Marshland Flowers Part 3

To become a Buddha

An enlightenment without the Bodhichitta infused into it or inspiring it is not the enlightenment of the Buddha..

The Bodhisattvayana uses both the Sutras of the Paramitayana and the Tantras of the Vajrayana together in some systems or separately as in some systems. Now, let us go back to the place of seeing suffering directly through Vipashyana in the Bodhisattvayana. In the Bodhisattvayana, the purpose of seeing suffering directly is to see that not only me but all other sentient beings are also really suffering. This is the basis of arousing compassion which is the basis of arousing what is technically called Bodhichitta (often translated into English as the Wakening mind or the Mind of Awakening). Boddhichittodpada (arousing the Bodhichitta) is the basis of Bodhisattvayana. Without the arousal of the Bodhichitta there is no Bodhisattvayana. Bodhichitta means the aspiration to attain Buddhahood in order to liberate all sentient beings from suffering because only a Buddha has the capacity to do so. No one becomes a Buddha without fully developing this aspiration first. An enlightenment without the Bodhichitta infused into it or inspiring it is not the enlightenment of the Buddha.

Unless we perceive the suffering in the world and feel its burning, we cannot really feel that others are also burning in the same fire. It is only when we really begin to see directly and feel the suffering of others that we can have compassion (Karuna) for them. Compassion is not pity but the actual feeling/seeing of the suffering of others. It is only then that real Karuna/Maitri can arise. Compassion is the desire that all sentient beings be endowed with happiness and the cause of happiness and Maitri (loving kindness) is the aspiration that all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. To become a Buddha one must arouse the aspiration to become a Buddha to liberate all sentient beings from suffering. That is the major difference between becoming an Arhat and a Buddha. Needless to say other kinds of enlightenment cannot be called the enlightenment of the Buddha.

One does not become a Buddha by merely practicing some form of meditation or attaining deep Samadhi etc. or attaining Atman Gyan or some form of knowledge or wisdom alone. This motivation to become a Buddha to free all sentient being from the fire of suffering (which automatically means to set them on the path of being an Arhat or a Buddha); is an integral part of being a Buddha. There can be no becoming a Buddha without this motivation which is technically called Bodhichittodpada. Bodhi means Awakening or enlightenment, Chitta means mind and Utpada means producing. So Bodhichittodpada means producing awakening the awakened mind. In the Mahayana tradition there are very elaborate practices to awaken, produce this mind. Needless to say these types of meditational practices are not to be found within even the Buddhist Sravak systems, let alone any other non-Buddhist systems.

This practice changes the mental pattern of the mind of the person and thus the mind becomes a different family (Gotra). Even those who practice genuine Buddhist practices as found in the Sravakayan systems like Theravada who do not practice the Bodhichittodpada will never become a Bodhisattva and eventually a Buddha. They will become an Arhat but not a Buddha because their Gotra (family) will be different. So just practicing meditations of ?? to the Nadas (internal sounds) or lights at the forehead or various practices of Nadis etc., by themselves alone will not produce either Arhats or Bodhisattvas or Buddhas. In another language, none of the above types of non-Buddhist practices will produce the Buddhist enlightenment.

Root of suffering

As Zen Masters are prone to say, "If you understand, you are already wrong."

Let us now go into the second Noble Truth (Arya Satya). The first of the four was Dukha Satya which we just finished discussing at length. The second Arya Satya is Dukha Samudaya Satya (The truth of the origin of suffering). Here too, we find that the Buddhist understanding of suffering is very different from all other non-Buddhist systems. In most theistic systems including Hinduism, the cause of your suffering is because you have surrendered or accepted a certain God. If you accept or surrender to that God then your suffering ends. Surrender to something higher than oneself is certainly a very strong psychological principle which does lighten the burden from one's shadow to a lesser or greater extent. Thus, even Buddhism does use the concept of surrendering to the Tri Ratna (the three jewels) as part of its technology. But as there is no creator - God in Buddhism and since it does not believe that creation began at any one certain time, there can be no concept of surrendering to any God, let alone the one and only God, within any form of Buddhism.

But even the surrendering or taking refuge in the three jewels in a bit different. Neither the Buddha nor the three jewels are in any way a kind of creator of the universe. Now are they the primary cause from which all things came and into which all things go or even remain while they remain??? As can be seen, the whole paradigm is quite different. So those with Hindu background who say or believe or think that Buddhism probably presents the same thing that Hinduism does but only in a different way or words or terminologies are way off the mark, blinded by their Sanskaras (conditioning).

Another form of Hinduism posits that man suffers because he does not know or recognize his own true self called Atman and identifies with the body or the mind or the little Self. Again, since there is no such eternal, unchanging Self (Atman) in Buddhism but only the flow of the mental stream (Chitta Santaan) such a notion would be automatically considered absurd within Buddhism. In fact a big part of Vipashyana meditation is to see through (Vi = special, Pashya = seeing) that there is no eternal, unchanging Atman to be found anywhere. See through (Vipashyana) means seeing directly, experientially and not just understanding conceptually, intellectually. As Zen Masters are prone to say, "If you understand, you are already wrong."

Then what is the cause of suffering, the roots of suffering, and the origin of suffering according to the Buddha? Briefly - craving, grasping, clinging - which is technically also called Trisna in Sanskrit and Tanha in Pali is the root of suffering. The natural question that arises now is how or why is Trisna (craving) the root or cause of suffering? Craving is an inner form of clinging, grasping to the idea of me and myself (Atman-Atmiya). The word Trisna is the same as Tirkhaa in Nepali and is etymologically linked with the English word thirst. The root of all clinging, thirst, is 'I' or the concept of 'I'. This 'I' wants this or that and thus greed (Lobha/Raga) begins with the belief that this 'I' really exists and the concept that 'I' exists, without ever questioning it. The automatic sense of 'I' really existing comes from the very subconscious level. And if there is something that this 'I' wants and some other 'I' wants the same thing, then this 'I' gets angry. So the whole cycle of attachment (Lobha/Raga) and aggression (Dvesa/Krodha) begins because of the clinging to 'I', which is merely a concept and has no reality. But there is no knowledge of the fact that this 'I' is just a concept and this is ignorance (Moha).

Concept of I, me and mine 

The entire emotional defilements are rooted in this concept of an 'I' or self and the clinging to it. And needless to say, our suffering is caused by our emotional defilement. But if there is an 'I', a self, there will automatically be 'my' as in my house, my husband, my car, my children and so on. The list is infinite. Not only is it true that the 'I' or self wants this car or hates that person, but it also believes strongly that the car, the house, the hated person really exist out there separate from me. Thus, their value is doubly increased by the virtue of it really existing out there. This takes us to the concept of really existing which implies that it is permanent, unchanging and thus will give me permanent happiness. Of course, any person with a bit of intellect will say that that car, house, husband or wife is not permanent. But the point here is that, it is only an intellectual understanding, a conceptual understanding. And in spite of that understanding, we continue to cling to it all emotionally as if they all are unchanging, permanent and will give us permanent happiness. That is why conceptual/intellectual understanding alone do not free us.

Going back to 'I' self and 'my' (Atman-Atmiya), all these are mere concepts we cling to and because we cling to them, we suffer. In fact the average man does not even see the possibility of relating to the Atman-atmiya in any other way. Believing they really exist and clinging to it all as if it were the only life line is the only way an average person has learnt to relate with the world out there. In fact the average person unconsciously fears the loss of this I without realizing that this 'I' is nothing more than conceptual phantom.It's actually like scratching a wound to relieve oneself but without realizing that the scratching makes the wound worse and the itching gets worse by scratching. Similarly, the more we cling to the 'I' self and the 'my', the more it aggravates the itch and the cycle continues. For the time being it will suffice to see why the Buddha saw that it is clinging/craving which is the cause of our suffering. We have so far dealt with this in a general way, now let us look at it from a classical point of view.

To understand clearly how suffering is perpetuated it is necessary to understand the teaching of interdependent origination which is called either Dvadas Nidana (the 12 chains of interdependent origination) or the Dvadas/pratityasamudpada. Pratitya samudpada which means interdependent co-origination or co-arising has two different levels of meaning within the Buddhist hermeneutics. One is an interdependent co-origination (pratityasamutpada) that is intimately linked with emptiness (Sunyata). But here it means the interdependent chain which describes the flow of this life, the chain of lives and also the last but not the least our experiences every moment in the here and now.

The Right View

Wrong views cannot possibly help us become free from all views ultimately.

We need to know what the twelve chains of interdependent origination are and they are: 1. Conditioned by ignorance (Avidhya) arises conditionings (Sanskaras). 2. Conditioned by conditionings arises dualistic consciousness (Vigyan). 3. Conditioned by consciousness arises name and form (Nama- Rupa). 4. Conditioned by name and form arises the six sense doors (Sadaayatana). 5. Conditioned by the six sense doors arises contact (Sparsha). 6. Conditioned by contact arises feelings (Vedana). 7. Conditioned by feelings arises craving/clinging (Trisna). 8. Conditioned by craving, clinging arises grasping (Upadana). 9. Conditioned by grasping arises Karmodbhava (existence based on Karma). 10. Conditioned by existence based on Karma arises birth (Jati). 11. Conditioned by birth arises the 12th one which are: old age, death, mourning, weeping, suffering, sickness, stress etc.

A good understanding of the 12 chains of interdependent co-origination (Dvadas pratityasamutpada) is very important to understand the Buddhist view which are generally explained at three different levels. At one level it represents past life, this life and the next life. At another level it is a beautiful hermeneutical device to explain this life in all its complexity. And finally, it also explains this moment here and now. Even though Buddhism does not have a creator God or an Atman (permanent, unchanging soul/thing/ supreme being) it does believe fully in the continuity of the mental stream/ mental continuum (Chitta-santaan). A continuum is not an unchanging, permanent thing but rather a never ending process. The Buddhist view of life is more about processes than about things or entities. The 12 chain is a process.

According to Buddhism what you call I or Self is more a verb than a noun and there is no central figure which is a noun which we can call an I or a Self meaning an entity or thing with an ontological existence . This is a very subtle point which influences the entire Buddhist view and thus its motivation which is always based on a view. When we meditate that meditation is always based on a view. Albeit the view could be conscious as in Buddhism and Sankara Vedanta or it could be unconscious, based automatically on the Sanskaras of the person meditating. No person is free from a view unless s/he has made a concentrated effort to free himself/herself from all views based his/her Sanskaras( conditioned habit patterns). However, even in such a case the person can still be said to subscribe to a view which is free from all views. For now, it will suffice to say Buddhism places a lot of emphasis on the right view (Samyag dristi) as that is what will ultimately help one to transcend all views after using the right view for one's meditation. Wrong views cannot possibly help us become free from all views ultimately. That is why Buddhism is very clear that you must first distinguish the views, clearly understand it before meditating. That is why the first of the Astangic Marga (the eight fold path) is correct view (Samyag Drishti), unlike most other spiritual systems.

Going back to the 12 chains, first of all is Avidhya (ignorance/nescience or not knowing). Here too we have a Sravakayana interpretation and a Mahayana interpretation. Although they may look different they are complementary and are really pointing towards the same direction. The Sravakayana includes the Theravada and thus the Sravakayana definition of Avidhya is the Theravadin definition as well. The Sarvastivad (another Sravakayana school) definition and Mahayana definition of it appear different but in meaning they do not vary from each other.

Avidhya-Nescience in Buddhism

According to Theravada Abahidhammatthasangaho , the definition of avidhya (ignorance) is na vidatiti avijja, which means 'avidhya is that which does not know'. Ultimately, this is Moha (delusion) and means avidhya (ignorance) is both not to know and also to know in a wrong way (misperceive/misconceive) (Moha-delusion). To not know the Four Noble Truths correctly is also avidhya/avijja. To not know the three realms of existence (Tri Dhatu) is suffering (dukha), which is also another kind of avidhya. To not know that craving (Trishna) is the cause of suffering is another kind of avidhya. To not know that nirvana is the cessation of suffering , to not know of the Path (asthangika marga) as the dukha nirodha gamin marga (the path to the cessation of suffering) is another kind of avidhya. All these four kinds of avidhya are subsumed in ignorance of the Four Noble Truths.

Then, there is avidhya related to purvanta (former lives - existence). This includes pubbantey agyanam, or ignorance (agyanam) of past existence, and likewise of future existence (aparantey) or ignorance of the continuity of life-mental stream. The first ignorance is based on the idea that life suddenly came into existence by accident or through some creator 'God' and did not exist before. The second type believes that there is no continuity of existence and all ends at death.

Then, there are those who believe that this is the only existence and there was no prior existence nor will there be a future existence. This is another kind of avidhya (ignorance), called Pubbantaa parantes ayyanam.

Another kind of avidhya is not to know about the interdependent co-origination. In the Abhidharma Samuchaya, Asanga, the great Mahayana teacher, defines avidhya as such: What is avidhya? It is the absence of knowledge (gyana) with regards to the three realms of existence (Tri-dhatu). Its function is to give a basis to the appearance of defilements, mistaken decisions and doubts regarding the teachings (dharma).

The above two definitions are speaking about the same thing in two different ways. Doubts about the teachings (dharma) subsumes the Four Noble Truth, purvanta apavanta, etc., the pratitya samutpada, and ignorance of Tri-dhatu, which is a Buddhist technical term that means three realms of existence according to the Buddhist cosmos.

A more specific Mahayana definition would call avidhya as ignorance of emptiness, ignorance of the nature of mind, but these too are subsumed within the above definition. For not to know sunyata (emptiness) includes: not to know the nature of Tri-dhatu, not to know the Four Noble Truths, not to know pratitya samutpada (interdependent co-origination), and not to know purvanta aparaanta.

Now with this definition of avidhya we can see that within the context of the Buddhist view one form of major ignorance/nescience is not knowing that there is no really existing ontological 'I-self' or 'I-I' which is the center of the universe. A corollary to this is the misperception or delusion (Moha) that various things like the body or mind or something beyond the mind is the true ontological centre of my universe which is my true identity, which I can call an 'I-self' or even 'I-I' or the 'I of the I' etc, etc. The lack of such an 'I-self' or 'I-I' or the 'I of the I' is what is called Anatma in Buddhism.

Now, let us compare this with the Vedanta view of avidhya. In Vedanta, avidhya is not knowing the Atman (I-I, I-self) as your true self, or as your true ontological identity, and deluding yourself to believe that the mind or body or anything else is the 'I-self'. Let us clarify this in another way. The Vedanta views that there is a truly existing, eternal and unchanging ontological entity above and beyond impermanent mind-body (psycho-physical) complex. This is one's true Self and knowing this is knowledge (gyana), while not knowing that that is an ontological entity or even your true nature is avidhya/agyana (ignorance/nescience). In Buddhism, seeing through (vipashana) that no such ontological entity called an 'I-self' or Self or Over Self can be found anywhere is vidhya/gyana (knowledge). As we can see the two paradigms are very different and geared towards two different types of knowledge.

I must reiterate that this difference in both the system is very important to fully understand both the systems properly and is not meant to demean either system.

Satkaya Dristi

Now let us go into greater detail on avidhya (nescience). The chain/link says conditioned by avidhya arises sanskaras or the conditioned habitual patterns. Before we go into sanskaras, let us go into the details of avidhya (nescience) itself. Now we shall enter into the Mahayana explanations.

In the Madhyamak Avatar Bhasya, the great Chandrakriti said: a yogi sees in one's mind the kleshas and faults arise from Satkaya Dristi (Tibetan for jig Tshogs La tawa/ false view of the transitory agregates). Thus having understood that the object of Satkaya Dristi is the Atman, he negates the Atman.

Now, there are two words here that we need to clearly understand before we can move forward. One is the Sanskrit technical term Satkaya Dristi and the second is Atman. We have already detailed the meaning of the world Atman from the general Hindu and the Vedantic point of view. Although the Buddhist view of Atman is based on the very same Hindu concept. Buddhism also uses this word in another way, which needs to be clarified. But first of all let us go into what is termed as Satkaya Dristi/the false view of the transitory aggregates.

Asanga had defined Satkaya Dristi in his Abhidharma Samucchaya as: Satkaya Dristi is the admission, inclination, idea, point of view, opinion of him who considers the pancha upadan skanda (the five aggregates of grasping/clinging/false view of the five transitory aggregates) as a self (Atman, I-I, etc.) or pertaining to a self (Atmiya/mine). The function of Satkaya Dristi consists of giving the basis to all kinds of opinions/views (sarva dirtigata, Itawa thamscad in Tibetan, and ditthi gatam in Pali).

Paramartha who translated into theChinese the Buddhist scriptures defined Satkaya Dristi as: the grasping or conceiving of the conception of atman-atmiya (I & mine) in the five skandas (aggregates). In his own commentary of his Abhidharmakosha, Vasubandhu gave the Sarvastivadin definition of Satkaya Dristi. He said: Atmadristir atmiya dristirva Satkaya Dristi - which means the view/conception of 'I' and mine is Satkaya Dristi and he elaborates the concept further saying that this concept or view is imposed upon the pancha upadana skanda - ie - the five aggregates of grasping/clinging.

Then the Thervadin commentar The Atthasalini says Santokaya sakkayo, sakkaye pavattaa ditthi, which means the five aggregates are Satkaya and the view that of believing in that Satkaya is Satkaya Dristi. Believing here means believing the five aggregates separately or as a collection or as a group is either the Atman or contains the Atman or is mine/atmiya.

