8. Defilements | Vaibhashika


8. Defilement (kleśa)

The goal of Buddhism is often seen as the freedom from suffering which arises from the complete removal of all defilements (kleśa).

This is a state of perfection that is known by an Arhat or Buddha through the "knowledge of the destruction of the outflows" (āśravakṣaya-jñāna).

Abhidharmikas saw the Abhidharma itself, which in the highest sense is just wisdom (prajñā), as the only means to end the defilements.

Kleśa is commonly defined as that which "soils" or defiles as well as that which disturbs and afflicts a psycho-physical series.

Another important synonym for defilement is anuśaya, which is explained by Vaibhāṣikas as a subtle or fine (aṇu) dharma that adheres and grows with an object, "like the adherence of dust on a wet garment or the growth of seeds in an irrigated field".

This is in contrast to other interpretations of anuśaya, such as that of the Sautrāntikas, who saw them as "seeds" (bīja) of kleśas.

Thus, for Vaibhāṣikas there is no such thing as a latent defilement.

The defilements are seen as the root of existence (mūlaṁ bhavasya), since they produce karma, which in turn leads to further rebirths.

The most fundamental defilements are known as the 3 unskilful roots (akuśala-mūla):

1) greed (rāga),
2) hostility (pratigha)
3) ignorance (avidyā).

Out of these, ignorance is the most fundamental of all:

It is defined by Saṁghabhadra as "a distinct dharma which harms the capability of understanding (prajñā). It is the cause of topsy-turvy views and obstructs the examination of merits and faults.

With regard to dharmas to be known it operates in the mode of dis-inclination, veiling the thought and thought concomitants."

Other major terms used to describe defilements are:

1. Fetter (saṁyojana);
2. Bondage (bandhana);
3. Envelopment (paryavasthāna);
4. Outflow (āśrava);
5. Flood (ogha);
6. Yoke (yoga);
7. Clinging (upādāna);
8. Corporeal tie (kāya-grantha);
9. Hindrance (nīvaraṇa).

These numerous categories are used to describe various doctrinal topics and create taxonomy of dharmas:

For example, all dharmas are either with or without outflows (āśrava),

which are dharmas that keep sentient beings flowing on through existence and also cause impurities to flow through the sense fields.

These are also further divided into sub-categories.

For example, there are 3 āśrava types:

1. sensuality-outflow (kāma-āśrava),
2. existence-outflow (bhava-āśrava)
3. ignorance-outflow (avidya-āśrava);

There are 4 clingings:

1. Sensuality-clinging (kāmopādāna),
2. View-clinging (dṛṣṭy-upādāna),
3. Clinging to abstentions and vows (śīla-vratopādāna),
4. Soul-theory-clinging (ātma-vādopādāna);

And there are 5 hindrances:

1. Sensual-desire,
2. Malice,
3. Torpor-drowsiness (styāna-middha),
4. Restlessness-remorse (auddhatya kaukṛtya),
5. Doubt.

For Vaibhāṣikas, the elimination of the defilements thus begins with an investigation into the nature of dharmas (dharma-pravicaya).

This examination is carried out in various ways, such as investigating how defilements arise and grow, what its cognitive objects are,

and whether defilement is to be abandoned by insight into the 4 Noble Truths (darśanapraheya) or by cultivation (bhāvanāpraheya).

In the Vaibhāṣika system, the abandonment of defilement is not the complete destruction of it, since all dharmas exist throughout the 3 times:

Instead, one becomes defiled when the dharma of acquisition links one with the defilement (saṁyoga), and one abandons the defilement when there is both the ceasing of the dharma of acquisition as well as the arising of the acquisition of disconnection (visaṁyoga-prāpti).

While the abandonment of a dharma happens at once and is not repeated, the acquisition of disconnection can take place over and over again, reflecting deeper and firmer spiritual progress.

This is important because Vaibhāṣikas affirm that "freedom from duḥkha must be gained by gradually and systematically abandoning the defilements" and reject the view that awakening happens abruptly.

There are 4 methods of abandoning a defilement, the first 3 deal with abandonment by insight (darśana-heya):

1. ālambana-parijñāna: Complete understanding of the nature of the object due to which the defilement arises.

2. tadālambana-saṁkṣaya: The destruction of a defilement which is the object of another defilement along with the destruction of the latter (the subject).

3. ālambana-prahāṇa: The abandonment of a defilement that takes as object another defilement by abandoning the latter — the object.

4. pratipakṣodaya: The abandonment of a defilement on account of the arising of its counteragent. This is specifically applied to the defilements that are abandoned by cultivation (bhāvanā-heya).