The Difference Between Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Wisdom
From Nagarjuna's Treatise
on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
Question: If it were to be as stated then one ought to explore all of the classes of wisdom whether mundane or supra mundane. Why do you only speak of reaching to the very boundaries of the wisdom of the three vehicles and fail to mention the other classes of wisdom?
Response: That of the three vehicles is genuine wisdom. Any others are all empty and false. Although the Bodhisattva is aware of them, he does not focus on practicing them. It is just as with Mount mwo-li*. No place else produces sandalwood trees. If it is the case that other sources possess fine discourses, it is because in all such cases they were originally obtained from within the Dharma of the Buddha. When one first hears them, they may seem to be good, but if one listens longer, it turns out not to be marvelous.
This is analogous to the difference between cow milk and donkey milk. Although they are the same in color, if one churns cow milk it turns into butter, whereas if one churns donkey milk it just turns into [something like] urine. Although the Dharma of the Buddha as well as that of non-Buddhist paths may [seem to] be the same as regards not killing, not stealing, having loving-kindness and pity for beings, focusing the mind, transcending desire and contemplating emptiness, still, in the case of the discourse of non-Buddhist paths, although they may initially seem as if they are marvelous, if one follows them out to the end point to which they lead, they are then found to be false and deceptive.
All of the non-Buddhist paths are attached to the view of a self. If it was actually the case that a self existed, then it ought to fall into one or the other of two categories. Either it is characterized by destructibility or else it is characterized by indestructibility. If it is characterized by destructibility, then it ought to be like a cow hide [for instance]. If it is characterized by indestructibility then it ought to be like empty space. In the case of both of these positions, there is no offense entailed in killing and no merit involved in not killing.
If, on the other hand, it is like empty space, then rain and dew would be unable to moisten it while wind and heat would not be able to dry it out either. If this were the case, then it would fall into the category of something which is permanent. If it were permanent, then suffering would be unable to torment it and happiness would be unable to please it. If it does not experience suffering or happiness, then it ought not to avoid calamities and seek out blessings.
If it was like a cow hide, then it would be destroyed by wind and rain. If it was destructible, then it would fall into the category of something which is impermanent. If it is impermanent, then there could be neither [punishments resulting from] offenses nor [blessings resulting from] merit. If in fact the discourse of the non-Buddhist traditions corresponds to this characterization, then what would be the point in having the teaching that not killing is meritorious and that killing is an offense?
More Distinctions Between the Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Paths
From Nagarjuna's Treatise
on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
Question: Although the [tenets regarding] restrictions and merits of these non-Buddhist paths may involve such fallacies, what about [the quality of] their dhyaana absorptions and wisdom?
Response: Because non-Buddhist paths pursue the cultivation of dhyaana meditation with a mind which holds to the existence of a self, because they are excessive in affection, views and arrogance, and because they fail to relinquish all dharmas, they do not possess any genuine wisdom.
Question: You admit that non-Buddhist paths contemplate emptiness. If one contemplates emptiness, then one relinquishes all dharmas. How then can you say that because they do not relinquish all dharmas, they therefore possess no actual wisdom?
Response: Although non-Buddhist paths do contemplate emptiness , still, they seize upon that characteristic of emptiness. Although they may be aware that dharmas are empty, still, they are unaware that the self itself is empty. Their wisdom is dismissed herein on account of the fact that it involves a contemplation of emptiness rooted in affectionate attachment.
Question: Non-Buddhist paths do possess the no-thought absorption in which the mind dharmas as well as the dharmas associated with the mind are all extinguished. Because they are entirely extinguished, there is no fault therein involving an affectionately attached wisdom seizing upon characteristics.
Response: The power of the no-thought absorption resides in forcing the mind to enter extinction. It is not the case that it is based on the power of actual wisdom. Additionally, they are of the opinion that this actually constitutes nirvana and remain unaware that it is a compositely created dharma. On account of this they fall into inverted views. Although the mind is temporarily extinguished herein, nonetheless, when one encounters the appropriate causes and conditions, one is reborn yet again. This situation is analogous to that of a person who has fallen into a dreamless sleep in which the thoughts of the mind are not active. When he reawakens then they do exist once again.
Question: If the faults of the no-thought absorption are such as this, still there is also the absorption of neither perception nor non-perception. In this there is no erroneous thought nor does it extinguish thought in the manner of the forcibly created no-thought absorption. In this case, is on account of the power of wisdom that one achieves a state free of thought.
Response: Thought still exists in such a case. Because it is subtle, one remains unaware of it. If it was actually the case that there was no thought in this situation, why would the disciples of the Buddha go beyond it in seeking actual wisdom? In the Dharma of the Buddha, this consciousness associated with the absorption of neither perception nor non-perception is seen to abide in dependence upon the other four aggregates. Because these four aggregates are subsumed within the sphere of causes and conditions, they are impermanent. Because they are impermanent, they are characterized by suffering. Because they are impermanent and characterized by suffering, they are empty. Because they are empty, they are devoid of self. Because they are empty and devoid of self, they are renounceable.
