In the previous part of this series, we saw that:
- Unlike revealing forms, nonrevealing forms are not made of particles and so do not depend for their existence on themselves having subparticles of the four types of great elements as their components.
- Being nonmaterial, nonrevealing forms, unlike revealing ones, are not situated in any location within the ripened body.
- Also, unlike revealing forms, nonrevealing forms do not rely on the great elements of a sensory cognitive sensory in order to be cognized; they rely on a mental cognitive sensor (the immediately preceding moment of consciousness) in order to be cognized.
- Nevertheless, both revealing and nonrevealing forms arise having depended on (rgyur-byas-pa, Skt. upādāya) (Tib.: taken as their cause) four great elements as the foundation (gzhi, Skt. āśraya) that functions as their generating cause (skyed-pa’i rgyu, Skt. jananahetu) and so on.
- However, although nonrevealing forms arise simultaneously with a revealing form, they do not both arise having depended on the same set of four great elements.
Although Vasubandhu does not explicitly state so, we can surmise from the following discussion that:
- A revealing form depends on the great elements of the ripened body as the foundation that functions as the generating cause for its arising.
- A nonrevealing form, in turn, depends in the same manner on the great elements of the revealing form that it arises simultaneously with.
The Functions of the Four Great Elements on Which the Arising of a Form of Physical Phenomenon Depends
In A Treasure House of Special Topics of Knowledge, Put in Verses (Chos mngon-pa’i mdzod-kyi tshig-le’ur byas-pa, Skt. Abhidharmakośa-kārikā) (I.12) (Gretil ed., Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 2A), Vasubandhu explains the function played by each of the four great elements that he introduces in verse I.11 in relation to nonrevealing forms:
That which is even in someone (whose mind) has strayed or without a mind, which has continuity, which is lustrous or not lustrous (Tib.: constructive or destructive), and which has depended upon (Tib.: taken as their causes) great elements, was spoken of, in fact, as a nonrevealing (form).
The elements are the constituent components of earth and the constituent components of water, fire and wind. The functions accomplished (by them) are upholding and so on. (They have the functional natures of providing) solidity, fluidity, heat and movement.
(Skt.) vikṣiptācittakasyāpi yo 'nubandhaḥ śubhāśubhaḥ / mahābhūtānyupādāya sa hyavijñaptirucyate // bhūtāni pṛthividhāturaptejovāyudhātavaḥ / dhṛtyādikarmasaṃsiddhā kharasnehoṣṇateraṇāḥ //
(Tib.) g.yengs dang sems med pa yi yang / /dge dang mi dge rjes 'brel gang / /'byung ba che rnams rgyur byas pa/ /de ni rnam rig byed min brjod/ ‘byung ba dag ni sa khams dang / /chu dang me dang rlung khams rnams/ /’dzin pa la sogs las su grub/ /sra gsher dro nyid g.yo ba rnams/
Recall that all material forms of physical phenomena are made of particles that have, among their substantial, fundamental subparticles (rdzas-kyi rdul-phran, Skt. dravyaparamāṇu), subparticles of each of the four great elements – earth, water, fire and wind. As discussed in a previous part of this series, the term rdzas (Skt. dravya), translated as “substantial, fundamental” in the compound word “substantial, fundamental subparticle,” indicates that these subparticles are the sources of the functions that they perform.
- In the context of material objects (such as the ripened body and revealing forms), which are comprised of such particles, the subparticles perform the function of providing the various properties of these material objects.
- In the context of Vasubandhu’s discussion of nonrevealing forms, the great element subparticles are those comprising the particles of the material objects that are the foundations, or platforms, that serve as the generating causes from which the nonrevealing forms are “born.” The properties that these subparticles provide to these foundations also perform the function of providing circumstances for the arising, continuing and functioning of the nonrevealing forms.
The Sanskrit term bhūta and the Tibetan translation ‘byung-ba are usually translated into Western languages as “element,” as in, for instance, the earth “element.” These are difficult terms to translate. The Sanskrit and Tibetan terms derive from verbs meaning “to become,” or “to come into existence.” Thus, Chim Jampeyang explains in A Commentary to “A Treasure House (of Special Topics of Knowledge)”: A Filigree of Abhidharma (Chos mngon-mdzod-kyi tshig-le’ur byas-pa’i’grel-pa mngon-pa’i rgyan) (Sera Je Library ed. 38):
The four great elements that (nonrevealing forms) have depended upon (Tib.: have taken as their causes) are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the wind element. (They are called “elements” – literally, “things from which other things come into existence”) because, from them, forms of physical phenomena “come into existence” as their result and because they have “come into existence” by the power of the karmic impulses of sentient beings from their beginningless samsaric existences, without ever not coming about and not being experienced. They are (called) “great” because of their engaging most strongly in (performing) their individual functions.
