The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems

2. Indian Schools

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2. Indian Schools78

I. The History of Philosophical Systems in the Holy Land of India79
A. The history of the non-Buddhist extremists80
1. The story of how the extremists arose

FOR A LONG TIME after this world had come into being, humans here in Jambudvīpa enjoyed uncultivated crops, but then lazy people began hoarding food, so farming became necessary. Then greedy people took what had not been given to them, and because of the discord that resulted, it became necessary to appoint a leader who could pass judgment. The first [6] leader was called King Saṃmāta (“Honored by Many”).81

Seeing the king punish some evildoers at that time saddened certain beings, who then went to solitary places in the forest and remained there; thus arose the brahmans. Some of these hermits reduced their desires and achieved satisfaction; sitting alone, they isolated mind and body and so attained tranquil abiding. When they then gained supernormal and magical powers, they were called “seers.”82 Of those, many who had attained supernormal powers and trained in logic analyzed their own minds, set forth a path for attaining liberation and higher rebirth, and wrote texts that laid out the logical reasons proving that path. It was through this that the philosophical systems of the extremists spread.

The first to arise was the Sāṃkhya. During the period of measureless lifespans there lived a seer called Kapila (“Yellow-White”), who had long yellow-white hair and possessed the five supernormal powers. Relying on his innate wisdom, he composed many texts. His followers were known as Sāṃkhyas (“Enumerators”) or Kāpilīyas. When the human lifespan was twenty thousand years, there lived a seer named Vyāsa (“Spreader”).83 His followers were called Vaiyasins or Nirgranthas (“Naked Ones”). There was also a seer named Lokākṣī (“Eyes of the World”) who was quite skilled in logic. He fornicated with his own daughter, denied past and future lives, and composed manifold texts ascribing no benefits to virtue or disadvantages to 38vice. His followers, the Lokāyatas, were the worst of the extremists. Then came the seer called Handsome One. Mahādeva had made him the protector of his consort, Umā, and Umā lusted after the seer Handsome One. Sitting before him, she displayed many alluring manifestations, but the seer lowered his eyes to his feet. Because he guarded his own austerity, Mahādeva was pleased and permitted him to compose texts. The seer was known as Akṣapāda (“Eyes to Feet”), and his followers were known as Akṣapādins or Naiyāyikas (“Those with Knowledge”). The followers of two later seers, Ulūka (“The Owl One”), who mistook an owl for a god and took pride in attaining knowledge of the six categories, and Kaṇāda (“Grain Eater”), who undertook the austerity of eating the grains [7] thrown out by others,84 were called Vaiśeṣikas (“Differentiators”).

2. A brief explanation of the standpoints of the extremists85

It is explained in the sutras that there are ninety-six strange views, fourteen indeterminate views, sixty-two debased86 views, twenty-eight unholy views, twenty debased views, and so forth.87 There are explanations in Bhāvaviveka’s Blaze of Logic how there are one hundred and ten categories of views, and in his Precious Lamp of Madhyamaka how there are three hundred categories of views.88 However, as the mighty Lord of Knowledge says, “wrong paths are limitless,”89 so it is difficult to determine all the debased views of those lacking the intelligence to distinguish the path from the nonpath and say: “This one is and this one isn’t.” Thus the number of philosophical systems with debased views is not held to be definite. I will just explain in brief the standpoints of some of the more famous ones. I divide the views of the philosophical systems of non-Buddhists into two: proponents of eternalism (Śāśvatavādins) and proponents of nihilism (Uccedavādins). It is said that the proponents of nihilism are the Lokāyatas, while the proponents of eternalism are eight: Sāṃkhyas, Brahmavādins, Vaiṣṇavas, Mīmāṃsakas, Śaivas, Vaiśeṣikas, Naiyāyikas, and Nirgranthas.90

a. Lokāyatas

The Lokāyatas are twofold: contemplatives and logicians. Each of those is twofold: proponents of a nihilism in which past and future lives are asserted but cause and effect are not asserted, and proponents of a nihilism that absolutely denies past and future lives and cause and effect.


