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(7) Nirvana

Nirvana is the summum bonnum of Buddhism. It is a state of enlightenment, commonly described as cessation of suffering. Literal meaning is “blowing out”. It is attainable here in this very life, and in this body. It implies the extinction of all cravings and impressions that lead to rebirth. Thus it is a cessation of the vicious cycle of Samsara, and end of the five skandhas of soul.
In Buddhist Philosophy, Nirvana is the state of extinction of suffering and not of existence. It is given in third noble truth. Nirvana is not inactivity.
  • Positively, Nirvana is identified with bliss.
  • Negatively, it is the wearing out and dissociation with all affliction such as greed, delusion etc.
The Hinayana ascribes only to the negative definition of Nirvana, while the Mahayana school identifies both Samsana and Nirvana as two relative states of being, with the Samsana as the state of becoming and Nirvana as the end of becoming.
In the Buddha Philosophy, two states of liberation are described : i.e
  • Saupadhisesa : Where mental dispositions end (Nirvana)
  • Anupadhisesa : Where the body is also discarded, and all the being is extinct (Parinirvana)
Thus, Nirvana is described as Annihilation(Blowing out of the flame) of Existence. In order to gain Prajna or the state intutive transcendental realization that leads to Nirvana, Buddha laid down the 8 fold path in his fourth noble truth. (One who follows 8 fold path and altars.)
The eight fold path is :
a) Samyak Dristhi : Correct perception about four Noble truths
b) Samyak Sankalp : Correct resolve to end suffering and seek the truth.
c) Samyak Vak : Refinement of speech
d) Samyak Karmanta : Resisting from five sins of killing, lying, stealing, intoxication etc on the Pancha Shila.
e) Samyak Ajiva : Livelihood by honest means
f) Samyak Vyayam : Effort to prevent negative thoughts and retain positive thoughts.
g) Samyak Smriti : Right mindfulness.
h) Samyak Samadhi : Concentration and Meditation whose final stage is complete detachment, equanimity and indifference.
Similar to Jainism :   Faith : SAMADHI
                                       Knowledge : Prajna
                                       Conduct : Shila
Buddha avoids systematic metaphysics. Earlier Buddhism avoided speculative thought. Rather it was based on empirical evidences aided by the Sansar. However, Buddhist scholars have addressed many metaphysical issue (they only avoided speculation). Buddha discouraged its individuals from indulging in speculation because it is fruitless and it distracts from true awakening. He is silent because :
a) He emphasizes on self awakening. Only by self effort can wisdom be awakened that can cleanse the self of psychological defilement.
b) He says that both affirmative and negative positions regarding these questions are based on the attachment or misunderstanding of the aggregate theory (Panchskandha)
c) Reality is beyond sensory experience, i.e it cannot be described in language.
However Buddha’s silence doesn’t indicate misology of philosophy. He rather addresses many metaphysical issues with his teachings of PsP, Nairatmyavad, rebirth, cause of suffering, cessation of suffering etc.
Criticism :
  • If everything is continuously changing, shouldn’t the Universe have a first cause? He doesn’t give the cause of “ignorance” in the psp-chakra.
  • If soul is simply an aggregate : Who is in bondage? What gets liberated? Why is it in bondage? Is it part of its natural flow?
  • Memory : Means existence of a permanent synthesizing subject without which knowledge should be impossible.
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(6) Bodhi/Prajna

There is a common misunderstanding concerning the Doctrine of anatta, saying that through this doctrine Buddha denies the existence of soul. But it is not so, as Buddha denies just the existence of an eternal, unchanging soul, but accepts self/soul as a collection of skandhas, which is not permanent but keeps on changing. He accepts a changing self as an individual ego complex.
Buddhism does not deny the existence of pure self, which is pure consciousness, and only reality. It is termed as BODHI or PRAJNA. He never denied pure conciousness, true aatma or pure self i.e Boddhi or Prajnana.
Upanishads have repeatedly used the term Aatma to symbolize the ultimate reality/transcendental self. Buddha admitted this as Prajna, instead of Aatma and instead relegated the term Aatma to be used in place of Jiva.
Thus, what Buddha calls Aatma is what Jains/Vedantins refer to as Jiva/Buddhi. This is what Buddha emphasizes to be eternally false, which is also accepted by Vedantins/Jains. However, because of this misunderstanding, they condemn each other.
The consciousness/self that is in flux is termed as Chitta by Vedantins, which is a continuous stream with no identity of its own. (Of which Buddha developed KSHANIKAVAD)
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(5) Anantmavad (or) Nairatmavada/No-Soul-theory

