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In collaboration with Dagmar Eigner
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Yogic Perception, Meditation and Altered
States of Consciouness
Edited by Eli Franco
In collaboration with Dagmar Eigner
Vorgelegt von w. M. ERNST STEINKELLNER
in der Sitzung am 13. Mrz 2009
British Library Cataloguing in Publication data.
A Catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library.
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Printed and bound in Austria
Eli Franco
Introduction ................................................................................ 1
Part I: Yogic Perception in the South Asian
and Tibetan Traditions
Larry McCrea
Just Like Us, Just Like Now: The Tactical Implications
of the Mms Rejection of Yogic Perception ...................... 55
John Taber
Yoga and our Epistemic Predicament ...................................... 71
Eli Franco
Meditation and Metaphysics: On their Mutual Relationship
in South Asian Buddhism ........................................................ 93
Anne MacDonald
Knowing Nothing: Candrakrti and Yogic Perception .......... 133
Vincent Eltschinger
On the Career and the Cognition of Yogins ........................... 169
Dorji Wangchuk
A Relativity Theory of the Purity and Validity
of Perception in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism ............................... 215
Orna Almogi
The Materiality and Immanence of Gnosis
in Some rNying-ma Tantric Sources ..................................... 241
Philipp Andr Maas
The So-called Yoga of Suppression
in the Ptajala Yogastra ................................................... 263
Marcus Schmcker
Yogic Perception According to the Later
Tradition of the Viidvaita Vednta .................................. 283
Marion Rastelli
Perceiving God and Becoming Like Him:
Yogic Perception and Its Implications
in the Viuitic Tradition of Pcartra ................................. 299
Part II: Meditation and Altered States of Consciousness
from an Interdisciplinary Perspective
Karl Baier
Meditation and Contemplation
in High to Late Medieval Europe .......................................... 321
Diana Riboli
Shamans and Transformation
in Nepal and Peninsular Malaysia ......................................... 347
Dagmar Eigner
Transformation of Consciousness
through Suffering, Devotion, and Meditation ........................ 369
John R. Baker
Psychedelics, Culture, and Consciousness:
Insights from the Biocultural Perspective .............................. 389
Shulamith Kreitler
Altered States of Consciousness
as Structural Variations of the Cognitive System .................. 407
Renaud van Quekelberghe
Mindfulness and Psychotherapy:
The Revival of Indian Meditative Traditions within
Modern Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Medicine .............. 435
Michael DelMonte
Empty Thy Mind and Come to Thy Senses:
A De-constructive Path to Inner Peace .................................. 449
Contributors ................................................................................... 481
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The present volume has its origin in a research project funded by the
Austrian Science Fund (FWF) from 2002 to 2004 (Project Nr. P14861)
on the concept of para- and supra-normal perception in the Buddhist
epistemological tradition. The project was conceived as part of the vast
project The epistemological-logical tradition in India and Tibet, initi-
ated by Ernst Steinkellner and directed by him for more than twenty
years. The topic of para- and supra-normal perception, or extrasensory
perception, constitutes a hitherto neglected theme in the study of Bud-
dhist philosophy of religion, despite its considerable importance inas-
much as it concerns the very basis and foundation of the Buddhist reli-
gious tradition, namely, the core insights of the historical Buddha.
the classical period of Buddhist philosophy, these insights were classi-
fied and interpreted by the Buddhist tradition as examples of yogic per-
ception. It is this notion of yogic perception, its theoretical conceptions
and presuppositions, the arguments for and against it, its cultural and
religious varieties, and its epistemological implications that form the
central topic of the ongoing project and, to a large extent, of this vol-
I would like to thank Prof. Dagmar Eigner for co-organizing the conference that was
the starting point for this volume, especially for helping shape its interdisciplinary
character, as seen in the chapters on psychology and shamanism in this volume's
second half. I am also indebted to Anne MacDonald and Philipp Maas, who kindly
read the introduction and made pertinent and very helpful remarks.
This statement is not meant to express a position in the ongoing debate about the
historicity of the Buddha and information about him found in the Buddhist texts.
Paradoxical as it may sound, the more we know about the Buddhist canons, the less
we know about the Buddha as a historical person. Rather the statement concerns the
way the Buddha was (and still is) perceived by the Buddhist tradition and how the
Buddhist tradition argued for the reliability of the teachings that are attributed to the
The belief in meditation
as a source for extrasensory percep-
tion seems to have always been present in South Asian civilization.
Some scholars trace the ideals of asceticism and the practice of yoga all
the way back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Needless to say, in view
of the absence of probative evidence, this must remain a matter of opin-
ion and speculation.
However, clear references to meditation can al-
ready be found in the late Vedic literature, for instance, in the Muaka
Upaniad, which states that the Self, or soul, cannot be apprehended by
ordinary sensory means. Muaka 3.1.8 declares that the Self can be
perceived neither by means of the eye (or better, by the faculty of sight),
nor by speech, nor by other sense faculties (deva), nor by austerities
(tapas), nor by ritual action (karman). Rather, the partless Self is seen
by the meditating man
when he (or his mind) has become pure through
the lucidity of his knowledge.
While in the initial historical stages the practice of meditation
may have developed within the context of ritual and world-affirming
values, it increasingly came to be associated with the ramaa milieu.
The word ramaa is derived from the root ram, meaning to strive, to
make an effort, or more specifically to perform austerities. Accord-
ingly, the word ramaa refers to an ascetic or religious mendicant in
general. The expression ramaa milieu or ramaa movement
The term meditation is used in a wide variety of ways. I follow David Fontana,
who suggests that the common features among the various forms and traditions of
meditation may be reduced to three: concentration, tranquility and insight; see
David Fontana, Meditation. In: Max Velmans and Susan Schneider (eds.), The
Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Oxford 2007: 154-162, at p. 154. Antoine
Lutz et al., however, explicitly reject any attempt to define meditation in general as
involving unverifiable hypotheses and trivializing diverse practices; see Antoine
Lutz et al., Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness: an Introduction.
In: Philip David Zelazo et al. (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness.
Cambridge 2007: 499-551, on p. 500.
It is notable that unlike the case of the practice of austerities (tapas and similar
terms) there are no clear correspondences to yoga and meditative practice in other
ancient Indo-European cultures. However, even if the practice of yoga and medita-
tion are genuine South Asian developments, it is not necessarily the case that they
are related to the Indus Valley Civilization.
The masculine form is used here; it is clear that the Upaniadic authors were not
thinking, as a rule, of women gaining access to this privileged knowledge.
See Patrick Olivelle, The Early Upaniads. New York 1998: 450: na caku ghya-
te, npi vc, nnyair devais tapas karma v / jnaprasdena viuddhasattva
tatas tu ta payate nikala dhyyamna //.
refers to ascetics living, mostly celibately, on the fringes of or com-
pletely outside society, some of them loosely associated in small
groups, others more tightly organized into religious orders. Many reli-
gious movements emerged from the ramaa milieu, not the least Bud-
dhism and Jainism, as well as innumerable religio-philosophical move-
ments and sects that did not survive to the present day or did not assume
a dominant role.
The ramaa milieu had a profound influence on South Asian
civilization as a whole, spreading its characteristic values of world ne-
gation, world renunciation and liberation from rebirth far beyond the
ascetic circles and into the mainstream of society, especially its brah-
manic elite. The most typical and fundamental concepts of Indian reli-
gious philosophy originated in this ascetic milieu or were propagated by
it: the view that the world is governed by a process of rebirth (sasra)
and is fundamentally frustrating and painful; the tenet that moral actions
(karman) determine the form of rebirth; the idea that escape or libera-
tion (nirva, moka and similar expressions) from rebirth is the ulti-
mate ideal and highest good for living beings; the tenet that liberation is
attainable by cognitive means, namely, by means of a special insight;
the belief that such insight is only possible when one renounces all
worldly ties (wealth or material possessions, family, etc.); the practice
of non-violence (ahis) and various forms of austerities (tapas) as
the means for gaining control over the sense faculties and desires (kma
and similar expressions), to mention the most conspicuous notions. Of
course, these tenets and ideals are blended in various manners. Bud-
dhism, for instance, emphasizes the elimination of desires at the ex-
pense of the obliteration of karma.
In Jainism it is the other way
With the notable exceptions of Mms orthodoxy
and mate-
rialistic-skeptic heterodoxy,
Indian religious philosophy has been writ-
Note that karma is not mentioned in the four noble truths of Buddhism; it is also not
included in the twelve members of dependent origination, although later Buddhist
interpreters claim that it is included in saskra (volitional impulses).
Next to these two dominating models of liberation, namely through the eradication
of desires or of karma, one can add for the later period, with its spread of theistic
movements, the notion of liberation through devotion to God and by divine grace.
On yogic perception in the Vaiava tradition, see the papers by Marcus Schmcker
and Marion Rastelli in this volume.
See the contributions by Lawrence McCrea and John Taber in this volume.
See Eli Franco, Perception, Knowledge and Disbelief. Repr. Delhi 1994.
ten for the most part from the point of view of the renouncer or in ac-
ceptance of the values of the renouncer, even though the authors of phi-
losophical works themselves were not always renouncers. Religio-
philosophical works, such as the Bhagavadgt, that repudiate renuncia-
tion and propagate the life of action within society are the exception
rather than the rule.
What is common to most of the ascetic movements is the be-
lief that liberation can be attained through knowledge, through a fun-
damental extrasensory insight into the ultimate nature of reality, which
is sometimes even equated with omniscience (sarvajatva).
cally one can discern two models regarding the attainment of this in-
sight. Either the capacity for such extrasensory perception is innate to
the soul or the mind, and can be automatically attained by removal of
the obstacles (impurities, karma) that prevent the soul or the mind from
exercising its innate cognitive capacity, or this capacity for the liberat-
ing insight, or even omniscience, is not inherent in the soul or mind, but
can be attained by means of spiritual cultivation and refinement. In gen-
eral, the former model seems to be predominant in South Asian relig-
ions. A typical example is the Jaina theory that knowledge or cognition
(jna) is the innate nature (svabhva) of the soul and that the soul will,
under the proper conditions, cognize everything that is knowable
(sarva jeyam).
As Jaini puts it, [t]he amount of karma destroyed
correlates directly with the gain in purity of the soul and increase in the
range of knowledge. Therefore, a total destruction of the forces of
karma, together with the causes of their accumulation, must inevitably
result in perfect purity, which would automatically usher in the state of
The logical outcome of this belief is that the ultimate cause of bondage to this world
is ignorance or error. This is especially emphasized in SkhyaYoga, Vednta and
Everything that is knowable means the infinite number of souls (jva), the infinitely
infinite (anantnanta) amount of matter (pudgala), the principle of motion (dharma)
and rest (adharma), space (ka), time (kla) and the infinite number of transfor-
mations (paryya) through which they all pass. See Padmanabh Jaini, On Sarva-
jatva (Omniscience) of Mahvra and the Buddha. In: Collected Papers on Bud-
dhist Studies. Ed. Padmanabh Jaini. Repr. Delhi 2001: 97-123, on p. 101.
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Consequently, according to the Jainas every liberated
soul is omniscient.
A similar belief can be encountered in Canonical Buddhism.
Here we find the simile of gold ore and the mind. Gold ore is defiled
with iron, copper, tin, lead, and silver, but when it is purified it shines
with its natural luster. Similarly, when the mind is emancipated from
the five defilements, it becomes supple, pliant, lustrous, firm, and be-
comes rightly concentrated for the destruction of the defiling im-
Another simile compares cognition to a pure crystal which
takes on the color of an object touching it; in the same manner cognition
is defiled by desire, etc. Thus, the defilements are considered to be only
adventitious to cognition, while its true nature is luminous.
However, this view was rejected by some of the major schools
of Conservative Buddhism, notably the Theravda and the Sarvsti-
According to them, cognition is not naturally or originally pure,
for it is defiled by passion and karma. If an originally pure and lumi-
nous cognition could be tainted by adventitious defilements, one might
also assume that defilements could become pure by the association with
pure cognition. Thus, in Theravda and Sarvstivda it is assumed that
when the connection with desires has been severed, an impure cognition
ceases and gives rise to a new cognition that is free from obstacles.
Even if the mind is not luminous and pure by nature, it neverthe-
less has been considered to have a latent capacity for paranormal per-
ception. This capacity is cultivated in a negative way, not directly by
increasing the faculty of perceiving, but by eliminating the obstacles to
See Jaini, ibid., p. 102.
Buddhists, on the other hand, often distinguished between the perfect enlightenment
of the Buddha, which was also equated with omniscience, and the lesser enlighten-
ment of the Arhat, the disciple who differs from the Buddha inasmuch as he/she can
reach enlightenment only with the help of the Buddha or the Buddha`s teachings. Of
course, this lesser enlightenment also consists in an extrasensory perception.
Aguttara Nikya III 16-17, quoted in K.N. Jayatilleke, Early Buddhist Theory of
Knowledge. London 1963: 423.
See tienne Lamotte, L'Enseignement de Vimalakrti : Vimalakrtinirdea. Louvain
1962: 53; Andr Bareau, Les sectes bouddhiques du petit vhicule. Paris 1955: 67-
68, no. 44.
See Louis de la Valle Poussin, LAbhidharmakoa de Vasubandhu. Paris/Louvain
1923-1931. Vol. 6: 288.
paranormal perception.
The five obstacles (paca-nivaraa) are cov-
etousness (abhijjh), ill-will (vypda), sloth and torpor (thina-middha),
restlessness and worry (uddhacca-kukkucca), and skeptical doubt
(vicikicch). A mind that has become free from these obstacles develops
further by means of practice of tranquility (amatha-bhvan) and con-
The attainment of extrasensory perception is usually associated
with dhyna (Pali: jhna) meditation.
While dwelling in the state of
the fourth dhyna one attains what is usually termed abhi (Sanskrit:
abhij), an early and common Pali term that is the closest equivalent to
extrasensory perception. Abhi is usually said to have six compo-
(1) the knowledge of magical powers (such as making the earth
shake, multiplying oneself, passing through walls, flying, diving into
the earth as if it were water, walking on water, touching the sun and the
moon with one`s hand, etc.), (2) clairaudience (divine sense of hear-
ing), (3) telepathy or the knowledge of other minds, (4) recollection of
previous lives, (5) clairvoyance (divine sense of sight), and (6)
knowledge of the destruction of the defilements.
These six capacities have close equivalents in the Ptajala
Yoga tradition.
A substantial number of aphorisms in the Yogastra
An analogy to this type of indirect approach may be found in the Buddhist path; in
this context it is not required that one knows what the Self is, but rather that the em-
pirical constituents of a person are not the Self.
For a brief description, see my contribution to this volume.
For a classical study on this topic, based mainly on the Pali canon, see Sigurd
Lindquist, Siddhi und Abhi. Eine Studie ber die klassischen Wunder des Yoga.
Uppsala 1935. For a useful general survey, see tienne Lamotte, Le trait de la
grande vertu de sagesse de Ngrjuna (Mahprajpramitstra) avec une tude
sur la Vacuit. Vol. IV. Louvain 1976: 1813-1817. See also the first section of Anne
MacDonald`s paper in this volume.
To these six, Jayatilleke (ibid. 439-441) adds another four: another type of telepathic
knowledge and the threefold knowledge (tisso vijj) attained in enlightenment. The
historical relation between the abhis and the threefold knowledge is not entirely
clear. It seems that the latter are included in or elaborated into the former. However,
the first five abhis are considered to be mundane, that is, attainable also by non-
Buddhist yogis.
I distinguish here between yoga and Yoga: yoga is a technique of gaining control
over the body, senses and mind in order to attain a liberating insight. It is a tech-
nique or a method and as such is not connected to any philosophy or religion in par-
ticular; thus we have Buddhist yoga, Jaina yoga, Vednta yoga, and so on; Yoga
(capitalized), on the other hand, is used here as the name of a particular philosophi-
(hereafter YS) deal with the supranormal attainments or perfections
(siddhi) of the yogi who has reached an advanced state of meditation.
Among these attainmentswhich have been a cause of great embar-
rassment to Yoga scholars and practitioners alike
one also finds spe-
cial forms of knowledge, such as the recollection of past lives, by con-
centrating on traces left by past experience in these lives (YS 3.18),
knowledge of other minds (YS 3.19), knowledge of the time of one`s
own death and that of others (YS 3.22), knowledge of subtle and con-
cealed objects (YS 3.25), knowledge of remote cosmic regions, such as
the world of Brahma and Prajpati, by meditating on the sun, and
knowledge of the arrangement and movement of the stars by meditating
on the moon and the pole star, respectively (YS 3.26-27), knowledge of
one`s body by concentrating on the navel (YS 3.29), as well as super-
natural sight, hearing, smelling, etc. (YS 3.36). However, yogis do not
only attain such extraordinary forms of knowledge, but also miraculous
powers such as the ability to become invisible (YS 3.21) or strong like
an elephant (YS 3.24), to fly through the air (YS 3.42), to become as
small as an atom, to levitate, to become as large as a mountain or a city,
to stretch one`s body to the point of being able to touch the moon with
one`s finger tips, to dive into the earth as if it were water, to control
material things by causing them to be produced and destroyed, or by
rearranging their parts, and to fulfill one`s wishes (YS 3.45 and com-
mentaries thereon).
The similarity between the siddhis of Yoga and the iddhis and
abhis of Conservative Buddhism is not the only point of resem-
cal tradition, closely affiliated with Skhya, whose foundational text is the Yoga-
stra of Patajali; thus one also refers to it as Ptajala Yoga. On this tradition,
though not specifically on the siddhis, see Philipp Maas` contribution to this vol-
On the embarrassed reactions to the descriptions of the siddhis by modern scholars,
see Yohanan Grinshpon, Silence Unheard: Deathly Otherness in Ptajala-yoga.
Albany 2002: 32-35. It is indeed surprising how often the siddhis are only cursorily
mentioned and neither enumerated nor described (not even by Grinshpon himself or
by Mircea Eliade in his voluminous Yoga, Immortality and Freedom); for an excep-
tion, see Alain Danielou, Yoga. The Method of Re-Integration. Repr. London 1973:
149-157. Danielou lists and describes forty-six attainments: eight physical attain-
ments, thirty subsidiary attainments and eight spiritual attainments. Critical and
skeptical responses to claims of yogic attainments, especially to claims of extraordi-
nary knowledge, were also voiced from within the South Asian tradition. The two
contributions by McCrea and Taber in this volume reproduce these voices well.
blance between the two traditions. It is probably not generally well
known to what extent Buddhist scholasticism, especially of the Sarvs-
tivda School, had a decisive influence on the author(s) of the Yogas-
tra. A long list of similarities between the stras and various Buddhist
doctrines was compiled by Louis de La Valle Poussin.
It suffices to
mention a few of them: the four types of concentration (samdhi),
which correspond to the four levels of dhyna (see YS 1.17); the defini-
tion of God (vara) in YS 1.25 as the one in which the seed of omnis-
cience reaches the highest degree (niratiaya sarvajabjam), a defini-
tion that can only be understood in light of Buddhist Mahyna teach-
ings (of Yogcra and Tathgatagarbha); the four brahmavihras in YS
1.33; the threefold division of knowledge/wisdom (praj) into knowl-
edge that holds the truth in contradistinction to knowledge which
arises from study (ruta) or reasoning (anumna) in YS 1.48-49; the
interpretation of the doctrine of karma (YS 2.12-13, 31, 34, 4.7); the
division of suffering into three kinds in YS 2.15 (parima-tpa-
saskra-dukha), which is clearly of Buddhist origin; the theory of the
existence of three times (past, present and future) in YS 3.13 and 4.12,
which is a reflection of the corresponding Sarvstivda theory; the doc-
trine of knowledge of other minds (paracittajna) as knowing only
whether the cognition of another person is good or bad, but without
knowing the object of the cognition (YS 3.20-21); the four perfections
of the body (kyasampad YS 3.46); and, of course, the five types of
siddhi (YS 4.1), which are either innate, produced by the use of herbs,
by uttering magical syllables (mantra), from the practice of austerities
(tapas), or through the practice of meditation/concentration (samdhi).
Such claims of extraordinary knowledge and supernatural bodily
capacities were presumably not made, at least for the most part, by the
persons to whom they are attributed, the Buddha,
the Jina or other
See Louis de La Valle Poussin, Le Bouddhisme et le Yoga de Patajali. M-
langes chinois et bouddhiques 5 (19361937): 223-242. The direction of the influ-
ence is not always clear, but for the most part one can assume a Buddhist influence
on Yoga; Maas dates the Ptajala Yogastra, which includes the stras as well as
the earliest commentary, to a time span reaching from 325 to 425 CE (see p. 268 be-
low), a period in which Buddhism was philosophically dominant in South Asia. In-
dividual stras, however, may be of considerably earlier date.
In canonical Buddhism the stance towards omniscience is ambiguous. The Buddha
is reported to have said that actual omniscience, that is, knowing all things at once,
is impossible; thus other religions, notably Jainism, are criticized on this account.
accomplished yogis, but by their pious followers.
They are primarily
due, I assume, to the natural propensity to aggrandize one`s teachers,
and even more so, the mythical founder of one`s tradition. Yet the cru-
cial question remains: Is meditation a suitable means for gaining knowl-
edge, especially knowledge that is not attainable otherwise? Some are
of the opinion that in India all philosophical theories arose directly or
indirectly from meditative experiences. Sweeping formulations such as
In India philosophy is the rational interpretation of mystical experi-
ence (Constantin Regamey) are plainly absurd, but even more careful
formulations are highly problematic, as I argue in my paper in the pre-
sent volume. One has to distinguish here between theory and practice:
In theory, the Buddha, the Jina and many others, although certainly not
all founders of traditions,
gained their deep insights into the nature of
reality while absorbed in meditation, but in practice we see that also in
India metaphysical theories were conceived and developedis this
really surprising?by philosophers philosophizing. The same is true in
the case of the Tibetan tradition. As Dorji Wangchuk points out in his
paper in this volume, new philosophical theories in Tibet were mainly
created in an attempt to resolve contradictions and inconsistencies
found in the heterogeneous Buddhist scriptures.
For the traditional practicing yogis, such as the followers of the
Buddha and the Jina, the question of gaining new knowledge through
meditation usually does not arise, at least not theoretically. For them
there is nothing new to discover in the course of their meditation; the
objective of meditation is to gain deeper understanding of the truths
handed down by the tradition. The threefold sequence of study, reflec-
tion and meditation that is prescribed for Buddhist practitioners, briefly
described by Vincent Eltschinger in this volume, means that one studies
However, potential omniscience, i.e., that there is no part of reality that one cannot
grasp, is admitted. See Jayatilleke [as in n. 15]: 203-204. After the second century
CE, omniscience came to be regarded as an essential property of being a Buddha.
On the various terms used to designate the omniscience of the Buddha with special
reference to the Yogcra tradition, see Paul Griffiths, Omniscience in the
Mahynastrlakra and its Commentaries. Indo-Iranian Journal 33 (1990): 85-
120, especially pp. 88-89.
Grinshpon, ibid.: 60, however, suggests that the doctrine of siddhis may be based on
near-death experiences.
Notable exceptions are traditions like the Skhya, Yoga or Nyya, which attribute
their beginnings to the original visions of certain Rishis.
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the teachings of the Buddha, reflects on them with rational means, and
then meditates on these same teachings. Similar procedures are well
known in the Hindu traditions and are closely associated with Yoga and
Vednta. Although it is assumed that the knowledge attained in medita-
tion is deeper and more certain than the knowledge attained by rational
means, it is not really a different knowledge. Moreover, the teachings
provide the structure and/or the basis for the interpretation of experi-
ences in meditation. Accordingly, there is not much room for new
experiences. Indeed, it would have been presumptuous for a traditional
yogi to claim that s/he had attained new knowledge. And in addition, if
a yogi would have claimed that he had discovered something new that is
at odds with what was discovered by the founder of his tradition (the
Buddha, etc.), he would have risked being ostracized as a heretic by his
In other words, the traditional view about the results of medita-
tion can be summarized with the phrase: You should not get out what
you did not put in. What one gets out should conform, at least in its
broad outlines, to previously established teachings. And this conception
is hardly surprising in the context of a traditional society that believes
that perfect knowledge was already attained in the past and may only
have diminished in the present.
The perspective changes, of course, when one considers the
great founders of traditions like Buddhism. By definition, a Buddha is
someone who reaches enlightenment by himself; unlike the later Bud-
dhist disciples, a Buddha does not have another Buddha to guide him. In
his case, meditation must impart new knowledge, be it only newly dis-
covered long forgotten knowledge.
Consequently, the Buddha`s claim
to knowledge cannot be grounded in any tradition. Therefore, the ques-
tion arises: Can the original insights of the meditating Buddha be veri-
fied by independent means? We may be caught here in the Mms
dilemma, ably represented by McCrea and Taber in their contributions
below: If these insights cannot be verified, why should they be ac-
Accordingly, when defining yogic perception, the Buddhist philosophers limit the
scope of such perception to the teachings of the Buddha; on this point, see my paper
below p. 122.
According to the Buddhist tradition, there were an infinite number of Buddhas in the
past, each discovering the Buddhist teachings anew. Similar notions are found in the
Hindu tradition, for knowledge disappears partly or completely during cosmic disso-
lution and has to be regained after each new creation.
cepted? If they can be verified, we do not need them; whatever they tell
us can be known from other sources.
From a modern perspective, most of us, I assume, would adopt
the position of the Mmsakas: Theories about the world gained from
meditative practice are either uncertain or superfluous. For most of us,
the external world is whatever the natural sciences say it is.
And if a
theory realized in the course of meditation happens to agree with what
they say, this is interesting and all the better, and if it does not, all the
worsefor the theory, not for the natural sciences.
Incredulity towards the veracity of meditative visions was also
felt within the Buddhist tradition. To repeat an example given by
Wangchuk in his contribution, how is one to make sense of statements
that in just a single atom there exist Buddha fields corresponding in
number to the total number of atoms in the universe? The most elabo-
rate attempt to establish the validity of the teaching of the Buddha was
undertaken by the Buddhist philosopher Dharmakrti (ca. 600-660?) and
his followers. According to them, the teachings of the Buddha can be
divided into a main part and secondary parts; the main part, which is
identified as the four noble truths and the doctrine of Non-Self (ant-
man), is independently verifiable, in principle by anybody, by means of
perception and inference.
Visions of the Buddha fields and other mira-
would presumably have to be relegated to the secondary and non-
essential parts of the Buddha`s teachings, be interpreted as only didacti-
cally useful, or not be accepted at all as being a genuine part of the
teaching. The fact that certain teachings are secondary does not imply
that they are false, but only that they need not be independently estab-
lished and defended against external criticism. Dharmakrti did believe
in the possibility of extrasensory perception, but such perception, he
Or, in fact, after Popper and Kuhn not even that; physical theories are no longer
considered to be true, but only approximations (that lead periodically to para-
digmatic changes) to a reality, which can never be known.
There are an increasing number of studies on this topic; for a relatively recent dis-
cussion, see John Dunne, Foundation of Dharmakrtis Philosophy. Somerville
2004: 223-252.
On the complex and ambivalent stance towards miracles in Buddhism, see Phyllis
Granoff, The Ambiguity of Miracles. Buddhist Understandings of Supernatural
Power. East and West 46 (1996): 79-96. For a remarkable study of miracles em-
ployed by the Buddha to convert various beings, which combines Buddhist philol-
ogy with art history, see Monika Zin, Mitleid und Wunderkraft. Wiesbaden 2006.
thought, could only be utilized towards relatively minor aims such as
the neutralization of the poison of snakes, not towards soteriological
Although Dharmakrti was arguably the most important Bud-
dhist philosopher of South Asia, it is hard to say whether this opinion
was widely accepted in Buddhist circles. It was obviously formulated in
a period when Buddhism was under pressure from powerful philosophi-
cal criticism and suffering from dwindling political support.
Due to the encounter of Tibetan Buddhism with Western civili-
zation in the second half of the 20
century, this Buddhist tradition
seems to be slowly undergoing the process of coming to terms with
natural sciences that the Catholic Church has been going through during
the last centuries.
Certain statements of the Dalai Lama, at least when
addressing a Western audience,
indicate remarkable openness and
readiness to accept the world view of modern physics
at the expense
of Buddhist cosmology.
Similar processes are occurring in Theravda
See Eltschinger, Dharmakrti sur les mantra et la perception du supra-sensible.
Vienna 2001: 109-114.
That this process is far from being completed is clear from recent debates on intelli-
gent design.
See Thupten Jinpa, Science as an Ally or a Rival Philosophy? Tibetan Buddhist
Thinkers` Engagement with Modern Science. In: B. Allan Wallace (ed.), Buddhism
and Science. New York 2003: 71-85, p. 79: Unfortunately, so far no written work
in Tibetan from the Dalai Lama has been published that articulates his views on the
potential areas of engagement between Buddhist thought and science.
One of the main purposes of the Mind and Life conferences is to provide a high-
level tutorial for the Dalai Lama in quantum mechanics. We are told, for instance,
that ( the Dalai Lama did not have
a problem with photons having both particle and wave-like properties, but was re-
luctant to accept that individual quantum events are random. For example, he re-
fused to accept that we cannot know which path a photon takes in a two-path quan-
tum interference experiment. It is also remarkable that the Dalai Lama is now re-
portedly supporting the study of physics being part of the instruction at all Buddhist
monasteries. See also Arthur Zajonc (ed.), The New Physics and Cosmology. Dia-
logues with the Dalai Lama. Oxford 2004.
See I [viz., the Dalai Lama] have often
remarked to my Buddhist colleagues that the empirically verified insights of modern
cosmology and astronomy must compel us now to modify, or in some cases reject,
many aspects of traditional cosmology as found in ancient Buddhist texts. Further-
more (ibid): [I]n the Buddhist investigation of reality, at least in principle, empiri-
cal evidence should triumph over scriptural authority, no matter how deeply vener-
ated a scripture may be. See also The Dalai Lama, The Way to Freedom. San Fran-
cisco 1994: 73, quoted in Donald S. Lopez Jr., Prisoners of Shangri-La. Chicago
Buddhism and in Japanese Buddhism, though in a less conspicuous
manner, for other Buddhist traditions lack a central authoritative figure
like the Dalai Lama. It is not difficult to notice that Buddhism (espe-
cially, but not only Tibetan Buddhism) is repositioning itself as a ra-
tional and empirical cognitive science, a science of the mind based on
introspection and meditation, supplemented by altruistic ethics. Cos-
mology, if mentioned at all, is relegated to the background, and just as
in Dharmakrti`s argument, presented as unessential. Typical for this
trend is Matthieu Ricard, who has become one of the most prominent
figures representing Tibetan Buddhism in intercultural and interdisci-
plinary dialogues. According to Ricard, Buddhism is different from all
other religions because it does not require an act of faith, and it could
better be designated a science of the mind than a religion.
A most extreme, almost belligerent form of this discourse, pe-
culiar and displaying a surprising ignorance of the Buddhist tradition,
1999: 186: The purpose of the Buddha coming to this world was not to measure the
circumference of the world and the distance between the earth and the moon, but
rather to teach the Dharma, to liberate sentient beings, to relieve sentient beings of
their sufferings. Dharmakrti`s statement (Pramavrttika 2.33) that the Buddha`s
absolute knowledge of the number of insects on the earth is of no use to us has not
lost its relevance.
See Wolf Singer, Matthieu Ricard, and Susanne Wasmuth, Hirnforschung und
Meditation. Ein Dialog. Frankfurt am Main 2008:10: [Buddhismus] erfordert
keine Glaubensakte. Man knnte den Buddhismus vielmehr als eine Wissenschaft
des Geistes und einen Weg zur Transformation bezeichnen. The rational and em-
pirical image of Buddhism is clearly belied by studies of traditional Buddhist socie-
ties; for just one example among many, see B.J. Terwiel, Monks and Magic. Bang-
kok 1994.
For a recent insightful and informative study (with an incongruously Maimonidian
subtitle) of the relationship between Buddhism and Western science in the last hun-
dred and fifty years, see Donald S. Lopez Jr., Buddhism and Science. A Guide for the
Perplexed. Chicago/London 2008. Lopez notes that in order to spread across Asia,
Buddhism assimilated the Vedic gods, the Tibetan protectors of the snowy peaks,
and the Japanese kami; he then raises the question: In order for Buddhism to estab-
lish itself in Europe and America, must the God of the West, the God of Science,
also find its place in the Buddhist pantheon? I believe that this is unlikely. Despite
the political correctness and mutual respect that accompany the numerous attempts
at rapprochement between Buddhism and science, defensive and apologetic under-
tones are clearly discernable throughout, even in the eloquent discourses of someone
like Ricard. A more appropriate metaphor than the assimilation of the God of Sci-
ence might be that of seamen caught in a shipwreck throwing overboard what is dis-
pensable in order to safeguard the essential.
has been propounded by B. Allan Wallace. Wallace, who attempts to
apply the vocabulary of philosophy of science to Buddhism, claims that
Buddhism posits testable hypotheses about the nature of the mind and
its relation to the physical environment, and that Buddhist theories
have allegedly been tested and experientially confirmed numerous
times over the past twenty-five hundred years, by means of duplicative
meditative techniques.
Further, Buddhist insights into the nature of
the mind and consciousness are presented as genuine discoveries in the
scientific sense of the term: they can be replicated by any competent
researcher with sufficient prior training.
The distinctions and characterizations put forward by Ricard,
Wallace and others are historically doubtful, for Buddhism had neither a
scientific charactercertainly not in the sense of science when ap-
plied to modern physicsnor was its scope limited to the mind. Bud-
dhism had its own theories of matter in order to account for all elements
of existence (dharmas). Nevertheless such new interpretations of Bud-
See Wallace 2003 [as in n. 35]: 7. The alleged experiential confirmation of Buddhist
theories would be, in my opinion, closer to the experiential confirmation of witch-
craft and divination (described in many ethnological studies such as of the Azande
by Edward Evans-Pritchard) than to a confirmation of an experiment in modern
physics or the cognitive sciences. In a similar vein, Wallace claims that many Bud-
dhist theories are obviously the expression of rational public discourse (p. 5), but
his idea of rationality remains a mystery to me. Wallace is hostile to the academic
study of Buddhism, whose scholars he describes as scholars who spent their time
reading other people`s books and writing their own books about other people`s
books. He considers their lack of contemplative experiences as introducing a glar-
ing bias into modern academic Buddhist scholarship (p. 7). Most scholars of Bud-
dhism, he says, take an Orientalist approach and the study of Buddhism in West-
ern academia is labeled commonly unscientific (p. 7). With such a cavalier ap-
proach, it is not entirely surprising that Wallace occasionally commits serious blun-
ders such as mistaking the attainment of cessation (nirodhasampatti) for a pri-
mary goal of Buddhist meditation (p. 7). In fact, this meditation is not a part of the
Buddhist path to salvation and may be considered a meditative luxury.
Wallace quotes approvingly (p. 4) from Richard King`s Orientalism and Religion
and seems to subscribe to the tenet that pure and authentic Buddhism is located
in the experiences, lives and actions of living Buddhists in Asia and not in Buddhist
texts, or as King calls them, the edited manuscripts and translations carried out un-
der the aegis of Western Orientalists. Given that the vast majority of Buddhist tra-
ditions have not survived to the present day (Bareau discusses more than thirty
sects for Conservative Buddhism alone), this approach, if followed, would se-
verely limit and impoverish the scope of Buddhist studies.
See Wallace 2003 [as in n. 35]: 8-9.
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dhism can be useful. Even though most scholars, myself included, are
not looking at meditation as a source of knowledge of the external
world, it may certainly be a source of knowledge in areas where the
enhancement of concentration and memory may tell us something new
and significant about ourselves. If rebirth is possible, and there is a con-
siderable body of evidence in favor of this hypothesis
but then the
same can be said of miraclesmeditation may perhaps be the means of
awakening recollections from past lives. The study of meditation itself
is not only crucial to the understanding of South Asian and Buddhist
culture, but can also be employed in areas where introspection is called
for, for instance in the study of the mind (as mind, and not as brain). It
is not surprising, therefore, that the academic fields where meditative
techniques have been studied and used best are psychology and psycho-
therapy. This is demonstrated by the papers in this volume by Michael
M. DelMonte, Renaud van Quekelberghe and Shulamith Kreitler.
It became clear already in early stages of the project that yogic
perception is an ideal topic for interdisciplinary study. The present vol-
ume is the outcome of an attempt to initiate such a study, a study that
centers on consciousness, body, mind and health, and that binds to-
gether such disparate disciplines as Buddhist and Tibetan studies, reli-
gious studies, philosophy and the history of philosophy, anthropology
and psychology.
One of the best available means of promoting cross-disciplinary
studies are interdisciplinary symposia. They offer the participants the
occasion to present the results of their research to a sympathetic and
interested audience of scholars who work on similar topics in other dis-
ciplines; it creates a general framework for dialogue, and not of lesser
importance, lets scholars and scientists experience their limitations.
After the initial difficulty of getting accustomed to new terminology,
new sets of questions, and new approaches, which initially makes com-
munication seem impossible, one slowly comes to the realization that
what other disciplines have to say is not only relevant, but greatly moti-
See Ian Stevenson, Cases of Reincarnation Type. 4 Vols. Charlottesville 1975-1983;
European Cases of Reincarnation Type. Jefferson 2003; Satwant Pasricha, Claims of
Reincarnation: An Empirical Study of Cases in India. Delhi 1990; Jim Tucker, Life
Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives.
New York 2005.
vating and inspiring. This, we hope, will also be the experience of the
In the following, we present the program of a conference of this
type that was organized by Dagmar Eigner, Cynthia Peck-Kubaczek and
myself at the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in June 2006, and summarize
those papers given at this conference that constitute the body of this
volume. Some of them are of course significantly longer, modified ver-
sions of the talks that were presented.
Tuesday, 27 June 2006
9:00 Welcome
Ernst Steinkellner, Director, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual
History of Asia, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Opening address
Eli Franco, Director, Institute for Indology and Central Asian Stud-
ies, University of Leipzig; Dagmar Eigner, Institute for the History of
Medicine, Medical University of Vienna
9:30 John Taber, University of New Mexico
Infinity in All Directions
10:15 Lawrence McCrea, Harvard University
Just Like Us, Just Like Now: The Tactical Implications of the
Mms Rejection of Yogic Perception
11:30 Orna Almogi, University of Hamburg
The Physicality and Immanence of Gnosis in rDzogs-chen
12:15 Dorji Wangchuk, University of Hamburg
A Relativity Theory of the Purity and Validity of Perception in Indo-
Tibetan Buddhism
15:00 Vincent Eltschinger, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual
History of Asia
Dharmakrti on the Career and Cognition of Yogins
15:45 Eli Franco, University of Leipzig
Meditation and Metaphysics: On Their Correspondence and Mutual
Interaction in South Asian Buddhism
17:00 Anne MacDonald, University of Vienna
Seeing in Not Seeing: The Madhyamaka Experience
Wednesday, 28 June 2006
9:30 Karl Baier, University of Vienna
Meditation and Contemplation: Late Medieval to Early Modern
10:15 Marion Rastelli, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual His-
tory of Asia
Perceiving God and Becoming Like Him: Yogic Perception and Its
Implications in the Tradition of Pcartra
11:30 Yohanan Grinshpon, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Serpent and the Void: Kundalini and Empty Consciousness in
Tantric Yoga
12:15 Elizabeth De Michelis, University of Cambridge
What do Hahayogins Perceive? Dhyna (meditation), samdhi (en-
stasy) and the Manipulation of Mind, Senses and Sense-organs (manas,
citta, indriya) in Selected Classical and Modern hahayoga Texts
15:00 Philipp A. Maas, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual
History of Asia
Mental Processes, Direct Perception, and [Meditative] Concentration
(samdhi / mpatti) in Classical Skhya Yoga
15:45 Marcus Schmcker, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual
History of Asia
Between God`s Cognition and Normal Perception: Yogic Perception
According to the Later Tradition of the Viidvaita Vednta
17:00 Oded Maimon, Tel Aviv University
Consciousness Phases According to Experience with Eastern Phi-
Thursday, 29 June 2006
9:30 Dietrich Ebert, University of Dsseldorf and University
of Leipzig
Physiological Correlatives of Dharana and Their Meaning
10:15 John Baker, Moorpark College, California
Psychedelics, Culture, and Consciousness: Some Biocultural Con-
11:30 Diana Riboli, Panteio University, Athens
Shamans and Transformation
14:00 Dagmar Eigner, Medical University of Vienna
Transformation of Consciousness through Suffering, Devotion, and
14:45 Shulamith Kreitler, Tel Aviv University
Altered States of Consciousness as Structural and Functional Varia-
tions of the Cognitive System
Friday, 30 June, 2006
9:30 Renaud van Quekelberghe, University of Koblenz-Landau
Mindfulness and Psychotherapy: The Revival of Indian Meditative
Traditions within Modern Psychology, Psychotherapy and Medicine
10:15 Urs Regg, University of Vienna
Psychotherapy and Altered States of Consciousness: Which Scien-
tific Concept is Helpful?
11:00 Gnther Fleck, University of Vienna
The Consciousness Disciplines and Knowledge Production: An Epis-
temological Account
12:15 Michael M. DelMonte, St. Patricks Hospital, Dublin
Empty Thy Mind and Come to Thy Senses: A De-constructive Path
to Inner Peace
15:00 Discussion
Part I: Yogic Perception in the South Asian and Tibetan Traditions
Of the above twenty-three lectures, seventeen could be collected in the
present volume. The following brief summaries of the papers accompa-
nied by short comments are designed to help the reader to navigate
through the presented terrain. In Indian philosophical texts, there are
often two protagonists, an opponent and a proponent, with the opponent
always speaking first (so that the proponent can have the last word). We
will follow this fine procedure here and begin with two papers that pre-
sent some of the most powerful objections to and criticism of yogic
perception that were articulated in the Indian tradition. The Mms
tradition is often labeled as the most orthodox of all Indian philosophi-
cal traditions. Yet this tradition rejects with vehemence some of the
most distinctive tenets that one associates with Hinduism, notably, the
existence of God,
the cyclical dissolution and re-emergence of the
While the Mms does not reject the existence of deities who might play the role
of recipients in sacrifices, the existence of an omnipotent or omniscient God, like
iva or Viu, to whom the creation of the world, the composition of the Veda or a
decisive influence on the human lot may be attributed, is vigorously rejected.
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cosmos, the ideal of liberation (moka, nirva and similar expres-
andwhat concerns us hereyogic perception.
In `Just Like Us, Just Like Now`: The Tactical Implications
of the Mms Rejection of Yogic Perception, Larry McCrea shows
why the Mmsaka philosopher Kumrila (7
c. CE) considered the
very possibility of yogic perception a serious threat to the validity of the
Vedic tradition. He presents Kumrila`s arguments succinctly and
clearly and explains the context in which they were raised. The main
concern of the Mms is to demonstrate that the Vedas (the oldest
sacred texts of Hinduism) are the only source for knowing dharma.
Thus, it is not yogic perception as such, but its potential as a source for
knowing the dharma that makes the Mmsakas fervently oppose it.
To begin with, even if a yogi such as the Buddha could indeed
perceive truths that are beyond the range of perception of ordinary peo-
ple, this would be useless for them. There is, as McCrea puts it, an
unbridgeable epistemic divide (p. 58) between yogis and ordinary peo-
ple. Thus an ordinary person can never know who is a genuine yogi and
who is a quack or a swindler. It takes one to know one. On the other
hand, if the statements of a yogi could be confirmed by ordinary means,
they would be superfluous.
At any given time, people as a rule lie. One cannot trust them
today, and in the past they were equally unreliable. The constancy of
behavior between past and present individuals, past and present socie-
ties, is one of the most characteristic assumptions of Kumrila. The
same consistency or uniformity in the perceptual capacity of ordinary
people is assumed to have existed throughout the ages. It is clear that
people`s capacities can have quantitative differences: some people may
be able to see objects that are far away or very small, objects that an-
This human aim is absent in the early Mms texts, but was introduced in those
written after the 6
century CE.
Dharma is narrowly interpreted by the Mms as characterized by an injunction
to perform a sacrifice. It is a far cry from dharma referring to moral or meritorious
action; see Wilhelm Halbfass, Tradition and Reflection. Albany 1991, especially
chapter 4: Vedic Apologetics, Ritual Killing, and the Foundation of Ethics.
This criticism is reminiscent of a famous argument against the validity of infer-
ences: inferences are either not established or they prove what has already been
proved: smnye siddhasdhyat, viee nugamabhva.
other person cannot see, but there is no radical or qualitative difference
between what all people see: colors are seen and not heard.
A common move to substantiate the reliability of a person, be
it a yogi like the Buddha or a God like iva, relies on his self-identity. If
the Buddha`s statements about matters that can be examined by ordi-
nary people (say, about medicine and healing) are invariably confirmed
to be true, one may trust his statements about other matters as well (for
instance, about karma and past lives). If the mantras revealed by iva
that are applicable to everyday life function well (for instance, bring
wealth to their user), one may assume that his other mantras function
equally well.
As Kumrila makes clear, an argument in this form is patently
false. The fact that someone is reliable in area A does not imply that he
is reliable in area B, especially when area B is beyond the reach of ordi-
nary people. Would we accept metaphysical speculations about God
because they are put forth by a physicist who has been proven reliable
in physics?
Kumrila also emphasizes the plurality of yogic visions and
the ensuing contradictions. If the cognition of our yogis contradicts that
of your yogis, whom shall we trust? In fact, no yogi can be trusted.
Unless one possesses such knowledge oneself, one is unable to judge
whether another person knows things beyond the reach of the senses.
Any other standard opens the way to frauds or even honest but delu-
sional people claiming knowledge about extrasensory objects they do
not possess.
Probably in response to Kumrila, later Buddhist and Hindu
writers who attempted to establish religious authority put a strong em-
phasis on the speaker`s motivation. It is not enough that one knows the
truth; one also has to have a positive motivation to communicate that
truth (this motivation is usually identified with compassion towards
living beings and the ensuing wish to help them) and a lack of motiva-
Actually there are people who do hear colors, as anyone with synaesthesia (appar-
ently one out of every thousand people) or anyone who has had a psychedelic ex-
perience would know.
In the last part of McCrea`s paper, which I do not summarize here, he briefly pre-
sents Kumrila`s positive arguments for the reliability and eternity of the Veda. It
would be an interesting exercise to check whether the arguments about the impossi-
bility of knowing whether a person is omniscient might not be applied to the impos-
sibility of knowing that the Veda is eternal.
tion to lie. Unlike Kumrila, who states that people usually lie, the Bud-
dhist philosopher Dharmakrti maintains that people tell the truth unless
they have a motive for lying, and he further argues that the Buddha has
no such motive because he has nothing to gain from lying to us.
though the aspect of motivation and compassion of the speaker can be
found prior to Kumrila in discussions about religious authority and
reliability (e.g., in the Nyyabhya), this aspect does not seem to have
been emphasized before his time.
However, even if one can be sure that the Buddha had no mo-
tivation for lying to his disciples, it is possible that he was deluding
himself. Dharmakrti counters this objection by maintaining that the
major part of the Buddha`s teaching is not about objects beyond the
reach of the ordinary perception and inference, but is about objects that
are independently verifiable. So even if the Buddha were wrong about
non-empirical matters such as karma,
this would hardly matter as long
as he is verifiably right about the phenomenon of suffering, its cause,
and the way to remove this cause. Similarly, he may or may not be liter-
ally omniscient, but even if he isn`t, this hardly matters as long as he
knows everything there is to know about how to stop suffering. As
Dharmakrti somewhat sarcastically puts it: we don`t care whether the
Buddha knows the number of worms in the world.
John Taber`s paper, Yoga and our Epistemic Predicament,
covers partly the same ground as McCrea`s, but it is wider in scope. It
begins with the question whether yogic experience is at all possible and
investigates the epistemic conditions that would allow one to answer the
question affirmatively. What matters to Taber is not whether such ex-
periences are subjectively possible, but whether they are true. In other
words, whether there can be a means for new knowledge, especially of
See Pramavrttika 2.145b: vaiphalyd vakti nntam. He [The Buddha] does not
tell a lie because [this would] be fruitless. This verse is edited and translated in
Tilmann Vetter, Der Buddha und seine Lehre in Dharmakrtis Pramavrttika. Vi-
enna 1990: 52.
Although karma is one of the causes of rebirth, Dharmakrti explicitly rejects the
possibility of eradicating karma in order to stop rebirth. As long as one lives, one
continuously produces new karma and thus, the complete elimination of karma is
never possible. The only way to stop rebirth is to eliminate desire, as is stated in the
four noble truths.
objects that are traditionally associated with yogic perception, such as
past and future objects,
or indeed of all objects.
Historians of Buddhism and Indian philosophy, as well as
scholars of religion, usually disregard the question of truth in many
facets of their studies, not only with regard to yogic perception.
perceptions, however, are important because the belief in them played
such an important role in various societies and cultures. It is for this
reason that Taber is not content with leaving the question of truth aside
(p. 72):
Surely it is of the utmost significance if a particular society or
culture attributes value to, and invests considerable cultural energy and
resources in, something that is, at basis, an illusionjust as it would be
if a particular person were to build his life around a belief that is pat-
ently false, say, a belief in the existence of some imaginary being. We
would immediately suspect that some pathology is at work, distorting
that society`s collective perception of reality.
Taber approaches the question of truth by examining a ques-
tion that was debated over centuries in Classical India, the famous de-
bate between the Mmsakas and the Buddhists (beginning in the 7
century and lasting until Buddhism had practically disappeared from the
Subcontinent around the 12
Interestingly, for the most part
the debate was not whether a particular person (such as the Buddha or
the Jina) had acquired the right knowledge about what ultimately must
be done and avoided, but about the very possibility of a human being
acquiring such knowledge. A presupposition shared by all parties in the
debate was that if such knowledge is at all possible, it would be ac-
quired by yogic perception (yogipratyaka), for that is the only type of
perception whose scope can go beyond the present. So who won this
debate? Taber concentrates on the Proof of an Omniscient Person by the
Seeing past and future objects is counted by the Yogastra as one of the accom-
plishments (siddhi), i.e. the supernatural powers that the true yogi possesses; see
Yogastra 3.16.
The factoring out of the question of truth is not specific to Buddhist or Hindu stud-
ies, but is typical for religious studies in general. See Johann Figl, Wahrheit der
Religionen. Ein Problem der neueren Religionswissenschaft und der Religionsph-
nomenologie. In: Gerhard Oberhammer and Marcus Schmcker (eds.), Glaubens-
gewissheit und Wahrheit in religiser Tradition. Vienna 2008: 81-99.
The debate began in earnest with Kumrila in the 7
century and continued till the
century in the writings of Jnarmitra and Ratnakrti.
Buddhist philosopher Ratnakrti (ca. 990-1050), who represents the last
phase of Buddhist philosophy in South Asia.
Taber compares the attribution of yogic perception to the Bud-
dha to the attribution of miracles to Jesus. In both cases the credibility
of the testimony must be weighed against that which speaks against it,
e.g., witnesses being few, of doubtful character or having a vested inter-
est in what they affirm. However, above all the credibility of the testi-
mony has to be weighed against the improbability of the fact to which it
testifies (p. 77-78).
Can one show that yogic perception is not a miracle, that it
does not violate the laws of nature? Yogic perception qua perception
has to have two qualities: it has to be free of conceptual construction (or
be vivid) and has to be non-erroneous. Concerning the first characteris-
tic, it seems impossible to transform conceptual teachings like the four
noble truths into a vivid visual image, no matter how long one meditates
on them. In establishing the first characteristic, Ratnakrti explains that
one should not consider perception, as has been traditionally done, to be
an awareness that is somehow related to the senses. Rather perception is
nothing but an immediate awareness, and such awareness is not limited
to sense data.
Yet even if we grant that long, intense and uninterrupted medi-
tation causes objects of cognition to appear with such clarity or vivid-
ness as if they stood before one`s eyes, the question of their veracity
remains open. However, as far as I can see, Ratnakrti does not elabo-
rate on this issue, probably because he follows Dharmakrti`s assump-
tion that the Buddha`s main teaching and his reliability are provable by
ordinary means of knowledge. Only towards the very end of his treatise
does he attempt to prove genuine omniscience, without, I suspect, being
entirely convinced of his own proof.
Taber concludes his investigation with the failure of the Bud-
dhists to prove the possibility of omniscience. Of course, the impossibil-
ity of omniscience remains equally improvable. This, however, is hardly
In this, Ratnakrti follows his teacher Jnarmitra, who follows in turn an original
development by Prajkaragupta (ca. 750-810). The latter identified perception with
immediate awareness (sktkaraa) and consequently claimed that even inference
can be perception; see Rhula Sktyyana (ed.), Pramavrttikabhyam or
Vrtiklakra of Prajkaragupta (Being a Commentary on Dharmakrtis Pra-
mavrtikam). Patna, 1953: 111.20: tasmd anumnam api sarvkrasktkara-
apravtta pratyakam eva.
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surprising, for practically no philosophical tenet can be proved. The
question Taber raises next is crucial, namely, how to deal with the fact
that yogic perceptions are widely, even cross-culturally, reported.
Should one simply investigate such phenomena and put aside the ques-
tion of their veracity? This is, in fact, the common practice in religious
studies (as an academic discipline), no matter which culture or which
religion forms the object of investigation. One may attempt to deter-
mine what is actually being said, what impact it has on a given culture,
what function it fulfils in society, and so on without asking whether it is
true, or even assuming it is untrue. But this is not the path Taber pro-
poses to take. If societies and traditions are inherently healthy and ra-
tional, they cannot be based on falsehoods or on the thin theoretical
possibility that that yogic perception is not impossible. Yet we must
continue to collect data and keep our minds open, and we must be will-
ing to consider yogic perception at its face value. For the time being,
however, as long as our theory of nature cannot accommodate yogic
perception, it will remain deeply problematic.
Eli Franco`s paper, Meditation and Metaphysics, has a dif-
ferent concern altogether, but it may still belong to the prvapaka of
this volume inasmuch as it challenges the role attributed to yogic per-
ception in shaping Buddhist philosophy. The notion that Buddhist phi-
losophy arose from meditation has been widespread among scholars of
Indian philosophy. Sweeping formulations of this idea, such as by Con-
stantin Regamey or Edward Conze, are clearly wrong and need not be
further examined. However, even more careful and qualified formula-
tions, such as that by Lambert Schmithausen, remain in the final analy-
sis improvable and questionable. Schmithausen is, to the best of our
knowledge, the only scholar who has not just pronounced this idea, but
who has seriously attempted to prove it on the basis of rigorous philol-
ogical analysis. Thus, his work deservedly forms the focus of the atten-
tion here. Franco examines this hypothesis in some detail and provides
thereby a bird`s-eye view of most if not all the important philosophical
theories in South Asian Buddhism. He argues that the relation between
meditation and metaphysics in Buddhism cannot be reduced to a single
model. In the final analysis, one cannot avoid the conclusion that certain
philosophical theories (which are described in the paper) arose from
meditative experiences and certain others did not, and that the origin of
still others cannot be determined, in which case it seems preferable to
suspend judgment. This conclusion may seem trivial and obvious, but it
goes against the mainstream in Buddhist studies.
Anne MacDonald`s contribution, Knowing Nothing: Can-
drakrti and Yogic Perception, deals with the topic of yogic perception
in the Madhyamaka tradition, one of the major schools of Mahyna
Buddhism that had a profound influence both on Indian and Chinese
Buddhism and is alive in the Tibetan tradition until the present day.
While focusing on the objectless meditation on emptiness (nyat), she
also provides a succinct introduction to Madhyamaka philosophy in
general. Ngrjuna (2
c. CE), the founder of the Madhyamaka tra-
dition, said practically nothing on meditation or yogic perception in his
Mlamadhyamakakriks. His main concern there was to disprove the
existence of the elements of existence (dharma) as postulated in various
metaphysical theories of Conservative Buddhism. To understand the
Madhyamaka stance on yogic perception and related issues it is infor-
mative to turn to other works by Ngrjuna and to his influential com-
mentator Candrakrti (600-650 CE). MacDonald notes that the super-
natural capacities of knowledge (abhij)
are barely mentioned in
Candrakrti`s writings owing to their negligible soteriological role.
Candrakrti`s interest in supramundane knowledge lies in an insight into
the nature of reality that facilitates the break out of the jail of
sasra. This he equates not with an insight into the four noble truths,
but into the emptiness or unreality of all things.
Thus, the questions arise: How can one escape from something
that is not real? And is nirva as unreal and as non-existent as
sasra? The Mdhyamikas reject the four possible views: that nirva
exists, that it does not exist, that it both exists and does not exist, or
neither. The thorough knowing (parij) of the non-existence of both
existence and non-existence is, according to the Mdhyamikas, power-
ful enough to release one from the bonds of sasra. Candrakrti
equates this knowing with non-perception of existence and non-
existence: When the yogi remains without an apprehension of any of the
things accepted by others as existing or non-existing, the object of his
thorough knowledge is different from and excludes all phenomenal enti-
ties. The true nature of dependently originated phenomena, MacDonald
contends (p. 145), should be understood as the Mdhyamika`s onto-
See p. 6 above.
logical nirva. The knowing of this nature, sometimes referred to as
knowing the thusness (tattva) of things, is the knowing without object
that the yogi cultivates in the meditative state. Later Mdhyamikas such
as Kamalala (740-795), who was heavily influenced by Dharmakrti
and the epistemological tradition (discussed in Eltschinger`s paper in
this volume), interpreted this knowledge as cognition apprehending
nothing but itself (svasavedana). However, this interpretation would
not have been acceptable to Candrakrti.
In the course of a debate with a Realist opponent who claims
that the object confers its form to consciousness, Candrakrti points out
that consciousness of a non-existent object, such as the son of a barren
woman, would have to conform to the non-existent form and be itself
When consciousness does not apprehend the image of an
object, it simply cannot arise. Equally impossible is the epistemologists`
account of liberating insight being the culmination of meditation on the
four noble truths. According to them, at the beginning of meditation its
object is conceptual, i.e., a universal, but in the course of meditation it
gains in vividness till it becomes a particular.
This assumption, Can-
drakrti maintains, is simply impossible, for a conceptual object can
never become a particular.
Indeed, the epistemologists themselves
assume that the particular and the universal are mutually exclusive. Fur-
ther, even if such a process were possible, cessation (nirodha) could not
be perceived because consciousness cannot arise without an objective
support (lambana).
Candrakrti seems to play here on two meanings of the word form (kra), which
can be understood as an image or as the own nature of a thing. The same ambiguity
is present in other terms meaning form, notably the term rpa.
This process is compared in later times to someone so besotted with his lover that he
perceives her in his mind with such vividness that it is as if she would be standing in
front of his eyes. See also Franco, Perceptions of Yogis. Some Epistemological and
Metaphysical Considerations. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Dharmakrti
Conference (forthcoming).
It is indeed difficult to understand how an abstract and necessarily conceptual
statement such as everything is impermanent can become a particular object, no
matter how long and how intensely one meditates on it. This point was debated be-
tween Buddhists and Naiyyikas for centuries (as long as Buddhism remained alive
on the Subcontinent); on the last phase of this debate, see Taber`s paper in this vol-
But what are the implications of this stance? Does it mean that
ultimate reality is pure nothingness and the ultimate realization that one
cannot know anything? MacDonald contends that Candrakrti`s view is
more sophisticated. For him the actual realization of the true nature of
all things is performed by an altogether different type of awareness
termed gnosis (jna).
Unlike normal awareness (vijna), gnosis
does not have an object and perceives the inconceivable reality that was
always there; it has a form (or nature) that transcends all manifoldness
(sarvaprapacttarpa). Candrakirti also states that the Buddhas abide
in this objectless gnosis. In advancing this interpretation, MacDonald
goes against the construal of Madhyamaka by North American scholars
such as C.W. Huntington and Dan Arnold.
Vincent Eltschinger`s paper, On the Career and the Cogni-
tion of Yogins, is a remarkable contribution towards the reconstruction
of the religious philosophy of Dharmakrti. It consists of two parts. The
first part sketches a systematic development of the meditating Buddhist
monk from the stage in which he is still an ordinary person, beset by a
false view of Self and Mine giving rise to desire, to the moment of
enlightenment and the ensuing liberation. Dharmakrti follows the tradi-
tional Buddhist scheme of three successive stages in understanding the
Buddha`s teaching as epitomized by the four noble truths, these three
stages being studying, reasoning and meditating.
As soon as one at-
tains a meditative vision of the four noble truths for the first time (dar-
anamrga), the yogi stops being an ordinary person and becomes a
noble person (rya). However, this vision can only remove the concep-
tual error about the existence of a Self; the deeply-rooted, innate con-
ception of the Self (sahajasatkyadi) is far more difficult to eradicate
and one has to repeat the meditative vision of the four noble truths in
various aspects again and again until this innate or instinctive concep-
tion of Self, which is present even in lower animals that are unable to
conceptualize, is uprooted.
According to the Yogcra tradition, with which Dharmakrti
is affiliated, living beings are divided into various families (gotra)
On various aspects of gnosis in the Tantric tradition, see Orna Almogi`s paper in
this volume.
A similar three-stage process of understanding can be found in Hinduism, and it is
still practiced, especially in the Vednta tradition: studying (ravaa), reflecting
(manana), and meditating (nididhysana). See also YS 1.48-49 referred to above.
that determine the mode of liberation either as Hearers (i.e., disciples of
the Buddha who reach enlightenment with the help of the Buddha), or
as Buddhas-for-themselves (pratyeka-buddha, who reach enlightenment
by themselves, but do not help other living beings), or as Buddhas (who
reach enlightenment by themselves and help others to reach it). While
the path of the Hearers and the Pratyeka-Buddhas is relatively short, the
Bodhisattva, the person who has resolved to become a Buddha, has to
prolong his stay in sasra in order to acquire additional skills that
enable him to become a teacher for all living beings; he must elimi-
nate imperfections of body, speech and mind, and become practically
omniscient. The practice of the path ends in the so-called transformation
of the basis (rayaparivtti), an expression that was first used for the
change of sex (from woman to man), but which came to designate the
irreversible elimination of all defilements and their latent causes
(seeds), this elimination characterizing the state of being Buddha.
The second part of Eltschinger`s paper deals with the cognition
of a yogi in its epistemological dimension. Yoga is characterized as a
chariot pulled by two horses, tranquility of mind (amatha) and dis-
cernment (vipayan).
It carries one to an insight (praj) of the true
nature of reality. Yogic perception, as every perception, must be reliable
and free of conceptualization. The first characteristic does not seem to
be problematic for Dharmakrti; the reliability of yogic perception is
grounded in the Buddhist scriptures, which are also established by inde-
pendent means such as perception and inference. For instance, one
meditates on the four noble truths that are already known to be true be-
fore the meditation begins.
One may also meditate of course on a non-
existent object such as an imaginary disintegrating corpse. In this case
the yogic cognition is simply not true (and therefore not perception
pratyaka) for the simple reason that its object has no correspondence in
See also Hidenori Sakuma, Die rayaparivtti-Theorie in der Yogcrabhmi.
Stuttgart 1998.
See Louis de La Valle Poussin: LAbhidharmakoa de Vasubandhu. Vol. 8. Repr.
Brussels, 1980: 131, n. 2.
This perspective changes radically from the 8
century onwards, due to the debates
with the Mms. From this point in time it is not an ordinary yogi, but the Bud-
dha himself, the yogi par excellence, who is the focal point, and it is not the reliabil-
ity of the Buddhist yogi who follows the Buddha`s teachings which is at stake, but
that of the Buddha, who cannot rely on a further Buddha to establish the truthfulness
of the Buddhist teachings.
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reality. Dharmakrti`s main concern, however, is how a conceptual cog-
nition can become non-conceptual. His criterion for the absence of con-
ceptualization is the vividness of a cognitionwhen one sees an object
as if it were standing before one`s eyes. Dharmakrti`s solution to this
problem was not completely satisfactory, and later Buddhist philoso-
phers (Kamalala, Prajkaragupta, Jnarmitra, Ratnakrti) contin-
ued to deal with it and suggest still other solutions.
However, if yogic perception apprehends an object that was al-
ready established by a means of knowledge (prama), how could it be
itself a means of knowledge, for a means of knowledge must apprehend
a new object, an object that was not perceived earlier? Dharmakrti`s
answer would probably be that although the object was previously es-
tablished by scripture and reasoning, it was not established as a non-
conceptual object. Thus, the process of meditation is the reverse of the
process of perceiving in everyday life. In everyday life, the cognitive
process begins with a non-conceptual perception of an object which
gives rise to a conceptual cognition. In meditation one begins with a
conceptual object, and the meditation culminates in the conceptual con-
struction being cast away. This cognitive process consists in destroying
ignorance and other defilements of consciousness so that the cognition
may shine again in its intrinsic luminous nature, with which it can ap-
prehend reality as it truly is.
