Questions on Indian idealism

Satya Upadhya satya_upadhya at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 20 20:54:11 UTC 2000

Stephen Hodge wrote:

Anyway, to say that Yogaacarins deny the reality of the
>world but admit the reality of ideas is to totally misread their
>position.  They deny the existence per se of the objective pole of
>perception but, importantly, equally deny the existence per se of
>ideas/mind. I suggest you read the latter part of Vasubandhu's
>Tri.m`sika carefully and you'll see what I mean.

--> Consider the following:

--> Kumarila Bhatta (circa 7th century), the outstanding opponent of Indian
idealism, gives the views of both  Yogacara (vijnana-vada), and
Madhyamika (sunya-vada). In his "Sloka Vartika" (Niralamabana-vada 14-6)),
Kumarila writes (as his "purva paksa"):

"The Yogacaras hold that Ideas are without corresponding realities(in the
external world); and those who hold the Madhyamika doctrine deny the reality
of the ideas also. In both, however, the denial of the external object is
common ("tatra bahyarthasunyatvam tulyam tavad dvyorapi"). "

Also,in refuting both the Yogacara and Madhyamika position, Kumarila is
mainly is mainly interested in proving the reality of the external material

--> i'll come back to this point later.

> >  For example, there is the text
> > "Alambana-pariksa" [meaning 'the critical examination of the
> > objects alleged to correspond to ideas'] by the great Dignaga in
>which he
> > wants to prove that the admission of such objects is philosophically
> > untenable.
>I agree with Birgit Kellner's response to this.  Part of the problem
>revolves around how one defines and understands "aalambana".

--> I have not read Dignaga's text, and my understanding of this is based on
D.P. Chattopadhyaya's "What is living and what is dead in Indian
Philosophy". On page 35 of his book, Chattopadhyaya writes:

<i> Thus, he [Dignaga] writes a famous work called "the critical examination
of the material objects alleged to correspond to ideas" (Alamabana-pariksa),
in which he wants to prove that the admission of such objects is
philosophically untenable. The main theme of the book is the refutation of
atomism--a theme on which his master Vasubandhu had already written. The
choice of the theme is evidently based on the assumption that atomism being
the most advanced form of the theory of of the nature of matter, the
refutation of atomism means the demolition of the concept of matter as such.
The concept of matter thus eliminated from philosophy, Dignaga--like
Vasubandhu--feels safe about his commitment to the view that ideas and ideas
alone are real. This is the way in which he defends his subjective idealism

>Perhaps you
>are basing your opinions on the La`nkaavataara-suutra which is
>popularly thought to be a Yogacaara text.

--> No, i am relying on Vasubandhu's "Vimsatika", Dignaga's "Pramana
samuccaya" (along with a commentary by Jinendrabudhi(circa 8th century
A.D.)), Dharmakirti's "Nyaya-bindu" (along with commentaries on it by
Vinitadeva (circa 7th century AD) and Dharamottara (circa 8th century AD),
and also the commentary on Dharmottara called
"Nyayabindu-tika-tippani"-often referred as "tippani"--by someone considered
to be a junior contempory of Dharmottra); and also Dharmakirti's
"Pramana-vartika". Please note that Dharmakirti and Dignaga cannot be
understood unless you have read their commentators, as far as i understand.
I am also relying on Vachaspati's Mishra's interpretation of Dignaga's
views, and also the views of Dharmakirti as given in the
"SarvadarsanaSangrah" of Madhva.

--> In particular, i draw your attention to the claim that Dharmakirti's
"sahopalambha-niyama" argument (the claim that one can  never jump out of
the circle of one's own ideas and reach the object directly, and hence what
one knows is invariably only one's ideas and never the things outside the
mind), designed to strengthen his idealism, has a counterpart (to a great
extent) in the philosophy of Bishop Berkely.

--> Lastly, i will say that eminent scholars like S.N. Dasgupta,
S.Radhakrishnan, D.P. Chattopadhyaya,Stcherbatsky and others view the
Yogacara position to be an idealistic one.


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