(Tib.) rgyur byas pa’i ‘byung ba chen po bzhi po dag ni sa’i khams dang chu’i khams dang me’i kham dang rlung gi khams rnams te/ de dag las ‘bras bu’i gzugs rnams ‘byung ba’i phyir dang/ sems can gyi las kyi dbang gis thog ma med pa’i ‘khor ba nas nam yang ma byung ma myong pas na ‘byung ba’o/ chen po ni rang rang gi bya ba la shas cher ‘jug pa’i phyir ro//
The four great elements are referred to as constituent components (khams, Skt. dhātu). Recall that in the context of the classification scheme of the eighteen constituent components, “constituent component” means a member of a family of a validly knowable phenomenon and that is a source for later moments of items that are members of) the same class as itself and are parts of the same individual continuum of bodies or mental continuum. Here in the context of the discussion of material phenomena, “constituent component” has the same meaning – earth elements and so on are constituent components or members of the families of earth elements and so on and are sources of later moments of elements that are members of the same classes as themselves and parts of the same individual continuum of bodies.
Chim Jampeyang, A Filigree of Abhidharma (38), explains a further implication of the four great elements being called “constituent components” in the context of this discussion of revealing and nonrevealing forms:
They are “constituent components” because they uphold their own defining characteristic and (uphold) the forms of physical phenomena that depend on them (Tib.: take them as their causes).
(Tib.) khams ni rang gi mtshan nyid dang rgyur byas pa’i gzugs ‘dzin pa’i phyir dang/ ‘bras bu’i gzugs kyi rgyu’i phyir ro/
Vasubandhu explains further in his Autocommentary to “A Treasure House of Special Topics of Knowledge” (Skt. Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣyā, Tib. Chos mngon-pa’i mdzod-kyi bshad-pa) (Gretil ed. 008.15-22, Derge Tengyur vol. 140, 32A):
Further, concerning the issue, “What do these elements accomplish in terms of (their) function (las, Skt. karma) and what is their functional nature (rang-bzhin, Skt. svabhāva)?” – “The functions accomplished (by them) are upholding and so on” (means) they have accomplished, in order, the functions of upholding, combining, maturing and arranging (in a sequence). Arranging (in a sequence) is to be understood as (meaning) augmenting further and advancing. These are their functions.
As for (their) functional natures, (they are, in turn,) solidity, fluidity, heat and movement. (Giving) solidity is (the functional nature of) the constituent component earth; fluidity, the constituent component water; heat, the constituent component fire; and movement, the constituent component wind. It (a form of physical phenomenon) moves by means of it (by means of the wind element) because of the production in the next locations of a continuum of elements, (and so) the movement is like the movement of (a flame from one) lamp (to another).
(Skt.) te punahete dhātavaḥ kasmin karmaṇi saṃsiddhāḥ kiṃsvabhāvāścetyāha dhṛtyādikarmasaṃsiddhāḥ dhṛtisaṃgrahapaktivyūhanakarmasvete yathākramaṃ saṃsiddhāḥ pṛthivyaptejovāyudhātavaḥ / vyūhanaṃ punarvṛddhiḥ prasarpaṇaṃ ca veditavyam / idameṣāṃ karma / svabhāvastu yathākramaṃ kharasnehosṇateraṇāḥ // kharaḥ pṛthivīdhātuḥ / sneho ‘bdhātuḥ / uṣṇatā tejodhātuḥ / īraṇā vāyudhātuḥ / īryate ‘nayā bhūtasroto deśāntarotpādanāt pradīperaṇavaditīraṇā /
(Tib.) yang khams de dag gi las ni gang du yang dag par grub/ rang bzhin ni ci zhe na/ ‘dzin pa la sogs las su grub/ /ces bya ba smos te/ sa dang chu dang me dang rlung gi khams ‘di dag ni go rims bzhin du ‘dzin pa dang sdud pa dang smin par byed pa dang rgyas par byed pa’i las dag tu grub bo/ /rgyas par byed pa ni‘phel ba dang rgyas par byed par rig par bya ste/ 'di dag ni de dag gi las yin no/ /rang bzhin ni go rims bzhin du/ sra gsher dro nyid g.yo ba rnams te/ sra ba ni sa'i khams so/ /gsher ba ni chu'i khams so/ /dro ba ni me'i khams so/ /g.yo ba ni rlung gi khams so/ 'dis‘'byung ba'i rgyun yul gzhan du skyed ba'i phyir g.yo bar byed de/ sgron ma g.yo ba bzhin du g.yo bar byed pa yin no/
In reference to the momentary nonrevealing forms that depend on (take as their generating and so on cause) the four elements of the revealing form as the foundation from which it arises:
- The earth element provides the solid basis for upholding and supporting the nonrevealing form.