The way the logicians misstate things: They assert that even with effort no one is able to see the force that causes the sun to rise, the downward flow of water, the roundness of peas, the sharpness of thorns, or the multicolored splendor of the peacock, so these things must arise from their own self-nature; since they say that such things have no causes, they completely deny cause and effect. Furthermore, they illustrate the mind’s dependence on the body through three similes: it has the same nature as the body, as in the example of liquor and its capacity to intoxicate; it is an effect of the body, as in the example of a butter lamp and its light; and it is a quality of the body, as in the example of a wall [8] and the mural on it. Therefore, just as an accidental lamp produces light accidentally, likewise, the accidental body produces the mind accidentally;91 thus, there is no coming into this life from a past life. At the time of death, the body dissolves into the four great elements, and the sense faculties dissolve into space; they are destroyed. Since body and mind are one substance, when the body is destroyed the mind is also destroyed, just as when the wall is destroyed its mural is also destroyed, and there is no transition from this life to a future life. Thus they deny both past and future lives, and so also completely deny liberation. Since there is no habituation to the path over many lives, there is no omniscience, and since there is no cause of suffering and other ills, there is neither a path that brings freedom from that suffering nor any freedom.

The contemplatives92 say that when you attain the mental absorptions and formless realms, and so forth, you have the perception of yourself as an arhat; but at the time of death, when your concentration degenerates, you foresee rebirth in a lower realm, and because of that, there is no arhatship in the world. Some, having investigated with their clairvoyance and seen someone who had performed charity in this life becoming poor in a future life, say there is no cause and effect and completely deny that which is not seen by their own supernormal powers. Maintaining that perception is the only type of valid cognition — and not asserting generally characterized phenomena, inference, and so forth — this school completely denies past and future lives, cause and effect, liberation, and omniscience. Therefore, among non-Buddhists, they are the worst.

b. Sāṃkhyas

The Sāṃkhyas, or Kāpiliyas, say that effects exist at the time of the cause and then become manifest through conditions. They also are twofold: 40the atheistic Sāṃkhyas assert that cause and effect arise only from the principal,93 while the theistic Sāṃkhyas assert that even though causes and effects have the same nature, they transform into different manifestations through empowerment by the great god, Īśvara.

Sāṃkhyas assert definitively that all objects of knowledge are enumerated into twenty-five: (1) the principal, (2) the great, (3) the I-principle, (4–8) the five sense objects,94 (9–13) the five elements, (14–24) the eleven sense faculties, and (25) the person, which is self, consciousness, and the knower. Of those, the person [9] is asserted as conscious, while the remaining twenty-four — as aggregate composites — are insentient matter. Fundamental nature, the general, and the principal are asserted to be synonymous; they refer to an object of knowledge possessing six attributes.95 Person, self, consciousness, and the knower are synonyms. Intellect and the great are counted as a single term, which is asserted as something like the two-sided mirror on which appear reflections both of objects from the outside and of the person from the inside. Sāṃkhyas say that the intellect is necessarily material, while consciousness must be the self.

The way they assert bondage and freedom: Whenever the person generates the desire to enjoy an object, the fundamental nature emanates manifestations such as sound and so forth. Accordingly, from the principal comes the intellect, and from that arise the three I-principles. The darkness-possessing I-principle urges forth the other two I-principles. From the manifesting I-principle arise the five sense objects, namely, forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangibles; and from the essential-powered I-principle arise the eleven sense faculties, namely, the five faculties of intellect, the five faculties of the body, and the faculty of mind. In addition, they assert that the fundamental nature, which is like a blind person with legs, and the person, which is like a cripple with eyes, are conflated; and we circle in samsara because we do not understand how manifestations are emanated by the fundamental nature. When, by listening to the instruction directly imparted by a guru, we gain the distinctive ascertainment that “these manifestations are mere emanations of the fundamental nature,” at that time we gradually become free from attachment to that object, and through the mental absorptions, we generate the supernormal power of the divine eye. When we regard the principal with that power, the principal is like another’s wife, who blushes with shame upon being seen; the manifestations are gathered in, and the fundamental nature abides alone. Then, on the surface of the yogin’s intellect, all conventional appearances are turned away, and we abide without using objects and without activity: then, they assert, we have attained liberation.


c. Brahmavādins

The Brahmavādins say that their teacher is Brahmā. They are subdivided into Vaiyākaraṇikas (“Grammarians”), Vedāntins, and Guhyavādins (“Esoterists”). They assert that all the world’s environs and inhabitants are created [10] by Brahmā and that the only source of valid cognition is the Vedas. They also state that, since the words of the Vedas are sounds not produced by a person, the Vedas show only true objects. They assert that the method for achieving higher rebirths and the state of Brahmā is the horse sacrifice explained in the Vedic texts.

