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Views from Tibet

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Studies on Tibetan Buddhist Logic, the Philosophy of the Middle, and the Indigenous Grammatico-Linguistic Tradition

by Tom J.F. Tillemans


Tibetans had extraodinarily rich views on logic, on their own Tibetan language, and, of course, on Buddhist philosophy. It is hard to overemphasize how wide-ranging those views from Tibet were and how important they are to all who seek informed understanding of a culture that was, and in many respects

actually still is, a premier intellectual force in the world. The studies in this book seek to capture some aspects. Most have been published previously in various journals, anthologies, proceedings, and Festschriften, not always of easy access. Some, like the first two, are very recent publications and seek to represent the state of the art. Others date from now bygone times: I reprint them here with only a few small updates.

The title “Views from Tibet” is ambiguous, even deliberately so in order to reflect the multi-faceted Tibetan contributions. On logic, grammar, and Madhyamaka philosophy, Tibetans typically viewed India and made their own contributions in contexts that, to varying degrees, originated outside their

borders. Often they show significant originality and creativity. Indeed, as I try to show, a Tibetan view may well represent a type of progress over what was thought earlier in India. Furthermore, the ways in which Tibetans viewed Buddhist logic, Madhyamaka Buddhism, and their own Tibetan language are also of significance for comparative logic, philosophy, and linguistics. One of the papers in the section on Madhyamaka is such an excursus into comparative

philosophy. Below, in this introduction, I will also provide an example where Tibetan views may work surprisingly well in linguistics. Of course, some may bridle at the mere fact that a book such as this pursues more than one vantage point on Tibet. I can only plead for forbearance. This

book is also, amongst other things, a practical attempt to counter current moves in academic politics tending towards over-specialization and overly rigid separation between disciplines such as Tibetology, Indology and Philosophy. Understanding Tibetan views presupposes a relatively sophisticated Indological

understanding, and these papers therefore make frequent zigzags to Indian canonical texts, where possible in Sanskrit. Tibetologists often need to be Indologists to do Tibet justice, and when they approach Tibet with Indological skills, Tibet shows itself relevant to Indology. Finally, when Tibet takes its rightful place in informed East-West discussions on logic, philosophy, and linguistics, we all benefit.

We turn to the studies themselves. The section on logic begins with an examination of the Tibetan assimilation of Indian Buddhist logical thought, especially their understanding of, and innovations upon, Dharmakīrti and Dignāga’s ideas of a “good reason” (saddhetu), i.e., one that possesses the triple

characterization (trairūpya). We then proceed to indigenous developments that, in important respects, show very significant originality. In the Tibetan Collected Topics (bsdus grwa) literature we find a quite new logical orientation, stripped of much of the Indian epistemology and metaphysics that Indian masters had considered crucially intertwined with logic. Much of the Dharmakīrtian stance, in effect, drops away, even if this new thinking on logic is often still couched in the terminology of the old.


At the end of the chapter on indigenous developments in logic, we take up a recurring theme that Tibetans dubbed “the difficult point of the [[[Indo-Tibetan]] Buddhist] apoha [[[philosophy]] of language]” (gzhan sel gyi dka’ gnad) and which they insisted to be pervasive in Buddhist discussions of logic, language and metaphysics. This difficult point, turning as it does on features of the Tibetan language, presents serious problems of translatability. Now, I recognize,

perhaps all too well, that the general propriety of crossing borders—whether between conceptual and cultural schemes, epochs, languages or disciplines—is a complex and live issue with varying stances.1 And although I am a convinced advocate of such free movement, the devil is in the details. Translatability is an important test. The difficult point may be one of those few and surprising specific cases where we will find border-crossings to the west more difficult than we might have previously imagined.


The first of three previously published articles on the philosophy of the middle (madhyamaka) translates Se ra rje btsun Chos kyi rgyal mtshan’s lesson (rnam bzhag) on the “neither one nor many” argument as it is found in Svātantrika texts by 8th century C.E. Indian authors such as Śāntarakṣita,

Kamalaśīla, and Haribhadra. The key Tibetan step is to nuance that Indian argumentation as attacking properties of oneness or manyness that would be “truly established” (bden grub), thus introducing a “property to be refuted” (dgag bya’i chos) which one supposedly must understand for the Indian arguments to make sense. This is the usual dGe lugs pa way, stemming from Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa (1357-1419), to introduce qualifying parameters distinguishing

the notions under attack as those of metaphysical realist philosopher (dngos smra ba), and not just simply ordinary ideas of oneness and manyness tout court. A similar and related move is to see the argument as being a “reasoning which forces the limits [of what the opponent accepts]” (‘phul mtshams kyi rigs pa), namely, as Se ra Chos kyi rgyal mtshan (1469-1546) puts it, that anything accepted per impossible as truly existent would have to be what it is completely without any dependence on anything else.2


If the first article introduces the position of Tsong kha pa and his dGe lugs pa followers, the second, written in French with Tōru Tomabechi, tries to balance the dossier with a translation of a portion of “The History of Madhyamaka” (dbu ma’i byung tshul) composed by the famous (inded notorious) rival of Tsong kha pa, gSer mdog Paṇ chen Śākya mchog ldan (1428-1507). This Sa skya pa thinker had a complex Philosophy of the Middle, shifting over the years from

advocacy of Rang stong (all things being empty of themselves) to gZhan stong philosophy (the ultimate being empty of what is other than it). In general, the debate between Rang stong and gZhan stong is largely a Tibetan hermeneutical problem of how to integrate, into Madhyamaka, the Yogācāra philosophy’s emphasis on the mind and Buddha-nature, as well as Tantric ideas. It also figures significantly in Sa skya and bKa’ brgyud attempts to synthesize

Madhyamaka with Indo-Tibetan Mahāmudrā views on the absolute nature of mind.3 Tsong kha pa and the dGe lugs pa, on the other hand, will have nothing to do with gZhan stong and make no special or privileged place for Tantra, Buddha-nature, etc. in their philosophical account of the ultimate truth (don dam bden pa; paramārthasatya). (They are hardly usual Rang stong pas either, as they do not accept that things, like a vase, are literally void of themselves, i.e.,

that the vase is without any type of vaseness. Instead, a vase is void of any truly established vase nature.) They are often rightly characterized by Śākya mchog ldan, Go rams pa bSod nams seng ge (1429-1489) and others as emphasizing a purely negative notion of the ultimate—i.e., the emptiness, or simple lack, of anything truly established. They drew upon this Madhyamaka, with its version of ultimate truth as a simple, non-implicative negation (med par dgag pa; prasajyapratiṣedha), to interpret Tantra and the Buddha-nature and Mahāmudrā, and for the rest to relegate Yogācāra to the status of an inferior view, a type of metaphysical realism about the nature of mind. Śākya mchog ldan, by contrast, clearly saw Yogācāra, the Buddha-nature and Tantra as indispensable parts of a positive account of the ultimate. Much of the argumentation in the translated extract is directed against key tehnical ideas of Tsong kha pa

concerning Madhyamaka use of logic and argumentation. I have reprinted it here, with Dr. Tomabechi’s kind permission, as a way to better understand the intra-Tibetan debates.


The third article looks in more detail at some of those same problems of Madhyamaka logic and argumentation, trying to better unravel Tsong kha pa’s interpretation of the Prasannapadā’s famous debate between the Indian Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika subschools of Madhyamaka.4 The key Indian texts are

naturally read to say that Mādhyamikas themselves have no theses of their own and therefore never accept any of the contrapositions (viparyaya) of the absurd consequences (prasaṅga) that they derive from others’ positions. Tsong kha pa, however, in what would later become known in the dGe lugs pa

curriculum as the “lesson on consequences and contrapositions” (thal bzlog gi rnam bzhag), argues that it is only the specific consequence at stake in this particular debate that cannot be contraposed—most others can and should be. The no-thesis stance is thus not dependent upon blanket rejection of a familiar logical move.


The fourth article, “Mādhyamikas Playing Bad Hands,” looks at the Indian canonical sources for Buddhist refusals to make truth claims, even about customary matters, sources which suggest that for a Prāsaṅgika Mādhyamika, like Candrakīrti, customar y truth (saṃvṛtisatya) is only widespread error, the alethic

equivalent of fool’s gold. The Mādhyamika, having no thesis, should only read customary truth off the surface and largely duplicate what the common man (or “the world”) recognizes (lokaprasiddha) about it. The combination of those Indian canonical themes probably contributed to the frequent Tibetan positions—e.g., amongst the Jo nang pa or amongst the followers of sTag tshang lo tsā ba—that customary things only “exist for mistaken minds” (blo ‘khrul ba’i ngor yod pa), i.e., that they just wrongly seem to exist to some or most actual individuals at some given time, and that there are no right answers or truth

claims that one can endorse about them, as there are no sources of knowledge (tshad ma = pramāṇa) that have them as objects. Tsong kha pa and the dGe lugs pa, by contrast, adopted what I consider to be a philosophically more promising stance, one that recognized the need for a robust normativity: things customary are not just reduced to accepted errors; there are pramāṇas and hence robustly right answers about them. Not surprisingly, such a position needs

quite a different exegesis of the Candrakīrtian Indian textual legacy. Systematic qualifications of the Madhyamaka arguments, technical points rehabilitating contraposition, and alternative exegeses of Indian sūtra sources go a long way towards what will become a full-fledged dGe lugs pa philosophy of the middle. Instead of a generalized abjuration of truth claims, the

Madhyamaka now focuses predominantly on something much like a distinction between a harmless, ordinary, realism (more exactly, the acceptable part of an ordinary conception of truth and reality) and metaphysical realism, embracing the former and rejecting the latter. Harmless realism recognizes the normativity of truths and logical arguments to derive them. Metaphysical realism, by contrast, with its demands for intrinsic natures (svabhāva), turns out

to be an incoherent and unnecessary attempt to ground the harmless. As I have argued at length elsewhere (Tillemans 2016, chapters I and XII), such a differentiating Madhyamaka would be an important, subtle, and defendable no-thesis stance in contemporary thinking on metaphysics, even if it may well be considerably different from that of its major Indian ancestors. It is not the “typical Prāsaṅgika” general error theory and refusal to endorse any truth

claims that is a natural exegesis of Candrakīrti’s writings (see Tillemans 2016, 51f.). Indeed (whatever its problematic connection with India) “atypical Prāsaṅgika” is in many respects a view that is much easier to take seriously and build upon. The final article in the section on Madhyamaka argues, in effect, for the philosophical merits and exceptionalness of some of those features of the dGe lugs pa position in the larger context of appearance-reality

dichotomies and two-truth theories in East-West philosophies. The comparison is with Wilfrid Sellars. The various studies in the section on the indigenous Tibetan grammatico-linguistic tradition are a continuation of themes intially treated in a book by Derek Herforth and me, Agents and Actions in Classical Tibetan (AACT), i.e., Tillemans and Herforth 1989. In this section, I look at views that traditional

Tibetan thinkers of various traditions had on their own language, and in so doing also take up issues that regularly arise in linguists’ discussions of ergative languages—and Tibetan is such a language—viz., transitivity and possible analogues to active and passive voices.5 Some background is indispensable. AACT took up those themes of transitivity and voice diathesis in the context of a traditional discussion centered upon a famous verse from the rTags kyi ‘jug pa attributed to the 7th century(?) grammarian Thon mi Sambhoṭa:


ci phyir ‘jug par byed ce na //

pho ni ‘das dang gzhan bsgrub phyir //

ma ning gnyis ka da ltar ched //

mo ni bdag dang ma ‘ongs phyir //

shin tu mo ni mnyam phyir ro //.6


Why are [the five Tibetan prefixes] applied [to verbal and nominal forms]?

The masculine [prefix b-] is for establishing the past and other;

The neutral [prefixes g- and d-] are for both [[[self]] and other] [and] the present7;

The feminine [prefix ‘a-] is for self and the future;

The extremely feminine [prefix m-] is for [[[self]], other and the three tenses] all alike”


Later grammarians—Si tu Paṇ chen Chos kyi ‘byung gnas (1699-1774), A lag sha Ngag dbang bstan dar (1759-1840), A kya Yongs ‘dzin dByangs can dga’ ba’i blo gros (1740-1827), dByangs can Grub pa’i rdo rje (1809-1887), gSer tog Blo bzang tshul khrims rgya mtsho (1845-1915) and others8—invariably take up this verse and gloss it in terms of three sets of terms. They are as follows:

(1) bdag (self) and gzhan (other), the former term designating the agent (byed pa po), the instrument, and the agent’s doing (byed pa’i las= ‘act-qua-doing’) and the latter designating the patient, or direct object, and the action done to it (bya ba’i las = ‘act-qua-thing-done’);


(2) tha dad pa (differentiated) and tha mi dad pa (undifferentiated), the former being verbs, like “cut” and “kill”, that have an agent that is differentiated, i.e. substantially different, from the object/patient, and the latter being verbs, like “fall” and “go” that do not have such a distinct agent. A common terminological alternative to tha dad pa / tha mi dad pa is “verbs that are directly connected with a distinct agent” (byed pa po gzhan dang dngos su ‘brel ba’i las tshig) and those that are not directly connected with a distinct agent (byed pa po gzhan dang dngos su ma ‘brel ba’i las tshig).

(3) the “three times” (dus gsum), or the three tenses (“past,” “present,” “future”). The usual way to interpret these temporal specifications in Thon mi’s verse—e.g., that of Si tu, gSer tog and others— is as capturing various remaining past, present or future verb forms that are unclassifiable as either self

or other, in other words the verb forms that involve auxiliares (tshig grogs) such as kyin, gyin, gin, ‘gyur, or bzhin pa. Even so, this needs to be taken critically. Thon mi’s remaining “three times” are generally commented on as only being the principal (gtso bo) cases. (Indeed both Si tu and gSer tog were

clearly puzzled by the less than completely watertight fit of verse twelve’s “three times” with what they saw as actual Tibetan data. They went so far as to propose reforms of Thon mi’s verse that would make fit it more exhaustively and rigorously with actual Tibetan.) The basic idea is, as gSer tog put it:

“In this treatise [i.e. in śloka twelve of the rTags kyi ‘jug pa], [Thon mi] put forth a division into self and other in order to include words for agents (byed pa po) and focuses of action (bya ba’i yul). To include present doing (byed bzhin da lta ba), future thing-done and doing and past accomplished action which pertains to that [[[self]] and other] as well as all which is not pervaded (khyab pa) by the divisions of self and other, he put forth the three temporal divisions [in śloka twelve of the rTags kyi ‘jug pa].” 10

The article “On bdag, gzhan, and the Supposed Active-passive Neutrality of Tibetan Verbs” examines the arguments of some modern linguists and Tibetologists who maintain that the Tibetan language is thoroughly voice neutral and has no distinction between active and passive. I would argue that what indigenous grammarians like Si tu Paṇchen, A kya Yongs ‘dzin, and A lag sha Ngag dbang bstan dar say about bdag and gzhan suggests the contrary. Their contrast

between act-qua-doing (byed pa’i las) and act-qua-thing-done (bya ba’i las) does have some bearing on the question of voice diathesis in Tibetan. Next “Transitivity, Intransitivity and tha dad pa Verbs in Traditional Tibetan Grammar” argues that the indigenous distinction between tha dad pa and tha mi dad pa does meaningfully capture a distinction between Tibetan transitive and intransitive verbs. Chapter X “gSer tog Blo bzang tshul khrims rgya mtsho on Tibetan Verb Tenses” looks at how an astute 19th-20th century grammarian significantly disambiguates usual Tibetan terminology about the tenses (“past,”

present,” “future”) that figures in grammatical discussions of bdag, gzhan and the “three times” (dus gsum). Modern writers, such as Michael Hahn, have sometimes pointed out that root-forms, such as the future (ma ‘ongs pa), do not convey tense, stricto sensu, so much as modes like obligation or

necessity.11 It is noteworthy that a prominent traditional Tibetan grammarian seems to have been very aware of that distinction and thus came up with notions of dus kyi dus ma ‘ongs pa (the temporally future) and bya las ma ‘ongs pa (future act-qua-thing-[to be]-done). He thus extrapolated to a

distinction between the general temporal values (spyir dus gsum gyi ‘jog tshul) and the modal values (bya byed las kyi dus gsum) of the various verb forms showing time that are referred to by Thon mi and others. Chapter XI “On the Assimilation of Indic Grammatical Literature into Indigenous Tibetan

Scholarship” looks, inter alia, at would-be Indic sources for terms like bdag and gzhan, arriving at a cautionary note. On the difficult points, such as later grammarians’ use of the term dngos po (“entity”), the Tibetan discussions cannot be understood by simply plombing Indian Vyākaraṇa literature for

seemingly equivalent Sanskrit original terms—as has been frequently done since Laufer 1898— but need to be seen in their own right as essentially indigenous developments.12 The last study, Chapter XII, is a translation of gSer tog’s chapter on bdag and gzhan, providing source material for further informed discussion. gSer tog is one of the most original and clear thinkers in the Si tu tradition; his ideas merit a separate study.13


There are several publications in the fields of Buddhist Studies, Logic, and Linguistics that in one way or another are particularly germane to themes treated in this book. I have mentioned those I consider important, or even indispensable, to understanding Tibetan Buddhist logic in notes to the first two

studies. They present recent Asianist research, bibliographical information on Indian and Tibetan logic and epistemology, as well as, on a few occasions, information on promising modern logical research that could be brought to bear more fully on Buddhist material at a later date. It was, however, not feasible to update very significantly the articles on Madhyamaka and indigenous Tibetan grammar (all of which predate my studies on Tibetan Buddhist logic)

with complementary information in notes. Let me, therefore, limit myself here to a few important developments that stand out immediately. We begin with Madhyamaka. First of all, key Indian sources have become accessible in a way in which they hardly were before. We now have a very good translation and edition of the

first chapter of Candrakīrti’s Prasannadā by Anne MacDonald, i.e., MacDonald 2015. This publication makes it much easier to understand the major Indian text upon which Tsong kha pa and others rely in their exegesis of the Bhāviveka-Candrakīrti debate, and is thus a major contribution towards clarity. Secondly, with the work of David Seyfort Ruegg, there has been, in recent years, some controversy about what the absurd consequence (prasaṅga) and

contraposition (viparyaya) were in this debate, or if there were really consequences and contrapositions at all. There are some new developments here that I should take up. The problems are philosophically substantial but couched in technical terms. This is not easy stuff and we need to backtrack a bit. Here’s what one needs to know. Hopkins 1983, 491, Tillemans 1992 and 2016, chapter V gave the reductio ad absurdum reasoning, or absurd consequence (prasaṅga), that Bhāviveka discusses in his debate with Candrakīrti as follows:

“It would follow absurdly that things are produced pointlessly and without end, because they are produced from themselves.”


This would yield the following contraposition (viparyaya):


“Things are not produced from themselves because their production has a point and has an end.”


The Mādhyamika, according to Bhāviveka, would have to accept that contraposition as valid. The result would then be that he would have to accept that things are produced from something other than themselves; there would therefore be “a contradiction with [the Mādhyamika’s own professed] philosophical tenets (siddhāntavirodha)” in that the negation of self-production would imply a positive thesis, i.e., production from other. A genuine Mādhyamika, on the other hand, right from the get-go in Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikās, should supposedly accept no such positive implication, when he says that things are not produced from themselves, from other things, from both or from neither. Thus, for Bhāviveka, this consequence—originally given by Buddhapālita—is not an acceptable way for a genuine Mādhyamika to argue.


Going from a consequence to its contraposition is a generally accepted Buddhist logical move, known to Dignāga and extensively developed by Dharmakīrti and his logician successors.14 One can make the move from “it follows absurdly that A would be B because it is C” to “A is not C because it is not B” when not-

B is the case, and C implies B (so that not-B implies not-C). (See Chapter II, section 3 in this book for indigenous Tibetan developments.) This is close enough to the English sense of “contraposition” that we can certainly use this word profitably. To be precise, however, viparyaya does mean more than what a modern logician usually means by “contraposition.” Whereas contraposition is just the conversion of a conditional sentence P → Q (if a proposition P is

true then Q is true) into another conditional ⌐Q →⌐P (if not-Q then not-P) (See, e.g., Copi 1982, 193f.), a viparyaya involves an additional feature, viz., that not-Q is true. In short, viparyaya is, arguably, more like an inference by the rule of modus tollens rather than a mere contraposition of a conditional: one infers ⌐P from (P→Q) and ⌐Q (See Copi 1982, 324). Let us continue to allow ourselves the English term, but with the appropriate dose of circumspection that it is only a partial fit.


As I try to bring out in Tillemans 1992 (included as chapter V in this book), Tsong kha pa recognized that there is an absurd consequence at stake in the debate, but he contested Bhāviveka’s formulation of that consequence and slipped in an all-important word “again” into his version. He thus chose to understand the consequence as:


“It would follow absurdly that things are produced again (slar yang) pointlessly and without end, because they are produced from themselves.” In so doing, he thought that he guaranteed that there would not be a valid contraposition in the case of this specific consequence. A would-be contraposition would yield a reasoning that no Buddhist would ever accept as a proof (sādhana) of things not being produced from themselves, viz., “Things are not produced from themselves because they are not produced again pointlessly,” which would mean equivalently “Things are not produced from themselves because their production again has a point and has an end.” 15


For Tsong kha pa, and no doubt for Bhāviveka, a viparyaya to be valid should lead to a proof of the truth of a proposition via a reason that possesses the triple characterization (trairūpya), one characteristic being that the reason should truly qualify the subject. The problem is that for Buddhists it is not the case at all that the same things are produced again; that proposition was at most accepted by the (Sāṃkhya) opponent. There is, then, no question of there being a viparyaya here along the model of inferring ⌐P from (P→Q) and ⌐Q, and therefore, according to Tsong kha pa, there is no risk that the consequence would lead to a Mādhyamika being in contradiction with his own philosophical tenets.


So much for the Indo-Tibetan background. Now, David Seyfort Ruegg has argued in detail that there should be no question at all of contraposition of a consequence here—viparyaya for Candrakīrti and Bhāviveka is not the technical term used in later Indian logic. Instead viparyaya is a looser move along the lines of what he terms “implicative reversal.” As Seyfort Ruegg 2000, 253 put it:


“[[[Bhāviveka’s]] objection] apparently involves the idea not of contraposition but of implicative reversal, namely that a negation of production from self would imply the affirmation of production from an other.” In “Tsong kha pa et al on the Bhāviveka-Candrakīrti Debate” and in Tillemans 20

16, chapter V, I argued that “implicative reversal” of a consequence does not seem to follow any clear logical principle. It thus violates the principle of interpretative charity to introduce “implicative reversal” as a logical move, even if it might seem to accord with some explanations by Bhāviveka’s commentator Avalokitavrata. Philosophically, there is thus reason to suspect that “implicative reversal” is not the story here. However, it is not just bad

logic alone that makes “implicative reversal” suspect: the text of the Prasannapadā does not bear it out. The clincher showing that Bhāviveka is thinking of a consequence and a contraposition in the normal Buddhist technical sense has been provided by Toshikazu Watanabe. Watanabe 2013 looked at consequences and contrapositions in Dignāga and then looked at the passages in Prasannapadā 36.11-37.2 dealing with Bhāviveka’s other criticisms of Buddhapālita’s

arguments. He examined in particular the prasaṅga refuting any production from “other” (paratra), i.e., from causes that would be radically other than their effects. Here too, as Watanabe shows, Bhāviveka’s criticism of the prasaṅgaviparyaya as leading again to a contradiction with Madhyamaka philosophical tenets (siddhāntavirodha) presupposes a normal contraposition of the prasaṅga, one that Dignāga or a later logican would find fully familiar. In effect, Bhāviveka’s absurd consequence in his arguments against production from “other” can be formulated as:

“It would follow absurdly that everything would arise from everything because things arise from things that are other than them.”

Given that no-one accepts it to be true that everything arises from everything, the contraposition he deduces is then:

“Things do not arise from things that are other than them because it is not so that everything arises from everything.”


It is easy to see that the logical structure of this argument and its contaposition is the same as that of the earlier refutation of production from self. What one says about the one will hold for the other. While we may or may not accept Tsong kha pa’s reformulation of the prasaṅga and opt for the version

without the addition of “again,” we should not suppose with Seyfort Ruegg that viparyaya at this stage in the history of philosophy was something looser and more informal, quite different from Dharmakīrtian contrapositions and modus tollens inferences. More likely is that neither for Dignāga, nor for Bhāviveka nor for Candrakīrti, was there a special type of logical move along the lines of “implicative reversal.”

Turning to recent developments and ongoing controversies concerning indigenous Tibetan grammar, there are several people who have, in one way or another, argued that the notion of transitivity either does not apply meaningfully to the Tibetan language at all, or (what is a more modest claim) that the

grammarians’ own tha dad pa-tha mi dad pa (differentiated-undifferentiated) contrast is not to be seen as capturing a distinction between transitive and intransitive. Let’s take up the latter claim first. Thus, Ralf Vollmann 2008, relying on the late Roland Bielmeier’s views, says:

“[T]he Tibetan concept of 〈tha dad pa〉 ‘differentiative’or 〈byed ‘brel〉 (AG-connected) does not simply translate the modern syntactic concept of transitivity. Instead, it seems to refer to the degree of control of the agent over the action. Therefore, Western scholars nowadays prefer the terminology ‘controllable verb’ (CTRL, c) and ‘not-controllable verb’ (NOCTRL, nc).”

The idea that tha dad / tha mi dad is (largely or exclusively) a matter of control, intention, or volition, rather than transitivity may be, in part at least, due to a not infrequent and quite questionable Tibetan classification of verbs like mthong ba “see,” go ba “hear,” shes pa “know,” and the like as tha mi dad pa. Verbs like mthong ba, go ba, and shes pa express a process with two participants, or in other words are “biactantial”—i.e., have an agent

with ergative marking and an object/patient—and thus would seem good candidates for being transitive verb (in a usual sense of “transitive” of an action going from an agent to a patient). And yet mthong ba, go ba, and shes pa are classified in dictionaries like the Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo of Zhang

Yisun et al. as tha mi dad pa. It might thus be thought that tha mi dad pa verbs are not actually intransitive, but just express involuntary actions. Seeing, hearing and knowing are involuntary, or unintentional, states that happen to you as a result of previous efforts in looking, listening and

studying. And indeed some important textbooks on Tibetan translate tha dad pa as “intentional” and tha mi dad pa as “unintentional,” including mthong ba and the like in a list of verbs of that latter sort.16


I would reply that biactancial verbs like mthong ba, go ba, and shes pa are simply best not regarded as tha mi dad pa. True, there are sophisticated Tibetan thinkers who hold that they are. A famous 20th century Tibetan grammarian, rDo rje rgyal po (1913-1993), for example, went to considerable length

to explain how shes pa “know” and the like are verbs that constitute a special category (nang gses) of tha mi dad pa, because “to know” captures the resultant state of a previous action, i.e., studying. One can mutatis mutandis do a similar pairing between “looking”-“seeing,” and “listening”-“hearing”. The anomaly here is that the example statement he gives, viz., khos rgya yig shes kyi yod pa red “He knows written Chinese,” has an object (rgya yig

“written Chinese”) as well as an agent (khos “he”) in the ergative case (byed sgra), all the while having a supposedly tha mi dad pa verb. Indeed rDo rje rgyal po grants explicitly that “what is to be established (bsgrub bya) and [the agent] that establishes (sgrub byed)” are genuinely different (tha dad) here. Nonetheless, he includes shes pa in the tha mi dad pa category because it is “an undifferentiated [verb] that establishes the result of a previous

action (bya ba sngon du song ba’i ‘bras bu grub pa’i bya byed tha mi dad pa).”17 While knowledge of Chinese is incontestably a resultant state of studying hard earlier, rDo rje rgyal po’s rationale for the ergative in a sentence about that resultant state is much less clear. A differentiation between “he who brings about the knowing” (shes par byed mkhan)— i.e., he who studies—and that which is to be known (shes par bya rgyu) in the previous “action of bringing

about knowing” (shes par byed pa’i bya ba)—i.e., written Chinese— would unproblematically account for an ergative in a sentence about studying Chinese. Is that difference between agents and objects of studying now also the factor accounting for the peculiar morphosyntactic feature of an ergative-marked agent in the sentence about the state of knowing Chinese?


What should we make of this? In the sentence khos rgya yig shes kyi yod pa red we have a manifestly biactanctial verb, with the agent marked in the ergative, with agent and object different; these are typically the features of tha dad pa verbs, and yet the verb shes pa and the like are still claimed to be tha mi dad pa, in keeping with their description in a prestigious dictionnary (which rDo rje rgyal po himself served to edit.)18 This looks suspiciously

like a case of scholastic thinkers bending over backwards to treat the linguistic phenomena in a way that preserves an inherited, and possibly longstanding, indigenous classification. Very fortunately, there is no unanimity about the classification of these verbs within the indigenous tradition. Another reliable Tibetan-Tibetan dictionary, the Dag yig gsar bsgrigs of Blo mthun bsam gtan et al., classifies mthong ba, go ba, and shes pa as byed ‘brel

las tshig = tha dad pa. And a grammarian like sKal bzang ‘gyur med also takes these verbs as tha dad pa. I would propose the following: it makes much better sense to follow the Dag yig gsar bsgrigs and reject the classification in Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo. In that case, mthong ba, go ba, shes pa, etc. can be treated as the biactantial transitives they appear to be, albeit ones where the action is involuntary. And, to boot, we don’t have to go into

any scholastic intricacies to explain how a verb with an ergative-marked agent different from its object would nonetheless fall under traditional grammar’s notion of a verb without a distinct agent (byed med las tshig = tha mi dad pa). The gain in simplicity is considerable.


Voluntary-involuntary does, however, play a significant role. Indeed, in AACT, 27f. it was suggested that while the voluntary-involuntary opposition does not match with the tha dad pa-tha mi dad pa schema of transitivity, it can and should complement it.19 Such seems also to have been sKal bzang ‘gyur med’s idea in introducing the distinction rang dbang can (autonomous = voluntary) and gzhan dbang can (dependent = involuntary). As he puts it in defining rang dbang can,


“Whether [the verb] is one where the object and agent are different (tha dad) or not (mi dad), when the agent who effectuates the action can of his own accord direct that action, this type [of verb] is an ‘autonomous verb.’ (rang dbang can gyi bya tshig)”20

The first clause of the definition of a “dependent verb” remains the same, i.e., “whether the verb is one where the object and agent are different or not.” The rest of the definition specifies that the action is not directed by the agent’s own will, but rather through some other causes and conditions. What is clear in both definitions is that there are cases of tha dad which are involuntary and cases of tha mi dad which are voluntary. In effect, we have the following dual-axis schema:


Voluntary Involuntary

tha dad gsod pa “to kill” mthong ba “to see”

tha mi dad ‘gro ba “to go” na ba “to be sick”


Note that the voluntary-involuntary contrast is not a purely semantic matter in Tibetan but has morphosyntactic consequences, as does tha dad-tha mi dad. I refer the reader to the Appendix in AACT (p. 27f.) for a discussion of the further advantages to such a dual-axis approach in accounting for Tibetan morphosyntactic phenomena.


Of course, one can rightly say, as does Nathan W. Hill, that the Tibetan idea of tha dad–tha mi dad is not one of a transitivity that involves an object/patient in the accusative case. Indeed having to read Tibetan in the perspective of a nominative-accusative language in order to have a meaningful

discussion about its transitivity would hardly be worth the candle. But I think that Tibetan’s not being nominative-accusative need not lead us to preclude that tha dad-tha mi dad is, nonetheless, an interesting and important idea on transitivity, or, what would be more extreme, lead us to ban talk of Tibetan

transitive verbs outright.21 On the contrary, rejecting transitive-intransitive outright as applicable to Tibetan looks like overkill and not easily defensible. I doubt that there would be data that would force one to take such a position, unless one somehow based oneself on dubious evidence, like classifications of verbs such as mthong ba in dictionaries or certain—but not all—Tibetan grammarians’ accounts of these types of verbs. As we have seen, the value of that data should be contested.


For the purposes of this introduction at least, enough said of the arguments against “Tibetan transitivity.” We’ll turn the tables and look briefly at some ways to save the idea and take it seriously. One way is what I proposed in chapter IX, i.e., adopt a transitive-intransitive continuum, following Hopper

and Thompson 1980, so that voluntary, involuntary, and many other criteria—including what Tibetans capture with the tha dad-tha mi dad distinction— serve to determine gradations of higher or lower transitivity. The Tibetan distinction is, in effect, subsumed in a conception of transitivity that is meant to

be not just applicable to Tibetan, but universal. That Hopper-Thompson account fleshed out the usual conception of a transititive verb as having a valence greater than one and involving an action that extends, or passes over, from an agent to an object, to varying degrees affecting that object due to the volition of the agent.


It can be argued, however, that the mistake remains that we continue to see transitivity systems in languages as essentially concerned with actions extending to objects and thus disregard characteristics like whether the action upon the object is instigated by a distinct agent or not. A bold approach

is to say that indigenous Tibetan conceptions of tha dad-tha mi dad capture precisely those features—they are missing in the common Western conception of transitivity and are genuinely important for a fuller conception in linguistics. That tha dad-tha mi dad is indeed important in this way is the view of

Randy J. LaPolla, František Kratochvíl, and Alexander Coupe in their joint article “On Transitivity”, i.e., LaPolla et al. 2011. Relying on the account of traditional Tibetan grammatical conceptions in AACT, they argue that there is a “Tibetan view of transitivity” that differs from the usual Western conception but is nonetheless an important complement to it.

“We can see that the Tibetan view takes a different perspective from the Western view: in the traditional Western view a transitive differs from an intransitive in having a second argument that the action passes over to, while in the Tibetan view a transitive clause differs from an intransitive one in having a second argument representing an external agency.” (LaPolla et al. 2011, 478-479)

They go further and invoke the distinction in M.A.K. Halliday’s work (Halliday 1994, 2004 §5.7) between usual transitive-intransitive models versus

ergative models of transitivity, with the traditional Tibetan view, according to LaPolla et al., fitting in as an ergative model of transitivity. Both models—perspectives, or interpretations of meaning— apply within various languages, including English. Thus, briefly, on the first perspective one focuses on a process and its extension to an object. In that case a sentence like The lion chased the tourist is put in relation with The lion ran, in that the

lion’s running either extends to the other actant (transitive the lion chased the tourist) or does not so extend (intransitive the lion ran). On the second perspective, where one focuses on the instigation of the process rather than its extension, The lion chased the tourist is related with The tourist ran. Either the tourist’s running was self-motivated (The tourist ran) or instigated by an external agent (The lion chased the tourist).


