Details of Karma 3: Revealing Forms of Body According to Vaibhashika

What Is a Revealing Form?

Karmic impulses of the body and speech are forms of physical phenomena and have two aspects: revealing forms (rnam-par rig-byed-kyi gzugs, Skt. vijñaptirūpa) and nonrevealing forms (rnam-par rig-byed ma-yin-pa’i gzugs, Skt. avijñaptirūpa).

In The Clarified Meaning, An Explanatory Commentary on (Vasubandhu’s) “Treasure House of Special Topics of Knowledge” (Gretil ed., Derge Tengyur vol. 104, 25B), Jinaputra Yashomitra states in brief what a revealing form reveals to others: 

A revealing (form) is, in fact, something that makes known to others that the mind that causes it to arise (motivates it) is “constructive, destructive or unspecified, gentle, cruel or neither.”
(Skt.) vijñaptir hi svasamutthāpakaṃ cittaṃ kuśalākuśalāvyākṛtaṃ saumyaṃ krūram anubhayam iti vā paraṃ vijñāpayati.
(Tib.) /rnam par rig byed ni rang kun nas slong bar byed pa dge ba dang mi dge ba 'am/ lung du ma bstan pa 'am nges pa 'am khro ba 'am gnyi ga ma yin pa zhes bya ba gzhan la rnam par rig par byed de/

The revealing form aspect of body or speech takes on and reveals to others the ethical status and intensity of the body consciousness that causes it to arise. That consciousness, in turn, is:

  • Destructive if it is congruent with attachment, hostility, naivety, no sense of values or having no scruples
  • Constructive if it is congruent with detachment, lack of hostility, lack of naivety, a sense of values or having scruples
  • Unspecified if it is congruent with merely a deluded outlook toward a transitory network (‘jig-lta, Skt. satkāyaḍṛṣṭi) or an extreme outlook (mthar-'dzin-pa'i lta-ba, Skt. antagrāhadṛṣṭi).

The Revealing Form of the Body Is the Shape of the Body

Vasubandhu states in Treasure House (IV.2ab) (Gretil ed., Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 10B-11A): 

Regarding them (the karmic impulses of body and speech, they have) a revealing and a nonrevealing (form). The revealing (form) of the body is asserted as (the body’s) shape. 
(Skt.) te tu vijñaptyavijñaptī kāyavijñaptiriṣyate / saṃsthānaṃ 
(Tib.) de dag rnam rig rnam rig min/ /lus rnam rig byed dbyibs su 'dod/ 

Vasubandhu elaborates in his Autocommentary (Gretil ed. 192.21-25, Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 166B):

“Regarding them (the karmic impulses of body and speech, they have) a revealing and a nonrevealing (form)” (means) that karmic impulses of body and of speech each are to be known as having a functional nature as both a revealing and a nonrevealing (form). “The revealing (form) of the body is asserted as (the body’s) shape” (means) that the revealing (form) of the body is the shape it abides with, like this and like this, by means of the mind’s control of the body.
(Skt.) “te tu vijñaptyavijñaptī” te tu kāyavākkarmaṇī pratyekaṃ vijñaptyavijñaptisvabhāve veditavye / tatra tu “kāyavijñaptiriṣyate / saṃsthānaṃ” cittavaśena kāyasya tathā tathā saṃsthānaṃ kāyavijñaptiḥ /
(Tib.) /de dag rnam rig rnam rig min/ /lus dang ngag gi las de dag ni so sor rnam par rig byed dang / rnam par rig byed ma yin pa'i rang bzhin dag tu rig par bya'o/ /de la'ang / lus rnam rig byed dbyibs su 'dod/ /sems kyi dbang gis lus de dang de ltar gnas pa ni lus kyi rnam par rig byed yin no/

In A Commentary to “A Treasure House (of Special Topics of Knowledge)”: A Filigree of Abhidharma (Sera Je Library ed., 294), Chim Jameyang gives more detail:

