The origins and Sociology of the Early Buddhist Philosophy of Moral Determinism

V. P. VARMA
Phlosophy East and West 13, no. 1, January 1963.
(c) by The University Press of Hawaii.
p.25-47


. P.25 1. THEORY OF DETERMINISM DETERMINISM not only implies a check upon and regulation of the operative efficacy of the human will but also holds that the life of man is subjected to powerful forces which are almost beyond his control. These forces not only influence and condition his life but even determine it. Although determinism is different from the religious and popular conception of fatalism, which implies almost the total futility of the endeavors of a man, it also seriously enunciates a vital domination over the actions and life of man. It does not absolutely neutralize the spontaneity and freedom of man, but it does emphasize that human efforts and will work in a framework which is mighty and even uncontrollable. Some thinkers have pleaded for the philosophy of climatology or economic determinism, while others advocate a theological or absolutistic determinism.*(1) In the dominant systems of Indian thought(2) it has been held that the merits or demerits of the actions performed by a man, and the psychological impulsions behind them, accumulate, and, in the course of time, acquire such a vital potency that they determine the life of the man. Determinism serves to counter the tendency of explaining the facts in the universe and history in terms of a random conglomeration of atoms or the arbitrary fiat of an omnipotent God, who dispenses predestination. It pleads for the acceptance of a law-governed world and seeks to establish the determination of cosmic and historical operations in terms of laws.(3) There is also a form of determinism, _____________________________________________________ * Editor's note. Throughout this paper the author's instructions as to transliteration and documentation have been followed--else his usage of Sanskrit and Paali. (1) V. P. Varma, The Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1960), pp. 92-104. (2) In this paper references to Buddhist scriptures are to the London pali Text Society editions. (3) The concept of karman as expounded in Indian thought stressed the notion of justice based on individual retribuition, but it was not expanded to imply the scientific notion of universal uniformity and cosmic causaliry. Hence. it would not he proper to compare the old concept of p.26 called psychological determinism, which implies that the human will is not free in its volitional activities but is determined by previous accumulations of the influences of psychic energy. Thus it seeks to account for the formation of choice and decisions among alternative possibilities through antecedent psychical and physical conditions. Moral determinism accepts the operation of a law of just recompense in the world. It is opposed to the two trends of materialistic accidentalism and divine election. Materialistic accidentalism seeks to explain the phenomena of the world, as well as human suffering and enjoyment, by the working of chance or sheer arbitrariness. There is no proportion, according to it, between the actions we perform and the amount of misery and happiness which is our lot. The notion of divine election is based on the accep- tance of the dogma that God in his superior will has decreed that only some persons will attain salvation and thus be redeemed from sin and sorrow, Moral determinism, on the contrary, does not accept the view that man's life is the mere translation of the arbitrary promulgations of God; it seeks to establish a commensurability between his actions and the consequences he reaps. The enunciation of the concept of moral determinism is a landmark in the ethical evolution of man because it not only accepts the op- eration of an infinite law of the conservation of moral energy in the world, but, in the form that it has had in Indian thought, it states that a man's ancestry, his station in life, his sorrow and happiness, and even his death are determined by his own actions. Buddhism is a staunch advocate of moral determinism, and its karmavaada (doctrine of karman) is a strong exemplification of it. In some schools of Buddhism it is accepted that the actions of men not only influence their personal lives but even have enormous general influences.(4) The concept of karman represents one of the prime themes in Indian philosophical speculation and social life. It clearly indicates the prevalence of the _____________________________________________________ karman and the notions of Galilean-Newtonian physics. Sometimes, however, it is said that the conceptions of niyantaa (necessity) and dhammataa (cosmic law) upheld in Buddhism answer to the Stoics' notions of natural law. The A^nguttara Nikaaya, IV. 77, forbids speculation on four sub- jects, and two of these are karmavipaaka (fruition of karman) and lokacintaa (sorrowful thought for the world). Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism, 2 vols. (London: Edward Arnold & Co., 1921. Reissued: London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1954), Vol. I, pp. 221-222, says that the Buddha may have felt that an attempt to transform the law of causation into a cosmic law would turn into "speculation" and would go dangerously near fatalism. Cf. Helmuth von Glasenapp, Die Lehre vom Karman (referred to in A. B. Keith, The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and the Upanisbads. 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925), Vol. II, p. 574n. (4) Louis de La Vallee-Poussin, "Karma," in The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VII (1914), p. 675-676: "Acts have also a fruit of a general kind. Towards the end of the little cosmic period (antarakalpa), plants etiolate, are crushed by stones and rain, and bear little fruit; this is the result of a superabundance of murder, theft etc., the fruit of karman as sovereign (adhipati). The creation of the universe is the result of the acts of all beings together, the hells are created by the acts that require to be punished in hell and so on..." p.27 belief in a universal harmonious pattern. The ordinary meaning of "karman" is action. At a more comprehensive level it also connotes the motivation behind the action and the objective set of consequences following from it. Thus three factors are important in the study of karman: first, the motivational impulsion, which determines the course of action; second, the specific physical and instrumental steps followed; and, third, the process of consequences (vipaaka, or maturation, and sa^mskaara, or impressions of actions, or disposi- tions)(5) that ensue from the action. In Sanskrit, these three are called, respectively, sa^mkalpa (will), karman, and pari.naama (consequence). In Buddhist philosophy, the expression "vij^napti-karman" refers to external objective acts, while "avij~napti-karman"(6) refers to the inner psychic motivation behind the act as well as the consequence following from it. The resultant chain of consequences can be further analyzed at two levels: consequences accruing to the doer at the participant and environmental consequences.(7) Almost all schools of Indian thought, orthodox and heterodox, theistic and atheistic, adhere to the philosophy of karman. It is expounded at great length in Jainism and Buddhism, in the Nyaaya-Vai'se.sika, in the Saa^mkhya-Yoga, and in the two schools of Mimaa^msaa. In some schools of Indian thought the accumulated potency of actions is believed to operate with such transcendental efficacy that there is no place for the concept of the overruling majesty of God (for example, in the Puurva Miimaa^msaa) . Karmavaada enjoys almost universal philosophical adherence. It has also powerfully influenced the popular mind of India--and the conduct of the people generally. _____________________________________________________ (5) See: Majjhima Nikaaya, "Samharuppati Sutta," for the Buddhist theory of sa^mskaara. Hermann Oldenberg, Buddha: His Life, His Doctrine, His Order, William Hoey, trans. (London: Williams & Norgate, 1882), p. 242: "We might translate sankhƒra directly by 'actions.' if we understand this word in the wide sense in which it includes also at the same time the internal 'actions,' the will and the wish." According to the Sa^myutta Nikaaya, III. 87, sa^mskaara has the function of synthesis (sa^mkhaatam abhisa^mkharonti). There are fifty-two sa^mskaara states, according to Theravaada Buddhism. Consult A. B. Keith, Buddhist Philosophy in India and Ceylon (Oxford: Clarendon press, 1923), pp. 200-201. Sometimes sa^mskaara is translated as "restless, substanceless procession." (6) Avij~napti is the lasting moral result of our actions. Th. Stcherbatsky, The Central Conception of Buddhism (2d ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, p. 82: "It [avij~napti] constitutes a link between the act and its future retribution, it is, therefore, the same as sa^mskaara, apuurva, or ad.r.s.ta of the Brahmanical systems." According to La Vall‚e-Poussin, op. cit., avij~napti is a thing of particular nature which is subtle, although it is derived from the four great material elements. It is procduced by a voluntary and conscious bodily or vocal act, but when produced it develops of its own accord irrespective of whether the man is sleeping, working, or meditating. (7) D. T. Suzuki, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism (London: Luzac & Co., 1907), pp. 181-182, points out the differential manifestation of karman: (a) as the principle of conservation of energy at the physical level, (b) as the principle of evolution and heredity at the biological level, and (c) as the principle of the immortality of deeds at the moral level. Elaborating the concept of dharmadhaatu (spiritual universe), Suzuki, ibid.. p. 193, stresses the collective influence of a moral deed and states that deeds once committed leave permanent effects on the "general system of sentient beings." p.28 2. THE CONCEPT OF KARMAN IN THE VEDAS, BRAAHMA.NAS, AND UPANI.SADS The Vedic poets and singers adhered to the belief in .rta--the cosmic law of harmony and order.