- The water element provides the fluidity and cohesion to combine the momentary forms.
- The fire element provides the heat energy to bring to maturity – literally, to “cook” – the momentary forms, so that they can develop and mature (perhaps so that they can produce their effects).
- The wind element provides the mobility so that the next momentary form will arise on the basis of the next set of momentary elements that follow in sequence, like the moment-to-moment passage of a flame to the moment-to-moment elements of the wick and oil of an oil lamp. Since the momentary great elements of one moment, in accord with the definition of “constituent components,” are the “sources” for the later moments of momentary great elements in their same class, the apparent mobility of a momentary nonrevealing form is on the basis of the continuum of momentary great elements of the revealing form that follow from this “source,” like the moment-to-moment elements of the oil of an oil lamp.
The texts do not explicitly apply these functions to the four elements of the ripened body that provide the foundation from which the revealing form arises in the interstitial spaces between the ripened body’s particles. Nevertheless, since a revealing form of the body, as a method implemented for causing a karmic action of the body to take place, may require several moments to complete what it does, it would seem that the above scheme of the functions of the four elements would also apply to revealing forms. But this is merely a hypothesis.
Jinaputra Yashomitra explains in The Clarified Meaning, An Explanatory Commentary on (Vasubandhu’s) “Treasure House of Special Topics of Knowledge” (Chos mngon-pa’i mdzod kyi ‘grel-bshad don-gsal-ba, Skt. Sphuṭārtha Abhidharmakośavyākhyā) (Gretil ed. 33, Derge Tengyur vol. 143, 29B):
As for “because of the production in the next locations, (and so) the movement is like the movement of (a flame from one) lamp (to another),” it is not that something momentary is something that goes to another location. Where something is produced is where it ceases. Thus, it is spoken of through this (example): Because of momentariness, movement has the essential nature of (there being) the production in the next locations of a continuum of elements, like (the flame of) a lamp. What are momentary are the elements, because of (their) being forms of physical phenomena, like (the flame of) a lamp. (The flame of) a lamp is well-known as being momentary (and so is) the example.
(Skt.) deśantarotpādanāt pradīperaṇavad iti. kṣaṇikānāṃ nāsti deśāntaragamanaṃ yatraivotpattiḥ. tatraiva vināśaḥ. tenaivam ucyate. deśāntarotpādanasvabhāvā bhūtasrotasa īraṇā. kṣaṇikatvāt. pradīpavat. kṣaṇikāni ca bhūtāni. rūpatvāt. pradīpavat. pradīpaś ca kṣaṇikaḥ prasiddha ity udāharaṇaṃ.
(Tib.) yul gzhan du bskyed pa'i phyir g.yo bar byed de sgron ma g.yo ba bzhin du g.yo ba yin no zhes bya ba ni skad cig ma rnams la yul gzhan du 'gro ba med de gang du skyes pa nyid du rnam par 'jig go/ /de'i phyir 'di skad du skad cig ma yin pa'i phyir 'byung ba'i rgyun yul gzhan du skyed pa'i ngo bo nyid ni g.yo ba yin te/ sgron ma bzhin no zhes bshad do/ ’'byung ba rnams kyang skad cig ma yin te/ gzugs yin pa'i phyir sgron ma lta bu'o/ /sgron ma yang skad cig ma yin par grags pas dper bstan to/
It is interesting to compare this Vaibhashika analysis of the momentariness of nonstatic phenomena (phenomena that undergo change in every moment of their existence) and cognition of them with the assertions of Western neuroscience. According to neuroscience, the photosensitive cells of the eyes, for example, of each species of animal sends flashes of visual information to the brain a set number of times per second for each species. These flashes of information are analogous to the momentary substantial entities asserted by Vaibhashika as being sensed by the physical cognitive sensors and cognized by sensory consciousness.
If, as an aside, we may extend the analogy, Western neuroscience explains that the brains of each species piece these flashes of visual information into what appears as a flowing image at a specific “flicker fusion rate.” For humans, the average rate is 60 flashes per second, while for flies it is 250. This accounts, from a subjective point of view, for different species having different perceptions of time. Vaibhashika speaks of different lengths of years and life span for different life forms and the West speaks of such differences as “human years” and “dog years.”
With the great elements that the arising of forms of physical phenomena depends on playing these various roles, the explanation that Jinaputra Yashomitra, The Clarified Meaning (Gretil ed., Derge 25B), gives of the additional causal roles that the elements play besides being their generating cause perhaps becomes easier to understand:
“Because of the existence (of the four great elements of revealing forms) as their generating and so on cause” (means) because of (these four great elements) being what generates (nonrevealing forms), what they rely on (rten, Skt. niśraya), what enables them to stand (gnas, Skt. sthāna), what maintains (them), and what extends (them).