This is the logical consequence of Doctrine of Dependent Organization.
According to PsP, everything in both the physical and mental world is conditional, dependent on something else for their existence. Its logical consequence is nothing is permanent and eternal. Everything is momentary either physical or non-physical element. The law of change is universal, hence here the existence of permanent soul is denied.
It is the theory of No Ego Complex, i.e individual ego. It is commonly accepted that there is a soul in humans that is eternal, permanent, unchanging and thus it persists through all changes in mind and body, through birth and death, and ultimately attains salvation where it dwells in its own existence unconditionally.
But Buddha says, whenever we look towards what we call “self”, we see stream of ideas of thoughts (Sanantavada, Theory of Stream). Thoughts, feelings, desires arise at one moment and vanish at the next. No mental idea lasts for more than an instant. The self is nothing but the series of successive mental and bodily processes which are impermanent.
Buddha takes soul in the sense of individual ego complex. However, he never denied pure conciousness, true aatma or pure self i.e Boddhi or Prajnana.
Based on Kshanivada : The soul of this doctrine is a bundle of five skandhas or continuously changing aggregates, and explained by Milind-Panho :
(Doctrine of Panch Skandhas)
a) Rupa (Form) : Material factors of body
b) Vedana (Feeling) : The feelings of pleasure, pain etc.
c) Sanjna (Perceptions) : The concepts, intellect, ideas etc.
d) Samskar (Impressions) : These are the predispositions, instincts, remnants of previous birth etc.
e) Vijnana (Conciousness) : It is a continuous flow of awareness.
First is Material (Rupa) and the last four are psychical (Nama). Hence, psychologically, man is a collection of five groups (Pancha-Skandha). Each part of the group is only a momentary existence. Man is only a conventional name for a collection of different constituents, just as a chariot is a collection of wheels, axles, shafts etc.
There is a common misunderstanding concerning the Doctrine of anatta, saying that through this doctrine Buddha denies the existence of soul. But it is not so, as Buddha denies just the existence of an eternal, unchanging soul, but accepts self/soul as a collection of skandhas, which is not permanent but keeps on changing. He accepts a changing self as an individual ego complex.
There is a debate between Buddhism and Upanishad. Upanishadic aatma is actually Budhissht bodhi and Upanishadic Jiva is Buddhist aatma. Buddha’s concept of soul i.e flow of consciousness can be compared with the western Philosopher’s David Hume’s theory of self.
The Doctrine of Anatmyavada also denies the permanent existence of material objects.
Buddha believes in re-birth, however without considering the transmigration of soul. In the absence of permanent soul, he explains rebirth on the basis of PsP and Theory of Karma, i.e Rebirth is the causation of next birth by the preceeding moment. He uses the example of candle to explain re-birth. According to Buddha, the end state of one life casually is responsible for the beginning of the other, just as a candle flame can light another when it itself is dying out. Both the lives are connected in a continuous stream.
Arguments of Anantmavada :
  • We can’t get knowledge of a permanent soul by perception.
  • Permanent or eternal soul cannot produce non permanent, consequential actions (Karma). Thus this doctrine is against the law of Karma.
  • Bondage cannot be explained by permanent soul as a permanent soul should never fall into bondage if it is pure, and if it is impure, it will never attain liberation.
  • Rebirth cannot be explained as eternal soul can neither take birth nor can die.
  • Moroever, a man is responsible for his actions because his past, present and future are all bound together by casual changes.
  • Regulator Of Body : An eternal, permanent soul cannot regulate the functions of the body, as it is passive. It can only be possible if the body, consciousness etc i,e all the skandhas are linked together to form the soul.
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(4) Kshanikavada (Theory of Flux) (Causal-Efficiency/Artha-Karya-Kartiva Doctrine)