So all the schools of Buddhism agree that Satkaya Dristi is basically seeing, conceiving an atman in the pancha skandha (the five aggregates). And both the Abhidharma kosha of Sarvastivadins and the Thervadin Abhidhamma and the Mahayana Abhidharma Samucchaya agree that this is the root cause of all the false views. But to fully understand what Satkaya Dristi (view that there is I or mine in the five aggregates) we need to first understand what the five aggregates are; a Buddhist technical word for pancha skanda. We shall go into the details of the pancha skandha/ the ive aggregates in the next issue.

Pancha Skandha

The Psycho-Physical System

Pancha Skandha is the Buddhist technical term for the five aggregates. They signify not only the entire psycho-physical system of an individual but the world at large also. So what are the five aggregates?

First, let's see what five aggregates consist of:

1.Rupa Skandha (the aggregate of form)

2.Vedana Skandha (the aggregate of feeling-sensation)

3.Sangya Skandha (the aggregate of perception)

4.Sanskara Skandha (the aggregate of formation or conditioning)

5.Vigyana Skandha (the aggregate of dualistic consciousness)

Of these, Rupa Skandha is material and the remaining four are mental. Vedana, Sangya, Sanskara and Vigyana are all called Nama Skandha. All five Skandhas are subsumed in Nama-Rupa and this Nama-Rupa (name & form) consists of our world. Although I have used Name for Nama, the English world Name etymologically does not fully justify the Sanskrit and Pali Nama. According to the Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, Name means a designation. This is only one aspect of the Sanskrit/Pali Nama.

The Sanskrit world Nama is derived from Naman, which means to be inclined towards to bow towards. The world Namaste/Namaskar is also derived from the same root. Thus, Name/Nama is not only designations/labels/names, which inclines or pulls the mind towards an object as when one says 'table', but Name/Nama is the very mind which inclines towards or goes towards or focuses towards the designated object. Nama thus is also the mind which moves or flows towards the designated object. Nama does not only mean labels/designation as you find in Vedanta, which also uses the terminology Nama-Rupa but has a different meaning attached to it. With that explanation, let us now move on to the five aggregates, which is an elaboration of Nama-Rupa or Name-Form.

The first of the aggregate is form or Rupa Skandha. Rupa means form or physical form. Things with a colour and shape ( varna sansthanatmakam rupam ) are called Rupa or form. So the world that we see and our own physical bodies are called Rupa Skandha. Skandha means heap, collection or aggregate. Our body is a heap of varnas and shapes/patterns, so is the world out there. They arise through a combination of various physical causes and conditions combined to other ( hetu-pratyaya ) causes and conditions; that’s why they are called aggregate or Skandhas. So the aggregate of form is one of the five aggregates, and believing, viewing or conceiving that either that is the 'I' or it's mine is Satkaya Dristi, which is the root cause of all false views. Through false views arises avidhya or nescience and through avidhya/nescience arises avidhya.

Before we go into the other remaining five Skandhas, let us go a little into the details about what the above statement implies. Many people believe that their body is who they are. The body is the 'I' or as a corollary it is mine, and there is an 'I' who possess the body. This 'I' appears to remain the same from birth, infancy, adolescence, teenage, youth, middle age to old age. When a person says 'I' he means the same person or 'I' that he called an 'I' when s/he was an infant or teenage. Although people use the expression 'I have changed', through experience people feel that the 'I' is the same old 'I' whose aspects or outer layer has changed.

Within all forms of Buddhism, it is paramount to identity and fully understand this 'I-self'. We are not talking here of some philosophical explanation of this 'I-self', we are talking about the experience of 'I-self'. Everybody who does not analyze or think about it has at some gut level have had the feeling of this 'I-self'; and a part of this gut level feeling of this 'I-experience' is an subconscious 'feeling' that this 'I' does not change, has not changed and will not change. That this 'I' that I experience right now is the same 'I' that I experienced as 'I' when I was an infant, an adolescent, a teenager, or an adult, right on to death. Nobody normally feels it's a different 'I' even when she/he says I have changed. At the gut level feeling no matter how contradictory it may appear to be when we analyze it, it is the same 'I' that has remained since birth. Although 'I' may have changed, I'm the same person. Ram Prasad and Mary are the same persons through out their lives. This 'I' pointed to by the designation of Ram Prasad or Mary has remained unchanged from birth to death. We'll discuss this more in the next article.


Continuing with the discussion on Pancha Skandha and experiences of I or I-self - nobody experiences different 'I' from the 'I' of his childhood or adolescent. She/he feels very strongly that it is the same 'I-self' even while making the statement 'I've changed'. It is exactly this experiental feeling that is used in the Vedantic logic to justify a permanent, unchanging 'I' which is technically called Atman or the Self with capital 'S' when translated into English.

Buddhism, however, begins with questioning the validity of this same 'I', which people believe as forever unchanging. Experience can be deluding and can mislead. For example, you can experience a snake in rope if the causes and conditions are right. If you have certain eye disease, you can see all sorts of hair, etc. in your food. In a similar way, your samskara (conditioned habituated patterns/conditionings) can make you see/feel/experience/intuit things that don't really exist as something really existing out there.

A lot of people put a lot of store on their gut level feelings (called intuition by many) or experiences. While Buddhism ultimately believes in gut level experience in the sense of non conceptual knowledge, it warns us to only trust gut level feelings and experiences free from your samskara and not to trust all and sundry intuitions and gut level feelings/experiences.

If we were to accept all our experiences as valid because it was experienced, then the snake seen in the rope would also have to be accepted as valid/true/factual/real. After all, we did experience it and all our hormones and nervous systems had moved as if it really were true. But I don't think I need to press the point that this experience is not valid, or say seeing the snake experience is false. Because of our samskaras (learned habituated patterns), which we have learned from our families, society, the culture at large, education, school, religious systems, language structure that one was born into and thus imposed upon us from the time we were infants and learned ideologies all distort our experiences, or even create illusions out there. It is extremely fallacious to believe that an unwary average person can possible know the facts/reality without being influenced by these samskaras. So before anybody depends on his/her own experience or gut level experiences or intuitions, the person must become free from his samskaras to a greater or lesser extent. We can, however, trust our intuitive gut level feelings and evaluations of our experiences to the degree that we are actually free from our samskara. Needless to say most people are not even aware of their samskaras, let alone be aware to what degree their samskaras have hold over them, not to mention what extent these samskaras can distort their experiences and their evaluations of those experiences or intuitive gut level feelings. Becoming free from their samskara for most people is never even heard of.

Becoming free from their samskaras is not a black or white thing but rather a question of degrees. In Buddhist hermeneutics, only a Buddha is free from all samskarars (sarva samskara cchayan). In fact, the meaning of Samyak Sam Buddha is a person who has freed himself from all samskaras, or someone who has destroyed avidhya/nescience. All other humans are bound by their samskaras.

Now back to the avidhya/nescience about 'I-self', or the wrong perception about this 'I-self' as really existing is avidhya/nescience. This is the first part of the Twelve Chain of Interdependent Origination (Dwadas Nidan). Based on this wrong perception or avidhya, a samskara (conditioned learned habituated patterns) is formed, which makes us feel as if we are really experiencing this 'I-self'. This in reality is only a samskara being experienced. Part of the samskara is that this 'I-self' is the centre of my world-experience. We'll continue more on this in the next issue.


Let's continue with the discussion on samskara and on how what we thought as 'I-self' is actually a samskara being experienced. Part of this samskara/conditioning is experiencing 'I-self' as the centre of my world-experience. This samskara is so strong that it will not be diminished or destroyed by any other kind of meditations or practices, except those specially geared towards exposing samskaras and helping to gain intuitive insights into the existence of samskaras and their mode of functioning.

Let me reiterate once again, as there is a pervasive fallacy in Nepal and elsewhere in the world to lesser extent, that by Vipassana/Vipashyana, here I do not mean only Theravada style of Vipassana (as it is called in Pali) and certainly not the only style of Theravada as taught up in Budhanilkanta in Kathmandu. First of all, the Theravada Vipassana as taught in Budhanilkanta is based on Vedananusmiti or Vedanaaunsatti in Pali, and moves into the four smrityupasthan (sattipathan in Pali), which is the four stations of mindfulness. This is only one method of Vipassana amongst hundreds of methods of Vipassana still being practiced in Theravadin countries like Laos (which is considered the most profound), Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka and parts of Southern Vietnam. It certainly is not the one and only method of Vipassana nor is it more pure than the other methods. Secondly, Vipashyana (the Sanskrit name for the Pali Vipassana) has always continued in an unbroken lineage in all Mahayana countries like Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Mongolia, Central Asia and the entire Trans-Himalayan belt, which includes Kashmiri, Zanskara, Leh, Ladhaka, Kunu, Spiti-Lahul, Bhutan, the entire Arunachal Pradesh, the entire Himalayan region of Nepal and parts of Northern Burma bordering Tibet and China.

Even the so called satipattan (smrityupasthan in Sanskrit) system exists to this day in Sanskrit and in all their translations in Chinese, Tibetan, etc. So when I use the word Vipashyana, I do not mean just one particular method that is used by Sri Goenkaji and has become popular in Nepal wrongly as the one and only Vipashyana taught by the Buddha, I mean Vipashyana as a whole as found within all Buddhist systems. I have told a little about Vipashyana/Vipassana before and we will go into more details about Vipashyana/Vipassana when the context demands it. But for now, I just want to repeat that we have already shown very clearly that all authentic Buddhist abhidharmas, sutras, etc, have defined Vipashyana as special (vi from visesh and pashyana as to see from pashyanti, etc.). So Vipashyana is a special form of meditation geared towards helping the meditator see directly, non-conceptually (intuitively) the real characteristics (lakchyana) of all phenomena (dharma).

What are the real characteristics of all phenomena (dharma)? All phenomena was declared by the Buddha impermanent (anitya) and therefore also suffering (dukha), and also no phenomena contain the Self or 'I' nor are they mine (Anatma-Anatmiya) and therefore are all empty of real existence (niswabhava/sunyata). This point, which the Buddha validated 2500 years back, can be investigated independently by meditation. Irrespective of what the Buddha said, irrespective of what is written in the sutras/suttas (the words of the Buddha/Buddha vacana) or the sastras, the commentaries written by siddhas and panditas through the centuries explaining or clarifying the intention of the Buddha's words - irrespective of them, correct meditation, both analytical and non-analytical meditation called Vipashyana /Vipassana, shows very clearly that - that is how all phenomena (dharmas) are. These characteristics of dharmas/phenomena are irrefutable either through logic or through experience, which is not deluded by other factors like emotional defilements and samskaras. And it has not been refuted to date however it is refutable if one can refute it. The Buddha never commanded his disciples to accept what he said unquestioningly but rather asked them to come and see for themselves whether what he said was the truth or not. Any meditation that is geared towards showing this experience directly through non-conceptual experience that all dharmas/experience are impermanent, suffering, Non-Self/empty, anitya/anicca in Pali, dukha, anatma/anatta in Pali, sunya/sunna in Pali is Vipashyana.

Demystifying 'I-self'

Continuing with the current discussion on Vipashyana and what it is geared towards - any meditation that is not geared towards helping the meditator to 'see through' non-conceptually that all dharmas are impermanent, suffering and empty, is not Vipashyana. I invite any Buddhist or Non-Buddhist to refute the above statement using Sutras and Sastras of both Theravadin and Sarvastivadin or Mahayan/Vajrayana. And if there is no Vipashyana practice, there is no Buddhist enlightenment, be it Theravadin and Sarsvastinvadin enlightenment moving towards Arhathood, or the Mahayana enlightenment moving towards Buddhahood.

Without the practice of Vipashyana, there can be no experience of any kind of Buddhist enlightenment. It is Vipashyana that is the special teaching of the Buddha and no other system taught it before the Buddha taught it. After the Buddha, other systems could have appropriated it, though history does not show any system that has taught it as its main stay until the 21st century. I invite any scholar or practitioner, Buddhist or otherwise, to prove the above statement as wrong. I am open to acceptance if proven correct but they must use sutras and sastras without distorting them before I accept it. I would like to also remind all those who may not agree with me that refuting and rebuttal using the proper mode is an ancient culture in the Indian Subcontinent to probe into the truth, a method accepted by all Buddhists, Hindus and Jains since ancient times.

Now, let us go back to the aggregate of form (rupa skanda). Many believe our body is 'I-self'. Those who have studied some form of philosophy of one school or the other may intellectually believe that the body is not the 'I-self' but at a gut-level those very same person continue to live life as if this body is who I am. And vast majority of even the so called 'educated' do believe, albeit rather vaguely, that the 'I-self' and the body are not the same but the 'I-self' is in some way in the body. The Bhagawat Gita even states very clearly that that Atman is like charioteer who rides the chariot of the body. However, Vipashayana/Vipassana mediation exposes this notion of the 'I-self' being somewhere in the body as a fallacious belief based on samskaras and avidhyas (conditioned habitual patterns and nescience). So this body and the visible world out there (the material aggregate), which has colour and shape (varna sansthan) and thus has form (rupa), so the aggregate of form (rupa Skandha) is neither an 'I-self' (Atman) nor is it inside somewhere in the form aggregate. Nor can we truly call this aggregate of form mine (atmiya).

If this body, which linguistically we call my body, were really 'mine' it would follow my wishes. But whether 'I' want it or not, it grows old and it grows sick, it dies. Since 'I' have no control over it, how can it really be mine? If the body of a beautiful model girl was really hers, not just linguistically, it would not gain weight, it would not age and her hair would not grey. But we all know intellectually/rationally/conceptually at least that the body does not really follow her commands, no matter how much she wishes it would . Thus, how is it her body, or my body? I must warn however that this is only an intellectual-conceptual understanding of the fact and such a rational knowing does not really free us from this misconception (avidhya/nescience). We need Vipashyana meditation (and not any old meditation) to make a shift in our perspective on this issue.

It is only when we penetrate through and see (true meaning of Vipashyana) directly, non-conceptually that Rupa Skanda is neither 'I' nor 'mine', nor is there an Atman somewhere in the Rupa Skandha that is clinging/grasping to the rupa Skandha will stop spontaneously.

Fallacy of Language

We have seen that thirst/clinging to the Rupa Skandha is one of the causes of our suffering. This thirst or clinging to the Rupa Skandha is initiated by nescience/avidhya, which is the cause of perceiving it as 'I-mine', etc. And the one and only way this hold of nescience can be broken is by seeing penetratingly (Vipashyana) that the gut level experiential intuitive feeling is false. And the one and only way (Ekaayano Maggo) that can be done is through the type of meditation which is geared towards helping the meditator see this almost innate fallacy. It is innate because of aeons (kalpas of samskaras conditioned habitual patterns). This is why avidhya is called sahaja-atman-graha (innate grasping to the concept of an 'I-self'/atman).

When it comes to this 'I-self' almost everything in our human-situation seems to validate it. That is why it seems innate/sahaja. However, it is still imposed upon our mental stream from the outside or is not really the true nature of our mental stream. Even our language so strongly assumes its reality.

We do not realize to what extent our language structure literally influences what we see and what we cannot see. The structure of our language heavily defines our experience and how we interpret that experience. For instance, we have the past tense, the present tense and the future tense which are highly artificial constructs, but we tend to forget that they are highly artificial constructs and thus they become our reality. For instance, 'I run' is the present tense, the past tense 'I ran' and the future tense 'I will run'. When I say 'I ran' it seems to me that there is really the same past in which 'I ran'. The past really exists out there to me just as much as the table I see when I say 'I see the table', or the sound I hear when I say 'I hear the barking'.

Now, these sentences are very useful in showing to us how deeply ingrained the structure of our language is in experience and how we unquestionably accept them as valid/factual/real/actual. First of all, let us take the past, present & future tense. As we said before, when I say 'I ran' I seem to really experience or re-experience the past when I had run. When I say I will run the future, in which I will run almost seems to exist for me. So without questioning the whole affair I accept that the past does exist as much as the present in which I run as much as the future when I will run. But in reality, there is and can only will be the present moment and the so called past or future are only abstract mental constructs which do not exist at all except as imaginings in the mind in the present.

Now, let us take the statement 'I see the table', which would come out pretty much the same in Nepali/Hindi/Sanskrit/French, etc. I see the table - in this language structure, the subject is the 'I' which does the 'seeing' and the object is the table, which is seen. Now, this linguistic structure is so common that it is assumed that what the language structure evokes is true, is how it really is.

And what does it evoke? It evokes an 'I' the seer who sees. Thus, there is an 'I', otherwise who sees? Or what sees? Or how can there even be any seeing at all? Then, there is the verb seeing which is separate from the 'I' which does the seeing but is assumed not to be the seeing. At least, it is not questioned normally and the language structure validates my intuitive gut level feeling about this. And finally there is the table, which 'I' see, which again is separate from me, the 'I' that sees. More on this later.

More on Fallacy of Language and Modern Thinking

Continuing with the discussion on the limitedness of language - the very sentence 'I see the table' assumes that the table 'I' see is out there somewhere separate from me. And as a corollary which we will deal with later on, this 'I' which sees really existing is in fact the center of the seeing and the table out there, which 'I' see also really exist.

Let us take another example. We say the lighting flashed, this is similar in structure to I see. This grammatical structure implies that there is a lighting that flashed. The lighting is the subject (like the 'I which sees), which does the action of flashing (verb). This act is different from the lighting. But, and a big but is that is there really a lighting separate from flashing, or is flashing itself lighting? Can we really separate flashing or take away flashing and say - here is lighting that had flashed, which is separate thing from flashing? Can we really do that? If we removed flashing, would lightening really remain per se? But just a few minute ago we thought and felt and experience (or seem to experience) that there is a lighting that had done the action of flashing, didn't we?

Now, let us take this analysis back to 'I see the table'. Some people may say the mind sees the table just to be clever, but really we aren't changing the structure of the language and thus the structure of the experience. We have just substituted the word 'mind' for 'I' and the rest of the implications are still the same. There is a mind which is the subject, which exists independently and it is thus independent and separate mind which does that action of seeing the table, which is the object and which too is independent out there (like the lighting that flashes, the mind or I see). If we look at the seeing out, would there still remain a mind which sees or is the act of seeing itself the.........

Thus, language structure is so much a part of our programming samskara that we do not question the situation out there or the real experience or reality/actuality or fact. It has become so much a part of the way we experience things, a program that was downloaded from the time prenatal/pre-conceptual moment onward or even earlier downloaded in the mother's cellular memory itself. Perhaps that it does not occur to us easily that our experience is molded by this grammatical structure itself.

What we tend to forget is that there is a certain experience going on which the sentence 'I see the table' or 'I see the sound' etc, is trying to point at. It is however never questioned whether the implications evoked from the structure of the sentences is really out there or not, or whether this grammatical structure is coloring and distorting the experience, changing the 'pure experience' into a shape that this grammatical structure demands. Even to question this seems so odd that most people would never even think of it and if somebody raises such a question he/she would be ridiculed by saying 'Are you crazy?' Have you gone off the rocks? But didn't Galileo face the same taunts when he questioned whether the sun really went around earth?

Let us go on a little journey for a short while into the world of Alice in Wonderland, for that is now it would look like to the programmed thinking of most people.

Suppose you have a grown up with a different grammatical structure. We have already said that the sentence 'I see the table' is pointing at a certain experiential act. But the grammatical structure here demands thing are there in the experience. We'll continue with this in the next article.

Unchanging 'I' or is it

The grammatical structure demands that there is an 'I' or mind that is the subject or the seer, watcher, knower, that this 'I' sees or goes through the action of seeing, which is an action verb, which is different from the 'I' which is a pronoun and there is a different noun, separate from both the verb (seeing) and the pronoun 'I' which is the table. The 'table' is the object, a noun and distinctly separate and independent from the subject and the verb. And this unquestioned programming is so deeply ingrained into our subconscious mind that we can safely say that, that is how everybody experiences the experience of what the sentence 'I see the table' is trying to point at.

Now suppose you had grown up in another grammatical structure. Remember that language is meant to point at an experience. So if an Alice in Wonderland language also pointed equally well at that experience it would fulfill the purpose of language. So we all know that an experience is a process and not really a thing - entity per se. So seeing a table is a process, a verb, and not an entity, a noun. So suppose you had grown up with a grammatical structure which says 'tabling is going on' to point at the same experience which the sentence 'I see the table' is also trying to point at. We can certainly say that the sentence 'tabling is going on' can equally well point at the same experience which the sentence 'I am seeing the table' points at.

Infact, since it is actually a process (this experience), tabling is going on is a more accurate finger to point at it. Now, if you had grown up with this grammtical sturcture, would the experience (and the grammatical structure) imply that there is a separate table (noun-object) from the act of seeing the table (verb)? And would the structure impose an 'I' upon the experience like imposing a separate lightning different from the flashing of the light? Is there a lightning separate from the flashing which does the flasing or is the flashing itself the lightning? But flashing is an action a verb, the lightning is a noun, an object. Or is the 'Light' distinct from the flasing created merely by the langauge? Likewise, is there an 'I' that sees or is the act of seeing specified by the Alice in Wonderland language 'Tabling' itself the 'I' the seer? But I is a pronoun, seer a noun and seeing/tabling are verbs. When I say 'I see', this is a seeing I. This 'I' is defined by the 'seeing'. Now there are two questions here.

The first questions is: Is not this 'I' that sees dependent upon the seeing of the table? Can we really say that the I/seer/watcher/knower that sees will continue to exist even when the seeing stops? If so, we will have a so-called seer who does not see? Can there be a seer that does not see? Is not the seer-I defined by seeing process. Can we really speak of a seer when it is not seeing/tabling? The word Seer would be meaningless without the seeing, wouldn't it? We cannot call the seer a seer if there is no seeing going. If that is true than when seeing stops the seer also stops or ceases to exist.

The second question is that is there is a seer separate from the act of seeing or is it only an illusion created by the language structure, like the lightning and its flashes? Can there be a seer remaining [a noun] which does not see but was the one that did the seeing? Can we really separate the verb of seeing from the seer the noun or is the seer (and therefore the 'I') merely an illusion imposed up the experience?

I as 'Seer', 'Watcher,' 'Knower'

If you had grown up with the sentence structure 'Table is going on' to point at the same experience, would you be straddled with an 'I-seer' that sees and a table that is seen? Tabling is a process, and actually there is process going on which the sentence 'I see the table' is trying to point at; however like a pair of coloured glasses it imposes a lot of things on the experience which is not really out there even according to quantum physics.

Now we can see that the 'I' is not really such a central figure in our experience, nor is it so stable or permanently unchanging as it seems to be, and secondly, it is more a process, a verb, which is continuously changing than an unchanging noun, which is supposedly the central guy or doll in the experience.

Now let us look at the unchanging 'I' from another angle. When we say this 'I' is unchanging, it also implies that it is the same 'I' always. Unchanging as defined in the Hindu-Buddhist systems of the Indian Subcontinent meant 'remaining the same in all the three times'. As Sankaracharya has defined it 'Kala traya tisthatiti', which means that which remains unchanged in the three times - in all the three times - viz - past, present and future.

Now with this in the background, let us try to see if this 'I', watcher, seer or knower really remains unchanged in the three times. First of all, if we look at the 'I', 'I' continually changes its identity. When I'm in the office I am a manager or an executive at home, I'm a son in front of my father or mother, even if I may be sixty years old. I'm also a brother to my brothers and sisters. Now a wife is not the same as the executive in the office, nor is a son the same as a husband. As we can see this, 'I' is continuously changing and becoming something else according to the situation - or more technically according to the causes or conditions.

Now the question arises which one of them is the real 'I'? We normally have hundreds of 'I' which are normally changing frequently as per the situations, and none of them is the real 'I' in the sense of being the unchanging, permanent 'I'. If this husband 'I' did not change and become a father 'I' in front of his daughter or an executive 'I' in the office, not only would there be trouble (big time trouble to say the least) but we would have to call that person neurotically unbalanced, and normal social or human functions would become tipsy turvy. Yet our experience seems to point at an 'I' that is the same in all three times and therefore real and unchanging. So which of this 'I' is the real one?

Now, let us take this 'I' as the seer, watcher, knower as posited in the Vendantic system and therefore virtually all non-dualist system within Hinduism. They are called watcher (drasta), witness (sakchi), knower (gyata) because this 'I' watches or sees, knows and witnesses. So let us analyze this watcher, seer. It is called a watcher or seer because it sees. If it didn't see or watch something it would not be called a watcher, seer. We cannot have a seer which does not see. If it does not or cannot see anything, it cannot possible be called seer or watcher can we really? We need to distinguish five points we have before we get confused. A seer can see nothing - ie - the absence of things. It still sees the absence (alohara) and that is really not seeing per se. We'll continue this discussion in the next article.

Changing or Unchanging 'I'

Continuing with the discussion of absence of seeing - for example, if you are in a pitch dark room and I asked you - do you see anything? You would normally say 'I do not see anything'. But this expression is the result of the limitation of language itself, rather than the fact that you do not see. You do continue to see the pitch darkness or the absence of all things or objects. The absence or pitch darkness is also a 'thing' to see, so to say.

Once we have understood this, let us go another step further. We have already said that a seer is defined by its seeing something, even if it is an absence. There is still an absence to see and it is the seer of that absence of the pitch darkness, as the case maybe. So let us take this up. When I say 'I see the table' I am the seer of the table. At that moment, this 'I-seer' is the seer of the table and is defined by the 'table'. If there were no table to see I would not be the seer of the table, that is, I would not see the table and in effect I would not and could not say 'I see the table'. And if I did not see the table I would not be the seer of the table. Now, if this seer of the table or the 'I' was really existing (sat in Sanskrit) and therefore the same and unchanging in all three time, I would in effect be eternally be seeing the table as I or the seer would not change. But no one experiences that. We do not eternally continue to see the table unchangingly and in actuality we as the seer see something else immediately, for instance, the blue sky or the green mountain.

Again, if the seer of the table was unchanging and permanent, it could not stop seeing the table and seeing the blue sky would be a change. But in real life the objects seen by the seer is continually changing and thus also the seer of those objects. However, in the language we continuously use the same word 'I' or the same word seer-watcher-knower for the seer of all those various objects. And that gives us the feeling of the same 'I-seer-watch-knower' being there while the so called seen objects are changing like a table now, a blue sky after that, a home now, etc. etc. As before, the language structure creates an illusion of something which does not really exist out there.

Here again, our memory of I seeing the table etc. also furthers the illusion with 'I' which is based on the memory of the 'I' which had seen the table. Because of this memory, it looks like the same 'I' is seeing the blue sky which had seen the table a while ago. But actually, it is an illusion created by our memory supported by our language structure, thus creating an experience that is not out there as it appears to be. So in effect there seems to be no seer/knower/watcher which remains unchanging as the Vedanta or for that matter what Sankaracharya says in his texts like Discriminating the Watcher And the Watched (Drig Driksya Viveka). Understanding this is the key point in knowing the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism.

It is not a matter of just a difference in words but a matter of seeing two diametrically opposed experiences. One is an experience of validating that this 'I' is not related to this ephemeral world but is an unchanging permanent really existing Self called an Atman in all forms of Hinduism. However, it must be said that only the Atman of Vedantic Hinduism and all those related to the non-dual system of Vedanta (directly or indirectly) is a coherent Atman.

Atman Anatman Debate

While Vedanta and all those related to the non-dual system of Vedanta (directly or indirectly) purports a coherent Atman, most other forms of Hinduism uses the word Atman in a rather loose way that is not consistent. Thus, we have the concept like Atman in the one born again and again, and at the same time, the Atman is unchanging and permanent (Aparivartanshila and Nitya). If a thing is born and dies, it changes. So how can an unchanging and permanent thing born and die and be reborn? At least the Hindu Vedanta itself does not agree to such an absurd concept.

This itself answers the common layman Hindu question posed to Buddhists. Actually, the majority of Hindus ask this question to Buddhists: 'If there is no Atman, who is it that dies and is reborn (re-incarnation) and who attains enlightenment?'

This question itself points clearly to the fact that the majority of the Hindus (who pose such a question) do not really realize that they do not know what is meant by the Atman in the Upanishads, Bhagvat Gita and Brahman Sutra (called the tree pillars - prasthan trayi). To validate this point, I would like to state that no less than Prof. Ram Niwas Pandey, who was the head of Department of Culture, under which the Department of Buddhism was based in Tribhuvan University, had asked this very question in one of the first classes held on Buddhism in Tribhuvan Univeristy. Prof. Pandey is also a learned Hindu scholar. This is the extent of knowledge that most people coming from a Hindu cultural background have on Atman-Anatman issue. With that kind of knowledge even amongst scholars, it is not surprising why vast majority of Hindus completely miss out on the concept of Anatman in Buddhism and then muddle everything up into one system - ie - the Hindu system. This means all systems, including the Buddhist systems, are just talking about the same Atman but only using a different language.

Vinoba Bhave even called it Via Positiva (positive way) for Hinduism and the Via Negativa (the negative way) for Buddhism to understanding/reaching the same goal. And what is the goal for Vinoba Bhave or the Hindus (even those who have no technical knowledge of the Atman)? - it is the Atman. In short, the Anatman of the Buddhist is merely a negative way of speaking of Atman or self of the Hindus. This is subtle inability to see or accept that there can be other points of view than my own.

Now let us see if this is really true. Is Hinduism and Buddhism actually talking about the same thing when are they use the word Atman or Anatman respectively? But before we do this, we need to define clearly according to the Hindu Vedanta what is meant by Atman. Although we have already done that above in a loose way, let us now define it clearly so that we know what the Hindus mean by Atman and what the Buddhist are refuting when they use the word Anatman. Now if any Hindu feels that I've distorted the definition of Atman to fit in a Buddhist thesis, I challenge them to refute me using scriptural quotations. Their or my personal ideas, beliefs, predilections and concepts are invalid in such a debate.

Now, Sankaracharya himself has done the work for us and I actually need not quibble over words. In his Tatvabodha (Knowing the Essence/tatva), Sankaracharya defines Atman by asking the question what is the Atman (inverse 26 of Atman Tarih kim?) and replies: the essence of Atman is really existing, knowing, bliss (sacchidanana svarupa). Now what does he mean by sacchidanana svarupa? He himself defines these three words sat, chit and ananda in verse 27. In that verse, he asks the question what is sat (The Really Existent), and answers that, that which remains unchanged in all the three times is sat (really existing or kala trayapsi tastatiti sat). What does this mean? We'll explore more in the next article.

Understanding Vedantic Atman

The unchanging sat (really existing or kala trayapsi tastatit sat) as Sankaracharya has said is the same in all the three times (past, present and future) or sat is really existing or truly existing, etc. Then, Sankara himself ask Chit Kim - or what is chit or consciousness, awareness, etc.? He answers Gyan Swarupa - ie - of the nature of knowing. In short, the knower aspect is an aspect of Atman. Or the knower, watcher or witness is the Atman.

We shall pick up the thread about witness, knower, watcher later on and go on to see how the Vedanta goes about to prove this witness, watcher, knower is sat or really existing - ie - remains the same or unchanging in the three times. But for now, let us go into ananda (bliss) aspect of the Atman. Sankarcharya writes what is ananda /bliss? ( ananda ka)? He answers - sukha swarupah (of the nature of sukha or bliss or joy). Then, he goes on to say evam sacchidananda swarupam svatmanam vijaniyat - which means this is how one should know that one's own Atman is of the nature of satchit ananda swarupa.

So the Atman of Hinduism, and Jainism for that matter in general, and of the Vedantic form of Hinduism specifically, is the Watcher, Knower, Witness, Consciousness (awareness), which is unchanging in all three times or remains the same in all three times, and which is free from suffering by nature because its nature is bliss (ananda swarupa).

Now, let us study this Watcher, Knower, Witness, Awareness (Watcher - drasta, Knower - gyata, Witness - sakchi, Awareness - chaitanya). What does Vedanta in general and Sankara in specific mean by this Watcher, Witness, Awareness? The Kaivalyopanishad says: 'it is that which brings to light or knows the three worlds of awaking, dream and deep sleep (jaagrat swapna susuptyadi yat prapancha prakaashate).

Now, let us simplify this. To do that, we need to see in detail how Vedanta goes about proving that this Awareness, Watcher, Witness exists in the first place, how it is independent and finally how it remains unchanged in the three times. The methodology used by the Vedanta to do this is called 'Analysis of the three states (avasthaa traya vivechana)'. This methodology is mentioned in the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, in Kaivalyopanishad and elaborated in detail by Sankaracharya in many of his writings like Drig-driskya Viveka (Discriminating the Watcher and the Watcher), Vakya Vritti (commentary on the words of the Vedas) etc. etc. Here, I shall just explain the purport of these writings without quoting them as it would become too heavily scholastic if I quoted each and every one of them here.

I see/know the world of my waking state - this is irrefutable. I see the world of the waking state, thus I am the watcher (drasta), knower (gyata), and witness ( sakchi) of all that I experience in my waking state. But when I fall asleep and start dreaming, I see, know, witness the world of my dream too; and when I wake up I can tell you that I saw such and such dream. That means I watched (was the watcher) or witnessed (was the witness) that dreamt last night and that is why I can tell you about it. If I had not witnessed it how could I tell you about it? It is irrefutable that I saw it. That word witness (sakchi) has been used in Vedantic literature because it witnesses the world just as a witness who saw the accident or the murder stands witness later on as proof in the court. It is the same witness which saw or watched the events that stands in the court as the witness to the scene (drasta). This will be continued in the next article.

Understanding Maya and Mayawat

When I go into deep dreamless sleep, I don't seem to be watching it or witnessing it; however, when I wake up, I know that I was in a deep dreamless sleep. Nobody has to tell me you went into deep dreamless sleep. I know it the moment I wake up that I was in dream, dreamless sleep (susupti). How do I know it? How can I remember that I was in a deep, dreamless sleep without anybody telling me about it if I didn't experience it or if I didn't witness it myself? I myself can tell you the very moment I wake up that I went into or had a deep dreamless sleep.

So I watched (Watcher) or witnessed (Witness) or was aware of (Knower) of all the three worlds of waking, dream and dreamless states. Thus, I am the Watcher, Knower, Witness, Awareness of all three worlds of waking, dream and dreamless.

It is not only Buddhism but Hinduism also that says that all the world events/things etc, of the three states (avasthan traya) of waking, dream and dreamless are ever changing and thus impermanent, as they are all quite obvious. It is an irrefutable truth that the worlds of all the three states are ever changing, and if they are ever changing, they are impermanent. And if they are impermanent, they cannot really exist (sat). And that would mean that the entire world of our experience is like an illusion (mayavat). This brings us to another topic related to what we just said. So let us deal with it before moving on.

First, we need to distinguish between Hinduism and Buddhism here. Hinduism of Sankara Vedanta calls the world (jagat/sansara) of our experience a mere illusion. Sankara says jagan mithya - this world is false, illusion or untrue. However, Buddhism, especially Mahayana, does not call this world an illusion (maya or mithya) but rather like an illusion (mayavat). This is a major differentiation between the Sankara Vedanta of Hinduism (or for that matter most form of Hindu non-dualism - advaita) and Buddhism. To say the world is an illusion is not the same as to say the world is like an illusion.

Secondly, some Theravadin writers think that because Mahayana declares that the world is like an illusion, it is a non-Buddhist concept derived from Hinduism. To such Theravadins, I would like to point them to Phenopindupama Sutta of Samyutta Nikaya of their own school, which says that Rupa Vedana Chitta etc., are all like a bubble, like a maya (illusion), like the stem of a bamboo tree( kadali samaa), etc. Also, if you agree that all phenomena (dharma) are impermanent (anitya) then you have already agreed that all phenomena are like an illusion.

Now, let us go back to how Vedantic Hinduism goes about proving that the Watcher, Seer, Knower, Witness is permanent, unchanging and true. Using the methodology called Avastha Traya Vivechana - analysis of the three states - ie - waking, dream and dreamless state, Vedanta has tried to posit that the Watcher is eternal, unchanging, truly existing and real; whereas the watched is changing, impermanent, false and not existing. As I mentioned before, this method has been laid out clearly in the Upanishads, like Brihadaranyak Upanishad, etc., and has been elaborated in more detail by Sankaracharaya in his Drig Drishya Viveka (discriminating the Watcher and the watched). So let us go into the core of Vedantic thought.

It is the Watcher who sees/watches/witnesses that is aware of various events in waking state. I know (saw/watched/was aware of)that I had breakfast in the morning and the very same 'I-watcher' not only knows that I'm going to sleep or am feeling sleepy but also this very same 'I-watcher' who is aware of feeling sleepy also remembers that it had breakfast this morning.

Vedanta explanation of ‘I’

It is the same 'I-watcher' who was there during breakfast that is present now during bedtime. The breakfast situation has gone and thus it is impermanent, not really existing, etc. as it has been fully replaced by bedtime experience, which to will pass. But the 'I-watcher' who experienced both is the same as the 'I' who remembers in bedtime that 'I' (the same I that is feeling sleepy) had the breakfast. If the 'I' that is feeling sleepy now was not there experiencing, watching or witnessing the breakfast, how could the present 'I-watcher' who is feeling sleepy right now remember the breakfast?

Then, when I go to sleep and see a dream and wake up, I can tell you 'I' had such and such dream. This itself is proof that 'I-watcher' who is telling you about the dream right now was present in the dream, watching, witnessing, being aware of the dream. If 'I' was not watching the dream in the dream, how could I possibly know or remember it and be able to tell you 'I saw such and such dream'? So definitely the Watcher that watched the dream is the same Watcher that is watching you and the narrator of the dream right now. The point is that if I wasn't watching the dream how could I remember it? One can remember only what one has experience. One cannot possible remember what one has not experienced.

So we have seen that it appears that the same Awareness, Watcher or Witness, etc. who saw the dream remembers it and is able to tell you about the dream. The 'I-awareness' that saw the dream is the one relating it to you now and also is the I-Knower/Witness/Watcher you are listening to or experiencing you now. It is the very same 'I-Awareness', the very same Watcher, the very same Witness, the very same 'I-I' that saw the dream last night, which remembers it after it wakes up. After all how could this 'I-Awareness' remember the dream it saw last night if it was not present in the dream watching it, seeing it, experiencing it? How could I possibly narrate my dream to you now if I (who is narrating it now) was not present in the dream?

Then the next step is the dreamless sleep (shushupti). Usually people think we blank out in the dreamless sleep and are not aware of anything then. But this actually is more like saying we do not see anything in the pitch darkness when in reality seeing has not stopped and in effect we are seeing the pitch darkness itself.

Now the question that arises is - how do we know that this very same 'I-Awareness' that is witnessing the waking world was also witnessing the world of deep sleep? The logic presented by Vedanta is that when I wake up, this very same 'I' that is awake knows very clearly without anybody having to tell me that I was in deep sleep last night. The point is nobody else has to tell me this. The moment I wake up 'I' the Knower/Watcher/Witness of this waking world myself know that I had a dreamless sleep. I remember it myself, that is why nobody else has to tell me. Now, the question is how could I possibly remember something that I myself had not experienced?

No one can remember something that s/he has not previously experienced. We can imagine something that we have not previously experienced but we cannot possibly remember something we have not previously experienced. This is simple conventional logic. So this same 'I-Awareness' that saw the dream last night is telling you about the dream right now and is thus present now and also saw the dreamless world and is capable of telling you that I had a dreamless sleep. Since the Vedantic logic is not so obvious to most people I have belaboured to make it clear by repeating the same point from as many angles as possible.

Understanding Atman & Liberation Correctly

The very same 'I-Awareness/Watcher/Witness' is present at all three states (avastha traya). So even though the world of waking changes into the world of dream, and that into the world of deep dreamless sleep, and back again into the world of waking, and thus this world is ever changing, the 'Watcher/ Witness/Knower/Awareness/I-I' of these three ever changing worlds is the same unchanging 'I-Awareness/Watcher/Witness/Knower/ I-I'. So this Watcher is' sat' - really existing, existing as the same unchanged entity in the past, present and future. And this is the Atman of the Vedantic tradition of the Upanishads, Bhagvat Gita and Brahman Sutra (all three of which are called the Prasthana trayi/ The three pillars of the Vedantic tradition. And the realization or recognition of this unchanging Atman is what is called Self Realization (Atman Gyan), and this is enlightenment in the Vedantic tradition, especially of Sankaracharya.

In the Panchikarana, it very clearly says: Aham Sakchiti, I am the Witness; and he who analyses this again and again becomes truly liberated (sa eva mukta); and such a person is the wise one (sa eva vidwan), so says the drum of Vedanta (Vedanta dim dima).

In the Aparoshyaanubhuti, verse 2, Sankarcharya writes: aham drastritayaa or I am the drastaa/ Watcher and sidhi deho drishyatayaa stheta. And the body is the seen/scene (drishya) and this is self established (siddho). There is no way that any Hindu system, especially Vedantic system, could call this Watcher or Self (drastaa - atman) as empty. In fact, in Aparoshyaanubhuti ( The Direct Experience), Sankaracharya makes it very clear that that is not and can never be the Vedantic view when he questions in verse 27: Why do fools think this Atman is empty/sunya and not in the body - kim murkhan sunyamatmanam dehaatitam karoshi bho)?

Sankaracharya also makes it very clear that the word 'I' designate this very Watcher-Atman and nothing else. That is why later Indian Gurus like Raman Maharshi also called it 'I-I'. In verse 31 of Aparoshyaanubhuti, Sankaracharya makes it very clear that this word 'I' designate the Watcher-Atman by saying aham sabdera vikhyata ek eva sthita para - or by the word 'I' is known only that atman.

Now let us analyze this Watcher - Self. First of all, as it is unchanging and remains the same in all the three times, it cannot be born and cannot die. Therefore, contrary to what most Hindu lay people think, it is definitely not the Watcher, Self (Atman) that re-incarnates again and again until it becomes liberated. If the Atman was to be reborn and die and again be reborn, that would mean the Atman is going through changes. Also, if the Atman were bound and then became enlightened or liberated, again the Atman will change as an unenlightened, un-liberated Atman cannot be the same as the enlightened, liberated Atman.

Becoming enlightened and liberate from the unenlightened, un-liberated state would amount to change but the Atman is supposed to be unchanging. Also, there would be many absurdities that would arise if we say that the Atman is under ignorance and un-liberated. Because the Atman is supposed to be unchanging and eternal, an un-liberated Atman under the influence of ignorance (avidya) would be eternally un-liberated and under the influence of ignorance.

So it cannot be the Atman which dies and is reborn, nor can it be the Atman which is unenlightened and later becomes enlightened. In fact, the Bhagvat Gita says it very clearly when it says - maneva manushyaanam kaaranam bhanda mokchayo - it is the mind which is the cause of bondage and liberation of men. So it is the mind that is born and dies and it is the mind that is the cause of bondage and liberation. So it is not necessary to have an Atman to reincarnate, be in bondage and liberated. So this question asked by Hindu laymen (and sometimes even scholars, as we have seen) is a non-question based on misconception of both Buddhist and Hindu view.

Understanding Sankaracharya More Deeply

The Vedantic texts also make it clear that this Witness/Watcher is the Seer/Knower of what is called the p ancha koshas (the fives sheaths/body that cover it). Sankarcharya writers in this Tatvabodha verse 10:  Atman Kah? - what is the Atman?

And he answers:

Sthula sukchma kaarana shariraad vyatirikta - separate from the gross, subtle and causal body

Pancha koshaatita - beyond the five sheaths

Avastha traya saakchi - the witness of the three states

Sadchidaananda swaruparu san - that which is of the nature of real existence, awareness and bliss

Yastisthati sa atman - that which remains like this is the atman

Now what are the  pancha kosha? Again, Sri Sankaracharya himself says in this Tatvabod verse 20:  Panchakosha ke? - what are the five sheaths?

And answers:

Annamaya - the body of food;  pranamaya - the body  prana or energy-winds;  manomaya - the mental body;  vigyanmana - the body of consciousness;  anandamaya - the body of bliss.

Now, with this in the background, we can easily see that enlightenment or liberation according to the Vedanta and thus most of Hinduism is recognizing that my true nature is the Watcher-Atman, which is eternal, unchanging and really existing, and the one who knows this experience becomes free from suffering -  Tarati shokamaatmavid - the knower of the atman become free from suffering. Thus, from this we can easily say that Avidhya (ignorance, nescience) according to the Vedantic system is basically not knowing that you are the Atman, the Watcher/Witness/Knower of the five sheaths, three states and three bodies.

Now, Sri Sankaracharya makes it very clear in his Aporkchyaanubhuti verse 11 that enlightenment does not arise without enquiry into the truth -  notpadhya te binna gyanam vicharena anya sadhanai. This verse makes it clear that Sankaracharya is very clear about that fact that mere repetition of mantra or practice of any other kind of yogic meditation does not produce enlightenment without proper Vedantic enquiry into what is the Atman. The very next verse (verse 12), he elucidates what he means by enquiry ( vichara) -  koham? - or who am I;  kathanidam jaatam - or how is this world created, who is the creator of what material is in this world made. This is the way of enquiry - or  vichara marga.

Now, this flies in the face of almost all prevalent Hindu systems which claim that this secret meditation or that secret mantra when practiced or chanted leads to enlightenment or liberation. In this point, Sri Sankaracharya is closer to the Buddhist view than to any other Hindu systems. It is indeed the mark of the confused times that the majority of the Hindu practice either just repetition of mantras based on the concept:  japaad siddhi japaad siddhi japaad siddhina sanksaya - ( one attains enlightenment/liberation by merely repeating the mantra (japa) again and again there is no doubt about this) or practice of all kinds of secret yogic meditation believing that once you attain Samadhi in the yogic meditation, one will be enlightened or liberated, and at the same time with the same breath declare that they are the followers of Sankaracharya.

Sankara does not believe that any japa of no matter what God or Goddess or any form of meditation alone can liberate a person, as verse 11 of Aporkchyaanubhut makes it amply clear. The word  anya sadhanai - means other sadhanas or practice along without enquiring -  bina vicharena - will not and cannot liberate.

If anybody meditates regularly according to any system of authentic, genuine meditation or practices with consistency the chanting of any mantra, the energetic system within the person becomes harmonized and thus the person tends to look brighter, more calmer, and relaxed than the average person. But this can only be a support to the main practice of  vichar marga for Sankara.

Sankara and Other Hindu Thoughts

A calm and composed mind is certainly a great aid but does not lead automatically to enlightenment even according to the hindu Sankaracharya himself. When the mind is calm and composed, the person begins to automatically emanate an aura around him felt by many as a kind of brightness in his face etc. However, no matter how bright the person may become or look, it does not automatically lead to liberation or enlightenment, nor is it tantamount to enlightenment according to Sankaracharya.

Now with this in the background, let us compare Sankara (who is considered to be the cream of Hinduism by the majority of Indian scholars past and present) with the Buddhist view of enlightenment, ignorance, liberation, etc. But before we compare the two and distinguish the similarity and differences, I would like to take up another school of Hinduism which claims to be different from Sankaracharya's school of vedanta but in essence appears to be just repeating Sankaracharya's teaching in another form with changes in the minor nity grities. This is the Advaita Shaivagama group of Kashmir which includes schools like the Trika sampradaya, kaula Sampradaya, Cchoma sampradaya and many others. I do not meant there are absolutely no differences between the Kashmir Shaivadvaita (Shaiva - non-dual) school and the Sankara school, but the essential view or principal is the same and the differences are only in minor details.

The Shiva Sutra Verse 7 says:  jagrat svapna susupta bhede turyaabhoga sambhava - the Fourth (i.e. the Witness/watcher/Knower etc.) exists separate from the waking, dream and dreamless states.

Now, if you have read what has gone before in these articles, you can easily recognize that the Shaivadvaita School is again talking about the same thing. Only here it is called the Fourth ( turiya) as opposed to the three (walking, dream and dreamless state).

Furthermore, Khemraj, the famous commentator of the Shaivagam School in his commentary of the Sutra 13 of the  Pratyabhaigya Hridayam Sutra, which says: "when the individual consciousness (the Watcher/Witness/Knower) by inward movement (recognizing itself) becomes chiti, the universal consciousness"; comments - the  chitta giving up the limiting tendency of extroversion( that is looking out towards the world) becomes introverted (that is looks at itself) and rises to the status of  cetana -ie- to the status of the knowing subject (the Watcher/Witness/Knower) becomes  chiti (universal consciousness). And this consciousness or the Fourth state or this Watcher/Witness/Knower is called  Sambhava or  Siva or  Parasamvrt, etc. etc.

The difference between the Sankara Vedanta and this form of the Non-dualistic Shaivagama (which means Shaiva tantra in general) is not in the nature of the Atman but in how the rest of the world is taken. But we shan't go into it here as it is not relevant to our purpose. Anyway, in both the systems the Watcher/Knower/Witness is called the Atman, albeit the terminologies used are different. The words Watcher/witness/Knower/Seer are all Vedantic terminologies but the same thing is called Parasamvit, Turya state (the Fourth State),Chiti, Sambhava or sometimes Shiva etc in the Shaiva School.

The  Malinivijaya Tantra quoted by the famous Khemraj calls this same Watcher the  Pramatat -ie- the Knower or the subject of the waking, dream and dreamless state, and this Fourth state, which is the Knower of the 3 states -ie- the  Turiya. And Khemraj in the same Tantra states:  Mokchyohinam naivaanyaha swarupa prathanamhitat - mokcha or liberation is nothing else but the awareness of one's true nature.

In the Bhagwat Gita too, in the thirteenth chapter verse one, it says: ' Idam shariram kaunteya ksetramityaa bhidhiyate' - this body, O son of Kunti, is called the  Kshetra (field or object known).

And further: ' Etadayo vetti tam prahuh Ksetragya iti tadvidah: him who knows this  Kshetra, the wise ones call the Kshetragya (Knower of the field/body/object).

And the verse 22 of the same chapter 13 of the Bhagvat Gita, it is called  upadrasta - Spectator, which means of course the Watcher/Witness/ Knower /Seer. Sankaracharya, in his  Shariraka  Bhaasya (The shariraka commentary) on the Brahman Sutra writes that the  upadrasta (the Spectator) means a bystander and a witness himself not acting.

More on Atman from Different Hindu Philosophies 

The Avadhoot Gita of Dattatreya says in Chapter 1 verse 7:  Aham evaavyago ananta: suddha vigya vigvaha - I am the unchanging, unlimited pure awareness, watcher, witness. Again, we can see that we are talking here about the same watcher, witness, knower, etc.

Then again the first chapter, verse 3 of the famous Astavakva Gita says:  Na prithivi najalam naagnir na vaayur dhaur na va bhavaan eshaam sakchinaatmaanam chidrupam vidhi muktaye - you are neither the element of earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air, nor space. In order to attain liberation, know the self ( atman) as the witness of all these and as awareness consciousness itself.

It goes on to the next verse and says:  yedi deham prithak kritya chiti vishraamya tishthasi adhunaiva sukhi saanto banda mukto bhavishyas - which means if you detach yourself or separate yourself from the body and rest in consciousness, awareness, witness, watcher (the word chiti used here is also used as we have seen in the Shiva Sutra, etc.) - you will at once be happy, peaceful and free from bondage.

And in verse 5 of the 1 st chapter of the Astavakra Gita, it says: you are  viswa sakchi.. ie- the witness of the world (the world of waking, dream and dreamless states). So again we have the same concept clarified in another later text. In verse 7 again Astavakra says: 'you are the one watcher, seer -  eko drashataasi sarvasya - you are the one seer, watcher of all.

This continues with:  Ayam eva hi te bhandho - verily this alone is your bondage. Furthermore:  drashtaara pashyati taram - that you see yourself not as the seer, watcher, witness but as something other. Then again, the Yogavasitha in verse 72, the tenth sarga says the atman is called  sakchi -witness - and  chidakarh - the space of awareness.

It is very clear from all the above examples that within all forms of Hinduism, which advocate Advaitism (non-dualism) - the watcher, witness, knower is the  atman, and ignorance is not recognizing it as ones true nature, and liberation of enlightenment is attained by the experiential recognition of this watcher. Merely intellectual knowing or understanding is not what was meant by  vichar marga of Sankaracharya. The key point is to recognize the watcher as your true self experientially.

So in summary, the Vedantic School of Sankaracharya is specific and all other schools of Hinduism, which propounds non-dualism, the watcher, witness, knower, seer of the internal and external (the three states of waking, dreaming and dreamless, and the five sheaths or pancha koshas which covers the watcher) is the true state. Not knowing that this very watcher, witness, knower, seer that knows the world as ones true nature and thus identifying with something else ( anatma) is nescience, ignorance ( avidhya, agyan). And recognizing, knowing directly ( aparackchyanu bhuti) that this watcher, witness, knower, seer is my true self ( atman) is enlightenment and liberation ( bodh and  mukti). And it is this knowledge ( gyan) of the true nature of my self ( atman) which is called self-realization ( atman-gyan). And it is this self-realization that frees me from suffering. With this in the background, we shall now compare Buddhism and Hinduism to see how their premises, their paradigm and their views about these things are not only different but at certain points even diametrically opposed. We have already seen what Buddhism says about enlightenment, liberation, etc. etc. Now, let us compare the two.

Comparing Vedantic Mahavastu and Buddhist Vigyan Skanda

Now, let us compare the two systems. We have seen that the Vedantic Hinduism posits an  Atman, which is truly existing in the sense that it remains unchanging in all the three times of past, present and future. And, again this  Atman is the Watcher/Witness/Knower/Seer of the world which consists of the three worlds of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, and the five sheathes/bodies. It has an ontological existence, which simply means it exists as an entity a thing. In fact, the Vedanta uses the term  Mahavastu, which could be loosely translated as the Great Entity/Thing. We have also seen that the brunt of the proof that this Watcher/Witness/Knower/Seer is unchanging in the three times and thus really existing ontologically is the experiential fact that this 'I-Watcher' clearly remembers himself/herself having experienced all of the three states.

Now, we need to digress a little bit here to clarify a few points before we give the Buddhist take on this. Epistemologically, Buddhism has been accused by Hindu philosophers of either having no such thing as an Awareness and thus subscribing to a blank Unaware, Unconscious state because it subscribes to  Anatman or  Sunyata (non-self or emptiness), and thus calling liberation or enlightenment an unconscious blank state. Many Hindu scholars believe and have written from ancient times until today that either Buddhism subscribes to some kind of an Unaware, Unconscious state (like the Nayayikas of their own school to whom liberation is an unconscious state) and that is what the Buddhists means by  Anatman (non-self) or  Sunyata (emptiness), or the Buddhists are just writing the negative words like  Anantman and Sunyata to describe exactly the same  Atman-Watcher.

Even as early as 300 AD, Vatsayana, the Hindu scholar, quoted the  Bhaarahaara Sutra to try to show that the Buddha actually taught the Atman but the Buddhist did not understand him. This  sutra is found in the  Samyutta Nikaya of the Theravada School and the  Samyukta Agama of the Sarvastivada School. But needless to say Vatsayana (like later Hindu scholars) totally misinterpreted the  sutra and gave it his own interpretation. This is a tendency we find amongst Hindu scholars from the earliest times to the present time. Even sankaracharya is not free from this fault when he talks about the buddhist sunyata and other such related topics.

It is absolutely a mistaken interpretation of the Buddha's teachings to believe or interpret that  Anatman means no-awareness or unconsciousness. What the Vedantic system of Hinduism calls the Watcher/Witness/Knower/Seer/Awareness, the Buddhist call it the Vigyan Skanda. Asanga in his  Abdidharma Samuccaye, asks in the first chapter called  Lakskyana Samuccaya (the compendium of characteristics) - "what is the characteristics of  Vigyan (awareness/consciousness)?"

He answers it as: "knowing is the characteristic of consciousness/awareness. It is conscious/aware/knowing by virtue of which one knows visible form, sound, odor, taste, the tangible, mental objects and various realms.

In short,  Vigyana (awareness/knowing/consciousness) is the process of knowing the world."

Now, this is exactly what the Watcher/Witness/Awareness/Knower -  Atman of the Vedanta is, isn't it? But there are very subtle differences here which need to be clarified as they result in very different realizations. First of all, the Hindu Watcher/Witness/Knower is an ontological entity and within the Vedanta itself, it is called the Great Entity ( Mahavastu), to distinguish it from other lower materialistic entities. Nevertheless, it is an entity/thing that exists unchanged within the three times of past, present, and future.

Other so called materialistic entities change and do not remain the same in all the three times (past, present, future). But this Watcher Self (Atman) never changes and this is why even though it is still an entity, it is The Great Entity, or The Entity of all entity ( Mahavastu). We will continue this discussion in the next article.

Comparing Vedantic Mahavastu and Buddhist Vigyan Skanda – Part II

Compare to the  Mahavastu (or  Atman), the  Vigyana Skanda of Buddhism is more a process that is ever changing moment to moment ( cchyana bhangura). We have already seen in quite a detail how this knowing is continuously changing and is a continuum ( sanskrit-santaana) rather than an unchanging entity per se. But as this point is rather subtle and tends to go against the grain of what is considered normal, so let us look at it again.

The Vedantic system uses the fact of memory to prove that it is the same Knower-Self which remains unchanged throught out the three times. We have seen this logic in quite a detail, so we shall not reiterate it again. But Buddhism does not agree with this Vedantic logic. In fact to Buddhism, it is a false logic and actually that fact of memory itself proves to the contrary that the so-called Knower/Watcher/Witness changes and thus it is a process of knowing, watching, witnessing that is happening rather than there being an unchanging Watcher/Knower/Witness.

How? Well, let us go into it now. If the mind experiences the grandeur of the Himalayan Mountain that moment the mind ( Vigyana - or that Watcher/Witness/Knower/Seer/Awarenesr) is defined by that 'grand Himalayan Mountain' which it sees at that moment. Let me use the Vedantic terminology to clarify the point - at that moment it is the Watcher/Witness/Knower/Seer/awareness of that scenery of 'the grand Himalayan Mountain'. If it was not seeing, watching, knowing, witnessing 'the grand Himalayan Mountain', it would not be the Watcher/Seer/Knower/Witness of the Grand Himalayan Mountain but of something else. Now here is the catch. If this Watcher of the Grand Himalayan Mountain were to be' sat' (really existing) and thus remain unchanged in the past, present and future - i.e. - remain eternally unchanging, then this Watcher/Knower/Witness/Seer would be eternally knowing, seeing, watching, witnessing the grand Himalayan Mountain. But this is not what happens in real time, does it?

If the Knower of the bird's chirping were to be eternally unchanging, you and I would be locked in the knowing/hearing of the birds chirping forever and ever. Again, that does not happen experientially in the real time world to anyone except perhaps to some rare psychotics. With this in the background, let us take up the 'memory-logic' that the Vedantic texts employ to prove the eternally unchanging Watcher-Self ( Atman).

When 'I' the Knower/Watcher/Seer/Witness knows the memory of the experience of the Grand Himalayas that the 'I-Knower' had yesterday,the 'I-Knower' is no more knowing or watching, seeing, witnessing the grand Himalayan Mountain but rather watching, knowing, witnessing, seeing the memory of the experience that the 'I-knower' had yesterday. In simple language, my experience of what I call the remembrance of the grand Himalayan Mountain is not and cannot be the same as the actual experience I had yesterday of the grand Himalayan Mountain. I don't think I need to debate this point too elaborately. No sane women in her sense would or could possibly say that they are exactly the same experiences.

Now, if these two examples (one of the actual mountain and the other of the memory of these mountains) are not exactly the same, then we have a problem here. A knower is defined by what it knows. There can be no knower who does not know something or the other. If there is nothing known there can be no knower, because a knower implies automatically something known even if that something is an absence ( abhava). If there is nothing to know, how can there be a knower? A knower of what? We cannot possibly have a not-knowing knower, a knower who does not, cannot, know/see/watch/witness, can we? So every knower even the knower of absence ( abhava) is defined by what it knows. Many people think an absence (abhaava) is not a thing to be known but that's not accurate. We can know the absence of an object equally as well as the object itself. Thus the famous buddhist logician Dharmakirti who changed the face of the logic system (Pramana shastra) in the Indian subcontinent says absence is also a 'thing' to be known like presence.

Atman Conscious or Unconscious

If the Knower of the table or anything else is eternally unchanging, it would be eternally knowing the table as that is what this Knower of the table is. If the so called Knower stops seeing/knowing/watching/witnessing the table by that very act, it no more is the 'Knower of the table' and thus has changed. A really existing, eternally unchanging knower by definition cannot and should not change, but the real 'Knower' of our experiences obviously changes moment to moment to moment. In fact, not only that, the very logic of the memory - that the 'Knower' is unchanging actually itself is a proof that the 'Knower' has changed. The Knower of the mountain has changed to the Knower of the memory.

We cannot call the Knower of the mountain unchanging, eternal ( sat=really existing). If it were  sat (really existing), it would and could not possibly change. Thus, it would be seeing/knowing the mountain eternally and when it comes to know/see something else, then it has changed and thus cannot be called unchanging ( aparinaami), and thus cannot be called  sat (really existing).

Now to boycott this problem, the Vedanta claims that it is the mind that knows the experiences, etc, and does change, but the  Atman is beyond this mind and it does not change in any way whatsoever. However, this concept to escape the problem pointed out by the Buddhists brings in more problems than it solves. It actually opens up the Pandora's Box.

First of all, since it is this changing mind/awareness that knows, it would be necessary to ask - does the  Atman also know at all, is it aware, is it cognizant, or is it unconscious like a lump of mud? This is perhaps the reason why the  Nyaiyayikas (the logicians amongst Hindus) actually claimed that their  Atman was actually unconscious. Actually, this is a very logical conclusion. We have to make it unconscious if we accept that the knowing mind is changing and, however, there still is an unchanging Atman. Otherwise, there would be a problem of two Knower-s. One Knower is supposed to be the mind or consciousness or awareness that knows/sees/hears etc. all the knowable things, and the other knower is the cognizant knowing  Atman.

First of all, nobody ever experiences two Knower-s experiencing either the same thing or two different things at the same time or moment. Simple epistemological experience tells us that there is only one Knower ,or more accurately in the Buddhist sense,only one knowing process going on here, unless the person was mentally sick or psychotic and even then it would only be an illusion of two Knower-s, not actually two Knower-s etc. The epistemic actuality is that no one can possibly even experience two Knower-s (or two knowing process) at the same time/moment in terms of experience.

Secondly, even if we were to concede that there are actually two Knower-s -ie- one the changing mind and the second the unchanging Non-dualistic Atman/Knower - that would bring about a series of unwanted consequences. For one, what does this unchanging, Non-dualistic Knower/Awareness/Cognizance know? I've used the world Non-dualistic ( advaita) as that is the word used by the Vedantic system to describe this  Atman.

The  Chandogya Upanishad, which is supposed to have been dated anywhere from 800 BC to 1200 BC uses the phrase ' dritiyam Nasti', which means there is no second or other. This  Atman is non-dual. The world Non-dual is used in Buddhism too through  Nagarjunaspecifically and this has confused many Hindu  Panditas and we shall deal with this later when the time comes.

So going back to the Knower-Atman - what does it know? This question's answer would have to be unlike the Hindu  Nyaiyayikas (logicians). The Vedanta does not agree that the  Atman is unconscious. And rightly too, because that would open up other consequences from the Pandora's Box. More on this later.

Liberation through conscious Atman, unconscious Atman or with changing mind 

If the Atman is unconscious then what kind of liberation is this Unconscious liberation? How can an unconscious state be even considered a form of enlightenment? The Sanskrit word for  gyan implies knowledge. The Tibetan word  yeshe is a translation of  gyan. Of course, there are many kinds of  gyan but in the context of the  Vedanta Gyan it always means knowing ones true self. We have already seen that Sankaracharya has defined Atman as  sad-chit-ananda swarup - which is of the nature of really existing ( sad), knowing ( chit). So  Atmancan never be considered as an unconscious state. Also, if liberation could be achieved by becoming unconscious then all one had to do is hammer ones head to become liberated and enlightened. But this is absurd and that is why the Vedanta or for that matter most of Hinduism cannot subscribe to that thesis.

But if the  Atman is also a Knower besides the changing Knower-mind, the natural question is what does it know? If it knows something else different from the knowing mind, then there are two Knower-s who know two different things. Now, any sane person can easily see that no such dual epistemic experience is happening here right now. In fact, there is and can be only one knowing process going at any one moment. Of course, two Knower-s knowing two different things at the same time would indeed create a lot of problems in our daily life. Fortunately, for both Vedantins and Non-Vedantins alike, no such things happen.

Now, you could also say that this unchanging  Atman Knower knows the knowing of the changing Knower mind; that it knows that the mind is knowing. However, this attempt to escape the situation is also flawed and just creates more consequences, since the mind is changing moment to moment in the sense that it knows different things moment to moment, so if the unchanging  Atman knows what this changing mind knows, it too would be changing. Otherwise, the same problem of knowing only one moment of knowing of the mind forever would be equally applicable here. In short, the same 'logic of consequence' (prasanga) that we applied to the changing Knower mind to show that it had to be changing would now be squarely applied to the so called second Knower, the Knower of the mind. Again, we come with a second changing Knower.

Now, let us digress a bit here. Some Hindu laymen who have evidently not studied their own scriptures well enough may be tempted to say 'so what'? Why can't we call the Changing-knower my true self ( Atman) and rest the whole issue there? There are two faults here. One is that it goes against their own scriptures and is thus an uneducated attempt by a layman to save his  Atman. No Hindu scripture agree to that. As we have seen very clearly the word  Atman by definition is an Unchanging Self/Entity. This is what is meant by  Atman by all forms of Hindu  Sutras and  Shastras. There is not even one orthodox Hindu scripture which defines the  Atman as the changing Knower. So you cannot claim yourself to be a Hindu and buy that logic that why can't we call the changing knower mind the Atman.

In fact to claim that the changing Knower is what I mean by 'I' ( Atman) is a Buddhist thesis and thus you agree that there is no unchanging 'I'/Self/ Atman. If you agree to that, you have agreed with the Buddhist thesis and relinquished your old Hindu unchanging Atman view. We'll continue this in the next article.

Understanding the difference between the concept Atman and Anatman

If you agree that it is the Changing Knower mind by which you mean 'I' ( Atman), here you also agree that there is no unchanging 'I', and thus you have made a somersault and landed squarely on the grounds of the Buddhist  Anatman, which means you have agreed that there is no unchanging Knower  Atman but only a changing process of knowing. If you would like to call this changing process of knowing as the 'I' that's perfectly fine as long as you understand it's implication.

First of all, you are agreeing that this 'I' is a process and not an entity/substance/thing. Secondly, this 'I', being a process/function, is changing. Thus, in actuality, it is more an 'I-ing' procedd than an 'I entity' as such. Thirdly, this 'I' is a separate changed 'I' every moment and not the same 'I- Atman' which we all seem to believe exists due to the power of nescience/ Avidya/Marigpa. There fore, as Buddhism says and implies, and I've mentioned before, this 'I' is a verb (process/function) rather than a noun (entity). But if you want to stick to the Hindu thesis, you cannot possibly agree to all of this. But if you do not agree to all this then you have to answer the questions brought forward by all the consequences of believing in an Unchanging, eternal, really existing 'I- Atman', which is the Hindu thesis.

Now, let us go back to the Buddhist thesis of  Anatman, which seems to have created a lot of confusion in Hindu circles from the earliest times. In fact, even the most learned Hindu Panditas and Siddhas have failed to understand what exactly did the Buddhist mean by Anatman and why it is so important to understand this to attain the Buddhist enlightenment, and last but not least, what are all the implications of  Anatman.

First of all, it is paramount to make it clear here even though it has already been explained again and again for the last couple of issues that  Atman means an Unchanging, Eternal, Really existing 'I' or 'Self'. It is in this context that the word  Anatman is used in the Buddhist sense. So in short  Anatman means that there is no Unchanging, Eternal, Really Existing Self. This does not mean that there is no 'I' or 'Self' of any kind at all, but rather that no Unchangingly same, Eternal, Really Existing Self is to be found anywhere. We have already said that the word ' sat', which is part of the definition of  Atman ( sat-chit-ananda), means that which remains unchangingly the same in all the three times (past-present and future), and this also is the definition of something that really exists. The  Atman or  Braman (which is the macrocosmic  Atman) has what is called  Paramartha Satta (ultimate existence) and is therefore  Paramartha Sat (Ultimately Really Existing, which means remaining unchangingly the same in all three times). We have to understand the Buddhist concept of  Anatman is this context.

Now, we have already seen that there can be no 'unchangingly the same' Knower but rather a process of knowing that is continuously changing. A process of knowing that is continually changing moment to moment to moment cannot be called the same unchanging entity/thing and thus this continuum of knowing (mental continuum -  chitta Santana) cannot be called the  Atman. Also, from another logical angle an Unchanging Knower cannot function, for to function means to change. Something that cannot and does not change at all (as the word sat implies) cannot function in anyway whatsoever.

So again Buddhism does not deny a continuum of knowing/continum of awareness/mental stream ( chitta Santana), but rejects that this mental stream ( chitta Santana) remains unchangingly the same ( sat).

Buddhist Concept of Chitta Santana

Buddhism does not deny that there is an epistemic process going on at all but does not agree that this epistemic process (knowing process/mental stream) has any real ontological existence (thing-ness/entity-ness). So the blame put upon the Buddhist by some  VedanticPanditas, like  Sankaracharya himself and many of his followers, that the Buddhist believe in an unconscious state as liberation, like their own Nyaiyayikas, is not only totally off the mark but also a gross misinterpretation of the Buddhist word  Anatman.

Whether it is dual or considered non-dual, an unchanging same Knower is non-functional and therefore useless so terminologically (in terms of liberation). How can a dual or non-dual Knower, which cannot function at all liberate us? This is the problem with the non-dual  Atman of the  Vedantin.

This brings us to a couple of points like non-dual, eternal etc. used by both the Buddhist and non-Buddhist like the  Vedantins, which has caused a lot of confusion amongst Hindu Panditas ancient and modern. So let us clarify this topic. But before clarifying this topic, we need to fully understand the Buddhist of  Santana (continuum or stream).

We have already used the word  Chitta Santana. Whenever Buddhists use the word  Chitta, it must be remembered that it always means Chitta Santana, which means stream of knowing, mental stream, or mental continuum. So what is a continuum? When we use the word Chitta alone, the illusion of language seems to create a false sense or meaning that there is an entity or thing called a ' Chitta', Mind, Consciousness, Awareness. Or in a more philosophically technical language, the word  chitta, mind, consciousness, awareness, automatically seems to imply that there is an ontologically entity which is pointed at by those nouns. But we have seen again and again that there is no such ontologically existing entity anywhere to be found, but rather only a process. This is one of the reasons why words have to be very clearly defined if we are to understand Buddhism. Then the question arises naturally, in that case, what is there? If we analyze the question 'then what is there?' we can perceive that the question itself implied by the word 'is there' is begging you to answer by showing another ontological entity in lieu of the one just refuted. This is the problem with the structure of language as we have seen before.

But the Buddhist answer to that question is not to point at another entity but to point at a process - a process of know that is continuous like a stream. Now, these words continuing like a stream needs to be explained. The word  Santana in Sanskrit means continuum, which is the Latin equivalent of  Santaanum. If you pronounce the 'c' as 's' (which is not really unheard of in English) the Latin word become Santinun, which is indeed very close to the Sanskrit word  Santana. These words mean a stream in English. If we look at a stream, which is flowing continuously, we get a good notion of what a  Santana or continuum mean.

When we go to the Bagmati River and point at it and say 'this is the Bagmati River' and then go next day and point at it and again say 'this is the Bagmati River', or even more appropriately 'this is indeed the same Bagmati River that I pointed at yesterday', we get a good idea here of all we have been discussing so far. 'This is the Bagmati River' imply that there really is an unchangingly same Bagmati River -ie-  sator really existing Bagmati River. Most people do not think twice about this and just assume that what those words and sentences imply are true, factual, actual or real. But is it?

Explaining the continuum

In a candle, the flame of one mini piece of wick and oil/wax droplet is being ignited by the flame of another mini-piece of wick and mini oil/wax droplet. The only difference in the case of two separate candles is that the flame of candle 'A' continues to burn as long as the wick or wax droplets last, even after it ignites another candle (another mini wick and droplet of wax). Whereas in a continuous candle, since the wick A and droplet A is finished at the moment it ignites wick B and droplet B, the flame of wick A and droplet dies out at the very moment it ignites wick B and droplet B and thus produces flame B, which did not exist when flame A existed.

When flame B is produced, flame A has gone but flame B comes immediately after flame A and thus flame C, D and F, G, H until the wick and the wax droplets are finished. Flames A, B, C, D... are not exactly the same unchanged flames however. One flows into another unceasingly, and this is what is meant by a continuum. In the electric bulb too, it seems like the same unchanging light is lighting the room, but if you know science we know that moment to moment to moment the electrons etc. are flowing, changing. Thus, this affects the photon light, and again produces a continuum rather than the same unchanging light. A continuos series of different photons create the illusion that a same unchanging photon (light) is there. Actually, a lot of things we think/feel/see/assume as the same entity remaining unchanged from the past to the present to the future are in reality continuums/ santana, that are changing/flowing from moment to moment.

Take for example our body. We all feel/think/assume that this is the same body from cradle to grave. Yet even a little enquiry exposes this assumption. A one foot 5-6 kg body cannot be the same one as a looming six footer teenage weighing 80 or 90 kg, and that cannot by any means be the same body as a doddering old senile man. And yet each and every one of us seem to have a gut feeling that it is indeed the same body, from the cradle to the coffin. The example I just gave is quite obvious, in that the body is seen to change quite drastically from the cradle to the coffin, although we all still seem to feel it's the same body which by implication would mean unchanged.

What is not so obvious is that this so called same body is actually changing moment to moment like a continuum at the atomic/molecular/cellular/tissue level and thus the body is more like a point in the river of the flow of atoms that we point at and say 'this is the Bagmati River/this is Ram Lal'. Not only that but actually different parts of body like the kidney, liver, stomach, etc. etc. all have their entire cells changed at various periods, like one week, one month, one year, etc. So even the kidney that I was born with has completely become a new set of kidneys (another different kidney) many times over by the time I'm eighty,  nay even the next second in some ways.

So what we have again is a continuum of atoms, called tissues rather than an unchanging same body. However, to all appearance, it does seem to be the same body today which was there yesterday - not very different from the Bagmati River. So this is the meaning of continuum/ santanam, and Buddhism firmly believes in a mind continuum be it dualistic or non-dualistic but not in an unchanging conscious entity.

Clarification of ‘Eternal Unchanging’ and ‘Eternal Changing’ Views

There are many words used both in Hinduism and Buddhism which can create confusion in this context, like the Atman is eternal ( nitya) but it is an unchangingly eternal ( saswat nitya, apannaminity), and the mind, consciousness or awareness is also eternal ( nitya) in Buddhism but it is a changing eternal ( parinami nitya). What changing eternal ( parinami nitya) means is that the continuum never ends, never ceases, but it is changing moment to moment to moment. So it is not exactly the same from the past to the present to the future -i.e.- it is not really existing ( sat).

Now the question may arise well if both the systems believe in an eternal awareness, what difference does it make if we consider it an unchanging eternal ( saswat eternal) as a changing eternal ( parinami nitya)? Isn't a rose a rose by whatever name you may call it? That is a good question, pertinent here, and we need to go into it in detail for this is not about quibbling about words only.

To understand Buddhism, it is extremely important to understand why it believes that one cannot become enlightened in the Buddhist sense unless you have what Buddhism calls the correct view ( Samyag darshan/drishti). In the eight fold path ( Astangika marga) that the Buddha laid out, the correct view is the first of the eight aspects of the correct path. Within Hinduism, the Sankara Vedanta is the only form of system which says you must have the correct view. I'm using Buddhist terminology here(correct view) but Sankara is very clear that you cannot become enlightened in the Vedantic sense without correctly knowing the  Atman according to the Vedanta, and merely mediating will not liberate you. Other forms of meditations within Hinduism believe that one technique or other technique of meditation will automatically help you become enlightened. Well this is a complete No! NO! within all forms of Buddhism.

There are two parts to be made clear here. One is that it is a clear Buddhist point of view that one cannot gain the Buddhist enlightenment without starting out and imprinting your meditation with the correct view ( Samyag darshan or  Tawa in Tibetan). Buddhism does not agree that merely meditating using some super-duper secret method will shower down that Buddhist enlightenment for you. Secondly, and this too needs to be cleared for a lot of non-Buddhist Gurus, that no form of Buddhism agrees that the Vedantic view of the Atman (which includes automatically the teachings of the Bhagwat Gita, Braman Sutra and Upanishads) will or can ever give you the Buddhist enlightenment.

There are unfortunately a lot of non-Buddhist Gurus out there in the spiritual bazaar of the Indian Subcontinent who go about falsely teaching and confusing a lot of genuine spiritual seekers. They claim that the Bhagwat Gita, which teaches the realization of the Atman as enlightenment or liberation, or some other Hindu spiritual text, which also claims that the realization of the  Atman (Atman Gyan) is the liberation or enlightenment; that these teach exactly the same teachings as the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught  Anatma as the acme of enlightenment, liberation or realization. Needless to say such Gurus have not really studied Buddhism from any authentic lineage Masters or read any authentic  Sutras and  Sastras of Buddhism. And perhaps they haven't studied their own scriptures properly with any of the Panditas too. I again challenge such gurus to prove me wrong by proving their part of the view that the Bhagwat Gita, etc. etc. teaches what the Buddha taught, by using quotations from actual  Sutras and  Sastras of both systems.

Importance of Correct View in Meditation

Going back to Buddhism, the correct view is paramount to Buddhism. Buddhism does not agree to any system which claims that you don't need to get the correct view first but rather you can just meditate using any form or technique (or for that matter this or that super duper secret method) and you will become enlightened, liberated or gain realisation.

There are various reasons why such an idea that one can become enlightened without the aid of any view but just doing one form or the other meditation is enough. First and foremost, this means that meditation can produce enlightenment or liberation, etc. Now, there is a problem with this, and it is a rather big problem that most non-Buddhist Gurus do not realize when they claim (directly or indirectly) that a correct view is not necessary but rather their particular brand of meditation will produce enlightenment automatically (quickly or slowly as the case maybe). What that means is that enlightenment is produced by the meditation and is thus a created thing ( sanskrita) or a conditioned thing, rather than an unconditioned state or uncreated state. Now this opens up the Pandora's box.

If enlightenment is a product of a certain type of meditation, it can always end as it is created ( utpada) and all created things end and this is a point all systems of the Indian subcontinent (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) agrees to as does any formal logic system. If this enlightenment can end, then it is not the final liberation from suffering of  sansara. Then such an enlightenment would at the best be only a temporary solution. This mistake I call the fallacy of the technique is a fallacy many practitioners fall into.

By fallacy of the technique I mean the belief that any technique can give us enlightenment. That is an absurd idea many Gurus subscribe to without realizing what pitfalls they have fallen into. It is absurd because that is tantamount to saying that this special technique or that super duper meditation technique can and will produce enlightenment and that would automatically make enlightenment a product that can be produced by a special technique. If enlightenment is a product then like all produced things, it would be impermanent and thus a source of suffering itself.

The second reason why this concept is absurd and is not subscribed to by any form of authentic Buddhism is that it should be understood that meditation of any kind, no matter how super duper secret it may be or may have been, can only be a vehicle. Like all vehicles, it can take you to a place but a vehicle by itself cannot have any direction on its own. For example, a car can take you to a place but it cannot take you to that place without someone or something giving it direction. Just jumping on a car and starting it cannot take you to either Godavari (South Kathmandu) or Budanilkantha(North Kathmandu). The car can take you to either of the opposite end but we cannot claim that reaching Godavari is the same as reaching Budanilkantha. Whether you reach Godavari, which is in the south of the Kathmandu Valley, or you reach Budanilkantha, which is in the north of the Kathmandu Valley, depends on which direction the car is taken by the driver. This is where the view comes in. The view is the direction the meditation goes or is taken to by the driver, which is the mind in this car. If the driver takes the car to the direction of Godavari, the car will take you to Godavari, but not to Budanilkantha, which is in the opposite direction. However, if the driver drives the car in the direction of Budanilkantha, you cannot possibly expect to arrive at Godavari, can you? In the same way, the view is a compass which gives the direction the mediation will take you and this is where you will arrive.

Sahaja Atman Graha or Spontaneous Grasping to Non-Existence Atman

The view is a compass which gives the direction the meditation will take you and that is where you will arrive. So if you have the view of an Atman, consciously by studying the Vedantic literature, or unconsciously as all people will have spontaneously due to Ignorance, Avidya, then your vehicle (meditation) will take you to the realization of the Atman (whatever that may mean to you consciously or unconsciously).

If you use your mediation to see through the fact that there is no Atman (Anatman) then that is where your vehicle will take you. As long as we are under the influence of Avidya of ignorance, we will continue to have the view in one form or other that there is an Atman, Self in one form or the other. So even if you have never studied or understood the Vedantic Atman, you will automatically have deep down at a subconscious level the concept, belief or view of an Atman in one form or another.

This is what is meant by Sahaja Atman Graha in Buddhism, which can be loosely translated as spontaneous clinging or grasping to the concept of an Atman or Self/Soul. The spontaneous clinging or grasping to the concept of an Atman, which here is more at an unconsciou level but also includes a conscious concept as in the Vedantic system, are all aspects of Ignorance, Nescience, Avidya, Agyan according to Buddhism.

Many Non-Buddhists Gurus that claim to teach Buddhism have also not understood this point of Nescience. So even if you haven't studied the Vedanta, all sentient beings have an innate concept of a Self, Atman and they grasp or cling to this concept of a Self, Atman spontaneously or innately due to the very Ignorance, Nescience, Avidya. And that means even those who think they do not have any view at all as they have neither studied Buddhist or the Vedanta will automatically have Sahaja Atman Graha. Meditation with that view in the background as the guiding principle will and can only take you further and further into the mire of Sahaja Atman Graha, or innate grasping to the concept of a self.

Now what is this Sahaja Atman Graha, which according to Buddhism is the root cause of Ignorance, Nescience or Avidya? Atman means self. This self includes both the sense of an 'I' that seems so inherent in all sentient beings, and also what Buddhism would call a learned Higher Self with the capital 'S'. We call this learned because it is learned through scriptural sources like the Vedanta, etc. In the Vedantic tradition, this second self is called by various names like 'I-I' by Raman Maharishi or Atman, Braman in the more orthodox schools.

The Vedantic tradition negates the first sense of an 'I' and calls it Ahamkara (ego), but affirms that there is a higher 'I' beyond the ego, and this higher 'I' is sat-chit-ananda, as we have seen already in detail before. Buddhism says there is no such higher 'I' which is unchangingly eternal. In fact, this concept of an Atman existing somewhere up there in the ionosphere is Nescience and conducive to suffering. In the more orthodox lingua franca of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism, it is this very concept of an unchanging eternal Atman over and above the little 'I', ego, Ahamkara that is the cause of the cycle of birth and death and called Samsara.

All ‘I’ the source of Emotional Defilement

If you understand Ahamkara as the cause for the cycle of birth and death in Samsara, you already understand that according to Buddhism any meditation system based on the view of an Atman and geared towards the realization of the Atman will only fortify Nescience, Avidya, and why according to Buddhism the only liberation is the liberation from the Atman.

Now, let me go a little more into detail about this. First of all, all sentient beings have this innate sense of an 'I' which is called Sahaja Atman in Buddhist terminology. This is so innate that it continues to persist even in the dream state. It is unconscious and a person does not have to be learned or educated in the Vedantic system to feel this at gut level. Every living being experiences this whether s/he has heard of the word Atman or not. The Christian word Soul could come close to the Hindu Atman, and many Western Mystics and New Agers do use the word Over Soul or Higher Self. Now, this very sense of an 'I' when applied to the changing ephemeral psycho-physical system is considered to be the ego, Ahamkara, and where this very sense of an 'I' is applied to what Buddhism considers an imagined unchanged Knower, Watcher, Witness, it is called the Atman, Over Soul or Higher Self or the superconsciousness.

First of all we have seen clearly that there is no such Higher unchanging Knower, Witness, Watcher, Self and it cannot be found. Secondly, it is the very sense of an 'I' whether considered lower or higher which is the cause of being in the Samsara and thus suffering. Why is this cause of the suffering then?

First of all, when there is an 'I' that really exists (sat), which also means which is eternally the same unchanging entity, then this 'I' needs, wants, desires this or that entity out there. This is what is called greed (lobha) or desire, want (kamacchanda), or attachment. This is what is called Klesha, or emotional defilement as often translated in English. The English word 'emotional defilement', however, does not do full justice to the Sanskrit (or Pali) word Klesha or Kilesha. The Nepali word Klista which means complex difficult is derived from the same root as the word Klesha. It means that which creates difficulties, pain, suffering or we could also use the word complex in the way modern psychotherapy uses the words complexes and neurosis etc.

Greed, attachment, desires in the sense of strong attachment, etc. all cause suffering. They all disturb the mind and so they are called Klesha. And when there is any sense of an 'I' accepted as really existing, etc. it is natural for this really existing 'I' (whether this feeling is conscious, or learned through systems like the Vedanta, or it is an unconsciously assumed concept as found innately in all sentient beings) to want, desire or be greedy for things out there. This means that this sense of an 'I' when accepted as real tends to produce the Klesha called Lobha and Kamacchanda, which is one of the causes of suffering.

Then again I may desire, want or be greedy for this or that thing, but somebody else (another 'real-I') may also want, desire, or be greedy for exactly the same thing. Then I begin to dislike that other person (anger, dislike - dvesa, krodha) who seems to me to be trying to deprive me of what I want. Again, this is another klesha, emotiomal defilement which can only cause suffering and nothing else but suffering.

