Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Publisher's Note

Something About Late Shri V.R. Gandhi
I - The Sankhya Philosophy
  II - The Yoga Philosophy
  III - The Naya Philosophy
  IV - Mimamsa
  V - The Vedanta Philosophy
  VI - Buddhism
  VII - Jainism
  Sanskrit Terms

VI - Buddhism



3.   This evening we proceed with the literature and philosophy of Buddhism:

(a) The form of Buddhism prevailing in Nepal, Tibet, China and Japan is called northern Buddhism, while the form prevailing in Ceylon and Burma is called Southern Buddhism. The Northern Buddhists furnished us with scanty material directly illustrating the religion in its earliest form in India. The sacred books of the Northern Buddhists are not included in any comprehensive common name and as far as is known none of then can be referred to the period immediately following on Gautam 's death. Kanishka, The king of Kashmir, convened a great. Kanishka, the king of Kashmir, convened a great council of the northern Buddhists in the first century after Christ, but the council instead of collecting together the sacred books of the Northern Buddhists wrote three great commentaries.3 The Lalitavistata, a most important work of the Northern Buddhists, is only a gorgeous poem; it is no more a biography of Gautama than the Paradise Lost a biography of Jesus. It was composed probably in Nepal in the second, third or fourth century, and the works on Buddhism which were then carried by Chinese pilgrims from India from century to century and translated into the Chinese language do not illustrate the earliest phase of Buddhism in India. And lastly, Tibet his drifted still further away from primitive Buddhism in India and has adopted forms and ceremonies, which were unknown to Gautama and his followers in the sixth century before Christ.


(b) On the other hand, the southern Buddhists furnish us with the most valuable materials. The sacred books of the Southern Buddhists are known by the inclusive name of the three Pitakas and there is evidence to show that these Pitakas now extant in Ceylon are substantially identical with the canon as settled in the council of Patna about 242 B.C.


(c) The three Pitakas are known as the Suttee Pitakas, the Vinaya Pitakas and the Abhidhamma Pitakas. The works comprised in the suttee Pitakas profess to record the sayings and doings of Gautama Buddha himself. Gautama himself is the actor and the speaker in the earliest worker of this Pitakas and his doctrines are conveyed in his own words. Occasionally one of his disciples is the instructor and there are short introductions to indicate where or when Gautama or his disciple spoke. But all through the Suttee Pitakas Gautam's doctrines and moral precepts are preserved professedly, in Gautam's own words.


The Vinaya Pitakas contains very minute rules for the conduct of monks and nuns who had embraced the holy order. Gautama respected the lay disciple Upasak but he held that to embrace the order was a quicker path to salvation. As the number of monks and nuns multiplied it was necessary to fix elaborate rules for their proper conduct and behaviour in the Vihar or monastery. As Gautama lived for nearly half a century after he had proclaimed his religion, there can be no doubt that he himself settled many of these rules.


The Abhidhamma Pitakas contains disquisition, on various subjects, like the conditions of life in different worlds, on the explanation of personal qualities, on the elements, the causes of existence etc. They have been miscalled metaphysics for early Buddhism knew little of metaphysics.4


(d ‑e) Last time I said that the doctrine of four noble truths is the central point of Buddhist teaching. The substance of the teaching is, that life is suffering, the thirst for life and its pleasures is the cause of suffering the extinction or the thirst for life and its pleasure is the cause of suffering, the extinction of the thirst is the cessation of suffering, and that such extinction can be brought about by a holy life. We will discuss these four truths one after another.


(d) The first truth is the truth of suffering. As Gautama said: " Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering. Presence of objects we hate is suffering, not to obtain [objects] we desire is suffering. Briefly, the fivefold clinging to existence, i.e. clinging to the five aggregates, is suffering." What are those five aggregates? In Buddhist philosophy man is a compound of five aggregates. These are Roop or the material aggregates‑ The first of the five. They include the four elements, earth, water, fire and air, five organs of sense, eye, ear, nose, tongue and body, five attributes of matter, form, sound, smell, taste and touch, two distinctions of sex, male and female, three essential condition, thought, vitality and space, two means of communication, gesture and speech, seven qualities of living bodies, buoyancy, elasticity, power of adaptation, power of aggregation, duration, decay chage.5 The second class of aggregates is Vaidna or sensations‑ the sensation of pleasure or pain. The third is Sangya or name. The fourth is Sanskar or the potentialities, which lead to good or bad results, and the fifth is Vigyan or knowledge. These five aggregates include all bodily and mental parts and powers of man and neither any one of them nor any group of them is permanent. It is repeatedly laid down in the Pitakas that none of these skandhas is soul. The body itself is constantly changing and so also each of the other aggregates. Man is never the same for two consecutive moments and there is within him no abiding principle whatever.