Logical outcome of Psp is Ksanikavada. It is also called a Santanvadaa or Theory of flux. It is applicable to both mind and matter. According to this theory, as everything changes from moment to moment, everything further exists only for a moment (this moment is metaphysical moment), as it comes to exist for a moment, produces an effect and exhausts. Not just material objects, but body, consciousness, happiness, everything is momentary and sorrowful. He experiences a flow of change/flux.
  • Theory of momentariness is applicable to this phenomenal world only (matter and soul). Thus, there is no “being” or “non-being”, everything is always in the state of “becoming” alone. Thus, this doctrine is also complemented by Buddha’s causal efficiency (doctrine)
  • Everything is subject to birth and death, production and destruction and creation and decay.
Buddhist logicians support the theory of momentariness by a logical argument called Artha-karya Karitva or efficiency of production. (Causal Efficiency Doctrine). They maintain that the criterion of existence (satta) is its capacity to produce some effect. An existent thing must produce an effect. Example : Seed is efficient to produce a tree.
Only that is existent (SAT) which has a capacity to produce an effect. Even if it doesn’t become a plant, the seed undergoes change in itself. Eventually, if dormant, the seed disintegrates and is destroyed. Change is reality.
Buddha denies unity in the sense of identity, but recognizes continuity in its place.
Repeatable succession gives rise to the illusion of identity.
Two Propositions of Kshanikavada :
a) Everything is Momentary : Only momentary atoms and ideas exist. This is explained on basis of
  • Santanavada (Theory of Streams) : Consciousness(soul) and matter are a result of continuous flow of ideas and unconsciousness atoms respectively.
  • Sanghatavada (Theory of aggregate)  : Soul is only an aggregate of the five fleeting skandhas. Objects are aggregates of unconscious atoms subject to degradation. Even modern science supports that ultimate realities are quarks that are packets of energy having momentary existence.
b) Everything is Changing : It is the logical outcome of the first proposition – If everything is momentary, then only change is real. Everything is thus in the state of flux, i.e becoming (There is no being, only becoming).
Example : A river is not the same river at any moment, it is continuously changing. The rapidity of succession of water only gives the illusion of permanence, which is unreal  (Similar to Greek Philosopher Heraclitus)
Example of a flame : Every moment, flame is different. The mind is unable to perceive the difference as the change is subtle and minute. Rapidity of succession gives rise to illusion of identity (Similar to Hume, causal theory is not logical but psychological necessity.)
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(3) Pratitya Samutpada