Dorji Wangchuk`s contribution, A Relativity Theory of the
Purity and Validity of Perception in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, extends
our field of vision to Tibetan Buddhism, or better, Indo-Tibetan Bud-
dhism, for the philosophical developments of the Tibetan scholars can-
not be understood without their Indian background. Wangchuk notes
that one occasionally comes across philosophical theories and interpre-
tations that are of purely Tibetan origin and most of the purely Tibetan
See also Taber`s paper in this volume.
Or one could say that although the inferential cognition of the four noble truths
(attained at the second stage, between studying and meditation) is true, it does not
make one obtain its object, and thus it cannot be said to be non-belying (avisa-
vdin) in the usual sense of the term. A similar case might take place with inference.
What happens when one infers fire and then goes to the place of the fire and sees it?
Both cognitions are valid, both are connected to the same object, yet each cognition
is said have a new object. In fact they only cognize the same object from different
aspects and cannot have different efficient actions (arthakriy), which is character-
ized as attaining an object, for the same object cannot be obtained twice.
philosophical theories seem to be the product of an endeavor to resolve
and systematize conflicting ideas found in heterogeneous Indian Bud-
dhist systems. This thus tallies well with my observation that meditative
visions have not played a crucial role in the development of philosophi-
cal theories in South Asian Buddhism.
Wangchuk examines an intriguing tenet in the Buddhist theory
of knowledge, namely, that various types of living beings perceive one
and the same entity in different modes. For instance, what appears to
ordinary humans as clean water is perceived by so-called hungry ghosts
(preta) as dirty and disgusting (sullied with blood and pus, etc.),
by the
gods as nectar, and by yogis as a goddess or a woman who is capable of
arousing samdhic ecstasy in them. The epistemological problem that
arises from this tenet is clear: If the same object is perceived differently
by different living beings, whose perception is true? How can one then
distinguish between valid and invalid cognitions? Further, how can one
substantiate yogic visions that seem downright impossible, as for in-
stance the perception of innumerable Buddha fields in a single atom?
Wouldn`t the acceptance of such visions lead to ontological nihilism?
The renowned rNying-ma scholar Mi-pham (18461912) sug-
gested making a distinction between various kinds of means of knowl-
edge, most importantly between pure and impure worldly means (kun tu
tha snyad pai tshad ma = svyavahrikaprama). The degree of the
purity of perception determines the degree of its correctness.
The pu-
rity of perception can be enhanced by meditation, but there is also a
difference in the degree of purity of perception of those who do not
meditate at all. For instance, a human being perceives water as water,
which is regarded as purer than the preta`s perception of it as pus, re-
gardless of whether that human being and preta meditate or not. Mi-
This example first entered the philosophical discourse in Vasubandhu`s Viatik. It
is used by Vasubandhu to show that living beings (notably the pretas) can suffer
from what may be called collective illusions due to similar karmic fruition. Vasu-
bandhu, however, does not doubt the identity of water as an object in this example,
but only attempts to prove that it does not exist outside the mind. As far as I know,
the example is not further discussed in the Buddhist epistemological tradition from
the perspective it obtained in Tibetan Buddhism, namely, that the identity of the ob-
ject is doubtful.
According to this theory, the cognition of water by ordinary people would have to
be considered less true than the vision of the yogi who perceives the same substance
as a goddess.
pham`s theory was inspired by Rong-zom-pa, a rNying-ma scholar of
the 11
century, who suggested that reality is mere appearance (snang
ba tsam), behind which there is nothing. He also adduced a distinction
in validity between human and non-human and between yogic and non-
yogic perceptions. Thus, the validity of perception depends on the pu-
rity of perception, i.e., the purer the perception is, the more it agrees
with ultimate reality, which is the absolute purity. Wangchuk also dis-
cusses briefly the Indian antecedents, especially in Madhyamaka
sources, of this theory, which he calls the relativity theory of the purity
and validity of perception.
Meditation and yogic perception culminate in gnosis (jna,
praj and similar expressions). The quasi-material aspects of this gno-
sis form the subject matter of Orna Almogi`s paper, The Materiality
and Immanence of Gnosis in Some rNying-ma Tantric Sources. Ac-
cording to these sources, gnosis is immanent in the human body, more
precisely, in the center of the heart. Before describing the meta-
physiological aspects of gnosis, Almogi looks into the conception of
the human body in Buddhism in general. As is well known, Buddhist
sources, including already the Pali Canon, consider the human body to
be a collection of impure and revolting substances such as hair, nails,
flesh, bones, bladder, liver, pus, blood, excrement, and the like. Yet the
body is also recognized as the basis for the human experience that en-
ables one to tread the path of salvation.
The Tantric attitude to the body is generally more positive.
The Tantric practitioners conceive the body as a microcosm, and it is
meditatively envisioned as the pure body of a deity; most importantly it
is the abode of gnosis, the ultimate aim for all Buddhists. Although gno-
sis is to be acquired by practice, it is often conceived of as inherent,
latent and changeless. It abides in the body like a lamp in a pot that can
shine only if the pot is broken. The Buddha-Embryo theorythe theory
that all living beings are potentially Buddhas and will eventually be-
come Buddhasis used as a foundation to substantiate the immanence
of gnosis in one`s body. The resemblance of this notion of gnosis to the
Brahmanic concept of a permanent soul (tman) is obvious,
and the
rNying-ma scholars make a conscious effort to distinguish gnosis from
such a soul.
In fact, the Ratnagotravibhga, the foundational text of the Tathgatagarbha tradi-
tion uses the terms tman and paramtman in the exposition of the Buddha nature.
The meta-physiology of gnosis involves channels, cakras,
vital winds and seminal drops. Their divergent descriptions have been
conveniently juxtaposed by Almogi in the form of tables. Each channel
has its own color, a type of pure essence, and an essence-syllable that
causes purification, phonic seeds that cause pollution, and birth caused
by the pertinent phonic seeds and type of mind. For instance, the chan-
nel of gnosis has a blue light, which is square in shape, the pure essence
of breath, the essence syllable h, and is inhabited by mental percep-
tion. It is clear that although gnosis is not a material entity, one does
find statements describing it in terms of light, color, shape and sound.
However, these are merely meant as aids to confused living beings, who
have not recognized the permanent immanent gnosis within themselves.
Nevertheless, it appears that these descriptions were sometimes taken
Almogi`s paper concludes the Buddhological section in this
volume. Three contributions deal with yogic perception in the Hindu
tradition. Philipp Andr Maas discusses the so-called Yoga of suppres-
sion as it appears in the first chapter of the Ptajalayogastra, i.e., the
Yogastra of Patajali with its oldest commentary, the so-called
a text that Maas has edited in an exemplary manner on
the basis of twenty-one printed editions and twenty-five manuscripts.
His starting point is Oberhammer`s pioneering yet largely ignored study
Strukturen yogischer Meditation (Vienna 1977), which shows beyond
doubt that the Ptajalayoga teaches four different kinds of medita-
tionsnot two, as is commonly assumedwhich differ from each other
with regard to their objects, structure and content. Maas` paper, how-
ever, limits itself to the first two of these meditation types, for which he
suggests a new terminology. The common term for these types of medi-
tations, which seems to have been coined by Frauwallner, is Unter-
drckungsyoga or Yoga of suppression. This term, however, can be
misleading inasmuch as it evokes the common psychological meaning
of complete deletion of a reaction, in contradistinction to inhibition,
which refers to an inner impediment to activity that can be removed.
Suppression is also used to refer to a voluntary suppression of an im-
pulse for action. Obviously, none of these meanings is applicable to
yogic meditation, nor is suppression as used by Indologists meant to
Yoga in this section is short for Ptajala Yoga.
convey these meanings, but rather to refer to the definition of yoga as
the elimination or stopping (the shutdown as Maas calls it) of all men-
tal processes. Further, it is often said that the purpose of yoga is to
eliminate cognition, but this statement has to be qualified insofar as
yoga does not eliminate the Self (purua), which is defined as pure con-
sciousness. What yoga aims at is the elimination of all objects of con-
Maas also notes that the Yoga of suppression consists, in fact,
of two different types of meditation; he suggests calling the first type
non-theistic yogic concentration and the second theistic yogic con-
centration. In the former type, the path leading to the cessation of men-
tal activities is the practice of gradual withdrawal or detachment, in a
first stage from everyday material objects, in a second stage from matter
as such, and it culminates in self-perception of the Self, which leads to
liberation from the cycle of rebirths. The theistic concentration is simi-
lar to the non-theistic in many respectsmost importantly it also cul-
minates in self-perception of the Selfbut differs from it inasmuch as
in the initial stages it has God (vara) as its object.
It is remarkable that in Yoga the concept of God lacks any sec-
tarian or mythological elements. Moreover, there is no qualitative dif-
ference between God and any other liberated soul, except that the latter
became liberated at a certain point in time, whereas God has always
been liberated. Nor does God really intervene in the realm of matter,
and his effectiveness within the world is rather limited. At the begin-
ning of every re-creation of the world he assumes a mental capacity
doesn`t this imply that he must leave his state of liberation?in order to
teach a seer and thus start a succession of teachers and disciples. His
presumed motivation to do this, just as in the case of the Buddha, is
The concept of God being intrinsically identical to all other
souls (or selves) can also be found in the tradition of Viidvaita Ve-
dnta, a Vednta school that is strongly affiliated with the Vaiava
devotional movement, examined here by Marcus Schmcker in Yogic
Perception According to the Later Tradition of the Viidvaita Ve-
dnta. This tradition is particularly interesting in its contrast to the
Buddhist tradition. To begin with, yogic perception is hardly discussed
in the writings of Rmnuja (traditionally dated 10171137), the found-
ing father of the Viidvaita. He accepts the possibility of its exis-
tence, but does not consider it capable of perceiving absolute reality
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(brahman) (see n. 3 in the paper). However, Rmnuja`s follower,
Meghandrisri (13
century), deals with this topic in a more extensive
manner. Unlike the Buddhists, who go to a great deal of trouble to
prove that yogic perception is free of any conceptual construction (see
the papers by Taber, Franco and Eltschinger in this volume),
ndrisri assumes that all yogic perceptions are conceptual for the
simple reason that they do not depend on the senses. This aspect of
yogic perception puts it on par with the cognition of God (identified
with Viu), or the highest Self (paramtman), as well as of the liber-
ated soulsboth those that have always been liberated (nityamukta) and
those that became liberated at a certain point in time. The difference
between the cognition of a yogi, who is still bound to sasra, and the
cognition of the liberated souls (God included) is that the latter have
only conceptual cognitions. Of course the cognition of God is far larger
in scopeit includes everythingthan that of the yogi, but inasmuch as
both are independent of the senses, both are conceptually constructed
(savikalpaka). Furthermore, while the Buddhists consider every concep-
tualization to be false and claim that only non-conceptual cognitions are
a true reflection of reality, Meghandrisri argues that an absolute cor-
respondence between perception and reality is only possible in a con-
ceptual perception. A non-conceptual perception, which depends on the
senses and has only a momentary existence, is unable to perceive all
properties of a given object. Especially the recurrent properties, the so-
called common properties or universals (jti), which are identified with
the structure (sasthna) of things, cannot be perceived as such when
an object is seen for the first time. It is only in the second and subse-
quent cognitions that the recurrence of a universal can be perceived. Yet
the common point between the Buddhist and the Viidvaita traditions
is that the highest cognition, be it the omniscience of God or of the
Buddha, is a subspecies of yogic perception.
An exception, however, should be noted for the Buddhist Tantric work Tattvasiddhi
attributed to ntarakita; see Ernst Steinkellner, Is the Ultimate Cognition of the
Yogin Conceptual or Non-conceptual? Part 2: Introducing the Problem in the Final
Section of the Tantristic Tattvasiddhi with Analysis and Translation. In: Esoteric
Buddhist Studies: Identity in Diversity. Proceedings of the International Conference
on Esoteric Buddhist Studies, Koyasan University, 5 Sept.8 Sept. 2006. Ed. by the
Executive Committee, ICEBS. Koyasan 2008: 291-306. The possibility of Vedntic
influence on the doctrine of the Tattvasiddhi still needs to be explored.
The role of yogic perception in another Vaiava devotional
tradition, the Pacartra, is examined in Marion Rastelli`s contribution,
Perceiving God and Becoming Like Him: Yogic Perception and Its
Implications in the Viuitic Tradition of Pcartra. The earliest evi-
dence of this tradition dates back to the pre-Christian era, and it is still
present today in the Vaiava tradition in South India. Unlike the other
Buddhist and Hindu traditions presented so far, the Pacartra offers its
followers not only a means of pursuing liberation from rebirth, but also
allows the pursuit of worldly pleasures such as wealth, offspring, the
fulfillment of sexual desires, death of enemies and a great number of
supernatural powers. For the most part, these aims are to be achieved by
ritual means into which yogic practices are integrated, but yoga is also
practiced independently. There are two kinds of yogic practices: the
Yoga of Eight Members (agayoga), which is practically identical to
the practice described in Ptajala Yoga bearing the same name (briefly
referred to by Maas p. 6), and the Laya Yoga or the Yoga of reabsorp-
tion. Some elements are common to both practices, as for instance,
sitting in a particular posture, controlling one`s breathing, and the with-
drawal of the mind from the object of the senses. However, the two
practices differ in their object; while the object of the yoga of Eight
Members is static, the object of the Laya Yoga is dynamic. The term
laya evokes the cosmic dissolution of the material elements, these being
reabsorbed, each into the respectively preceding one, in the reverse or-
der that they were created or emanated until they are all absorbed into
the primordial matter, which is itself a manifestation of God.
The Laya
Yoga imitates this process of destruction. The yogi visualizes object
after object in the order of their destruction until he reaches a particular
deity, this deity being an emanation of still another deity, and so on
until one reaches the Supreme God. The Lakmtantra describes several
deities that are to be meditated upon, and similar to the Buddhist Tantric
meditation described by Almogi, each is associated with a special state
of consciousness and with a specific sound (the various elements are
conveniently presented by Rastelli in a table on p. 306).
These cycles of cosmic emanation and dissolution are well known from Classical
Skhya (see also Maas` paper in this volume, pp. 269-270) and Puric literature.
However, in the Pcartra tradition the material elements are considered a manifes-
tation of the God Vsudeva.
In the Laya Yoga, the meditating yogi visualizes a deity and
continuously recites a mantra until the deity appears to him; by concen-
trating on the deity the yogi becomes one with it and reaches a state
called Consisting of Him/Her (tanmayat), depending upon whether
the object of meditation is a God or a Goddess. In other words, the sub-
ject and object of meditation become identical. What this identity means
exactly is not entirely clear, however. Rastelli suggests that the identity
cannot be complete or numerical; rather consisting of Vishnu is
analogous to saying consisting of wood: consisting of something
would thus mean having all the properties of that thing. Thus, the result
of meditation varies according to the object one meditates on. If one
meditates on brahman (absolute reality) one attains the state of brah-
man, which means liberation from rebirth; if one meditates on Sudar-
ana, one attains the supernatural powers of Sudarana, and so on.
In the Pacartra tradition, it is also possible to become con-
sisting of God by ritual means, above all through a mental identifica-
tion with the deity. This identification can be induced verbally by
means of mantras, or by assuming the outward appearance of a deity,
for instance, by wearing garments that are usually associated with the
deity or certain adornments that are typical for it. A still easier way to
attain the same goals, provided one has the financial means, is to offer
fire oblations (homa) to the deity. It is interesting to note that all of
these rituals, if performed well over a period of time, leave the deity no
freedom of choice. It must appear before the yogi or the devotee.
Part II: Meditation and Altered States of Consciousness from an
Interdisciplinary Perspective
The second part of this volume examines broader aspects of altered
states of consciousness beyond those occurring in yogic perception. In
the first four papers, Karl Baier deals with meditation and contempla-
tion in the Christian tradition, Dagmar Eigner and Diana Riboli focus on
shamanic trance in Nepal and Malaysia, while John Baker clearly shows
that drug-induced altered states of consciousness are an element present
In this respect the Pcartra tradition follows an older Vedic and Mms tradi-
tion which claims that the gods who are the recipients of certain sacrifices are in fact
passive players inasmuch as they are obliged bring about the result for which a sac-
rifice is prescribed.
in all traditional and modern societies. Thus, altered states of con-
sciousness are by no means limited to meditative traditions.
Karl Baier`s contribution, Meditation and Contemplation in
High to Late Medieval Europe, is a useful reminder that Europe had its
own rich tradition of meditation which has fallen into disuse, a tradition
that, in an odd twist of fate, shows signs of revival under the growing
influence of Indian meditative traditions.
Baier examines the period between the 12
and 15
century, a
period that differs significantly from the preceding and subsequent cen-
turies. He deals primarily with four trends that became prominent dur-
ing this period: the development of elaborate philosophical and theo-
logical theories dealing systematically with meditation and contempla-
tion; the democratization of meditation and contemplation; the emer-
gence of new imaginative forms of meditation; and a differentiation
between meditation and contemplation. Baier considers these trends and
related developments by examining three texts: Benjamin minor (also
called The Twelve Patriarchs) of Richard of St. Victor (?-1173), the
Scala Claustralium of Guigo II (1174-1180) and the anonymous Clowde
of Unknowyng.
In Benjamin minor, Richard of St. Victor develops a hierarchi-
cal system of different modes of cognition, correlating them to four
basic cognitive faculties: sensus, imaginatio, ratio and intelligentia
(sense-perception, imagination, discriminative rationality, intuitive in-
sight). The lowest mode of awareness is termed cogitatio. It is the
careless looking around of the mind, motivated by curiosity and other
passions. Meditation is a more focused way of thinking; it emerges
when the cogitatio becomes seriously interested in an object it has un-
covered. Its dominant mental faculty is ratio, discursive thinking, and it
investigates the cause (causa), mode (modus), effect (effectus), purpose
(utilitas) and inner structure (ratio) of its objects. Meditation culminates
in contemplation, the fulfilled insight. Cogitatio is like crawling on the
floor, meditatio like walking and sometimes running, but contemplatio
is comparable to free flight (liber volatus) and beholding from above,
this allowing the whole landscape be viewed at once.
Richard discriminates between different levels of ecstasy: a
state in which the activity of the corporeal senses is only suspended, one
in which imagination has come to a standstill, and a final absorption in
which even intelligentia is no longer active. All forms of ecstasy are
accompanied by exaltation and intense joy.
Guigo`s Scala Claustralium (ladder for monastics), also known
as Scala paradisi (the ladder to paradise) and Epistola de vita contem-
plativa (letter on the contemplative life) contains one of the most con-
cise analyses of spirituale exercitium (spiritual exercise) written in the
High Middle Ages. His intent was to integrate meditation and contem-
plation into the reading and interpretation of the Bible. In the early me-
dieval period reading the Bible chiefly meant memorizing the text for
liturgical purposes. In the 11
century the tradition of the Desert Fathers
was revived, and the new order of the Carthusians integrated the life-
style of the hermit with monastic community life. This led to an interi-
orization of religious reading, as is reflected in Guigo`s text. The prac-
tice contained three stages, which, again, are strongly reminiscent of
Buddhist, Yoga and Vednta practices: lectio, the monk reading the
Bible in his cell and following the literal sense of the text as attentively
as possible, which led to meditation and the monk beginning to repeat a
passage that touches his heart again and again;
oratio, the monk ask-
ing God to open his soul to His presence; and contemplatio, the monk
gaining the deepest level of understanding of the biblical texts and ex-
periencing their mystical sense (anagogia, sensus mysticus), which, as a
direct encounter with God, can only be fully realized in contemplation.
The basic distinction between meditation and contemplation is that in
meditation the different faculties of the soul are still at work, whilst in
contemplation their activities have calmed down and the ineffable cen-
ter of the soul awakens.
In the centuries after Guigo, the link between reading the Bible
and meditation lost its importance. The imaginative techniques had the
effect of the Bible being replaced by manuals of meditation, such as
Vita Christi, which were better suited for visualization and easier to
grasp. Meditation and contemplation ceased to be a monastic privilege
that could be practiced only in the solitude of monasteries; they could
One is immediately reminded of the Buddhist descriptions of dhyna and yatana
meditations, briefly described in Franco`s paper, as well as of saprajta samdhi
as discussed in Maas` contribution, but the differences are strong enough to rea-
sonably exclude the assumption of borrowing or influence of one tradition on the
This practice is traditionally called ruminatio, rumination on the text.
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also be practiced in the flourishing towns. Book production developed
enough to create a market of religious texts; these were usually compi-
lations of monastic mystical theology, simplified schemes for the ascent
to God, edifying stories about saints and miracles, and prayers. These
books were not written in Latin, but in the vernacular languages. Thus,
from the Late Medieval Period onwards, meditative and contemplative
practices became increasingly popular among all strata of the literate
European Christian society. Older forms of mysticism, based on with-
drawal from the world and programs of asceticism and contemplative
prayer, did not die out, but they were challenged by new lifestyles en-
couraging more democratic types of mysticism that were open to all
(and therefore also communicated in the vernacular) and that did not
demand retreat from the world.
The Clowde of Unknowyng, written between 1375 and 1400
and today one of the most famous of all late medieval mystical texts, is
a good example of the developments outlined above. The text follows
the traditional distinction between vita activa (actyve liif) and vita con-
templativa (contemplatyve liif). The first stage of active life consists of
works of mercy and charity, the second, which is concurrently the first
stage of contemplative life, is goostly meditacion, the third and final
stage is specyal preier. The latter is described as blynde thoucht or na-
kyd feeling and culminates in ecstasy (excesse of the mynde, overpas-
syng of thiself), in which one is to leave behind distinct considerations
of the self, sins, creation and God and enter a cloude of forgetyng.
In the 15
century, the methodical structuring of thought
within meditation became extremely elaborated. However, the more
meditation became formalized, the more its limitations and dangers
became obvious; the practice of contemplation began to decline. As
Baier concludes, only with the growing influence of Eastern religions
and the revival of Western mysticism from the end of the 19
onwards did the popularization of contemplative practices start all over
again. The 20
century became the Age of the decline of the Baroque
form of European meditation and gave birth to a second contemplation
movement within Western Christianity.
Diana Riboli`s contribution, Shamans and Transformation in
Nepal and Peninsular Malaysia, is an introduction to the different be-
Here, too, the emergence of the Mahyna bears striking if superficial similarities.
liefs related to shamanic transformation into animal and plant forms, in
particular in the ethnic groups of the Chepang in south-central Nepal
and the Jahai and Batek of peninsular Malaysia. Despite the necessary
adaptations of shamanic cultures to changes in social, economic and
political conditions, the figure of the shaman generally remains that of a
hunter of souls, even in societies no longer based on hunting and
Riboli describes the rain forest as a closed universe from the
Batek and Jahai point of view, divine and perfect, a sort of maternal
uterus that satisfies all the basic requirements of its inhabitants and
which is the beginning and end of everything.
In what is clearly an
implicit critique of Lvi-Strauss and his followers, she claims that for
the societies she has studied, a conceptual distinction between nature
and culture has little or no significance.
Quite often the shamans` faculty of transforming themselves
into animal or vegetal forms, of communicating with animals and dei-
ties, or flying between cosmic zones is seen as a relic from a mythical
Golden Age, a time when all human beings had these abilities. How-
ever, in some shamanic societies ecstatic journeys and altered states of
consciousness are almost completely absent, although considered by
Eliade and others to be an essential and defining element of shamanism.
Riboli points out that what scholars call altered states of con-
sciousness or simply trance is a complex phenomenon, and that the
Chepang language has no single term corresponding to it.
In spite of
trances often having a similar physical appearancethe shaman`s body
jerking, trembling and sweating profusely, as well as appearing to un-
dergo sensorial detachmentthere are different types, and they are not
experienced as the same by shamans or their audience. Riboli distin-
guishes between incorporatory trances, in which shamans embody
supernatural beings, and trances of movement, in which shamans
travel to other cosmic zones. In her earlier studies she included the
category initiatory trances, and noted that there are certainly still
other types of altered states of consciousness, these being, however,
The most friendly inhabitants of the rainforest are the cenoi, poetic creatures some-
what like our fairies, described as perfect little men and women living inside flowers
who offer help to humans in distress.
The same is true, of course, of what one calls meditation, a rather vague term that
has no exact correspondence in any South Asian language (see also n. 3 above).
difficult to document. Similarly, shaman itself is not a consistent
category; the Chepang distinguish between pande,
who are allowed to
travel to all cosmic zones, and gurau, who can transform themselves
into animal forms.
The Jahai use halak and jampi to refer respectively
to shamans of greater and lesser powers.
Though Riboli has noted a decline in many of the shamanic
practices described by Endicott in the 1970s, she nevertheless confirms,
contrary to observations by certain scholars, that despite the strong
pressures and tensions they are continually subjected to, both Batek and
Jahai forms of shamanism are still very much alive today. In fact, after
the recent passing away of one of the oldest and most venerable sha-
mans, many young men have been receiving dreams in which the old
shaman is teaching them about the shamanic vocation. A new genera-
tion of young shamans seems to be emerging.
Dagmar Eigner`s contribution, Transformation of Conscious-
ness through Suffering, Devotion, and Meditation, investigates the
spiritual and personal development of shamans and mediums in Central
Nepal. It is based on Eigner`s study of traditional healers in Central
Nepal undertaken for a total of thirty-six months between 1984 and
2005. Her research has focussed on Tamang shamans living in the mid-
dle hills east of Kathmandu Valley. The Tamang constitute the largest
ethnic minority in Nepal and there are many shamans among them.
These shamans mostly treat a multi-ethnic, socially disadvantaged cli-
entele, who seek cures for a wide variety of ailments. Some shamans
have moved away from traditional healing methods, partly because of
their lack of the needed knowledge and partly in order to accommodate
the multi-ethnic environment. In this context, Eigner has investigated
the similarities between the healing methods of different healers and the
role of ethnic-specific knowledge of myths in the shamanic procedures.
Contact with a deity is considered a basic component of a sha-
man`s power. Shamans and mediums usually experience a vocational
calling, in which they are chosen by a spiritual power to become a
healer. Often this is not immediately recognized and the unusual behav-
It seems that about ten percent of pande are women; Riboli investigated thirty
pande, three of whom were women.
This second category seems to be mythical or defunct; in eight years of extensive
field work, Riboli has not encountered a single shaman who claimed to possess this
iour of the chosen person is interpreted as a disturbance of her/his well
being. The period of crisis is attended by physical and psychic suffering
that is not alleviated by standard medical treatment. On the contrary, in
some cases attempts to force the so-called evil spirits to depart causes
the suffering to intensify. Sometimes several years pass before deities or
ancestor spirits reveal themselves through the persons they have chosen.
After the initial crisis, such a person forms a strong relationship
with the spiritual world. They then begin a process of granting the dei-
ties and tutelary spirits increasing space within their psyche, and of di-
minishing the desires and expression of their own ego. Devotional exer-
cises slowly alter the mind of a shaman so that with growing experi-
ence, the chosen person remains continuously in a state of transformed
consciousness. Having attained this altered level of consciousness, they
are able to carry out whatever is needed during healing sessions without
effort and without a conscious decision on their part. Their change in
personality is primarily realized during treatments, in which their pa-
tients experience the power of the deities, this being the core of the
healing process.
Eigner`s paper presents a number of narratives of shamans and
mediums from Central Nepal describing this process of transformation.
Briefly presented are various healers` perceptions of the spiritual world,
their own connection to it, and their understanding of the cures they
achieve. These narratives show that the strong connection with the spiri-
tual world changes these healers for the rest of their lives; their status in
the community, their relationships with the people around them, and
their sense of identity have become irreversibly altered.
In Psychedelics, Culture, and Consciousness: Insights from
the Biocultural Perspective, John Baker suggests that the use of psy-
chedelic substances to alter consciousness is more ancient than all of the
other techniques discussed in this volume. He also argues that studies of
psychedelic experiences can be very useful for discerning the roles that
cultural expectations and individual characteristics play in shaping and
understanding altered states of consciousness. Baker`s interactionist
position assumes that consciousness is affected by both top down and
bottom up phenomena. Consequently, the study of consciousness
states requires a comprehensive framework that incorporates biological
and psychological insights into the study of socio-cultural phenomena.
The number of plants, fungi, minerals, and even animals capa-
ble of inducing altered states of consciousness is large, and the use of
these substances has been documented throughout the world since an-
cient times. The use of such substances reflects both the basic human
predilection to enter altered states and the fact that almost any psy-
choactive substance can be utilized for personally integrative and cul-
turally constructive purposes when used appropriately.
In contrast to the traditional use of psychedelic substances in
non-Western cultures, many Westerners have a hallucinophobic atti-
tude about psychedelics. This attitude has its roots in the proscriptions
against pagan religions issued by the Emperor Theodosius in 380 CE,
when he adopted Christianity as the official religion of the empire and
suppressed the ancient mystery cults. During the next sixteen hundred
years, most European knowledge about the proper ways to use these
substances and exploit their effects for constructive purposes was lost.
Consequently, few were prepared for the renaissance in psychedelic use
that began in the 19
century and accelerated in the 20
, especially after
the discovery of LSD.
With the spread of LSD and other psychedelic substances, mil-
lions of individuals were able to experience and explore highly unusual
states of consciousness. Lacking traditional frameworks for using these
substances or understanding their effects, some people experienced
bad trips or suffered physical injury because they were temporarily
unable to react appropriately to external events. Laws were quickly
passed that prohibited the manufacturing, distribution, use, or posses-
sion of psychedelic substances. By the mid-1960s, all psychedelic re-
search on human subjects had been curtailed. As a result, many people
in the West continue to view psychedelics in a highly negative light.
Baker uses the terms sacrament and sacramental to distin-
guish between psychedelic use in societies that embrace such use and in
those that condemn it. In the former, a person`s first use of a psyche-
delic substance often has an initiatory quality and occurs after a period
of training in which the individual has been taught to anticipate and
correctly interpret such experiences. Here, psychedelics often serve
culturally integrative purposes. In the second type of society, psychedel-
ics are typically used clandestinely and without proper guidance. In
such contexts, psychedelic experiences may lead an individual to ques-
tion his or her society`s values and world view. In spite of this, such
experiences are often interpreted in near-mystical terms and can have
profoundly positive effects upon the user.
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The sacrament/sacramental distinction recognizes that cul-
tural attitudes play a profound role in shaping states of consciousness.
At the same time, the biological underpinnings of modern anthropology
remind us that the uniqueness of each person begins at the genetic level,
and is expressed in differences in the make-up of our individual nervous
systems as well as our life histories. Consequently, every experience of
an altered state of consciousness is unique, and is open to multiple in-
Baker concludes that psychedelic agents do not only represent
important tools for studying consciousness, but also have the potential
to democratize consciousness by making it possible for large numbers
of people to explore domains previously accessible to only a few. He
suggests that the near-universal desire to experience an altered state of
consciousness canand shouldbe channeled in a way that minimizes
the possibility of problems and maximizes the potential for personal and
social gain.
Shulamith Kreitler`s contribution, Altered States of Con-
sciousness as Structural Variations of the Cognitive System, presents a
new approach to defining consciousness in terms of an innovative the-
ory of meaning. Most approaches to consciousness have been based on
the assumption that differences in consciousness consist primarily in
degrees of awareness, so that it may seem superfluous to dwell on the
characterization of various so-called altered states of consciousness.
However, an analysis of different states of consciousness reveals several
major dimensions in which they indeed do differ, e.g., salience and the
status of the I, the sense of control and the ability to control, clarity of
thought, precision of perception with regard to external reality and envi-
ronment, emotional involvement, as well as the arousal, accessibility
and inhibition of certain kinds of information. These specified dimen-
sions allow the common states of consciousness to be characterized
according to their differences in terms of major cognitive, emotional
and behavioral features. The differences between the states of con-
sciousness imply that a new approach is necessary. The new suggested
approach is cognitive and based on a theory of meaning dealing with the
contents and processes underlying cognitive functioning. Meaning is
defined as a referent-centered pattern of meaning values. A referent is
the input, the carrier of meaning, whereas meaning values are cognitive
contents assigned to the referent in order to express or communicate its
meaning. Together, the referent and the meaning value form a meaning
unit. Five sets of variables are used for characterizing the meaning unit:
meaning dimensions, which characterize the contents of the meaning
values; types of relation, which characterize the immediacy of the rela-
tion between the referent and the cognitive contents; forms of relation,
which characterize the formal regulation of the relation between the
referent and the cognitive contents; referent shifts, which characterize
the relation between the referent and the presented input; and forms of
expression, which characterize the forms of expression of the meaning
units. Each individual person functions cognitively in terms of a spe-
cific meaning profile (i.e., a set of meaning variables habitual for that
person) that determines his or her range of cognitive potentialities and
also affects manifestations at the level of emotions and personality.
Cognition is a function of the structure and activation of the meaning
Kreitler`s main thesis is that states of consciousness are a func-
tion of comprehensive changes in the cognitive system brought about by
specific organizational transformations in the meaning system. One
major kind of reorganization consists in changing the dominant types of
relation that regulate the functioning of the cognitive system in ordinary
wakeful states, namely the attributive and comparative, to the exempli-
fying-illustrative and metaphoric-symbolic that regulate the functioning
of the cognitive system in certain states of consciousness. Structural
changes of this kind may be attained by either psychological or physio-
logical means. When they occur, cognitive functioning, personality
manifestations, mood and affect, as well as physiological processes may
be affected. Kreitler describes the changes in consciousness attained by
means of experimentally-induced changes in meaning, as well as the
resulting changes in cognitive and emotional functioning. The new ap-
proach may enable the matching of cognitive tasks to suitable states of
consciousness, the production of states of consciousness by self-
controlled cognitive means, and even the definition of new states of
The two final papers, by Michael M. DelMonte and Renaud
van Quekelberghe, consider the use and integration of meditation in
psychotherapy. Van Quekelberghe begins with a brief discussion of
mindfulness (Pali: sattipahna, Sanskrit: smtyupasthna) in the
context of Theravda Buddhism. The purpose of mindfulness is to in-
crease the powers of concentration as a preparatory stage to meditation
properly speaking (samdhi). It consists in the conscious awareness of
everyday activities such as breathing, thinking, feeling, moving, eating
and even defecating. In the last decade or so, cognitive behavior therapy
and psychoanalysis has begun to focus on mindfulness as a constructive
method for overcoming clinical symptoms and suffering. Quekelberghe
notes that the recent shift in cognitive therapy from symptoms as the
content to symptoms as the context offers an analogy to the tradi-
tional Eastern (Buddhist and other) distinction of consciousness directed
towards an object and consciousness without an object. Context
would correspond to emptiness, peace of mind, pure silence, crystal-like
transparency and an empty mirror; while content would correspond to
ego-related passions, mirages, thoughts and feelings. This dichotomy
indicates the need to step back from the many to the one, from the
changing to the changeless, from bondage to freedom.
In the second part of his paper Quekelberghe offers a very use-
ful survey of the relationship between psychotherapy and Buddhism
from the 1930s to the present day. He begins with the well-known study
Buddhist training as an artificial catatonia by Franz Alexander (also
summarized by DelMonte), which has inspired many leading psychia-
trists to focus on the parallels between schizophrenic regression and
meditation. However, there were also exceptions to this general trend
and some psychiatrists, such as Johannes Schulz and Arthur Deikman,
considered yogic traditions positively, fighting against the nave arro-
gance of psychiatry and psychoanalysis towards the Eastern meditative
Jung rejected the psychoanalytic view of Asian or Buddhist
meditation as infantile regression, autistic defense formation or narcis-
sistic neurosis. Yet he too believed that an integration of Western psy-
chotherapy and Eastern meditation wasif at all possiblenot desir-
able. On the other hand, the so-called Neo-Freudians, including Karen
Horney, Erich Fromm and Harold Kelman, involved themselves with
Zen-Buddhism in the 1950s and emphasized points of convergence of
their discipline with it. Kelman, for instance, considered psychoanalysis
to be a meditative training in mindfulness and the development of
therapist-client relationship as analogous to the guru-devotee relation-
ship. In the 1980s, Jeffrey Rubin tried to integrate Buddhist ideas into a
so-called contemplative psychoanalysis, although oddly enough he
somehow confused the Buddhist conception of egoless-ness (Pali:
anatta, Sanskrit: antman) with the psychoanalytic narcissism theory.
The dialogue between Buddhism and psychotherapy has continued un-
interruptedly until the present day, with Barry Magid currently its most
prominent proponent.
W.L. Mikulas was the first behavior therapist who integrated
Buddhist meditation into behavior therapy. He emphasized self-control
skills and few theoretical constructs, focused on the concrete content of
conscious experience, and made a clear distinction between observable
behavior and problematic concepts such as person, ego, identity and the
world. Quekelberghe summarizes the work of a number of behavior
psychotherapists who found correspondence between the Buddhist
teachings and techniques of behavior therapy, namely, stress reduction
programs based on mindlessness. These include Da Silva, Kabatt-Zinn,
Grossman, Linhan, Perls, Hayes, and last but not least, Quekelberghe
Another important area of dialogue between Asian meditative
traditions and psychotherapy is transpersonal psychology and ther-
a school of psychology that studies and encourages spiritual
self-development, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic
trance and other metaphysical experiences of living. In an earlier
Quekelberghe described the main fields of this spiritually ori-
ented psychotherapy. Quekelberghe ends his article with a plea to estab-
lish modern wisdom research centers after the model of the famous
Buddhist monastery Nland.
Michael DelMonte`s paper, Empty Thy Mind and Come to
Thy Senses: A De-constructive Path to Inner Peace, studies the benefi-
cial effects of Yoga practices, Qi-gong, and modern Gestalt therapy on
psychological growth (Eros). In an age when our minds and our senses
are over-stimulated and our emotions over-aroused, meditation may be
positively used as an antidote to mental over-drive. Paradoxically deep
mindfulness, when competently practiced, may lead to peaceful
a state of no thought.
Such techniques are particu-
The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology describes transpersonal psychology as
the study of humanity`s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding,
and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness.
Transpersonale Psychologie und Psychotherapie, Ed. Dietmar Klotz. Eschborn bei
Frankfurt/M. 2005.
In this respect, meditative therapy is the opposite of the talking cure typically used
in Freudian and other therapies.
DelMonte`s view of the relationship between thought and consciousness strikes me
as being potentially anti-Darwinist (4): Although consciousness without thought
larly effective in cases of unhealthy attachments, be they attachment to
victimhood and self-righteous misery, obsessive attachment to people or
objects, or fear of loss as linked to separation anxiety. These attach-
ments lead to defensive detachment which DelMonte calls schizoid
defense; in extreme versions this defense is found in the affective non-
attachment of borderline personalities, defensive isolation, extreme ego-
tism, or solipsism.
However, DelMonte also warns us of the risks of using medita-
tive techniques inappropriately; their use may become detrimental to
social engagement and emotional attachment, foster narcissistic empti-
ness, pathological de-realization and de-personalization as well as
pathological regressionfixated on Thanatos, i.e, the wish to return to
an undemanding pre-incarnate state. Meditation is not suitable for eve-
rybody nor is everyone ready for it.
The challenge for all self-conscious and reflective beings is
how to build up an internal sense of self while being and living in an
impermanent world. We all have a quest for knowledge as well as two
typical orientations: introversion and extroversion, which need to be in
equilibrium. Successful meditation helps one find the right balance be-
tween, on one hand, introspection and self awareness and on the other,
social adaptation. Not surprisingly, introspection tends to become more
important as we age.
A final point is what DelMonte calls the obsessive Western
focus on individualism that leads to a strong individual identity being
forged at the risk of this over-valued mask or false self being taken
too seriously. The traditional Eastern society, says DelMonte, does not
overly focus on individualism
and may facilitate attempts to dis-
is a possibility, its opposite, thought without some consciousness is not (excluding
the Freudian repressed unconscious). Consciousness thus appears to be primary, and
from it emerges thought as a secondary epi-phenomenon: An epi-phenomenon that
can become parasitic, in the sense that consciousness can play the role of a reluc-
tant host to our unbidden thinking.
DelMonte touches here on a set of problems that are especially associated with the
work of Louis Dumont (see especially his Homo Hierarchicus. Le systme des castes
et ses implications. Repr. Paris 1979). However, Dumont`s inspiring work also met
with strong criticism. The issues involved are too complex and multifaceted to be
dealt with here, but to risk a generalization about Indian civilization (for I have no
overall competence in Eastern civilization), I would say that the tensions and in-
ner conflict between Homo Hierarchicus and Homo Equalis are present also
within Indian society.
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identify from over-invested individualism. It is interesting that the aim
of yoga as a psychotherapy is not to become atomized emotional is-
lands, although this is precisely the purpose of traditional yoga (see for
instance Maas` paper in this volume): Liberation consists in the aware-
ness that one is an isolated island, albeit not an emotional one.
The above papers fall into two broad categories, those dealing with his-
torical-philological aspects of yogic perception and meditation, and
others broadly falling into the social sciences of anthropology and psy-
chology. The need for an interdisciplinary approach between textual and
sociological disciplines is so obvious that it hardly needs to be men-
tioned. But at the risk of stating the obvious: The benefits of an interdis-
ciplinary approach as practiced here should go in at least two directions.
On one hand, after taking a walk in the modern social sciences, the tex-
tual scholars should be able to go back to their sources and gain a better
understanding of them. The social scientists, on the other hand, who
study meditative experiences as a cultural phenomenon, would certainly
benefit from the historical depth that can be gained from the study of
texts. As Richard Gombrich once saidI paraphrase from memory
Buddhism has been around for 2500 years: who in his right mind would
want to restrict one`s study of it to the last century? The same is true of
course for Hinduism and the European civilization.
To conclude, I should mention perhaps what was under-
represented at the conference and is completely lacking in the present
volume: the natural sciences. This reflects the approach and interests of
the organizers. Collingwood once chastised someone who thought the
mind is what proves recalcitrant to an explanation by the natural sci-
ences: In the natural sciences, mind is not that which is left over when
explaining has broken down; it is what does the explaining. If an expla-
nation of mind is what you want, you have come to the wrong shop; you
ought to have gone to the sciences of the mind.
Our intention is not to question the relationship between the
mind and the brain, or their possible ontological identity. At present,
however, we do not yet seem to gain much when quantum physicists
R.G. Collingwood, The New Leviathan. Oxford 1942 (Repr. 1944), p. 11, 2.48.
tell us that consciousness is related to the collapse of a wave function
which is used to describe the probability of distribution of all possible
states of an observed system. Nor do we wish to dwell on the concept of
relativity in Madhyamaka Buddhism as a precursor of modern physics
or on the resonance of emptiness and quantum mechanics. We also con-
sider of little relevance to our studies whether gamma or alpha rays
increase or decrease in deep meditation. It may be fascinating to ob-
serve the physical changes that occur in meditation, which include
metabolic, autonomic, endocrine, neurological, encephalographic and
digestive effects, galvanic skin responses, hormone levels in blood, as
well as limbic arousal in the brain. We deny neither the merit nor inter-
est nor importance of these studies, but have deemed them of peripheral
relevance to the studies undertaken in this volume.
Part I
Yogic Perception in the South Asian
and Tibetan Traditions
Just Like Us, Just Like Now: The Tactical
Implications of the Mms Rejection of Yogic
The practitioners of traditional Indian hermeneutics, or Mms, are
often described as the most orthodox upholders of the Vedic tradition,
but even a cursory survey of the central works of the Mms tradition
is sufficient to reveal that their positions were often quite radical,
placing them at odds with most or all rival philosophical systems, even
those within the Hindu fold. They were by and large skeptical about,
or outright deniers of, many of the stock elements of Hindu
cosmologyfor example, the existence of gods, the cyclical dissolution
and reemergence of the cosmos, the possibility of liberation from the
cycle of death and rebirth. Similarly, the Mms position on yogic
perception is decidedly at odds with what we might describe as
mainstream opinion among Sanskrit philosophers. In opposition to
virtually all other schools of thought in pre-modern India, the
Mmsakas totally reject the possibility of yogic or supernatural
perception. The only other group of philosophers who made this
absolute denial were the materialist Crvkas (with whom the
Mmsakas otherwise have very little in common). In this paper I
want to briefly consider some of the principal arguments the
Mmsakas raised against yogic perception, in the hope of shedding
some light on what made this skeptical stance so appealing to them or,
perhaps more to the point, what made the admission of supernormal
perception, even on the part of upholders of the Vedic tradition, seem so
threatening to them. I will focus primarily on the arguments of the
seventh century Mmsaka Kumrilabhaa, as he proved to be the
most articulate and influential critic of yogic perception.
In interpreting Kumrilas arguments against yogic perception
and attempting to understand their motivation, it is crucial to attend to
the context in which they are made. Kumrilas most important
discussions of yogic perception are found in the Codanstra and
Pratyakapariccheda sections of his lokavrttika.
The central question
of the lokavrttika, and of the section of the Mmsstra on which it
comments, is to demonstrate that it is only from scripture, specifically
from the Vedas, that people can gain knowledge of dharma and
adharmathat is to say, of the beneficial or adverse karmic results that
will follow from present actions, including but not limited to
otherworldly results such as the obtainment of heaven or spiritual
liberation. The primary purpose of raising the question of yogic
perception in both of the passages mentioned above is to rule it out as a
rival means of knowing dharma, leaving scripture as the only possible
means of acquiring such knowledge.
Now, the Mmsakas are not of course alone in wishing to
ground their beliefs about the nature of the soul or the afterlife in
purportedly reliable scriptural texts. Most of the rival philosophical/-
religious traditions they confronted accepted one or another set of
scriptures as a reliable guide to otherworldly matters. What sets the
Mmsakas apart from nearly all of their rivals is their understanding
of how it is that scriptures can contain reliable information on such
matters. Rival accounts of scriptural validityboth those of extra-Vedic
rivals such as the Buddhists and Jains, and of those who upheld the
validity of the Vedas, such as the Naiyyikastake the reliability of
their scriptures to derive from the knowledgeability of their authors.
Intuitively enough, they take the position that scriptures should be
understood to be reliable insofar as it can be determined that those who
composed them knew whereof they spoke. The remembered and
recorded words of seers such as the Buddha and the Jina are seen as
valuable insofar as they give us access to truths which they could
perceive, but we cannot. It is, above all, against such claims of personal
authority in matters of dharma that the Mmsakas direct their fire. It
is therefore not primarily the existence of yogic perception, but its
usefulness as a means for validating scriptural claims, that they wish to
deny. They do offer arguments against the very possibility that any
person could have the sort of extraordinary perceptual powers claimed
for the Buddha and the like; but, crucially, they argue further that even
if this were possibleeven if certain individuals really did have the
power to perceive dharma, for instancethis would be of no help to
For a brief overview of Kumrilas position, see Bhatt 1962, pp. 160-163.
ordinary peopleto people like ourselves who are not yogisin
gaining knowledge of dharma for themselves.
This concern to demonstrate the epistemic uselessness of yogic
perception can be clearly seen in Kumrilas seminal discussion in the
Codanstra section of the lokavrttika. The codanstra itself (the
second of the aphorisms of Jaimini, which form the basis of the
Mms system) indicates that the commands of the Veda (codan),
which the Mmsakas take to be eternal and authorless, are the only
means through which one can come to know dharma.
In the course of
defending this claim, Kumrilas predecessor abara remarks that the
statements of human beings cannot be considered reliable when they
concern matters beyond the range of the senses (anindriyaviayam),
for such things, as he says, could not be known by a person, except
through a verbal statement.
Yet if this verbal statement is made by
another person, this only pushes back the epistemological problem one
more step: how could the speaker of this statement have any knowledge
of supersensory matters to impart? In matters of this sort, says abara,
human statements have no authority, just like the statements of
congenitally blind people regarding particular colors.
abaras brief
comments, without offering any detailed arguments to this effect,
presuppose a general uniformity of sensory capacities among people:
what is beyond the range of the senses for one person will be so for
another (barring sensory impairments such as blindness). Yet this is
precisely what the advocate of yogic perception denies. The yogi is
presumed to have sensory capacities that exceed those of ordinary
persons, such that his statements would have the capacity to impart to
those ordinary persons information about supernatural matters which
they could not acquire for themselves.
Obviously, if claims for this sort of extraordinary perception are
allowed to stand, abaras argument, and the central Mms claim it
upholds, will collapse. Hence Kumrila, in commenting on and
defending this passage of abaras work, seeks to rule out the possibili-
ty that the statements of yogis could serve as a reliable source of
See Mmsstra 1.1.2 (MD, Vol. 1, p. 13): codanlakao rtho dharma.
barabhya ad 1.1.2 (MD, Vol. 1, p. 17): aakya hi tat puruea jtum rte
MD Vol.1, p. 18: naivajtyakev artheu puruavacana prmyam upaiti, jty-
andhnm iva vacana rpavieeu.
knowledge for ordinary, non-yogically-endowed people such as us. Due
to this focus on the statements of yogis and their putative validity, the
issue he confronts is not so much an ontological questionDo yogis
actually exist?but an epistemological oneHow, if at all, could one
reliably determine whether the statements of any self-proclaimed yogi
are reliable or not? The upholders of yogic perception, and of the
authorial model of scriptural authority, need to argue that their yogis,
and specifically the authors of their scriptures, have direct and
privileged access to certain truthsabout the nature of the universe, the
soul or its absence, our fate after death, and so onthat are totally
beyond the range of what ordinary people can know by their own
devices. The value of scriptures lies precisely in their capacity to
transmit to us the knowledge of those who can perceive what we
cannot. But, one of the key strategies of Kumrilas argument in the
Codanstra is to show thateven if we were to admit the existence of
yogisthe privileged access to truth that is claimed for them, far from
making their words a valuable source of knowledge for ordinary
persons, actually renders them entirely useless to us. He attempts to
show that the perceptually privileged status ascribed to yogis would
create an unbridgeable epistemic divide between us and them, such that
their own knowledge, however accurate it might be, would necessarily
remain inaccessible to us. I will examine his arguments in more detail
below, but briefly his position is that it takes one to know onethat
there is simply no way one can satisfactorily evaluate the knowledge-
claims of purported seers or yogis, unless one can confirm
independently that they really do know truly what they claim to. Yet
one cannot do this unless one has the same extraordinary perceptual
capacities that they do. Hence, the statements of those who claim
extraordinary perceptual powers can be held valid only insofar as they
are redundantwe can only know them to be true when they tell us
what we are able to find out for ourselves. So, even if it could be
established that such extraordinary perceptual powers exist in some
individuals, their epistemic value for ordinary people would be nil. One
could never tell the difference between a genuine yogi and a fraud
without being a yogi oneself.
Kumrilas argument against the epistemic usefulness of yogic-
perception claims is grounded in a pervasive skepticism regarding the
reliability of human beings and their utterances, summed up in his
bracingly cynical dictum that:
At all times, people are, for the most part, liars.
Just as there can be no confidence in them now, in the same way there is no
confidence in statements of things past.
We knowfrom abundant experience, alasthat people nowadays are
often less than entirely truthful in what they say. And just as people are
nowadays frequently seen to make unreliable statements, we may
reasonably suppose that people in the past were similarly undependable.
We have, then, strong prima facie reasons to doubt the veracity of
human statements past or present. In ordinary situations, this presents
only a minor practical problem; if one doubts the accuracy of statements
people make about everyday matters, it is easy enough to to confirm or
disconfirm them through direct observation. Yet, in the case of
statements made by the Buddha, the Jina, or others who claim to
possess extraordinary perceptual powers (and, in fact, claim to be
literally omniscient), we are asked to place our trust in claims we are
absolutely incapable of verifying for ourselves. We are asked,
moreover, to accept that those who made these claims gained their own
knowledge through a kind of perception wholly unlike any perception
we have ever experienced ourselves, or witnessed in others.
Here Kumrila resorts to one of his most characteristic moves:
what we might call an inference from the ordinary. He argues that, in
the absence of strong counterevidence, we may legitimately infer that
the perceptual capacities of other personspast, present and future
are basically similar to our own. Since people, in our own experience,
have no ability to perceivefor exampleobjects existing in the past
or future, we can legitimately extrapolate from this experience and
conclude that people in the past were similarly limited in their
perceptual capacities.
As he says:
People can apprehend objects of a certain sort by certain means of knowledge
now. It was the same even in other times.
Even where a heightened ability [in some sense faculty] is seen, it occurs
without overstepping the natural object [of that sense faculty], as, for example,
V, Codan 144: sarvad cpi puru pryenrtavdina | yathdyatve na vis-
rambhas tathttrthakrtane ||
For an argument that awareness of past or future objects must be excluded, by defi-
nition, from the scope of perception, see V, Pratyaka 26-36, and (for a translation
and explanation of the passage) Taber 2005, pp. 54-57.
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when someone sees objects which are far away or very small. But ones
hearing cannot apprehend color.
And one never sees, even in the smallest degree, a capacity to perceive a
future object ...
In our own experience, we observe that there are variations in peoples
perceptual capacities. Some people are better than others at seeing
distant or minute objects, and, extrapolating from this experiential base,
we could plausibly enough imagine people who can see farther or
smaller objects than any we have known. But we could not plausibly
imagine people who could see sounds or smells; it seems to be
inextricably part of the nature of seeing that what we see are colors
and shapes, nothing else. As Kumrila sees it, supposing, in
contradiction our own present-day experience, that people such as the
Buddha could see the future involves a similar category error. To
suppose that anyone could perceive future objects would fly in the face
of our own experience in the same way as supposing that one could hear
This sort of argumentthat, in general, things or people in the
past may legitimately inferred to be like nowadays (adyavat, idnm
iva) or like people nowadays (adyatanavat), and that people outside
the range of our own experience may be inferred to be like persons
such as ourselves (asmaddivat)is pervasive in Kumrilas work,
and underlies many of the key arguments of the lokavrttika (not only
arguments against supernormal perception, but arguments in support of
the eternality of Sanskrit, and of the Vedas, and against the occurrence
of cosmic dissolution).
It may seem a rather cheap argumentnot
much more than a reflexively conservative attitudebut it does appear
to generate formally valid inferences, and is not without a certain basic
plausibility. If we do not base our understanding of the nature of
V, Codan 113-115: yajjtyai pramais tu yajjtyrthadaranam | bhaved
idn lokasya tath klntare py abht || yatrpy atiayo dr a sa svrthnati-
laghant | draskmdidau syn na rpe rotravrttit || bhaviyati na dr a ca
pratyakasya mang api | smrthya... || Similar statements from Kumrilas (lost)
Brk are quoted in Ratnakrtis Sarvajasiddhi (RN, p. 8) and ntirakitas
Tattvasagraha (TS, vss. 3160-3163, 3170-3171).
See for example V, Codan 99, 117, 144, 151; V.Pratyaka.35; V, Nirlambana-
vda.85, 127; V, Sabandhkepaparihra 67, 77, 97, 113, 116; V, tma-
vda.137; Tantravrttika ad 1.3.1 (MD, Vol. 2, pp. 71, 75).
perception on our own experience of it, then what, after all, are we to
base it on?
The key question then is this: since neither we ourselves nor
anyone in our own experience possesses the kind of perceptual
capacities claimed for persons like the Buddha, what sort of evidence
might there be that would lead us to lay aside the evidence of
experience and accept these claims at face value? Ex hypothesi, we have
no perceptual evidence that would support such claims. On the other
hand, if one were to rely upon scripture itself to support the knowledge
claims, problems of regress would arise. To conclude that a purported
seer possesses extraordinary knowledge because he himself claims to do
so in a text he himself has authored is plainly circular. But if one relies
on a claim made in a text composed by another author, one simply
presses the problem back one level: How can one know that this second
author himself possesses the relevant knowledge to support his claim?
It might seem that the most promising avenue to pursue in
attempting to validate omniscience claims in the eyes of non-omniscient
persons would be inference. If we see that a person such as the Buddha
invariably speaks accurately about matters that are confirmable through
perception or other ordinary means of knowledge, may we not infer that
his statements about supersensory matters are similarly accurate? To
this Kumrila responds as follows:
If, having seen that [an author] makes true statements in matters where a
connection between the object and the sense organ is [possible] (i.e. in matters
accessible to ordinary perception), one were to conclude that he also makes
true statements about matters that must be taken on faith, because they are his
statements [121]; then one will have demonstrated that the authority [of his
See V, Codan 117-118. Somewhat different problems would arise if one at-
tempted to support the knowledge claims of a human scripture-author with claims
made in a purportedly eternal scripture such as the Veda: an eternal text could not
contain information about a historically limited author (as it would have to have ex-
isted before he did). Eternal texts, the Mmsakas argue, cannot refer to particular
historical persons or events. Those passages in eternal texts which appear to refer to
such persons and events must be understood as figuratively praising or otherwise re-
ferring to elements of the (eternally recurrent) Vedic sacrificewhat the
Mmsakas call arthavda. Hence, any apparent reference in a purportedly eternal
text to the omniscience of a particular scripture-author would either have to be an
arthavda passage (and accordingly be interpreted figuratively), or, as a historical
reference, would show that the text is not in fact eternalsee V, Codan 119-120.
statements] is dependent [on perceptual confirmation]. If they are authoritative
in and of themselves, then what dependence would there be on sense-organs
and the like? [122] Just as, in this case, the authority [of his statements] is due
to being determined by sense-organs and the like, it would be the same even in
matters which must be taken on faith. [Their] authority is not established
independently. [123]
The inference does not establish what it is intended to establish. If the
only testably valid knowledge claims an author makes are those
concerning matters accessible to ordinary means of knowledge such as
sense perception, then this can establish the authority of the author's
claims only in so far as they depend on these ordinary means of
knowledge. It can in no way establish that this pattern of accuracy
extends to supersensory matters as well.
Kumrila does not himself offer any example of the sort of
testable knowledge claims which might be advanced as evidence for the
accuracy of their speakers, but his commentators all mention the
Buddhist doctrine of momentariness in this connection.
If the
Buddhas claim that all things are momentary could be shown to be true
on grounds other than his own assertion, would this not confirm his
reliability? But Kumrilas argument is well-suited to get around this
sort of example. If the momentariness of all things really were
demonstrable on grounds other than the Buddhas assertion, then it
would in fact be a truth accessible through ordinary means of
knowledge, and hence could not serve as evidence for his accuracy in
matters beyond the scope of these ordinary means of knowledge. The
same would be true of any claim of a purported yogi which could be
verified through ordinary means of knowledge.
In addition, Kumrila challenges the inferential argument for
yogic reliability with the following counterinference:
Furthermore, when [human statements] concern objects beyond the range of
the senses, they are false, because they are human statements. [In this
V, Codan 121-123 (=V(U), pp. 75-76, V(S), Vol. 1, p. 127): yo pndriyrtha-
sabandhaviaye satyavditm | drv tadvacanatvena raddheyrthe pi kalpayet ||
tenpi pratantryea sdhit syt pramat | prmya cet svaya tasya
kpeknyendriydiu || yathaivtrendriydibhya paricchedt pramat | rad-
dheye pi tathaiva syn na svtantryea labhyate ||
See Umbeka, Sucaritamira, and Prthasrathi ad V, Codan 121, V(S), Vol. 1, p.
127, and V, p. 83.
inference] each of the extra-Vedic schools will serve as an example (lit.:
similar case, sapaka) for the others.
Because there are multiple and conflicting claims about what exactly
yogic perception reveals about the ultimate nature of thingsthe Jainas
saying one thing, and the Buddhists another, for instanceeach of these
schools must argue that the others are wrong, and that their claims of
supersensory knowledge are false. But this allows the Mmsaka to
use each case as an example in constructing an inference to counter the
other. The Buddhists must admit that the Jainas claim accuracy for their
scriptures based on the demonstrable accuracy of the Jinas testable
truth claims, and yet are wrong. And the Jainas must admit the same
regarding the Buddhists. Thus each can be used to demonstrate to the
other the insufficiency of the inference from accuracy about ordinary
matters to accuracy about supersensory ones.
This line of argument suggests another basic problem with
accepting the claims of yogic perception. The non-yogi attempting to
judge for himself whether yogic claims should be taken seriously or not
is confronted, not with one persons claim to accuracy in supersensory
matters, but with a whole host of mutually conflicting claimsfrom
Buddhists, Jainas, Skhyas, and others. Even if one were to admit
yogic perception as a general possibility, how, lacking any means for
judging among this welter of conflicting claims, could one hope to
determine which claims one should believe? Once the door has been
opened to claims of extraordinary perception, a free-for-all ensues. It
seems that almost anyone can make any claim based on such privileged
perceptual knowledge with more or less equal plausibility. Yet, because
any number of these conflicting and untestable knowledge-claims can
be (and are) made, no one such claim can convince. Kumrila touches
briefly on this issue in the Nirlambanavda section of the lokavrttika
(88-94). The (Buddhist-Idealist) opponent claims that all our
awarenesses exist without any extra-mental object, like dream-
awarenesses. Kumrila, challenging the parallel between waking and
V, Codan 126:
api claukikrthatve sati puvkyahetukam |
mithytva vedabhyn syd anyonya sapakat ||
The printed edition of V reads vedavkyn, as does V(S), but its clear from
his comments (V(S), Vol. 1, p. 129) that Sucaritamira read -bhyn; V(U)
prints the text correctly as vedabhyn (p. 76).
dream awareness, notes that in the case of dreams we conclude that our
awareness lacked an extramental object only after we wake up. Our
experience of waking serves as a blocking awareness (bdhik buddhi)
which invalidates the dream. But in the case of our waking awareness,
there is no such blocking awareness, and therefore no reason to
conclude that the objects that appear to us in waking life are unreal. The
Buddhist counters that the awareness of yogis does indeed reveal the
unreality of everyday objects, and therefore stands in contradiction to
our waking awareness. But, Kumrila retorts, [the awareness] of our
yogis [yogin csmadynm] stands in contradiction to what you
have said.
Kumrilas reference to our yogis seems rather tongue in
cheek. Since the Mmsakas themselves absolutely deny yogic
perception, the us in question must demarcate some broader
affiliation of stikas or followers of the Vedas (what we would now
call Hindus). The point, of course, is not to claim that our yogis are
better and more trustworthy than those of the Buddhists, but to show
that anyone can play the yogi-card in any debate, and that such claims
are consequently useless in settling philosophical disputes.
Along the same lines, and still more facetiously, Kumrila
mocks the opponents inference for the reliability of yogic perception
(in the Codanstra section) as follows:
[I say:] The Buddha and other such people are not omniscient. This
statement of mine is true, because it is my statement, just as [when I say],
Fire is hot and bright.
And one can perceive that I have made this statement; you have to prove that
[those statements] were made by the that person [i.e. the Buddha or whoever].
Therefore, mine is a sound inferential reason; yours is open to the suspicion
that is not established [in the desired locus].
If the ability to make true statements about ordinary things is all that is
required to speak with authority on supersensory matters, then anyone
can claim such authorityeven Kumrila himself. Again, the real point
is not to reveal the untenability of the Buddhist claim in particular, or
even the general impossibility of yogic perception, but to expose the
indeterminacy and consequent irresolvability of arguments based on
V, Nirlambana 94cd (=V(S) 2.60): yogin csmadyn tvaduktapratiyogin ||
V, Codan 130-131: buddhdnm asrvajyam iti satya vaco mama | madukta-
tvd yathaivgnir uo bhsvara ity api || pratyaka ca maduktatva tvay sdhy
taduktat | tena hetur madya syt sadigdhsiddhat tava ||
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claims of privileged perception. Since there is simply no way to test
such claims, or to sort out good ones from bad ones, there is nothing to
prevent anyone from claiming the authority of yogic perception for any
conclusion he wishes to advance.
All claims to privileged or supernormal perceptual knowledge
are suspect precisely because of their privileged status. Statements
based on such knowledge, if they are to be at all useful, must be
transmitted at some point from persons who have this privileged
perceptual knowledge to those who do not. Yet the recipients of this
knowledge, because they have no access to the perceptual awareness
from which it is derived, are in no position to evaluate its accuracy.
Thus the revelatory moment, when the yogi or the omniscient person
imparts his knowledge to those who lack his perceptual ability, is
doomed to fail epistemically. To quote Kumrila again: How could
people at that time who wish to know whether that person is omniscient
understand this, if they have no awareness of his knowledge and its
And you would need to postulate many omniscient personsanyone who is
not himself omniscient cannot know an omniscient person.
And, if a person does not know him to be omniscient, then his statements
would have no authority for that person, since he would not know their source,
just as with the statements of any other person.
Even actual omniscience is not sufficient to make ones statements
trustworthy from the perspective of ordinary people. Ones omniscience
could underwrite the authority of ones statements only if it were known
to ones hearers that one is omniscient. But they cannot truly know this
unless they already know what you knowunless they too are
omniscient. It takes one to know one. Hence, even the utterances of a
genuinely omniscient person would be, for epistemic purposes,
absolutely worthless. One could be confident of their accuracy only if
one already had independent knowledge of the information they convey.
To adopt any less rigorous standard than this in judging the
validity of a persons statements regarding supersensory matters is to
leave oneself no defense against charlatans or delusional people
V, Codan 135-136: kalpany ca sarvaj bhaveyur bahavas tava | ya eva syd
asarvaja sa sarvaja na budhyate || sarvajo navabuddha ca yenaiva syn na
ta prati | tadvkyn pramatva mljne nyavkyavat ||
claiming knowledge they do not possess, and opens one up to a
multitude of irresolvable and contradictory claims, as discussed above.