They (the four great elements of revealing forms) are:
 The generating cause and so on (of nonrevealing forms) because their arising is from them.
 They are their reliant cause (rten-gyi rgyu, Skt. niśrayahetu) because of their (the nonrevealing forms’) being what have been made to follow (rjes-su byed-pa, Skt. anuvidhāyitva) by the elements of what has generated (them), like the reliance (of a disciple) on a learned spiritual master and so on.
 They are their propping cause (gnas-pa'i rgyu, Skt. pratiṣṭhāhetu) because of their (the elements’) existence as what holds (gzhi, Skt. ādhāra) them up, like a wall for a mural.
 They are their maintaining cause (rton-pa'i rgyu, Skt. upastambhahetu) because of their (the elements’) being the cause for their unbroken (continuity).
 They are the cause for their extension (‘phel ba'i rgyu, Skt. upabṛṃhaṇahetu) because of their (the elements’) being the cause for the growth (of their further sequential forms).
Suppose you ask, “Which ones are the great elements that they (nonrevealing forms) have depended on (for their arising)? Are they the great elements that are their foundation (gzhi, Skt. āśraya) or are they the great elements that are what they rely on (rten, Skt. niśraya)?” They are the great elements that are their foundation.
(Skt.) jananādihetubhāvād iti. jananān niśrayāt sthānād upastambhopabṛṃhaṇāt. jananahetus tebhya utpatteḥ. niśrayahetur jātasya bhūtānuvidhāyitvād ācāryādiniśrayavat. pratiṣṭhāhetur ādhārabhāvāt citrakuḍyavat. upastambhahetur anucchedahetutvāt. upabṛṃhaṇahetur vṛddhihetutvāt. katamāny mahābhūtāny upādāya. kim āśrayamahābhūtāni. utāho niśrayamahābhūtāni. āśrayamahābhūtānīty āhuḥ.
(Tib.) /bskyed pa la sogs pa rgyu'i ngo bo yin pa'i phyir ro zhes bya ba ni/ skyed dang rten dang gnas pa dang / /rton pa dang ni 'phel ba'i phyir/ /zhes bya ba yin te skyed pa'i rgyu ni de dag las skye ba'i phyir ro/ /rten gyi rgyu ni skyes zin pa 'byung ba'i rjes su byed pa'i phyir te/ slob dpon la sogs pa la brten pa lta bu'o/ /gnas pa'i rgyu ni gzhi'i dngos po yin pa'i phyir te ri mo'i rtsig pa lta bu'o/ /rton pa'i rgyu ni rgyun mi 'chad pa'i rgyu yin pa'i phyir ro/ /'phel ba'i rgyu ni 'phel ba'i rgyu yin pa'i phyir ro/ / 'byung ba chen po gang dag rgyur byas pa yin/ ci gzhi'i 'byung ba chen po dag gam 'on te rten gyi 'byung ba chen po dag yin zhe na/ smras pa/ gzhi'i 'byung ba chen po dag yin no/
As for the difference between the four great elements that a nonrevealing form depend on and that it relies on:
- The four great elements that a nonrevealing form “depends on” for its arising are the four great elements of the foundation (the revealing form) that serves as its generating cause.
- The four great elements that a nonrevealing form “relies on” are the ones it relies on in order to arise in continuity after the presently-happening revealing form that served as its foundation has ceased, like a disciple following in continuity from a teacher, like a later generation.
Nonrevealing Forms Arise Dependently on Presently-Happening or No-Longer-Happening Great Elements
Vasubandhu, Autocommentary (Gretil 199.14-16, Derge 172A), explains:
When a revealing (form) is present, is it only then that it occurs with its great elements serving as what something (a nonrevealing form) depends on [Tib.: takes as the cause] (for its arising)? [Tib.: When a nonrevealing (form) is present, is it then something dependent (for its arising) only on present great elements?] Mostly all forms of physical phenomena are dependent (for their arising) like that. But some presently-happening and not-yet-happening (forms) are dependent (for their arising) on no-longer-happening great elements.
(Skt.) kiṃ khalu yadātanī vijñaptistadātanānyeva sā mahābhūtānyupādāya vartate / sarvamupādāyarūpaṃ prāyeṇaivaṃ kiñcittu vartamānamanāgataṃ cātītāni mahābhūtānyupādāya /
(Tib.) /yang ci de gang gi tshe rnam par rig byed ma yin pa yod pa de'i tshe yod pa'i 'byung ba chen po dag kho na rgyur byas nas 'byung ngam zhe na/ rgyur byas pa'i gzugs phal cher thams cad ni de lta bu yin no/ /da ltar dang ma 'ongs pa cung zad cig ni 'das pa'i 'byung ba chen po dag rgyur byas nas 'byung ngo /
As explained in a previous part of this series, among the Buddhist tenet systems, Vaibhashika uniquely asserts that material objects, such as the great elements of a revealing form, exist as substantial entities in all three times and, as such, function in all three times. In the case of material objects, the only difference is whether the objects appear situated in some location.
