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Fundación Instituto de Estudios Budistas-CONICET

(Buenos Aires)


The conception that Buddhism has of the world could be considered as the Buddhist Phi-losophy of Nature. This buddhist conception of the world is one of the principal links of Buddhism with science. Buddhism has a dynamic conception of reality. This manifests itself in the peculiar doctrine of the dharmas. Dharmas are the elements, the constituent factors of all that exists. Man is a congloma- rate of series of dharmas. The end of desire is the suppresion of existence under the form of reincar¬nation. This state is called Nirvana. Nirvana is an Absolute. It does not belong to our empirical reality, it is

something completely different from all that exists in this reality, it is transcendent and heterogene¬ous, beyond words and reason. The buddhist methodology for directing the mind is pointing out free¬dom of thought and personal effort to attain truth. This buddhist rule enjoins an attitude based on freedom of thought. One should not adhere to an opinion by authority; it is necessary to think by oneself on any matter to reach one's own conclusions. KEY WORDS: buddhism, buddhist cosmology, philosophy, religion, epistemology, ethics and truth. Budismo: ciencia, filosofía y religión


La concepción budista del mundo puede ser considerada como la filosofía budista de la naturaleza. Esta concepción es una de las principales conexiones del budismo con la ciencia. El budismo tiene una concepción dinámica de la realidad. Se manifiesta en la peculiar doctrina de los dharmas. Son los elementos, los factores constituyentes de todo lo que existe. El hombre es un con¬glomerado de series de dharmas. El fin del deseo es la supresión de la existencia por las reencar¬naciones. Este estado se llama Nirvana. El Nirvana es un Absoluto. No pertenece a nuestra realidad empírica, es algo completamente diferentes de todo lo que existe en esta realidad, es transcenden¬te y heterogéneo, más allá de las palabras y de la razón. La metodología budista para dirigir el espí¬ritu hace resaltar la libertad de pensamiento y el esfuerzo personal para alcanzar la verdad. Esta regla budista supone una actitud fundada en la libertad de pensamiento. No se debería aceptar una opi¬nión por autoridad; es necesario pensar por uno mismo sobre cualquier cuestión para alcanzar las propias conclusiones.


budismo, cosmología, filosofía, religión, epistemología, ética, y verdad budistas.

Buddhism has its own conceptions of the world as a composite whole, of man as a creature possessing a peculiar nature, living in this world, submitted to a destiny and having an aim to attain, and of the method or means to accomplish that human aim.

PART I: Buddhism and Science


The conception that Buddhism has of the world could be considered as the Buddhist Philosophy of Nature, which is the preceding stage of the scientific study of nature. This Buddhist conception of the world is one of the principal links of Buddhism with science.

In general terms we cannot know how this conception of the world was cre¬ated, because it is directly presented in the texts, we could say, in a dogmatic way and there is scarce information about the question whether it is the result of observation and reflection or merely a product of intuition and imagination. It is not possible either to pretend to find a scientific approach in modern terms in this ancient conception of the world; anyhow this conception is most valu¬able taking into account the epoch in which it was proclaimed by the founder of Buddhism (circa 500 B.C.) and amazingly interesting because of the moder¬nity of many of its tenets. We shall point out the principal elements of the Buddhist conception of the world.


Beginninglessness (anaditva) is one of the most important principles in Indi¬an philosophy, Hindu as well as Buddhist. It asserts the lack of beginning for a series of entities, processes, phenomena, etc. . This conception of Indian phi¬losophy contrasts in a very remarkable way with the more generalized concep¬tion in Western philosophy, always anxious to find for every thing a First Cause, a First Motor, a First Principle, that marks a beginning, beyond which it is impos¬sible to go further.

Buddhism (as well as Hinduism) maintains that the empirical reality, with its worlds, universes, men, the transient Gods, etc., the processes that take place in it and the laws that govern it, has had no temporal beginning, is eternal a parte ante.

There are many Buddhist texts, which affirm that the sarmsara, whose origi¬nal meaning is «transmigration», «reincarnations», has no beginning nor end. In many of them the word sarnsara has a broader sense: it designates the whole reality, i.e. this empirical world as well as the other world (heavens, hells, worlds of the Gods, etc.). The processes that constitute transmigration take place in this whole reality, consequently, as transmigration is beginningless, so the reality where they occur is also beginningless. Moreover, as Buddhism does not accept the existence of a Supreme Being, creator of the universe, this has not been cre¬ated, it is beginningless.

In Samyutta Nikaya II, pp. 178-181, Buddha declares:

«The sarnsara, O monks, is without limit. A first extreme [of the series] of the beings cloaked in ignorance, tied to craving, that are running on (in the sarnsara), that are transmigrating, is not known».

In Madhyamakasastra XI, verse 1, Nagarjuna says:

«The Great Sage has said that a first extreme is not known, for samsara is without beginning and end -it has neither beginning nor end».


To the eternity that Buddhisn attributes to the enpirical reality corresponds the infinity of space. The enpirical reality extends in an unlinited way in the ten directions of the space.

The stanza I, 64 of affirns that four things are beyond any neasure:

«... the mass of beings, the space, the worlds..., the knowledge of a Buddha...».

A passage of the Lotus Sutra, Chapter XI, p. 240, lines 12-13 (= p. 268 in F. Tola y C. Dragonetti's Spanish translation fron Sanskrit), describes in an inpres- sive way the profoundness of the universe:

«There is, in the nadir, beyond incalculable hundreds of thousands of ten millions of hundred thousands millions of universes, a universe called Rat- navisuddha».

And the great/infinite nunber of worlds that inhabit the space, to which we shall refer afterwards, requires an unlinited space, where these worlds can be located.


This unlinited space is occupied by nillions of nillions of worlds, disseni- nated in all the regions. Many texts refer to the infinite nunber of worlds that fill the space:

The (smaller) Sukhavativyuha, p. 93, lines 1-2:

«O Sariputra, there is in the Western region of space, from hence beyond one thousand of ten thousands of Buddha-Worlds, a Buddha-World, SukhOvati by name».

In Chapter VII of the Lotus Sutra several references to the infinite number of worlds are found. So in p. 163, lines 6-7 (= p. 188 in the Spanish translation), the number of universes in each region of the space is mentioned in a general way: «In the ten regions of the space, in each one of them, the fifty hundreds of thousands of ten millions of hundred thousand millions of worlds in six ways trembled».

And in the following pages (p. 167, lines 10-11; p. 171, lines 4-5; p. 174, lines 6-7 and 8) the same expression is used in order to indicate in an individual form the infinite number of universes in each region of the space. In p. 157, lines 1-2 (= p. 181 of the Spanish translation), the infinite number of the worlds is also pointed out:

«What do you think, O Monks, is it possible to arrive through calculation to the end, to the limit of world systems? They said: “No, Lord; no, Sugata”)». In these characteristics of the empirical reality, proper of Buddhism, is revealed an eagerness for infinitude, a will not to remain confined to narrow spatio-tem¬poral limits — eagerness and will that are certainly proper of the Indian Culture in which Buddhism sinks its roots.


The countless universes in the unlimited space are peopled by an infinite number of beings (sattakayo ananto). This is an ancient doctrine that is referred to in I, 64, already quoted.

We can add the following texts in which this doctrine also appears:

Ta chih tu lun (Mahaprajnaparamitasastra), Taisho 1509, p. 94 b, lines 4-11: «Beings, as the great ocean, are without beginning, middle or end. An intelli¬gent master in calculation, who tried to count them during an infinite number of years, would not arrive ever at the end of the calculation...».

Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakosa ad III, 3 c-d, p. 388:

«There is not a limit for the three worlds. As is the space so many are the worlds. And therefore, there is not coming into existence for beings that have not existed before and, although the parinirvana of innumerable beings is produced on the occasion of the appearance of each Buddha, there is not coming to an end for beings, as there is not for space».


As beings, the Buddhas are also numberless. Their function, inspired by Com¬passion, is to save all beings and lead them to Enlightenment. The idea of the infinite number of the Buddhas had a modest origin. From the very beginning of Buddhism, the texts mention the existence of several Buddhas of the past. Their number is at first a small one, but it gradually increases and reaches very big pro¬portions: 6 (Vinaya, Dlgha Nikaya); 27 (Buddhavan-isa); 55 (Lalitavistara); 75000, 76000 and 77000 (A p’i ta mo tap'ipo cha lun [[[Abhidharma]]]mdhavibhasa[[[sastra]]], Taisho 1545). In several Mahayana texts the number of the Buddhas becomes almost infi¬nite and they are located in the past, the present and the future and in all the extension of space.

The Dasabhumikasutra, p. 4, lines 6-7, affirms:

«Tathagatas [= Buddhas] so numerous as the powder of the atoms of ten times ten millions of Buddha-Worlds showed their faces». In Saddharmapundarlkasutra (Lotus Sutra) are found numerous references to the countless Buddhas of the past, the present and the future, as for instance in: p. 22, lines 1-2 (= p. 26 in the Spanish translation): «Afterwards many hundred thousand of ten millions of hundred thousand millions of Buddhas were seen and worshipped by the eight sons of Can- drasuryapradlpa »;

p. 49, verse 71 (= p. 64 in the Spanish translation):

«There is not in any way a measure for those who in the past in countless cosmic periods have been the many thousands of Buddhas, the former Tathagatas completely extinguished»; and p. 29, lines 3-5 (= p. 41 in the Spanish translation):

«Tathagatas who have worshipped many hundred thousand millions of Bud¬dhas, who have fulfilled their Career under many hundred thousand of ten mil¬lions of hundred thousand millions of Buddhas».


We can say that Buddhism has a dynamic conception of reality. This mani¬fests itself in the peculiar doctrine of the dharmas . The dharmas are the elements, the constituent factors of all that exists. All that is «material», as human body, is constituted by material dharmas. The mental phenomena, as perceptions, sensations, volitions, acts of consciousness, are nothing but dharmas. And man is only a psycho-physical aggregate of material dharmas and of mental dharmas. Reality, in its integrity, is likewise nothing else than dharmas — isolated or accumulated. Dharmas are unsubstantial (anatman), because (using the Western termi¬nology) they do not exist in se et per se, or (using the Buddhist terminology) they do not exist svabhavena, i.e. they do not possess an own being; they are dependent, produced by causes and conditions. And, besides that, since the first period of Buddhist thought, dharmas were conceived as impermanent (anitya). But several sects or schools that originated after the Buddha's Parimrvana (circa 480 B.C.) added to the dharmas the attribute of instantaneityor momentariness . Vasubandhu, who exposes the point of view of the Sarvastivadins - Vaibhasikas, emphatically says in his Abhidharmakosa IV, 2 d, pp. 568- 569, that «what is con¬ditioned is momentary» — and all is conditioned according to Buddhism.

The Theravadins did not accept the momentariness of the dharmas, and this explains why they remained attached to the realistic conception of the world. This thesis of the momentariness of the dharmas will prevail in the Mahayana form of Buddhism, constituted circa1stcentury A.D., and it is one of the factors that will give rise to its idealistic conception of reality . In many authors and texts the concept of momentariness is fully developed, and arguments for its demonstration are given .

The dharmas, as soon as they appear, disappear, and are replaced by other dharmasof the same species as long as the causes that provoked the appearance of the replaced dharma continue to exist. Thus reality is an accumulation of series of dharmas, in a process of vertiginous constant replacement. The result is that, as D.N. Shastri (1976) says, p. 189, «the reality, according to the Buddhist, is not static; it is dynamic. It is notbeing; it is becoming».


The dynamic nature manifests itself not only in the elements, the dharmas that constitute the foundations of reality, but also in reality itself, taken as a whole, since it is in a beginningless process of cyclic alternance of creations and destructions. . This conception is formulated in Anguttara Nikaya II, p. 142, where it is said that in each cosmic period there are four incalculable periods: 1. the period of complete destruction, dissolution, «in-volving» cycle; 2. the period during which the state reached by the complete destruction remains; 3. the period of creation, «de-volving» cycle, and 4. the period during which the state reached by the creation remains. Each of these periods lasts an incalculable number of years.

This cosmological theory is referred to in numerous texts as for instance:

Dlgha Nikaya III, p. 84: «There is a time, O Vasettha, when at some moment or other, at the end of a long period, this universe is destroyed... There is a time, O Vasettha, when at some moment or other, at the end of a long period, this universe is created». Buddhaghosa, Visuddhimagga, p. 356:

«Remembering his former state of existence, the monk, who remembers the cosmic cycles, remembers in those cosmic cycles numerous cycles of destruction, numerous cycles of creation, numerous cycles of destruction and creation». Ta chih tu lun, p. 125 c, lines 25-27: «I see in the Eastern region limitless number of universes coming into being, subsisting or being destroyed. Their number is very great, it cannot be known. The same occurs in the ten regions of the space».


The empirical reality as conceived by Buddhism is not a chaotic universe. The empirical reality is submitted to laws, principles, norms, which regulate its existence and behavior, which determine what necessarily must happen and vice versa what necessarily cannot happen when determined causes and conditions occur or do not occur. Thanks to these laws the universe appears as an organi¬zed system, as a cosmos. This Buddhist conception of a regulated universe is rooted in the ancient Vedic conception of a Cosmic Order (.rta) that is either a product of the norms imposed by the Gods or an autonomous self-imposed principle .


All that exists is for Buddhism under the sway of the law of causality, con¬densed in the well-known formula: «given this, that occurs». Nothing exists owing to hazard, casually. Everything is the product of the conjunction of a mul¬tiplicity of causes. This law of causality is the great law of the universe.

Several Buddhist texts explicitly assert that everything is dependent on causes, as for instance: Lalitavistara, p. 419, line 9:

«All these dharmas are born depending on a cause». Saddharmapuridankasutra, p. 191, line 12 (= p. 215 in the Spanish transla¬tion): «All these beings have arisen in dependence». Nagarjuna, Madhyamakasastra XXIV, 19 a-b:

«There is not a dharma arisen not in dependence». Aryadeva, Catuhsataka IX, 2:

«An existence not in dependence does not exist at any time for anything at any place».


Causality or «dependent origination» (pratityasamutpada) has ever been a fundamental theory of Buddhism, since its origin, along all its history, either when it designated the chain of twelve dharmas that produce suffering or when it came to designate universal contingency as the supreme law of reality. The importance possessed by the causal law is indicative of its universality.