Kumrilas hermeneutic of suspicion is absolute and uncompromising.
Even God himself (were such a being to exist) could not be seen as a
reliable informant in supersensory matters. In the Sambandhkepapari-
hra section of the lokavrttika, Kumrila, having already set forth
arguments against the existence of a creator God, goes on to show that,
even if He did exist, no one could ever trust His claim that he created
the world. As he says:
He could not be known by anybody, at any time.
Even if he were perceived with his own form, the fact of his being the Creator
would not be known. How could even the first beings in creation know this?
They would not know how they were born here, or what the prior state of the
world was, or that Prajpati is the creator.
Nor could they have certain knowledge of this due to His own statement; for,
even if he hadnt created the world, He might say it, in order to promulgate
His own lordship.
So no person, human or even divine, could be taken as a reliable
informant on matters beyond the scope of ordinary means of
knowledge. You cant be too careful.
Yet, despite their thoroughgoing suspicion regarding the
reliability of any persons utterances, the Mmsakas are not skeptics.
They believe in a soul, they believe in an afterlife, and they believe it is
possible for us to acquire reliable knowledge about such things. But
how, in the light of the preceding arguments, can they believe anything
of the kind? Famously (or infamously) they do so by pushing aside the
issue of personal authority altogether, by arguing that their own
scriptures are not they product of any authors at allhuman or divine,
yogically perceptive or otherwisebut are instead eternal and uncreated
texts, passed down orally from teacher to student in a beginningless and
unbroken chain of transmission. As we have seen from Kumrilas
arguments above, it is the moment of revelation, when the knowing
author transmits his knowledge verbally to his perceptually limited
V, Sambandhkepaparihra 57cd-60: na ca kaicid asau jtu kadcid api
akyate || svarpeopalabdhe pi srartva nvagamyate | sr ydy prino ye ca
budhyantm ki nu te tad || kuto vayam ihotpann iti tvan na jnate | prgava-
sth ca jagata srartva ca prajpate || na ca tadvacanenai pratipatti
sunicit | asr vpi hy asau bryd tmaivaryaprakant ||
hearers, that lies at the heart of the epistemic problem he finds with
authored scriptures. But in the case of the Veda, at least for the
Mmsakas, there is no moment of revelation. The text, and the
knowledge it contains, are always already the property of many. And
one need postulate no extraordinary perceptual or cognitive abilities on
the part of the receivers and transmitters of the tradition in order to
account for its epistemic effectiveness. As Kumrila explains:
Because it exists in many people, and because it is learned and remembered
within a single lifetime, there is nothing to impair independent authority in the
case of the Veda. And, if there were any alteration [of the Vedic text], it would
be prevented by many people. Whereas if [the text] were revealed to one
person, it would be no different from one created [by that person].
So, in this tradition, no one person is required.
Many people can be dependent [on it]; for they are all men, just like
Knowledge of the Veda is thus always embedded in a community.
There is no time, and has never been any time, when its hearers were
faced with the dilemma that confronted the Buddhas first audience:
Faced with a person who claims to see the ultimate nature of reality,
how is one to judge his trustworthiness, or the accuracy of his
knowledge? Is one simply to accept his claims on faith? In the case of
the Veda, there is not, and never has been any one person in whom one
needs to place this kind of trust.
The key features of Kumrila's argument are thrown into relief
if we compare them with his discussion of the authority of smrti texts in
his other major work, the Tantravrttika (TV), commenting on MS
1.3.1-2. These texts are held to be the work of human authors (such as
the Mnavadharmastra, held to be the work of the human sage
Manu), but are nevertheless held to be authoritative in matters of
dharma, since they are thought to contain a restatement of matter
derived from lost or otherwise inaccessible Vedic texts (which are
therefore said to be remembered [smrta], rather than heard [ruta]).
The hypothetical opponent (prvapakin) who presents the case against
the Mms position here employs arguments strikingly similar to
V, Codan 149-151: anekapuruasthatvd ekatraiva ca janmani | grahaasmara-
d vede na svtantrya vihanyate || anyathkarae csya bahubhi syn nivraam
| ekasya pratibhna tu kr takn na viiyate || ata ca sapradye ca naika purua
iyate | bahava paratantr syu sarve hy adyatvavan nar ||
those deployed by Kumrila himself in rejecting the authority of
scriptures composed by self-proclaimed omniscient persons such as
the Buddha or the Jina. We see the same invidious comparison with
deceptive present day persons (Even nowadays some people are seen
to declaim things with no scriptural basis by passing them off as
), and the same problem of indeterminacy (And, as in a
legal proceeding in which the witness is dead, if one may postulate a
lost Vedic recension as the basis [for claims made in smrti texts], one
can take as authoritative anything that one pleases
), leading to the
same difficulty that even the scriptural claims of rival traditions could
be validated on the same basis (If [smrti texts] are supposed to be
based on lost Vedic recensions, then, by this means, it would follow that
all smrtiseven those of Buddhists and the likewould be valid.
The key distinction, for Kumrila, between the Mms defense of
authored texts and that given by rival traditions such as Buddhism is
that the Mmsakas claim for smrti-authors such as Manu no special
insight or sensory power beyond those observed in ordinary people
nowadayspeople just like us.
As Manu's text is universally held to
be valid among those who uphold the Vedic tradition, one may
reasonably infer that the claims he makes are themselves grounded in
that tradition, even if the specific Vedic texts which serve as the source
of these claims are not presently accessible to us. There is nothing
contrary to our experience in supposing that Manu learned the truths
imparted in his work in the ordinary manner, by memorizing a Vedic
text taught to him by an ordinary human teacher.
The process by
dryante hy angamikn apy arthn gamikatvdhyropea kecid adyatve 'py
abhidadhn (MD, Vol. 2, p. 71).
mrtaskikavyavahravac ca pralnakhmlatvakalpany yasmai yad rocate sa
tat pramkuryt (MD, Vol. 2, p. 71).
yadi tu pralnakhmlat kalpyeta tata sarvs buddhdismrtnm api
taddvra prmya prasajyate (MD, Vol. 2, p. 74).
Kumrila specifically rejects the suggestion that Manu had any capacity contrary to
those of the general class of all persons nowadays (idntanasarvapuruajti-
vipartasmarthya) which would allow him to directly experience the truths con-
tained in his work; this has been rejected, he says, in the discussion of omni-
science (etat sarvajavde nirkr tam)seemingly referring back to his own dis-
cussion in the Codanstra section of his lokavrttika (MD, Vol. 2, p. 75).
As the scriptures of extra-Vedic traditions such as Buddhism and Jainism contradict,
and indeed directly attack, the Vedas, and explicitly seek to ground their authority
which these Vedic texts may have been lost is likewise a part of our
everyday experience: For even nowadays one sees that texts are lost,
while their meanings are remembered.
Even when ascribing authority
to texts of human authorship, the Mmsakas retain the basic
principles of the textual epistemology developed above: that no faith
can or should be put in statements which depend on claims of
supernormal perception or insight, and that knowledge of otherworldly
matters, in order to be reliable, must always already belong to a
(beginningless) community of knowersordinary persons like
ourselvesand can never be made to depend on such claims of
epistemic privilege.
The Mmsakas attempt to ground the reliability of Vedic
scriptures on their eternality, and on the absence of any person who
either composed or revealed them, whatever one may make of its
intrinsic philosophical merits, is a brilliant tactical move in the
Mms polemic against the their principle rivals, the Buddhists and
the Jainas. Because both traditions look back to historical founders,
neither can claim, or would want to claim, authority for their scriptures
on the only basis Kumrilas argument allows for. It is an inescapable
feature of both traditions that their emergence into our world (at least in
the present time) is due to the teachings of their founders, and that the
trustworthiness of their central claims rests on the personal authority of
these founders own words. By calling the whole notion of personal
authority into question, the Mmsaka is able to avoid the
interminable and rather sterile Our sages are better than your sages
sort of arguments that those (such as the Naiyyikas) who defend the
reliability of the Vedas by claiming omniscience for their authors, seem
always to be drawn into. They capitalize on the one feature that plainly
sets the Vedic tradition apart from that of the Buddhists or the Jainas
its immemoriality.
Bhatt 1962 Govardhan P. Bhatt, The Epistemology of the Bha School of
Prva Mms. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Studies XVII, Varanasi
on the supernormal perceptual capacities of their founders, they cannot be plausibly
supposed to derive in this way from lost Vedic texts.
dryate hy adyatve 'py arthasmaraa garnthana ca (MD, Vol. 2, p. 77).
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MD Mmsdarana, ed. Vsudeva str Abhyakar and Gaea-
str Jo, nandrama Sanskrit Series 97 [7 vols.], 2nd ed.,
Poona 1970-1977.
RN Ratnakrti, Ratnakrtinibandhvali, ed. Anant Lal Thakur, Tibetan
Sanskrit Works Series 3, Patna 1957.
V Kumrilabhaa, Mmslokavrttika, ed. Rma str Taila-
ga, Chowkhamb Sanskrit Series 11, Benares 1898.
V(S) The Mmslokavrttika with the Commentary Kik of Su-
caritamira, ed. K. Smbaiva str, Trivandrum Sanskrit Series
Nos. 23, 29, and 31, Trivandrum 1927-1943.
V(U) Umbeka, lokavrttikattparyak [2nd. ed.], ed. S.K. Rama-
natha Sastri, revised by K. Kunjunni Raja and R. Thangaswamy,
University of Madras, Madras 1971.
Taber 2005 John Taber, A Hindu Critique of Buddhist Epistemology, Rout-
ledge Curzon, London/New York 2005.
TS ntarakita, Tattvasagraha, ed. Embar Krishnamacharya,
Gaekwads Oriental Series 31 [2 vols.], Baroda 1926.
Yoga and our Epistemic Predicament
In this paper I would like to consider the question, Is yogic ex-
perience possible? It may seem odd, even inappropriate, that such a
question would be asked at a conference on yogic perception, medita-
tion, and altered states of consciousness. Surely, one would think, one
ought to be able to assume the existence of the topic of the conference! I
raise this question, however, in order to draw attention to the somewhat
awkward methodological predicament in which the participants of this
conference must find themselves. I suspect that most of us set ourselves
apart from our colleagues in our respective disciplines and a wide
range of fields are represented here by our interest in yoga, yogic per-
ception, and altered states of consciousness. I know that philosophers, at
least, tend to steer clear of these topics, which they lump together with
paranormal phenomena, just as they avoid the topic of mysticism. The
reason is that the status of these states of consciousness, in the modern
world, is very much in doubt. By that I mean whether what people who
have such experiences report experiencing when they have them, really
occurs: whether a yogin or yogin really sees past lives (where some-
one`s seeing a certain state of affairs implies the existence of that
state of affairs in same the way in which it visually appears to that per-
son); whether he or she really sees events that will take place in the fu-
ture, or really sees everything at once; and even whether he or she ever
really sinks into a completely thoughtless state, a state of pure con-
sciousness (i.e., samdhi or nirodhasampatti). In short, are these
states of consciousness more than mere hallucinations? If not, why
should they merit our attention?
Many, I believe, would respond that, regardless whether they
are hallucinations or not, they merit our attention because the belief in
them has played an important role in various societies and cultures. The
belief in the supernormal cognition, even omniscience of the Buddha,
for instance, played a central role in Buddhist apologetics in India in the
first millennium C.E., as the basis for maintaining the authority of the
Buddhist scriptures against the skepticism of outsiders. Altered states of
consciousness, whether they are authentic encounters with a transcen-
dent reality, a spirit world, or just hallucinatory experiences, are as-
signed a value and serve a variety of social functions in many other
societies. Perhaps in our research we can focus on these aspects of these
phenomena, which can be observed empirically or documented textu-
ally, and suspend judgement about their nature as experiences, i.e.,
whether they belong to the category of veracious cognitions or to some-
thing else?
This, however, will not do. Surely it is of the utmost signifi-
cance if a particular society or culture attributes value to, and invests
considerable cultural energy and resources in, something that is, at ba-
sis, an illusion just as it would be if a particular person were to build
his life around a belief that is patently false, say, a belief in the exis-
tence of some imaginary being. We would immediately suspect that
some pathology is at work, distorting that society`s collective percep-
tion of reality; and that would be a notable characteristic of that society,
which a complete social-scientific or historical account of it could not
very well leave out. Indeed, this is precisely what Freud suggested is the
case for European society a certain collective pathology supports our
belief in a Supreme Being and sustains all the practices of religion
which accompany it, which of course from a purely sociological or an-
thropological perspective serve many useful social and cultural func-
Therefore, I raise at the outset of this conference the question
that no one really wants to answer, and that is whether it is possible for
us to accept reports of yogic experience and altered states of conscious-
ness at face value, as veracious supernormal cognitive acts, e.g., actual
perceptions of things which normally lie beyond the range of our sense
faculties (states of affairs in the past or the future, for instance), or, in
the case of samdhi in particular, as the removal of all objects altogether
from consciousness, without the extinguishing of consciousness itself.
What conditions, specifically, would have to be met in order for us to
take such claims seriously? I shall approach the question by examining
a debate that actually took place in classical Indian philosophy, between
certain highly orthodox representatives of the Brahmanical tradition on
See Freud 1961.
Even in India in classical times doubts were raised about the possibility of samdhi.
See, e.g., Nyyastra and Bhya 4.2.38-40 (NBh 1090, 5 1092, 3).
the one hand, and defenders of the so-called heterodox traditions of
Buddhism and Jainism on the other, about the possibility of yogic per-
In this way we will not only become aware that we are not the
first to consider this problem; we will also get a sense of how one
school of thinkers, at least, went about solving it by presuming to be
able to prove that yogic perception is possible! An examination of their
proposed solution to this problem, I believe, will at least indicate, by its
strengths and weaknesses, the basic elements that any affirmative an-
swer to the question of whether yogic experience is possible should
Other scholars at this conference will also be referencing this
debate, but my purpose will be rather different. They, for the most part,
will be concerned with assessing it as historians, to determine the mean-
ing and importance of the doctrine of yogic perception in classical In-
dian thought. I, on the other hand, shall be assessing it as a philosopher,
to determine who wins. For since we ourselves are interested, or should
be interested, in the question of whether yogic experience is possible, it
is of particular interest to us to see whether a particular school of phi-
losophers who thought they could prove that it is possible actually suc-
ceeded in doing so.
In order to orient ourselves toward the problem of yogic percep-
tion in Indian philosophy I shall rely on Eli Franco`s important study,
Dharmakrti on Compassion and Rebirth.
One of Franco`s most sig-
nificant achievements in that book was to work out a convincing ac-
count of the proof strategy of the first chapter of Dharmakrti`s
Pramavrttika, a much discussed problem in Dharmakrti scholar-
ship. Dharmakrti, who probably lived in the first half of the seventh
century, was, together with his predecessor Dignga (early to mid-sixth
century), co-founder of the important logico-epistemological school of
Buddhist philosophy. One of the principal concerns of that school was
to place the authority of the Buddhist scriptures on a firm footing,
which in Dignga`s and Dharmakrti`s period was being increasingly
effectively challenged by Brahmanical thinkers. Franco shows that
Dharmakrti attempts to do this by actually employing a strategy origi-
nally devised, perhaps, by one of the Brahmanical schools of philoso-
A remarkably similar debate took place in fourth-century China between Confucians
and Taoists about the existence of the Taoist immortal (hsien). See Ware 1967.
See Franco 1997.
phy, the Nyya, in establishing the validity of their own scripture, the
Nyya philosophers believed the Veda to be true because it is a
valid form of testimony (abda), that is to say, it has an author or au-
thors who are pta, reliable witnesses.
This was in marked contrast
to the approach of another leading Brahmanical philosophical school of
the classical period, the Mms, which held that the Veda should be
considered true precisely because it is eternal and authorless the
Mmsakas denied that the Veda was composed by human beings, or
even by God for error in a statement or text can only derive from an
author. According to the Nyyabhya, the earliest commentary on the
Nyyastra to have come down to us, someone is an pta if he or she
possesses the qualities of having (1) direct knowledge of things, (2)
compassion toward living beings, and (3) a desire to teach things as
they are. Thus, one is able to determine that someone is an pta, in gen-
eral, by confirming his or her statements in regard to things one is able
to verify for oneself. One is able to determine that the seers and teach-
ers of the Veda are pta, in particular, by verifying the truth of the
prescriptions of the yur and Atharva Vedas, which contain medical
remedies and magical formulas for curing diseases and averting other
evils. One assumes that all portions of the Veda have the same seers and
teachers. By confirming the truth of certain parts of the Veda one can be
confident that the seers and teachers of the Veda are trustworthy in gen-
eral, i.e., have the qualities required of those who are pta, therefore,
that all parts of the Veda are true.
Dharmakrti appears to follow this strategy, Franco argues, by
attempting to demonstrate in the Pramasiddhi chapter of his magnum
opus, the Pramavrttika, the validity of the Four Noble Truths, the
central part of the Buddha`s teaching! Having confirmed for ourselves,
through reasoning (with Dharmakrti`s help), this, the most important
and profound doctrine expounded by the Buddha, we may be confident
that the Buddha is an pta (for Dharmakrti the term ptavacana is
equivalent for gama, scripture), that he possesses all the qualities ex-
pressed by the epithets of the famous dedicatory verse of Dignga`s
Pramasamuccaya, which Franco convincingly shows parallel the
Franco 1997, chap. 1, pp. 28 ff.
The Nyyabhya refers to the seers and teachers (drara prayoktra ca) of
the Veda (NBh 568, 3-5), who were probably considered its composers. By the time
of Vcaspatimira the Veda is believed to have a single, divine author.
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qualities of an pta as presented in the Nyyabhya. Thus, one may be
confident that all the Buddha`s teachings are true, including in particu-
lar his statements about the results of good and bad actions, which im-
ply recommendations about how one should live what should be done
and not done. In other words, we may be confident that the way of life
the Buddha prescribed for his disciples his Dharma, which deviates
in significant respects from the Dharma of the Brahmins as well as the
way of life of the Jainas will indeed lead to salvation, liberation from
the cycle of rebirth, if not also well-being and prosperity on earth and in
Criticisms of the Buddhist attempt to demonstrate the authority
of the Buddha by other schools, in particular, the Mms, indicate
that they understood the Buddhist argument along these same lines. The
Mms philosopher Kumrila (also first half of the 7
c. C.E.) points
out that expertise in one area does not necessarily transfer to another;
just because someone is smart in grammar doesn`t means he knows
astronomy; and certainly, the fact that one knows a lot about the sorts of
things we can know through perception and reasoning hardly implies
that he is able to know anything about transcendent matters.
Besides, if
we have to verify the Four Noble Truths in order to be confident of
them, it makes sense for us to verify other statements of the Buddha.
Why, indeed, accept anyone`s word about anything?
But the debate
quickly came to focus on one particular implication of the claim that the
Buddha had knowledge of Dharma, and that is that he was possessed of
some kind of supernormal cognitive ability. Dharma pertains to the
good and bad results of actions. One ought to do X because doing X
will yield a good result pleasure or happiness; one ought to avoid Y
See TS, 3163-66, which cites Kumrila`s lost work the Bhak.
I am rather freely paraphrasing some of Kumrila`s points. See V, Codan 121 ff.;
for a more detailed account of Kumrila`s position see the contribution by Lawrence
McCrea in this volume. It should be kept in mind that in the first chapter of the
Pramavrttika Dharmakrti indicates that the reliability of someone`s statements
in regard to things we are able to confirm does not strictly establish the truth of his
statements regarding other, supersensible things; for there is always the possibility
of a deviation (PVSV 167,23-168,3). Dignga stated that the notion of the reliabil-
ity of the statements of an pta is an inference only because there is no other
way of being guided in acting in regard to supersensible matters, according to
Dharmakrti (PV 1.216; PVSV 108, 1-6; 109, 19-22). Strictly speaking, Dharmakrti
says, scripture is not a prama (PVSV 168, 2-3)!
because doing Y will yield a bad result pain or suffering. But one is
able to know such things only insofar as one is able to see that a certain
action committed in the past yielded a certain result and a certain action
committed in the present will yield a certain result. Knowledge of
Dharma entails the ability to perceive states of affairs in the past and the
future, which ability is beyond the scope of ordinary human beings or
so, at least, the Mmsaka insists. Or else, Dharma is simply that
which ought to be done and avoided. But that, too, most Indian phi-
losophers believed, is something ordinary mortals are unable to know
independently of scripture.
The truth of the Buddha`s recommendations
about how one should live, about what should and should not be done,
believed to have originated from him and not some other scriptural
source, are thus called into question. In short, his statements about such
matters cannot be trusted, because he had no way of knowing them.
Thus the debate about the possibility of supernormal cognition,
synonymous in most texts with yogic perception, yogipratyaka, begins
in earnest across a broad range of texts in Indian philosophy. I do not
intend to survey the history of this debate here. Rather, I will be con-
cerned with what came to be the main Buddhist argument for the possi-
bility of the Buddha`s omniscience, including especially his ability to
know the results of good and bad actions, which presupposes the power
to see the past and the future.
I shall ask, what are we, in this day and
age, to make of this argument? Is it at all persuasive? Does it really es-
tablish that the perception of the past and the future, of things far away,
very small (atoms), or concealed (beneath the earth), is possible? I shall
consider this argument in its mature form, as presented by Ratnakrti in
his Sarvajasiddhi, Proof of an Omniscient Person. This text, which
represents the culmination of a long development, was translated into
German by Gudrun Bhnemann in her doctoral dissertation, written
See Taber 2005: 51-56.
The Buddhist argument under consideration here is actually presented as proving
only that the Buddha knew all things relevant to salvation, that is, as Dharmakrti
puts it, the reality of what is to be accepted and rejected and the means [thereto]
(PV 2.34), not absolutely every thing in every way. See SS 1, 9-19. Dharmakrti
suggests that proving omniscience in the latter sense would be otiose, though some
Buddhists clearly accepted it (see Jaini 1974); and it is not clear that the argument
for the omniscience of the Buddha just in regard to all things relevant to Dharma
doesn`t actually imply total omniscience.
under the supervision of Prof. Ernst Steinkellner and published in
Before I turn to Ratnakrti`s argument, however, I would like to
draw attention to certain considerations that have shaped the attitude
toward the supernatural among philosophers in our culture and therefore
define the context in which we think about it today. The category of
supernatural or supernormal phenomena with which Western philoso-
phers have traditionally been concerned has been, not yogic experience,
of course, nor even extrasensory perception, but miracles, especially
biblical miracles, which have been frequently cited by Christians as
proof of the divinity of Jesus and of the authenticity of the Bible. The
classic statement on this matter is that of David Hume in his An Inquiry
Concerning Human Understanding. It has provoked an extensive litera-
ture, which continues to grow to this day.
Hume`s concern was whether there can ever be a valid reason to
believe that a miracle has occurred. He assumes that few of us ever wit-
ness miracles ourselves, therefore the question becomes whether the
testimony of others can ever suffice to establish the occurrence of a
miracle. Now trust in testimony, Hume observes, is founded on experi-
ence. Normally, we notice, the statements of people conform to the
facts. Humans generally have decent memories, an inclination to tell the
truth, and a sense of probity accompanied by a sense of shame when
detected in a falsehood.
Thus, we are inclined to believe what they
say. Yet, Hume says, a wise man proportions his belief to the evi-
and we should take all the evidence into account. What speaks
in favor of the credibility of testimony must be balanced against what
speaks against it. We become suspicious of testimony, for example,
when witnesses contradict each other; when they are few, or of doubtful
character; when they have an interest in what they affirm, and so on. In
particular, we become suspicious of testimony when it reports some-
thing highly unusual. The improbability of the event testified to can
indeed neutralize the authority of the person or persons testifying to it.
Here Hume cites the Roman saying, I would not believe such a story
See Bhnemann 1980.
For a recent bibliography see Levine 1996. One of the most important recent contri-
butions is Coady 1992.
Hume 1955: 119.
Ibid., p. 118.
were it told to me by Cato.
Transposing this into Indian terms, the
ptatva of a witness, based on considerations about the witness`s char-
acter, his compassion and so forth, and even a solid track-record of cor-
rect statements in the past, is not sufficient by itself to guarantee the
truth of what he says. It must still be weighed against the improbability
of the fact to which he testifies.
From this Hume concludes that no testimony can ever be suffi-
cient to establish a miracle, which by definition is a violation of the
laws of nature, hence contrary to all experience. Or else,
no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony can be of
such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it
endeavors to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of ar-
guments, so that the superior gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of
force which remains ... When anyone tells me that he saw a dead man restored to
life, I immediately consider with myself whether it be more probable that this
person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates,
should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and ac-
cording to the superiority which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always
reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more mi-
raculous than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to
command my belief or opinion.
One might think that while this analysis of testimony might pose a
problem for Christians, it doesn`t for Buddhists, since the Buddha was
not given to reporting miracles. But he did make statements about the
consequences of actions, which have implications about right and
wrong, about how one should conduct one`s life. For Indians in classi-
cal times, as discussed above, that suggests that he had an ability to
know things that ordinary mortals are unable to know, specifically, the
past and the future. Such an ability is prima facie miraculous by Hume`s
definition: it is contrary to common experience. Therefore, the Bud-
dha`s statements, despite his authority established on the basis of our
alleged confirmation of the most important and profound part of his
teachings, the Four Noble Truths, are called into question by the miracle
or miracles that would have had to occur in order for them to be expres-
sions of a valid state of knowledge on his part.
Ibid., p. 121.
Ibid., pp. 123-4.
One can see from Hume`s discussion that the key to affirming
the Buddha`s authority is to show how yogic experience is possible, and
that would seem to entail showing how it is not a violation of the laws of
nature, i.e., not really a miracle at all. In other words, one must suggest
a plausible natural mechanism that can explain it. That is precisely what
Ratnakrti tries to do in his Sarvajasiddhi.
Ratnakrti`s central argument unfortunately I do not have
space to treat his views comprehensively goes roughly like this. If one
thinks long enough and intensely enough about something, then the
object of one`s reflection will eventually present itself in propria per-
sona: one will have a vivid, intuitive experience of the object as if it
were actually present. A lovesick man, obsessed with a beautiful
maiden, for example, and constantly thinking of her, will eventually
experience a vivid apparition of her, as if she were bodily present. Now
the Buddha reflected on the Four Noble Truths uninterruptedly over a
long period of time; we may expect that this reflection eventually cul-
minated in a vivid intuitive experience of the Four Noble Truths. Since
the Four Noble Truths are universal in scope they state that everything
is dukha, the cause of all dukha is desire, and so forth his intuition
of those truths encompassed everything in the past, present, and future.
And so, when the Four Noble Truths became vividly evident to him, the
properties of all things past, present, and future became evident to him
as well.
I have of course taken liberties in paraphrasing the argument. Rat-
nakrti`s own formulation is closer to the following.
Any property or quality of the mind (cetogua) which is accompanied by atten-
tive, continuous, and sustained practice (abhysa) is capable of becoming vivid
(sphubhvayogya), like the mental representation (kra) of a maiden of a
lovesick man. The mental representations of the Four Noble Truths of the Bud-
dha are like that they are mental qualities that were cultivated by attentive,
continuous, and sustained practice. Hence they were capable of becoming vivid
(SS 1, 20-25).
Ratnakrti is aware of course that this does not directly prove the omnis-
cience of the Buddha but just the possibility of a mental state achieving,
through continuous repetition, a kind of intuitive quality (SS 4, 24 ff.).
Vividness is the hallmark of perception for Ratnakrti, as we shall see;
hence, for any vivid, intuitive awareness there is a presumption in favor
of its truth. It is only by further implication that the person who has
achieved a vivid intuition of the Four Noble Truths through this kind of
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practice can have a vivid intuition of all things in the past, present, and
future, which comprise the subject of the propositions which are the
Four Noble Truths (except perhaps the fourth) (SS 10, 18-21).
It is
sufficient to establish merely this possibility, says Ratnakrti, in order to
refute those who deny there could be any cause of omniscience (i.e., the
Mmsakas and Crvkas [materialist philosophers]) (SS 5, 12-13). In
fact, if one maintained that a vivid intuition will arise from the constant
repetition of a particular mental state, then one would be inferring an
effect from its cause, which is illegitimate (SS 5, 4-5). That specifically
the Buddha had such a (veracious) intuition is then indicated by the
correctness of his teachings of the momentariness and selflessness of all
entities, which are established by other pramas but which other sages
alleged to be omniscient reject (SS 6, 10-21) that is to say, in effect,
by his ptatva, his compassion and wisdom as established by our own
confirmation of the truth of his main teachings. It would be impossible
to prove directly that a particular person such as the Buddha is omnis-
cient, because there is no class of omniscient persons with which to
compare him and in which he would be included if he possessed a cer-
tain characteristic mark.
Thus, the crux of Ratnakrti`s proof is the attempt to establish
the possibility of bringing a cognition to complete vividness, in effect
raising it to the status of a perception, through constant and intense
The first thing that strikes the modern reader about the proof is
the example, which is supposed to ground the generalization that mental
states that are practiced attentively, constantly, and over a long period
of time indeed yield vivid intuitions. What is Ratnakrti talking about
when he says that the lovesick man, obsessed with the maiden, eventu-
ally sees her (as if) before his very eyes? This is not the sort of thing
that is often reported in our culture. Nor, for that matter, does it seem to
This, however, is from the Buddhist prvapaka of Vcaspatimira`s Nyyakaik
which Ratnakrti quotes (see below) and the point is made in regard to knowledge
of the selflessnessness of all entities, not the Four Noble Truths. Ratnakrti does not
make the point explicitly himself. Cf., however, TS 3440-42. McClintock 2000 of-
fers an analysis of how ntarakita and Kamalala thought a cognition of all things
could follow from the cognition of one general object, such as emptiness or selfless-
ness. It should be noted, however, that the notion of omniscience as the ability to
know all objects at once is rejected in the Pali Canon. See Jaini 1974, 80-82.
have been a staple of Indian literature. Kuntidev in the Mahbhrata is
able to call into her presence the various gods, but she was given a man-
tra to do that. Visualization practices are known throughout Tantric and
sectarian Hindu literature, and of course bhvan has a lengthy history
in Buddhism prior to Ratnakrti, but those are precisely the sorts of
techniques the efficacy of which is in question here. To cite them as
examples for establishing the connection of the logical reason of this
inference with the property-to-be-proved would be an obvious petitio
principii. I shall return to this point presently. Vcaspatimira, however,
the Brahmanical writer, in his discussion of this argument in his
Nyyakaik, has the Buddhist maintaining that this is something we
can actually observe, if only indirectly. We know from the speech and
gestures of a lovesick man that he finds himself in the presence of the
woman he is obsessed with, for he says, Come, you enchanting crea-
ture with the jug-like breasts, eyes of a deer, and slender, golden body
embrace me like the vine of the Kandal plant. I fall down at your
But if this is what Ratnakrti is talking about, his example, at the
same time that it establishes the possibility of a very vivid intuitive
cognition arising from constant and sustained reflection, also suggests
its falsehood. The lovesick man may indeed be seeing a beautiful
woman, but if we can`t see her, too, then she is not real!
Vcaspati raises essentially this objection in his discussion of an
earlier version of the Buddhist argument in his Nyyakaik, which
Ratnakrti quotes at length in the Sarvajasiddhi and attempts to refute
(SS 10, 15 11, 25).
(Vcaspati, by the way, is a somewhat puzzling
figure in that he wrote, besides the Nyyakaik, in which he attacks the
very possibility of yogic perception, also a commentary on the
Yogastrabhya, in which he takes all kinds of yogic experience very
seriously.) We will grant, Vcaspati says, that someone might produce a
vivid intuitive cognition of an object through constant reflection or con-
templation (bhvan) on it, but that cognition will not be a prama, a
valid means of knowledge; for, neither identical with nor arising from
that object, it can deviate from it, that is, it can turn out that the object is
quite different from how it is represented in the cognition. The Bud-
Adapted from Vidhiviveka, 1218,10-1220,3. Dharmakrti also suggests that the
fact that a person is experiencing the object as if it is bodily present can be inferred
from his behavior; see the contribution by Vincent Eltschinger in this volume.
In the Nyyakaik the discussion extends from 1214,8-1224,9.
dha`s vivid intuitive cognition of all entities as dukha and so forth, as a
result of his meditation on the Four Noble Truths, which are proposi-
tional in nature and which he arrived at presumably through some proc-
ess of reasoning, did not actually arise from all the entities in the uni-
verse, the ultimately real particulars themselves, but from his thought
about them. The Four Noble Truths refer to everything only in a gen-
eral way; they do not specifically mention that entity A is dukha, entity
B is dukha, and so forth. If one were to maintain that the Buddha`s
intuitive cognition of all entities nevertheless arose indirectly from all
ultimately real particulars (svalakaas), in the same way that an infer-
ential cognition of fire from the observation of smoke arises indirectly
from the svalakaa of fire that produces the svalakaa of smoke that
one observes, and in the same way that a vivid intuitive cognition of fire
resulting from continuous and sustained contemplation on that inferred
fire might be said to arise indirectly from the particular fire and thus be
caused by its object if one were to take this view, one must still ac-
knowledge that the intuitive cognition of fire resulting from the medita-
tion on the fire we inferred to exist from the heavy smoke rising from,
say, the top of the ridge, is usually quite different from the searing blaze
we are confronted with when we finally get to the top of the ridge! In
general, says Vcaspati, the intuitive cognition resulting from bhvan
is produced not by its object but by the bhvan as if to say, it is a
state of subjective effervescence or intensity engendered just by the
mental activity of contemplation. It can have an unreal object just as
easily as a real one, as we see indeed in the case of the lovesick man. If
we were ever to encounter such a person in our day we would tend to
dismiss him, saying something like, He`s really worked himself into a
Dharmakrti tries to escape this problem by stipulating that yogic perception must be
reliable, savdin (PV 3.286) or else consistent with a prama (prama-
savdin), if one reads the verse according to Franco`s recommendation (see
Franco forthcoming). He recognizes that some of the meditational exercises that
form part of the preliminary path for the Buddhist adept achieve vivid, non-
conceptual cognitions of unreal (abhta), imagined objects, such as a corpse in vari-
ous stages of decay (PV 3.284). For a yogic cognition to count as an instance of the
prama perception its object must be established by other pramas, in particular,
reasoning. Thus, the chief, if not indeed the sole, object of (valid) yogic perception
for Dharmakrti is the Four Noble Truths, which he establishes by means of reason-
ing in the second chapter of his Pramavrttika. See, again, the contribution by
Ratnakrti`s response to this, which I take to be the main criti-
cism of his argument as I have reconstructed it, is not unsophisticated;
in the end, however, it does not seem completely satisfactory. He
stresses at the outset, partially in reply to objections raised by other au-
thors, that the essence of perception does not consist in its being pro-
duced by an external sense faculty, but in its involving the immediate
presentation of its object (sktkra) (SS 16, 32-33). The vivid intui-
tive cognition of all things produced by bhvan on the Four Noble
Truths is a mental cognition that immediately reveals its object and
therefore qualifies as a perception. Just as the visual sense, without
violating its [normal] capacity, functions to produce its specific [visual]
cognition dependent on an object located in an appropriate place, so the
mind, which is also a sense faculty, joined with bhvan on an existing
object, which opposes all ignorance, and reaching (prpya!) an object
located in an appropriate place, will function to produce its specific
cognition (svavijnajanana) (SS 17, 2-4). Just as visual perception is
possible without coming directly in contact with its object, so is mental
cognition of objects in the past and the future possible but not for
everyone! The key here is the practice of a kind of bhvan that de-
stroys the defilements that normally restrict the capacity of perception
to objects proximate in time and space, in particular, bhvan on the
Four Noble Truths or on the momentariness and selflessness of all enti-
ties (SS 17, 4-14). Once one fully comprehends these things, ignorance
is destroyed, which uproots the other defilements (kleas). This kind of
bhvan, which reveals the object as it truly is even though the mind is
not in immediate contact with it in the same way, for the Buddhist, the
senses of vision and hearing apprehend their objects without being di-
rectly in contact with them must be said to arise from the object itself,
and not just from the bhvan, and so it is a prama.
Vcaspati`s example of an intuitive cognition produced from
contemplation on an inferred fire, which is seen not always to corre-
spond to its object, is therefore a sheer fantasy and cannot be taken as
challenging the generalization the Buddhist really wants to establish,
namely, that bhvan on an object yields a veracious intuitive cogni-
Vincent Eltschinger in this volume. The unfortunate consequence of this kind of ap-
proach, as we shall see, is that it leaves no other example of yogic perception to
point to in proving the possibility of the Buddha`s perception of the Four Noble
tion. No one would practice bhvan on a fire (SS 19, 21-25)!
And it
would seem that the main point Ratnakrti is emphasizing, that the kind
of bhvan he is talking about is the kind that destroys ignorance, de-
sire, and other defilements, thereby releasing perception from its usual
constraints (of proximity to its object in time and space, and so forth),
could be used to turn aside the objection Vcaspati (and I) raised earlier
against the example of the lovesick man, namely, that this is a case of
hallucination, not a valid cognition; for Ratnakrti could say that in this
case, too, we are not dealing with the right kind of bhvan, the kind
that really destroys the defilements and has the power immediately to
present its object as it really is. In fact, if there ever were a case of the
wrong kind of bhvan, the type that would reinforce avidy and the
other defilements, not remove them, surely this is it!
Now, however, Ratnakrti the Buddhist is faced with a new
and equally serious problem, which in the end seems fatal to me. He
has, in effect, in responding to Vacaspati's objections, revised his infer-
ence so that it might be stated as follows:
The proper kind of bhvan focused on the right kind of object will yield a vera-
cious, intuitive experience of that object. The Buddha`s contemplation of the
Four Noble Truths was precisely that the proper kind of bhvan focused on
the right kind of object. Therefore, the Buddha achieved a veracious, intuitive
experience of the Four Noble Truths.
His problem now is that he is still in need of an example for his infer-
ence, one that will support the generalization that the right kind of bh-
van on the right kind of object will lead to a veracious, intuitive ex-
perience of the object. He needs an example, moreover, that is drawn
from everyday experience; for the positive example of an inference must
be siddha, not taken from the class of things to be proved but already
accepted by both opponent and proponent. Obviously, Ratnakrti can-
not, in grounding the generalization on which his inference is based,
appeal to the alleged fact that yogis have veracious, intuitive experi-
ences as a result of the destruction of defilements by means of bhvan
all the time! No such example from everyday experience, however, ap-
pears to be forthcoming. This is hardly surprising; for it is of the es-
sence of ordinary perception that it is restricted to objects that exist here
Someone who is cold will simply move toward a fire he has inferred, not contem-
plate it.
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and now, are of a certain magnitude, and directly affect the sense facul-
ties. It`s beginning to look as if you can`t get there from here, you
can`t base an argument for the possibility of supernomal perception on
observations about everyday experience. Everyday experience speaks
against the possibility of supernormal experience at every turn.
Ratnakrti is also faced with a problem concerning the vyatireka
of his inference. The logical reason or hetu of an inference has to satisfy
not only the requirement of anvaya, being found together with the prop-
erty-to-be-proved, which is documented by the positive example, but
also the requirement of vyatireka, not being found to occur in the ab-
sence of the property-to-be-proved, which is documented by a negative
example. Is it the case, however, that no mental state that is practiced
assiduously over a long period of time ever fails to yield a veracious,
vivid intuitive cognition? Well, we certainly hear plenty of reports from
disappointed meditators practicing all kinds of techniques, including
visualization techniques, to the effect that the promised result never
comes about: the object of meditation does not materialize even after
sustained and arduous practice. The only question is how long and hard
does one have to keep practicing without results before one deems that
the generalization that such practice will eventually yield a vivid, vera-
cious intuition is disconfirmed? In short, the relation between logical
reason and property-to-be-proved in this inference seems rather tenu-
I think we can begin to see from this very brief treatment of
Ratnakrti`s main argument that, when it comes to the attempt to prove
the possibility of supernormal, yogic experience by means of some kind
of inference, anumna, the skeptic the Humean or the Mmsaka
will always have the advantage. The Mmsakas understood this very
well. For every proof, sdhana, of the omniscience of the Buddha that
the Buddhist puts forward, they said, there will be a counterproof, a
pratisdhana. Whatever characteristics the Buddha might have that
speak in favor of his possession of supernormal abilities his long
meditation on momentariness and selflessness, which would seem to
destroy ignorance along with all the other kleas, his compassion and
accuracy concerning things we are able to verify for ourselves will be
offset by all his other ordinary human characteristics, which indicate he
really wasn`t any different from the rest of us. (As a modern skeptic
might put it: he had to put his pants on one leg at a time, just like us!)
The Mmsaka lists among these mundane characteristics: his being
an object of cognition, being an object of a valid means of knowledge,
being a living being, a human being, a speaker, and possessed of sense
It seems, then, that the Buddhist cannot win at the anumna (in-
ference) game when it comes to debating about the existence of super-
normal powers or beings with supernormal abilities. He cannot prove
the possibility of supernormal perception by means of some inference.
Inference, by its very nature, appeals to experience. It is therefore diffi-
cult to see how it can ever reveal to us anything, even the possibility of
anything, beyond experience. This is what two of the greatest Indian
thinkers outside the epistemological tradition, Bharthari and akara,
pointed out. Reasoning cannot tell us about what lies beyond the senses,
only scripture can. But this is hardly a satisfactory solution to the prob-
lem of evidence for yoga and yogic experience that confronts the mod-
ern yoga researcher!
It would seem that the Buddhist failure to prove the possibility
of yogic perception has implications for the question of whether yogic
experience is possible in general. The Buddhist case suggests that any
attempt to prove that yogic experience is possible is bound to fail. For
any proof unless of course it is an a priori proof, which seems hardly
to come into question here must somehow extrapolate from common
experience; and our common experience of human cognition is that it is
opposite in nature to yogic experience: it is characterized by intentional-
ity (directedness toward objects)
and dependent on the stimulation of
the nervous system by internal and external stimuli. More specifically,
in order to show that yogic experience is possible, one must be able to
suggest a causal mechanism that could account for it. Any such mecha-
nism, however, would have to be consistent with our scientific under-
standing of nature, to which humans of course also belong which un-
derstanding must ultimately be based on common experience, including
observations we make about normal human perception and other cogni-
tive processes. Thus, it seems one could never prove yogic experience
to be possible. Indeed, the whole enterprise of attempting to devise
See SS p. 23, 11-14: sugato sarvaja jeyatvt prameyatvt sattvt puruatvd
vakttvd indriydimattvd itydi rathypuruavat; cf. V, Codan 132; TS, 3156.
Samdhi, on the other hand, is depicted as a state of pure consciousness, awareness
without an object.
some kind of proof of the possibility of yogic experience seems funda-
mentally misguided.
At the same time, however, it becomes apparent that one cannot
prove that yogic experience is impossible, either. The fact that some-
thing violates the laws of nature i.e., the principles that underly our
scientific understanding of nature does not establish its impossibility,
as Hume seems to think, unless we are confident that those laws cap-
ture the way things really are.
We are sophisticated enough nowadays
we have obtained sufficient distance from the great discoveries that
revolutionized Hume`s world to know that that is unlikely. We know
that the foundations of our scientific picture of the world are periodi-
cally called into question and revised, and that we can, at any moment
in the history of science, only be confident that we are progressing
closer toward a correct, comprehensive understanding of nature, but
never that we have finally arrived there. Moreover, we have become
aware that science advances only by posing questions to which precise
and definite answers can be provided, which restricts its focus to a cer-
tain range of phenomena; we are painfully aware that, for all the amaz-
ing progress of the physical and social sciences, there is still much we
do not know. Under these circumstances, to consider compatibility with
the laws of nature as science currently understands them the criterion
of possibility would be rather arbitrary.
Nevertheless, this offers little if any succor to those who would
like to believe in yogic experiences. That something is not impossible of
course implies that it is possible, but mere theoretic possibility is hardly
the same as plausibility. The fact that something is incompatible with
our scientific understanding of nature makes it, if not impossible, then
certainly extremely unlikely. Indeed, that may have been all that Hume
meant when he referred to something as a miracle.
Let us now return to the situation of the yoga researcher and see
if these considerations somehow give us a new purchase on the problem
of whether yogic experience is possible. The yoga researcher is faced
See Hume 1955: 122: A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm
and unalterable experience has established those laws, the proof against a miracle,
from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can
possibly be imagined. This passage suggests that the laws of nature Hume has in
mind are ones to which we have epistemic access, hence the laws of nature as de-
fined by contemporary science.
with the following predicament: Over against the impossibility of
yogic experiences and altered states of consciousness stands the fact
that they are widely, even cross-culturally, reported. Committed to a
scientific view of the world, convinced that everything will eventually
yield itself to a scientific and that means a physical explanation, one
may be inclined to adopt the position that there simply are no valid
clairvoyant or clairaudient experiences no one ever really sees things
in the past or the future, let alone all things at once or genuine states
of objectless trance, and that reports of such experiences and the preoc-
cupation with them in certain cultures or traditions have to be under-
stood in terms of the role the idea of such experiences plays in them.
Yet I believe that a yoga researcher may also reasonably resist this con-
clusion, because it just presents us with another disturbing incongruity,
namely, that certain cultures and traditions should attach so much im-
portance to experiences that are essentially erroneous or hallucinatory.
Yet the latter researcher must also have a response to the
Humean challenge: Shouldn`t reports of yogic experiences simply be
dismissed on the grounds that they are violations of the so-called laws
of nature and therefore ipso facto undermine the credibility of anyone
who would report them? For, otherwise, on what basis could one ever
believe that such experiences actually occur? Here it must be noted,
however, that Hume`s attitude quite reminiscent, in fact, of the
Mms attitude that people and the world have always been, and
presumably will continue to be, more or less as they are today
taken to an extreme, becomes unreasonable and unscientific. If the
laws of nature, determined just by what we have experienced thus far,
rigidly dictated what counts as valid experience, we would never learn
anything really new. Columbus`s discovery of the New World would
never have been taken seriously the miracle of the fact would have
cancelled out the credibility of the witnesses nor any other major geo-
graphical, archaeological, and astronomical discovery of history. We
would have dismissed out of hand reports of magnetism produced by an
electric current, x-rays, black holes, static electricity, vacuums, cloud
chambers, and many, many other phenomena. In general, the Humean
principle that science immediately overrules reports of experiences in-
consistent with it is insensitive to the fact that science and experience
Cf. V, Codan 113; cf. also McCrea`s paper in this volume.
exist in a kind of tension with each other. Our current scientific picture
of reality may tell us what is possible, but experience can call scien-
tific theory into question and sometimes even overrule it indeed, if it
couldn`t, science would not be empirical. Of course, that happens only
in certain circumstances, which modern history of science has helped us
to understand; in particular, it happens when the resources are available
to construct a new theory that not only accounts for the problematic
phenomenon but also has greater overall predictive power and fecundity
than the old one. Moreover, the kind of experience to which science is
attuned is, ideally, repeatable and intersubjectively verifiable, and yogic
experience is typically not like that. Nevertheless, in light of our mod-
ern understanding of the dynamic relationship between scientific theory
and empirical observation, Hume`s attitude that an established scientific
theory should automatically overrule reports of experiences of phenom-
ena that are inconsistent with it (because the miracle of the fact will
always be greater than the miracle that the testimony is false) seems
too strong and even dogmatic.
I have not attempted here to do justice to all of the subtleties of Hume`s position, let
alone consider all the interpretations, revisions, and refinements of it that have
emerged in two-and-a-half centuries of discussion of it. Suffice it here to point out
that while Hume may have thought that testimony about the occurrence of a miracle,
which by definition is a violation of the laws of nature, is a priori incredible, testi-
mony about other extraordinary events, which are analogous to other events
known from experience, may be acceptable under certain circumstances. He consid-
ers the case of all authors, in all languages agreeing that on January 1, 1600, the
entire earth was plunged into darkness for eight days. ... Suppose that the tradition
of this extraordinary event is still strong and lively among the people: that all travel-
ers, who return from foreign countries, bring us accounts of the same tradition,
without the least variation or contradiction: it is evident, that our present philoso-
phers, instead of doubting the fact, ought to receive it as certain, and ought search
for causes whence it might be derived (Hume 1955: 137-8). One could argue that
yogic experience is more like this; it is less of a prodigy than an outright miracle
think of Moses turning the Nile into blood (Exodus 7:14-24), for example and
bears certain analogies to common experience. (Another Buddhist author,
ntarakita, suggested, in attempting to prove the possibility of yogic perception,
that it is analogous to the ability of certain animals to see in the dark or see great
distances [see TS, 3404-6]. Moreover, he argued, directly contradicting the
Mmsaka, that just as one might increase one`s capacity to jump through constant
practice, so one can increase, proportionately to one`s practice, one`s mental powers
[TS, 3424-30]. For that matter, the argument for the possibility of yogic perception
from the observation that one may bring about a vivid, intuitive experience of an
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In summary, unable to prove either that yogic experience is pos-
sible or that it is impossible, it would seem that one ought to suspend
judgement about the matter. But of course that leaves open the possibil-
ity that yogic experience is possible, and that means, by application of a
well-known rule of modal logic, that it is possible. But the mere theo-
retic possibility of yogic experience is too thin a basis for taking reports
of yogic experience seriously, i.e., at face value. Those historians and
social scientists who are inclined to do so require an additional, fairly
powerful reason. Such a reason, I believe, would be the conviction that
the societies and traditions they study are inherently healthy and ra-
tional. That they would attribute great value and importance to certain
experiences even to the point of considering them the most important
experiences one can have that misrepresent reality and are rarely, if
ever, confirmed, simply does not make sense. The urge simply to over-
rule reports of experiences that are incompatible with our current scien-
tific picture of reality, to which Hume has forcefully given expression,
can reasonably be resisted by noting that, in the end even taking into
account all the considerations brought to bear on this matter by propo-
nents of scientific holism our scientific picture of reality is built up
from and justified by experience, not vice versa. Until we are confident
that we have worked out a complete theory of nature, including human
nature, we must continue to collect data with open minds, and that
means, we must willing to consider it at face value. Nevertheless, as
long as yogic experience remains incompatible with the picture of na-
ture presented to us by the physical and biological sciences, it will con-
tinue to be deeply problematic. The only thing that could eventually
object by constant meditation can be seen as pursuing this same strategy; it renders
it less incongruous by showing it to be continuous with other known phenomena.) In
light of this, one might well argue that testimony about yogic experience should be
accepted because it actually meets Hume`s standard for acceptability, namely, its
falsehood would be more improbable than the phenomenon it reports; for, as I have
suggested, given the importance vested in yogic experience and altered states of
consciousness in so many cultures, the imaginary or illusory status of these experi-
ences would be would be highly problematic. That, however, is ultimately a com-
plex methodological question in the social sciences which also cannot be adequately
dealt with here. For a trenchant presentation of the dominant attitude toward reli-
gious experience within the academic discipline of religious studies in North Amer-
ica with which this paper is of course completely at odds one may consult
McCutcheon 2001.
dispel the air of mystery around yoga and yogic experience would be a
(radically) revised theory of nature that can accommodate it which,
however, at this time is not on the horizon.
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Coady 1992 C. A. J. Coady, Testimony: a Philosophical Study. Oxford 1992.
Franco 1997 Eli Franco, Dharmakrti on Compassion and Rebirth. Wiener
Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 38. Wien 1997.
Franco forthcoming Eli Franco, Perceptions of Yogis - Some Epistemological and
Metaphysical Considerations. Proceedings of the 4th Interna-
tional Dharmakrti Conference. Wien, forthcoming
Freud 1961 Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion. New York 1961.
Levine 1996 Michael Levine, Miracles. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philoso-
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Hume 1955 David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed.
Charles W. Hendel, Indianapolis 1955.
Jaini 1974 P. S. Jaini, On the Sarvajatva of Mahvra and the Buddha. In:
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Meditation and Metaphysics
On their Mutual Relationship in South Asian
It is well known that Buddhism developed and prescribed a large num-
ber of meditative exercises. It is equally well known that Buddhism
developed some highly original metaphysical doctrines, such as the
antman-doctrine, i.e., the doctrine that there is no soul and no sub-
stance, the doctrine of momentariness, i.e., the doctrine that all things,
even those that seem permanent such as stones and mountains, last for
only a moment, the doctrine of Emptiness of the Madhyamaka accord-
ing to which nothing really exists and all things are but an illusion, or
the idealism of the Yogcra which professes that the external world is
merely an image in our consciousness. However, it may be less well
known that all metaphysical doctrines of Buddhism have their corre-
spondence in meditative practice, and some of them may even have
arisen from such practice.
There are at least two main reasons for this state of affairs. First
the general tendency in Indian thought to presuppose a correspondence
theory of truth. In other words, if the objects visualized by the yogi dur-
ing meditation are to be considered true, they must have a correspon-
dence in reality. In this respect, the perception or awareness of yogis is
not different from any other perception. The second reason is that in the
majority of Buddhist traditions, Enlightenment, or liberating insight,
I would like to thank Lambert Schmithausen very warmly for personal and written
comments on a previous draft of this paper and I regret that he was unable to com-
ment on this final draft. I am also indebted to Karin Preisendanz who read several
versions of the paper and made highly perspicacious comments and suggestions at
all stages. Further thanks go to Nobuyoshi Yamabe who kindly shared his thoughts
with me about the nature of meditation and its relation to philosophical theories.
consists in a right insight into the true nature of reality.
And this pro-
found insight into the absolute truth, it is generally assumed, cannot be
achieved only by way of rational thinking which is connected to con-
cepts and language, but has to be deepened in meditation. One should
not only learn and think about the teachings of the Buddha, but also
meditate upon them repeatedly. Thus, because Enlightenment is usually
an insight into the true nature of the world, the metaphysical teachings
were being taught as subjects of meditation, and their content was pos-
tulated as part of liberating insight. It goes without saying that this con-
tent differs from tradition to tradition. In a realistic tradition the liberat-
ing insight is an insight into the true nature of the final elements of exis-
tence (dharma); in an illusionistic tradition it consists in the insight that
precisely these elements are unreal.
It is undisputed that there are close relationships between medi-
tation and metaphysics in Buddhism. However, some scholars of Bud-
dhism go as far as to claim that all metaphysical doctrines in Buddhism
have arisen from meditative practice, and indeed this opinion seems to
be widely spread. I will mention here only three of its most influential
variants. Constantin Regamey claims that not only Buddhist philosophy,
but Indian philosophy in general is the rational interpretation of mysti-
cal experience (Regamey 1951: 251):
Notre philosophie est ne de la curiosit et du besoin de savoir, d`expliquer le
monde d`une faon cohrente. En Inde la philosophie est l`interprtation ration-
nelle de l`exprience mystique.
This is the most sweeping generalisation on the subject that I have come
across so far. According to Regamey one would have to assume that
every Indian philosophical theory, from the atomism and ontological
categories of the Vaieika to the logical developments of Navya
Nyya, is a rational interpretation of mystical experience. In a less
This in contradistinction to Jainism, where the means of liberation consists in the
elimination of karma, or certain theistic systems, where liberation depends on the
grace of God, etc.
In addition to these two reasons, one may mention the subjective feeling of the
meditating person, who sometimes feels transposed to another space (cf. for instance
the case of the dhyna meditation below). The journey of the spirit is a phenomenon
well known from many cultures, even though the modalities of such journeys are not
often theorized.
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sweeping but similar manner Edward Conze, one of the most influential
Buddhist scholars in the second half of the twentieth century, states
(Conze 1967: 213):
The cornerstone of my interpretation of Buddhism is the conviction, shared by
nearly everyone, that it is essentially a doctrine of salvation, and that all its phi-
losophical statements are subordinate to its soteriological purpose. This implies,
not only that many philosophical problems are dismissed as idle speculations,
but that each and every [philosophical] proposition must be considered in refer-
ence to its spiritual intention and as a formulation of meditative experiences ... I
cannot imagine any scholar wishing to challenge this methodological postulate

However, the most influential formulation of this hypothesis was put

forward by Lambert Schmithausen in his renowned paper Spirituelle
Praxis und philosophische Theorie im Buddhismus (Schmithausen
1973: 185
Es scheint sich somit bei dieser Entwicklung von philosophischen Theorien aus
spirituell-praktischen Ursprngen um einen Vorgang zu handeln, der fr die
buddhistische Geistesgeschichte geradezu t y p i s c h ist. ... Fr die zentralen,
das Ganze bestimmenden philosophischen Theorien gilt, dass sie, zum minde-
sten zum grten Teil, unmittelbar aus der spirituellen Praxis hervorgewachsen
sein drften.
A shorter English version of this paper was published as On the Problem of the
Relation of Spiritual Practice and Philosophical Theory in Buddhism, cf.
Schmithausen 1976a. This shorter version was reprinted in Williams 2005: 242-254.
It seems, therefore, that philosophical theories developing out of meditative exer-
cises is a process that is really t y p i c a l for Buddhist intellectual history.
It is valid to say that the central philosophical theories, which define the whole, may
have directly arisen, at least for the most part, from spiritual practice (=meditative
The expression spirituelle Praxis can be understood, of course, in a very broad
manner. Indeed, any mental activity can be so described. However, if this term is to
describe something that is typical for Buddhism and to stand in contradistinction to
philosophical theory, its scope has to be narrowed down. Schmithausen defines spi-
rituelle Praxis (p. 162) as die geistige Seite religiser bungen, d.h. solcher -
bungen oder Handlungen, die direkt oder indirekt auf das Heil ausgerichtet sind. Im
Falle des Buddhismus handelt es sich dabei vor allem um moralisch-ethische bun-
gen sowie um Versenkungspraktiken. Since moral-ethical exercises are not further
discussed in Schmithausen 1973 and 2005, and do not seem to be directly relevant to
the arising of metaphysical theories, I will confine my remarks to Versenkungs-
Unlike Regamey, Conze and others, Schmithausen does not only claim
that philosophical theories in Buddhism arose from meditative practice,
but actually attempts to prove that this is the case. I will, therefore, con-
fine my remarks to his paper.
Schmithausen`s thesis is seductive because if it could be con-
firmed, it would capture an essential and special characteristic of Bud-
dhism that would distinguish it not only from Western philosophies and
religions, but also from other Indian traditions. However, the relation-
ship between meditation and metaphysics is in my opinion more com-
plex and heterogeneous, and I shall argue that its varieties cannot be
reduced to a single homogeneous model.
Let me begin with two cases that fit Schmithausen`s hypothesis
well. The close relationship between meditation and metaphysics can be
clearly seen in the case of dhyna-meditation. This type of meditation is
generally considered to belong to the earliest strata of the Buddhist
canon (see, for instance, Vetter 1988: 3ff.), and it already appears
within the framework of the four noble truths. The fourth truth laconi-
praktiken which I translate as meditative practice, meditative state or simply as
meditation. Regamey uses the term exprience mystique to refer, presumably,
to the same meditative experiences. Cf. also Schmithausen 1973: 165 where he re-
fers to Conze`s thesis (Conze 1962: 251ff. cf. also May 1971) that the roots of
Yogcra are to be looked for above all (in erster Linie) in meditative practice, in
opposition to Masuda`s hypothesis that the Yogcra developed as a reaction to the
absolute Negativism of the Madhyamaka. In Schmithausen 2005: 247, Schmit-
hausen also uses the expression transphenomenal state to refer to the Buddhist
spiritual practice.
As I understand it, Schmithausen`s thesis clearly implies that all the important or
central philosophical theories in Buddhism arose mainly from meditative practice.
However, in what follows I will examine a number of philosophical theories that are
not discussed in his paper. In this respect, I may be going beyond his original inten-
tion. Ideally, one would have to determine first what Schmithausen considers central
and what philosophy, but these are issues that I hope Schmithausen himself will
clarify on a different occasion. In my opinion, all the philosophical doctrines dis-
cussed below are central to Buddhism, but it goes without saying that others may be
of a different opinion. On the use of the term philosophical here, cf. n. 55 below.
I am however not the first to criticize Schmithausen`s thesis. An extensive criticism
was formulated in Robert Sharf`s impressive paper (Sharf 1995). A more limited
criticism that concerns only the Yogcra portion of Schmithausen`s paper was
voiced in Bronkhorst 2000: 77-93. But my approach here is different and, I hope,
has not been made redundant by these previous criticisms.
cally describes the path of a person from the moment he meets the Bud-
dha and comes to realize that life is fundamentally frustrating, painful
and hopeless till the moment he reaches Enlightenment through medita-
Right meditation, which is the culmination of the path, is di-
vided into four stages. The first stage is characterized by bodily well-
being (kyasukha) and mental joy (prti). This joy arises from the fact
that one has succeeded in ridding oneself of one`s desires. Conceptual
thinking, that is, thinking connected with language, continues at this
stage. When concentration further increases, one reaches the second
stage, at which conceptual thinking ceases. Bodily well-being and joy
continue, but they now arise directly from the power of meditation.
When concentration increases even further, one reaches the third stage,
at which joy is replaced by equanimity. Finally, at the fourth stage, even
bodily well-being disappears and absolute equanimity and lack of sen-
sation are reached. In this fourth dhyna the mind becomes absolutely
clear. One can remember one`s own previous lives and see how certain
deeds lead to certain resultsgood deeds to pleasant births, bad deeds
to painful ones. Then, with the so-called divine eye one can observe the
same phenomena for countless other living beings. Finally, after one
perceives in this manner the entire sasra both in time and in space,
one reaches the certainty that the present life is one`s final life, that one
will not be born again.
It is interesting to note that this dhyna meditation has (or better,
has obtained in the late or post-canonical period) a cosmological corre-
spondence. According to the bhidharmikas of the Conservative Bud-
dhism, the world consists of three layers. The first, the layer of desire
(kma-dhtu), is the one we live in. On the top of it there is a second
layer, the layer of desireless corporeality (rpa-dhtu), and it corre-
sponds precisely to the four stages of the dhyna meditation (cf. AKBh
3.2). The sixteen, seventeen or eighteen subdivisions of this cosmic
are divided into four groups that are also called dhyna. More-
over, the first three dhynas are further divided each into three layers
which correspond to weak (mdu), middle (madhya) and intense (adhi-
On the different opinions concerning the number of layers, cf. La Valle Poussin,
chapter 3: 2-3.
mtra) concentrations. The fourth cosmic layer contains further layers,
primarily those in which the Buddhist saints who no longer return to the
layer of desire (angmin) stay till their definitive disappearance into
The highest cosmic layer, the rpya-dhtu, the layer that lacks
corporeality, corresponds in its fourfold division to a division of stages
of another type of meditation. In the rpya meditation, the yogi turns
his mind to a succession of objects, each subtler than the preceding one.
The starting point of this meditation is the so-called kasina exercise.
The yogi concentrates on an object, such as a piece of earth or a patch
of color, until he no longer observes a difference between the inner
mental image and the immediately perceived image. In other words, the
yogi sees the object just as clearly and vividly with closed as with open
eyes. The yogi can then stand up and go elsewhere taking the image
with him. Now he has to concentrate on this image until a second image
is produced; i.e., the first image functions as the immediate image of the
external object and it gives rise to a second mental reflex. When the
yogi observes this secondary image for a long time, it disintegrates and
fades away slowly, and in its place the incorporeal presentation of the
infinity of space appears. Herewith the first stage of the rpya medita-
tion is attained.
After meditating on the infinity of space (knantya), the yogi
naturally moves on to meditate on the infinity of the mind or conscious-
Unfortunately I was unable to find a visual description of the three layers in Indian
or Tibetan art. As a rule, only the lowest layer, the layer of desire, is depicted. This
is understandable, for the abstract content of the layer of desireless corporeality
(rpa-dhtu) and of lack of corporeality (rpya-dhtu) cannot be easily illustrated.
Martin Brauen, in his book The Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism, has
generated a computer model according to the ancient descriptions. This model is ba-
sically the same as the one in the Abhidharmakoa, but differs in some detail be-
cause Brauen follows the Klacakra cosmology. For instance, Mount Meru is round
and not quadrangular. A reproduction of a modern painting of the three dhtus can
be found in the catalogue of The Tibet Exhibition in Japan 1983 (Tokyo: Mainichi
Communications, 1983) plate nr. Tsu 77. According to the catalogue it is often
placed at the entrance of Tibetan temples, paired with a sasracakra. For sketches
illustrating Buddhist cosmology according to the Pli tradition, cf. Adolf Bastian
ness (vijnnantya);
next the stage of nothingness (kicanya) is
reached, i.e., the meditation has no object whatsoever. Finally, without
an object consciousness becomes so weak that it hardly deserves its
name. Accordingly, this stage of meditation is called neither con-
sciousness nor non-consciousness (naivasajnsaj).
When this
meditation is further intensified, consciousness disappears altogether.
The meditation now has neither subject nor object. This stage is called
sajvedayitanirodhasampatti, i.e., the meditation which consists in
the suppression of consciousness and feelings. Because at this stage all
consciousness and feelings disappear, this state of meditation has no
cosmological correspondence. At this stage the yogi is almost dead; his
body is unconscious and numb like a corpse. Only by his bodily heat
can one may know that he is still alive.