Theory of Dependent Organization/Theory of Causation (“This being, that arises”)
This theory is logically coming from second noble truth. This is the cornerstone or foundation of Buddhism. It is the causal law of both individual lives as well as laws of the Universe. It explains :
a) That all phenomena are interdependent and conditional
b) Shows how birth, old age, death are all dependent upon conditions and thus that the suffering of life can cease if these conditions are removed. (Dvadasa-nidana)
c) Law of Karma : Every result or fruit depends on prior action performed.
Doctrine :    ASMIN SATI IDAM BHAVATI
                 ASMIN ASATI IDAM NA BHAVATI
Nothing is spontaneous and everything that happens in the physical and mental world is dependent on something. The existence of everything is conditional, dependent on some cause. When the condition disappears, the effect disappears.
P.S is the middle path between two extreme view points : Saswatvada or Eternalism and Ucchedavada or Nihilism.
Satkaryavad and Asatkaryavad. (Thus, everything is not destroyed after death, some elements remain)
Interpretations of PSP :
  • Hinayani : Realism. Thus PSP describes temporal sequence, i.e real relation between external objects and internal.
  • Yogacara Vignanavadin : Subjective Idealism like Berkeley. Explains the causal dependence of idea on other ideas. Since external objects depend on ideas which in turn depends on Consciousness, Consciousness is real. External objects are nothing but mere mental constructs. No difference between blue and consciousness of blue.
  • Sunyavadin : Everything is relative and interdependent. Empirical world has all the things with forms and names dependent on Pratitya Samutpada while Pramartha-Satya has an indescribable permanent truth which can be known only through direct intuitive insight into Prajna.
Depending on the cause (complement of cause and conditions), effect is produced/arises if the cause is removed, effect does not arise.
Nothing is spontaneous, everything that happens is dependent on something. The Shunyavadins take this further to conclude that everything is not only dependent but also relative to everything else. Example : Lamp-flame when oil is extinguished.
According to Buddha, life is suffering which is called “jara-marana”. This is because there is birth (jati). Birth is due to the will to be born (Bhava). Bhava is the cause of life after death. The cause of this tendency is our mental clinging (upadana) to the objects of the world. This mental cligning is owing to out thirst (trsna) to enjoy objects. Previous sense experience (vedana) is the cause of our thirst. But the question arises, why do we have sense experience? It is because of sense-object contact (sparsa). This contact arises due to six sense organs (Sadayatana). These six sense organs depend for their existence on psychological organism (nama-rupa). Why do we have this organism? Because of initial consciousness of embryo (vijnanana). This consciousness of the embryo is because of our impressions of Karma (Samskara) from our past experience. The impressions which make our rebirth are owing to ignorance (avidya) about truth. Hence, ignorance is the root cause of all our suffering.
Out of the 12 links, last two are related to the past life, the first two to the future and the rest to the present. So the 12 links cover the past, present and future life which is causally connected.
Criticism :
  • Origin of Avidya is not explained
  • Sometimes, it is said that it is an imitation of Brahmachakra of Upanishad.
  • If everything is dependent on cause for origin, what is the original cause?
Importance : PsP is considered base of all other Buddhist philosophical doctrines :
  • Theory of Karma
  • Theory of Momentariness (Ksanikvada)
  • Theory of no-ego (Nairatmavada)
  • Theory of aggregates (Sanghatavada)
  • Theory of causal efficieny (artha-kriya-karitva)
Thus, in order to end suffering in this cycle, clinging to desires, or pleasure, or thirst, any of these can be broken. Once this cycle is broken, the effort also ceases to be produced, as suffering is dependent on the other factors. Once tendency to take birth is also eliminated, Nirvana may be attained. This requires following the eight fold path.
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(2) Madhyamika Shunyavadin School + Yogacara School of Subjective Idealism + Sautrantika School