The Vaiyākaraṇikas state that Brahmā, in the form of the syllable oṃ, is the basis for the arising of the world’s various environs and inhabitants and is their self-nature. Since it is without birth or death, it is permanent, spatially and temporally partless, truly pervades inner and outer objects, and is of a single nature, abiding absolutely. They state that subjects and objects appear as dual to those who are polluted by ignorance. The standpoint of the Tibetan Jonangpas appears to be close to this. Vaiyākaraṇikas assert that the path effecting the attainment of liberation is, externally, making the fire offering of animal sacrifice, and internally, making the fire offering of dripping the male semen element into the hearth of the woman’s vagina; liberation is asserted as the clear emptiness and the bliss that then occur.96

The Vedāntins, or Highest Brahmans, assert an entity called the person. This is the “person” explained in the Vedas, which are the source of valid cognition; it is single; it is permanent because it is never destroyed; it is pure because it transcends suffering;97 it pervades all the manifold beings; it is undying because it has no beginning or end; it has the color of the sun; it has transcended the circle of darkness; it has become the great; and it is other than sleep.98 That person is the self-nature of the gods and also the nature of Maheśvara. From that person alone are produced all the three worlds, happiness and suffering, and bondage and freedom. However, the nature of the person itself is unchanging and inexhaustible. When, based on the mental absorptions, we view the person with the divine eye and see that person as golden colored, then, having equalized virtue and vice, samsara and nirvana, we become free.

The Guhyavādins are mostly like the Vedāntins; based on the Vedas, they assert a self that is conscious, knowing, permanent, partless, and single.99


d. Vaiṣṇavas

The Vaiṣṇavas take Viṣṇu as their teacher and say that Viṣṇu has two natures, tranquil and active. Of these, the tranquil nature has: the nature of divine substance, a self-nature that neither exists nor does not exist, and a nature that is immortal; by meditating on that you attain liberation. The active nature they explain as the ten avatars of Viṣṇu — [11] the fish and the others. They maintain that the self is permanent and partless, and explain that there is an end to samsara and that the path to freedom is meditation on the syllable oṃ, the vase-breath meditation,100 and so forth. This system also asserts that samsara has an end; Vedāntins and a multitude of others are explained to be followers of this system.101

e. Mīmāṃsakas

The Mīmāṃsakas are followers of Jaiminī, so they are also called Jaiminīyas. They assert that (1) the self is the nature of intellect, is sentient, and is immaterial; (2) that the intrinsic nature of consciousness and the knower is a permanent nature; (3) that self is a discrete substantial existent; and (4) that it is partless. Their viewpoint on the Vedas as a source of valid cognition is like that of the previous schools. They assert that there is attainment of higher rebirths, like the level of Brahmā, solely by sacrificial offerings and other practices. They say that because that liberation is freedom from lower realms, it is a limited liberation; there is no liberation that is the complete pacification of suffering. Also, because of the stains abiding in the intrinsic nature of mind, there can be no omniscience. And, because objects of knowledge are countless, there is no true speech.102

Most Mīmāṃsakas assert six sources of valid cognition, while the Cārakīya Jaiminīyas assert eleven sources of valid cognition and also teach a division into forty-eight functional forces, which are not set forth here.

f. Śaivas, Vaiśeṣikas, Naiyāyikas

The trio of the Aiśvaras — or Śaivas — Vaiśeṣikas, and Naiyāyikas take Īśvara as their teacher. Both the Vaiśeṣikas and Naiyāyikas may also include those who have made Brahmā and Viṣṇu their teachers, so members of those two groups may also be designated as Brahmavādins and Vaiṣṇavas.

The Vaiśeṣikas, as previously noted, are followers of a seer who mistook an owl for a god (Ulūka) and a seer who ate grain (Kaṇāda), so they are 43also called “Owlers” (Ālūkīyas) and “Grain Eaters” (Kaṇādīyas). Also, the Naiyāyikas are followers of the aforementioned seer Akṣapāda, so they are also called Akṣapādins.

