Page images
[ocr errors]

from the yet unedited works of Buddhaghosa, the Buddhist Sanskrit texts, and such works as the Netti-pakaraṇa, Professor Hardy's edition of which is now in the press.1 Meanwhile there is an increasing store of accessible material which might be sifted by the historical investigator.

There are, for instance, in the Dhamma-Sangani several passages suggesting that Buddhist scholars, in contemplating the consciousness or personality as affected by phenomena considered as external, were keenly alive to the distinction between the happening of the expected and the happening of the unexpected, between instinctive reaction. of the mind and the organism generally, on occasion of sense, and the deliberate confronting of external phenomena with a carefully adjusted intelligence. Modern psychology has largely occupied itself with this distinction, and with the problems of consciousness and subconsciousness, of volition and of memory, involved in it. The subject of attention, involuntary and voluntary, figures prominently in the psychological literature of the last two decades. But it is not till the centuries of post-Aristotelian and of neo-Platonic thought that we see the distinction emerging in Western psychology contemporaneously with the development of the notion of consciousness.2

In the history of Buddhist thought, too, the distinction does not appear to have become explicitly and consciously made till the age of the writing of the Pali editions of the Commentaries (fifth century). A corresponding explicitness in the notion of consciousness and self-consciousness, or at least in the use of some equivalent terms, has yet to be traced. Buddhism is so emphatically a philosophy, both in theory and practice, of the conscious will, with all that

1 Published by the PTS. in 1901.

2 Cf. Siebeck, op. cit., ii, pp. 200, 353, 388.

3 In the Mahā Nidāna Sutta Gotama discourses on sibi conscire by way of na ma-rupa. See in Grimblot's

p. 255.

[ocr errors]

Sept Suttas",

this involves of attention and concentration, that we hardly look to find terms discriminating such notions from among other mental characteristics. We are reminded instead of Matthew Arnold's well-known remark that as, at Soli, no one spoke of solecisms, so in England we had to import the term Philistine.

But, whereas it is the Atthasālinī, written from the standpoint of a later elaboration of thought, that makes explicit what it holds to be the intention of the classic manual, the latter work lends itself without straining to such interpretation. I pass over Buddhaghosa's comments on the limitations and the movements of attention, reprcduced below (pp. 198, n. 2; 200, n. 1), as derived very possibly from thought nearer to his own times. Again, with respect to the residual unspecified factors in good and bad thoughts— the " or-whatever-other states "1 among which the Commentator names, as a constant, ma na sikara, or attention -this specifying may be considered as later elaboration.2. But when the Commentary refers the curious alternative emphasis in the description of the sensory act to just this distinction between a percipient who is prepared or unprepared for the stimulus, it seems possible that he is indeed giving

1 See below, p. 4, n. 2; also Asl., pp. 168, 250, etc. The definition given of manasikara in the "ye-vā-panaka passage of the Commentary (p. 133) is difficult to grasp fully, partly because, here and there, the reading seems doubtful in accuracy, partly because of the terms of the later Buddhist psychology employed, which it would first be necessary to discuss. But I gather that mana sikara may be set going in the first, middle, or last stage of an act of cognition--i.e. on the āram mana m or initial presentation, the vithi (or āv ajja na m), and the j a va nam; that in this connexion it is concerned with the first of the three; that it involves memory, association of the presentation with [mental] "associates", and confronting the presentation. And that it is a constructive and directing activity of mind, being compared to a charioteer. Cf. Compendium, pp. 95, 282.

2 See preface to 2nd ed. above. 3 Below, § 599, nn. 1, 2.

[ocr errors]

us the original interpretation. Again, the remarkable distinction drawn, in the case of every type of good or bad thoughts, "relating to the sensuous universe," i.e. to the average moral consciousness, between thoughts which are prompted by a conscious motive,1 and such as are not, seems to me to indicate a groping after the distinction between instinctive or spontaneous intellection, on the one hand, and deliberate, purposive, or motivated thought on the other.

