neither tarnishes nor rusts. These images all suggest a common meaning, namely, that the process of cultivation does not create something which did not exist before, but it removes impurities from something already existing -- the "luminous mind" in the Buddhist texts and the image of God in Gregory.

    Kalupahana objects to this reading, however. As the conception of an "absolute" developed, the "luminous mind" became an "originally luminous mind." Then,

it is not the gold-ore that gets converted to gold, but the brightness...of gold as well as the pebbles of gold, -- ore that become visible through purification, the implication being that the brightness is already there and is not the

 

 

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result of purification. This idea, that what is already present is being manifested, an idea that carries all the metaphysical implications of substance (svabhaava), could not be acceptable either to the Buddha or to Naagaarjuna. [16]

Kalupahana thinks that the idea of an originally pure mind is one of the origins of the Upanishadic notion of aatman, and as such would not have been intended by the Buddha. [17]

    But while it is true that the mind under discussion is originally defiled rather than pure, the analogy of refining gold ore suggests inexorably that something positive is also already there and that this valuable reality will become manifest once the defiling elements -- which are nor a part of its nature -- are removed. It is clear that whatever this mind is, it is not itself one of the khandhas or even the assembly of khandhas, [18] but neither is it correct to identify it at once with one of the various Upanishadic notions of aatman either, if for no other reason than that in the early texts there is no record of the Buddha having ever discussed the nature of the aatman with anyone who claimed to have direct knowledge of it, thus leaving the original texts permanently ambiguous on this point. [19]

    There are at least two senses of "self" in the early texts. [20] In the ordinary sense of "self" as "person," the texts are full of emphasis on the importance of self-development, and in this spirit one of the chapters of the Dhammapada is entitled "Atta." In a more speculative sense of a "self" which is somehow aloof from and unrelated to the basic process of the world (dependent arising), however, the early texts deny that either ordinary or meditative experience discloses the existence of such an entity. [21] But all of this is compatible with the Buddha's awakening being, in part, some sort of experience in which there was no duality consisting of himself contemplating something else, such as a larger self, and it is quite another question as to how such an experience might have been conceptualized by an Upanishadic seer who was willing and able to discuss the matter.

    If it should turn out that a more developed form of "luminous mind" theory was similar to certain carefully stated Upanishadic views, this would seem to be neither impossible nor immediate proof of the theory's incompatibility -- as opposed to nonidentity -- with the early texts. If there were some similarity, as some Buddhists believe, [22] the situation would then be comparable to that in Christianity when theologians who fail to find certain doctrines in the Bible rely on the defense that later doctrines can be seen as results of "trajectories" already present in the Bible. [23] Likewise, later Buddhist developments might be seen as elaborations of trajectories that can be found in the early texts. Thus over eighty years ago D. T. Suzuki observed that "the initiator of a movement... has no time to think out all its possible details and consequences." [24] Indeed, from the point of view of Wittgenstein's later philosophy, which integrates language with life, [25] conceptual change would be only expected. It is the situation of there being no significant change that

 

 

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could be a highly anomolous state of affairs. A process of doctrinal change can be ruled out in advance only on the presupposition that the wording of the early texts is the last intelligent thing that really needs to be said on the subject and that, therefore, no conceptual development is necessary. Such a "fundamentalist" view is familiar to us in its various Christian guises, and it would seem, on the surface at least, to be incongruous with a religion which makes so much of impermanence and which recommends the kind of nonattachment to doctrine found in the Parable of the Raft. It is not clear, moreover, that fundamentalism is compatible with a pragmatic view of language which emphasizes the connection between meaning and consequences, a view which Kalupahana finds in both early Buddhism and Naagaarjuna. [26]

    In regard to the "luminous mind, " it is instructive to note Kalupahana's view that in early Buddhism nirvaa.na is "natural" and suffering is not.

