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Saturday 22 September 2012

The existence of objects – II

We return after more than a month to the discussion on “the existence of objects” the first installment of which appeared on 1st August 2012. The so called objects are creations of the mind and can be considered to be atmavadi in Theravada Bududahama. It is anicca, dukka, anatta and shunya according the teaching of Sammasambuddha, which are not concepts though we attempt to understand anicca as impermanence using the concept of permanence. It is anicca, dukka, anatta and shunya that we do not understand thus extending our sansaric journey. We attempt to understand anicca, dukka, anatta and shunya in terms of concepts due to our ignorance. Unfortunately most of us do not realize there is no conceptual understanding of Nibbana, which cannot be expressed in terms of words.

If anybody thinks that Sammasambuddha has expressed Nibbana in words he/she should give the Sutta in which it has been done so without trying to claim that Nibbana can be expressed in words. If the western intellectuals consider Bududahama is not transparent as a result let them think so as we should not distort Bududahama in order to satisfy a few theses examiners and such others living in the west. The aim of the Buddhist scholars should be to achieve Nibbana rather than to get higher degrees.

We are entangled in a conceptual web, and as has been mentioned earlier it is not necessary to have words in order to formulate concepts. The babies also have their concepts as citta rupa and any satva as described in Buddha Desana too have concepts. We all have the concept of “I” though we know that there is no atma. However, when we claim that there is no atma it does not mean that we have vidya about it. Vidya is not used as a term for western science in this context and it is unfortunate that we refer to western science as vidya in Sinhala.

The concepts are illusions created by the mind, and I refer the interested readers to the book “Concept and reality” by Ven. K. Nanananda Thero, not as an authoritative work on the subject but as a “short cut” to understand Buddha Desana on concepts. I read this book more than twenty five years ago when I was having problems with the conceptual foundations of western science and it helped me to understand the drawbacks of science as such.

Though I have understood that there is no “I” as such, I have not realized it as my understanding is still conceptual. If I had realized that there is no “I” as such, I would not be writing this article, as I would have released my concepts except when they are useful in order to engage in routine work. I am not as bhagyavath as Rahathan Vahanse to release ny conceptual baggage together with my tanha. I am attached to things including concepts and it would take kalpas for me to drop my conceptual baggage.

We consider ourselves to be real first and then formulate other concepts. This is in contradiction to the so called postmodernist views on I and the other where I is determined by the other. Having grasped ourselves as real and existing we consider our creations in terms of concepts also to be real. The reality of not only of ourselves but of others is only a creation of the mind due to moha and it is finally the moha that has to be given up if one is interested in achieving Nibbana. Now I have used the words if one is interested when there is no one as such. There is no one to achieve Nibbana and in a way achieving Nibbana is also misleading.

Unfortunately we have to use concepts in discussing these matters and the most difficult things to get rid of are concepts. Very often it was the Brahmins who lived in the time of Sammasambuddha who argued with the Bhagayavatun Vahanse conceptually but not the ordinary people such as Sopaka, Suneetha, who were not tied down to concepts. The intellectuals find it very difficult to get rid of or release concepts unless one has fulfilled parami dhamma in Sansara.

There are no objects as such existing even for what could called an instant (kshana) according to Theravada. There is no titi in Theravada and there is only uppada and bhanga. The Sauthranthikas believe in uppada, titi, bhanga and thus an existence of objects as such may be for an instant. It is this titi that has created lots of problems and many Buddhists are of the opinion that objects exist at least for an instant.

When Mr. Upali Gamakumara says without existence of objects “then all what Buddha has preached on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ becomes null and void”. If there is no person (object) as such who is responsible for one’s karma? This is the most difficult question to answer conceptually and there have been number of schools such as pudgalavadin who attempted to answer the question by admitting that there exists a person or individual (pudgala) who is responsible for one’s karma.

This answer had to be given by some schools, when they had no other answer, especially to the Vedic Brahmin scholars who were atmavadins who believed in Sansara. The Brahmins were believers in a three valued logic, like the Catholics after them, and were prepared to admit that a proposition and its negation could be true at the same time. This is in contradiction to Aristotelian Logic where if a proposition is true then its negation is not true. In Aristotelian Logic the God and His Son cannot be the same as if somebody is God is a true proposition then that somebody is the Son of the God is not a true proposition. However, neither the Brahmins nor the Catholics had a four valued logic or Catuskoti.

Aristotelian Logic is inducted from day to day experience where we find that if one person is equal in height or weight to two other persons then those two persons are also equal in height or weight. This day to day experience has been inducted and generalized in the form if A=B and A=C, then B=C. However all these assume that the A’s, B’s and C’s exist and existence is expressed in the form A=A. It has to be mentioned that even Catuskoti is an induction not by ordinary people but by those who had spiritually advanced.

The logic applied in Bududahama is Catuskoti, that had been known to the people of Dambadiva even before Prince Siddhartha was born. It is not Buddhist Logic as such as Nibbana can be achieved only after getting rid of Catuskoti as well. However the identity crisis referred to by Mr. Upali Gamakumara is resolved within Catuskoti through the famous answer given by Ven. Nagasena Thero in Milinda Panna. When asked by King Milindu when somebody dies who is reborn or have the next bhava, the Thero replied na ca so na ca anno or neither he nor somebody else. There is no person or individual who goes to the next bhava, nevertheless it is neither somebody else who is responsible for karmic actions.

This answer one of the most beautiful I have found in an intellectual discussion, which has enabled me to interpret Quantum Physics in a Sinhala Buddhist Ontology (I do not expect any westerner or anyone who has been trained by westerners to believe the new interpretation though it has been published in a so called peer reviewed journal), is in agreement with Catuskoti according to which both A=B and A≠B can be false. Thus it is wrong to say that the person who is born in the next bhava is either himself or somebody else. There is no person who goes from bhava to the next bhava nevertheless action is identified as a person. It is “action” without an actor, and it is applicable to what is identified as the mind. It is only a procession of thoughts without a mind as such and it is due to avidya this procession is identified as a person or an individual.

One does not have to think of this in terms of punabbhava as even in this present bhava there is no individual as such. Lots of karma have passed and actions taken place from the time of beginning of writing this article to now and, there was no person who was present continuously to write this article. It is “action” without an actor but the conventional wisdom says it is one Nalin de Silva who wrote it.

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva