Notes from BPU Sri Lanka - Third Year

Sarvāstivāda Tradition (lectured by ven. Dhammaratana) 10th of March, 2011

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B.P.G 301  Lectured by ven. Ilukewela Dhammarathana, recording by ven. Monk monk Nai Suriya, 10th of March, 2011

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B.P.G 301   Lectured by ven. Ilukewela Dhammarathana, recording by ven. Mon monk Nai Suriya, 24th of March, 2011

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B.P.G  301  Lectured by ven. Ilukewela Dhammarathana, recording by ven. Mon monk Nai Suriya, 31st of March, 2011

Sarvāstivāda Tradition (lectured by ven. Dhammaratana) 10th of March, 2011

-       The phenomena (dhammā), while they exist, have their characteristics. Their existence can be divided into these phases: uppāda, ṭhiti, jaratā and vaya

-       Accordint to Sarvāstivādins all dhammā (phenomena) exist forever - “sarvaṃ asti”. Dhammās means five aggregates. To prove that everlasting existence, they gave a simile with a white cloth – if it is colored to a red cloth, the color completely changed, while the 'clotheness' remains. → every object has two qualities – shape and color (however, also hardness, temperature and all others could be mentioned … but they are not mentioned.)

-       Another simile is with mango – a seed, after being sown, it becomes a plant, then a tree and finally there are mangos. The shape and color changed, but the 'mangoness' remains.

-       Therefore, though the things in the world change, their character, something remains. And from that is conceivable, that even the five aggregates remain – while the color and shape of person changes, the five aggregates don't change.

-       Another problem was with next life. While we die, we keep the body in this world. According to Theravāda, only viññāṇa goes to the next life (while changing). However, according to Sarvāstivāda it is all the five aggregates that go to the next life.

-       There are two kinds of Brahma world – rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara. The rūpāvacara is containing rūpa (matter, form), however arūpāvacara was supposed not to contain any form. According to Sautrāntikas, rūpāvacara is world where is only form and arūpāvacara is the world where there is no matter, only mind. According to Sarvāstivāda, in both rūpāvacara and arūpāvacara there is mind and form, both.

-       1. Atīta Bhāva (pastness), 2. Paccupanna Bhāva (presentness), Anāgata Bhāva (futureness). Theravādins asked whether there is any difference between atīta bhāva and anāgata bhāva. Sarvāstivādins accepted that the atīta bhāva and anāgata bhāva are different in shape and color, but the five aggregates would be same.

            The group of Theravādins (Sthaviravādins) was subdivided into eleven or more sects of which Sarvāstivāda became prominent. Sarvāstivāda was a Theravāda (Hīnayāna) school with its piṭakas in Sanksrit. The doctrines of this school were subjected to vehementcriticism by Mahāyāna philosophers including Nāgārjuna, Asaṅga, Āryadeva and others who upheld 'non-realism' (suññatā) or 'idealism' (viññāṇavāda, viññaptimātrata).

-       Suññatā of Mahāyāna is not a mere emptiness – according to it all things are dependent on other things, all things are relative. As everything is relative, dependent on other phenomena, in reality, if we take them independently, we would find out that there is nothing. There is nothing independent. Thus suññatā simply means interdependence.

-       According to Sarvāstivādins, there are certain smallest particles that constitute the world, called 'atoms' (paramāṇu). There would be seven subatoms that, while they are combined, they would be an atom.

-       I (Czech Sarana) said, that similar to that theory of atoms of Sarvāstivādins was the European theory of atoms that was developed by Demokritus 5th century BC.

            The Sarvāstivādins adopted grammatical Sanskrit (and not 'mixed Sanskrit') as the medium of their literature and they possessed a complete canon in three divisions: Sūtra, Vinaya and Abhidharma. The subdivisions of these three piṭakās were also substantially same as those in Pāli.

            The principle point of difference between the Sarvāstivādins and Theravādins is that they maintain the existence of five aggregates (dhammās) as the subtlest states at all times, subtlest states at all times, whether in the past, present or future while the Theravādins denied any such existence. The Sarvāstivādins accepted the fundamental creeds of Buddhism, such as anattā and aniccā. The contention of anatta and anicca is that the beings and objects constituted out of the dhammās at a particular time are subject to disintegration but not the dhammās themselves. These dhammās always exist in their subtlest states, for instance, vedanā may be kusala, akusala or avyākṛta (in Pāli avyākata) at a particular time and place, but it exists at all times.