The Hallidayan systemic view of grammar that LaPolla et al. invoke is that lexico-grammar is driven first and foremost by semantic principles. Thus ergative-non-ergative are contrasts within language to reflect semantic concerns (e.g., Is the action caused/ instigated by an outside Actor or is it self-engendered?). While the usual transitive-intransitive perspective is in terms of ±extension of a process to a Goal (e.g., “John hunted the lion” versus

“John hunted”) the ergative-non-ergative perspective is in terms of ±agency of the process on a Medium (e.g. “The lion woke the tourist” versus “The tourist woke”). This is clearly an intentional departure from the more limited and usual use of the term “ergative”—as in Comrie 1978 or Dixon 1994 —to analyze and classify languages (i.e. ergative versus accusative languages) on the basis of their syntactic coding of subjects, objects, and agents.22


In my earlier paper on transitivity (included here as Chapter IX), I had looked at Tibetan transitivity by focussing to quite a degree on syntax and coding of agents. I had addressed an objection of Stoddard and Tournadre to the effect that the indigenous Tibetan classification of verbs as tha dad pa-tha mi dad pa does not have to do with transitivity because tha dad-tha mi dad, actions having or not having distinct agents (byed pa po gzhan), and other

such contrasts are semantic in nature, rather than belonging to syntax and coding; I argued that tha dad-tha mi dad opposition does also capture much of what we associate with syntactic features of transitive and intransitive verbs and coding of agents, although it is true that even a cursory glance at Tibetan grammatical texts (see Chapter XII below) reveals the emphasis they place on semantics. Hallidayans, however, might well unabashedly see a semantic

emphasis as a plus, rather than a minus. And if one generally embraced strongly semantic accounts of transitivity, as do Halliday and LaPolla et al., then the relevance of Tibetan indigenous writings about tha dad-tha mi dad, self, other, and the like to linguistic theory would increase remarkably. It then becomes possible to come up with a “traditional Tibetan view of transitivity,” as do LaPolla et al., that goes well beyond the matters of coding and morphosyntax in certain specific languages or typologies of languages and works profitably as part of a Halliday-like semantic approach to any language.23


LaPolla et al., in effect, are attempting in linguistics what cross-cultural thinkers like Arindam Chakrabarti, Jay Garfield, Mark Siderits, Graham Priest, and others, including the late Asianist-philosopher Wilhelm Halbfass, have tried to do in philosophy, i.e., an East-West collaborative approach that expands horizons. This is also sometimes termed a type of “fusion thinking.” In any case, the fusion in “On Transitivity” is quite stunning:

“Halliday’s conceptualisation, which incorporates both the traditional Western view of transitivity and something like the traditional Tibetan view of transitivity into one system, is an improvement over the other mono-construction approaches, as recognizing the distinct construction types withing a single language helps to properly characterise and explain the ambitransitive uses of verbs and the differences between the two construction types pointed out by Davidse.” (LaPolla et al. 2011, 481)

We have to leave the rest to the linguists themselves. My own point in this introduction is essentially a simple one: we will profit from wider conceptions here. It is much more promising and creative to embrace Tibetan transitivity, with its particularities, and thus expand the analysis than to debate more narrowly about (mis)translations of Tibetan grammatical terms or about whether “transitive” to be meaningful must be reserved to an Indo-European context where objects are in the accusative case. Good cross-border thinking relies on conceptual bridges. This is a case where a bridge looks eminently possible.


A few final remarks. As these studies span some decades of off and on work, the list of people that have been in one way or another involved along the road is, alas, too great to give in detail. Many have helped me by hearing me out and pointing out unclarities, and offering information and advice at steps along the way. The section on Tibetan Buddhist logic was, in part at least, destined for the logicians and historians of logic involved in an

interdisciplinary project of Johan van Benthem and others on logical thinking in China; it is being published in a Handbook of Logic in China, (ed.), Liu Fenrong, Jeremy Seligman and Zhai Jincheng. Shōryū Katsura read the section carefully and pointed out quite a number of philological improvements. I also thank Jeremy Seligman and Koji Tanaka for helpful remarks on logical issues. While the relatively simple formal tools used should pose no problem for

logicians and philosophers, navigating transcribed Tibetan is a notoriously off-putting task for the non-Tibetanist.24 Phonetic simplications are quite inadequate if one wishes to ground philosophical ideas in philological evidence, as I think we need to do if we are to avoid superficiality and distortion.

There is, then, no easy way out and no way around investment of time to learn a very foreign pronunciation. In the original publication, I tried to give the diligent non-Tibetanist philosopher a fighting chance by providing a detailed pronounciation guide to Lhasa Tibetan. I have left that guide here with the hope that it may be of use.

Details on previous publications are as follows:


Chapters I and II are in press in A Handbook of Logic in China. Ed. Liu Fenrong, Jeremy Seligman, Zhai Jincheng. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2018. Published in English and in Chinese translation.

Chapter III appeared as “Two Tibetan Texts on the ‘Neither One nor Many’ Argument for śūnyatā” in the Journal of Indian Philosophy 12, 1984: 357-388. Chapter IV appeared as “Le dBu ma’i byuṅ tshul de Śākya mchog ldan.” Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques (Bern, Switzerland), XLIX, 4, 1995: 891-918 (co-authored with Tōru Tomabechi).

Chapter V appeared as “Tsong kha pa et al. on the Bhāvaviveka-Candrakīrti Debate” in Tibetan Studies, Proceedings of the 5th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, NARITA 1989. [Monograph Series, Occasional Papers 2]. Naritasan shinshoji, Narita, 1992: 315-326. Chapter VI appeared as “Mādhyamikas Playing Bad Hands: The Case of Customary Truth,” in the Journal of Indian Philosophy. Available as “Online First” at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10781-018-9370-6

Chapter VII is a significantly expanded version of an article in Wilfrid Sellars and Buddhist Philosophy: Freedom from Foundations, edited by Jay L. Garfield. Routledge Studies in American Philosophy. New York: Routledge Press, 2019: 80-96. The initial article was published under the title "Deflating the Two Images and the Two Truths. Bons baisers du Tibet."

Chapter VIII appeared as “On bdag and gzhan and the Supposed Active-Passive Neutrality of Tibetan Verbs,” in Pramāṇakīrtiḥ. Papers Dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday. Edited by Birgit Kellner, Helmut Krasser, Horst Lasic, Michael Torsten Much, and Helmut Tauscher, Part 2. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, 2007: 887-902.

Chapter IX appeared as “Transitivity, Intransitivity and tha dad pa Verbs in Traditional Tibetan Grammar.” Pacific World Journal (Berkeley) series 3, no. 9, 2007: 49-62. [Special issue: Essays Celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies at the University of Calgary. Ed. Leslie Kawamura and Sarah Haynes.]

Chapter X appeared as “gSer tog Blo bzang tshul khrims rgya mtsho on Tibetan Verbs,” in E. Steinkellner (ed.), Tibetan History and Language. Studies dedicated to Uray Géza on his seventieth birthday. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 26. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien 1991: 487-496. Chapter XI appeared as “On the Assimilation of Indic Grammatical Literature into Indigenous Tibetan Scholarship” Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques (Bern, Switzerland) LVII, 1, 2003: 213-235.


Tibetan Developments in Buddhist Logic

I. The Reception of Indian Logic in Tibet

1. Introduction

What do people mean by “Tibetan Buddhist logic,” or by the more or less equally common phraseTibetan Buddhist epistemology,” and what connection do these widely used designations have with subjects studied traditionally by Tibetan Buddhists? The underlying Tibetan term is tshad ma. It conserves the etymological sense of the Sanskrit original pramāṇa, viz., a “standard” or “measure”; tshad renders the Sanskrit verbal root MĀ, “to measure,” with the Tibetan ma capturing the Sanskrit ana suffix and showing a means, source, or instrument. In philosophical Sanskrit pramāṇa is the technical term for a source of knowledge, a reliable means to a correct new understanding. The Tibetan term tshad ma, of course, has that technical sense, but it also takes on a more general sense of the “theory of sources of knowledge” or, more broadly, a discipline of study and the literature pertaining to it. In what follows,

we’ll use the terms “Pramāṇa” and “Tshad ma” (capitalized and without italics) to designate the Indian and Tibetan theoretical disciplines respectively and their literature, even if the use of the term to designate a discipline is admittedly not as clearly present in the Sanskrit as it is in Tibetan.26


Modern writers also regularly use the term “Buddhist epistemology” to capture the use of the words tshad ma / pramāṇa in the general sense of a theoretical discipline concerning sources of knowledge.27 It is, however, perhaps less clear why people speak of logic. Part of what looks recognizably like logic is

the Indo-Tibetan Buddhistscience of reasons” (hetuvidyā= gtan tshigs rig pa), a so-called “minor Buddhist science,” and the related genre of indigenous Tibetan texts known as rtags rigs “the varieties of reasons”—in them one finds discussions of good and bad reasons, fallacies, implication, and

consequences. However, Tshad ma certainly is not limited to what we find in hetuvidyā or rtags rigs manuals. It also includes the extensive discussions of philosophy of logic that we find typically in works or chapters on “inference” (rjes su dpag pa = anumāna), one of the two sources of knowledge, along with

perception. In short, besides the “science of reasons,” Tshad ma encompasses philosophical accounts of how logical reasoning proceeds and even some ontological issues of what must exist for that reasoning to be grounded in reality.


Perception, metaphysics, and even philosophy of mind were also to be included in the general subject of Tshad ma—with more or less complex connections with epistemology—, just as for Indians they were also regularly taken up in Pramāṇa literature. And so were doctrinal matters of Buddhism. Indeed, many

traditional Tibetans and Indians saw Tshad ma as essentially destined for Buddhist religious purposes rather than as a secular discipline of logic, epistemology, or philosophy of logic and language; its raison d’être was thus to provide proofs of Buddhist doctrine, like rebirth, omniscience, the four noble truths, compassion, no-self, etc., the culmination of Pramāṇa being in effect pramāṇasiddhi, the proof of the Buddha’s superiority to other teachers and his being a standard and reliable source in spiritual matters. The demarcation between broadly religious and philosophical approaches to Buddhism has,

of course, been an enormous subject of conversation, not only in modern Buddhist Studies but also in the past in Tibet. Suffice it to say here that Tibetan Tshad ma, when viewed religiously, would need a very different treatment from what we are offering, and that a secular orientation to Tshad ma / Pramāṇa is

not only legitimate in modern scholarship but was also to quite a degree present in traditional Tibet. A disclaimer is thus in order from the outset: we will largely leave aside the extensively discussed issues of perception, metaphysics and philosophy of mind as well as Tshad ma-inspired approaches to

Buddhist religious doctrine and scripture.28 Tibetan Tshad ma, and indeed Tibetan Buddhist philosophical literature generally, has often been regarded as a prolongation, a supplement, or a kind of

fine tuning of India, or even a pedagogical aid to Indian developments. Indeed, one of the finest scholars of both India and Tibet, David Seyfort Ruegg, has rightly maintained that Tibetans were in many respects Indological scholars avant la lettre, making important and necessary contributions to our own

historical understanding of Indian Buddhist thought.29 That said, although one certainly needs to know Indian thought well to understand Tibetan thought, it is odd to focus on Tibet only or principally as a way to understand India. For a wide-ranging scholar like Seyfort Ruegg the interest of ties to India

certainly does not detract from the value and interest of ideas that were indigenously Tibetan and that perhaps had few or only obscure sources in India. Unfortunately, however, this type of open position was for quite some time preceded by a more closed orientation that was much less defensible, namely, that Tibetan Buddhist philosophical literature was of interest essentially in so far as it reflected or even copied Indian thought. Such a view was even promoted by quite a number of Tibetans themselves for perhaps understandable reasons of religious authority, India long being considered in Tibet the “Land

of the Nobles” (‘phags yul= āryadeśa) and the repository of what is authentic in Buddhism. It is somewhat unfortunate, however, that a similar attitude to things Indian was for long a working premise of much modern Buddhist Studies. Arguably, the originality of indigenous developments in areas like logic and

epistemology have still, to a large degree, been underestimated and underexplored. Indeed, when it comes to Tshad ma, in spite of the great respect that we should have for Indian writers like Dharmakīrti (6th or possibly 7th century

C.E.?)30 and the Tibetan exegesis of his philosophy, there were also important Tibetan works that exhibited a high degree of originality and were only tenuously related to India. As we shall try to show, this genre of literature made some important conceptual distinctions concerning logic, significantly

moving away from Indian preoccupations with themes in epistemology and metaphysics. By remaining centered on the consequences of various acceptances—be they true or not—these indigenous thinkers increasingly replaced concern with how things actually were in reality with a typical logician’s focus on what followed from what.


There are thus two sorts of Tshad ma literature in Tibet that will concern us in this study:


(a) Tibetan exegetical works closely based on Indian texts; these are largely commentaries, summaries, or independent analytical treatises whose primary purpose is clarification of Indian texts and argumentation. Examples are the Tibetan commentaries on Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika and Pramāṇaviniścaya by various authors, as well as works, like Sa skya Paṇḍita’s Tshad ma rigs gter or dGe ‘dun grub pa’s Tshad ma rigs rgyan, that provide an introduction to and interpretation of Indian Pramāṇa.


(b) Indigenous Tibetan works on epistemology and logic that involve, to a large degree, Tibetan concepts, debate procedures, and argumentation that are unfindable in Indian texts or, in some important cases, even radically counter to Indian positions. The best examples are the so-called “Collected Topics” (bsdus grwa), of which the earliest text is the Ra bstod bsdus grwa of ‘Jam dbyangs mChog lha ‘od zer (1429-1500).


In what follows, we will consecrate a chapter to each of these two sorts of Tibetan literature, in order to bring out the dual character—i.e., the Indian-based and the indigenous—of the Tibetan contribution to Buddhist logic and the philosophy of logic. It should be borne in mind that our emphasis is

primarily philosophical: apart from the necessary historical background and a few important historico-philological discussions, many of the complicated questions concerning connections between Tibetan thinkers or the origins of ideas and terms can not be pursued here; the reader is referred elsewhere.31 On a final apologetic note, let me say that although the scholarly transcription of Tibetan names and terms tends to render them notoriously impenetrable to

non-specialists, such transcription is nevertheless necessary—phonetics can be used for a proper name or word here and there, but they are not adequate at all when there is significant reliance upon original sources. There are several approaches that writers adopt in dealing with this difficulty. Ours has been to provide a guide to standard Lhasa Tibetan pronunciation as an appendix. It is better to avoid short-cuts and quick fixes with purely phonetic transcriptions or computerized converters: the reader’s investment of time and effort pays off in the long run.


2. Four periods


We begin with a whistle-stop tour of the terrain. Following van der Kuijp 1989 and Hugon 2015, let us speak of four periods in the history of Buddhist logic and epistemology in Tibet,32 starting with the initial diffusion (snga dar) of Buddhism in Tibet from the 7th century C.E. on and continuing to the present day.


(a) An ancient period, until very early 9th century C.E, or pre-Glang dar ma., during which some smaller Indian pramāṇa works of Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, Vinītadeva, Śubhagupta, Kamalaśīla, Arcaṭa, and Dharmottara were translated.33


(b) A pre-classical period from the beginning of the so-called “second diffusion” (phyi dar) of Buddhism in the 10th century up to about the 13th century, during which the emphasis was on the Pramāṇaviniścaya of the pivotal Indian Buddhist thinker Dharmakīrti.34 The text was translated and was the object of

several influential indigenous Tibetan commentaries. The period is marked by the work of Ngog lo tsā ba Blo ldan shes rab (1059–1109), who translated the Pramāṇaviniścaya and wrote commentaries upon it. It also saw the so-called “Summaries of Pramāṇa” (tshad ma bsdus pa) of the school of Phya pa Chos kyi seng ge (1109-1169) of the bKa’ gdams pa monastery of gSang phu sne’u thog.35 These texts, as their name implies, were résumés of Indian thought, but actually seem also to inject a substantial dose of original interpretation, possibly in part because of the relatively incomplete access to Indian material at that time.


(c) The classical period of the 13th and 14th centuries. It begins with Sa skya Paṇḍita Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan (1182–1251), the very significant figure in the consolidation of Tibetan and Mongol power in the south of Tibet, and himself a first-rate scholar of Indian texts in Sanskrit. During this period,

Dharmakīrti’s largest and most important work, the Pramāṇavārttika, is finally well translated into Tibetan36 and becomes the focus of indigenous commentaries. A major delegation of Indian monks—led by the Kashmiri scholar Śākyaśrībhadra (?-1225)—visits Tibet and closely collaborates with Sa skya Paṇḍita.37 This can be said to be the most Indian-oriented period, and probably even the period that was most reliably informed on Indian Pramāṇa literature in Sanskrit.


(d) A post-classical period that begins in the 15th century and is characterized by debate between traditions of the pre-classical and classical periods. In particular, we find competing developments based on the earlier Phya pa and bKa’ gdams pa traditions, on the one hand, and the Sa skya schools, on the

other, i.e., the so-called Phya-traditions (phya lugs) and Sa-traditions (sa lugs) respectively.38 The bKa’ gdams pa and Phya-traditions evolved to become the dGa’ ldan pa or dGe lugs pa, and would count such luminaries as Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa (1357-1419) and his principal disciples, rGyal tshab rje Dar ma rin chen (1364-1432) and mKhas grub rje dGe legs dpal bzang po (1385-1438). Two of the most important figures of the Sa-traditions were Go rams pa bSod nams seng ge (1429-1489) and gSer mdog Paṇchen Śākya mchog lden (1428–1508). We should also mention that it is in this post-classical period that

we find the so-called “Collected Topics” (bsdus grwa) literature, which presents a sophisticated Tibetan logic with only rather tenuous connections with India. This indigenous Tibetan logic will be taken up in detail in the second chapter of this study.


3. Indian sources for Tibetan Tshad ma


As we can see from the above periodization, Tibetan theorizing about Indian logic and epistemology began in earnest in the 10th and 11th centuries in the pre-classical period. While the initial diffusion of the Dharma, from the 7th century to the mid 9th, saw first attempts at translating Indian Pramāṇa texts, it was from about the 10th until the 15th century that there was genuine assimilation and competent translation of the major Indian Buddhist works.

The Pramāṇaviniścaya, Pramāṇavārttika and other works of Dharmakīrti and his school were well translated and understood by Tibetan writers and formed the main Indian textual basis for Tibetan exegesis on Indian Buddhist logic and epistemology.

By contrast, the works of Dignāga (c. 480 - c. 540 C.E.) never played a role comparable to those of Dharmakīrti. Dignāga’s major opus, the Pramāṇasamuccaya, although certainly said to be the founding text for Tshad ma, was actually of relatively little influence in Tibet. While there were a

number of indigenous commentaries over the centuries, from that of bCom ldan rigs pa’i ral gri (1227-1305) to that of Mi pham ‘Jam dbyangs rnam rgyal rgya mtsho (1846-1912),39 the abysmally low quality of Pramāṇasamuccaya’s two Tibetan translations no doubt impeded in depth study and understanding of this

text in its own right. Dharmakīrti’s interpretation of Dignāga predominated instead. Indeed, Dignāga’s logic and epistemology were essentially known via quotations and commentary in other texts, notably in the works of Dharmakīrti and the Dharmakīrtian commentator on Pramāṇa­samuccaya, Jinendrabuddhi. The

specific features in Dignāga’s philosophy that set it apart from that of Dharmakīrti were largely obscured. As for Dignāga’s Nyāyamukha, it does not seem to have been studied or translated in Tibet. Instead Tibetans studied a related text, the Nyāyapraveśa of Śaṅkarasvāmin and often confused the Nyāyamukha with the Nyāyapraveśa, understandably because the Tibetan title of the Nyāyapraveśa, viz. Rigs sgo, was easily wrongly taken to designate the Nyāyamukha instead.40


The main Tibetan orientation in Tshad ma was thus significantly different from that of the indigenous Chinese school of Xuanzang and Kuiji in that the latter did focus on Dignāgan positions in their own right fundamentally untouched by Dharmakīrti, whose works were untranslated in Chinese. For the

Tibetans, by contrast, Dharmakīrti was well translated and his influence eclipsed that of the largely inaccessible Dignāgan literature. It is important to note too that although much of the in depth Tibetan assimilation of logic and epistemology dates from the 10th or 11th centuries on, the highly technical later Indian logical literature of that period was not the primary inspiration for Tibet. The Indian sources inspiring Tibetan study were essentially the

works of Dharmakīrti and the 7th and 8th century commentators, Devendrabuddhi and Śākyabuddhi, who commented quite closely upon the wording and syntax of Dharmakīrti’s works in their Pramāṇavārttikapañjikā and Pramāṇavārttikaṭīkā respectively. Prajñākaragupta (8th century C.E.) was well known, and his voluminous Pramāṇavārttikālaṃkāra was the source of some of the more philosophically sophisticated developments as well as applications of Pramāṇa to

Buddhist religious ends. We also find the later Kashmiri Brahmin writer Śaṅkaranandana (ca. 940/50-1020/30) playing a significant role as a commentator on Pramāṇavārttika and as a philosopher of language, perhaps one of the promulgators of a moderate realism about universals.41 It is telling that in indigenous commentaries on Pramāṇavārttika—for example the rNam ‘grel thar lam gsal byed of rGyal tshab rje and other such commentaries—Tibetan authors

quite regularly contrast the positions of Lha dbang blo and Śākya’i blo (Devendrabuddhi and Śākyabuddhi), rGyan mkhan po (“the author of the [Vārttik]ālaṃkāra,” i.e., Prajñākaragupta), Bram ze chen po (“the big brahmin,” i.e., Śaṅkaranandana), and Chos mchog (Dharmottara), the latter being an 8th century thinker who did not write a commentary on Pramāṇavārttika, but instead wrote influential commentaries on Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇaviniścaya and

Nyāyabindu. The regular contrasts between these four or five positions show that on significant themes the works of Dharmakīrtian commentators and their different interpretative traditions were well understood. Very important too are the works of Śāntarakṣita and his disciple Kamalaśīla, no doubt because of the presence of these scholars in Tibet in the 8th

Century and the founding of the first Tibetan monastery at bSam yas in the Brahmaputra Valley. Indeed, it is difficult to overestimate the influence of Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla on Tibetan Buddhism, be it in Madhyamaka, Buddhist doctrine, or Pramāṇa—Śāntarakṣita’s Tattvasaṃgraha and Kamalaśīla’s Pañjikā thereupon were thus influential texts in Pramāṇa. By contrast, later Indian logicians of the 10th-12th centuries such as Jñānaśrīmitra (floruit 975-1025),

Ratnakīrti and Mokṣākaragupta, who had technically sophisticated debates with the Brahmanical schools of the time, were of negligible influence in Tibet. While the Pramāṇavārttika and Tattvasaṃgraha debates with the Brahmanical schools were studied and understood, important texts of the 10-12th century Indian Buddhist literature dealing with the specific later developments on logical problems arising in refuting permanence, God, etc., were often only of

marginal influence—many works that had considerable influence in Indian Buddhism were simply never translated into Tibetan.42 So, although there were some exceptions to this marginalization—bits and pieces of later Indian Pramāṇa positions that somehow came to be assimilated into intra-Tibetan debates43—the impact of the later Indian literature was little, one of the reasons probably being that the works of the post-8th century non-Buddhist authors figuring

heavily in Buddhist-Brahmanical debates—principally Jain, Nyāya, and Mīmāṃsaka—were not adequately understood in Tibet or even known at all. For example, in texts like Jñānaśrīmitra’s Apohaprakaraṇa, the argumentation is largely directed against Naiyāyikas like Trilocana, Bhāsarvajña and Vācaspatimiśra, who were, as far as I can tell at least, unknown in Tibet. The contextless logico-metaphysical debates on Pramāṇa, if anyone in Tibet ever looked at them in

their dense Sanskrit, must have seemed particularly confusing. In sum, Tibetan debates, innovations, and fine tunings on Indian Pramāṇa philosophy concern essentially the period from Dharmakīrti to the 9th century, with Dignāga’s thought little understood in its own right, and the thought of the very late Indian thinkers playing little role at all. Many of the Tibetan

commentarial developments, it should be said, were more or less learning experiences, rather complicated stages in the Tibetan discovery and assimilation of Indian philosophical literature. Others, however, are of genuine philosophical interest. We will look in some detail at the most important of these developments concerning logic. After that, we will move on to Tibetan positions on crucial semantic issues in Dharmakīrti and then finally to Tshad ma-related issues concerning negation operators and parameterization in the wider context of Indian tetralemma argumentation.

4. The triply characterized logical reason (trirūpahetu) in Tibet. The key concept in the Indian Buddhistscience of reasons” (hetuvidyā) is the notion of a good logical reason (saddhetu), and the criteria for a reason’s

being good, viz., the three characteristics. It hardly needs saying that good reasons and their triple characterization (trairūpya) is a subject of major importance in Indian Buddhist Pramāṇa—it figures in in the opening verse of Pramāṇavārttika and in other works of Dharmakīrti and Dignāga. What did

Tibetans do with this idea? Did they understand it properly and further develop it in any interesting directions? Let’s begin with presentations of the three characteristics in Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, and in a representative nineteenth century work by Yong ‘dzin Phur bu lcog Byams pa tshul khrims rgya mtsho

(1825-1901), a dGe lugs pa rTags rigs that was regularly used in Lhasa’s Se ra monastery. A comparison of the three gives a snapshot of how things evolved and what typical Tibetan contributions were.


Here, first, is Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya II, 5:

anumeye ‘tha tattulye sadbhāvo nāstitāsati44

“[a good reason] is present in the inferendum [i.e., in the subject] and in what is similar to it, and is absent in what is not [similar to it].” Dharmakīrti’s Nyāyabindu II, 5 then reads:

trairūpyaṃ punar liṅgasyānumeye sattvam eva sapakṣaiva sattvam asapakṣe cāsattvam eva niścitam tshul gsum pa nyid kyi rtags ni / rjes su dpag par bya ba la yod pa nyid dang / mthun pa’i phyogs nyid la yod pa dang / mi mthun pa’i phyogs la med pa nyid du nges pa’o // 45

“The triple characterization [of a good reason] is as follows. It is ascertained (niścita) that: (1) [the reason] is only present [i.e., and never absent] in the inferendum [i.e., in the subject]; (2) [the reason] is present in only the similar instances (sapakṣa) [i.e., and not in the dissimilar instances too]; (3) [the reason] is only absent [i.e., and never present] in the dissimilar instances (asapakṣa= vipakṣa).”

The rTags rigs of Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog then gives a fully elaborated version of the three characteristics:46 de sgrub kyi shes ‘dod chos can skyon med kyi steng dugod tshul dang mthun par yod pa nyid du tshad mas nges pa / de sgrub kyi phyogs chos kyi mtshan nyid

“The definition of the pakṣadharma [i.e., the fact that the reason qualifies the subject] for proving P is as follows: [the reason] is ascertained by means of a source of knowledge (pramāṇa) to be only present, in accordance with the appropriate way of stating [the verb yin or yod], in the faultless subject of inquiry when one is proving P.”

de sgrub kyi mthun phyogs kho na la ‘god tshul dang mthun par yod pa nyid du tshad mas nges pa de / de sgrub kyi rjes khyab kyi mtshan nyid. “The definition of the anvayavyāpti [i.e., the positive pervasion47 ] for proving P is as follows: [the reason] is ascertained by means of a source of knowledge to be present, in accordance with the appropriate way of stating [the verb yin or yod], in only the similar instances for proving P.” de sgrub kyi dngos kyi bsgrub bya’i chos kyi don ldog dang ‘brel stobs kyis de sgrub kyi mi mthun phyogs la ‘god tshul dang mthun par med pa nyid du tshad mas nges pa / de sgrub kyi ldog khyab kyi mtshan nyid.

“The definition of the vyatirekavyāpti [i.e., the negative pervasion] for proving P is as follows: on account of its necessary connection with the concept that is the actual property being proved, [the reason] is ascertained by means of a source of knowledge to be only absent, in accordance with the appropriate way of stating [the verb yin or yod], in the dissimilar instances for proving P.”

The first thing one notices is that the definitions obviously become longer and more complicated over time. Dignāga is the most concise, while at the other extreme Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog includes so many provisos as to virtually defy English translation. Here are some of the things that catch one’s eye in reading a Tibetan like Phur bu lcog in comparison with his Indian predecessors. Some are philosophical innovations; others are essentially dependent on, and account for, linguistic features of the Tibetan language.

de sgrub. We begin with the first words of the definition of the pakṣadharma(tva) in Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog, i.e., de sgrub kyi (“for proving P”) Although many of Phur bu lcog’s definitions, as we shall see, are amplifications of Dharmakīrtian ideas, we see an innovation in his introduction of a propositional variable, literally “that” (de) in Tibetan, which I am rendering by P. This is a difference vis-à-vis Indian Buddhist texts on the trairūpya, where no such variable figures. Indian texts do admittedly use tad (“that”) on occasion in other philosophical contexts more or less like a variable standing for a property or entity (as, for example in a phrase like tatkāryatā “being an effect of that,” “being an effect of x”), but Tibetans seem to recognize that a fully fledged propositional variable is needed in a general theory of reasons.

shes ‘dod chos can skyon med. The proviso in Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog that the first characteristic must be established on the basis of a “faultless subject of enquiry” (shes ‘dod chos can skyon med) is a way of bringing out Dharmakīrti’s idea, in the second chapter of the Pramāṇaviniścaya and other texts, that the opponent must have the appropriate “desire to know” (jijñāsā) whether the proposition to be proved is true or not.48 In the Indian texts we

find the term jijñāsitadharmin, literally, “the subject about which one desires to know,” “the subject of enquiry.” However, the idea is much more precisely formulated by Tibetans. Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog in his rTags rigs explains that it must be possible for the opponent to know that the reason qualifies the subject and yet still reasonably doubt whether the proposition to be proved is true.49 This obviously rules out circular proofs along the

lines of “A is B because it is B” and various other forms of question begging. As well, it rules out cases where the debate falls flat, because the opponent simply does not have the required doubt at all. More sophisticatedly, in Tibet it leads to debates concerning what could be called problems of “epistemic priority,” e.g., arguments that can be challenged because understanding the fact that the reason qualifies the subject would already somehow

presuppose understanding the truth of the proposition to be proved. Tibetans elaborate upon this in considerable detail and in ways that are not present in Dharmakīrti, employing a technical term go dka’ sla “[[[relative]]] ease or difficulty of understanding.” For example, it is argued that when one invokes a definiendum (mtshon bya = lakṣya) to prove a defining characteristic (mtshan nyid = lakṣaṇa) the former is more difficult to understand (go dka’ ba) in

that it presupposes the understanding of the latter, and that therefore the subject will not be a faultless subject of enquiry—this in turn means that the first characteristic will fail.


god tshul dang mthun pa. The proviso “in accordance with the appropriate way of stating [the verb yin or yod]” (‘god tshul dang mthun par), which is present in each characteristic’s definition, is a somewhat longwinded formula designed to account for the fact that Tibetan (like modern Chinese shi and you ) distinguishes between a simple copula, yin, and an existential verb, yod. Being “in accordance …” is a way to say that if the verb is yin in the

argument, it must remain yin when one is assessing the three characteristics. Similarly for yod. These two verbs, and the resulting possibilities for confusion between them, are not reflected in Sanskrit verbs like asti and bhavati. They are of course important in Sino-Tibetan languages, and hence it became important to provide for them in transposing the Indian trairūpya schema into Tibetan. Thus, for example, where Sanskrit uses a nominative (parvataḥ “mountain”) and a substantive with the mant suffix (“having…”) to express “having fire” (vahnimān) in the stock reasoning parvato vahnimān dhumāt (“The

mountain has fire, because of [its] smoke”), the Tibetan has to use an oblique case marker la plus the verb yod (du ldan gyi la la me yod te du ba yod pa’i phyir, literally “On the smokey pass there exists fire because there is smoke”). Equally, where Sanskrit uses the genitive case and the abstraction suffix tva or tā, but no copula (e.g., śabdasyānityatvaṃ kṛtakatvāt “Sound has impermanence because of its being a product”) the Tibetan is obliged to proceed differently with a copula yin.


nyid. Tibetan has two ways of expressing the Sanskrit particle eva (“only”) that is so important in the Indian trairūpya. In Tibetan canonical translations we typically find kho na being used for eva, but often, as in the case of the translation of the Nyāyabindu passage (see above), nyid is used instead. In indigenous works too nyid is used widely. The use of nyid here creates some problems, for the particle is ambiguous in Tibetan, often rendering Sanskrit abstraction suffixes tva or tā (as in stong pa nyid = śūnyatāemptiness” or sngon po nyid = nīlatva “blueness”), but also eva.50 The rTags rigs

definitions under scrutiny compound the difficulties because they use both nyid and kho na: thus yod pa nyid renders Nyāyabindu’s sattvam eva in the first definition, mthun phyogs kho na la renders Nyāyabindu’s sapakṣa eva (mthun phyogs nyid la) in the second, yod pa nyid then renders sattvam in the second, and med pa nyid renders asattvam eva in the third. While the use of nyid in rTags rigs accurately reflects the canonical translation’s use of nyid to render eva in the first and third definitions, it seems, however, that dGe lugs pa rTags rigs texts came to add an additional nyid in the second definition

because of the tva in sattva. There was, then, obviously some confusion because of the double sense of nyid. In the anvayavyāpti definition dGe lugs pa authors confusedly use nyid after yod pa, while in the usual Dharmakīrtian second definition sattva is not followed by eva at all, nor is there a nyid here in the canonical translation of the passage. The potential for going astray is relatively serious. If, par malheur, one happened to take this yod pa nyid as expressing sattvam eva, instead of just sattvam, the anvayavyāpti definition would become quite wrong; indeed Dharmakīrtians in India and Tibet

explicitly argue against putting eva (nyid, kho na) there after sattva in the second definition.51 That said, if this and other indigenous formulations may have sometimes had problems with an ambiguous nyid, the uses of eva in the trairūpya and in Indian grammarians’ analysis of Sanskrit syntax were certainly understood in Tibet. Those uses were taken up by Dharmakīrti in extenso in texts such as Pramāṇavārttika IV, k. 190-192; two of the three are particularly important in the context of the trairūpya. Notably, the “elimination of non-possession

(ayogavyavaccheda = mi ldan rnam gcod) and “elimination of possession of something else” (anyayogavyavaccheda = gzhan ldan rnam gcod) conveyed by different placings of eva (“only”) in the first and second definitions respectively serve as ways to convey different uses of universal quantification.52 These uses of eva in the trairūpya are regularly discussed in Tibetan literature. They form a kind of recurring “lesson” in indigenous Pramāṇavārttika commentaries and in some rTags rigs texts. Tibetans were, for example, aware of the detailed and rigorous discussion in Dharmottara’s Nyāyamukhaṭīkā ad II, k. 5 of the

logical consequences of right and wrong placements of eva in the trairūpya. 53 The understanding of the logical aspects of quantification in the trairūpya, thus, does not differ from that of Dharmakīrti, even if the vacillation between nyid and kho na and the double duty of nyid suggests some nagging philological difficulties in handling the Indian material.

5. The Goodness and Badness of Reasons for Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, and Tibetans


So much for specific details and philological issues in the formulations of the three characteristics. What can we say about the more philosophical aspects concerning logical reasons in Dignāga, Dharmakīrti and in Tibetans like Phur bu lcog? Modern writers on Indian and Tibetan logic frequently speak of

reasons being “valid” or “invalid,” which unfortunatley tends to lead to a bout of conceptual chaos in rendering the Indian term saddhetu or the equivalent Tibetan terms gtan tshigs yang dag and rtags yang dag. I have regularly argued that the triply characterized reason, a saddhetu, is not to be viewed as a reason that is simply formally valid, as if a reason P being a saddhetu for Q were no more than a matter of P⊧Q, viz., that Q was a logical consequence of

P, in virtue of the form of the statements and independent of content.54 Let’s instead just speak of a saddhetu as a “good reason” and a hetvābhāsa (gtan tshigs ltar snang, literally “pseudo-reason”) as a “bad reason.” Here are some general comparative observations about what that goodness is for Dignāga, Dharmakīrti and a Tibetan like Phur bu lcog.


First of all, factual content, and not just logical form, matters to a reason’s goodness for these three logicians—India and Tibet are no different on that score. If we, for the moment, slightly deform things by taking the three characteristics as showing, inter alia, premises in an argument (rather than criteria for evaluating a reason), then the question of the truth of the premises is crucial, and not just the formal validity of the inference: this is

part of what is involved in Dharmakīrti and rTags rigs saying that the three characteristics must be “ascertained” or “ascertained by a pramāṇa”—if a proposition is ascertained by a source of knowledge it is true.55 Though Dignāga does not state “ascertained,” still for him too reasoning from truths to other truths is essential. To put things in other terms, in India and Tibet soundness (arguments that do have true premises and entail a true conclusion) is much more emphasized than validity (arguments where the premises, if true, would entail a true conclusion).