The revealing (form) of the body that goes (to another position), prostrates, takes a life and so on is asserted by the Vaibhashikas to be (something) distinct from the ripened body {and the enhanced body}. It is {substantially established as} the shape {of a body like that}.
(Tib.) lus-kyi rnam-par rig-byed-ni bye-brag-tu smra-ba ‘gro-ba dang phyag-‘tshal-ba dang srog-gcod-pa la-sogs-pa rnam-smin-gyi lus {dang rgyas-byung-gi lus} las da-dad-pa’i {lus de lta-bu’i} dbyibs-su {rdzas-grub-tu} ‘dod-do/

The ripened body (rnam-smin-gyi lus) refers to the body that ripens from positive karmic potential (bsod-nams, Skt. pūṇya) or negative karmic potential (sdig-pa, Skt. pāpa). The enhanced body (rgyas-byung-gi lus) refers to this ripened body, which can be enhanced in health and strength by food, sleep and so on.

Further, according to the Vaibahshika tenets, all validly knowable phenomena, both nonstatic and static, are substantially established – in other words, established as substantial entities (rdzas-su grub-pa, Skt. dravyasiddha). A substantial entity is one whose existence is established by its ability to perform a function, which minimally is to serve as the natal source (rdzas, Skt. dravya) for the valid cognition of them. Note that the same term is used for both substantial entity and natal source. All other Buddhist tenet systems refute that a static phenomenon can perform a function.

Chim Jampeyang (Sera Je Library ed., 294) continues:

If it (the revealing form of the body) were the ripened body, it would be impossible for it to become constructive or destructive, because {the ripened body} is an unspecified phenomenon. Because of that, then at the time of prostrating and so on, there is a revealing (form) of the body that is established as its shape, from the top of the head to (the bottom of) the feet. Because that (shape), as the revealing (form), is transparent like light and because it fills the interstitial spaces of the ripened body (when it prostrates and so on), they assert that it (the ripened body) does not become larger and it also does not become heavier, like a fire that has entered and pervaded (the entire space in) a forest….   The revealing (form) is the shape that has been caused to arise (that has been motivated by) the mental urge that focuses on it (on the translucent light that is the defining characteristic of the shape of the body).
(Tib.) ‘di-ltar rnam-smin-gyi lus-nyid yin-na rig-byed dge mi-dge mi-srid-par ‘gyur-te/ de-ni lung ma-bstan yin-pa’i phyir-ro/ de’i phyir phyag-‘tshal-ba la-sogs-pa’i tshe lus-kyi rig-byed dbyibs-su grub-pa zhig spyi-bo’i gtsug-nas rkang-pa’i bar-du yod-la/ de-ni rig-byed ‘od-ltar dang-ba’i phyir dang/ rnam-smin-gyi lus-kyi gseb-tu tshud-pa’i phyir che-bar yang mi-gyur lci-bar yang mi-‘gyur zhes ‘dod-de nags-la me zhugs-pa bzhin-no zhes zer-ro/ …. de-la dmigs-pa’i sems-pa’i kun-nas bslang-ba’i dbyibs-so/ 

Of the various types of causes and results that the Vaibhashikas assert, ripening causes (rnam-smin-gyi rgyu, Skt. vipākahetu) are constructive or destructive phenomena, such as positive or negative karmic potentials. They give rise to ripened results (rnam-smin-gyi ‘bras-bu, Skt. vipākaphalam), which can only by unspecified phenomena (those that Buddha did not specify as either constructive or destructive), such as the body and other unspecified phenomena included in the five aggregates of a rebirth state. Thus, revealing forms, being either constructive or destructive, cannot be the unspecified ripened results of karmic potentials – karma does not ripen from karma – and so it cannot be the ripened body with which one is born, which can only be unspecified. 

Further, as explained below, Vaibhashika asserts that karmic impulses are momentary, and thus they do not accumulate and grow larger as the ripened body grows and gets heavier. The reference here might also be to the Jain theory of karma. The Jains assert that karma is a cosmic dust pervading the universe. With actions of body, speech or mind, it accrues and sticks to the life force (srog, Skt. jīva), equivalent to the self, which is moistened with the defilements (snyigs-ma, Skt. kaṣaya) of desire and anger. Karmic dust thus makes the life force tainted (zag-pa, āsrava), giving it various colors and weighing it down. The more actions one does, the more cosmic dust accrues to the life force, making it heavier. Further, as the physical body grows, the life force filling it grows, as does the karmic dust tainting it. Revealing forms do not grow like that.  

