Questions on Indian idealism

birgit kellner birgit.kellner at UNIVIE.AC.AT
Sat Dec 23 17:45:17 UTC 2000

Wednesday, December 20, 2000, 5:50:40 PM, Satya Upadhya wrote:

-->> i have read the original works neither in the original Sanskrit, neither
SU> have i read the whole of them in translation. I have only read parts of them
SU> in translation, and also the criticism of these books by more modern modern
SU> scholars.

Considering the list of works you mention, which covers some of the
most important (and most difficult) works of Buddhist epistemologists,
and given the list of scholars you mention, I once again strongly
advise you to update your references. In particular, translations like
those by Stcherbatsky are fraught with terminological idiosyncracies
that make it, in my view, *impossible* to draw any conclusions about
the ideas articulated in the texts *without* consulting the original
Sanskrit (or Tibetan). In other words, reading Stcherbatsky may tell
you a great deal about what Stcherbatsky thought, but not necessarily
a great deal about what DharmakIrti thought.

-->> you keep saying that the Yogacara does not deny external material
SU> objects/external reality. Could you give some sources for this (modern
SU> sources i mean)? [ kindly do not give me online sources as i have found that
SU> many of them are not reliable.]

You have not read carefully enough what I wrote. I pointed out that
two of the instances you cite in support of the thesis
"only ideas are real" are ill-chosen, because the statements they make
are *compatible* with the assumption that external objects exist and
are real. These instances were DignAga's AlambanaparIkSA and
DharmakIrti's sahopalambhaniyama-inference. I have *not* stated that
YogAcAra does not deny external reality; on this issue (and on Dan
Lusthaus' ideas) I have no firm opinion as yet, and I actually doubt
that it is useful to discuss such a general and vaguely formulated
thesis with respect to a school of thought as diverse as YogAcAra. At
any rate, it is important to
be careful in choosing one's textual support for statements made about
Indian philosophers - yours were not carefully chosen. This is all I
have to contribute to this thread.

SU> My understanding of the argument is that
SU> according to this law "we never know an object as distinct from the
SU> sensations or ideas. Whatever is known is known as identical with the
SU> ideas." (See pg 80 of Chattopadhyaya's What is living and what is dead in
SU> Indian Philosophy.) Dharmakirti himself says the following (as quoted in
SU> Madhva's "Sarvadarsanasangraha"): "The object known as blue and the
SU> knowledge thereof are identical, because of the law of their being
SU> invariably known as inseparable."

Let me try to state, in simple terms, why the sahopalambhaniyama-inferences as presented
in this form does not state that "only ideas are real" and let me
assume, for the sake of argument, that no additional assumptions over
and above the inference as given in this form are to be introduced: Images appear
in perceptual cognitions. These are said to be not different from the perceptual cognitions themselves.
Leaving aside the many meanings which this "non-difference" can have,
one is at any rate justified in concluding that perceptual cognitions *directly*
apprehend only what is given within them, or within consciousness. But
this does not preclude that blue objects, composed of atoms, *exist* -
only access to them is not possible in a direct fashion and must be
explained in a more indirect fashion. Hence, the
reality or existence of external entities is not per se incompatible
with the sahopalambhaniyama-inference. It may be possible to derive a
denial of some sort of external reality from other passages in
DharmakIrti's texts, but not from this one.

The problem in Chattopadhyaya's summary and interpretation of the
sahopalambhaniyama-inference as you give it lies, I think, in an overly vague usage
of the terms "know" and "object". The sahopalambhaniyama-inference
uses corresponding expressions in a very specific meaning: The
perceptual image and its cognition are not different. Once you
reformulate the argument in this fashion, I think you will not draw
misleading conclusions so easily. This is why I insist that relying on
original sources and examining their terminology in a more careful
manner is so important. I have not read Chattopadhyaya's book, but the
passages you quote suggest to me that he (?) subscribes to a style of
translation and approach to interpretation not unlike that of
Stcherbatsky, and consequently problematic in similar respects.

-->> i had mentioned these by name because they are fairly renowned and it is
SU> not so easy to dismiss away their claims (as would be in the case of some
SU> modern scholar of whom few have heard about).

Dismissing claims is, or should be, done not on the basis of the authority of the
ones who make them, but by examining the factual basis for their
claims in the original texts. Believe me, dismissing claims by
Stcherbatsky is in this respect *very* easy, much easier as for
instance dismissing claims by a more "modern" scholar like Takashi
Iwata, whose sahopalambhaniyama-study is a must-read for anyone who is
seriously interested in this inference (though, unfortunately for
some, it is written in German).

SU> Here is a more modern souce: "Kumarila Bhatta's refutation of the dreaming
SU> argument" by John A. Taber (in Studies in Mimansa (ed. R.C. Dwivedi) Motilal
SU> Banarsidas Publishers.  New Delhi, 1994). In this article, Kumarila's
SU> refutation of Vasubandhu's views (as recorded in the "Vimsatika"), is
SU> presented by Taber.

I fail to see why this "more modern source" would have any
significance for the interpretation of the sahopalambhaniyama-inference
in particular as well as to the examination of DharmakIrti's views in

On the whole I think this thread is becoming rather unproductive,
which is why I shall not contribute any more unless more substantive
arguments are presented,

Best regards,

Birgit Kellner
Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies
Vienna University

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