Second, while the actual truth of the premises as well as the entailment of the conclusion are important, this certainly isn’t all there is to goodness. Providing an account of what type of reason is a good one also involves considerations of epistemic priority, the makeup of the opponent’s belief set, the opponent’s receptivity to certain arguments, and his doubts. Thus the triple characterization, with its provisions concerning “ascertainment,” “faultless subjects of enquiry,” “proper opponents” and the like, also takes up essentially epistemic, and even rhetorical, matters: what can one rationally doubt

when one believes or knows such and such a proposition to be true? What type of reason will, or should, succeed in changing beliefs and for which kind of person? Indian Pramāṇa specialists treated these matters as largely implicit in their trairūpya definitions; Tibetan Tshad ma makes them quite explicit. Here is a sample of the type of epistemically oriented discussions that arise. First, as mentioned earlier, for a reason to be a good one, the opponent must have the requisite doubt as to whether the proposition being debated is true. Indeed the fact that a particular opponent already believes or knows the

truth of the proposition being debated means that the reason will be categorized as faulty for him given his belief set, even though it may generally be a good one for opponents. Thus reasons are good relative to opponents and their belief set; often the opponent is understood to be the ideal rational individual; sometimes one delves into the belief sets of particular (less than ideal) individuals. Second, as a good reason is one that can rationally persuade opponents to revise their beliefs, it must be couched in terminology and concepts to which the opponent is receptive; if, for example, the reason

or subject are not ones that the opponent can acknowledge in his philosophy, then the argument will not be persuasive at all to him and will not change his beliefs. Another requirement: the opponent must still be able to rationally doubt the proposition’s truth even though she has ascertained that the subject is qualified by the reason and has even ascertained that the reason is pervaded by the property. For example, a reason like “being audible” is not a good one for proving that sound is impermanent, because audibility is coextensive with sound: in that case it would be impossible to know that all audible

things are impermanent and yet continue to doubt rationally whether sound is impermanent. “Audibility” (mnyan bya (nyid) = śrāvaṇatva) is considered here to be “a reason that is uncertain because of being overly exclusive” (thun mong ma yin pa’i ma nges pa’i gtan tshigs = asādhāraṇānaikāntikahetu): there is an extensive analysis of this type of reason, in epistemic terms, in the dGe lugs pasrTags rigs texts and in their commentaries on Pramāṇavārttika.56 To represent these epistemic aspects of the triple characterization adequately it seems that we would need to change course significantly from the way

modern writers have typically used elementary logic tools to elucidate Buddhist ideas. Instead of simply using first order predicate calculus to elucidate the triple characterization, we may well need to see it as fully involving a type of logic of belief revision. This cannot be attempted here in anything but general themes for reflection. In any case, while determining what follows formally from what or determining which statements are true would be important in revising beliefs, they only represent part of the story. The larger problem being investigated by Indians and Tibetans is the rational process

whereby an opponent’s existing belief states—a set of propositions some of which are epistemically entrenched, while others can be more or less doubted—meet new added information (a fact presented as a reason) and then change into new belief states. Up until now, the Indo-Tibetan trairūpya has been studied by and large as a fragment of formal thinking, with epistemic aspects seemingly more or less inessential add-ons.57 Seeing the trairūpya as a fragment of a logic of belief revision would integrate those epistemic and rhetorical aspects that have hitherto been deemed secondary or have even been selectively

disregarded.

Third, there is a significant metaphysical dimension to the Dharmakīrtian and Tibetan idea of a good reason. This is the requirement that there be a “necessary connection” (sambandha, pratibandha), i.e., a naturally existent real connection (svabhāvapratibandha) of either causality (tadupatti) or same nature (tādātmya) between the reason and the property to be proved (sādhyadharma). It is supposedly in virtue of this connection that the debater can be

certain that the pervasion holds. Thus the metaphysical requirement is also implicit in the Nyāyabindu’s use of the proviso niścita (ascertained). Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog is more explicit in that he clearly specifies, in the third definition, that this ascertainment is by means of a source of knowledge (tshad ma = pramāṇa) grounded by a necessary connection (‘brel ba = sambandha). That requirement, i.e., grounding of logical reasoning in necessary connections between terms, comes straight from Dharmakīrti, but is not present in

Dignāga’s works. The natures (svabhāva) and their connections—to which a logician is ontologically committed as real facts—are what ensures the second and third characteristics, i.e., the pervasion. It is thus the ontological precondition for certainty (niścaya, niścita) and guarantees, in some sense, that the pervasion must hold, and not that it simply does hold as far as we can see. Another Dharmakīrtian way to put it is that the existence of real facts and the relevant connections between them ensures that the reason “operates due to real entities” (vastubalapravṛtta); reasoning is thus not an arbitrary

process of freewheeling thought and language. It is no exaggeration to say that Dharmakīrti’s demands for certainty, necessary connections, and grounding in reality are among his main contributions in the Buddhist philosophy of logic.59

6. Certainty, Formal Matters and the dGe lugs–Sa skya Debate on Similar Instances.


Let it be granted that, besides logical or formal considerations, there are many other aspects—rhetorical, epistemic, factual, metaphysical—involved in the goodness of a reason, in both Indian and Tibetan philosophies of logic. Nonetheless, what can be said about the implication of the conclusion from the reason when the triple characteristic is satisfied and the reason is thus good? Is the truth of the conclusion guaranteed by formal considerations when the three characteristics are established (and the premises are thus true), or is it at best fallibly established to be true in, let’s say, normal situations?

One way of interpreting Dignāga was indeed that the three characteristics were thought to be fallible in this way. We can see that the much-maligned Īśvarasena, who supposedly wrote a commentary on the Pramāṇasamuccaya, was quite aware that satisfaction of the triple characteristic would generally establish truth of the conclusion, but that there were exceptional cases where it would not. Hence he added three supplementary characteristics to rule out such abnormal cases.60 If we adopt the official Dharmakīrtian line about certainty (niścaya), however, then fallible truths are not enough; truth of the

conclusion should be guaranteed. Indeed, there are several passages in the Pramāṇavārttika, notably chapter 1. 15, that clearly show that Dharmakīrti thought that Dignāga himself used or intended to use the term niścaya / niścita in order to eliminate, inter alia, “deviant reasons” (vyabhicāra), i.e., those that did not guarantee the truth of the conclusion because the pervasion was not rigorously established.61 The emphasis on certainty is so strong an imperative that Tibetan monastic

textbook (yig cha) writers, like e.g., Se ra rje btsun Chos kyi rgyal mtshan (1478-1546), regularly also back-read Dharmakīrti’s position onto Dignāga’s texts, and argued, that niścaya/niścita was actually present in the passage from the Pramāṇasamuccaya II.5 quoted above. That, however, is just not so: it is not there in the Sanskrit of that verse of Pramāṇasamuccya nor in Dignāga’s Pramāṇa­samuccayavṛtti; Dharmakīrti added it in a kind of borderline plagiary of that key Pramāṇasamuccaya passage in his Pramāṇaviniścaya so that he could accommodate his own ideas about grounding for logical reasoning, and the

certainty ensured by natural connections (svabhāvapratibandha). Ever since the Pramāṇaviniścaya, Dharmakīrtian commentators such as Arcaṭa and Durvekamiśra, and notably Tibetans, have been doing a back-reading of Dignāga to say that it was there all along.62 In fact, there is no convincing evidence that Dignāga was concerned with grounding and metaphysical foundations of logic. The back-reading thus did not fit him easily at all. Besides the Tibetan debates on the presence or absence of the “word niścita” (nges pa’i tshig = niścitagrahaṇa), however, there are other considerations

that have a bearing on the question of the conclusion’s truth being guaranteed. There are formal considerations. If we go back to the passages from Dignāga, Dharmakīrti and Phur bu lcog, truth conservation depends upon how one takes the terms “similar instances” (sapakṣa) and “dissimilar instances” (vipakṣa/asapakṣa). This question is not explicitly discussed in India, but it is the subject of a significant debate between dGe lugs pa (and their gSang phu predecessors, the followers of Phya pa Chos kyi seng ge), on the one hand, and Sa skya pa on the other. Let us now look at the details of that dGe

lugs-Sa skya debate. It is a debate which starts in the classical period with Sa skya Paṇḍita’s Tshad ma rigs gter criticizing Phya pa and the gSang phu thinkers; it is then prolonged in the post-classical period in the writings of Go rams pa bSod nams Seng ge and those of dGe lugs pa writers like Se ra rje btsun Chos kyi rgyal mtshan, the former defending Sa skya Paṇḍita and the latter defending his opponents. If we go back to Dharmakīrti’s definitions of the three characteristics as given in Nyāyabindu II.5 (translated above), the subject, or pakṣa, is known to

be only present (i.e., never absent) in the reason, the reason is known to be present in only similar instances (sapakṣa), and the reason is known to be wholly absent from dissimilar instances (vipakṣa). Let us, for the sake of convenience, represent a typical argument in Sanskrit or Tibetan as having the general form “A is B because it is C.” In that case, to put it very approximatively, the first characteristic ensures that all A’s are C’s, while the remaining two conditions are designed to ensure that all C’s are B’s, all three of them enabling us to infer that all A’s are B’s.63


However, an important controversy arises concerning the terms sapakṣa and vipakṣa in the second and third characteristics. Looking at Sa skya Paṇḍita’s major work Tshad ma rigs gter and the dGe lugs rTags rigs literature, we see that there was a significant divergence on the issue of what Indians meant by “similar” and “dissimilar.” Indeed these texts develop two scenarios, what I have called “the orthodox scenario,” according to which similar and dissimilar instances excluded the subject (dharmin) and thus did not exhaust the whole universe of things about which we might reason, and the “unorthodox scenario,”

according to which the subject was included amongst the similar or dissimilar instances respectively, these two exhausting the universe and admitting no third alternative.64 In brief, the orthodox scenario leads to a tripartite division of the universe into (1) the set of similar instances, {x: Bx & ¬Ax}, i.e., the set of all those things x that have the property B but not A. (2) the set of dissimilar instances, {x: ¬Bx & ¬Ax}, i.e., all those things x that do not have B and do not have A. (3) the set of things which are the subject, i.e. {x: Ax). The unorthodox scenario in effect is an advocacy of

bipartition: there is no third alternative apart from the similar and the dissimilar instances; the similar instances are simply {x: Bx} and the dissimilar instances are {x: ¬Bx}. Now, whereas the orthodox scenario is plausibly ascribed to Dignāga,65 the unorthodox scenario is especially what we find in later Indian texts of the so-called “intrinsic pervasion” (antarvyāpti) school, such as the Antarvyāptisamarthana of the 10th century thinker, Ratnākaraśānti.66 The opponents of Sa skya Paṇḍita were characterized in his Tshad ma rigs gter as followers of antarvyāpti (nang gi khyab pa). This seems to have been on the mark, for we can see that the dGe lugs pa and Phya pa Chos kyi seng ge indeed do use Ratnākaraśānti’s definitions of similar and dissimilar instances, and that they are exponents of the unorthodox scenario (although they do not endorse the key tenet of Antarvyāptivāda that examples are dispensable when arguing with intelligent people).67 An interesting question—which alas I cannot take up here, but have discussed elsewhere—is how we should situate Dharmakīrti.68 In

any case, whether rightly or wrongly, the Sa skya pa interpret him (and Dignāga) as following the orthodox scenario, and the dGe lugs take him (and Dignāga) as following the unorthodox. The problems for the orthodox scenario are formal. Here is what those formal issues look like. Let C be the reason, A the subject property and B the property to be proved. For simplicity, let us simply take the term A as a general term—if we want to take it as a particular that adaptation can be made.

The two scenarios can be best differentiated by formulating the second characteristic along the lines of “all C’s apart from those that are A are B’s” and “all C’s are B’s” repectively. The difference applies mutatis mutandis to the third characteristic. We represent the universal quantifier “For all x: …” by “(x) (…)” and material implication (“if … then …”) by “→.” Here then are the two scenarios concerning the triple characterization:


(a) Orthodox

(x) (Ax→Cx).

(x) ((Cx & ¬Ax) →Bx)

(x) (¬Bx & ¬Ax) →¬Cx)


(b) Unorthodox

(x) (Ax →Cx)

(x) (Cx → Bx)

(x) (¬Bx → ¬Cx)


It is clear that on scenario

(a), the conclusion (x) (Ax→Bx) does not follow from the three statements,69 whereas on scenario

(b) it uncontroversially does. We could say that the three statements in

(a), if true, might provide some fallible grounds for thinking that (x)

(Ax →Bx) is true, but that there is no guarantee that it is true, because that statement is not formally implied; it cannot be derived from the other three. At most, the move to the conclusion would be a defeasible inference, one which would be tentative and might be retracted once further information became available. In

(b), however, the truth of the conclusion would be guaranteed as the statement is formally implied and easily derivable; there is thus no possibility of the inference subsequently being revised because of new information. That difference with regard to defeasibility is also sometimes spoken of as a difference between non-monotonic and monotonic logics, or, less precisely, between inductive and deductive logics.70


If we accepted (b) as capturing the trairūpya, there would be no problem in seeing a good reason as guaranteeing truth of the conclusion. And for the dGe lugs pa there is indeed no problem with this. The Sa skya pa, however, had some major exegetical conundrums.71 On the one hand, it seems to be so, as the

debate shows, that similar instances and dissimilar instances for Dignāga were easily and naturally interpreted along the lines of (a). At least it is demonstrable that some very competent logicians in seventh century India did interpret Dignāga’s logic in this way. When, for example, the Chinese pilgrim

Xuanzang used Dignāga’s logic of triply characterized reasons to frame a tortuous proof of idealism, his proof is only intelligible, as Franco 2005 convincingly shows, if we take similar and dissimilar instances in the orthodox fashion, i.e., as excluding the subject.72 It seems clear that the logic on which the argument was based was not an idiosyncratic invention of Xuanzang himself nor a purely Chinese development; it reflected a going Indian interpretation of Dignāga.


Nonetheless, there are problems in saying that for Dignāga himself, the satisfaction of the triply characterization reason, as in (a), could have provided only a fallible justification for the claiming the conclusion to be true, or that Dignāgan logic is therefore non-monotonic/inductive, while Dharmakīrti’s logic is monotonic/deductive.73 I now think that unfortunately one cannot be so categorical in this fashion about Dignāga, even if we probably can continue to use those terms to characterize the logic of Dharmakīrti and his successors.


My reluctance is for the following two reasons. First of all, some later Sa skya pa Rigs gter ba writers such as Glo bo mkhan chen Bsod nams lhun grub (1456-1532) were aware of the problem that Dignāga seemed to advocate a tripartite universe, but that it would come with the unacceptable price that a triply characterized reason did not entail its conclusion. They thus made a difference between similar instances taken epistemically, or subjectively (blo

ngor gnas pa’i mthun phyogs), and similar instances as they are in reality, or objectively (don la gnas pa’i mthun phyogs). To take the sound-impermanent example, the first is the set of all things that the debaters know to be impermanent. Since they wonder whether sound is in fact impermanent, sound is

excluded from those known impermanent entities. The second is what is really so, irrespective of what debaters may think; thus, in this sense, sound is actually included amongst the similar instances because it is an impermanent thing. In short, the orthodox account would focus on epistemology and

epistemic processes of how people reason, whereas the unorthodox account would better capture the logical aspects of what follows from what. Secondly, it is now clear, thanks to the detailed study of Shōryū Katsura 2005 on Dignāga’s use of the terms pakṣa, sapakṣa and asapakṣa / vipakṣa, that

Dignāga himself tried to distinguish both the epistemic/subjective and the logical/objective perspectives in his use of the key terms. It seems then that the diagnosis by Glo bo mkhan chen of two senses is on the mark and helpful in understanding Dignāga.74 As Katsura 2005, 124 hypothesizes, while Dignāga’s

subjective interpretation of “similar instances” was captured by the orthodox tripartite division of the Rigs gter ba, the objective bipartite division that he also had may have contributed to the unorthodox bipartite division promulgated by Dharmakīrti, the Antarvyāptivādins, and the dGe lugs pa. In that

case, the modern researcher wondering whether Dignāga’s own trairūpya promoted non-monotonic or monotonic logic, or one that was inductive or deductive, etc., would have to content herself with the somewhat unsatisfying (but historically right) answer that the trairūpya for Dignāga was a mixture of both—it

all depended on whether you read the terse formulae about similar and dissimilar instances from the logical or epistemic perspectives. That being said, Sa skya Paṇḍita (Sa paṇ) no doubt emphasized the epistemic perspective and thus the orthodox reading of the Indian trairūpya’s talk about

similar and dissimilar instances.75 That is how he talks in Rigs gter 10 about pakṣa, sapakṣa and vipakṣa and that is how he and the Rigs gter ba were read by their dGe lugs pa adversaries, such as Se ra Chos kyi rgyal mtshan.76 The problem for the Sa skya pa was, however, that he, like Phya pa and the dGe lugs pa, demanded guaranteed truth conservation of the conclusion—it had to formally follow from true premises. This was the Dharmakīrtian stance and both sides in the Tibetan debate adhered to it. Not surprisingly, then, given that Sa paṇ must have been sensitive to the formal problems of entailment in the tripartite universe, he chose a very different exegetical route to specify the logical and objective aspects of a triply characterized reason more

precisely. The Indian trairūpya was drastically revamped and no longer formulated in terms of presence in similar instances and absence in dissimilar instances at all. Instead he and his Sa skya pa followers reformulated the second and third characteristics to be simply that the property to be proved

must be implied by the reason and that the reason must be absent when the property is. This is an unconvincing rewrite of the attested canonical formulations of the Indian Buddhist trairūpya—it is part of the “slow death” of the Indian trairūpya in Tibet—but shows, if more evidence were ever needed,

just how uneasy the inherited Indian position was for Tibetans.77 In Sa paṇ’s eyes, the price to be paid to save the trairūpya as a definition of a good reason that entailed the conclusion was that he had to make a clean sweep of the old Indian definition. He had to relegate talk of similar and dissimilar instances to epistemology and then do logic with a new version that simply dispensed with them.

7. Deviant logic? The tetralemma and the law of double negation elimination in Tibetan Madhyamaka


It is frequently wondered whether the formal structures in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism represent a type of radically different logic, or “deviant logic,” one that does not respect fundamental theorems of classical western logic.78 Whereas the trairūpya, in India and in Tibet, clearly does not suggest any such deviance, the argumentation concerning the tetralemma (catuṣkoṭi) might. The tetralemma is found in numerous texts of the so-called school of the “philosophy of the middle” (madhyamaka = dbu ma), 79 and although it is not used by the major figures in Indian Pramāṇa literature, Tibetans tended to synthesize Madhyamaka and Pramāṇa so that what they held about one tradition affected, in varying degrees, what they held about the other.


Here is how the recurring schema of four alternatives, or the tetralemma, is presented in verse 21 of chapter XIV of Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka: sad asat sad asac ceti sadasan neti ca kramaḥ / eṣa prayojyo vidvadbhir ekatvādiṣu nityaśaḥ / “Existent, nonexistent, both existent and nonexistent, neither existent nor nonexistent, that is the method that the learned should always use with regard to oneness and other such [theses].”80


The philosophy of the middle, starting with the 2nd-3rd century C.E. thinkers Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva, regularly uses this schema, or a partial version of it, to dismiss all philosophical theses (pakṣa, pratijñā = phyogs, dam bca’) and thus arrive at a quietist stance of “no more discursive proliferations”

(niṣprapañca= spros bral)— a Mādhyamika thinker supposedly negates all four lemmas, and this with regard to any philosophical position presented. In short, we are supposed to negate existence, nonexistence, both and neither, as well as oneness, not-oneness, both, neither, and every other such proposition in its four alternatives. Granted the last two lemmas are frequently left out and one often speaks simply of negating the first two, i.e., “existence” and

nonexistence,” with all other attributes in philosophical debates negated mutatis mutandis. And this twofold negation yields the famous middle way (madhyamā pratipad = dbu ma’i lam). Things do not stop at the first two negations, however. Lest it be thought that “neither existent nor nonexistent” is the final view on how things are in reality, this lemma is negated too. How that path to thesislessness is to be interpreted and practiced is a major theme in Tibetan Buddhism.8


Now, prima facie at least, the fourfold negation of the lemmas of “existence,” “nonexistence,” “both,” and “neither” would seem to result in a very deviant Buddhist logic. To put things in terms of propositional calculus, the four negations would seem to yield the conjunction of the following four statements:


(a) ¬P

(b) ¬ ¬P

(c) ¬(P & ¬P)

(d) ¬(¬P & ¬ ¬P)82


Notably, the law of non-contradiction seems to be violated if we apply the law of double negation elimination to (b) (i.e., ¬¬P) and then adjoin (a) (i.e., ¬P) to the result of that elimination. We end up simply with ¬P & P, a contradiction. It doesn’t stop there: adjoining (c) to P & ¬P would yield (P & ¬P) &

¬(P & ¬P). And so on it goes. That specter of deviance did not go unnoticed in Tibet, where, as in India (at least from about the 5th century C.E. on), there were strict, explicit prohibitions against contradiction (virodha = ‘gal ba). Indo-Tibetan Buddhist logicians spoke of propositions that were “mutually contradictory” (parasparaviruddha = phan tshun spangs ‘gal), and if one asserted such a “mutual contradiction” it was a point of defeat (nigrahasthāna = tshar gcod kyi gnas).83

Two moves suggest themselves to enable Buddhists to avoid contradiction in the fourfold Madhyamaka reasoning. First they could reinterpret the negation operator so that the law of double negation elimination would not apply in these discussions. Negation here would be a kind of “mere denial” without any

implied positive assertion, so that ¬ ¬P would not imply P; the adjoined negations would remain mere denials and would not yield any positive assertion of P that could be adjoined with ¬P. The second move is to add parameters to the various propositions so that the appearance of contradiction is dissipated.


Both these moves were present to varying degrees in Indian Madhyamaka discussions. The first move to interpret tetalemma-style negation as “mere denial” (pratiṣedhamātra = dgag pa tsam) dates from the 6th century Mādhyamika Bhāviveka’s appropriation of two types of negation in Indian logic, viz.,

implicative (paryudāsa) and non-implicative (prasajya), the latter being a negation that does not imply any positive phenomenon (vidhi). The second move is not given a developed theoretical treatment in India, but figures, at least implicitly, in Indian Madhyamaka uses of qualifiers like svabhāvena (by its

intrinsic nature), paramārthatas (ultimately), satyatas (truly, really) and other terms that are understood equivalently. Both moves stimulated significant debate and philosophical reflection in Tibet.84 In particular, we find major figures of the dGe lugs and Sa skya

tradition arguing as to precisely how we should interpret the “mere denial” sort of negation and whether or not it obeys the law of double negation elimination. For the Sa skya pa it does not obey the law of double negation elimination, whereas for the dGe lugs pa it most certainly does.


We also find debates between these two traditions about whether the statements of the tetralemma should be explicitly parameterized. The dGe lugs pa have a sophisticated position where they maintain that instead of understanding, say, the first lemma as “… exists,” it should be understood as “… exists by its intrinsic nature” (rang bzhin gyis) or “… exists ultimately” (don dam par), “… exists truly (bden par),” etc., These qualifiers can be represented with a term of art, the operator “REALLY.”85 Thus, (a) and (b) would become respectively:


(e) ¬ REALLY P


(f) ¬ REALLY ¬P


There would be no contradiction in asserting both (e) and (f) to arrive at a middle way where P may be true but “REALLY P” is not true and “REALLY ¬P” is not true either. Double negation elimination need not be rejected because there is no threat at all that REALLY P will follow from ¬ REALLY ¬P. Indeed, the

philosophical upshot of the tetralemma negations would just be that no statement or its negation is ever true when prefixed with the REALLY operator.86 The dGe lugs pa Madhyamaka-style negation of qualified statements is thus a frontal attack on metaphysical realism and ontology, but it does not exclude accepting and arguing for the truth of unqualified statements. One can, in effect, claim the truth of “The world is round,” “Enlightened people exist,” or

“There are no three positive integers a, b, and c that satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two.” Such truths may sometimes be obvious and sometimes profound, but for those statements to be true one need not, and indeed cannot, claim the truth of “It is REALLY so that the world is round,” “It is REALLY so that there are no three positive integers, etc.” The Sa skya pa, on the other hand, maintains that the statements in

the tetralemma should not be parameterized at all. Given that the goal of the Madhyamaka, for them, is a completely irenic state where one makes no truth-claims whatsoever, qualification would run counter to that goal, for if the tetralemma’s statements were qualified one could still claim a propositon P to be true and argue strenuously for it—as did the dGe lugs pa—and hence be irremediably lost in “discursive proliferations.”


The key technical term in this dGe lugs pa-Sa skya pa argument is dgag pa gnyis kyis rnal ma go ba, literally “understanding the main [proposition] by means of two negations.” It is not difficult to see that this is indeed a law of double negation elimination. The term is found in early Pramāṇaviniścaya commentaries, such as that of rNgog lo tsā ba Blo ldan shes rab (1059–1109), and also figures regularly in Tsong kha pa’s Madhyamaka texts, such as his

commentary on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, his rTsa she ṭīk chen. It is not itself an original Tibetan idea, but can be traced back to Indian Buddhist logic, the Sanskrit original pratiṣedhadvayena prakṛtagamana being found in the third chapter of Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇaviniścaya.87 There are also Indian uses of the same or equivalent terms in non-Buddhist texts—like Kumārila’s Ślokavārttika Nirālambanavāda 125, which uses pratiṣedhadvayāt vidhir eva (The positive

does indeed come from the double negation)—as well as in Indian Madhyamaka texts such as Candrakīrti’s Prasannapadā to Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 4.5ab and especially Bhāviveka’s Prajñāpradīpa (D. 80a7) and Avalokitavrata’s Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā (D. 180b3). But although double-negation elimination does seem to be invoked on relatively rare occasions in those Indian Madhyamaka commentaries, it is not at all clear whether the Mādhyamika himself endorses it as a

universally applicable logical law, or whether he restricts it to implicative negations, or just uses it in certain situations as a rhetorical stratagem that is recognized by the opponent. The interest of the Tibetan debate is that it takes up this issue, one that was philosophically crucially important but was still probably quite unclear in

India. In sum, for the Sa skya pa, the rejection of double negation elimination is essential to the Madhyamaka goal of thesislessness; logic admits of exceptional rejections of some classical theorems; a Mādhyamika supposedly makes “mere denials” but never makes any positive truth claims; parameterization does no work here and is in fact an obstacle. For the dGe lugs pa, by contrast, parameterization is the key; the issue of double negation elimination is

irrelevant; the logical features of the tetralemma and non-implicative negation are thus taken to be unexceptionably classical. Tibetan positions on these issues thus concern the most basic matters of Madhyamaka quietism.

8. Semantic issues: Indians and Tibetans on referential opacity and intensional entities As a final subject in our exposé on Tibetan developments of Indian Pramāṇa debates, we turn to an important logico-semantic issue connected with Dignāga

and Dharmakīrti’s apoha (exclusion) theory of meaning. This semantic problem, similar to western debates concerning substitution of identicals for identicals in opaque contexts, was regarded as crucial for logic, both in India and Tibet, because it was thought that failure to find an acceptable

solution threatened the possibility of logical reasoning across the board. In short, Dharmakīrti and Tibetans characterized the semantic solutions as necessary conditions for the legitimacy of one of the Buddhist sources of knowledge, inference (anumāna). Here are the Indian basics and the Tibetan developments.


Buddhist logicians knew well that pervasion (vyāpti = khyab pa) between two terms F and G sometimes hold in only one direction, as in the case of “being a tree” and “being a śiṃśapā tree”—all śiṃśapās are trees, but obviously not all trees are śiṃśapās— and that sometimes pervasion is bidirectional. The

former case is analysable as a universally quantified material implication, i.e., a conditional like for all x: if x is a śiṃśapā then x is a tree, while the latter case, termed “equal pervasion” (samavyāpti = khyab mnyam), is, in effect, analysable as a universally quantified biconditional, for all x: x is F if and only if x is G. In India, and in Tibet, semantic problems then arise in cases of a bidirectional pervasion, like that between impermanence

(anityatva = mi rtag pa nyid) and being causally produced (kṛtakatva = byas pa nyid), where in effect (adopting the above analysis) we have a true biconditional, for all x: x is impermanent if and only if x is causally produced. Tibetans will then say that given this birdirectional pervasion, the

terms are therefore coextensive. Indeed, Tibetans regularly use the technical term don gcig (literally: same objects) for this extensional identity of F and G and speak of “eight types of pervasions” (khyab pa sgo brgyad) holding between F and G when they are the “same objects”: (1-2) a bidirectional pervasion using the copula “is” (yin); (3-4) its two contrapositions; (5-6) a bidirectional pervasion using the existential verb yod (“There is...”); (7-8) its two contrapositions.88


When there is extensional identity between F and G, a problem of substitutivity then arises. It can be unpacked in the following manner, with the use of a few familiar notions and principles. Although the extension of terms may be the same (e.g., the set of impermanent particulars = the set of causally

produced particulars), still in some contexts substitutivity of one term for the other would seem to lead to an invalid inference where the premises are true but the conclusion is not. To bring this out, take the following tempting, but invalid, inference:


(a) Being a product is a good reason for proving that sound is impermanent

(b) Being a product is coextensive with being impermanent (i.e., for all x: x is impermanent if and only if x is a causal product)

(c) Therefore (by substitutivity of identicals for identicals), being impermanent is a good reason for proving that sound is impermanent.


We would seem to go from two true premises to a false conclusion, for Buddhists are explicit on the point that the conclusion is false. (Indeed, arguing that something is so because it is simply so is not giving a good reason, neither for Buddhists nor for most people in the world!) Buddhists, however, as

we saw in discussing the definitions of the triple characteristic, would phrase the problem in terms of the jijñāsā / shes ‘doddesire to know” becoming impossible: it is impossible to know that sound is impermanent and still want to know whether sound is impermanent; the pakṣadharmatva would thus fail because once one understood the reason as qualifying the subject, that subject would not be a jijñāsitadharmin / shes ‘dod chos can, one about which one

wishes to know whether it is qualified by the property to be proved. And yet we would also seem to be using an acceptable principle of substitutivity of identicals for identicals salva veritate, i.e., with no change in the truth value of the proposition in which such substitution occurs.What went wrong? Is Leibniz’s famous law of substitutivity of identicals salva veritate not recognized? Or, if it is—and in fact it is recognized by Buddhists, in that they

themselves take coextensiveness of “being a product” and “being impermanent” as being a form of identity and licencing substitution of the property terms in many contexts—then why does it not apply here? Dharmakīrti, in Pramāṇavārttika I verse 40 et sq. and his own commentary (svavṛtti) diagnosed the problem as one of bidirectional pervasions (i.e.,

coextensive concepts) seeming to force us to accept pratijñārthaikakadeśahetu “reasons that are one part of the thesis proposition” (e.g., when one says “sound is impermanent because it is impermanent,” then the reason “being impermanent” is also a part of what is being proved). He saw this undesirable consequence as one of the main challenges to logical thought being a source of knowledge (pramāṇa), for unless one can somehow rule out the problematic substitutions in what I have called the “tempting inference,” we would seem to have to accept as good a huge number of singularly uninformative circular reasons.


The issue is indeed a recognizably familiar one in formal semantics and in philosophy of logic and language: substitutivity in referentially opaque contexts, such as propositional attitudes and modal contexts (see Tillemans 1986). One might know who Kim Philby was but not know who was the leader of the infamous Cambridge Five spies. Though it is so objectively that Kim Philby = the leader of the Cambridge Five spies, the reference of the two terms is

opaque in typical belief contexts, in that using “the leader of the Cambridge Five spies” instead of “Kim Philby,” or vice versa, may well yield a false sentence. Likewise, talk of good reasons being ones where the debater has a desire to know P but not an equivalent P’ which is different from P only in substituting a new term for identical entities, is indeed an opaque context. To analyze what goes wrong in the tempting inference, Dharmakīrti, in effect,

made a usual move by distinguishing between types of identities: “being impermanent” and “being produced” are extensionally identical, but somehow not intensionally so. He speaks of the expressions making us understand differences and individualities; the concepts— more literally, in his apohavāda jargon, the “exclusions” or “isolates” (vyāvṛtti = ldog pa)— are different. The point is that, in the opaque context, substitution could only be made between terms

for identical concepts and not between terms that just happen to refer to the same entities in the world. In fact, though, it could be objected that the usual idea of an intensional identity (one that is understood to hold between properties F and G when the biconditional for all x: x is F if and only if x is G is true in all possible worlds)89 will not get us very far out of the woods, as being impermanent and

being produced are arguably identical in that way. And it would thus seem that if that was what conceptual identity was about for a Buddhist Epistemologist it should have been possible to make the substitution in the opaque contexts under discussion. Dharmakīrti’s idea of concepts F and G being identical thus demands a much stronger criterion than the necessary truth of the biconditional for all x: x is F if and only if x is G. If that latter necessary truth is

the criterion for identity between F and G, when taken as intensions, then we would seem to be forced to accept “ultra-intensional” entities where the identity criterion would have to be even stronger. In dGe lugs pa commentaries to verse 40 and in the Tibetan Collected Topics (bsdus grwa) literature, probably indebted to the Phya-tradition, we find the

makings of an idea of “conceptual identity/difference” (ldog pa gcig/tha dad) such that to each meaningful subject or predicate term in a language there is a different concept— synonyms (ming gi rnam grangs), for example, will still express different concepts (ldog pa tha dad). Thus, for example, we find a telling passage from Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog which I will translate in full:


“An opponent says that real entity, impermanent, product, and composite, as they are simply a group of synonyms, are all identical (gcig). Analogously, knowable thing (shes bya), existent (yod pa), established basis (gzhi grub) and discriminable entity (gzhal bya) are also identical. Just as, for example, the Incomparable Son of Śuddhodana, the Omniscient One of Solar Line, and the Omniscient Sugar Cane One [are identical]. [We reply:] This is incorrect

because the Son of Śuddhodana, the One of Solar Line and Sugar Cane One are all different (tha dad). If [you say that the reason is] not established, we affirm that it does follow [that the Son of Śuddhodana, etc. are different] because it is possible that one might ascertain, with a source of knowledge, to which basis one applies the words “One of Solar Line” and “Sugar Cane One,” even though one does not acertain, with a source of knowledge, to what one

applies the words “Son of Śuddhodana.” Therefore, although the basis [i.e., the actual person] for applying the names “Son of Śuddhodana,” “One of Solar Line” and “Sugar Cane One” is identical, they [i.e. the Son of Śuddhodana, etc.] are not identical; if they were identical, they would have to be identical both in name and meaning.”90


There are use-mention problems here but the idea is still understandable: the fact that the names differ for the same actual person, i.e., Buddha Śākyamuni, allows us to say that Son of Śuddhodana, One of Solar Line, etc. are themselves different (tha dad). The same type of difference holds between being impermanent and being produced. In short, following the dGe lugs pa text cited above, the substitution in the problematic inference would be blocked

by saying that being impermanent and being produced are not actually identical after all, but are somehow different. Now, it will be said that it is quite counterintuitive that synonyms would nonetheless express different concepts. As Stoltz 2008 points out, there were also some Tibetans, including even Phya pa himself, who said that terms like shing and ljon pa (two words translatable as “tree”) expressed the same

concept (ldog pa gcig). In that sense, there was no complete unanimity amongst Tibetans and some seemed to have adopted a more common-sensical position that two different words could express one concept. But, oddly enough, that seemingly common sense truism that two words sometimes express one concept would probably go astray as a close reading of Dharmakīrti’s own text. Although the precise terminology of ldog pa gcig/tha dad may be new, the idea of one

difference (bheda), or one meaning (artha), being expressed by one and only one word is certainly present in Dharmakīrti’s Svavṛtti to verse 40-42: “So, though there is no difference in their intrinsic natures, still the individuality (viśeṣa), the difference (bheda), which is understood through its respective specification, i.e., a name, cannot be made understood through another. Thus, all the words do not have the same meaning (artha). And therefore

it is not so that the reason is a part of the thesis proposition (pratijñārthaikadeśa).”91 Indeed, Dharmakīrti’s proposed solution to the problem of substitutivity in opaque contexts would not work at all if the two expressions like “being impermanent” and “being produced” had the same meaning. It’s disturbing but true: the extreme position in dGe lugs pa Tshad ma textbooks got Dharmakīrti

essentially right about a principle of “one word one meaning.”