The Vaibhashika Assertion of Shape as a Separate Substantial Entity from Color

As for what exactly a shape is, we need to look at the Vaibhashika presentation of visible forms. Vasubandhu states in Treasure House (I.10a) (Gretil ed., Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 2A):

Visible form is twofold and twentyfold. 
(Skt.) rūpaṃ dvidhā viṃśatidhā
(Tib.) gzugs rnam gnyis dang rnam nyi-shu

Vasubandhu explains in Autocommentary (Gretil 6.08-22, Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 30A-31B)

“Visible form is twofold”: color and shape. Out of that, color is of four types: blue and so on. The other (colors) are divisions of them. Shape is of eight types: long and so on up to uneven. It is also spoken of further as the cognitive stimulators that are visible forms. It is also “twentyfold” like this: “Blue, yellow, red, white, long, short, round, square, high, low, even, uneven, cloudy, smokey, dusty, misty, shaded, sunny, luminous and darkened.” Some cite twenty-one, with the sky as one (more) color. Of these, “even” (means) regular in shape, “uneven” (means) irregular in shape. “Misty” (means) foggy. “Sunny” (means) sunlit. “Luminous” (means) lit with the radiance of the moon, stars, (phosphorescent) herbs and gems. “Shaded” (means still) having the visibility that forms have. Its opposite is darkened. Because of the rest being easily intelligible, they have not been explicitly glossed. 

The cognitive stimulators that are visible forms constitute (a trilemma): 