Taken in isolation, there is insufficient material here to establish this alternative state of mind as a dominant feature in Buddhist psychology. Taken in conjunction with the general mental attitude and intellectual culture involved in Buddhist ethical doctrine and continually inculcated in the canonical books, and emphasized as it is by later writings, the position gains in significance. The doctrine of karma, inherited and adopted from earlier and contemporary thought, never made the Buddhist fatalistic. He recognized the tremendous vis a tergo expressed in Watts's doggerel :

[blocks in formation]

But he had unlimited faith in the saving power of nurture. He faced the grim realities of life with candour, and tolerated no mask. This honesty, to which we usually add a mistaken view of the course of thought and action he prescribed in consequence of the honesty, gains him the name of Pessimist. But the hope that was in him of what might be done to better nature through nurture, even in this present life, by human effort and goodwill, reveals him as a strong Optimist with an unshaken ideal of the joy springing from things made perfect. He even tried to "pitchfork nature in one or two respects, though opposed to asceticism generally-simply to make the Joy more easily attainable by those who dared to "come out ".


1 Cf. below, p. 32, n. 1. The thoughts which are not called sasankharena by the Cy. ruled as being a-sankhare na, though not explicitly said to be so (Asl. 71).


And this regenerating nurture resolves itself, theoretically, into a power of discrimination; practically, into an exercise of selection. The individual learner, pervious by way of his "fivefold door" to an inflooding tide of impressions penetrating to the sixth "door", i.e. the co-ordinating mind ", was to regulate the natural alertness of reception and perception by the special kind of attention termed yoniso manasikāra, or thorough attention, and by the clear-eyed insight referred to already as y a t hābhūtam sam map pa ññāya daṭṭhabbam, or the higher wisdom of regarding "things as in themselves they really are" to adopt Matthew Arnold's term. The stream of phenomena, whether of social life, of nature, or of his own social and organic growth, was not so much to be ignored by him as to be marked, measured and classed according to the criteria of one who has chosen to "follow his own uttermost ",1 and has recognized the power of that stream to imperil his enterprise, and its lack of power to give an equivalent satisfaction. The often-recurring subject of sati-sampaja ñ ñ am, or that "mindful and aware attitude, which evokes satire in robust, if superficial criticism, is the expansion and ethical application of this psychological state of prepared and pre-adjusted sense or voluntary attention. The student was not to be taken by surprise -"evil states of covetousness and repining flowing in over him dwelling unprepared "-until he had

[ocr errors]

. . The nobler mastery learned Where inward vision over impulse reigns." 4

[ocr errors]

Then indeed he might dwell at case, strong in his emancipation.

1 Seṭṭham upanamam udeti . . . attano uttarim bhajetha (A. i, 126).

2 Cf. M. i, 85-90, on kāmānam assādañ ca ādīnavañ ca nissaraṇañ ca . . . yathābhūtam pajānitvā.

3 See below on guarding the door of the senses, §§ 1345-8. Also note on D. i, 70, in Dialogues of the Buddha, p. 81. 4 George Eliot, Brother and Sister.

Step by step with his progress in the cultivation of attention, he was also practising himself in that faculty of selection which it were perhaps more accurate not to distinguish from attention. Alertness is never long, and, indeed, never strictly, attending to anything and everything We are reminded of Condillac's definition of

at once.

attention as only an "exclusive sensation". From the multitude of excitations flowing in upon us, one of them is, more or less frequently, selected,1 the rest being, for a time, either wholly excluded or perceived subconsciously. And this selective instinct, varying in strength, appears not only in connexion with sense-impressions, but also in our more persisting tendencies and interests, as well as in a general disposition to concentration or to distraction.


Buddhism, in its earnest and hopeful system of self-culture, set itself strenuously against a distrait habit of mind, calling it tatra tatrabhinandini 2" the there-and-there dalliance", as it were of the butterfly. And it adopted and adapted that discipline in the concentration (s a mā d h i), both physical and psychical, both perceptual and conceptual, for which India is unsurpassed. It appreciated the special practice of rapt, absorbed, concentrated thought called Dhyāna or Jhāna, not as an end in itself, but as a symbol and vehicle of that habit of selection and single-minded effort which governed "life according to the Higher Ideal". It did not hold with the robust creed, which gropes, it may be, after a yet stronger ideal :

"Greift nur hinein ins volle Menschenleben,

Und wo ihr's packt, da ist es interessant." "Full life" of the actual sort, viewed from the Buddhist standpoint, was too much compact of Vanity Fair, shambles and cemetery, to be worth the plunge. It had, on the other hand, great faith in experimenting on nature by a

1 Cf. Höffding's criticism of Condillac in Outlines of Psychology, London, 1891, p. 120.

2 M. i, 299, and in many other suttas.

« PreviousContinue »