They all assert Īśvara to be omniscient and state that all the world’s environs and inhabitants proceed from Īśvara’s intellect. They say that the path is the blisses arising from the vase-breath meditation, from the bestowal of initiation from the tip of Īśvara’s liṅgam, and from the emission of semen103 during sex with [12] a woman. They assert that liberation is the gnosis of the bliss of intercourse, which arises from the bliss of emitting semen.

The Vaiśeṣikas and Naiyāyikas: the former say that there are many distinctions of the general and the particular to be made via the six categories, so they are known as “Particularizers” (Vaiśeṣikas); the latter, because they are followers of the knowledge system created by the seer Akṣapāda, are known as “Knowledge Possessors” (Naiyāyikas). The Vaiśeṣikas admit three sources of valid cognition: perception, inference, and scripture; the Naiyāyikas admit those three and also admit comparison as a source of valid cognition, making four. Also, both schools assert three types of inference, three aspects of perfect logical reasons that are the basis of those inferences, and three fallacies that subvert a reason. I will not address here their standpoints on the sixteen or eight categories of logic.104

The practices for attaining liberation are ablution, receiving initiation, fasting, celibacy when residing in the guru’s home, dwelling in the forest, sacrificial offering, charity, and so forth. In time, by cultivating a yoga learned through the guru’s instruction, we come to understand that the self is a different entity from the sense faculties, and so forth, and to see the real nature of the self. And, when we fully comprehend the nature of the six categories, then we understand that the self is pervasive in nature but without activity, and we no longer accumulate any wholesome or unwholesome karma. Since no new karma is accumulated, when the old karma is exhausted, the body that has already been taken — the faculties, the intellect, pleasures, pains, attachments, hatreds, and so forth — separates from the self; and since a new body and faculties are not taken, the continuum of rebirths is severed, as with a fire that has exhausted its firewood. When the self abides alone, that is liberation. So say the Naiyāyikas and Vaiśeṣikas.

g. Nirgranthas

The Nirgranthas are followers of the holy Jina and others,105 so they are known as Jainas. They classify all objects of knowledge into nine categories; 44they say that trees and such possess mind; and they assert logical reasons proving that our teacher, the Buddha, is not omniscient. With regard to liberation, they state that based on austerities such as nakedness, silence, exposure to the five fires,106 and so forth, we exhaust all previously created karma, and by not accumulating any new karma, we go to a place located above the whole world, the so-called composite world. This world is shaped like an open upside-down umbrella, white like yogurt or [13] a water lily, and measures 4.5 million leagues107 across. Because it contains souls, that realm is material; because it is free from samsara, it also is nonmaterial. That abode is called liberation. So say the Nirgranthas.

h. Summary

The logical reasons that negate those extremist standpoints are taught extensively in Candrakīrti’s Entering the Middle Way, the root text and commentary of Bhāvaviveka’s Heart of Madhyamaka and Blaze of Logic, Dharmakīrti’s Thorough Exposition of Valid Cognition and Ascertainment of Valid Cognition, and other texts. Among the extremist philosophical systems, the standpoints of three schools, the Sāṃkhya, Vaiśeṣika, and Naiyāyika, are a little more developed, so many more logical reasons negating them are taught in Dharmakīrti’s seven treatises on valid cognition108 and other texts. Were I to lay out those negations here, I’m afraid it would be too much, so I have not written about them.

3. The purpose of explaining the extremists’ views

If you understand these other schools’ ways of propounding eternalism and nihilism well, along with the logical reasons negating them that occur frequently in the texts of the great charioteers,109 you will, induced by the path of reasoning, gain an irreversible faith in the faultless teaching and teacher of our own Geluk system. Thus, as Udbhaṭasiddhasvāmin’s Special Praise of the Holy says,

However much I contemplate the aspects

Of the textual systems of the extremists,

By that much more, O Protector,

My mind becomes faithful to you.110


Moreover, misconceptions will be stopped — holding that suffering is without cause and that it arises from inappropriate causes, maintaining as the path what is not the path, holding as liberation what is not liberation, and so forth. The seeds of those imprints established in past lives through studying the major texts of debased philosophical systems such as the Lokāyata and others are thereby decreased; and in subsequent lives you will turn away from all wrong views, and the imprints allowing the correct view to arise quickly in your mental continuum will be established. Not only that, since among the various philosophical systems that spread in Tibet, the standpoints of some appear to be similar to those of the extremist systems, it is most necessary that, understanding well the distinctions [14] among them, you arouse such a strong conviction in Buddhist teachings that your own view cannot stray toward some other view, and so forth. Thus, those who desire liberation should not think, “these studies are for countering objections in a debate but are not useful for practice.” Instead they should assiduously study and reflect upon the texts of those great charioteers and the excellent explanations of the father, Jé Lama Tsongkhapa, and his spiritual sons. It is crucial that you understand this.