(8) This order was recognized, not merely as a mechanical uniformity,(9) but as proceeding from a superior moral and beneficent force(10) symbolized by the god Varu.na. In the Vedas we also find reference to the vrata of .rta followed by the gods.(11) Vrata is the law of effective austere living,(12) and, according to the Yajur Veda,(12a) through the cultivation of the vows in one's life alone can a man test ify to his sincere belief in cosmic moral harmony. Thus the idea of perceptible universal order and rhythm at the physical level was supplemented by the belief in a law of moral order. The ritualistic cult of the sacrifices was an exemplification, at the religious and practical level, of the belief in a universal moral order of .rta and satya (truth).(13) The sacrificers had specific goals to achieve, and the external act was regarded as the physical process for the realization of those goals. The belief was widely prevalent that accuracy in the performance of the sacrificial deed would necessarily produce the intended consequences both here and hereafter. Evetyone could obtain the desired goals if only he adhered to the exact sacrificial formula. The belief was dominant that the sacrifice is a supreme instrument which has tremendous potency.(14) It was only a demonstration at the religious level of the conception that to every action there is necessarily a reaction.(15) _____________________________________________________ (8) Cf. the Avestan word "a'sa" (arta). (9) The concepts of .rta (cosmic law) and vrata (cosmic order) effectively demonstrate the prevalence of the teleological conception of the world. (10) According to A. A. Macdonell, Vedic Mythology (Grundriss der indo-arischen Philologie und Altertumskunde. III Band 1. Heft A.) (Strassburg: Verlag von Karl J. Trbner, 1897) pp. 11, 13, 26, 101. 120,.rta contains in it the germs of the law of karman or the unalterable law of producing effects. (11) .Rg Veda, I. 65. 3. (12) In view of the Vedic emphasis on vrata, tapas (restraint), and brahmacarya (continence), S. N. Dasgupta, Indian Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933), p. 9, seem to be inaccurate when he constantly talks about the "non-moral and non-ethical" character of the law of karman. (12a) Yajur Veda, XIX. 30. (13) A. B. Keith, The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and the Upanishads, Vol. II, p. 464, says that there war no doctrine of a divine judgment in Vedic literature. (14) S. N. Dasgupta, Indian Idealism, P. 3, holds that the later moral theory of karman developed from the magical belief in the potency of sacrifices to produce the intended consequences, He says: "The law of karman was thus rooted in the Indian mind from the earliest days in the tribal belief in the efficacy of magical operations, incantations and the like, and it was only extended at a later stage into the ethical field." (15) In the Babylonian religious conceptions, which arose almost in the same period as the p.29 The germs of the philosophy of moral determinism are found in the .Rg Veda.(16) It is stated that the person who makes sacrificial gifts re-acquires them after death. This is akin to the primitive conception of recompense, according to which death is no impediment to the operation of the law of rewards and punishment. The .Rg Veda mentions the term "i.s.taapuurta" which indicates the merit won by making offerings to gods and gifts to priests. In the funeral hymn, it is stated that the dead person is able to unite himself with the fathers (pitara.h) through the fruits of his offerings and gifts.(17) In the Taittiriiya Sa^mhitaa, also, the gods are prayed to for the purpose of uniting the dead man with his i.s.taapuurta when he attains their abode. The i.s.taapuurta symbolizes the concentrated essence of the ritualistic ceremonies, and to this is attributed great efficacy in producing the desired consequences. This concept also serves as the germinal background for the theory of moral determinism as it is formulated later in the Upani.sads and Buddhism. The Vedas exalt the concept of karman.(17a) There are references to the powerful exploits of Indra which had great influence in both the physicalterrestrial and the atmospheric regions. The Vedas also inculcate the supremacy of tapas.(18) Originally, tapas meant fervor and physical heat. But it soon became inclusive enough to comprehend also endeavors in the direction of moral restraint. In the Atharva Veda (Brahmacaarii Suukta) it is stated that through sensual restraint and disciplined life (tapas) a Vedic student can attain immortality. Thus even in the Vedic literature tapas had a moral connotation. Tapas is sometimes regarded as the source of the entire cosmic manifestation.(18a) Thus it is held as a creative force of singularly great potency. This concept further accentuates the notion of moral determinism, because the determination of cosmogonic phenomena is attributed to the power of accentuated tapas. Tapas also is a kind of karman, and, as expounded in the Upani.sads, it includes physical restraint and austerities as well as moral rigor and philosophic contemplation. During the days of the Braahmanas, the growth of the sacrificial cult helped _____________________________________________________ Vedas, world events were regarded, not as the consequences of natural forces, nor due to human spontaneous will, but due to the decision of gods. See S. Langdon, "Babylonian Mysteries," in The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. IX (1917), pp. 70-72. (16) According to R D. Ranade, A Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy (Poona: Oriental Book Agency, 1926), p. 148, the .Rg Vedic (X. 16. 3) p.rthivii^m ca dharma.naa is the beginning of the law of karman. John McKenzie, Hindu Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922), p. 15: "... though the karman doctrine is nor yet formulated, its ethical principles are already in evidence. Thus suffering is recognized as the fruit of previous sin, and when a good man dies he goes to the next world carrying his merit with him." (17) .Rg Veda, X. 14. 8. (17a) Ibid., III. 30.13; III. 36.1; X. 55.7; X: 131.4. (18) Atharva Veda, X. 7. 11. (18a) Rg Veda, X. 190. 1. p.30 to bring out the implications of the concept of karman.(19) There developed the idea that through his actions man constructs a world for himself and after death he is born into it.(20) The idea of the imperishableness of karman is also developed in this period.(21) The Kau.siitaki Braahma.na refers to the person who, knowing "in me there is imperishableness, sacrifices and his sacrifice does not perish."(22) The Taittiriiya Braahma.na also subscribes to the view of the imperishableness of good deeds. The 'Satapatha Braahma.na states that punishment is indicted according to one's deeds.(23) The Upani.sads contain the philosophy of spiritual idealism as their principal theme. Although as a corollary to absolute non-dualism or modified absolute monism they sometimes contain statements which indicate the ethical indifference of the person who has attained the realization of the Brahman, still there are other passages which teach the belief in good as resulting from noble actions,(24) thereby subscribing to the Vedic notion of the omnipotence of an eternal order in the universe.(25) The B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad(25a) contains a reference to karmadeva, which implies the reality of men who have attained to the status of gods by their actions. The II'sa Upani.sad, which is taken from the fortieth chapter of the Yajur Veda, promulgates the concept of disinterested action, a gospel which has been expounded in great detail in the Bhagavadgiitaa.(26) _____________________________________________________ (19) The 'Satapatha Braahma.na, I. 9. 3. 2, mentions that there are two fires en route to heaven which burn whom they should burn and let pass those whom they should let pass. (20) The 'Satapatha Braahma.na, XI. 2. 7. 33, states that a man's fate after death is determined by weighing his good and evil deeds. Paul Deussen, Philosophy of the Upanishads, A. S. Gedden, trans. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1919), p. 319, points our that the .Rg Vedic hymns teach that the good gain a continued existence with the gods under Yama's control, while the evil journey into an abyss. The standpoints of the Atharva Veda and the Braahma.nas are the same; however, the conception of recompense for works is carried out in detail. (21) In the Taittiriiya AAra.nyaka, VI. 13, there is reference to the idea of judgment. (22) Kau.siitaki Braahma.na, VII. 4. Contrast E. W. Hopkins, Etbics of India (New Haven: Yale University press, 1924), p. 43: "The view that the gods direct men's thought and action was not worked out [in the Vedas] into any system of determinism but rested on the... thought may we not do what ye punish." (23) 'Satapatha Braahma.na, VI. 2. 2. 27 and X. 6. 3. 