[1] Something that is a color and does not exist as something that is (also) a shape: (namely) what is called blue, yellow, red, white, shaded, sunny, luminous, or darkened. 
[2] Something that is a shape and is not something that is (also) a color: (namely) that section (of the list), long and so on, that are in the nature of a revealing (form) of the body.
[3] Something that can be discriminated as both: (namely) the remainder (items constituting the) cognitive stimulators that are visible forms: (namely, cloudy, smokey, dusty and misty).
Some say, “Blue and so on are seen as divisions of long and so on,” and so (claim that only) sunny and luminous exist as something that is a color.
(Sautrantikas ask,) How, in fact, can one substantial entity exist as something that is both (a color and a shape)? 
(Vaibhashika answers,) Because there can be a discrimination (of some items) among them as both. Here the word “vid” is in the meaning of discrimination and not in the meaning of exist. 
(Sautrantika objects,) Well then, the absurd conclusion is that the revealing (forms) of the body as well (are both colors and shapes).
The cognitive stimulators that are visible forms have (now) been discussed.  
(Skt.) rūpaṃ dvidhā varṇaḥ saṃsthānaṃ ca / tatra varṇaścaturvidho nīlādiḥ / tadbhedā anye / samsthānamaṣṭavidhaṃ dīrghadi visātāntam / tadeva rūpāyatanaṃ punarucyate / vimśatidhā tadyathā nīlaṃ pītaṃ lohitamavadātaṃ dīrghaṃ hrasvaṃ vṛttaṃ parimaṇḍalaṃ unnatamavanataṃ sātaṃ visātaṃ abhraṃ dhūmo rajo mahikā cchāyā ātapaḥ ālokaḥ andhakāramiti / kecinnabhaścaikavarṇamiti ekaviṃśatiṃ saṃpaṭhanti / tatra sātaṃ samasthānam / visātaṃ viṣama sthānaml mahikā nīhāraḥ / ātapaḥ sūryaprabhā / ālokaḥ candratārakāgnyoṣadhimaṇīnaṃ prabhā / chāyā yatra rūpāṇāṃ darśanam / viparyayādandhakāram / śeṣaṃ sugamatvānna vipañcitam / asti rūpāyatanaṃ varṇato vidyate na saṃsthānataḥ nīlapītalohitavadātacchāyātapālokāndhakārākhyam / asti saṃsthānato na varṇataḥ / ghādīnāṃ pradeṣaḥ kāyavijñaptisvabhāvaḥ /  astyubhayathā / pariśiṣṭaṃ rūpāyatanam / ātapālokāveva varṇato vidyete ityapare / "dṛśyate hi nīlādīnaṃ dīrghādipariccheda" iti / kathaṃ punarekaṃ dravyamubhayathā vidyate / astyubhayasya tatra prajñānāt / jñānārtho hyeṣa vidirna sattārthaḥ / kāyavijñaptāvapi tarhi prasaṅgaḥ / uktaṃ rūpāyatanaṃ //
(Tib.) gzugs rnam gnyis dang / kha dog dang / dbyibs so/ /de la kha dog ni rnam pa bzhi ste/ sngon po la sogs pa'o/ /gzhan dag ni de'i bye brag go/ /dbyibs ni rnam pa brgyad de/ ring po la sogs pa nas phya le ba ma yin pa la thug pa'o/ /yang gzugs kyi skye mched de nyid/ rnam pa nyi shu zhes bya ste/ 'di lta ste/ sngon po dang / ser po dang / dkar po dang / dmar po dang / ring po dang / thung ngu dang / lham pa dang / zlum po dang / mthon po dang / dma' ba dang / phya le ba dang / phya le ba ma yin pa dang / sprin dang / du ba dang / rdul dang / khug rna dang / grib ma dang / nyi ma dang / snang ba dang / mun pa'o/ /kha cig ni nam mkha' la kha dog gcig dang rnam pa nyi shu rtsa gcig tu 'don to/ /de la phya le ba ni dbyibs mnyam pa'o/ /phya le ba ma yin pa ni dbyibs mi mnyam pa'o/ /khug rna ni lho bur ro/ /nyi ma ni nyi ma'i 'od do/ /snang ba ni zla ba dang skar ma dang me dang sman dang nor bu rnams kyi 'od dag go/ /grib ma ni gang na gzugs rnams snang ba'o/ /de las bzlog pa ni mun pa'o/ /lhag ma ni brda phrad par sla bas rnam par ma phye ba'o/ /gzugs kyi skye mched kha dog tu yod la dbyibs su med pa yang yod de/ sngon po dang / ser po dang / dmar po dang / dkar po dang / grib ma dang / nyi ma dang / snang ba dang / mun pa zhes bya'o/ /dbyibs su yod la kha dog tu med pa yang yod de/ ring po la sogs pa'i phyogs lus kyi rnam par rig byed kyi ngo bo nyid do/ /gnyi gar yod pa yang yod de/ gzugs kyi skye mched lhag ma'o/ /gzhan dag na re/ sngon po la sogs pa dang ring po la sogs par yongs su chad par snang bas na nyi ma dang / snang ba kho na kha dog tu yod do zhes zer ro/ /ji ltar na rdzas gcig la gnyi gar yod ce na/ de la gnyi ga mngon pa'i phyir te/ yod pa 'di ni shes pa'i don yin gyi yod pa'i don ni ma yin no/ /'o na ni lus kyi rnam par rig byed la'ang thal bar 'gyur ro/ /gzugs kyi skye mched bshad zin to/ 

In the sentence, “Something that is a color and does not exist as something that is (also) a shape,” the Sanskrit word “vidyate” is used in the sense of “to exist.” But Vasubandhu points out that “vid,” the root of the verb, “vidyate,” has two meanings, “to be discriminated” and “to exist.” In the sentence, “Something that can be discriminated as both,” the Sanskrit word “vidyate” has the meaning “can be discriminated.” 