But where would this talk of conceptual identity and difference leave us philosophically? It might well seem to lead to far too many strange entities, a new separate entity for each word. The Sa skya pas were indeed loath to tolerate any such mysteriously subsistent entities and considered the Phya pa

position concerning concepts as an aberration. For the Sa skya pas, concepts, universals and the like were not objects (yul = viṣaya) at all. The only objects for them, were impermanent, causally efficacious, entities, the particulars (rang mtshan = svalakṣaṇa) of Dharmakīrti—the rest, be they perceptual illusions or concepts, were just cases of mistaken cognition (‘khrul shes).92 Thus, Sa skya Paṇḍita (in the first chapter of his Tshad ma rigs gter)

emphasized that concepts were only façons de parler for different states of mind.93 States of mind are fully existent and could be individuated so that a thought (i.e., the mental state or episode) that A is F would not be the same as a thought that A is G, even if the predicate terms F and G were synonymous. Precisely how those thoughts would be individuated does, however, remain to be seen. Indeed, whether Sa paṇ’s approach would offer a

satisfactory way out of Dharmakīrti’s conundrum with referential opacity, or whether ultra-intensions will come in again via the back door to explain how thoughts do in fact differ, has to remain open here.


9. A Theme for Further Investigation: Meinong in Tibet?

In the final analysis, the debate on the logico-semantic problem of substitutivity in opaque contexts seems to turn on one’s commitment to ontology and

metaphysics, and notably one’s adherence to the strongly nominalistic orientation of Dharmakīrti. The dGe lugs pa-Phya pa traditions, as their adversaries rightly depicted them, did indeed claim that the entities in question, the ldog pa or “concepts,” weren’t actually real entities (dngos po = bhāva, vastu) at all, but just objects created by thought and language, or in other words, customarily existent things (kun rdzob bden pa = saṃvṛtisatya). Indeed for them, objects (yul = viṣaya) could be really existent particulars or merely customarily existent universals, permanent things and concepts. And the later dGe lugs pa would even flirt with completely nonexistent things (like rabbit’s horns) as being a type of quasi-object, although not an object (yul) properly speaking.94


The upshot of tolerating everything as an object is a position that might win favor with someone like the 19th century Austrian philosopher Alexius Meinong (1852-1920), who accepted objects that existed really as well as those that were nonexistent but merely subsisted. Ontologists naturally balk at such a

seemingly baroque account of what there is, as they attach importance to parsimony, thus avoiding unnecessary entities, as well as to the abjuration of double talk—i.e., talk “which would repudiate an ontology while simultaneously enjoying its benefits.” (Quine 1960, 242). I think the Sa skya pas, like Dharmakīrti, accepted that principle of parsimony, distrusting dGe lugs-Phya lugs profligacy and their seeming double talk about things that didn’t fully

exist but were objects nonetheless. 95 The Sa skya pas, in short, reasoned in a predictable fashion, as the ontologists they were, and followed the nominalism of Dharmakīrti, allowing as objects only those things to which they were univocally committed in a pared down ontology. On the other hand, for better or for worse, the dGe lugs pa and Phya lugs were not unlike Meinong in that they maintained that every mental state had an

object, but not necessarily a fully really one—mental states are intentional and directed to things that may or may not be real, be they particulars, concepts, or even completely nonexistent things like barren women’s children. The question then arises whether the dGe lugs pa-Phya pa followers, or Meinong for that matter, were guilty of multiplying entities unnecessarily, as their critics suggest. As Dreyfus 1997 shows, it is clear that the dGe lugs pa were far less nominalistically inclined than their Sa skya pa counterparts: they allowed real universals as well as commonsense objects extended both in space and in time, thus radically reinterpreting the Dharmakīrtian insistence on momentary extensionless particulars; as we shall see in the next chapter, they had no compunctions about taking pervasion (and hence quantification) as ranging over all really existent, customarily existent, or completely

nonexistent things. Here is my own take on this debate: the dGe lugs pa were simply not much bothered by ontological scruples in their talk of objects, but were up to something else. They remained closer to description instead of radical revision. Now, undeniably, we do think of things that are unreal and predicate

properties of them, and so it is relatively easy to think that a phenomenological description of ordinary thought and language should simply allow for such objects and not try to explain them away. Meinong sought that type of phenomenological account and so did the dGe lugs pa. Of course, an ontologist would retort that an account in which unreal things are objects is only phenomenology and that a metaphysically acceptable account would have to analyse them

otherwise. But it looks like the dGe lugs pa followers were not bitten by that bug. They saw little of the imperative to paraphrase or analyse the surface level phenomenological description away in favor of some radically revisionist deeper metaphysical position. The lesson that they seem to promote is that lightweight (non-metaphysical) talk of objects is harmless; nonexistent objects are harmless, have little to do with ontology, and hence need no Quinean or Sa skya pa overkill.


II. Indigenous Tibetan Logic: Collected Topics and the Logic of Consequences

1. Introduction, History and Texts

As we had mentioned in section 1 of the previous chapter, the post-classical period in Tibetan Buddhist epistemology and logic includes a notable development of an indigenous Tibetan logic, one that is considerably less of a copy or even interpretation of India than are the theory of good reasons and

the related discussions in Tibetan commentaries on Pramāṇavārttika and Pramāṇaviniścaya. This logic figures especially in bsdus grwa texts, what we have been calling “Collected Topics.” In fact, the Tibetan term bsdus grwa is not an easy one to translate. Shunzō Onoda gives what may be the most thorough explanation, taking it as probably bsdus pa slob pa’i sde tshan gyi grwa “the schools or classes in which [primary students] learn bsdus pa or summarized

topics [of logic or dialectics];” he then quotes a later etymological explanation according to which the word bsdus grwa meant “the class where many arguments are summarized together” (rigs pa’i rnam grangs du ma phyog gcig tu bsdus pa’i grwa).96 In short, while the term grwa clearly refers to the first classes in the monastic curriculum, it is less clear what bsdus pa refers to, especially because it might well suggest the tshad ma’i bsdus pa of Phya Chos kyi Seng ge, the so-called “Epistemological Summaries” of the pre-classical period. A translation of the term bsdus pa as “Collected Topics” or “The Class (grwa) of Collected Topics (bsdus pa),” however, emphasizes the fact that bsdus grwa is a collection of various topics ranging from colours, ontology, concepts and causality to consequences (prasaṅga) and the “exclusion theory of semantics” (apohavāda).97


While there was no doubt a connection between Collected Topics and the Summaries (bsdus pa), either of Phya pa or of other writers connected with gSang phu sne’u thog monastery, the exact details and degree of influence still needs more investigation. In the 18th century, Klong rdol bla ma (1719-1794), in his

Tshad ma rnam ‘grel sogs gtan tshigs rig pa las byung ba’i ming gi rnam grangs, spoke of eighteen “lessons” (rnam bzhag) by Phya pa, most of which have the same titles as those of Collected Topics, thus reinforcing the speculation that bsdus grwa derived from Phya pa’s tshad ma’i bsdus pa, or Epistemological

Summaries.98 However, the details of the debt of bsdus grwa to Phya pa’s Summaries are still to be fully investigated. And there are other writers, like rGya dmar ba Byang chub grags (11th century), a student of rNgog lo tsā ba, who supposedly wrote one or more Tshad ma’i bsdus pa, as did a figure like Chu

mig pa (13th century), texts which are unavailable at this time. Up until the late 1990’s the works of Phya pa were also unavailable, both to Tibetan and western scholarship. They were already classified as “rare” (dkon

po) in a 19th century Tibetan catalogue.99 Fragments were cited and claims were made by Tibetan authors—in the case of Sa-tradition authors this was generally for polemical purposes. Now that we are finally gaining access to a number of Phya pa’s own texts it turns out that they have less in common with

Collected Topics than some of us, myself included (and perhaps many Tibetans), had imagined.100 Significantly, it is now not clear that the thal-phyir logic of consequences that Stcherbatsky had attributed to Phya pa as its probable inventor,101 did

actually come from Phya pa himself.102 Its precise origins are still obscure. Hugon 2008a shows how important argumentation by analogy was in Phya pa—if the opponent affirms P, then Q should be true too, because they are similar (mtshungs pa). The debate would increase in complexity when it is replied that

they are not similar (mi mtshungs) and that some other proposition R would be similar, etc. etc. This relentless tit-for-tat style of argumentation seems to have been a preferred tactic of Phya pa in debate, seemingly more so than the bsdus grwa style thal-phyir reasoning.


The earliest Collected Topics is the Rwa bstod bsdus grwa of the gSang phu abbot ‘Jam dbyangs mChog lha ‘od zer (1429-1500). Several other authors subsequently took up the genre. ‘Jam dbyangs bzhad pa (1648-1722), of Bla brang monastery, wrote a small Collected Topics in verse, and four other works

concerned, in one way or another, with subjects in bsdus grwa. There are works of varying size and affiliated with different dGe lugs pa monastic colleges—e.g., the Collected Topics of bSe Ngag dbang bkra shis (1678-1738), representing the tradition of Bla brang, or those of Yongs ‘dzin Phur bu lcog Byams pa

tshul khrims rgya mtsho, representing especially Se ra.103 Although the Sa skya tradition is known to have engaged in very vigorous polemics against the Summaries of the Phya-tradition, there also may have been, curiously enough, a type of Sa skya pa Summary, the bsDus pa rigs sgrub of ‘U yug pa Rigs pa’i seng ge104 (?-1253), who was the major student of Sa skya Paṇḍita, and there even seems to be a seventeenth century Sa skya pa bsdus grwa, the Chos rnam rgyal gi bsdus grwa.105


Collected Topics continue to be studied and even composed in the Tibetan cultural community, both in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the diaspora. Indeed, debate is still widely practiced as a study technique in the dGe lugs curriculum. One of the most extraordinary recent records of actual Tibetan

debates and sophisms is the “Mnemonic Notes on the Collected Topics “ (bsdus grwa brjed tho) composed in Tibetan by the 20th century Mongolian abbot of sGo mang college of Drepung monastery, the late dGe bshes Ngag dbang nyi ma. Collected Topics is regularly studied in Dharamsala in the dGe lugs paPhilosophy

School” (mtshan nyid slob grwa) and in Sarnath at the Central University for Tibetan Studies, as well as in some modern Sa skya pa institutions. In short, Collected Topics and its logic are alive and well in communities both within and outside Tibet. The examples I give below of reasonings from Collected Topics come essentially from Yongs ‘dzin bsdus grwa, bSe bsdus grwa, Ra stod bsdus grwa, and bsDus grwa brjed tho, but are also often considerably simplified.106


Finally, what does it mean to say that Collected Topics are “indigenously Tibetan,” “original” or even “un-Indian?” The matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that the dGe lugs pa / dGa’ ldan pa regularly back-read the positions of Collected Topics onto Indian Pramāṇa texts; the originality of the dGe lugs / Phya ideas is thus often disguised or downplayed. Nonetheless, Collected Topics offers interesting and important developments that, as we shall see, are not found in India and need to be seen in their own rights. These indigenous developments often depend upon features of the Tibetan language that are significantly different from those of Sanskrit. They also reflect a different direction in logic, one that is much less oriented towards metaphysical and epistemological issues than is its Indian counterpart.


2. The Rules of the Game

Let us take up the recurring feature and probably major contribution of Collected Topics: the logic of consequences, or what Stcherbatsky called the “logic of sequence and reason.” As we have seen, the triple characterization—the key structure Indian Buddhist logic—was fraught with problems of interpretation.

Indeed in 14th-15th century dGe lugs pa philosophical texts, and certainly in the logic of the Collected Topics, the triple characterization became marginalized and figured relatively little in the working logic used in discussions of philosophical issues. That logic consists in so-called

consequences” (thal ‘gyur = prasaṅga). A consequence is simply defined in Collected Topics as thal ngag su bkod pa “what is presented as a statement that something follows [from something else],” or to put it conditionally, that “something would follow [from something else] (thal ngag).”107 The consequence,

in short, need only state what would follow from what the opponent accepts, or would have to accept given his or her position. Generally, the form common to all consequences in this indigenous Tibetan debate logic is:


“Take A as the subject (chos can); it follows (thal) that it is B, because it is C.”


Such was the style of reasoning that was, and still is, used in the context of dGe lugs pa (and some Sa skya pa) monastic debates in Tibetan Buddhism, both in actual oral debates and in written records of them. It is the staple fare of Collected Topics and is then applied to the five major Indian texts (poṭi lnga) of the dGe lugs curriculum and the commentaries and monastic textbooks (yig cha) upon them.


The contrast with the triply characterized reason is striking. While the latter, requires, inter alia, that A actually be qualified by C, and that all C’s be B’s—this is the requirement that the characteristics be “established/ascertained by pramāṇas”—a consequence’s goodness (thal ‘gyur yang dag) need not

turn on key statements actually being true, but only on them being accepted by the opponent. Goodness is largely dependent on what is “established by positions” (khas len pas grub pa = *abhyupagamasiddha) rather than on “establishment by pramāṇas (tshad mas grub pa),” as in the case of triply characterized reasons. More specifically, the consequence is a good one if the opponent cannot consistently maintain what she accepts and still reply (lan ‘debs mi nus pa) in one of the three permitted manners.


(a) ‘dod (= *iṣṭaḥ). I agree that A is B.

(b) rtags ma grub (= *liṅgam asiddham). The reason is not established. That is to say, in effect, I maintain that A is not C.

(c) khyab pa ma byung/ma khyab (=*na vyāptiḥ). The pervasion does not hold. That is to say, I maintain that it is not so that all C’s are B’s.109


Note that the latter two replies do not allow for an opponent being simply skeptical or in want of some further persuasive argumentation. If the opponent says that the reason is not established, this is interpreted to mean that she has the belief that the reason actually does not qualify the subject. It is

similar for the pervasion. In short, the replies rtags ma grub and khyab pa ma byung allow the proponent to infer that her opponent believes the opposite proposition, and then argue accordingly against that belief by presenting further consequences.


Also, an opponent’s inability to reply (within a quite short time!) is not accepted as just slowness or prudence; it is, de facto, an admission that the consequence tells against one of the positions she holds, and it thus allows the proponent to reiterate the argument to probe which position the opponent will agree to abandon. If the opponent simply remains mute, she loses the debate. On the other hand, if the opponent does reply in one of the three

permissible ways, then the debate will continue, and the proponent will have to argue to show that those replies lead to other consequences. This process continues until the opponent can not consistently reply and, on probing, will have to give up something: this is then a partial victory for the proponent who can then “backtrack” using that concession to bring about other consequences further undermining the opponent’s position. Typically, the concession

will become the reason in the new consequences. The debate will then proceed in this fashion until the opponent is forced to give up her “root position” (rtsa ba’i dam bca’ = *mūlapratijñā), i.e., the fundamental proposition which started the debate. At this point, of course, the proponent can claim complete victory and the debate ends.110


So much for the moves found abundantly in the texts. There are also moves and strategies that rarely figure in the texts but are often used in actual Collected Topics debates. One of them is to say chos can skyon can (Faulty subject!) when the subject term involves some double entendre or other trick. When a pervasion might normally hold but is taken in a deliberately ambiguous way or involves a patently sophistical special case, the reply can be ‘dir ma khyab “There would be no pervasion in this case!”111


A reply that is particularly ingenious—and worth exploring in some detail, as it seems to be largely unknown to western Tibetologists—goes by the exotic nameKnowable thing and crushed garlic!” (shes bya sgog rdzog). It does figure once in Yongs ‘dzin bsdus grwa chung,112 but without any explanation, as it is the kind of orally learned reply competent debaters know and use as a kind of shorthand for a claiming that an argument commits a particular type of fallacy.113 The reply shes bya sgog rdzog meant that one thought an opponent’s reasoning committed the same fallacy as in the following faulty argument:

shes bya chos can; khyod rdzog pa [or rdzog rgyu] yin par thal; sgog pa khyod yin pa gang zhig sgog pa rdzog pa [or rdzog rgyu] yin pa’i phyir.

“Take as the subject knowable thing. It follows [absurdly] that it is crushed [or crushable] because garlic is one and garlic is crushed [i.e., crushable].”

Or a little less exactly: 

“Take as the topic, knowable thing; it follows that it is crushable, because garlic is a knowable thing and garlic is crushable.”

The debater knows that the reply to this reasoning must be: “There is no pervasion” (khyab pa ma byung), for obviously it is not so that when garlic is an instance of x and garlic is crushable then x itself must be crushable. If there were such an implication, you would have to agree that knowable thing itself is crushable.

Here, then, is the structure of the fallacious arguments that shes bya sgog rdzog supposedly encapsulates: A is B because an instance of A is B. This is, of course, an understandable and genuine fallacy, something people commit quite frequently. E.g.,

“Humankind is evil, because the serial-killer Son of Sam is human and Son of Sam is evil.” 

Indeed, to put it another way, shes bya sgog rdzog is a common Tibetan way to claim that the opponent is pursuing bad inductive reasoning. True, the debate can continue to determine whether the opponent’s reasoning really is a case of bad inductive reasoning, as alleged. But what is striking for our purposes

is that the usual Dharmakīrtian metaphysical and epistemological arguments about natural connections (svabhāvapratibandha) existing in the real world and the illegitimacy of establishing a generalization by merely not seeing a counterexample (adarśanamātra) will play no role whatsoever. In effect,

metaphysics and epistemology are replaced by a set of rule-guided moves in a game. Occasionally, there are set pieces, as when one claims shes bya sgog rdzog. 114 But questions about grounding for pervasions in reality are not germane, as such questions they would in effect make a debater step back and appeal to what is so outside the debate, instead of following the rules where they take her. What there really is outside, or underlying, the rule guided activity of debate seems to be largely irrelevant: Tibetan debate logic is a kind of formalism.


3. Two Sorts of Consequences

Consequences, in Collected Topics, are sometimes, but certainly not always, recognizable Indo-Tibetan forms of reductio ad absurdum, in which the consequence B follows from the reason C that the opponent accepts, but is in contradiction with the other positions of the opponent. Sometimes, but not always, the truth of the opposite proposition is then derived by an application of contraposition.

Thus, for example, suppose that a non-Buddhist Mīmāṃsaka, or someone like him, holds that sound/a word (śabda = sgra) is permanent, that it is produced from causes and conditions, but also accepts that whatever is produced is impermanent. To this individual, the Buddhist can give the following consequence: (1) sgra chos can / ma byas pa yin par thal / rtag pa yin pa’i phyir

Sound, the subject; it would follow that it is unproduced [from causes and conditions]; because it is permanent.”

The Mīmāṃsaka opponent is then faced with a situation where each permitted reply entails abandoning a statement in which he himself believes, and so he cannot reply leaving all his Mīmāṃsaka philosophy intact. In that sense (1) is a “good consequence” for him.

In Tibet, as in India, one also speaks of a so-called “contraposition of the consequence” (thal bzlog = prasaṅgaviparyaya). The contraposition of the consequence in (1) provides a “proof” (sgrub byed = sādhana) as follows:

(2) sgra chos can mi rtag pa yin te byas pa yin pa’i phyir

Sound, the subject, it is impermanent, because it is produced [from causes and conditions].”


The reason of the consequence in

(1) is negated and becomes the property to be proved in

(2); the property in

(1) is negated and becomes the reason in

(2). Crucially, in

(2) the reason is indeed supposed to satisfy the three characteristics, so that the goodness of that reason is not just a matter of acceptance but of establishment via pramāṇas.

That is why (2) is considered to be a proof and not just itself another consequence.


The type of consequences as exemplified by (1) are said to be “consequences that imply a proof” (sgrub byed ‘phen pa’i thal ‘gyur). What does “imply” (‘phen pa =*kṣipta) mean here? This is clearly not just simple prediction that actual opponents will, as a matter of fact, come to understand and accept a

proof after hearing a consequence showing a contradiction in their positions. In fact, in (1) we seem to be dealing with a type of ideal rational individual, a “proper opponent” (phyi rgol yang dag), who knows with a pramāṇa that sound is produced (or to put it more traditionally, he has a pramāṇa

that refutes that sound is not produced) and knows that all products are impermanent; yet he still mistakenly believes that sound is permanent. In that case, this opponent will arrive at (2). In short, to say that a proof is “implied” presupposes that certain statements are not just accepted but are in

fact known to be true, i.e., “established by pramāṇas” (tshad mas grub pa). Of course, the ideal individual who would know all these truths and still have

the required mistaken belief is no doubt rare, but arguably that is not the point. The explanations in Indo-Tibetan Pramāṇa texts about consequences that imply proofs are best seen as normative discourse about what follows from what and about what moves rational people should make; it is not simply anthropology or sociology about how some or most people actually do think.

In India, many significant thinkers, such as Dharmakīrti and Bhāviveka, insisted that prasaṅga by itself is incomplete to establish truth and that there must be an implied proof, sometimes termed a svatantrahetu (rang brgyud kyi gtan tshigs) or “autonomous logical reason,” i.e., one that, as in the above

example, satisfies the triple characteristic and is thus duly established by pramāṇas. It seems unclear to what degree this was a purely theoretical requirement, i.e., that the proof can be derived by a rational individual, and to what degree Indian debaters actually did make the contrapositions and

arrive at proofs. In any case, in Tibetan Collected Topics, consequences are in fact rarely contraposed to yield proofs.115 Some consequences could, of course, be contraposed by an ideal debater to yield a proof and triply characterized reason, although they simply were not.

Others, however, could not be contraposed even ideally. Sometimes these are known as simply “refuting consequences” ([[sun}} ‘byin pa’i thal ‘gyur = *dūṣaṇaprasaṅga), where a contradiction is derived from an ensemble of propositions, but where there can be no use of contraposition to arrive at a proof like in (2). For example,


(3) sgra chos can / rtag pa yin par thal / mig shes kyi gzung bya yin pa’i phyir


“Take sound as the subject; it follows that it would be permanent, because it is apprehended by visual consciousness.”

If (3) were contraposed, we would get the following bad reasoning:


(4) sgra chos can / mig shes kyi gzung bya ma yin te / mi rtag pa yin pa’i phyir.

“Take sound as the subject; it is not apprehended by the visual consciousness, because it is impermanent.”

This is obviously not a triply characterized reason, because the pervasion does not hold. On the other hand, (3) does serve to discredit the debater’s position by deriving a proposition in contradiction with the ensemble of his beliefs and thus placing him in a position where he cannot consistently reply in one of the three manners. In that sense, he is refuted. Nonetheless, if he arrives at (4) he clearly has not ascertained the truth on the basis of a

good reason where the various characteristics were ascertained. At most, he was just lucky to arrive at a truth by means of a bad reason.116 The “refuting consequence” is thus one type of consequence that does not imply a proof (sgrub byed mi ‘phen pa’i thal ‘gyur). It is not a proof of a specific statement by reductio ad absurdum, as in (1) and (2) or in famous western uses of reductio, like the indirect proof of the irrationality of the

square root of two. Although it does derive a consequence that is absurd for the opponent and proponent, it is being used as a sort of demolition of the adversary’s whole position: if it proves anything at all, at most, it proves that the conjunction of the propositions accepted by an opponent is not true. A natural interpretation of the logic of Candrakīrti was that he used such a type of reductio ab absurdum to refute the opponent’s position, i.e., he

merely demonstrated that the ensemble of the opponent’s propositions was false, by its own internal inconsistency, but did not himself claim any individual propositions to be true or false and did not accept any derivation of prasaṅgaviparyaya. This style of consequence was known by [[Phya pa, rNog[lo tsā ba]] and other early writers on Pramāṇa. It is part of what I have called “typical Prāsaṅgikaphilosophy (Tillemans 2016, 51f.) It is, however, of relatively

little importance in Collected Topics. Moreover, the dGe lugs pa do not characterize Candrakīrti’s logic in this way either. While the dGe lugs pa recognize that some other Indo-Tibetan Mādhyamikas interpreted Candrakīrti as making no truth claims and only refuting opponents’ views, their own exegesis of his Prāsaṅgika philosophy is much more complicated and does allow that Candrakīrti made specific truth claims on many issues.118


In fact, in bsdus grwa logic the vast majority of consequences that do not imply proofs are not like (3) at all. Moreover, they seem to be distinctively unlike what we find in any Indian uses of prasaṅga. They are not an indirect proof by reductio ad absurdum as in (1) nor are they a type of reductio ad absurdum qua demolition as in (3). Rather, the implied statement preceding thal will typically be thought to be true by Buddhists, even established by a

pramāṇa, and thus not an absurdity at all from the point of view of the Buddhist proponent.119 Here is the stock example. (Again the opponent is a Mīmāṃsaka-like thinker who believes that sound is produced, that all products are impermanent, but who does not accept that sound is impermanent):


(5) sgra chos can / mi rtag pa yin par thal / byas pa yin pa’i phyir

Sound, the subject; it follows that it is impermanent; because it is produced.”

Our first reaction is probably going to be that this looks suspiciously like the stock example of a triply characterized reason. Of course, if we compare

the second type of consequences with triply characterized reasons, the acceptance that the reason is established (i.e., that (x) (Ax→Cx)) corresponds roughly to the pakṣadharmatva of the triply characterized reason. Similarly, the acceptance of

the pervasion (i.e., (x) (Cx→Bx)) corresponds to the second and third characteristics (i.e., anvayavyāpti and vyatirekavyāpti). However, a main difference is that the reason statement and pervasion statement need not be known to be true, only accepted or thought to be so by the opponent. The reason in this

prasaṅga is thus not assessed by the same criteria of goodness as for a triply characterized reason. The consequence is, as usual, good if the opponent cannot make one of the three permissible replies while remaining consistent with his other acceptances. Truth, and reality, pramāṇas, and so forth are, strictly speaking, not crucial.


4. Why Use Consequences Rather Than Triply Characterized Reasons? The Problem of Nonexistent Subject Terms and Āśrayāsiddha

What difference would it make for Tibetan debaters to use a consequence like (5) rather than a corresponding triply characterized reason? First and foremost, and contrary to what the first characteristic of the trairūpya demands, the subject in a “consequence that does not imply a proof” need not exist

at all, as it need not be established by a pramāṇa—we find numerous good consequences in Collected Topics that have as their subject a rabbit’s horn or a barren woman’s child. In Indian logic, by and large, it is a requirement that knowledge and good reasons be about existent things. And, not surprisingly,

this is a requirement too in the context of triply characterized reasons. When subject terms do not exist, the reason incurs the fallacy of a “non-established locus” (gzhi ma grub pa = āśrayāsiddha)—the problem led to numerous philosophical debates between Indian Buddhists and Naiyāyikas. We will not,

however, go into these issues in India nor into their extremely elaborate Tibetan developments; they have been taken up in some detail elsewhere.120 Of course, the underlying intuition behind the Indian fallacy of āśrayāsiddha—viz., that an argument typically goes wrong when there is subject failure—is quite sound and is amply recognized East and West. One can make relevant comparisons with Western debates on Russell’s theory of descriptions, and on the

question as to whether a nonexistent subject leads to the falsity of the statement, or a presupposition failure, such as when a debate on Santa Claus’ would-be North Pole citizenship becomes moot when it is understood that there is no Santa Claus at all. In Indian Buddhist logic, the emphasis is undoubtedly on presupposition failure: arguments generally cease when the subject is shown to be nonexistent. A reason’s possession of the triple

characterization presupposes that the subject be “commonly recognized by both parties” (ubhayaprasiddha); this requirement figures prominently in the works of Dignāga, Dharmakīrti and those of their Svātantrika Mādhyamika followers, such as Bhāviveka, Śāntarakṣita, Kamalaśīla et alii.121 As Dharmakīrti expresses it, if there is a debate about such and such a property, then ipso facto it is understood that the subject is commonly recognized.122


Interesting Indian examples of the problem of subject failure were the debates about the existence of pseudo-entities such as God (īśvara) or the SāṃkhyasPrimordial Nature (prakṛti). The obvious conundrum is that such a debate would seem to be “short circuited” by the fallacy of āśrayāsiddha if it actually succeeded in proving the subject’s nonexistence. Dignāga, Dharmakīrti and others devoted great efforts to avoiding such self-refutation.123 They would

argue that the real subject was not God, but the concept of God; or they would argue that nonexistence, being a non-implicative negation (prasajyapratiṣedha), a mere denial of entityhood, does not presuppose any existent real entity as subject. But while there is considerable ingenuity here, it has to be said that such debates are not easily pursued within the framework of the triply characterized reason. The later Indian scholastic writers,

and Tibetans too, thus had to do some of their most subtle apoha philosophy of language to preserve the requirement that the subject exist.

Consequences show much greater flexibility than the triply characterized reason in that their goodness usually only demands that the opponent thinks that the subject exists. Thus, a proponent’s personal conviction that the subject is not actually established by a pramāṇa may well have no impact on the

debate: there is no strict need for mutual consensus, nor for establishment by a pramāṇa. The advantage that consequences have over triply characterized reasons, then, is that they allow debates about properties that have no existence-implication and thus can be predicated of nonexistent subjects. It becomes unproblematic, for example, for Buddhists to argue that a creator God does not exist: no talk of subsistent concepts, the theory of apoha, or

purely non-implicative negation is needed. There is no need to worry that debates become moot when the presupposition of the subject’s existence fails.

In many cases, neither the opponent nor the proponent thinks that the subject exists, but nonetheless it is quite possible to argue about its properties via a consequence. In the Tibetan Collected Topics we see that, in effect, some properties imply that the subject exists, but others do not. Let’s borrow a

from Nino Cocchiarella 1968, and call these existence-implying- properties “E-attributes” for short. For example, if one is arguing about a rabbit’s horn being sharp, then sharpness, being an E-attribute, would necessitate that the rabbit’s horn exists; a property like “being something expressed by the words that mention it” (rang zhes brjod pa’i sgra’i brjod bya), however, does not necessitate existence. In the case of E-attributes, statements are considered

to be false when such an attribute is asserted of subjects that are nonexistent. However, Collected Topics has numerous reasonings concerning properties that are not E-attributes, and in those cases the statements may well be accepted to be true, in spite of the commonly recognized nonexistence of the subject. Thus for example, if we have an argument about whether every item, existent or nonexistent, is expressed by words, then all existent and

nonexistent things—including nonexistent but possible things, like a rabbit’s horn, and even impossible items like a barren woman’s child—can be the subjects without any danger of āśrayāsiddha or the debate rhetorically collapsing. None of this is easily handled with a triply characterized reason.


5. Pervasion in the Tibetan Debate Logic and in Dharmakīrti

As we saw earlier, the pervasion (all C’s are B’s) in Dharmakīrtian logic had to be grounded by a necessary connection, i.e., a so-called natural relation (svabhāvapratibandha) between the terms C and B. Ontology is at the heart of the triply characterized reason. The Tibetan bsdus grwa logic of consequences, on the other hand, had a much simpler account of pervasion, that of a debate logic in which ontology played little role.125 Indeed, that debate logic probably would have made Dharmakīrti wince, as it comes uncomfortably close to Īśvarasena’s accursed adarśanamātra (merely not seeing a counterexample) method of establishing pervasion. Here are the details.

One of the rules of this debate logic is that if an opponent challenges a pervasion, by saying khyab pa ma byung “the pervasion doesn’t hold,” the proponent can say, “Give me a counterexample!” (ma khyab pa’i mu zhog), and if that counterexample is not forthcoming in a reasonable time, the proponent

has the right to say that the pervasion does in fact hold. Necessary connections and ontological considerations play little role. What counts is not so much whether there are in fact or could be counterexamples, but what one can show in a relatively limited time. This might seem to unpack as close to the accursed adarśanamātra method of asserting pervasion so long as one hasn’t (speedily) come up with a counterexample. But it could also be argued in defence

of the Tibetans, that Dharmakīrti, in introducing grounding, raised the bar far too high and unnecessarily complicated a rather clear and easy matter of logic. Collected Topics elaborated the truth conditions for a universally quantified material implication, viz., that there is no x such that Cx and not Bx, but without the Dharmakīrtian epistemology and metaphysics that tended to obscure a purely logical account.


In short, Tibetan debate logic seems to have made a separation between the logical question of what pervasion is (viz., absence of counterexamples), the ontological question of what in reality grounds it (viz., natural connections), and the epistemological issue of what we need to know (viz., an example which instantiates both the reason and the property to be proved) if we are to be able to understand that there is a pervasion. These three issues need to be separated by clear thinkers and it is arguably no mean achievement to do so in the context of Buddhist logic.


6. Other Formal Aspects of the Logic of Consequences: quantification and variables

While consequences function in a context of debate with various permitted moves, there are clearly also significant formal features that can be extracted. In effect, the establishment of the reason and the pervasion means that the opponent accepts (x) (Ax→Cx) as well as (x) (Cx→Bx). The step to having to accept (x)(Ax→Bx) is uncontroversial: an opponent would be considered irrational and disqualified from the debate if he persisted in rejecting that uncontroversial formal implication.

What about the use of variables and quantification? The language used in Tibetan debate is a technical form of Tibetan, in which we find an extensive use of pronouns in a manner that is analogous to the use of variables in an artificial language. The parallel between pronouns and variables is to be seen, for

example, in the Tibetan debate idiom’s use of khyod, which ordinarily means “you,” but is used technically here to stand for all types of items: anything from inanimate things, to animals and other sentient beings to even nonexistent things. It is used much like English would use a third person pronoun,

except that such English pronouns are gendered. In fact, khyod khyod dang gcig yin “you are identical with you,” is best rendered as simply “x is identical with x.” Another variable-like word is chos de “that phenomenon,” typically used when khyod is already present and a second variable is needed, as in khyod chos de’i rgyu yin, literally, “you are the cause of that phenomenon,” but more accurately (though less literally), “x is the cause of y.” When only one variable is at stake, khyod is optional and is often omitted. It is not optional when two variables are needed to express, say, a dyadic relation. For example, one can say:


(6) sgra chos can, khyod mi rtag pa yin par thal

Sound, the subject, it follows that you (khyod) are impermanent …”

Or simply:


(7) sgra chos can, mi rtag pa yin par thal

Sound, the subject, it follows that it is impermanent…”


What work does specifying “the subject” (chos can = dharmin) do in the Tibetan logic of consequences? In other words, why use the rather longwinded “sound, the subject, it follows that you are impermanent,” thus setting the subject apart, rather than just simply saying “It follows that sound is impermanent”? It is, I would argue, a special type of quantification, what we can term, following J.A. Faris, “singular quantification.”126 To see this more clearly, let us take an example of a reasoning with khyod being used as a variable.

(8) bum pa chos can khyod khyod dang gcig yin par thal khyod yod pa’i phyir

“The vase, the subject, it follows that you are identical to yourself, because you exist.”

Or:

“The vase, the subject, it follows that x is identical to x, because x exists.”

Note that if the opponent replies, “there is no pervasion” (khyab pa ma byung), the pervasion in question can be expressed as:


(9) khyod yod pa yin na khyod khyod dang gcig yin pas khyab

“If you exist then you are pervaded by being identical with yourself.”

Or: “If x exists then x is pervaded by being identical with x.”

We can express (8) as a universally quantified material implication with x (khyod) functioning in a straightforward way as a variable bound by a universal quantifier that ranges over all items, existent or nonexistent. The quantification, in short, is without existential import so that “for all x” means “for

all existent or nonexistent items” and “for some x” means “for some existent or nonexistent item.”127 “Exists” will then be taken as a predicate and represented by “E!”. As we see in (9), existence of x implies identity of x with itself. Thus, (9) is easily rendered in symbols where pervasion is a universal quantifier “for all x” (without existential import) binding the variable x; existence (yod pa) is simply treated as a predicate:


(x) (if E!x then x = x)


Subject” (chos can) also shows a type of quantifier binding the variable x (khyod). To see this, let’s back up and progressively reformulate a few English sentences:

Ollie loves Nicaragua.

