2. THE VAIBHĀṢIKAS
As there were conflicting views with regard to Buddhism in Kaśmīra under the great king Kaniṣka (c. 120) who supported the cause of Buddhism, following the example of Aśoka there was held a Buddhist council.
In that council the Sacred Canon was revised and a great commentary on the Abhidharma called Vibhāṣā (expounder) was written. The original text in Sanskrit of this work is lost, but there are still two Chinese translations.
Now in Kaśmīra gradually there was a split among the Buddhists, one section of them having a special faith in that Vibhāṣā, hence the members of it were called Vaibhāṣikas.
Again, among the Vaibhāṣikas themselves there were different views on certain points and while those of Kaśmīra were known as Kaśmīra Vaibhāṣikas,
those of the Western Country (i.e. Gāndhāra), were called Pāścātya or Western Vaibhāṣikas.
These were referred to also as Aparāntakas (living in the Western border), Bahirdeśakas or (belonging to the outside country), Gāndhārācāryas or (teachers of Gāndhāra) or Gāndhāra -mandala-ācāryas (the teachers of the district of Gāndhāra).
These Vaibhāṣikas formed one of the two most important Schools of the original Sarvāstivādins (asserters of the existence or reality of all things in all times, the past, the present and the future).
One of these two Schools is known by the very name Sarvāstivādins and the other Sautrāntikas of whom we shall have an occasion to write later on.
The Sarvāstivādins of Kaśmīra are known as Mūla or original Sarvāstivādins, while others are called simply Sarvāstivādins.
The most authoritative canonical work of the Sarvāstivādins is the Jñāna-prasthāna by Kātyāyanīputra, which is divided into six parts. The Vibhāṣā referred to above is the commentary on this work.
This School possessed also the Vinaya and Sūtra collections. The books that are now found of this School are in Sanskrit, but possibly first were in some Prākṛta and then in Sanskrit.
We may discuss here why the Sarvāstivādins are so called, so that we can understand clearly some of the most important philosophical views of the Vaibhāṣikas, as the latter are included in the former.
Vasubandhu, the great author of such an authoritative work as the Abhidharma-kośa says in the book (V, 25-26) that because one affirms the existence of the things in three times, past, present, and future one is known as a Sarvāstivādin.
To assert that all, i.e. past, present, and future, exist, is indeed a very bold declaration. But what are the grounds on which this view is based? They are mainly four:
First, the authority of the statement of the Buddha himself. He clearly says that all the three things, past, present, and future, exist.
Second, the Buddha has also taught that when an idea (vijñāna) arises, as for instance, from the organ of eye, it is owing to two things, i.e. the organ and its object (rūpa).
So with regard to other organs and their objects:
Now if there are no past and future things, the idea or the mental consciousness of those things are impossible.
So if the “past" and the “future" were not there, then such notions as “there lived Mahāsammata,” “Sankha is going to be an all-world sovereign," and so forth—
which involve the idea of what was and is going to be—would be entirely baseless, in fact the object not being there its idea too was also not possible.
Third, if an object (ālambana) is given there may be its consciousness and not otherwise. Now if the past and future things are not there how can the consciousness be possible without the object?
And the fourth, if the past does not exist, how can the past act, good or bad, come to give fruit when it is devoid of essence and existence? In fact when the fruit is produced, its cause (vipāka-hetu) is lost.
It is from these grounds based on the Scripture and reasons that the Vaibhāṣikas affirm the existence of past and future.
But how is it that the Sarvāstivādins or the Vaibhāṣikas can hold the view that an object continues to exist at three points of time, while the accepted doctrine of the Buddhists is that there is nothing that continues to exist?
The reply comes here from different Vaibhāṣikas of whom the following four are prominent, i.e.:
1.Bhadanta Dharmatrāta.—He is the upholder of the theory of difference of modes(bhāvānyāthā-vāda).
He defends his case saying that when there is a change of a thing, in fact, that change is only in its modes, but not in the substance:
The substance gold undergoes several changes through which it comes to be called necklace, ear-ring, etc. But there is no change of the gold itself.
In the same way, the object is different from the future and other modes:
For instance, when a certain object abandons its future mode it reaches the present mode; and when it renounces its present mode it reaches the past mode;
and yet the object itself does not change; throughout three modes the same character of the substance continues. If it were not so, the future, present and past objects would be entirely different from one another.
2.Bhadanta Ghoṣaka holds that the changes undergone by an object are only in its distinguishing character(lakṣaṇa). He argues as follows:
When an object is said to be past, it is not entirely deprived of the character of the future and the present
For example, a man may be attached to one woman, but he need not be disgusted with other women. Similarly, when the object is future or present it has that character, but is not entirely devoid of the other two characters.
3.Bhadanta Vasumitra holds that the changes undergone by the things are in their aspects of positions, states(avasthā).
He argues that a thing is spoken of variously according to the varying aspects and these variations relate to the aspect not to the substance; as the substance remains the same in all three points of time.
For example, when the clay counting-piece (mṛd-guḍikā) is placed in the place of units it is denominated one, when placed in the place of hundred it is denominated hundred, and in place of thousand it is denominated thousand.
Similarly, when the thing is in the state of activity (kāritra) it is called present, and when it has ceased from activity, it is past and when it has not become active at all, it is future.
So things are spoken of in accordance with their states, as in the case of clay counting-piece, where there is no change in the nature of the substance;
only different denominations are assigned to it in accordance with the varying position, which makes it indicative of varying numbers.
4.Buddhadeva holds the view that the changes are due to the changes in relativity (anyathānyathika).
He argues as follows: An object is called one or other in relation to what has gone before and what is to come. For instance, the same woman is called mother as well as daughter.
Here the usage in question is dependent upon the past and future; when it has something before it and also something after it, it is called present; and when it has something after it, but nothing before it, it is called past.
The above views of the Vaibhāṣikas are, however, refuted by some Buddhists belonging to a different School.
Vaibhāṣikas are realistic, as already said, and for the world order they accept the atomic theory refuted by the Yogācāras and the Mādhyamikas.