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But above and beyond this there is a much more profound interpretation, which really concerns the origins and which is a higher form of knowledge than the "four truths."

According to this interpretation, the series is not only to he considered in tempo­ral terms, but also in transcendental terms; it develops, that is to say, not horizontally but essentially in a vertical manner, starting from preindividual and prenatal states and finishing on the plane of samsaric existence, in which the "horizontal" series considered by the first interpretation develops. Since in the texts these nidāna or causal "nexuses" are quite obviously considered now from one point of view and now from the other, there has been opportunity for confusion and for divergent inter­pretations wherever general doctrine principles have been left out of account.

Here we have particularly to consider the paţicca-samuppada in the sense of a transcendental, vertical, and descending series that even if it finishes by entering time, is not in itself temporal.

1. The basic element of the whole series is a vijjā, that is to say, "ignorance," un­awareness. The significance of this term in Buddhism is not essentially different from its significance in other branches of the Indo-Aryan tradition, the Samkhya or the Vedānta doctrines, for example, and where it might be figuratively illustrated by say­ing: man is a god who is unaware that he is such-it is his unawareness (a vijja) alone that makes him a man. t is a question, then, of a state of "oblivion," of deliquescence, by which the primary motive for identification with one or other form of finite and conditioned existence is determined. We must not therefore think of an abstract dis­cernible condition, but rather of something that also includes a disposition, a tendency, a virtual movement. Thus we can think of this state simultaneously as "infatuation," "intoxication, "mania"-and, in fact, we find in some texts that "ignorance" and "ma­nia" condition each other: it is said, for example: "the origin of ignorance determines the origin of mania" and, at the same time. "the origin of mania determines the origin of ignorance"-mania here being considered as tripartite, thaf is, as "mania of desire. mania of existence, mania of ignorance-kāmāsava, bhavāsava, avijjāsava."10 Fol­lowing Neumann and de Lorenzo, we have translated the term āsava as "mania." It has been rendered by Orientalists in various ways: sometimes as "passions" (Nyanatiloka), sometimes as "toxins"-deadly floods, intoxicants (Rhys Davids) or as

I t). Majjh., 9.


"depravities" (Warren) or "drugs"' (Woodward), ferments or stupefacients-or by effluvia, impure emanations, suppurations-unreine Ausflusse (Walleser), etc. The literal sense is exactly the idea of an intoxicant drug that can alter and pervade an entire organism with a disturbance or a "mania," We must imagine a state of drunken­ness that makes a man forget himself and, at the same time. makes an irrational action possible. The close relātion of avijja, ignorance, to āsava, mania, is confirmed not only by the Fact that, as we have seen, this same ignorance is described as an āsava-avijjasava-but still more by the fact that the state of intuitive knowledge or wisdom, panna, as opposed to that of ignorance, is very frequently said to he, attained when the āsavā have been neutralized or destroyed.

Here we must touch on the problem of the degree in which "ignorance" can be considered as something absolutely original. Various views are possible, according to the point of reference. In itself, the Buddhist teaching does not go back beyond avijjā. And, for all practical ascetic purposes, it is not even necessary to go further hack than the transcendental Fact. the mysterious crisis that in the mythological form of an original "fall" or "descent" or "fault" or "alteration" appears to some extent in the teachings of all peoples. Doctrinally, however, things are somewhat different. It is stated that "an anterior limit, in which ignorance has not been in some degree, but only after which ignorance has been, if is not possible to find"12; this idea refers, however, not to the transcendental series, but to the horizontal and temporal series of samsāric existence, about which it is, in fact, stated in the same text: "Samsāra does not lead towards what is free from death. And it is not possible to chart the first point of the journey of beings who are hindered by ignorance and hound by craving.''13 t would, indeed, be an absurdity to attempt, as some do, to make ignorance the abso­lute prius in the order of conditioned genesis: it would certainly endow Buddhism with an "originality," but only to condemn it to every form of contradiction and inco­herence. Craving might possibly be conceived as something absolutely fundamen­tal; hut certainty not ignorance that already, as such, presupposes knowledge. Nor would it be sensible to talk of an awakening, for obviously one cannot awake if one has not been sleeping, and if there is nothing that shines beyond the cloud of oblivion. And, finally, the very substance of the Buddhist doctrine, that is, the ascesis, would be fundamentally prejudiced: For it would not he possible to understand whence one derives the impetus for resisting, for detaching oneself from samsāra, for destroying the whole chain of the nidāna by following it in reverse or backward, and for extin­guishing mania without leaving any residue, unless ignorance signified something additional: an intoxication, a darkness, and a drunkenness that, however profound,

11. [These terms in English in the original.--- Trans.].

