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Chapter 3.2.2

RLG206H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3.2.2: Pudgala, Personalism, Menander I

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Christoph Emmrich

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..Milinda and the Chariot
Page 101-104
The view of impermanence means
o Eventual passing away of all beings
o Passing away (and arising) from moment to moment, of things, of dharmas
Dharma = basic constituent elements of reality
This led to many scholastic attempts to define a “moment”, to answer the question “Just how long do dharmas last?” by
the Mainstream Buddhists
o Some maintained that dharmas exist only in the present, arising and passing away in an instant (in the fraction
of the time that it takes to blink one’s eyes)
o Others contend that dharmas exist in three times: past, present, and future
In any case, the impermanence of life was closely related to the doctrine of no self
o Doctrine of no self became the hallmark of Buddhist doctrine
The notion that there is no abiding self that can be called the self (atman) is not an easy one for Westerners to accept,
but it caused difficulties or Buddhists as well
There was at least one Mainstream Buddhist sect, the Personalists (Pudgalavadins) who held that even though there
was no Self, there is something called a Person (Pudgala, Pali: puggala) which was ineffable (indescribable)
o It was neither the same nor different from the accumulations of elements (skandhas) that make up human
beings and all of its reality
A lot of scholastic energy was used by Buddhists of other schools to refute the Personalist doctrine
In these debates, most of the argument revolved around what was meant by the term pudgala, and what is its
Personalists were also concerned with spiritual issues
o They worried that if there was not something like a pudgala, one would not be able to explain things like
moral responsibility or karmic continuity from one life to the next
o One would not be able to say that a particular individual had made merit or attained enlightenment
Some of these same concerns are raised in the following semi-canonical Pali text, in which the discussion of no-Self is
concerned out in a scholastic context between the monk Nagasena and King Milinda
o “Then King Milinda said this to the Venerable Nagasena: ‘By what name, Reverent Sir, are you known’”
o “I am known as Nagasena, and my co-practitioners address me as such. But, your majesty, there is no person
(Puggala) to be found here”
o Then King Milinda declared: “Listen to me, you five hundred… lords and you eighty thousand monks! This
Nagasena says, ‘There is no Person to be found here!’ Is it possible to agree to that?”
o And addressing the Venerable Nagasena, he said: “If, Venerable Nagasena, no Person is to be found, who
then is it who gives you robes, food, lodging, medicine all of the requisites for a mendicant? Who is it that
enjoys the use of these things? Who keeps the precepts? Who practices meditation? Who experiences the
path, the fruits, nirvana? Who kills living beings? Who takes what is not given? Who engages in sinful
pleasures? Who tells lies? Who drinks intoxicants? Who commits the five evil deeds that have karmic effects in
this lifetime?”
o “From what you say it follows that there is no such thing as merit or demerit; there is neither doer or causers of
meritorious or demeritorious actions; there is no reward or punishment for good or evil deeds. If Nagasena, a
man were to kill you, there would be no murder in that! Moreover, Nagasena, you monks would have neither
teacher nor preceptors: you are not even ordained! You say ‘Your majesty, my co-practitioners call me
Nagasena’; well, what is this Nagasena? Tell me, is the hair of the head Nagasena?”
Hair of the body
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