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A Survey of Buddhist Thought

© Alfred Scheepers
No unauthorized multiplication allowed

A Survey of Buddhist Thought, pages 61-64

Theras and Sarvastivadins
The Thera Abhidhamma, Mind and 'sankhara'
General characteristics and interpretation
The Sarvastivada Abhidharma, Retribution


A Fragment of Part I, Chapter 3

Buddhism in India, The Abhidharma


What has come to us under the name of 'abhidharma,' or in Pali, 'abhidhamma,' is a detailed systematization of the teaching of the sutras. It contains classifications, enumerations, controversies, and 'questions and answers.' As was stated already, the development of this corpus of scriptures is of later date than that of the Sutras and the Vinaya (order rules). While the latter are much the same in all schools, the different Abhidharma scriptures do not contain the same materials, and are characteristic of certain schools. It is especially in these scriptures that the roots of philosophical speculation are to be found. The term 'abhidharma' itself was coined at a later date; the canonical texts refer only to 'catechism' (matrka ). By 'abhidharma' is meant the 'dharma' as expounded by the sutras, but 'nude' as it were, without literary embellishments and without putting it into scene. It is the teaching without teacher and without pupils. The development of the Abhidharma must have taken place - roughly speaking - between the beginning of the third century B.C. and the end of the first century A.D.

The catechism, that later in the chronicles and commentaries was called 'abhidharma' is said to have been started by the direct pupils of the Buddha. In this context the names of Kasyapa, Katyayana, Ananda, and Sariputra are mentioned.

There have been known Abhidharmas of the Sthaviras (Theras), Mahasanghikas, Samatiyas, Kasyapiyas, Dharmaguptakas, and Sarvastivadins. Most of these schools consider their Abhidharma as the genuine word of the Buddha, although given in the rendering of his direct pupils. Only the Sarvastivadins frankly admit that theirs was composed by a variety of authors, but they maintain that these authors were genuinely inspired by the Buddha, and therefore, they hold, the work must, despite of its late composition, be considered as authoritative.

There are four Abhidharmas that have come to us in a more or less integral state:

1) the Petakopadesa
2) the Sariputrabhidharmasastra
3) the Abhidhamma of the Theras of Sri Lanka
4) the Abhidharma of the Sarvastivadins

The first and the third are preserved in Pali, the second and the last in Chinese. The 'Petakopadesa' is cited by Buddhaghosa, the systematizer of the Thera-canon of Sri Lanka in the 5th century A.D. The Burmese Thera-Buddhists consider it as a part of their Khuddaka-nikaya. But the work is really distinct from the Thera-tradition. It is said to have been compiled by Katyayana, the pupil of the Buddha, in Avanti, which, if Lamotte is right in considering the Pali as the dialect of Avanti, would explain its preservation in that language. The Prajñaptivadins seem to have given credence to this Abhidharma, which might indicate that we have here an Abhidharma of the Mahasanghikas.

The 'Sariputrabhidharmasastra' is the Abhidharma of the Dharmaguptakas, and was translated into Chinese by Dharmagupta and Dharmayasas. The Dharmaguptakas were influential in China, and they seem to derive their name from the one of the translator. According to Kumarajiva, another important Indian missionary in China, the same Abhidharma was used by the Vatsiputriyas. But this is doubtful, since the text that is preserved accepts the doctrine that denies a substantial soul (as most sects do) and does not teach the existence of an unspeakable soul (pudgala-vada), which doctrine is ascribed to the Vatsiputriyas.

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A Survey of Buddhist Thought, pages 62-64

© Alfred Scheepers
No unauthorized multiplication allowed

The Abhidharma
The Thera Abhidhamma, Mind and 'sankhara'
General characteristics and interpretation
The Sarvastivada Abhidharma, Retribution


Theras and Sarvastivadins.


The most complete and elaborate Abhidharmas are those of the Theras of Sri Lanka, and of the Sarvastivadins of North India. With these exclusively we shall deal in the following. The Theras have an Abhidharmapitaka (basket of Abhidharma) consisting of seven books:

1) Dhammasangani (enumeration of the 'dharmas')
2) Vibhanga (analysis)
3) Dhatukatha (discourse on the elements)
4) Puggalapaññatti (description of personalities)
5) Kathavatthu (controversial issues)
6) Yamaka (coupled problems)
7) Patthana (conditional relations)