1. (24) B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad, III. ii. 13. In the Mu.n.daka Upani.sad, I. ii. 1, "karmaa.ni" is used in the sense of sacrificial action. (25) Hervey De Witt Griswold, "Indian Pessimism," in The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics Vol. IX (1925), p. 813, says: "It was only when the personal gods of the Rigveda had become merged more or less completely into the pantheistic and impersonal 'one' and 'all' of the Upanishads that the doctrine of an automatic principle of retribution arose. The passing of the Vedic god, left a place for karman." (25a) IV. iii. 33. (26) The teaching contained in kurvanneveha karmaa.ni (even while performing actions here) of the I'sa Upani.sad, II, is, interpreted in different ways according to the philosophical predilection of the commentators. 'Sa^mkara stresses only knowledge (vidyaa); Kumaarila emphasizes both vidyaa and avidyaa; Prabhaakara exalts karman as the pathway to salvation. p.31 3. A SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE THEORY OF KARMAN There are three views about the origin and development of the concept of karman. The first is the anthropological view, which would trace its roots in the notions of the primitive tribes regarding the potency of certain "sacred" actions, formulas, and incantations in bringing about the intended conse- quences. To the primitive mind, there was not much of a radical difference between the living and the dead. The old tribes held that even after physical death, in some form or other, the spirits kept hovering in the dark corners of the house or on the roofs of houses or on the tops of the neighboring trees and continued to participate in the activities of the living progeny. Some roots of the theory of Karman can be traced in the belief in the magical character of sacred acts.(27) The belief that the performance of certain forbidden acts, the "taboo," would produce disaster was only the reverse side of the same belief. The law of karman is predicated on the belief that physical death does not mean any damage to the power of the past actions done by an individual to produce their results. The adherence to the notions of the sacred and the taboo and to the belief in the continuity of the personality of the ghost-ancestors prepares some of the fundamental framework for the emergence of the theory of karman, though it cannot be denied that later developments ascribing a transcendental efficacy to the apuurva (unperceived potency linking the action and the result) or ad.r.s.ta (unseen sum total of merit and demerit) or the conception of God as karmaadhyak.sa (guardian of darman) represent further refinements of the older notions.(28) The anthropological study of the genesis of the notion of karman, which traces its roots in primitive magical ideas and ghost-worship, receives some additional substantiation from later developments of the theory of karman, in which significant vestiges of old primitive notions are also discovered. In the philosophy of the Jainas we find the belief in subtle karman-matter, which is supposed to pour into the soul and adhere to it. This process is aided by the passion of men.(29) The karman-matter that adheres to the soul generates a coloration (le'syaa) like white, black, etc. This primitive notion of coloration _____________________________________________________ (27) A. B. Keith, The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and the Upanishads, pp. 393-401. Cf. Robert H. Rowie, The Hitory of Ethnological Theory (New York: Rinehart & Co.. 1937), pp. 208-209. (28) In the .Rg Vedic period we find that the worship of the various deities is carried out in such a passionate reverential mood that the notion that the gods were mere passive spectators and the sacrificial mechanism had powers of autodynamic operation does not seem convincing. In the Miimaa^msaa philosophy the autonomous potency of the sacrificial cult was exalted to its height. (29) Cf. the view of Leibniz that materia prima clouds and mystifies the representations of the monads. p.32 by the efficacy of karman as the determinant of the character of the soul, that is elaborated in Jainism, is also maintained in the Dhammapada, which says that a wise man should renounce "black" actions and perform "white" actions.(30) This notion of karman-coloration thus appears to be a part of a general tradition which was accepted by both Jainism and Buddhism.(31) The Yoga system of Pata~njali also accepts this view. Thus the anthropological standpoint regarding the origin of karman receives additional substantiation from the primitivism implicit in the notion of karman-matter and its adhesion to the soul. The second view does not trace the origin of the concept of karman but seeks to analyze the process of its development. It is possible to trace some kind of a correlation between the ethical doctrine of Karman and the political processes of expansion and territorial settlement that were going on in the country. After the later.Rg Vedic days there began the process of the eastward migration and settlement of the Aryan tribes. This movement of migration and settlement went on in various parts of the country, especially in northern India. Political action of an organized character was the need of the hour if the various kingdoms, such as those of Magadha, Kosala, Vatsa, and Avanti, and the several republican polities such as the Licchaviis, the Mallas, the Kaliyas, etc., were to maintain their existence.(31a) Political competition and strife were rampant, and only by resort to constant intrigues, diplomatic maneuvers, successful adjustments, and even military preparedness could the territorial integrity of a political entity be safeguarded. Hence, the social and political reality presented the aspect of constant struggle and action. It will not be considered far-fetched if some kind of correlation is established between the actual processes of hectic action going on in the social and political world and the emphasis on karman (actions) in the moral and religious world.(32) After all, the participants in both the political process and the moral _____________________________________________________ (30) Dhammapada, VI. 12 (ka.nham and sukka^m dhamma^m). (31) Some primitive notions regarding karman also appear in Buddhist cosmological spenculations, e.g., "at the beginning of the re-creation of the world there arise in the vast void of the universe 'winds born of acts which heap up the clouds from which the creative rain will pour" (Quoted in La Vall‚e-Poussin, "Karma: " The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VII [1914], p. 674.) According to the Sarabha^nga Jaataka (No. 522) the lurking deed (karman) is said to wait long to catch a man and in his last birth gets its opportunity. There is no foundation, however, for the view that Buddhism borrowed the doctrine of karman from Jainism. It was a part of the contemporary world-view. (31a) T. W. Rhys Davids, Buddhist India (3rd Indian ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1957), chaps. I, II. (32) Marxists have stressed that the notion of the activistic nature of the subject in epistemology is specifically fostered by the proletariat because it alone is in contact with the production process. They thus establish a thorough correlation between the social reality and theory of p.33 and religious process were recruited from the same social environment, and hence it is not unrealistic to hold that the Upani.sadic and Buddhist emphasis on karman in the moral world might have as its partial background the tremendous urgency of action in the political world. The third view regarding the development of the theory of karman is sociological. It is predicated upon the acceptance of a social conflict between the braahmins and the k.satriyas. The conflict between these two sections of society expressed itself also at an intellectual level, and the k.satriyas were the spokesmen of more enlightened notions against the traditional theology and conservative dogmatism of the hieratic sections. Some Western Indologists, such as Richard Garbe, are of the opinion that the doctrine of karman was a new addition to the philosophical world-view of the Upani.sads and was a formulation of the k.satriyas.(32a) The newness of the doctrine is testified to by the confidential manner in which Yaaj~navalkya reveals this esoteric doctrine to AArtabhaaga. He takes AArtabhaaga away from the assembly and tells him about this doctrine as if he wanted to conceal it from the audience.(33) Garbe holds that, in opposition to the Braahma.nical systems, the k.satriyas formulated two dominant conceptions--the metaphysics of monistic absolutism and the ethical law of karman. Emphasizing the peculiarity of the Yaaj~navalkya-AArtabhaaga dialectic, Western Indologists say that the newness of the doctrine is indicated by the almost hesitant manner in which Yaaj~navalkya revealed the doctrine to AArtabhaaga. This view of Western Indologists is not warranted by the facts. In the period subsequent to the Upani.sads the doctrine of karman acquired immense significance. The Buddhist concepts of dvaada'sa nidaana (twelve bases of existence") and a.s.taa^ngika maarga (eight-limb path) exalt the efficacy of action both in the origination and in the liberation of men. At the time when the Buddha flourished there were serious conflicts in the philosophical world with regard to determinism and moral autonomy. The AAjiivikas were deter- _____________________________________________________ knowledge. M. Shirokov (Director),A Text Book of Marxist Philosophy (Indian ed., Allahabad: Kitab Mohal, 1944), pp. 80, 78-79. I have hazarded some kind of correlation between political reality and moral theory. (32a) See A. B. Keith, Religion end Philosophy, pp. 493-494. (33) Carlo Formichi, "Upanishads, " Journal of the Department of Letters, Vol. XV (Calcutta: Calcutta University, 1927), pp. 83-130, says that in the Chaandogya Upani.sad, V. ii. 4, Pravahana propounds, that 'sraddhaa (faith) is the vital surviving element after depth. This represents the Braahmanical point of view. But, instead of 'sraddhaa, Yaaj~navalkya stresses karman. Formichi says that Yaaj~navalkya spoke in private because he knew he was propounding something heretical. It appears, according to him hat Yaaj~navalkya and AArtabhaaga spoke as if they had been Buddhists. Ibid., p. 129. p.34 minists.