- In the case of a revealing form of the body, its great elements are located in the interstitial spaces in between the particles of the ripened body only when the revealing form is presently happening and visible.
- When a revealing form is not yet happening or no longer happening, the revealing form and its great elements are not located anywhere in the ripened body and thus are not visible substantial entities.
- Nevertheless, a not-yet-happening revealing form can be thought about, such as when thinking about and deciding to commit a murder, and the no-longer happening revealing form of having killed someone can be remembered. Therefore, they function as the source of the mental cognitions of them.
The presently-happening great elements of a presently-happening revealing form serve as the foundation from which a presently-happening nonrevealing form arises. In this way, the revealing and nonrevealing forms arise simultaneously. The revealing form lasts for only a moment, although it may take several moments for the revealing form to take place – such as in the case of the revealing form of the speech in a series of moments while saying the syllables of the words of a lie.
But what about the moments of the nonrevealing form after the revealing form and its great elements are no longer happening? What set of great elements do these subsequent moments of revealing forms depend on for their arising? This is what Vasubandhu is explaining.
Jinaputra Yashomitra, The Clarified Meaning (Gretil 358, Derge 14A-B), fills in the meaning of Vasubandhu’s lines:
Expanding on the line, “When a revealing (form) is present,” (it means) “when a nonrevealing (form) is present when a revealing form is present.” As for the line, “is it only then (that the revealing form occurs) with its great elements (serving as what something depends on for its arising)?” (the meaning is) does that nonrevealing (form) arise by depending (for its arising) on great elements only at that time when the revealing form has arisen?
As for “all,” all forms of physical phenomena that are dependent (on great elements for their arising), including revealing, nonrevealing, (a restraint from) a level of mental constancy, an untainted (restraint) and even eye (sensors), ear (sensors), sights, sounds and so on, exist as phenomena that depend (for their arising) only on simultaneous great elements.
As for mentioning “mostly,” the purpose is to exclude some nonrevealing forms functioning on the plane of sensory objects of desire – it is said because of that. “Some presently-happening and not-yet happening (forms of physical phenomena) arise dependently on no-longer-happening great elements” indicates that some presently-happening forms of physical phenomena that depend (on great elements) for their arising occur dependently (for their arising) on no-longer-happening great elements. Some not-yet-happening forms of physical phenomena that depend (on great elements) for their arising (also) occur dependently (for their arising) on no-longer-happening great elements. This is said to indicate “how many more dependent forms of physical phenomena there are that exist like that.”
(Skt.) yadātanī vijñaptir iti vistaraḥ. yadābhavā vijñaptir yadātanī vijñaptiḥ. evaṃ tadātanāni mahābhūtāni. yatkālasaṃbhūtā vijñaptiḥ kiṃ tatkālasaṃbhūtāny eva mahābhūtāny upādāyāvijñaptir utpadyate. sarvam iti. sarvam upādāyarūpaṃ vijñaptir avijñaptir dhyānānāsravasaṃgṛhītā cakṣuḥśrotrarūpaśabdādi caivaṃ samānakālāny eva mahābhūtāny upādāya vartate. prāyeṇeti grahaṇaṃ kiṃcit kāmāvacaryavijñaptinirāsārthaṃ. ata evāha. kiṃcid vartamānam anāgataṃ atītāni mahābhūtāny upādāyeti. kiṃcid upādāyarūpaṃ vartamānam atītāni mahābhūtāny upādāya vartate. kiṃcid anāgatam upādāyarūpam atītāni mahābhūtāny upādāya vartate. kiṃ punas tad upādāyarūpaṃ yad evaṃ bhūtam iti darśayann āha.