    The world of perfect happiness... is the state in which there is the pacification of all dispositions..., which is the same as nirvaa.na. Pacification of all dispositions enables one to lead not only a happy and peaceful life but also a natural life, a life dominated by causal dependence...but unconditioned by dispositions. It is a life that conforms to nature (dhammataa). [27]

    Over against this, all the phenomena of human civilization, as long as they are determined by dispositional tendencies -- such as greed, hatred, and delusion -- are "not natural causal occurrences." [28] Now the idea that happiness is natural while the "three roots" and the consequent suffering are not is very similar to the notion that the impurities clouding the luminous mind are "adventitious defilements": both suggest that in the process of cultivation and in the attainment of enlightenment and nirvaa.na "that which is already present is being manifested."

    At death, then, the tathaagata would be in a state of luminosity. But what can be said of the saint after death? "The most important aspect of nibbaana is that of the arahant who has passed away. It is also the most misunderstood aspect of nibbaana," according to Kalupahana. [29] The Itivuttaka says of nirvaa.na without substrate that the monk

who has destroyed the defiling impulses...is freed through insight....All his experiences [literally, things he has felt], none of which he relished, will be cooled here itself. [30]

    Kalupahana's view is that here "there is no reference to any kind of survival whatsoever" [31] But it would appear more natural to read the text as simply describing a condition of "insight" in which feelings (vedayitaani) are cooled. From the perspective of ordinary folk who do "relish" the feelings in question, perhaps this does not seem to amount to the survival of anything worth talking about, but in this tradition the ordinary perspective is, of course, suspect.

    Perhaps the text most resistant to Kalupahana's interpretation is the wellknown

 

 

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passage from the Aggi-Vacchagotta-sutta where the tathaagata after death is compared to a fire that has gone out. Gotama asks Vaccha in which direction a fire goes when it has gone out. Vaccha replies that the question

does not fit the case....For the fire that depended on fuel....when that fuel has all gone, and it can get no other, being thus without nutriment, is said to be extinct. [32]

    Gotama then explains:

    In exactly the same way..., all form by which one could predicate the existence of the saint, all that form has been abandoned, uprooted, pulled out of the ground like a palmyra-tree, and become non-existent and not liable to spring up again in the future. The saint...who has been released from what is styled form, is deep, immeasurable, unfathomable, like the mighty ocean. To say that he is reborn would not fit the case. To say that he is not reborn would not fit the case. To say that he is both reborn and not reborn would not fit the case. To say that he is neither reborn nor not reborn would not fit the case. [The same is said of the other aggregates.] [33]

    A similar response citing immeasurability occurs in the Sutta-nipaata when Gotama is asked if the saint is annihilated or eternally free from illness.

    There is no measure of [or means of knowing] him who had achieved the goal. That by which one could define him [that is, words or descriptions], that is not for him. When all phenomena (dhamma) are removed, then all means of description are also removed. [34]

    The passage from the Aggi-Vacchagotta-sutta combines two images, one negative (a fire that has gone out) and the other positive (an immeasurably deep ocean). From a certain point of view, the first example by itself would suggest the extinction of the saint: the saint "goes out" just like a fire. But when we recall that ordinary life is described as being on fire with the "three roots" (as in the Fire Sermon), the condition of the saint would be one in which the fire of the defilements has been replaced with the coolness of nonattachment, compassion, and wisdom. That is, it is not the "luminous mind" but the defilements and, at death, also the aggregates that are extinguished.

    Such an interpretation is buttressed by the ocean metaphor. To begin with, it is interesting to see that there is an apparent contradiction here with passages which express the knowledge that there will be no more rebirth: "Destroyed is birth...; there is no more tendency for future birth or existence." [35] Kalupahana's view is that "the only thing we can know with any certainty on the basis of inference into the future is that there will be no more rebirth." [36] But if knowledge were the issue here, it would seem on the basis of the ocean metaphor as interpreted by Kalupahana that we could not know anything about the rebirth of the saint, and liberation itself would then be unknowable -- or "metaphysical," as Kalupahana likes to say. In the quotation above from the Sutta-nipaata, Kalupahana interpreted "there is no measure of" as "there is no means of knowing." But knowing and describing are

 

 