This Abhidharma has many similarities with the cathegetical sutras, as e.g. found in the Anguttara-nikaya. It has something of an unfinished work. The most metaphysical of these works are the Enumeration, the Analysis, and the Conditional Relations. Together with the Discourse on the Elements they form a systematic unity. The ideas contained in it are defended against other sects by Moggaliputta Tissa in his Controversial Issues. Therefore the latter work must be of a more recent date than the others. This Moggaliputta Tissa is believed to have lived in the middle of the third century B.C. If this is true, the basic ideas of the other Abhidharma works must be older than that, and can hardly be of a later date than 300 B.C. When we accept the short chronology, this would imply, that there may be truth in the tradition which traces the Abhidharma back to the Buddha's direct pupils. However, if Moggaliputta Tissa lived later than tradition wants to have it, the whole Abhidharma may have been created in later times.

The Enumeration of the Dharmas is a classification of psychic phenomena. The Analysis seems in many respects a repetition of, and an extension to, the Enumeration. The Discourse is an inquiry into the constituents of the phenomenal world, i.e. the world of forms (rupa). The Conditional Relations analyses the dynamic relations between the phenomena classified in the preceding works. It is considered as the zenith of Abhidharmic thought. The Issues contains the repudiation of the heretical theses of 26 different schools. The Thera- Abhidhamma was commented upon and further systematized by Buddhaghosa (5th century A.D.) in his different works, most notably in his Atthasalini (exegesis).

The Abhidharma of the Sarvastivadins also consists of seven books, but it is called, remarkably enough, the 'Sadpadabhidharma' (the Abhidharma in six books). It consists of the following works:

1) Sangitiparyaya (commentary on the Sangiti-sutra)
2) Dharmaskandha (groups of dharmas)
3) Dhatukaya (classes of elements)
4) Vijñanakaya (classes of consciousness)
5) Prajñaptisastra (treatise on conventional denotation, i.e. the world)
6) Jñanaprasthana or Astagrantha (method for [acquiring] knowledge)
7) Prakaranapada (discussion section)

The reason that is spoken of only six books may be, that at the time when the reference was made, the last book had not yet come into existence, or was not yet considered as part of the Abhidharma. The first work is certainly the most primitive and looks like a less elaborate version of the Pali Enumeration. It is really a commentary on the Sangiti-sutra, consisting in a schematic arrangement of topics (the 'matrka ' proper). Significantly it is ascribed to Sariputra, a direct pupil of the Buddha. The same can be said of the Groups of Dharmas, which has some affinities with the Pali work Analysis. The works on the elements and on consciousness contain older and newer parts, corresponding in theme with parts of the Pali Discourse on the Elements and Conditional Relations. The works were possibly enlarged by respectively Vasumitra and Devasarman. Since the last author seems to refer to the Kathavatthu of Moggaliputta Tissa, the Classes of Consciousness in its extension must be somewhat later. If tradition is right in placing Moggaliputta Tissa around the middle of the third century B.C., the third and fourth work of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma may be situated slightly after this time. The Prajñapti-sastra will not be much later. It deals with cosmological concepts and the problem of free will. The great work of the sect is the Method of Knowledge, ascribed to a certain Katyayaniputra; it contains the typical doctrines of the Sarvastivada. Its date is usually settled at about 200 B.C. The last work of the Abhidharma is possibly some addition composed in the two following centuries. In all this we must keep in mind that research is only beginning, and that as yet nothing can be said that may claim certainty.

Around 100 A.D. it is said, there was held a council under the government of King Kaniska in Purusapura near present day Rawalpindi. On that occasion a huge commentary (Vibhasa) was composed on the Abhidharma, preserved only in Chinese through the translations of the group around Xuanzang. Like the books of the Abhidharma itself, also this work is virtually unknown in the Western world. But the latter work again formed the basis of the Abhidharmakosa (Treasury of the Abhidharma) by Vasubandhu (4th or 5th century A.D.), a work translated into French by Louis de la Valleé Poussin. Most of our knowledge in the West of the work of the Sarvastivadins has come to us through the mediation of this book.

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A survey of Buddhist Thought, pages 66-70

© Alfred Scheepers
No unauthorized multiplication allowed

The Abhidharma
Theras and Sarvastivadins
General characteristics and interpretation
The Sarvastivada Abhidharma , Retribution


THE THERA ABHIDHAMMA

Mind and 'sankhara'

Excepting the unconditioned, all other dharmas are comprised in one, that of mind (mano, citta, viññana). This mind must be conceived as pure consciousness, the medium in which only a thing (dharma) can be given, if it is to be given at all. All phenomena are formed or constituted (sankhata) in this consciousness, which is even considered as itself constituted for itself.