(Tib.) /gang gi tshe rnam par rig byed yod pa zhes bya ba rgyas par ‘byung ba gang gi tshe rnam par rig byed ‘byung ba ni gang gi tshe rnam par rig byed ma yin pa yod pa’o/ /de ltar de’i tshe yod pa ni ‘byung ba chen po ste ci rnam par rig byed ma yin pa de gang gi tshe rnam par rig byed byung ba de’i tshe byung ba kho na na ‘byung ba chen po dag rgyur byas nas skye ‘am zhe na thams cad ces bya ba ni rgyur byas pa’i gzugs rnam par rig byed dang / rnam par rig byed ma yin pa dang / bsam gtan dang zag pa med pas bsdus pa dang / mig dang rna ba dang gzugs dang sgra la sogs pa thams cad ni de ltar dus mnyam pa’i ‘byung ba chen po dag kho na rgyur byas nas ‘byung ngo / /phal cher zhes bya ba smos pa ni ‘dod pa na spyod pa’i rnam par rig byed ma yin pa cung zad cig gsal ba’i phyir ro/ /de nyid kyi phyir/ da ltar dang ma ‘ongs pa cung zad cig ni ‘das pa’i ‘byung ba chen po dag rgyur byas nas ‘byung zhes bya ba smos te/ rgyur byas pa’i gzugs da ltar gyi cung zad cig ni ‘das pa’i ‘byung ba chen po dag rgyur byas nas ‘byung la/ rgyur byas pa’i gzugs ma ‘ongs pa cung zad cig ni ‘das pa’i ‘byung ba chen po dag rgyur byas nas ‘byung ngo / /rgyur byas pa’i gzugs de lta bu de yang gang zhe na bstan pa’i phyir/
For example, the events of the presently-happening today, such as limping, arise dependently on the events of the no-longer-happening yesterday, such as spraining one’s ankle. Even when yesterday’s event of spraining one’s ankle is no longer happening, it is still affecting one’s limping that is happening today. If someone sprains their ankle just now, it affects how they will walk later on: they will walk with a limp although that is not yet happening.
The Distinction between the Great Elements That the Arising of Revealing and Nonrevealing Forms Depends on as Their Foundation and Those That Their Continuity Relies On
Vasubandhu, Treasure House (IV.4cd) (Gretil ed., Derge 11A), explains:
A nonrevealing (form) in subsequent moments generates from (presently) no-longer-happening elements included on (the plane of sensory objects of) desire.
(Skt.) kṣaṇādūrdhvamavijñaptiḥ kāmāptātītabhūtajā /
(Tib.) /'dod gtogs rnam rig min skad cig/ /phyin chad 'das pa'i 'byung las skye/
Vasubandhu, Autocommentary (Gretil 199.18-21, Derge 172A), expounds on this point:
Subsequent to the first moment (when it initially arose), a nonrevealing (form) belonging to (the plane of sensory objects of) desire depends for its arising on the no-longer-happening great elements (of the momentary revealing form from which it simultaneously arose). They (those no-longer-happening great elements still) serve the purpose of (being) its foundation (from which it arose). The presently-happening great elements (of subsequent moments of revealing forms of the body serve) the purpose of being the subsequent support (rten, Skt. saṃniśraya) on which (the continuum of subsequent moments of a nonrevealing form sequentially relies. (These sets of great elements function) like in sequential stages because of (their sequentially performing) the functions of initially setting forth (the nonrevealing form) and (then) subsequently maintaining its continuum, (like) for a wheel being rolled on the ground, the force of the hands and (its taking place) on a stretch (phyogs, Skt. pradeśa) of ground.
(Skt.) prathamāt kṣaṇādūrdhvamavijñaptiḥ kāmāvacarī atītāni mahābhūtānyupādāyotpadyate / tānyasyā āśrayārthena bhavanti / pratyutpannāni śarīramahābhūtāni saṃniśrayārthena / pravṛtyanuvṛttikāraṇatvādyathākramam / cakrasyeva bhūmau saparivartamānasya pāṇyāvedhabhūmipradeśau /
(Tib.) /'dod pa na spyod pa'i rnam par rig byed ma yin pa ni skad cig ma dang po phyin cad 'das pa'i 'byung ba chen po dag rgyur byas nas skye'o/ /de dag ni 'di'i gzhi'i don du 'gyur la lus kyi 'byung ba chen po de ltar 'byung ba rnams ni rten gyi don du 'gyur te/ 'jug pa dang rjes su 'jug pa'i rgyu yin pa'i phyir go rims bzhin te/ 'khor lo sa la 'dril ba la lag pas 'phul ba dang sa'i phyogs bzhin no/
In terms of the analogy with someone spraining their ankle, the great elements comprising the revealing form of the shape of their ankle as they sprain it sets the injury in motion. These elements are the foundation from which the injury arises and even when these elements are no longer happening, they still function as what is causing the injury. Subsequently, the great elements comprising each moment of the shape of the inflamed ankle as the person subsequently carries on their life are the support on which the injury continues. So long as these elements of the shape of the person’s ankle are inflamed, the injury will continue to cause them to limp. This example perhaps makes it easier to understand Vasubandhu’s point about presently-happening and no-longer-happening great elements and their relation with revealing and nonrevealing forms.
The issue, here, is, what is the foundation from which a nonrevealing form, such as the nonrevealing form of a pratimoksha vowed restraint, initially arises and what is the support for the arising, in further moments, of subsequent nonrevealing forms of the vowed restraint in sequence from it.