We thus see that the psychological aspects of the dhyna medi-
tation have a cosmological correspondence, whereas in the case of the
rpya meditation there is cosmological correspondence to the object of
meditation as well as to a special state of consciousness of the meditat-
ing person. What does this mean? In the first case, one could understand
that the yogi or the yogi`s mind is transposed to the corresponding cos-
mological region through the attainment of a special state of mind. Fur-
ther, all living beings inhabiting this region experience this state of
mind or are somehow connected to it. In the second case, the content of
the meditation in the first two stages corresponds to a cosmic realm and
to cosmic (material, but not corporeal) elements; in the next two stages,
by attaining a special state of consciousness, the yogi is transposed to a
specific cosmic realm in a manner comparable to the case of the dhyna
meditation. The suppression of consciousness and feeling, where both
object and subject are eliminated, has no cosmic or ontological corre-
spondence because there is nothing left to be corresponded to.
Note that consciousness was considered to be a cosmic element which consists in
subtle incorporeal matter, obviously even more subtle than space (or ether ka)
which is also material but not corporeal. Cf. Langer 2001, esp. 43-50.
According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha practiced this meditation with his
teachers ra Klma and Rudraka Rmaputra. It thus may be a pre-Buddhist form
of meditation.
One more factor distinguishes the yogi from a corpse, namely, the power of life
(yus), but this factor is, of course, not observable.
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The case of dhyna meditation and at least the last two stages of
the rpya meditation seem to confirm Schmithausen thesis. However,
these practices cannot be taken to represent all meditations in Bud-
dhism. There are other meditative exercises that have their metaphysical
correspondences in the sense that they reflect the ultimate reality ac-
cording to various ontological doctrines, for instance, the selflessness,
the substancelessness and the momentariness of all existing things. Yet
in the case of these exercises, Schmithausen`s thesis does not work
Schmithausen himself has retracted his thesis that the doctrine
of momentariness of all things has arisen from spiritual practice
(Schmithausen 1976b: 285f., and n. 5). But is this the exception that
confirms the rule or is it the clear case that refutes it? I will argue for the
latter alternative by pointing out that momentariness is not a single tree
in the savannah. There are indeed other conspicuous doctrines that cer-
tainly qualify as central philosophical theories and which are not
taken into consideration by Schmithausen in the above-mentioned pa-
per. Two such doctrines that immediately come to mind are the doctrine
of Dependent Origination (prattyasamutpda) and the Sarvstivda
theory of existence of past and future objects. Concerning the former,
there is hardly any need to argue that it did not directly arise from medi-
tation or spiritual practice. Schmithausen himself has contributed a fun-
damental study of this doctrine, where he argues that the list of twelve
members as we know it today is the result of three different lists that
were put together in the course of a development that is reflected in the
heterogeneous materials of the Pli canon (cf. Schmithausen 2000). In
this case, I assume, Schmithausen himself would argue for systematiza-
tions of earlier lists and redactional motives, rather than spiritual prac-
tice, as decisive for the origin of the doctrine. As for the doctrine of
rebirth as such that is reflected in most if not all these lists, it is pre-
Buddhist in origin and is presupposed and taken for granted in the earli-
est strata of the Pli canon. Thus, it too cannot have arisen from medita-
tion, at least not from Buddhist meditation.
Thus, it is excluded by Schmithausen from his investigation; cf. the beginning of his
paper (Schmithausen 2005: 243): Thus, the philosophical theories whose relation to
spiritual practice I am going to discuss in this article are those which are exclusively
Buddhists and which are freshly developed by Buddhism. Also uncertain would be
The Sarvstivda theory that all final elements of existence
(dharma) exist in all three times (past, present and future) also presents
a clear case of a central philosophical theory that was not developed
from meditative practice. The Abhidharmakoa provides four reasons
for this counterintuitive doctrine. The first reason is simply that the
Buddha himself said so. In a similar vein, the second reason is that this
doctrine is implied by certain statements of the Buddha. The third rea-
son has to do with the tenet that every moment of awareness is sup-
posed to have an objective support. Thus, recollection too requires such
support, and that support must be a past object; similarly, certain cogni-
tions have future objects and thus future objects must exist. Finally, past
objects must be assumed in order to account for the functioning of the
law of karma, more specifically, to account for the fact that a past act
can produce its result in the future, long after the act was committed.
In connection with this tenet, four philosophical theories of time
were developed that aim to explain the difference between past, present
and future objects (cf. Stcherbatsky 1923: 78-80). None of these theo-
ries seems to have arisen from spiritual practice. On the contrary, they
seem to be theoretical reflections meant to reduce the difference be-
tween past, present and future objects to a bare minimum.
Similarly, the Sarvstivda theory that every element of exis-
tence is accompanied by four characteristic entities (lakaas) responsi-
ble for its arising, subsistence, decay and destruction and by four secon-
dary characteristic entities (anulakaas) that play a part in the causa-
tion of the first four entities is clearly due to theoretical reflections
about causality and the philosophical inclination to avoid infinite re-
gress. They also reflect the rejection of the idea of a substance and a
special hermeneutical approach towards the canonical writings, but
there is no evidence to connect their origin to meditative practice.
Furthermore, the postulation of the three eternal entities, space-
ether (ka), suppression through careful consideration (pratisa-
the assumption that the various lists found in the Pli canon are exclusively Bud-
dhist, but even if they are, whether they are due to mystical experience, introspec-
tion, rational investigation or other sources is anybody`s guess.
Cf. AKBh 5.24, p. 295, translated by de La Valle Poussin, chapter 5 : 50-51.
Cf. AKBh 2.45cd-46ab, p. 75.19ff., translated by de La Valle Poussin, chapter 2:
khynirodha) and suppression without careful consideration (aprati-
sakhynirodha), as well the factors dissociated from thought (citta-
viprayuktasaskra) could hardly be said to have arisen immediately
from meditative experience. It seems rather that the Sarvstivda, like
the bhidharmikas of other schools, were analytically striving to iden-
tify and systematize the final constituents of physical and mental reality
in dependence on canonical materials.
This concern is also apparent in the so-called abhisamayavda
(the doctrine of intuitive grasp) of Dharmar with its ten propensi-
ties (anuaya) and sixteen aspects of the four noble truths. According
to Frauwallner, who made a detailed study of the historical development
of this theory,
it did not arise from spiritual practice. In fact, it is ques-
tionable whether the entire Abhidharma enterprise, from the early lists
to the later developments by Vasubandhu and Sagha-
can be said to have arisen from meditation or spiritual prac-
tice, rather than the collection, organization, systematization and theo-
retical development of canonical materials.
The Conservative Buddhists developed a considerable number
of philosophical theories about matter, causation, space and time, and
about epistemological, ethical and soteriological issues. Practically none
of them were taken into consideration by Schmithausen (who probably
did not consider them to be central) or by any of the other scholars who
generalized the origin of Buddhist philosophical theories. It is sufficient
to leaf through a work such as Points of Controversy (Kathvatthu)
understand the extent of the disagreement among the various Buddhist
schools, and to see how difficult, not to say impossible, would be the
Cf. Frauwallner 1971a; English translation in Frauwallner 1995: 149-184.
On the mtks and their relationship to meditation, cf. Gethin 1993. On the tradi-
tional account of the arising of mtks, cf. DN 33, where the Buddha asks riputra
to prepare lists summarizing his (the Buddha`s) teachings in order to prevent strife
among his disciples after his death, as was the case among the disciples of the Jina.
Thus, at least according to the traditional account, the mtks have not arisen from
meditative experience, but from the practical necessity to determine, secure and
summarize the Buddha`s teaching.
On Saghabhadra, cf. Cox 1995.
Cf. Aung and Rhys Davids 1969. An extensive list of theses of controversy among
Conservative Buddhists was conveniently presented in Bareau 1955: 260-289. Note,
however, that many of these points of controversy are not philosophical in nature.
task of anyone wishing to establish the origin of all philosophical theo-
ries in Buddhism, even if one were to limit oneself to the most impor-
tant ones. Interestingly, meditation does not seem to play a role in the
philosophical debates documented in the Kathvatthu. (On the other
hand, it plays a decisive role in the doctrines that are rejected as harmful
in the Brahmajlasutta; cf. below.)
In what follows I shall mostly limit myself to those theories
taken into consideration by Schmithausen. Perhaps the most important
and typical theory of Conservative Buddhism is the antman theory, the
theory that there is no Self or Soul. This theory was indeed considered
by Schmithausen, but the evidence he adduces for the hypothesis that it
has its origin in meditative experience is rather meager. Schmithausen is
one of the most learned scholars of Buddhism of our time, and yet for
the negation of the Soul (tman) in meditation he could find no earlier
testimony than Candrakrti`s Madhyamakvatra,
(sixth century CE),
which was composed many centuries after the establishment of this
doctrine. Furthermore, in recent times an alternative explanation of the
origin of the antman doctrine has been proposed, namely, that it devel-
oped not from spiritual practice, but as a reaction to the pudgala theory
of the Vtsputryas.
This hypothesis, however, was suggested after
Schmithausen`s paper was written and thus he could not take it into
account while formulating his thesis. In any case, it is a reasonable al-
ternative hypothesis that casts serious doubts on Schmithausen`s as-
sumption that the antman theory was developed from meditative prac-
Cf. Schmithausen 1973, note 55 which quotes Madhyamakvatra VI 120.
Cf. Steinkellner 2002: 183: Die theoretische Lehre von `Nicht-Selbst` (antmav-
da) als eines philosophischen Dogmas verdankt ihre Entstehung offenbar nicht dem
Bedrfnis, diese Praxis ontologisch abzusttzen, sondern der Notwendigkeit, eine
einflussreiche Fehlentwicklung zurckzudrngen, nmlich die Lehre von der soge-
nannten Person` (pudgala), die ein Mnch Vtsputra um 300 v.u.Z. vertreten hat.
Possibly the same opinion, though formulated more vaguely and in a less committed
manner, is expressed by Vetter 1988: 42-44. An earlier formulationor at least by
way of implicationof this opinion is to be found in Frauwallner 1971b: 121 (=[9]),
where Vtsputra`s doctrine of pudgala is said to have broken the ice: Damit war
gewissermaen das Eis gebrochen. Nun begann man auch andere Probleme zu ber-
denken und, wenn es ntig schien, die berkommenen Lehren weiterzubilden oder
umzuformen. Cf. also the quotation in the next note.
This inevitably leads us to the question about the origin of the
pudgala theory. Is there any evidence to connect its origin to meditative
experience or was it motivated, as Frauwallner and others assume, by
the need to fill a theoretical gap in the canonical materials?
And while
we are at it, is there any evidence to connect the origin of the doctrine of
the five groups (pacaskandha) of the empirical person to meditative
practice? This concept is ubiquitously present in the Pli canon, but we
know nothing about its origin. For all we know, it may not even be
Buddhist in origin.
The doctrine of antman as we know it from the post-canonical
literature must have meant at its first stage that human beings, or living
beings in general, lack a permanent Self or Soul. However, sooner or
later it was reinterpreted in a more general way to mean that all things
lack substance. Could one maintain that the development of this more
sweeping doctrine is due to meditation? Again, evidence is lacking and
one could make up various scenarios all equally speculative.
To conclude the discussion on Conservative Buddhism, let us
briefly consider the four noble truths. Surely, one may think, if any phi-
losophical theory originated from meditation in an immediate manner,
this so-called original message of the Buddha would be it. However,
such an assumption is highly unlikely. Bareau, who closely studied all
extant versions of the text, concluded that it is not only apocryphal, but
rather late.
This in itself need not refute the thesis that the four noble
truths originated from meditation, but there are at least two reasons
against such an assumption and they both concern the fourth truth. First,
there is some evidence to suggest that this truth was added to the first
three at a later stage.
But more importantly, the fourth truth presup-
Cf. Frauwallner1971b: 121: Aber der Buddha ist ihr [der Frage nach dem Ich]
ausgewichen, weil er wute, da sie zu endlosen theoretischen Streitigkeiten fhren
wrde Dieses Vermeiden einer klaren Aussage hat sich im allgemeinen behauptet
und auch bewhrt. Aber es war nicht zu vermeiden, dass sich die Frage nach dem
Ich schlielich doch wieder vordrngte.
Cf. Bareau 1963 : 180: [L]e texte de ce premier sermon, tel que nous le trouvons
dans les trois Vinaya, est non seulement apocryphe, mais assez tardif.
The fourth truth is sometimes transmitted without the first three, notably in the
Dharmacakrapravartana-stra, and it is also formulated in a different style. It is
possible that the third truth was originally the truth of the path (i.e., the way to avoid
suffering is to eliminate its cause, desire) and that the function of representing the
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poses the sagha (monastic order), and its content has as much to do
with monastic rules and the way of life befitting a monk (or a nun) as
with meditative practice. Its eight members summarize the career of a
monk from the moment he meets the Buddha and arrives at the right
view that the Buddha`s way is the right way towards eliminating suffer-
ing till the moment he reaches enlightenment by the right meditation.
Thus, it seems that in Conservative Buddhism most philosophi-
cal doctrines did not originate directly from meditative practice. How-
ever, can it be said that they originated indirectly from such practice?
Before we can answer this question, we have to understand what could
be meant by originating indirectly. If we understand this phrase as
originating primarily from philosophical reflection on meditative prac-
one could still maintain that most philosophical theories would
not fulfill this requirement, or more precisely, that we lack decisive
evidence that they do. If, on the other hand, we were satisfied to water
down the qualification of indirectly originating to origination some-
how connected, the qualification may be true, but trivial. Everything is
indirectly connected to everything, and nobody disputes that meditation
is a central phenomenon in Buddhism.
Let us turn now to the fundamental metaphysical doctrines of
the Mahyna. Shortly before or after the beginning of the Common Era
something extraordinary happened in the history of Buddhism. A large
number of apocrypha, the Mahynastras, were composed by Buddhist
monks, or perhaps even lay persons, in which radically new teachings
were attributed to the Buddha. These teachings stand in clear contradic-
tion to what was known of the Buddha`s teachings until then. The basic
fundamental teaching of the Mahyna is the so-called illusionism, the
doctrine that all elements of existence (dharma) are illusory, unreal, do
not really exist. Even the Buddha himself was an illusion. Furthermore,
path was taken over by the fourth truth when it was appended to the first three.
Needless to say, a thorough investigation would be required to prove such an as-
In contradistinction to, say, being developed in a different context and later applied
to spiritual practice (as could be the case of the five skandhas), or being due to sys-
tematization of older materials (as could be the case of prattyasamutpda), or a
generalization of an already existing philosophical theory (as could be the case for
the doctrine of no-soul to the doctrine of no-substance).
desire and suffering too are illusions, and this means that all living be-
ings, who do not really exist, are also not really tormented by unreal
suffering, which cannot arise from an unreal illusion. Nirva as the
lack of suffering has thus always been there. Therefore, one may say
that there is no difference between nirva and sasra.
Of course, these new apocrypha caused protests and opposition
from the Conservative Buddhists. However, it was apparently not so
easy to prove that the new Stras were falsifications of the original
teachings of the Buddha. The protests of the Conservative Buddhists (or
Mainstream Buddhists, to use Paul Harrison`s expression) could not
prevail; even worse: the Conservative Buddhists were presented as
fools. Their canonical sermons and other teachings ascribed to the Bud-
dha which they transmitted orally and later on in written form were
considered to be half-truths and thereby disparaged. Only the Mah-
ynastras contain the absolute truth. The Hnaynastras are merely
addressed at monks who are not mature enough to receive the ultimate
The Mahyna movement is undoubtedly one of the most suc-
cessful religious movements ever. Nowadays it is still alive in Tibet, in
Mongolia and East Asia (China, Korea, Japan). One of the reasons why
the Mahyna apocrypha could be so successful is that the composition
of Buddhist apocrypha had begun much earlier.
Next to the canonical
collections, independent works (muktaka) were always circulating,
some of which were designated as apocrypha, lit., `superimposed`
(adhyropita). This phenomenon is mentioned already in the Pli canon.
Lamotte (1974: 180) refers to two passages, in Samyuttanikya (II, 267)
and Aguttaranikya (I, 72-73),
in which the Buddha prophesizes that
the authentic stras will disappear and that people will believe in apoc-
rypha composed by poets (kavikata).
The oldest Mahynastra is considered to be the Aashasrik
Prajpramit, The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand verses.
The authenticity of treatises and sermons ascribed to the Buddha was a problem that
all schools of Buddhism (including Madhyamaka and Yogcra) had to face, and
several attempts were made to formulate criteria for the authenticity of Buddhist s-
tras; cf. Lamotte 1988, Skilling 2000 and Mathes forthcoming.
Both references are to the editions of the Pali Text Society.
For an extensive summary, cf. Conze 1975.
It is a relatively extensive work; an English translation would probably
run for more than a thousand pages. The Stra was translated into Chi-
nese already in 179 CE by Lokakema. Now, what is the perfection of
wisdom that is repeatedly praised in this Stra? It is the insight that all
final elements of existence (dharmas) are unreal, and this insight is real-
ized during a meditation that causes the suppression of all conscious-
ness and feelings. In other words, when the perfection of wisdom is
attained, the world disappears; all dharmas vanish and nothing remains:
neither objects, nor feelings, nor consciousness. This state is similar to
the one attained in the nirodhasampatti mentioned above, but there is
one important difference: the content of this meditation corresponds to
absolute reality. When the yogi emerges from the meditative state, he
generalizes his experience: Just as all final elements of existence do not
exist during meditative state, they not exist outside of it. The whole
world is but an illusion; it contains elements of existence that only ap-
pear to be real, but in fact are empty and unreal. The correspondence
between the content of the meditation and the metaphysical truth is
clear: The absence of the final elements of existence during meditation
reflects their inexistence in reality.
Can we conclude that this counterintuitive doctrine has arisen
from meditative practice? I fail to see that there is evidence for such a
conclusion. There are at least three possible hypotheses that may ac-
count for the development of the Perfection of Wisdom. One based on
philosophical reflection: One may claim that qualities can only exist as
something supported by a substance, and if substances do not exist,
qualities cannot exist either. And if there are neither substances nor
qualities, nothing exists. Alternatively, one may explain the origin of
the Mahyna Illusionism as a generalization of the meditative experi-
ence in the nirodhasampatti. A third hypothesis was proposed by
Frauwallner, who assumed that the Mahyna philosophy is due to the
mystical experience of the highest Being (hchstes Sein) and the ten-
dency to assume that only this Being is real (cf. Frauwallner 1994: 144).
As far as I can see, the question whether philosophical reasoning or
spiritual practice is responsible for the arising of the Mahyna illusion-
ism cannot be answered because the relevant materials are lacking. The
doctrine is absent in the old canonical literature,
and it is already pre-
supposed by the earliest Mahynastras. In other words, either the
evidence that may have let us determine the origin of this doctrine is no
longer available, or the doctrine came into the world like the aupapdu-
kas, or Athena from Zeus` forehead, in a fully developed form and thus
provides no clues for determining the context of its arising. Therefore, it
seems preferable in this case to suspend judgment and refrain from put-
ting forward hypotheses about its origin.
On the basis of the Prajpramitstras, Ngrjuna (fl. 2
CE) developed the Madhyamaka philosophy, especially in his Mla-
madhyamakakrik, which is considered the foundational text of this
school. Schmithausen is silent on the Madhyamaka philosophy. Prima
facie, however, it would be rather difficult to prove that the argumenta-
tive philosophy of Ngrjuna is the result of meditative experience,
especially after a series of studies by Claus Oetke that bear on this sub-
ject (for instance, Oetke 1988).
However, Schmithausen`s pice de rsistance is no doubt the
Yogcra system and the doctrine of vijaptimtrat. It seems, in fact,
that Schmithausen first developed his thesis in the context of his inves-
tigations into the Yogcrabhmi and then extended and generalized it
as being typical for Buddhism as a whole. Schmithausen`s hypothesis
about the origin of vijaptimtrat has already been criticized in some
detail by Johannes Bronkhorst in his monograph Karma and Teleology.
A problem and its solution in Indian philosophy (cf. Bronkhorst 2000:
77-93). Bronkhorst argues in some detail that the materials presented by
Schmithausen can be better explained in relation to the karma theory. It
seems to me that Bronkhorst`s arguments are as inconclusive as
Schmithausen`s, but I will not attempt to discuss the matter here.
stead, I would like to take a closer look at the method employed by
Schmithausen and examine how it could be applied to the Yogcra
The use of illusory terms in the Pli canon (e.g., SN III 95 (3) Pheam, pp. 140ff.) in
respect to the final elements of existence cannot be taken by itself as pointing at the
origin of the Mahynistic notion of emptiness, for they are used there to express the
worthlessness of dharmas, not their inexistence.
For a more thorough criticism, though from a different perspective, cf. Robert
Sharf`s paper (Sharf 1995).
Schmithausen states that he wants to prove his thesis by means
of a rigorous historic-philological method (nach streng historisch-
philologischer Methode Schmithausen 1973: 163) and explains that
[f]or this purpose, the oldest sources for a given philosophical theory
have to be made available and the context in which the theory appears
examined (Hierzu mten fr eine gegebene philosophische Theorie
die lteste Quellen ausfindig gemacht und der Zusammenhang, in dem
die Theorie dort erscheint, geprft werden.).
Similarly, in the English version of his paper (Schmithausen
2005: 243) he says: [T]here is still much work to be done from the
point of view of a strictly historicophilological method. In order to ar-
rive at reliable results, one has to find the oldest sources for each phi-
losophical theory and to check the context in which the respective the-
ory appears there.
However, the oldest sources is a relative term. What if the ear-
liest source for a given theory is centuries later than the theory itself? In
the main part of his paper Schmithausen examines the Sandhinirmoca-
nastra, which may be as late as the 4
century CE because it is later
than the Daabhmikastra, which was translated into Chinese in the
last decade of the third century (cf. Schmithausen 1973: 172, Schmit-
hausen 2005: 248). To what extant can one rely on this source, which is
not a historiographic source and which perhaps originated two centuries
after the theory of vijaptimtrat, in order to draw a conclusion about
its origin? On the other hand, the Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhvasthi-
tasmadhistra, which is the oldest source for the vijaptimtrat doc-
trine, and was translated into Chinese as early as 179 C.E., receives less
attention from Schmithausen. In the following I will confine my re-
marks to this work, as it is indeed our earliest source for the vijaptim-
trat doctrine.
In Schmithausen 1984: 438 (see also Schmithausen 2005: 245) it is stated that San-
dhinirmocanasra VIII.7 is in all probability, the oldest extant passage announcing,
by the very term, the doctrine of vijaptimtra, i.e., the central doctrine of
Yogcra-Vijnavda. It is actually quite possible that the Pratyutpannabuddha-
sammukhvasthitasmadhistra uses only the term cittamtra and not vijaptimtra
(the original Sanskrit of both texts is now lost), but in any case both terms refer to
the idealistic doctrine and I fail to see why Schmithausen considers the later passage
of the Sandhinirmocanastra to be the oldest occurrence of the doctrine. I use vi-
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Like the Aashasrikprajpramit, this Stra too was also
translated by Lokakema and counts as one of the earliest Mahynas-
tras. While the Aashasrik is considered to be a source for the
Madhyamaka philosophy of Ngrjuna, the Pratyutpannabuddha-
sammukhvasthitasmadhistra is assumed to be a foundation of the
idealism of the Yogcra. In the type of meditation described and
praised in this Stra, the yogi visualizes one, or even several present
Buddhas, foremost Amitbha, the Buddha of Immeasurable Light/-
Luster. When he reaches the highest degree of concentration, he per-
ceives the Buddha(s) face to face. Only after he emerges from the state
of meditation does he understand that he did not go to the Buddha, nor
did the Buddha come to him. The whole encounter took place only in
japtimtrat doctrine above to refer to the doctrine that the so-called external ob-
jects are in reality images in one`s consciousness, no matter whether this doctrine is
referred to by cittamtra, vijaptimtra, or by another term. Schmithausen seems to
distinguish between Mahynastras and Yogcra texts; thus, while recognizing
that the Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhvasthitasmadhistra is considerably earlier
than the Sandhinirmocanastra, he still considers the latter to be the earliest
Yogcra source. Even if the distinction is cogent, it raises difficulties for Schmit-
hausen`s analysis of the Sandhinirmocanastra. Either the authors of this Stra al-
ready knew the doctrine from the Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhvasthitasmadhi-
stra or from another source and borrowed it, or the doctrine has originated twice,
each independently of the other. In the former case, the Sandhinirmocanastra
would hardly qualify as the earliest available source of the doctrine, and even if one
were to assume that in the Yogcra texts/school the doctrine was borrowed in the
context of spiritual practice, that would hardly imply that it originated in this con-
text. If, on the other hand, the latter is assumed, one would have to face the charge
of kalpangaurva. Assuming, as Schmithausen seems to do (e.g., 1984: 455, 2005:
250) that cittamtra is an older term than vijaptimtra, what does the introduction
or occurrence of a new term for an older doctrine tell us about origin of this doc-
trine? According to my understanding, even if we accept all of Schmithausen`s con-
jectures and assumptions, the change in terminology indicates an attempt to put an
idea that is not new (that is, it may be new only in Yogcra context, not new as
such) into an old garb. In that case, the Sandhinirmocanastra could tell us at most
when/where the doctrine was borrowed, not when/where it originated. Yet
Schmithausen (1984: 454) does not seem to assume that the doctrine has been bor-
rowed, but that it has been newly incepted: [The double entendre in Sandhinirmo-
canastra VIII.7] can be appreciated as purposeful only in the context of the intro-
duction of a new idea on which its discoverer wanted to confer as much of a tradi-
tional garb as was available.
his mind. And again the yogi generalizes: Just as during the meditation
all objects were mere images in my mind or consciousness, so are all
external objects: they are nothing but images in one`s mind. The exter-
nal world, i.e., the world outside consciousness, does not exist.
It is worthwhile noting that in this case there is no one-to-one
correspondence between the content of the meditation and a metaphysi-
cal doctrine. The yogi in meditation does not have an insight into the
true nature of reality. On the contrary, the objects of his meditation, the
Buddha(s) that he visualizes, are false. Epistemologically speaking, they
have the same status as an illusion. Only after the state of meditation,
from without, does the yogi reach the correct conclusion. As the text
states, he did not go to the Buddha, and the Buddha did not come to
him. (Nevertheless, the meditation is not entirely without foundation in
reality because the mind of the Buddha indeed operates from a distance
directly on the mind of the yogi.
Therefore, when Schmithausen states that the metaphysical doc-
trines in Buddhism arose in an immediate manner from spiritual praxis
(unmittelbar aus der spirituellen Praxis hervorgewachsen sein dr-
ften), he uses the expression arose in an immediate manner in differ-
ent meanings. In one case, the expression refers to the molding of medi-
tative experience into a philosophical or religious doctrine, in the other
case to the molding of the experience into a doctrine that contradicts it
because the experience in the state of meditation is declared to be
Next, let us consider the meaning of checking the context.
According to the Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhvasthitasmadhistra
the yogi attains an understanding of a metaphysical doctrine after and
on the basis of his experience during meditation. Can we rely on this
For an English translation, cf. Harrison 1990, esp. chapter 3.
Three factors are necessary for the obtaining of the vision of the Buddhas (Harrison
1990: 41): [t]he might (Skt. anubhva) of the Buddha, the application of the force
of their [the Bodhisattvas`] own wholesome potentialities, and the power [which is
the result] of attaining samdhi. Cf. also ibid., pp. 49 and 51 where it is stated that
the Bodhisattvas are established in the samdhi while being supported by the Bud-
In a personal communication Schmithausen informs me that he would now with-
draw the adverb unmittelbar (in an immediate manner), but still maintains that
philosophical theories arise in a mediate manner from meditation.
presentation of the context and draw historical conclusions about the
origination of this metaphysical teaching from it? The Mahynastras
are obviously not historical narratives or reports in the sense that they
provide information on the historical situation in which their teachings
came into being. In other words, if a Mahynastra narrates that a cer-
tain yogi reached the right view about vijaptimtrat in meditation,
this would hardly allow us to infer that this was in fact the way the doc-
trine came into being, even if the contextual connection in the Stra
seems smooth. Besides, the Mahynastras in general and our Stra in
particular do not describe the meditating yogi as discovering anything
that was not already taught by the Buddha. The yogi does not enter
meditation as a tabula rasa, but only after studying (or hearing) what
has to be practiced during meditation. Thus, the Stra`s own account
does not leave any room for innovation. Rather, one could say that no
matter how a metaphysical doctrine arose, the Mahynastras present
it as the Buddha`s word and as an object of meditation. The mode of
presentation has more to do with religious topology and literary conven-
tions than with an actual historical situation. If we were to take the Ma-
hynastras as historical accounts, we may just as well start looking
for the origin of Mahyna theories on the Vulture Peak in Rjagha.
It would also not be advisable, as some scholars attempted only
a generation ago
with respect to the Stras of Conservative Buddhism,
to discard those parts of the Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhvasthita-
smadhistra that are obviously mythical and assume that what remains
corresponds to a historical reality. Such a procedure was applied, for
instance, to the biography of the Buddha, with results that seem more
and more doubtful. Imagine subtracting the wolf from Little Red Riding
Hood and assuming that the rest of the story corresponds somehow to
historical reality.
Moreover, even if one were to accept that the presentation in this
particular Stra is a true and faithful mirror of its origin, this still does
not lead to conclusive results in this case, or better, it leads to more than
one result. The crucial passage adduced as evidence for the thesis that
the doctrine of vijaptimtrat originated in meditative practice can also
be adduced as evidence that the same doctrine was developed as a result
Indeed, not only a generation ago; cf. Schumann 2004.
of thoughts about the reflection of light in mirrors and similar shiny
objects. Let us have a look at the passage to understand how precarious
the textual material is (Harrison 1990: 41-42):
[3K] `For example, Bhadrapla, there are certain women or men with a natural
bent for washing their hair and putting on jewelry, who might decide to look at
themselves in a vessel of clear oil, or a vessel of clear water, or a well-polished
round mirror, or a patch of ground smeared with azurite[?]. If they see therein
their own form, Bhadrapla, what do you think? Does that appearance of the
form of the men or women in the vessel of clear oil, or the vessel of clear water,
or well-polished round mirror, or patch of ground smeared with azurite mean
that there are men or women who have gone inside those things or entered
Bhadrapla said:
`No Reverend Lord, it does not. Rather, Reverend Lord, because the oil and the
water are clear and undisturbed, or the mirror is highly polished, or the patch of
earth smeared with azurite is clean, the reflections stand forth; the bodies of the
men or women have not arisen from the water, oil, mirror, or patch of earth, they
have not come from anywhere nor gone anywhere, they have not been produced
from anywhere, nor have they disappeared anywhere.`
[3L] The Lord said:
`Well done, well done, Bhadrapla! You have done well, Bhadrapla! So it is,
Bhadrapla. As you have said, because the forms are good and clear the reflec-
tions appear. In the same manner, when those bodhisattvas have cultivated this
samdhi properly, those Tathgatas are seen by the bodhisattvas with little diffi-
culty. Having seen them they ask questions, and are delighted by the answering
of those questions. In thinking: `Did these Tathgatas come from anywhere?
Did I go anywhere? They understand that the Tathgatas did not come from
anywhere. Having understood that their bodies did not go anywhere either, they
think: `Whatever belongs to this triple world is nothing but mind (~cittamtram
ida yad ida traidhtukam). Why is that? Because however I imagine things,
that is how they appear.`
I`m afraid that nothing decisive can be concluded from this or similar
passages. Furthermore, in the same chapter of the same Stra (chapter
3) the doctrine that all final elements of existence are illusory is pre-
sented in connection with the phenomenon of dreams. After a dream,
one generalizes and comes to the conclusion that the experience in a
dream is the same as all everyday experience and the illusory character
of dreams is extended to the latter.
This connection between dreams
Cf. Harrison 1990: 39: `Bhadrapla, formerly in the past, a certain man travelled
into deserted wilderness, and having become hungry and thirsty was overcome by
and vijaptimtrat is also contextually smooth and given the signifi-
cance of dreams in Indian culture, apparent already in the Vedic period,
one could even argue for certain plausibility in its favor.
However, here Schmithausen would object, as he kindly did in a
personal communication, that his method consists in examining the
oldest source for a key term (Schlssel-Terminus)
in a specific
meaning (in einer bestimmten Bedeutung) and asking whether the
occurrence of the term in its context is plausible,
i.e., whether the in-
torpor and lethargy; he fell asleep, and in a dream obtained a great quantity of food
and drink. On obtaining it he ate his fill, and his hunger and thirst vanished. When
he awoke, neither his body nor his belly had grown any larger, and so he thought:
`There exist certain dharmas which are so, that is, like a dream;` understanding that
to be so he obtained the patient acceptance of the fact that dharmas are not produced
(Skt. anutpattika-dharma-knti); and he also became unable to regress from the su-
preme and perfect awakening.
The text continues that in the same manner the Bodhisattvas who concentrate their
thought on the Tathgata in that quarter, they will obtain a vision of the Buddha.
They should not entertain the apperception of an existing thing, but should entertain
the apperception of an empty space.
The connection between the vijaptimtrat doctrine and dreams in the context of
this stra has already been pointed out by Sharf (Williams 2005:287-288, n. 10). He
quotes Schmithausen 1976: 246 who compares the Bodhisattva`s understanding that
he has not met the Buddha in his meditation to a man, awaking from a dream,
comprehends that all phenomena are illusory like dream visions. He then adds:
Remarkably, Schmithausen cites this text in support of his claim that, `the thesis of
universal idealism originated from the generalisation of a situation observed in the
case of objects visualized in meditative concentration, i.e., in the context of spiritual
practice` (ibid.: 247). Yet this scripture suggests quite the opposite, in so far as it
succeeds in explicating a doctrinal point by drawing an analogy to dreaming.
This emphasis on a key term does not yet appear in Schmithausen`s 1973 paper and
in the English version of 1976, but is formulated in his layavijna (Tokyo 1987)
1.4, pp. 9-10; cf. note 39 below.
Plausibility is, of course, a rather vague criterion. What is plausible for one observer
is implausible for another. If one believes that philosophical theories in Buddhism
arise from meditative experiences, it seems plausible that this is also the case in the
Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhvasthitasmadhistra; if, on the other hand, some-
one, like Bronkhorst or Sharf, does not share this belief, this would seem implausi-
ble. What seems plausible to us is bound to become implausible to the next genera-
tion. Dumezil once gave a wonderful answer to the question whether he was right
about the tripartite ideology: J`ai raison, mais j`aurai tort! (I am right, but I will be
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troduction of the term in the relevant meaning is reasonably motivated,
as he has done with regard to the term layavijna.
The emphasis on a key term raises the question whether a given
theory and the term that designates it coincide. In the case of the terms
vijaptimtra or cittamtra we know this not to be the case.
Schmithausen himself pointed out that the term cittamtra was first
used to negate emotional and volitional factors beside the mind, not the
existence of real objects.
The expression prajaptimtra was used in
the Bodhisattvabhmi and Bodhisattvabhmivinicaya in the sense of
mere denomination, i.e., alluding to a nominalistic theory that denies
the correspondence between human concepts and things in reality, but
does not deny that things exist in reality. In another use of the same
term, it refers to a theory which maintains that false conception really
produces things (outside the mind).
The statement that the whole
world is just mind (cittamtram ida yad ida traidhtukam) in the
Daabhmikastra can be understood as denying the Self (tman), not
the existence of real objects.
So what can be concluded from the fact
that vijaptimtra or cittamtra occur in the Stra in a different (not
necessarily new) meaning? What can be inferred from the fact that they
denote here an idealistic doctrine? Do the terms tell us how this doctrine
arose? The terms are after all descriptive of a certain tenet; they do not
wear a tag saying how the tenet they refer to came about.
Aber ich gehe nicht von einer beliebigen Stelle aus, sondern vom ltesten erreich-
baren Beleg eines Schlssel-Terminus in einer bestimmten Bedeutung, und frage
mich, ob dessen Auftreten dort im Kontext plausibel ist, d.h. die Einfhrung des
verwendeten Terminus in der relevanten Bedeutung einleuchtend motiviert (vgl.
layavijana 1.4). Does the word `Einfhrung` imply that the term was used
there for the first time? Surely that would be an unlikely assumption. Considering
the state of available materials, the assumption that such a source did not survive is
more plausible. Schmithausen clearly says erreichbaren Beleg. Note the (unin-
tended?) switch from the neutral Auftreten to Einfhrung, which is not neutral.
Schmithausen 1976: 244.
Schmithausen 1976: 245.
Schmithausen 1976: 249.
In the case of the term layavijna one may argue that its literal meaning reflects
its first function because the term was coined with that function in mind. However,
such an inference is not possible in the case of cittamtra or vijaptimtra; they do
not disclose the context of their origin.
Furthermore, couldn`t one assume that a doctrine existed before
a specific term was adopted to refer to it? And couldn`t it be that a
source where a technical term does not yet appear indicates an earlier
stage of development before the theory was crystallized and obtained a
special designation? Consequently, is it not possible that a source where
a technical term does not yet appear gives us a better clue as to how the
theory in question originated? Imagining two passages proclaiming the
same idealistic theory, one using the key term vijaptimtra, the other
not referring to it, do we have to conclude that the first passage gives us
the decisive clue as to how the theory arose and not the second?
To conclude the examination of the issue of vijaptimtrat, we
may say that although there is some evidence for the arising of this the-
ory from meditative experience, though certainly not in an immediate
manner, the evidence is inconclusive and the methodology used by
Schmithausen uncertain.
One should also recall that Schmithausen`s theory is not, so to
speak, the only one on the market. Following Paul Harrison, the idealis-
tic teachings of the Pratyutpannabuddhasammukhvasthitasmadhi-
stra can be seen as an attempt to harmonize a certain meditative prac-
tice with the Mahyna teachings which stand in contradiction to it,
namely, the practice of the visualization of the Buddha with the doctrine
that everything, including the Buddha himself, is unreal. If this hy-
pothesis were confirmed, the doctrine did not arise from meditative
practice, but from the need to harmonize contradictory theories: a pre-
viously existing doctrine and/or practice of meditation being adjusted to
Consider for instance two passages that refer to the Skhyistic doctrine of the
three guas as constituent parts of all matter. I do not think that anyone would argue
that the passage where the technical term gua or the technical terms for the specific
guas appear for the first time in the available sources is necessarily older and gives
us a better clue about the origin of the doctrine. To take another example, the doc-
trine of the Tathgatagarbha referred to below appears in rudimentary form, and
without association with a technical term, in the Lotus Stra in connection with the
eccentric monk Sadparibhta. Should one, therefore, conclude from a methodologi-
cal point of view that the passage where the key term occurs for the first time, rather
than the one where it does not occur, gives us the key about the origin of the doc-
a new philosophical theory.
One may also speculate that the buddh-
nusmti-Meditation was first harmonized with a previously existing
vijaptimtrat doctrine, because the author of the Stra emphasizes
that the buddhnusmti functions within the frame of the vijaptimtra-
t doctrine by assuming a mutual influence between the mind of the
meditator and that of the Buddha. Then, in a second stage of develop-
ment, the vijaptimtrat doctrine was integrated into Mahyna Illu-
sionism, according to which even the mind and its images are unreal.
Furthermore, the vijaptimtrat doctrine is the only Yogcra
doctrine that is examined by Schmithausen. However, there are other
philosophical doctrines associated with this school,
such as the doc-
trine of the three natures (trisvabhva), the transformation of the basis
a special theory of Buddhahood,
Nirva (aprati-
hitanirva) and tathat, and indeed of the general Mahyna ideal of
It remains to be proved that all these theorieswhich do
not seem less central than the vijaptimtratarose from meditative
experience or from spiritual practice. As far as I can see, it would even
be hard to prove that theories about meditation arise from meditative
practice (cf. below).
My skepticism about the role of meditation in the formation of
philosophical theories is not alleviated when I consider the most impor-
Cf. Harrison 1978. One could argue perhaps that even in this case the vijaptim-
trat doctrine arose indirectly from meditation, namely, from thinking about the
compatibility of buddhnusmti-meditation with Mahyna Illusionism. However, I
do not think that Schmithausen would argue for this hypothesis because what is de-
cisive here is the philosophical desire for coherence, not the spiritual practice as
As far as I know, the doctrine of vijaptimtrat without connection to Mahyna
general illusionism or tathat Monism appears only in later works such as the
Triik of Vasubandhu. This does not mean, of course, that this doctrine (i.e., that
the final elements of existence are mental dharmas that are not themselves illusory)
originated with Vasubandhu.
The notion of school is rather problematic in the Indian philosophical context; I use
this term here merely for the sake of convenience, cf. also Franco 1997: 89-92.
Cf. Sakuma 1998.
Cf. Griffiths 1995.
Cf. Dayal 2004. How much of the Bodhisattva doctrine can be said to have arisen
from spiritual (moral-ethical or meditative) practice?
tant individual Yogcra philosophers, Maitreya
and Asaga. Frau-
wallner described Maitreya`s philosophy as follows (Frauwallner 1994:
297-298): Im groen gesehen ist die Lehre Maitreyanthas ein
kunstvolles Gebude, in dem die verschiedenen lteren Lehren mit
wertvollen eigenen Gedanken zu einer Einheit verschmolzen sind.
Among the older teachings, Frauwallner mentions the theory of the
highest Being of Sramati, earlier Yogcra ideas (Anschauungen)
and various elements from the Madhyamaka. These diverse elements
were systematized to form a philosophical system which may be termed
idealistic monism. What I fail to see, however, is that the conception of
this system is the result of meditative experience. To be sure, liberating
insight is said to be attained only in a state of meditation, but one cannot
show that the philosophical or mystical doctrine realized in this state
actually arose from it or was conceived on its basis. The systematization
of older materials into a coherent and new philosophical system hardly
requires or presupposes meditative experience. Similarly, when one
considers the writings attributed to Asaga, the assumption that they
arose from meditation becomes doubtful, for his basic work consists in
patient reorganization and reworking of older Hnayna Abhidharma
materials within the new framework of Yogcra idealism.
The next Mahyna tradition I would like to consider is the
Tathgatagarbha, the so-called Buddha-embryo school. According to
this school all living beings are potential Buddhas and, even though it
will certainly take much time, will eventually become Buddhas. In other
words, all living beings are Buddha embryos that will grow to become
fully developed Buddhas oraccording to another meaning of the word
garbha which may mean not only embryo but also womball
living beings represent wombs in which Buddhas will grow. The Tath-
gatagarbhastra is presumably the earliest source in which the Tathga-
tagarbha doctrine is expressed in association with this term itself.
chael Zimmermann, to whom we owe the most extensive study of this
The historicity of Maitreya is dubious, but there is no need to discuss this issue here
because it does not affect my argument.
Cf. Frauwallner 1994: 328: Fr sein System ist vor allem die bernahme der
Begriffswelt der Hnayna-Dogmatik kennzeichnend.
The Ekayna doctrine, however, which is presupposed or implied by the Tathgata-
garbha philosophy, predates the Tathgatagarbhastra. Cf. also note 44 above.
Stra, also investigated its origin and I cannot but fully agree with his
conclusion (Zimmermann 2002: 75):
Of course, we cannot know whether the idea of the Buddha-nature in living be-
ings resulted from a novel meditative experience or because the authors felt the
need to assert its existence in order to improve an unsatisfactory worldly or phi-
losophical state of affairs, or whether it is based on other experiences. All this is
mere speculation.
The last philosophical tradition I would like to examine here is
the so-called Prama School. How much of the Buddhist philosophy
presented in the prama works can be said to have arisen from medita-
tive practice? We are relatively well informed about the origin of this
tradition and its philosophical theories, and it seems that they do not
have anything to do with meditation. Rather, in the first stage (as re-
flected in the *Tarkastra, *Upyahdaya, the final part of the Spitzer
and fragments from Vasubandhu`s lost works Vdavidhi
and Vdavidhna), the Buddhists borrow very heavily from Brahmini-
cal manuals of debate, adding, modifying and developing here and
there. In the later period, from the sixth century onwards, Buddhist phi-
losophy, focusing mainly but not exclusively on epistemology, logic
and theory of language, is developed above all in response to and in
controversy with the Brahminical philosophers from the Nyya and
Mms traditions. It is clear that when Schmithausen speaks about
philosophical theories, he thinks primarily of ontological theories and
leaves aside epistemology, logic, theory of language and to large extent
even ethics.
Dignga, Dharmakrti, Dharmottara, Prajkaragupta,
akaranandana and Jnarmitra are generally considered the most
outstanding Buddhist philosophers, but one cannot point at anything in
their writings as having originated from meditation. For all we know,
Cf. Tucci 1929 and Franco 2004.
It is also clear that Schmithausen`s understanding of the term philosophy is not
restricted to philosophy in the technical sense, which is characterized by the use of
special reasons and arguments. It is only by following Schmithausen`s usage of the
term philosophy that I used here philosophical theory, philosophical doctrine
and similar expressions while referring to Buddhist Stras and Abhidharma litera-
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these Buddhist philosophers may not have practiced meditation at all,
or if they did, perhaps only for short and insignificant periods of time.
At this point it may be worthwhile to raise the question how the Bud-
dhist tradition itself considered the relationship between meditation and
metaphysics. I mentioned above that meditation plays a decisive role in
the doctrines that are rejected as harmful in the Brahmajlasutta. This
Stra, which is placed first in the collection of stras in the Pli canon,
discusses some sixty-four
erroneous views held by various ascetics
and Brahmins. A large number of these false views arise directly from
meditative experiences. I will mention only two such views, one claim-
ing that the world is finite, the other that it is infinite. It is clear that the
We have practically no biographical data about the Buddhist philosophers. Pra-
jkaragupta was probably a lay person (upsaka) (cf. Tarantha 1997: 296) and
akaranandana was perhaps not even a Buddhist; cf. Krasser 2001 and Eltschinger
forthcoming. A pertinent observation by Eltschinger is worth quoting in this connec-
tion (2008: 16): Le bouddhisme indien nous confronte donc a la situation
suivante. D`un ct, des sectes nombreuses dont les spcificits disciplinaires et
doctrinales nous sont plus ou moins bien documentes; de l`autre, des discours phi-
losophiques plus ou moins bien connus eux aussi, mais dont l`ancrage institutionnel
sectaire nous chappe. En d`autres termes, ces deux ordres de ralit, l`institutionnel
et le philosophique, ne concident ou ne se superposent qu`en de trs rares cas en
l`tat actuel de nos connaissances. I would only want to add that even if we knew
more about the sectarian and institutional affiliation of the Buddhist philosophers,
we would still not know if, and to what extent, an individual philosopher followed
such disciplinary and doctrinal specifications in practice.
To these, one may add perhaps Vasubandhu, whose strength, so it seems, lies more
in his ability to systematise and expound various theories than in conceiving original
philosophical doctrines. There is a biography of Vasubandhu by Paramrtha, which
is, to be sure, partly legendary. Yet it is interesting that Paramrtha never depicts his
hero meditating. Rather, Vasubandhu studies the Buddhist writings, summarizes
them, refutes them, argues by means of logical reasoning and on points of grammar,
and engages in debates with teachers of rival schools, both Buddhists and non-
Buddhists, on the whole not unlike modern philosophers. Cf. Takakusu, 1904: 269-
296. One should add perhaps that Paramrtha also describes Asaga as encountering
Maitreya in Tuita-heaven. In any case, it is hardly possible to determine the origin
of philosophical doctrines from hagiographies.
Sixty-four is a number that designates a certain completeness (cf. the sixty-four arts
and crafts [kal]). While there are certainly more than sixty-four wrong views in the
world, the author nevertheless seems to be striving for an exhaustive enumeration of
all views concerning the world (loka) and the self (atta).
author(s) of this Stra distrust(s) meditative visions and trances as a
source for philosophical theories (Anonymous 1987: 32):
He [a certain samaa or brhmaa] says thus: This world is finite. It is circum-
scribed. Why can it be said so? It can be said so because having achieved utmost
mental concentration by dint of ardent, steadfast, persevering exertion, mindful-
ness and right attentiveness, and having established my mind in highest concen-
tration, I abide in the view that the world is finite. Based on this, I know that the
world is finite and that it is circumscribed.
Exactly the same formulation is used to substantiate the contradictory
view that the world is infinite:
He [a certain samaa or brhmaa] says thus: This world is infinite, with no
limit. Those samaas and brhmaas who assert that the world is finite and that
it is circumcised are wrong. In fact, this world is infinite, with no limit. Why can
it be said so? It can be said so because having achieved utmost mental concen-
tration by dint of ardent, steadfast, persevering exertion, mindfulness and right
attentiveness, and having established my mind in highest concentration, I abide
in the view that the world is infinite. Based on this, I know that the world is infi-
nite, with no limit.
As mentioned above, both views are rejected by the Buddha (or more
precisely, by the author of the Stra), however, not because he rejects
that the meditating persons achieved utmost mental concentration by
dint of ardent, steadfast, persevering exertion, mindfulness and right
attentiveness, that is, not because he questions the quality of their
meditative practice, but because meditative visions, such as recollec-
tions of numerous past lives, are not in themselves a sound basis for the
formation of metaphysical doctrines.
The topic of the special perception of yogis is extensively dealt
with in the Buddhist epistemological tradition, where it is intimately
related to the fundamental issues of the Buddhist religion, such as the
reliability and omniscience of the Buddha. According to this tradition,
as well as most, if not all Buddhist traditions, the Buddha already dis-
covered everything one needs to know in order to achieve Enlighten-
ment. Therefore, theoretically the yogi cannot innovate anything on the
basis of his meditative experiences, at least not anything soteriologi-
cally true and useful, but has to meditate on the content of the Buddha`s
The same formula is adduced as a reason for the false claims that the world is per-
manent, impermanent, partly permanent, etc. Cf. ibid., pp. 19, 21, 22, etc.
The characterization of the special perception of yogis in the
Pramasamuccaya, the foundational work of the Prama tradition,
may seem surprising at first sight: The yogin`s intuition which is not
associated (avyavakra) with any conceptual construction of the gama
(the authoritative words of the teachers) and which apprehends only a
thing in itself is also perception.
Read as such, this statement may
create the impression that the perception of yogis has, by definition,
nothing to do with the Buddhist authoritative writings (gama), but in
fact the contrary is the case. What Dignga means, and this is also how
his followers understood him, is that the yogi studies the Buddhist
teachings, meditates on them and in the process of meditation casts
away all conceptual constructions, all cognitions related to language,
and arrives at an immediate, non-conceptual understanding of these
very teachings, perceiving them as vividly as one perceives an object in
front of one`s eyes. Therefore, the characterization of Dignga in fact
limits the scope of perception of yogis to the content of the Buddhist
works which profess the Buddha`s word (or if Dignga also had non-
Buddhist yogis in mind, to the scope of the authoritative teachings of
the respective traditions).
In other words, it is theoretically impossible
that the yogi will discover anything new and true in his visions that is
not already included in his authoritative tradition.
The literature of the Buddhist epistemological tradition is par-
ticularly interesting because it also provides us with theories about
meditative trance. Here we can learn not only what the yogis perceive in
a trance, but also about the nature of trance, how it arises, what its dis-
tinctive qualities are and so on. Moreover, we possess the individual
writings of the most important philosophers of this tradition and can
thus see how their theories were developed. The topic of meditation or
perception of yogis (yogipratyaka), as it is usually called, became an
In this respect Robert Sharf is certainly right when he points out that the Buddhist
tradition distrusted any new meditative experiences.
Cf. PS on I.6cd: yoginm apy gamavikalpvyavakram arthamtradarana
pratyakam. The translation is taken from Hattori 1968: 27.
At least according to Dharmakrti and later commentators, only the Buddha`s teach-
ings, mainly the four noble truths, are an appropriate object of meditation. Non-
Buddhist meditations do not count as yogic perceptions, but as mere delusions; cf.
Franco forthcoming.
important issue of controversy in the epistemological tradition to the
extent that Jnarmitra (ca. 980-1040), the last important Buddhist
philosopher in South Asia, devoted a special treatise to it.
yogic perception and related issues were hotly debated for hundreds of
years before that, especially with the Mms philosophers, who rec-
ognized the potential danger yogic perception posed to the authority of
the Veda.
In addition, epistemological problems inherent in the notion
of yogic perception were independently raised. Already Dharmakrti
(ca. 600-660) was faced with the problem how abstract statements, such
as those that constitute the four noble truths, could be perceived in an
immediate manner, that is, without involving concepts (cf. Franco forth-
coming). Later generations were particularly concerned with the prob-
lems related to omniscience. Is it really possible for a yogi, such as the
Buddha, to know everything? What is the object of an omniscient cog-
nition? Can one really know all individual things in a single act of
awareness? Or is it only possible to know the essence of one thing and
from that knowledge understand the essence of all things?
Another problem concerns the veracity of yogic perception. If
yogic perception is to be considered true, its object must exist, just like
the object of any other perception. However, yogis in the Indian (not
just Buddhist) tradition are believed to have direct perceptions of past
and future objects.
Accordingly, Prajkaragupta (ca. 750-810) argues
that past and future objects must exist. This tenet, in its turn, leads to a
development in the theory of time, which must account for the differ-
ence in the mode of existence of past, present and future objects. Pra-
jkaragupta maintains that time taken as an independent and perma-
nent entity does not exist. He seems to conceive of time as a relational
property. Speaking of time as a separate entity, for instance, when one
says: the time of this thing, is similar to saying the body of this
For a general introduction to the topic of yogic perception in the Prama literature
and a summary of the Yoginiraya, cf. Steinkellner 1978.
Cf. McCrea`s and Taber`s papers in this volume.
Cf. McClintock 2000, Moriyama 2004, Moriyama forthcoming, Franco forthcom-
The perception of past and future objects is already mentioned in the Yogastra as
one of the accomplishments or supernatural powers (siddhis) of yogis. Cf. YS
torso. Past or future objects are, therefore, objects that are not seen at
present. And to say that yogis perceive the past or the future means that
they perceive what is not being seen, that is, not being seen by other
ordinary people. Therefore, being a past or future entity depends on its
not seeing by ordinary people. The yogi himself perceives past and fu-
ture objects as present; only after emerging from the state of meditation
does he determine them as past or future.
When one follows this discussion in detail, it is clear that the de-
liberations are purely philosophical. It is in fact quite certain that Pra-
jkaragupta developed the theory of the existence of past and future
objects in the context of his proof of life after death and merely adapted
a ready-made theory to the context of yogic perception. It can also be
observed that the discussion of meditation in general in the Buddhist
epistemological tradition is not related to actual experience in medita-
To what extant this was also the case in the earlier Abhidharma
tradition cannot be determined because the mode of presentation in the
Abhidharma texts is impersonal and does not provide a context for pos-
sible personal innovations by individual philosophers. It is doubtful
whether the authors of the Mahynastras, the Yogcrabhmi or
manuals of meditation
were themselves practicing yogis or whether
PVABh, 113,79: tasmd attdi payatti ko rtha? anyendyamna payati
tad dyamnatay vartamnam eva tvat tad iti na doa. anypekay tasytt-
ditvam. tasmd yat sktkta tad evstti nttd<v> akavypras tasya skt-
It is symptomatic that the example of the infatuated lover who sees his beloved as if
she were standing right before his eyes is based on Dharmakrti`s exposition and
that it is repeated for hundreds of years. However, the poverty of examples, i.e., the
fact that the same old examples are repeated again and again and hardly any new
ones are introduced into the philosophical discourse is typical for Indian philosophy
in general.
For an example of a Buddhist manual of meditation, cf. Schlingloff 2006. Schlin-
gloff points out that the purpose of the manual is not to teach the methods and tech-
niques of meditative practice (their knowledge is presupposed), but to present the
individual visions systematically, and classify and underpin them dogmatically
(Schlingloff 2006: 30): Dieses [das Yogalehrbuch] hat die Aufgabe, die einzelne
Visionen als systematische bungen darzustellen, zu gliedern und dogmatisch zu
untermauern. The practical part (der praktischer Teil) too is anchored in the tra-
dition; just as Maudgalyyana penetrates heaven and earth, the yogi too visualises
them, etc. (ibid.). On the whole, the meditation manual leaves little or no room for
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they were not rather systematizing the experiences of others. The latter
state of affairs would hardly be typical for Buddhism alone. For as
Grinshpon repeatedly emphasizes, the author of the Yogastras was a
Skhya philosopher who certainly was not actively practicing yoga
(cf. Grinshpon 2002 passim).
To conclude, I would like come back to Schmithausen`s thesis.
In the above-mentioned paper, Schmithausen attributes the peculiarity
that all central theories in Buddhism arise immediately from spiritual
practice to the Buddha himself: Der Grund fr diesen Unterschied
[zwischen Buddhismus auf der einen Seite und europischer und hindu-
istischer Philosophie auf der anderen Seite] liegt gewiss letztlich in der
Person des Buddha selbst, der mit einer wohl einmaligen Konsequenz
und Radikalitt alle fr das Heil irrelevanten theoretischen Spekulatio-
nen abgewiesen hatte. [The reason for this difference [between Bud-
dhism on the one hand and European and Hindu philosophy on the
other] certainly lies, in the final analysis, in the personality of the Bud-
dha himself, who rejected once and for all, and with unique conse-
quence and radicalness, all theoretical speculations that are irrelevant to
Schmithausen`s thesis could be crucial for Buddhist studies. If it
could be shown to be true, he would have discovered an essential driv-
ing force that played a crucial role during the entire history of Bud-
dhism. One could almost see the Hegelian spirit entering Buddhist phi-
losophy and determining it in a decisive manner and to a surprising
degree. Not being a Hegelian myself, I find it difficult to accept that in
the long and complex history of Buddhism in South Asia the causal
relationship between meditation and metaphysics was in all central
cases one-directional, spiritual practice always being the cause and
metaphysics always the effect. As I have tried to show above, this as-
personal innovations. The language is both descriptive and prescriptive; it not only
describes what the yogi supposedly sees, but also what he should see. The individual
spontaneous visions are in fact modelled after the Buddha`s biography and other ca-
nonical materials. The same hold good for other manuals and descriptions of medi-
tations, cf. Yamabe 1999 and forthcoming, Bretfeld 2003.
The historicity of the Buddha and our ability to extract his original teachings from
the canonical writings are clearly presupposed in this passage and need not be
spelled out. Those were obviously more optimistic times.
sumption involves a number of problems and there are considerations
clearly speaking against it. On the whole, it is simply not provable. In-
deed, it would be difficult to prove that spiritual practice is the cause of
something when the spiritual practice itself is all but unknown to us.
As far as I can see, the relation between meditation and meta-
physics in Buddhism cannot be reduced to a single model. In the final
analysis, one cannot avoid the conclusion that certain philosophical
theories arose from meditative experiences and certain others did not,
and that the origin of still others cannot be determined, in which case it
seems preferable to suspend judgment. On the basis of the examples
mentioned above, I would say that the dhyna meditation and the higher
levels of the rpya meditation (at least the last two levels), which inci-
dentally are not mentioned by Schmithausen,
seem to fit his model
very well. The cosmic layers that bear the same name seem to have
been conceived as cosmological parallels to the content as well as the
psychological characteristics of the corresponding visions. This is clear
already from the terminology. On the other hand, the theory of momen-
tariness, as Schmithausen himself conceded, seems to have been devel-
oped out of philosophical considerations. The same can be maintained
for the doctrine of the pudgala and the antman doctrine. The doctrine
of prattyasamutpda seems to have arisen as a systematization of older
canonical materials, and perhaps redactional reasons were the primary
driving force behind it. Reflection on the law of karma and the phe-
nomenon of memory, as well as textual considerations, seem to have led
to the Sarvstivda assumption of past and future objects. The question
whether meditation or philosophical reasoning caused the arising of the
Mahyna doctrine of emptiness cannot be answered because relevant
unambiguous materials are lacking. The same holds true for the vijap-
This difficulty is relevant not only for Schmithausen`s thesis, but also for recent
attempts to use Pierre Hadot`s interpretation of Greek philosophy as a model for
Buddhist philosophy; cf. McClintock 2002: 6-8 and Kapstein 2003: 3-16. The prob-
lems and shortcomings of this approach are discussed in Eltschinger 2008. Eltschin-
ger rightly concludes ( 20): nos textes [i.e., les textes de la philosophie boudd-
hique] ne se laissent pratiquement jamais reconduire a leurs conditions historiques
de production, ne quittant jamais le terrain de l`argumentation et du raisonnement
The reason for this is not clear to me; perhaps he does not consider them to be Bud-
dhist in origin.
timtrat doctrine. To be sure, there is some evidence that connects this
doctrine to the visualizations of the Buddha(s), but I fail to see how one
could determine whether this doctrine arose from reflections on such
visualizations or whether it originated independently and was applied to
the meditative context to show that visualizations of the Buddha(s) are
meaningful even within the Mahyna illusionistic context.
Furthermore, even if we were to assume for the sake of argu-
ment that all central philosophical theories in Buddhism were developed
indirectly by reflection on spiritual practice, one could still argue that
the dichotomy between spiritual practice and philosophical theory as
such is not always tenable. For what happens when a philosopher thinks
about spiritual practicequite possibly without first-hand experience of
this practiceand develops a new theory? Could it be said that in this
case the doctrine arose from spiritual praxis in contradistinction to phi-
losophical and theoretical considerations?
Finally, it is worth repeating that the yogi, even if he were to ar-
rive at a new metaphysical doctrine on the basis of meditation, does not
enter meditative experience in the state of tabula rasa. It is highly
unlikely that a Buddhist yogi will meet God the Creator in his visions,
nor that a Jewish mystic or a Sufi will experience the antman-doctrine.
Even the purest meditative experience is culturally and linguistically
bound, and is engrossed in a tradition.
AKBh Abhidharmakoabhyam of Vasubandhu. Ed. P. Pradhan.
Patna 1975.
Anonymous 1987 Ten suttas from Dgha Nikya. Rangoon 1984. Repr. Va-
ranasi 1987.
In this connection one has to note especially the extensive work of Stephan Katz. He
argued convincingly and repeatedly that mystical experiences are determined to a
considerable degree by language and culture, e.g. Katz 1992: 5: [Mystical experi-
ences] are inescapably shaped by prior linguistic influences such that the lived ex-
perience conforms to a pre-existent pattern that has been learned, then intended, and
then actualized in the experiential reality of the mystic. Cf. also Katz 1983: 3-60.
Aung and Rhys Davids
Points of Controversy or Subjects of Discourse. Transl.
Shwe Zan Aung and Rhys Davids. Repr. London 1969.
Bareau 1955 Andr Bareau, Les sectes bouddhiques du petit vhicule.
Saigon 1955.
Bareau 1963 Andr Bareau, Recherches sur la biographie du Bouddha
dans les Strapiaka et Vinayapiaka anciens : De la qute
de lveil la conversion de riputra et de Maudgalyya-
na. Paris 1963.
Bastian 1894 Adolf Bastian, Graphische Darstellung des buddhistischen
Weltsystems. Verhandlungen der Berliner Gesellschaft fr
Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte Jahrgang
1894. In: Zeitschrift fr Ethnologie 26 (1894) 203-213
(additional unnumbered pages for tables III-VII).
Brauen 1998 Martin Brauen, The Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan
Buddhism. London 1998.
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Knowing Nothing: Candrakrti and Yogic
Individuals who have reached advanced stages on the Buddhist path are
renowned for being able to apprehend things beyond the ken of ordinary
persons. A plethora of anecdotes, narratives and expository material in
Indian Buddhist works, beginning with the earliest suttas and extending
through the compositions of the Conservative (the so-called Hnayna)
schools to the Mahyna scriptures and stras, depict and describe
practitioners who have gained perceptual and cognitive access to remote
objects and otherwise inaccessible information, who know distant envi-
ronments, the hidden or invisible in their immediate surroundings,
and/or the fundamental nature of the world. The ability of these adepts
to experience distinct phenomena, states of affairs, dimensions and su-
preme realities concealed to others is often attributed to their mastery of
concentrative states and meditative techniques, and the acquisition of
refined levels of consciousness generated on their basis. Given the spe-
cifically Buddhist focus of these persons` striving, their efforts tend to
be ultimately aimed at the direct cognition of or immediate insight into
their tradition`s conception of the final truth, this truth being presented
in early and Conservative Buddhism as, e.g., the four noble truths, and
in the Madhyamaka school of Mahyna Buddhism as emptiness.
Ngrjuna (2nd/3rd c. CE), the founder of the Madhyamaka
school, although without doubt convinced of an ultimate state of affairs,
has little specific to say about perception of the out-of-the-ordinary in
Research for this article was supported by the Austrian Science Foundation in the
context of the FWF-Project S9805-G08. I am most grateful to Prof. Eli Franco, Dr.