As all phenomena are constituted (sankhata or S. samskrta), the concept of 'phenomenon' (dhamma, dharma) seems to be the correlate of the idea of 'sankhara' (S. samskara). While 'dharma' stands for all that can be given to thought or the mind, 'sankhara' stands for the whole system of stimuli - which rise out of the mind itself - that lead to the givenness of a 'dharma.' When we call a dharma something constituted by mind, then we may call 'sankhara' a constituting activity of the mind. To understand this activity, we must look briefly to the conditioning function of consciousness. When something is apprehended, this is a conscious experience which leaves behind a trace in the subconscious, or, formulated in another way, this apprehension, after vanishing from the presence, disappears to the background of consciousness. There it remains operative in a variety of ways. One is, that it is always at hand to be consciously re-enacted by memory. But more important is, that such subconscious apprehension - which is nothing else but a past apprehension - after having vanished from the presence, conditions all future conscious experience. When, for example, our mother told us in our youth, that such and such a bird is called a 'swallow,' then on future occasions our apprehensive faculty is 'formed' to see at the appearance of the like visible scheme a swallow, and not just a bird or some other bird. Such 'formation' of the apperceptive system remains until it is adapted or modified by another conscious experience. The subconscious experience is thus active as a disposition or habitual tendency. It makes us see and do the things which we have learned, and to ignore the things outside our scope. In short, it sets the stage of our world, and determines the direction in which our experience is to develop. Our information limits the field of our apprehension. Of crucial importance is here that information which guides us with respect to our ultimate destiny: beauty, peace, and understanding wisdom, in short nirvana. By wrong information we are led astray, and start to act in a wrong direction. Finally one's initial information is refuted by circumstances when it results in misery. This is called the 'fruit' of action (or of apprehension), and this is, generally speaking, the fruit of the use of one's freedom. By going, on the contrary, consistently in the right direction by following the Buddhist path, the ultimate aim, Nirvana, itself is attained as the 'reward.'

It is a characteristic of the Buddhist idea of 'samskara,' that this notion presents the unity of tendency and information. It is, as one may say, directed information. It makes that everything newly experienced is conceived in a conditioned conceptual form. Accordingly, the 'sankhara' conditions the intentional hold on any phenomenon in every perceptive or apprehensive (apperceptive) act. As we keep in mind that there is nothing in an object, except truth or Nirvana, that is not conditioned by the intentional grip, it follows that all our experience, insofar as it is limited experience, is the result of former apprehensive and practical acts. In the light of the idea of rebirth, the causes of our present experiences can date back to the most remote past. One is equipped with information-based tendencies accumulated in innumerable lives, and one can be confronted in this life with faults from previous ones. This also makes that actual behaviour which fails to become corrected in the present life, will - in the form of initial information - be transmitted to the next, waiting there for expiation.

The idea that any conscious experience vanishes with the lapse of time to the background of consciousness, and the correlated idea, that any activity based on wrong information cannot fail to be corrected, explain the origin of a difference of opinion between the early Abhidharmists, notably between the Theras and the Sarvastivadins. The Sarvastivadins taught, that a dharma exists in the three periods of time: present, past, and future - since its information is retained in the past and its impetus transmitted to the future. It is the nature of the 'dharma' that persists through all time, while only its temporal condition is changed. This is a rather ontological vision. The Theras stick to a soteriological approach, and teach that only the present and that part of the past, which has not yet resulted in its fruit, is real. Or, what is practically the same, one's reality or world holds until it is corrected; a notion until it is refuted, a deed until it is retributed.