- Recall that each moment of a nonrevealing form, as a nonstatic phenomenon, is an individual, momentary substantial entity and that it is not the case that the substantial entity constituting the first moment of a presently-happening nonrevealing form continues to exist as the same presently-happening substantial entity in subsequent moments.
- In each moment until its continuum ends, a sequentially next presently-happening nonrevealing form arises and ceases as an individual substantial entity in a continuum.
Both the foundation for the initial arising of a momentary nonrevealing form and the support for each momentary nonrevealing form that follows in sequence from it are material objects that are composites the four great elements. The Vaibhashika system explains that a nonrevealing form, such as that of a pratimoksha vowed restraint, is first generated from the great elements of earth, water, fire, and wind that comprise the momentary revealing form with which it simultaneously arises. Because the first moment of these great elements of the revealing form are the foundation that serves as the generating cause (literally, the “birthing” cause) from which the nonrevealing form arises, these elements are called “what they have depended on (rgyur-byas-pa, Skt. upādāya)” for their initial arising. Although these great elements of the revealing form serve as the foundation from which the nonrevealing form simultaneously arises, this does not mean that the nonrevealing form is situated on these great elements. This is because nonrevealing forms do not abide in any location.
Once the nonrevealing form has initially arisen with the presently-happening great elements of the revealing form that it arises simultaneously with serving as the foundation from which it arises, then in the next moment the revealing form and its great elements cease. They cease because the revealing form is only momentary. After the presently-happening great elements comprising the revealing form of the shape of the body kneeling to obtain the vowed restraint have ceased, there exist only no-longer-happening great elements comprising that no-longer-happening revealing form.
As Vasubandhu noted in his Autocommentary (Gretil 112.01-03, Derge 109A) cited in a previous part of this series, no-longer-happening forms of physical phenomena, like nonrevealing forms, do not abide in any location. Furthermore, according to Vaibhashika, no-longer-happening phenomena are nonstatic and thus perform functions. Without being located anywhere, the no-longer-happening great elements of the no-longer-happening revealing form of the shape of the body kneeling perform the function of serving as the foundation from which the nonrevealing form initially arose – although the nonrevealing form is no longer presently arising from them.
Starting from the moment after it has arisen and continuing until it is lost, the nonrevealing form of a pratimoksha vowed restraint, for example, still must depend in each moment on presently-happening great elements as the subsequent support (rten, Skt. saṃniśraya) for its sequentially arising. Since the great elements of the revealing form from which it initially simultaneously arose are no longer happening, the presently-happening great elements that are available to serve as this support are the presently-happening great elements of the presently-happening revealing forms of the shape of the body refraining from committing the actions one has vowed to abstain from, as implicitly stated by Jinaputra Yashomitra below in his clarification of Vasubandhu’s explanation.
The analogy Vasubandhu gives is the great elements of the hands and of the earth for a wheel being rolled on it. Although the wheel is not made of the elements of the hands or of the ground, yet the elements of the hands are the foundation on which it depends to be set forth in motion, and the elements of the ground are the support on which it relies to roll and thus to maintain its continuum.
The closest analogy in current, popular Western thought is that a nonrevealing form is like a physical imprint on the body, like the so-called “muscle memory” someone develops when they train in a physical exercise, a dance routine, a musical piece they play on an instrument or sing, and so on. The physical imprint is nonmaterial, but it arises on the basis of the shape of the muscles– or Vasubandhu would say, the elements of the shape of the muscles – as they execute the set of movements when they first learn the exercise and so on. Afterwards, that imprint continues on the basis of subsequent moments of the shape of the muscles. That imprint enables the person to repeat the exercise and so on, and the more they repeat it, the stronger the imprint becomes. That physical imprint, however, is unconscious.
Jinaputra Yashomitra, The Clarified Meaning (Gretil ed., Derge 14A-B), clarifies the previous quotation from Vasubandhu’s Autocommentary:
At the time of taking on a vowed restraint and so on belonging to (the plane of (sensory objects) of desire, (its) nonrevealing (form) arises, having depended on the great elements (of the revealing form) that are simultaneous (with it). Likewise, another (further moment of the) nonrevealing form also arises having depended on only them (on only those great elements that are now no longer happening), because of which they (these no-longer-happening great elements) come to be its foundation (gzhi, Skt. āśraya) (too). Just as presently-happening great elements (of further revealing forms of the body) are the foundation for other (further nonrevealing) forms that depend on (them), so too the no-longer-happening (great elements of the initiating revealing form) are (still) the foundation (from which they arose).