It is considered by Buddha to be his Dharma or Doctrine as said in the Majjhi- ma NikaiyaI, pp. 190-191: «That has been said by the Bhagavant: Whoever sees Dependent Origination sees the Doctrine, whoever sees the Doctrine sees Dependent Origination». Cf. F. Tola and C. Dragonetti, Cinco Suitras del Mahaiyaina, p. 42. According to the Aryapratttyasamutpadanamamahayanasutra, p. 71 infra: «This Dependent Origination is the Doctrine body of the Tathagatas, whoever sees the Dependent Origination sees the Tathagata». The pratityasamutpada is also considered by Buddha to be the Noble (Bud¬dhist) method, as in Sam. yutta Nikaiya V, pp. 388-389:

«And what is the Noble [[[Buddhist]]] method which the Buddha's disciple has well seen and well penetrated by insight? In this world, O householder, the Noble Buddha's disciple well and thoroughly reflects on the Dependent Origination: this being, that is; by the arising of this, that arises; this not being, that is not, by the cessation of this, that ceases — ... this is the Noble [[[Buddhist]]] method which he has well seen and well penetrated by insight». Many texts as Mahaivastu II, p. 285, lines 7-18; Lalitavistara, pp. 346, lines 1¬348, line 15; Buddhacarita XIV, verses 49-86, express that the discovery by the Buddha of the causal law took place during the middle watch or the last watch of the night in which he attained the most significant moment of Buddha's life, Enlightenment (bodhi), the supreme Buddhist goal.

Buddha himself praises the causal law as being profound and as looking pro¬found, and remarks that, through not understanding this doctrine, through not penetrating it, people is in a confused state of mind. Cf. Dlgha Nikaya II, p. 55.

And it is a very well-known fact that the Buddhist causality theory is men¬tioned, developed, explained, commented in numerous Buddhists texts. And many times the Buddha is extolled as the discoverer of this theory.


The strictest causality, which governs empirical reality in its entirety, implies, as a corollary, the interdependence of all that exists, since every thing is pro¬duced as an effect by the conjunction of a multiplicity of things that act as causes; and consequently each of these things that act as causes is on its own turn produced as an effect by the conjunction of a multiplicity of other things that also act as causes, and so on in a beginningless backwards process. The necessity of a plurality of causes and/or conditions for the forthcoming of anything is stated in many Buddhist texts as Milindapanho II, pp. 52-54.

A similar process takes place in regard to the effects. Each of the things that are produced as an effect, acting as a cause, in conjunction with a multiplicity of other things that also act as causes produces other things as effects, and so on in an endless forwards process. The result of this interdependence of causes and effects that pervades the whole reality is a net that relates among themselves all the existing things — momen¬tary, evanescent, interconnected by causal relations, acting all of them at the same time as effect and cause. The universal interdependence is another great law of existence. And it is based on it that Buddhism constructs an ethics of solidarity among all beings, humans, animals, plants, the non-conscious nature and things.


The law of causality manifests itself in other laws that regulate the physical order, the moral order, and the course of the salvific action. Let us mention, for instance, the law of the inevitable destruction of all that arises, which affects the human body and every kind of life in nature and also material things. Time is the factor that allows the functioning of this law. All is ephemeral, transient, impermanent. This law is expressed in the well known formula: «Whatsoever arises is sub¬ject to destruction», referred to in many Buddhist texts .

Another law is the law of karmanor moral retribution of actions. Every action, good or bad, gives rise to merits or demerits and demands necessarily reward or punishment in this life or in other future existences. The destiny of each being depends on his karman, i.e. on the moral quality of the actions that he has accom¬plished in his previous existences.

The karmanof each individual acting together with the karmanof other indi¬viduals possesses a collective force that determines the destiny of the universe: its destruction, its new creation, the special features it is to possess in its new stage of existence, the events, which will occur in it, etc. Thus the law of karman as a whole is the law that governs and controls the Cosmic Order.

This doctrine is referred to in Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakosa, while he describes the world where beings are to exist, for instance: ad III, 45 c-d , p. 506: «They maintain that the disposition of the universe con-sisting of three thousand great thousand world-systems is thus: below is the cir-cle of wind placed on the space, coming into being by the sovereign power of the karman of all beings»; ad III, 46 a-b , p. 506: «By the [power of the] karmans of beings clouds, coming together, pour their rain...»; ad III, 60 ante a, p. 518: «On what are the moon and the sun established? On the wind. The winds produced by the sovereign power of the collective karman turn around the Mount Sumeru like a whirlpool»;

ad III, 90 c-d, p. 541: «Thus the world, which has disappeared., during a long time remains being only space until again, through the sovereign power of the karman of beings, soft winds spread in the space, as previous signs ofthe worlds that will appear in the future». Likewise the Li shih a p'i tan lun (Lokaprajnaptyabhidharma), Taisho 1644, p. 223 c, lines 1-9, a text belonging to the Sarvastivada Buddhist sect, states that, when the universe is again created, it is by the force of the accumulated karman of all beings that God Brahma and his palace appear in the space as the matu¬ration of the karman of beings, and that the karman of beings is the only sovereign cause in the creation of the new world.


The laws that govern reality have not been imposed by a Creator, since Bud¬dhism does not accept the existence of a God, Creator and Governor of the Uni¬verse. It is the Buddhist atheism which is inserted in the atheistic tradition in India. This tradition is very strong and is shared by a series of non-Buddhist philosophical and religious systems, fully accepted by Hindu orthodoxy. These laws have not been created by the Buddha either. They have not been revealed to Him by any superior power or even by any human teacher. They are not a construction of His mind, He has not invented them.

These laws, as the empirical reality that they regulate, exist from a begin¬ningless eternity, valid by themselves, always the same, inalterable, necessary, acting with an ineludible force, not being possible for anything to escape the rigor of their dominion. These ideas are expressed in the following texts among many others: Samyuktagama, pp. 164-165:

«The causal law has been made by the Buddha or by others? O monks, the causal law has not been made by me, the Buddha, nor by others. Whether Bud-dhas arise or do not arise, stable is that essence of the dharmas or factors of exis¬tence, the foundation for the stability of the dharmas. The Buddha having known and comprehended it perfectly by Himself, declares, makes known, establishes, analyzes, reveals, proclaims, teaches, manifests it: given this, occurs that; from the arising of this, that arises.».

The Salistambasutra, p. 72 (= pp. 43-44 in the Spanish translation), enume¬rates the characteristics of these laws in relation to the causal law: «He who sees this causality as eternal, without life, lacking life, completely inalterable, not born, not become, not made, not compounded, unobstructed, baseless, calm, fearless, ineliminable, imperishable, whose nature is non-cessa-tion, he sees the Dharma; and he who sees the Dharma in the same way, as eter-nal, without life, lacking life, and so on as before..., he sees the Buddha whose body is constituted by unsurpassable dharmas». Sarnyutta Nikaya II, p. 25, after exposing the causal theory, the Buddha declares:

«WhetherBuddhasarise or do not arise, stable is this principle, the stability of the law, the necessity of thelaw, the causality.». The texts already quoted refer to the causal law whose attributes they describe. But it can be said that these attributes belong also to the ot.her laws. There is not a reason why not, and besides that there is a text in Anguttara Nikaya I, p. 286, which applies the formula found in Sarnyutta Nikaya II, just quoted, to other laws of reality — those of the impermanence and the painful nature of all compound things and that of the lack of an own being of all the dharmas.


From the texts just quoted it is evident, as we have said, that the Buddha has not created these laws, has not invented them, they are not a construction of his mind. Moreover they have not been revealed to him by another being. In several texts He proudly affirms that He has had no master . These laws are there, they have been always there, and the Buddha, after an intense and painful intellectual effort and preparation, in the memorable moment of his Enlightenment, discovers the existence of these laws, their nature and their functioning. And He has full consciousness of his character of mere discoverer of a reality that transcends him, and to which He has opened his mind and his recep¬tivity in order to allow it to penetrate into him. And in fact it will be the exposi¬tion of these laws what constitutes his Teaching, his Dharma. His Teaching, his Dharma, is thus only the exposition, manifestation, explanation, elucidation, revelation and transmission by him of these laws.

