One of the six heretical teachers contemporaneous with the Buddha. He held ¹ that there is no cause, either ultimate or remote, for the depravity of beings or for their rectitude. The attainment of any given condition or character does not depend either on one’s own acts, nor on the acts of another, nor on human effort. There is no such thing as power or energy, human strength or human vigour. All beings (sattā), all lives (pānā), all existent things (bhūtā), all living substances (jīvā),² are bent this way and that by their fate, by the necessary conditions of the class to which they belong, by their individual nature; it is according to their position in one or other of the six classes (abhijāti) that they experience ease or pain. There are fourteen hundred thousands of principle genera or species (pamukhayoniyo), again six thousand others and again six hundred. There are five hundred kinds of kamma — there are sixty-
There are eighty-
Makkhali’s views as given in the Buddhist books are difficult to understand, the Commentators themselves finding it a hopeless task. He seems to have believed in infinite gradations of existence; in his view, each individual thing has eternal existence, if not individually, at least in type. He evidently had definite conceptions of numerous grades of beings, celestial, infernal and mundane, as also of the infinity of time and the recurrent cycles of existence. He seems to have conceived the world as a system in which everything has a place and a function assigned to it, a system in which chance has no place and which admits of no other cause whatever, of the depravity or purity of beings, but that which is implied in the word Fate or Destiny (niyati). All types of things and all species of beings, however, are individually capable of transformation that is of elevation or degradation in type. His theory of purification through transmigration (saṃsārasuddhi) probably meant perfection through transformation (parinatā) — transformation which implies not only the process of constant change, but also a fixed orderly mode of progression and retrogression. All things must, in course of time, attain perfection (for a discussion on Makkhali and his doctrines see Barua: Pre-
According to the books, the Buddha considered Makkhali as the most dangerous of the heretical teachers: “I know not of any other single person fraught with such loss to many folk, such discomfort, such sorrow to gods and men, as Makkhali, the infatuate (A.i.33). The Buddha also considered his view the meanest — just as the hair-
Very little is known of the name and the life of Makkhali. The Buddhist records call him Makkhali Gosāla. Buddhaghosa explains (DA.i.143 f; MA.i.422) that he was once employed as a servant; one day, while carrying an oil-
The philosopher’s true name (Barua, op.cit., 298) seems to have been Maskarin, the Jaina Prakrit form of which is Maṅkhali and the Pāḷi form Makkhali. “Maskarin” is explained by Pāṇinī (VI.i.154) as “one who carries a bamboo staff” (maskara). A Maskarin is also known as Ekadandin. According to Patañjali (Mahābhāsya iii.96), the name indicates a School of Wanderers who were called Maskarins, not so much because they carried a bamboo staff as because they denied the freedom of the will. The Maskarins were thus fatalists or determinists.
¹ D.i.53 f. Makkhali, his views, and his followers are also referred to at M.i.231, 238, 483, 516 f; S.i.66, 68; iii.211; iv.398; A.i.33 f., 286; iii.276, 384; also J.i.493, 509; S.iii.69 ascribes the first portion of the account of Makkhali’s views (as given in D.i.53) — that there is no cause, no reason for depravity or purity — to Pūraṇa Kassapa. A.i.286 apparently confounds Makkhali with Ajita Kesakambala, and A.iii.383 f. represents Pūraṇa Kassapa as though he were a disciple of Makkhali.
² Buddhaghosa (DA.i.160 ﬀ.) gives details of these four classes showing how they are meant to include all that has life on this earth, from men down to plants. However, the explanation is very confused and makes the terms by no means mutually exclusive.
³ Buddhaghosa gives them as infancy, playtime, trial time, erect time, learning time, ascetic time, prophet time, and prostrate time, with (very necessary) comments on each.