Ollie is such that he loves Nicaragua.

Ollie, he is such that he loves Nicaragua.

We can see that the pronoun “he” in the last statement also works as a variable and that “Ollie,” in indicating the pronoun’s antecedent, is in effect binding that variable. Following Faris 1968, the singular quantification in this statement could be formalized as:

(Ollie x) (x loves Nicaragua).

Read: “Of Ollie as x, it is so that x loves Nicaragua.”

This type of quantifier for singular statements can be integrated, as Faris shows, into the fabric of first order logic without any special problems. Granted, for the writers of a usual basic Western logic textbook, it might well be considered cumbersome and arguably wouldn’t do much that individual constants don’t already do. However, if we now turn to the Tibetan Collected Topics, it does have a significant role there. Sentence (8) becomes:


(the vase x) (x=x because E!x)

Or:

(the vase x) (if E!x then x=x)

Read: “Of the vase as x, if x exists then x is identical to x.”


Clearly the khyod or x in the statements (9) and in (8) are variables: what changes is only the quantifier; it changes from a universal quantifier to a singular quantifier. “Pervasion” (khyab pa) translates as a universal quantifier that binds the variable khyod or x; “the subject” (chos can) translates as a singular quantifier binding the same variable.


7. The logic of consequences used like a logic of propositions

Interestingly, the correctness of paraphrasing or translating sentences in Collected Topics with singular or universal quantifiers is further corroborated by the fact that this quantification can also be redundant and fail to bind variables. Redundant quantification is a possibility in first order predicate calculus—one could have a well-formed formula like:

(x)(if Mickey loves Minnie, then Donald loves Melania).

But redundant quantification is usually of practically little interest. Not so in Tibet. Consider the following:


(10) sgra mi rtag pa yin na sgra byas pa yin pas khyab

“If sound is impermanent, then sound is pervaded by being a product.”

Or:

(x)(if sound is impermanent, then sound is a product)


And:


(11) shes bya chos can, sgra mi rtag pa yin par thal sgra byas pa yin pa’i phyir

“Take knowable thing as the subject; it follows that sound is impermanent because sound is a product.”

Or, in the singular quantification idiom:

(knowable thing x) (sound is impermanent because sound is a product)

Or, in other words:

(knowable thing x) (if sound is a product, sound is impermanent)

In all of these statements, the quantification is redundant simply because there are no pronouns, i.e.,variables, for it to bind. Tibetan debaters express this idea of a redundant subject/singular quantifier as a chos can nus med, a powerless subject; an ineffectual subject. What these powerless subjects

enable Tibetans to do is keep the form and wording of a typical consequence, but do something more like propositional logic than predicate calculus. In fact, they had no separate means to reason about propositions, but adapted the trappings of their logic of consequences to this purpose. We saw earlier that a pervasion such as (x)(Cx→Bx) was true if and only if there is no x such that Cx and not Bx. Now, imagine a pervasion like (x)(P→Q) with a redundant

universal quantifier. Here again the pervasion will be true if and only if there is no x such that P and not Q. The basic move, in debate terms, remains the same in both cases: the proponent says ma khyab pa’i mu zhog, “Give me a counterexample!” And when that counterexample is not forthcoming in a reasonable time, it is presumed to be nonexistent and the statement is thus accepted as true, at least for the purposes of the debate. If, as in (10), both

P and Q are true propositions with no pronouns/variabes, then clearly no genuine counterexample can be given. In this fashion, Tibetan Collected Topics, in effect, allows for implications, negation, contraposition and the like between complete propositions. This somewhat roundabout logic of propositions is what Tibetan commentators will use in reformulating many reasonings in Indian texts, often using shes bya

chos canknowable thing x” as a powerless subject familiar to those who are versed in debate. A typical example of such a text is the dGe lugs pa word-commentary (tshig ‘grel) written by dGe ‘dun grub pa (1391-1474) on Madhyamakāvatāra, where Candrakīrti’s first five chapters, concerning Buddhist ethics and religion, are paraphrased in the form of reasonings having shes bya chos can followed by two complete propositions.128 This type of paraphrase was

partly for mnemonic and pedagogical purposes. It also, no doubt, provided some seeming argumentative rigor to what were largely faith-based assertions of the Buddhist religion.


8. Several Types of Pervasions and their Interrelationships

Collected Topics elaborate logical relationships between propositions by introducing several different sorts of pervasion and then showing that a consequence in which a pervasion of, say, sort S holds must also be a consequence of which, say, sort T holds. The rjes ‘gro ldog khyab lesson, in which

these relationships are investigated, is, in spite of its name, significantly different from the usual Indian discussions of anvayavyāpti and vyatirkevyāpti and may well stem from Phya pa himself.129 Thus, for example, in the usual sound-impermanent-product consequence in (5), the “main pervasion by co-presence” (rjes khyab rnal ma) is the familiar:


(x) (if x is a product then x is impermanent)


The main pervasion by co-absence (ldog khyab rnal ma) is:


(x) (if x is not impermanent then x is not a product)


The first type pervasion is recognized to hold if and only if the second type of pervasion holds, whatever be the terms for the antecedent or the consequent.

There are other pervasions too, most seemingly unknown in the Indian literature. For example, bsdus grwa speaks of the “downward pervasion” (thur khyab), where the property to be proved is pervaded by the reason, and the “opposite pervasion” (‘gal khyab), where the reason is pervaded by the negation of the

property to be proved. Indeed, there are usually said to be eight such pervasions, four main (khyab pa rnal ma bzhi) and four negated (khyab pa phyin ci log bzhi); the former are those where the terms are taken as they are and not negated; the latter are those where the antecedent is left as is but the consequent is negated. If we again take C as the reason and B as the property to be proved in the consequence, then the usual “eight doors of pervasion of a consequence” (thal ‘gyur khyab pa sgo brgyad), as explained in Yongs ‘[[dzin [bsdus grwa]] or bSe bsdus grwa1 , can be represented as follows:


The main pervasion by co-presence (rjes khyab rnal ma): (x)(Cx → Bx)

The main pervasion by co-absence (ldog khyab rnal ma): (x)(¬Bx → ¬Cx)

The main downward pervasion (thur khyab rnal ma): (x)(Bx → Cx)

The main opposite pervasion (‘gal khyab rnal ma): (x)(Cx → ¬Bx)


The negated pervasion by co-presence (rjes khyab phyin ci log): (x)(Cx → ¬Bx)

The negated pervasion by co-absence (ldog khyab phyin ci log): (x)(¬Bx → ¬ ¬Cx)

The negated downward pervasion (thur khyab phyin ci log): (x)(Bx → ¬Cx)

The negated opposite pervasion (‘gal khyab phyin ci log): (x)(Cx →¬ ¬Bx)


As Onoda 1992, 99-100 points out, ‘Jam dbyangs bzhad pa (1648-1772) added a third group to these two, with the somewhat mysterious name kha bub or kha sbub “face down,” “upended,” “upside down,” which we could perhaps render as “inverted.”131 If we take the usual four pervasions, their inverted versions negate both the antecedent and the consequent in the corresponding main pervasions. Thus:

The inverted pervasion by co-presence (rjes khyab kha bub): (x)(¬Cx → ¬Bx)

The inverted pervasion by co-absence (ldog khyab kha bub): (x)(¬ ¬Bx → ¬ ¬Cx)

The inverted downward pervasion (thur khyab kha bub): (x)(¬Bx → ¬Cx)

The inverted opposite pervasion (‘gal khyab kha bub) : (x)(¬Cx → ¬ ¬Bx)


A recurrent exercise in bsdus grwa is to see which ones are equivalent and which ones are exclusive. This is formulated in terms of debates about consequences that satisfy various numbers of pervasions. Thus it can be argued, for example, that any consequence in which the main pervasion by co-

presence is satisfied is one where the negated opposite pervasion will be satisfied. (N.B. the law of double negation elimination is recognized!) Or it can be debated whether there are consequences which satisfy such and such a number of pervasions. For our purposes, we cannot enter into the details here.132

Suffice it to say that these are fairly sophisticated 12th century exercises in formal relations between propositions—the relations hold completely independently of the propositional content. Nothing along the line of these twelve pervasions seems to be found in Indian Pramāṇa. The only formal discussion in Indian Pramāṇa that might be comparable would be the nine types of reasons in Dignāga’s Hetucakra.133


9. Ex falso sequitur quodlibet

A crucial feature of classical material implication, like “If P then Q,” is that the truth conditions are specified so that the whole implication is false only if P is true and Q is false—on any other assignment of truth-values to P and to Q, the material implication is true. The result is, of course, that the falsity of P guarantees the truth of “If P then Q.” In other words, the falsity of the antecedent is a sufficient condition for the truth of the whole

conditional, i.e., the material implication. Collected Topics explicitly recognizes that when the so-called khyab bya (= vyāpya, i.e. property that is pervaded) has no instances then the whole pervasion (khyab pa = vyāpti) will be established—in less literal terms, the falsity of the antecedent in the implication will imply the truth of the whole conditional.


Moreover, Collected Topics lucidly and explicitly recognizes that when the antecedent (i.e., the pervaded, khyab bya = vyāpya ) is false, or more exactly instanceless, the pervasion will hold whatever the consequent (i.e. the pervader, khyab byed = vyāpaka) may be. This is a logical principle that mirrors

the Medieval logician’s maxim that ex falso sequitur quodlibet (whatever you wish follows from a falsity). It is even slightly eerie how well the Latin sequitur quodlibet (whatever you wish follows) corresponds to the Tibetan phrase used in these contexts, viz., gang dren dren yin pas khyab (“x is pervaded by whatever you might think of”). Thus, for example:


(12) ri bong rwa yin na gang dren dren yin pas khyab

“If something is a rabbit’s horn it is pervaded by whatever you might think of.”

Thus, e.g., it is true that:


(13) ri bong rwa yin na ru bal skra yin pas khyab

“If something is a rabbit’s horn then it is pervaded by being the hairs of a turtle.”

Or:

(x) (if x is a rabbit’s horn, then x is the hair of a turtle).


Once again, in debate terms, if the truth of (13) is challenged, then the command is always ma khyab pa’i mu zhog, “Give me counterexample!” That counterexample will not be forthcoming simply because there is no rabbit’s horn, or in other words because the property that is pervaded (khyab bya) has no instances. The fact that the pervaded (khyab bya = vyāpya) is always instanceless ensures that the pervasion will be established whatever the pervader (khyab byed = vyāpaka) might be.

To my knowledge, there is no recognition of ex falso sequitur quodlibet in Indian Buddhist logic, probably because, in philosophies like that of Dharmakīrti, the pervasion needed existent terms that would bear a natural connection (svabhāvapratibandha) in reality. A pervasion also need examples

(dṛṣṭānta), on the basis of which it could be understood to hold through a source of knowledge—the metaphysical and epistemological orientation is preponderant. In Tibetan debate logic texts, by contrast, talk of ex falso sequitur quodlibet occurs quite frequently, probably because these Tibetans dealt essentially with the logical features of material implication and left the rest of the Dharmakīrtian baggage aside.


10. Modal logic? No thank you

A question naturally comes up when someone is first confronted with statements like (12) and (13), viz., is there any awareness of modal distinctions in bsdus grwa, or, for that matter, in Tshad ma or Indian Buddhist Pramāṇa? The confusion is probably exacerbated by the fact that it is very frequent, in modern Buddhist Studies discussions of Indian and Tibetan thinkers, to speak of “necessity,” “necessary connections,” etc., especially when discussing the natural connections (svabhāvapratibandha) underlying pervasion in Dharmakīrti’s logic. The temptation is, thus, great to think that pervasion between C and

B would unpack in terms of modal logic’s necessity operator, i.e., N (x)(Cx →Bx) “Necessarily, for all x, if x is C then x is B.” Ex falso sequitur quodlibet is differentiated, in Medieval logic, between cases of contingent and necessary falsity. And indeed, the falsity of the

antecedent in (12) and (13) is not a necessary falsity (i.e., in all possible worlds) – a modal logician would be quick to point out that many exotic possible worlds are populated by horned rabbits, hairy turtles and the like. Here then is a more precise formulation of the issue at hand: would a modal

logician’s difference between possibility and necessity concern Indo-Tibetan logicians? Let’s look at how contingent nonexistence and necessary nonexistence are handled. First, of course, nothing actually stops a Tibetan from changing a statement like (12) about horned rabbits to a statement in which the pervaded term (khyab bya) is not just instanceless but contradictory:


(14) mo gsham gyi bu yin na gang dren dren yin pas khyab

“If someone were a barren woman’s son, he would be pervaded by being anything one can think of.”


Indeed, there are several Indo-Tibetan stock examples of nonexistent things, of which we would say that some happen to be nonexistent and others must necessarily be nonexistent—we would say that the rabbit’s horn (śaśaviṣāṇa = ri bong rwa) is a case of the former and the barren woman’s son (vandhyāputra

= mo gsham gyi bu) is a case of the latter. Strikingly, however, that difference between contingent and necessary nonexistence, so important to a modal logician, does not seem to have been considered significant at all and, in any case, is not explicitly discussed in Collected Topics and Tshad ma generally. There simply seems to be no interest in, or even awareness of, modal logical distinctions in Tibetan Collected Topics, or in other Tibetan Tshad ma literature. And, to be slightly more provocative, it looks like there is no Indian Buddhist modal logic either. While Indo-Tibetan Buddhists would, if pushed, I suppose, recognize that the rabbit’s horn could somehow have existed, or could be a feature of a fantastic imaginary world, that possibility is hardly germane in their logic: truth and falsity, existence and nonexistence are of this world.


It might perhaps be thought that the rabbit’s horn we imagine would nonetheless be said by Tibetans to be a rabbit’s horn and that some of those horns might even be sharp in the appropriate possible worlds!134 If that were so, then the modern writer on a quest for modal logic in Tshad ma could claim that predication and truth are not just of this world for bsdus grwa adepts. But no: being a horn, whether of a rabbit or of a deer, and being sharp are

xistence implying properties, E-attributes. Thus, an imagined horn is not a horn at all, nor is it sharp, because it does not exist. The point, of course, is that it does not exist in this world, the only world with which bsdus grwa logicians have any truck. Turning to Indian Pramāṇa, even when terms C and B have a so-called natural connection (svabhāvapratibandha) of causality or “same nature,” that is best

interpreted to mean that C and B are instantiated in this world and that one can be sure that in this world there are no C’s that are not B’s. It does not seem to be the modal version that there are no C’s that are not B’s in any possible world. 135 As we saw earlier in discussing consequences and āśrayāsiddha, Tibetan bsdus grwa logicians certainly had very little problems in reasoning about nonexistent things— much fewer problems than their Indian Buddhist counterparts—but that does not mean that they were at ease with modal notions or existence in possible worlds. On this both Indian and Tibetan Pramāṇa specialists would agree: when things are existent or nonexistent, they are so in the real world. The real world is certainly strange, with its trichiliocosms of universe systems, but existence or nonexistence anywhere “else” would be seen as incomprehensible.


11. Semantic Problems: Count Nouns, Mass Nouns, and Translatability

I close on a larger matter for reflection: what are the prospects for engagement with Tibetan thinking about logic? What are the prospects for engagement with Tibetans on philosophical issues of common interest when their discussions of the issues are couched in the concepts and formal structures of bsdus grwa? Formal structures in bsdus grwa logic are quite clear and can be readily explained; they can be, as we have tried to show, translated into philosophical English, and analyzed, sometimes with the aid of symbolic logic. There is, if one is careful, little risk that one is creating distortions or misunderstandings by using western notions to explain them or translating relevant passages into a western language.


Semantical issues, by contrast, are often obscure. Discussions of them in Tibetan resist translation, and engagement with Tibetan philosophy is thus not easy when these semantical issues come to the fore. I would argue strongly that the problem is not due to an inherent incommensurability of Tibetan with English or European languages or some sort of generalized thesis of linguistic relativism, à la Benjamin Lee Whorf. It is, rather, the intelligibility of

many Tibetan philosophical debates when sophisticated and clear-headed Tibetan thinkers exploit possibilities offered by their language that are hardly offered by most European languages. More precisely, the difficulty is in the philosophical uses of Tibetan count and mass nouns, and the odd questions of interpretation that arise. Those difficulties are acute in indigenous Tibetan Buddhist texts on Tshad ma, especially those of the dGe lugs school, and in

the many other sorts of Tibetan philosophical texts that in one way or another rely on them.136 We begin with some general considerations. The difference between count nouns and mass nouns is usually first approached as a difference in word classes recognizable in terms of syntax: the former are words like “table” that can take numerals, vary in singular and plural, be qualified by adjectives like

“many,” and have other such morphosyntactic tags, while the latter are words like “water” that don’t take numerals, don’t vary in grammatical number, take adjectives like “much,” etc. , etc. Some of us might like to think that there is a semantic and even corresponding ontological distinction. It might be thought that words that refer to things have clear boundaries of individuation while those that refer to stuffs don’t have such boundaries—this too is

supposedly captured by count-mass noun distinctions. None of these criteria, even in their more sophisticated elaborations, seem to be watertight across languages. Precision falters for many reasons. Some Asian languages, like Chinese and Tibetan, arguably, have count-mass distinctions but without many of the usual morphosyntactic tags. As for the thing-

stuff distinction, it even becomes problematic with common English mass nouns like “furniture,” where obviously each piece of furniture is a thing and not an amorphous stuff like water. And crucially the idea of neat word classes in one language or across languages fails. In many languages there are uses of nouns as count or mass in different contexts (“Waiter, three coffees please!” “Coffee spilt all over her new carpet.” “She heard several loud sounds.”

Sound is everywhere.”). In some languages, like Chinese, any noun can be used as a mass noun (see Robins 2000), while in other languages specific nouns may not exhibit that same variability of use at all. Finally, what is count in one language may be mass in another (the French count noun “bagage” has a corresponding English mass noun “luggage”), so that clear classes across languages prove to be impossible. Probably the most adequate approach for our

purposes is a semantic one turning on uses and functions rather than word classes: nouns are used as count nouns in a specific language when they divide their reference into distinguishable and countable objects; they are used as mass nouns when they do not. Are mass and count noun distinctions in source languages important when one translates Buddhist texts into English? Let me begin with a commonly cited

position that I think is not an answer to that question for translators of Sino-Tibetan languages. This is the view that there simply is no distinction at all between mass and count nouns in these Asian languages, and that there are hence only the “impositions” of translators—the formulation is that of the philosopher W.V. Quine 1968 in his work on indeterminacy of translation and ontological relativity. 137 Indeed, Quine had famously suggested that Chinese

and Japanese were arbitrary in precisely this way. He made much of the fact that classifiers (= Chinese liang ci 量詞 ) are used with all common nouns and that it is therefor impossible to decide whether a phrase like yi tou niu 一頭牛 should be translated as “one cow” or “one head of cattle” (cf. Quine 1968, 191-193). As he said bluntly: “Between the two accounts of Japanese [scilicet: Chinese] classifiers there is no question of right and wrong.” (Quine 1968,

193). This is hard to defend as a description of actual language usage. Sinologists muster ample textual data that show that there are mass and count nouns in Chinese. They may have differences on how that mass-count distinction unpacks in particular periods, whether it needs to be supplemented, whether mass

nouns predominate, etc., but the very applicability of a mass versus count noun distinction to Chinese or Japanese is not in question.138 The obscurity of some classifiers is not generalizable to all uses of nouns. First, in modern Chinese, as Lisa Lai-Shen Cheng and Rint Sybesma 1998 have carefully shown relying on data of grammatical and ungrammatical sentences, we can beyond any reasonable doubt make a difference between count-classifiers and mass-

classifiers, or massifiers. For example, ge (unit) works differently from wan (bowl) in that it names a unit of measure whereas wan creates one; this in turn is reflected in data concerning the grammatical acceptability of the uses of de (of), adjectival phrases, demonstratives and other phenomena. Quine and others made the bad mistake of seeing the absence of marking such as singularity and plurality in the nouns as particularly important and treated

classifiers as equal in deciding count-mass status. Well, they aren’t equal. It is with the types of classifiers-massifiers and related syntactic and grammatical data that we can empirically distinguish between noun phrases that refer, or are used to refer, to discrete, countable units and those that don’t. Moreover, in modern Chinese, there is evidence that children learn the difference between sortal and mensural classifiers, and that this difference

in types of classifiers more or less mirrors the count-mass distinction.139 Classifiers are often not used in classical Chinese. But yi niu 一牛 (one cow) seems, rather uncontroversially, a count noun usage. In short, taking a straightforward linguistic perspective, one could say that you niu 有牛 (literally, “There exists cow”) is a mass noun usage of “cow” and yi niu 一牛 (one

cow) is a count noun. Such a version of mass and count noun usage is not just restricted to Chinese. It is largely mirrored in Tibetan. Although Tibetan does not use classifiers, neither in the modern nor in the classical language, it is fair to say that ba lang yod (Cow exists, There exists cow.) is a mass noun usage and ba lang gcig (one cow) is a count noun usage, and so on in general for common nouns in Tibetan, be it rta (horse), khang pa (house), mi

(people), mo ṭa (car), and so forth. We will return to parallels between Tibetan and Chinese in more detail later. Interestingly enough, however, Quine didn’t adopt a straightforward linguistic perspective about speakers’ usage of nouns in Asian languages. Instead he seductively combined the linguistic/philological problems in describing usage of nouns in particular languages with the philosophical issues that arise in

interpreting a type of deep reference in any language. His real point was that we cannot really determine the sorts of entities people talk about (in Chinese or any other language) among equivalent possibilities, be it individual oxen versus heads of cattle, particular instances of properties versus distributions of a stuff or fusion (horses versus discontinuous distributions of horsey stuff or the fusion of all horses) or even mathematical expressions

versus their corresponding Gödel numbers. The type of entities really referred to, or in other terms “the inherent ontology of the language,” is inscrutable. Now, this is a different issue from the question as to whether a given language just simply has count and mass noun usage that pick out discrete individuals or not. One could very well say that there are determinate answers about the existence of mass and count nouns in many languages and

that yi niu, ba lang gcig, and the like are naturally translated as “one cow,” but also say that the sort of entities the mass or count nouns actually refer to, and not just ordinarily the ones thought or said to be referred to by speakers, remains indeterminate and inscrutable. In other words, it is the ontology of the language, the real reference, that remains inscrutable. Indeed, that, as we shall see, is a point of view one can defend using an argument

from Donald Davidson, not just with regard to Asian languages like Chinese and Tibetan, but across the board. Let us grant that there are count nouns and mass nouns in Sino-Tibetan languages and that reading a Tibetan or Chinese sentence as having mass or count nouns is not just an arbitrary imposition of the European translator. Let us also grant that Sino-Tibetan languages use mass nouns much much more

frequently than European languages do, but that European translators are generally unfazed and adopt strategies of reformulation. (We’ll see the details of these strategies below.) That much should be a non-issue. What is, however, a genuine issue for translators and philosophers is whether there are, at least sometimes, uses of mass nouns in the Asian source languages that preclude any adequate translation or reformulation in a European language. Are there such

uses that are more than quirks and that a translator of Buddhist texts fundamentally cannot translate, reformulate, nor perhaps even satisfactorily paraphrase? In what follows, I’ll frame the problems largely in terms of translation into English, but one can no doubt make the same arguments for other European languages.


Nowhere, in my opinion, is that issue of translatability more urgent than in the indigenous Tibetan Buddhist literature of bsdus grwa (Collected Topics). In what follows, we will look at the details and the antecedents in Tsong kha pa and rGyal tshab rje for the translational problems found in bsdus grwa.140 And bsdus grwa semantic problems don’t just remain in bsdus grwa texts: as argued in Tillemans 1999, they spread to indigenous commentaries on Pramāṇa,

Abhidharma, and Madhyamaka that use bsdus grwa notions, and they make various philosophical debates notoriously hard to translate into acceptable English. The issue of intelligibility is a larger one: it is not just the issue of understanding and engaging with the corpus of books that bear the title bsdus grwa.


What are these seemingly intractable semantic issues? Puns and equivocations in Tibetan—and Collected Topics is certainly rich with them—are not intractable issues, nor are the many syntactic tricks in Collected Topics that involve plays on Tibetan grammatical cases, such as the genitive used in relative clauses. Unpacking puns and exposing syntactic sleight of hand may be more or less laborious, but in the end there is nothing that cannot be

rendered adequately. The problems that interest us turn on a peculiar use of mass nouns. These semantic issues will be my focus here as they pose problems for which we have no solution now nor in the easily foreseeable future. They are very different from the many bsdus grwa brainteasers that turn on double entendre and devious syntax.


The problem is the following. Subject terms (chos can) in Tibetan Collected Topics arguments, like vase (bum pa), tree (shing), knowable thing (shes bya), non-red (dmar po ma yin pa), good reason (rtags yang dag) and many others are often not translatable by the count nouns they would seem to require in a Western target language—“a vase,” “some/all vases,” “this vase,” “some/all/a/the good reason,” “some/all/a/one/the knowable thing,” “some/all/a/one non-red

thing,” and so on. Such count noun translations would not preserve truth. Two examples will have to suffice. Here and in what follows I’ve put the grammatically problematic English terms in italics: (15) “Non-red (dmar po ma yin pa) is permanent, because there are common bases between permanent and it (khyod dang rtag pa’i gzhi mthun yod pa’i phyir)”


Comment: The same example can be constructed with knowable thing, good reason, and many other entities; the reason is a usual one in bsdus grwa to prove that something is permanent. The point of “Y having a common basis with X” is that there are cases of Y which are also cases of X. There are non-red things that are permanent, such as, for example, space (nam mkha’ = ākāśa). 141


(16) “Defining characteristic (mtshan nyid = lakṣaṇa) [of anything] is not a defining characteristic (mtshan nyid mtshan nyid ma yin), because it has a defining characteristic and is thus a definiendum (mtshon bya = lakṣya).”142 Comment: Defining characteristic itself is defined as what satisfies the three criteria for a substantial property (rdzas yod chos gsum tshang ba) and is

thus itself something that can be defined, i.e., a mtshon bya. Here, in more detail, is the problem in translating (15) and (16) if we use available English renderings involving “all,” “some,” “a,” “the/this.” Sentences like (15) will be false in the philosophy of Collected Topics when dmar po ma yin pa or shes bya are rendered as “all non-red things” or “all

knowable things,” just as (16) is also false if one renders mtshan nyid as “all defining characteristics.” A sentence like (15) becomes trivially true if we render dmar po ma yin pa or shes bya as “some non-red things,” “some knowable things,” “a non-red/knowable thing,” and it is perhaps true when rendered as “the or this non-red/knowable thing.” In fact, in Collected Topics, (15) is not a trivial truth or just a possible truth: it is held to be true, but

non-obvious and needing justification—hence the reason about common bases. What is more dramatic for translation than (15) is (16): it becomes false if mtshan nyid is taken as “some” or “all” defining characteristics or even “a/the/this defining characteristic.” These renderings would all be false because Collected Topics holds that every defining characteristic is indeed a

defining characteristic: to say that some, all, or the/a, defining characteristics are not defining characteristics would lead to howls of derision—it would be said to be absurd (ha cang thal = atiprasaṅga) because of being a flat-out contradiction.143 If we use a generic “the” we get no further, as “the defining characteristic is not a defining characteristic” remains false, and indeed it is not at all clear that the generic knowable thing would be

permanent for an adept of bsdus grwa. Finally, one cannot say that subject terms in Tibetan are actually veiled uses of an abstract term, as if we should simply translate bum pa by “vaseness” and shes bya by “knowable thingness” much as if it were the Tibetan bum pa nyid and shes bya nyid (= the Sanskrit ghaṭatva and jñeyatva). It is a cliché in

Tibetan philosophical texts to say “Vase is bulbous, splay-bottomed and able to perform the function of carrying water” (bum pa lto ldir zhabs zhum chu skyor kyi don byed nus pa yin): vaseness, as an abstract entity or a property, is obviously not able to carry water, and is thus not what is being talked

about. One can come up with many other such examples to show that terms do not designate such abstract entities.144 What is left as a plausible English translation? The problem in (15) and (16) and in other such cases is that they seem to need some sort of a mass noun

rendering, along the lines of “knowable thing,” “defining characteristic,” “vase,” “good reason,” etc., if our translation of the Tibetan argument is both to preserve truth and not fall into triviality. But, of course, “vase,” “good reason,” “knowable thing” and the like are not used as mass nouns in English,

French, Dutch, etc., i.e., they don’t behave like “snow,” “water,” and the like. “Vase” does divide its reference into readily distinguishable and countable objects. It would usually be considered a solecism in English to speak of vase (or French cruche, Dutch vaas, etc.) or knowable thing as being

found here, here and here—one naturally understands the sentence “Vases are found in the museum,” but not “Vase is found in the museum”—, and it makes no sense to speak of a collection of vase or a set of knowable thing, although a collection of vases and a set of knowable things are, of course, perfectly

fine. The result: we are, so it seems, forced to translate many philosophical passages in a way we fundamentally don’t understand in our own languages, and there is no easy unpacking in English that would preserve the rationality, and hence comprehensibility, of the Tibetan philosophical discussion.


Tibetans themselves were aware that the meaning of bum pa (vase) was not the same as the meaning of bum pa ‘ga’ zhig (some vases), bum pa thams cad (all vases), bum pa ‘di (this ‘vase), bum pa zhig (a vase) etc.—they saw that difference as applying mutatis mutandis to “good reason” (rtags yang dag) versus

“a/some/all good reasons” and numerous other terms, and thought that it was an important difference with philosophical consequences. Indeed, it was emphasized by a figure no less than Tsong kha pa (1357-1419) himself, in his Tshad ma’i brjed byang chen mo, that although something may be true of X

itself, e.g., reason, positive phenomenon, universal etc., it need not be true of all x’s (all reasons, universals, etc.). Tsong kha pa says that when we get this subtlety wrong, it is a major obstacle (gegs) due to which the rest of our thinking goes astray—he applies his diagnosis across the board to

metaphysics, philosophy of logic, and philosophy of language.145 The problem supposedly arises when we fail to reconcile two key propositions in Buddhist nominalism:


“[The obstacle] is precisely to grasp as contradictory the pair [of propositions] that object of thought (rtog pa’i yul) is not a particular and that particulars are [nonetheless] objects of thought.”146


lCang skya Rol pa’i rdo rje (1717-1786) elaborates upon Tsong kha pa’s solution: “Now, the reason behind this is that there would be no contradiction [in the fact] that the property per se (rang ldog, Skt. *svavyāvṛtti) actual object of

thought is not a particular, but that particulars are actual objects of thought.”147 On Tsong kha pa’s diagnosis, then, people supposedly fail to understand the nominalist perspective because they cannot see the compatibility between the

fact that object of thought itself is a fictional creation and hence not a real particular (rang mtshan = svalakṣaṇa) and the fact that there are objects of thought that are particulars (e.g., vases, tables, chairs, etc. are real particulars and also objects of thought simply in that we do think about them.)

His solution is that we need to be able to properly differentiate object of thought per se (i.e., X itself) and objects of thought (i.e., the individual x’s)—while the former is a fictional universal, the latter need not be fictions at all.


His disciple rGyal tshab rje (1364-1432), in one of the most commonly used dGe lugs pa Pramāṇavārttika commentaries, rNam ‘grel thar lam gsal byed, called this X versus x’s differentiation, somewhat bombastically, the “supreme main point that is difficult to understand in this philosophical tradition [i.e.

Buddhist logic]” (gzhung lugs ‘di’i rtogs dka’ ba’i gnad gyi gtso bo dam pa), in short, the hard point in the Buddhist’s philosophy of language and logic.148 It becomes a recurring dGe lugs pa position, one which is regularly invoked in key arguments by textbook writers such as Paṇchen bSod nams grags pa (1478-1554), Se ra rje btsun Chos kyi rgyal mtshan (1469-1546), lCang skya Rol pa’i rdo rje and others, and is known as the “main point that is difficult to understand in the anyāpoha [[[Wikipedia:theory|theory]] of language]” (gzhan sel gyi rtogs dka ba’i gnad kyi gtso bo).149 It is also what lies behind the bsdus grwa arguments that we see represented by (15) and (16). In other terms, (15) and (16) are the tip of an iceberg. Underneath the surface of bsdus grwa eristics lies a great deal of Tibetan philosophy of language.


Where does this “difficult point” leave us as translators? The supposed difference between talking of X itself (vase, reason, object of thought, etc.) and talk of x’s (vases, reasons, objects of thought, etc.) was no minor matter for these thinkers. Like it or not, it is, for dGe lugs pas, essential to

understanding their philosophy. If Tsong kha pa and rGyal tshab rje are right and we do have to talk of X itself as opposed to x’s, or if we simply want to translate their theories, we would have to translate solecistically to render their philosophical thinking in English.


Now, at this point, it might well be replied that this philosophical thinking and writing in Tibetan about X itself versus x’s is indeed unintelligible to us; the conclusion to draw is not that it is interesting, but that it is just better confined to the scrap-heap of bad philosophy. Tibetan writers’ uses of

terms in the sense of X itself, so it might be argued, are confused and would regularly need disambiguation to be explained away. If we are to avoid unintelligibility in English, a term like bum pa (vase) or shes bya (knowable thing) would sometimes have to be interpreted to refer to some or all individual things, sometimes to an abstract universal property, like vaseness, or knowable thinghood, or perhaps even the generic vase, but never to the mysterious vase itself or knowable thing itself.

However, that proposed disambiguation of troublesome contexts would be extremely inelegant and complex, necessitating ad hoc decisions for many arguments: it is generally simpler, and hence desirable, to find a univocal semantics where possible, even if that is not a ready semantics of a Western language.

Worse, it is a type of uncharity to maintain that because such and such a semantics in a language leads to problems when “translating up” into a prestigious language it must be wrong and hence demand complex disambiguation, as if it were simply a muddle. It is remarkable that many very intelligent Tibetan traditional scholars do not feel that talk of X itself is problematic at all. In explaining Collected Topics, they will often insist that the subject terms (chos can) in most debates refer to “vase itself” (bum pa kho rang), “knowable thing itself” (shes bya kho rang), or “defining characteristic

itself” (mtshan nyid kho rang), or equivalently they will use the terms bum pa rang ldog, shes bya rang ldog, mtshan nyid rang ldog (“vase, the property per se,” etc.).150 What is striking is that for many Tibetans, bum kho rang/rang ldog, etc. are felt to be univocal and perfectly clear, needing no disambiguation in terms of vaseness and vases. In my vivid personal experience of learning Collected Topics, my teachers felt frequent puzzlement and even

exasperation that something so obvious would be so inexplicably difficult to their foreign student. It may well be their linguistic intuitions deserved greater weight than my nagging feeling that something was going wrong in Tibetan and hence needed the disambiguation that a European could supposedly provide.151


Would a parallel with Chinese be of help in understanding the problematic Tibetan uses of mass nouns? The specific Tibetan debates in Collected Topics are not, as far as I can see, of Chinese ancestry, with the quite possible exception of a Tibetan version of the white horse argument (see Appendix). Could one perhaps get some support from common syntactic and semantic features of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages? In Tibetan, as in Chinese, mass and count are


not rigid word classes but more like functions of words. There is no clear inherent or essential feature of the Tibetan language that fixes nouns as mass nouns by word class; there are uses of nouns as mass nouns and uses as count nouns—one says sgra mi rtag pa yin pa (“Sound is impermanent”), but also sgra gnyis thos pa (“She heard two sounds”). Moreover, Tibetan is like Chinese in that all nouns, includinghorse” (Tib. rta, Chin. ma 馬), “person” (Tib. mi, Chin. ren 人) and the like, can be used as mass nouns and even are so used frequently. To take an unphilosophical and very simple example, just as in

modern Chinese, it is normal in colloquial Tibetan to say, literally, “In Lhasa, car exists. In Lhasa car is many’ (lha sa la mo ṭa yod. lha sa la mo ṭa mang po (‘dug/yod) = Chin. zai la sa you che 在拉薩有車; zai la sa che duo 在拉薩車多). It is thus not surprising that the possibilities of using Tibetan nouns as mass nouns are much greater than in English, French, and other European languages and that nouns like bum pa can easily be mass nouns while the English noun vase, French cruche or Dutch vaas are not.