Jinaputra Yashomitra (Gretil ed. 25,26, Derge Tengyur vol. 104, 21A-B, 22A-B) clarifies some of Vasubandhu’s points:

“Visible form is twofold” (means) cognitive objects of the eyes have two features because they have the divisions of colors and shapes. Because of being something well-known in the world, then without speaking of its self-nature, only its divisions are mentioned. “Color is of four types, blue and so on” (refers to) the colors blue, yellow, white and red. “The other (colors) are divisions of them” (refers to) cloudy and so on. Others declare that “the other (colors) are divisions of them” (means) “from particular items that are mixtures of the four colors, blue and so on, the colors (such as) green and so forth also arise, not just cloudy.” A shape is a particular type of figure. Further, when it is divided by means of a division of the conglomerate of what are included, then it is “twentyfold like this: blue, yellow and so on. Shape is of eight types: long and so on up to uneven.” The other twelve types are colors. Thus, it is twentyfold….  
The intended meaning of the Vaibhashikas here is that the cognition of blue and so on or the cognition of sunny and so on occurs without reliance on shape. Also, cognition of the revealing (form) of the body occurs without reliance on color; and also, cognition of the other items in the cognitive stimulators that are visible forms occurs with reliance on color and shape.
(Skt.) rūpaṃ dvividheti. cakṣuṣo 'rtho varṇasaṃsthānabhedād dviḥprakāraḥ. lokapratītatvāt tasya svalakṣaṇaṃ anuktvā prabheda eva kathyate. varṇaś caturvidho nīlādir iti. nīlalohitapītāvadātā varṇāḥ. tadbhedā anya iti abhrādayaḥ. apare vyācakṣate. tadbhedā anya iti nīlādivarṇacatuṣṭayasaṃparkaviśeṣāt kākāṇḍavarṇādayo 'pi jāyante. na kevalam abhrādya iti. saṃsthānam ākṛtiviśeṣaḥ. punas tad evāntargaṇikena bhedena bhidyate. viṃśatidheti. tadyathā nīlapītādi. saṃsthānam aṣṭavidhaṃ dīrghādivisātāntaṃ. śeṣo dvādaśavidho varṇa iti viṃśatidhā….. vaibhāṣikāṇām ayam abhiprāyaḥ. nīlādigrahaṇam ātapālokagrahaṇaṃ vā saṃsthānanirapekṣaṃ pravartate. kāyavijñaptigrahaṇaṃ tu varṇanirapekṣaṃ. pariśiṣṭarūpāyatanagrahaṇaṃ tu varṇasaṃsthānāpekṣaṃ pravartata iti.
(Tib.) /gzugs rnam gnyis zhes bya ba ni mig gi don kha dog dang dbyibs kyi bye brag gis rnam pa gnyis yin no/ /'jig rten na grags pa'i phyir de'i rang gi mtshan nyid ma bshad par kha dog ni rnam pa bzhi ste sngon po la sogs pa'o zhes rab tu dbye ba kho na brjod de kha dog sngon po dang ser po dang dmar po dang dkar po dag yin no/ /gzhan dag ni de'i bye brag go zhes bya ba la gzhan dag ces bya ba ni sprin la sogs pa'o/ /gzhan dag na re gzhan dag ni de'i bye brag go zhes bya ba ni sngon po la sogs pa kha dog bzhi phrad pa'i khyad par las kha dog ljang gu la sogs pa yang 'byung bas sprin la sogs pa 'ba' zhig tu ni ma zad do zhes zer ro/ /dbyibs zhes bya ba ni dbyibs kyi bye brag go/ /yang de dag nyid khongs su gtogs pa'i tshogs kyi bye brag gis rnam pa nyi shu zhes bya ba tha dad par 'gyur te 'di lta ste ring po la sogs pa phya le ma yin pa la thug pa'i bar dbyibs rnam pa brgyad dang lhag ma sngon po la sogs pa kha dog rnam pa bcu gnyis te rnam pa nyi shu yin no/ ….  /bye brag tu smra ba rnams kyi bsam pa ni sngon po la sogs pa 'am snang ba la sogs pa tsam 'dzin pa de ni dbyibs la mi ltos par 'byung la lus kyi rnam par rig byed 'dzin pa ni kha dog la mi ltos par 'byung gi gzugs kyi skye mched lhag ma 'dzin pa ni kha dog dang dbyibs la ltos nas 'byung ngo snyam pa 'di yin no/ 

Thus, even though cognition of the colors “sunny” and so on rely on cognition of both color and shape, that does not lead to the absurd conclusion and internal contradiction that color and shape constitute a single substantial entity. They are still two individual substantial entities according to Vaibhashika. 