Buddhism rejects the existence of substantial entities. Also the mind is not a substance that continues its identity in time, but it is in a literal sense a contingency (santana), by which the Abhidammists mean, that the consciousness that 'I' have now is not the same as the consciousness 'I' had a moment ago. Its existence does not reach beyond the actual event or occasion (samaya). 'Its' next moment is the rebirth of consciousness conditioned by the series of similar previous consciousness-events. This adjection of new consciousness-events (citta-vithi), creates the idea of a continuous consciousness. But really discontinuous events are placed together. That the next event is conditioned by the previous series and is not introduced at random, needs not even to be explained out of some inner connection, because when the next moment would not be the one conditioned by the previous, no continuity would be conceived of. Since mind is essentially not conceived as an object in space and time, there is no other way of conceiving continuity than by the conditioned series itself. Let's make ourselves clear. If there are nothing but discontinuous events, I can sit here near the window, looking at the cars passing by, believing myself to be this selfsame person, born from this particular family. Nothing can exclude principally that in the next moment I consider myself a person of different sex, race and family in the midst of say a guerilla-war, trying to find refuge for myself and my suckling child. But it is impossible to melt these two lives together in a continuity of apperception, anyhow unless again certain conditions are satisfied. One life is a conditioned series; when the conditioning breaks down, the life breaks down, since a randomized series is in fact no series at all. Let's accept for the moment that the mind is the collection of all factual and possible events, and let's imagine that someone could see from the outside into this mind, he might see then all events thrown together in a total disorder, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. But if he would make for himself the resolve: 'I want to cross this mind,' he could only do so by jumping from event to event in a conditioned order; he would have to search the fitting pieces together, thus finding a passway through mind, worth to be called a life. Seen in this light, it is the meaningful picture itself that selects its own constituents, instead of one's identity being the result of objective circumstances.

What is important in the excursion above is the conception of mind not as an individual faculty, but as a universal mode of being that is the presupposition for anything to appear.

What can be said of a life-constituting conditioned series in mind, can also be said of anything that, as a certain entity, is constituted in life. It is only constituted as a conditioned series of events. Mind is the consciousness-form in which all is apprehended, and the dharmas (dhamma) are the phenomena which are so apprehended in consciousness. They too are constituted as a conditioned series of events. Besides the consciousness-dharma of mind itself, two kinds of dharmas are distinguished, those that are object for sensory awareness and also those that are object for the inner reflection and feeling.

As may be clear from what has been said, mind, in normal circumstances, never appears devoid of its content. It is always characterized either by its conscious apperceptions, or by its unconscious dispositions. All these make that mind is always in a certain state, corresponding with the present apperception or with a disposition below the conscious level. To start with apperception: it can be directed, as stated, towards some object of the outer sense, but also towards phenomena of psychic life. Such apperception, considered as a state of mind, is called a 'citta,' which literally means nothing else but 'mind.' The word 'mind' here can be used in plural 'cittani' to denote 'mind' in all the possible forms it can assume (but not to indicate different personal identities). 'Mind' in general is a possibility for all forms or contents, but the factual 'minds' are always determined by some particular content. The use of the plural to denote states of mind, even of one individual, displays clearly that mind is not seen as some persisting entity, but as something that is new at every apperception. What makes mind to mind is not its persistence, but its sameness of function. This function is that it reveals its content, be it some psychical factor (cetasika), or some sensory form (rupa) to which it is directed, and which it holds. These psychical factors and sensory forms are classified under different categories. Many descriptions try to render the categories of sensory form, and become weary as it comes to the psychical factors. But especially these are important in Abhidarmic Buddhism, since it is the inner life that directs the steps to, and indicates the progression on the liberation-path.

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A Survey of Buddhist Thought, pages 81-83.

© Alfred Scheepers
No unauthorized multiplication allowed

The Abhidharma
Theras and Sarvastivadins
The Thera Abhidhamma, Mind and 'sankhara'
The Sarvastivada Abhidharma, Retribution



General characteristics and interpretation

It is often stated, that the Abhidharmic approach of the world is a realistic and pluralistic one, which would set it apart from later idealistic developments of Buddhism. But this is true only relatively, and less so for the Theras than for the Sarvastivadins. To the Thera the process of suffering and liberation is real indeed, but he does not accept a being in itself, independent of the mind. All being is conditioned by mental factors, excepting only Nirvana. This confronts us with a central question: every conscious act begins with a blocking and subsequent vibration of the subconscious series of background consciousness, containing information and tendencies, which under normal circumstances become renewed constantly; there is nothing outside this subconscious stream or 'continuum' (santana), so whence comes its blocking? The answer can only be that it must be the consequence, the result of the ripening (vipaka) of a former act in the present or in a previous life. All experience, insofar as it is passive, is the outcome of former experience. Only conscious activity insofar as involving judgement and free will creates something new. The complexity of our present world is the product of innumerable former acts of freedom. This complexity is transmitted through the continuum of subconscious life by being ever re-embodied in the next event, like the ripples caused by a stone move through the pond until they are obstructed. Each tendency maintains its momentum until it is counteracted by a momentum of contrary direction. But what can counteract a 'protending pattern'?