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two different matters. Thus, young children often experience things that they are unable to describe, although their tears or laughter indicate their awareness; adults often experience things that they cannot describe to children; and saints, we might suppose, experience things that they cannot describe to the rest of us. Now if most people are in thrall to the "three roots" and lack insight, and if the usual conditions of language are the aggregates, and if the condition of the saint after death were one of insight without the aggregates, such a situation would lack the prerequisites for ordinary communication. Still, some suggestion might be given: the saint is "deep...like the mighty ocean." Kalupahana observes that at the time of the Buddha it was thought that the ocean was unfathomable and that this was why it could be used as a "simile to illustrate the unknowability of the nature of the dead arahant." [37] But unfathomability suggests that the depth of the ocean cannot be known, not that there is no reality -- no ocean -- to be known. [38] Likewise, how could we know the depth of a person with a luminous mind and no aggregates? The most natural understanding of the early texts would thus seem to be that the condition of the tathaagata after death is that of a vast reality beyond the domain where the descriptive powers of ordinary language are at home, that is, the world of the aggregates and greed, hatred, and delusion.

    Even while he is alive, a tathaagata is difficult to grasp. This is the point made by Saariputta against Yamaka, who had entertained the "wicked heresy" that "the priest who has lost all depravity is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist after death." [39]

    Since even in this life a Tathaagata is really and truly untraceable, is it proper for you to assert: "As I understand the doctrine..., a monk who is free from the obsessions is broken up and perishes when the body is broken up and does not exist after death." [40]

    Yamaka states that from now on when asked what happens to the saint after death, he would reply: "That which was transitory was evil, and that which was evil has ceased and disappeared." [41] Notice that here, as in the conversation with Vaccha, there are both positive and negative realities. The mind of the saint "has lost all attachment and has become released from the depravities," [42] and in such a condition the saint is "untraceable." After the saint has died, that which was transitory and evil has disappeared. The reasoning seems to be this: to say that the saint after death does not exist is like saying that the saint is fully describable in terms of the transitory and evil aggregates; but this is absurd since the saint, even while alive, is not thus describable.

    Why is the saint not describable? Kalupahana says that the living saint cannot be known by ordinary people or gods "because his ways are different from their own." [43] This rather understated answer seems to be very much in the correct direction and logically quite distinct from the antimetaphysical, positivist

 

 

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position of which Kalupahana is so fond. [44] For if the lives of most people are characterized by greed, hatred, and delusion, it is only to be expected that nirvaa.na would be a strange reality that is difficult to comprehend. As we saw above, Kalupahana wants to characterize nirvaa.na as "natural" and all dispositionally conditioned things as "not natural." [45] But insofar as "natural" has the meaning of "the way things usually are," then nirvaa.na could just as easily be said to be unnatural, and people would normally not possess the spiritual depth required to comprehend it. This aspect of Kalupahana's position seems helpful and clarifying without requiring the early texts to be complete-but-veiled versions of contemporary empiricism. In fact, much modern positivism -- as contrasted with William James' pragmatism, for instance -- has been narrow-minded, small-spirited, and irreligious in a manner that contrasts markedly with Gotama's universe, which was rich with devas, rebirth in various realms, and jhaanas and abhi~n~naas of divers sorts. It may well be the case that Gotama was no friend of Upanishadic monism or aatman theory as he understood them, but this says nothing about his being a positivist in any modern sense; and conversely, his not being a positivist says nothing about his being a monist.

    It is not easy to see how Kalupahana's agnosticism about the existence of the saint after death can avoid collapsing into a kind of annihilationism. [46] For if it is maintained both that the tathaagata ceases to exist at death and also that it is not known what happens to the tathaagata after death, this amounts to admitting the possibility of a kind of re-creation: at death the tathaagata ceases to exist but after death he may exist once again. But entertaining such a possibility would surely exhibit insufficient speculative parsimony from the perspective of early Buddhism; indeed, it sounds at least as "metaphysical" as Upanishadic doctrines. It would be better simply to admit that the complete extinction of the person is the teaching.