Dorji Wangchuk and Terry Chantler for carefully reading the present paper and for
offering insightful comments and suggestions. I also thank Dr. Mudagamuwe
Maithrimurthi for sharing with me his knowledge of the abhijs.
his Mlamadhyamakakrik (henceforth MMK), and focuses its 447
verses primarily on refuting the existence of the phenomena known to
the world, or, more particularly, on disproving the entities, categories
and concepts accepted and taught by the Conservative Buddhist
With the exception of the very general reference in MMK
24.24 to the cultivation (bhvan) of the path (mrga),
Ngrjuna also
does not mention or discuss in the MMK the means, such as meditation
techniques, for arriving at apprehension of the paroka, the impercepti-
ble, or, as described by later scholars, the atyntaparoka, the radically
inaccessible. This dearth of references to methods and processes and his
limited delineation of the result leave his stance on exactly what those
who dare to appropriate and internalize his radical critique might in the
end perceive, achieve or experience open to interpretation, and contrib-
ute to it remaining a topic of debate among scholars. Although the com-
plementary scrutiny of other writings attributed to him contributes to the
illumination of his views, for more explicit and detailed statements
about yogic perception and the objects of yogic perception in Madhya-
maka it is necessary to examine the works of later authors and commen-
tators. The present paper will mainly concentrate on statements by Can-
drakrti (600650 CE) that address, and allude and relate to the topic of
yogic perception. These can be found scattered throughout his works; I
rely here on his commentary on the MMK, i.e., the Prasannapad, his
commentaries on Ngrjuna`s Yuktiaik and nyatsaptati,
and on
his independent work the Madhyamakvatra, together with its bhya.
See Vetter 1982: 96, n. 21, where he considers MMK 7.4 to represent the view of a
Sarvstivda opponent; MMK 9.1-2 and 9.6 that of a Pudgalavdin, possibly a
Smitya; MMK 17.1-11 to represent the view of an opponent who would at least
later be termed a Sautrntika; and MMK 17.12-20 to possibly be that of a
Smitya. See also Kragh 2006, Chapter 3 for more detailed discussion concerning
references to the opponents dealt with in MMK 17.1-20. Ngrjuna`s approach in
the MMK is apophatic, but he does refer to and even characterize (primarily nega-
tively) the ultimate state (see, e.g., MMK 18.9); important references to the highest
truth and nirva in the MMK have been noted and discussed in Vetter 1982.
MMK 24.24: svbhvye sati mrgasya bhvan nopapadyate | athsau bhvyate
mrga svbhvya te na vidyate ||. The mrga is also referred to in MMK 24.25
and 40, bhvan in 24.27.
Candrakrti`s authorship of the nyatsaptativrtti is not completely beyond doubt.
The work is not mentioned in Indian literature, and only the colophon of the Tibetan
translation of the work (in all four Canonical editions of the Tanjur) and later Ti-
Dieses eBook wurde von der Plattform libreka! fr Gregory Zwahlen mit der Transaktion-ID 1072965 erstellt.
Before proceeding to a presentation of the Madhyamaka understanding
of the ultimate and an investigation of Candrakrti`s views on its per-
ception, it might be noted that Candrakrti also makes allowance for
more general types of extrasensory knowledge. One interesting refer-
ence to the wonder of yogic perception in its wider sense is encountered
at Madhyamakvatra 3.11, where Candrakrti recites some of the at-
tainments gained by the practitioner who has reached and dwells on the
third Bodhisattva level of awakening, the bhmi called prabhkar, the
He states that the Bodhisattva who abides on this level,
in addition to completely destroying his craving and hatred and perfect-
ing the dhynas,
attains supernormal knowledge, or, as it is sometimes
interpreted, direct knowledge (mngon shes, *abhij). In the commen-
tary on his verse, it is made clear that with his mention of supernormal
knowledge he intends a traditional five-fold group of abhijs, four of
which might broadly be seen as types of clairvoyance.
These five types
of supranormal capability are generally said to be produced on the basis
of the practitioner having reached the fourth dhyna, an intensified con-
centrative state characterized by one-pointedness of mind and emotional
equanimity. The first of the five abhijs referred to in Candrakrti`s
commentary consists in the ability to perform various types of paranor-
betan historians name him as its author. For internal criteria that nonetheless appear
to support attribution of the work to him, see Erb 1997: 1-10.
MA 3.11 (MABh
53.17-20): sa der rgyal sras bsam gtan mngon shes dang || dod
chags zhe sdang yongs su zad par gyur || des kyang rtag tu jig rten pa yi ni || dod
pai dod chags joms par nus par gyur ||.
The word bsam gtan (*dhyna) is explained in the bhya as intending the four
dhynas, the four sampattis, and the four apramas.
For references to the group of five abhijs, cf. Lamotte 1976: 1814; on the six
abhijs, cf. 1809ff. Lamotte notes (p. 1809) that the first five are usually given in
the order rddhividhijna (Pli: iddhividha) / rddhiviayajna; divyarotra (Pli:
dibbasota); cetaparyyajna (Pli: cetopariyaa) / paracittajna; prvanirv-
snusmr tijna (Pli: pubbe nivsnussatia); cyutyupapdajna (Pli: sattna
cutpaptaa), also known as divyacakus (Pli: dibbacakkhu). Cf. also de La
Valle Poussin 1931; Lindquist 1935; amoli 1995: 37 (with references to
Majjhima Nikya suttas 6, 73, 77 and 108); AK 7.42-56 and AKBh thereon; Dayal
1932: 106ff.; Gethin 1998: 185f.; Gethin 2001: 84. On methods for developing the
iddhis and the abhijs, see Visuddhimagga chapters 12 and 13 (iddhividhniddeso
and abhiniddeso) and AKBh on 7.43d; see also Gethin 2001: 101f.
mal feats (rddhi), such as being able to manifest mind-made bodies, to
pass through physical matter such as walls and mountains, to fly, to
walk on water and dive into the earth, to blaze like fire and shower
down rain from oneself, and to touch the sun and the moon. The second
abhij mentioned is the divine ear (divyarotra), by way of which the
yogin is able to hear any sounds, divine or human, that he wishes to
listen to. The third abhij enables him to know the state of mind of
other beings (paracittajna), the fourth, to recollect millions of his
previous lives in great detail (prvanivsnusmrtijna). With the fifth
supranormal achievement, that of the divine eye (divyacakus), he is
able to see beings dying and being reborn, and knows the wholesome or
unwholesome karma that takes them to their respective good or difficult
destinations. As astounding and fascinating as these powers and super-
normal perceptions might be, Candrakrti has nothing special to say
about them himself, choosing instead to elaborate on them in his bhya
by citing verbatim the Daabhmikastra`s brief but detailed account of
the five abhijs.
His interest in them is exhausted in this account.
As is obvious from Candrakrti`s reliance on a Mahyna stra
for their description, these five abhijs are not unique to the Madhya-
maka school; we are, in fact, familiar with presentations of them in Ca-
nonical and Abhidharma works, and two of them, the recollection of
past lives and the divine eye, figure in a number of Canonical portrayals
of the Buddha`s own awakening.
Individual abhijs, explained as
resulting automatically upon attainment of the fourth dhyna (as in the
case of the Buddha or persons who trained in them in previous lives) or
as needing to be developed through effort by the yogin on the basis of
this dhyna,
were viewed early on as extraordinary but mundane types
of knowledge because they did not on their own accomplish release
from sasra for the practitioner, even though they might be conducive
De La Valle Poussin presents the Sanskrit text of the Daabhmikastra citation in
an appendix to his translation of MA chapter 3; see MABh
1907: 305-307. For the
section cited, see also Rahder 1926: 34-36 (= section M).
For suttas in which these two abhijs do not appear, see Schmithausen 1981: 221,
n. 75.
Cf. Gethin 2001: 102. Cp. AKBh on 7.44b. On the dissociation of liberation from
attainment of the dhynas in some Canonical texts, see Schmithausen 1981: 219-
to it.
Canonical descriptions of the abhijs in the context of the lib-
eration process therefore usually included a further item, termed
knowledge of the destruction of the taints (Pli: savakkhayaa,
Sanskrit: sravakayajna), the taints being [craving for] sensual
pleasures (kma), [craving for] existence (bhava), and ignorance
This abhij came to be known as the supramundane abhi-
j, for it informed of one`s attainment of freedom from birth and death,
of one`s nirva, and in the stereotypical account of the attainment of
liberation has as a main component the insight that effects liberation.
It is probable that two of the abhijs included in the Canonical
liberation accounts, viz., the recalling of former lifetimes and the wit-
nessing of beings propelled by their earlier actions to new existences,
were considered to provide experiential confirmation of soteriologically
relevant truths, especially the truths of suffering and the origin of suffer-
ing, and in this way to contribute to the liberation process. Both Ca-
nonical and post-Canonical authors also acknowledged the usefulness of
other abhijs, such as the ability to read others` minds and the capacity
to perform miracles, for benefitting ordinary persons, especially for
converting them to Buddhism.
Transferred to the Mahynist Bodhi-
sattva context, the first five abhijs the sixth either reserved for
Buddhahood or revised inasmuch as the end of the taints would deliver
the Bodhisattva to a premature nirva and thus abruptly end his ca-
must have been interpreted as serving to deepen the adept`s
See amoli 1995: 37; cp. the discussion and classifications in AKBh chapter 7 ad
verse 42. See also Schmithausen 1981: 221f., where he suggests that the abhijs
may have been considered especially necessary in the case of the Buddha`s original
discovery of the Four Noble Truths.
De La Valle Poussin (1931: 338) remarks: ces cinq savoirs, fut ajout un
sixime: la connaissance que prend le saint de sa saintet. Le caractre scolastique
de cette invention n`est pas douteux.
For the stereotypical account, see Schmithausen 1981: 203-205. On savakkhaya-
a in the context of the stereotypical account, see Schmithausen 1981: 204, n. 16.
On Canonical views regarding the performance of miraculous feats, see, e.g., Gethin
2001: 97-101. Cf. AKBh on AK 7.47 regarding the value of miracles and mind-
reading for conversion; note also Granoff 1996 for problems connected with the per-
formance of miracles.
The Mahprajpramitstra, for example, distinguishes between an incomplete
and complete sravakayajna in order to explain statements in Prajpramit lit-
erature that connect Bodhisattvas with the sixth abhij. In the case of the incom-
plete form, the kleas are stopped, but the vsans are not; see Lamotte 1976:
experience and strengthen his dedication to reach the final goal of
Buddhahood, and as being of use in augmenting both his desire and
ability to inspire and aid others. It is difficult to know whether Can-
drakrti`s single-word reference to the abhijs in his Madhyamakva-
tra verse and his uncommented citing of the Daabhmikastra indi-
cate much more than a tipping of his hat to tradition; their mention may
demonstrate his acknowledgement of the view that the acquisition and
employment of miraculous powers serve the Bodhisattva`s programme
of helping other beings. However, his disinterest in further elaborating
the five abhijs signals that regardless of their value as useful side-
effects of the Bodhisattva`s endeavour, for him they are of minor impor-
tance owing to their negligible soteriological value, both individually
and collectively having little, if anything, to contribute to the actual
achievement of liberation. Yet like the early authors whose inclusion of
a sixth abhij was inspired by a primary concern with knowledge with
soteriological function, Candrakrti`s main interest is in a type of know-
ledge that can be classified as supramundane and that provides the in-
sight which breaks one out of, as the texts have it, the jail of sasra.
Writing nearly a millennium after the Canonical authors composed their
accounts of the Buddha`s and his disciples` liberation process, Can-
drakrti, however, does not assert that the escape from repeated birth
and death is effected through meditative stabilization in the fourth dhy-
na and subsequent profound insight into the four noble truths accom-
panied by vanquishment of the taints. He declares rather that it is
brought about by profound insight into the emptiness (nyat) of
In brief, Candrakrti propounds the view that the world, including the
subject perceiving and experiencing the world, is of an illusionary na-
1816ff. Candrakrti explicitly refers to sravakayajna when he recites and com-
ments on the ten powers (bala) of a buddha in MA 12.21 (cf. MABh
369.13: zag
rnam zad pa mkhyen stobs); in MA 12.31 he declares that it informs the newly ac-
complished buddha of the destruction of the kleas together with their vsans. In-
cluded in the stock list of the ten powers in MA 12.21 is the ability to recall past
lives (sngon gnas dran pa mkhyen pa, *prvanivsnusmr tijna) and the knowl-
edge of the birth and death of beings (chi pho skye blo, *cyutyupapdajna).
ture; it may be appropriate to refer to his view in this respect as one of
metaphysical illusionism.
According to him, the phenomena of the
world, or universe, which appear and seem to be real, in actuality do not
exist. He and others of the Madhyamaka tradition do admit that the
things of the world appear to ordinary, unawakened persons, but they
deny that these things truly are as they appear to be, i.e., real as opposed
to unreal. The Mdhyamikas maintain that the things of the world are
empty of a real nature that would support or justify any claim to their
being ontologically existent. Phenomena must be empty of a real nature,
of an own-being (svabhva), the Mdhyamika argues, because they
arise in dependence (prattyasamutpda) upon other things; whatever
arises in dependence, in being reliant on something else and thus not
capable of existing without the other`s support, obviously does not exist
of its own accord, by its own nature. Would things exist on their own,
i.e., be real, they could as a consequence neither arise nor perish, for a
real thing, a thing with its own being (sva-bhva), would on account
of this not require causes for it to come into being or to pass out of be-
ing; it would not arise in dependence on something else nor decay or
vanish due to the influence of some other factor. Such an entity would
exist forever, and change would be impossible. That the phenomena
experienced by the unawakened are indeed apprehended to arise in de-
pendence, and to change, reveals that they are empty of an own-being,
and thus bereft of true existence. Their arising in dependence translates
into not truly existing, to not actually arising in dependence. The merely
apparent existence of the things of the world therefore inspires the
Mdhyamikas to compare them to, among other illusory phenomena,
the objects apprehended in dreams and mirages, or conjured by a magi-
cian. Even though such objects appear and seem to be real during the
dream, on a hot day in the desert, or, in the case of a magical illusion,
while one beholds the magic show, the elephants in the dream, the water
in the mirage and the beautiful damsel produced by the magician are
empty of real existence and do not actually exist. Upon awakening from
the dream, approaching the mirage for water, or seeing the magician
dissolve the damsel, one relinquishes even though their reality had
been taken for granted until then all ideas of the existence of these
objects. Like these illusory objects, the dependently-arisen phenomena
On Ngrjuna as a propounder of metaphysical illusionism, see Oetke 2007: 16ff.
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of the world that are unquestioningly believed to be genuine by the un-
enlightened have only an apparent reality, a semblance of, a superficial,
fake realness. The teaching of the emptiness of things thus discloses
the deceptive nature of worldly phenomena: they are mere fictions, un-
real appearances masquerading, so to speak, as real things. As fictions
they are actually no things, ontologically nothing, and thus in the final
analysis, inexistent. According to the Mdhyamikas, no thing has ever
really existed and no thing will ever come into existence. The cycling
through repeated births and deaths that constitute the sasric wander-
ing this too has never really occurred.
Thus the question arises: If, according to the Mdhyamikas,
sasra is actually a fiction, what, then, of nirva? Can one escape
from something that never was? Does nirva, unlike sasra, exist?
Or is liberation also a fiction, and the counsel to strive for it, a Mah-
ynist joke? Aid for answering these questions can be found in MMK
chapter 25, the Examination of nirva, and in Candrakrti`s com-
mentary on its individual kriks. It should be mentioned that large
circles within early Buddhism and some of the Conservative schools did
indeed maintain a positively characterized nirva. A number of pas-
sages in early Buddhist works present nirva as an unconditioned and
enduring state or sphere, and as such as similar to the higher spheres of
yogic concentration but radically transcending them; nirva appears in
these specific cases to have been conceived as a metaphysical, or rather,
meta-physical, world-transcending dimension into which the liberated
mind/self would enter.
The Theravdins, in spite of their dogmatic
For references, see Frauwallner 1953: 226f. [= Frauwallner 1984: 178f.]; Schmit-
hausen 1969: 158f. Schmithausen (1969: 159) remarks that the occurrence of a far
greater number of passages negatively characterizing nirva as the process or state
of the termination of suffering derives from the fact that the positive nature of nir-
va, as it is in itself, was beyond the reach of thought and speech and experience-
able only in a meditative state; positive statements might indicate its not being noth-
ing, but detailed speculation, given the nature of language, was dubious. He adds
that such speculation on the nature of nirva was superfluous for the goal of Bud-
dhism: inasmuch as all of worldly existence, on account of its impermanence, was
considered to be suffering, liberation from this suffering sufficed as the goal, regard-
less of whether it might be characterized as a positive state or as pure annihilation.
The tradition thus recognized the existence of a positive though indescribable di-
mension as the place of liberation, but particularly emphasized its negative func-
tion as the ending of suffering.
denial of the existence of a self that might enter or experience nirva,
postulated it as a positive, unconditioned, and enduring and to that
extent joyful entity. Nirva in the Sarvstivda school has the unique
characteristic of being a hypostatized elimination or stopping of the
defilements and suffering, an existing non-being, and was thus con-
sidered a real, unconditioned and permanent entity.
Ngrjuna ad-
dresses the issue of an existent nirva in the fourth, fifth and sixth
kriks of MMK 25,
commencing by unhesitatingly rejecting the pos-
sibility. He argues that if nirva would be an existent thing, it a) would
have to be characterized by aging and death (jarmaraa), b) would
have to be conditioned (saskrta) and c) would have to be reliant on
something else (updya), since all existent things have the characteris-
tics of aging and death, are conditioned and are reliant. No Buddhist
would accept a nirva so characterized. Ngrjuna likewise rejects the
view that nirva is non-existence (abhva).
The equating of nirva
and non-existence was, however, not completely foreign to Buddhism,
for the Sautrntika school did assert a nirva at least an ontological
nirva that is mere non-existence. The Sautrntika nirva is ex-
hausted in its designation: it is solely the name for the fact that the emo-
tional and intellectual defilements, and suffering, no longer arise, onto-
Even though the Sarvstivdins` presuppositions that individual existence ends with
the death of the liberated person and that an tman (which might continue) does not
exist relegated the spiritual experience of nirva without remainder to mere annihi-
lation, the school did make room for the liberative effects of nirva prior to death.
These occurred in the form of a consecutive separation from the defilements brought
about by religious praxis and by pratisakhynirodha (cessation resulting from con-
sideration/insight, equated by the Sarvstivdins with nirva), which of necessity
was viewed as a succession of real, existent pratisakhynirodhas, or nirvas,
equivalent in number to the number of defilements removed. See, e.g., Schmit-
hausen 1969: 161f.; Cox 1994; Cox 1995: 87f., 90f., 323 n. 72.
MMK 25.4: bhvas tvan na nirva jarmaraalakaam | prasajyetsti bhvo hi
na jarmaraa vin ||. MMK 25.5: bhva ca yadi nirva nirva saskrta
bhavet | nsaskrto vidyate hi bhva kvacana kacana || (pda c emended follow-
ing MacDonald 2007: 40f.). MMK 25.6: bhva ca yadi nirvam anupdya tat
katham | nirva nnupdya kacid bhvo hi vidyate ||.
He rejects this possibility in MMK 25.7-8. 25.7: bhvo yadi na nirvam abhva
ki bhaviyati | nirva yatra bhvo na nbhvas tatra vidyate ||. 25.8: yady abh-
va ca nirvam anupdya tat katham | nirva na hy abhvo sti yo nupdya
vidyate ||.
logically nothing at all.
Explicating Ngrjuna`s rejection of nirva
conceived as non-existence, Candrakrti states that in the world a thing
is termed non-existent when it gives up its own-being and becomes
otherwise, i.e., becomes other than existent.
But since nirva was
never established as something that exists, it cannot relinquish its exis-
tence and become otherwise; that is, not having obtained the necessary
prerequisite of having the state of a thing, it is not in a position to aban-
don this state and become inexistent. Speaking to the Sautrntika view
of nirva as the cessation and thus end of the defilements, as their
having become otherwise, Candrakrti declares that if the non-
existence of the defilements
is nirva, then the impermanence of the
defilements (to be understood as their momentary perishing in the
sasric continuum) will have to be accepted as nirva. This is defi-
nitely not accepted by the Sautrntikas, asserts Candrakrti, because it
would entail that liberation is automatically achieved, without any effort
on the part of the practitioner.
Yet even though the Mdhyamikas reject a nirva conceived and
classified either as an existent or as non-existence (as well as one char-
acterized by both existence and non-existence, and by neither existence
nor non-existence),
they continue to speak of nirva. This is con-
firmed, for instance, by Candrakrti`s commentary on MMK 25.10. In
The Sautrntika nirva as a spiritual event consists in liberation from the defile-
ments and suffering existence; nirva without remainder thus expresses itself as
the complete destruction, i.e., the end, of the body-mind continuum.
Candrakrti`s statement here relates to MMK 25.7. See de Jong 1978: 245, entry for
p. 527.6 (the sentences are missing from PsP
527): iha hi bhva svabhvaparity-
gd anyath bhavann abhva iti vyapadiyate | yatra ca pake nirva bhvo na
bhavati vihitadoatvt tatra pake bhvo pi nirva na bhavati bhvasvarpe-
siddharpasybhvarpatnupapatter iti abhiprya |.
Candrakrti mentions birth (janman) along with the defilements (klea).
In his commentary on Yuktiaik 4cd, Candrakrti informs an opponent who holds
that sasra, specified as the skandhas, i.e., the body-mind continuum, exists and
that its cessation is nirva understood as non-existence (abhva), that such is in-
deed taught, but it is merely a strategy. The teaching is necessary because the un-
enlightened have been habituated since beginningless time to the belief that things
really exist, and are not able to turn away from attachment to them without being
told, as an antidote, that nirva is the cessation of sasra. In coming to believe
that the attainment of nirva involves great happiness, they are able to turn away
from the pleasant things of sasra, not to mention the disagreeable.
Cf. MMK 25.11-15 and 25.16-17 and Candrakrti`s commentary thereon.
the krik, Ngrjuna makes reference to a statement of the Buddha`s in
which he has proclaimed that being (bhava) and non-being (vibhava)
have to be abandoned, and from this Ngrjuna concludes that nirva
is appropriate neither as existence (bhva) nor as non-existence (abh-
Citing a sentence from a Canonical work which negates that re-
lease from existence can be found by way of being or non-being,
drakrti declares that even though existence and non-existence are to be
abandoned, the Buddha did not state that nirva is to be abandoned; he
rather asserted that it is not to be abandoned.
Following Candrakrti`s
interpretation of the MMK on nirva thus far, this would mean that the
practitioner who has come to understand that the world and even what
was thought to be the escape from it are neither existing nor not existing
(nor both nor neither) this practitioner is nevertheless to continue to
strive for liberation, for nirva.
One might be inclined to interpret this call to continued effort
from a subjective point of view, as meaning that even though the
Mdhyamikas reject an ontologically existent nirva, and even though
they equally reject nirva as the cessation of an ontologically existent
sasra, they do accept nirva as a spiritual event. As an event it will
belong to the conventional level, but as the paramount and decisive
spiritual event it will effect the practitioner`s release from repeated birth
and death, which are ultimately unreal but experienced as real until the
event occurs. It is, as stated earlier, a profound insight, sharpened, deep-
ened and solidified by meditative concentration, which is said to effect
the release. In Yuktiaik 4cd, Ngrjuna declares that the thorough
knowledge (parij) of existence and non-existence is the liberating
In his commentary on this half-verse, Candrakrti explains that
because existence and non-existence are mutually dependent, they are
not established by own-nature, i.e., they cannot exist in reality (for
MMK 25.10: praha cbravc chst bhavasya vibhavasya ca | tasmn na bhvo
nbhvo nirvam iti yujyate ||.
530.7: tatra stra uktam | ye kecid bhikavo bhavena bhavasya nisaraa
paryeante vibhavena v parijna tat tem iti |. De La Valle Poussin (PsP
530, n. 4) determines the text closest to the stra cited by Candrakrti to be attested
in the Udna (p. 33, iii.10).
530.8-9: na caitan nirva prahtavyam ukta bhagavat ki tarhy apra-
htavyam |.
Y 4cd: dngos dang dngos med yongs shes pas || bdag nyid chen po rnam par grol ||.
I rely in this paper on Scherrer-Schaub`s edition of the Y as contained in the YV.
whatever is dependent cannot really exist), but the spiritually immature
do not know this and, conceiving existence and non-existence and
therewith engendering desire and other defilements in regard to the two,
they are bound and doomed to wander in sasra.
Awareness of the
lack of real existence and non-existence, on the other hand, has the
power to ultimately terminate the continuum of desire and other defile-
ments because it jettisons the objective basis onto which desire is pro-
jected. Thorough knowledge of the non-existence of both existence and
non-existence is on account of this potent enough to break the bonds of
the cycle of birth and death and deliver one from sasra; it is thus
suitable as a means of liberation.
That thought and conceptual activity have no part to play in this
thorough knowing is indicated in Candrakrti`s commentary to Yukti-
aik 4cd, where he describes it as having the nature of the non-
imagining of an own-being of existence and non-existence. More epis-
temologically, he equates it with the non-perception of existence and
It thus appears that for him thorough knowledge is the
result of cultivation of the understanding that nothing exists, and in-
volves, conceptually, the ceasing of all conceptualizing of and in regard
to existence and its contingent opposite, and perceptually, the non-
apprehension of these two, i.e., of any thing or any lack of existence
predicated upon a thing. When the yogin as knower is without the
concept of, or apprehension of any of the things accepted as existing or
not existing by the world or by the other Buddhist schools, the object
of the thorough knowing must exclude all possible phenomenal entities
and non-entities. The object, conventionally speaking, is the truth be-
hind the veil; the yogin`s thorough knowing characterized as the non-
apprehension of existence or non-existence bespeaks a penetration of
the world of fictions to its true nature, a nature which is untouched by
conceptuality and stripped of the manifoldness of the illusion. It is a
Related text and French translation in Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 32.9-23 and 132-134
(I rely on Scherrer-Schaub`s edition of the YV in this paper). See alternatively Lo-
izzo 2007: 259.6-260.6 and 140f. (Loizzo`s Y and YV translation is often unreli-
yongs su shes pa dngos po dang dngos po med pai rang gi ngo bo la sogs pa
yongs su mi rtog pai rang bzhin (Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 32.12-14; Loizzo 2007:
259.7-9); dngos po dang dngos po med pa mi dmigs pa ni ... (Scherrer-Schaub 1991:
32.23-24; Loizzo 2007: 260.6-7).
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nature described in Madhyamaka works as peaceful (nta) and the
pacification of all objective manifoldness and all manifold conceptual
and verbal activity (prapracopaama),
and is such because nothing
has ever arisen to disturb its calm: nothing has ever come into being,
and nothing has ever ceased. Thus even though it is neither a thing
nor a dependently conceived non-thing, the object of the thorough
knowledge, viz., the true nature of the dependently originated and the
dependently designated, is appropriate to be understood as the Mdhya-
mika`s ontological nirva. This true nature of the world coincides with
nirva conceived as the removal of the defilements and the abandon-
ing of all suffering existence because like all other things, the defile-
ments and suffering, in never having arisen, have always been aban-
doned. Similar to the traditionally described nirva,
the Madhya-
maka nirva is set forth as the pacification of all manifoldness, but in
contradistinction to the previously mentioned interpretations of nirva,
which envisioned it as an existent and enduring dimension or entity
removed from the world, as an existent non-existent, or as the stopping
of real defilements and a real personal continuum, the Madhyamaka
nirva is the world itself in its innate and eternal state of peaceful
non-arising. As the true nature of the world and the phenomena consti-
tuting it, it is not even, as the other schools` nirva is, something to be
attained through escape from the world, for it is already ontologically
anticipated in things themselves and merely requires insight into this
The old opposition between nirva and sasra is replaced in
Cf. MMK 7.16, 18.9, 25.24.
Cf. Aguttara Nikya II.163 where nirva is characterized as papacavpasama.
Cf. Vetter 1982: 92f.: Ich weise hier nur darauf hin, dass das von Ngrjuna als
Ziel genannte Nirva kein jenseitiger Ort ist, auch kein isolierter Zustand in der
Welt, auch kein Nichtmehrsein von etwas Besonderem, sondern die Welt selbst, in-
sofern sie ihrer Bestimmtheiten und damit Bedingtheiten entkleidet und darum nicht
mehr als solche wahrnehmbar ist. (I will here only point out that the nirva
named by Ngrjuna as the goal is not a place beyond, not an isolated state in the
world, also not the being no more of something particular; [it is] rather the world it-
self insofar as it is stripped of its determinacies and with that its conditionalities and
therefore no longer perceptible as such.). Cf. MMK 25.9: ya javajavbhva
updya prattya v | so prattynupdya nirvam upadiyate ||. See also Vetter
1982: 93, where he asserts that the Madhyamaka interpretation of nirva assures its
definiteness: ... diese Endgltigkeit kann nur dadurch garantiert werden, dass es
schon immer nur das Nirva gibt und dass die Welt nur eine falsche Vorstellung
Madhyamaka with an identification of nirva and sasra, or rather
with an identification of nirva and the true nature of sasra. nirva
as a spiritual event involves seeing through the world, the manifoldness
of existence, such that its true nature is experienced.
It is against this larger background that the seemingly paradoxi-
cal statements found in Madhyamaka texts as well as in Prajpramit
and Mahyna literature in general which state that the yogin sees the
ultimate by not-seeing, or that non-seeing is seeing are to be under-
The knowing of the true nature of things, of the ultimate peace-
fulness of existence that has always been at its heart, or as the texts
sometimes refer to it, of thusness (tattva), is a knowing that is without
objects or appearances, one in which the yogin does not apprehend any
thing. To dwell in a meditative state in which nothing appears is to see
reality. In his commentary on Yuktiaik 6cd,
Candrakrti also de-
fines nirva via the seeming paradox: he asserts that the thorough
knowing of the non-arising of a real nature of existence which occurs by
way of non thorough-knowing, is said to be nirva.
As realization of the ultimate was deemed to be direct and unmediated,
with the rise of the Buddhist epistemological-logical tradition Mdhya-
ist. (This definitiveness can only be guaranteed when there was always solely
nirva and the world is only a wrong idea.).
See, e.g., MABh
229.18-20 (MABh
1911: 279): rnal byor pa phags pai lam
mngon du mdzad par gyur pas ma gzigs pai tshul gyis de kho na nyid gzigs pa dag
gis . Cf. also PsP
265.3-5. The author of the Tarkajvl quotes the sentence
mthong ba med pa ni de nyid mthong bao (similar to the oft-cited adarana bha-
gavan sarvadharm darana sayagdaranam); see Heitmann 2004: 98f. and
99, n. 3. On interpretations of such statements, see Keira 2004: 99, n. 151.
Y 6cd: parijna bhavasyaiva nirvam iti kathyate || (Sanskrit cited in Scherrer-
Schaub 1991: 144, n. 125). Tibetan text and translation in Scherrer-Schaub 1991:
37.21-22 and 146; Loizzo 2007: 268.1-2 and 147.
Text of the entire relevant passage and translation in Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 37.23-
38.2 and 146-147; Loizzo 2007: 268.3-6 and 147. See also Scherrer-Schaub p. 146,
n. 129, where she remarks that the aparijna defined as nirva may be best inter-
preted as a state of consciousness without subject or object. Note that Candrakrti
has defined existence (bhava, srid pa) as the five appropriated skandhas in his
commentary to Yuktiaik 6ab.
mikas felt increasingly behooved to explain how the soteriologically
critical non-seeing occurred, and in doing so to situate it in an epistemo-
logically suitable context.
Candrakrti`s presentation of the direct per-
ception of the non-existence of phenomena was, as we shall see, in part
a response to the influence of the epistemologists. In order to highlight
the distinctiveness of his presentation, it may be instructive to briefly
describe, as a point of contrast, the theory of ultimate perception set
forth by Kamalala (740795), a later Mdhyamika who dealt with the
issue by appropriating and revamping the ideas of the epistemologists.
Heavily influenced by Dharmakrti (c. 600660), Kamalala relied on
his theory of non-perception (anupalabdhi) for the theoretical elucida-
tion and traditional grounding of the vision of emptiness. Slightly modi-
fying Dharmakrti`s theory, which determines that the non-perception of
a specific thing X implies a perception other than that of thing X (an-
yopalabdhi) and indeed a perception of something other than X, viz., Y,
(anyabhva), Kamalala maintains that the non-perception consisting
in the non-seeing of any and all things is a perception other than that of
X (anyopalabdhi) because it is a perception that is different from the
seeing of things, but rejects that the perception of something other than
X (anyabhva), that is, of some other thing, plays a role because no
other thing truly exists which might serve as the object of perception.
R. Keira (2004: 47-49) explains: Now, since ordinary beings cannot perceive the
ultimate nature of entities, it is also impossible that they would perceive the void-
ness (nyat) of entities, since that is what entities ultimately are. Here, however,
the following problem arises: if nobody could understand the Mdhyamika thesis of
the absence of real intrinsic nature by means of direct perception, the Mdhyamikas
would not have a method for obtaining the nonconceptual wisdom of thusness. In
that case the religious project of Mdhyamika philosophy would not be fulfilled:
bodhisattvas would not be able to progress spiritually on the path to buddhahood by
directly realizing the ultimate thusness, i.e., the absence of real intrinsic nature. The
Mdhyamika theory of meditation upon all dharmas as being without real intrinsic
nature thus could not be established. Furthermore, if the Mdhyamikas could not
prove the possibility of a direct perception which understands the absence of real in-
trinsic nature, they also could not prove the existence of the Buddha`s wisdom di-
rectly understanding selflessness (nairtmya). Therefore, since the Buddha would
not be established to be someone who can directly realize thusness, his authority
would accordingly be lost, as it is an essential facet of the Buddha`s wisdom that it
be nonconceptual and direct.
On Dharmakrti`s theory of non-perception, see Keira 2004: 52-64; on Kamalala`s
revision of this theory for Mdhyamika consumption, see pp. 64-86.
Put simply, knowing the ultimate involves a cognition which does not
take any thing as its support. Kamalala admits that like all other
things, this cognition does not ultimately exist, but he unambiguously
declares that it, like the yogin in possession of it, does exist convention-
Even though the conventionally existing cognition which knows
the true nature of things is a cognition devoid of content, it is proper to
confer on it the status of valid direct perception because it is clear
(spaa), that is, non-conceptual (kalpanpoha), and non-belying
(avisavda). Opponents who, in consideration of the fact that cogni-
tion by definition requires an object, would argue that non-existing
things are incapable of generating cognition are countered by Kamal-
ala`s assertion that the gnosis (ye shes) which arises from meditation
clearly realizes the thusness (de kho na nyid) of the selflessness of
things; by no means, he states, on occasions where this gnosis is said,
e.g., in the Dharmasagtistra,
to involve non-seeing is a non-
implicative negation, i.e., no cognition at all, intended.
Even so, it is
challenging to imagine how yogic cognition, as a clear perception in
which nothing appears, might have as its object the state without ap-
pearances; as R. Keira has noted, Kamalala could be criticized for
assuming an anyopalabdhi which has non-existence (abhva) as its ob-
Kamalala deals with the problem by turning to reflexive cogni-
tion (svasavedana) the aspect of cognition which knows the content
of cognition and makes memory possible. According to him, when the
yogin reaches the stage in his meditation on the selflessness of phenom-
ena in which nothing appears, the reflexive aspect of his cognition, here
in the role of anyopalabdhi, takes the clear perception without appear-
ances as its object, first recognizing that it lacks any appearances and
subsequently recognizing that the cognition itself does not truly exist.
On the basis of this experience, the yogin is afterwards, upon emerging
from the non-conceptual state, able to understand by way of a concep-
tual subsequent [judging] cognition (phyis rjes su thob pai shes pa) that
See Keira 2004: 105-110. For the Madhyamakloka text containing Kamalala`s
affirmation of the conventional existence of yogic cognition, see ibid., pp. 226-228.
Dharmasagtistra (as cited in the ksamuccaya): adarana bhagavan sarva-
dharmm darana samyagdaranam iti; see Keira 2004: 69-71 and 99.
See Keira 2004: 98-104; for the Madhyamakloka Tibetan text, see ibid., p. 225f.
See ibid., p. 83f.
the cognition lacked appearances and that it also lacks true existence,
and, as the upshot of this, that all things are without a real nature.
Candrakrti, who is estimated to have been active approximately a cen-
tury and a half before Kamalala and who seems not to have known
Dharmakrti`s views on non-perception, would concur with Kamalala
that the yogin`s perception of reality occurs in the form of a direct per-
ception. In a section of his Yuktiaik commentary, to which I shall
return shortly, Candrakrti explicitly asserts that there is direct percep-
tion of reality. His understanding of the nature of the cognition that
directly perceives the final nature of things is, however, quite different
from Kamalala`s.
A passage relevant to Candrakrti`s views on cognition of the ul-
timate, albeit occurring in another context, can be found in his commen-
tary on the second krik of Ngrjuna`s nyatsaptati.
The discus-
sion there, sparked by the krik`s reference to the self (bdag, *tman),
commences with Candrakrti`s rebuttal of an opponent view that the
words I and mine, although without an objective support for the
Buddhas who have relinquished the belief in a self (ngar dzin pa,
*ahakra) and the belief in mine (nga yir dzin pa, *mamakra), do
have an objective support when it comes to ordinary, unenlightened
people because they still maintain the belief in a self; Candrakrti argues
that this is not the case because the self simply does not exist. The op-
ponent responds that even if the self does not exist, the belief in a self
nevertheless exists as a mind associate (sems las byung ba, *caitta) and
therefore cannot be just a word. Candrakrti inquires what the objective
support (dmigs pa, *lambana) for this mind associate might be, and
when the opponent states that it is the self, Candrakrti reiterates that the
self does not exist, and points out that in the absence of an objective
support, consciousness and its associates cannot arise. He then moves
on to address the Yogcra objection that consciousness and its associ-
I rely on Keira for this explanation. Kamalala`s assertions on this point from the
Madhyamaklakrapajik, etc., and R. Keira`s elucidation of them may be found
in Keira 2004: 77-81.
For the text and a German translation of the entire relevant passage, see Erb 1997:
218.33-223.32 and 46-53.
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ates arise and exist without an external object, as they do in dreams,
and chides the Yogcra opponent for not adhering to the well-
established worldly convention that consciousness occurs together with
an object, arguing that consciousness and its associates, which are in
fact produced by an object, cannot exist when the object is missing. An
extended discussion with another opponent follows in which a favourite
non-existent of Indian philosophy is made topical, with the opponent
contending that not all consciousnesses have an (existent) object be-
cause otherwise the consciousness which apprehends the son of a barren
woman (mo gsham gyi bu, *vandyputra) could not occur. Candrakrti
asserts that the designation (ming, *nman/*abhidhna) son of a barren
woman serves as the consciousness`s object, and asks the opponent
why he would then say that this consciousness is objectless. The oppo-
nent retorts that if the mere name would be the object when one hears
son of a barren woman, then with the utterance of the sentence The
son of a barren woman does not exist, the designation should also not
exist, but since this is not the case, the name cannot be the object of
consciousness. The opponent goes on to argue that non-existence
(dngos po med pa, *abhva) would constitute the object-support (dmigs
pa, *lambana), positioning himself in the well-known kra theory of
perception attributed to the Sautrntika school and recognized by epis-
temologists like Dignga, according to which the object bestows its
image to consciousness and is cognized by means of this image;
those admitting external things consciousness knows the outer object
exclusively via the image of the object reflected in it. Consciousness
thus appears with an image that conforms to its object; for example,
consciousness of the colour blue arises assuming the aspect of its object,
namely, blue. Consciousness of a barren woman`s son, in the view of
Candrakrti`s opponent, would therefore arise with non-existence as its
image. Candrakrti attacks this idea, likewise in reliance on the Sautrn-
tika theory that consciousness assumes the image of the object, focusing
first on the idea that the image is not in its nature different from con-
sciousness. Given that the opponent presumes that the son of a barren
Cf. also Candrakrti`s rebuttal of the dream example for the Yogcra argument that
consciousness arises without an object in MABh
on MA 6.48-53; see MABh
140.5-145.9 and MABh
1910: 328-333.
Cf. AKBh 62.6, 473.25-474.1; Cox 1988: 38-40; Hattori 1968: 98, 102; Erb 1997:
142, n. 400.
woman as object transfers its image of non-existence onto conscious-
ness, the consciousness, Candrakrti points out, in conforming to the
sheer non-existence of the image, will not be able to be existent. It is not
logically possible, he asserts, for an existent consciousness to take on
the image of that which is bereft of existence, because existence and
non-existence are mutually exclusive and cannot occur simultaneously
in a single phenomenon. If it would nevertheless be supposed that the
consciousness would become both existent (to accommodate its own
existence) and non-existent (to accommodate the image of the son of a
barren woman), then the opponent will be forced to accept a double
consciousness. When the opponent shifts the focus to the object and
argues that the case of the apprehension of non-existence will exactly
parallel the case of the apprehension of blue, i.e., the appearing image
will reflect the object, he is informed that the image concerned (and the
consciousness by implication), in conforming to the inexistence of the
son of a barren woman, can only be non-existent, because otherwise the
object and its image, the former non-existent, the latter existent, would
contradict each other. In the same vein, Candrakrti stresses a few lines
later that inasmuch as consciousness does not have a nature different
from the image, a consciousness that is produced through conforming to
non-existence will have to be non-existent, since non-existence and an
(existent) image are incompatible. He adds that consciousness lacks any
nature prior to its arising, and not apprehending the image of an object,
it simply does not arise.
The debate does not stop here, but the main
point has been made: for Candrakrti, a consciousness of which the ob-
jective support is non-existence is a non-existent one. The lack of an
object for consciousness precludes the arising of consciousness.
While the above discussion from the nyatsaptativrtti deals
with the Sautrntika kra theory in the context of a response to oppo-
nents who rely on it to defend their own doctrinal theories, in other of
his works Candrakrti independently introduces it and adopts it for the
sake of underpinning his own views; he appears to have accepted this
doctrine on the conventional level.
Perhaps his most interesting use of
the kra theory occurs in the passages in which he describes and de-
fends his interpretation of consciousness`s apprehension of ultimate
Cf. Erb 1997: 221.14-15 and 49.
For references, see Erb 1997: 142, n. 400.
reality, ontological nirva. An epistemologically focused discussion on
this topic can be found in his comments on Yuktiaik krik 8,
where he attacks fellow Buddhists for the sake of demonstrating that his
view regarding consciousness and the ultimate is the sole logically and
epistemologically viable one. Proceeding from the krik`s characteri-
zation of the Buddhist opponents` nirva as (a real) cessation (gog,
Candrakrti commences by exposing the inadequacy of the
Vaibhika and the Sautrntika nirva conceived as the ceasing of the
defilements and the psycho-physical continuum (in the case of the
Vaibhikas the conclusion of a series of hypostatized stops, and in
the case of the Sautrntikas nothing but the utter end of the continuum)
when it comes to realization, i.e., direct perception, of this cessation.
Among other arguments, he denies that cessation, and thus perception
of it, could occur as long as the aggregates still exist and adverts to the
fact that, as the krik has indicated, once the psycho-physical contin-
uum has come to an end there is no subject left to apprehend the cessa-
Candrakrti then turns to the views of the logical-epistemological
school on direct perception of the ultimate. Quoting from and para-
phrasing Pramasamuccaya I.6cd and its auto-commentary, he sets
forth Dignga`s definition of yogic perception, presenting it as the yog-
ins` seeing of the mere thing (don tsam, *arthamtra), a seeing that is
Y 8: rnam par jig pas gog gyur gyi || dus byas shes pas ma yin na || de ni su la
mngon sum gyur || zhig ces pa de ji lta bu ||.
See also Y 7: dngos po skyes pa zhig pa la || ji ltar gog pa brtag pa bzhin || de
bzhin sgyu ma byas pa ltar || mkhas pa dag gis gog par dgongs ||.
As Scherrer-Schaub (1991: 149f. [n. 141]) has already indicated, Candrakrti ex-
ploits the traditional notion that nirva/nirodha must be realized` (sktkr) to
bring the discussion onto epistemological terrain. La discussion qui s`ouvre avec la
kr 8 et se poursuit jusqu`a la kr 12 et son commentaire porte sur la nature de
l`arrt (nirodha) et de la connaissance de l`arrt (nirodha-jna). Les sources scrip-
turaires et les traits parlent de cette dernire comme d`une connaissance directe, un
`vue devant les yeux`: ainsi de l`opration sur la troisime vrit, o l`arrt doit tre
peru directement (nirodha-sktkra). La synonymie des expressions skt-
KR- et pratyak-KR-, de leur drivs et expressions apparentes, autorise Candra-
krti a dplacer le centre de la discussion sur le terrain de l`pistmologie. Cf., e.g.,
Sayutta Nikya V, 422.19-22: Ta kho panida dukkhanirodham ariyasacca
sacchiktabban ti me bhikkhave loko udapdi ||; further references in Scherrer-
Schaub 1991: 150 (n. 141).
For text and translation of these and other arguments, see Scherrer-Schaub 1991:
39.3-40.11 and 151-155; Loizzo 2007: 270.3-272.7 and 148-150.
without the superimposition of a unitary object and not mixed with con-
ceptuality deriving from the guru`s teaching;
he declares that such a
view of yogic perception is not suitable when it is a question of direct
perception of cessation. The opponent epistemologist responds by
specifying that it is generally established (grags, *prasiddha) that when
a real particular (rang gi mtshan nyid, *svalakaa) is meditated upon
by way of its general characteristics (spyii mtshan nyid, *smnya-
lakaa), the gnosis arisen from meditation (bsgoms pa las byung bai
ye shes, *bhvanmayam jnam) gradually arises. That which is ap-
prehended by this non-conceptual gnosis (rnam par mi rtog pai ye shes,
*avikalpajna), he adds, being free of any conceptual superimposition,
is nothing but the particular. Thus, when one realizes, e.g., imperma-
nence, one knows the mere thing (dngos po tsam).
The opponent con-
cludes his argument by stating that since the object apprehended by
gnosis is the particular, this object, like the object in the case of con-
sciousness perceiving mere blue, etc., is directly perceived. The non-
conceptual gnosis is thereby situated at the culmination of the episte-
mologist yogin`s meditation on, we may assume, the four Noble Truths,
with the mere thing the real aspects such as impermanence, suffering,
emptiness, selflessness, etc., connected with these Truths. The yogin
envisaged by the opponent would thus initially meditate on a conceptual
image or conceptual ascertainment of his object, such as impermanence
or emptiness, and his intense concentration and repeated effort would
effect a gradual refinement of the conceptualized object, with the end
result that the meditation would issue in a direct, i.e., exclusively non-
conceptual, perception of the object.
In the view of certain later
YV: rnal byor pa rnams kyi bla mas bstan pa las skyes pa rnam par rtog pa dang
ma dres pa gcig tu yul sgro btags pa med pa don tsam mthong ba gang yin pa de
yang gog pa la mi srid do || (Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 40.12-14; Loizzo 2007: 272.7-
9. Translation in Scherrer-Schaub p. 155f.; Loizzo p. 150). Pramasamuccaya
I.6cd: yogin gurunirdevyavakrrthamtradrk; (see Steinkellner 2005: 3; the
fragments presented in Hattori 1968: 94 read vyatibhinn for vyavakr).
Pramasamuccayavrtti to I.6cd: yoginm apy gamavikalpvyavakram
arthamtradarana pratyakam (Steinkellner 2005: 3; see also Vincent
Eltschinger`s article in the present volume, n. 93, as well as Eli Franco`s article in
the present volume p. 122).
Cf. Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 40.12-21; Loizzo 2007: 272.10-273.2.
For a concise summary of the basic structure of the yogic path according to Dhar-
makrti, see section 3.1 (under The Path to Salvation) of Vincent Eltschinger`s ar-
Mdhyamikas like Kamalala, who is known for having appropriated a
number of the logical-epistemological school`s doctrines, the yogin
involved in conceptual meditation on the emptiness of things would be
able to evolve the meditation to the point that upon reaching the ulti-
mate limit of [conceptual] meditation (bhvanprakaraparyanta), a
non-conceptual perception of emptiness would arise,
which, as previ-
ously explained, would take the form of a cognition without content and
would be recognized and registered by the self-knowing aspect of cog-
The postulation of Dignga`s,
later elaborated by Dharmakrti
and his commentators, and tailored to fit Madhyamaka requirements by
Kamalala, that extended conceptual cultivation of an object would
issue in direct perception of the object, is dismissed by Candrakrti as
preposterous. He asserts that when the idea being maintained is exam-
ined more closely, the epistemologists, given that they strictly maintain
the distinctiveness, i.e., the mutual exclusivity, of the particular and of
the general characteristic, respectively the object of direct perception
and conceptual cognition, will have to admit that it is logically unac-
ceptable to hold that the object used for meditation on the general char-
acteristic could be the particular, since this would involve over-
extension (ha cang thal bar gyur ba, *atiprasaga) I assume because
the scope of the particular is thereby extended to include general char-
ticle in the present volume. For Dharmakrti`s description of the cognitions and the
meditative process the yogic path involves, see section 4 (Yogijna as an Episte-
mological Topic) of the same article.
Cf. Keira 2004: 50, 69ff.
Though I here attribute to Dignga the idea that extended conceptual cultivation of
an object issues in its direct perception, it should be noted that this theory is not re-
corded in any of his works available to us and is usually associated with Dhar-
makrti. While it is of course possible that Dignga set forth this view in one or
more of his non-extant works and our YV passage provides documentation for this,
its absence in the extant materials brings up the question of whether Candrakrti
might have known Dharmakrti. Christian Lindtner, solely on the basis of text in the
Catuatakak which appears to refer to the Pramavrttika assertion pramam
avisavdi jnam, maintains that it seems probable that Candrakrti did know
Dharmakrti (see Lindtner 1992: 57; the Catuatakak clause Lindtner cites, viz.,
mi bslu bai shes pa ni jig rten na tshad ma nyid du mthong na, can be found in Til-
lemans 1990: 67.11-12 [vol. 2]). The evidence is still too slim for definitive conclu-
sions. I am grateful to Dr. Helmut Krasser for discussions on the matter and for pro-
viding me with valuable references.
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acteristics. Candrakrti`s rejection of the epistemologists` theory thus
focuses on the fact that if the particular free of all conceptual overlay is
the actual object of meditation and, on account of this, the final object
of yogic direct perception, then during the long and repeated course of
the meditation, this particular cannot also be its opposite, the general
characteristic constituted purely by conceptuality. The epistemologists,
in maintaining that a yet unrealized particular can be conceptually con-
templated to the point that it finally escapes the superimposition of gen-
eral characteristics, contradict their fundamental differentiation of the
objects of cognition with this, in his view, fogging of the distinction
between the two and overlapping of their definitions. The mutually ex-
clusive nature of the two objects and their respective cognitions other-
wise posited by the epistemologists automatically prohibits any coincid-
ing, intersection or reconciliation.
As stated, Candrakrti obviously intends to expose the faults of
the views of his Buddhist colleagues in order to clear the way for his
own position on perception of the ultimate. In the discussion on krik 8
preceding the altercation with the epistemologists, he is asked if direct
perception takes place at the moment of seeing, and responds that be-
cause there is the making known (rnam par rig pa, *vijapti) of the ob-
ject by consciousness (rnam par shes pa, *vijna) even after seeing has
ceased, this may be designated direct perception.
He uses this as a
lead-in to reference to the Sautrntika theory of direct perception, ac-
cording to which it is the image in consciousness, which conforms to
the actual object, that is actually perceived, invoking here the theory`s
stock example of the consciousness of blue. The discussion is taken in
another direction by a Vaibhika objection, but subsequent to his refu-
tation of the epistemologists` theory of yogic direct perception, there is
another allusion to the Sautrntika theory. Candrakrti initiates the pres-
entation of his Madhyamaka view by rhetorically asking how, even if
the meditative process posited by the epistemologists would be correct,
there could be the direct perception of the consciousness of cessation
(gog pa, *nirodha) when in cessation there does not exist even a trace
of an entity having the form of the cessation of suffering. Next, in reli-
ance on scriptural testimony which states that awareness of the non-
arising of suffering is direct perception, he argues that it would, in fact,
Cf. Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 39.19-22; Loizzo 2007: 271.3-5.
be impossible for consciousness to arise when its objective support
(dmigs pa; *lambana) has the form of non-arising; in such a case con-
sciousness would definitely assume the mode of non-arising,
that is, it
would not arise at all.
With this last brief statement Candrakrti`s initially seemingly
unusual take on direct perception of the ultimate is disclosed. For him,
at the time of perception of the ultimate, of the emptiness of things that
were never really there in the first place, inasmuch as there is nothing
whatsoever to be perceived, that is, since an object for consciousness
does not exist, consciousness will simply not come into being; Candra-
krti`s assertion that consciousness assumes the mode of non-arising
translates into no consciousness at all. Yet in this way consciousness
still fulfills the Sautrntika demand that the consciousness resemble,
conform to, its object: like its object, the non-arisen true nature of
things, consciousness takes, so to speak, a non-arisen and non-
existent form. In Candrakrti`s words: If consciousness, like its object,
has the form of non-arising, it is proper to maintain that it has proceeded
by way of the object just as it is.
And given its proceeding by way of
its object, its conforming to its object, it is proper to designate it direct
perception. In the everyday world, too, he avers, situations occur in
which one speaks of direct perception in regard to non-existent
things. He provides the following example: A traveller sees an area off
in the distance that appears to be abounding in clear water. He intends
to cross the water but feels incompetent and nervous to do so, and there-
fore inquires of a local farmer just how much water might actually be
out there. In response, the local, apparently taken aback by the question,
asks where the water might be that the traveller claims to see, and then
explains that what indeed looks like water off in the distance is actually
only a mirage. He adds that if the traveller doesn`t believe him, he
should go and look for himself; then he will directly perceive what he
has just been told. It is the same in regular life, Candrakrti points out,
where things that do not exist and are not perceived are conventionally
designated as directly perceived; therefore, from the point of view of
worldly concealing truth, it is not contradictory to call a consciousness
of non-perception (mi dmigs pai shes pa) which for Candrakrti is no
Cf. Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 40.28-41.3; Loizzo 2007: 273.7-11.
Cf. Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 41.3-5; Loizzo 2007: 273.11-12.
consciousness at all direct perception. He bolsters his position by
referring to a scriptural statement which asserts that the determination
(yongs su gcod pa, *pariccheda) of an object, corresponding to the way
it is, by that which makes it known (shes pa byed pa, *jpaka) is direct
perception. Candrakrti considers this statement applicable to the pre-
sent case because the consciousness which does not arise on account of
the fact that its object is non-arisen accurately reflects, makes known,
the fact that the object is non-arisen, i.e., that the object does not exist;
therefore, inasmuch as the exact state of the object is accurately re-
flected through consciousness`s own inexistence, it is appropriate to
term it direct perception.
Candrakrti had earlier presented basically the same view, al-
though in another context, in the fourth verse and its commentary in the
chapter on the level of a Buddha in the Madhyamakvatra.
There he
is replying to an opponent who contends that if the peaceful (zhi ba,
*nta), viz., the eternal calmedness of all non-arisen things, is reality
(de nyid, *tattva), the mind will not proceed in regard to this, and when
the mind does not proceed, it cannot thoroughly know its object; as a
consequence, statements to the effect that precisely the non-existence of
thorough knowledge (yong su shes pa med pa) constitutes thorough
knowledge of reality, or complete non-knowing is knowing, are inap-
propriate. In his verse response, Candrakrti admits that in this specific
case of the mind relying on the aspect (rnam pa, *kra) of reality, it is
only as if (lta bu, *iva) consciousness knows the ultimate, clarifying
in his commentary, after reciting the Sautrntika main requisite for per-
ception, namely, that the consciousness be in conformity with the aspect
of the object, and illustrating this with the example of blue, that it is
metaphorically stated that the consciousness arising in conformity
with the aspect of reality knows reality. It is owing to conceptuality that
one establishes that this consciousness knows reality; in actuality there
is not any consciousness of anything because neither consciousness nor
its object come into being. Yet even with the qualification, Candrakrti
intends for the idea of a merely metaphorical apprehension of the ulti-
mate to be taken seriously, indicating in the course of his explanation
Cf. the discussion in MABh
356.18-358.20. See also the analysis of MA 12.3-4 in
Dunne 1996: 546-548.
that his reference to the Sautrntika model of perception supplies a gen-
erally established example for the argument.
So what exactly, we might ask, is the point of all this, besides the fact
that Candrakrti has displayed his agility in the performance of a very
nice little pirouette with the Sautrntika theory of perception? And why
does he insist on describing the Mdhyamika yogin`s lack of conscious-
ness as direct perception? One might initially conjecture that Ngr-
juna`s explicit mention of the realization of cessation, i.e., of nirva, in
krik 8 of the Yuktiaik inspired Candrakrti, whose criticism of the
other Buddhist schools demonstrates his awareness of the prevailing
theories regarding nirva and the perception of it, to come up with his
own specifically Madhyamaka view on the topic as he composed his
commentary on the krik. But this is too simplistic, and we have just
seen that he had already given a less developed explanation of the
knowing of the ultimate in his earliest composition, the Madhya-
makvatra. It is more probable that Candrakrti took Ngrjuna`s refer-
ence to realization of cessation primarily as an opportunity to confront
Dignga`s school, with its developed epistemological theories his main
rival on the issue of direct perception of the ultimate, in order to both
discredit its explanation of it and to set forth, in an argumentative and
scripturally backed form, his own ingenious but typically pragmatic
version. His intent, one assumes, would have been to enter the arena of
Buddhist theories of perception of the ultimate and defeat the episte-
mologist on turf that was quite possibly already monopolized by him. It
was certainly necessary that Candrakrti find a way to acknowledge
direct perception of nirva, for not to have done so would have left
him open to attack regarding the Mdhyamika`s and even the Buddha`s
direct realization of nirva, and as a consequence, easy prey when it
came to questions of the value of Madhyamaka doctrines and to the
issue of the Buddha`s establishment as an authority. At the very least,
by securing his own rather unusual portrayal of the consciousness that
directly perceives nirva as the ultimate state of things by means of
scripture and a widely accepted theory of perception, Candrakrti was
Cf. MABh
able to retain his faction`s standing within the general Buddhist tradi-
tion on these issues of fundamental importance. His specifically unique
presentation of the consciousness of the ultimate, on the other hand,
spared him from having to compromise his integrity as a Mdhyamika.
But what are the implications of the stance that when the final
state of things is realized there is no object to be known, and no con-
sciousness to know this? Would it mean that the ultimate is a sheer
void, or a pure abstract nothing, and that the ultimate realization of this
is in the end impossible since one cant know nothing? I would contend
that our author`s view is more sophisticated and suggestive than this.
One of the main points, if not precisely the point that Candrakrti in-
tends to make in the above discussions is that consciousness (vijna)
as conceived by his fellow philosophers and accepted by himself on the
conventional level is fundamentally incapable of knowing the ultimate,
because its functioning is restricted to occurring in relation to objects,
and the ultimate is no object and has no objects in it. One can be quite
certain that Candrakrti would have rejected Kamalala`s version of the
highest awareness as clear perception not only because it is based on the
epistemologist`s model but also because in this version the clear percep-
tion does not escape being described in terms that relate it to and there-
fore bind it to the conventional level; Kamalala in fact allows this
consciousness conventional existence. Candrakrti`s non-acceptance of
reflexive awareness would further have led him to repudiate the idea
that non-existence is not the object of the consciousness and to charge
that the positing of consciousness devoid of content, i.e., bereft of an
object, would contradict the general Buddhist doctrine that conscious-
ness occurs in tandem with an object. Candrakrti`s underscoring that
consciousness does not arise when the object is the ultimate is secondar-
ily intended to point to the fact that for him all perceptual activity as we
know it as well as all conceptual and linguistic activity ceases in the
experience of the true nature of things, of ontological nirva.
the end of the nyatsaptati`s earlier referenced discussion of the per-
ception of the son of a barren woman, Candrakrti declares that the
Cf., e.g., Candrakrti`s commentary on MMK 5.8, where he states that the pacifica-
tion of all visibles (draavyopaama) that is free of the net of all conceptuality (sar-
vakalpanjlarahita) has the nature of the ceasing of consciousness (here intended
in the sense of conventional consciousness) and the object of consciousness (jna-
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Mdhyamikas accomplish the clearing away, the elimination, of the
factors of existence (chos, *dharma) in the sense that with the non-
perception of any of these factors, all of which are of the nature of non-
existence, consciousness stops.
This statement is followed by two
supporting scriptural citations, one of which is ryadeva`s famous verse
that states that consciousness (rnam shes, *vijna) is the seed of exis-
For Candrakrti, the actual realization of the true nature of things
is performed by a completely different category of awareness, if I may
call it that, namely, by jna, gnosis, which does not belong or relate
to the everyday level. I am aware that a number of Madhyamaka schol-
ars construe the situation regarding ultimate knowledge and its object
quite differently, in large part because they interpret the fundamental
Madhyamaka stance on the possibility of existence in my interpreta-
tion that it is impossible as espousing it. I digress with this, but let it
be noted that C.W. Huntington in his book The Emptiness of Empti-
ness describes the consciousness which knows the ultimate, i.e., jna,
as a non-dualistic knowledge that is coterminous with the bodhisattva`s
everyday experience in both its conceptual and perceptual aspects. He
writes, The Mdhyamika does not advocate any radically unconven-
tional category of epistemic act, but rather a radically unconventional
form of life, in which one is constantly and profoundly in touch with the
holistic, contextual nature of all experiencewith `the suchness of de-
pendent origination.`
Huntington`s jna, albeit acknowledged to be
See Erb 1997: 221.40-222.2 and 50-51. It is to be noted that antecedent to this text
passage, in the extended debate concerning perception of the non-existent Can-
drakrti adverts to the absurd consequence entailed by acceptance of objectless con-
sciousness in regard to nirva, namely, that (ordinary) consciousness would per-
manently continue, taking nirva as its objective support. He also briefly weaves in
his view of the status of consciousness at the time of perception of the ultimate; see
ibid., 221.31-222.12 and 50-51. Cf. also 223.7-16 and 52.
Cf. Catuataka XIV.25 (Suzuki 1994: 360): srid pai sa bon rnam es te || yul rnams
de yi spyod yul lo || yul la bdag med mthong na ni || srid pai sa bon gag par gyur ||.
The verse as cited in the SV reads: srid pai sa bon rnam par es || yul ni de yi
spyod yul la || mthong bai yul rnams bdag med phyir || srid pai sa bon gag par
gyur ||; see Erb 1997: 222.9-12 and p. 144, n. 421.
Huntington 1989: 119f. One notes also other comments in reference to jna:
Jna is the essential clarity and unerring sensibility of a mind that no longer
clings to reified concepts of any kind. It is a direct and sustained awareness of the
truth, for a bodhisattva, that meaning and existence are found only in the interface
meditatively cultivated, is essentially a rational insight into a profound
interconnectedness inherent in the truly existing world, and thus merely
a worldly, lived awareness of a state of affairs, and one that is involved
not only with perception but with conceptual thought. Dan Arnold does
not refer to jna per se in his book Buddhists, Brahmins and Belief,
but he does speak of a realization, which he qualifies, at least paren-
thetically, as radically transformative.
He clarifies that the subject of
such a realization would be a Buddha. Arnold states that the object of
the realization would be ultimate truth, but rejecting Madhyamaka ar-
gumentation as world-denying, he contends that, for Candrakrti, the
only ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truththat the `ultimate
truth,` in other words, is the abstract state of affairs of there being no set
of `ultimately existent` (paramrthasat) ontological primitives like the
dharmas of Abhidharma.
`[U]ltimate truth` (nirva), he writes,
attempting to explain MMK 25.19ab, does not consist in something
fundamentally different in kind from `conventional` reality (sasra);
rather, what is `ultimately true` is simply the fact that there is nothing
fundamentally different from the world as conventionally described.
According to him, the content of a Buddha`s realization would therefore
consist in knowing that there is not something more real than the
dependently arisen, but truly existing, world;
similar to Huntington`s,
Arnold`s ultimate insight is a real rational insight into the way the de-
between the components of an unstable and constantly shifting web of relationships,
which is everyday life (ibid., p. 104), and in reference to praj (Huntington states
that it is difficult to draw a distinction between praj and jna): Perfect wis-
dom graphically reveals the holistic, contextual nature of all forms of existence and
knowledge and allows the bodhisattva to adjust his attitude so that it accords with
the `suchness` of all experience, with the self, and with the world, as they are in the
context of the moment. In this way, he is invested with the ability to act effectively
and in harmony with the demands of every situation as it presents itself in the web
of interrelated events (ibid., p. 88).
Arnold 2005: 204.
Ibid., p. 184.
Ibid., p. 172. Two sentences before the one quoted, he states, Thus, the point of
insisting on the `emptiness of emptiness` is to throw us back into the world and to
compel the recognition that, although events are dependent, contingent, and conven-
tional, they are, for all that, real.
