What are past and future do actually exist, but there is difference of time-phase in their dharma-s
So it is, but the commentator does not simply reiterate this conclusion, for he goes on to explain that when it was said that ‘when the causes are nonexistent the saṃskāra-groups also are non-existent’, it is not an absolute non-existence. What is it then? Of the non-existent there is no coming into being; and of the existent there is no destruction. As actual things inasmuch as they are facts, they will continue to be; how should the saṃskāra-groups cease to exist? The words allow some choice in interpretation, and the sense here is, that the saṃskāra-groups do not absolutely cease to be: they do actually exist, but as things in the past.
That whose manifestation is yet to come is future; that whose manifestation came (and went) is past; when a thing comes into operation, it is present. This triad is something knowable by knowledge. If it were not actually existent (in all three time-phases), then the knowledge of it would have in fact no object, and would not arise. Therefore, what is past and future does actually exist. If there is no potential result of action, whether that action aims at experience or it aims at release, it ends up as non-existent. Then why the prescriptions by experts directed towards a particular result, with that as motive?
That whose manifestation is to come whose manifestation will come to be is future, like the jar-form in the lump state of the clay. The feeling ‘It has been begun’ when one takes up something which must be done is of future. That whose manifestation came (and went) is past, whose manifestation, in the form of perceptibility and acceptance as an object, came and passed away, as a smashed jar is said to be ‘past’. If a means has to be resorted to for its manifestation, a thing will not be manifest now; if its manifestation has not gone, it is not past. What is it then? When a thing comes into operation, it is present, as a jar comes into operation in the use made of it.
This triad characterized by time-phases of past, future, and present is something which has the form of present dharma-s in a present dharmin, knowable by knowledge by proof, definite all over the world, and not wavering. How is this known? Because definite knowledge arises of it as an object. If it were not actually existing (in all three time-phases) then the knowledge of it would have in fact no object, and would not arise, just as (a purely verbal construct like) the horn of a hare never causes any definite knowledge to arise; and no objectivity is ever found that is not caused by the rise of knowledge of a definite fact. This knowledge holds in the field of general experience, as in the phrases, ‘the jar will come to be’ and ‘the jar did exist’. So it is one thing which is joined with the three times, because it is the object of established knowledge.
Again, the knowledge of something like a jar, as past or future, is not knowledge of what is not a thing. With the words chosen, the knowledge is produced as a definite form, and it is as much knowledge of an object as the jar present. There is no vagueness in the meaning, and it can be inferred from indications, like the knowledge from the inference of fire from smoke.
Then again, a thing past or future becomes the object of an immediate idea at the sight of some indication, as something correctly inferred. So what is past or future does exist.
Furthermore, If it is held that there is no potential result of action, whether that action aims at experience of heaven as with sacrifices, or it aims at release, is concerned with release as in the case of samādhi, it ends up as non-existent like a hare’s horn. For a hare’s horn will never come to be – it is non-existent. Not so here. What is the position then? By sacrifices, life in heaven will come about, and by samādhi and the other methods, release (mokṣa). The expert and incontestable view is, that life in heaven, and release, do exist.
Therefore, if it were non-existent, Then why would the experts, not self-appointed, authorize or teach the prescriptions by experts in the form ‘Do this and then that will happen’ directed towards a particular result, with that result as motive. If it were non-existent, there would be no distinction between expert and non-expert as regards knowing what to do, and again the experts would have deluded views while the inexpert would be right.
Furthermore, experts themselves would not seek to get results if it were accepted that these were non-existent. And since non-existence has no distinctions in it, there could be no determination of causes; or again, everything would arise from everything. Nor could a cause even be employed; or if it were, the oilman could take the oil from sand – why should he need many sesamum seeds and so much effort? And the absolutely non-existent would produce what had never existed before, which is something never seen.
An efficient cause can bring to actuality a result already existent, but not produce what had not previously existed. A recognizable cause gives a particular aid towards what is effected; it produces something not indeed non-existent before.
The dharmin consists of a number of dharma-s. Of it the dharma-s are in a particular condition according to the difference of time-phase. What is past or future is not like the present in manifestation as a substance. What is it then? The future has existence in its own nature as what is going to manifest; the past exists in its own nature as what has been experienced as manifest.
So action, whether directed towards experience or towards release, is an efficient cause which can bring to actuality a result only which is already existent, but not produce what had not previously existed. For a recognizable cause by its very nature, gives a particular aid towards what is effected, as the cook when churning, etc. the thickened milk in a cooking-pot makes manifest the dadhi-curds in the form of the white substance; it produces something, the dadhi-curds not indeed non-existent before. So with all such action directed towards experience.
