WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS

148

 

 


 

 

Ī 17. No Continuous Personal Identity

Translated from the Milindapañha (40.1)

"Bhante Nāgasena," said the king, "is a person when just born that person himself, or is he some one else?"

"He is neither that person," said the elder, "nor is he some one else."

"Give an illustration."

"What do you say to this, your majesty? When you were a young, tender, weakly infant lying on your back, was that your present grown-up self?"

"Nay, verily, bhante. The young, tender, weakly infant lying on its back was one person, and my present grown-up self is another person."

"If that is the case, your majesty, there can be no such thing as a mother, or a father, or a teacher, or an educated man, or a righteous man, or a wise man. Pray, your majesty, is the mother of the kalala[1] one person, the mother of the abbuda[1] another person, the mother of the pesi[1] another person, the mother of the ghana[1] another person, the mother of the little child another person, and the mother of the grown-up man another person? Is it one person who is a student, and another person who has finished his education? Is it one person who commits a crime, and another person whose hands and feet are cut off?"

"Nay, verily, bhante. But what, bhante, would you reply to these questions?"

Said the elder, "It was I, your majesty, who was a young, [149] tender, weakly infant lying on my back, and it is I who am now grown up. It is through their connection with the embryonic body that all these different periods are unified."

"Give an illustration."

"It is as if, your majesty, a man were to light a light; -- would it shine all night?"

"Assuredly, bhante, it would shine all night."

"Pray, your majesty, is the flame of the first watch the same as the flame of the middle watch?"

"Nay, verily, bhante."

"Is the flame of the middle watch the same as the flame of the last watch?"

"Nay, verily, bhante."

"Pray, then, your majesty, was there one light in the first watch, another light in the middle watch, and a third light in the last watch?"

"Nay, verily, bhante. Through connection with that first light there was light all night."

"In exactly the same way, your majesty, do the elements of being join one another in serial succession: one element perishes, another arises, succeeding each other as it were instantaneously. Therefore neither as the same nor as a different person do you arrive at your latest aggregation of consciousnesses."

"Give another illustration."

"It is as if, your majesty, new mIlk were to change in process of time into sour cream, and from sour cream into fresh butter, and from fresh butter into clarified butter. And if any one, your majesty, were to say that the sour cream, the fresh butter, and the clarified butter were each of them the very milk itself--now would he say well, if he were to say so?"

"Nay, verily, bhante. They came into being through connection with that milk."

"In exactly the same way, your majesty, do the elements of being join one another in serial succession: one element perishes, another arises, succeeding each other as it were instantaneously. Therefore neither as the same nor as [150] different person do you arrive at your latest aggregation of consciousnesses."

"You are an able man, bhante Nāgasena."

 

Ī 17b. No Continuous Personal Identity

Translated from the Visuddhi-Magga (chap. viii.)

Strictly speaking, the duration of the life of a living being is exceedingly brief, lasting only while a thought lasts. Just as a chariot-wheel in rolling rolls only at one point of the tire, and in resting rests only at one point; in exactly the same way, the life of a living being lasts only for the period of one thought. As soon as that thought has ceased the being is said to have ceased. As it has been said: --

"The being of a past moment of thought has lived, but does not live, nor will it live.

"The being of a future moment of thought will live, but has not lived, nor does it live.

"The being of the present moment of thought does live, but has not lived, nor will it live."


[1]Various stages of the embryo.

 


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