    Standing in the way of such an admission, however, is the fact that the texts universally avoid straightforwardly asserting extinctionism. [47] Instead of this, as we have seen, images that are clearly positive are at times utilized. In addition to the images of gold ore and the unfathomable ocean, another telling image is this: "[Even if the body is devoured by crows and vultures], yet his citta, if longtime practiced in faith, virtue, learning and renunciation, soars aloft and wins the excellent." [48] Kalupahana's comment on this text is that "if citta was thought to survive the death of the arahant, there is no reason why the Buddha should not have openly declared it to be so." [49] But if the tathaagata is "untraceable" in this life and afterwards, perhaps the "strangeness" of this freedom to the deluded citta is reason enough for the Buddha to give minimally positive descriptions together with the counsel of unfathomability. Rather than "the limitations of empiricism," [50] it would seem that the limitations of delusion are the better explanation for the reticence of the Buddha regarding the tathaagata's existence.

 

 

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II

    According to Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna was not the "second Buddha" whom some Mahaayaanists had claimed him to be but merely "a grand commentator on the Buddha-word" [51] who "was simply restating the ideas expressed by the Buddha in the early discourses." [52] Differences between the two are largely a result of the fact that whereas the Buddha had to spend much time contending with substantialist views of the self, Naagaarjuna had to deal first with "the Sarvastivada view of phenomena (dharma) as possessing substance (svabhaava)." [53] Against this substantialism Naagaarjuna takes the following position in the Kaarikaa:

    A thing that is not dependently arisen is not evident. For that reason, a thing that is non-empty is indeed not evident. (24:19)

    We state that whatever is dependent arising, that is emptiness. (24:18) [54]

    In his exposition of nirvaa.na or freedom in Naagaarjuna, Kalupahana gives especially close attention to the following verses.

    Freedom, as a matter of fact, is not existence, for if it were, it would follow that it has the characteristics of decay and death. Indeed, there is no existence without decay and death. (25:4)

    The teacher has spoken of relinquishing both becoming and other-becoming. Therefore it is proper to assume that freedom is neither existence nor non-existence. (25:10)

    Freedom is unconditioned while existence and non-existence are conditioned. (25:13)

    Focusing on the notion of the "unconditioned," Kalupahana continues his emphasis on the centrality of causality and once again notes that "even though the early discourses presented nirvaa.na as asa.msk.rta, it was never considered to be an apratiityasamutpanna." [55] It is wrong, therefore, to see freedom as uncaused or "uncreated." Rather, freedom is not "dispositionally conditioned" by the three poisons. [56] Regarding existence (bhaava), Kalupahana says it would be contrary to Naagaarjuna's antisubstantialism to assert that there is an existent which is nonarisen and nonceased, and so "existence" here must be understood in a substantialist sense: "bhaava (= svabhaava)." [57] Then nirvaa.na would not be, as the "absolutists" would have it, "a total freedom that has nothing to do with ordinary human existence characterized by old age and death." [58]

    Now for several reasons this interpretation sounds forced, and I wish to suggest an alternative view, one that also sees Naagaarjuna building on the ideas in the early discourses and which accepts Kalupahana's idea of the centrality of causality and his stressing the distinction between being dependently arisen and being dispositionally conditioned, but which understands nirvaa.na

 

 

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as being a "peaceful" (`saanta) reality that is not characterized by birth and death. To begin with, consider the Dedicatory Verses:

    I salute him, the fully enlightened..., who preached the non-ceasing and the non-arising, the non-annihilation and the non-eternal..., the dependent arising, the appeasement of obsessions and the auspicious. [59]

    Later on, Naagaarjuna concludes his chapter on the Noble Truths -- which contains "the most important discussions in Naagaarjuna" [60] -- with this verse: "Whoever perceives dependent arising also perceives suffering, its arising, its ceasing and the path [leading to its ceasing]" (24:40). And the chapter on the Twelve Causal Factors concludes with this verse, referring to the cessation of ignorance and the dispositions: "With the cessation of these, these other factors [of the twelvefold formula] would not proceed. In this way, the entire mass of suffering ceases completely" (26: 12). From the Dedicatory Verses through the end of chapter twenty-six, it would appear that Naagaarjuna had a traditional concern: the complete cessation of suffering through the attainment of the nonceasing and the nonarising. According to the early texts, the three characteristics of the dispositionally conditioned are arising, cessation, and change of what has come to endure. [61] Naagaarjuna's view that nirvaa.na is "unconditioned" (24:13) thus seems simply to restate the view of Udaana 80 that there is a "not-born, not-become, not-made, not-conditioned" which makes possible "escape from the born, become, made, conditioned." [62] One of Kalupahana's most clarifying points is that the three marks (anicca, dukkha, anatta) do not all apply to everything. The first two only cover dispositionally conditioned things (sa^nkhaara), whereas all dhamma are anatta. [63] This leaves open the possibility of there being something which is unconditioned, not suffering, not impermanent, and "empty" (thus falling within the encompassing reality of dependent arising). If there were no such possibility, there would also be no Buddhist solution to the central problem of suffering.