Arnold (2005: 204) writes, That claim [= Candrakrti`s] is that the `ultimate` con-
sists not in some radically `other` state of affairs but in the realization (radically
transformative, to be sure) that there is nothing more real than this.
pendent but real world, inclusive of its concepts, exists. Taking up John
Dunne`s claim (a claim based on the previously mentioned Madhya-
makvatra verse which states that suchness is only metaphorically
known by the non-arisen consciousness) that a buddha would know
neither ultimate reality nor the ordinary world because nothing occurs in
his mind, Arnold contests that such a being would indeed perceive
something, though certainly not an ultimate reality: It seems that the
ordinary world is all that such a Buddha would see.
On my reading of
Candrakrti`s works, however, neither Huntington nor Arnold come
near to capturing what our author intends to convey with his references
and allusions to the knowing of reality or his more general pronounce-
ments on the nature of things.
To return to my understanding of Candrakrti`s perspective on
the ultimate and its awareness: The cessation of all consciousness in the
face of no objects is pivotal for the realization of emptiness, the true
nature of things; it does not, however, fully define it. The coming to rest
of consciousness merely serves as the necessary condition for the ex-
perience of the ultimate. As stated, it is a completely different type of
awareness, viz., gnosis (jna), that knows it. Unlike ordinary con-
sciousness, gnosis does not take a thing, or as Candrakrti sometimes
terms it, a mark (nimitta), as its object.
The fact that its object-support
is conventionally described by Candrakrti to be emptiness
does not,
however, necessarily mean that the ultimate realization is a realization
of nothing, or that it involves acquiescing to absolute nothingness, to a
sheer, abstract void. Emptiness elucidated as the pacification of all
manifoldness (prapacopaama) implies that no concept or linguistic
designation applies to the true nature of the world; nothing can be
predicated of it, not even non-existence. The notion of emptiness has
in this context a spiritual function; as Lambert Schmithausen has stated,
Arnold 2005: 204. Arnold is referring to Dunne 1996: 548.
Cf. Candrakrti`s commentary on MMK 25.16 (PsP
533.11-15), where he argues
that nirva, in this case conceived by the opponent as both existent and non-
existent, cannot be ascertained by vijna because there is no nimitta in nirva:
kenaitad itthavidha nirvam astti paricchidyate | sasrvasthita paricchin-
attti cet | yadi sasrvasthita paricchinatti sa ki vijnena paricchinatti uta
jnena | yadi vijneneti parikalpyate tan na yujyate | ki kraam | yasmn
nimittlambana vijna na ca nirve kicin nimittam asti |.
See PsP
533.16: yasmj jnena hi nyatlambanena bhavitavyam |.
The concept `emptiness` is also not intended to make a positive state-
ment about this reality; it is rather merely a call to thought to deliver
itself to its negation, to think itself away, to shake off all manifold con-
ceptuality and thereby enable the manifestation of the inconceivable
reality that was always there.
The ceasing of all conceptual and per-
ceptual activity in the Madhyamaka yogin would thus act as a catalyst
for experience of the concept-, designation- and percept-transcending
ultimate that is neither an existent entity nor pure nothingness. Con-
sciousness` coming to rest would create, so to speak, a vacuum in which
emptiness as thusness (tattva), the true nature of the world free of any
appearances or conceptual content, could reveal itself. Inasmuch as the
pacification of manifoldness coincides in meaning with the cessation of
all things worldly, to which belong karma and the defilements, empti-
ness as the true nature of the world is equivalent to nirva;
the ex-
perience of emptiness, then, would translate into an experience of
nirva, and the gnosis that has, conventionally speaking, emptiness as
its object-support (lambana) would convey this experience of nirva.
But if gnosis is not a real consciousness that takes the non-
existent as its object or a conventionally existing clear, contentless con-
sciousness, just how does Candrakrti envision it? Given the general
Madhyamaka focus on demonstrating the ontological impossibility of
known or postulated phenomena, and Candrakrti`s hesitancy to attempt
to describe an ultimate that could mistakenly be construed as existent or
non-existent, details regarding the nature of gnosis are extremely rare in
his works. There is, however, one interesting passage in which he does
dare to sketch its features; it occurs in his commentary on MMK 25.16,
Schmithausen 1969: 166: Auch der Begriff `Leerheit` soll keine positive Aussage
ber diese Wirklichkeit machen; es ist vielmehr lediglich eine Aufforderung an das
Denken, sich zur Negation seiner selbst zu vermitteln, sich zu zerdenken, alle viel-
fltige Vorstellung abzuschtteln und dadurch die Manifestation der immer schon
vorhandenen unbegreiflichen Wirklichkeit zu ermglichen.
Schmithausen (1969: 166) describes the intersection of nirva and sasra: Das
Nirva (als metaphysische Gre) ist also im Madhyamaka kein Jenseits; es ist
nicht auerhalb der Welt, es ist vielmehr in ihr; ja, Nirva und Welt sind berhaupt
nicht verschieden, sofern man nur die Welt nicht in ihrer unwahren Endlichkeit,
sondern in ihrem wahren Wesen nimmt. (Nirva (as a metaphysical dimension)
is therefore in Madhyamaka not a `beyond`; it is not outside the world, it is rather in
it; indeed, nirva and the world are not at all different, as long as one takes the
world not in its unreal finitude, but in its true nature.)
in which he contrasts consciousness (vijna) and gnosis (jna) and, as
already noted, asserts that gnosis` object-support is emptiness. Immedi-
ately after this reference to its object-support he qualifies gnosis by way
of two adjectives, namely, having the form of non-arising (anutpda-
rpa) and having a non-existing own-form (avidyamnasvarpa),
both of which could be applied to the consciousness which in Can-
drakrti`s pirouette directly perceives the ultimate, and both of which
could also be taken to support the idea that there is no experience of
reality, or that its non-experience is experience of it. It is the third adjec-
tive given although at first glance seemingly insignificant that pro-
vides perhaps one of the most telling references to his take on it. The
modifier is having a form that transcends all manifoldness (sarvapra-
pacttarpa), and in contrast to the previous two, it clearly does not
intend a purely negative characterization. With it, there is allusion to an
awareness that surmounts all manifold conceptualization and designa-
tion, one which neither exists nor does not exist, and is as unfathomable
as its so-called object, the thusness that is true reality, ontological
nirva. Of course as an awareness that is diametrically opposed to
ordinary consciousness, it will not be configured in a subject-object
relationship with emptiness, expressed as its focus for conventional
convenience; its functioning would rather be non-dual. Intimated by this
and the third adjective is the idea that gnosis consists in a radical mysti-
cal experience. Elsewhere, Candrakrti states that the Buddhas abide in
the objectless gnosis, far beyond the spiritually immature.
It will not
be irrelevant to mention, in this connection, that Ngrjuna, in his chap-
ter on the Tathgata in the MMK, describes the Buddha, here under-
stood not as a distinct person but as the true reality that is his nature, in
the same way that Candrakrti describes gnosis, namely, as transcend-
ing all manifoldness (prapactta).
Just as striking is Candrakrti`s
comment in the same chapter where he declares that the Mdhyamikas
do not teach that the Tathgatas are inexistent inasmuch as they are
Cf. YV on Y 4cd: dei phyir de dag skye bo byis pa rnams las shin tu das pa
dmigs pa med pai ye shes la gnas pas de dag nyid che bai phyir bdag nyid chen po
zhes bya ste | (Scherrer-Schaub 1991: 32.16-18; Loizzo 2006: 260. 1-3).
MMK 22.15: prapacayanti ye buddha prapacttam avyayam | te prapacahat
sarve na payanti tathgatam ||. Cf. also PsP
446.5: sarvs tv et kalpan
niprapace tathgate na sabhavanti |.
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completely outside [the domain of] manifoldness.
These descrip-
tions of the awakened beings and their gnosis, limited to being made by
way of modifiers indicating indescribability and inconceivability,
merely point to the unfathomable state beyond the nothingness of
worldly phenomena. It is probably not inappropriate to state that for the
Mdhyamika as yogin the final goal, and the final state, is not nothing-
ness, but transcendence. Although he is more often occupied with and
thus associated with rigorously arguing an uncompromising denial of
the world, it is in passages such as the ones examined here that we en-
counter Candrakrti, as he moves on from this to allude to the outcome
and purpose of that denial, as a conveyer of spiritual, mystical experi-
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On the Career and the Cognition of Yogins
In the present paper, I shall first attempt to reconstruct Dharmakrti`s
notion of a yogin`s career on the basis of the statements one can find
scattered throughout his very influential Pramavrttika. I shall try to
draw a coherent picture of both yoga and yogins, from the first insights
(praj) that take place when still in the stage of an ordinary person
(pthagjana), who is beset by a false view of self (satkyadi), to the
culmination of the yogic endeavour at emancipation (mukti) and/or enli-
The present paper is the fifth in a series of studies of Dharmakrti`s religious phi-
losophy, see Eltschinger 2005a and b, 2007 and forthcoming. Most sincere thanks
are due to Prof. Ernst Steinkellner, Prof. John Taber and Dr. Helmut Krasser, who
carefully read through the present paper, and to Mrs Cynthia Peck-Kubacek, who
very kindly improved my English. Though I could not do justice to all his sugges-
tions and remarks, I am much indebted to Prof. Eli Franco`s very insightful com-
ments on this paper. Since the present study was written in 2005, it did not take into
consideration John Dunne`s 2006 essay on the yogins` cognition. Dunne`s exegeti-
cal hypothesis is, however, diametrically opposed to mine. To put it in a nutshell,
Dunne argues that Dharmakrti does not choose to present yogic perception as a
mystical gnosis that encounters or uncovers real things in the world (Dunne 2006:
500), or, to put it in other words, that Dharmakrti deliberately chooses to down-
play the notion that, through spiritual exercises, an adept gains extraordinary sen-
sory abilities (Dunne 2006: 504). As I shall try to argue in the second part of this
paper, I think that Dharmakrti actually did hold the opinion that, at the completion
of the path, the yogin has a direct perceptual encounter with reality itself. In my
opinion, Dharmakrti inherits from ideas that can be found, e.g., in the rvaka-
bhmi, and which have been summarized recently by Lambert Schmithausen. Ac-
cording to the latter (Schmithausen 2007: 232/79), the contemplation process cul-
minates in a non-conceptualizing (nirvikalpa) perceptual cognition or insight
(pratyaka jnadaranam) that transcends the mental image and directly appre-
hends the respective object itself. To be more precise, the path described in the
rvakabhmi culminates in a non-conceptualizing (nirvikalpa) perceptual cogni-
tion (pratyakajna) of the four Noble Truths (Schmithausen 2007: 232/79). Re-
search for this article was supported by the Austrian Science Fund in the context of
the FWF-Project P19862 (Philosophische und religise Literatur des Buddhis-
Dieses eBook wurde von der Plattform libreka! fr Gregory Zwahlen mit der Transaktion-ID 1072965 erstellt.
ghtenment (bodhi). The description aims at presenting the religious
conceptions that form the background of Dharmakrti`s epistemological
account of a yogin`s perception (yogipratyaka). In the second part of
this paper, I shall adduce a new and somewhat provocative hypothesis
concerning the still rather unclear subject of the nature of the yogin`s
cognition. I shall try to show that the properties Dharmakrti ascribes to
a mystic`s perception (pratyaka), viz., vividness (spabhat), non-
conceptuality (nirvikalpat) and reliability (avisavdit), should be
taken at face value. To put it in other words, I shall attempt to demon-
strate why, though of an admittedly much higher type, the yogins` per-
ception of the (Buddhist) truths does not differ from ordinary percep-
1. On Ordinary Persons (pthagjana) and Nescience (avidy)
1.1. Pthagjanatva. The intrinsically painful and unsatisfactory condi-
tion from which a yogin wishes to free himself is traditionally described
as the state of an ordinary/worldly person (pthagjanatva). Buddhist
definitions of this state are of a mainly negative character: the ordinary
person is one in whose psychic stream the path of seeing (darana-
mrga), the four noble truths (ryasatya) or, to be more precise, the
supramundane (lokottara) noble factors (ryadharma), have not yet
arisen (see below 3.2). According to the Sautrntikas, the state of an
ordinary person which is denied any reality as a separate entity
is to
The Vaibhikas, some of whom at least classify pthagjanatva as a factor dissoci-
ated from the mind (cittaviprayuktadharma), define pthagjanatva as follows
(AKBh 66,912 together with AK 2.40bc
): mrgasyprptir iyate | pthag-
janatvam | pthagjanatva katamat | ryadharmm albha iti strapha | al-
bha ca nma aprpti |. [T]he non-possession of the noble path is held to be the
nature of an ordinary person (pthagjanatva). As the stra states: `What is the na-
ture of an ordinary person? It is the non-acquisition of the noble factors.` Non-
acquisition is a synonym for non-possession. Translation (of Saghabhadra`s
Nyynusra 399a) in Cox 1995: 202. According to Cox (1995: 223n. 102), stra
here refers to Jnaprasthna 2, 298c5ff, and Mahvibh 45, 232b9ff: What is
the nature of an ordinary person? The nature of an ordinary person is the present,
past, and future non-possession of noble factors, noble heat, noble views, noble pa-
tience, noble inclination, and noble insight. Translation in Cox 1995: 223n. 102.
be defined as follows
: The state of an ordinary person is the stream in
which the noble factors have not arisen. Not surprisingly,
Vasubandhu`s Sautrntika definition coincides with the one put forth by
Yogcras, who hold the state (gnas skabs = avasth?) of an ordinary
person to be one in which the supramundane (lokottara) noble dharmas
have not arisen (ma bskyed pa = anutpanna?).
Idealist sources more-
over regard the state of an ordinary person, which they also consider
being besieged with erroneous clinging to (the notion of) person(s) and
dharmas (pudgaladharmbhiniveasamoha), as the obstacle (varaa)
that prevents one from entering the first Bodhisattva stage (bhmi).
Provided the yogin has not, still as an ordinary person, gone through
(parts of) the so-called mundane path of cultivation (laukika-
bhvanmrga), his condition is characterized by entanglement in ne-
science (avidy, or ignorance, ajna, delusion, moha) and the depravi-
ties, moral faults and defilements (srava, doa, [upa]klea, etc.) ne-
science is responsible for, all of which make one subject to rebirth
See also Siddhi I.5758. Note that, at least for the epistemologists, the category of
arvgdarin (jemand, dessen Erkenntnis von unserer Art ist, Steinkellner 1979:
79n. 258) is wider than the category of pthagjana: whereas the second refers to
those who have not yet entered the path of vision/first Bodhisattva stage, the first is
often though not systematically used as an equivalent of asarvadarin (non-
omniscient), i.e., seems to refer to all persons who are not Buddhas.
AKBh 66,20: anutpannryadharmasantati pthagjanatvam |. The Mahvibh
(45, 231b2629) ascribes to the Drntikas the conception according to which
pthagjanatva is no real entity (Cox 1995: 224n. 109). See also AKVy 154,2831 on
AKBh 66,20: anutpannryadharm santatir iti. anutpann ryadharm asym ity
anutpannryadharm santati pthagjanatvam. anutpannryamrg skandhasantatir
ity artha. arthd utpannryadharm santatir ryatvam ity ukta bhavaty raya-
VinSg P77a8, as quoted by Kritzer (2005: 63): so soi skye bo gnas skabs ga la
gdags | rnam pa du yod ce na | smras pa | jig rten las das pa phags pai chos ma
bskyed pai gnas skabs lao ||.
According to SNS 9.5.1 (see Lamotte 1935: 240), each stage or bhmi opposes a
specific type of error (samoha), the first opposing pudgaladharmbhinivea-
samoha (SNS 127,1213: sa da po la ni ga zag da chos la mon par en pa kun
tu rmos pa). According to Vasubandhu`s commentary on MS 5.1 (see Lamotte
1973: II.196 as well as II.39*, which contains numerous bibliographical references
to pthagjanas), pthagjanatva opposes the first stage. Siddhi II.642 explicitly iden-
tifies the SNS`s samoha to Vasubandhu`s pthagjanat, the latter being defined as
the (bjas of the) klea and jeyvaraa of the speculative type (see Siddhi II.639
640 as well as II.590).
(punarjanman) and re-existence (punarbhava), i.e., to the intrinsically
painful (dukha) cycle of transmigration (sasra).
1.2. Satkyadi. Dharmakrti identifies the traditional Buddhist con-
cept of nescience with the equally traditional concept of false view of
self (satkyadi, or darana),
the latter being in turn equivalent to
the belief in a self (tmagraha) or in a (personal) being (sattvagraha).
What does the false view of self consist of? According to kyabuddhi
and Karakagomin, satkyadi is to be explained as clinging or adher-
ence to the self and one`s own (tmtmybhinivea),
which is close to
the definitions of pthagjanatva provided earlier by the Sautrntikas as
well as the Yogcras. According to (the Sautrntika) Vasubandhu,
satkyadi consists in the false view of the self and one`s own (tm-
and is to be explained as an aberration relative to the
things which constitute the pseudoperson.
According to the Yogcra
VinSg, which Vasubandhu most likely relied upon,
satkyadi it to
On pthagjanas in epistemological literature, see PVP D195a23/P227b6, PV e
D205b2/P253b23 (ad PV 3.217b; for the context, see Eltschinger 2005b: 168
171); PVP D58a6/P66b12 (ad PV 2.140141a; for the context, see Eltschinger
2005a: 415416).
See Vetter 1990: 2226 and Schmithausen 1987: II.517519 (= n. 1421). On
satkyadi in general, see Rahder 1932, Koa 5.1517 + nn. 23 (AKBh 281,17
282,3 on AK 5.7), TBh 23,12 and 29,21, Trait II.737n. 3. On the reasons for such
an identification (rejected by Vasubandhu, see AK 3.29c), see Eltschinger (2007a,
Appendix D, 1).
According to PV 2.211 and PV 2.196. For a more complete list of conceptual
equivalents, see Vetter 1990: 2223.
PV Je D252a6/P299b8300a1 = PVSV 401,23: satkyadarand tmtmy-
bhinivet |.
AKBh 281,20: tmadir tmyadir v satkyadi |, and AKBh 281,24:
tmtmyadir eva satkyadi |.
See AKBh 290,1921: api cnayor dyo svadravyasamhatvd aparap-
pravttatvc ca | svargatsmimnayor apy eva prasaga | sahaj satkyadir
avykt | y mgapakim api vartate | vikalpit tv akualeti prvcry |. Eng-
lish translation of Koa 5.41 in Pruden 1991: III.798. See also AKVy 463,810:
svadravyasamhatvd iti. svasantatipatitnm updnaskandhnm tmtmya-
tvena grahat svadravyasamh satkyadi |.
See Kritzer 2005: 292293 (Saghabhadra identifies this as the opinion of the
stra-master [T. 1562: 618a1719] and refutes it). The first of the two passages
quoted by Kritzer (2005: 293) runs as follows (VinSg P112b6113a1): de la jig
tshogs la lta ba ga e na | e bar len pai phu po la po dag la bdag gam bdag gir
be defined as the false view of self and one`s own (tmtmyadi),
clinging (abhinivea) and `mentalization` (sems la jog pa) with regard
to the five constituents-of-personality being clung to (updna-
skandha). According to all the schools mentioned the Yogcras, the
Sautrntikas, and epistemologists such as Dharmakrti this false view
of self is twofold, viz. speculative (parikalpita VinSg, ASBh, LAV,
PVP, PV, vikalpita AKBh) and innate/spontaneous (sahaja).
speculative false view of self characterizes heretics (anyatrthya,
VinSg), i.e., substantialist philosophers such as Skhyas and Vaiei-
kas (AKVy),
and arises out of the meditation on (heterodox) treatises
(stracint[an]di, PV).
The innate view of self is common to puerile
worldly people (blapthagjana, VinSg) as well as to animals like ante-
lopes and birds (mgapakin, VinSg, AKBh)
and arises out of begin-
ningless latent tendencies (andivsan, PV).
According to Dhar-
makrti, both the speculative and the innate false views of self charac-
terize the type of living beings traditional Buddhist scholasticism classi-
fies as ordinary persons.
1.3. Prattyasamutpda. Nescience traditionally forms the first link in
the Buddhist twelve-membered chain of dependent origination (prat-
tyasamutpda) and as such at least indirectly conditions thirst or crav-
ing (t, or love, sneha, or desire, rga). This craving is in turn re-
garded as the cause of suffering (dukhahetu), i.e., the factor that
prompts deluded people to act in order to quench their thirst, hence to
ba lta ba da | mon par en pa da sems la jog pa ga yin pa de ni jig tshogs la lta
ba es byao || dea rnam pa gis su rig par bya ste | lhan cig skyes pa da kun
brtags pao || de la lhan cig skyes pa ni byis pa so soi skye bo thams cad da tha na
ri dags da bya rnams kyi ya yin no || kun brtags pa ni gan mu stegs can rnams kyi
yin par blta bar byao ||.
LAV 117,17118,13, AKBh 290,1921 (see n. 11 above), VinSg (see n. 12 above),
PV 2.199 (see n. 47 below). Note that Prajkaragupta and Manorathanandin call
the first of these two kinds of satkyadi bhisaskrik; Manorathanandin de-
fines it as skandhavyatirikttmdhyavasyin (see PVA 139,2728 and PVV 79,20
AKVy 463,1718: y tmavdibhi kapilolkdibhir vikalpit |.
PV e D131b67/P162a78: kun tu brtags pa ni bstan bcos sems pa la sogs pai
sgo nas byu bao || lhan cig skyes pa ni thog ma med pai bag chags las byu bao ||.
See nn. 11 and 12 above.
See n. 15 above.
be bound to sasric existence.
Dharmakrti devotes many prattya-
samutpda-like passages to account for the rise of craving and the other
defilements out of the belief in the person. One of the clearest runs as
: The one who sees a self has a constant love for this [self,
thinking of it as] `I`. Because of [this] love [for the self] he craves for
the delights [for that self, and this] thirst conceals [from him] the draw-
backs [of the things he deems conducive to these delights]. Seeing [but]
qualities [to these things], he craves [for them thinking of them as hav-
ing to become] `mine`, and appropriates (upd) the means [that are
conducive] to them. Therefore he [remains] in sasra as long as he
clings to [that] self. These texts exhibit the traditional chain that links
nescience, craving, appropriation (updna) and (re-)existence
(bhava[/jti]), but fail to inform us further about the rise of passions or
defilements other than craving. The PVSV provides us with the most
exhaustive picture of Dharmakrti`s account of the genealogy of defile-
: The birth of all kinds of [moral] faults is due to the [false]
view of self [i.e., to the clinging to self and one`s own, and] this [false
See PV 2.146a (dukha sasria skandh) and PV 2.185d (tasmt t
bhavraya) in Vetter 1990: 53 and 88.
PV 2.217218: ya payaty tmna tatrsyham iti vata sneha | sneht
sukheu tyati t dos tiraskurute || guadar parityan mameti tatsdha-
nny updatte | tentmbhiniveo yvat tvat sa sasre ||.
Genealogy as a free rendering of Karakagomin`s krama (lit. sequence, succes-
sion; PVSV 401,2526: kena puna kramea do satkyadarand utpatti |).
Satkyadarana is the prabhava (PVSV 111,11, gl. utpattikraa PVSV 401,20),
the mla (PV 2.196), the ekayoni (PV 2.211) of the defilements. PVSV 111,1320
(together with PV 1.222): sarvs doajtn jti satkyadarant | svidy ta-
tra tatsnehas tasmd dvedisambhava || na hi nha na mameti payata parigra-
ham antarea kvacit sneha | na cnanurgia kvacid dvea | tmtmynu-
parodhiny uparodhapratightini ca tadabhvt | tasmt samnajtybhysajam t-
madaranam tmyagraha praste | tau ca tatsneha sa ca dvedn iti satkya-
daranaj sarvado | tad eva cjnam ity ucyate |. See also PV 2.196ac: moha
ca mla do sa ca sattvagraho vin | tenghahetau na dvea . Delusion is
the root[-cause] of [moral] faults, and this [delusion] consists in the belief in a [per-
sonal] being. In the absence (vin) of this [belief, there can be] no aversion for a
cause of evil (agha) [since the error of an injury to the self does not occur for one
who does not see any self]. PV 2.211: tmagrahaikayonitvt rgapratighayo
. Because both desire and hostility have the belief in a self as their only source.
PV 2.212cd: tanml ca mal sarve sa ca satkyadaranam ||. All the defilements
have this [delusion] as [their] root[-cause], and this [delusion] is the [false] view of
the self. On this point, see Franco 2001: 295296.
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view of self] is nescience [itself]; with regard to the [object which is
clung to as being self and one`s own arises] love for those [i.e., for self
and one`s own, and] from this [love] are born such [evil defilements] as
aversion. Indeed, the one who, without grasping (parigraha), sees that
there is neither I nor mine, does not love anything and, [being so] unat-
tached, does not hate anything [either], for there is no [aversion] for that
which does not hinder the self or one`s own, nor of that which opposes
the [said] hindrance.
Therefore the [false] view of self, which is born
from the repeated habit (abhysa) of the [previous very] same [false
view of self], generates the [false] view of one`s own. Both of them
then [produce] love for those [two things, self and one`s own], and this
[love in turn generates] such [evil passions] as aversion. Therefore all
[moral] faults are born from the [false] view of self, and it is this [false
view of self] that is called `ignorance` (ajna) [in our doctrinal sys-
tem]. Provided, once again, that he has not yet gotten rid of those de-
filements that an ordinary person can eliminate by means of the mun-
dane path of cultivation, the pthagjana is first and foremost typified by
his erroneous superimposition of ego-related aspects onto the selfless
constituents of reality, and by the correlative defilements that make him
slave to sasra and suffering.
2. The Idea of a Way Out
2.1. Gotra, kalyamitra and the rutamay praj. There are some
reasons to believe that at least some of Dharmakrti`s commentators and
epigones assented to the (mainly) Mahynist doctrinal complex that
entails such key notions as gotra (family), kalyamitra (spiritual
friend), bodhicitta (thought of enlightenment) and praidhna
Asked to account for the cause(s) of a Bodhisattva`s first im-
See PV 2.219: tmani sati parasaj svaparavibhgt parigrahadveau | anayo
sampratibaddh sarve do prajyante || When there is [a notion of] a self, [there
is] a notion of the other; from [this very] distinction between a self and another,
both grasping (parigraha) and aversion [are generated and], bound to these two, all
the [moral] faults arise.
On gotra, see PVP D16a5/P18a34, PV e D88b5/P108a34, TSP K872,1
7/1055,1420 and PVV 20,1217 (on this passage, see Franco 1997: 24); on bo-
dhicitta and praidhna, see PVP D85a5/P98a1 (bya chub kyi sems son du so ba
can gyi brtse ba) and PVV 79,9 (praidhna). See Eltschinger (2008, 3.23 and
pulse toward the practice of compassion (karu), Devendrabuddhi,
kyabuddhi and Kamalala mention a particular type of living being
(sattvaviea, PVP), i.e., a (specific) family (gotra PV, gotraviea
TSP) that we must understand as consisting of the bodhisattvagotra
(family of Bodhisattvas, in contrast to the families of the Hearers
[rvakagotra] or Buddhas-for-themselves [pratyekabuddhagotra]).
Indeed, the bodhisattvagotra is intrinsically linked to compassion.
belonging to this family causes the Bodhisattva, still as an ordinary
person, to generate the (conventional) thought of enlightenment and to
make the vow of striving for awakening in order to alleviate the suffer-
ing of living beings.
Elsewhere I have argued that Dharmakrti`s PV
2.131cd132ab can be interpreted as providing us with a functional
equivalent to the arising of the thought of enlightenment
: [Wishing to
calm other people`s suffering,] the compassionate [Bodhisattva] en-
gages in [the cultivation of] means to [calm suffering] in order to eradi-
cate [his own] suffering: for whom the goal (upeya) and [its] cause re-
main imperceptible (paroka), it is indeed a difficult task to [correctly]
teach [others about them]. True to a well-documented Yogcra tradi-
tion, Devendrabuddhi, kyabuddhi and Ravigupta also consider com-
panionship with and service (sev) to a spiritual friend to be instru-
mental (< pratyaya) in the the rising of the first impulse of a (novice)
Bodhisattva toward the practice of compassion.
In addition to his ex-
hortation to engage in compassion, this kalyamitra`s main function is
to teach Dharma or the path toward awakening (bodhimrga). From
such a Buddha or skilled Bodhisattva, the yogin hears or learns (ru)
the Good Law (saddharma) or Word (pravacana) of the Buddha
: this
is the so-called wisdom born of listening (rutamay praj), which, just
See MSA 3.5 together with MSABh 11,18, Maithrimurthi 1999: 268 and nn. 153
See BoBh D10,1213/W15,1112 and MSABh 15,2.
PV 2.131cd132ab: dayvn dukhahnrtham upyev abhiyujyate || parokopeya-
taddhetos tadkhyna hi dukaram |. See Eltschinger (2008, 5.35).
See Eltschinger (2008, 3.4).
See Eltschinger (2008, n. 75). Interestingly, the Buddha`s Word seems to be nine-
membered (navga) rather than twelve-membered (dvdaga) in the few places
it is mentioned by the epistemologists. See PVP D120b45/P139b3 (together with
PV e D150b34/P186a23) and TSP K877,46/1062,79. On this distinction,
see Lamotte 1976: 157159.
like the following wisdom born of (rational) reflection, the (novice)
Bodhisattva obtains still as an ordinary person.
2.2. Cintmay praj.
The wisdom born of (rational) reflection mir-
rors the concerns of a human type who is ideally possessed of two
properties: first, his desire to engage (pravttikma) in a religious path
and second, his practical rationality (prekvattva, prekprvakritva).
At this stage, the (novice) Bodhisattva submits the scriptural contents
he has previously heard/learnt to a rational inquiry (yukti) or examina-
tion (park, vicra, etc.) that mainly proceeds by means of inference
(anumna, sdhana). Wisdom born of (rational) reflection consists in
an ascertainment (nicaya, niraya) of scriptural contents through the
so-called means of valid cognition (prama), and results in (a) cogni-
tion(s) that is/are termed agreeing with the means of valid cognition
(pramasavdin), i.e., whose objects (artha) have proved to stand
critical analysis by means of pramas (prama[pari]uddhrtha,
prama[pari]drtha) and hence are deemed to be worthy of (reli-
gious) exertion/endeavour (abhiyogrha). Typical of this kind of object
are the four Noble Truths, which form the core or principal point
(pradhnrtha) of the Buddhist teaching and which a rational person
subjects to inferential investigation in order to assess the reliability
(avisavditva) of scriptures (gama). In a philosophical narrative,
See MSAVBh D142b56 on MSA 9.76a
(dhrat): da po so soi skye boi dus
na dge bai bes gen la brten nas | dam pai chos man pa da | man nas tshig da
don gzu ba da gzu ba rnams bsam i First when [still] an ordinary person
(pthagjanakle), [the Bodhisattva] learns (ru) the Good Law (saddharma) rely-
ing on a spiritual friend (kalyamitram ritya), grasps (grah) the word
(vyajana?) and the meaning (artha) after he has learnt (rutv) [them] and reflects
(cint) upon the [things thus] grasped (ghta) .
On the cintmay praj, see Eltschinger (forthcoming 1). The present section is but
a summary of (parts of) the second part of this study.
PV 2.132cd135: yuktygambhy viman dukhahetu parkate || tasynitydi-
rpa ca dukhasyaiva vieaai | yatas tath sthite hetau nivttir neti payati ||
phalasya hetor hnrtha tadvipaka parkate | sdhyate tadvipako pi heto
rpvabodhata || tmtmyagrahakta sneha saskragocara | hetur virodhi
nairtmyadarana tasya bdhakam ||. Reflecting on [the means and the goal]
through reasoning (yukti) and the Scriptures (gama), [the compassionate Bodhi-
sattva] inquires into the cause of the suffering [that is to be eradicated] and, through
the particularities of suffering itself, [he inquires also] into the impermanent nature,
etc., of the [cause in question]. Since in this way [he who wishes to eradicate suffer-
Dharmakrti relates how the compassionate Buddha-to-be, rationally
and scripturally (yuktygambhym), reflects upon the cause of suffer-
ing and the antidote (vipaka, pratipaka) to that cause. The Bodhisattva
first determines love (sneha, i.e., craving), itself generated by the belief
in self and one`s own (tmtmyagrahakta), to be the (destructible)
cause of suffering. He then identifies the means (upya) or factor
(dharma) that is able to oppose, contradict (virudh, bdh) and de-
stroy the cause of suffering: this antidote or antagonistic factor consists
in the view or perception of unsubstantiality or emptiness (nairtmya-
darana or di, nyatdi). In the stage of rational reflection,
pramas (i.e., inference) ascertain or determine the real aspects (bh-
tkra, impermanence, painfulness, emptiness in the sense of the lack
of one`s own [AKBh 400,23], selflessness, etc.) of entities and hence
provide the reflecting yogin`s cognition with aspects (kra) and
objects (lambana) that contradict, oppose or counteract the
superimpositions (samropa, etc., namely, permanence, delight, one`s
own, self, etc.) that ignorance, as a generalized erroneous perception
(mithyopalabdhi), is responsible for. What the yogin is intent upon here
is nothing other than following a path that will enable him to counteract
(pratipakamrga) the adventitious (gantuka) filth of passions and
ing] sees that there is no end to the effect so long as the cause remains, he inquires
into the antidote of the [cause of suffering] in order to eliminate it. [As for the
dharma forming] the antidote of that [cause, it] is also ascertained by the [Bodhi-
sattva`s] knowledge of the nature of the cause [itself]. [That] cause [is] attachment
bearing on dispositions, [an attachment which] is due to the belief in self and one`s
own; [as for] the antidote to that [cause, it is] the perception of selfnessness which
opposes it. On this important passage, see inter alia Franco 1989: 8490, Vetter
1990: 1112, Eltschinger 2005: 397408, Eltschinger (forthcoming 1, 2.4) and
Dunne 2006: 505507. It is easy to show that this passage narrates the Bodhisattva`s
rational determination of the Noble Truths. PV 2.131cd132ab present us with a
mahynist account of the Bodhisattva`s being struck by his own as well as the
other living beings` suffering (dukhasatya). This of course needs not be further in-
vestigated since dukha is but an empirical fact. PV 2.132c133ab and 135ac
count for the Bodhisattva`s inquiry into the origin of suffering (samudayasatya),
whereas PV 2.134bd and 135c
d describe his determination of the path leading to
the destruction of suffering (mrgasatya). As to the destruction of suffering (nirod-
hasatya) itself, it cannot be made the object of an analysis, but merely be hinted at,
which we can observe in PV 2.133cd134a, with its characteristic allusion to nivtti.
On that passage, see in general Eltschinger 2005a: 397408 and Eltschinger (forth-
coming 1, 2.4).
hence establish his mind (citta = vijna) in its naturally radiant (pra-
bhsvara) and flawless (nirsrava) condition.
3. The Path to Salvation
3.1. Pratipakamrga.
According to Dharmakrti, nescience consists in
an erroneous perception (PV 2.213) that he identifies with the innate
false view of self. This false view gives rise to thirst or craving, which
is regarded as the cause of suffering. The yogin who is eager to rid him-
self of suffering will thus have to eliminate craving and other defile-
ments by eradicating their cause. In other words, he will have to de-
velop and cultivate the perception of unsubstantiality or emptiness,
which acts as an antidote or antagonistic factor to the false view of self,
in order to free himself from craving and suffering. This antagonism
between avidy = satkyadi and nairtmyadarana is based on the
fact that these mutually opposing factors display contrary aspects of the
object (vipartlambankra).
Two stanzas of PV 2 account well for
this mutual incompatibility and for Dharmakrti`s general conception of
the yogic path
: Having[, due to nescience,] superimposed sixteen
unreal aspects, viz. `lasting`, `pleasant`, `mine`, `I`,
etc., on the four
[Noble] Truths, one experiences craving [for such a superimposed ob-
ject as delight, etc.].
The correct view, well cultivated,
destroys the
thirst together with its suite [of defilements such as selfishness, envy,
insofar as this correct view], with regard to these [four Noble
Pratipakamrga in PV Je D252a12/P299a8b1 = PVSV 401,1213.
PVP D115b3/P134a4: gal ba de ya* dmigs pai rnam pa phyin ci log pai sgo nas
yin no ||. * = ma rig pa da bdag med pa id mtho ba gal ba according to PV e
PV 2.270271: sthira sukha mamha cetydi satyacatuaye | abhtn oa-
krn ropya parityati || tatraiva tadviruddhrthatattvkrnurodhin | hanti
snucar t samyagdi subhvit ||. On anurodhin, see Vetter 1990: 27n.
See PVP D115b46/P134a58 and PV e D147b13/P182a58.
According to PVP D116a23/P134b45, Dharmakrti shows now that the path is the
counteracting factor because it is possessed with aspects that are contrary to the
ones superimposed by nescience.
According to PVP D116a6/P135a1, once the perception of unsubstantiality has
become coessential (stmbhta) with the mind through cultivation; on PVV
103,8 (subhvit sdaranirantaradrghaklbhysaprptavaiady), see below 3.5.
Mtsarya and ry according to PVP D116a6/P135a12 and PVV 103,89 .
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Truths], conforms to (anurodhin) the real aspects of the thing
are contradictory to the [ones falsely ascribed by ignorance].
cience has one superimpose or grasp such unreal aspects as perma-
Once craving and all kinds of defilements arise, they bear upon
objects whose aspects have been superimposed.
Now the perception of
unsubstantiality entails or goes along with the sixteen real aspects of the
Noble Truths,
i.e., is provided with aspects that are contradictory to
those superimposed by nescience. Cultivating this perception to its ma-
ximum degree of intensity, i.e., up to the point where it becomes essen-
tial to the mind or the psychic stream, will annul not only the innate
false view of self, but also all the defilements that it gives rise to by
providing them with (pseudo-)objects. Such is the basic structure and
goal of Dharmakrti`s path (mrga). Though this structure remains ba-
sically the same for all types of Buddhist yogins (rvakas, Pratyeka-
buddhas and Bodhisattvas), differences are mainly concerned with the
initial motivation (nimitta, prayojana) guiding the yogin, and hence with
Literally: aspects which constitute the true reality of the thing. See Devendrabud-
dhi`s and Manorathanandin`s explanations in PVP D116a3/P134b5 and PVV 103,6
8 respectively.
PVP D116a12/P134b34: lam ma rig pa da gal bar gyur pa na sred pa da ya
don gyis gal ba yin no es bstan to ||. [Dharmakrti] teaches [here] that if the path is
contradictory to nescience, it is [then] indirectly (artht) contradictory to craving
PVP D115b67/P134a8b2 presents us with the following unreal aspects with re-
gard to tlakao dukhahetu: erroneous superimposition of asamudaya, ahe-
tu, apratyaya and aprabhavkra. PV e D147b35/P182a8b2 supplies for
Dharmakrti`s and Devendrabuddhi`s dis in the following way: superimposition
of anirodha, anta, aprata and anisarakra with regard to nirodhasatya;
superimposition of amrga, anyya, apratipatti and anairyikkra with regard
to mrgasatya.
Note PV e D147b57/P182b24: sgro btags nas ni yos su sred ces bya bai tshig
gis log par sgro dogs pa son du so ba can gyi sred pa id gsal bar bstan pa yin no
|| sgro dogs pai yul la jug pai sred pa de ya sgro dogs pai rnam pa id yin la |
sgro dogs pai rnam pa can gyi yul can gyi on mos pa da e bai on mos pa
thams cad id ma rig pa id yin pa de ltar na dei ra bin can id kya bstan pa id
yin no ||.
See AKBh 343,1619 together with Koa 6.163 (Pruden 1991: III.930) and, for
definitions, AKBh 400,1401,17 together with Koa 7.3039 (Pruden 1991:
the length of the cultivation as well as with the quality or scope of the
salvational result.
3.2. Daranamrga. When he practiced rational reflection on scriptural
contents, the yogin was still an ordinary person, and the compassion he
was endowed with still bore upon a hypostasised notion of living beings
To put it in a more traditional way, we could say that
at this stage, the yogin was a Bodhisattva who has formed the initial
resolution (prathamacittotpdika), abiding in the so-called adhimukti-
carybhmi (stage of zealous conduct). The supramundane noble
factors that an ordinary person is per definitionem bereft of are those
that arise on the so-called path of vision/seeing (daranamrga), which
(normally) opens up the Buddhist religious path properly speaking and
coincides, in a Mahynist perspective, with the Bodhisattva`s entrance
into the first stage (most commonly known as the joyful stage, pra-
mudit bhmi).
The state of an ordinary person ceases as soon as the
yogin has entered the path of vision
: at this time, the yogin becomes a
noble person (rya[pudgala]) and enters the path of those who are un-
dergoing religious training (aikamrga). Like all the path structures
that have been inherited from the Vaibhika abhisamayavda, Dhar-
makrti`s path is basically twofold, divided into a path of vision and a
path of cultivation (bhvanmrga, though both are here included in the
broader category of bhvan). Dharmakrti spells it out as follows
[Objection:] Inexistence (abhava) [i.e., liberation from sasra,]
For differences between the daranamrgas of the rvakas and the Bodhisattvas,
see MS 3.15.
PV Je D24b6/P29b23 = PVSV 53,9: sattvlamban pthagjannm |. sattv-
lamban refers itself to karu and more generally, to the four immeasurables
See e.g. BoBh D223,2225/W326,22327,1.
There are at least two interpretations with regard to the nature of the noble factors
referred to in the Vaibhika definition of the state of an ordinary being: To the
non-acquisition of which factors does the nature of an ordinary person refer? [Ac-
cording to two interpretations, it is maintained that the nature of an ordinary person]
is either the general non-acquisition of all (sarva) noble factors or the [specific]
non-acquisition only of the presentiment of the knowledge of the doctrine with re-
gard to suffering (dukhe dharmajnaknti). Nyynusra 399b as translated in
Cox 1995: 203. See also Koa 6.182183n. 1 (Pruden 1991: III.10561057n. 165).
PV 2.199ac: satkyader vigamd dya evbhavo bhavet | mrge cet sahajhner
na .
should occur [already] on the initial path [i.e., during the path of vi-
for the [false] view of self[, which is the cause of the connection
to a new birth,] ceases [at that time].
[Answer:] No, because [at that
time] one does not rid oneself of the innate [false view of self]. We see
thus that Dharmakrti also accepted the two above-mentioned
satkyadis: whereas the speculative one is to be eliminated by the
path of vision, the innate one, which arises from beginningless latent
tendencies, can only be eliminated by the path of cultivation (bhvan-
mrgaheya, PV, PVV). Since one does not rid oneself of the innate
satkyadi, i.e., the cause of rebirth (punarbhavahetu, PVP), by the
path of vision,
love for the self (tmasneha PVP, t PVV) contin-
ues beyond the path of vision and results in re-existence (punarbhava
PVP, janmaprabandha PVV).
This amounts to saying that such Bud-
PVP D85a7/P98a4: lam da po ste | mtho bai lam; PVV 79,19: dya eva mrge
daranamrge. According to kyabuddhi (PV e D131b5/P162a6), Dharmakrti
calls the daranamrga the initial path because daranamrga occurs before the
path of cultivation, the path of those who are undergoing religious training (aika-
mrga) and the path of those who no longer need religious training (aaikamrga).
On aikas and aaika = arhat, see AKBh 365,16366,7 and Koa 6.230233. The
category of aika covers seven types of saints or noble persons (ryapudgala) ac-
cording to AKBh 365,1819 (sapta prvokt pudgal aik iti |), viz., four can-
didates (pratipannak) and three abiders (phale sthit, AKBh 366,12): the
ones who are in the progress of realizing the four states of Srotapanna, Sakd-
gmin, Angmin and Arhat, and those who in fact are Srotapanna, Sakdgmin
and Angmin (AKBh 366,23). On the Srotapanna, see AK 6.29cd together with
AKBh 353,2022 (Koa 6.194, Pruden 1991: III.953); on the Sakdgmin (devn
gatv sakn manuyalokgamant sakdgm, AKBh 358,12), see AK 6.35 to-
gether with AKBh 358,13 (Koa 6.208209, Pruden 1991: III.964965); on the
Angmin (kmadhtvangamant, AKBh 358,1617), see AK 6.36d together with
AKBh 358,1617 (Koa 6.209210, Pruden 1991: III.965966).
Conclusion, PVP D85a7/P98a45: de ya mi gyur ba dei phyir bdag tu chags pa
skye bai mtshams sbyor bai rgyu ma yin no e na |. But it does not occur [at that
time]; therefore, love for the self (tmasneha) is not the cause of the connection to a
[new] birth.
Note also PVP D121a1/P139b78 (about abhyaaikas, i.e., Buddhist aikas):
lhan cig skyes pai jig tshogs su lta ba ma spas pai phyir ro ||.
See PVP D85b12/P98a57: bdag tu lta bai rnam pa gis te | kun brtags pa da
lhan cig skyes pao || kun tu brtags pa de ni de dag gis in tu kun tu spyod pai chos
ma yin pas na spas pas de ni skye bai kun nas chi bai rgyur mi gyur ro || jig
tshogs su lta ba lhan cig skyes pa ya srid pai rgyu ga yin pa de ni de dag id kyis
spas pa ma yin no || de ma spas pai rgyui phyir bdag tu chags pa ma log pa id
yin pa de ltar na ya srid pa yod pa yin no ||. PVV 79,2023: dvidh hi satkyadir
dhist saints as the stream-enterer (srotapanna), the once-returner
(sakdgmin) and the non-returner (angmin) are still possessed of an
innate erroneous nescience (*sahajvidy vipart?) that they will have
to eradicate by the path of cultivation.
3.3. Bhvanmrga. At the end of the path of vision, the aikas of the
rvaka type obtain the religious fruit or result (phala) they were a can-
didate for (pratipannaka) before entering the path. Depending on the
extent to which they have, still as ordinary persons, eliminated the bh-
vanheya defilements by means of a mundane path of cultivation,
obtain the results of stream-enterer, once-returner and non-returner.
As such they are reborn, respectively, seven times in the realm of desire
(kmadhtu), or only once, or no more, before they reach emancipation
from sasra, i.e., nirva. The supramundane path of cultivation they
bhis[a]skrik y skandhavyatirikttmdhyavasyin sahaj ca | tatra pratham
daranamrge hyate | na dvity bhvanmrgahey | s ca mohas ty ca hetur
iti bhavati janmaprabandha |. PV e D131b7/P162a8b1: de dag id kyis spas
pa ma yin no es bya ba ni thog ma med pai bag chags las byu ba de ni bsgom pai
lam id kyis spa bar bya ba id yin pai phyir ro ||. For a similar distinction be-
tween speculative-daranaheya and innate-bhvanheya varaas, see Siddhi II.572
and Siddhi II.639640.
PV e D131b7/P162b12: bdag tu chags pa khas len pa id kyi phyir | rgyun du
ugs pa la lhan cig skyes pai mi es pa phyin ci log yod pa yin no es bstan pai
phyir |. See also ASBh 62,34, as quoted by Schmithausen (1987: II.440n. 931): sa-
haj satkyadir bhvanprahtavy: ym adhihya utpannadaranamrgasypy
ryarvakasysmimna samudcarati |. Innate [false] view of self is to be elimi-
nated through cultivation: based on this (ym adhihya) [innate false view of self],
egotism (asmimna) occurs even in a Noble Hearer (ryarvaka) in whom the path
of vision has arisen. ASBh 62,911, as (partly) quoted by Schmithausen (1987:
II.440441n. 932): daranamrgea prahaparikalpitasatkyadimalasypy rya-
rvakasya prvbhinivebhysaktam tmadaranam anuvartate yat tat punar
mrgabhvanay prahtavya bhavati |. Even in a Noble Hearer in whom the im-
purity consisting in the speculative [false] view of self has been eliminated by the
path of vision, the [false] view of self, caused by the repeated habit of former clin-
ging, goes on existing, which is still to be eliminated by the cultivation of the path.
Laukikabhvanmrga at PVV 107,56; see also TS 34963497, and Koa 6.ivxi
(Pruden 1991: III.xivxxii).
PVP D85a7/P98a4: rgyun du ugs pa la sogs pa; PVV 79,19: srotapannasya. PV
e D131b56/P162a67: rgyun du ugs pa la sogs pa es bya ba la sogs pai sgras
ni lan cig phyir o ba da phyir mi o ba gzu o || sdug bsal gyi bden pa mtho
ba id kyis de dag gis jig tshogs su lta ba spas pa yin no ||.
still need in order to get rid of the remaining defilements is then ex-
tremely short. Highly different is the situation of the aika who is des-
tined for Buddhahood and not for Arhatship, and who, still as an ordi-
nary person, had made the vow to reach enlightenment in order to alle-
viate living beings` suffering by teaching them the path to liberation. As
far as I can see, this Buddha-to-be still must rid himself of three major
elements as he exits the path of vision. (1) Like Hearers and Buddhas-
for-themselves, he will have to uproot the innate false view of self to-
gether with its attendant defilements, but (2) unlike Hearers and
Buddhas-for-themselves, he will have to eliminate these defilements
together with their traces or after-effects (vsan), which regularly
manifest themselves in Arhats through corporeal, vocal or mental defi-
ciencies (kyavkcittavaiguya). (3) The Buddha-to-be still must uproot
the so-called undefiled nescience or ignorance (aklividy, or
ajna, or samoha). To put it technically, the Bodhisattva must
eradicate two kinds of obstacles (varaa) in addition to the innate false
view of self: the obstacle that consists in the defilements together with
their after-effect (savsanaklevaraa), and the obstacle that conceals
the knowable (jeyvaraa).
Needless to say, this threefold uprooting
demands an incomparably longer path of cultivation than that taken by
Hearers and Buddhas-for-themselves.
Whoever the yogin may be, the
cultivation or repeated practice (abhysa) consists in the yogin`s prac-
ticing (prayoga) or generating (utpdana, utpatti) repeatedly, again
and again (puna puna, paunapunyena),
the salvational means,
viz., the perception of unsubstantiality, in order to finally reach a direct
perceptual realization
(sktkaraa) of it.
3.4. Anbhogat and svarasavhitva. Dharmakrti`s conception of a
Bodhisattva`s cultivation is based on a Mahynist path structure that
On all this, see Eltschinger 2005a: 408436, and below 3.5.
On the duration of the various religious careers (and especially the one of Bodhi-
sattvas), see Trait IV.1842, and n. 5 (pp. 18421843), and Siddhi II.731733.
Abhysa is defined as puna punar nairantaryeotpdanam (PVSV 398,9), as pau-
napunyenndiklam utpatti (PV Je D252b7253a1/P300b6 = PVSV 402,19),
or else as puna puna prayoga (AKVy 649,26), or as puna puna cetasi vinive-
anam (NB S11,1819/M67,5).
See PVP D54b7/P62a8, PVA 108,20 and 26, PVV 57,4, TS 33393340ab, TSP
K16,13/20,1213, K876,1719/1061,1416, passim.
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entails various stages (bhmi) as well as the parallel development of
insight (praj, vipayan) and compassion (karu, kp, day).
the most authoritative traditional accounts of a Bodhisattva`s career
(cary), the entrance into the eighth (or seventh) stage (acal DBhS,
niyat BoBh, or the tenth abode, vihra BoBh) stands out as a decisive
turning point. The Bodhisattva is now possessed of the presentiment
that dharmas (ultimately) have no arising (anutpattikadharmaknti);
from now on his progression is irreversible (avaivartika). Especially
noteworthy is the fact that all the factors and operations characterizing
him have now become spontaneous (< svarasena eva) on account of the
intensity of the cultivation (bhvanbhulyt),
and develop without
any intentional effort (anbhogena).
This pertains to the Bodhisattva`s
wisdom as well as to his compassion, which from now on can properly
be termed great compassion (mahkaru), and which no longer
bears upon anything (anlamban, because the Bodhisattva no longer
sees sattvas or dharmas).
Note should also be made that the entrance
into the eighth (or seventh) stage coincides with the acquisition of un-
fixed nirva (apratihitanirva).
The epistemologists` assent to this complex of ideas can be eas-
ily documented. Dharmakrti himself accepts the notion of an objectless
compassion (anlamban karu),
which kyabuddhi and Karaka-
gomin declare to be proper to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who, in con-
tradistinction to ordinary persons and noble beings (rya), have rid
themselves of the clinging to the object-subject dichotomy.
Note Devendrabuddhi`s explanation of hetusampad in PVP D57b2/P65b2: bcom
ldan das kyi thugs rje da thabs goms pa rgyu yin no es rgyu phun sum tshogs pa
gsus pa yin no ||. Upybhysa = nairtmyadaranbhysa = prajbhysa. De-
vendrabuddhi`s prayoga at PVP D57a13/P64b765a2 (see Eltschinger 2005a:
405n. 45) makes it perfectly clear that nairtmyadarana is praj.
See BoBh D219,17220,2/W320,24321,2 and Eltschinger (2008, 4.3 and n. 103).
See DBhS (VII F) 58,69, (VIII C) 64,1516 and 2526, (VIII K) 67,1019, and
(VIII C) 64,2627. This is also termed the anbhogacary at LAV 43,9 (see Suzuki
1999: 221230).
See Eltschinger (2008, 4).
On the apratihitanirva, see the bibliographical references in Lamotte 1973:
II.47*48*; see also Siddhi II.671672 and Nagao 2000: 24.
See PVSV 9,1415.
PV Je D24b67/P29b34 = PVSV 53,910: anlamban grhyagrhakbhini-
veavigatn buddhabodhisattvnm |.
Dharmakrti associates great compassion (mahat kp) with Bodhisa-
ttvas who are possessed of a durable substratum (sthirraya) and re-
main in sasra (in contradistinction to rvakas and Pratyeka-
Last but not least, Dharmakrti argues at length that com-
passion proceeds spontaneously (svarasena) as it becomes the very na-
ture (svabhva) of the psychic stream and no longer requires any effort
(yatna) in order to increase.
The same doctrinal pattern also seems to
obtain in the case of discernment (vipayan), which, defined as wis-
dom bearing upon unsubstantiality (nairtmylamban praj),
equivalent to the already mentioned perception of unsubstantiality and
the counteracting path it defines. The yogin`s nearly endless cultivation
of nairtymadarana gradually results in the latter`s becoming co-
essential or conatural to the mind (citta), a process (or rather its re-
sult) the epistemologists usually describe in terms of stmya or stm-
bhva: after a certain point, the mind or the psychic stream (santna)
acquires discernment as its own nature,
which amounts to saying that
it is coessential with the perception or cultivation of unsubstantiality,
also referred to as the path or the antidote of the defilements (doaprati-
Devendrabuddhi uses the expression *anbho-
See PV 2.197198, below n. 73.
See PV 2.120131ab, and Eltschinger (2008, 2) for an English translation and
PV e D134b3/P166a1: lhag mtho yin la es bya ba bdag med pa la dmigs pai
es rab bo ||. Note also BhK 1.219,23220,4, where vipayan bears upon the unsub-
stantiality of all dharmas (sarvadharmanisvabhvatlambana), and Kamalala`s
definition of vipayan at BhK 3.5,1720: bhtapratyaveka ca vipayanocyate |
bhta puna pudgaladharmanairtmyam | tatra pudgalanairtmya y skandh-
nm tmtmyarahitat | dharmanairtmya y tem eva myopamat |. La vi-
payan est une analyse correcte. Elle est correcte parce [qu`elle porte] sur
l`inexistence de l`individu et sur l`inexistence des dharma. L`inexistence de la per-
sonne consiste en ce que les agrgats sont privs de Moi; l`inexistence des dharma
est le fait qu`ils sont pareils une magie. Translation in Lamotte 1987b: 340.
PVSV 400,13: vipaayansvabhvasya; PVP D90a1/P103b8: ra bin ya lhag
mtho ba yin; PVSV 401,14: vipayanstmani sthitasya (= PV Je D252a2, as
against P299b1).
PVSV 110,18 (stmbhvt see PV Je D249a6/P295b1 = PVSV 398,11, where
the santna is said to be stmbhtadoapratipaka, to be treated as a bahuvrhi
compound), PVSV 110,24 (doavipakastmatve, where the doavipaka is
nairtmyadarana according to PV Je D250b1/P297a56 = PVSV 399,17),
PVSV 111,3 (vipakastmana puruasya), PVSV 111,8 (pratipakastmya); PVV
ganairtmyadarana purua to refer to this state,
while kyabud-
dhi regards nairtmyadarana as proceeding spontaneously (svarasav-
hitva, or *svarasapravartakatva).
As for unfixed nirva, an allu-
sion (at least according to kyabuddhi) is found in a passage in which
Dharmakrti contrasts rvakas and Pratyekabuddhas on the one hand,
and Bodhisattvas on the other
: It is not true (na) that there [can be]
no liberation [from sasra], because once the previous saskra [=
karman] has been exhausted, there is no connection to another [painful
birth. However,] those whose saskra is of unexhausted force do re-
main [in sasra out of compassion, after having meditated upon the
benefit of the other living beings,
and are] immaculate. And because
compassion is weak [since it has not been cultivated intensively before],
the effort in order to remain [in sasra] is not great [and hence the
abode in sasra does not last]; on the contrary (tu), [those] whose
commiseration (kp) is great do remain [in sasra, being entirely]
devoted to the other [living beings]. It is commonplace in Mahyna
literature for rvakas and Pratyekabuddhas
to hasten to reach nirva
because they are terrified of sasra, whereas Bodhisattvas
remain in
59,24: nairtmyabhvanstmye; PV Je D251a12/P298a2 PVSV 399,25:
stmbhta mrgam; PVP D89b1/P103a5: lam dei bdag id can gyi sems; PVV
83,1415: stmbhtamrge. Note Devendrabuddhi`s definition of mrga at PVP
D89b3/P103a8: bdag med pa id mtho bai mtshan id can gyi lam (cf. PVV 83,11:
nairtmyadaranasya mrgas[ya]). Note also PV e D133a67/P164a78: dos po
ji ltar gnas pa bin du dzin pas ugs pai bdag med pai lam ni sems kyi ra bin id
yin pai phyir ro ||.
PVP D58a7b2/P66b36 and D58a24/P66a46: bdag med pa id mtho ba lhun
gyis grub pai skyes bu.
PV e D118b12/P144b8: ra gi a gis jug pa id kyis ra bin id yin pai
phyir ro ||. Note also TSP K895,89/1082,2223: . iti svabhvatvena prajd-
n sakdhitn svarasata eva pravttir bhavatti siddham |.
PV 2.197198: nmukti prvasaskrakaye nypratisandhita | akaakti
saskro ye tihanti te nagh || mandatvt karuy ca na yatna sthpane
mahn | tihanty eva pardhn ye tu mahat kp ||.
According to PVP D85a1/P97b34: gal te chags pa med pa dag si rjes gnas pa
dei tshe si rje[s] gnas nas sems can gyi don yid la byas nas de dag yun ri por cii
phyir mi gnas |. See also the prayoga that follows (PVP D85a13/P97b46).
PVP D85a3/P97b7: dper na an thos da ra sas rgyas dag lta buo ||. PVV 79,11:
rvak tu karmao niyataklasthitikadehkepakatvt.
PVP D84b7/P97b3: dper na bya chub sems dpa rnams kyi lta buo ||. Note, how-
ever, Manorathanandin`s (PVV 79,10) explanation of anagh as samyaksam-
sasra in order to honour their commitment to alleviate living beings`
Though these Bodhisattvas are dispassionate (vtarga?)
and endowed with an undefiled (nirdoa?) series of aggregates
the force of their karmic impulses is unexhausted,
because all [their] provisions [of merit and knowledge] result in un-
fixed nirva (*sarvasambhrasya apratihitanirvaphalatvt). Be-
cause of his great compassion, a Bodhisattva does not remain in nirva
(unlike rvakas and Pratyekabuddhas), and because of his insight or
wisdom, he does not remain in sasra either (unlike ordinary peo-
As Devendrabuddhi puts it,
the reason why these great beings
(mahsattva) who are extremely affectionate without any [selfish] mo-
tive (akraaparamavatsala) remain uninterruptedly [in sasra] is
[their] great compassion (mahat kp), which proceeds spontaneously
(svarasavhin), because its practice (kpbhysa) is preceded by the
thought of enlightenment (bodhicittaprvaka).
3.5. rayaparivtti and Buddhahood. The practice of the path ends
with the so-called transmutation of the basis [of personal existence]
(rayaparivtti), which, like Vasubandhu (the Koakra), Dharmakrti
interprets (only in PV 2!) from a Sautrntika perspective as the final
and irreversible elimination (niranvayavina) of defilements together
See BoBh D27,928,6/W40,341,12, TSP K872,17/1055,1410, and Eltschinger
(forthcoming 1, 2.6).
See PV e D131b2/P162a12: ga du byed nus zad med can es bya ba ni phu
poi rgyun skyon med pa skyed pa la | dod chags da bral ba ga dag la las kyi nus
pa zad pa med pa yod pa es bya bai don to ||.
According to PV e D131b23/P162a23: [dper na bya chub sems dpa rnams
kyi lta buo es bya ba ni bya chub sems dpa rnams ni las kyi nus pa zad pa can ma
yin te |] tshogs thams cad mi gnas pai mya an las das pai bras bu can id yin
pai phyir ro ||.
See MSAVBh D63b564a4, and Eltschinger (2008, n. 51).
According to PVP D85a46/P98a12: ga dag sems can chen po rgyu med par
mchog tu mes gin pa bya chub kyi sems son du so ba can gyi brtse ba goms
pai stobs kyis ra gi a gis jug pai brtse ba chen po rgyun mi chad par gnas pai
rgyu ma ba [de dag gan gyi or ni bugs pa yin | sems can gyi don gyi phyir | dus
thams cad du bugs pa . ] Note PVV 79,15: yem akraavatsaln mahat
kp, as well as PVV 79,9: ye punar mahkp praidhnaparipuasya .
PV 2.205ab: ukto mrgas tadabhysd raya parivartate |.
with their (productive) latent tendencies or germs (bja).
Whereas this
(minimal) definition seems to be true of all the Buddhist liberated
minds whatsoever, it must be considerably enlarged when regarding the
transmutated basis of the Bodhisattva who has just (i.e., ipso facto) be-
come a Buddha/Sugata. Dharmakrti first spells this out in PV 2.135
: The qualities and drawbacks of the [perception of unsubstan-
tiality and its opposite] become [perfectly] clear to the [Bodhisattva]
who practices the means [i.e., insight/discernment] repeatedly, in vari-
ous ways and for a very long time. And because of the intensity the
cognition [of unsubstantiality has reached] due to this [extremely long
repetition of practice], the after-effect of the cause [of suffering] is
abandoned. Because he sees in all clarity the qualities of the salvific
means and the drawbacks of its opposite, the Buddha is able to instruct
living beings in the path or the four noble truths,
i.e., is possessed with
sttvasampad and conversion through the teaching (anusanprti-
But no less important here is the fact that, due to this nearly
endless cultivation, the Bodhisattva has rid himself of the (non-
productive) trace or after-effect of defilements. This after-effect of de-
filements consists in a corporeal (kya), verbal (vc) and mental
(buddhi) defectiveness (vaiguya) or unwieldiness (akarmayat).
This still affects liberated saints like the Arhat Maudgalyyana, who
kept hopping around because he had been born as a monkey 500 life-
times earlier, or the Arhat Pilindavatsa who, because he had been a
brhmaa before, continued to say harsh and belittling words to his
On the rayaparivtti in Dharmakrti`s works, see Eltschinger 2005b. Niranvayavi-
nadharman in PVSV 110,22, TSP K875,20/1060,13, is explained by kyabud-
dhi and Karakagomin (PV Je D250a34/P296b57 = PVSV 399,79) as fol-
lows: anvaya kleabjam | anvety utpadyate smd doa iti ktv | nirgato nvayo
yasmin vine sa niranvayavina | sa dharmo ye do te niranvayavina-
dharma | vsanay saha vinadharma ity artha |. On Vasubandhu`s views as
regards rayaparivtti, see Eltschinger 2005b: 181182.
PV 2.135136ab: bahuo bahudhopya klena bahunsya ca | gacchanty abhya-
syatas tatra guado prakatm || buddhe ca pavd dhetor vsanta prah-
yate |.
As a tyin or protector of the living beings (see PV 2.145146ab).
PVP D61a23/P69b57 (Eltschinger 2005a: 424). See Koa 7.110112 (Pruden
1991: IV.1166-1167).
See PV 2.141c.
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fellow monks.
In other words, the (Bodhisattva/)Buddha has elimi-
nated the obstacle consisting of defilements together with their after-
effects (savsanaklevaraa). But yet another type of abandonment
distinguishes him from rvakas and Pratyekabuddhas: contrary to
them (or to Arhats), a Buddha has rid himself of unskilfulness in teach-
ing the path (mrgoktyapaut),
which I interpret as Dharmakrti`s
allusion to undefiled ignorance (aklividy, ajna, samoha).
this hypothesis holds good, we can safely consider our Bodhisattva`s
transmutation of the basis also to entail the elimination of the obstacle
that conceals the knowable (jeyvaraa, and hence an omniscience of
the sarvasarvajat-type), for the equation aklividy = jeyvaraa
is easy to document in Buddhist Mahyna literature.
