The definition is relatively clear. The clarification is not. The avijnapti is morally neutral, because it is produced by a non-conscious mind - ok. but what does the example about a bad mind vs. avijnapti provoked by a good mind mean?11. There is a serial continuity also in a person whose mind is distracted, or who is without mind, pure or impure, in dependence on the primary elements: this is called the avijnapti.
(Footnote) …this can be translated as ‘non-information’ or ‘non-informative’. This is an action which does not cause anything to be known to another, and in this it resembles mental action; but it is matter (rupa), in that it resembles bodily and vocal action. We shall see that the Sautrantikas and Vasubandhu do not admit the existence of a specific dharma called the avijnapti.
(Commentary) “One whose mind is distracted” is one who has a mind different from the mind that provoked the avjnapti – for example, a bad mind when the avijnapti has been provoked by a good mind.
If I recall correctly, vijnapti is actions of the body and the speech. Avijnapati is not perceived by others. (Doesn't that put it in a different category from all the other rupas?)(Commentary) ”One without mind” is one who has entered into one of the aborptions of non-consciousness called asamjnisamapatti and nirodhasamapatti”
“Also in a person…”: the word “also” indicates that avijnapti also exists in a person with a non-distracted mind, and in a person whose mind is not in the two absoptions.
I’m still unclear as to why this definition is needed in the overall scheme. But since Vasubandhu doesn’t think it functions like this, let’s continue. This was an interesting section because it is, shall we say, a functional definition of the elements.(Commentary) This serial continuity, while being by its nature matter and action – like vijnapti, bodily and vocal action – nevertheless does nothing by way of informing another as vijnapti does.
“Is called”, in order to show that the author here expresses the opinion of the Vaibhasikas, and not his own.
There is a long footnote explaining that the mahabhutas (the elements) are considered dhatu because they are the origin of all rupadharmas.12a-b. The primary elements are the elementary substance “earth, and the elementary substances “water”, “fire” and wind”.
The functions of the elements are support (earth), cohesion (water), ripening (fire) and expansion (wind). So the defining feature cited here, the proof of their existence, is their action.12c. They are proven to exist by the actions of support, etc.
Again the sequence here corresponds to the sequence of the elements above.12d. They are solidity, humidity, heat and motion.
So the basis of designation is the perceptible attributes, consistent with the preceding discussion. But this then becomes a problem for wind, which has no color or shape.13a. In common usage, what is designated by the word “earth” is color and shape.
13b. The same for water and fire.
(Commentary) That is, when one sees earth, one sees its color and its shape.
It would seem fairly obvious that one cannot see the wind, except in its actions on other objects. So this way of defining the elements in terms of perceptible qualities doesn’t appear to work. Perhaps this isn’t a major gap in the theory as he doesn’t appear to go into it any further.13c. Wind is either the wind element,
13d. Or else color and shape.
(Footnote) Two opinions…as to whether the wind is visible or not.
I’m still a little unclear about the need for avijnapti-rupa in the theory. Is it essentially the function of unconscious thought? What need does it fill in the overall theory? It clearly doesn’t have the same characteristics or mechanism of action as the other rupas.
I’ll pause at this point. The discussion of the elements made sense, but the discussion of avijnapti-rupa didn’t, really.