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    Why Buddhas can't remember their previous lives
     
    [ 作者: Paul J. Griffiths   来自:期刊原文   已阅:5651   时间:2007-1-16   录入:douyuebo


    ·期刊原文
    Why Buddhas can't remember their previous lives

    By Paul J. Griffiths
    Philosophy East and West
    Volume 39, no. 4
    1989 October
    P.449-451
    (C) by University of Hawaii Press


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                                    P.449

            Most papers published  by Western scholars of Indian
            philosophy  have, until now, been largely exegetical
            in  nature.  This  is  for  very  good  reasons.  An
            enormous  amount  of material  has needed (and still
            needs)  to  be  made  available   to  the  scholarly
            community by way of translation and commentary.  But
            perhaps  there  is  also  room,  and  need, for  the
            occasional   feuilleton   like   this,  an  avowedly
            polemical    piece   attempting    to   follow   the
            philosophical  implications of a particular argument
            or  set  of definitions  to  a conclusion  that  its
            authors  might not have wished to accept.  There is,
            after  all, a long  and honorable  tradition  of the
            application  of this  method  in Indian  (especially
            Buddhist) polemical  literature: what  else  is  the
            prasa^nga? The positive  results of such an approach
            to Indian  philosophy  might  be that  the positions
            argued  for  in the texts  are  taken  with  greater
            philosophical   seriousness   than   the  exegetical
            approach  allows, and that some of their entailments
            might  be more clearly  seen than is at present  the
            case.  Such, in a particular small instance, are the
            goals of the present piece.  The argument given here
            is presented  not  with  the  assurance  that  it is
            either valid or sound (though  naturally  I think it
            to be both), but rather  with the hope that it might
            lead to further discussion.

                The standard  Buddhist account of memory employs
            two technical terms--sm.rti and pratyabhij~naana. In
            this context, for reasons that will become apparent,
            I shall  translate  the former  as 're-presentation'
            (in  the sense  of presenting  again  what  has been
            presented  before), and the latter as 'recognition'.
            The former  will denote the reappearance  in a given
            mental  continuum  (cittasa.mtaana) of the  complete
            experiential   content  of  a  preceding  moment  or
            moments of experience.  Examples: I hear again music
            I heard twenty years ago; I see again the buttons on
            a coat my mother used to wear when I was a child;  I
            touch again my first lover's lips.  In all cases the
            re-presentation   (sm.rti)  is   of   the   complete
            experiential  content  of the  original  experience.
            Recognition  (pratyabhij~naana) denotes  a conscious
            acknowledgment  on the part  of the subject  that an
            experience  she has just had was in fact an instance
            of representation. So, for example, I acknowledge to
            myself  that the music  I just heard  with my mind's
            ear  was  a  re-presentation   of  the  version   of
            Beethoven's  Seventh  Symphony  that I heard  in the
            Roval Albert Hall when I was fifteen. And so forth.

                Buddhist  texts  typically  say that  there  are
            three  severally  necessary  and jointly  sufficient
            conditions that a given mental event must fulfill if
            it   is  to  be  classified   as  an   instance   of
            re-presentation,  a  smara.nacitta.  First, it  must
            have as its object something previously  experienced
            (puurvaanubhuutaartha) and must


                                    P.450

            re-present  that object in the sense given.  Second,
            it must be connected  causally  with that previously
            experienced  object.  And third, the mental event in
            which the original  object was experienced  and that
            in which it is re-presented must be part of the same
            mental  continuum  (ekasa.mtaanika).(1)

                Recognition then follows from re-presentation by
            way of a conceptualized (and perhaps even vocalized)
            judgment  that (iti) the experience  in question was
            an instance  of sm.rti.(2) Here we approach close to
            the heart of the argument: what kind of judgment  is
            at  issue  here? Typically,  it  is  said  to  be  a
            judgment of the form I saw this. Buddhist metaphysics
            requires that when and if Buddhas make judgments  of
            this kind, they do so only to speak with the vulgar.
            They do not really  mean it, or at least they do not
            mean it in the sense  in which  a p.rthagjana  would
            mean it, for they know that the personal pronoun has
            no referent, or, more precisely, that it refers only
            to the aggregates (skandha).  So Buddhas cannot have
            recognition in the exact sense in which that term is
            usually  interpreted  in  the  texts.  They  may, of
            course,   be   able   to   make   other   sorts   of
            judgments--for  example, the mental  event  thatjust
            occurred was a re-presentation  in the sense that it
            occurred in the same continuum  as did that event of
            which  it was a re-presentation--and  so be able  to
            preserve  their ability to have (a somewhat modified
            kind of) recognition.