Evolution of Sarvāstivāda Tradition in the perspective of the Sarvāstivāda Tradition itself (lectured by ven. Dhammaratana) 24th of March, 2011 Read:

“The Spread of Buddhism and Buddhist Schools”
- by Dutt

            At present Buddhism has two principal divisions, namely Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna. Hīnayāna  is subdivided into two as Vaibhāṣika and Sautrāntika. Mahāyāna tradition is subdivided into Mādhyamika and Yogācāra. Vaibhāṣika was formerly known as Sarvāstivāda. Sarvāstivāda was called Vaibhāṣika, because it was based upon “Vayobhāṣa-Śāstrā.” These texts were compiled at the Council of Kaniṣka I. According to the Tibetan works there were 18 schools, out of which four are original ones:

1.     Ārya-Sarvāstivādins
2.     Mahāsaṅghika
3.     Ārya-Sammitiya
4.     Ārya-Sthavira

-       However, according to Theravāda (Sthaviravāda) sources the Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, Vibhajjavāda and Sammitiya. While Theravāda claims that all its texts were taught by the Buddha Himself, Sthaviravādins were not afraid to admit that it was given by the Buddha's disciples, by monks.

            However, according to them, the most earliest/primitive school was Sthaviravāda. Their doctrines have been fully preserved in the Pāli literature. The school that can claim priority in age and preservation of originality next to Sthaviravāda is Sarvāstivāda. The Sarvāstivāda literature is vast, but it is in manuscripts, some of which are in the Buddhist Sānskrit and the rest in Chinese and Tibetan. The two schools mentioned above were associated with the names of two  great two great emperors – Asoka and Kaniṣka. The principal seat of Theravāda was Magadha, the principal seat of Sarvāstivāda was Kashmir.

            According to the Chinese traveler Yuan Chuang, about 400 years after the death of the Buddha there was held a Council - the king was interested to  learn the truths of Buddhism. But he was perplexed by the variant interpretations given as the Buddha's teachings by the monks. Considering the situation there was held a council with view to record the different interpretations. In the council ven. Pārśava was selected as the head and they selected Kashmir as the place of meeting. 500 Arahants were called out for membership, the Sarvāstivādins forming the majority. The president of the meeting was Vasumitra, also  a Sarvāstivādin. He believed in the realism of material existence in the past, present and future.

            During the Council the Vibhāṣās (Commentaries) were compiled, being the opinions of different schools on Sutta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma. Upadeśa-Sūtra (on Sutta), Vidyā-Vibhāṣa (on Vinaya) and Abhidharma-Vibhāśa-Śāstra (on Abhidhamma). However, as the decisions of the disputed points, rested on the president, the accepted version should naturally be, in most cases, that of the Sarvāstivādins. It was for this reason, that  Vibhāṣā denoted the literature of Sarvāstivādins and especially the Abhidharma commentaries and the appreciation of Vaibhāṣika was given to them by the authors/writers.

            With the spread of Buddhism into Kashmir by the first Buddhist missionary Majjhantika sent by Asoka under the advice of Moggaliputtatissa Thera, the Sarvāstivādins thought it advisable to arrange dispute/debate Theravāda representatives in Kashmir in view of it growing as a center of Sarvāstivāda.

            Yuan Chwang also tells us that Asoka not only sent Buddhist monks but also built monasteries at that place. Now, as a school of Buddhism planted here it came from Pātaliputta (near Kashmir) with the growing importance of the place as a center of Buddhism, other schools also made their way to Kashmir. It is not unlikely that the Sarvāstivādins, owing to their closer connection with the Theravādins, would follow next. But it should be remembered, that the Sarvāstivāda school of Kaniṣka's time brought in further changes in the doctrine, for which it has been distinguished from the older school by being named as Ārya-Sarvāstivāda. The original Sarvāstivāda school had its birth before Asoka's council (3rd century BC). The school does not seem to have gained much importance at this time or a century later. Approximately during the beginning of Christian era it came to be recognized as one of the principal schools not only in Kashmir and Gandhāra, but also in central India.

Sarvāstivāda Doctrine and doctrinal disputes (lectured by ven. Dhammaratana) 31st of March, 2011  

            The group of Theravādins (Sthaviravādins) was subdivided into eleven or more sects of which Sarvāstivāda became prominent. Sarvāstivāda was a Hīnayāna school with its piṭakas in Sanskrit. The doctrines of this school were subjected to vehement (of lot effort) criticism by Mahāyāna philosophers such as Nāgarjuna, Asaṅga, Āryadeva and others who upheld 'non-realism' (śūnyatāvāda / suññatāvāda) or 'idealism' (vijñaptimātratā / viññattimattatā).
            The principal point of difference between the schools is that the Sarvāstivādins maintained that the existence of five dharmās is the subtlest.

            The doctrinal disputes are discussed in Kathāvatthuppakaraṇa. The text presents the arguments of the Sarvāstivādins and the Theravādins. The Sarvāstivādins maintain that all the dharmās exist but not always and everywhere and in the sense of form. In reply to the question whether khandhās, which are all different by nature, exist uncombined, Sarvāstivādins answered in the negative. However, this gives an opportunity to the Theravādins to show the fallacy that if all exist, then micchā diṭṭhi (wrong view) and sammā diṭṭhi (right view) should exist together. Then, again, by equating the past and the future with the present, the Theravādins show that if the past and the future exist, then their existence should be predicable in the same way as in the present. The Sarvāstivādins denied this argument saying, that the past and the future exist, but not exactly in the same form as one would speak of the present (as one would show/maintain in correspondence to present).