    On this interpretation, verses 25:4, 10, and 13 quoted above are fairly straightforward: existence (bhaava) is conditioned and subject to decay and death, but nirvaa.na is unconditioned and does not have the characteristics of decay and death. This reading goes smoothly not only with the Dedicatory Verses but also with the verse that is part of "the single most important fact" [64] about the Kaarikaa, namely, that the "Admonition to Kaatyaayana" is the only discourse from the early texts referred to by name.

    In the admonition to Kaatyaayana, the two theories [implying] 'exists' and 'does not exist' have been refuted by the Blessed One who is adept in existence as well as non-existence. (15:7)

    This verse does not say that the Blessed One objected to "existence" (bhaava). It says that the Buddha is adept in "existence" (bhaaava), and this is quite compatible with his refuting the extremes of "existence" (astitva) and

 

 

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"nonexistence" (nastitva) [65] -- that is, eternalism and annihilationism. Naagaarjuna is saying that the Buddha comprehended the suffering inherent in conditioned existence with its three characteristics and taught the nonceasing and the nonarising, and that the "middle path" of "emptiness" (24:18) makes liberation (mok.ssa; 25:11) possible while avoiding both substantialism and annihilationism.

    What is the situation of the tathaagata, one who has achieved liberation? Kalupahana warns that "no other issue has been as misunderstood and misinterpreted." [66] He again observes that Naagaarjuna follows the early texts and proceeds in the tathaagata chapter as if he had read the conversation between Saariputta and Yamaka which was discussed above and which dealt with Yamaka's "wicked heresy" [67] that on the dissolution of the body the tathaagata is annihilated. Kalupahana's main concern is that Naagaarjuna not be read as saying that the tathaagata is "linguistically transcendent." [68] Consider the following verses:

    Discriminating on the basis of grasping or the grasped, and firmly insisting that a tathaagata "exists" or "does not exist," a person would think similarly even of one who has ceased. (22:13)

    When he is empty in terms of self-nature, the thought that the Buddha exists or does not exist after death is not appropriate. (22:14)

    Whatever is the self-nature of the tathaagata, that is also the self-nature of the universe. The tathaagata is devoid of self-nature. This universe is also devoid of self-nature. (22:16) [69]

    A similar line of thought is taken up in the nirvaa.na chapter:

    It is not assumed that the Blessed One exists after death. Neither is it assumed that he does not exist, or both, or neither. (25:18)

    It is not assumed that even a living Blessed One exists. Neither is it assumed that he does not exist, or both, or neither. (25:18)

    The life-process has no thing that distinguishes it from freedom. Freedom has no thing that distinguishes it from the life-process. (25:19)

    There are two main points expressed in these verses. The first is the more traditional view that since the existence of the tathaagata cannot be established while he is alive, much less is it possible to do so after the dissolution of the aggregates. For the most part our language applies to conditioned existence (bhaava) with its characteristics of arising, change, and cessation, plus decay and death. It would be counterintuitive to think that ordinary people -- that is, those dominated by ignorance and dispositions -- would be in any position to have a very illuminating and direct idea of the reality of a "peaceful" one (22:12). The peaceful reality of the tathaagata both before and after death, while not "linguistically transcendent," is beyond the understanding of the rest of us, conditioned as we are by spiritual ignorance and the dispositions.