In Sanyut Nikkei, a Buddhist work, Buddha says: " mendicants, in whatever way the different teachers regard the soul, they think it is the five skandhas or one of the five. Thus mendicants, the unlearned, unconverted man who does not associate either with the converted or with the holy or understand their law or live according to it, such a man regards the soul either as identical with or as possessing or as containing or as residing in the material properties or sensations or in the other three skandhas. By regarding soul in one of these ways he gets the idea `I am'. Then there are the five organs of sense and mind and qualities and ignorance. From sensation produced by contact and ignorance the sensual, unlearned man derives the notions `I am' `This I exists', `I shall be' `I shall not be' etc. But now, mendicant, the learned disciple of the converted, having the same five organs of sense, has got rid of ignorance and acquired wisdom, and therefore the ideas `I am' etc. do not occur to him." This belief in self or soul is regarded in Buddhism so distinctly as a heresy those two well‑known words in Buddhist terminology have been coined on purpose to stigmatize it. The first of these is skayedithi‑ the heresy of individuality‑ one of the three primary delicious which mush be abandoned at the very first stage of the Buddhist path of freedom. The other is Atvad, the doctrine of soul or self; it is classed with sensuality, heresy and belief in the efficacy of rites‑ as one of the four upadans6, which are the immediate cause of birth, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair.


There is another Buddhist work called Brahmjalsut, in which Gautama discusses 62 different kinds of wrong belief; among them are those held by men who believe that the soul and the world are eternal, that there is no newly existing substance but these remain as a mountain peak unshaken, immovable, that living beings pass away, they transmigrate, they die and are born but these continue as being eternal. With regard to these Gautama says: " Upon what principle do these mendicants and Brahmins hold and doctrine of future existence? They teach that the soul is material or immaterial or is both or neither, that it is finite, or infinite or is both or neither, that it will have one or many modes or consciousness, that its perceptions will be few or boundless, that it will be in a state of joy, or of misery, or of both or of neither. These are the sixteen heresies teaching a conscious existence after death. Then there are eight heresies teaching that the soul material or immaterial or both or neither, finite or infinite or both or neither has an unconscious existence after death. And finally eight others which teach that the soul in the same eight ways exists after death in a state of being neither conscious nor unconscious." Lastly, he says: " Mendicants, that which binds the teacher to existence, Tnha or thirst, is cut off but his body still remains. While his body shall remain he will be seen by Gods and men, but after the termination of life, upon the dissolution of the body neither gods nor men will see him."


(e) So the first noble truth of Buddhism is that clinging to existence is misery. The second noble truth is the cause of misery. In Gautam's' words,  "Thirst leads to rebirth accompanied by pleasure and lust‑ thirst for pleasure, thirst for existence, thirst for prosperity", And the third noble truth is, the cessation of suffering. It ceases with the complete cessation of thirst- a cessation, which consists in the absence of every passion - with the complete destruction of desire. The fourth truth is the noble truth of path, which leads to cessation of suffering. The holy eight-fold path is right belief, right meditation. The substance of the teaching is that without entering into any discussion into the origin and destiny of men one should lead a holy moral life and that will lead him to the summum bonum.


(f) On the eve of his death Gautama called together his brethren and appears to have recapitulated the entire system of morality under seven heads and these are known as the seven jewels of the Buddhist Law.


"Which then, O Brethren, are the truths which, when I had perceived, I made known to you, which, when you have mastered, it behooves you to practice meditate upon and spread, in order that pure religion may last long and be perpetuated, in order that it may continue to be for the good and happiness of the great multitudes, out of pity for the world, to the good and the gain and the weal of Gods and men? They are these:


1. The four earnest meditations.

2. The fourfold great struggle against sin.

3. The four roads to saint-ship.

4. The five moral powers.

5. The five organs of spiritual sense.

6. The seven kinds of wisdom.

7. The noble eight-fold path."


The four earnest meditations alluded to are: meditations on the body, the sensations, the ideas and the reason. The fourfold struggle against sin is the struggle to prevent sinfulness, the struggle to increase goodness. The fourfold struggle comprehends in fact a life‑long, earnest, unceasing endeavor on the part of man towards more and more of goodness and virtue. The fourfold roads to saint-ship are the four means the will, the exertion, the preparation, and the investigation by which Idhi is acquired. In later Buddhism Idhi means occult powers but what Gautama meant was probably the influence and power which the mind, by long training and exercise, can acquire over body. The five moral powers and five organs of spiritual sense are faith, energy, thought, contemplation, investigation, joy, repose, and serenity. The eight-fold path we have referred to.7