We can say that in the beginning of Buddhist doctrine there was an intellec¬tual act of knowledge, painfully conquered. From the first moment the impor¬tance of knowledge and of human effort have constituted essential characteris¬tics of Buddhism.

PART II: Buddhism and Philosophy

In Part Iof this article we have already pointed out an aspect of Buddhist Phi¬losophy of Nature, which links Buddhism also with Science, as it explains the Buddhist vision of nature and characteristics of the world. In this Part IIwe add sone reflections concerning other aspects of Buddhist Philosophy.


Buddhisn has also its own conception of nan that could be considered as its Philosophical Anthropology. This conception differs in nany points fron the Brahnanical and Hinduist conception of nan predoninant at the tine of its arising, centered around the notion of a soul, and has sone points of contact with nodern scientific conception of nan. A brief reference to this last conception nay help to understand and value Buddhist point of view. According to nodern scientific conception nan is nothing else than his body (brain, heart, etc.) and all the processes originated in it and through it without intervention of any external factor (soul, spirit). Many of the experiences that nan has (as bodily growth, for instance) takes place in his body and do

not reach either the brain or the con¬scious level; others (as nany sensations-to-be and perceptions-to-be, for instance) originate in the body or in the external world, and through the conplex nervous systen reach the brain and the conscious level. Others (as thinking, for instance) originate directly in the brain. The ego dissolves itself into nore or less independent elenents, and all the nechanisns of the brain and nervous systen are uncon¬scious until

they give rise to cognitive conscious acts. Consciousness is the product of a long evolution of the creatures that were to becone the hunan species. Buddhism did not exactly know, of course, the real nature of the body, espe¬cially of the brain and the nervous system, and so it constructed a peculiar model of man conditioned by that lack of knowledge and its basic thesis of the inexistence of a soul.

In a previous section of this article (Dynamic conception. The theory of dharmas) we have given a brief description of the dharmas, the only constituent elements of all that exists, including man: unsubstantial (dependent, conditioned), imperma¬nent (transient), as soon as they come to be, they disappear (momentaneous).

Let us now add that the dharmas are isolated but linked one another by the law of causality; existent as unities although forming part of a beginningless sys¬tem; they possess the nature of a point, they lack extent, they are punctual. The dharmas carry out their productive activity in an unconscious way; even the acts or states of consciousness, consciousnesses, which are also dharmas, are the product of other dharmas (eye, form of the perceived objects, light, space, atten¬tion, etc.) that act in the indicated unconscious way .

Man is a conglomerate of series of dharmas. The dharmas that constitute man can be classified into five groups or series: the series of all the material dharmas that are the corporeal elements, the body; the series of the dharmas that are sen¬sations; the series of the dharmas that are perceptions; the series of the dharmas that are volitions; and the series of the dharmas that are acts of consciousness.

These series have been flowing all together like the current of a river, and will flow during a great number of years until man, following the salvific Bud¬dhist Path, puts an end to them, reaching at that moment Liberation, Nirvaln. a, the aim of Buddhist effort. There is no soul to give rise to, to support, to impel, to enliven these series of dharmas.

The dharmas that are related to a certain series of dharmas are integrated in that series, and thus all takes place in the realm of the dharmas. The dharmas gathered in series correspond grosso modo to the processes, which in the modern theories of man are accomplished in the body, especially in the brain, having the brain and the nervous system as their support. In Buddhism the dharmas sensations, perceptions, volitive acts, conscious acts, have been granted a real, external, object-like, self-supporting existence (although causally origina¬ted), always acting under the power of the complex mechanism of karman and causation, and building the series of dharmas wherein they are integrated.

There is no place to ask how, when or why did these series ofdharmasbegin to exist and flow, or how, when and why did consciousness begin to exist and function, because they have had no beginning, they are eternal a parte ante, they have been always there, eternally the same .


For Western general belief man's life is only one, it begins with his birth and ends with his death. In India the predominant belief is that man has many lives that follow one another; man passes from one to the other, being submitted to many births and many deaths. Buddhism partakes of this belief in transmi¬gration , but if in Brahmanism and Hinduism there is a soul that transmi¬grates, that reincarnates once and again, one may ask: If Buddhism denies the existence of a soul, what does transmigrate? The answer must be: Nothing. This is an important Buddhist tenet. Buddhism has resort to an original solution, coherent with its own conception of man. This solution is its doctrine of man being a conglomerate of series of dharmas that exist from a beginningless eter¬nity .

The long existence to which man is submitted is one and indivisible, but can be theoretically divided in segments, each of which has a beginning and an end and is called reincarnation.

The arising of the «first consciousness» of the new segment is related to the cessation of the «last consciousness» of the previous segment. The arising and cessation of both consciousnesses are like the going up and the going down of the two arms of a balance. The arising of the first consciousness of the new seg¬ment is metaphorically considered as «birth», the cessation of the last con¬sciousness of the preceding segment, as «death».

The relation between the first consciousness of a segment of the series of existences and the last consciousness of the previous segment of that series is the same that exists in any course of normal life between any conscious state and the next one with the following differences:

1. In the case of the passage from one segment to the next one in the series of existences, together with the last consciousness, there is the cessation of the material component (body) accompanying that consciousness and belonging to the finishing segment; and together with the first consciousness there is also the arising of a new material component (body) accompanying that consciousness and belonging to the new beginning segment. The material dharmas that constituted the adult body that ceases to be is thus replaced by the material dharmas of an embryo body in the mother's womb, which will grow and develop, and which is the support of the first consciousness of the new segment. It could be said that consciousness passes from the support of an adult body to the support of an embryo.

2. Moreover, the first consciousness and those which follow it, related to it by the law of causality, and all of them belonging to the same series of existences are not accompanied by the memory of experiences under¬gone in the preceding segment of the series.

The destruction of the material component (body) and the disappearance of memory conceal the continuity of the series and produce the false impression of the existence of individuals who are born without any connection with any¬body in the past, with anybody in the future.

Other changes also occur. Instead of acts or states of consciousness, sensa¬tions, perceptions and volitions, characterized by lucidity and clearness and giving rise to the ego experience, as were those of the precedent segment, the acts or states of consciousness, sensations, perceptions and volitions that occur in the embryonic life of the new segment are marked by lack of lucidity and clearness and of the ego experience, which will appear only after the segment has flown during a period of time and the new individual with his normal development acquire them.


1. Realistic conception of Buddhism in its first stages

In its first period, from the 6th century B.C. up to the beginning of Christian Era, Buddhism maintains only an open realistic position, a naïve realism . The world is real, it exists independently of man who grasps it with his sense-organs and who thinks it with his mind. But in the world in its totality, submitted to the causal law, in which every thing is an effect, product of the conjunction of a multiplicity of causes and determining conditions, there is nothing substan¬tial, nothing which exists in se et per se or nothing that exists svabhavena, i.e. that has an own being that belongs to itself and that depends on itself. Corollaries of the fundamental non-substantialist conception of Buddhism are, on one side, the non-existence of God and the non-existence of a soul in man.

A transformation of the early Buddhist conception of reality is produced around the beginning of the Christian Era, and, because of the evolution of the ancient conceptions, the existence of the external world and likewise the capa¬city of our sense-organs and of our reason to grasp its nature begin to be doubted. Two great philosophical schools are then constituted: the Madhyamika School and the Yogacara School, which will mark new trends to the principal manifestations of Buddhist Philosophy.

