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Shunyavada: destructive dialectic

Shunyavada: destructive dialectic

Shunyavada: destructive dialectic>> Before the mighty strokes of the destructive dialectic of Nagarjuna and his commentator Chandrakirti the entire structure of phenomenal  objects crumbles down like a house of cards or a palace on sand. 

The external objects and the individual subject, matter, motion, causality, time, space, thinghood, qualities, relation, attributes, substance, soul, God, religion, morality, the four Noble Truths, Nirvana and the Buddha are all found to be hypostatized relations. But from the empirical view-point they are all quite real, though ultimately they are all merged in the bosom of the Absolute.

                    In the very first stanza of his Madhyamikas –Karika , Nagarjuna gives his famous eight ‘No’-es and in the next salutes Buddha, the perfectly Enlightened and the greatest of all teachers, who has taught Pratityasamutpada which, viewed from the absolute standpoint is blissful Nirvana itself wherein all plurality is merged. From the absolute standpoint there is neither destruction nor production, neither nihilism nor eternalism,    neither unity nor plurality, neither coming in nor going out.

Shunyavada: destructive dialectic>>                   

Nagarjuna opens his work by boldly proclaiming the doctrine of No-origination. Never and nowhere can anything be produced. A thing can originate neither out of itself nor out of a not-self nor out of both nor out of neither.  A thing cannot arise out of itself. If the effect is already existent in its cause, it is already an existing fact requiring no further production; if the effect does not exist in its cause, nothing can produce it for nothing can produce a hare’s horn or a barren woman’s son. And if a thing cannot arise out of itself, how can it arise out of a not-self? Again, to say that a thing can arise out of both itself and not-self is to maintain that light and darkness can remain together. And certainly nothing can arise at random and uncaused. Chandrakirti also gives similar arguments.

Shunyavada: destructive dialectic>>

                    Nagarjuna then examines the four conditions (pratyaya) of the Hinayana. A producing cause (hetu) is an impossibility because if a cause has no essence it is like a hare’s horn, and how can a cause have any essence when neither an existent thing nor a non-existent thing nor a thing which is both, can be produced. So is the case with an object (Alambana). If  in the beginning, a subject arises independently of an object, how can that subject afterwards depend on its objective counter-part? Again, when things do not exist, how can they disappear? Therefore there can be no immediately preceding moment (samanantara). Moreover, if an immediately preceding moment disappears, how can it be a cause? If a seed is destroyed, then what is that which will be called the cause of a sprout? Again, if things are relative they cannot have an independent existence or ultimate reality. And a thing which is not real can be neither produced nor destroyed. So the decisive factor (adhipati) or the formula ‘this being, that arises’ (asmin sati idam bhavati) becomes nonsense. Hence in none of these four pratyayas, neither singly nor jointly, can we  find the so-called ‘effect’. And if it does not exist in them, how can it be produced out of them? If the effect pre-exists in the cause, then milk should be called curd and threads should be called cloth. And if the effect does not pre-exist in the cause, then curd should be produced out of water and cloth should be produced out of reeds. In the former case, the effect is already an existent fact and its repeated birth is nonsense; in the latter case, the effect is like a hare’s horn and cannot be produced. So production in all cases is an impossibility . Both cause and effect are relative and therefore causality is only an appearance, not reality.

                    Motion is impossible. We cannot travel a path which has already been travelled, nor can we travel a path which is not yet travelled.  And a path which has neither been travelled nor yet to be travelled, is also not being travelled. The mover does not move; the non-mover of course does not move. What is that third, then, which is neither a mover nor a non-mover, which can move? Hence motion, mover and destination are all unreal. Similarly, the seer, the seen and the sight are also unreal.

Shunyavada: destructive dialectic>>

                    The five skandhas are also unreal. For example, matter (rupa) does not exist. If matter exists then it can have no cause because it is already existent; and if it does not exist then too it can have no cause because then it is a non-entity like a hare’s horn; and uncaused matter is impossible. So matter is unreal. Similarly feeling (vedana), conception (samjna), forces (samskara), and even individual consciousness (Vijnana) are all unreal. The elements of earth, water, fire and air and space are all unreal.