“(These sets of great elements function) like in sequential stages because of (their sequentially performing) the functions of initially setting forth (the nonrevealing form) and (then) subsequently maintaining its continuum” (means) because of the no-longer-happening great elements (of the momentary revealing form) being what performs the function of initially setting forth (the nonrevealing form) because of (their) being what performs the function of (initially) tossing (the nonrevealing form), they serve the purpose of (being its) foundation. Because of the presently-happening great elements of (the revealing forms of) the body being (what perform) the function of subsequently maintaining the continuum (of nonrevealing forms) because of (their) being (what performs) the function of (their) physical support (rten-par byed-pa, Skt. adhiṣṭhāna), they serve the purpose of (being) the support on which (they) sequentially rely (rten, Skt. saṃniśraya).
If you expand on “like that of a wheel,” then just as there is the force of the hand for (setting forth) a wheel (into rolling), likewise there is (the force) of those (no-longer-happening great elements of the revealing form) that perform the function of setting forth (the nonrevealing form). (And) just as there is the stretch of the ground, likewise there is (the stretch) of (the subsequent presently-happening great elements of the revealing forms of the body) that perform the function of subsequently maintaining its continuum.
(Skt.) kāmāvacarasamvarādigrahaṇakāle avijñaptiḥ sahajāni mahābhūtāny upādāyotpadyate. evam anyāpy avijñaptis tāny evopādāyotpadyate. yasmāt tāny asyā āśrayārthena saṃbhavanti. yathānyeṣām upādāyarūpāṇāṃ pratyutpannāni mahābhūtāny āśrayaḥ evaṃ tasyā atītāny āśrayaḥ. pravṛttyanuvṛttikāraṇatvād yathākramam iti. atītāni mahābhūtāni pravṛttikāraṇatvāt ākṣepakāraṇatvāt āśrayārthena bhavanti. pratyutpannāni śarīramahābhūtāny anuvṛttikāraṇatvād adhiṣṭhānakāraṇatvāt saṃniśrayārthena bhavanti. cakrasyeveti vistaraḥ. yathā cakrasya pāṇyāvedhaḥ. evam asyāḥ pravṛttikāraṇaṃ. yathā bhūmipradeśaḥ. evam anupravṛttikāraṇaṃ.
(Tib.) 'dod pa na spyod pa'i rnam par rig byed ma yin pa ni sdom pa la sogs pa mnod pa'i tshe lhan cig skye ba'i 'byung ba chen po dag rgyur byas nas 'byung la/ de bzhin du rnam par rig byed ma yin pa gzhan yang de dag kho na rgyur byas nas 'byung ngo / /'di ltar de dag ni 'di'i gzhi'i don du 'gyur te/ ji ltar rgyur byas pa'i gzugs gzhan dag gi gzhi da ltar byung ba'i 'byung ba chen po rnams yin pa de bzhin du de'i rten ni 'das pa rnams yin no/ /'jug pa dang rjes su 'jug pa'i rgyu yin pa'i phyir go rims bzhin zhes bya ba ni 'das pa'i 'byung ba chen po dag ni 'jug pa'i rgyu yin zhing 'phen pa'i rgyu yin pa'i phyir gzhi'i don du 'gyur ro/ /da ltar byung ba'i lus kyi 'byung ba chen po dag ni rjes su 'jug pa'i rgyu yin zhing rten par byed pa'i rgyu yin pa'i phyir rten gyi don du 'gyur ro/ /'khor lo bzhin zhes bya ba ni ji ltar 'khor lo lag pas 'dril ba de lta bu ni 'di'i 'jug pa'i rgyu yin no/ /ji ltar sa'i phyogs de lta bu ni rjes su 'jug pa'i rgyu yin no/
At the initial moment of the arising of a nonrevealing form of the body, we have seen in a previous part of this series that the concurrent great elements of the ripened body cannot be the elements that the nonrevealing form depends on for its arising. This is because the revealing form of the body with which the nonrevealing form simultaneously arises depends on those concurrent great elements of the ripened body as the foundation for its arising, and one set of great elements cannot be the cause depended upon for the arising of both a coarse result (a revealing form) and a subtle result (a nonrevealing form).
In subsequent moments, for instance after obtaining a pratimoksha vowed restraint, no matter what shape the body takes as its revealing form (for instance, the shape of the body when walking or even when sleeping), subsequent revealing forms of the body depend on the elements of subsequent moments of the ripened body as the foundation from which they arise. As when obtaining the nonrevealing form of the vowed restraint, those subsequent moments of the elements of the ripened body cannot also be the support on which the subsequent momentary nonrevealing forms of the body – now the nonrevealing forms of the body refraining from committing the actions one has vowed to abstain from – rely for their subsequent arise. These subsequent nonrevealing forms rely on the elements of the sequence of subsequent momentary revealing forms as the subsequent support on which they rely to continue to arise.