Here we must remind the liberation-context of Buddhist thinking. Life is suffering and there is but one way out. There is but one direction without a dead end, the direction given by understanding, wisdom, and truth. Progression in any other direction strands on its limits. It sails out of the medium of truth - in which momentum can be transmitted indefinetely - into the muddy shores. To put it differently: Buddhism accepted two forms of 'thirst,' one for sensory enjoyment, and one for individual being (kamatrsna , bhavatrsna). But the fact is that extreme desire for sensory enjoyment leads to suffering and desire for individual being leads to destruction, since by these tendencies the continual replenishing of life, which requires the non-fixed state of openness, is obstructed. The tendencies, accordingly, evoke their refutation precisely by obstructing the renewal of the subconscious stream. And, as we saw, such obstruction causes the vibration of the stream, and sets in motion the apperceptive process, which provides one with the second chance liberty to remove (or avoid) the obstruction by choosing the direction of truth. In the context of the Abhidharma the root-causes, beginning with greed, present the systematized form of 'thirst.' They, in the end, cause the blocking of the continuum by their gradually starting to display their intrinsic contradiction.

The development of life in this way becomes characterized by learning of one's faults, in the process of which the pernicious root-tendencies should become gradually eliminated. This elimination is the extinction of 'thirst' (nirvana). But this is only the extinction of the unwholesome root-tendencies. What is not 'repulsive' is quietly transmitted in the refreshing of the stream. The stream of 'protending patterns' now has become a stream of knowledge (ñana, S. jñana). There is nothing left in it to be refuted. Being thus, it has left behind its individual limitations, carrying with it the whole world, even the wrong, but recognized as such. This stream of knowledge does not know anymore of the distinction between apperceptive and background consciousness, since the causes for the obstruction lying at the base of any particular conscious apperception are no more active. It may then be assumed that the background itself becomes foreground in an extremely intensified and magnified form of consciousness, which does not contain confronting but 'sympathic' apperceptions. Such apperceptions differ from the apperception that needs an obstruction as an occasion to realize its freedom; it is the free unhampered flow of true knowledge itself, the ultimate presupposition of all occasioned acts of freedom. This apperception is one of beauty insofar as it is made possible by right behaviour (sila), of peace, insofar as it is the end of right concentration (samadhi), and of truth, insofar as it is the refuge of wisdom (pañña , S.prajña).

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A Survey of Buddhist Thought, pages 85-87

© Alfred Scheepers
No unauthorized multiplication allowed

Abhidharma
Theras and Sarvastivadins
The Thera Abhidhamma, Mind and 'sankhara'
General characteristics and interpretation



THE SARVASTIVADA ABHIDHARMA

Retribution

To elucidate these concepts, we will describe their function in the explanation of retribution. We shall then at the same time learn how volition and the natural forces are interconnected.

Visible deed and invisible result

Retribution is the fruition of the results of a deed set in motion by the will. It is accomplished in the following way. From the actual volition, which is something purely mental, issue two types of acts in the current world; in the first place there is the bodily or vocal behaviour, that is the direct expression of the will, and which is at once, the performance in re of the deed and its communication to the world. For example, in the case of a murder, it is the actual stabbing of the victim. This physical expression is called the 'notification' or 'sign' [of the will] (vijñapti). But at the selfsame time at which the notable act is performed, another imperceptible act is effectuated, which may be compared to the laying of an invisible egg. This egg or seed is of a kind of subtle, or implicated matter. It yet does not have the characteristics of perceptible matter. As a seed it has no extension, but it has the intrinsic ability to materialize in space. This materialization is the matured retribution of the initial act. The egg, accordingly, is a force which automatically procures the retribution of the act. It is called 'aviijñapti,' and it is considered as a separate dharma in the material realm. A physical deed causes an 'avijñapti,' which grows and ripens in conformity with its own laws, and finally evokes its own neutralization or retribution.

Whose is the deed?

But this materialistic interpretation of the process of retribution raises an important question: in what way is the act, its egg, and its little chicken connected with the one responsible? The very autonomy of the process renders it possible that the act is retributed in quite another psychic stream as the one out of which it came. In other words, what makes the egg a satellite of this stream and not of another? The Sarvastivadins found for this problem the following solution. At the moment the act is completed and 'projected' it creates in the personal series to which it belongs its 'appropriation' (prapti). This is a dharma belonging to the group regulating the autonomous vital processes. It continues to be renewed until the moment the 'fruit' is ripe, i.e. when the deed hits its goal. At that moment the incessant regeneration of the 'appropriation' is interrupted, and from that moment the act is retributed, precisely from the perspective of the one who performed it. For it is 'his' stream which is now freed from it.