(34) The Jainas were extreme advocates of the concept of kriyaavaada (doctrine of action). The thorough adherence to the concept of karman by Jainism and Buddhism indicates that, since these movements were not confined to the aristocratic ‚lite but wanted to influence the middle classes and the agricultural population also, the people must have been predisposed to the acceptance of the doctrine. During the time of the Buddha the theory of karman was a popular creed. If the hypothesis that the doc- trine of karman was a popular one at the time when Buddhism and Jainism flourished, that is, in the sixth and fifth centuries, B.C., is correct, it can be legitimately argued that some centuries must have elapsed during which the concept of Barman was being popularized. In those days of the absence of mass education it would certainly take a long time before a philosophical concept could be popularly accepted. Hence, to account for the inconsistency in the concept of karman as a novel philosophical secret during the age of the B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad, as fancied by some Western Indologists, and a popular belief in the Jaina-Buddhist period, two factors may be considered as being responsible. First, a long period of several centuries must have intervened between Yaaj~navalkya and Mahaaviira and the Buddha during which the concept of karman was being popularized. But, since this hypothesis is not historically tenable, the only reasonable alternative is the second hypothesis, that Yaaj~navalkya was not expressing something novel, unique, and unheard of by the people and that his desire for communicating this doctrine in secret was only in the general Upani.sadic fashion, according to which conceptions which have esoteric implications are to be discussed in secrecy. The ancient Vedic origin of the concept of karman, which was only being maintained and developed by the Upani.sads, must be accepted. The Bhagavadgiitaa also says that the doctrine inculcating liberation through actions is an ancient one.(34a) The eschatological(35) ideas of the Vedas and the Upani.sads also substantiate the thesis of the Vedic origin of the theory of karman and the implied moral determinism. The Upani.sads and the Bhagavadgiitaa contain references to the two eschatological yaanas (ways)-the devayaana, the path of the man of knowledge, and the Pit.ryaana, the path of the man of action." Even the Sa^mhi- _____________________________________________________ (34) "In the ninety-one aeons, O Vaatsya, which I [the Buddha] recall, I remember but one single AAjiivika who attained to heaven and he acknowledged the truth of kamma and the efficacy of works." A^nguttara Nikaaya, II, p. 227 (Londen: Published for the Pali Text Society by H. Frowde, 1900). (34a) Bhagavadgiitaa, IV. 2-3. (35) For the elucidation of eschatological notions in general, see J. A. MacCulloch, in The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, "Eschatology, " Vol. V (1925), pp. 373-391. Compare Plato's views on eschatology in the last book of the Republic. There are references in Plato to spheres for the passage of dead men. (36) For the relation of karman and rebirth and for the history of the doctrine of transmigra- p.35 taas refer to these two paths.(37) The twofold yaana involves a theory of moral determinism because it is a specification of the fate of a person in accordance with his attainments. Thus, personal achievement is regarded as the prime force which determines the future destiny of a man. The idea of "as a man sows, so does he reap" is contained in the theory of yaana because a man's worth determines his future station. This doctrine of the commensurability of a man's station in his future life with the merits and demerits attained in his present life is a substantiation of the belief in moral determinism. The Chaandogya Upani.sad refers to the disparate destinations of the well-merited and ill-merited.(38) Thus the study of the Vedic and Upani.sadic eschatology would dispel the unwarranted hypothesis of some Western Indologists which ascribes the formulation of the concept of karman to the k.striyas. 4. MODIFICATIONS OF THE INDIVIDUALISM OF KARMAN IN THE UPANI.SADS The concept of karman is highly individualistic. It seeks to explain the destiny of an individual in terms of his own efforts. It repudiates the conception of God as an irresponsible arbitrary omnipotent being who dispenses misery and happiness in his whimsical promulgations.(39) It is opposed also to the notion of natural determinism of a mechanical order, which explains human fate in terms of the motions of atoms and electrons. The theory of karman is the first significant attempt in the history of human speculation to explain a man's destiny in terms of his own personal endeavors. The stress on one's own efforts as the sure path to moral purification and personal illumination is the first significant protest against the tribal notions of collective responsibility. Karman heralds the theory of individualism, and, if at the religious level it is opposed to divine predestination and to despotism of God at the social level, it is opposed to the tribal notion of morality which emphasizes the gens (the communitas) as the unit and which does not concern _____________________________________________________ tion, see V. P. Varma, "The Philosophy of Rebirth in Ancient Indian Thought," The Vedanta Kesari, XLVII, No. 11 (March, 1961), 462-466. (37) S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, 5 vols., Vol. I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), pp. 23-42, is grossly mistaken in attributing the origin of the notions of devayaana and pit.ryana to Pravahana Jaivali, because the roots of them go back to the Yajur Veda, XIX. 47. For the terms "devayaana" and "pit.ryaana," the Pra'sna Upani.sad, I, 9-10, also uses the terms "uttarayaana" (higher way), and "dak.si.nayaana" (lower way). (38) According to the Upani.sads, karman is the set of means and instruments which serve as the link between will and the concrete achievement of the willed consequences. Thus the cause of rebirth is nor karman but desires. Cf S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. I, pp. 56-57. (39) Karman asserts the prevalence of order in the world and is antagonistic to any conception like that of Calvinist predestination. p.36 itself with the apportionment of justice according to one's deserts. Thus it can be said that the theory of karman is a great individualistic protest against the tribal canons of morality. But the individualism of karman was not definite and rigid in the days of the Upani.sads. Several other conceptions which were prevalent in that period challenged the individualistic character of karman and made concessions to divine grace, on the one hand, and to the interests of family and social solidarity, on the other. Although the Upani.sads uphold the view that a man's destiny is determined by his own actions, still the theory of determinism through karman has been modified to some extent by some alternative conceptions which seem at times to be inconsistent. The later Upani.sads which have a pronouncedly theistic orientation exalt the conception of grace.(40) The Ka.tha Upani.sad contains the classic statement that the Atman is attained, not by intellectual acumen or scholastic profundity, but by grace. Thus, the conception of a divine elect is maintained.(40a) This amounts to the maintenance of pre-determination or the notion of the primacy of a divine will which would choose whomsoever it pleases for final emancipation. This notion of grace is inconsistent with that doctrine which believes in the possibility of emancipation only through one's own efforts for the acquisition of moral purification and philosophical gnosis. In the interests of social structural continuity, the Upani.sads propound the view that the son takes over the actions of the father.(41) This detracts from the otherwise serious adherence to the moral determinism which is found in the Upani.sads. The concept of moral determinism is individualistic because it isolates the person from the tribal or family background and seeks to explain his personality and destiny with sole reference to his karman and the resultant sa^mskaaras (dispositions). But the notion that the merits and demerits of the father are shared by the son infringes upon the rigor of the individualism of the theory of moral determinism. Perhaps this notion of the inheritance of the actions of the father by the son was advocated by some teachers of the Upani.sads to bolster the declining sacrificial system. The monistic philosophy of the times tended toward the minimization of the significance of the ritualistic liturgy. Monasticism was also in the air. Sacrificial ritualism required for its c ontinuance the stability of the family system. For the preservation of the sacrificial cult against the combined attacks of _____________________________________________________ (40) In Mahaayaana Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam there is the acceptance of the notion of grace, but Jainism and early Buddhism emphatically repudiate this creed. In Japan one sect of Buddhism holds that faith in Amita secures salvation and transcends the effects of actions. (40a) Ka.tha Upani.sad, I. ii. 23. (41) B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad, I. v. 17, and Kau.siitaki Upani.sad, II. 15. p.37 philosopical absolutism and ethical monasticism it was essential to insist once again upon the importance of the progeny. The B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad says that the son provides relief from all difficulties.