2. Voidness (sunyata).

«Conditionalist» conception in the Madhyamika School

The Madhyamika School, founded by the great Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna (circa 150 A.D.), constructs its peculiar notion of Voidness upon the principle of Causality, maintained by Buddhism since its very beginning.

The word «voidness» (sunyata in Sanskrit, in Tibetan, k’ung in Chi¬nese, ku in Japanese) means that things are conditioned, dependent on causes, devoid of an own being, or in Western terms that they do not exist in se et per se, that they are unsubstantial. The theory of Voidness reaffirms this basic Bud¬dhist principle, placing it in the center of Nagarjuna's system. But the theory of Voidness offers also a new notion of existence that agglutinates the two forms of existence maintained by the realistic conception of Buddhism in its first stages, and by the idealistic conception of the Yogacara School after the development of the Madhyamika School.

According to Nagarjuna's School things are present before us in everyday experience as compact, continuous, and unitary, and receive a single name. The study of reality reveals us that things are in truth constituted by parts. To be constituted by parts is an aspect of the unsubstantiality that characterized every¬thing, since parts can be considered as the «cause» of the existence of every¬thing. The rope we perceive does not exist as a unitary rope, it is only an aggre¬gate of threads, and these at their turn do not exist as unitary entities, they are only an aggregate of filaments, and so on.

Movement is a series of diverse proces¬ses, which in many cases may not constitute in themselves advancing move¬ments, although they contribute to the advancing movement of the whole to which they belong, as for instance the running of a man or animal; any emo¬tion, passion, sentiment is constituted by a number of psychological or mental processes that although being composed by multiple elements receive a com¬mon name as if they were a unity: love, hatred, fear, faith. Thus, according to Nagarjuna, when we perceive things, they really are before us, but they are not as they appear. When we examine them, they

dissolve themselves into their parts and subparts, and what we had previously seen, disappear before our eyes. It could be said that things in a certain way partake both of being and not being.

The empirical reality is thus characterized by conditionality, relativity, depend¬ence, the fact of being composed, the fact of being perceived under a form which is not its own. The notion of Voidness expresses this way of being.

3. [[Idealistic conception of the Yogacara School]

The Yogacara School, founded by Maitreyanatha (circa 300 A.D.), affirms the sole existence of mind (cittamatra), of consciousness (vijñana) . For this school the only thing that exists is ideas, representations, mental creations, to which nothing real corresponds.

Let us remember that for Buddhism, from the very beginning, mind or consciousness is only a series of states of consciousnesses, of acts of knowledge. These cognitive acts constitute the mind; there is not an entity outside and different from them, permanent and autonomous which «has» these acts of consciousness, which is what «experiments» them as their inalterable witness or seer. The idealistic school maintains that thesis, but adds (contrarily to what Buddhism thought in its beginning) that to the succession of representations, which constitutes mind, does not correspond any real correlate. The empirical reality in which we exist has in this way the same ontological status as dreams or illusions created by magic. Nothing distinguishes the vision of the reality in which we move from oneiric visions or from the phantasmago¬ria created by the magician or from the hallucinations to which suggestion gives rise.

The naïve realism embraced by Buddhism in its first stages or in the period of the developing of sects which followed the death of the Buddha, has left the place to an extreme idealistic view, where beings and objects disappear as real entities and where only entities of mental nature remain. If for the School of Nagarjuna the empirical reality becomes the Great Void, for the Yogacara School reality is only a Great Illusion created by mind sub¬merged in error.

The prodigious Universe imagined by the ancient Buddhist thinkers, infinite in time, unlimited in space, peopled by an inconceivable number of world sys¬tems, with their incalculable millions of millions of beings, and with their incal¬culable millions of millions of Buddhas guiding the infinite beings to their Libe¬ration, in a permanent transformation, regulated by laws of universal validity, has become — in the Yogacara conception — a product of human mind, a dream of that shadow that is man, who depending only on his own effort and counting only with the help of the Teaching of the Master, looks for the path that leads to Enlightenment — the foremost degree of intelligence, knowledge and con¬sciousness — and will allow him to reach that realm of peace and silence, the beatitude of extinction, the supreme Nirvana.

PART III: Buddhism and Religion

Buddha preached his Dharma (Doctrine) in India twenty five centuries ago, and his Teaching spread throughout all Asia in a pacific way by the sole power of his word and the exanple of his nonks. Full of respect for the diverse cul¬tures it encountered, Buddhisn was influenced by then and took fron each of then elenents that enriched it giving rise to the forns of Buddhisn known today as Indian Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Korean Bud¬dhism, Japanese Buddhism, and Southeast Asian Buddhism. Notwithstanding their diversities all of then show a basic unity as a Salv.ific Path centered around the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha — the Buddha vene-rated everywhere as the suprene Master, the Dharma, the Wheel that never noves back in its pernanent dynanic progress, and the Community, the Four Assenblies, he founded hinself in the sixth century B.C., of the nonks and the nuns, of the lay nale devotees and lay fenale devotees, alike in their veneration for the Master and in their faith in his teachings. Buddhisn pointed out an aim and a path to reach it to nillions of persons, and gave then confidence and energy on affirning that there is a «going out» (nisaran.a), a way to escape fron suffering, Salvation; around Buddhisn an intense spiritual life and a deep reflection on all the aspects of hunan existence were developed.


The aim that Buddhism proposes to nan is Enlightenment (bodhi) leading to Liberation (vimukti, moksa in sanskrit, vimutti, mokkha in pali), liberation from the painful chain of reincarnations (sam. saira) to which he is subnitted by the forth of his own actions (karman), in other words: Liberation for sentient beings from the painful condition of existence, since the only form under which exis¬tence manifests itself is reincarnations. Liberation is Nirvana (nibbana in pali), Extinction compared to the extinction of a flame of fire.

To appreciate in a correct way the attraction that Nirvain.a conceived as extinc¬tion could offer to Buddhists, it is necessary to see it from the perspective of Indian culture, where it was a very generalized belief that man is enchained to an eternal and painful transmigration. To get free from it was something to be desired as it was the only way to put an end to recurrent pain and suffering. Any teaching which offered a path for deliverance from transmigration, as the Buddhist did, could be looked upon as something positive, and such was well received and adhered to. The exalting terms applied to Nirvana like santi / santi (tran¬quillity), siva /siva (auspiciousness), sukha (happiness), and the joyous monas¬tic poems, Theragathas and Therigathas, where monks and nuns express their happiness because they are sure that they are ready for entering Nirvain.a, put¬ting an end to reincarnations, give us an idea of the positive feeling that the notion of Nirvain.a awoke in Buddhists.

It is obvious that this Buddhist or Indian feeling in relation to extinction granted by Nirvain.a is very far from the Western feeling that impels man to aspire to immortality.


To achieve this aim Buddhism provides man with an appropriate teaching. Following this teaching man is sure to attain it. Enlightenment (bodhi) according to Buddhism is an extraordinary experience, beyond speech and reason, where verbalization and conceptualization have no entrance, and where it is believed that one attains a sui generis knowledge that cannot be attained in another different situation. After the experience has ceased, the person, who had that experience, is able, resorting to a verbalizing and con¬ceptualizing process, to inform about the knowledge he has obtained.

