(Last Updated on : 17/02/2011)
Mahayana Buddhism has admitted a metaphysical substratum. Mahayana metaphysics is monistic in character. All objects in the world are of one reality. The nature of this reality is beyond language and description. Things in their fundamental nature cannot be named or explained. They cannot be adequately expressed in any form of language. They are beyond the range of perception, and have no distinctive features. They possess absolute sameness, and are subject neither to transformation nor to destruction. The absolute is free from relativity, individuality and unconditioned though it is the self-existent and the source of all.
According to Mahayana Buddhism
the universe is similar to a Maya
, mirage, and flash of lightning or froth. All things of the world have the three aspects: (i) quintessence, (ii) attributes, and (iii) activities. The attribute and activity are subject to law of birth and death, while the quintessence is indestructible. Bhutatathata is the former, the absolute which persists throughout all space and time as the basis of all. Mahayana holds a middle position regarding the nature of the world. It is neither real nor unreal. It affirms that it actually exists, but denies its absolute reality. The world is a phenomenon, impermanent, subject to flux and change. Since reality pervades all, everything individual is the whole potentially, or, in religious language, every individual is a potential Buddha. The individual souls are aspects of the absolute. The passing ego is an embodiment of the permanent reality and everything on earth has a quintessence of uncreated and eternal reality.
The rise of the world is accounted for as usual by metaphysics of metaphors. Ignorance or Avidya
is said to be the cause of the world. All things on account of confused subjectivity appear under the forms of individuation. If an individual is able to overcome this subjectivity, the signs of individuation would disappear, and there would be no trace of a world of objects. When the mind of all creatures which in its own nature is pure and clean, is stirred up by the wind of ignorance, the waves of mentality make their appearance. These three, mind, ignorance and mentality, have no absolute existence. Neither subjectivity nor the external world which is negated is real. As soon as subjectivity is rendered empty and unreal, one perceives the pure soul manifesting itself as eternal, permanent, immutable, completely comprising all things that are pure. The explanation of the world is that there is no reality in the world at all but Avidya produces it.
Ignorance breaks the silence of the absolute, and starts the wheel of samsara, transforming the one into the many. An individual projects the element of Avidya into pure being hypothetically, illusorily and apparently. The world of experience is in fact a manifestation of pure being conditioned by Avidya. Avidya may be illusory but it must exist in the state of tathata or pure being. Awakening of consciousness marks the first step in the rise of the world from the self-identity of tathata. Then the distinctions of subject and object arise. The original being was the absolute, where the subject and the object merged into one.
Avidya starts the cosmic process. Intellectually it can be said that the element of negativity is in the very heart of the absolute. The self-creative force is in the absolute. The real and the phenomenal are not ultimately different. They are two moments of the same thing, one reality with two aspects. The universe would be utterly unmeaning, absolutely unreal, if it were not in some way the expression of the real. The realm of birth and death is the manifestation of the immortal. It is the appearance in time and space, the actualisation of the absolute. The ultimate reality is sarvasattva, the soul of all things, real and imaginary. This pure being becomes birth and death (samsara), in which are revealed the quintessence, the attributes and the activity of the Mahayana or the great reality, (i) The first is the greatness of quintessence. The quintessence of the Mahayana Buddhism is that pure being exists in all things, remains unchanged in the pure as well as in the denied, is always one and the same (samata), neither increases nor decreases, and is void of distinction. (2) The second is the greatness of attributes. Here the reference is of Tathagata`s womb, which contains immeasurable and innumerable merits (Punya)
as its characteristics. (3) The third is the greatness of activity, for it produces all kinds of good works in the world phenomenal and super-phenomenal.