Is that all there is to the translational issues in Tibetan philosophical writing turning on uses of mass nouns, i.e., the so-called “difficult point”? No. The translational problems in the “difficult point” go beyond the fact that Tibetan, like Chinese, regularly uses mass nouns that we would not countenance as mass nouns in an English translation. Reformulation of those Tibetan or Chinese mass nouns as English count nouns is usually banal, and yields English sentences salva veritate, i.e., with no change in truth value—Tibetan mo ṭa mang po and Chinese che duo 車多 (Car [is] many) are rendered as “There are

many cars” routinely and unproblematically. 152 I would see this as support for a position with regard to Tibetan like that of Chris Fraser 2007 with regard to Chinese, viz., that usage of mass nouns or count nouns has no implications about what kind of entities people are really speaking about. Indeed, one could well deflate much Tibetan similarly. Most uses of mass nouns—e.g., in colloquial speech, in history texts, in opera and epics, in Marxist or Buddhist tracts, cookbooks, what have you—would not have any implications for whether one is speaking of particulars, manifestations of universals,

distributions of fusions and other such ontologies. There would be no semantic and metaphysical issues at stake in such cases, only verbal usage.153 To supplement Fraser a bit, we could say that there certainly are mass and count nouns, but that their reference to metaphysical types of entities like particulars, instantiations of universals, distributions of fusion entities, etc. remains inscrutable. The would-be inherent ontology of the language in question is not only unknowable but immaterial to its statements being true or false.

The argument is that of Donald Davidson. Here is how it goes.154 Inscrutability of reference comes down to an important point in formal semantics that there is always a permutation function Φ that maps one reference scheme for a language onto another scheme, so that when, on the first scheme, a name refers to an object x, then on the second it refers to Φ(x) and when a predicate F refers to the x’s of which it is true that x is F, then on the second scheme F will refer to the x’s of which it is true that Φ(x) is F. If we grant, as I think we surely must, that every particular rabbit is an instance of

rabbitness and is a distribution of the rabbit fusion entity, and that the converse implications all hold so that every distribution is an instance and an individual, etc., etc, then there is a permutation function allowing us to go unproblematically between the three interpretations of rabbit-talk. It is not only easily shown that “a is a rabbit” is true if and only if a is a rabbit, but that “a is a rabbit” is true if and only if a is an instance of rabbitness. And so on for rabbit fusions. The truth conditions become equivalent and there is only one fact of the matter needed for the sentences to be

true. Whether that fact is a’s being an instance of rabbitness, a distribution of the rabbit fusion, or being a particular individual rabbit, is inscrutable and immaterial to truth. The same holds, mutatis mutandis, for tables, people, buddhas, and so on.

Davidsonian arguments about inscrutability of reference, if right, put paid to a myriad of modern views about inherent metaphysics of languages and ways of thinking supposedly peculiar to their speakers alone.155 That said, the specific problem of understanding bsdus grwa and the “difficult point” is very different from the usual grand scale discussion about inherent semantics. It is certainly not resolved by simply saying that statements about facts that we understand are interpretable indifferently, salva veritate, in terms of several sorts of entities, so that we could, for example, just as well be talking

about distributions of the rabbit fusion (or instantiations of an abstract entity rabbithood) being furry instead of individual rabbits being furry. Rather, the point in bringing up (15) and (16), as we saw, is that we don’t understand why these particular kinds of Tibetan statements and their English translations are supposedly true; we don’t adequately understand the facts the Tibetan theoreticians are talking about at all when they talk about vase

itself or knowable thing itself nor the reasons why they assert what they do of them. Usual translational strategies to come up with reformulations in English salva veritate are thus simply not available here. More specifically, we are confronted with a dilemma. On the one hand, when the reformulations of (15) and (16) are in proper, clear, English, they do not conserve truth value, but,

on the other hand, if we seek to conserve truth value, we are forced into using a badly obscure English, so odd that certain terms are in italics and scare-quotes, suggesting unintelligibility. This is a problem of the philosophical implications of the Tibetan “difficult point.” They leave (15) and (16) with specific problems of intelligibility and translatability that more ordinary Tibetan does not have.


This dGe lugs theoretical position on Tibetan subject terms was important in Tibetan theorizing about language, but not surprisingly it was also contested by many non-dGe lugs thinkers. Sa skya pa thinkers like Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan (1182-1251), Go rams pa bSod nams seng ge (1429-1489), and gSer mdog Paṇchen Śākya mchog ldan (1428-1507) were oriented more towards a more Indian Buddhist semantics where words either had to refer to real individual things, i.e.,

particulars (rang mtshan = svalakṣaṇa), or to fictional universals (spyi mtshan = sāmānyalakṣaṇa), with no middle ground of a universal that would also be a real thing (spyi dngos po ba). They were thus often very skeptical about interpretations of their own language in accordance with the “difficult point.” Talk of X itself along the lines of the “difficult point” theorists would, so they thought, lead to a kind of realism about universal properties. Vase,

tree and the like would be full-fledged universals present in several particulars, but also fully real as they would possess the ability to perform functions (don byed nus pa = arthakriyā­samartha). That intra-Tibetan debate took on major importance in contrasting dGe lugs pa/gSang phu versus Sa skya pa Tibetan approaches to the problem of universals and philosophy of language. Go rams pa polemically insisted that talk of “mere tree” (shing tsam) as being

real universal (spyi dngos po ba) present in particulars was just “verbal obfuscation” (tshig gi sgrib g.yog) and an invention of “the snowy Tibetans” (bod gangs can pa).156 The main motivation of these Sa skya thinkers was not so much the mere usage of terms like tree (shing)— they used those ordinary Tibetan terms too—but the un-Indian aspect of accepting tree or tree itself as a real universal somehow to be contrasted with trees.


Were Go rams pa and others fair to the dGe lugs? They thought, probably rightly in many respects, that the dGe lugs-Phya pa semantic theories and especially the resultant metaphysics were out of step with mainstream Indian Buddhist nominalist positions such as those that one would find in Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, and they cited Pramāṇavārttika commentators like Śākyabuddhi to show that Buddhists should never accept universals. Georges Dreyfus and I, in

a number of separate publications, have taken up the theories of spyi dngos po ba (real universals) in Tibetan thought and the slim Indian antecedents for this theory that might be found in 10th - 12th century Kashmiri philosophers like Śaṅkaranandana and perhaps Bhavyarāja (= sKal ldan rgyal po).157 It is certainly arguable that the spyi dngos po ba that the dGe lugs pa accepted was not simply the universal of non-Buddhist schools, and that it would thus be

unfair to accuse them of wholesale betrayal of Buddhist nominalism. Instead vase is a concrete real entity able to perform functions like carrying water, and it is of the same substance (rdzas gcig = ekadravya) as the particulars; it is not a universal vaseness (ghaṭatva) that is separate from particulars and inherent (samaveta) in them, along the lines of the non-Buddhist Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school or, for that matter, Platonism.

So far, perhaps, so good. Some might wish to say that although Tibetan in fact has no inherent semantics (for Davidsonian reasons), what these Tibetan dGe lugs pa writers are doing is reading their language as if it had a semantics of discontinuously distributed fusions, i.e., entities composed by adding all the world’s snow to make a sum, and (why not?) adding the world’s rabbits or horses, what have you, to make their respective sums.158 dGe lugs pa would, in

sum, be theorizing about their own language as involving distributed stuff rather than individual things.159 Would such a stuff-semantics, after all, help explain and rationalize the “difficult point” distinctions that are promoted by dGe lugs pa philosophers? Let’s give it a run for the money. As we argued earlier, there is no reason to think that it is somehow inherent to Tibetan language generally or that the

mere extensive use of mass nouns makes it necessary. But nor would reading the dGe lugs pa ideas about Tibetan in this way help much to rationalize what we find in the texts. While stuff-semantics may seem possible for horses, rabbits and vases, it becomes increasingly weird for knowable things and good reasons. Even if we could learn to live with reason-stuffs or reason-fusions distributed here, here and here, the big problem remains: we would still

somehow have to learn to argue convincingly in English why the non-red fusion itself and knowable thing fusion itself and finally, the good reason fusion itself, would supposedly have properties that they do and that their distributions quite often don’t. It is hard to see that saying the dGe lugs pa (rightly or wrongly) apply a stuff-semantics to Tibetan would make that any clearer at all. The difficult point remains difficult.

Let me conclude on a nuanced note, taking some distance from the usual discussions about translation and translatability that one finds in analytic philosophy post W.V. Quine and Donald Davidson. As should be clear, I subscribe to much of the Quine-Davidson position on the inscrutability of reference. I am thus certainly not advocating a strong thesis – one usually attributed to Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf — to the effect that a language has its

own inherent ontology and is incommensurable with some or all other languages.160 I do not think that Sino-Tibetan languages have an inherent ontology because of such languages’ extensive use of mass nouns. However, I do think that philosophical Tibetan as used and interpreted by many indigenous authors presents important problems of translatability because of their understandings of Tibetan mass nouns. The authors I am speaking of represent the school of

Buddhism that has been dominant in Tibet since the fifteenth century. When they think the difficult point is key to understanding philosophy of language, that is, in a sense, the official Tibetan line. There is a significant problem in translating their writings and the Tshad ma-based philosophy of their school; there is hence a problem in translating a lot of quite influential Tibetan philosophy tout court.

Some might well say that large scale untranslatability is an incoherent notion. And indeed it is often repeated, since Donald Davidson’s article “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,” that a culture that did not share with us a common endorsement of a very large number of truths would be thoroughly unintelligible to us—even its difference and foreignness, and for that matter, whether it has a language, would be obscure.161 However, a Davidsonian a priori argument against untranslatability would be overkill in the case at hand. It is clear we do share a very great number of truths with Tibetans and that understanding Tibetan culture is not the type of (supposedly) radically foreign encounter Davidson criticizes as unintelligible. We may not understand all the whys and wherefores of utterances in difficult point debates but we easily know that they are utterances, and indeed know quite a lot about them,

just as we do about Tibetan medical and pharmacological terms that are often untranslatable in the present state of our scientific terminology. The Davidsonian arguments are best seen as directed against a strong thesis: untranslatability in principle, due to inherent features in languages that imply a conceptual scheme incommensurable with that of the translator.162 It is this necessary, essential or inherent untranslatability of languages and

the resultant relativity of truth to a language’s inherent conceptual scheme that inspired Whorf and thoroughly repelled Davidson. Indeed, essential untranslatability may well fall under the Davidsonian critique. It is, however, not the untranslatability I am claiming for the difficult point. Nor is the untranslatability in philosophical Tibetan a purely practical matter, so that meaningfully translating the difficult point distinctions would

be a problem cleared up with new discoveries and supplementary information. No doubt there is often de facto, or practical, untranslatability given a current state of knowledge—the language of the Indus Valley civilization, the Minoan Linear A, and Egyptian hieroglyphics before J.F. Champollion come to

mind. We can well imagine what further information we would need to have to be able to translate. What we can say in the case at hand, however, is that we see no way out of the translational problems of the difficult point given the current requirements of English. I suspect that “Tibet hands” who study bsdus grwa and related dGe lugs pa thinking in depth will continue to develop a somewhat divided mind, learn how to reason about certain subjects in Tibetan

persuasively to Tibetans, be able to explain that reasoning in a relatively sophisticated manner in Tibetan, but be unable to translate and explain it satisfactorily in English. One could, of course, fantasize that on the very odd chance that future analytic philosophers came to prize Collected Topics, legitimized English mass noun usage of vase, knowable thing, etc., and regularly argued about such things, the untranslatability that I have been

discussing might even largely disappear. Ways of speaking and thinking do, of course, end up de facto supplanted with others due to facts of history or societal changes. Nonetheless, it is quite obscure to us how this particular evolution would happen rationally given the broad outlines of our ways of speaking in most Western languages, for it seems that we don’t have a clue as to what it would be like now, or in a forseeable future, to pursue the

Tibetan-style structured and predictable metaphysical debates on the properties of vase itself, knowable thing, or good reason itself. We simply can’t imagine why or in what circumstances statements like “Good reason is permanent” would be true. If at some point further down the road we came to feel we could participate in East-West debates about such things, the disruption in thinking would have had to be enormous; it would probably have been a type of

rupture, not a reasoned evolution. More generally, we seem to have to recognize that what is a typically debatable philosophical question in one language, with elaborate answers, and often commonly recognized rational decision procedures to determine whether those answers are good or bad, may be hardly discussable in the other. That does not

entail the grand scale thesis that truth differs between Tibetan and English or varies between the Himalayas, Switzerland, and the west coast of Canada. More reasonable is the following sober, humble conclusion: the implications of “difficult point” philosophy are not evidence for the relativity of truth, they show rather that some promising, rigorous, philosophy is—and will remain— so obscure in translation that the issue of its truth will hardly arise

outside its own broad linguistic sphere. In short, some highly developed Tibetan philosophy won’t translate well enough for the truth or falsity of its statements to be meaningfully debated in major European languages. That is enough untranslatability to be significant. To go one step further, if that is right, then there are consequences for comparative philosophy and logic, in that there are at least some important areas

where, as far as we can see, we cannot cross borders of language and cultures with impunity and philosophize together with clear mutual understanding. In sum, a philosopher who wants to cross borders needs to know where they are and how serious they are. They probably aren’t much like Whorf, Sapir and some anthropologists or asianists imagined them, and they don’t turn on the metaphysics of whole languages or grand scale views on the linguistic relativity of

truth and structures of the universe; nor do they entail that whole cultures remain somehow exotically inaccessible and alien. (Exaggerating the importance of borders is, unfortunately, the all too frequent stuff of professional asianists and popular conceptions alike.) Indeed, these two chapters, if successful, should show that much of Tibetan philosophical culture is in fact quite accessible to cross-cultural philosophy and not exotic at all. But they should also show that we can legitimately talk about borders concerning a sizable chunk of the intellectual production of a specific culture. We need to look at borders with a very focused vision and case by case. They can be serious indeed.


Appendix I: Chinese influence?

Might the debates in Collected Topics have Chinese origins? While at least one Indian Pramāṇa text was translated into Tibetan from Chinese—e.g., the Nyāyapraveśa from the translation of Xuanzang163— there are no logic commentaries that I know of by Chinese authors that made there way into Tibetan and

influenced Tshad ma. We do find an important commentary on the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra by a student of Xuanzang, Yuan ce 圓測. It was translated into Tibetan and had a significant influence in Tibet, often being discussed by writers like Tsong kha pa.164 However, this is not a work on logic and Tshad ma: it is a

work on hermeneutics and the interpretation of the three cycles of Buddhist teaching. There is, however, a “white horse” argument found in the Tibetan Collected Topics literature that seems like the strongest candidate for Chinese influence

and origins. The debate is very well known amongst people educated in the dGe lugs pa curriculum, for whom it is typically taken as showing an important Buddhist point, the unfindability of entities under analysis, the impossibility that any macroscopic entity can be localized or identified with one or more

of its constituent dharmas/tropes. Here is a representative version as found in Yongs ‘dzin bsdus grwa: “A certain [debater] might say: A white conch, the subject; it follows that it would be a color, because it is white. If [his opponent says that the

reason] is not established [i.e., that a white conch is not white] [then the debater could argue to him as follows:] Take that [white conch as] subject; it follows that it is [white], because it is a white conch. If [this debater] says that, then [one should force upon him the opposing pervasion (‘gal khyab)

[i.e., that if something is a white conch, it is pervaded by not being white] as follows: Well then, for him, take a white horse, the subject; it follows that it would be white, because it is a white horse. The pervasion would be the same [i.e., in the first case the debater had argued that all white conches

are pervaded by being white and in the second case he similarly should argue that all white horses are pervaded by being white]. But [actually] he cannot agree [that a white horse is white], because it is [in fact] not matter (bem po = jaḍa). Why? Because it is a living personality (gang zag = pudgala). Why? Because it is a horse.” 165

How would this compare with famous debate of Gong Sun long 公孫龍 (325-250 B.C.E.) that concludes bai ma fei ma ke 白馬非馬可 (One can say that white horse is not [a] horse)?166 The differences are considerable. The first and most obvious thing to note is that the conclusions are not the same: Collected Topics seeks to show that white horse is not white and not that white horse is not a horse! Second, while the debate does not figure in Indian Buddhist sources,


as far as I can see, the underlying reasoning relies on Abhidharma metaphysics rather than indigenous non-Buddhist Chinese ideas. The point of the white horse not being white is that the white horse cannot be identified with one of the many tropes that constitute it. Indo-Tibetan Abhidharma maintains that a macroscopic entity is always a composite of dharmas, i.e., what would nowadays be termed quality-particulars or tropes.167 In short, a horse, or any other

living being, cannot be identified with its shape, its colour, its weight, its mental features, or any other material or mental trope. On the other hand, the debate in the Gong sun long zi 公孫龍子, if I understand it, does not turn on Abhidharmic trope metaphysics and the resultant impossibility to identify an entity with one of its constituent tropes, but rather, to take Chad Hansen’s analysis, on issues of interpretation of Chinese compound terms like “white horse” (bai ma 白馬), i.e., either as a sum of all white and horse entities, or as a product, the entity which is both a horse and white. The white horse not being a horse is assertable if (for philosophical reasons about language) we say that “white horse” is to be taken along the lines of “ox horse” (niu ma 牛馬), i.e., as a sum, rather than along the lines of a product like “hard white” (jian bai 堅 白). However, the Confucian semantical principle, the

Rectification of Names, precludes that one and the same thing should be referred to by two different words, and hence rules out the product reading of “white horse.”168

The white horse argument is not findable, as far as I can see, in Indian discussions—it is not an Abhidharma debate in India. I would tentatively submit that what may have happened is that the white horse debate in Collected Topics is derived from the Chinese, but that in any case, if it is so derived, it

changed significantly, philosophically speaking, in its use in Tibet. Note that there are other discussions in Collected Topics that are thoroughly un-Indian and somewhat suggestive of Chinese views on language. For example, Collected Topics has a whole “lesson” (rnam bzhag) concerning X being or not

being an instance of X,169 and there are also discussions about products (impermanent sound) and sums (pillar vase) that do and don’t respectively admit “instances” (yin pa srid pa/yin pa mi srid pa).170 The contents of these discussions do not seem to be due to Indian sources (although some terms have Indian antecedents), so that one might look to Chinese sources for their origins, or one might well say that these are original Tibetan developments. A minimalist hypothesis: there is no “smoking gun” clearly establishing specific Chinese origins of debates in Collected Topics.


Appendix II. A Pronunciation Guide to Standard Tibetan

In what follows, we provide a guide with English equivalents, so that the non-linguist can arrive at an acceptable pronounciation of Standard Tibetan (bod kyi spyi skad), the language spoken around Lhasa. For a more exact phonetic description of Standard Tibetan, see Tournadre and Dorje 2003, 32-41. Those seeking only to get a very rough idea of the pronunciation of an isolated word or phrase can use the Tibetan-phonetics convertor on the internet sie of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library: http://www.thlib.org/reference/transliteration/phconverter.php. The system of Tibetan transliteration that we have adopted is that of T.V. Wylie 1959.


§1. The vowels, a, e, i, o, u, when they are not followed by consonants are short and pronounced as follows:

a: similar to a in English father;

e: similar to e in set;

i: similar to ee in free,

o: similar to o is so.


u: similar to u in sue.

2. When they are followed by the consonants d, n, l, or s, the vowels a, o and u are pronounced like counterparts with umlauts, respectively ä, ö, ü. The consonant d leaves the preceding vowel short and is itself silent; l and s lengthen the vowel and are themselves silent; n is pronounced.

§3. Tibetan consonants are generally pronounced as follows:

k: completely unaspirated, similar to the English k in skip

kh: aspirated, similar to a strongly pronounced c, as when one exclaims that something is utter claptrap.
g: similar to Tibetan k, but with a low tone vowel. When preceded by other consonants it is voiced, like g in gone,
ng: similar to the first ng in singalong.
c: completely unaspirated, similar to the ch in speech.
ch: aspirated, similar to a strongly pronounced ch in cheese.
j: similar to Tibetan c, but with a low tone vowel. When preceded by other consonants it is voiced, like j in jab.
ny: similar to n in newspaper as pronounced in British English.
t: completely unaspirated, similar to the t in stag.
th: aspirated, similar to a strongly pronounced t in tap.
d: similar to Tibetan t, but with a low tone vowel. When preceded by other consonants it is voiced, like d in dab.
n: similar to n in not.
p: completely unaspirated, similar to p in spin.
ph: aspirated, similar to a strongly pronounced p in pan.
b: similar to Tibetan p, but with a low tone vowel. When preceded by other consonants it is voiced, like b in ball.
m: similar to m in English, e.g. man.
ts: completely unaspirated, similar to ts in treats.
tsh: aspirated, similar to a strongly pronounced ts in tsar.
dz: similar to Tibetan ts, but with a low tone vowel. When preceded by other consonants it is voiced, like ds in lads.
wa: similar to w in want.
zh: similar to sh in shop, but with a low tone vowel.
z: similar to s in same, but with a low tone vowel.
‘: not pronounced.
y: similar to y in yet
r: similar to r in read, slightly rolled.
l: similar to l in led.
sh: similar to sh in shop, but with a high tone vowel.
s: similar to s in same, but with a high tone vowel.
h: similar to h in hard.

§4. g, d, b, m, ‘, r, l, s, br, and bs, when they precede another consonant, are not pronounced. Thus, for example, Tibetan sgo and mgo are homonyms and are pronounced like English go.

§5. kl, gl, bl, rl, sl, brl, and bsl are all pronounced like Tibetan l. Thus, for example, blo and glo are homonyms and are pronounced like English lo. The combination zl, however, is the exception: it is pronounced d.

§6. kr, skr, bskr, tr, pr, dpr, and spr are all pronounced like an unaspirated retroflex t, like the retroflex ṭ in Sanskrit. Thus, for example, skra is pronounced like Sanskrit ṭa.

§7. khr, ‘khr, mkhr, phr, and ‘phr are all pronounced like an aspirated retroflex t, i.e., like the retroflex ṭh in Sanskrit. Thus, ‘phro is pronounced like Sanskrit ṭho.

§8. gr, dr, and br, unpreceded by other consonants, are pronounced like a low-toned ṭ, while dgr, bgr, mgr, ‘gr, sgr, bsgr, ‘dr, dbr, ‘br, and sbr are pronounced like the retroflex ḍ in Sanskrit. The combinations sr and mr are the exceptions: sr is simply pronounced like s and mr is pronounced like m. §9. py, dpy, spy, by are unaspirated and pronounced like c. ‘by and sby are voiced and pronounced like j. phy and ‘phy are aspirated and pronounced like ch.

§10. In the combinations ky, khy and gy, both letters are pronounced distinctly and normally. However, in dgy, bgy, brgy, mgy and ‘gy the g is voiced and low tone. The combinations my, smy, and dmy are exceptional and are all pronounced like ny.

§11. The ten consonants g, ng, d, n, b, m, ‘, r, l, s and the combinations gs, ngs, bs, and ms occur at the end of syllables;.the s in gs is not pronounced but has the effect of lengthening the vowel. g is hardly pronounced but shortens the vowel. d, l, s are themselves silent. Vocalic changes a → ä, o → ö, u → ü and lengthening of vowels occur as described in §2.

Sandhi occurs but need not be described here, nor need we master the use of the three tones of Lhasa Tibetan.

Forays into the Philosophy of the Middle


III. Two Tibetan Texts on the “Neither One nor Many

Argument for śūnyatā

The present article is my third in a series on the Buddhist argument that entities are void (stong pa; śūnya) of intrinsic nature (rang bzhin; svabhāva) because they are neither individuals (i.e. “ones”) nor many different things.171 The reason (gtan tshigs; hetu; or equivalently, rtags; liṅga) on which this argument depends, that is to say, “being neither one nor many,” or more literally, “being free from one(ness) and many(ness),” comes to be known in Indian and Tibetan literature as the “neither one nor many reason” (gcig du bral gyi gtan tshigs; ekānekaviyogahetu).

Now, undeniably, the basic theme of this style of argumentation was used in its broad outlines by diverse branches of Buddhist philosophy, and for a variety of purposes: Vasubandhu, Dharmakīrti, and Prajñākaragupta, to take a few of the many possible examples, used it to show the impossibility of such

notions as universals and partless atoms; Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti used it to analyze the relationship between the self (bdag; ātman) and the aggregates (phung po; skandha) and, in general, to reduce to absurdity the part-whole relationship.172 But, although Mādhyamika and non-Mādhyamika alike used this argument in one form or another,173 it finds an especially sophisticated development in the *Mādhyamika-Svātantrika philosopher, Śāntarakṣita, who employed it as the central idea around which he structured his influential text, the Madhyamakālaṃkāra.

In Tibet, a considerable indigenous literature grew up around Śāntarakṣita’s Madhyamakālaṃkāra. Some works, such as the dBu ma rgyan gyi rnam bshad of the rNying ma pa scholar, Mi pham rgya mtsho (1846-1912), and the dBu ma rgyan gyi brjed byang of rGyal tshab rje (1364-1432), commented directly on Śāntarakṣita’s text, but others, in particular the dGe lugs pa monastic textbooks (yig cha), combined Śāntarakṣita’s exposition of the “neither one nor many” argument with their commentary on the homage (mchod brjod) of Maitreyanātha’s Abhisamayālaṃkāra.174 As an Indian precedent for situating the “neither one nor many” argument in the context of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra’s homage, these textbooks would cite certain passages from Haribhadra’s commentary, Sphuṭārthā.175

In my first two articles, I compared certain aspects in the Indian and Tibetan treatments of the argument, and I introduced the important themes present in the texts translated below. I had originally thought to include, in the second article, a translation of these Tibetan texts, which together give a representative sample of the dGe lugs pa discussion of the argument. But this proved to be impossible, and a third article was thus necessary. Of the texts in question, the first, a chapter from Se ra rje btsun pa Chos kyi rgyal mtshan’s (1469-1546) commentary on the first chapter of the

Abhisamayālaṃkāra, serves to explain the basic line of argumentation. The second, an except from Tsong kha pa’s (1357-1419) dBu ma rgyan gyizin bris, deals with the logical fallacy of āśrayāsiddhahetu (“a reason whose locus is not established”; gzhi ma grub pa’i gtan tshigs), a technical problem often associated with the “neither one nor many” argument. The difficulty arises as soon as one seeks to use the argument to prove that pseudo-entities such as the Self (ātman), the Primordial Nature (prakṛti) Īśvara, etc.—in short, the various sp eculative fictions of the non-Buddhist schools—are in fact

nonexistent. How is one to avoid that all successful nonexistence proofs become self-refuting, if one agrees that the loci, or subjects (chos can; dharmin) of valid proofs must in some sense exist? It is a question which has elicited much discussion from Western scholars, and perhaps Tsong kha pa’s text will be useful here as it concisely presents certain important ideas of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, as well as Kamalaśīla’s basic approach to the problem in his work, the Madhyamakāloka.176

Finally, a word on the editions which I have used. The chapter from the sKabs dang po ‘i spyi don forms a small part of the voluminous collection of textbooks composed by Se ra Chos kyi rgyal mtshan which have recently (197?) been reprinted at Se ra byes monastery in Bylakuppe, Mysore, India. This

reprint is completely identical with the text included in the United States Library of Congress Collection of Tibetan Literature in Microfiche. (Microfiche R-1021 in Tibetan Religious Works: PL 480 SFC Collections, published by the Institute for the Advanced Studies of World Religions, Stony Brook, New York.) According to the information given by E. Gene Smith on the microfiche itself, it would seem that the blocks were made in Buksa (sBag sa), Bengal during the

1960’s. At any rate, for our purposes, we shall simply speak of the “New Se ra” edition. We have also consulted the “Old Se ra” edition, which is probably a late nineteenth century or early twentieth century reprint of Chos kyi rgyal mtshan’s works (Tokyo University Catalogue No. 21; Tōhoku Catalogue. 6815 A).

The excerpt from dBu ma rgyan gyi zin bris is based on a comparison between the text found in the supplement to the Peking edition of the Tibetan canon (bstan ‘gyur Vol. 153), an edition of unknown origin published by the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, Varanasi, India and finally the bKra shis Ihun po (“Tashilhunpo”) edition of Tsong kha pa’s Collected Works, kept in Klukhyil monastery’s library (Ladakh) and recently reprinted in

Delhi by Ngag dbang dge legs bde mo.177 As well, lCang skya grub mtha’, the extensive work on philosophical systems (grub mtha’; siddhānta) composed by lCang skya rol pa’i rdo rje (1717-1786), reproduces verbatim approximately two thirds of the excerpt in question; this has also proved to be very useful, in spite of the fact that it was not possible to determine the source of the edition used by lCang skya himself.


Here then are the abbreviations to be used: New = the New Se ra edition; Old = the Old Se ra edition; P = the Peking bstan ‘gyur and supplement; T = the Tashilhunpo edition of Tsong kha pa’s Collected Works (reprinted in Delhi); S = the Sarnath text; lCang = lCang skya grub mtha’.

[N. 24a6] Our own position: I. Recognizing the property to be refuted (dgag bya’i chos; pratiṣedhyadharma) by the reason which the teacher [[[Haribhadra]]] propounds:178 II. Explanation, involving other loci, of the reasonings which refute this [property].

I. [24a7] “Something established by virtue of its particular mode of being, [and] not brought about because of appearing to mind (blo; mati)”—this is the property to be refuted by the reasons which analyze the ultimate. For, if the person and the aggregates were to exist in such a way, then they would have to withstand logical reasonings which analyze the ultimate [[[Wikipedia:status|status]] of entities], and they would have to be perceived during the meditative equipoise (mnyam bzhag; samāhita) of the Āryas (“Noble Ones”).179

[24bl] An analogy: Take the case of a magician making pebbles and pieces of wood appear to be horses and elephants. Now suppose that when the pebbles, pieces of wood, etc. appeared in this way, these same [[[appearances]]] were not brought about by a deceived mind, but were so established from the side (ngos nas) of the pebbles, pieces of wood, etc. Then, as these [[[appearances]]] would be the result (lag rjes) of the antecedent like-moments (rigs ‘dra snga ma) making up the [pebbles, etc., it would follow absurdly that] people whose eyes were not affected [by the magician’s spells] should also see [these “horses” and “elephants”].180


[24b2] Furthermore, in this vein, the Satyadvayavibhaṅga [of Jñānagarbha] states:

Since [customary truth’s] nature is [simply] just as it appears, one does not subject it to analysis. If the yogi [however] does analyze it, then he will commit [the fault of speaking about a] different1 matter (don gzhan; arthāntara), and will hence be refuted.181

[24b3] Moreover, it [i.e. the property to be refuted] is as stated above, because “an existence brought about because of appearing to the mind” is the meaning of “customary existence.” For, states [[[Kamalaśīla’s]]] Madhyamakāloka:

So therefore all [those] natures which are deceptive entities [[[existing]]] because one thinks of them, [these natures] exist only customarily.182

And the commentary on [[[Candrakīrti’s]]] Madhyamakāvatāra [[[Tsong kha pa’s]] dBu ma dgongs pa rab gsal,] states:

In the Madhyamakāloka, the opposite of what is termed the customary mode of existence, is known as that which exists ultimately, or as truly established.183

And [finally], as states the Satyadvayavibhaṅga:

What is only as it appears, this is customary [[[existence]]]. What is other [than such a characterization] is the opposite [i.e. ultimate existence].184


[24b5] Thus there is nothing which is truly established, ultimately established, in reality established, etc. But there are [[[phenomena]]] which are [customarily] established by their own defining characteristics (rang gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pa), from their own side (rang ngos nas grub pa), by their intrinsic natures (rang bzhin gyis grub pa), and which are [customarily] established as being substances (rdzas su grub pa).185


II. [24b6] In general, there are many reasonings proving selflessness (bdag med; anātman)

(1) the “neither one nor manyreason (gcig du bral gyi gtan tshigs; ekānekaviyogahetu), which analyzes the nature of phenomena;

(2) the “diamond-splinters” reason (rdo rje gzegs ma’i gtan tshigs; vajrakaṇahetu), which analyzes the cause;

(3) the reason refuting production of existence or nonexistence (yod med skye ‘gog gi gtan tshigs; *sad­asadut­pāda­pratiṣedhahetu), which analyzes the effect;

(4) the reason which refutes production according to the four points (mu bzhi skye ‘gog gi gtan tshigs; catuṣkoṭyutpāda­pratiṣedhahetu), which analyzes both [the cause and the effect];

(5) the “king of reasonings” (rigs pa’i rgyal po), the reason from dependent arising (rten ‘brel gyi gtan tshigs; pratītyasamutpādahetu).186


(1) [25al] The first is explained below.

(2) The second is as follows: “The sprout is not ultimately produced, because ultimately it is not produced from itself, nor from others, nor from both [[[self]] and others], nor from no cause.” As it is said in the Mūla­madhyama­kakārikās [of Nāgārjuna]:

It is not [produced] from self, other, both, or no cause. Never, nowhere, is any entity whatsoever produced.187

(3) [25a2]The third [[[reason]]]: “The sprout is not ultimately produced, because either it exists at the time of its cause, and is thus not produced, or it does not exist at the time of its cause, and is not ultimately produced.” States the Madhyamakāloka:

An existent is not produced,

A nonexistent is like the lotus in the sky.188


(4) [25a4] The fourth [[[reason]]]: “The sprout is not ultimately produced, because many causes do not ultimately produce just one effect; nor do many causes ultimately produce only many effects; nor does one cause ultimately produce only many effects; and nor does one cause ultimately produce just one effect.” The Satyadvayavibhaṅga states:

Many do not create one entity,

Nor do many create many.

One does not create many entities,

Nor does one create one.189


(5) [25a6] The fifth [[[reason]]]: “The sprout is not truly existent, because it is a dependent arising—like, for example, a reflection.”

(1) [25a6] Amongst these [[[reasons]]] we shall now explain the first. Here, there are two points: A. The presentation of the reason; B. The establishment of its [three] characteristics (tshul; rūpa).

A.[25a7] The bases (gzhi; vastu), paths (lam; mārga), and aspects (rnam pa;ākāra) are not truly established, because they are not established as being either truly one or many—just like, for example, a reflection.190 As the Madhyamakālaṃkāra [of Śāntarakṣita] states:

Entities as asserted by ourselves and others are in reality (yang dag tu; tattvatas) without the nature of oneness or manyness. Thus they are not truly existent—like a reflection.191


B. [25bl] [Establishing the three characteristics]: (a) the pakṣadharmana (“the fact that the reason qualifies the subject”; phyogs chos); (b) the entailment (khyab pa; vyāpti).192 Under point (a) there are two: (i) establishing that the [bases, etc.] are not truly ones; (ii) establishing that they are not truly many.


(i) [25b2] The bases, paths, and aspects are not truly ones, because they have parts (cha bcas; sāvayava). They have parts because (a’) they exist; (b’) it is impossible that a knowable thing (shes bya;jñeya) be without parts; (c’) “having parts” is directly contradictory (dngos ‘gal) with “being partless”.

[25b3] What is the pramāṇa (“source of knowledge”) which refutes the possibility of partless knowable things? Suppose that we are using the reason “because it has parts” to prove that the bases, paths, and aspects are not truly ones. To ascertain this by means of an inferential (rjes dpag; anumāna) pramāṇa,

there are three [other] pramāṇas which must precede [the inference]: the pramāṇa which ascertains [the meaning of] “having parts,” the reason in question; the pramāṇa which ascertains that “not being truly one” is directly contradictory with “being truly one”; the pramāṇa which refutes [the possibility of] a common element (gzhi mthun) qualified by “having parts” and being truly one”.193 Amongst these [three], it is the third which is the most difficult to understand: so let me explain this [point].