In Autocommentary (Gretil ed. 194.15-195.15, Derge 140, 167B-168B), Vasubandhu presents the lengthy Vaibhashika refutation of the Sautrantika assertion that shape and color do not constitute separate substantial entities. Sautrantika asserts that shape is a conglomeration of colored particles, though not just a single, colored particle. Chim Jampelyang (Sera Je Library ed., 296) states the Vaibhashika position succinctly:

The Vaibhashikas assert the revealing (form) of the body as its shape, which is a different substantial entity from its color.
(Tib.) bye-brag-tu smra-bas lus-kyi rig-byed kha-dog las rdzas tha-dad-pa’i dbyibs-su ‘dod-pa/

A Revealing Form of the Body Lasts Only a Moment and So Cannot Change Position

Vasubandhu completes verse (IV.2cd) (Gretil ed., Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 11A):

It (a revealing form of the body) is not something that goes (to another position). Why? As something affected (by causes and conditions), it is momentary, because of (its) perishing.
(Skt.) na gatiryasmātsaṃskṛtaṃ kṣaṇikaṃ vyayāt //
(Tib.) /'gro min gang phyir 'dus byas ni/ /skad cig ma yin ‘jig-phyir ro //  

Vasubandhu then elaborates in his Autocommentary (Gretil ed. 192.25-193.06, Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 166B):

Some others (claim), “It is something that goes (to another position).” Those (Vatsiputriyas) say, “A karmic impulse of the body is (a karmic impulse) of something that is moving itself, not of something that is not moving itself.” But “it is not something that goes (to another position). Why? As something affected (by causes and conditions), it is momentary.” 
What is it that this word “a moment” (is given to)? That which, with the obtainment of its identity nature, (self-)destructs without interval – something that possesses that (characteristic) is called “a momentary one,” like (an ascetic possessing a staff is named) “a staffed one.” “All (phenomena) that are affected (by causes and conditions) are not (things that last) for a long time” (means that) that, because of which, something has arisen is that, because of which, it is disintegrated. Passage to another location is something unconnected with it. Because of that, a karmic impulse of body is not something that goes (to another position). If this is the case, then the momentariness of all (affected phenomena) is established. Know that it is established like that. Why? “Because of” the definite “perishing” of (all) affected phenomenon. 
(Skt.) gatirityapare / prasyandamānasya hi kāyakarma no 'prasyandamānasyeti / ta ucyante “na gatiryasmātsaṃskṛtaṃ kṣaṇikaṃ” ko 'yaṃ kṣaṇo nāma / ātmalābho 'nantravināśī / so 'syāstīti kṣaṇikam / daṇḍakavat / sarva hi saṃskṛtamātmalābhā dūrdhvaṃ na bhavatīti yatraiva jātaṃ tatraiva dhvasyate / tasyāyuktā deśāntarasaṃkrāntiḥ / tasmānna gatiḥ kāyakarma / syādetadeva yadi sarvasya kṣaṇikatvaṃ sidhyet / siddhamevaitat viddhi / kutaḥ / saṃskṛtasyāvaśyaṃ / “vyayāt” 
(Tib.) / gzhan dag na re 'gro ba yin te/ lus g.yo ba las yin gyi mi g.yo ba ni ma yin pa'i phyir ro zhes zer te/ de dag la/ 'gro min gang phyir 'dus byas ni/ /skad cig pa yin zhes bya ba brjod do/ /skad cig ces bya ba 'di ci zhe na/ bdag nyid du red ma thag tu 'jig pa'o/ /de 'di la yod pas na skad cig pa ste dbyug pa bzhin no/ /'dus byas thams cad bdag nyid thob pa las phan chad du med pa'i phyir gang du skyes pa de nyid du 'jig par 'gyur ro/ /de ni yul gzhan du 'pho bar rig pa ma yin te/ de lta bas na lus kyi las ni 'gro ba ma yin no/ /gal te thams cad skad cig par grub par gyur na ni de de lta yin no/ /'di'i grub pa kho nar khong du chud par gyis shig /ga las she na/ 'dus byas ni gdon mi za bar 'jig phyir ro/ 

Since the further explanations of this passage in Autocommentary, Yashomitra and Chim Jampeyang are quite extensive, let us just summarize. 