It is on account of a type of wisdom associated with affectionate attachment that you and those like you do not achieve nirvana. This is analogous to the looper caterpillar which arches to place its hind legs on the ground and then afterwards advances its front legs. When it runs out of space, since there is no place to advance to, it just goes in the reverse direction again. Non-Buddhists abide in the first dhyaana as a means of relinquishing the desires associated with lower stations. This process goes on until they abide in the station of neither perception nor non-perception as a means to relinquish the station of nothing whatsoever. Because there is nothing above that station in which they can abide, they become unable to relinquish the station of neither perception nor non-perception. This is because they are terrified at the prospect of losing the self and fearful of falling into a circumstance where there is nothing to be obtained.
Additionally, in the scriptures of the non-Buddhists, there are statements permitting killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and drinking intoxicants. They also indicate that, when done for the sake of making sacrifices to gods, there is no offense in employing incantations to kill. Nor is there any offense if one kills a person of lesser station when associated with practice of the Way or when one encounters urgent difficulties and wishes to preserve one's own physical life. Also, if there are urgent difficulties and it is for the sake of practicing the Way, one may steal anything but gold in order to save oneself. One is assured that he will be able to get rid of this disastrous offense later. Aside from womenfolk associated with one's teachers, the wife of the King, the wife of one's spiritual master, and virgin girls, one is allowed to engage in sexual misconduct with any others in situations of an urgent and pressing nature. It is also said that one may engage in false speech as long as it is for the sake of one's teachers, one's father or mother, oneself, a cow, or a matchmaker. In cold regions, it is permissable to drink liquor made from rock honey. In the course of making sacrifices to a god, it may be permissable to taste one or two drops of liquor.
In the Dharma of the Buddha, it is not this way. One maintains a mind of loving-kindness towards all beings and looks upon them equally, even to the point that one does kill a fly, how much the less would one kill a person. One does not take even a needle or a thread, how much the less objects of greater value, even if those objects have no owner. One may not touch even a prostitute with so much as one's finger, how much the less may one touch any man's wives or daughters. Even in joking, one may not engage in false speech, how much the less may one deliberately tell a lie. One may never drink any liquor at any time, how much the less may one do so on account of dwelling in a cold region or because one is performing a sacrifice to a god.
The beliefs of yourself and other non-Buddhists like you are so extremely different from the Dharma of the Buddha as to be like the difference between heaven and earth. The dharma of you and other non-Buddhists like you is a station for the production of afflictions. In the case of the Dharma of the Buddha, it is a station for the doing away with afflictions. This amounts to a huge difference. The dharmas of the Buddha are incalculable in number and are as vast in scope as a great ocean.
As adaptations to the minds of beings, there are all sorts of different articulations of Dharma. In some cases, there is the discussion of existence, in others, nonexistence. In some cases, the positing of permanence, in others, impermanence. In some cases, discussions of suffering, in others, discussions of bliss. In some cases, the positing of a self, and in others, the absence of a self. In some instances, there are discussions of diligently cultivating the three modes of karmic action and accumulating all manner of good dharmas, whereas in others, there are discussions of all dharmas as characterized by being beyond the sphere of aspirations (apra.nihita).
In the case of those wanting in wisdom, when they hear all of these different explanations, they may be of the opinion that they are perversely contradictory and erroneous. The wise, however, have entered the three types of entryways to Dharma, and in contemplating all of the discourses of the Buddha, they understand that they are all genuine Dharma and are not contradictory. What are the three entryways? The first is the Pi.taka entryway, the second is the Abhidharma entryway. The third is the emptiness entryway.
The Pi.taka Entryway to Dharma
From Nagarjuna's Treatise
on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
The Pi.taka has three million, two hundred thousand words. It was created by Mahaakaatyaayana when the Buddha was in the World. After the Buddha crossed into extinction, the lifetime of people gradually diminished and the strength of their memories become less so that they were no longer able to perform vast recitations. Those who had gained the Way condensed it into three hundred and eighty-four thousand words. If a person enters the entryway of the Pi.taka, the dialectical discussions are endless. Within it there is the inferential approach (anuvartanaparyaaya), the counteractive approach (pratipak.saparyaaya), and all sorts of other approaches.
As for the inferential approach, it is illustrated in a verse spoken by the Buddha:
Do not do any evil.
Uphold the practice of every good.
Each should purify his own mind.
This is the teaching of all Buddhas.