-       They would ask to take a white cloth. If it is colored to red, and later to black, we can see, that the color changed, however, the 'clothness' remained. Another simile would be the mango seed, which would later on change to a plant and even later on to a tree. The only thing that did not change here, is the 'mangoness'. Thus Sarvāstivādins maintained, that the five aggregates exist, but not always and not everywhere.

-       They were asked, whether the aggregates  can exist separately. Sarvāstivādins said “no” - thus they maintain, that they cannot exist separately. However, at the time of death, we see, that rūpa does not go to next life. Then Theravādins showed the fallacy, that if all exists, then micchā diṭṭhi and sammā diṭṭhi have to exist together. If things (dharmās) exist forever, they should be predictable in the past and in the future as in the present. Sarvāstivādins claimed, that past and future would exist, though not exactly in the same form.

            The Theravādins recoursed/returned to the second argument, saying let “the present material aggregate” (paccupanna rūpa) be treated as one inseparable object. Now, after some time has elapsed, this material aggregate becomes the past and gives up its 'presentness' (paccuppannabhāva). With this argument Sarvāstivādins agreed. And the Sarvāstivādins denied, that the material aggregate also gives up its materiality (rūpabhāva). They are reasoning thus: “Let the piece of white cloth be regarded as one inseparable object. Now, when this cloth is colored, it gives up its whiteness. Again, Sarvāstivādins questioned: “Does it give up its clotheness (like rūpabhāva as in the former case)?” The Theravādins follow up this argument of Sarvāstivādins by pure logic (suddhikanaya) saying that if the material aggregate does not give up its materiality (rūpabhāva), then rūpa becomes permanent, eternally existing like Nibbāna. In this regard Sarvāstivādins mention, that rūpabhāva is different from nibbānabhāva.

            The next question put by the Theravādins was whether the past gives up its 'pastness' (atītabhāva) – the Sarvāstivādins answered in the negative, but were careful to note that when they would say, that atītabhāva exists, they mean, that 'futureness'/'futurity' (anāgatabhāva) and 'presentness' (paccupannabhāva) do not exist. Similarly, when they predicate existence of anāgatabhāva they mean atītabhāva and paccupannabhāva do not exist like anāgatabhāva. This general statement is then applied to the each of the khandhās.

-       I (ven. Czech Saraṇa) explained, that the idea of Sarāstivādins cannot be accepted. Regarding the simile of the cloth – the cloth may be white, red or black, there the clotheness is maintained, but where is the clotheness after burning the cloth? The clotheness disappears. The seed, while growing, changes so completely, that there is almost nothing from the seed. The plant takes water and nutrition from the soil and from sun. Thus the plant is very different. If I break a chair, use one part for roof and the other part for table, there will be no chairness. Thus there is nothing what would remain in the things. The “ness”, whether clotheness, mangoness are concepts made by human, but they are not real, they are only illusion.

-       Another idea that I (ven. Czech Saraṇa) have presented is, that Sarvāstivāda (Sabbatthivāda in Pāli) would be applicable only for the world in its entirety, where everything, though exists, it is subjected to constant change. According to science, though all things are subjected to change, the energy cannot disappear. Energy can change into matter, it can change into another kind of energy, but always there is the same amount of energy. The world is a great aggregate, cluster of many various things, which are interdependent. This interdependence (paṭiccasamuppāda) is a character of whole the world in its entirety. While the world can be seen, as !objectively! existing, nothing in the world may be separated, because as separated there is nothing. Everything is dependent on the other things, nothing can be separated and assigned a sole existence. Thus even though each thing has its particular history, the history is interconnected with histories of other things. Therefore, Sarvāstivādins' idea may be correct, but only in the lokika perception of the world, and only in the perspective of the world in its entirety.

            The Sarvāstivādins admit impermanence (anityatā / aniccatā) of the constituents, but they contend, that the dharmās (bhāvā) of the past are transmitted into the present, likewise the dharmās of the future are latent/invisible/hidden in the present. This may be illustrated by citing the example of a sweet mango. The 'past mango' seed transmits into the present its 'mangoness', if not the 'sweetness'. And similarly, the 'future mango' receives its 'mangoness' from the present. The mango-seed can never produce any other fruit, though there may be a change in the quality, shape and color of the mango. The Sarvāstivādins speak of a being in the same way. According to them, a being is composed of five dhammās, not five khandhās. Such as citta (mind), cetasika (mental states/elements), rūpa, visamprayukta saṅkhāra (states dependent on mind) and asaṃskṛta saṅskhāra (unconstituted states – not dependent on dependent origination). The five dharmās persist/preserve a being, the present being, the resultant of the past and potential of the future.