According to Vaibhashika, the revealing form of the karmic impulse of the body is the shape of the body while implementing a method for committing a karmic action of the body. In refuting that such a phenomenon is something that can move from place to place and thus change position during the action, Vasubandhu is refuting the assertions of the Vatsiputriya (gNas-ma’i bu’i sde-pa, Skt. Vātsīputrīya) school. He is not addressing Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka assertion of the revealing form of the karmic impulse of the body as being the motion or movement of the body while implementing a method for committing the action. In fact, it is doubtful that Vasubandhu was aware of Nagarjuna’s presentation. 

According to the Vaibhashikas, all phenomena that are affected by causes and conditions are momentary. By momentary, they mean that they last for just a moment. Their causes bring about their obtaining of their identity-natures (bdag-nyid rnyed-pa, Skt. ātmalabha) – in other words, the establishment of them in the nature of what they are – and bring about, as well, their automatically perishing at the end of that moment. No further cause is necessary for them to perish. Each moment, then, is a unique substantial entity. This is the nature of revealing forms as a type of affected phenomenon. Thus, in the course of the implementation of a method for committing a karmic action of the body, there is a sequence of individual revealing forms, one in each moment, as the body changes position and location. 

According to the Vatsiputriyas, not all phenomena that are affected by causes and conditions are momentary in the way that Vaibhashika asserts. Only types of consciousness, mental factors, sound, flames, lightning and waterfalls arise and perish as unique substantial entities in each moment. Other forms of physical phenomena, such as the shape of the body, as the revealing form of the body while committing an action, lasts as a substantial entity for several moments throughout the course of the action, as the body’s shape goes from one position to another and from one place to another. For the revealing form of that shape to perish at the conclusion of the action requires another cause – a different cause from the one that initially brought about this revealing form. 

Vasubandhu refutes this explanation by arguing that, in order for the body to change positions and go from one place to another, its shape would have to transform. It is contradictory for something substantial to last for many moments to remain the same substantial entity and also to change positions and locations. To last for many moments without changing leads to the absurd conclusion that such a substantial phenomenon is a static, unaffected phenomenon, which contradicts the Vatsiputriya assertion that it is an affected phenomenon. Therefore, Vaibhashika asserts that all affected phenomena – namely, all nonstatic phenomena – must be momentary.

This issue of the momentariness of substantial entities is the main point of dispute in the Sautrantika tenet system between the “True Aspectarian” (rnam-bden-pa) and the “False Aspectarian” (rnam-brtsun-pa) interpretations. The False Aspectarians assert, like the Vaibhashikas, that each moment of the visible form of some material object, such as the body, is an individual momentary substantial entity. It is a false appearance that the sequence of moments of the visible form of the body while engaging in performing an action of the body constitutes an additional substantial entity that can be seen. That false appearance of such an entity is a mental construct of conceptual cognition interpolated on each moment of the sequence. The True Aspectarians assert that this appearance of a sequence as constituting an additional substantial entity, a whole, is true and not a conceptual construct; it corresponds to reality and can be seen. Both interpretations of Sautrantika, however, agree that each moment of the visible form in the sequence is a momentary substantial entity, whereas the Vatsiputriyas assert that they are not momentary. 

Summary

The revealing form of the body asserted by the Vaibhashikas as a karmic impulse of the body is:

  • The translucent shape of the body
  • A separate substantial entity from the color of the body
  • Momentary 
  • Not something that changes position as it implements a method for committing a karmic action of body 
  • Destructive, constructive or unspecified
  • Not the body that is the ripened result of karmic potential, which is exclusively unspecified
  • Not the body that can be enhanced and strengthened by food or sleep
  • Caused to arise (motivated) by a sensory consciousness, focused on an object for the action of the body, and which is moved to focus on that object by a mental urge (a karmic impulse of the mind) that may or may not be preceded by an inciting karmic impulse and subsequent karmic action of the mind deciding to commit that action
  • An incited karmic impulse, but only when preceded by an inciting karmic impulse.  
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