To attain Enlightenment (bodhi) according to Buddhism is not an easy task. It requires the firm decision to dedicate all own efforts and energy to that pur¬pose. And this exertion must be maintained during an infinite number of rein¬carnations. In each one of them one has to acquire, practice and lead to per¬fection many virtues, venerate innumerable Buddhas, hear their preaching and follow their example; one has also to submit to a strict intellectual discipline in order to acquire the Buddhist teachings, centered around the Knowledge of the true nature of reality, and Compassion regarding all living creatures, and one must master the meditation technique systematized by Yoga practices. Thus one prepares oneself to the Enlightenment experience. The Buddha prepared Himself for such an experience and, in a memorable night, according to all Buddhist traditions, expressed in numerous texts, He obtained the Bodhi.

Which knowledge did the Buddha obtain in His Bodhi experience? He per¬ceived the Four Noble Truths : 1. the Noble Truth about Suffering (dukkha), 2.the Noble Truth about its Origin (dukkha-samudaya), 3.the Noble Truth about its Cessation (dukkha-nirodha)., and 4.the Noble Truth about the Eightfold Path that leads to cessation (atthangika dukkha-nirodhagamim patipada). Each of these Four Noble Truths covers a very complex set of truths, principles, laws, norms, rules, etc. The totality of the truths, etc., that constitute each of these sets, is nothing else than the Buddha's Doctrine.

Buddha perceivedtota et simul the Doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, in its complete fullness and astonishing richness. The Masters that came after Him in the following centuries gradually unfolded, unveiled, disclosed all the con¬tents of the Buddha supreme intuition.

The First Noble Truth asserts that man is subject to suffering, which adopts manifold forms: birth, old age, sickness, death, to be with what one dislikes (apriya), to be separated from what one likes (priya), not to get what one wants — all this are human experiences imposed on us by our human nature and all this is cause of suffering. The words priya and apriya cover persons, things, ways of life, expe¬riences, etc. that one cherishes or that one abhors, that produce positive feelings or that produce negative feelings — the bright or the dark aspects of life. All these forms of suffering are dharmas (factors, elements, constituents of existence) or sam. skalras (aggregates of dharmas). And dharmas and sam. skalras — all things — are impermanent (anitya), painful (duh. kha) and without an own self (analtman) . Suffering is inherent in every thing that composes our reality; it is a part of its nature. The Second Noble Truth points out the cause of suffering: desire ( n. al) . The principle that underlies this assertion is that everything that exists has a cause. A strict determinism reigns in our reality; nothing is left to chance or hazard; nothing can be produced if the adequate causes are not present.

The Third Noble Truth deals with the end of desire, the elimination of suffer¬ing, the cessation of reincarnations, the suppression of existence under the form of reincarnations. The state in which all these facts are given is called nirvaln.a, nirv.rtti, whose basic meaning is «extinction» . Nirvaln.a is an Absolute. It does not belong to our empirical reality, it is some¬thing completely different from all that exists in this reality, it is transcendent and heterogeneous, beyond words and reason .

The Fourth Noble Truth is the Noble Eightfold Path (alryals. .tangamalrga) that leads to suppression of suffering. It is a moral Path. It establishes the rules that must guide the actions of the persons that wish to get rid of suffering. The Eight¬fold Path is constituted by right views (, right intentions (samyak- sam. kalpa), right speech (samyagvalc), right action (samyakkarmalnta), right liv¬ing (samyagajlva), right effort

(samyagvyayama), right mindfulness (samyaksmrti) and right mental concentration (samyaksamaldhi). Many Buddhist texts of Hinayanist and Mahayanist inspiration contain numerous norms on moral con¬duct that make more explicit the items of the Noble Eightfold Path . On the basis of such texts it is possible to construct a Buddhist moral system characterized as a lofty, complete, subtle set of moral rules . PART IV: Buddhist methodology for directing the mind

From its very beginning Buddhism has prescribed rules that man who wish to attain the true nature of things must follow. These rules are of application to any activity of the mind in any of the fields already mentioned: Science, Phi¬losophy or Religion. Let us mention some of these norms which intend to direct human mind in order to get a correct Knowledge, one of the two essential ele¬ments to reach the Buddhist goal: Liberation, together with Compassion. We leave purposely aside in this article the rules, laws, principles and norms derived or having to do with Buddhist Logic (the principle of contradiction, the law of excluded middle, the law of identity, the syllogism and the diverse forms of infe-rence, the fallacies to be avoided in debate, the definitions, etc.) and that are an important and well known part of the Buddhist methodology for directing the mind in a correct way, because they would deserve a development exceeding the limits of this article.


In a small treatise attributed to Nagarjuna, the most outstanding thinker of the Madhyamika School, Pratltyasamtpadahrdayakanka, «Stanzas on the Essence of Dependent Origination» , is found a famous stanza (7) that has been quoted many times in Buddhist texts and that states a most important Buddhist principle of thinking: the search for objectivity. The stanza reads as follows: «Nothing from reality must be suppressed, nothing must be added to it, reality must be seen as it is in truth: who sees reality attains Liberation».

Knowledge must be objective, must be limited to what one perceives, with¬out adding to the representation in the mind or without suppressing from it any thing of any nature.

A clear and intelligent comment of this principle is given already in one of the most ancient Buddhist texts, the Udana I, 10, p. 8 (= pp. 47-48, C. Dragonetti and F. Tola's translation), already quoted in note 9:

«O Bahiya, thus must you train yourself: in the seen there must be only the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the thought only the thought, in the cognized only the cognized. O Bahiya, thus must you train yourself: when in the seen there be only the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the thought only the thought, in the cognized only the cognized, then, O Bahiya, you will not be there; when you, O Bahiya, will not be here, then you, O Bahiya, will not be in this world nor in the other world nor between both: this is just the end of suffering».

When man sees reality and does not add to his perception any affective link, he has already obtained detachment, and is ready for Liberation. Asvaghosa (flourished between 50 B.C. and 100 A.D.), Saundarananda, Can¬to XIII, stanza 44, has the same stanza, with some variants, as the one present¬ed by Nagarjuna in his just quoted treatise on Dependent Origination. Asvaghosa introduces in his poem this stanza in relation with the control of the senses that the Buddhist has to exercise, thus with an openly moral intention. If man per¬ceives objects just as they are in themselves, without adding to them qualities that are created just by human subjectivity and that objects really do not pos¬sess in themselves, he will not be dominated by sensuality. Asvaghosa says, ibi¬dem, in st anza 53 of Canto XIII:

«Thus, objects of the senses are not by themselves a cause either of bondage or of Liberation; it is association with some special attribute just created by mind that becomes cause of bondage or of Liberation».

Maitreya's Abhisamayalankara V, 21, the already mentioned founder of the Yogacara School, refers to this principle in relation to the conception of eman¬cipation: it should be seen as it is in reality: nothing should be added to it, noth¬ing should be taken away from it. Sthiramati (middle of the 6th century A.D), considered as one of the great masters of the Yogacara School, in his treatise Madhyantavibhaga ad I, 8, p. 23, Pandeya ed., refers to the principle in connection with his own conception of the Absolute in the context of Buddhist idealistic theories. Buddhagh.osa (first half of the 6th century), the great Buddhist commentator, in his Sumangalavilasini, a commentary to the Dlgha Nikaya, p. 12, takes the principle as an hermeneutic rule for the interpretation of the Buddha's words that should be respected as they essentially were said: without adding to nor sup¬pressing from them any thing that could change their essential meaning.