    The second point is that "like freedom, the nature of things is non-arisen

 

 

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and non-ceased" (18:7). This idea bears comparison to Kalupahana's position which was discussed above, namely, that "the true nature of things" (dhammataa) is dependent arising, [70] that the three roots of evil are "not natural causal occurrences," [71] and that a life that "conforms to nature (dhammataa)" is a "happy and peaceful life." [72] Naagaarjuna adds to this the idea that on account of emptiness the nature of things has the characteristics of nirvaa.na, and that ultimately there can be no duality between nirvaa.na and sa.msaara, tathaagata and world -- as the simile of the gold ore suggests. This may indeed represent a conceptual development on Naagaarjuna's part, but it seems to be clearly based on teachings in the early texts. If this is so, then Kalupahana's overall thesis about the continuity of Naagaarjuna with early Buddhism remains intact, but at the cost of perhaps somewhat more transcendence in the early texts than his positivistic inclinations would countenance.

 

NOTES

1. David J. Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), p. 57.

2. David J. Kalupahana, Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1975), p. 183.

3. David J. Kalupahana, The Principles of Buddhist Psychology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), p. 11.

4. Kalupahana, Causality, p. 140. Kalupahana characterizes dependent arising as "the Buddha's main philosophical insight" (Naagaarjuna, p. 31).

5. "Unconditioned" is widely used as a description of nirvaa.na. See Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1967).

6. Kalupahana, Causality, p. 140.

7. The lack of such a distinction is the source of the "flaw" found in the dharma by the young seeker in Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, trans. Hilda Rosner (New York: New Directions, 1951), p. 35.

8. Kalupahana, Causality, p. 145.

9. Ibid., p. 180.

10. Ibid., p. 181.

11. Anguttara Nikaaya 1: 10, cited in K. N. Jayatilleke, The Message of the Buddha (New York: The Free Press, 1974), p. 88. The Pali word is citta. While Kalupahana, in Causality (e.g., p. 119) and in Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1976) (e.g., p. 98), translates this as "mind," in later works he favors "thought," perhaps because it sounds less "substantial" or "metaphysical." Nevertheless, since there can be citta without thought (as in the eighth and ninth jhaanas), "mind" seems at times to be the better translation. On citta see Rune Johansson, The Psychology of Nirvana (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1970).

12. Anguttara Nikaaya 1:254, cited in Kalupahana, Principles, p. 28. According to Dhammapada verse 183, "the message of the Buddhas" is avoiding evil, doing good, and "purifing one's citta." See A Path of Righteousness: Dhammapada, trans. David J. Kalupahana (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1986). Kalupahana translates citta here as "thought."

13. Kalupahana, Causality, p. 181.

14. A Path of Righteousness, verses 238-240. The "highest blemish" is ignorance (verse 243). Another similar image is found in the Aggi-Vacchagotta-Sutta, where Yamaka compares Gotama's word to a mighty tree which is free of unsound wood. See Henry Clarke Warren, Buddhism in Translations (New York: Atheneum, 1963), p. 128.

 

 

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15. Gregory of Nyssa, From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa's Mystical Writings, trans. Herbert Murillo, S. J. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961), p. 99.

16. Kalupahana, Principles, p. 124.

17. Ibid., p. 28.

18. Johansson, Psychology of Nirvana, p. 63.

19. Frank J. Hoffman, Rationality and Mind in Early Buddhism (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), p.86. Anatta theory is not the only area of ambiguity in the early texts. Thus, having searched for the "rebirth link," Hoffman observes that there is "no consistent, technical view about this matter in early Buddhism" (p. 51).

20. See Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna, pp. 19 and 46; Hajime Nakamura, "The Basic Teachings of Buddhism," in Buddhism in the Modern World, ed. Heinrich Dumoulin and John Maraldo (New York: Collier Books, 1976), pp. 11-12; Antony Fernando with Leonard Swidler, Buddhism Made Plain: An Introduction for Christians and Jews (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1985), p. 59.

21. Kalupahana, Principles, p. 29, and Hoffman, Rationality, p. 59.

22. Nakamura, "Basic Teachings," p. 12.

23. For example, Raymond E. Brown, Biblical Exegesis and Church Doctrine (New York: Paulist Press, 1985), p. 62. Such "trajectories" are undoubtedly in the New Testament. But since both Quaker and Russian Orthodox trajectories may be found there, it is hard to see how anything other than "hermeneutical comfort" is gained from this notion.