Moreover, most
of the definitions of rayaparivtti include the elimination of both ob-
stacles, the epistemologists being no exception.
4. Yogijna as an Epistemological Topic
Let us now turn to the epistemological dimension of yoga proper.
Dharmakrti devotes two main passages to the so-called perception of
On the vsansamudghta, see Lamotte 1974, Trait IV.17551758, and
Eltschinger 2005a: 419422. On the story of Maudgalyyana, see PV e D118b4
5/P145a45, Lamotte 1973: II.300, Trait I.117n. 4 and Lamotte 1974: 92. On the
story of Pilindavatsa, see PV e D118b56/P145a57.
See PV 2.141d.
See AKBh 1,1315 (Koa 1.2, Pruden 1991: I.12), Jaini 2001: 167179,
Eltschinger 2005a: 423424.
See Eltschinger 2005a: 429434.
See PV Je D115a1/P135b6 PVSV 211,89.
Among Buddhist philosophers, Dignga (480540?) is likely to have been the first
one to discuss the perception of mystics within the general framework of perception
(pratyaka) as a means of valid cognition. However, the following statement seems
to exhaust Dignga`s opinion on the subject: [T]he yogin`s intuition of a thing in it-
self unassociated (avyatibhinna) with the teacher`s instruction [is also a type of per-
ception]. The yogin`s perception which is not associated (avyavakra) with any
conceptual construction of gama (the authoritative words of the teachers) and
which apprehends only a thing in itself is also perception. Hattori`s (1968: 27)
translation of PS 1.6cd and PSV thereon. Sanskrit texts (< Vibh. 191n. 3 and 203n.
1) in Hattori 1968: 94 nn. 1.48 (yogin gurunirdevyatibhinnrthamtradk) and
yogins (yogipratyaka),
both of which refer their reader back to the
religious ideas we have considered so far, i.e., to the religious philoso-
phy as expounded in PV 2. What do yoga and yogins consist of? Dhar-
mottara (740800) is one of the few authors to supply any substantial
definitions of these two terms. According to ordinary understanding
(loka), yoga consists of (psychic) concentration (samdhi), but accord-
ing to (Buddhist) authoritative treatises (stra), it consists of tranquil-
lity (of mind, amatha) and discernment (vipayan), which have (psy-
chic) concentration and insight (praj) for their nature (tman), re-
spectively. A yogin is one who is possessed of tranquillity of mind and
discernment into the nature of things, one who strives for constant con-
centration (< nityasamhita) and discrimination of true reality (tattva-
1.49 (yoginm apy gamavikalpvyavakram arthamtradarana pratyakam).
Steinkellner`s reconstruction of PS(V) 1.6ab reads as follows: yogin gurunirde-
vyavakrrthamtradk |. Note that PSV is also quoted in PVP D210b3/P246b56.
Interestingly enough, Dignga`s presentation is based on two notions the subsequent
tradition will seemingly disregard. First, the perception of yogins grasps a thing in
itself (arthamtra); this expression I do not dare interpret further than Jinen-
drabuddhi`s comment to the effect that mtra (only, in itself in Hattori`s trans-
lation) aims at excluding superimposed objects (PS 56,1557,1: mtraabdo
dhyropitrthavyavacchedrtha |). Second, this perception is totally free from, or
unmixed with scriptural concepts (gamavikalpa), which on the one side matches
the definitory non-conceptuality of perception well, but on the other side seems to
conflict with the subsequent tradition`s insistence upon the four Noble Truths (on
this point, see Franco in present volume).
PV 3.281286, PVin 1.27,728,8; see also NB 1.11. On yogipratyaka, see Vetter
1964: 41, Steinkellner 1978, McDermott 1991, Pemwieser 1991: 2150, Dreyfus
1997: 413414.
According to the following passages: PVin D117b23/P135b12: jig rten na ni
mam par gag pa la rnal byor (em. byor: DP byor ba) yin la | bstan bcos las ni
ti e dzin da es rab kyi bdag id i gnas da lhag mtho la yin te | rnal byor ba
de dag la yod pa de dag ni rnal byor bas te | rtag tu mam par gag pa da | de kho
na rnam par byed pa la brtson pao ||. NB S12,89/M70,2: yoga samdhi | sa
yasysti sa yog | ( PS 56,12: yoga samdhi | sa yem asti, te yogina |), and
DhPr 70,1922 thereon: yogaabdasya vyutpattim ha | yoga iti | samdhi cittaik-
grat | iha dharmottarea lokaprasiddhir rit | vinicayaky tu strasthitis
tenvirodha | yad v samdhigrahaasyopalakaatvt praj ca vivekakaraa-
aktir draavy | sa yasysti sa nityasamhito vivekakaraatatpara ca yog |. PVA
327,1718: tath ca amathavipayanyuganaddhavh mrgo yoga iti vacanam |.
Let us start with Dharmakrti`s definition of perception in his
PVin and NB, and disregard the possible evolution of his ideas on this
topic (cf. Franco, forthcoming). In PVin 1.4ab
, Dharmakrti defines
perception as cognition that is free from conceptual thought (kalpan-
poha) and is non-erroneous (abhrnta),
conceptual thought being in
turn characterized as a cognition whose appearance or image may be
expressed verbally.
We may thus offer two defining conditions that
the cognition of a yogin must meet in order to be termed a perception:
first, it must be non-conceptual (and hence its content cannot be ade-
quately expressed by words); second, it must be non-erroneous and
reliable/non-belying (avisavdin). The criterion of a given cognition`s
non-conceptual character lies in its presenting a clear or vivid (spaa,
sphua) appearance or image. The vividness and hence the non-concep-
tuality of a yogin`s cognition comes from the fact that this cognition is
born of cultivation (bhvanmaya, etc.) and arises out of this virtually
endless process characterized as puna punar utpdanam, as we have
seen above.
Dharmakrti spells this out as follows
: [We have al-
ready] presented the cognition of the yogins above [in the second chap-
ter]. This [cognition] of the [yogins] is born of cultivation [and therefore
is] free from the [deceptive] net of conceptual thought (kalpan)[; be-
cause it is of a non-conceptual character, this cognition] presents a vivid
image. This depiction is indeed the forerunner of Dharmakrti`s open-
ing statement on the subject in PVin 1, where the second definitory
criterion has been duly integrated
: That cognition which, as in the
case of fear, etc., vividly appears by force of cultivation, [and which is]
PVin 1.4ab
= NB 1.4: pratyaka kalpanpoham abhrntam. Note also Dharmot-
tara`s (PVin D117a4/P135a23) definition of pratyaka in this context: gsal bar
sna ba don byed par bzod pai dos poi ra bin la ma khrul pa da | rtogs pa
med pai es pa ni mon sum yin no ||.
PVin 1.7,7 NB 1.5: abhilpasasargayogyapratibhs pratti kalpan |.
See n. 57 above.
PV 3.281: prg ukta yogin jna te tad bhvanmayam | vidhtakalpa-
njla spaam evvabhsate ||. To be connected with PV 3.285 = PVin 1.31: tas-
md bhtam abhta v yad yad evtibhvyate | bhvanparinipattau tat sphu-
kalpadhphalam ||. Therefore, [be it] real or unreal, whatever is intensively medi-
tated upon (atibhvyate) results in a clear and non-conceptual cognition when the
cultivation is perfected.
PVin 1.28: bhvanbalata spaa bhaydv iva bhsate | yaj jnam avisavdi
tat pratyakam akalpakam ||.
reliable [as well as] non-conceptual (akalpa), this is a [direct] percep-
tion [too]. As Dharmottara has it,
due to cultivation, [this cogni-
tion] appears vividly; because it appears vividly, [this cognition] is es-
tablished (siddha) as non-conceptual; since it bears upon an entity that
has been `purified` by the means of valid cognition (prama-
pariuddhavastuviaya), [this cognition] is non-erroneous; therefore,
why should it not be a perception, [if all] the other perceptions also
appear vividly, are non-conceptual and non-erroneous?
A cognition`s being the outcome of the intense cultivation of an
object by no means implies that the said cognition bears upon a real
(bhta) object (artha, viaya). Dharmakrti adduces several examples in
order to show that the cultivation of unreal (abhta) objects may also
result in a vivid and hence non-conceptual cognition. He says
: [Peo-
ple who are] deluded by confusion due to love, sorrow or fear, and by
dreams about thieves, etc.,
see [the respective objects] as if [these
would] stand before [them,] though [these objects are] unreal. But, one
may ask, how do we know that these deluded persons see, because of
their cultivation of it, the object as if it would stand before them?
is to be inferred on the basis of these persons` outward behaviour, as
Dharmakrti says
: Since we see that, in accord with the delusion
PVin D117a7b1/P135a7b1: bsgoms pas gsal bar sna i | gsal bar sna bai
phyir rnam par rtog pa med par grub pa yin la | tshad mas yos su dag pai dos poi
yul can yin pai phyir ma khrul pa yin pas cii phyir mon sum id du mi gyur |
mon sum gan ya gsal bar sna ba da rtog pa da bral i ma khrul pa yin no ||.
PV 3.282 = PVin 1.29: kmaokabhayonmdacaurasvapndyupaplut | abhtn
api payanti purato vasthitn iva ||. According to PVP D210b5/P247a1, this stanza
answers the following question: ga da ga in tu bsgoms pa de da de las gsal bar
sna bar gyur ro es bya ba de id ga las yin e na |.
PVP D210b7/P247a4 explains etc. as: myur du bskor ba da chi ltas la sogs pa
gzu o ||. See also PV e D215b67/P266b12 thereon: sogs pa smos pas ni myur
du bskor ba da chi ltas la sogs pa gzu o es bya ba la | di ltar khor lo bin du
lus myur du bskor ba las dos po g.yo ba med pa ya g.yo ba bin du gsal bar dmigs
par gyur ba a chi bai dus na lus da sems kyi gnas skabs ga ig chi ltas kyi
mi can dos po ya dag pa ma yin pa mtho bar gyur ro ||.
PVin D119a1/P137a4: ya de dag gis de mdun na gnas pa bin du mtho ba es
bya ba di ga las e na |.
PVin 1.30ab: yathviplavam vegapratipattipradarant |. To be inferred accord-
ing to Vibh. 203n. 3 (anumeya). Eli Franco kindly suggests to me that one can inter-
pret this statement in a slightly different manner: . since they show (their delu-
sional) cognition by their agitation.
[they are the victims of], they act with agitation. Some explanations
may not be out of place. By agitation (vega), we should understand
physical states such as trembling with joy, or being thrilled (roma-
hara). By behaviour is meant a physical action (anuhna) that con-
forms to the specific vision of a deluded person: the first will stretch his
arms out in order to embrace his beloved, the second mourns or sighs,
and the third boastfully seizes a sword.
But one may also wonder why
the cognition at stake should be of an immediate (pratyaka) rather than
of a mediate (paroka) character.
This Dharmakrti answers as fol-
: Because we do not see any behaviour of that kind when
[someone] is conscious that his/her cognition is a mediate one
However, cultivating unreal objects is by no means limited to
deluded or passionate people. The Buddhist meditation exercises that
build up, among other things, the (remote) preparatory path (prayoga-
mrga) are also endowed with utterly unreal objects, as Dharmakrti
tells us in both his PV and PVin
: We hold that, though [they are]
unreal, the loathsome, the totality of earth, etc., which are created by
force of cultivation, are vivid and [hence] non-conceptual. This in-
cludes meditation such as cognizing a corpse turning blue (vinlaka) or
rotting (vipyaka), or of a corpse that has become a skeleton (asthi-
See PVin D119a13/P137a46: gus pas ni grims pa ste | spro bai dba gis dar
bai mtshan id can nam ba spu las mtshan id kyi lus kyi gnas skabs so || bsgrub
pa ni mtho ba da rjes su mthun par nan tan du byed pa ste | sdug pa la sogs dren
pa da | di na su su es smra ba da | a rgyal da bcas pa ral gri la sogs pa la ju
ba ste |. PVP D210b7211a1/P247a56: de ltar na de ltar mtho bas don mon du
gyur pa bin du | de da rjes su mthun par bsgrubs pa la dmigs par gyur na | ga gis
na de dag dir lkog tu gyur pai mi can du ya gyur ba ma yin no es bya ba de es
par gzu bar mi gyur |. PVV 203,9: yasmt tadanurp pravtti ceante |.
According to PVin D119a3/P137a67: di sam du gus pas bsgrub pa mtho du
zin kya | mon sum bin du de dag gsal bar sna ba yin par ji ltar es e na |.
PVin 1.30cd: parokagatisajy tathvtter adarant ||.
PV 3.284: aubhpthivktsndy abhtam api varyate | spabha nirvikalpa ca
bhvanbalanirmitam ||. PVin 1.28,78: tath hy aubhpthivktsndikam abhta-
viayam api spaapratibhsa nirvikalpaka ca bhvanbalanipannam iyate ||.
It is indeed accepted [by us Buddhists] that [meditative exercises] like [the con-
templation of] the loathsome and the totality of earth, which arise by force of culti-
vation, present a vivid image and are non-conceptual despite [their] having an un-
real object.
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or meditation that has all entities (vastu) appearing as the
earth, or as water, as they have unreal objects despite the fact that the
image they display is perfectly clear once the cultivation process has
been completed.
The reason why these meditations have unreal ob-
jects is, according to Vaibhikas and to Dharmottara, that they consist
in acts of attention that are directed towards imaginary or, better, voli-
tional objects (adhimuktimanas[i]kra).
Since they arise from intensive cultivation of their objects, the
aforementioned direct or immediate cognitions display a vivid image
and hence are non-conceptual. In this respect, they all meet the first
defining condition of a perception. But since they bear upon imaginary
or volitional objects such as a beloved, an enemy or a putrefying
corpse, they fail to meet the second. As belying/unreliable (visavdin,
asavdin) cognitions, they do not lay claim to the validity that is
inherent in a true perception. As Dharmakrti himself says,
these [vivid and non-conceptual cognitions that result from cultiva-
we] accept as a means of valid cognition [only] that perception
which, born of cultivation, is reliable,
just like [the one that is related
See PVin D119b2/P137b7: mi sdug pa es bya ba ni rus pa brel pai rnam pa can
gyi ti e dzin to ||, PVV 203,22: aubh vinlakavipyaksthisakaldik. On
aubh, see Koa 6.148153 (Pruden 1991: III.916921).
PVin D119b23/P137b78: zad par sa ni dos po mtha dag sar sna bai ti e
dzin to || sogs pa smos pas ni zad par chu la sogs pao ||, PVV 203,22: pthiv-
ktsndi bhmayatvdi. On ktsnyatanas, see Koa 8.213215 (Pruden 1991:
PVin D119b4/P138a12: mos pas byas pa rnal byor bai spyod yul du gyur ba
rus pa la sogs pa rnams . On adhimuktimanas[i]kra in the case of aubh, see
Koa 6.150 and 152 (Pruden 1991: III.918919 and 920); on adhimuktimanas[i]kra
in the case of the ktsnyatana, see Koa 8.214n. 1 (Pruden 1991: IV.1306n. 203).
About this meaning of adhimukti, see Bhsd 14b15a s.v. adhimucyate (2). Note also
Devendrabuddhi`s (PVP D211b23/P248a1) explanation: ra gi rnam par rtog pa
tsam gyis kun nas bsla ba yin no || (*svavikalpamtrea samutthit), as well as
Prajkaragupta`s (PVA 327,14): atattvamanaskratvd aubhdnm.
PV 3.286: tatra prama savdi yat prnirtavastuvat | tad bhvanja
pratyakam ia e upaplav ||.
According to PVV 204,9: tatra bhvanbalabhviu spa[a]nirvikalpeu; PVP
D211b4/P248a4: de sgom pai bras bui es pa de dag la.
See PVV 204,9: savdy upadaritrthaprpakam.
to] the matter (vastu) [we] determined above [in chapter two]. All the
remaining [cognitions] are [mere] delusions.

The condition of a yogic cognition`s reliability lies in its bearing

on an object that has proved to stand critical analysis by means of
pramas. In other words, this object must have been submitted to ra-
tional inquiry (yukti), purified ([pari]uddha) or ascertained as agree-
ing (savdin) with the means of valid cognition. This is tantamount to
saying that the object of a yogin`s cognition is one that has been re-
flected upon (< cint), examined (< vicar) or ascertained (< nici,
, nirn) by means of the above-mentioned cintmay
praj. It is obvious that, as Dharmakrti himself makes clear, this ob-
ject only consists of the four Noble Truths
that he submitted to infer-
ential evaluation in the second chapter of his PV.
When commenting
on Dharmakrti`s statement to the effect that yogic cognition has al-
ready been treated, all commentators add that it has been explained as
bearing upon the (four Noble) Truths ([caturrya]satyaviaya), and
this in the satyavicracint of the Pramasiddhi chapter.
In other
PVP D211b5/P248a5: dper na zad par sa la sogs pa lta buo ||; PVV 204,1314:
e ayathrth upaplav bhram yath aubhpthivktsndipratyay |.
See PVin D118a23/P136a24 for a short summary on the four Truths: bras bur
gyur pa e bar len pai phu po la ni sdug bsal lo || de dag id sred pa da lhan
cig pas rgyur gyur pa ni kun byu o || es par legs pai ra bin du gyur pai sems
ni gog pao || ra bin de id thob pai rgyur gyur pa bdag med pa la sogs pai rnam
pa can gyi sems kyi khyad par ni lam mo ||. Suffering (dukha) consists of the resul-
tant (phalabhta) five constituents[-of-a-person] which one clings to (paca upd-
naskandh). The origin (samudaya) [of suffering] consists of the same [five con-
stituents] with the status of a cause (hetubhta) because [they are] accompanied by
craving (tsahita?). The destruction (nirodha) [of suffering, i.e., nirva,] con-
sists of the mind (citta) having turned into a blissful condition (nireyasasva-
bhvabhta?). The path (mrga) [that leads to the destruction of suffering] consists
of a particular mind (cittaviea?) which, endowed with such [real] aspects as un-
substantiality (nairtmydykra[vat]?), is the cause of obtaining this very condition
(tasya eva svabhvasya prptihetubhta?) [that defines nirva].
PV 3.286b: prnirtavastuvat; PVin 1.27,1112: ryasatyadaranavad yath
nirtam asmbhi pramavrttike; note also PV 3.281a: prg ukta yogin
On PV 3.281a: PVV 203,1: prk prathamaparicchede (= Pramasiddhi) yogin
jna satyaviayam uktam; PVA 326,23: caturryasatyaviaya yogin jna
prg uktam; PVP D210b34/P246b67: sar bad rnal byor es pa ni sar phags
pai bden pa bii yul can du bad pa na | bden pa dpyod pa ga yin pa de es bya
bai don to ||. On PV 3.286b: PVV 204,1213: prk prathamaparicchede nirta
words, as Devendrabuddhi has it,
not all cognitions of yogins are
perception (pratyaka), but (ki tarhi) [only] the one that has been
stated before, i.e., the one that has been stated before as bearing upon
the four Noble Truths. According to Dharmottara,
the cognition
that perceives (darana) these [four Noble Truths], i.e., is aware of
them in immediate manner (skt/pratyakkaraa), is perception
(pratyaka). And according to the same author,
Dharmakrti in his
PV has explained how the four Noble Truths are `purified` by
pramas, and how they are to be cultivated (bhvanya) under such
aspects as impermanence (anitydi). Now provided a yogin`s cultiva-
tional and hence non-conceptual cognition has the four Noble Truths for
its object, it meets the second defining condition of a perception.
vastu satyacatuaya tasminn eva; PVA 327,3233: prnirtavastu paralokaca-
turryasatydika tadviayam eva pratyakam | na tu kmdiviayam |; PVP
D211b5/P248a5: sar bden pa dpyad pai skabs su tshad mai dos po ya dag par
bstan pa bin no. Note also NB S11,18/M67,34: bhta sadbhto rtha | pra-
mena da ca sadbhta | yath catvry ryasatyni |, and PVV 203,2 (satyasva-
rpaviaya) or 204,3 (ryasatydi as a gloss on bhtam). Prajkaragupta`s para-
loka is the only exception I am aware of in this particular context. The presence of
an etc. (adi) is no argument since most if not all dis are explicable or even ex-
plained as nairtmya or anitya[t], which of course amounts to the four Noble
Truths (note also that Dharmakrti does not introduce an di in this particular con-
PVP D210b34/P246b67: rnal byor bai es pa thams cad mon sum ma yin no ||
o na ci yin e na | sar bad rnal byor es pa ni [= PV 3.281a] | sar phags pai
bden pa bii yul can du bad pa na |.
PVin D118a34/P136a45: di [= bden pa] dag mtho bar mon sum du byed pai
es pa ga yin pa de mon sum yin pa |.
PVin D118a4/P136a5: phags pai bden pa bi po rnams ji ltar tshad mas rnam par
dag pa da | mi rtag pa la sogs pa de dag rnam pa ji lta bu bsgom par bya ba. Note
the whole of Dharmottara`s account of Dharmakrti`s PV 2 (PVin D118a4
6/P136a58): phags pai bden pa bi po rnams ji ltar tshad mas rnam par dag pa
da | mi (D:P bi) rtag pa la sogs pa de dag rnam pa ji lta bu ig (D:P om. ig) bsgom
par bya ba da | skye ba brgyud pa du mas dus ji srid kyi mthar thug par goms par
bya ba da | rgyu ga la goms par byed pa bya chub sems dpa rnams kyi ni si rje
las yin la | de las gan rnams ni khor ba las yid byu ba es bya ba ga yin pa de
thams cad ni | ji ltar Tshad ma rnam grel du gtan (D:P bstan) la phab pai rnam pa
de id kyis phags pai bden pa mtho ba thabs da bcas | yul da bcas | rnam pa
da bcas par kho du chud par byas te | dir ni ya dag pai yul can gyi rnam par
rtog pa goms pa las dei don la dmigs pai mon sum skye ba id do es bya ba de
tsam ig bsgrub (P:D bsgrubs) par dod pa ba ig tu zad do ||.
In a most interesting statement of the PVin, Dharmakrti relates
the topic of yogijna back to the basic path-structure of Buddhism.
The traditional threefold sequence or gradual progression (bhvan-
krama) of insights is deemed to be the cause of a yogic cognition`s viv-
idness and reliability
: Having first grasped objects through a cogni-
tion born of listening [to treatises that are favourable to cultivation
and [then] ascertained [them] through a [cognition] born of reflecting
[upon them] by means of rational inquiry (yukti) [i.e., by means of
yogins cultivate [those objects]. The [cognition] which, at
the completion of this [cultivation], appears as vividly as in such cases
as fear [or sorrow, and hence is] non-conceptual [but which also] has a
true object [because it bears upon an object that has been formerly as-
certained by pramas], this is [also] the prama perception.
Note should be made in this connection that the cognition at
stake is said to be born of cultivation (bhvanmaya), which the
commentators explain as caused by cultivation (bhvanhetu[ni-
an expression that matches Dharmakrti`s own formulations
well (bhvanja, bhvanbalanirmita, bhvanbalanipanna, bhvan-
). In other words, this cognition does not consist in cultiva-
tion, but arises at the very end of cultivation, once the cultivation proc-
PVin 1.27,78: yoginm api rutamayena jnenrthn ghtv yukticintmayena
vyavasthpya bhvayat tannipattau yat spavabhsi bhaydv iva, tad avikal-
pakam avitathaviaya prama pratyakam. Dharmottara`s introduction (PVin
D117b12/P135b1) runs as follows: di id rnam par grel pa na gsal bar sna ba
id kyi rgyu bsgom pai go rim ston par byed do ||.
See PVin D117b34/P135b34: thos pa las byu bas bsgoms pa da rjes su mthun
pai bstan bcos man pai rgyu can gyis bzu ba es pai don bsgom par bya ba |.
See PVin D117b4/P135b4: rigs pas te tshad mas sems i es par rtog pa ni rigs
pas (em. pas: DP pa) sems pao ||.
PVA 326,2324: bhvanhetukam; PVV 203,12: bhvanhetunipattikam.
Respectively, PV 3.286c (bhvanja also PVV 203,10, PVV 204,10); PV 3.284d;
PVin 1.28,8; PVin 1.28a (see also PVin D117a5/P135a4 and D119b3/P138a1,
where stobs is explained as mthu; PVP D211b4/P248a3; bhvanbalt PVV 327,8
and PVA 328,1). The commentators provide us with plenty of expressions: bsgoms
pai stobs las skyes pa (PVP D211b1/P247b78), bhvanbalaja (PVV 203,18 and
204,13), bhvanbalabhvin (PVA 327,32), bsgoms pai bras bui es pa (PVP
D211b4/P248a4, PVin D119a7/P137b4 and D119b1/P137b6), bsgoms pai mthu
las (PVin D119b5/P138a3).
ess has been completed (bhvanparinipattau, tannipattau
). This is
indeed the way Dharmakrti accounts for yogijna in the definition he
supplies in his NB
: Arisen from the ultimate degree [reached by] the
cultivation of a real object, the cognition of yogins, too[, is a direct per-
5. Yogijna in a Soteriological Perspective
5.1. Dharmakrti repeatedly reminds his readers of the fact that he has
already accounted for yogin jnam in the second chapter of his PV.
This remark is a little puzzling insofar as this chapter does not provide
any explicit treatment of the topic. Nevertheless, I think it supplies
enough materials for us to proceed further in our interpretation of the
yogin`s cognition.
It is my contention that Dharmakrti`s account of the yogin`s
cognition as vivid, non-conceptual and non-belying refers to the mind`s
gnoseological condition at the end of the cleansing path, i.e., at the
moment when all superimpositions and their concomitant defilements,
even those of an extremely subtle nature, have been thoroughly and
absolutely eliminated. In other words, Dharmakrti`s presentation con-
cerns the mind or cognition of the mystic whose basis-of-existence has
just been transmuted. The coincidence between Dharmakrti`s bhvan-
parinipattau in the context of yogijna and his remark to the effect
that the basis-of-existence is transmuted due to the repeated practice of
the path (tadabhyst), is striking. It is brought out with particular clar-
PV 3.285c = PVin 1.31c (note PVV 204,45: bhvany sdaranirantaradrgha-
klapravartity parinipattau); PVin 1.27,10 (sgom pa rdzogs i PVin
D117b5/P135b5). Note also Devendrabuddhi`s explanation of bhvanmaya as bden
pa sgom pa rdzogs pa las (PVP D210b4/P246b78), as well as Dharmottara`s
bsgoms pa mthar phyin pa (PVin D119a6/P137b3). The process traditionally ends
up with or culminates in the so-called absorption similar to a diamond (vajro-
pamasamdhi, see AKBh 364,13365,10 [Koa 6.227229, Pruden 1991: III.981
983]). This final moment in the path of cultivation marks the end of the cleansing
process. I hold it to coincide with Dharmakrti`s bhvanprakaraparyanta (NB
1.11), or with his bhvanparinipatti (PV 3.285c).
NB 1.11: bhtrthabhvanprakaraparyantaja yogijna ceti ||. Dharmottara
interprets paryanta as ablative case (NB S11,23/M68,2: tasmt paryantt yaj
jtam), contrary to Jnarmitra`s locative (bhvanprakaraparyante, in
Steinkellner 1978: 130n. 42).
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ity in Devendrabuddhi`s commentary
: Due to the [repeated] practice
(abhysa) of the [aforementioned] path (mrga), i.e., once the cultiva-
tion (bhvan) of the path defined as the perception of unsubstantiality
(nairtmyadaranalakaa) has been completed (nipatti), the basis[-of-
existence] is transmuted (raya parivartate, = PV 2.205b): the defiled
(doavat?) mind (citta) [now] has the property (dharma) absolutely
[never] to [re]arise (atyantnutpatti?). The meaning (artha) [intended
by Dharmakrti is the following]: the mind is [now] coessential with the
path (mrgastmani sthitam). Highly interesting in this connection is
an allegedly Vaibhika objection occurring in Prajkaragupta`s PVA.
Just before he turns to his criticism, the Vaibhika opponent concedes
the following point:
It is true that [the cognition in question] pre-
sents, due to [intense] cultivation, a vivid image of an object (vastu) that
has been [previously] established by the means of valid cognition, be-
cause [in it] the object (artha) appears in its own [particular] form
(svena rpea) when the opacity of nescience (avidykluya) has been
[entirely] wiped away through cultivation. I conjecture that the doc-
trine that provokes the Vaibhikas assent encapsulates Dharmakrtis
position with regard to the cognition of yogins. As we shall see, this
hypothesis accounts both for the vividness and for the truth that are
deemed inherent in a yogin`s cognition.
5.2. In the second chapter of his PV, Dharmakrti presents us with the
following realist account of the nature (prakti) of cognition (vi-
: [Provided one accepts, unlike the idealist,
that] the prop-
erty of [all] cognition is to grasp an object, [one must also admit that]
PVP D87a45/P100a7b1: lam de goms pa las bdag med pa mtho bai mtshan id
can gyi lam dei sgom pa rdzogs pa na rten ni yos su gyur par gyur | es pa da
bcas pai sems in tu skye ba med pai chos can yod na lam dei bdag id la sems
gnas par gyur ro es bya bai don to ||.
PVA 327,89: (vaibhik hu | nanu) vastuni pramaprasiddhe bhvanbalt
spabhateti yuktam | bhvanayvidykluypagame svena rperthasya prati-
bhsant |.
PV 2.206207a
: viayagrahaa dharmo vijnasya yathsti sa | ghyate so sya
janako vidyamntmaneti ca || e prakti .
On the epistemological presuppositions of that passage, see PVP D87b5
88a4/P101a3b3 (Eltschinger 2005b: 185186), and TSP K872,27
873,7/1056,2125 (McClintock 2002: 213214).
this [object] is grasped as it [really] is [i.e., as impermanent, etc.
This [object] generates this [cognition of itself] by [its] existing nature
(vidyamntman). And this is [the object`s and the cognition`s origi-
nal] nature [i.e., that the object generates a cognition that grasps it as it
really is, and that the cognition grasps a real aspect of the object].
Dharmakrti`s presentation relies on a Sautrntika doctrine, according
to which direct perception is explained by the fact that the object casts
or projects (arpaa) its own aspect (kra) and hence generates the
cognition itself. Dharmakrti spells this out in the third chapter of the
same work
: Experts on rational inquiry consider that to be an ob-
ject/be perceptible consists in being a cause [which is] capable of pro-
jecting a [true] aspect [of itself] onto the cognition. I believe we are
left with no other possibility than to accept the alleged reality of the
aspects the entity casts onto consciousness. As Devendrabuddhi makes
these real aspects are those we already met in Dharmakrti`s
description of the sixteen aspects of the four Noble Truths, imperma-
nence, painfulness, emptiness, selflessness, etc. The conclusion is then
easily drawn, as Kamalala has it
: It has been settled that the origi-
nal nature of the [mind/cognition] is to grasp the real aspects of the ob-
ject. It has also been explained that the real nature of the object consists
in momentariness, selflessness, etc. Therefore, [the mind] has but the
grasping of unsubstantiality for its nature. In order to present us with
the nature of cognition, the epistemologists resort to, and reinterpret ac-
cordingly, two highly valued traditional topoi, i.e., the alleged natural
luminosity (praktiprabhsvarat) of the mind or cognition,
and the
perception of true reality (tattvadarana). Dharmakrti describes the
first in PV 2.208ab
: [Therefore,] the mind is radiant by [its very]
nature [i.e., grasps an object as it really is,
whereas] impurities (mala)
Anitydykra in PVP D87b6/P101a4, D88b34/P102a45.
PV 3.247b
d: grhyat vidu | hetutvam eva yuktij jnkrrpaakamam ||.
See PVP D88a45/P101b34.
TSP K873,57/1057,24: bhtaviaykragrhit asya svabhvo nija iti sthitam |
bhta ca svabhvo viayasya kaikntmdirpa iti pratipditam etat | tena nair-
tmyagrahaasvabhvam eva.
See Eltschinger 2005b: 180 and 190192. On the mind`s natural luminosity, see
Seyfort Ruegg 1969: 410454 and Lamotte 1987a: 5160.
PV 2.208ab: prabhsvaram ida citta praktygantavo mal |.
According to PVP D89a5/P103a1: dii ra bin od gsal te | ya dag pa ji lta ba
bin du dzin pai ra bin no ||.
[such as the view of self or craving] are [purely] adventitious [i.e., are
not its nature,
and hence are removable]. According to the second
topos, which, as far as I can see, Dharmakrti does not explicitly allude
to in this particular context, to see the real aspects of things amounts to
perceiving true reality. Thus, Devendrabuddhi
: By its [very] nature,
the mind thus consists of the perception of true reality, [whereas] impu-
rities are [merely] adventitious. Or, as ntarakita has it,
the mind,
which consists of the perception of true reality, is radiant [by its very
Now how are we to account for the indisputable fact that we ac-
tually do not perceive true reality, i.e., do not perceive real entities as
impermanent, painful, empty or selfless? In other words, how is it that
we ordinary persons can at best infer these real aspects of things, and
hence have but conceptual and nonvivid notions of them? Dharmakrti`s
answer is as follows
: On account of a certain cause (nimitta) [i.e., on
account of an adventitious cause of error], the [mind] shifts (skhalat)
from this [inherently veracious nature, superimposing such erroneous
aspects as permanence on the object,
] and becomes uncertain (ad-
ha), requiring a condition
(pratyaya) for the removal [of this state],
like the cognition of a piece of rope [as a snake]. In order to under-
stand the first part of Dharmakrti`s explanation, we should remember
what the state of an ordinary person consists of. The innate false view
According to PVP D89a6/P103a2: glo bur ba yin gyi dei ra bin ni ma yin no ||.
PVP D89b1/P103a56: di ltar sems ni o bo id kyis de kho na id mtho bai bdag
id can yin la | dri ma rnams ni glo bur ba yin pa. See also PVP D89b2/P103a7:
sems kyi de kho na id mtho ba dei bdag id can; PVP D87b4/P101a1: sems kyi
ra bin id kyi de kho na id mtho ba dei bdag id can; TSP K895,10/1083,11:
tattvadarantmakam eva vijnasya (sic); TSP K895,7/1082,21: prakty tattva-
darantmakatay cittasya; TSP K895,19/1083,1516: tattvadarantmakam eva
citta siddham iti bhva; TSP K896,4 (with no equivalent in !): tattvadarin;
PVV 107,6: tattvadaritvt (said of the Blessed One); PVV 107,56: atattva-
darina (said of the vtarg bhy).
TS 3435

: prabhsvaram ida citta tattvadaranastmakam |.

PV 2.207a
d: asys tan nimittntarata skhalat | vyvttau pratyaypekam adha
sarpabuddhivat ||.
According to PVP D89a2/P102b45: rtag pa la sogs pai rnam par sgro dogs pas
jug pa ni gan du gyur pao || (where gan du gyur pa is the Tibetan rendering of
Sanskrit skhalat[/skhalana]).
PVP D89a23/P102b56: rkyen la ltos pa yin te | de ltar skyes bui khrul pa gnod
pa can gyi tshad ma la ltos pa da bcas pa yin no ||.
of self, i.e., nescience, causes pthagjanas to superimpose sixteen unreal
aspects onto the four Noble Truths, e.g., permanence, pleasantness,
mine and I. Because they are attached to I and mine, or to self and one`s
own, ordinary beings crave for objects that delight the (pseudo-)self,
and act accordingly in order to grasp them; they also develop aversion
of whatever is deemed a threat to the self or its alleged property. Thus
defilements and depravities arise out of the false view of self.
This is
the situation that Dharmakrti alludes to when he says that the mind or
the cognition shifts from its own true nature.
But, as Dharmakrti has
it, this superimposing cognition is as uncertain or unsteady as the mis-
taken cognition of a piece of rope as snake at night in a place where one
may suspect the presence of snakes.
In the same way, nescience and
the superimpositions it is responsible for, no matter how deeply rooted
in the mind, are removable because they are adventitious or unnatural to
the mind. Now what is needed to get rid of this shift? The epistemolo-
gists` answer is unambiguous: an ordinary person who is deluded by the
false view of self must resort to the means of valid cognition and es-
pecially to inference. Here again we should remember that, still as an
ordinary person, one may, on account of belonging to a specific fam-
ily and/or having met a spiritual friend like a Buddha or an advanced
Bodhisattva, listen to the Buddhist scriptures and hence develop faith or
conviction (adhimukti), but one may also set about rationally reflecting
upon scriptural contents by means of pramas. This rational inquiry,
mainly consisting of the ascertainment of the true aspects of the Noble
See 1.13 above.
We should, however, be cautious not to ascribe to him the mythological notion of a
fall or decay of the mind that would in turn imply the path to consist in the grad-
ual recovery of a lost condition. Nescience is a beginningless (andi) erroneous per-
ception (mithyopalabdhi) that arises out of its own seeds (bja) or latent tendencies
(vsan) and that has been nourished by, and nourishes in turn, the so-called incor-
rect judgement (ayoniomanaskra). On this last doctrinal point, see PVSV 8,2021
(tmtmybhiniveaprvak hi rgdayo yoniomanaskraprvakatvt sarvadoot-
patte |), PV Je D249b67/P296a67 PVSV 398,2526, PV Je D253a4
5/P301a4 = PVSV 403,89, PVV 101,10 and 367,1011. On ayoniomanaskra as
the root of satkyadi, see MS 2.20.9 in Lamotte 1973: II.115, Paramrthagth
20 in Wayman 1961: 170, BhK 1.215,815.
See PVP D87b7/P101a6: dper na sbrul du dris pai phyogs mi gsal bar thag pa la
sbrul gyi es pa lta buo ||. Cf. Vibh. 82n. 4: (mandamandaprake) sarpopacite
pradee. See also Lamotte 1973: II.109110, and MS 3.8.2 in Lamotte 1973: II.163.
Truths, aims at shaping the salvational means (upya), i.e., the percep-
tion of unsubstantiality as an antagonistic or opposing factor of
satkyadi. There can be no doubt that Dharmakrti`s vyvttau pra-
tyaypekam (PV 2.207c) refers in the first place to the inferential
analysis that is typical for the cintmay praj.
As we have seen above, the cultivation of the salvational means
that the yogin carries out is simultaneously of a cognitive and cleansing
character. The more our yogin sharpens his realization of the Truths and
their corresponding aspects, the more he succeeds in uprooting the op-
posite false views as well as the superimpositions and defilements they
are responsible for. But eradicating the adventitious impurities amounts
to gradually freeing the mind of those malignant obstacles that pre-
vented it from grasping the object as it really is, i.e., with its real as-
pects of impermanence, emptiness, etc. During the path of vision, the
yogin gets rid of gross superimpositions such as those the speculative
false view of self gives rise to. Much more difficult to eliminate how-
ever, is the innate false view of self, along with the remaining defile-
ments (i.e., the bhvanheyakleas) and their productive and non-
productive vsans, the uprooting of which, in many Mahynist ac-
counts, necessitates no less than eight complete stages or bhmis (bh-
mis 2-9). During the first six of these bhmis (27), the yogin must de-
vote constant effort and intentionality (vikalpa) to his cultivation of
the cleansing means; during the last two bhmis (89), insight becomes
spontaneous, effortless, and unintentional. The removal of the most
subtle categories of bad dispositions now proceeds as automatically
or naturally as the perception of unsubstantiality itself. At the end of
the path of cultivation, the entire filth of impurities has been irrever-
sibly destroyed, a psychological and existential situation described as a
transmutation of the basis-of-existence. Now the mind only consists of
the path; it has the perception of unsubstantiality or discernment for its
unique and indestructible nature. Dharmakrti describes this as fol-
: Of [these impurities] that were incapable [of annulling the
mind] before [the perceptual realization of unsubstantiality
], what
(kva) [could] therefore be the capacity afterwards, with regard to a
[mind] that [once the practice of nairtmyadarana has been completed,
See 2.12 above.
PV 2.208cd: tat prg apy asamarthn pacc chakti kva tanmaye ||.
According to PVP D89a6/P103a3: bdag med pa mtho bai mon sum du byas pa.
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entirely] consists (maya) of the [path]
? The following excerpt of
Devendrabuddhi will provide a useful summary as well as transition to
the concluding part of my hypothesis
: [Moral] faults [i.e., defile-
ments,] lack the capacity to re-occur in the mind of the one who is of
one essence with the path (mrgastmye sthitasya), for the nature
(svabhva) of the mind (citta) consists in the perception of true reality
it does not have for its essence the [moral]
faults that are bound to [i.e., derive from] aspects that are contrary (vi-
partkra) [to the ones which are ascertained by the means of valid
cognition]. Now its (= the mind`s) depravities (upaklea) [arise] by for-
ce of a [purely] adventitious condition (gantu[ka]pratyayavat?).
something opposes (bdh) them,
the mind that rests in its own
[original] nature (svasvabhva) provides the [moral] faults with no sup-
port/resting-place (raya) anymore (na punar), because its nature ex-
ists by force of [real] entities (vastubalapravtta).
As Devendra-
buddhi has it, the mind or cognition now abides in its own proper and
undefiled nature, which is nothing other than the grasping of the real
aspects of the object projected onto it. The practice of the path, i.e.,
According to PVP D89a7b1/P103a5: bdag med pa mtho ba goms pa grub pa na
dei ra bin lam dei bdag id can gyi sems la (*nairtmyadaranbhysanipattau
tanmaye mrgastmani citte).
PVP D87a787b2/P100b25: lam goms pa la gnas pai sems la es pa rnams ya
byu bai nus pa yod pa ma yin no
|| de ltar na sems kyi ra bin ni de kho na id
mtho bai bdag id can yin gyi | phyin ci log gi rnam pa da rjes su brel pai es
pa dei bdag id can ni ma yin no || dii e bai on mos pa ga yin pa de ya glo
bur bai rkyen gyi dba gis yin no || de la gnod pa yod na ra gi ra bin la gnas pai
sems ni ya es pai rten byed pa ma yin te | dos poi stobs kyis ugs pai ra bin
id yin pai phyir ro ||. *Cf. PVV 82,12: mrgastmye pi sthitasya cetasi na do-
m utpattu smarthyam asti |.
PV e D133a34/P164a23 explains tattvadarantmaka as follows: dos po ji lta
ba bin du gnas pai dzin pai bdag id can (*yathvasthitavastugrahatmaka <
PVV 82,1415).
PV e D133a5/P164a45 explains gantu(ka)pratyaya as follows: rgyu mtshan
ga ig las bdag la sogs par sgro btags pas jug pai khrul pai es pa.
PV e D133a56/P164a56: de la gnod pa yod na es bya ba glo bur bai rnam
pas | dei rgyu can gyi e bai on mos pa bdag med pai lam gyis bsal ba yod na
es bya bai don to ||.
PV e D133a67/P164a78: dos po stobs kyis ugs pai ra bin id yin pai
phyir ro es bya ba ni dos po ji ltar gnas pa bin du dzin pas ugs pai bdag med
pai lam ni sems kyi ra bin id yin pai phyir ro || (*yathvasthitavastugrahaa-
pravttasya nairtmyamrgasya cittasvabhvatvt).
cultivation, has freed the cognition of the obstacles that avidy was ul-
timately responsible for; in other words the mind is now free from the
obstacle that concealed the knowable. Of the real and prama-ascertai-
ned aspects the object imposes upon it, which are the real aspects of the
four Noble Truths, the mind can have but a vivid and hence non-
conceptual image. In other words: whereas the cintmay praj, i.e.,
the (initially purely conceptual) ascertainment of true reality by means
of pramas, is responsible for the reliability of the yogin`s cognition,
the bhvanmay praj gradually frees the mind of the defilements in
such a way that the aspects objects cast upon it appear vividly. Irrespec-
tive of all subsequent interpretations of the yogin jnam, this in my
opinion is what Dharmakrti has in mind when he rather cryptically
describes the cognition of yogins.
I would like to add a final remark. As far as I know, Dhar-
makrti does not describe the nature of discernment during the path
itself, i.e., before the rayaparivtti takes place. Now it is clear that,
before entering the path of vision, the yogin has but an inferential and
hence conceptual notion of such real aspects as impermanence, empti-
ness and the like. I would incline towards considering that his cognition
of them remains a conceptual one, albeit extremely refined and hence
vivid, throughout the path. But we ought not to forget that the mind is a
purely momentary entity: the cognition that the path or the cultivation
generates again and again may well be nothing like the cognition of the
liberated one. This is exactly what the following stanzas of the Pa-
ramrthagths account for
: 39. Defiled mind, of course (hi), is
[something] that arises and ceases each time together with the Defile-
ments. For it, liberation from the Defilements has [therefore] neither
[already] happened nor will it [ever] happen. 40. [For it is] not that this
[very same defiled mind] arises afterwards as a pure one, but [rather
what] arises [afterwards is] another [mind which is pure]. And [it is]
Paramrthagth 3941: sahotpannaniruddha hi kleai klia mana sad |
kleebhyas tasya nirmoko na bhto na bhaviyati || na tad utpadyate pacc
chuddham anyat tu jyate | tac ca prvam asaklia kleebhyo muktam ucyate ||
yat klia tad ihtyantc chuddha praktibhsvaram | na ceha udhyate kacit ku-
tacid vpi udhyate ||. Text and translation in Schmithausen 1987: I.232233 (see
also the commentary on the stanzas in Schmithausen 1987: I.161162). See also the
Vaibhika`s account of liberation (vimukti) in AKBh 388,19389,4, and
Eltschinger 2005b: 190192.
this [other mind that, although it had] not [been] defiled before, is called
`liberated` from Defilements. 42. That which is defiled is, in this [sys-
tem], absolutely [defiled]; [what is] pure is radiant by nature. And [thus
(?) there is], in this [system], no [person or even dharma which] is puri-
fied, nor is [he/it, a fortiori,] purified from anything.
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A Relativity Theory of the Purity and Validity of
Perception in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav`n of hell, a hell of heav`n.
John Milton (16081674), Paradise Lost
One devoid of self-cognitive mind that cognises true [reality],
Would perceive even [pure] Buddha fields to be domains of bad
destinations (e.g. hells).
[For] one who realises the [true] reality of equality [taught by] the
Supreme Vehicle,
The very domains of bad destinations are domains of the Akaniha
[and] Tuita [heavens].
sGyu phrul le lhag and rDo rje gsang rgyud
On the whole, Tibetan Buddhist scholars have honestly striven to
adhere to the doctrines of Indian Buddhism. But we do encounter from
time to time philosophical theories and interpretations that are of purely
Tibetan provenance. Most of them seem to be the product of an attempt
to resolve conflicts and inconsistencies found in the heterogeneous
Indian Buddhist scriptures and systems, which, as I have already tried to
illustrate on the basis of the Buddha Nature theory, were dealt with in
different ways.
No doubt differences in interpretations provoked heated
debates, but it is precisely these and similar doctrinal disputes that gave
I owe my thanks to Philip Pierce for kindly proofreading this article.
sGyu phrul le lhag (p. 425.67) and rDo rje gsang rgyud (p. 332.34):
yang dag shes pai rang rig blo med na ||
bde gshegs zhing yang ngan song gnas su mthong ||
theg mchog mnyam pai don nyid rtogs pa ni ||
ngan song gnas nyid og min dga ldan gnas ||.
Note that the rDo rje gsang rgyud erroneously reads bla instead of blo in pda a.
This verse is cited by Mi-pham in his Od gsal snying po (pp. 94.695.2), with the
sGyu phrul rgyas pa named as his source. Instead of ni in pda c, he has na.
Wangchuk 2004.
rise to fascinating philosophical ideas that are uniquely Tibetan. One of
the most intriguing examples is the debate surrounding an Indo-Tibetan
Buddhist theory of knowledge, namely, on how beings of various
realms and spiritual levels are said to perceive a common entity, for
instance, what is known to us humans as water. Some of the questions
that Tibetan scholars have asked were whether what we call water exists
at all as water, whether our perception of water is a valid cognition, or
whether it may be that water is not simply water after all but in fact pus
(pya: rnag), as it is perceived by hungry ghosts (preta: yi dwags);
nectar, as it is perceived by gods; a goddess, as it is perceived by
yogins; or still something else. They also pondered upon such questions
as whether there is a common and shared object of perception, and if so,
what it is, and which of the perceptionsif every sentient being of the
six realms perceives it differentlyis valid, and what the criteria of
perceptual validity are. Scholars from the four major schools of Tibetan
Buddhism (dGe-lugs, Sa-skya, bKa`-brgyud, and rNying-ma) who
reflected upon these questions came to varying conclusions, which will
be discussed elsewhere. This paper seeks to introduce a relativity theory
of the purity and validity of perception in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, one
essentially the result of attempts made by some scholars of the rNying-
ma (or the Ancient) School of Tibetan Buddhism to answer the above
queries, having apparently drawn their inspiration from Indian Buddhist
The theory that I intend to present has revealed itself, as is often
the case, as more complex than initially assumed. Firstly, this theory of
perception does not concern an anthropocentric view of perception, and
is not limited to human knowledge, but embraces the entire spectrum of
karmically conditioned perceptions experienced by the six classes of
sentient beings, namely, gods, demigods, humans, animals, hungry
ghosts, and beings in hell. Secondly, human beings for one may have
access to various dimensions of perception. For instance, based on
karmic influences, a man may perceive an entity x as wateras
something that can quench his thirstbut he may also be able to
meditatively enhance his perception and perceive x as a female being
capable of arousing samdhic ecstasy in him. Thirdly, this theory
presupposes varying understandings of ontology, logic and
epistemology (prama), gnoseology (i.e. the theory of jna, which in
the Buddhist context can be understood as higher epistemology), and
soteriologyin the varying Buddhist philosophical systemsand this
makes the matter all the more complicated. Fourthly, there is a certain
terminological constriction in having to express eastern thought in
western languages, and one cannot always adopt or else try to get
around using western scientific or philosophical terms such as
relativity and relativism
without running risks of being misunder-
Of the four periods of the history of Buddhist logic and epistemology
(prama) in Tibet as proposed by Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp,
namely, Ancient (i.e. pre-Glang-dar-ma Period, that is, pre-9th century),
Pre-Classical (beginning with Klu-mes Tshul-khrims-shes-rab in the
10th century), Classical (beginning with Sa-skya Paita Kun-dga`-
rgyal-mtshan in the 12th century), and Post-Classical (beginning in the
15th century), the Ancient Period witnessed the translation of only a
few Indian works on Buddhist logic and epistemology.
One is likely to
assume that beyond these few translations Tibetan scholars of the
Ancient Period have really nothing to say or offer on matters pertaining
to Buddhist logic and epistemology. Such an assumption would
certainly be justified if we were to think exclusively in terms of
commentaries on pure Prama treatises belonging to the Dignga-
Dharmakrti school of Buddhist logic and epistemology, but not
necessarily if we were to consider Buddhist theories of knowledge and
their application in more general terms. For example, the theory of four
kinds of yukti (logical reasoning), namely, reasoning [based on the
principle] of dependence (apekyukti: ltos pai rigs pa), reasoning
[based on the principle of the ability of things to] cause effects
(kryakaraayukti: bya ba byed pai rigs pa), reasoning that establishes
I would like to thank John Taber for kindly acquainting me with Maria
Baghramian`s monograph on relativism (Baghramian 2004). Unfortunately, it has
not been possible to go into a discussion of whether my own employment of the
terms relativity and relativism conforms to one or more of the numerous
semantic nuances and usages presented therein. I shall have to leave it up to readers
for themselves to judge if and to what extent the theory presented in this paper can
be described in those terms.
van der Kuijp 1989: 89.
For the Prama texts translated during the Ancient Period in Tibet, see Frauwallner
the tenability [of the other three types of reasoning] (upapattisdhana-
yukti: thad pa sgrub pai rigs pa), and reasoning [based on the rule-
boundedness] of reality [itself] (dharmatyukti: chos nyid kyi rigs pa), is
particularly interesting, for it existed in India prior to Dignga and
Dharmakrti, for the most part within the Maitreya-Asaga or Yogcra
textual milieu. Some of the earliest sources of the four yuktis may well
be the rvakabhmi
and Bodhisattvabhmi
(and not the Sadhinir-
in spite of its stra status). The four yuktis are either
merely alluded to or discussed in greater detail in these and other Indian
works. In Tibet, the topic seems to have been quite popular from early
on, as the commentaries on the Sadhinirmocanastra and the bKa
yang dag pai tshad ma ascribed to the Tibetan King Khri-srong-lde-
adequately demonstrate. One of the most detailed and systematic
explanations and applications of the four yuktis I have seen thus far,
however, is that of the eleventh-century rNying-ma scholar Rong-zom
Chos-kyi-bzang-po (henceforth Rong-zom-pa),
who evidently relied
on Candragomin`s Nyyasiddhyloka.
Rong-zom-pa`s explanations
and applications of these four yuktis are very useful, containing as they
do intriguing deliberations on a number of ontological, epistemological,
soteriological, and gnoseological issues.
Although the four yuktis will
not be discussed in this article, it should be pointed out that early
Tibetan deliberations on theory of knowledge, including what I call the
relativity theory of the purity and validity of perception, can best be
understood at the backdrop of these four yuktis.
rvakabhmi (pp. 236.10240.15).
Bodhisattvabhmi (p. 293.1718).
Sadhinirmocanastra X.7 (pp. 155158).
See Steinkellner 1989 and Powers 2004: 20, n. 43.
dKon mchog grel (pp. 102.9103.15); mDo rgyas (pp. 308.22314.10); Theg tshul
(pp. 487.20491.20); sNang ba lhar sgrub (pp. 560.6563.1). Mi-pham also
discussed the four yuktis on a number of occasions; see, for example, his mKhas jug
(pp. 296.3300.4), his commentary on Madhyamaklakra 65 (dBu ma rgyan
grel, pp. 241.3249.2), mDo sde rgyan grel (pp. 667.2668.4), Shes rab ral gri and
Shes rab ral grii mchan (pp. 790.1792.4), and sKad gnyis shan sbyar (pp. 235.6
236.1). For the role Mi-pham envisioned for the four yuktis within the general
Mahyna context, see his Legs bshad snang bai gter (p. 897.14). See also
Kapstein 2001: 317343.
For a discussion of the authorship of the Nyyasiddhyloka, see Steinkellner 1984.
Rang byung ye shes (pp. 124.21125.22); dKon mchog grel (pp. 103.15109.9);
sNang ba lhar sgrub (pp. 563.1567.6).
It was, however, only in the nineteenth century that the rNying-
ma school managed to colonise the field of classical Buddhist logic
and epistemology, primarily thanks to the efforts of Mi-pham rNam-
rgyal-rgya-mtsho (18461912),
who became an authority in the field
in his tradition. One of Mi-pham`s most significant contributions to
theories of knowledge is his systematisation of the theory of two kinds
of means of conventional valid cognition (i.e. cognition that has the
conventional as its object) (kun tu tha snyad pai tshad ma: svyava-
namely, one based on ordinary (lit. of this-side,
i.e., this-worldly) perception (tshu rol mthong ba: arvgdarana/apara-
and the other based on pure perception (dag pai gzigs pa:
Mi-pham himself thought his theory to be a matter
of great profundity (shin tu zab pai gnad) crucially relevant for both
tantric and non-tantric Buddhist systems. What can his motive for
introducing such a theory have been? Mi-pham was, like Tsong-kha-pa
Blo-bzang-grags-pa (13571419), a champion of the Prama and
Madhyamaka systems, and he strongly believed in an intimate and
natural relationship between Dharmakrti`s Prama and Ngrjuna`s
The few Prama works by Mi-pham are: (a) Tshad ma rnam grel gyi gzhung gsal
por bshad pa legs bshad snang bai gter (MS, vol. 20, pp. 1901); (b) Tshad ma kun
las btus pai mchan grel rig [= rigs?] lam rab gsal snang ba (MS, vol. 8/h, pp.
473619); (c) Tshad ma rigs pai gter mchan gyis grel pa phyogs las rnam par
rgyal bai ru mtshon (MS, vol. 11/kha, pp. 549751); and (d) bsDus tshan rtsod rigs
smra bai sgo byed (MS, vol. 27, pp. 285353). See the bsTan pai mdzes rgyan (pp.
676.5677.2)a work of mKhan-po Kun-bzang-dpal-ldan, or in short Kun-dpal
(18721943), which includes some additional Prama writings of Mi-pham, of
which the Tshad ma rnam grel gyi bsdus don nyi zlai phreng ba seems particularly
noteworthy. For a discussion of Mi-pham`s theory of interpretation (as presented in
his Shes rab ral gri), see Kapstein 2001.
The term svyavahrikaprama is attested in Prajkaramati`s Bodhicary-
vatrapajik (p. 180.25) and in Prajkaragupta`s Pramavrttiklakra (e.g.
pp. 3.14, 5.23, 226.8). Cf. Pramavrttiklakra (p. 487.28): svyavahrika
pramam. Prajkaragupta also employs terms such as vyvahrikaprama (ibid.,
p. 226.8) and svyavahrikapratyaka (ibid., p. 13.4). (I would like to thank Eli
Franco for drawing my attention to Prajkaragupta`s work.) Note that Tibetan
sources also employ the expressions tha snyad dpyod pai tshad ma and tha snyad
(pai/kyi) tshad ma.
Bodhicaryvatrapajik (p. 182.9, 13); Jackson 1987: 401, n. 103. Cf. Negi 1993
2005: s.v. tshu rol mthong ba.
Mi-pham, Od gsal snying po (pp. 82.184.5) and Shes rab ral gri (pp. 800.3
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or between the systems of the Two Krtis, namely,
Dharmakrti and Candrakrti.
Harmony between the doctrines of
Dharmakrti and Candrakrti also meant for him harmony between
Yogcra and Madhyamaka, and so too between the Ngrjuna and
Maitreya-Asaga traditions. The means of absolute valid cognition (i.e.
cognition that has the absolute as its object) (don dam pai tshad ma:
emphasised by Ngrjuna and the svyava-
hrikaprama emphasised by Dharmakrti are often referred to as the
two means of valid cognition of the two kinds of reality (bden pa gnyis
kyi tshad ma gnyis).
The explicit or implicit argumentanalogous to
Dharmakrti`s argument for the number of pramasis that because
there are two kinds of prameya, namely, conventional and absolute
realities, there must be two kinds of prama, namely, svyavahrika-
prama and pramrthikaprama.
If something such as fire exists
on the conventional level, it must be attestable through svyavahri-
kaprama for if it is not attestable through such a cognition, it cannot
exist on the conventional level. Similarly, if there is an absolute reality
such as emptiness, it must be attestable through pramrthikaprama,
Mi-pham, dBu ma rgyan grel (p. 46.56): khyad par don dam pai tshad ma dpal
ldan klu yis ji ltar bzhed pa dang | tha snyad kyi tshad ma dpal chos kyi grags pas ji
ltar bzhed pa gnyis rags [= rigs] pai rgya mtsho chen por ro gcig tu bskyil zhing |.
See also ibid. (p. 47.3): dbu tshad seng ge mjing bsnol.
See the intermediate verses (bar skabs kyi tshigs su bcad pa) in the dBu ma rgyan
grel (pp. 13.615.2).
The term pramrthikaprama is attested, for example, in Prajkaragupta`s
Pramavrttiklakra (p. 30.22; cited in Franco 1997: 50, n. 12). Cf. Prama-
vrttiklakra (p. 67.1213): pramrthika pramam. Prajkaragupta also
employs the term pramrthikaprameya (ibid., p. 215.13). Note that Tibetan sources
also use the term don dam dpyod pai tshad ma.
The terms tha snyad pa'i tshad ma and don dam pa'i tshad ma seem to go back to
the Pramavinicaya (p. 44.25): svyavahrikasya caitat pramasya rpam
uktam | atrpi pare mh visavdayanti lokam iti | cintmaym eva tu prajm
anulayanto vibhramavivekanirmalam anapyi pramrthikapramam abhimukh-
kurvanti |; Tibetan translation (Vetter 1966: 100.2024): di ni kun tu tha snyad pai
tshad mai rang bzhin brjod pa yin te | di la yang pha rol rmongs pas jig rten slu
bar byed pai phyir ro || bsam pa las byung ba nyid kyi shes rab goms par byas pas
rnam par khrul pas dben zhing dri ma med la log pa med pa don dam pai tshad ma
mngon sum du byed do ||. See also Mi-pham, Legs bshad snang bai gter (p. 553.14
Such an argument is clearly inspired by Dignga`s Pramasamuccaya 1.2
(Steinkellner 2005: 1) and Dharmakrti`s Pramavrttika 3.1 (see the Prama-
vrttiklakra, p. 169.1011).
for reality that is not attestable through pramrthikaprama is not an
absolute reality. However, Mi-pham also belongs to a tradition that
postulates the indivisibility of the two truths. Accordingly, he posits that
ultimately there is only one single prameya,
and hence only one single
prama, which he equates with self-occurring gnosis or with the
gnosis of the Self-occurring One (i.e. the Buddha) (svayabhjna:
rang byung gi ye shes). Tsong-kha-pa, when discussing, for example,
Madhyamakvatra 6.71b, points out the consequence of denying the
established Prama theories.
He, for his part, apparently feared that a
denial of the Prama theories would lead to logical, ontological,
epistemological, and ethical-moral indeterminism (or arbitrariness), or
as Thubten Jinpa in his study of Tsong-kha-pa`s Madhyamaka
philosophy correctly points out, to epistemological scepticism,
ontological nihilism, and moral relativism, all of which were for
Tsong-kha-pa different aspects of the same problem and equally
Mi-pham, too, could not imagine a world where there
are no reliable criteria to differentiate between valid and invalid
cognition. If a cognition were to be arbitrarily regarded as valid or
invalid, how could one determine what is correct and incorrect, and
what is right and wrong? He could thus in principle share Tsong-kha-
pa`s concern.
Mi-pham, however, had a concern of another kind, which was
obviously not shared or addressed by his fellow Tibetan scholars from
the gSar-ma (New) schools. The established epistemological
paradigm, which is perhaps common to most Tibetan Buddhist schools,
must have appeared too narrow and inadequate to him, for it did not and
could not address or explain Buddhist doctrines which he thought were
of greater significance. Buddhist scriptures are full of allusions to the
ideas of supernatural or supramundane phenomena or perceptions that
make no sense to the ordinary human understanding. For instance, in
just a single atom there are said to exist Buddha fields numbering as
For a similar idea, see Dharmakrti`s Pramavrttika 3.53d (as cited in the
Pramavrttiklakra, p. 212.28): meya tv eka svalakaam.
Tsong-kha-pa, dGongs pa rab gsal (fol. 178b23): de ltar go ba dei don yin par
bzung nas tshad mas grub pa la yid brtan med do zhes smra na ni | don di kho bos
di ltar rtogs so zhes pa gcig kyang gzhag tu med cing | tshad ma thams cad la skur
pa debs pas na shin tu mi thad pao ||.
Jinpa 2002: 34, 175.
many as the total number of atoms. It is even explicitly stated that
neither has the size of the Buddha fields been contracted nor the size of
the atom expanded. How is one to deal with such an idea? One
alternative would be to dismiss it as mere rhetoric. Most Buddhist
scholars would not go for this alternative. Another alternative would be
to explain it as a miracle demonstrated by the supernatural power of a
buddha, which de facto means that such a phenomenon or event is not
attestable through any means of valid cognition. Some Tibetan scholars
might accept this explanation. The problem with it, though, is the
absurd implications that it involves, particularly in a context where the
same entity x that appears to ordinary humans as water appears to
yoginswho have fewer or no defilements or obscurations, who
undergo fewer or no sufferings, and are partially or totally released from
sasric bondageas something else. At least from a Buddhist point of
view, the supposition that our ordinary perceptions, obscured by
intellectual-emotional defilements, pain, sufferings, and bondage, are
valid or true, whereas yogic perceptions free from intellectual-
emotional defilements, pain, sufferings, and bondage, are invalid or
false sounds quite absurd and supercilious. Mi-pham`s motive thus
seems to have been to propose an upgraded and updated theory that
could explain otherwise logically unexplainable phenomena,
particularly the idea of pure appearances and pure perceptions
(thematised in both tantric and non-tantric Mahyna scriptures).
Mi-pham argues that there must be two types of svyavahrikapram-
a, for any phenomenon on the conventional level has two modes,
namely, the mode of appearance (snang tshul) and the mode of
existence (gnas tshul). A conventional entity x such as water may
appear to be impure, but it always exists in a pure state; in its absolute
mode of existence, however, it is always characterised by emptiness
(nyat: stong pa nyid).
He thus classifies means of valid cognition
into two types: svyavahrikaprama and pramrthikaprama.