[25b5] Let us hypothesize that there are common elements [such as vases etc.] which are qualified by “having parts” and “being truly one”. Now, it would follow that a vase [, for example,] would appear, to the conceptual cognition (rtog pa; kalpanā) which grasped it, as being essentially different (ngo bo tha dad; bhinnarūpa) from its parts, but would [however] be [customarily] established as essentially identical (ngo bo gcig; ekarūpa) with its parts. For, although [the vase] might appear to such a cognition as being essentially different from its parts, it is [, in fact,] essentially one with them.194 If it were not so [that the vase and its parts were essentially one from the point of view of customary truth], it would follow absurdly (thal lo) that the vase would have to be partless.195

[25b7] But suppose that one agreed to the root proposition [that to a conceptual cognition a vase appears as being essentially different from its parts, although it is in fact essentially one with them]. It would then follow absurdly that the vase would be a deceptive phenomenon (brdzun pa; mṛṣā). The entailment is as follows: Given a deceptive mode of being, there would be no contradiction in the fact that from the standpoint of appearance [things such as vases and their parts] might appear as being essentially different, even though in terms of the way they exist (sdod lugs) they are essentially one. But there is a contradiction when [we mean] things which have a true mode of being.196

[26al] A further reason [why what has parts cannot be truly one]: it would follow absurdly that the whole and its many parts would not be different (tha dad), because if they were, they would have to be seen as different during an Ārya’s meditative equipoise, and such is not the case.197 The first part [of

the reason] would follow, because if they were different, they would have to be truly different, and if they were [truly different], they [[[Āryas]]] would have to see them as such. Here, the first part [i.e. the fact that if they were different, they would have to be truly different] follows, because [the parts and the whole] are [hypothesized as being] things which, on the one hand, seem to be essentially different from the standpoint of appearance, but are in their mode of being essentially identical, and, on the other hand, are also truly established.198

[26a3] The second part [of the above reason] is established [i.e. if the parts and the whole were truly different, the Āryas would have to see them as such], because if they were [truly different], then [this difference] would have to be established absolutely (de kho na nyid du). 199

[26a3] Now suppose that one agreed to the root proposition [that parts and wholes are not different]. Then it would follow [absurdly] that the many parts would be one [i.e. identical], because they would be established and they would not be different from the whole. Here, one could not agree [that the many

parts are one], because the [parts’] being one would be countered by the pramāṇa which knows them to be many. [Similarly] it would follow absurdly that the whole would be many, because it would be established, and it would not be different from [its] many parts. Here [again], one could not agree, because the [whole’s] being many would be countered by the pramāṇa which knows it to be one.200

[26a5] [Thus] by means, of this line of reasoning, one denies that there is a common element qualified by “having parts” and “being truly one”. For, according to this approach, one denies that if wholes and parts are different, they have to be seen as different during the Āryasmeditative equipoise. By denying this, one denies that they are truly different. And by this, one denies that there is a common element qualified by “having parts” and “being truly one”.201

[26a6] To resume the sense: The bases, paths, and aspects are not truly ones, because they have parts. The entailment holds because if anything were to be truly one, it would have to be one [thing] which does not depend on anything [else] whatsoever, and in such a case, it could not have parts. [However,] they [i.e. the bases, etc.] do have parts, because (a’) they are established bases (gzhi grub); 202 (b’) it is impossible that a knowable thing be

partless; (c’) “having parts” is directly contradictory with “being partless”. (ii) [26bl] [Establishing that the bases, etc. are not truly many:] They are not truly many [different things], because they do not exist as true ones [i.e. as individuals]. The entailment holds, because manyness must be posited independence on oneness.203

(b) [26bl] Establishing entailment [between “being neither truly one nor many” and “not being truly existent”.]

[26bl] If one is to ascertain with a pramāṇa that the bases, paths, and aspects are not truly existent, using the reason “neither truly one nor many,” then there are three [other] preliminary pramāṇas needed; the pramāṇa which ascertains [what it means to be] neither [truly one nor many]; the pramāṇa which ascertains that “not truly existent” is directly contradictory with “being truly established”; the pramāṇa which refutes [the possibility of] a common element qualified by “being neither [truly one nor many]” and “truly established”.

[26b3] As the latter is [again] the most difficult to understand, let me explain this [point]. Suppose that with regard to a reflection one ascertains, with a pramāṇa, that oneness and manyness are mutually exclusive (phan tshun spangs ‘gal; parasparaparihāraviruddha)204 and directly contradictory. Now, in

dependence on this pramāṇa, one can refute [the possibility of] a common element qualified by “being neither truly one nor many” and “truly established.”205 For, by the action of this pramāṇa, and without having to depend on any other mediate pramāṇa, one can understand that such a common element is impossible.206

[26b5] [Conclusions]: Therefore, the intelligent disciple, for whom the Abhisamayālaṃkāra is destined, has a [particular] way of developing faith in the nature of the Mother [[[prajñāpāramitā]]]: he develops this faith by establishing, with a pramāṇa, the existence of the Mother three omnisciences (mkhyen pa gsum; tisraḥ sarvajñatāḥ).207 He also has a [particular] way to develop faith in the power of the Mother [[[prajñāpāramitā]]]: this faith he develops by establishing, with a pramāṇa, that the [Mother] three omnisciences are capable of effectuating the perfection which is the professed purpose of their Ārya [[[bodhisattva]]] sons.


An Excerpt from Tsong kha pa’s dBu ma rgyan gyi zin bris


[P. Na 77b3] [Objection:] But suppose that one takes this proof [i.e. that entities are neither truly one nor many] as a svatantra [[[hetu]]] (“autonomous reason”; rang rgyud). Then since subjects (chos can; dharmin) such as the ātman (“Self), Īśvara (“God”), etc., asserted by non-Buddhists, and [the notions of] suffering and partless consciousness, asserted by our co-religionists, are not established, it would follow that the pakṣadharmatva would not be established. Hence, [using a svatantrangetu] would be incoherent.208

[77b4] [Reply:] Now in the Madhyamakālaṃkārapañjika [of Kamalaśīla] it is said that one can prove only prasaṅgas (“consequences”) in the case of unacknowledged entities imputed by non-Buddhists, but with regard to acknowledged entities [which possess] their own natures, both [[[prasaṅgas]] and svatantrahetus] are without fault.209 [Moreover,] Phya pa chos kyi seng ge and other Tibetan scholars also said that a svatantra was inappropriate in the case of a [[[Wikipedia:Nothing|nonexistent]]] subject imputed by non-Buddhists.210

[77b6] [However,] [[[Kamalaśīla’s]]] Madhyamakāloka explains that even if one takes a subject of the sort previously described, so long as the reason (rtags; liṅga), and property [to be proved] (chos; dharma) are mere negations, a svatantra is most definitely appropriate; this is stated many times.211 If reasons

and properties [to be proved] only applied to established [i.e. existent] bases (gzhi grub), then svatantras, [or in other words,] proofs which are not prasaṅgas, would be inappropriate for these types of subjects. But if there is nothing contradictory for a reason or a property which is a non-implying negation (med par dgag pa;prasajyapratiṣedha) to also [qualify] an unestablished basis, then for such [[[Wikipedia:Nothing|nonexistent]]] subjects too, the svatantra will be thoroughly proper. This is the teacher and scholar Kamalaśīla’s position.

[77b8] [Objection and reply:] But then what was previously explained in the Madhyamakālaṃkārapañjkā does not correspond to the Madhyamakāloka. As Dharmamitra, however, held that the Pañjikā was by Kamalaśīla, it should be investigated if [[[Kamalaśīla]]] might not have composed this text [i.e. the Pañjikā] specifically at a time when his thought was [still] immature.212

[78al] Well then, what is our own position with regard to these types of [[[Wikipedia:Nothing|nonexistent]]] subjects? In this context, the Mahātman Dignāga states:

By means of objects of direct perception, inference, belief, and convention, [and] pertaining to its actual basis (rang rten la’o).213

Thus, in explaining that the basis [i.e. the subject] and the property [in a proper thesis (pratijñā or pakṣa)] are not refuted, he did not merely say [the words] “with regard to the subject” (chos can la’o), but rather, “its actual subject” (rang gi chos can; svadharmin).214 And Śrī Dharmakīrti explained the thought behind saying these words as follows: Although the proposition (tshogs don) composed of the [merely] nominal subject (chos can ‘ba’ zhig pa;

kevaladharmin) and the property to be proved might be negated, there is no fault, as this property [to be proved] does not negate the subject which is the actual basis of the property to be proved.215 Thus, he [[[Dignāga]]] says “basis” in order to show that the fault occurs when one negates the subject which is the actual basis of the property to be proved, and [hence negates] the [proposition] composed of the two [i.e. of the actual basis and the property].

[78a5] Now is there [[[thought]] to be] a fault in refuting the nominal subject? This is extensively explained in passages of the Pramāṇavārttika such as, “For example, space, etc. by others...,” and in connection with the Vaiśeṣika position.216

[78a6] The so-called “nominal subject” means one which is stated as the subject, but which is not [in fact] the basis of the property to be proved in question; it is, thus, an unrelated (yan gar bar) subject.217 [Objection:] “If it is so that when [presenting] a svatantra, the pakṣadharma has to qualify whatever might happen to be the locus of debate (rtsod gzhi),218 then there will be no sense in making a difference between the nominal subject and the

subject which is the actual basis. Hence, when one takes ātman, pradhāna (“the Principle”),219 etc. as the loci of debate, then the svatantraliṅga (rang rgyud kyi rtags)220 will [still] be inappropriate.” [Reply:]. But such [a position stems from] not differentiating the viewpoint of the two lords of logic [i.e. Dignāga and Dharmakīrti] from that of the infidels. Having in this way cited the texts of the sūtra [i.e. Dignāga’s Pramāṇasamuccaya]221 and the Pramāṇavārttika, [the matter] will be more extensively explained in accordance with the Madhyamakāloka.


[78bl] In the Madhyamakāloka it is said that, on the one hand, it is not sufficient to refute ātman, pradhāna etc. by just prasaṅgas, but [these pseudo-entities] should also be refuted by svatantraliṅgas. And furthermore, the refutations should pertain to the [[[objects]]’] own double negatives (rang ldog nas).222 On account of these two requirements, it is necessary that [[[ātman]], etc.] be taken as loci of debate for svatantra proofs. And in this case, although the reason which proves that they [i.e. ātman, etc.] are not real entities (dngos med; abhāva)223 ends up refuting the subject, [the irreality of ātman, etc.] is proven according to both ways [i.e. prasaṅgas and svatantras] without fault.


[78b3] [[[Dharmakīrti’s]]] Pramāṇavārttika, the sense of Dignāga’s utterances, states the following:

The existence of the conventions of what is to be inferred (dpag bya; anumeya) and what infers (dpog par byed pa; anumāna) is imputed in dependence on a difference which is established for a [[[Wikipedia:conceptual|conceptual]]] consciousness.224

Following this [line of thought], in cases where the locus must be a real entity, such as [when one is] proving that sound is impermanent because it is a product, or that there is fire on the smokey hill, the directly [intended] basis (dngos rten) for these proofs and refutations is just the object which is the conceptual image [lit. “appearance” (snang ba)] of sound or hill as not-not-sound or not-not-hill.225 Sound and hill, themselves, are not the directly

[intended] bases, because they do not directly appear to the conceptual cognition (rtog pa) which effectuates the proofs and refutations; and if one phenomenon [,such as sound, etc.,] is established, then at the same time all its properties [,such as impermanence, etc.,] are also established [,but in logical reasoning, this does not occur].226

[78b6] However, [in these examples] the image’s locus (snang gzhi), which appears in this way [i.e. as not-not-sound or not-not-hill], is sound or hill.227 Thus, the locus must be a real entity. But [take] cases where the locus, i.e. the subject, need not be a real entity - when [,for example,] pradhāna. Īśvara, etc. are taken as the loci of debate. The conceptual image as not-not-pradhāna or not-not-Īśvara, however, does exist, and it is just this that one apprehends when proving that [[[pradhāna]], etc.] are not real entities. Therefore, this locus [i.e. the image] does not have the defect that it is not the

opponent’s object of inquiry, or that it is not what the proponent wishes to infer. Moreover, suppose that one is refuting that the image’s locus [i.e. pradhāna, etc.] is a real entity, because it is devoid of ability to perform a function, or that one refutes the true existence of the image’s locus by [proving that] it is neither truly one nor many. Now, these two reasons will qualify the simple image as not-not-pradhāna and not-not-Īśvara. And [thus] this very image is the subject which takes as its property the property to be proved, and is designated the pakṣa, of which is predicated the dharma in pakṣadharma.228 So even though the nominal subject is refuted, this does not lead to the fault that the pakṣadharma [tva] is not established.

[79a2] If one is using [the reason] [“because it is] a product” to prove sound’s impermanence, then as the double negative image (snang ldog),229 which is the appearance as not-not-sound, is not a real entity, the reason, product, does not qualify it. Rather, product must qualify the image’s locus, sound. This is due to the fact that the reason and property to be proved are real entities.

[79a4] If [however] “devoid of ability to perform a function” or “neither truly one nor many” are taken as reasons, then both the image’s locus [[[pradhāna]], etc.] and the double negative image [i.e. the conceptual image as not-not-pradhāna, etc.] would be qualified by the reasons. And granted that the image’s locus is qualified by the reason, then although this [i.e. the image’s locus] might be refuted, the double negative image would [still] be established as the subject on which depends the property to be proved and the dharma of the pakṣadharma.230

[79a5]This has been a summary of the essentials. For a more extensive [explanation] one should consult the Madhyamakāloka.


Tibetan Text of the Selection from the sKabs dang po’i spyi don


[New 24a6; Old 2la] / rang lugs la / slob dpon gyis bzhed pa’i rtags gyi dgag bya’i chos ngos gzung ba dang / de gzhi gzhan gyi steng du ‘gog byed [24a7] kyi rigs pa bshad pa’o // ‘

dang po ni / blo la snang ba’i dbang gis bzhag pa ma yin par rang gi thun mong ma yin pa’i sdod lugs kyi ngos nas grub pa de / don dam dpyod byed kyi rtags kyi dgag bya’i chos yin te / gang zag dang phung po de ltar grub [24b1] na / don231 dam dpyod232 byed kyi rigs pas dpyad bzod233 cing ‘phags pa’i mnyam gzhag gis gzigs dgos pa’i phyir te /

dper na sgyu ma mkhan gyis234 rde’u shing rta glang du sprul pa’i tshe / rde’u shing bu sogs rta glang du snang ba na de nyid blo ‘khrul ba’i [24b2] dbang gis bzhag pa ma yin par / rde’u shing bu sogs kyi rang ngos nas grub pa yin na / de dag gi rigs ‘dra snga ma’i lag rjes su ‘gyur bas mig ma bslad pa rnams kyis kyang mthong dgos pa bzhin no //

de ltar yang / bDen gnyis las / ji ltar [24b3] snang bzhin ngo bo’i phyir // ‘di la dpyad pa mi ‘jug go // rnal ‘byor dpyod par byed na don // gzhan du song bas gnod par ‘gyur //

zhes gsungs /

gzhan yang / de de yin pa’i phyir te / blo la snang ba’i dbang gis bzhag pa’i yod pa de kun rdzob tu [24b4] yod pa’i don yin pa’i phyir te / dBu ma snang ba las

de’i phyir de dag gi bsam pa’i dbang gis dngos po brdzun pa’i ngo bo thams cad ni kun rdzob tu yod pa kho na’o //

zhes dang / ‘Jug ṭikā las /

dBu ma snang bar kun rdzob235 tu yod tshul [24b5] gsungs pa’i ldog phyogs kyi yod pa ni don dam par bden grub tu yod par shes pas /

zhes dang / bDen gnyis las /

ji ltar snang ba de kho na // kun rdzob gzhan ni cig shos so //

zhes gsungs pa’i phyir /

des na bden par grub pa / don dam par [24b6] grub pa / yang dag par grub pa sogs med kyang / rang gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pa / rang ngos nas grub pa / rang bzhin gyis grub pa / rdzas su grub pa sogs yod do /

gnyis pa la / spyir bdag med gtan la ‘bebs pa’i rigs pa la du ma yod de / chos [24b7] rnams kyi ngo bo la dpyod pa gcig du bral gyi gtan tshigs / rgyu la dpyod pa rdo rje gzhegs ma’i gtan tshigs / ‘bras bu la dpyod pa yod med skye ‘gog gi gtan tshigs / rgyu ‘bras gnyis ka la dpyod pa mu bzhi skye ‘gog gi gtan tshigs / rigs pa’i [25al] rgyal po rten ‘brel gyi gtan tshigs rnams su yod pa’i phyir /

dang po de ‘og tu chad / gnyis pa ni / myu gu chos can / [Old 21b] don236 dam par mi skye ste / don dam par bdag dang / gzhan dang / gnyis ka dang / rgyu med gang rung las [25a2] mi skye ba’i phyir te / rTsa ba shes rab las /

bdag las ma yin gzhan las min //

gnyis las ma yin rgyu med min //

dngos po gang dag gang na yang //

skye ba nam yang yod ma yin //


zhes gsungs pa’i phyir /


gsum pa ni myu gu chos can / [25a3] don dam par mi skye ste / rang gi rgyu’i dus su yod par yang mi skye / rang gi rgyu’i dus su med par yang don dam par mi skye ba’i phyir te / dBu ma snang ba las /

yod pa rnam par mi skye ste //

med pa nam mkha’i pad mo bzhin //


zhes gsungs pa’i phyir /


[25a4] bzhi pa ni / myu gu chos can / don dam par mi skye ste / rgyu du mas ‘bras bu gcig kho na don dam par skyed pa yang ma yin / rgyu du mas ‘bras bu du ma kho na don dam par skyed pa yang ma yin / rgyu gcig gis ‘bras bu du ma kho na don dam par skyed pa yang ma [25a5] yin / rgyu gcig gis ‘bras bu gcig kho na don dam par skyed pa yang ma yin pa’i phyir te / bDen gnyis las /


du mas gcig gi dngos mi byed //

du mas du ma byed pa’ang min //

gcig gis du ma’i dngos mi byed //

gcig gis gcig byed pa yang min // [25a6]


zhes gsungs pa’i phyir /


lnga pa ni / myu gu chos can / bden par med de / rten ‘brel yin pa’i phyir / dper na / gzugs brnyan bzhin zhes pa lta bu’o //


de rnams kyi nang nas / gtan tshigs dang po de ‘chad pa la / rtagsgod pa dang / tshul237 sgrub [25a7] pa gnyis las /


dang po ni / gzhi lam rnam gsum chos can / bden par ma grub ste / bden grub kyi gcig dang bden grub kyi du ma gang rung du ma grub pa’i phyir / dper na gzugs brnyan bzhin / zhes pa lta bu yin te / dBu ma rgyan las // [25b1 ]


bdag dang gzhan smra’i dngos ‘di dag //

yang dag par ni gcig pa dang /

du ma’i rang bzhin bral ba’i phyir

bden par med de gzugs brnyan bzhin //


zhes gsungs pa’i phyir //

gnyis pa la phyogs chos sgrub pa dang / khyab pa sgrub pa [25b2] gnyis las / dang po la / bden pa’i gcig bral du sgrub pa dang / bden pa’i du bral du sgrub pa gnyis las /

dang po ni / gzhi lam rnam gsum chos can / bden par grub pa’i gcig tu med te / cha bcas yin pa’i phyir / de chos can / cha bcas [25b3] yin te / yod pa gang zhig / cha med shes bya la mi srid / cha bcas cha med dang dngos ‘gal yin pa’i phyir /

cha med shes bya la srid pa ‘gog pa’i tshad ma de gang zhe na / cha bcas kyi rtags kyis gzhi lam rnam gsum bden grub kyi gcig [25b4] min par grub pa’i rjes dpag tshad238 mas nges pa la tshad239 ma gsum sngon du ‘gro dgos te / de la rtags kyi mtshan gzhi cha bcas nges [Old 22a] pa’i tshad ma dang / bden grub kyi gcig min pa bden grub kyi gcig dang dngos ‘gal du nges pa’i tshad [25b5] ma / cha bcas dang bden grub kyi gcig gi gzhi mthun ‘gog byed kyi tshad ma gsum sngon du ‘gro dgos pa’i phyir / de rnams kyi nang nas tshad ma gsum pa ‘di rtogs dka’ bas / de bshad na/

cha bcas dang bden grub kyi gcig gi gzhi [25b6] mthun yod na / bum pa chos can / rang ‘dzin rtog pa la rang gi cha shas rnams dang ngo bo tha dad du snang ba dang / rang gi cha shas rnams dang ngo bo gcig tu grub par thal / rang ‘dzin rtog pa la rang gi cha shas rnams dang ngo bo tha dad du snang ba gang zhig / rang gi cha [25b7] shas rnams dang ngo bo gcig yin pa’i phyir / ma grub na / bum pa cha bcas ma yin par thal lo //

rtsa bar ‘dod na / bum pa chos can / brdzun par grub par thal lo // khyab ste / snang lugs la ngo bo tha dad du snang yang sdod lugs la ngo bo gcig tu grub pa [26a1] / brdzun par grub pa’i sdod lugs la mi ‘gal yang bden par grub pa’i sdod lugs la ‘gal ba’i phyir //

de’i rgyu mtshan yang cha can dang cha du ma chos can / tha dad du med par thal / tha dad du yod na / tha dad du ‘phags [26a2] pa’i mnyam gzhag gis gzigs dgos pa las / des tha dad du ma gzigs pa’i phyir / dang po grub ste / tha dad du yod na bden par grub pa’i tha dad yin dgos / de yin na de’i gzigs ngor tha dad yin dgos pa’i phyir / dang po der thal / snang [26a3] lugs la ngo bo tha dad du snang yang sdod lugs la ngo bo gcig tu grub pa dang / bden par grub pa’i gzhi mthun yin pa’i phyir / gnyis pa grub ste / de yin na de kho na nyid du grub dgos pa’i phyir //

rtsa bar ‘dod na / cha du ma chos can / gcig tu thal / grub [26a4] cing cha can dang tha dad du med pa’i phyir / ‘dod mi nus te / khyod gcig yin pa la khyod du mar ‘jal ba’i tshad mas gnod pa’i phyir / cha can chos can / du mar thal / grub cing cha du ma dang tha dad du med240 pa’i phyir / ‘dod mi nus te / khyod du ma yin pa la khyod [26a5] gcig tu ‘jal ba’i tshad mas gnod pa’i phyir//

rigs pa ‘di la brten nas cha bcas dang bden grub kyi gcig gi gzhi mthun khegs te / de la brten nas cha can dang cha du ma tha dad du yod na tha dad du ‘phags pa’i mnyam gzhag gis gzigs dgos [26a6] pa de khegs / de khegs pas de gnyis bden grub kyi tha dad yin pa de khegs / de khegs pas cha bcas dang bden grub kyi gcig gi gzhi mthun khegs pa’i phyir //

don bsdu na / gzhi lam rnam gsum chos can / bden grub kyi gcig tu med de / cha [26a7] bcas yin pa’i phyir / khyab ste / bden grub kyi gcig yin na gang [Old 22b] la’ang bltos med kyi gcig yin dgos / de yin na cha bcas ma yin dgos pa’i phyir / de chos can / cha bcas yin te / gzhi grub pa gang zhig / cha med shes bya la mi srid / cha bcas [26bl] cha med dang dngos ‘gal yin pa’i phyir //

gnyis pa la / de chos can / bden grub kyi du mar med de / bden grub kyi gcig tu med pa’i phyir / khyab ste / du ma gcig la bltos nas bzhag dgos pa’i phyir // gnyis pa khyab pa sgrub pa ni /

bden grub kyi [26b2] gcig dang bden grub kyi du ma gang rung dang bral ba’i rtags kyis / gzhi lam rnam gsum bden med du tshad mas nges pa la tshad ma gsum sngon du ‘gro dgos te / de la de gang rung dang bral ba nges byed kyi tshad ma / bden med bden grub dang dngos [26b3] ‘gal du nges pa’i tshad ma / de gang rung dang bral ba dang bden grub kyi gzhi mthun ‘gog byed kyi tshad ma gsum sngon du ‘gro dgos pa’i phyir /

tshad ma phyi ma ‘di rtogs dka’ bas bshad na gzhi gzugs brnyan gyi steng du gcig dang du ma [26b4] gnyis phan tshun spangs ‘gal gyi dngos ‘gal du nges pa’i tshad ma la brten nas bden grub kyi gcig dang bden grub kyi du ma gang rung dang bral ba dang bden grub kyi gzhi mthun ‘gog nus te / tshad ma de’i byed pa la brten nas bar du [26b5] tshad ma gzhan brgyud pa la bltos mi dgos par / de ‘dra ba’i gzhi mthun mi srid par rtogs nus pa’i phyir //

des na rgyan gyi ched du bya ba’i gdul bya dbang rnon chos can / yum gyi ngo bo la dad pa skye tshul yod de / yum mkhyen gsum yod par [26b6] tshad mas grub pa’i sgo nas yum la dad pa skye ba’i phyir / yum gyi nus pa la dad pa skye tshul yod de / mkhyen gsum de rang sras ‘phags pa’i bzhed don phun tshogs sgrub nus su tshad mas grub pa’i sgo nas yum la dad pa skye ba’i phyir //


Tibetan Text of the Excerpt from dBu ma rgyan gyi zin bris


[P.Nga 77b3; T. 427; S. 41) gal te sbyor ba ‘di rang rgyud du byed na / gzhan gyis smras pa’i bdag dang / dbang phyug la sogs pa dang / rang sdes smras pa’i241 sdug bsngal dang / shes [77b4] pa cha med kyi chos can ma grub pas / phyogs chos ma grub par ‘gyur bas / mi ‘thad do zhe na /

‘di dKa’ ‘grel las gzhan sdes btags [T. 428] pa’i ma grags pa la ni / thal bar sgrub pa kho na yin la [77b5] grags pa’i rang gi ngo bo rnams la ni / gnyis ka ltar na yang nyes pa med ces ‘chad cing / cha pa la sogs pa bod kyi mkhas pa rnams kyis kyang / gzhan gyis btags pa’i chos can la rang rgyud mi rung [77b6] bar ‘chad do //

dBu ma snang ba las ni sngar bshad pa lta bu’i chos can du bzung ba la yang / rtags chos rnam bcad tsam yin na rang rgyud shin tu yang rung bar lan mang du bshad [S. 42] de / rtags dang chos [77b7] gzhi grub kho no la ‘jug pa yin na ni / chos can242 de ‘dra ba la thal ‘gyur min pa rang rgyud mi rung la / rtags chos med dgag gzhi ma grub pa la’ang mi ‘gal ba yin na ni / chos can de ‘dra ba la’ang rang rgyud [77b8] rung ba legs par bsgrub pa ni / slob dpon mkhas pa Ka ma la śī la’i lugs so //

des na dKa’ ‘grel las sngar ltar bshad pa ‘di dBu ma snang ba dang mi mthun no // dKa ‘ ‘grel ‘di Ka ma la śī [78a 1 ] la’i yin par Chos kyi bshes gnyen yang bzhed pas / ‘di ni slob dpon thugs ma rdzogs pa’i skabs su gcig tu mdzad dam brtag go //

‘o na chos can de ‘dra ba la rang [78a2] lugs ji ltar yin zhe na / ‘di la bdag nyid chen po Phyogs kyi glang pos /

mngon sum don dang rjes dpag dang yid ches grags pas rang rten la’o243 /

zhes rten te chos la ma bsal ba ‘chad [78a3] pa na / chos can la’o zhes pa tsam ma smos par rang gi chos can [S. 43] zhes pa’i [T. 429] tshig smos pa’i dgongs pa dpal ldan Chos grags kyis bshad pa’i tshe / chos can ‘ba’ zhig pa dang / bsgrub bya’i chos gnyis [78a4] tshogs pa’i tshogs don bsal244 yang chos des245 bsgrub bya’i chos rang gi rten chos can ma bsal pas246 skyon min no // des na bsgrub bya’i chos rang gi rten gyi chos can dang de gnyis tshogs pa bsal na / skyon yin pa [78a5] bstan pa’i don du rten zhes gsungs pa bshad do // chos can ‘ba’ zhig pa bkag pa la skyon ji lta bu yin pa ni /

dper na mkha’247 sogs gzhan dag gis /

zhes sogs rNam ‘grel las rgyas par [78a6] bshad de / Bye brag pa’i ‘dod pa la ‘byung ngo //

chos can ‘ba’ zhig pa zhes pa ni / chos can du smras kyang skabs de’i bsgrub bya’i chos kyi rten min pas / chos can yan gar bar248 song ba’i don no // [78a7] rang rgyud kyi skabs su rtsod gzhir gang249 byung de nyid la phyogs chos ‘grub dgos na / chos can ‘ba’ zhig pa dang / rang rten gyi chos can gnyisbyed pa’i don med pas bdag dang gtso bo sogs rtsod gzhir [S. 44; 78a8] bzung ba’i tshe / rang rgyud kyi rtags mi rung zhes pa ni / rigs pa’i dbang phyug gnyis kyi rang gi lugs dang / mu stegs kyi khyad par dbye1 ba ma phyed pa’o / tshul ‘dis mDo dang rNam ‘grel gyi gzhung [78b1] drangs nas rgyas par dBu ma snang ba las gsungs so //

‘di yang dBu ma snang ba las bdag dang gtso bo sogs ‘gog pa ni thal ‘gyur tsam gyis mi chog gi rang rgyud kyi rtags kyis kyang dgag dgos pa [T. 430] dang / [78b2] de yang rang ldog250 nas dgag dgos pa gnyis kyis rang rgyud kyi sbyor ba’i rtsod gzhir bzung dgos pa dang / de’i tshe de dag dngos med du bsgrub pa’i rtags kyis chos can bkag kyang / skyon ma yin pa’i [78b3] tshul gnyis kyis bsgrubs so // Phyogs glang gis gsungs pa’i don rNam ‘grel las /


dpag bya dpog251 par byed pa yi //

don gyi tha snyad gnas pa ‘di //

shes pa la grub [S. 45] tha dad la //

brten [78b4] nas rnam par brtags pa yin //


zhes gsungs pa ltar gzhi dngos po dgos pa byas pas sgra mi rtag pa dang / du ba la la252 me yod du bsgrub pa la yang rtog pa la sgra dang la gnyis / de gnyis ma yin [78b5] pa las log par snang ba’i don nyid dgag sgrub kyi dngos rten yin gyi sgra dang la nyid dngos kyi rten min te / dgag sgrub byed pa’i rtog pa la dngos su mi snang ba’i phyir dang / chos gcig cig bsgrubs na de’i [78b6] chos thams cad cig car du bsgrubs par ‘gyur ba’i phyir ro //

‘on kyang de ltar snang ba’i snang gzhi ni sgra dang la yin pas gzhi dngos por gyur pa dgos / gzhi chos can253 dngos po yin pa mi dgos pa gtso [78b7] bo dang dbang phyug la sogs pa rtsod gzhir bzung ba la yang rtog pa la gtso bo dang dbang phyug ma yin pa las log par snang ba ni yod la / de nyid la dmigs nas dngos por med ces bsgrub pas gzhi [78b8] de la phyir rgol la shes ‘dod dang / [S. 46] snga rgol la dpag ‘dod med pa’i skyon med la / snang gzhi dngos

[T. 431 ] por yod pa254 don byed pa nus255 stong dang / snang gzhi bden par yod pa bden pa’i gcig du [79al] bral gyis256 bkag pa na / rtags de gnyis gtso bo dang dbang phyug ma yin pa las log par snang ba de nyid la ‘grub257 la / de nyid bsgrub bya’i chos gang gi chos su ‘jog pa’i [79a2] chos can dang / phyogs kyi chos gang gi chos su bzhag pa’i phyogs su btags pa nyid yin pas chos can ‘ba’ zhig pa bkag pas kyang phyogs chos mi ‘grub pa’i skyon med do//

byas pas sgra mi [79a3] rtag par bsgrub pa na / rtog pa la sgra ma yin pa las log par snang ba’i snang ldog dngos por med pas / byas pa rtags de la ‘grub pa min gyi / snang gzhi sgra la grub dgos te / dngos po rtags [79a4] dang bsgrub bya’i chos su byed pa’i gnad kyis so//

don byed pas stong pa dang gcig258 du bral rtags su byed pa’i tshe ni259 / snang gzhi dang snang ldog [S. 47] gnyis ka rtags de yin par grub cing / snang gzhi260 rtags de yin [79a5] par grub na / de bkag kyang snang ldog sgrub chos dang / phyogs chos kyi chos gnyis brten pa’i chos can du ‘grub bo // ‘di ni snying po bsdus pa ste / rgyas par dBu ma snang ba las shes dgos so //


IV. Le dBu ma’i byung tshul de Śākya mchog ldan

with Tōru Tomabechi, Tokyo


L'œuvre du savant Sa skya pa, gSer mdog Paṇ chen Śākya mchog ldan (1428-1507) est d'une taille et d'une diversité extraordinaires et ne peut plus être négligée par quiconque veut comprendre les développements philosophiques tibétains. L. van der Kuijp dans ses Contributions to the Development of Tibetan Buddhist Epistemology, un livre qui continue à faire autorité en la matière, nous a fourni la liste des textes où cet auteur traite de l'épistémologie et

de la logique bouddhiques (tshad ma )261 ; dans l'appendice à cet article, nous donnons la liste des ouvrages traitant de l'école dite «de la voie moyenne» (dbu ma, madhyamaka). Il est bien entendu impossible de discuter en détail ici de la question complexe de l'évolution de la pensée de Śākya mchog ldan, un tel projet nécessitant un examen approfondi de tous ses écrits majeurs, dont certains sont particulièrement volumineux. Nous devons donc nous borner à quelques remarques en guise d'introduction.

La pensée de Śākya mchog ldan, du moins dans sa version mûre, est considérée comme appartenant au courant Madhyamaka que l'on appelle habituellement «Vide de l'hétérogène» (gzhan stong).262 Il s'agit d'une philosophie syncrétique qui fut initialement formulée par les Jo nang pa au quatorzième siècle—les antécédents indiens restent obscurs. Le gZhan stong Jo nang pa accepte l'existence d'un Absolu qui consiste en une gnose non duelle (gnyis med kyi ye shes), sans différentiation entre sujet (‘dzin pa) et objet (gzung ba), un Absolu qui est vide de tout facteur qui lui est hétérogène (gzhan), à savoir tout élément ou qualité appartenant à la vérité relative (kun rdzob, saṃvṛti). La vue qui contraste avec le gZhan stong est le Rang stong, qui prétend que toute chose qui soit est vide de cette chose même (rang stong).