  1. Samyutt., 15.1.

  2. Ibid., 15.3.


yet still presuppose an antecedent state, and that are not capable of irretrievably paralyzing all energy connected with this state. That the Buddhist teaching agrees with this point of view can be seen in this passage: "There is, 0 disciples, an unborn, not become, not compounded, not constructed. If there were not this unborn, not become, not compounded. not constructed, no escape could be seen here from that which is born, become, compounded, constructed. But since there is an unborn, not become, not compounded, not constructed, so an escape is possible from what is born, become, compounded, constructed."14

In the view of the most celebrated commentator on the texts,15 moreover, igno­rance is, and at the same time is not the prime cause; "it is the principal element, but not the beginning." It is not the beginning from the point of view of samsāric exist­ence, of which it is said that there never was a time in which ignorance was not, since this existence has ignorance and craving as its double root and coessential substra­tum. But it is the beginning from the higher point of view of the origins. According to this view, it seems that the āsava themselves are conditioned by ignorance and that it is because of this that they lead to a determined form of existence on the subhu­man, human, or "divine" plane,16 On the samsāric plane, and therefore according to the temporal interpretation, an ignorant man is described as one who, having de­scended into birth, cannot apprehend that the law of the world is dukkha, cannot see its origin, nor deliverance from it nor the path by which this deliverance is obtained: ignorance is thus ignorance of the four truths of the ariyan. Having been determined by the āsava, by intoxication or mania, this particular ignorance establishes the samsāric state of existence and determines the substratum (upadhi) that protracts it.

2. In the connected series, after avijja follow the sankhāra. This term also has been variously interpreted. Literally, sankhāra means a formation or predisposition in regard to a particular aim. We are dealing, that is to say, with a state in which the potential motion of the first nidāna has already assumed a certain direction and has entered on the path that later development will follow. To translate sankhāra by "dis­tinctions" (Neumann) is, to some extent, exact, seeing that we cannot choose a direc­tion without first having defined it and thus distinguished it from other possible direc­tions. We must, however, bear in mind the volitional and active factor (sankhāra as kamma-cetanā) and the "conceptional" factor, n this connection, Burnouf recorded the exegesis according to which sankhāra is "the passion which includes desire, aver­sion, fear and joy," noting, however, that the terms desire and passion are here too much restricted. n a commentary quoted by Hodgson, we read: "The belief of a sen­sible incorporeal principle in the reality of that which is only a mirage, is accompanied

  1. Udana, 8. 1-3.

  2. Visuddhi-magga, 17 (W., 171-75).

  3. Angutt., 6.63.


by a desire for this mirage and by a conviction of its value and reality: this desire is called sankhāra."17 To which Burnouf added: "The sankhārā are thus the things guile fingit animus. that is, which the spirit creates, makes, imagines (sankharoti); they are, in a word, the products of the faculty which it has of conceiving, of imagining."18 It is in such terms that the object of the "mania" begins to manifest itself and that a particular current, santāna, begins to define itself in the descent toward samsāric existence. We can, moreover, relate the sankhāra to kamma (Skt.: karma) in a double sense: in the vertical chain, by taking kamma in the general meaning of action and as the general principle accounting for the difference of beings;19 and in the samsaric, temporal, and horizontal chain, by seeking in kamma, rather, the roofs of the character, the predispo­sitions, the innate tendencies, as well as all fresh ones that develop and which, when rhey are established and incorporated in the body of craving, pass from being to being. In this second sense we shall see that the sankhara are considered to be one of the five groups making up the personality. But, ultimately, the root of these sankhāra on the conditioned, samsāric plane, goes back, in everyone, to the sankhāra that make up the second nidāna of the vertical series.

  1. The sankhara, through the distinction or individuation that they imply, give place to the third nidāna, to vinnana or "consciousness," understood as distinctive consciousness. That is to say, it is the germ of all that will eventually appear as individuality, as individual consciousness or consciousness of "I," in the general sense of the Sanskrit term ahamkāra, and which also includes forms of individuality differ­ing from what is usually understood as human individuality.

  2. The fourth nidāna is nāma-rupa or `"name-and-form." This has already been discussed in some detail. All that is necessary here is to extend the concept once again, thinking of the general combination of both material elements ("matter") and immate­rial or mental elements ("mind") that vinnāna, or individual consciousness in general, needs as a base. On the level of the fourth nidāna occurs the meeting of the vertical direction with the horizontal, and which leads to the conception and the generation of a being. At this point the transcendental dispositions are incorporated in the elements of samsaric heredity that, whenever the series turns toward a human birth, show them-selves, to a large extent, in the material of the biological heredity of the parents.

To orient ourselves on this point we must consider Buddhism in the light of a

  1. Cf. Corpus Hemeticum, 1.1: "Seeing his own form in the water, he conceived a desire for it and wished ro possess it. The act accompanied the desire and the irrationat form was conceived. Nature took posses­sion of her lover. sutrounded him and they joined in mutual love. This is why, alone amongst the beings thar tive on the earth, man is twofold. mor13al in the body, immortal in essence .. Superior to sleep (= avijjā), he is dominated by sleep."

