By Ven. Master Chin Kung
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Extra resources for Buddhism as an Education
But in any type of reduction to components, at some point there is an end, with some category that affords no further analysis. Pluralist systems will end up with many different irreducibles – many different things that form the fundamental or ultimate elements of their metaphysics, as we saw with Nyaya-Vaisesika. Now, it should be noted that this sense of ‘ultimate’ is fairly technical. For example, in a system that had a creator god and a world created by God, people might normally think of God alone as ultimate.
Qualities reside (are located) in substances, and never found independently of them. Twenty-four qualities are eventually listed. Some are qualities of the self alone. There are material qualities, like the five external senses; and immaterial ones, like the psychological states of pleasure and pain, desire, effort and aversion. The cognitive ability of judgement that marks the mind (which we will remember is an immaterial substance) is itself an immaterial quality. Other qualities are relational between two different substances, like proximity, distance and contact.
In any case, things have an essence that makes them what they are. So far, so substantialist. But, the Jains go on to say, substances also have the three characteristics of origin, (intermediate) persistence, and decay. Naturally, the qualities that give attributes to substances are subject to the same triple-charactered flux as substances themselves. The emphasis on flux is very Buddhistic, in contrast to the assertion of substance. The Jain view is that, while there is an intrinsic nature to things (as Nyaya realists say), intrinsic nature is constantly changing and becoming something else, leaving nothing immutable (and in this, the Buddhists are right when they talk of everything being momentary and provisional).