I say:

For anyone here with intelligence,

The principal thing to do in mind and body

Is to find a way to free yourself from samsaric existence;

Otherwise, how are you different from an animal?

Many in this world claim to be teachers,

And though many say they’ve presented bondage and freedom,

All they’ve done is show, as the path to peace,

A method that strengthens the root of cyclic existence.

Whose teaching, for those desiring liberation,

Is the supreme and nondeceptive entryway?

Only the Sugata’s teaching,

So the Buddha alone is an authority.111

If you don’t understand even partially the standpoints of other schools,

Then no matter how much you say your own teacher and teaching


Are faultless, your words are like a parrot’s:

Mere words, incapable of inducing certainty.

Therefore, understanding well the presentations of non-Buddhist systems —

Perilous footholds on the edge of debased extremist views —

And then rejecting them is the stairway for entry

Into the citadel of liberation. So say the wise.

This has been a brief interlude in verse.

B. The history of the Buddhists112

The history of the Buddhists is twofold: 1. The history of proponents of the four philosophical systems; and 2. A brief explanation of the points of view of those philosophical systems.

1. The history of proponents of the four philosophical systems113

According to the Mahayana, a thousand buddhas will appear in this eon; according to the Hinayana, there will be [15] five hundred. When the lifespan of the humans of Jambudvīpa degenerated from a measureless lifespan and reached forty thousand years, the Buddha Krakucchanda came. When the lifespan was at thirty thousand years, the Buddha Kanakamuni came; at twenty thousand years, the Buddha Kāśyapa came; and when the lifespan was at a hundred years, and the five impurities were on the rise, our teacher Śākyamuni came to the world and turned the wheel of Dharma in three stages. Following the first pronouncement, the Dharma wheel of the four noble truths, there arose the two śrāvaka schools, propounding Hinayana philosophy; and following the middle and last turning arose Madhyamaka and Cittamātra, the two schools propounding Mahayana philosophy.114

a. The history of the śrāvaka philosophical systems115
1) Vaibhāṣika

Of the two śrāvaka schools, the Vaibhāṣikas are known as Vaibhāṣikas (“Detailers”) because they follow the text called Ocean of Detailed Explanation 47or Great Detailed Explanation (Mahāvibhāṣā) and because they argue in detail that the three times are substantially existent. They are divided into four basic schools and eighteen sects.

The four basic schools are: (1) the lineage116 from the preceptor-arhat Kāśyapa, the Mahāsāṃghika school; (2) the lineage from Rāhula, the Sarvāstivāda; (3) the lineage from Kātyāyana, the Sthavira school; and (4) the lineage from Upāli, the Saṃmatīya school.117

The eighteen sects: There are five Mahāsāṃghika sects. Master Vinītadeva (eighth century) says:

The Pūrvaśaila, Aparaśaila, and Haimavata;

The Lokottaravāda

And Prajñaptivāda: these schools

Are the five Mahāsāṃghika factions.118

There are seven Sarvāstivādin sects. Vinītadeva says:

The Mūlasarvāstivāda and the Kāśyapīya school,

The Mahīśāsaka school and the Dharmaguptaka school,

The Bahuśrutīya and Tāmraśāṭīya, along with their disciples,

And the Vibhajyavāda: these schools

Are the Sarvāstivāda.119

There are three Sthavira sects. Vinītadeva says:

The Jaitavanīya, the Abhayagirivāsīya,

And the Mahāvihāravāsīya: these are the Sthavira.120

There are three Saṃmatīya121 sects. Vinītadeva says:

The Kurukullaka, the Avantaka,

And the Vātsīputrīya: these are the schools

Of the Saṃmatīya.122

Those eighteen sects also were delineated according to the master of whom there were followers, the country of residence, or the standpoint of the philosophical system. Vinītadeva says:


By distinctions of region, topic, and master,

There are eighteen different [16] schools.<a href="https://wisdomexperience...

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