At this point one should basically discuss every one of the dharmas belonging to the mind (caitasikadharma). Now, however, when he speaks only of "each purifying his own mind," one knows as a consequence that he has already implicitly spoken of all of the dharmas belonging to the mind. How is this so? It is because they possess the same characteristics and the same conditions.
For instance, when the Buddha speaks of the four stations of mindfulness, there is no departure in that from the four right efforts, the four foundations of psychic power, the five roots and the five powers. How is this so? In the four foundations of mindfulness there are four kinds of vigor. These then are just the four right efforts. There are four kinds of absorption. These are the four bases of psychic power. There are five kinds of good dharmas. These are the five roots and the five powers. Although the Buddha did not discuss the other entryways at that point, but rather spoke only of the four foundations of mindfulness, one should still realize that he had already implicitly spoken of the other entryways.
Take for example the Buddha in his explanations of the four truths wherein he would sometimes speak of one truth, sometimes speak of two, and sometimes speak of three. This is illustrated in the verse spoke by Horse Star Bhikshu for Sariputra:
All dharmas arise from
This dharma's conditions then come to an end.
My master, the king of the great Aaryas,
Explains this meaning in this way.
This verse only refers to three of the truths. One should realize that the truth of the Way is already implicitly contained among them. This is because it is not apart from them. This is analogous to the situation of a single person committing an offense. The entire family endures the punishment. Cases such as these indicate what is meant by the inferential approach.
As for the counteractive approach, this is exemplified by occasions when the Buddha spoke only of the four inverted views: the inverted view which imagines permanence, the inverted view which imagines blissfulness, the inverted view which imagines the existence of a self, and the inverted view which imagines purity. Although he did not speak in such instances of the four foundations of mindfulness, one should still realize that the discussion already possesses the principles embodied in the four foundations of mindfulness.
This is comparable to when someone speaks of a particular medicine and one immediately knows from that what the associated sickness is. Similarly, when someone speaks of a particular sickness, one may immediately know what it's associated medicine is. If someone speaks of the four foundations of mindfulness, then one knows that he has already implicitly referred to the four inverted views. The four inverted views are just specific characteristics of erroneousness. If one speaks of the four inverted views then one has already implicitly spoken of the fetters. How is this the case? If one speaks of something's roots, then one has already gained knowledge of the associated branches.
For example, the Buddha said that all worlds contain the three poisons. In his speaking of the three poisons one should know that he has already implicitly referred to the three-part eight-fold right path. When he discusses the three poisons, one should know that he has already implicitly referred to the poisons of all afflictions. The fifteen kinds of affection constitute the poison of desire. The fifteen kinds of hatefulness constitute the poison of hatred. The fifteen kinds of ignorance constitute the poison of stupidity. All of the erroneous views, arrogance and doubt are subsumed within ignorance. In this manner, all of the fetters are subsumed within the three poisons.
What does one employ to destroy them? The three-part eight-fold right path. If one speaks of the three-part eight-fold right path, one should know that one has already implicitly referred to the thirty-seven wings of bodhi. All sorts of characteristics such as these indicate what is meant by the the counteractive approach. All sorts of dharmas such as these constitute the Pi.taka entryway.
The Abhidharma Entryway to Dharma
From Nagarjuna's Treatise
on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
What is meant by the Abhidharma entryway? In some cases the Buddha himself explained the meanings of dharmas and in some cases the Buddha himself explained the names of dharmas. The disciples engaged in the creation of all sorts of compilations and exegeses explaining his meaning. For instance, the Buddha said, "If there was a bhikshu who was unable to maintain correct mindfulness with regard to conditioned dharmas who nonetheless wished to gain the foremost worldly dharma, this would be impossible. If one does not gain the foremost worldly dharma and yet wishes to enter the stage of absolute righteousness (samyaktva), this would be impossible. If one failed to enter the stage of absolute goodness and yet wished to gain the realization of the Srota-aapana, the Sakr.daagaamin, the Anaagaamin, or the Arhat, this would be impossible.
"If there was a bhikshu who, possessed of right mindfulness with respect to conditioned dharmas, endeavored to gain the foremost worldly dharma, this is possible. If he gained the foremost worldly dharma and then endeavored to enter the stage of absolute goodness, and if succeeded in entering the stage of absolute goodness and then endeavored to achieve the realization of the Srota-aapana, the Sak.rdaagaamin, the Anaagaamin, and the Arhat, this is definitely possible."
As for what the Buddha actually discussed directly here, he did not go into an explanation of the characteristics and meaning of the foremost worldly dharma. Nor did he describe which realm it belonged to, what it's causes are, what it's conditions are, and what it's resultant rewards are. The articulation of distinctions with regard to characteristics and meanings of all of the sorts of dharmas practiced by the Hearers from the foremost worldly dharma on through to the nirvana without residue--such things as these comprise what is meant by the Abhidharma entryway.