Burmistrov S. L. Substantial vs nominal and absolute vs relative: conceptual oppositions in Asanga’s “Compendium of Abhidharma”
Serghei L. B URMISTROV — Doctor of Philosophy, Leading Researcher, Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia, St. Petersburg)
ABSTRACT. Substantial is treated in Asanga’s “Compendium of Abhidharma” (Abhidharma-samuccaya) as that which does not depend on words and conceptions, nominal — as that which existentially and ontologically determined by words and conceptions. Relative is defined in the treatise as conduciveto the afflux of affects and absolute — as leading to the purification of them. But both oppositions are de- termined by affects that are present essentially in the individual stream of dharmas in potential state (bīja) and are nothing more than conceptual structures that does not touch the reality. These oppositions are correlated with each other and with the true reality that lies outside all possible oppositions. According to Asanga, all dharmas are relative, being the basis for the afflux of afflictions, and all of them are absolute, being the basis for purification of consciousness; all are nominal, being dependent on words that designate them, and all are substantial, for words are nothing more than signs and do not touch the essence of dharmas. Both these oppositions are determined by afflictions present in the potential state in the individual flow of dharmas, and they are but conceptual structures that cannot describe reality. The reality itself is store-con- sciousness (ālaya-vijñāna) that makes possible the existence of oppositions but is not touched by them. Treating these oppositions as elements of reality itself is a hindrance on the way to nirvāṇa and the analysis of them has a soteriological aim.
KEYWORDS: Asanga, early Yogācāra, the concept of substance, the concept of relativity in philosophy, Buddhist soteriology
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