According to the notion of manysidedness all has many aspects or faces, and according to the notion of perspectivism it is possible to perceive any object from different points of view, each of which gives a different vision of the object. Both ways of seeing reality are in truth two forms of referring to the same fact: manysid- edness takes the object as reference and maintains that everything presents itself to our view in multiple forms; perspectivism takes the subject as reference and maintains that one or another of those multiple aspects are perceived accord¬ing to the place in which the subject is situated, according to the point of view he adopts. Buddhism considered manysidedness as well as perpectivism as true ways of conceiving reality: manysidedness as an essential characteristic of the object of knowledge and perpectivism as an essential characteristic of the cog¬nitive act. Both of them put a limit to knowledge, depriving it of the aspiration of unique truth and of universal validity. For Buddhism all this has to be taken into account as another principle for the correct knowledge in any research on reality. Many Indian thinkers, Buddhists and non-Buddhists , have partaken of these conceptions.

The Buddhist monk Suhemanta affirmed in Theragatha 106:

«Things have hundreds of attributes, hundreds of characteristics; the ignorant sees one of them, the wise, hundreds». Let us add, following a common expression in the Buddhist texts, that the Buddha could see «with his divine, pure, and superhuman eye» all of them. The well known story of the blind men and the elephant told by the Buddha himself in Udana VI, 4 and 5 (C. Dragonetti and F. Tola's Spanish translation, pp. 133-140) constitutes a good illustration of these principles of manysidedness and perpectivism. In this text are presented blind men who touched each one only one part of the body of an elephant and each one of them got in this way his own limited and as such erroneous idea of what an elephant is, and trying each of them to impose on the others his own idea, violently disputed one another. Buddha con¬cludes His narration with the following words: «Men, who perceive only one side of things, adhering to it, quarrel with one another».

Pandita Asoka, a Buddhist author who lived circa 1000, in his important trea¬tise Avayavinirakarana, «The refutation of the whole», p. 8 (Sanskrit text in F. Tola and C. Dragonetti's ed. = p. 26 of their English translation), clearly describes the nature of perception according to Buddhism, pointing out the par- ciality it involves in itself and its dependence on the place the subject who per¬ceives is located: what is visible of any object is only a part of the object; there is no difference between the situation of an object either covered or uncovered: both are only partially seen, we never see the totality of the object, because we do not perceive the parts of the object that are in the rear side, opposite to the side in which we are, and the parts that are between both sides. The author con¬cludes that we always see a part of the object; we never see the object in its integrity. Pandita Asoka adds that the vision of the object also depends on the position of the perceiver in the moment of the perception.

The thesis that we always have a partial vision of objects is also referred to asa Buddhist thesis in Hindu authors as Uddyotakara, Nyaiyavairttika, adII, 1, 32 (p.471, Munshiram Manoharlal ed.), and Vacaspati Misra, Nyayavarttikatatparyatika ad II, 1, 32 (p. 474, Munshiram Manoharlal ed.), when they expose the Buddhist point of view concerning perception.


Buddhism has a special attitude concerning judgments: the rule is not to be emotionally involved, to have the calm to discriminate between good and evil, between true and false. Any state of exalting feeling added to the judgment is considered by Buddhism as an obstacle for reaching the truth in any field of knowledge. This rule is clearly taught, for instance, in Dlgha Nikaya I, 1 (Brah- majailasutta), pp. 32-34, C. Dragonetti and F. Tola's Spanish translation:

«5. “O monks, if others blame me or blame the Doctrine or blame the Com-munity, you show would not on that account either feel anger or discontent or displeasure. O monks, if others blame me or blame the Doctrine or blame the Community, and if on that account you should be angry or offended, that would be for you an obstacle. O monks, if others blame me or blame the Doctrine or blame the Community and if on that account you should be angry or offended, would you then be able to judge what is well said or what is badly said in what is said by the others?”. “No, Sir”.

“O monks, if others blame me or blame the Doctrine or blame the Commu-nity; then you should distinguish what is wrong as wrong in this way: ‘That is false, that in not true, that is not found in us, that does not exist in us'”. 6. “O monks, if others praise me or praise the Doctrine or praise the Com-munity, on that account you should not feel either joy or happiness or exultan-cy. O monks, if others praise me or praise the Doctrine or praise the Communi¬ty, and if on that account you should be filled with joy or you should be filled with happiness or you should be exultant, that would be for you an obstacle. O monks, if others praise me or praise the Doctrine or praise the Community, then you should acknowledge what is true as true in this way: ‘That is true, that is not false, that is found in us, that exists in us'”».


This Buddhist principle has to do with correct knowledge and the moral qualities which are also required on the part of the person who wants to attain that knowledge. The text we have chosen to illustrate this principle especially concerns the knowledge of the true nature of other living beings, but its teach¬ing can be applied in a broader sense to the examination of any case in any context. Udana VI, 2, pp. 64-66 (= pp. 130-133 in the Spanish translation) tells that on a certain occasion the king Pasenadi of Kosala asked the Buddha if all those ascetics that had just passed by not far from them were Buddhist holy men (Arhants) or men in the way of acquiring that holy condition. The Buddha answers:

«If they are arhants or they have entered the path that leads to arhant- ship — this is something difficult to know for somebody as you, O Great King, who are a householder, enjoying the pleasures of the senses, living a life encum-bered with children, taking delight in the aroma of sandal wood from Benares, wearing garlands, perfumes and unguents, and who finds pleasure in the pos-session of gold and silver.

O Great King, it is living together with a person that one may know his morality, and that too for a long time and not for a short time, and only if one observes him attentively and not carelessly, provided that one be intelligent and not a fool. O Great King, it is dealing with a person that one may know his purity, and that too for a long time and not for a short time, and only if one observes him attentively and not carelessly, provided that one be intelligent and not a fool. O Great King, it is in times of misfortune that one may know the strength of a person, and that too for a long time and not for a short time, and only if one observes him attentively and not carelessly, provided that one be intelligent and not a fool. O Great King, it is talking with a person that one may know his wisdom, and that too for a long time and not for a short time, and only if one observes him attentively and not carelessly, provided that one be intelligent and not a fool».

According to Buddhism for any examination of things and beings that intends to attain a true knowledge of their respective nature many special intellectual and moral qualities are required on the part of the person who carries it out. He cannot be immersed in a frivolous and mundane life full of attachments, dedi¬cated to sensuality in its manifold manifestations, dominated by covetousness. He, endowed with effort, has to keep a deep concentration of mind centered only on the elected object; basically he must possess intelligence, capacity to grasp and to understand, and lucidity. These qualities, and those connected with them, constitute important ele¬ments of Buddhist Ethics. Attention, mindfulness, concentration of mind, ener¬gy, effort, earnestness, intelligence, wisdom, are seen by Buddhists as moral qualities to be developed.


This Buddhist rule for directing the mind in a good way enjoins an attitude based on freedom of thought and personal effort each one should assume in any matter of thinking.

On one hand one should not adhere to an opinion by authority: i.e. only because it is maintained by Tradition (agama) or by one's own Master (the Buddha) or by the Holy Buddhist Scriptures (Pi.taka) or by someone endowed with knowledge, expert in the Holy Texts (Hindu Guruor Buddhist Arhant). On the other hand one has not only to be guided in his thought and action by logic and reasoning. It is necessary to think by oneself on any matter, to reach one's own conclusions taking into account the opinion of wise persons with experience in the matter and after a careful examination of the consequences. The first text we have chosen to illustrate this pr.inciple belongs to the most ancient period of Buddhism and is found in the Anguttara Nikaya I, Kesamut- tisutta, pp. 188-193 .