Different forms of Enlightenment Prevalent in Indian Subcontinent

This 'I' may not like or want a thing (lobha) or dislike a thing (dvesha) or may remain in a kind of dull, unclear state about things, a kind of stupor, hazy, unclear state and this is called Moha (stupor or unclear state). Many people mistake this as equanimity (upeckchya) of the enlightened state. But this is a state of un-clarity or of a dull stupor, where as the state of enlightened is clarity. Therefore, Moha is close to Avidhya, Nescience but can be easily mistaken for equanimity, contentment, enlightenment, etc. Many people in this culture mistake such a state of Moha to be enlightenment. And they consider people who live in a dull half-awake state lost to the world here and now as enlightened.

Well this is not Buddhist enlightenment. According to Buddhism, such a state is moha or delusion or stupor, or is a state of Nescience, Avidhya. In fact, commentaries on the Yoga Vasistha, a well known Hindu text of the Advaita genre, explains that as a person becomes more and more enlightened he gradually loses contact with the outer world and eventually cannot even eat or drink unless someone puts food, etc into his mouth. Many call such a person an Avadhuta.

But, needless to say, such a state where the person is lost in his own inner world and is oblivious of the here and now is by no means enlightened according to Buddhism. When we look at a rose we like it and want it for ourselves or hold on to it, this is lobha/ kaama- cchanda/raga (agreed/desire/attachment), when we see some shit or some person we don't like we hate it, dislike it want to get rid of it, this is dwesha/krodha (hatred/ anger) and when we see a simple pencil we neither like it nor dislike it, we remain neutral about it and this is moha (dullness /stupor/lack of clarity). This moha is not a state free from emotional defilement (klesha) but just another emotionally defiled state but many practitioners mistake this kind of state as some kind of an enlightened state/ a state of equanimity.

We have covered two different modes of enlightenment as found prevalent in the Indian Subcontinent nowadays. One is what I call the 'Super Awareness Enlightenment' where the Awareness by itself or the Knower, Watcher, Seer is called the enlightened state; and the other is this total oblivion of the outer world, being lost in some Awareness, Super Consciousness, etc. This second state is considered as the state of moha or stupor in Buddhist culture while the first is considered as being bogged down in a formless meditation which will create the causes of rebirth in one of the four formless Bramalokas (Brahma Realms) which for a Bodhisatva is worst than going to hell as kalpas are wasted in some kind of a blissfully state before rebirth again usually in one of the lower realms (durgati).

Therefore, it is very clear that no form of Hindu enlightenment, whether written in ancient texts like the Upanishads or later texts like the Bhagavat Gita or even later texts like the Yoga Vasistha can be equated with the Buddhist enlightenment, be it Shravak enlightenment or Bodhisatvayana enlightenment. Those Gurus coming from Hindu background who claim that what the Buddha taught is exactly what the Bhagavat Gita or some other Hindu text teaches obviously have not read their own Sutras and Sastras (scriptures) properly, and probably haven't read the first sentence of any Buddhist Sutras or Sastras. Otherwise they would not make such a confused claim.

Recapping Four Noble Truths 

We have spend a lot of time distinguishing the view of Hinduism from Buddhism, as the view is not only of the utmost importance within Buddhism (which cannot be said of all forms of Hinduism) but also in the Indian subcontinent, where Buddhism vanished for over eight hundred years, and because of that this kind of idea that Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism and the Buddha only taught the teaching in the Veda, and he only came to reform it, etc. etc., has become a household view held by almost every Hindu commoner and pandit. With such beliefs as the background it becomes paramount that these kinds of myths be dispelled before we can continue to elucidate what Buddhism is.

This point about the view is of the utmost important to Buddhism as it is intimately related to the second Noble Truth. We have already dealt with the First Noble Truth (Arya Satya), which is the fact that there is suffering, tension, anxiety, angst. All these words only give an aspect of the word Dukha, which is usually translated as suffering but this word does not really give all the nuances, innuendos and connotations of the word Dukha. As that was disused a very long time ago, perhaps we should go into it in a concise way again as a kind of refresher.

We said that the Buddha taught the Dukha Satya (the truth of suffering) as the first Noble Truth (Arya Satya). We described that in great details. Then we started on the Second Noble Truth which is the fact of Samudaya Satya or the truth of the root cause/origination of suffering. Then we said that Avidhya, Ignorance, Nescience is the cause of this suffering. We then said Nescience is the first chain or link of the twelve interdependent chain or Dwadas Nidan(twelve chains/links) or Dwadas Pratitya Samutpada( The twelve interdependendant origination).

Then we spend a long time describing what is Avidhay, Nescience according to Buddhism, until now. We have seen that what is considered Vidya or Knowledge (Gyan) by the Hindu system -viz- Atman is considered as the root of Nescience, Avidya or Agyan, and is called Sahaja Atman Graha. To explain this point we went into great details to clarify how the Atman of all forms of Hinduism is untenable to Buddhism and gave reasons why it is untenable. I have also invited any Hindu Panditas to refute what I have written so far. But only refutation based on actual Hindu Sutras or Sastras are acceptable, not personal ideas even if they are personal ideas of some former Gurus.

Understanding Suffering of Second Noble Truth with Pure Buddhist Perspective

So we have defined Avidhya as the innate grasping to the concept of a Self (Atman). And this is the first cause of suffering in the chain of twelve causations (Dwadas Pratitya Samutpad). Now, perhaps we should go a little more in details on the twelve chains of causations and how it is also intimately related to Vipashyana/Vipassana. So we first need to enlist the full twelve chains of causations and then explain in a simple way before we go into its implications. It is of paramount importance that we distinguish the two systems (Hinduism and Buddhism) and show their differences before we can really discuss Buddhism. Otherwise it becomes very easy to read whatever you study about Buddhism with the coloured goggles of the Hindu system. With that in the background now let us enter full-fledged into pure Buddhist idea, beliefs, practices and views.

So after finishing the first Noble Truth (Arya Satya), which is the truth of suffering (Dukya Satya), we now go into the second Noble Truth, the root or cause of suffering. Actually, we had already started on the second Noble Truth, and had gone into great details about Avidya (Nescience), which is the first condition (pratyaya) of the twelve chains of interdependent origination. While discussing Avidya (Nescience), we went into great details to distinguish the two views (the view of Hinduism and the view of Buddhism regarding what is Nescience (Avidhya/Agyan) and what is Wisdom/Knowledge (Gyana). And we have made it very clear that the two systems do not coincide regarding the view.

The general Hindu view can be summed as this: Nescience is not knowing that one's true nature is the Atman (Self), and Wisdom or Knowledge is recognizing one's true Self as Atman or the Atman as ones true self or True Nature.That is why within the Hindu system Enlightenment or Knowledge or wisdom is called Atman Gyan which means knowledge of the Atman or Knowledge of ones True Self. And the Buddhist view as a whole no matter what form of Buddhism one subscribes to is this: Nescience is believing that one has a True Self (Atman) and holding on to that (Atman Graha), which means spontaneous or innate grasping to the concept of a Self (Atman). Technically this is called Sahaja Atman Graha, which means spontaneous or innate grasping to the concept of a Self (Atman). Knowledge or Wisdom(gyana) is recognizing or seeing through directly (non-conceptually) that there is no such Atman anywhere to be found -ie- Anatman Gyan.

All forms of Buddhist practices and meditations are basically geared towards seeing directly (Vipashyana) that there is no such Self. And all forms of Hindu practices, mediations etc. is geared towards experiencing the very same Atman (Self). So to say that Hinduism or the Bhagvat Gita or any of it's scriptures teach exactly the same thing as what the Buddha taught is only to show how grossly ignorant one is regarding this matter.

With that in the background, we will now go into more detail about the twelve chain of interdependent origination, one which we had touched upon earlier to explain the Second Noble Truth, which is the truth of the origination, or cause of suffering (Dukha Samuchaya Satya).

Law of Interdependent Origination key to Understanding Buddhism

So we have defined Avidhya as the innate grasping to the concept of a Self (Atman). And this is the first cause of suffering in the chain of twelve causations (Dwadas Pratitya Samutpad). Now, perhaps we should go a little more in details on the twelve chains of causations and how it is also intimately related to Vipashyana/Vipassana. So we first need to enlist the full twelve chains of causations and then explain in a simple way before we go into its implications. It is of paramount importance that we distinguish the two systems (Hinduism and Buddhism) and show their differences before we can really discuss Buddhism. Otherwise it becomes very easy to read whatever you study about Buddhism with the coloured goggles of the Hindu system. With that in the background now let us enter full-fledged into pure Buddhist idea, beliefs, practices and views.

So after finishing the first Noble Truth (Arya Satya), which is the truth of suffering (Dukya Satya), we now go into the second Noble Truth, the root or cause of suffering. Actually, we had already started on the second Noble Truth, and had gone into great details about Avidya (Nescience), which is the first condition (pratyaya) of the twelve chains of interdependent origination. While discussing Avidya (Nescience), we went into great details to distinguish the two views (the view of Hinduism and the view of Buddhism regarding what is Nescience (Avidhya/Agyan) and what is Wisdom/Knowledge (Gyana). And we have made it very clear that the two systems do not coincide regarding the view.

The general Hindu view can be summed as this: Nescience is not knowing that one's true nature is the Atman (Self), and Wisdom or Knowledge is recognizing one's true Self as Atman or the Atman as ones true self or True Nature.That is why within the Hindu system Enlightenment or Knowledge or wisdom is called Atman Gyan which means knowledge of the Atman or Knowledge of ones True Self. And the Buddhist view as a whole no matter what form of Buddhism one subscribes to is this: Nescience is believing that one has a True Self (Atman) and holding on to that (Atman Graha), which means spontaneous or innate grasping to the concept of a Self (Atman). Technically this is called Sahaja Atman Graha, which means spontaneous or innate grasping to the concept of a Self (Atman). Knowledge or Wisdom(gyana) is recognizing or seeing through directly (non-conceptually) that there is no such Atman anywhere to be found -ie- Anatman Gyan.

All forms of Buddhist practices and meditations are basically geared towards seeing directly (Vipashyana) that there is no such Self. And all forms of Hindu practices, mediations etc. is geared towards experiencing the very same Atman (Self). So to say that Hinduism or the Bhagvat Gita or any of it's scriptures teach exactly the same thing as what the Buddha taught is only to show how grossly ignorant one is regarding this matter.

With that in the background, we will now go into more detail about the twelve chain of interdependent origination, one which we had touched upon earlier to explain the Second Noble Truth, which is the truth of the origination, or cause of suffering (Dukha Samuchaya Satya).

Conditioned Existence

Let us now look at a table. Before we can call anything a 'table' there must be wood or some metallic material which is made into a table. But nobody calls just chunks of wood or metal a 'table'. The legs of the table must be present without which there can be no four-legged table. But again no one calls the flour legs of a table a 'table'. There must all the other parts of a table like the axis, the main top board, etc, all must be present before there can be a table. However, no one calls all the pieces of wood (even in correct shape of legs, top etc) lying on a floor a 'table'. Here, we have an interesting phenomenon.

Many people who already have the Sanskara (conditionings) memory of a table could possible see a table in all the pieces of wood lying on the floor. But first of all that is not a table per se and it is only the Sanskara or conditioning which helps create a 'table' in the minds-eyes of the person. But secondly, if the same pieces of wood (with the correct shapes of all the parts of a table) were lying in the middle of the Kalahari Desert and a Bushman came across it, he would certainly not see any kind of a 'table' in them at all because he will have no such Sanskara memories of a table, which is non-existent in his socio-cultural context. It is only when all the legs, top part, axis, etc all are put together does a table appear to come into existence.

Now, we talked of two solid things, a tree and a table, but this is applicable to all Dharmas (phenomena) as we will see. Let us take the concept of 'here and there'. When you sit you say: I'm sitting 'here', and it seems to you that there is a 'here' here. Well how does this 'here' come into existence? First of all, there has to be a place, a ground or floor or space, without which there can be no 'here'. Then you need to be in that place for you to see, experience a 'here'. However, that same place which you call 'here' is a 'there' for me because the causes and conditions have changed for me. Even though we may say that it is the same place per se since because the conditions have changed even though it is a 'here' for you it is not a 'here' for me. For me, it is there. We will go more into this in the next article.

Conditioned Existence Continued

This very same moment when it is 8.36 am in Kathmandu, the very same moment is 10.53 am in Manila and 10.53 pm in Washington DC. But it is in effect supposed to be this every same moment, yet it is day time in Kathmandu and night time in Washington. The sun is present at this moment in time up in the sky in Kathmandu, while the moon is present up in the sky in Washington at this very moment. It is bright day light in Kathmandu at this very moment, where as it is dark moon light in Washington at this very moment. So because the causes and conditions are different even though it is supposed to be the very moment, different moments are seen to appear in Kathmandu and Washington at the very same 'moment'. So what we call space and time arises/appears/comes into existence only when there are its correct causes and conditions.

Now let us take up the concept like father, mother, son, husband and wife. A man is a father only when he has a daughter or son. If he doesn't have any daughter or son (not even an adopted one), there is no father per se. And even the father is a father to his children, at that every instance when his children see him as a father, his wife certainly does not see him as a father. Why? Because the hetu-pratyaya (causes and conditions) have changed.

Now, let us look at a person called Ram Lal. We all know Ram Lal is here because of his father and mother. As the classical Buddhist saying goes 'sati idam asmin bhavati' (because this is here that is there). However, there are a host of other causes and conditions before Ram Lal can be here (or there if you like as we have seen). The Abdhidarma and the Milinda panna says, the mother must be in a condition to conceive, the father too must be in a condition to be able to help in conception. There must also be a Gandharva/gandabbha (a mental continuum karmically ready to be born) etc, etc, before Ram Lal can be here.

However, there are many other causes and conditions that contribute to Ram Lal being here, without which Ram Lal just would not be here. For instance, if Ram Lal's grandparents on both sides had not met his parents would not be here and Ram Lal would not be here. Obviously, if you understand the implication of this, the causes and conditions to Ram Lal being here extends through time to all eternity. Then there are a host of other conditions for Ram Lal being here. For instance, doctors and nurses hadn't brought him forth properly, Ram Lal may not have been here. And of course, there is the mother's womb and its healthy condition, etc. etc. More on this in next article.

Implications of Pratitya Samutpada

So 'when this is here, that is here' (sati idam asmin bhavati). If these causes and conditions are not here, this will not be here. For instance, if Ram Lal's parents weren't here (means this did not exist at all) then Ram Lal is not here (meaning Ram Lal does not or cannot come into existence). So let us make it clear that one of the key tenets of Buddhism is the concept of Pratitya Samutpada, which means interdependent co-arising. And this means that all phenomena (Dharmas in Buddhism) co-arise or appear to be produced when their causes and conditions get together. The word Dharma here means phenomena and means everything that we know, experience etc. It includes concepts and material and immaterial things and phenomena. In fact, in simple laymen terminology it means the world and everything within it that arise through causes and conditions (hetu - pratyaya).

If you really understand this point and all its implications, you understand Buddhism more clearly. If everything arises from causes and conditions (hetu - pratyay), which is the meaning of Pratitya Samutpada, and when translated means interdependent co-emergence - then those causes and conditions themselves are phenomena (dharmas) that themselves arise from other causes and conditions, which themselves arise from other causes and conditions before them ad infinitum.

Now that means a few things or automatically implies a few things which need to be understood. This means there is no beginning, because no matter how far in time we go, whatever was there arose when causes and conditions before them were present and those arose when causes and conditions before them were there. So this world is beginning-less. That then automatically implies that there was no start of creation in the beginning. And that would automatically imply that there can be no Creator or God who created the world. This is why Buddhism does not believe in a Creator-God. That would automatically also negate any Revelations by God, the Supreme Almighty, Creator of the World et al. So any scriptures that claims to be a revelation of God the Supreme Creator is suspected according to Buddhist logic, Buddhist weltenschauung.

Buddhism does not deny Dieties or Goddesses and Gods, but these Gods and Goddesses are not the Creator of the Universe. Buddhism also does not deny that these Gods and Goddesses can reveal their personal teachings, etc. But these Gods and Goddesses are not and cannot be the One and Only Creator of the Universe. In fact, there is no One Cause/First Cause or One Creator of the Universe, but rather a continuum of causes and conditions flowing like a river unbroken from beginning-less time and will continue until endless time. And within the Buddhist weltenscauung the Buddha doesn't replace the Creator God / The First Principle/ Primordial Cause et al.

Interdependent Origination

We can look at the world of our experience and we cannot find a thing (dharma/phenomena) that hasn't arisen interdependently. Light and darkness arise interdependently, solid and liquid arise interdependently and abstract concepts like beauty and ugliness arise interdependently. Our very moment to moment mind arises interdependently. Conceptions arise interdependently, birth arises interdependently, infancy arises interdependently, childhood arises interdependently, teenage arises interdependently, middle age arises interdependently, old age arises interdependently, senility arises interdependently, death arises interdependently and rebirth arises interdependently.

