♥The Doctrines of Anicca and Anatta♥
by __ Raja Tridiv Roy
Ancient Greeks, without the aid of the then unborn Freud, discovered and named the three impelling forces that motivete man. These, according to them, are the instincts of self-creation, self-preservation and self-destruction. The Hindu Triad, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara, can be considered as the personification of the principles of Eros, Libidos and Thanatos.

On the nature of “Self” however, thinkers, through the ages, have held widely divergent views. The ancients in India found a name for self. They termed it Atman and attributed to it the qualities of eternality, immutability and immortality. In the Upanishads reference is found to the Atman, which is the size of a man’s thumb. At the moment of expiry, it ascends to the head of the mortal. Its egress is through the top of the head.

According to later accounts, manifestation of Atman in separate and individual forms is a relative truth, within the realm of Maya-Illusion. The Atman or permenant Essence originates form the Absolute. Its seeming existence in diverse forms continues in the chains of transmigration until it is liberated when it re-unites or is merged with the God-head or Brahma (Absolute).

Varying Accounts of Creation
In the Rig Veda there are varying accounts of the creation and the creator. The creator is Indra or Varuna or Agni, Marut and Indra jointly.

According to the Upanishads the Universal Soul took upon itsself the shape of man, and feeling lonesome created woman from himself (reminiscent of the future Eve’s emergence from Adam’s rib). In another account the primeval Lord in Narayana floating on a leaf in the Void. From his Nevsky a lotus emerges from which appears Brahma, the sel-created.

Whatever it may be, it is accepted that there is the Unity or Absolute from which all beings spring and whence all return. A Hindu friend once explained this with the simile of a raindrops (soul manifested in separation), losing its identity in being merged with the ocean ( Brahma or Absolute). Hinduism is not alone in the belief in a First Cause and its complement a Creator. Most theistic religions support this view of a Great Beginning, like, “Let there be light. And there was light”. And as a necessary consequence to the Great Beginning, there is the Grand Finale the Day of Judgment, until which eventually souls reside in paradise or purgatory or limbo.

Thanatists and Ucchedavadas admit of the existence of self or soul but believe it dies with the death of the body. Like the Jains, the Buddhists do not admit of a divine creator, for according to them, creation implies desire (to create). And the supreme or perfect Being cannot be perfect if he ( or she or it) is not even free from desire.

The Jains believe in two relaties finer (Jiva) and the grosser (Ajiva). When the two combine there is action that is life. By non-action and asceticism karma must be annihilated and thereby moksha (liberation) gained. When this happens the Jiva is freed from the Ajiva. As to way the Jiva and Ajiva combine, the Jains do not bother. They feel that the fact is to be recognised and moksha gained; the why is unimportant. To get out of the burning house is all important, not to dally in it trying to find out who set it on fire, when, how and so on.

Bhuddhists do not admit of a first cause or an immortal and eternal soul. The conception of immortality and eternality is possible by a conception of something that is neither ; that is death and time. Time like space, is not the realm of duality and relativity and of little intrinsic worth. The conception of time and space is possible so long as a being is bound in self which is illusion. There is only Reality and time and space are not Reality. The Buddha expounded the doctrines of Anicca (Impermanence, or the perpetual state of flux) and Anatta (non-existence of Atman or eternal soul). He admins in the conceptual plane, of self or satta (individuality) but even in this place gives it a different meaning- the most important of which is its essential egolessness and its subjection to the law of Impermanence.

Admitting death and rebirth, considering that one is bound up in the rounds of samsara- where did it all begin ? When or how or why did self originate ? In short the finite mind craves to know of the first cause.

Buddhist cosmology admits of a cyclic integration and disintegration of the Universe but not first beginning. Yet our literal and chronology-loving mind presses for an answer. And the answer is : which came first, the tree or the seed ? Or when did electricity or gravity begin ? To those of us who have the time and inclination it is enough of a riddle to keep us occupied.

Metaphysical Speculation

The Buddha, therefore, cautions man and discourages him from indulging in abstruse metaphysical speculation. He says that if a man came to you, mortally wounded, and with the shaft of an arrow protruding from his body, would you take out the arrow first, or wait until you found out the name and caste and creed of him who shot the arrow ?

In other words, “Get on with it”. And “it” is his philosophy the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to salvation, to Nirvana. Nothing exists without a cause and conditioned existence is subject to the law of Dependant Origination. Nothing is self-existent.

When life is manifested in a certain form the conditions necessary for that particular form exist. If these conditions alter to a degree incompatible with that form of life the form changes. Life ceases in that form but manifests itsself in another form.

If the temperature on earth changed to boiling point and mankind were wiped out, according to Buddhist thinking, life would go on in other planes of existence so long as the twin forces, Avidya (non-awareness of truth) and Trishna ( desire or craving born of false views and attachment) continue. The life of an individual goes on, changing but form merely, up and down the wheel of Existence (Samsara).

It is said that the Buddha’s great disciples Amanda himself could not achieve Nirvana for a long time because he had an user fixe- Nirvana. He was unduly attached to the conception of Nirvana, and the essence of Nirvana is release from attachment.

To think, “I am to gain Nirvana” is incorrect. The fallacy of basic existence and separateness of identity has to be discarded long before reaching even the threshold of Nirvana. That is why the Buddha, after gaining Sambodhi, referred to himself always in the third person, as the Tathagata, “one who has arrived.”

Buddhist monks too are supposed to inculcate the habit of referring to themselves in the third person, though of course not as the Tathagata.

A follower of the Way attempts to improve himself through Sila (true morality), Samadhi (meditation) and Pragna (intellectual and intuitive faculties). His enemies are lobster (greed), dosa (hatred), moha (delusion).

While the Jain, whether he is swetamabara or digambara, believes in cessation of Karma by non-action or inaction, a Buddhist places importance on right action. It is an advocate ; Buddhism is, not of passivity or negativity but of right action and positive, dynamic thinking.

Buddhism is dubbed by some as pessimistic. It is only pessimistic in so far as it believes in truth- pleasant and otherwise ; in discarding the false values of self, pelf and power; in cultivating awbareness and altruistic, unselfish love. While it is not the religion of the hedonist, it is also not the religion of the morbid of deluded ascetic who believes that inflicting pain, albeit on one self, is meritorious.

Yet the Buddha admitted that on the whole a man has more pleasurable sensations then otherwise in his lifetime. He showed us the Middle Path, the golden mean- as courage is between rashness (too little).

Karma is of thought, speech and deed. The first is to be disciplined first because the second and the third are but the fruition of the first. So our aim is not to stifle or repress our thoughts to be aware of them and through our analytic and intuitive faculties to lead into the right channels.

Apart from the retionalistic character of his religion, the Buddha is unique because of the absence of rigid dogmatism in his teaching. Says the Buddha : “Come, study, test and then accept or reject my teachings “. Then, he says that he but a man, a teacher of the way; that which he has achieved you can achieve. That man is responsible to himself ; he is the maker of his own destiny.

He is limited because he has conditioned himself thus. It is up to hjm to realize his potentials and thereby liberate the principle of enlightenment from under the self-created layers of ignorance and craving.


★ Writer : His Majesty Raja Tridiv Roy the 50th Chakma Raja was born in Rangamati 14 May 1933 and Passing Away Islamabad 17 September 2013.

[Source : WORLD BUDDHISM, VESAK ANNUAL 2514-1970; Pages 73-74]