                      We know only the attributes or qualities, we do not know the sub-stance or the thing. Without attributes we cannot know a substance and without a substance attributes cannot exist. But attributes exist neither in the substance nor outside it. Where, then, can they exist? Substance and attributes are neither the same nor different. Both are therefore relative and unreal. Moreover, production, continuance and destruction can characterize a composite substance (samskrta) neither singly nor jointly. Production is impossible because nothing can originate. And if there is no production, how can there be continuance and destruction? They are like an illusion, a dream, a magic city of the Gandharvas. And when they are unreal, a composite substance is also unreal.

                       The individual self is also unreal. It is neither identical with no different from the five skandhas. Buddha’s teaching is Dependent Origination which is relativity. It is neither eternalism nor nihilism. Therefore neither those who uphold the identity of the individual self and the skandhas nor those who advocate their difference, know the real teaching of the Buddha. If the Ego be the same as the skandhas, then it too, like them, will be subject to birth and death; and if the Ego be different from the skandhas, it cannot be known. When the  and the ‘mine’ cease to function the entire structure of the universe— subjective as well as objective— crumbles to the ground. The skandhas no more operate. The cycle of birth and death comes to a stand-still.

Shunyavada: destructive dialectic>>

                     Buddha said that the universe is beginningless and endless. And it is an accepted canon of logic, urges Nagarjuna, that if a thing does not exist in the beginning and in the end, it cannot exist in the middle also. Hence beginning, middle and end; birth, persistence and death are all unreal. Not only the universe in beginningless but all objects of intellect are equally beginningless and hence middleless and endless

                    Change too is impossible. If the changeless does not exist, then what is it that changes? And if a thing is changeless, how can it change? If Reality does not exist, then what is that which appears? And if it is Reality, how can it be an appearance?

                     The subject, the object and the subject-object relation are unreal. Action and its result are also unreal. If action really exists, it will be eternal and actionless. Then all phenomenal practices will collapse. Suffering, actions, bodies, doers, results are all unreal. They are like an illusion, a magic city, a dream, a mirage. Time is also unreal because past, present and future are all relative.

                        Even the Buddha, the Tathagata is only an illusion. He is neither identical with no different from the skandhas. He is really Shunya. We cannot say whether he exists or does not exist or does both or neither, either after Nirvana or even during lifetime. He transcends all categories of finite thought.

Shunyavada: destructive dialectic>>

                    Intellect gives rise to the famous fourteen antinomies which Buddha answered  by silence. We cannot say whether the world is finite (antavan) or not or both or neither. We cannot say whether the world is permanent (shashvata) or not or both or neither. We cannot say whether the Tathagata, after Nirvana is existent or not or both or neither. We cannot say whether matter and mind are identical or not. These antinomies, says Nagarjuna, are insoluble by intellect. They are all relative and therefore mere appearances.

                    The  Four Noble Truths are also unreal. There is neither suffering nor its cause nor its cessation nor the way towards its cessation. The three Jewels are also unreal. There is neither the Order, nor the Religion, nor the Buddha .

                     Nirvana itself is an illusion. Bondage and release are relative and therefore unreal. Neither the forces nor the ego can be either bound or liberated. Neither that which is the skandhas nor that which is not the skandhas can be either bound or liberated. Neither that which is bound nor that which is unbound nor that which is both nor that which is neither can be either bound or liberated. He who thinks like this: ‘Transcending the five skandhas, I shall obtain liberation’, is still entangled in the terrible clutches of the skandhas themselves.  There is no bondage and consequently no liberation. Both are relative and hence unreal. When neither Samsara is destroyed nor Nirvana is attained, why should  Samsara and Nirvana be at all imagined.

                    Again, Nirvana cannot be existence because then, like other existing  things , it will be subject to birth and death. And then it will have a cause also and will be based on the Skandhas like all other Samskrta dharmas. Nirvana cannot be non-existence too for then it will not be independent non-existence necessarily depends upon existence. Nirvana cannot both existence and non-existence together for the very conception is absurd and self-contradictory. Existence and non-existence are opposed like light and darkness. How can they exist simultaneously in one place? Again, Nirvana cannot be neither existence nor non-existence for then it will not be conceived at all. Hence if Nirvana is neither existence nor non-existence nor both nor neither, it is only an appearance, not reality.

                    Aryadeva, Chandrakirti and Shantideva also condemn all world objects to be mere illusions and appearances. But as their arguments essentially similar to those of Nagarjuna, it is not desirable to repeat them.

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