Madhyamika Shunyavadin
Shunayavada is the logical culmination of Buddhist Philosophy of Pratitya Samutpada. Nagarjuna is considered the first propounder of Shunyavada.
Literally, Shunya can be translated as “void” or “nothingness”. Based on this, critics have labelled it as either skepticism or nihilism, but Shunyavada is neither skeptic nor nihilist.
According to Shunyavada, Shunya means non-describeable beyond four categories of reason, i.e
  • Sat
  • Asat
  • Both 
  • Neither
It means that reality transcends the faculties of reason. This notion is similar to Shanakara. Nagarjuna says that Buddha’s teachings relates to two aspect of Truth : The empirical truth and the absolute. The first one is called Samvriti-Satya, while the second is Paramartha-Satya. One pertaining to the phenomenol world, the world as grasped through names and forms, and the other to reality as it is in itself, beyond all names and forms.
Empirically it means relativity of phenomenon. Shunyavada can be looked at from two point of views :
a) In view of Phenomenon or Empirical Reality : This world is SvabhavaShunya, i.e devoid of any independent or unconditional or permanent or absolute existence. This way, Pratitya Samutpada results in relative and dependent existence of everything. The world of names and forms is governed by Doctrine of Dependent Organization. In the realm of phenomena, there can be no absolute truth. Nagarjuna says this is for the ordinary person. For this, Nagarjuna calls phenomenal truths as “conventional“, “relative“, “mundane” and “lower truths“. (Samvriti-Satya)
Are of two types :
  • Loka Samvriti : Phenomena which is born out of some cause and through which all activities of the worldly beings are conducted.
  • Mithya Samvriti : This is the phenomenon which is born due to some cause but is not admitted to be true by all. It helps all in their behavior.
The empirical truth is the only means by which the transcendental truth can be attained. Nagarjuna maintains that the transcendental truth cannot be realized without the help of empirical truth and without realizing the transcendental truth, Nirvana cannot be attained.
b) In view of the Absolute : It is Prapancha-shunya or simply, indescribeable. It is absolute, unconditional, higher truth, beyond percepts and concepts.  It Pramartha-Satya. Devoid of any verbalization or thought construction. This is the transcendental truth, which cannot be grasped by any form of intelligent reason or empiricism. It is possible only by direct intuitive insight into reality itself (called Prajna). And only by this Prajna, can Nirvana be attained.
Buddha maintained silence with respect to such non-empirical questions as whether the world is eternal or non-eternal, finite or infinite, whether the soul is same as or different from the body, whether or not one who attains Nirvana exists after death, and what Nirvana itself is. Buddha is silent because such questions transcends reason and sense experience and that consequently any attempt to answer them through names and forms is futile.
Why is SHUNYAVADA school called MADHYAMIKA ?
Buddhism itself is ascribed to be a middle path as it follows a path that is between extreme affirmation, extreme negation(Nihilism) and self mortification, self indulgence(Aghori)
Madhyamika is the logical culmination of Buddhist Philosophy. In this context, Madhyamika can be seen as true followers of middle path.

Yogacara Vignanavad
Its followers admit that there is only one kind of reality which is of nature of consciousness and objects which appear to be material or external to consciousness, but are in reality only mental constructs, ideas. Hence they are called subjective idealists. The same is followed by Berkeley.
  • Consciousness is real and consciousness/mind is the only reality.
  • There is no duality between Mind and matter. Externality is a fiction.
  • This may be said to be subjective idealism, as there is no independent reality but consciousness (Similar to Berkeley)
  • Do not agree with Shunyavadins that mind is also Shunya. For them, all thinking and reason would be false. The reality of mind should at least be admitted in order to make correct thinking possible.
As Charvaka maintains : “Matter is All”, Vignanavadin maintains, “Consciousness is all”.
Just as in a dream, a man perceives things around him, which are actually not real. Similarily, objects appear only because they are ideas in the mind. There is no difference between blue color and consciousness of blue color, object cannot exist without consciousness of it (Esse ist Percipi)
Three levels of Reality :
Yogacara and Buddhism refers to three levels of Reality :
a) Parikalpit or Illusory : When imagines appear as real. Example : Snake is a rope, or dream experience.
b) Paritantra or Worldy : The empirical phenomenon are realized as relative and dependent.
c) Parinispanna or Transcendental : When consciousness is recognized as the only reality.
(Similar to Sankara’s three layers of Reality)
Negation of External Object :
a) Just as in cases of dreams and hallucinations, a man fancies to perceive things outside, though they don’t exist there, similarily the objects which appear to be out there, are actually just ideas of our mind.
b) The existence of external objects cannot be proved, because it cannot be shows that the object is different from the consciousness of the object.

Sautrantika School (Belief in Inference)
  • Both external and internal are real.
  • External objects’ knowledge is not gained directly by perception, but inferred from our perception. External objects are momentary in nature. They produce ideas in our mind, on the basis of these ideas, we infer the existence of external objects.
  • This is similar to Representative Realism of Locke.
Why do we say that external objects are real?
It is because of external objects that we are able to distinguish between illusory and non-illusory experience.
Moro ever, if external objects are non-existent, then internal cognition must appear as external objects. But this is not true, the idea of food alone does not satisfy hunger, external food is required.
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(1) Four Noble Truths + This Being that arises + Schools of Buddhism

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