Two dharmas, therefore, are operative in the process of retribution, (1) the 'avijñapti' created by an act of volition combined with a physical deed, which governs the retribution as such, and (2) the glue of the 'appropriation' (prapti), which makes this unnoticible 'egg' stick to the stream of events from which it came until the time of breaking apart and freeing its 'chicken.' Besides the 'appropriation' of retribution, the Sarvastivadins also mention its opposite, 'aprapti,' which we will translate as 'immunity.' This concept is particularly relevant for those having reached the higher stages of the Buddhistic path. Their wealth of accumulated good works can render them immune to the results of evil ones, if they might happen to commit these. It seems justified to relate in this connection the story of the Sthavira Chakkhupala who was blind. One evening he went for his walk, but since at the time many little insects populated the ground under his feet, he killed these in great numbers. The other monks complained to the Buddha, but the latter explained, that because of the elder being deprived of the sense of sight, he invoked no guilt by the act of killing. Although here is a physical deed, which according to the Sarvastivada lore must have created an 'avijñapti' of killing, nevertheless there was no 'appropriation' (prapti) of it, since Chakkhupala's state of arhatship precluded any thought or intention of death. He was immune to the deed of killing.

Further reflection on the matter may help to elucidate more of the structure of Sarvastivada thinking. It will thereby be helpful to look at the matter from three angles: (1) that of volition and fruition, (2) that of the five substrates (or groups of grasping), (3) that of will and space.

1) volition and fruition. When we reread the above, we find that action starts with a volition, which expresses itself in perceptible matter. For a brute materialist this would be the whole story, but Buddhism adds something to this. An action has a moral value, and when it is called into existence, it produces a special force, which by the Sarvastivadins is interpreted as the seed or subtle existence of a certain phenomenon in the material world. In due time the seed will yield its fruit, and the instigator of the deed will be the one to harvest it. This reaping of the fruit may be called 'experience' (or fruition). It is nothing but the reception of the results of former deeds.

We have found a simple scheme: there are the conative acts, which generate processes that finally are received by fruitive experiences. These may be interpreted as intellective acts. Man's activity conditions his experience and understanding.

2) five substrates. We have seen that Buddhism recognized five types of irreducible phenomena: inclinations (volitions), forms, feelings, apprehensions, and conscious perceptions. The whole universe was composed out of these five elementary 'substrates'; Apart from it there were no other constituents of life and the world. Volition was the beginning of action and this action conditioned further experience in the form of sensory impressions, arousing feelings and being interpreted by apprehensions. The experience was simply the retribution of the volition. The relation between de deed and its 'fruition' lay in the nature of experience itself. Nothing external was required to explain its operation. But now the Sarvastivadin poses something between the deed and its retribution by experience. It accepts a non-phenomenal existence to account for the connection between the deed and its retribution, between volition and experience. This non-phenomenal existence is a kind of natural force.

3) will and space. For the Sarvastivadins the group of 'inclinations' (samskara) contains more than only conative acts. It encompasses all that generates processes whatsoever. Therefore, in speaking about the Sarvastivada, we have chosen for the word 'force' as translation of 'samskara' rather than for 'volition' or '`inclination.' Not everything is here a function of volition. The generative, conative act provides the information of any process, it determines what is to be the subject of development, but this evolution itself, the growth, stabilizing, maturing, decay, destruction, holding together of its subject matter, and the keeping in abeyance of what presently does not fit in with it, is ruled by autonomous or natural forces. From where this autonomy?

All natural forces regulate what may be called, the definition of the will in space (the container of form and matter). The will formates the principle (avijñapti), which thus informed develops into a spatial manifestation. For the Sarvastivada space is an unconditioned dharma, something infinite. This infinity stands in a striking contrast to the finitude of a principle (in which is laid down the information produced by a deed). Now the path from finitude to infinitude is that of growth, the path in the other direction is that of decay. The other natural forces too have something to do with positioning in space. May we then suppose, that the natural forces are somehow an outcome of the nature of space itself and of its material contents, which tend to give everything a momentum of expansion or diminution? It may very well be the lure of infinity itself that is responsible for this. And since space for the Sarvastivadins is not a function of the will or of the mind, this would explain why the functions based on it are autonomous. Space is dragging and inflating our intentions when they are once exposed to it, and when they cannot stand the light, they may even damage or obliterate our own spatial existence.

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