Then, The dharmin consists of a number of dharma-s, it has by nature a number of dharma-s. As a lump of gold has by nature the dharma-s of brooch or ring or other ornaments, whether latent or patent. Of it the dharmin the dharma-s are in a particular condition according to the difference of time-phase, corresponding to the difference of past time-phase and the others.
What is past or future is not like the present thing in manifestation endowed with manifestation, as for instance the ornament as a substance in the form of an effect, by its having come into operation. What is it then? The future has existence in its own nature as what is going to manifest, what is going to be; the past exists in its own nature as what has been experienced as manifest by a perceiver in the past.
It is only of the present time-phase that there is actual manifestation, but not of either the past or future phases. On the occasions of one time-phase, the other two never appear in the dharmin along with it.
It is only of the present time-phase that there is actual manifestation, but not any manifestation of either the past or future ones. On the occasions at the time of one time-phase, the other two never appear in the dharmin along with it, because of the contradiction between them. These words rule out any mixing up of the times.
He who holds that past/future phases do not exist, will not find any difference of time-phase of dharma-s. Why not? Because for him there is no jar that will come to be, or that was in the past, since a jar is not potsherds, nor is it a clay lump. The dharma-qualities of the three time-phases would be fused with just one time-phase, that of the present as it occurs. Since (for them) a jar can only be the present one, they may indeed speak of it as past or future, but since there is nothing like a jar in the clay lump or in the potsherds – and in the clay itself there is no jar – so by ‘the future jar’ or ‘the past jar’ they would have to be referring to the clay lump, or the potsherds. It would be the same as saying ‘horse’ to mean a cow, or ‘cow’ to mean a horse.
(Opponent) Let us say that when we say past and future, we are referring to non-existence-before-coming-into-being, and non-existence-after-perishing.
(Answer) This is even worse, and still less acceptable. It is only as jar that there is the determination by the words ‘the jar is past’ or ‘the jar is yet to come’. And on your theory, the potters would not say: ‘The jars are past’ or ‘They will come to be.’
(Opponent) But no jar is perceived, in these cases.
(Answer) Neither are elephants or tigers perceived there, yet they are still said to be existent.
(Opponent) It is only because there has been a previous perception that they are said to be so.
(Answer) Not so. A jar for instance has also its various uses.
(Opponent) By the same reasoning as for the jar, those uses are non-existent.
(Answer) No, because there is nothing specific about non-existence. No relation of inherence, or acquired attribution, can be rightly supposed between existence and non-existence. What would show the jar to be nonexistent would not apply to its various uses; if it did, there would have to be some reality of your ‘non-existent’ at the far end of the relation.
(Opponent) Then let them be real.
(Answer) Then it has been accepted that the words ‘future’ and ‘past’ do represent facts.
(Opponent) Let the pieces of the potsherd-state, as generally accepted, be taken as the present jar in the future, because there is a relation between them: It is said, for instance, that life-currents (prāṇa) are the food which has been eaten.
(Answer) But here too, the jar would not exist in the clay lump, or in the potsherd fragments, any more than in the potter and his wheel and staff and cord. Since there is no distinction between the cases, there is no reason why the past jar should be identified in the fragments but not in the potter and his implements.
Nor could there be any relation between presently existing causes which produce things like jars, and the non-existent jars which are to be produced. And if the relation does not exist, it cannot function as an instrument to produce them.
(Opponent) There is no reason why it should not be the recognized intrinsic relation called samavaya, between what is produced and what effects the production.
(Answer) No, because that would require a relation, extrinsic or intrinsic, between contemporary things and things future to them. No relation between existent and non-existent is ever found, whether extrinsic or intrinsic.
Therefore, a relation is recognized between what is produced and the producer, so they must be existent; the effect exists before it actually occurs because it has a relation with other things, as in the familiar case of a jar. For it will become visible. And also it is visible, like a jar standing in an inner apartment: something to make it (visible to all) is needed, like a person to bring it out; and also some operation by that person.
Then again, general usage does not accept or intend, by the words ‘past’ and ‘future’, what is non-existent like a lotus in the sky. So what is past, and what is future, must actually exist.
So what exists in the three time-phases has not come out of non-existence. It is a manifestation of what already exists.
So what exists in the three time-phases has not come out of non-existence. What then? It is a manifestation of what already exists. Thus what is called the cessation of the saṃskāra-groups is in the nature of non-manifestation. They exist in their nature as guṇa-s, but they can have no effect, and there is no difficulty concerning the supposed impossibility of Transcendental Aloneness.
Now he wishes to explain further in what forms the dharma-s of past, future and present exist.