24. D. T. Suzuki, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism (New York: Schocken, 1963; 1907), p. 6. See also Takeuchi Yoshinori, The Heart of Buddhism, trans. James W. Heisig (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1983), p. 67: the greatness of the founders of world religions lies in the fact that "the truth of their teachings...is a source of inspiration and an impetus to new solutions." Thus, while the Sabbasutta seems at first to be ontologically sparse, so to say, once one adds to mano the jhaanas, the abhi~n~naas, and the attainment of nirvaa.na it is not impossible to see Mahayana "trajectories" developing on the basis of it. On the Sabbasutta see D. J. Kalupahana, "A Buddhist Tract on Empiricism," Philosophy East and West 19, no. 1 (January 1969): 65-67.

25. "To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life" (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 2nd ed., trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1958), no. 19).

26. Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna, pp. 18-19. A related issue -- which, to my knowledge, Kalupahana does not discuss -- is that of a certain "hermeneutical modesty." Religious concepts, as everyone knows, are more elusive than the realities.

27. David J. Kalupahana, "The Notion of Suffering in Early Buddhism Compared with Some Reflections of Early Wittgenstein," Philosophy East and West 27, no. 4 (October 1977): 430. In this article Kalupahana focuses on the early Wittgenstein, whereas the Buddha's thought would seem to be more comparable to the later Wittgenstein, who did not separate will and action in the manner of the Tractatus (cf. Philosophical Investigations, nos. 611ff). In both periods, however, Wittgenstein understood that a truly ethical happiness did not -- indeed, could not -- depend on the absence of adversity. "Troubles are like illnesses; you have to accept them: the worst thing you can do is rebel against them" (1949) (Culture and Value, trans. Peter Winch (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 79).

28. Ibid., p. 426.

29. Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 78.

30. Itivuttaka 38; cited in Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 75.

31. Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 78.

32. Majjhima-Nikaaya, Sutta 72, in Warren, Buddhism in Translations, p. 127.

33. Ibid.

34. Sutta-nipaata 1076; cited in Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 81. The comments in brackets are Kalupahana's.

35. Udaana, cited in Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 79.

 

 

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36. Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 80.

37. Ibid., p. 83.

38. Johansson looks, with difficulty, for "some sort of similarity between the ocean and an extinct fire" and settles on the nonannihilation of fire (Psychology of Nirvana, p. 55). It is better to understand these images as complementary: the person as one on Fire with greed, hatred, and delusion and as characterized by the aggregates is extinguished; the person as cool and possessing freedom and wisdom is unfathomably deep. Aquinas took a somewhat similar position regarding the knowledge which the blessed have of God: although God is "infinitely knowable," God is not "comprehended" (Summa Theologica I. 12:7).
    On the other hand, Johansson seems correct in reading U 80 ("there is a not-born, not-become, not-made, not-compounded") as describing a condition of the saint, and not as a reality independent of causality (Nirvana, pp. 47ff). As Johansson knows, the language in U 80 may have contributed to later doctrinal developments in Buddhism (p. 48), but the legitimacy or illegitimacy of such developments is not itself an exegetical question.

39. Samyutta-Nikaaya 22.85, in Warren, Buddhism in Translations, p. 138.

40. Samyutta-Nikaaya, in Johansson, Psychology of Nirvana, p. 56.

41. Samyutta-Nikaaya, in Warren, Buddhism in Translations, p. 142.

42. Ibid., p. 145.

43. Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 83.

44. Richard Robinson remarked about Jayatilleke, Kalupahana's teacher, that he found in places "the cloven hoof of the Positivist" ("Critical Review of Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge." Philosophy East and West 19, no. 1 (January 1969): 81. Kalupahana criticizes Jayatilleke for "undermining the whole basis of Buddhist empiricism" by accepting the existence of the saint after death (Buddhist Philosophy, p. 87). In contrast, William James, though no monist himself, thought that monism had an experiential base and possessed "a high pragmatic value" (Pragmatism (New York: Meridian, 1955), p. 104). His objection to monism was that, so far as he could read the facts of the matter, "the world was imperfectly unified" (ibid., p. 108). As for life after death (naturally, James did not discuss the specific issue of the Buddhist saint), James thought that survival fit in with the facts better than the opposite hypothesis. See Human Immortality (New York: Dover Publications, 1956), p. 27.

