Thought with or without object

The Sarvastiva state that every instance of consciousness must necessarily have an object so that to have the snake, one must have the rope, even thought it is incorrectly cognized.

The Suatrantika state that there is no such requirement, suggesting that one could have the snake with no rope

There is a Western thought-experiment that may be useful here for consideration:

"Suppose… a person… perfectly well acquainted with colours of all kinds, excepting one particular shade of blue… which it has never been his fortune to meet with. Let all the different shades of that colour, except that single one, be plac’d before him, descending gradually from the deepest to the lightest… he will perceive a blank, where that shade is wanting, and will be sensible, that there is a greater distance in that place betwixt the contiguous colours, than in any other… I ask whether ’tis possible for him… to… raise up to himself the idea of that particular shade, tho’ it had never been convey’d to him by his senses?" (David Hume, Treatise

Would we consider Hume a Sautrantika as he believes that one indeed could imagine a shade of blue never before seen?

If color is a dharma (for the Sarvastivada) and that particular color had not been perceived, would this imagination be a cognition without an alambana?

Could the Sarvastivadin simply respond that another perceived color could actually serve as the alambana?

How would we (or they) then regard an hallucination with no external object impinging one of the five external sense doors?
Would the Sarvastivadin state that the hallucination is based on a mental object wrongly cognized?

In a western example, am I able to see an imaginary pink elephant only because I have previously perceived both elephants and the color pink (Sarvastivadin perspective)?

Other thoughts or examples?

Justin Williams's picture


Imagining something one has never experienced does not mean there is no object. If I say what is 2 plus 2, then that question is the object, from which you derive 4. Also, there are 6 senses in Buddhism, the 6th being mind. The Buddha said at the beginning of the dhammapada that all dhammas are mind made. The meaning of 'dhamma' there is 'mental phenomena'. It is these mental phenomena which are the object of the 6th sense, mind. Thus even imaginary objects are still sense objects.