Wan Doo Kim
The Theravādin Doctrine of Momentariness
A Survey of its Origins and Development (Oxford Thesis)
The idea of the impermanence and transience of life is fundamental to Buddhist teachings. The first of the ‘three characteristics’ (tilakkhana), i.e. ‘impermanence’ (aniccatā), is a doctrine constantly and emphatically insisted upon in the canonical texts. The radical and extended interpretation of this doctrine gave rise to the idea that the world is not made of enduring substances with changing qualities. Rather, reality is made only of events that flash into and out of existence, not only through the causal power of their chief cause but also through the influence of an entire causal complex. This is referred to as kṣaṇikavāda, ‘the doctrine of momentariness’. There is disagreement among Buddhist thinkers about the exact meaning of the doctrine of momentariness. Some hold that no conditioned phenomenon can endure for more than a single moment, after which it stops existing. Others, though, argue that momentariness is not incompatible with duration; things are produced, endure and disappear. In particular, the Theravādins attempt to model the thought process in terms of the relative duration of material and mental phenomena. Theravādin exegetes hold that a moment of matter lasts for as long as sixteen or seventeen thought moments.
The central part of the present book examines the origin and development of the Theravāda version of the doctrine of momentariness. Unlike other scholars who consider this doctrine an interpolation into
Theravāda textual sources, possibly by Buddhaghosa (5th c. CE), the present study hypothesizes and verifies on the basis of textual evidence that the Theravāda doctrine of momentariness was most probably already present in the early Sinhalese commentaries. In attempting to trace the textual history of this doctrine, the parallel textual sources of the early Southern and Northern traditions (1st c. BCE –2nd c. CE) are examined, before their formalisation in the 5th c. CE.
Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis | Volume 24
(not yet published)