Interdependent co-arising ( pratitya samutpada) has many implications. For instance, in the  Avatansak Sutra,( The Flower Ornament Scripture) the world (sansara: sansara includes much more than the physical realms of one's ordinary experience like the solar system et. al) is metaphorically conceived as the net of Indra (Indarjaal), which could also be translated as the web of Indra. What is Indra's net? It is a net which has a perfect diamond at each of its interstices. Now what is a perfect diamond? To understand this we need to take the aid of Physics.

When we put two mirrors vis-a-vis they reflect each others and then some more in the sense they reflect the reflections on each others back and forth a couple of time. However, the reflection of the reflection of the reflection will automatically stop after a couple of re-reflections. The repetition of re-reflections stop because the common mirrors we use are flawed and therefore not perfect. Although the perfect flawless mirrors has not been created, mathematically we can say that if we had two perfect mirrors vis-a-vis, the reflection and the re-reflections of the reflection will go on and on ad infinitum. There will be no end to the reflection of the reflections of the reflections - so to say.

So, likewise, a perfect diamond would reflect all the diamond in the net of Indra and there reflection of itself and all the other diamond and so on ad infinitum. Now that means each piece of diamond is not only linked with all the other diamonds 'through' the strings that make the net, but also each diamond contains within itself the entire world in the limitless infinite net of Indra. So what modern Quantum Physics wants to say is that the entire universe is interdependent, interrelated, interlocked and entangled in a multi-tiered fashion!  Pratitya samputapda -ie- the concept of interdependent origination would include all of the above concepts of Quantum Physics and the best example of the net of Indra as found in one of the Mahayana Sutras called the  Avatansaka Sutra. The extension of the principle of  pratitya samutpada is not found in the Theravada system; however, it doesn't contradict in any way the simple concept of  pratitya samutpadafound in the Theravada or Sarvastivada Abhidharma. More on this in the next article.

Interdependent Origination

The Mahayana Sutras have elucidated all the implication already ensconced within the Abhidharmic concept of Pratitya Samutpada (interdependent co-origination or interdependent co-arising). This is the meaning of the statement found in so many Mahayana Sutras and in Zen Buddhism, which is a form of Mahayana, that one grain of sand contains the entire universe (Trisahasra Mahasahara Loka Dhatus).

It is also important to understand that this interdependence is both vertical and horizontal. We can envision an infinite unending series of layers of nets one on top and below each other extending infinitely above and below vertically horizontally length and width wise, while there is another series of infinite vertically held series of network one on each side extending both side ad infinitum, and both the series of net (i.e. the horizontal series and the vertical series) are also inter-latched to each other at all levels interdependently. This is the vision the World, Universe and Cosmos in the  Avatansak Sutra expressed through the word  Indra Jal (Indra’s net).

It is interesting that the world Indra Jal as used in Nepali means a magical display, which is what the Cosmos is even according to the latest ideas of Quantum Physics. This is also close to the concept the 'holoverse' -i.e. - the universe that is holographic, the concept brought forth by the famous physicist David Bohm. A hologram is a system where every part of the thing contains the totality. So if we had a holographic picture in a postcard of the Buddha then if we divided the postcard into four parts, each of the four parts would contain the full picture of the Buddha. And if we were to take that one fourth part of the postcard and cut that one fourth part into four parts, each of the smaller one fourth parts would contain the full picture of the Buddha and so on ad infinitum. Isn't this picture exactly what the concept Indra Jal (net of Indra) was trying to portray thousands of years ago in Avantansak Sutra? Each diamond in the interstices of the Net of Indra would reflect the entire net ad infinitum. Or the entire Chiliocosm (Trisahasra Mahasahara Loka dhatu) would be inside (reflected within) each of those diamonds.

So this is the concept of interdependent origination, which can also be translated as interdependent co-origination, interdependent co-arising, etc, in Sanskrit known as Pratitya Samutpada and Paticcha Samuppada in Pali. With this in the background, now let us go into Dwadas Nidana or Dwadas Pratitya Samutpada (the twelve roots or links of interdependent co-origination).

Dwadas Nidan

The twelve links or Dwadas Nidan are this: 1. when there is Avidya there is Sanskara (conditioning) conditioned by Avidhya; 2. when there is Sanskara (conditioning/volitional pulses) there is Vigyan (dualistic consciousness) conditioned by Sanskara (conditioning/volitional pulses); 3. when there is Vigyan (dualistic consciousness) there is Nama-Rupa (mind-body) conditioned by Vigyan (conditioning/volitional pulses); 4. when there is Nama-Rupa (mind-body) there is Sadayatana (the six senses) conditioned by Nama-Rupa (mind-body); 5. when there is Sadayatana (the six senses) there is Sparsha (contact) conditioned by Sadayatana (the six senses); 6. when there is Sparsha (contact) there is Vedana (feeling) conditioned by Sparsha; 7. when there is Vedana (feeling) there is Trishna (thrust/craving) conditioned by Vedana; 8. when there is Trishna (thrust/craving) there is Upadana (gasping/clinging) conditioned by Trishna (thrust/craving); 9. when there is Upadana (grasping/clinging) there is Bhava (becoming) condition by Updana (grasping/clinging); 10. when this is Bhava (becoming) there is Jati (birth) conditioned by Bhava (becoming); 11. when there is Jati (birth) there is Jara Marana (old age and death), Soka (sorrow), Parideva (lamentation), Dukha (pain), daurmanassyopayassa (grief and despair) - these are the twelve factor.

In principle, 'Sati Idam Asmin Bhavati (when there is this that is , that is with the arising of this that arises). The contrary is also equally true - when this is not, neither is that, with the cessation of this, that ceases. This is the whole process.

This Pratitya Samputpada (interdependent co-origination) is extremely important to understand the enlightenment of the Buddha. This is the one major issue that is missing in all other forms of what other systems call 'enlightenment'. No non-Buddhist teachers have ever mentioned Pratitya Samutpada as an integral part of their enlightenment experience. And this is a major aspect of the Buddhist enlightenment. As PA Pautto, famous Thai scholar says, 'the Principle of Dependant Origination' is one of Buddhism's most important and unique teachings. In numerous passages of the Pali Tripitaka (canon), it was described by the Buddha as a natural law, a fundamental truth which exists independently of the arising of the Buddhas.'

"Whether a Tathagata (another name for a Buddha) appears or not, this condition exits and is a natural fact, a natural law, that is, this principle of conditionality". Conditionality here means all things arise because of causes and conditions or in relation to some other phenomena.Thus it is sometimes called the principle of relativity( saapekshyataa). The Tathagata enlightened to and awakened to that principle, teaches it, shows it, formulates, declares it, reveals it, makes it known, clarifies it and points it out "see here conditioned by Avidya (nescience) are Sanskara, conditioned by Sanskara (volitional impulses or conditioning) are Vigyana (consciousness) -- all the remaining twelve linlks as specified above.

Importance of the teachings of Pratityasamutpada

It is made very clear that this (Pratityasamutpada) is what a Buddha awakens to. It means his enlightenment (Bodhi) consists of mainly awakening to the fact of interdependent origination. All the stories of the Buddha, be it in Theravada or Mahayana, make it very clear that on the morning of Vaisakh Purnima (full moon), when he saw the morning star(Venus), this principle of interdependent origination awakened upon him. He saw the principle directly. That is why it is said a Tathagata who awakens to it is enlightened to it.

It is this principle that only a Tathagata reveals. No one else can even reveal it - no Rishi or erstwhile enlightened Gurus, who do not practice according to what the Buddha revealed can possible reveal it.

That is why it is the Tathagat who first teaches it. The Buddha also said "This suchness (yathabhutata), Bhikchus, this invincibility, this irreversibility, that is to say this Law of Conditionality (relativity), I call the principle of interdependent co-arising." The Buddha gave great importance to the principle of Pratityasamutpada (interdependent co-origination). This importance can be seen by his statement in the Majjhima Nikaya - "Whoever sees interdependent origination (Pratityasamutpada) sees the Dharma. Whoever sees the Dharma sees the interdependent co-origination (Pratityasamputpda).

When an Arya (a Noble disciple, which also means an enlightened disciple) sees fully the arising and cessation (udaya, vyaya) of the world (through Pratityasamutpada), as it is (yathabhuta), he is said to be endowed with the prefect view, with prefect vision, and to have attained the true Dharma, one who is at the door of deathlessness (amritata). And again whichever recluse (Sraman) or Bramin knows these conditions, knows the cause of these conditions, knows the cessation of these conditions, and knows the way leading to the cessation of these conditions, that Sraman or Bramin is worthy of the name Sraman amongst Sramans, or Brahim amongst Bramins, and of him it can be said, "He has attained the goal of the Sraman's life and the goal of the Bramin's life due to his own higher wisdom."

The Buddha has also said that these teachings are extremely profound and hard to understand. When after the Buddha had explained it, Ananda had said, "How amazing! Never before has it occurred to me, Lord, this principle of interdependent co-origination, although so profound and hard to see, yet appears to me to be so simple."

The Buddha replied, "Do not say so Ananda, do not say so! This principle of interdependent co-origination (Pratityasamutpada) is a profound teaching, hard to see. It is through not knowing, not understanding and not thoroughly realizing this teaching that beings are confused like a tangled thread, thrown together like bundles of thread, caught in a net and cannot escape the wheel of samsara."

It is even said that after his enlightenment, the Buddha even despaired that many could not understand this profound principle of Pratityasamutpada. 

Understanding Dwadas Nidan with Pratityasamutpada

Now going back to Pratityasamutpada, there are two categories of Pratityasamutpada. The first category is what we have described in details so far, that is the fact that all Dharmas are Pratityasamputpanna, meaning all phenomena arise from causes and conditions. Nagarjuna explained this succinctly by the phrase's ati idam asmin bhavati'. This means when this is (or arise) that arises. In the Pali Suttas it is explained as ' imasmin sati, idam hoti, imassupada idam upujjhati' - which also means the opposite - if this is not there, that will not be there; or in the Pali words: ' imasmim asati, idam no hoti, imassa nirodha idam nirujhati'. In very simple language, it means if there is no seed there is no tree. If the seed is destroyed the tree does not arise.

As we have seen before that this Pratityasamutpada means arising, originating, coming into existence when certain causes and conditions (hetu-pratitya) are present. A more accurate view of Mahayana would be appearing to arise, originate, come into existence or just appears when certain causes and conditions are present. For instance, a table appears when all its four legs, axis, top platform etc, are present in the right format. And in the same way, a table ceases to appear when its causes and conditions cease to appear. Needless to say, as we have elaborated before, those causes and conditions also appear or cease to appear depending upon their causes and conditions appearing or ceasing to appear ad infinitum.

Now this principle is applied to the twelve links of interdependent origination in relation to sentient beings and their journey in samsara. Whereas Pratityasamutpada principle is applicable to all phenomena (dharma), the twelve links of interdependent co-origination is using that principle of Pratityasamutpada (interdependent co-origination) to real life to birth to death and rebirth to bondage of the mind and freedom of the mind. It is this principle that defines not only the cause of suffering as per Buddhism but also presents the way out of that suffering. This is the defining mark of Buddhism that distinguishes Buddhism from all other systems. All other systems also speak directly in some cases or indirectly in most cases of suffering and the way out of that suffering. But as we have seen before what they consider root cause of suffering is totally different from what Buddhism calls the root cause of suffering, therefore automatically what they prescribe as the method or way or path out of the suffering will naturally be very different from what Buddhism prescribes.

Understanding the link between Four Noble Truth and Dwadas Nidan

The twelve links of interdependent origination is intimately linked with two of the four Noble Truths (Chatwan Arya Satjani). We went into great details about the first Noble Truth, which is the Noble Truth (1) of suffering (Dukha Arya Satya), then the second Noble Truth is (2) Dukha Samudaya, the root cause of suffering. We mentioned in short that Trishna, Tanha (Pali), or carving is considered within Buddhism as the root cause of suffering (Dukha).

The twelve chain or link of Pratityasamutpada (the Dwadas Nidan) explains in detail and in a systematic logical way on how the whole chain of suffering arises. We will go into it in detail shortly using the twelve chain of interdependent co-origination to understand the what and how of suffering that the Buddhism unravels. This is a point no non-linage Master, even those self-claimed Buddhas, etc, have even been able to touch upon to date, let alone elaborate on it, what to say about their understanding what this twelve links of interdependent co-origination has to do with the Buddha's enlightenment. And once the twelve chain (Dwadas Nidan) of interdependent co-origination is understood, one can also understand its cessation, which is the third Noble Truth, Dukha Nirodha Satya or the Noble Truth of the cessation of Dukha, suffering, or the fact that suffering can cease.

And this itself leads to the fourth Noble Truth, which is the Truth of how this suffering can cease, the Path, called Marga Satya. This means the Noble Truth of the Path or Way. Any Way or Path that claims to be Buddhist most first and foremost be related to the twelve chains of interdependent origination.

There are many fantastic paths in the world of men and Gods but if the Path has no relations to the cessation of suffering as per the principle of the twelve links of interdependent co-origination, then it is not the Path of the Buddha and will not help in attaining the Buddha's enlightenment, irrespective of whether in the Path a lot of bliss or thoughtlessness states or awareness can be experienced.

These are very subtle parts which so called Non-Buddhist Gurus who claim to teach the Buddhist Path etc, have no idea about and tend to miss it completely. Now, before we go into the details of Dwadas Nidan (the twelve chain) we need to also understand another basic point. That what we explained here is what is called the external Dwadas Nidan (the twelve chain). We will explain about internal Dwadas Nidan in the next article.

Creation in Buddhism

Only when a person penetrates into the enlightened state, which is called Darshan Marg (the Path of Seeing) in the Mahayana system and some Sravaka systems, and called Srotapanna (entering the stream that leads to full enlightenment) in many Sravaka system like the Theravadins, the Sarvastivadins, etc., that the real meaning of the twelve links of interdependent co-origination called the inner twelve links of interdependent is seen through; or according to the Theravadin and other Sravaka tradition the real meaning of the Four Noble Truth (Chatwan Arya Satyam) is really understood. Since the four Arya Satya are based on the twelve links (Dwadas Nidan), in reality the two systems are talking the same thing - they are two sides of the same coin.

With that in the background, let us go into the Dwadas Nidan (the twelve chains of interdependent co-origination). The Dwadas Nidan (the twelve chains of interdependent co-origination) has been traditionally described in two main ways, which can be broadly described:

1. As a demonstration of (a) life and (b) as the description of the world evolution.

2. As a demonstration of (a) the process of life-death-rebirth in a very long cyclic time and (b) as a description of each moment of life or each Chitta-Kshyan (mind moment).

This point number two (b) is a demonstration of the arising and cessation of suffering within that individual life and also the demonstration of the arising and ceasing of suffering within that individual life. Description number one is a broader view and gives an idea of the broader Weltenschauung of Buddhism. It explains the Buddhist view of the 'so called creation' from the point of view of the twelve links of interdependent co-origination.

I have used the word 'so called creation' in quotes because from the point of view of Buddhism there is/was no the First Cause or Primordial Causes or Creator or God who created the universe (Samsara) in the beginning. First of all there can be no beginning. And if there is no beginning (Aadikaala), there is no Beginner, or Creator who created the world in the beginning. A beginning is a childish notion based on an immature mind of those who cannot conceive of eternity, infinity and beginning-lessness (Anaadi). But even a little cogitations of or questioning the notion of a beginning breaks down any idea of a beginning time (Aadikaala) as rather childish.

Let us explain this point as it is crucial to understand this to understand the Buddhist view as a whole. A day can begin and end, but there can be no beginning of all days. No matter how far back you go as long as the sun and moon continues, there will be days. However, the beginning of a day is not the beginning of time, for a day or an hour or a minute or a second are only conventional units of time and so are aeons (kalpa).

Creation versus Coming into being

No matter how many billion trillion zillion years ago we go there will ways be time before that. That there was no time beyond a certain inconceivable time in the past is itself mathematically an impossibility and therefore inconceivable. Suns come and go, galaxies can come and go, even the Big Bangs can come and go but there will always be the second, minute, hour, day, week, year, aeons before the Big Bang. This Big Bang is not the beginning of creation but can only be the beginning of some galaxy etc that will come and go.

So the Big Bang (the latest in scientific theory) began with the help of causes and conditions, which were present before that. These causes and conditions for the Big Bang were in turn caused by other causes and conditions before that and so on ad infinitum. Since the Big Bang can be only one in a beginning-less series of Big Bangs, and therefore a Creator-God is superfluous in such a world system (Samsara). Actually we had already touched upon this concept a long time back, but here we are repeating it as an immediate back drop to the twelve links of interdependent co-origination.

So what is the Buddhist answer to how did this universe begin? First and foremost, it did not begin at anytime in the distant past, as there can be no beginning to it at all and secondly the question itself is wrong, because it is not really different from the question that a child asks her parents when did everything begin, or how did all this happen. An over simplified solution to satisfy the child is that, 'All this was created by God'. It can satisfy a child whose mind cannot possibly grasp the concept of time and its beginning-less-ness and to whose simple mind everything seems to be made by someone. A potter makes a pot. Who made the pot? The potter. Who made the table? The carpenter. Who created the world? The 'Worlder' or Creator.

How can such an over simplistic answer satisfy a thinking mature mind unless the mind has been shut down to all queries by simply accepting answers as the Truth since childhood? That is why Nagarjuna says that the concept of God is the result of a childish mind (Balabuddhi). Just this point alone puts Buddhism aside from all other religious systems except Jainism, which too does not posit a God as the Creator of the universe too.