45. See note 27 above and Kalupahana, "The Notion of Suffering," p. 427.

46. Thus Hoffman (Rationality, p. 117): "There is no question of anything existing as nothing remains." On Hoffman's view, the basic difference between Gotama and the Materialists is that the former thought that extinction had to be earned by spiritual discipline, thus making Gotama a kind of annihilationist. Kalupahana's understanding of annihilationism is similar. See Kalupahana, Causality, p. 43.
    One suspects that the soteriological relevance of a doctrine of earned annihilation would be minimal for contemporary people, most of whom do not accept rebirth in the first place.

47. Hoffman, Rationality, p. 117.

48. Samyuyta-Nikaaya 5.370; cited in Johansson, Psychology of Nirvana, p. 57. In the same place, Johansson also quotes the following: "Just as the free gazelle in the many-colored forest reaches a cloud-wreathed splendid mountaintop, so shall even you, citta, find your happiness on the uninhabited mountain and doubtless reach the beyond" (Thera-gaathaa 1109).

49. Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 87.

50. Ibid.

51. Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna, p. 5.

52. Ibid., p. 67.

53. David J. Kalupahana, "The Buddhist Tantric Deconstruction and Reconstruction: Their Sutra Origin, " `Srama.na Vidyaa / Studies in Buddhism, Prof. Jagannath Upadhyaya Commemoration Volume (1987): 320.

54. Unless otherwise noted, translations of the Muulamadhyamikakaarikaa are by Kalupahana.

55. Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna, p. 160. See also Kalupahana, "The Notion of Suffering." p. 425. He comments on 24:18 that "everything is placed in one basket, the basket of 'dependent arising"' (Naagaarjuna, pp. 69f). This seems more correct than Frederick Streng's view that "the deepest meaning of emptiness applies both to the dependent origination... of existence and to

 

 

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the highest spiritual reality" (The Encyclopedia of Religion (1987), "Nagarjuna". It is because of dependent arising that things are empty.

56. Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna, pp. 72 and 160.

57. Ibid., p. 73; cf. pp. 357f and 361f.

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid., p. 101. Following Kalupahanas translation of a`saa`svatam as "non-eternal," in 25.3 on p. 357. On p. 72 the translation is "impermanent." The teaching here, however, is not anicca but denial of annihilationism and eternalism.

60. Ibid., p. 67.

61. Ibid., p. 160.

62. See Johansson, Psychology of Nirvana, pp. 46f, and Kalupahana, Buddhist Philosophy. p. 75. Here I follow Kalupahana's later thought and take asa.nkhatam to mean "not dispositionally conditioned" instead of "uncompounded."

63. Kalupahana, "The Notion of Suffering," p. 426 and Naagaarjuna, p. 218.

64. Kalupahana, Naaigaarjuna, p. 7.

65. Ibid., p. 232.

66. Ibid., p. 30.

67. Warren, Buddhism in Translations, p. 138. In addition to this passage from the Samyuttanikaaya, in view of Naagaarjuna's discussion of the tetralemma it would also appear as if he had read the passage discussed earlier from the Aggi / Vacchagotta-sutta.

68. Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna, p. 303.

69. Alex Wayman says that Kalupahana's translation of 22:16 amounts to "gibberish." "The Tathaagata Chapter of Naagaarjuna's Muula-Madhyamika-kaarikaa," Philosophy East and West 38, no. 1 (January 1988): 57 n. 31. But he then takes his own translation, which reads "given that the Tathaagata lacks svabhaava," to mean that "Nagarjuna never denied 'svabhaava'." which has its own awkwardness (ibid., p. 55).

70. Kalupahana, "The Notion of Suffering," p. 423.

71. Ibid., p. 427.

72. Ibid., p. 431.