  2. E. Burnouf, Introduction a l'histoire du bouddhisme indien (Paris, 1576), pp. 448-49.

  3. Cf. Visuddhi-magga, 17.


more general teaching. Three factors come together in the birth of' a human being. The first is of a transcendental nature and is connected with the first three nidana: "ignorance," mania, and sankhāra must, in the first place, have determined a dark­ening and a descending current that, through the second nidana, has already been given its direction, and through the third, already tends toward an individuated form having an "F-consciousness. The second factor, on the other hand, is connected with forces and influences that are already organized, with a will that is already deter-mined. thus corresponding to one of those processes of "combustion" that constitute samsāra, and of which we have already spoken. These influences and this will can he considered comprehensively as a form of entity sui generis, which we may call "samsāric entity" or entity of craving." It is a "life" that does not exhaust itself within the limits of the individual but which is thought of, rather, as the "life" of this life and which is associated with the notions of "daemon," "double," and "genius," of ka, fravashi, and fylgya, etc., which occur in other traditions and which, in the Indo-Aryan tradition, already existed as, for example, the linga-sarira or "subtle body" of Samkhya, or as that entity-gandharva (Pali: gandhabba)-whose presence a text of the earliest Buddhist canon records as necessary, in addition to the parents. for a birth to occur, In the Abhidharmakosa. that is to say, in the theoretical system of Buddhism, this entity receives the name of antarabhava; it is thought that it has a pre- and internatal existence; nourished by "desire" and carried by impulses fed by other lives, it seeks to manifest itself in a new existence.21 This, then. is the second factor, already potentially corresponding to a largely predetermined"name-and-form." On the level of this nidāna-mama-rapa--occurs the meeting of the principle that is obscured by ignorance with the antarābhava, or samsāric daemon, or entity of crav­ing: the first, in a manner of speaking, joins with the second, inserting itself in this way into a particular group of samsāric heredity.

We have now to consider the third factor. In one of' the texts we have just men­tioned it says that the supersensible eye sees the daemon wandering about until an opportunity for a new "combustion" presents itself on the occasion of the meeting of a man and a woman who may be suitable as its father and mother, that is to say, who may present it with a heredity in accordance with its cravings. A thing then occurs, with reference to which the doctrine in question is singularly in agreement with what "psychoanalysis"-even with its various deformations and exaggerations-has pre­sented to our modern eyes in the guise of theories of the libido and of the "Oedipus" or "Electra complex." The doctrine speaks, in fact, of a desire that this entity may conceive either for the future mother or for the future father, according to the sex to

20. Majjh., 38; Jataka. 330: Milindapanha, 123.

21. Abhidharmakosa, 3.12; cf. L. de la Vallee-Poussin, Nirvana (Path, t925), p. 28.


which it belonged in its previous and now exhausted life, and of a corresponding aversion for the other parent.22 An identification follows through the infatuation and delight of the pair, by means of which the entity enters the womb and conception takes place. Immediately the various khandha, the germinal chain of factors that will form the basis of the personality, condense around it, and from this point there fol­lows that physiological process of embryonic development that, in its exterior as­pects, is known to contemporary medicine, Its internal development is determined by the various remaining nidana, of which we yet have to speak,"

Thus. finally, there are present in the human being three principles or entities, which are called in Sāmkhya, kārana, linga, and sthula-sarīra. These are also known to the ancient Western traditions as nous, psyche, and some. or as mens, anima, and corpus. In connection with these last, we should remember the strict relationship that was conceived between the spirit as daemon or double, and the "genius" as life and memory of a particular blood and a particular stock; a concept which, in its turn goes hack to the Upanisadic "way of the fathers"---pitr-yana, to the path that continually leads back to birth according to the law of craving and the nature of samsāric exist­ence. The anima, according to the original concept, belongs to this very plane, it com­bines more or less with the "daemon" as an irrational entity; and even in the Buddhist texts dealing with the prajnā-pāramita, the person or anima (pudgala) is often confused with this preformed principle that takes on existence as the life of a determined life, and holds together its elements; a principle that yet maintains itself as a separate energy, not hound to these elements, and that transmits itself through various lives.