(42) The social distributivist aspects of the notion of karman are further emphasized in the Kau.siitaki Upani.sad, which says that the previously committed good and evil works of dead person are shared by his friends and enemies, respectively.(43) Another detraction from the individualism of the theory of moral determinism is the view contained in some of the Upani.sads that the last thoughts of a man determine his future station.(44) This view is also contained in the Bhagavadgiitaa,(44a) and the later theistic bhakti literature constantly stresses the theme that in his last moments a man should keep his mind and soul attuned to the personal God. In one sense, however, it may be possible to reconcile the deterministic character of the theory of karman and the arbitrary voluntarism of the notion that one's last thoughts determine his station after death by holding that even the purity and nobility of one's last thoughts are determined by the quality of one's entire life. It is not possible to imagine a person of deviant character would at once revolutionize his personality begin to think elevated thoughts if that had not been the pattern of his for a considerable period. 5. THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF MORAL DETERMINISM (KARMAN) The Buddha taught the momentous vitality and significance of karman(45) with such vehemence and fervor that it has been said that he almost put this concept in place of the Upani.sadic Bsahman.(46) In the period of the Upani.sads _____________________________________________________ (42) B.rhadaara.nyaka Upani.sad, I, v. 17. (43) The .Rg Veda, VII. 86. 5, refers to the doctrine of inherited sin (drugdha = sin). According to the Ma.nicora Jaataka (No. 194), famines, floods etc, are brought about by the faults of the king. See E: W. Hopkins, "Modifications of the Karma Doctrine," in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1906, 581-593. In the 'Saantiparvan, I. 29, and the Manusm.rti, IV. 170, also, there is mention of the karman of the forefathers as affecting their children. (44) Chaandogya Upani.sad, III. xiv. I; Pra'sna Upani.sad, III. 10; B.rhadara.nyaka Upani.sad, IV. iv. 5. (44a) Bhagavadgiitaa, VIII. 6. (45) At the time of enlightenment under the sacred Bodhi tree the Buddha had three visions. In the second vision "he saw the whole universe as a system of karman and reincarnation, composed of beings noble or mean, happy or unhappy, continually passing away according to their deeds, leaving one form of existence and taking shape in another." Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism, Vol. I, p. 139. (46) In early Buddhism there is a threefold specification of karman--mental, vocal, and physical. The Dhammapada (I. 1) lays the greatest emphasis on the mind as the instrument controlling action--manopubbamgamaa dhammaa manosetthaa manomayaa. Mrs. C. A. F. Rhys Davids, "Man as Willer," in B. C Law, ed., Buddhistic Studies (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co., 1931), p. 587, says that the triplet, action of mind, action of word, and action of body, is a contribution of the Buddhist and Jaina texts. She credits Zarathushtra for having taught a similar view in Persia. Cf. p.38 the twofold operation of the law of karman as a physical force in the natural world and as a moral force in the realm of human personality was regarded as being almost under the superintendence of a primordial Absolute. But, according to the Buddha, this law of karman was regarded as operating with almost autonomous deterministic finality.(47) He was very emphatic in upholding the commensurability between actions and their consequences, in this life and in lives beyond. In those systems of thought which maintain the persistence of the soul as a substance, this view of commensurability through continuity is legitimately sponsored. But the Buddha did not accept the conception of a substantial soul-monad which persists between lives. Nevertheless, he maintained the continuity of cause and effect.(48) He did not even refer to the conception of an astral or subtle sheath which could be the receptacle of the essence or the consequences of karman and which would persist until liberation is attained.(49) Nevertheless, the Buddha was perhaps the greatest advocate of the sanctity of actions. At a time when cunning braahmin priests were exploiting the superstitious credulity of the populace, and in the name of pleasing gods and demons were inviting the believers to perform numerous rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices, the Buddha taught the autonomy and potency of human efforts. The Buddha's insistence on the nobility of actions gains pointed significance when analyzed in the background of the radical nihilism implied in the deterministic teachings of Gosaala Makkhaliputta.(50) Ajit Kesakambala also had denied the notion that consequences follow from action.(50a) _____________________________________________________ the term "manasikaara" (attention or movement of mind) in Compendium of Philosophy, Being a Translation of the Abhidhammathasa^mgaha [of Anuruddha] with Introductory Essay and Notes, by Shwe Zan Aung, revised and edited by Mrs. C. A. P. Rhys Davids. Pali Text Society Translation Series, Vol. p. 95, no 1. (47) According to the Buddha, men are the inheritors of karman (kammadaayaada); karman is their very own (kammassaka); karman is the cause of their rebirth (kammayoni); and karman is their refuge (kammapa.tisara.na). (Majjhima Nikaaya),, III. 203; also quoted in C A. F. Rhys Davids, Buddhism (London: Williams & Norgate, n.d.), pp. 129-130. (48) Mrs. Rhys Davids, "The Soul Theory in Buddhism," The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1903, 587-591, says that there is apparent contradiction between nihilistic anaatmanism and the belief in karman, which implies a persistent continuity of the individual. (49) A. K. Coomaraswamy, Buddbha and the Gospel of Buddhism (London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1916), p. 109. (50) According to the Saama~n~na-phala Suttanta, Digha Nikaaya, Gosaala Makkhaliputta said: "Beings become depraved without cause or conditions; they become morally pure also without cause. Our attainments do not depend on effort or action, either of our own or of others. There is no human energy or power that is effective. All thing that have life, creatures, and souls, are without inherent force. They are bent this way and that by the necessity of their specific nature." Cf. A. B. Keith, Buddhist Philosohy in India and Ceylon, p. 136; also T. W. Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha (Oxford: Humphrey Milford, 1923), p. 71. (50a) For the annihilationistic doctrines of Ajit Kesakambala, see Saama~n~na-phala Sutta of the Diigha Nikaaya. p.39 The Buddha was a moral teacher who taught the path of nirvaa.na, which could be attained through one's own efforts(51) toward gnosis (praj~naa) and medicative absorption (samaadhi). He refused to accept the mediation of any gods and of any priesthood. He taught the conservation of moral merit.(52) He inculcated the supremacy of the purification of action and motivation.(53) Through one's own efforts alone can one attain nirvaa.na, and hence the Buddha stressed vigilance, constancy of endeavor, and a rigorous struggle against one's baser propensities.(54) He vehemently condemned all those skeptics and sophists who repudiated the significance of actions. He said, Just as, Bhikkhus, of all kinds of woven robes, a hair-garment is known to be the least desirable--cold in cold weather, hot in the heat, unpleasant to the touch--so of all the many assertions by the recluses the Makkhali theory is the most undesirable. He, foolish man, believes and declares there is no effective action (going on), no effected action (the result of effective action), no indwelling energy. Herein he rejects what all past Buddhas have declared, all future Buddhas will declare, and which I now, the Buddha, declare. I, even I, declare that there is effective action, resultant action, indwelling energy.(55) According to the Buddha the law of karman has a ubiquitous operation.