Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 29-30

Transglomeration: [29] If the Self is innate and static (as the Naiyāyika assert) it is therefore not sentient and thereby quite clearly and evidently cannot perform actions just as space cannot perform action – how could it?   And even when in proximity with – even if surrounded by – causes and conditions, how could that whose nature is unchanging do anything, how could it connect with causes and conditions to act?   [30] And even if it could connect with causes and conditions to bring about an act, at the time of the (connecting) action, in what way could the Self have participated in, or responded to, the act when, both at the time and afterwards, it remains as it was before?   In what sense could it be said that anything happened?   And even if it were conceived that the Self had had the action (that this condition had made the Self act), then which of the two, the condition or the Self, caused the other to connect, how could the two have become related (when the Self is held to be innate and static)?

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 27-28 – refutation that there is a real universe in which bad stuff happens
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 29-30 – refuting that there is a Self (in that universe) towards which to get angry


Reflection: a stand-alone self would not act (like sky) it would be un-transitive, it would not be able to pervade on other things, nor could other things affect it; a stand-alone self and Other is un-relationship-able, is un-causal, is impossible; if the action is in the stand-alone self, then is there causality within the permanent, self-existing self, and, if so, does the self exist prior to the action (in which case it would change once the action was activated, and is therefore not permanent) or does the action exist prior to the self (in which case where is the self when ‘acting’, like a flower in space), if the action and self exist simultaneously then the action is always acting (but where is there an ever-acting activity as an example); … therefore there is no basis anywhere on which to legitimately become angry

Reflection: so the whole of these verses is exploring how to connect ‘act’ with (a permanent, non-changing) ‘Self’: 29ab: if ‘Self’ is permanent it cannot ‘act’; 29cd: if you put ‘act’ and ‘Self’ together, the Self cannot have (connection with) it (because it is unchanging); 30ab: what sense would there be if an ‘act’ acted on a ‘Self’ but the Self didn’t change, it remained as it was before; 30cd: how could the ‘Selfhave an ‘act’ (being unchanging), how could an ‘act’ have a ‘Self’ to enact it; this analysis is particularising the mutual incompatibility of ‘act’ and ‘Self’ – to act is to move from a state of not-doing to doing, an immutable Self would not move from one state to another and still be immutable; soaking in to this mutual incompatibility would significantly dissipate the, what could become quite a visceral, confabulation of ‘act’ and ‘Self’ which fuels the villains of our lives – an inherently existent enemy is just simply not there to get angry with, it is just not there, it couldn’t have been before, no matter how much I cry ‘how dare you’, and it cannot be so in the future, no matter how clever and scheming my paranoia would have it be; it just cannot be; it is beyond ‘not logical’ it is beyond possible, it is beyond even theoretically possible; it just isn’t

Reflection: there is no innately bad or wrong person/being/self/enemy that would be the justifiable object of my anger or resentment; build it up as much as I want, spend my life loathing something which is My Adversary, it doesn’t make something which just does not exist, exist any the more – there is no Bogeyman, no Focus-of-my-Striving-Anger, no Nemesis who will always arise to confound my being, no Ready-Made and Implacable Demon against whom I cannot gain ground: it just isn’t there, it just isn’t possible, there is only my wild and flailing anger …

Reflection: … and can I even find a Bogeyman in my experience, in my life; even Thatcher thought she was made of iron and acted so in her own cage, even Blair was spun by his own spin into his sticky web, even Trump just practises his own stupid unaware that he has a conical hat on his head, even Hitler just had low self-esteem, even my Dad was weak-willed and influence-able; I’m going to have to go to fiction to find an innately existing Bogeyman and when I find it, it’ll be unconvincing, without motive, just ‘doing’ evil for … no reason …

Reflection: even to try to visualise it – prakṛti and Self – to try over these arguments, brings up some difficulties; try to imagine a self-existent primal ‘stuff’ – I just come up with a big block of stuff, featureless, just there, floating in space, unconnected with anything else; and already I have problems: I can’t even ask ‘where’ it comes from, ‘when’ it got here, ‘what’ was there before it, ‘what’ it is made of, ‘why’ it is there, ‘what’ it is doing there, all these questions are inadmissible to a self-existent, unchanging … something (see, it’s not even a phenomenon, in order to ‘be’ ‘some’ ‘thing’ it would have to ‘stand out’ from ‘nothingness’ or not-being-ness, and in order to do that it would have to have been caused to do so, and if it were caused to do so, then it would not be self-existent and unchanging); therefore I cannot even conceive it to exist because doing so would be to impute observable features or qualities onto it which it cannot by nature have; therefore even to postulate that it exists confounds its own nature – so it either doesn’t exist because the very conception of its existence would deny its own nature, or it doesn’t exist because existence is a mode of being in which it can have no part or contact; either way, it doesn’t exist … so certainly you cannot hold it responsible to you for the bad things happening in your life – no wonder there is just the receding echo of your own shouting when you demand a self-existent God to account for the evil in life; if I try to imagine a Self that is impermanent and eternal, I start off with some vague being of light which floats in space, but then I think it has eyes and a head which makes it too adventitious (it sees … it thinks?) so then … I end up with a pillar of stone, featureless, no personality, no action, much like prakṛti, but not so big … and neither ‘in’ prakṛti nor in any relation to it – and this is the object of my ultimate anger, this is my life-nemesis, the one I would raze a universe to defeat … I wanted a bogeyman; there is nothing ultimate to be angry with …