In the texts of the oldest Buddhist canon (which is in Pāli), things are often presented in such a manner that rhe daemon or samsāric entity seems to be equiva­lent to vinnāna. that is, to "consciousness," the third nidāna, In reality, the two things, as we have said, are quite distinct: the identification is explained by rhe fact that, through what we may call an elective affinity or a convergence, an identification is made between the force from above that is carried down by ignorance, and this entity made of desire: this identification is entirely analogous to the identification of the same entity with the material that the future parents offer for its new manifesta­tion of craving. "Consciousness," vinnāna, is not the "daemon"; it meets the "dae­mon," however, and identifies and joins itself with it at the moment when it achieves one of its individuations and incarnations; this requires, in fact, an already specified life-force and its craving. Thus, in the human compound there certainly exists a "dae­mon" that is the scat of a more than individual samsāric consciousness and to which

22. It was, moreover, already a Vedic idea (Rg Veda, 10.85 40) that the gandharva, the genius or doubte. found the wife before the husband.

23 L. de la Vallee-Poussin, Bouddhismo: Etudes et materiaux (Paris, 1909), pp. 25 ff.


there may also be attached memories, instincts, and causes of remote origin and this is the signification of the so-called alayavinnāna, the "containing-consciousness" that receives all impressions both conscious and unconscious of a certain stock or current; yet there also exists in the human being a higher principle, but which igno­rance and the āsavā have bewildered and obscured. This is a fundamental point, and if it is not kept in mind, large parts of the Buddhist ascesis will remain unintelligible.

It is said that at the point when the antarābhava, the daemon, enters the womb, and when the regrouping and solidification of the material elements begins around it, it "dies."24 By this we must understand the cessation of the continuity of conscious­ness, and this means that one does not in the ordinary way remember prenatal and preconceptional states either samsāric or transcendental. It is a kind of rupture, for, starting from this point, the fourth nidāna, the interdependent correlation between consciousness and the psychophysical unity (nāma-rupa) that individuates it, is es­tablished. For if consciousness, vinnana, must enfer the mother's womb in order that "name-and-form" can originate, then there must, at the same time, he "name-and­form" so that consciousness can exist."

In the texts we find the following simile for the relationship existing between the three principles: the seed is vinnāna, consciousness, the earth is kamma, and the water that makes the seed grow into a plant is thirst. [Comma here is the force, al-ready determined by the sankhāra, that corresponds to the "samsāric entity," into which the descending principle (seed) enters and is brought to a fresh existence because there is craving. Only in cases of exceptional "descents," "fatidic" in nature, of beings who, having removed ignorance to a certain degree, arc in their substance mainly composed of "illumination" (bodhi-this is the literal sense of the expression bodhisattva), is the "vehicle" they use in place of the antarābha va or entity of crav­ing, a "celestial body" or "body of splendor" (tnsita-kaya). In these cases birth takes place without any dissolution of the continuity of consciousness; the individual is in perfect possession of himself, he is imperturbable and has vision; and for his nativity he has a choice of the place, the time, and the mother.26

Such views naturally reduce the implications of earthly biological heredity to merely relative importance. Heredity is considered here as something much vaster: as not only that which one inherits from one's ancestors, but also as that which comes from oneself' and from antecedent identifications. Indeed, taking heredity compre­hensively, only the latter is essential as far as the core of the human personality is concerned. From a higher point of view, to leave this heredity out of account would

  1. Cf. G. Trice. Il buddhismo (Foligno. 1926). p. 75.

  2. Cf. Digha, t5.2t-22.

  3. Cit.. e.g., Majjh., 123; Digha. t4.1.17: Bardo Thodot, p. 191; Angutt., 8.70.


he as absurd as thinking that chicks of different species are born only from eggs, without a corresponding animal heredity.27 Returning to the symbolism of burning: if we wish to find the origin of the fire that burns with some particular log, it would be absurd to trace the origin of the log to the tree from which it came, and that to the forest to which it belonged, and so on-at the most we could only discover the qual­ity of the fuel. The origin of the fire must, instead, be sought in the nature of the fire irself, not in rhat of the wood, by tracing the spark that lit the flame, and then the flame from which the spark came, and so on. Equally, the most essential and truly "direct" heredity of a being is not found in the genealogy of its earthly parents. For beings are heirs and sons of action and not of father and mother." Besides one's own heredity of body and soma, there is samāric heredity and, finally, there is one's heredity that is the principle "from above" clouded by "ignorance."

5. Returning to the chain of conditioned genesis, the states or nidāna that follow "name-and-form" refer to the internal side of embryonic development. As the fifth Link of the series we have sad-āyatana, that is (the assumption of) the sixfold base. By this is meant the sensory fields or strands in which, through "contact," the various sense impressions and the various images of the mind will hum. In the Indo-Aryan tradition there are always considered to be six senses, the five that we know, with the addition of ,nano (Ski.: mamas), mind or thought. Far from being synonymous with "spirit," as many of our contemporaries believe, thought, subjective thought tied to the brain, is here considered as a sense sui generis, ranking more or less with the others. While it is not limited to coordinating and organizing the impressions derived from the senses, it is held that thought originates from special and subtle forms of "contact."

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