(56) _____________________________________________________ (51) According to Buddhism there are two types of actions--saasrava and anaasrava. The saasrava actions are those which bring about good or bad consequences. On the other hand, meditation on the four noble truths which leads to arhatship is an anaasrava action, and it does not generate good or evil consequences. Cf. Mahaasaccaka Sutta, Majjhima Nikaaya, P. T. S. ed., Vol. I, p. 249. Sometimes Buddhism is said to be sa^mkle'savyavadaanikadharma, i.e., there is the acceptance of defilement by bad desires and purification by good desires. See Narendra Deva, Bauddha-Dharma-Darshana. In Hindi. (Patna: Bihar Rashtrabhasa Parishad, 1956), pp. 64, 403, 462, 577. (52) The Buddhist scriptures refer to the punishment of the evil-doers in hell by Yama. According to the Devaduuta Sutta of the A^nguttara Nikaaya, after the wardens of hell drag the evil-doer to the place of torment, "He is riveted to glowing iron, plunged in glowing seas of blood, or tortured on mountains of burning coal, and he dies not until the very last residue of his guilt has been expiated." Quoted words taken from summary by Oldenberg, Buddha: His Life, His Doctrine, His Older, pp. 245-246 and M. Monier-Williams. Buddhism (London: John Murray, 1889), pp. 114ff. The reference to Yama is specifically predominant in Northern Buddhism, in The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. V (1925),p. 375 (article, "Eschatology"). (53) The Buddha says: "My action is my possession, my action is my inheritance, my action is the womb which bears me, my action is the race to which I am akin, my action is my refuge." --Pa~ncaka-nipaata, A^nguttara Nikaaya. According to Hopkins, the notion of karman "struck hard against the old belief in sacrifice, penance, and repentance as destroyers of sin." The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1906), 561-593. (54) The Buddha's stress on karman receives additional significance in an intellectual background where Puraa.na Kaa'syapa, Prabuddha Kaatyaayana, and Gosaala Makkhaliputta denied the reality and worth of human endeavors. V. P. Varma, "Decline of the Vedic Religion," Journal of the Bihar Research Society, XXXI, December, 1945, 268-274. (55) A^nguttara Nikaaya, I. i. 286. It contains a sharp warning to the AAjiivikas. Refer to Beni M. Barua, A History of Pre-Buddhistic Indian Philosophy (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1921), p. 314. (56) According to the Vaase.t.tha Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya, the world is being impelled by karman, and living beings are bound by their actions, like the wheels of a chariot. According to p.40 In place of animistic superstitions and absolutist speculations, he put forward an explanation of human life and destiny in terms of pratiitya-samutpaada (dependent origination), which is a representation of the working of the law of karman on the psychological and moral planes.(57) The predominance attached to the concept of pratiitya-samutpaada indicates that in Buddhism it enjoys almost a religious sanctity and is not a mere psychological hypothesis for explaining human action.(58) Evil actions can catch hold of a man even in _____________________________________________________ the A^ngulimaala Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaaya, the Buddha told A^ngulimaala that one has to live in hell for several hundreds and even several thousands of years for the sake of reaping the consequences of actions. According to the Milindapa~nha (IV. 8. 76) only that death which occurs due to the working of karman is death in due season. But there may also be cases of death out of season: By hunger, thirst, by poison and by bites Burnt, drowned, slain, men out of time do die; By the three humours, and by three combined, By heats, by inequalities, by aids By all these seven men die our of time. (The Questions of King Milinda, Part II, English translation by T. W. Rhys Davids. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXXVI. [Oxford: Clarendon press, 1894], p. 164.) There are some men who die through the working of some evil deed or other they have committeed in a former birth. There are four causes of death according to Buddhism: (1) exhaustion of the force of reproduction (janakakarman), (2) expiration of the life term (aayuk.saya), (3) combination of items (1) and (2), and (4) action of a stronger arresting karman (upacchedaka karman) that suddenly cuts off the janaka-karman before the expiration of the life term (aayuk.saya). Naarada, "Sa^msaara or Buddhist Philosophy of Birth and Death, " Indian Historical Quarterly, III (1927), 561-570. See also C. A.F. Rhys Davids, Buddhist Psychology (London: Luzac & Co., 1924), p. 152. (57) A. B. Govinda, The Psychological Attitude of Early Buddbist Philolophy (London: Rider & Co., 1961),pp. 58-59: "Another division, from the standpoint of potentiality (or action and reaction) divides the paticasamuppada in four parts. Avijjaa and sa^nkhaara represent in this cases the potential aspect of karmic force (kamma-bhava) accumulated in the past (I) which conditions the birth-process (uparti-bhava),the resultant aspect (vipaaka) of karma in the present Life (group II), consisting of consciousness, the psycho-physical apparatus with its six sense organs, contacts, and feelings. The following links of the present existence--craving, clinging, and becoming-are again karma in the making i.,e., kamma-bhava (group III) (corresponding to the potential aspect in the past), the result of which is rebirth in the future life with the necessary consequence of old age, suffering, and death (group IV)--corresponding to the resultant aspect of karma in the present existence. The parallelism of the first and third group and of the second and fourth respectively is reflected in the close relationship of its constituents which almost amounts to identity: ta.nhaa and upaadaana are forms of avijjaa, as already explained: jaati, jaraa-mara.na are only a short expression for vi~n~naana, naama-ruupa, sadaayatana, phassa, vedanaa which constitute the five karma-results in contradistinction to the five karma-causes (avijjaa, sa^nkhaara, ta.nhaa, upaadaana, kamma-bhava); bhava, which here means 'kamma-bhava', is synonymous with sankhaara. Buddhaghosa, therefore, says in his Visuddhi Magga: 'Five muses were there in the past, Five fruits we find in present life, Five causes do we now produce, Five fruits we reap in future life.' (Translated by Nyaa.natiloka, who refers to a parallel in Pa.tisa^mbhidaa, ~Naa.nakathaa, No. 4.)" (58) Cf. Edmund Holmes, The Creed of Buddha (London: John Lane, 1928), pp. 32-33: "But, whereas in the West the conception of natural law has in the main been applied to the outward and visible world, in the East, where the outward and visible world owes such reality as it possesses to its earn inward and spiritual life, the conception of law has not merely been applied to the inward and spiritual life, but has been more intimately associated with it than with any other aspect of Nature. In the Universe, as the popular thought of the West conceives p.41 the sky, in the seas, and in the recesses of mountains.(59) Hence, nobility of actions was to be the primary goal of an aspirant. Mere external ceremonialism and formal monasticism were regarded as being of no avail unless both the inner motives and external acts were purified. The Buddha was a great teacher of moral idealism, and he preached the enormous sanctity of the law of righteousness.(60) He taught the efficacy of moral will.(61) At a time when the contemporary religious structure was subjected to the devastating onslaughts of skepticism regarding the metaphysical principle, and relativism regarding moral values, he preached the significance of the holy life.(62) The Majjhima _____________________________________________________ of it. there are two worlds,--the natural, which is under the dominion of law, and the supernatural, which is under the sway of an arbitrary and irresponsible despot, who can also suspend or modify at will the laws of the natural world. But Eastern thought, in conceiving of the inward life as the real self of Nature, conceived of it also as the ultimate and eternal source of all natural law." (59) According to the A^nguttara Nikaaya (P.T.S. ed., Vol. III, p. 169), there are two kinds of actions: (1) Actions performed under the influence of raaga (attachment) , dve.sa (hatred), and moha (infatuation), which produce bondage. (2) Actions performed without the influence of raaga, dve.sa, and moha, which lead to emancipation. Ahi^msaa (non-injury), asteya (nonstealing), and abhoga (non-enjoyment) are the constituents of samyakkarmaa.nta, which is the fourth element in the aarya a.s.taa^ngika maarga. According to the Atthasaalinii (P. V. Bapat and R. D. Vadekar, eds. [Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1942], p. 73), there are four kinds of karman: (1) bad (kanham) --producing impurity; (2) good (sukkam)--producing purity; (3) partly bad and partly good (kanhasukkam) -producing both impurity and purity; and (4) neither bad nor good (akanha-asukkam)-producing neither impurity nor purity but contributing to the destruction of karman. Sometimes the Buddhist writings make a threefold distinction between ku'sala or pu.nya (good), aku'sala or apu.nya (evil) , avyaak.rta (neutral) actions. See La Vall‚e -poussin, "Karma, " in The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. VII (1914) , pp. 673-677. (60) S. K. Maitra, Ethics of the Hindus (2d ed., Calcutta: Calcutta University press, 1956), p.86 "... for the Buddha there is no merit in karma or duty in an objective sense (as in the Miimaansaa) and...it assumes a moral significance only as subjectively willed and accomplished and thus as modifying the subjective disposition of the agent. Hence according to him there is no inherent moral worth in karma, but only in its conduciveness to the purification of the mind. Thus the Shastric karmas have no inherent worth or excellence, their moral value being conditional only on their conduciveness to spiritual perfection." (61) According to A^nguttara Nikaaya, III. 415, "It is volition, O monks, that I call karma." This view of the Buddha was misunderstood by Paribbaajaka Potaliputta, who took it to mean that according to him (the Buddha) manokamma is a true act and neither that which is vocal nor that which is bodily. Majjhima Nikaaya, III. 207. Vasubandhu in Abhidharmako.sa, IV. 1, enormously stresses that in the Buddhist view karman is nothing but cetanaa (consciousness). Abhidharmako.sa, IV. 1. C. A. F. Rhys Davids, Buddhist Psychology, p.93; and Th. Stcherbatsky, The Central Conception of Buddhism, p. 19. (62) Sa^myutta Nikaaya, 227, says: According to the seed that's sown So is the fruit ye reap therefrom. Doer of good will gather good Doer of evil evil reaps. Sown is the seed and thou shalt taste The fruit thereof. The later Buddhist idealists like Saantarak.sita and Kamala'siila, however, who adhered to the theory of momentariness, refuted the theory of action. See S. N. Dasgupta, Indian Idealism, p. 147. p.42 Nikaaya declares, "Our mind shall not waver. No evil speech will we utter. Tender and compassionate will we abide, loving in heart, void of malice within... and with that feeling Clove) as a basis we will ever be suffusing the whole world with thoughts of love, far-reaching, grown great, beyond measure, void of anger and ill-will."