Buddhist Philosophy

The Upanishads And Teachings Of Sri Buddha – Part 4: Vyavahārikā and Paramārthika in Vaidika and Buddhist Systems

This is The Fourth Part Of Philosophical Paper Presented By Sunil Upasana In The Swadeshi Indology Conference – 2, Held At IGNCA, New Delhi On February 2017.

About Author: –

Sunil Upasana hails from Kerala (India) and has been a Bengalurean for 13 years. He has had a deep yearning to understand the profound philosophy that underlies Hinduism Read More.

To Read Third Part, Click Here.

Vyavahārikā and Paramārthika in Vaidika and Buddhist Systems: –

            In a number of hymns, Buddha has asserted that he had attained a state that is difficult to attain by others. Quoting from Brahmajwala Sutta (Davids 1923:30).

“These, O brethren, are those other things, profound, difficult to realize, hard to understand, tranquillizing, sweet, not to be grasped by mere logic, subtle, comprehensible only by the wise, which the Tathagata, having himself realized and seen face to face, hath set forth; and it is concerning these that they who would rightly praise the Tathagata in accordance with the truth, should speak.”

In this statement, Buddha gives many epithets to the highest state that he realized – hard to understand, not to be grasped by mere logic, comprehensible only to the wise and so on. All of these can also be applied to Upanishadic Brahman without a single exception. When Buddha says that this state is not to be grasped by mere logic, it clearly indicates that the highest state is transcendental, not empirical.

            The quote from Brahmajwala Sutta also shows that, like vyavahārikā and paramārthika of Vedic literature, there are two levels/plane of existence in Buddha’s teachings too. Since Buddha has realized a state which is difficult for others to grasp, he must be in a plane higher than the common people. Others can attain this highest level only by destroying avidyā. Thus two levels of consciousness are present in this conception, just like the vyavahārikā and paramārthika of Vedic literature.

Another principle which points to the two levels of existence is ‘nāma-rūpa’. The Thathagata has given discourses about nāma-rūpa (name and form) many times. In his discourses, he states that the objects that we see in the mundane world exist just as nāma-rūpa. Everything in the mundane world is in constant flux. They are in coming into and passing by state always and hence have no ultimate existence. They are devoid of essence and consequently the mundane world is expressible only in nāma-rūpa. This constant state of flux being the state of the mundane world means that it has to be rooted somewhere. This somewhere is then most certainly, the unchanging, transcendental plane. Here again, we encounter the concept of two planes of existence which mirror the Upanishadic worldview.

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