AW: Soteriology of universals

Eli Franco franco at RZ.UNI-LEIPZIG.DE
Sat Oct 13 20:46:29 UTC 2007

Although universals are supposed to be unreal, they are nevertheless object
of meditation. The case is argued in some detail by Jnaanasrimitra in the
Yoginirnaya. The problem arises in connection with the object of the
cognition of an omniscient person (such as the Buddha, etc.). If I remember
correctly, Jnanasrimitra argues that its object is not an infinite number of
individuals, but general properties (dharma) that appertain to all
Best wishes, 

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Im Auftrag von Paul G.
Gesendet: Samstag, 13. Oktober 2007 04:49
Betreff: Re: Soteriology of universals


   You could argue that meditation on universals (sAmAnya) in Buddhism 
is not directly soteriological (since they are held to be un-real), 
but the negation of them is.  Georges Dreyfus has a discussion of the 
soteriological aspects of Dharmakirti's epistemology in his 
_Recognizing Reality_.

Paul Hackett
Columbia University

At 9:46 PM +0100 10/12/07, Will Rasmussen wrote:
>The realist-nominalist debate over the epistemology and metaphysics 
>of universals (sAmAnya) was/is as robust in the India as it was/is 
>in the West. However, in a few places Plato defends real universals 
>not only for their explanatory and even causative power, but also 
>for their soteriological power, by which meditation upon them (e.g., 
>beauty, wisdom, goodness) is transformative of the mind/soul. 
>Graphically portrayed are his myths of metempsychosis (Meno, 
>Phaedrus and Republic), but only briefly does he ever identify 
>meditation/contemplation as the instrument/vehicle for determining 
>the direction of the psyche's transmigration.
>I am curious to inquire whether this use of universals as objects of 
>meditation/contemplation was ever prescribed in any of the Indian 
>schools of philosophy, where of course metempsychosis was so widely 
>endorsed. In particular, I would be especially interested if India's 
>staunch universal realists, nyAya and vaizeSika, ever did so. Can 
>anyone suggest texts from nyAya or vaizeSika that address the 
>soteriological use of universals, and not just their existence and 
>explanatory power?
>Failing that, might later mImAMsA address this anywhere, perhaps 
>through their doctrine of the eternality of sound..., though I 
>suspect this is rather a long shot.
>And finally, I wonder whether the yoga darzana's meditation on the 
>qualities of saguna brahman might in some text(s) be construed as 
>reflection upon the universals (sAmAnya) of these qualities. I'm not 
>thinking here so much of the Tantric theory of the transformative 
>power of mantras purely by dint of their sound, but transformation 
>by focus upon the meanings of the universals.
>I should perhaps mention that in turning to traditions in India I am 
>not seeking to put words in Plato's mouth, nor am I delving for 
>directions in the diffusion of ideas. Instead, I am interested in 
>seeing how different traditions (may have) developed the idea of the 
>salvific effect of 'universals-contemplation' on the mind/soul.
>Many thanks and best wishes to all,
>Dr Will Rasmussen
>Matilal Lecturer in Indian Philosophy
>Department of Philosophy
>King's College London
>160 The Strand, London WC2R 2LS
>Tel: 020 7848 2757
>Email: will.rasmussen at

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