Buddha encouraged self effort, self experience and free analytical attitude. Buddha diagnosed man as a suffering being whose psycho-physical being itself was the root cause of his suffering. For Buddha, attainment of awakening is not a result of logical rationality alone. Only by self effort can wisdom be awakened that can cleanse the self of psychological defilement.
Epistemologically, he accepted two Pramans : Perception and Inference.
Through Buddha’s four noble truths, we encounter his causal theory in the second noble truth called Pratitya Samutpada or Theory of Dependent Organization. (Third noble truth = Niravana)
Buddha’s four noble truths/facts of life (ARYA SATYA):
Buddha’s four noble truths serve as the introduction to Buddhist Philosophy.
a) There is Suffering : Suffering is a reality of this world. Life is full of pain and misery. Even pleasure eventually only brings pain through bondage. First noble truth i.e reality of suffering are signs to cultivating understanding.
b) There is a cause of suffering : Everything has a cause. Nothing arises out of “nothing”. Suffering is an effect and since everything in the world is conditional, temporary and limited, suffering also is conditional. This calls for the practice of renunciation.
c) There is an end to suffering : “Asmin Sati, Idam Bhavati”
“Asmin Asati, Idam Na Bhavati”
As long as cause exists, effect is produced. When cause is removed, effect is also removed. Thus, when the cause of suffering is destroyed, suffering must also perish. This asks us to directly realize the destruction of suffering.
d) There is a way to end the suffering (ASTANGIKA MARG): Buddha taught an ethical and spiritual path to the end of suffering, called the eight-fold path. It is the middle path between self-indulgence and self mortification and it avoids dogmatic views. This imposes on us a practice of developing the eight fold path. This Astangika Marga leads to three types of training :
- Training in wisdom
- Ethical training
- Training in concentration (Through four stages)
Metaphysical importance of Noble truths : By the second and third truth, it can be deduced that everything in this world has a cause, everything is conditional, dependent (Pratitya Samutpada or Theory of Dependent Organization). If we remove cause, effect is also removed. Everything is subject to birth and death, subject to production and destruction and therefore impermanent. Everything is relative. The causal formula being
“This being that arises”
According to Buddha, there is neither absolute reality, not absolute unreal. It hangs between reality and nothingness i.e middle path.
He identifies Pratitya Samutpada with Boddhi i.e enlightenment and Dharma i.e Law.
Suffering is SANSAR and cessation of suffering is NIRAVANA.
Pratitya Samutpada when seen from relative point of view is SANSAR but when seen from absolute point of view, it is NIRVANA.
Buddha found the cause of Misery/Suffering in Pratitya Samupada elaborated in the form of 12 dependent links.
The root cause of this causal wheel is ignorance. This can be handled only by right knowledge. This is a viscous circle of causation. It doesn’t end with death. Death is only the beginning of new life. This causal wheel is known as Janam-maran-chakra/Dharma-chakra/Bhav-Chakra/Pratitya Samudpada Chakra.
Niravana doesn’t mean extinction of existence, but instead means extinction of suffering. Pratitya Samutpada is the fundamental teaching of Buddha.
For Buddha, attainment of awakening is not a result of logical rationality alone. Only by self effort can wisdom be awakened that can cleanse the self of psychological defilement.
Schools of Buddhism
Buddha devoted himself solely to the task of finding the path of cessation of suffering and sorrows in the world. Thus he refused to answer metaphysical questions, as intellectual speculation alone cannot lead man to the end of suffering and nirvana, which is the ultimate aim of life.
Thus, on the metaphysical questions Buddha remained silent on are called Avyaktani or the unexplained questions. (Gave the example of arrow piercing the body for not answering these questions.)
Buddha was of the view that discussions of these questions was futile as this world only give rise to partial, conflicting and limited viewpoints.
And roughly so, in the process of answering these questions, Buddhism divided into two main schools :
a) Mahayana : Metaphysically, they donot accept the existence of non-mental objects. External phenomenon are not real. This is called Idealism.
- Shunyavadin/Madhyamik School : Donot even accept mental objects as real. Everything is relative and interdependent. (Shunya)
- Vijananavadin : Accept only mental objects as real (Just like Berkeley/Subjective Idealism).
b) Hinayana : Accept the reality of mental as well as non-mental objects. External phenomenon are real. (Realism)
- Vaibhasikha : By perception
- Sautrantika : By inference