more on aatma-/asatkhyaati

Birgit Kellner kellner at IPC.HIROSHIMA-U.AC.JP
Sat Feb 21 01:05:44 EST 1998

John Dunne wrote:

> Well, since I don't really have time to be writing this message, I've been waiting for >someone else to state what is perhaps already obvious: the terms *aatmakhyaati* and >*asatkhyaati* are not "Buddhist" terms, in the sense that they were neither coined nor >favored by Buddhist authors. Dharmakiirti, for example, does not use them at all, and >to my knowledge, they are not employed by the two earliest commentators on >Dharmakiirti, namely, Devendrabuddhi and Zaakyabuddhi.

This coincides with what can be gathered from Schmithausen's
Vibhramaviveka-study (which is really a *must*! It covers a much wider
range of epistemological issues than the title suggests). Schmithausen
is very cautious in his phrasing of chronology, but suggests a date of
ca. 700 C.E. for Man.d.ana, and implies, in several places, that
Man.d.ana was active after Dharmakiirti. Take this together with
Schmithausen's suggestion that Man.d.ana might have "coined" ("praegte")
the *-khyaati*-terminology. Man.d.ana uses the terms *aatmakhyaati*
(Yogaacaara), *asatkhyaati* (where we have two versions, one of
Madhyamaka, one of old Vedaanta, whose later theory is often termed
*anirvacaniiyakhyaati*), *akhyaati* (Prabhaakara), and *anyathaa
khyaatih.* (also *vipariitaa khyaatih.*) (Kumaarila, Man.d.ana himself,
the Naiyaayikas). (Warning: simplified presentation on my part). So, the
absence of *khyaati*-terms in Dharmakiirti's texts should,
chronologically speaking, not come as a surprise (IF Schmithausen is

An additional *khyaati*-term refers to the "odd" (Schmithausen's
terminology, "merkwuerdig", p.268) theory of *alaukikakhyaati* of some
Miimaam.sakas, which probably developed around the middle of 8th c. I
think the earliest post-Man.d.ana-"khyaati-ist" Schmithausen mentions is
Umbeka; Jayanta also uses the terminology.

>The question of perceptual illusion is particularly important in "pramaa.navaada" >discourse; hence, the fact that Dharmakiirti and his early commentators shun these >terms may suggest either that they were unaware of them, or that they perceived the >terms as a strategem to draw them into a debate that they could not win.

This passage, taken together with the following John wrote further below

> I assume that Schmithausen is referring to Ma.n.danamizra's version of Yogaacaara
> and Sautraantika. Since Dharmakiirti, at least, does not use these terms, it seems
> highly problematic to apply them to his philosophy.

- prompts me, in turn, to point out the obvious: occurrence or
non-occurrence of certain terms is not a sufficient condition for the
acceptance or rejection of concepts which can be associated with these
terms. Whether Dharmakiirti and his commentators *use* any of the
"khyaati"-expressions is one issue; whether it is justifiable or useful
to apply these terms when describing their theories is another. Sure
enough, widespread usage of *khyaati*-terms might indicate that a
particular model of analyzing philosophical theories had gained wide
acceptance (investigating the reasons for that is another avenue), but
that doesn't tell you anything about whether these labels do justice to
the philosophical theories they are attached to. And while no term is
coined without there being an at least somehow demarcated concept it
could be coined for, the absence of a technical term in the literature
is not enough to conclude that no such concept exists. (To put it in
other words, reasoning along these lines would be a faulty
*kaaryaanupalabdhihetu*). Deciding whether, and how exactly,
Dharmakiirti could be called an *aatmakhyaativaadin*, requires taking a
closer look at how these labels are used by different authors, how the
theories of error labeled (or not labeled) in these ways are connected
to larger issues, how the use of certain arguments is connected with
basic doctrinal motivations ... <fade out> but applying terms which do
not occur in certain texts to describe concepts advocated therein is not
per se problematic.

I am curious about what makes you think that Devendrabuddhi et al. may
have perceived the *khyaati*-terms as "a strategem to draw them into a
debate that they could not win". Are you thinking of the argument that
an acceptance of a Niraakaaraj~naanavaada-type theory entails the
acceptance of the (unwanted) doctrine of *asatkhyaati*?

As far as the issue Madhyamaka and *asatkhyaati* is concerned -
Schmithausen voices the opinion that Man.d.ana's representation of
Madhyamaka arguments have an ontologizing tendency which runs against at
least Naagaarjuna's intentions. However, Schmithausen does not invoke
the two-truth-framework in this context - what he considers problematic
is the high emphasis placed on an "absolute non-existence" in the
Maadhyamika position as it is presented by Man.d.ana.

> For me, the best way to understand Buddhist theories of error is focus on the simple
> and ubiquitous formulation: * tadj~naana*.
> But perhaps that is too easy an answer.

Well, the other day, I discovered that the best way to understand
Dharmakiirti's theory of negation was to focus on the simple fact that
Dharmakiirti was a featherless biped. No feathered triped could have
advanced such views.
Seriously, "atasmi.s tad iti pratyayah." (or "j~naanam.") is
over-abundant in Nyaaya-Vai'ses.ika literature (Nyaayabhaas.ya,
Nyaayavaarttika, Padaarthadharmasa.ngraha, Candraananda's
Vai'ses.ikasuutravr.tti, etc.). There's nothing specifically Buddhist
about it; it's not too easy an answer, it's simply a non-starter.

John makes two further remarks which arouse my curiosity (I don't know
whether he really wants to get into these discussions, though)::

> ... I am still unconvinced that
> Dharmakiirti responds to the *Zlokavaartika* in his *Svav.rtti*.

Do you intend that as a general statement, or with specific focus on
theories of error? In the former case, I'm curious on what prompts your

>Needless to say, *aalayavij~naana* and *vaasanaa* play an important
>role in Dharmakiirti's theory.

This makes me really curious. I must confess that I have not yet
considered the issue of Dharmakiirti and the *aalayavij~naana*, but I
was just reminded that a couple of months ago, I was taught that
Dharmakiirti does not accept an *aalayavij~naana* ...

BTW, another article which covers theories of error is Eli Franco's
"Studies in the Tattvopaplavasimha, II. The Theory of Error", Journal of
Indian Philosophy 12/1984, 105-137. Franco modifies certain claims made
by Schmithausen in connection with Nyaaya-theories and Kumaarila.

Birgit Kellner
Department for Indian Philosophy
Hiroshima University

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list