                But there are deeper problems. A re-presentation
            is supposed  to re-present  the  full  content  of a
            previous moment of experience  and a recognition  to
            judge that this has indeed  occurred.  If we add the
            straightforward   (and  pan-Buddhist)  premise  that
            every  instance  of  experience   belonging  to  all
            non-Buddhas  is tainted  with  passions  of  various
            sorts, especially  egocentricity (asmimaana) and its
            concomitants   (raaga,  dve.sa,  moha) ,  then   the
            following argument is easy to construct:

            (1) An instance  of re-presentation  (smara.nacitta)
                represents  to its subject  the full experienced
                content of a past moment of experience.

            (2) An        instance         of        recognition
                (pratyabhij~naanacitta) is  a judgment  that  an
                immediately   preceding   mental   event  was  a
                re-presentation.

            (3) All   moments   of   experience   belonging   to
                non-Buddhas have some passions as constituents.

            (4) All  moments  of  experience  belonging  to  all
                Buddhas are entirely free from passions.

            (5) All Buddhas make only true judgments.

            (6) No  Buddha   can  experience   an  instance   of
                re-presentation  that  re-presents  a moment  of
                experience  belonging to a non-Buddha [from (1),
                (3), and (4)].

            (7) No  Buddha   can  recognize   that  he  has  had
                re-presented  to  him  a  moment  of  experience
                belonging  to a non-Buddha  [from  (2), (5), and
                (6)].

            To  restate:  Buddhas   can  neither  experience   a
            re-presentation  of any moment of experience  in any
            past life (when they were not Buddhas), nor can they
            judge   that   they   have   so   experienced.   So:
            buddhaanaa.m puurvanivaasaanusm.rti.h puurvanivaa-
            sapratyabhij~naana.m ca na yujyete. Buddhas cannot
            remember their previous lives. Quod erut demonstrandum,
            or, if you prefer, siddham etat.

                                    P.451

                This argument  can be challenged, I think.  from
            two perspectives.  First, exegetically, it could  be
            claimed  that I have misrepresented  what  Buddhists
            have typically  meant in such contexts  as these  by
            sm.rti  and pratyabhij~naana, and that premises  (1)
            and    (2)    are    therefore    false.     Second,
            philosophically,  it  could  be  claimed   that  the
            argument  as it stands is invalid, Either challenge,
            fully explored  and discussed, could  prove fruitful
            and productive of new knowledge.

                Finally, a brief  comment  on what  Buddhas  can
            have if they cannot  have memory  of their  previous
            lives.  They can have propositional knowledge of the
            truth  of large (perhaps  infinitely  large) sets of
            propositions  of the form experiential  event  E1 is
            causally  related to experiential  event E in such a
            way  that  it  is  proper   to  say  that  E1  is  a
            re-presentation of E.  But knowledge of propositions
            is, phenomenologically, very  far from  sm.rti  (and
            memory).

                                     NOTES

                1.  This is the burden  of the account  given by
            Vasubandhu    in   the   ninth   chapter    of   the
            Abhidharmako`sabhaa.sya:  yadi   tarhi   sarvathaapi
            naasty   aatmaa   katha.m   k.sa.nike.su    citte.su
            ciraanubhuutasyaarthasya      smara.na.m     bhavati
            pratyabhij~naana.m vaa/sm.rtivi.sayasa.mj~naanvayaac
            cittavi`se.saat/kiidr`saac    cittavi`se.saat   yato
            'nantara.m sm.rtir bhavati/ tadaabhogasad.r-
            `sasambandhisa.mj~naadim ato `nupahataprabhaavaad
            aa`srayavi`se.sa`sokavyaak.sepaadibhi.h/   taad.r`so
            'pi hy atadanvaya`s cittavi`se.so na samarthas taa.m
            sm.rti.m bhaavayitu.m tadanvayo 'pi caanyaad.r`so na
            samarthas taa.m sm.rti.m bhaavayitum/ ubhayathaa  tu
            samartha   ity   eva.m   sm.rtir   bhavati   anyasya
            saamarthyaadar`sanaat  (Abhidharmako`sa and Bhaa.sya
            of AAcaarya Vasubandhu with Sphuutaarthaa Commentary
            of AAcaarya Ya`somitra, ed.  Dwaarikaadaas `Saastrii
            (Varanasi: Bauddha Bharati, 1981), pp. 1215-1216).

                2.     Ya`somitra,     in     his     commentary
            (Abhidharmako`savyaakhyaa) on the  rather  unhelpful
            smara.naad   eva  ca  pratyabhij~naanam   from   the
            Abhidharmako`sabhaa.sya, says: tad eveda.m yan mayaa
            d.r.s.tam iti smara.naat (ed. cit., p. 1217).


     

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