Reality Itself is Annihilation and Change

by Aik Theng Chong, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 23, 2011

Singapore -- There are two kind of annihilation, an empirical one called destruction and a transcendental one called evanescence or impermanence. The first is the annihilation said of a jar, which when drop, broke into pieces. The second refer to imperceptible gradual, constant deterioration over time of a jar, which is the very essence of reality of all things. 

As Santiraksita has pointed out, reality itself is called annihilation as what is ultimately real has only the duration of a moment of existence. Its essence is impermanent, it is dynamic and indivisible. It cannot be divided such that non-existence should follow upon existence as its impermanent arises simultaneously with its production.

Transcendental ultimate reality is a never beginning and never stopping, infinitely graduated, constant change. There is nothing permanent, no static element in this process. An everlasting substantial Soul or matter is pure imagination. There is in every next moment not the slightest bit left of what has been existent in the former moment.

Every momentary thing is annihilated as soon as it appears, because it does not survive in the next moment as if it does, it would mean eternity because it would survive in the third and all the following moments. Static means eternal. If matter exist it necessarily is eternal, if it does not exist, being is necessarily instantaneous. The first view is advocated in the theist religion, the second in Buddhism.

Transcendental annihilation is not produced by occurring causes. Since existence itself is constant annihilation, it will go on existing, being annihilated and changing without needing in every case any cause of annihilation. The elements of existence are automatically evanescent and impermanence, they do not need any additional circumstance in order to produce that change which is going on always and by itself. Reality is characterized as efficiency it can also be characterized as evanescence or annihilation.

The theory of momentariness can also be look at from the fact that everything necessarily must have an end. There is nothing at all that does have an end to itself. This can be seen in things like fire, light, sound and even in our thoughts, which are ever changing at every moment.

This knowledge can also be deducted without any sensory experience. The annihilation of a thing need not have to depend on any special causes for it to end. Example, the destruction of a jar does not necessarily depend on the stroke of a hammer to destroy it. In this case, it is just a special cause, it is not a necessity. If all thing need to depend on special cause for their end, then there will be empirical objects which would never have an end, and we will be landed with empirical objects that will exist for eternity, which is impossible.

What is the meaning of change? It means either that one thing is replaced by another thing, or that the thing remains the same, but its condition or quality, has changed, has become another quality.

Buddhist does not object to the first meaning, since there is a change at every moment, the thing will be at every moment replaced by another thing. The realist believes in the existence of real substances along with real moving qualities situated upon it.

When for example, gold is melted down from solid to liquid, to the realist the matter is still ‘the same’, but its condition is other.

The cause producing the destruction, fire cannot annihilate the matter, but they can destroy its condition and produce a change. 

The thing disappears no absolutely, but conditionally, in functional dependence upon the causes which produce the change. To the Buddhist this is impossible. The thing must either remain or go it cannot do both at once, changing and remaining. If it has changed, it is not the same. Melted gold and solid gold are two ‘other’ objects.

To the Buddhist, the separate existence of a permanent, eternal, durable thing is denied, only the passing qualities alone, an absolute qualities not belonging to any eternal substance is maintained to be real.