On a certain occasion the Buddha came to the village of Kesamutta, where the Kalamas people lived. They told the Buddha: «O Lord, some samanas and brahmanas come to Kesamutta. They proclaim and expound their own doctrine, but they criticize, despise, abuse and revile the opposed doctrines. And afterwards, O Lord, other samanas and brahmanas come also to Kesamutta. They also proclaim and expound their own doctrine, but they criticize, despise, abuse and revile the opposed doctrines. And when we listen to them, O Lord, doubt arises in us, uncertainty arises in us: “Who among these venerable samanas and brahmanas tells the truth, who lies”?».

The Buddha answered them:

«It is proper that you doubt, O Kalamas, it is proper that you feel uncertain-ty. Your uncertainty has arisen in relation with a doubtful matter. Do not be guid¬ed, O Kalamas, by mere hearsay or by tradition or by what you have heard or by somebody's proficiency in the Holy Scriptures or by a mere logical inference or by a mere methodological inference or by the mere reflection on the causes or by an obsequious compliance with any theory or by the mere appearance of likeli¬hood or by thinking that the saman. a (ascetic) who holds it is your Master. When you, O Kalamas, by yourselves reach the knowledge: "These things are bad", "These things are blameworthy”, “These things are blamed by the wise”, and that these things, when performed and undertaken, lead to harm and sorrow, then indeed you should reject them, O Kalamas».

Other important text concerning this principle is from a later period of Bud¬dhist development and belongs with all probability to a Mahayana Sutra. It is quoted by the two great Buddhist philosophers of the Yogacara-Madhyamaka School (a synthesis of the Madhyamaka and Yogacara): its founder Santaraksita (flourished in the 8th century) , and his illustrious disciple and commentator, Kamalasila (circa 740-795) . Kamalasila also comments this stanza said by the Bhagavant(= Buddha) ad Tattvasa{graha 3586-3587.

It is a quite praiseworthy attitude of this founder of Buddhist Culture to ask his followers to submit his teachings and words to a severe scrutiny before accept¬ing them, and not to adhere to them by mere respect for his person. The text, attributed to the Buddha himself and addressed to his monks, says: «As gold is accepted by the experts

after testing it by heat, cutting and rubbing with the touchstone, my word, O monks, is to be accepted after being carefully examined - not out of respect for me».



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Lotus Sutra, see Saddharmapundarïkasutra, and for the Spanish translation, Tola, F., and Dragonetti, C.
Mahavastu Avadana, É. Senart edition (as reproduced in R. Basak ed., Calcutta: Sanskrit College, 1963).
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Saddharmapundarïkasutra, H. Kern and Bunyiu Nanjio edition, Osnabrück: Biblio Ver¬lag, 1970. For the Spanish translation see Tola, F., and Dragonetti, C.
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Sam. yuktaïgama, see Fünfundzwanzig Suïtras des Nidaïnasam.yukta, C. Tripathi edition, Berlin, 1962.
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Taisho = The Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo (The Tripitaka in Chinese), J. Takakusu and K. Watanabe edd.

TOLA, F., «Tres concepciones del hombre en la Filosofía de la India», in revista Pen-samiento, Vol. 42, Madrid, 1986, pp. 29-46.
TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., «La doctrina de los dharmas en el Budismo», in Boletín de la Asociación Española de Orientalistas XIII, 1977, pp.105-132 (= Yoga y Mística de la India, Buenos Aires: Kier, 1978, pp. 91-128).

TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., Yoga y Mística de la India, Buenos Aires: Kier, 1978.
TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., El Budismo Mahayana. Estudios y Textos, Buenos Aires: Kier, 1980.

TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., «Anadivta or Beginninlessness in Indian Philosophy», in Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1980, pp. 1-20. Spanish version in F. ToLA and C. DRAGoNETTI, Filosofía y Literatura de la India, Buenos Aires: Edito¬rial Kier, 1983, pp. 33-58.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTI, C., Filosofía y Literatura de la India, Buenos Aires: Kier, 1983.

TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., «Aryabhavasamkrantinamamahayanasutra, The Noble Sutra on the Passage through Existences», in Buddhist Studies Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1986, pp. 3-18 (English translation from the Tibetan translation); Spanish version in F. Tola y C. Dragonetti, El Budismo Mahayana. Estudios y Textos, pp. 19-36.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., El Idealismo Budista. La doctrina de «solo-la-mente», Méxi¬co: Premiá, 1989.

ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., «La estructura de la mente según la escuela idealista bu-dista (Yogacara)», in Pensamiento, No. 182, Vol. 46, Madrid, 1990, pp. 129-147.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., Nihilismo Budista. La doctrina de la Vaciedad, México: Pre- miá Editores, 1990.
TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., The Avayavlnirakararia of Pandita Asoka, Sanskrit Text edit-ed with an annotated English Translation, Tokyo: The international intitute for Bud-dhist Studies, 1994.

ToLA, F.,and DRAGoNETTi, C., «Estrofas acerca de la Esencia del Surgimiento Condicionado (Pratityasamtpadahrdayakarika) atribuido a Nagarjuna», in Revista de Estudios Budis¬tas, México-Buenos Aires, No. 12, octubre 1996, pp. 54-63.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., El Sui tra del Loto de la Verdadera Doctrina, México: El Cole¬gio de México, 1999. Spanish translation from the Sanskrit text of the Saddharma- pundarlkasultra.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., «El Budismo frente a la justificación de la violencia en la india Antigua», in Pensamiento (Madrid), Vol. 55, No. 211, 1999, pp. 105-126.
ToLA, F.; DRAGoNETTi, C., and DZAU DZAN, M., Wu liang I ching, El Suitra de los infinitos sig¬nificados (translated from Chinese), Bilbao: Desclée de Brouwer, 2000.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., On Voidness, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2nd edition, 2002.
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ToLA, F.,and DRAGoNETTi, C.,Cinco Suitras del Mahaiyaina, Florham Park, New Jersey, USA: Primordia, 2002.

ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., Being as Consciousness. Yogai cai ra Philosophy of Buddhism, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2004.

ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., Budismo. Unidad y Diversidad, Carmel, NY, USA: The Bud¬dhist Association of the United States, 2004.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., Dhammapada. La Esencia de la Sabiduría Budista, Florham, New Jersey, USA: Primordia, 2004 (8th edition, revised and augmented). 

TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., On the Myth of the Opposition between Indian Thought and Western Philosophy, Hildesheim: Olms Verlag, 2004.
TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., Digha Nikaya, Diálogos Mayores de Buda, Carmel, NY, USA: Buddhist Association of the United States, 2005.

TOLA, F., and DRAGONETTI, C., Udana. La palabra de Buda, traducción del pali, introduc¬ción y notas, Madrid, Editorial Trotta, 2006.
ToLA, F., and DRAGoNETTi, C., «Philosophy of mind in the Yogacara Buddhist idealistic school», in History of Psychiatry, Vol. 16, issue 4, Number 64, Cambridge, December 2006, pp. 453-465.
Udana, PTS edition. For the Spanish translation see Tola, F., and Dragonetti, C. VASUBANDHU, Abhidharmakosa, Bauddha Bharati Series edition.
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VoN GLASENAPP, H., Buddhismus und Gottesidee, Wiesbaden: Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur im Mainz, 1954.
WALPoLA RAHuLA, What the Buddha taught, London: The Gordon Frazer Gallery Ltd., 1978.
Fundación Instituto de Estudios Budistas-FIEB/CONICET Olazábal 1584, 3° C

1428 Buenos Aires (Argentina)
[Artículo aprobado para publicación en octubre de 2006]