6. Causality | Vaibhashika


6. Causality

Theory of Causality

An important topic covered in Vaibhāṣika Abhidharma was the investigation of causes, conditions and their effects.

Vaibhāṣikas used 2 major schemes to explain causality:

1) the 4 conditions (pratyaya) and
2) the 6 causes (hetu).

In this system, the arising of dharmas is totally dependent on specific causes. Causal force is what makes a dharma real and thus they are also called saṁskāras (conditioning forces).

Because of this, all dharmas belong to some kind of causal category, and are said to have causal efficacy. It is only through examining their causes that the intrinsic nature manifests in a cognizable way.

In the Vaibhāṣika system, the activities of dharmas arise through the mutual interdependence of causes.

Thus, their intrinsic natures are said to be "feeble", which means they are not able to act on their own, and their activity is dependent on other dharmas.

A particularly unique feature of the Vaibhāṣika system is their acceptance of simultaneous causation.

These "co-existent causes" are an important part of the Sarvāstivāda understanding of causality:

It allowed them to explain their theory of direct realism, that is to say, their affirmation that we perceive real external objects. It also was used in their defence of temporal Eternalism. Thus, it was central to their understanding of cause and effect.

For thinkers like Saṁghabhadra, a sense organ and its object must exist at the same moment together with its effect, the perception. Thus, for a cause to be efficacious, it must exist together with its effect.

This view of simultaneous causation was rejected by the Sautrāntikas, but later adopted by the Yogācāra School.

The 6 Causes

1) Efficient cause (kāraṇa-hetu).

It is any dharma that either directly or indirectly — by not hindering — contributes to the arising of another dharma.

Vasubandhu defines it as:

"A conditioned dharma has all dharmas, excepting itself, as its efficient cause, for, as regards its arising, these dharmas abide in the state of non-obstructiveness."

This is type of cause is rejected by Sautrāntikas like Śrīlāta.

2) Homogeneous cause (sabhāga-hetu).

This refers to the kind of causality in which an effect is of the same moral type as the previous cause in a series. Thus, in the series c1 → c2 → c3, if c1 is skilful, it is the homogenous cause for c2 which is also skilful, and so on.

According to Vaibhāṣika, this form of causality exists among mental and material dharmas, but Sautrāntikas deny that it can apply to material dharmas.

3) Universal cause (sarvatraga-hetu).

This is similar to the homogeneous cause in that it is a cause that produces the same kind of effect; however, it only applies to defiled dharmas.

Another way it is distinct from the homogeneous is that there is "no necessary homogeneity in terms of category of abandonability."

This is because, as Saṁghabhadra says in the Nyāyānusāra,

"they are the cause of defiled dharmas belonging to other categories as well, for, through their power, defilements belonging to categories different from theirs are produced."

4) Retribution cause (vipāka-hetu).

This is the skill or unskilful dharmas that are karmic causes, and thus lead to good or bad karmic retribution.

For Vaibhāṣikas, retribution causes and their fruits comprise all 5 aggregates.

Sautrāntikas held that retribution cause is only volition (cetanā), and retribution fruit comprises only sensation (vedanā).

5) Co-existent cause (sahabhū-hetu).

This is a new causal category developed by Sarvāstivāda.

The Mahāvibhāṣa states that the intrinsic nature of the co-existent cause is "all the conditioned dharmas."

Saṁghabhadra’s Nyāyānusāra states that this refers to those causes "that are reciprocally virile effects, on account of the fact that they can arise by virtue of mutual support …

For example: the 4 Great Elements are co-existent cause mutually among themselves …

for it is only when the 4 different kinds of Great Elements assemble together that they can be efficacious in producing the derived matter (upādāya rūpa)...

In this way, the whole of the conditioned, where applicable (i.e., where a mutual causal relationship obtains) are co-existent causes."

Another sense in which they are co-existent is because they come together to produce a common effect, they function together as causes at the time of the arising of a dharma.

6) Conjoined cause (saṁpra-yuktaka-hetu).

This refers to co-existent causes in the mental domain of citta-caittas.

According to Saṁghabhadra:

"This conjoined cause is established because thought and thought concomitants, being conjoined, accomplish the same deed by grasping the same object."

The 4 Conditions

Saṁghabhadra argues that even though the arising of dharmas depends on numerous conditions, the Buddha taught only 4 conditions in the sūtras.

Against the Sautrāntikas, who held that these were mere conceptual designations, Vaibhāṣikas assert that they are real existents.

The 4 conditions are first found in Devaśarman’s Vijñānakāya (ca. 1st C.E.) and they are:

1) Condition as a cause (hetu-pratyaya).

This is the condition in its capacity as direct cause in the production of an effect — it is the cause functioning as the condition.

This condition subsumes all causes, except the efficient cause.

2) Equal-immediate condition (samanantara-pratyaya).

This refers to a mental process (a citta or caitta) that is a condition for the arising of the next mental process. It both gives way to and induces the arising of the next citta-caitta in the series.

For Vaibhāṣikas, this does not apply to matter, but Sautrāntikas argued that it does.

3) Condition as an object (ālambana-pratyaya).

This refers to the fact that cognition cannot arise without an object and thus in this sense, the object serves as a condition for the cognition.

Since the mind can take any object, "the condition qua object is none other than the totality of dharmas (Saṁghabhadra)."

4) Condition of dominance (adhipati-pratyaya).

This is the most comprehensive or generic condition, corresponding to efficient cause:

It is whatever serves as a condition, either in the sense of directly contributing to the arising of a dharma, or indirectly through not hindering it’s arising:

The unconditioned dharmas — although transcending space and time altogether — are also said to serve as conditions of dominance indirectly, by not hindering arising of a dharma.

Five Fruits

The Sarvāstivāda also taught that there are 5 fruits i.e. causal effects:

1) Disconnection fruit (visaṁyoga phala).

This refers to disconnection from the defilements,

and is acquired through the practice of the Noble Path which leads to the acquisition of the dharma "cessation through deliberation" (prati-saṁkhyā-nirodha).

2) Virile fruit (puruṣakāra-phala).

This is related to the co-existent cause and the conjoined cause.

According to Vasubandhu it is "That which is the activity or efficacy (kāritra) of a dharma; so called because it is like a virile action."

3) Fruit of dominance (adhipati-phala).

This is the most generic fruit, they are produced by efficient causes.

The fruits commonly shared by a collection of beings by virtue of their collective karmas belong to this category.

Thus, the whole universe with all its planets, mountains and oceans, etc., is the result — the fruit of dominance — of the collective karmas of the totality of beings inhabiting therein.

4) Uniform-emanation fruit (niṣyanda-phala).

This is a fruit issued from a cause of a similar nature, it is correlated to the homogeneous cause and the universal cause.

5) Retribution fruit (vipāka-phala).

This fruit only deals with individual sentient beings (sattvākhya), and is correlated with the retribution cause.