Your Ad Here

Monday, April 21, 2008

The hypothesis of non-self in Buddhist philosophy

The hypothesis of non-self in Buddhist philosophy

By Dr. Tilokasundari Kariyawasam
- Daily Mirror

The individual is nama and rupa (mind and matter). In Buddhist terminology it is treated as one unit. In the Abhidhammma, matter is fairly extensively dealt with and it is analyzed into 28 factors. They are aspects rather than factors of elements. Matter becomes food for the mind, as mind is the reaction to contact. It is the process of becoming which is also the process of ceasing, of birth and of death. There is a dependent simultaneous origination. As such, thought becomes materialized and matter conceptualized, which makes as it appears, a phenomenon (ruppati ti rupam). They are appearances as they appear to the human mind. Thus matter is energy without substance and mind is energy without an entity. Thus what is ‘apparent’ is only a phenomenon. All functions of an individual belong to five aggregates (pañchakkhandha) (1) body (2) sensation 93) perception (4) thinking (5) consciousness. This can be fully realized in the process of the purification of the mind. As a result, matter is phenomenal, a fact and an event rather than an entity with substance. The material phenomena are not properties of matter. They are constituents which are not properties of matter. They are constituents which are not present at the same time in the same event. This principle explains that the ‘self is an illusion and does exist.’

The originating factor of material phenomena are neither good nor bad morally. Yet they arise in dependence on conditions (sankhara) Which are fourfold; namely willful intention (kamma), mental activity (citta), seasonal influence (utu) and the integrating activity of absorption, identification and nutrition (ahara)

In any form of matter there are always present four essential and elementary qualities (maha-bhuta). They are earth (pathavi), water (apo), fire (tejo) and air (vayo). They are labelled with the old names of earth, water, fire and air but their functional qualities are extension, cohesion, caloricity and movement respectively. Matter cannot exist individually and separated. It is the energy that constitutes matter, received by contact in the senses, perceived and formulated in material ideals. It is fact which gives rise to sensation, perception, thinking, thereof in consciousness. Thus the Buddha was dealing with phenomena and events and not with substances and entities.

Matter is divided into primary and secondary elements. The four essential and elementary qualities are the primary elements (maha-bhuta). From these are derived the five sense-organs and their objects. Matter refers not only to our body but to its physical objects of experience that belong to the external world. Matter is also present in masculinity and femininity, heart and nourishment. There are also six further categories of matter which are called the principle of limitation or space, the two principles of communication bodily and verbal, sound lightness, softness and adaptability, and finally four characteristics; production, duration, destruction and impermanence. These are the 28 components of matter or material experience. It is for us to understand it as basically impermanent and phenomenal in nature. These 28 different, materials qualities are intended to prove that matter is energy and it is the actuality of that energy which is experienced in its different forms, received by contact in the senses, perceived and formulated to which the mind as thought reacts. Thus a thought is born in the material senses, and mind is analysed in mental states (cittani) composed of mental factors (cetasika). The phenomena of matter and mind, therefore, should be taken in the context of its totality of one process of dependent origination. The individual is merely a process of becoming and ceasing. He is never an entity with a permanent identity.

We have to understand the role of the mind in this context. This process of becoming and ceasing is also a process of grasping whatever may feed its need to continue its greed. A thought is born in the material senses, where a contact is established between mind and matter, which constitutes the mind-matter process. This is stated in the doctrine of dependent origination (paticca samuppada), in which mind and matter are treated as one unit. Everything which is a process of becoming and ceasing is also void of substance. It is also impermanent. These aspects create sorrow.

The whole process from physical action to mental reaction, is one of grasping (upadana). A thought is born in the material sense, where a contact is established between matter and mind. It is definitely not a synthesis of mind and matter. It is not the amalgamation of two elements. It is similar to conflux of two rivers as explained by the Buddha, where he gives the classic example of the river waters of river Yamuna that converge into river Ganges when there is no clear composition as to identify the waters of the separate rivers. Thus, the Buddha expounds the principle that mind and matter is a phenomenon, seen in the process of dependent origination. The Buddha expounds the doctrine of becoming and re-becoming and ceasing to become, which is birth, rebirth (which is death), and no more becoming, which is Nibbana. This individual is born on ignorance, fed on hatred and sustained on craving or greed.

This grasping or craving becomes intensified when the sense organs lay hold of the object, when perception lays hold of the idea in memory, when thought lays hold of the memory in mental formations when thoughts lay hold of the idea in consciousness to form the bases of the ego. The five aggregates in their various stages are rightly called the five aggregates of clinging.

The mind should be analyzed in mental states (cittam) composed of mental factors (cetasika), so as to understand life, itself as a process in which material and mental aggregates (khandha) combine to leave the impression on an individual. The individual is only a process to becoming and ceasing.

Volitional functions are two-fold. It activates thought with intention, without which no action can have moral responsibility. This is kamma, as it determines the nature of actions as good or evil. The other function is that it co-ordinates and organizes the functions of other mental factors. It is simple ordered thinking (cetasika lakkhana).

The mind and body differ somewhat in nature. The mind is more amorphous, plastic and quick — changing than the body. The body is more resistant to change than is the mind. In the questions of King Milinda it is states that while the arahants no longer can experience mental pain, they can still experience physical pain.

No comments:

About Buddhism