(62a) The Buddha taught ethical purity and perfection(63) and said that in the hereafter the man who had acquired moral merit would be happily received as the kinsmen receive their relatives who return after a long foreign sojourn.(63a) The belief in the supremacy of karman as held by the Buddha implies some kind of a non-mechanical, purposive universe. In a purely mechanistic conception there is no place for the belief that one's intention and will also receive their commensurate reward. Hence, if there is no sanction in early Buddhist texts for the notion of an immanent spiritual teleology, it may also be safely held that neither could they sponsor a conception of the universe as an unconnected chain of random facts or a conglomeration of disparate meaningless elements.(64) The Buddha firmly adhered to the law of causation. He said, "This, ye monks, is not your body, nor that of others. You have rather to see in it, ye monks, the old deeds (kamma^m), the result of actions, volitions, and feelings (in former existences)."(65) In explaining the genesis of sorrow, he subscribed to the notion of transitive causation. It is true that he did not advocate the concept of a soul as a substance, but there can be no denial of the fact that he thoroughly adhered to the view that the human being could assert his superiority to the numerous oppositions of physically and psychologically deviant forces and thus vindicate his strength of purpose. The Nikaayas and the Jaatakas contain the stories of sinners who wrought tremendous moral reformation in their lives. The personality of the Buddha _____________________________________________________ (62a) I. 129. Quoted in R. L. Turner, "Karma-Marge," in The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. VII, p. 678. (63) A. B. Keith, "The Buddha as a Master Mind:" Indian Culture, V. (Calcutta: The Indian Research Institute, 1938), 229-238, is mistaken in his obiter dictum that there is no proof in the Buddhist texts that the Buddha held a view of the universe in which the moral law stands highest. The Buddha might not have formulated the notion of a cosmic norm, but there is no doubt that in individual lives he maintained the primacy of moral causation and moral retribution. His significance lies in having replaced the theonomic moral standard by the autonomic. As a moral autonomist, he reached higher standards than the aesthetic intuitionists. (63a) Dhammapada, XVI. 11 (no. 219). (64) According to the naturalists (svabhaavavaadin) and the mechanists, there was no purpose in Nature. But the Buddha held that there was some superior rationality in the world process, and hence he taught that good and evil bear their respective fruits. M. Hiriyanna Outlines of Indian Philosophy (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1932), pp. 103-104, says that the Mabaabbaarata is the main source of heretical doctrines like yad.rcchaavaada (the source of the doctrines of the Caarvaakas) and svabhaavavaada (naturalism). But the difficulty is the exact determination of the date of the Mahaabhaarata. (65) Sa^myutta Nikaaya, XII. 37. p.43 himself was a monumental example of the fact that in the face of the firmness of a strong will all obstacles vanish. He conquered the numerous allurements and temptations put forward by Maara and thus vindicated the superiority of the moral will. The early Buddhist texts also stress the concept of upaakaana (craving) as a propulsive force for karman.(66) The will to be is the real cause of the terrestrial existence of a man. The conjunction of upaadaana and karman would show that early Buddhism adhered to the organic view of the universe.(67) The elimination of upaadaana(68) is essential for the attainment of nirvaa.na. The older generation of Paali scholars was mistaken in maintaining that the exhaustion of karman would produce nirvaa.na. It may be pointed out that this is interpreting early Buddhism on the lines of Jainism.(69) According to the Jainas, bondage is regarded as being produced by the influx of subtle material karman-particles into the soul and consequently the sa^mvara (stopping of influx) and nirjara (exhaustion) of karman are viewed as leading to the liberation of the soul. But, according to Buddhism, not the mere stoppage of physical action, but the neutralization of the psychological clinging to action is essential for nirvaa.na. Although the Buddha is a great ethical teacher and inculcates the supremacy of moral living and righteous endeavors, it is incorrect to interpret him as the promulgator of only the sanctity of actions. Beyond actions, he teaches the supremacy of knowledge. Although karman has a vital importance in Buddhist ethics and metaphysics, the supreme way to enlightenment is not merely moral action but the knowledge of the four Aryan truths.(70) Both the Upani.sads and Buddhism stress knowledge for the _____________________________________________________ (66) The Buddhist upaadaana (clinging) has some resemblance to Pareto's concept of "residues," or basic constellations of sentiments, and to the "interests" of the Ratzenhofer-Small theory. For the views of these sociologists, see Harry Elmer Barnes, ed., An Introduction to the History of Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), pp. 561-563, 377-379, 782-784. (67) The relation of upaadaana and karman has been analyzed in the Tathaataa philosophy of A'svagho.sa. See S. N. Dasgupta, A History of India, Philosophy, Vol. I, p. 133. (68) According to the later Buddhist scholastics, the loss of upaadaana, along with that of (a) karman, (b) d.r.s.ti (false views), (c) 'siilavrata (supertitious usage), and (d) aatmavaada (doctrine of self) follows from the loss of egoistic feelings. For the English rendering of the Sanskrit and Pali terms used here, see A. B. Keith, Buddhist Philosophy in India and Ceylon, pp. 128, 114. (69) James B. Pratt, The Pilgrimage of Buddhism (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1928), p. 73: "It is Tanha, craving, that keeps one on the weary wheel of rebirth and bring one back after the death of the body to birth in a new one. That one's Karma was the cause of rebirth was a Brahmin and Jaina concept; hence the ideal of worklessness as a means of salvation, referred to so repeatedly in the Bhagavad Gita, and the attempt of the Jainas to extinguish acquired Karma through ascetic practices and avoid the acquisition of new Karma Against these conceptions the Buddha set up his new psychological theory (if so we may style it) that rebirth was due not to Karma but to craving; and that by rooting out evil desire and the will to live one could escape from rebirth, regardless of the Karma one had brought with one to this life. This, of course, was a much more hopeful and moral doctrine, and one for which a certain amount of empirical evidence based on analogy could be produced." (70) Hence it is incorrect to interpret the Buddha as a mere practical moralist. Since he pro- p.44 attainment of the highest goal of man. By knowledge (vidyaa) the Upani.sads mean intuitive supra-rational apprehension of the Absolute and not analytical or dialectical learning. But knowledge, according to the Buddhist, signifies the realization of the four Aryan truths. The Last of the four truths is the aarya a.s.taa^ngika maarga (noble eightfold path), and the last item in the maarga (path) is samaadhi (concentration). 6. SOCIOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF MORAL DETERMINISM Sometimes it is said that Buddhist philosophy, with its negativistic conceptions of du.hkha and nirvaa.na, is antithetical to any positive approach to life and politics. It is difficult to deny this charge completely. It is true that during the age when Buddhism was culturally ascendant in India great progress was made in the secular aspects of life. But this does not mean that the great examples of art, architecture, political administration, and social organization of chat epoch owe their construction to the Buddhist monks, who were attempting to attain nirvaa.na or who were experiencing the bliss of samaadhi. (England and the U. S. A. are Christian countries, but that does not mean that the achievements in the mundane domain in these countries are due to the efforts of Christian monks and theological preachers.) The main problem is: Is adherence to the Buddhist ethical and spiritual code repugnant to a rigorous pursuit of political and social objectives? It certainly is antithetical. The Buddhist "way" is definitely and dominantly individualistic. On the other hand, the pursuit of social and political objectives is possible only through group co-operation, organization, diplomatic manipulation, and compromise. Politics is a game of give and take. This attiude, highly commendable in the mundane sphere, is not consistent with the austere character of the Buddhist ethical norm. It is true that several prophets and teachers in the world have attempted to combine the techniques of religious liberation with the conquest of social and political power. But the consequence has been that either they have failed in their endeavors or political considerations have engulfed the religious. The organization of political life assumes a positive insistent approach to the world. This positivism may entail choices and decisions wherein the rigorous and ascetic ideal may have to be sacrificed. Hence, although the ethical and religious man may excel in the acquisition of inner illumination, he may appear to be unsuccessful in terms of purely social and secular considerations. The worldly attitude believes in the quantitative computation of goods. Thus, there may be chances _____________________________________________________ pounded a concept of emancipation based on knowledge, he may be said to have attained the gnomic stage of moral reflection. p.45 of a radical antithesis between the conduct of the man who works for the sake of the emancipation of the soul and that of the man who is busy collecting the so-called "good" things of the world through even unfair means. The truly ethical and religious man may even choose to enter the path of martyrdom for the sake of his convictions. But such a course would be thoroughly meaningless for the person engrossed in the world. Hence, there can be no denial of the proposition that the path leading to sa^mbodhi (illumination) and praj~naa (gnosis) may be radically different from, and sometimes even thoroughly opposed to, the way of the mercantile magnate, the politician, and the warrior. Religion and ethics are not worth the name unless they teach the subordination of the self-interest or egoistic considerations of the individual. But can a competitive society exist without the calculation and personal considerations of self-interest? So far as the Buddha himself is considered, it is true that, if on the one hand he taught the resort to apramaada (non-sloth) and viirya (strenuous efforts) to realize one's supreme goal of life--nirvaa.na--he was also consulted sometimes on political questions and he tendered his advice. It appears thus that, although he had renounced the world, he was not absolutely indifferent to the appeal of peace and the welfare of the people. The advocacy of moral determinism had two significant political and sociological consequences. First, it provided a support for conservatism. All persons were supposed to belong to that station to which they were apportioned as a consequence to their past actions.(71) Thus, a rationale and a justifica- tion were provided for the incongruities and contradictions of social and political life. If certain groups enjoyed esteem, power, or influence, they were regarded as doing so because of the merit earned by them in previous lives. Thus, the disparities of present social and political life were explained in terms of the antecedent past.(72) A philosophy of resistance against social oligarchy and political despotism could not arise in such an intellectual framework. A theoretical defence of disobedience to social and political superiors can be built only when the irrationalities of contemporary life are explained _____________________________________________________ (71) The law of karman is fitted to the demands and mores of an agrarian society. It suits the behavior patterns of an agrarian dogma-ridden fatalistic people. Perhaps such a dogma was essential to buttress the foundations of the caaturvar.nya. The example of Turkey substantiates this sociological generalization. In pre-Kamalist Turkey the inhabitants believed in kismet, but, after the great transformation wrought by Kemal Pasha, the same people began to believe in self-effort. G. W. F. Hegel, in Philosophy of Right, G. T. M. Knox, trans. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1949), pp. 130-131, 270, points out that an agrarian population has to depend on accidental rains and hence it is prone to an unreflective mode of life, thanking God and living in faith and confidence that divine goodness will continue. (72) Suzuki, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, pp. 186ff., does not seem to be correct in his view that, since the law of karman operates in the moral sphere only, cases of economic inequality and social injustice must not be explained by evil karman. p.46 in terms of actions and behavior which can be stopped here and now. But the resort to the methodological device of unknown past actions to explain present contradictions minimizes and even virtually neutralizes the efficacy of any social theory which seeks to buttress individual efforts toward ending the regime of callous and irresponsible social and political autocrats. But, although the conservative implications of the theory of karman are to be accepted, the view of Marxian interpreters that the notions of karman and punarjanma (transmigration or rebirth) were deliberately formulated by the exponents of the interests of the dominant classes to "mystify" the suppressed strata is uncharitable.(72a) When there are alternative hypotheses to explain the emergence of the concept of karman, why should mean and sordid motives be attributed to some supposed ideologists who framed this notion to justify the status quo by means of this "superstructure"? If the concepts of karman and punarjanma had the function of serving as ideological devices to hoodwink the exploited sections, there can be no reason whatsoever why the Buddha, whom the Marxists regard as the heralder of a social revolution against the exploitationist techniques of the sacerdotal sections,(72b) should have preached this doctrine. Second, the theory of moral determinism encouraged individualism. It sanctioned a course of noble conduct which, if assiduously followed, would ensure one a better lot in the succeeding lives. By emphasizing a just apportionment of rewards in the present and in succeeding lives, the philosophy of moral determinism encouraged the pursuit of a course of action for the betterment of one's fate.(73) The view that one's lot can be immensely bettered through his own efforts is one of the cardinal implications of the theory of karman.(74) Both the Dhammapada and the Bhagavadgiitaa contain emphatic statements eulogizing one's individaul efforts.(75) Thereby the gospel of spontaneity and self-determination is heralded. The Buddha's stress on individual _____________________________________________________ (72a) Rahul Samkrityayana, Darshana-Digdarshana. In Hindi. (Allahabad: Kitab Mahal, 1947), p. 404. (72b) Manavendra Nath Roy, From Savagery to Civilization (Calcutta: Shamacharan De street, 1940), p. 15; also Heresies of the Twentieth Century (Moradabad: Pradeep Karyalaya, 1940), pp. 76-78. (73) If karman is interpreted in this sense of individual responsibility, it can be the foundation of the doctrine of a sturdy individualism. it will strengthen one's courage to succeed in the struggle for existence. It makes the individual responsible for his fate, and in this sense could be made to inspire a person like Herbert spencer. But in ancient Indian thought karman was mainly interpreted in a moral and religious direction, although in modern India it has also been used to support social idealism. (74) Although the main emphasis of karman is on effort, still only the effort toward fostering social co-operation is lauded. But, in the Bhagavadgiitaa, armed struggle also is praised as a part of the vocation of a particular var.na. (75) A charismatic conception of leadership is found in the view that through effort made in several Lives the Buddha was able to attain "Buddhahood." p.47 efforts was a great blow to the traditional system, which inculcated social deference in accordance with birth. The Buddha declared that it is through karman that one becomes a braahmin or a non-braahmin.(76) This was a revolutionary statement, and its implications for social democracy were drawn up later by the exponents of the bhakti movement, such as Nanak, Kabir, and Chaitanya. In place of superiority by birth, the Buddha exalted the nobility of action, and thus he dealt a mighty counterblow to the spec- ulations of the Puru.sa Suukta,(76a) which had sought to sanctify the fourfold division of society by providing it a divine origin. Thus the Buddha's stress on personal efforts(76a) not only aimed against the notion of divine predetermination and election for the purpose of salvation, but also stressed that social esteem and prestige should not go to birth but to efforts intended to enhance one's moral personality. Thus, it is possible to draw support for both conservatism and individualism from the concept of karman. It depends on which particular side of its teaching is taken into consideration. If its retrospective, retributive, and deterministic aspects are stressed, it becomes a support for conservatism and strengthens the tendency to interpret one's present status in terms of previous actions. But, if it is used to support strong energetic efforts in the present, its individualistic implications are stressed. _____________________________________________________ (76) Vaase.t.tha Sutta, Majjhima Nikaaya, no. 98. (76a) .Rg Veda, X. 90.