Selon le Grub mthashel gyi me long du dGe lugs pa Thu’u bkwan Blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma (1737-1802), Śākya mchog ldan ne fut pas gZhan stong pa pendant tout son parcours intellectuel, mais le devint à un âge relativement avancé, lorsqu'il écrivit son notoire Lugs gnyis rnam 'byed en 1489 (sa mo bya lo) à soixante et un ans. Thu’u bkwan discerna donc trois phases dans la pensée de Śākya mchog ldan: d'abord une jeunesse où il fut Madhyamaka Rang stong pa,

tenant une position assez semblable à celle des Prāsaṅgika tibétains, Pa tshab Nyi ma grags (1054/5-?) et Zhang Thang sag pa; ensuite, une période au milieu de sa vie où il fut proche de l'idéalisme bouddhique de l'école cittamātra («pensée-sans-plus»); enfin Śākya mchog ldan devint Jo nang pa dans les dernières années de sa vie.263

Comment faut-il regarder cette tentative de mettre des étiquettes familières à la pensée de Śākya mchog ldan? L’attribution d’une adhérence au cittamātra reste très problématique.264 Signalons aussi que l'appartenance prétendue de Śākya mchog ldan au gZhan stong de l'école des Jo nang pa, notamment à la philosophie de Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan (1292-1361) et Jo nang Tāranātha (1575-?), doit être nuancée. En effet, Tāranātha lui­même montra, dans son

Zab don khyad par nyer gcig pa, vingt et une différences qui séparent le gZhan stong des Jo nang pa de celui de Śākya mchog ldan, bien qu'il essayât de minimiser leur importance en les appelant des «différences mineures» (mi ‘dra ba than thun). Certaines sont d'une importance considérable, si bien qu'il faut probablement reconnaître qu'il y a un écart réel entre les vues de Śākya mchog ldan et celles des Jo nang pa.265

En définitive, Śākya mchog ldan fut un penseur avec des idées fort originales, qui posa de singuliers problèmes de classification à la scolastique tibétaine. Si Thu’u bkwan dégagea trois courants de pensée à différents stades de la vie de Śākya mchog ldan, il y eut une autre perspective sur ce penseur, celle du Sa skya pa Ngag dbang chos grags (1572-1641), qui déclara que Śākya mchog ldan fut un gZhan stong pa déjà depuis sa jeunesse.266 Quoi

qu'il en soit, Śākya mchog ldan fit une répartition, qu'il pensa déjà trouver chez rNgog lo tsā ba (1059-1109) et al., entre pensée philosophique (lta ba) et pratique méditative (sgom): il prétendit que le Rang stong convenait le mieux à la philosophie dialectique destinée à éliminer la surimposition (sgro

dogs), alors que le gZhan stong décrivait les connaissances supérieures de la méditation. Il semble bien—et c'est ce que nous confirme aussi le Zab don khyad par nyer gcig pa—que Śākya mchog ldan accorda une place nettement plus importante au Rang stong dans son système de pensée que le firent d'autres gZhan stong pa tels que Dol po pa.267

La philosophie de Śākya mchog ldan n'a pas manqué de susciter de vives réactions au Tibet, particulièrement chez les dGe lugs pa, qui se sentirent offensés par ses critiques, et qui, sans la moindre nuance, assimilèrent sa position à celle des Jo nang pa, contre lesquels ils avaient un odium theologicum profond. Se ra Chos kyi rgyal mtshan (1469-1544) répondit à Śākya mchog ldan par une polémique violente dans son bShes gnyen chen po Śākya mchog ldan pa la gdams pa. Dans le chapitre du Grub mtha’ traitant des Jo nang pa, Thu’u bkwan dit que Śākya mchog ldan fut motivé par «les démons de l'attachement et de la

haine» (chags sdang gi gdon), qu'il avait écrit «de nombreuses histoires effroyables» (ya nga ba’i gtam mang du bris) et que ses positions furent des «vues relevant de la pire hérésie» (lta ba ngan tha chad) dont il ne se repentit qu'au moment de sa mort. Comme on le voit, il s'agit donc d'un débat extrêmement passionnel. Dans ce qui doit être considéré comme une page noire d'intolérance au Tibet, les œuvres de Śākya mchog ldan furent longtemps proscrites comme hérétiques, tout comme celles de Tāranātha.

Le texte de Śākya mchog ldan dont il est question dans cet article, à savoir «L'Explication de l'histoire du Madhyamaka» (dbu ma’i byung tshul rnam par bsad pa’i gtam), comporte trois sections principales (sa bcad):


I. dbu ma’i mtshan nyid «définition du Madhyamaka» (f. 2a).


II. mtshon bya’i sgra bshad pa «explication [de l'emploi] du terme que l'on définit» (f. 2a-4a).

  ´

III. mtshan gzhi rab tu dbye ba «explication des divisions des instances [du Madhyamaka]». Cette troisième section est sous-divisée de la manière suivante:

III-i. dbu ma’i dbye ba mdor bstan «résumé des divisions du Madhyamaka» (f. 4a-5a).

III-ii. shing rta’i srol byed ji ltar byung tshul rgyas par bshad pa «exposé détaillé de l'histoire des fondateurs de la tradition» (f. 5a-17b). (Il s'agit des lignées du Madhyamaka en Inde et au Tibet.)

III-iii. dgag sgrub cung zad bgyis te mjug bsdu ba «quelques réfutations et preuves en guise de conclusion» (f. 17b-20b).


Nous donnons ici une traduction annotée de la partie III-iii de «L'Histoire du Madhyamaka», où Śākya mchog ldan examine et évalue les pensées Madhyamaka rivales, avant tout celle de Tsong kha pa (1357-1420), qu'il soumet à une critique lucide et pénétrante. On voit, dans le dBu ma’i byung tshul, les thèmes familiers de la pensée gZhan stong, tels que, par exemple, l'insistance sur le caractère Madhyamaka des œuvres de Maitreya, l'acceptation d'un Madhyamaka

tantrique différent de celui des Prāsaṅgika, et la position que l' Absolu est une gnose (ye shes) et Grande Joie (bde ba chen po). Il y a également emploi des termes gzhan stong et dbu ma chen po («Grand Madhyamaka» ), ainsi qu'une allusion critique, vers la fin du texte, à la position Rang stong pa. Il ne s'agit donc certainement pas d'une œuvre Prāsaṅgika dans la ligne Pa tshab-Zhang Thang sag pa, ni d'une œuvre cittamātra, mais bel et bien d'un texte de gZhan stong.


Enfin, le colophon du dBu ma’i byung tshul ne comporte pas de mention explicite de date de composition. Toutefois, l'auteur indique que le texte a été sollicité par un «Karmapa»: celui-ci est vraisemblablement Karmapa Chos grags rgya mtsho (1454-1506), un personnage d'une influence marquante sur Śākya mchog ldan. Or, la biographie de Śākya mchog ldan par Jo nang pa Kun dga’ grol mchog (1507-1566) nous informe que Śākya mchog ldan et Chos grags rgya mtsho se sont rencontrés en 1484 (shing pho ‘brug lo) à gNam rtse ldan.268 Une hypothèse raisonnable serait donc de situer la composition de ce texte dans la période des années 1484-1490.


APPENDICE

Les œuvres Madhyamaka de Śākya mchog ldan selon l'ordre chronologique de composition :


1. sTong thun chung ba dbang po’i rdo rje zhes bya ba blo gsal mgu byed. Vol. 4. Selon le colophon, le texte fut écrit à gSang phu Ne’u thog lorsque l'auteur avait 31 ans.

2. dBu ma la ‘jug pa’i rnam par bshad pa nges don gnad kyi ṭī kā. Vol. 5. Ecrit à gSang phu Ne’u thog en 1468 (sa pho byi’i lo); l'auteur avait 40 ans.

3. dBu ma rtsa ba’i rnam bshad bskal bzangs kyi ‘jug ngogs. Vol. 5. Ecrit à gSang phu Ne’u thog en 1470 (rnam ‘gyur zhes pa lcags pho stag gi lo); l'auteur avait 42 ans.

4. dBu ma chen po’i sgom rim la ‘khrul pa spong zhing thal rang gi grub pa’i mtha’ dang lta ba’i gnas rnam par bshad pa tshangs pa’i dbyangs kyi rnga sgra. Vol. 4. Ecrit dans l'année 1474 (rgyal ba ces pa shing pho rta’i lo) lorsque l'auteur avait 46 ans.

5. dBu ma rnam par nges pa’i chos kyi bang mdzod lung dang rigs pa’i rgya mtsho. Vol. 14/15. Ecrit à gSer mdog can en 1477 (gser ‘phyang gi lo); l'auteur avait 49 ans.

6. dBu ma’i byung tshul rnam par bshad pa’i gtam yid bzhin lhun po. Vol. 4. Ecrit à gSer mdog can autour de 1484-1490.

7. Shing rta chen po’i srol gnyis kyi rnam par dbye ba bshad nas nges don gcig tu bsgrub pa’i bstan bcos kyi rgyas ‘grel (= Lugs gnyis rnambyed). Vol. 2. Ecrit à gSer mdog can en 1489 (sa mo bya’i lo); l'auteur avait 61 ans. Le colophon n'indique pas la date de composition, mais ce renseignement est donné dans la biographie de Śākya mchog ldan par Kun dga’ grol mchog, f. 79b.

En outre, le gSung ‘bum contient les textes suivants sans indication de date de composition :


8. bDen gnyis kyi gnas la ‘jug pa nges don bdud rtsi’i thigs pa sogs dbu ma’i chos skor ‘ga’ zhig. Vol. 4. Divers ouvrages:

a. bDen pa gnyis kyi gnad la ‘jug pa nges don bdud rtsi’i thigs pa (gTsang g-Yas ru’i sa’i thig le = gSer mdog can);

b. dBu ma ‘jug pa’i tshig rkang gnyis kyi rgya cher bshad pa (ibid.);

c. sPrings yig tshangs pa’i ‘khor lo (gSang phu Ne’u thog);

d. dBu ma thal rang gi grub mtharnam par dbye ba’i bstan bcos nges don gyi rgya mtshor ‘jug pa’i rnam dpyod kyi gru chen (gTsan g-Yas ru’i sa’i thig le)

e. gZhan lugs kyi dbu ma la rtog ges brtags pa’i nor pa’i phreng (gSang phu Ne’u thog)

f. rTen ‘brel bstod pa las brtsams pa’i ‘bel gtam rnam par nges pa lung dang rigs pa'i ‘phrul ‘khor (gSer mdog can).

9. Zab zhi spros bral gyi bshad pa stong nyid bdud rtsi’i 1am po che. Vol. 4. (gSer mdog can).

10. dBu ma la ‘jug pa’i dka’ ba’i gnas ‘ga’ zhig rnam par bshad pa ku mud kyi phreng mdzes. Vol. 5. (gTsang chu mig ring mo’i bla brang).


TRADUCTION

III-iii

La troisième section, quelques réfutations et preuves en guise de conclusion, contient trois [sous-sections].


111.iii.1 Montrer qu'il y a le défaut de l'abandon de la Loi si l'on accepte le Milieu d'une manière trop limitée.

111.iii.2 Montrer qu'il y a contradiction avec les écritures si l'on comprend [le Milieu] qui est extrêmement large autrement [que le gZhan stong].

111.iii.3 La compréhension du Milieu par les [Tibétains] modernes est en désaccord avec des Écritures qu'ils reconnaissent eux-mêmes.

III-iii-1


§ 1. Récemment dans ce Pays des neiges, on ne comprend [le Milieu] qu'en tant que Milieu qui constitue le sommet des quatre écoles philosophiques, et n'accepte pas qu'il y ait d'autres traditions textuelles du [[[Wikipedia:Milieu|Milieu]]] que celles connues sous les noms de Prāsaṅgika et de Svātantrika. En outre, on

explique que le Milieu n'est rien de plus que la simple négation (med par dgag pa, prasajyapratiṣedha) qui consiste en le fait que toutes les choses sont vides d'existence réelle (bden pas stong pa). Affirmer une telle opinion, c'est accumuler le karma de l'abandon de la Loi, car on dénigre comme étant des

positions réalistes (dngos por smra ba) les Paroles du Troisième cycle de l'enseignement (bka’ ‘khor lo tha ma) ainsi que les traités qui expliquent leur sens profond. Ceci a été prédit par le vénérable Ajita (Ma pham pa = Maitreya). C'est justement ce qu'il montre dans un passage [de l'Uttaratantra] qui commence par:269

«Puisqu'il n'existe dans ce monde aucun savant qui soit supérieur au Victorieux...»

§ 2. Si le Milieu au sens certain (nges don, nītārtha) n'était pas enseigné dans les traités du noble Asaṅga, il y aurait contradiction avec la prophétie, faite par le Victorieux lui-même [dans le Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa], qu['Asaṅga] ferait la distinction entre [enseignement] au sens indirect (drang don, neyārtha) et [enseignement] au sens certain (nges don, nītārtha).270


§ 3. Bien que l'on dise que ce [maître Asaṅga] commente l'Uttaratantra à la façon prāsaṅgika, ce commentaire ne concorde pas avec la manière dont Candrakïrti explique [le Milieu].271 Puisque cette [[[Wikipedia:contradiction|contradiction]]] paraît évidente aux yeux de tous les esprits critiques, cette [opinion] n'est qu'une simple assertion [sans fondement]. Donc, si [, en acceptant cette opinion non fondée,] on expliquait le Milieu tantrique (sngags kyi dbu ma) comme simple

négation, on ne comprendrait pas la Vacuité pourvue de toutes les excellences (rnam kun mchog ldan gyi stong pa nyid, sarvākāravaropetaśūnyatā). A part cette [compréhension de la Vacuité], toutes les manières dont on comprend [la Vacuité] seraient annulées par les Écritures et, [par conséquent,] on ne comprendrait pas non plus l'union (zung ‘jug, yuganaddha) de la Joie avec la Vacuité. Comment pourrait-on alors expliquer le corps (sku, kāya) et d'autres

[attributs du Bouddha] où la connaissance et l' objet connaissable ne font qu'un ? Expliquer ces [corps et attributs du Bouddha] comme vérité conventionnelle (kun rdzob bden pa, saṃvṛtisatya), c'est dénigrer la vérité absolue (don dam pa’i bden pa, paramārthasatya) [enseignée] dans la tradition tantrique. Outre cela, [la thèse que] la Vacuité comme simple négation équivaut à la Vacuité qui est unie à la Grande joie, est clairement niée dans le Kālacakratantra par les illustrations [suivantes]: le raisin ne se produit pas de l'arbre de Nimba, ni l'ambroisie de la feuille vénéneuse, ni le lotus du Brahmavṛkṣa. 272


111-iii-2


§ 4. On dit que la compréhension de la vérité absolue expliquée dans les Paroles du Troisième cycle de l'enseignement, ainsi que dans leurs commentaires, n'est que la thèse réaliste, car [cette compréhension] n'est pas supérieure à la Vacuité dans le sens d'une Vacuité d'objet (grāhya) et de sujet (grāhaka) en tant que substances (dravya) séparées. Mais il n'y a pas [en réalité] une telle compréhension de la Vacuité dans les traditions textuelles [du troisième

cycle de l'enseignement]. Alors, quelle [compréhension] y a-t-il ? Il est dit que la vérité absolue n'est rien que la sagesse originairement pure, qui subsiste même après qu'on ait déterminé comme étant vides de nature propre tous les objets imaginés (parikalpita), tels que les choses extérieures, et tous les sujets imaginés, tels que la cognition, qui apparaissent sous la forme de ces [objets imaginés].

§ 5. [Objection:] Admettre que cette [sagesse] est établie comme existence réelle ne peut constituer la position du Milieu.


[Réponse:] Une telle objection n'est pas possible, puisque vous admettez vous aussi la Vacuité d'existence réelle comme étant vérité absolue. On ne trouve dans aucun texte ancien, qu'il fasse autorité ou non, une spécification [selon laquelle] une chose qui est établie comme vérité absolue ne serait pas établie comme existence réelle.

§ 6. [Objection:] Bien que le vénérable Maitreya explique le sens certain issu de ces traditions textuelles comme étant le Milieu, Bhāviveka et Candrakīrti l'expliquent comme n'étant pas la position du Milieu, et ces deux [derniers maîtres] sont plus convaincants.


[Réponse:] A propos de leur explication, le maître Asaṅga dit, en citant des sūtra, que leur [position] constitue une vue méprisante, et [il est dit,] dans des traités exégétiques indiens et dans des sūtra, [que] la Vacuité telle que l'expliquent les Ngo bo nyid med par smra ba273 est «Vacuité insensible (bems po’i stong pa nyid, jaḍaśūnyatā)», «Vacuité d'anéantissement (chad pa’i stong pa nyid, ucchedaśūnyatā)» et «Vacuité simpliste (thal byung ba’i stong pa nyid)».274 Eu égard aux deux manières de comprendre le sens certain, [les maîtres] se réfutent mutuellement dans les traités qui font autorité. Par conséquent, nous ne pouvons pas éliminer l'une des positions en évoquant l'autre sans analyser leurs intentions profondes.

111-iii-3


§ 7. Certains [maîtres] modernes du Pays des neiges disent: Le sens certain profond de ce qu'on appelle Vacuité ne se trouve pas ailleurs que dans les ouvrages de Candrakīrti, car il est dit [dans le Madhyamakāvatāra] :275 «De même que cette Loi n'existe pas ailleurs qu'ici, la position que l'on trouve ici n'existe pas ailleurs. Les savants doivent le constater».


§ 8. A. À l'égard du sujet (chos can, dharmin) qui est établi par une connaissance valable (tshad ma, pramāṇa), ils disent qu'il est vide de l'objet de négation (dgag bya) que constitue [la chose] établie par caractère propre (rang gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pa). Autrement, quelle source latente de voiles (sgrib pa’i sa bon) pourrait-on éliminer en contemplant [le sujet] comme étant aussi iréelle (bden med) que le fils d'une femme stérile? 276 —Pour soutenir cette [position], ils utilisent, comme source pour critiquer Bhāviveka, les textes où Candrakïrti réfute les Vijñānavādin.277


B. Si, lors d'une détermination de la Vacuité, on ne reconnaît pas séparément l'objet de négation, on tombera dans l'extrême d'anéantissement.278

C. Pour ce qui concerne l'union entre la Joie et la Vacuité (bde stong zung ‘jug) de la tradition tantrique, il faut l'expliquer comme une réalisation de la Vacuité de cette sorte [i.e., la Vacuité comprise dans le sens de simple négation], grâce à la Grande joie qui constitue le sujet, de même, par exemple, qu'on doit expliquer que la Vacuité a pour essence la compassion (stong nyid snying rje’i snying po can) [quand on parle de] la réalisation directe de la Vacuité au moyen de la grande compassion.279


§ 9. Tout ce qu'ils disent est en désaccord avec les textes qu'ils considèrent eux-mêmes comme source [pour leur position]. —Alors qu'il est dit dans les textes du Mādhyamika qu'il est nécessaire d'éliminer [tous] les quatre extrêmes de proliférations (spros pa, prapañca), vous ne parlez que de l'élimination de l'extrême d'existence sur le plan absolu (don dam du) et de l'élimination de l'extrême d'inexistence sur le plan pratique (tha snyad du). [En plus,] il est dit que l'élimination de l'extrême qui consiste en l'absence des deux [i.e., existence et inexistence] (gnyis min gyi mtha’ sel ba) dépend de la

négation de l'extrême qui consiste en les deux (gnyis yin gyi mtha’ sel ba), et que, dans le cas de la négation de l'extrême d'inexistence qui dépend de la négation de l'extrême d'existence, quand l'un [des deux termes] qui se contredisent l'un l'autre (phan tshun spangs ‘gal) est nié, l'autre sera également nié. Mais, vous considérez comme pilier central [la théorie que,] lorsqu'on nie l'un des deux termes qui se contredisent directement (dngos ‘gal), l'autre sera établi par implication (don gyis). Cette [position] est en désaccord avec les traités [pour les deux raisons suivantes] :


a. Il est expliqué dans les textes que la production par conditions (rten ‘brel, pratītya­samutpāda) est à comprendre dans le sens d'un établissement par dépendance (ltos grub), et qu'il faut comprendre cet [établissement par dépendance] dans le sens d'un non-établissement, comme il est dit [dans le Madhyamakāvatāra] :280

«L'établissement par dépendance mutuelle n'est que non-établissement. Ainsi disent les Victorieux».


b. Si, [comme on l'affirme] dans cette position [de Tson kha pa et al.], le non-être (min pa) était établi à la place de l'être (yin pa) nié, il s'ensuivrait qu'une autre chose sera impliquée (chos gzhanphen pa) à la place de l'objet de négation nié (dgag bya bkag shul du) : il serait clairement impossible de nier tous les [quatre] extrêmes de proliférations.

§ 10. Vous ne parlez pas de l'objet qui est à nier par le raisonnement logique du Milieu, à part [la chose qui est] établie par caractère propre (rang gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pa). Alors, il serait impossible de nier ni l'extrême d'anéantissement ni l'extrême d'inexistence. Par conséquent, il s'ensuivrait que l'enseignement de la «Vacuité de Vacuité (stong pa nyid stong pa nyid, śūnyatāśūnyatā)»281 serait inutile.


Puisque vous ne pouvez pas admettre qu'il y a chez les nobles mahāyānistes une manière de comprendre la Vacuité qui est supérieure à celle des Śrāvaka et des Pratyekabuddha, il est évident que, pour vous, les Śrāvaka et les Pratyekabuddha devraient avoir une compréhension parfaite de l'absence d'identité des choses (chos kyi bdag med, dharmanairātmya).282

Puisque vous acceptez comme étant établis par une connaissance valable les douze personnes-agents (byed pa’i skyes bu) tels que la Personne (gang zag, pudgala), le Moi-sans-plus (nga tsam), etc., [votre position] serait identique à [celle des] hérétiques.283

S'il n'y avait pas de compréhension correcte de l'identité de la personne (gang zag, pudgala) et de l'absence de l'identité de la personne (gang zag gi bdag med, pudgalanairātmya) dans les Abhidharma mahāyānistes et hīnayānistes, il s'ensuivrait qu'on ne pourrait pas faire la distinction entre bouddhistes et hérétiques.


Si, lorsqu'on pénètre dans la vraie condition de l'existence (gnas tshul bden pa), les trois, c'est-à-dire l'indice logique (rtags, liṅga), l'attribut [à prouver] (chos, dharma) et l'objet [de discussion] (don, artha = pakṣa, dharmin),284 étaient établis par une connaissance valable, il serait clairement impossible de réfuter le raisonnement autonome (rang rgyud).285 Si le sens du Milieu n'était pas enseigné dans les ouvrages de Bhāviveka, le fait que Candrakīrti cite Bhāviveka comme autorité, en disant:286

«ce que Bhāviveka a correctement expliqué...»,

serait évidemment impropre.

S'il se trouvait, dans le contexte [du Milieu], une perception (mngon sum, pratyakṣa) et une inférence (rjes dpag, anumāna) qui saisissent la Vacuité, il y aurait contradiction avec ce qui est dit dans le Bodhicaryāvatāra:287


«L'absolu n'est pas du domaine de l'esprit»,

et contradiction avec ce qui est dit dans un sūtra cité dans le Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya,288 selon lequel la vérité absolue dépasse même le domaine des Omniscients, et contradiction avec ce que dit Atiśa [dans le Satyadvayāvatāra]:289

«La perception et l'inférence sont inutiles»,

et290


«[L'absolu] ne peut pas être réalisé par les deux sortes de connaissances, [c.-à-d. la connaissance] non conceptuelle et [la connaissance] conceptuelle. Ainsi dit le savant maître Bhavya».

Il y a non seulement [[[Wikipedia:contradiction|contradiction]] avec les autorités textuelles], mais il y a aussi réfutation par la logique: [l'existence d']une perception qui prend pour objet direct l'exclusion (ldog pa, vyāvṛtti) consistant en l'élimination de l'hétérogène (gzhan sel, anyāpoha) est niée par des raisonnements logiques formulés par l'auteur du Pramāṇavārttika.291 § 11. En plus, vous expliquez la Vacuité comme négation de l'objet à nier qui n'est pas établi par une connaissance valable, [négation] sur la base du sujet qui est à son tour établi par une connaissance valable. Ce type d'explication est contradictoire non seulement avec l'enseigne­ment explicite de la Prajñāpāramitā, mais également avec ce qui est explicitement dit dans le traité de Candrakīrti lui-même appliquant à tous les sujets [le raisonnement suivant]:292


«Puisqu'il a pour nature propre ceci, l'œil est vide de l'œil...».

En outre, il y a réfutation par le raisonnement logique suivant: la Vacuité comprise dans le sens qu'une chose, telle qu'un pot, qui est établie par une connaissance valable, est vide de l'objet de négation qui, à son tour, n'est pas établi par une connaissance valable, est la pire même des Vacuités figurant dans les traités de ceux qui professent le gZhan stong. Car il s'agit d'une compréhension [de la Vacuité] dans le sens de l'être vide d'un objet de négation qui est une nature imaginée (kun brtags, parikalpita) complètement dépourvue de caractères (mtshan nyid, lakṣaṇa), [négation effectuée] sur la base d'un sujet qui est une nature dépendante (gzhan dbang, paratantra) impure.

[Objection:] L'explication dans cette tradition [du gZhan stong] que tous les objets de connaissance (shes bya, jñeya) sont vides d'eux-mêmes (rang stong), n'est pas capable de rejeter les objections telles que celles qui sont posées dans des sections [des Mūlamadhyamakakārikā où l'adversaire dit]:293


«Si tout est vide dans ce monde...».

[Réponse:] Elle n'en est pas incapable, car nous répondons à ces [objections] en citant [le texte suivant]:294

«En se basant sur les deux vérités, les bouddhas enseignent la Loi...».

Comment [ce passage réfute-t-il de telles objections] ? Certes, en général lorsqu'on fait la distinction entre les deux vérités, l'inexistence prédomine sur le plan absolu, mais ces objections posées par les réalistes (dngos smra ba) sont des objections qui réfutent les conventions en invoquant l'absolu comme raison logique.—Nous y répliquons en disant: «car cela existe sur le plan conventionnel».295 Il est dit [dans l'Abhisamayālaṃkāra]:296

«Les enseignements tels que [celui de] l' «incalculable», etc., ne résistent pas à l'absolu. Ils sont considérés sur le plan conventionnel comme émanations de la compassion du Muni».297 TEXTE


III-iii

gsum pa dgag sgrub cung zad·bgyis te mjug bsdu ba la gsum ste /

III-iii-1 dbu ma’i ngos ‘dzin (l7b4) rgya chung na chos spong gi nyes dmigs yod par bstan /

III-iii-2 rgya che shos de’i ngos ‘dzin gzhan du byas pas lung dang ‘gal bar bstan /

III-iii-3 phyis byon dbu ma’i ngos ‘dzin rang la grags pa’i lung dang ma mthun pa’o //

III-iii-1

§1. dang po ni / dus (17b5) phyis Gangs can gyi ljongs na grub mthasmra ba bzi’i rtse mo’i dbu ma dang / de’i gzhung lugs ni Thal Rang par grags pa dag las / gzhan la ngos mi ‘dzin cing / dbu ma de yang chos thams cad bden pas stong pa’i med par (17b6) dgag pa kho na’o zhes ‘chad / de skad du ‘don pa ‘dis ni / bka’ ‘khor lo gsum pa dgongs ‘grel gyi bstan bcos dang bcas pa dag la dngos por smra ba nyid du skur pa btab pas chos spong gi las bsags pa ni / rje (17b7) btsun Ma pham pa nyid kyis lung bstan pa yin te / ji skad du /


de phyir rgyal bas ches mkhas ‘jig rten ‘di na yod min te //

zhes sogs kyis bstan pa de nyid do //

§ 2. ‘phags pa Thogs med kyis gzhung ‘grel rnams su nges don gyi (18a1) dbu ma ma bstan na / rgyal ba nyid kyi drang nges ‘byed par lung bstan pa dang ‘gal lo //

§ 3. des rGyud bla’i ‘grel pa thal ‘gyur du bkral lo zhes zer mod / ‘grel pa de ni Zla ba grags pa’i ‘grel tshul dang mi (18a2) mthun par dpyod ldan sus bltas kyang mngon sum gyis grub pas zer ba tsam du zad pas / sngags kyi dbu ma med par dgag pa nyid du bshad na / rnam kun mchog ldan gyi stong pa nyid ngos ma zin pa dang / de las gzhan gang du ngos (18a3) bzung yang lung gis gnod pa dang / bde stong zung ‘jug ngos ma zin pa dang / shes dang shes bya gcig pa’i sku sogs ji ltar ‘chad / de dag kun rdzob bden parchad pa ni / sngags lugs kyi don dam pa’i bden pa la skur pa btab pa (18a4) kho nar ma zad / Dus kyi ‘khor lor / nim pa’i shing las rgun ‘brum dang / dug gi lo ma las bdud rtsi dang / tshangs pa’i shing las padmo mi ‘khrungs pa’i dpes / med par dgag pa’i stong pa nyid de / bde chen dang zung du ‘jug pa’i stong (18a5) nyid yin pa gsal bar bkag go // III-iii-2


§ 4. gnyis pa ni/ ‘khor lo gsum pa dgongs ‘grel dang bcas pa nas ‘byung ba’i don dam pa’i bden pa’i ngos ‘dzin / gzung ‘dzin rdzas gzhan gyis stong pa’i stong nyid las gong du ma ‘phags (18a6) pas / dngos por smra ba nyid do zhes zer mod / gzhung lugs de dag ni de lta bu’i stong nyid kyi ngos ‘dzin yod pa ma yin gyi / ‘o na ci zhig yod ce na / phyi rol gyi don la sogs pa’i gzung ba kun brtags ji snyed pa dang / der snang ba’i (18a7) rnam shes sogsdzin pa kun brtags ji snyed pa / rang gi ngo bos stong pa nyid du gtan la phab nas / de’i lhag mar lus pa’i rang bzhin rnam dag gi ye shes ‘ba’ zig la don dam pa’i bden par gsungs pa’o //

§5. de bden grub (18b1) tu ‘dod pa dbu mar mi rung ngo snyam na / khyed kyis kyang bden stong don dam par khas blangs pas der mi rung ste / don dam pa’i bden par grub nas bden par ma grub pa’i khyad par ni / sngon gyi gzhung lugs tshad ma dang ldan mi ldan gang (18b2) nas kyang ma byung ngo //

§ 6. gal te gzhung lugs de dag nas byung ba’i nges don rje btsun Byams pas dbu mar bshad kyang / Legs ldan ‘byed dang / Zla grags kyis298 dbu ma’i lugs ma yin par bshad pa de gnyis dbang btsan no snyam na ni / ‘o (18b3) na de dag gi bshad pa la yang Thogs med zhabs kyis mdo drangs nas / skur ‘debs kyi lta bar bshad cing / rgya gar ba’i man ngag gi gzhung dang / mdo sde dag na ngo bo nyid med par smra bas ‘chad pa’i stong pa nyid de la / bems po’i stong (18b4) pa nyid dang / chad pa’i stong pa nyid dang / thal byung ba’i stong pa nyid ces / nges don gyi ngos ‘dzin tshul phyogs gnyis ka la / tshad ldan gyi gzhung dag na dgag pa phyogs re ba re mdzad yod pas na dgongs don zab mo dag la ma brtags (18b5) par phan tshun du gcig gis cig shos ‘gog par nus pa ma yin no//

III-iii-3

§ 7. gsum pa ni / Gangs can du phyis byon pa dag na re / stong pa nyid ces bya ba’i nges don zab mo ‘di ni Zla ba grags pa’i gzhung las gzhan du yod pa ma yin te / ji (18b6) skad du/


‘di las gzhan na chos ‘di ni //

ji ltar med pa de bzhin du //

dir ‘byung lugs kyang gzhan na ni //

med ces mkhas rnams nges par mdzod //


ces gsungs pas so //


§ 8. A. de yang chos can tshad grub kyi steng du / dgag bya rang (18b7) gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pas stong pa’o // de las gzhan du mo gsham299 gyi bu lta bu bden med du bsgom pas / sgrib pa’i sa bon ci zhig spong bar nus zhes ‘chad cing / de’i rgyab rten du/ Zla bas rnam rig pa bkag pa’i gzhung rnams (19a1) Legs ldan ‘gog pa’i gzhung du sbyor bar byed pa dang /

B. stong nyid gtan la phebs pa’i tshe dgag bya logs su ngos ma bzung na chad pa’i mthar lhung ngo zhes ‘chad pa dang /

C. sngags kyi bde stong zung ‘jug kyang de lta bu’i (19a2) stong pa nyid de yul can bde ba chen pos rtogs pa la ‘chad dgos te / dper na brtse ba snying rje chen pos stong pa nyid mngon sum du rtogs pa la / stong nyid snying rje’i snying po can du ‘chad dgos pa bzhin / zhes gsung ngo //


§ 9. de skad ces zer ba de (19a3) thams cad ni rang gang la khungs su byed pa’i gzhung mtha’ dag dang mi mthun te / dbu ma’i gzhung las ni / spros pa’i mtha’ bzhi sel dgos par bshad la / khyed kyis ni / don dam du yod pa’i mtha’ dang / tha snyad du med pa’i (19a4) mtha’ gnyis sel ba las gzhan ma bshad / gzhung du ni / gnyis min gyi mtha’ sel ba / gnyis yin gyi mtha’ khegs pa la thug pa dang / med mtha’ khegs pa yod mtha’ khegs pa la rag lus pa sogs phan tshun spangs pa’i ‘gal zla gcig khegs pa na cig shos kyang (19a5) khegs par gsuns la / khyed cag gis ni / dngos ‘gal gnyis las gcig bkag pa na gcig shos don gyis grub pa gzhung shing nyid du byed pa dang / de gzhung dang ‘gal ba yang gzhung du ni rten ‘brel gyi go ba ltos grub dan / (19a6) de’i go ba ni / ji skad du /


phan tshun don la brten pa’i grub pa ni //

grub min nyid ces rgyal ba rnams kyis gsuns //


zhes ma grub pa nyid la bshad pa’i phyir dang / lugs ‘dir yin pa bkag shul min300 pa sogs grub na / dgag bya bkag (19a7) shul du chos gzhan ‘phen par thal ba dang / spros mtha’ thams cad mi ‘gog par gsal301 ba’i phyir ro //

§ 10. khyed cag gis ni dbu ma’i rtags kyi dgag bya rang gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pa las gzhan mi ‘chad pa de’i tshe chad pa’i mtha’ dang med (19b1) pa’i mtha’ ‘gog ma nus pas na / stong pa nyid stong pa nyid gsungs pa dgos med du thal bar ‘gyur ba dang /

nyan rang gi stong nyid rtogs tshul las lhag pa theg chenphags pa la khas len ma nus pas / nyan rang la chos kyi bdag (19b2) med rtogs tshul yons su rdzogs pa yod par gsal ba302 dang /

gang zag dang nga tsam sogs byed pa’i skyes bu bcu gnyis sogs tshad grub tu khas blangs pas mu stegs dang mtshungs pa dang / theg pa che chung gi chos mngon pa na / (19b3) gang zag gi bdag dang bdag med kyi ngos ‘dzin rnam dag med na phyi nang gi shan ma phyed par thal ba dang

gnas tshul bden pa la zhugs pa’i tshe rtags chos don gsum tshad mas grub na / rang rgyud ‘gog ma nus par gsal303 ba (19b4) dang /

Legs ldan gyi gzhung du dbu ma’i don ma bstan na / ji skad du /


Legs ldan gyis legs gang bshad dang //


zhes Zla bas lung du drangs pa mi ‘thad par gsal304 ba dang /

‘di skabs stong nyid rtogs pa’i mngon sum dang rjes (19b5) dpag yod na / sPyod ‘jug tu /

don dam blo yi spyod yul min //


zhes dang / ‘Jug ‘grel sogs su drangs pa’i mdo las don dam pa’i bden pa de ni rnam pa thams cad mkhyen pa nyid kyi yul las kyang ‘das par gsungs (19b6) pa dang / A ti śas /

mngon sum rjes dpag dgos pa med //

ces dang /


rtog bcas rtog pa med pa yi //

shes pa gnyis kyis mi rtogs zhes //

slob dpon mkhas pa Bha bya gsungs //


zhes sogs dang ‘gal ba kho nar ma (19b7) zad / rigs pas kyang gnod de / ldog pa gzhan sel dngos kyi gzhal byar byed pa’i mngon sum ni rNam ‘grel mdzad pa’i rigs pas khegs so //

§ 11. gzhan yang chos can tshad grub kyi steng du dgag bya tshad mas ma grub (20a1) pa bkag pa’i stong pa nyid kyi ‘chad tshul ‘di ni/ Sher mdo’i dngos bstan dang ‘gal ba kho nar ma zad / Zla ba