Svyavahrikaprama is further divided into one based on ordinary
Cf. the tables in Pettit 1999: 431434.
perception (tshu rol mthong ba la brten pa kun tu tha snyad pai tshad
ma) and one based on pure perception (dag pai gzigs pa la brten pa kun
tu tha snyad pai tshad ma). He distinguishes them on the basis of their
cause (rgyu), nature (ngo bo), function (byed las), result (bras bu), and
example (dpe), as follows:
Distinctions between the Two Types of Svyavahrikaprama
Basis of
Based on Ordinary Perception
(tshu rol mthong ba la brten
pa kun tu tha snyad pai tshad
Based on Pure Perception (dag
pai gzigs pa la brten pa kun tu
tha snyad pai tshad ma)
1. Cause
Given rise to by dint of a
correct assessment of its lim-
ited object, the [perceptible]
phenomenon (rang yul chos
can nyi tshe ba la tshul bzhin
brtags pai stobs las skyes pa)
Acquired as an outcome of the
correct appropriation of true
reality [during meditative ab-
sorption] (chos nyid ji lta ba
tshul bzhin dmigs pai rjes las
thob pa)
2. Nature
(ngo bo)
Cognition that is provisionally
non-deceptive in regard to its
mere object (rang yul tsam la
gnas skabs mi bslu bai rig
Discriminating insight of great
range possessed by a subject
[surveying] the full gamut [of
phenomena] (ji snyed pai yul
can rgya che bai shes rab)
3. Function
(byed las)
Elimination of superimposi-
tion [and depreciation] in re-
gard to the objects of ordinary
perception (tshul [= tshu rol]
mthong gi yul la sgro dogs
sel ba)
Elimination of superimposition
[and depreciation] in regard to
the [normally] inconceivable do-
main (bsam gyis mi khyab pai
spyod yul la sgro dogs sel ba)
4. Result
(bras bu)
Proceeding on after the
pertinent object has been
exactly determined (skabs don
yongs su bcad nas jug pa)
Gnosis that cognises [phenom-
ena] to the full extent (ji snyed
mkhyen pai ye shes)
5. Analogy
Human sight (mii mig) Celestial sight (lhai mig)
Mi-pham presented these two types of svyavahrikaprama on at
least two occasions, namely, in his general commentary on the
*Guhyagarbhatantra (a fundamental tantric scripture of the rNying-ma
school) called Od gsal snying po, and in his work on hermeneutics
Not counted separately by Mi-pham.
called Shes rab ral gri, on which he also wrote an annotated
One important question is how original Mi-pham was
and how much he owed to his Indian and Tibetan predecessors. As far
as I can see, no one before him had proposed and explained two kinds
of svyavahrikaprama. On the other hand, although the Sanskrit
term for dag pa gzigs pai tshad ma (*uddhadaranaprama) has yet
to be traced in Indian sources,
the idea of pure perception
(uddhapratyaka: dag pai mngon sum) is attested in the Hetuvidy
section of the Yogcrabhmi
as shown by Hjun Nagasaki in his
article Perception in Pre-Dignga Buddhist Texts,
where it is listed
and explained as one of the four kinds of pratyaka, the other three
being perception by means of corporeal sense faculties (rpndriya-
pratyaka: dbang po gzugs can gyi mgnon sum), perception [in the
form] of mental experience (manonubhavapratyaka: yid kyis myong
bai mngon sum), and mundane perception (lokapratyaka: jig rten gyi
mngon sum). Nagasaki interprets uddhapratyaka in two ways: (a) as
manonubhavapratyaka and (b) as lokottarajna. One wonders
whether uddhapratyaka could have meant both pure mundane gnosis
(uddhalaukikajna: dag pa jig rten pai ye shes) and non-conceptual
gnosis (nirvikalpajna: rnam par mi rtog pai ye shes). In Tibetan
sources, the idea of means of pure valid cognition occurs primarily in
the context of what is called establishing the divinity of appearance
(snang ba lhar sgrub pa), that is, establishing the supramundaneness of
the very mundane, the divinity of the very earthlyaccording to Mi-
pham, a uniquely rNying-ma concern, which stems from the eleventh-
century rNying-ma scholar Rong-zom-pa, and is described by him as
the Lion`s Roar (seng gei nga ro) of this scholar.
Indeed Mi-pham`s
theory of pure svyavahrikaprama is clearly largely inspired by
Od gsal snying po (pp. 82.184.5); Shes rab ral gri (pp. 800.3801.4).
Compare the expression pramapariuddhasakalatattvaja in the Pramavrtti-
klakra (p. 51.22).
Hetuvidy (p. 340.213).
Nagasaki 1991: 223225.
Mi-pham, Nges shes sgron me (p. 103.45):
snang kun rang bzhin lhar sgrub pa ||
snga gyur ring lugs kho na ste ||
kun mkhyen rong zom pai tai ||
legs bshad seng gei nga ro yin ||.
For an English translation, see Pettit 1999: 222.
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Rong-zom-pa`s writings, particularly those passages attempting to
establish the divinity of appearance.
Undoubtedly Rong-zom-pa`s work on establishing the divinity of
appearances is unprecedented in the world of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.
He is said to have composed a set of seven works of varying size, what
one might call his heptalogy, on the establishment of the divinity of
appearances, of which only one is extant.
The fundamental idea
behind the establishment of the divinity of appearances is that
phenomena, which appear to us in manifold ways, are in reality
primordially pure regardless of whether we perceive them as such or
not. One of Rong-zom-pa`s main arguments is that a dharma (phenol-
menon) can hardly be impure if its dharmat (true reality) is pure,
for there is an essential connection between dharma and dharmat.
Both dharma and dharmat are thus pure, and hence also divine. For
him, then, divinity means purity. Where could Rong-zom-pa have got
this idea from? The proposition that all phenomena are completely pure
is widespread in tantric and non-tantric Mahyna literature. In
particular, it plays a dominant role in the *Guhyagarbhatantra, a
tradition to which Rong-zom-pa belonged, and wherein the so-called (a)
external world or habitat (snod), comprising five elements, (b) its
inhabitants (bcud), made up of five psycho-physiological aggregates
(phung po), and (c) mental continua (rgyud), a set of eight kinds of
mind (rnam par shes pa tshogs brgyad), are all said to be pure, the
purities of the external habitat (snod dag pa), its inhabitants (bcud dag
pa), and the mental continua (rgyud dag pa) being referred to as three
kinds of purity (dag pa rnam pa gsum).
The central philosophy of the
*Guhyagarbhatantra is that all phenomena are in their conventionality
characterised by great purity (dag pa chen po) and in their absoluteness
For Mi-pham`s own efforts to establish the divinity of appearance, see his Od gsal
snying po (pp. 77.297.1).
See Rong-pa Me-dpung`s list of Rong-zom-pa`s writings (Tho yig, p. 239.56):
snang ba lha sgrub che phra bdun du grags pa la sogs pa dag yin te |. See also
Almogi 1997: 248249; 170171.
Rong-zom-pa, dKon mchog grel (p. 184.16).
by great equality (mnyam pa chen po), and that the two modes are
characterised by great indivisibility (dbyer med pa chen po). One of the
main devices employed to establish such propositions is the four kinds
of reasoning referred to above.
We may now set the theory proposed by Rong-zom-pa in the
wider context of his assessment of the Mahyna doctrine. Broadly
speaking, Mahyna Buddhism can be classified into tantric and non-
tantric, although the borderline tends to be quite fluid or permeable.
One generally assumes that non-tantric Mahyna is doctrinally more
conservative than tantric Mahyna. This is, however, not always the
case, inasmuch as some stras contain ideas that are more developed
than those found in certain tantras. This may help to explain why Rong-
zom-pa occasionallyfor example, in his dKon mchog grelspeaks of
common (thun mong) and uncommon or special (thun mong ma yin pa)
Mahyna. A distinction between the two is clearly made in accordance
with the degree of doctrinal conservatism. By special Mahyna, he
means a school of Buddhist thought which postulates the idea of the
indivisibility of the two kinds of truth (bden pa rnam pa gnyis dbyer
med pa), that is, the idea that there is in reality one single truth, and that
its division into conventional and absolute is merely a device for
enabling access to that single truth. This special Mahyna of Rong-
zom-pa includes both tantric and non-tantric forms. To the group of
scriptures of the special Mahyna belong both stras, such as the
Vimalakrtinirdeastra and Ratnaguasacayagth, and tantras, such
as the *Guhyagarbhatantra. According to him, the special Mahyna
is special for five reasons, which may be explicated as follows:
(a) It is special because it proposes a special kind of ontology.
Specifically, the only viable ontological reality is what the author calls
mere appearance (snang ba tsam), behind the facade of which there is
nothing. Even this mere appearance may or may not endure
depending upon the presence or absence of necessary and sufficient
causes and conditions.
(b) It is special because it proposes a special kind of soteriology.
According to this special soteriological model, one sees and seeks a
solution in the problem itself, nirva in sasra itself; release in
dKon mchog grel (pp. 42.243.13). For a critical edition of the pertinent text and an
English translation, see Almogi 2006: 468470 (text), 319322 (translation).
bondage itself. In other words, the very dukhasatya is seen as a
nirodhasatya; the very samudayasatya as a mrgasatya.
(c) It is special because it proposes a special kind of gnoseology. Seeing
(or, knowing) the gnosis through which release is attained (vimukti-
jnadarana: rnam par grol bai ye shes mthong ba)
is special,
because this gnosis is not conceived as something that can be attained or
generated at a certain stage, place, and time but as being immanent here
and now, for our ordinary minds and mental associates are by nature
self-occurring gnosis (svayabhjna: rang byung gi ye shes).
(d) It is special because it proposes a special kind of epistemology. It
offers, that is, a unique theory of perception in regard to the scope and
validity of the various human and non-human, yogic and non-yogic
perceptions. This is one of the sources feeding into the relativity theory
of the purity and validity of perception. We shall return to it later.
(e) I am not sure how best the fifth aspect of the special Mahyna can
be expressed. The author apparently alludes to a special spiritual
proclivity or disposition within the person, namely, the uniqueness of
his or her cognitive, conative, and emotive faculty which allows access
to the so-called non-dual mode (gnyis su med pai tshul), clearly
meaning the indivisibility of the two kinds of truth referred to above.
The theory of the purity and validity of perception proposed by Rong-
zom-pa can perhaps be best understood against the backdrop of three
kinds of presuppositions, namely, his concept of ontology, soteriology,
and epistemology. I employ the term perception in the sense of the
Tibetan terms mthong ba (or gzigs pa) and snang ba. Tibetan mthong ba
seems to mean primarily the perception of an appearance and
secondarily the perceived or perceptible appearance whereas snang
ba seems to mean primarily perceived or perceptible appearance, and
secondarily perception of an appearance. A direct ontic-epistemic
correspondence between appearance and perception is presupposed by
most Tibetan scholars, since only that which is ontologically possible is
epistemically cognisable; and only that which appears is perceived or
Negi 19932005: s.v.
(a) The Ontological Presuppositions of the Theory
One cannot talk about the theory of perception or knowledge if no
knowable or perceptible is presupposed. Various Buddhist systems may
argue about the ontological status of the knowable, but I would assert
that within the Buddhist systems one tacitly assumes that there is a kind
of reality, or nature to phenomena (whatever it may be) that is
cognisable, timeless, and independent of being cognised and the person
who cognises it.
It is said that buddhas may come and go, but the truth
remains as it is (yathbhtam), unaffected by its occasional rediscovery
or oblivion. This idea can be found in non-Mahyna sources (such as
the Sayuttanikya and Aguttaranikya), in non-tantric Mahyna
literature (such as the Lakvatrastra, Saddharmapuarkastra,
and Jnloklakrastra), and tantric sources (such as the
As we have just seen, for Rong-zom-
pa, the only ontological reality is what he calls mere appearance
(snang ba tsam). It is conceived of as being totally hollow, without any
defining characteristics whatsoever, rootless, bottomless, invariable, and
soteriologically neutral, and yet it is (i) the only viable basis for
bondage and release, sasra and nirva;
(ii) the basis of defining
characteristics (mtshan gzhi), that is, the basis for assigning various
defining characteristics (mtshan nyid sna tshogs),
(iii) the only viable
premise allowing for a dialogue between sentient beings of the six
realms; yogins and non-yogins; experts and non-experts; (iv) the only
viable shared object of independent perceptions.
See Vetter`s remark in Bsteh 2000: 48.
For the universality of reality and its being independent of the appearance of a
tathgata in both non-Mahyna and Mahyna sources, see Wangchuk 2007: 41
42, 78, n. 24.
Rong-zom-pa, Theg tshul (p. 513.46): mdor na gzhi gcig la rnam par dag pai jig
rten du snang ba dang | ma dag pai jig rten du snang ba ste | de la ma dag par
snang ba ni | bslad pas bsgribs pa yin no zheo ||; ibid. (p. 513.2022): snang ba de
nyid kyang byang grol dang ching ba gnyis gai rkyen du gyur bar mnyam pas |
tshul gnyi ga ltar yang bsgrub du [= tu] rung bar snang ngo ||; ibid. (p. 522.45):
snang ba la skyon med na sems can gang gis bslus te khor zhe na |.
Rong-zom-pa, Theg tshul (p. 465.2024): snang ba tsam ni mkhas pa pa i [= i] ta
nas blun mo [= po] ba glang rdzi yan chad gang yang rung ste | las kyi bsgo skal la
spyod pa mthun par snang ba dang | yongs su dag pa dang ma dag pa la stsogs pa
snang ba bye brag mthun pa rnams la snang ngo zhes bsgrub mi dgos te | mtshan
nyid sna tshogs rnam par jog pai mtshan [= mtshon?] gzhi yin no || mtshan nyid ni
ji ltar snang ba de ltar bsgrub pa rdul phra mo tsam yang myed do ||.
Why can a nondescript appearance appear as various specific
appearances, such as pus, water, nectar, and so forth? Mi-pham`s main
argument is that where there is appearance-and-emptiness, everything is
possible, and where there is no appearance-and-emptiness, nothing is
Except for a slight modification in the wording, this is a clear
reference to Mlamadhyamakakrik 24.14, according to which
everything is possible for anything that exists in harmony with
According to Rong-zom-pa,
appearances (snang ba)
appear (snang) on account of (a) the power of delusion (khrul pai
dbang), (b) the power of self-cognition (rang rig pai dbang), and (c)
the power of the non-origination of true reality (chos nyid skye ba med
pai dbang). These three causes or factors of appearances (snang bai
rgyu/rkyen gsum) have been explained as follows: First, the power of
delusion is for all practical purposes the diverse latent tendencies
implanted in the layavijna (fundamental mind) by the deluded
mind (khrul pai shes pa). Second, the power of self-cognition is
explained as the ability of the mind to cognise itself; that is, mind, being
always self-cognitive, is not an inanimate entity (bem po) and offers no
physical resistance (rdos can). If the mind were not self-cognitive or
devoid of any cognitive characteristics (shes rig gyi mtshan nyid dang
Mi-pham, Nges shes sgron me (p. 101.45):
des na rang gi lugs la ni ||
snang stong ris su ma chad pai ||
gzhi nyid cir yang ma grub pa ||
gang snang kun la mnyam pai phyir ||
dngos gcig sna tshogs par yang snang ||
gang la snang stong rung ba na ||
de la thams cad rung bar gyur ||
gang la snang stong mi rung ba ||
de la thams cad rung mi gyur ||.
For an English translation, see Pettit 1999: 220221.
Ngrjuna, Mlamadhyamakakrik 24.14 (cf. Vigrahavyvartan 70). See, for
example, the Tshig don mdzod (pp. 7.329.2), where Klong-chen-pa discusses seven
positions on the universal basis (gzhi), alluding thereby to several rDzogs-chen
tantras. It is explained that the universal basis is neither (1) spontaneously present
(lhun grub), (2) indeterminate (ma nges pa), (3) determinate (nges pa), (4) malleable
(cir yang bsgyur du btub pa), (5) arbitrary (cir yang khas blang du btub pa), nor (6)
manifold (sna tshogs), but (7) primordially pure (ka dag). The primordially pure
universal basis is said to consist of the three inseparable qualities of emptiness,
luminosity, and all-embracing compassion.
Rang byung ye shes (pp. 120.16123.21).
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bral ba zhig), nothing would appear. Third, the power of the non-
origination of true reality is also explained as the natural and intrinsic
purity (rang bzhin gyis rnam par dag pa / ngo bo nyid kyis rnam par dag
pa) of all phenomena. Phenomena, not being anything (cir yang ma yin
pa), can appear in any way (cir yang snang du rung ba), for they are
devoid of resistance (gegs med pa).
Of the three factors of appearances, purity and the ability of the
mind to cognise itself are the dominant conditions for appearances of
both pollution (saklea: kun nas nyon mongs pa) and purification
(vyavadna: rnam par byang ba). The latent tendencies form the
general conditions for the appearance of both pollution and purification.
Nonetheless, those appearances that are caused by negative latent
tendencies (nag poi bag chags) are called deceptive (slu ba), untrue (mi
bden pa), fallacious (khrul pa), and unreliable (yid brtan du mi rung
ba), whereas those appearances that are caused by positive latent
tendencies (dkar poi bag chags) are called non-deceptive (mi slu ba),
true (bden pa), non-fallacious (ma khrul pa), and reliable (yid brtan du
rung ba). Although none of the appearances is ultimately true (yang dag
par bden pa), the less deceptive ones are provisionally regarded as non-
deceptive by the wise, for they are non-deceiving to the extent that they
bring about salvation.
(b) The Soteriological Presuppositions of the Theory
The main soteriological presupposition of the theory is that at least in
principle anybody, at any given point in time and space, can gain full
access to true reality by means of meditative insight, and the correct
cognition or insightful penetration of the truth has a soteriological or
salvific effect on the person who cognises or penetrates it. In other
words, a person is liberated by gaining meditative insight into the truth.
For most Buddhist scholars and mystics, it is the correct cognition of
true reality, regardless of how it is defined by the various Buddhist
systems, that makes the spiritual or soteriological breakthrough
possible, and that the gnosis (jna: ye shes) of a buddha is by defini-
tion direct valid cognition (prama: tshad ma). This notion of release
upon seeing true reality is found in tantric sources such as the Cary-
melpakapradpa, and also in non-tantric Mahyna sources such as the
Abhisamaylakra and Ratnagotravibhga.
According to Rong-zom-
pa, release upon seeing true reality is an idea common to all Buddhist
which implies that the actual spiritual breakthrough in
Buddhism is intellectual and not emotional.
(c) The Epistemological Presuppositions of the Theory
The basic epistemological assumption is that a variety of perceptions of
one and the same entity x is possible. If all sentient beings of the six
realms (or yogins and non-yogins) were to perceive an entity or reality
x in an identical way, there would be no need for a dialogue. The
main point of divergence among sentient beings of the six realms (or
yogins and non-yogins) is the characteristics of a so-called mere
appearance as it appears to various beings in various degrees of
impurity and purity. Rong-zom-pa explains that (1) hungry ghosts
perceive water as extremely impure (shin tu ma dag par snang); (2)
human beings as somewhat impure (cung zad ma dag par snang), (3)
individuals of the pure realms as pure (dag par snang), (4) yogins or
vidydharas (knowledge bearers), who have command over
phenomena, as extremely pure (shin tu dag par snang), and that (5)
those who have exhausted all latent tendencies, clearly meaning
buddhas, are free from all appearances (snang ba thams cad dang bral),
since for them all manifoldness has undergone complete cessation
(spros pa thams cad yongs su zhi bar gyur). If all these perceptions were
equally valid or invalid, it would mean that there would be nothing that
one could call reality. If there were no such standard as the validity or
invalidity of perception, there would be no incentive for a dialogue.
Rong-zom-pa thus rejects the arbitrariness of perceptual validity.
Rong-zom-pa`s position is that in general no perception is
independently valid or invalid. Depending on the varying degree of
For several primary sources, see Wangchuk 2007: 199200, n. 11.
bDen gnyis jog tshul (p. 32.68): di ltar nyan thos kyi theg pa nas gzhi bzung nas |
rdzogs pa chen poi mthar thug gi bar du | gang zhig yang dag pai don mthong na
rnam par grol lo zhes thun mong du grags pa yin la |.
See also Wangchuk 2007: 4345, 199200.
purity and impurity of perception, there is only a relative validity of
perception; that is, the human perception of appearance x as water is
pure, and thus valid, when compared to the preta`s perception of it as
pus, but is impure when compared to the god`s perception of it as
nectar, and thus invalid. The most maculate and thus the most invalid
perception of all is that of a hell-being, whereas the most immaculate
and thus the most valid perception of all is that of one who is subject to
no obscuration whatsoever. It is this theory that I call the relativity
theory of the purity and validity of perception, and it can be formulated
as: The validity of perception is directly proportional to the purity of
While Rong-zom-pa certainly deserves credit for suggesting that the
degree of purity of perception determines the degree of its validity, it is
clear that he drew his inspiration from Indian sources, particularly
regarding the validity of yogic versus non-yogic perceptions. The idea
that the perception of a person who has attained salvific release can
invalidate the perception of a person who is still bound can also be
found in several Indian sources. For example, Candrakrti argued that a
non-yogin who has no gnosis and is not released is not an authority, and
that if this were not the case, it would imply that such a person has
perceived true reality and eliminated ignorance, and this in turn would
Rong-zom-pa, dKon mchog grel (p. 43.67): It should be known that if one
evaluates objectively, the purer these perceptions (snang ba), the truer (bden pa)
[they are] (gzu boi blos gzhal na snang ba de dag kyang ji lta ji ltar dag pa de lta
de ltar bden par shes par byao ||). Ibid. (p. 104.47): If these are evaluated with an
objective mind, the purer the perceptions (mthong ba), the truer (bden pa) [they are],
inasmuch as [the objects of valid perceptions] are objects [perceived by] the lords
among those who have purified the obscurations (varaa: sgrib pa), and because
[perceptions] are relatively (ltos te rnam par bzhag na) enduring and non-deceiving
(brtan zhing mi bslu ba) (de rnams la gzu boi blos gzhal bar byas na | ji ltar ji ltar
mthong ba dag pa de ltar de ltar bden pa yin te | sgrib pai dri ma dag pa rnams kyi
dbang po rnams kyi yul yin pai phyir dang | ltos te rnam par bzhag na brtan zhing
mi bslu bai phyir ro ||). Ibid. (p. 105.23): if an objective assessment is made, as
[stated] above, the [degree of] correctness corresponds to the [degree of] purity (
gzu boi blos rnam par gzhag na | ji ltar dag pa ltar rig [= rigs] pa che ba ni snga ma
bzhin no ||).
imply the redundancy of the spiritual paths of the noble ones (rya-
mrga: phags pai lam).
That an undefiled cognition of a yogin can
invalidate the defiled cognition of a non-yogin and not vice versa has
been clearly stated by him in his Madhyamakvatra:
The perception of eyes with a timira [disorder]
Does not invalidate the perception [of eyes] without a timira [disorder].
Similarly, a cognition that is devoid of immaculate gnosis
Does not invalidate an immaculate cognition.
He also states that only the gnosis of a buddha, and not other types of
gnosis, given their limitation (ekadeatva: nyi tshe ba nyid), can be
Veridical relativism is also suggested by ntideva in his
Bodhicaryvatra 9.34ab. According to him, people (loka: jig rten)
are of two kinds: ordinary people (prktako loka: jig rten phal pa)
and people who are yogins (yogiloka: rnal byor jig rten). The
perception or knowledge (dh: blo) of the ordinary world can be
invalidated by that of the yogiloka, but not vice versa, as made explicit
by Prajkaramati.
A qualitative distinction is also made among the
perceptions of the various yogins, with the perceptions of the more
advanced yogins successively able to invalidate the perceptions of the
less advanced yogins. Following this logic, buddhajna, or the
yogipratyaka of a buddha, will certainly be assumed to be the supreme
cognition that can invalidate the perceptions of all yogins who have not
yet attained Buddhahood.
In particular, Majurmitra`s Bodhicitta-
bhvan and Bodhicittabhvannirdea (also attributed to him) seem to
have directly inspired Rong-zom-pa.
Candrakrti, Madhyamakvatra 6.30.
Madhyamakvatra 6.27:
mig ni rab rib can gyi dmigs pa yis ||
rab rib med shes la gnod min ji ltar ||
de bzhin dri med ye shes spangs pai blos ||
dri med blo la gnod pa yod ma yin||.
Madhyamakvatra 6.214.
Bodhicaryvatrapajik (p. 158.11).
Cf. Ngrjuna, Ratnval 4.91.
Bodhicittabhvan (P, fols. 2b73a2; D, fol. 2b13; S, vol. 33, pp. 810.18811.5);
Bodhicittabhvannirdea (P, fol. 59a5b5; D, fol. 48a17; S, vol. 33, pp. 188.20
189.20). See particularly the latter (P, fol. 59a8; D, fol. 48a3; S, vol. 33, p. 189.67):
sems can gyis mthong ba rnams ni khrul pa yin par mngon no ||; ibid. (P, fol. 59b5;
D, fol. 48a7; S, vol. 33, p. 189.1820): de ltar sems can gyis mthong ba rnams ni rig
We have seen that the only feasible ontology for Rong-zom-pa is mere
appearance, which is rootless, unrestricted, invariable, soteriologically
neutral, and yet the only viable basis for sasra and nirva.
Strikingly, for him, mere appearance, like a mirage, operates in
accordance with the principle of dependent origination (rten cing brel
bar byung ba: prattyasamutpda). Depending on the presence or
absence of causes and conditions, it may appear or disappear. What he
does seem to posit is the sphere in which the mere appearance operates,
namely, the dharmadhtu, the sphere of reality itself, just as he posits
the space in which mirages appear or disappear. According to his
epistemology, a mere appearance may be perceived as extremely
impure, somewhat impure, pure, extremely pure, or not perceived at all,
and the degree of the purity of perception determines the degree of its
validity. Here the person by whom mere appearance is not perceived at
all is a buddha, whose gnosis (if it exists at all)
represents the upper
limit of the perceptual scale. Just as a mirage is an optical illusion and
the perception of it a perceptual delusion, a mere appearance is an
illusion, and the perception of it, no matter how pure or impure,
ultimately a mere delusion. A buddha, being free from all delusions,
perceives no illusions. Not perceiving an optical illusion such as a
mirage in the open air may be designated as seeing space. Similarly, not
perceiving any mere appearance in the dharmadhtu, the sphere of
reality, is clearly designated as perceiving the dharmadhtu.
Almogi 1997 Orna Almogi, The Life and Works of Rong-zom Paita.
MA thesis. Hamburg: University of Hamburg, 1997.
Almogi 2006 Id., Rong-zom-pas Discourses on Traditional Buddho-
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[= rigs] pas kyang khrul par [ba D] mngon zhing | sangs rgyas kyi lung las kyang
khrul pa yin par gsungs so ||.
On the Indian and Tibetan controversies on whether a buddha possesses gnosis
(jna: ye shes), see Almogi 2006.
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The Materiality and Immanence of Gnosis in
Some rNying-ma Tantric Sources
In certain rNying-ma (Ancient) tantric sources one finds the notion
that gnosis is immanent in the human body, or more precisely, in the
centre of the heart. From the description of gnosis found in these
sources (i.e. as having, for example, colours and shapes), one gets the
impression that the gnosis abiding in the body is in a way understood as
a material entity. In this paper I shall attempt to present what may be
called the meta-physiology of this gnosis and its abode as conceived in
these sources. First of all I shall briefly look into the perception and role
of the human body in Buddhism in general, and then discuss shortly the
concept of the inherence and immanence of gnosis and the
soteriological goal and models relevant to the discussion. This will be
followed by a discussion of gnosis itself, which is conceived of as a
focal point of sasra and nirva that is laid bare at some critical
moments such as death, and if recognised could trigger the collapse of
the entire sasric machinery.
In non-Mahyna Buddhism, the psycho-physiological complex of a
person comprising five aggregates (phung po lnga: pacaskandha) is
considered impure, impermanent, painful, and non-substantial. In
particular, the human body is perceived as consisting of thirty-six
impure substances
and is often meditated upon on the basis of nine
I would like to express my thanks to Prof. Eli Franco for his useful comments and to
Philip Pierce for proofreading this paper.
These impure substances (mi gtsang bai rdzas) are various bodily parts and fluids
hair, nails, flesh, bones, bladder, liver, pus, blood, excrement, and the like. The list
of thirty-six, however, varies slightly from one source to another. See, for example,
the lists found in the iksamuccaya, p. 209.311 (a translation is found in Bendall
notions of repulsive [objects], that is, by imagining the various stages of
the decomposition of the body.
Such meditation is clearly intended to
combat one of the numerous intellectual-emotional defilements (nyon
mongs pa: klea)the greatest challenge for the seekers of salvation in
Buddhismnamely, attachment, particularly to one`s body and the
bodies of others. In Mahyna, the human body is also conceived of as
illusory and empty. Nonetheless, despite an apparent negative attitude
towards the human body, the usefulness of the body has been
recognised as being the basis for human existence, which latter enables
one to tread the path to salvation. The Buddha`s teachings are
considered as mere aids with the help of which one is to cross the river
of sasra and are thus often compared to a boat that one leaves behind
after crossing the river.
This analogy is occasionally also employed in
the case of the human bodyfor example, in ntideva`s Bodhicary-
vatra, where it is stated that a bodhisattva should view his body as
being like a boat and use it to fulfill the needs of living beings.
In the
tantric context, the human body, which plays now a greater role,
particularly in the so-called higher tantric systems, is often compared to
& Rouse 1922: 202); Arthavinicayastra, pp. 23.524.4 (reference to further
sources and a short discussion of the development of the list and differences
between existing lists are provided by the editor in n. 9), and p. 41, where a slightly
different list is given. Note that most of these substances are included in the list of
bodily parts found in the Mahvyutpatti, nos. 39294065.
The nine kinds of meditation on repulsive [objects] (mi sdug pa sgom pa: aubha-
bhvan), also referred to as nine notions of repulsive [objects] (mi sdug pai du
shes dgu), are listed in the Mahvyutpatti (nos. 11551164) as follows: (1) the
notion of a bluish [corpse] (rnam par (b)sngos pai du shes: vinlakasaj), (2)
the notion of a putrefying [corpse] (rnam par rnags pai du shes: vidhtika/
vipyaka-saj), (3) the notion of a maggot-infested [corpse] (rnam par bus
gzhig/ bzhigs pai du shes: vipaumakasaj), (4) the notion of a decomposing
[corpse] (rnam par bam pai/ber bai du shes: vydhmtakasaj), (5) the notion
of a reddish [corpse] (rnam par dmar bai du shes: vilohitakasaj), (6) the notion
of a devoured [corpse] (rnam par zos bai du shes: vikhditakasaj), (7) the
notion of a lacerated [corpse] (rnam par mthor bai du shes: vikiptakasaj), (8)
the notion of a burned [corpse] (rnam par tshig pai du shes: vidagdhakasaj),
and (9) the notion of a skeleton (rus gong gi du shes: asthisaj). See also BHSD,
s.v. aubhabhvan, where several sources are provided.
For references, see Almogi 2009: 272, n. 98.
Bodhicaryvatra 5.70. See Steinkellner 1981: 57 (for a German translation of the
pertinent verse) and Crosby & Skilton 1995: 40 (for an English translation). See also
Catuataka 2.1 (Lang 1986: 32 (Tibetan text) and 33 (English translation)).
a boat, here, however, in a somewhat different sense; that is, the body
itself is now to be steered to reach the shore of salvation.
One of the
arguments offered by some Tibetan Buddhist authors for the essentiality
of a human body for tantric practices is the indispensability of a body
endowed with the six elements (khams drug gi bdag nyid can: adhtv-
which only a human body is said to possess.
This is
apparently because the so-called white and red bodhicitta, that is,
the male semen and female blood, which are substances which only
a body endowed with the six elements can possess are necessary for the
secret empowerment (gsang bai dbang: guhybhieka) and insight-
gnosis empowerment (shes rab ye shes kyi dbang: prajjnbhie-
One finds different lists of these six elements. The most common
is that of the six (cosmic) elements found already in Pli sources which
include earth, water, fire, wind, space, and the mental element.
In the
tantric context, one occasionally finds a slightly different list in which
the mental element (rnam par shes pai khams: vijnadhtu) is
replaced with gnostic element (ye shes kyi khams: jnadhtu).
For examples of the analogy of a boat with the human body in the tantric context,
see Dasgupta 1962: 4445 & 90, where several songs by tantric adepts are translated
and discussed.
See Negi 19932005, s.v. khams drug gi bdag nyid can, where the Vimalaprabh is
given as a source. See also Vajragarbha`s Hevajrapirthak 6.73d (Shendge
2004: 44; Tibetan: 123.13), where the expression adhtuka kulam (khams drug
rig can) is employed.
See Mi-pham`s bKa brgyad rnam bshad (pp. 65.466.2), where the necessity of a
physical body endowed with six elements for the practice of Vajrayna is discussed.
For a discussion of white and red bodhicitta, see the section on what has been
designated by Dorji Wangchuk psycho-physiological bodhicitta in Wangchuk
2007: 217225.
See, for example, Majjhima Nikya iii 63 (an English translation is found in Horner
1959: 105; amoli & Bodhi 1995: 926, 5), where also other lists of six elements
are provided. For a discussion of these six (cosmic) elements, see Langer 2001,
chap. 6, which however focuses on the mental element (via).
Tshig mdzod chen mo, s.v. khams drug ldan: nam mkha| rlung| me| chu| sa| ye shes
kyi khams rnams ldan pai mii lus rten gsang sngags rdo rje theg pa sgrub pai snod
du rung ba|. See also Negi 19932005, s.v. ye shes kyi khams, where references to
the Vimalaprabh are given. Cf. Vajragarbha`s Hevajrapirthak 6.7374
(Shendge 2004: 44; Tibetan, 123.1215), where the six elements mentioned consist
of the four great elementsearth, water, fire and windand in addition semen
(ukra: khu ba) and (menstrual) blood (rajas: rdul), and where jnadhtu is also
mentioned, but not as one of the six. This source is cited by Mi-pham in his Dus
khor grel pa (p. 710.34). Semen and (menstrual) blood are commonly considered
The tantric attitude towards the human body is generally more positive
than the one found in non-tantric Buddhism. The body is now conceived
of as a microcosm containing the entire universe, is meditatively
envisioned as the pure (though illusory) body of a deity, and is not to be
abused in any way.
Most important of all, the body is considered the
abode of gnosis, the attainment of which is the soteriological goal of all
Buddhist vehicles and the unfolding of which is often referred to in the
tantric context as great bliss.
Normally, gnosis is conceived of as a liberating insight that is acquired
by a yogin by sheer dint of sustained and correct meditative practices on
the path, which culminates with the gnosis of a buddha.
Yet one
encounters not only the concept of acquired (or transcendental) gnosis,
but also the concept of inherent (or immanent) gnosis, which is
changeless. This idea is greatly underscored by the rNying-ma tantric
traditions, and such rDzogs-chen expressions as gnosis that abides on
in Indian works, including Buddhist ones, procreatory elements stemming from the
father and mother, respectively (Das 2003: 35, 1.5 and 1429, where the problem
of identifying the female fluid is discussed). This reminds one of yet another list of
six elements, that is, bone, marrow, and semen, inherited from one`s father, and
flesh, skin, and blood, inherited from one`s mother recorded in the Tshig mdzod
chen mo (s.v. mngal skyes khams drug: dzam bu gling pai mi mngal skyes rnams
mai mngal du tshang bar ldan pai khams drug ste pha las thob pai rus pa dang|
rkang| khu ba bcas gsum dang| ma las thob pai sha dang| pags pa| khrag bcas drug|).
This list more or less corresponds to the list of seven elements commonly listed in
Indian (medical) works which has in addition the nutrient fluid or chyle (rasa-
dhtu), and fat instead of skin (Das 2003: 1920, 2.4); skin, however, is
occasionally included as one of the seven elements, commonly replacing rasadhtu
(ibid. pp. 273ff., 10.7ff.). It is also reported that there is some confusion between
two lists found in tantric literature: one of seven, beginning with skin instead of
rasa, and of six, again having skin but lacking semen (ibid. p. 276, 10.8).
On the importance of the body in tantric practices, see Dasgupta 1962: 8892;
Snellgrove 1987: 288294.
bKa brgyad rnam bshad (pp. 43.644.3). On the notion of great bliss, see Almogi
2009: 134137.
It may be noted that although teachings on the gnosis of the Buddha or a buddha
pervade the diverse Buddhist scriptures, the true existence of such a gnosis has been
a subject of debate among Buddhist scholars, particularly in Mdhyamika circles.
For more on this issue, see Almogi 2009.
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the [universal] ground (gzhi gnas kyi ye shes) and gnosis that
illumines from within (nang gsal gyi ye shes) are quite popular. But the
idea that gnosis abides and pervades the body can be found in a number
of Indian sources as well. For example, the Dharmadhtustava
attributed to one Ngrjuna compares the gnosis which abides in the
body wrapped in kleas to milk in a container that is mixed with water,
and states that just as a goose is able to extract the milk from the water,
so is a yogin able to mine the gnosis abiding in the body from within the
kleas. Similarly, the Carymelpakapradpa, apparently roughly citing
from the Dharmadhtustava, compares the gnosis abiding in the body to
a lamp inside a pot that can shine without only if the pot is broken, and
so the gnosis can manifest only when the body is broken with the help
of a master.
Other sources, too, such as the Hevajratantra,
Vajraghaa`s (or Ghatpda`s) Cakrasavarapacakrama,
the rDo
rje me long gi rgyud,
and dPe chung rang gnas,
a small work
See Wangchuk 2007: 202203, where sources in which this idea is found, including
the Dharmadhtustava, Hevajratantra, and Carymelpakapradpa, are provided.
The Hevajratantra is often cited in this connection by rNying-ma authors. See, for
example, the gSang bdag dgongs rgyan (p. 23.23), gSang bdag zhal lung (vol. e, p.
278.13), and bKa brgyad rnam bshad (p. 61.34).
Cakrasavarapacakrama (p. 152.1314):
hdaye vartate nitya bindur eko nirakara |
ta ca bhvayat pus jnam utpadyate dhruvam ||.
I thank Prof. Harunaga Isaacson for drawing my attention to the Sanskrit version of
this text. The Tibetan text reads (p. 160.811; P, fol. 261a56; D, fol. 225a5; S, vol.
11, p. 569.1517):
rtag tu snying la gnas pa yi||
thig le gcig la gyur med de||
de sgom byed pai skye bo la||
nges par ye shes skye bar gyur||.
This verse is cited in the bKa brgyad rnam bshad (p. 61.4).
rDo rje me long gi rgyud (p. 536.56):
lus can snying la gang gnas pai||
rang byung zag med ye shes gzugs||
mi shigs thig le bde chen po||
nam mkha lta bur kun khyab pa||
mi gnas chos skui rang bzhin te||.
Cf. the citations in the gSang bdag zhal lung (vol. e, p. 429.12) and bKa brgyad
rnam bshad (p. 61.36).
dPe chung rang gnas (P, fol. 594a1; S, vol. 43, p. 1234.1819):
mi shigs ye shes thig le ni||
sku gsung thugs kyi rdo rjei bdag||
attributed to Vilsavajra, are often cited as scriptural support for the
idea that this gnosis pervades the body and is changeless. The rDo rje
me long gi rgyud, for example, describes this inherent and immanent
gnosis as self-occurring (rang byung), undefiled (zag med), an
indestructible seminal drop (mi shigs thig le), great bliss (bde ba chen
po), pervasive in the same way as space (nam mkha lta bur kun khyab),
unfixed (mi gnas), and as having the nature of the dharmakya (chos
skui rang bzhin). Likewise, the dPe chung rang gnas describes it as an
indestructible gnostic seminal drop (mi shigs ye shes thig le), the nature
of a buddha`s Body, Speech, and Mind, free from singularity and
plurality, and as appearing in manifold ways, and so indeterminable.
The Buddha Nature (tathgatagarbha) theory is employed to
doctrinally legitimatize the inherence and immanence of gnosis within
one`s body,
and indeed this gnosis is identified with the Buddha
Nature itself.
Such an idea, however, is not without its doctrinal
problems, particularly given its similarity to the non-Buddhist idea of an
eternal soul (tman). The problem becomes even more acute when the
inherent and immanent gnosis, as we shall see later, is described in
terms of colours and shapes. One thus sees efforts on the part of rNying-
ma scholars to distance the Buddhist idea of inherent and immanent
gnosis from the non-Buddhist idea of an eternal soul.
The fact that gnosis is inherently and immanently present and pervasive
in the body is in itself regarded as soteriologically irrelevant; that is,
unless one explores and exploits this gnosis, one remains bound in
sasra and will continue to suffer. Gnosis should be elicited from the
body primarily by manipulating the physiological bases skilfully. If
gnosis were not found within one`s body, it could not be elicited by
such techniques, just as oil cannot be gained from sand or butter from
gcig dang du ma rnam spangs pa||
sna tshogs snang ba mtshon du med||.
Cf. the citation in the gSang bdag zhal lung (vol. e, p. 429.2).
See, for instance, the gSang bdag zhal lung (vol. e, p. 278.36).
See, for example, Klong-chen-pa, Shing rta chen po (vol. 2, fol. 13b1): de bzhin
gshegs pai snying po chen poang de yin te|.
See the gSang bdag zhal lung (vol. e, pp. 278.6280.4).
Different tantric traditions may have one or more models for
gaining access to the gnosis inherent and immanent in one`s body. Here,
I should like to allude to the two tantric soteriological models found in
the rNying-ma tantric tradition, namely, the models of (1) Way of
Efficient Strategy (thabs lam) and (2) Way of Release (grol lam),
primarily as presented by Mi-pham rNam-rgyal-rgya-mtsho (1846
1912) and rDo-grub `Jigs-med-bstan-pa`i-nyi-ma (18651926).
In the
rNying-ma tradition, the sGyu phrul rgya mtshoi rgyud, regarded as
the explanatory tantra of the *Guhyagarbhatantra, is often quoted as a
scriptural authority for the division into these two models.
Thabs lam
uses special yogic techniques called striking at the core (gnad du
bsnun pa: marmaprahra) of the physical bases (rten: dhra), namely,
the channels (rtsa: n), vital winds (rlung: vyu), and seminal drops
(thig le: bindu), and as a result the gnosis emerges inevitably (btsan
thabs su: hahena). This model is subdivided into two types, involving
(a) the upper aperture (steng gi sgo: rdhvadvra) and (b) the lower
aperture (og gi sgo: adhodvra). Grol lam, on the other hand, uses
special yogic techniques to strike directly at the core of the gnosis, so
that it emerges without having to depend on the body.
Since thabs lam concerns the manipulation of the physiological
bases (channels, vital winds, and seminal drops), it is particularly
relevant to the present discussion. The idea behind these yogic practices
involving the exploitation of one`s physiological bases and resources
for soteriological purposes is that the various degrees of spiritual
realisation and qualities that a bodhisattva following the non-tantric
For a description of the thabs lam and grol lam, see Mi-pham`s Od gsal snying po
(pp. 47.651.6) and rDo-grub`s mDzod lde (pp. 424.2440.1). See also Klong-chen-
pa`s Yid kyi mun sel (pp. 143.2146.2); Lo-chen Dharma-shr`s gSang bdag dgongs
rgyan (pp. 20.123.3); Kong-sprul`s Shes bya mdzod (pp. 810.2811.23).
gSang bdag zhal lung (vol. e, p. 301.4); mDzod lde (p. 424.23); Shes bya mdzod (p.
810.4): bshad rgyud rgya mtsho las| grol lam thabs su rnam par bstan|| zhes so||. The
text in the sGyu phrul rgya mtshoi rgyud itself reads (p. 10.2): grol thar [= thabs?]
lam du rnam par bshad||.
The alchemic procedure of transforming iron into gold instantly by the efficient
manipulation of a mineral called mkika (MW, s.v.) is given as an analogy of the
thabs lam technique, while the alchemic procedure of transforming iron into gold
gradually by efficiently manipulating a jewel called kaustubha (MW, s.v.) is given
as an analogy of the grol lam technique (gSang bdag zhal lung, pp. 303.1304.2;
Od gsal snying po, pp. 48.149.5; mDzod lde, p. 426.23). For more on these
models, see Wangchuk 2007: 224225.
Mahyna is said to accrue at the various stages (sa: bhmi) and on the
various paths (lam: mrga), and the two kinds of accumulation, namely,
the accumulation of beneficial resources (bsod nams kyi tshogs: pya-
sabhra) and the accumulation of gnosis (ye shes kyi tshogs: jna-
sabhra), can be accrued by a yogin by making his normally dysfunc-
tional channels, vital winds, and seminal drops functional (las su rung
We shall now delve briefly into meta-physiology, particularly its
relation to immanent gnosis and its abode. It is not possible to provide a
comprehensive picture of the divergent descriptions of the channels,
vital winds, and seminal drops found in the various old and new tantric
sources. Even within the rNying-ma tradition alone there seems to be no
one shared understanding of the matter. I shall, therefore, limit myself
to a few works of the tradition of the *Guhyagarbhatantra, the most
fundamental tantra of the rNying-ma school, and primarily to a short
work entitled gSang thigs/thig (i.e. Secret Seminal Drop) and a
commentary on it, both attributed to the Indian master Vimalamitra.
Notably enough, although these two works are classified as Mahyoga
texts, their content seems to be also found in texts belonging to the
Anuyoga and Atiyoga systems.
I shall begin with the main channels and the six points of psycho-
physiological energy called cakras. Commonly there are said to be three
axes (srog shing: aka)
and four or six cakras. The three axes are:
Shing rta chen po (vol. 2, fol. 106a1b4). The sGyu phrul rdo rje is cited to bolster
this idea.
The gSangs thigs (spelt there gSang tig) is listed in the lDeu chos byung (p.
318.15) as one of the thirty-one minor pieces of literature on the Myjla cycle.
See, for example, the sGyu phrul rgya mtshoi rgyud (p. 11.12):
khor lo bzhi dang srog shing gsum||
me rlung gro bas nam mkhai ba||
bzho ba steng du rnam par grags||.
This verse is cited in the Yid kyi mun sel (p. 145.56), mDzod lde (p. 427.6), and
Shes bya mdzod (p. 810.1416). Elsewhere the three axes are also called the three
chiefs (gtso mo gsum). See, for instance, the bKa brgyad rnam bshad (pp. 58.5,
63.5) and Negi 19932005, s.v. gtso mo, where the Hevajratantra is indicated as a
1. the central main channel, called dbu ma or dbu mai rtsa
and referred to elsewhere as kun dar ma (avadht)
2. the right main channel, called ro ma (rasan)
3. the left main channel, called rkyang ma (lalan)
The six cakras are identified as:
1. the cakra of great bliss in the forehead (spyi bo bde chen gyi khor
2. the cakra of the Sabhoga[kya] at the throat (mgrin pa longs
spyod kyi khor lo)
3. the cakra of the Dharma[kya] at the heart (snying ga chos kyi
khor lo)
4. the cakra of the Nirma[kya] at the navel (lte ba sprul pai
khor lo)
5. the cakra of fire (me dkyil), also called the fire of Brahm
(tshangs pai me), situated four fingers below the navel
6. the cakra of conditions (rkyen gyi khor lo), situated below the
cakra of fire
The *Guhyagarbhatantra tradition emphasises the cakra of the
Dharma[kya] at the heart,
which is therefore described in the
source. These three channels are also said to stand like three pillars (ka bai tshul du
gnas). See the Shing rta chen po (vol. 2, fols. 9a3, 10a3).
mDzod lde (p. 428.2): srog shing gsum ni| dbu rkyang ro gsum mo||.
Negi 19932005, s.v. rtsa referring to the Vimalaprabh.
mDzod lde (pp. 427.6428.2): khor lo gsum phrag gnyis ni| spyi bo bde chen gyi|
mgrin pa longs spyod kyi| snying ga chos kyi| lte ba sprul pai khor lo ste rtsa bai
khor lo bzhi dang| de og sor bzhi gzhal bar lte bai gtum mo las yar bar ba rgyud
gzhan du tshangs pai me zhes grags pai me dkyil dang| dei og na me de sbor byed
thur sel gyi rlung ste rkyen gyi khor lo gnyis so||. See also the Shing rta chen po
(vol. 2, fols. 9a510a3), where varying numbers of cakras are discussed.
mDzod lde (p. 429.6): lugs dir snying gai gnad gtso bor byed de|. See also the Shes
bya mdzod (p. 810.1624), where it is stated that the meditative practices involving
the manipulation of the cakras at the heart, navel, throat, and forehead are taught in
the thirteenth chapter of the *Guhyagarbhatantra, and that the meditative techniques
of striking at the core (gnad du bsnun pa) of these four cakras are called the
quintessential instruction (or rather, here, meditative technique) of Samantabhadra
(kun tu bzang poi man ngag), the quintessential instruction of Samantabhadr
(kun tu bzang moi man ngag), the quintessential instruction of accurate procedure
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associated literature in greater detail, and with which I shall be mainly
concerned in this paper, since it is the location where gnosis is said to
(a) Eight Pure Essence Channels (rtsai dwangs ma brgyad) or Eight
Petals of Channels (rtsai dab ma brgyad) in the Centre of the Heart
The gSang thigs and its commentary, which seem to be the main
sources for this particular meta-physiology, are not without textual
Nonetheless the main points can be more or less extracted,
occasionally with the help of other works dealing with the same topic,
such as Klong-chen-pa`s Shing rta chen po.
According to these works,
there are eight pure essence channels (rtsai dwangs/dangs/dwang ma),
commonly referred to in the literature as petals of channels (rtsai dab
ma), in the cakra of the Dharma[kya] in the heart. Three of them,
described as great, are said to be outer ones, and five of them inner
ones. In the centre of the five inner ones there is the seminal drop (thig
le: bindu) of bodhicitta (i.e. bodhicitta in its gnoseo-physiological
sense). It is located in an empty space within the heart, where the eight
pure essence channels form a network with secondary channels (rtsa
bran) said to resemble a curved rope (thag pa gug pa). Of these eight
pure essence channels, three are said to be of true reality (chos nyid kyi
rtsa), one of gnosis (ye shes kyi rtsa), three of one`s continuum (rang
rgyud kyi rtsa), and one of qualities (yon tan gyi rtsa).
(sbyor ba dag pai man ngag), and the quintessential instruction of great pervasion
(khyab rdal chen poi man ngag), respectively.
Most particularly, the commentary does not seem to be a coherent text. It appears
that it is the result of the merging of two different commentaries, possibly by two
different authors, since each point is explained twice and often slightly differently,
not so much, that is, in a contradictory as in either a repetitive or supplementary
manner. Moreover, the reading of both the basic text and its commentary is often
uncertain. The fact that the extracanonical versions found in the NyK often offer
readings different from the ones found in the canon only adds to the ambiguity of
the reading. To resolve these problems a careful edition of these texts and the
consultation of related works will be necessary, a task that cannot be undertaken in
the present paper.
Shing rta chen po (vol. 2, fols. 8b517a3, 50b455a2).
Note that according to the bKa brgyad rnam bshad, three channels are of true
reality, three of gnosis, one of the continuum, and one of qualities (pp. 58.659.1):
snying gai rtsa dab brgyad kyi gsum ni chos nyid kyi rtsa zhes bya| gsum ni ye shes
These essence channels are described as follows: Inside the
channels of true reality there is a yellow light (od ser po), circular in
shape (dbyibs zlum po) and resembling a mixture of mercury (dngul
chu) and melted butter (zhun mar). Its essence-syllable (snying po:
hdaya) is O; its phonic seeds (sa bon: bja) are SU, situated on top of
the essence-syllable, and TRI, situated beneath it. The colour of these
three syllables is said to be like the colour of a pitched tent made of silk
brocade (za og gi gur phub pa).
Inside the channel of gnosis there is a blue (mthing ga) light that
is square in shape, and like a raised rope (zhags pa bsdogs/thogs pa).
resembles a mirage on the surface of a river in springtime, or a dewdrop
(zil pa) on the tip of an ash-coloured leaf of grass (rtsa skyai kha na).
The essence-syllable is H, and the phonic seeds are A, situated on
top of the essence-syllable, and NRI, situated beneath it. Inside the
channels of one`s continuum there is a red light (od dmar po) in the
shape of a crescent (zla gam). It resembles a red silk pennon (le brgan
lce) running through a crystal ball (shel sgong). The colour is also said
to resemble liquid copper tinged with brass. The essence-syllable is
and the phonic seeds are PRE, situated on top of the essence-
syllable, and DU, situated beneath it. The channel of qualities is
described only briefly in the gSang thigs and its commentary, and in the
other works consulted by me. It can be merely stated at this stage that
the light found in it is dark-red (od dmar nag),
and that the qualities
situated in it are said to be both good and bad.
kyi rtsa zhes bya| gcig ni rang rgyud kyi rtsa zhes bya| gcig ni yon tan gyi rtsa zhes
bya ste de ltar brgyad do||.
The precise meaning of zhags pa bsdogs pa and its connection with a square shape
is not quite clear. Cf. the Shing rta chen po (vol. 2, fol. 12a56): zhags pa thogs
paam sbrul khyil ba dang drao||. See also the bKa brgyad rnam bshad (p. 59.3),
where the shape is also compared to a coiled snake (sbrul dkyus pa).
The text names here as an alternative the colour red in the shape of a crescent (zla
gam) and compares it to a red silk pennon (le brgan lce) running through a crystal
ball (shel sgong) and compares the light of the following channel to a mirage, and so
forth. It seems, however, that the description of these two channels was mistakenly
The forms A and are also found, but they seem to be faulty.
This detail is missing in the gSang thigs and is supplemented from the bKa brgyad
rnam bshad (p. 59.45). Note, however, that some paragraphs later there is a
reference to the dark-red colour which runs through the channel`s pure essence of
The syllables A and NRI are said to run through the breath`s
impure essences (snyigs ma: kaya); SU and TRI, through the
channel`s impure essences; and PRE and DU, through the blood`s
impure essences. The channel`s pure essence (rtsai dwangs ma) runs
through the yellow light; the breath`s pure essence (dbugs kyi dwangs
ma), through the blue; and the blood`s pure essence (khrag gi dwangs
ma), through the red. The phonic seeds are the causes of sasra, and
the essence-syllables are the causes of gnosis and thus nirva. These
two, namely, the causes of purification and pollution, are said to be
commonly mixed with one another, and they in turn to be mixed with
the seminal drop of bodhicitta.
The yellow light of the channels of true reality houses the
fundamental mind (kun gzhii rnam par shes pa: layavijna); the blue
light of the channel of gnosis, the mental perception (yid kyi rnam par
shes pa: manovijna); the red light of the channels of one`s continuum,
the defiled mind (nyon mongs pai yid: kliamanas); and the dark-red
light of the channel of qualities, the five types of sense perception (sgo
lngai rnam shes). Taking birth as a god or a human is said to be
facilitated by the mental perception, and the seeds of such births are
found in the syllables A and NRI; taking birth as a semi-god (lha ma
yin: asura) or an animal is facilitated by the fundamental mind, and the
seeds of such births are found in the syllables SU and TRI; and taking
birth as a hungry ghost (yi dwags: preta) or hell-being is facilitated by
the perceptions of the senses and the defiled [mind], and the seeds of
such births are found in the syllables PRE and DU.
This arrangement
is said to be found in the continuum of each of the sentient beings of the
six realms. The above description of the eight essence channels in the
heart can thus be summarised in the form of a table as follows:
the five doors, that is, the five sense organswith no mention, though, of the
channel of qualities.
The correlation of the phonic seeds TRI and PRE with animals and hungry ghosts,
respectively, is according to rDo-grub`s mDzod lde (p. 431.16). The gSang thigs
grel pa has it the other way around, which is obviously an error, evidently due to
confusion between these two phonic seeds (TRI being often spelt TRE).
Type of
3 channels of true
reality (chos nyid
kyi rtsa)
1 channel of
gnosis (ye shes
kyi rtsa)
3 channels of
one`s continu-
um (rang rgyud
kyi rtsa)
1 channel
of qualities
(yon tan gyi
Colour yellow blue red dark-red
Shape circle square crescent
Type of pure
essence (dwangs
channel`s pure
essence (rtsai
dwangs ma)
breath`s pure
essence (dbugs
kyi dwangs
blood`s pure
essence (khrag
gi dwangs ma)
syllable (snying
po: hdaya) =
cause of purify-
cation/ gnosis /
Phonic seeds
(sa bon: bja) =
causes of pollu-
tion /ignorance
SU and TRI run
through the
channel`s impure
essence (rtsai
snyigs ma)
A and NRI run
through the
breath`s im-
pure essence
(dbugs kyi
snyigs ma)
PRE and DU
run through the
blood`s impure
essence (khrag
gi snyigs ma)
Type of mind
residing in the
mind (laya-
defiled mind
five types
of sense
Birth caused by
the pertinent
phonic seeds
and type of
semi-gods &
gods &
hungry ghosts & hell-beings
(b) The Five Pure Essences (dwangs ma lnga)
The gnosis immanent in the body is closely related to the pure essences
just mentioned, which are described as follows:
1. The channel`s pure essence (rtsai dwangs ma), located in the centre
of the heart, resembles a white silk thread (dar dkar gyi skud pa) and is
said to be as thin as 1/50th of the diameter of a strand of a horsetail (rta
rnga) and to have the form of a cobweb (ba thag), serves from
beginningless time as the support of the psycho-physiological complex
(phung poi rten byed), and therefore is a pure essence of the elements.
On the sasric level it appears as the element of earth, while on the
nirvic level it appears as the female deity Locan; it is in fact the
gnosis of great emptiness (stong pa chen poi ye shes), for it serves as
the base from which everything assumes the nature of the purified
dharmadhtu (rnam par dag pai ngang du ma gyur pa med pai rten
2. Within the channel`s pure essence is the blood`s pure essence (khrag
gi dwangs ma), which resembles cinnabar (mtshal cog la ma). This, too,
is a pure essence of the elements, for it purifies the psycho-
physiological complex (phung po dag par byed) from beginningless
time. It appears as water, while in reality it is the female deity Mmak.
It is in fact the gnosis of equality (mnyam pa nyid kyi ye shes:
samatjna), whose nature it is to collect or gather everything into the
sphere apart from anybody`s bidding (bkol ba med par dbyings gcig tu
sdud pai bdag nyid).
3. The breath`s pure essence (dbugs kyi dwangs ma), said to steam like a
vapour (rlangs pa: bpa) of fine grains of gold (sa le sbram) that have
been found beneath the earth, functions from beginningless time as a
basis for the lightness and mobility of the psycho-physiological
complex (phung po yang zhing g.yo bai rten byed), and so it, too, is a
pure essence of the elements. It appears as wind, but in reality it is the
female deity Samayatr (dam tshig sgrol ma). It is the gnosis of
performing (beneficial) activities (bya ba sgrub pai ye shes: ktynu-
hnajna), whose nature it is to move in the sphere of great bliss
(bde ba chen poi dbyings su bskyod pai rang bzhin).
4. The warmth`s pure essence (drod kyi dwangs ma) is said to resemble
the glittering (od kyi ngad) or mere shimmer (ngad tsam zhig) of a
mirror in the sun. Its nature is to ripen (smin par byed pai rang bzhin)
the psycho-physiological complex from beginningless time, and thus it,
too, is a pure essence of the elements. It appears as fire, while it is in
reality the female deity Paravsin (gos dkar mo). It is the discerning
gnosis (so sor rtog pai ye shes: pratyavekaajna), that is, gnosis
that realises everything as the sphere of great bliss (thams cad bde ba
chen poi dbyings su rtogs pai ye shes).
5. Within this multi-coloured light exists the great seminal drop of
bodhicitta. It is the great pure essence (dwangs ma chen po). It serves as
a support for the illumination of the psycho-physiological complex
(phung po gsal bar byed pai rten byed), and thus it, too, is a pure
essence of the elements. It appears like space, but it is in fact the all-
pervading gnosis, the female deity Samantabhadr (kun tu bzang mo). It
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provides space for all that both appears and is empty to be illuminated
in the absolute sphere of reality (snang stong thams cad yang dag pai
dbyings su gsal bai go skabs byed). This seminal drop, which
resembles liquid gold or the disk of the rising sun, is insight, the essence
of all female deities. That which looks like a precious stone called zeu
placed in the cavity of this liquid gold is the essence of the
male deities including Samantabhadra, the king of method, and that
which looks like the quartz karketana
hanging from a rail (gdang) is
the mirror-like gnosis (me long lta bui ye shes: darajna). This is
the essence of the sphere of reality (dharmadhtugarbha), the cause of
all ultimate goals (don dam).
The above description of the five pure essences is summarised
in the next page. In brief, the gnosis (or awareness, as it is often
referred to in the rDzogs-chen literature) inherent and immanent in the
body, whose essence is said to be primordially pure (ngo bo ka dag gi
rig pa), abides in the centre of the heart of all sentient beings as the
great pure essence in what Klong-chen-pa calls the precious secret
womb (rin po chei sbubs), or the naturally luminous palace, which
is a residence consisting of light, whose radiance flows through the
eight petals in the form of the remaining pure essences, corresponding
to the various kinds of gnosis.
however, equates the first four pure essences with the pure
essences of the earth element (sai dwangs ma), water element (chu
khams kyi dwangs ma), fire element (mei sa bon dwangs ma), and wind
element (rlung gi dwangs ma), respectively, while also designating the
brilliant inner space (bar snang sang sang po), which provides the
needed room (go byed), as the pure essence of the space element (nam
mkhai dwangs ma). Within the concentrate of these five pure essences
(dwangs ma lnga dus) is said to reside the minds pure essence (sems
kyi dwangs ma), which is referred to above as the great pure essence
(dwangs ma chen po) and described as bodhicitta, the great seminal
drop that has gnosis as its essence (ye shes snying poi thig le chen po).
Thus the expression six great pure essences (dwangs ma chen po
drug) is employed by him.
It is not clear what precious stone zeu ka/kha might be.
See Mahvyutpatti no. 5949; MW, s.v. karkeata; karketana.
bKa brgyad rnam bshad (pp. 59.661.1).
See ibid. (p. 62.2).
Type of
ance (sa-
sra) =
one of the
Actual na-
ture (nirv-
a) = one
of the five
Type of
1. channels
serves as a
support for
the psycho-
earth Locan gnosis of great
emptiness (stong
pa chen poi ye
2. bloods
cinnabar purifies the
water Mmak gnosis of equali-
ty (mnyam pa
nyid kyi ye shes:
3. breaths
of gold
serves as the
basis for the
lightness and
mobility of
the psycho-
wind Samayatr gnosis of per-
forming (benefi-
cial) activities
(bya ba sgrub
pai ye shes:
of a mir-
ror in the
ripens the
fire Para-
discerning gno-
sis (so sor rtog
pai ye shes:
5. great
pure es-
sence =
drop of
gold or
the disk
of the
ance to the
space Samanta-
gnosis = mirror-
like gnosis (me
long lta bui ye
shes: dara-
According to the rNying-ma tantric tradition, a qualified master
introduces the disciple to the inherent and immanent gnosis within him,
and the disciple is supposed to recognise it and finally experience it as a
soteriological event by practising one or more of the prescribed yogic
practices. If a yogin succeeds in achieving the desired soteriological
goal during his life, so much the better, but even if he does not, a
number of options have been put at his disposal. We have seen that the
meta-physiological bases and the inherent and immanent gnosis have
been conceived of as having a support-supported relationship (rten
dang brten pai brel pa), which is, strictly speaking, a very weak
The question is what happens when the psycho-physiological
bases of a person give in and cease to function as substrata for the
inherent and immanent gnosis. Such moments, such as upon the
occasion of dying, are opportunities that a yogin is supposed to seize
and turn to soteriological advantage. Dying in Buddhism may be
defined as a process during which the physiological constituents of a
person gradually withdraw and cease to function as substrata for the
psychical constituents (i.e. mind and the mental factors), and during
which the entire psycho-physiological apparatus of an individual totally
collapses. It is said that the intellectual-emotional defilements (nyon
mongs pa: klea) described as the eighty inherent conceptual entities
(rang bzhin gyi rtog pa brgyad bcu), namely, thirty-three associated
with desire (dod chags: rga), forty associated with aversion (zhe
sdang: dvea), and seven associated with disorientation (gti mug:
moha), succumb at the end of the dissolution process. The process of
dissolution is vividly described by Klong-chen-pa in his Shing rta chen
The white pure essence of the right main channel (inherited from
ones father) dissolves into the upper end (yar sna) of the central
channel, marked with the syllable HA. The red pure essence of the
left main channel (inherited from ones mother) dissolves into the lower
end (mar sna) of the central channel, marked with the syllable A. The
white and red pure essences dissolve finally into the great pure essence
of the luminous gnosis in the heart (snying gai ye shes od gsal gyi
dangs ma chen po). All gross and subtle conceptual entities cease, and
the inherent and immanent gnosis is laid bare. This is a unique moment
in sasric existencewhen the inherent and immanent gnosis is rid of
all its obscurations (sgrib pa: varaa) and is in all respects identical
with a buddhas gnosis. In the event of recognition at this juncture, this
gnosis would remain naked forever and not be defiled ever again. In
other words, a sentient being would become a buddha then and there.
According to Klong-chen-pa, this is what makes the idea of the so-
Shing rta chen po (vol. 2, fols. 106b5109a6).
called release on the primordial ground (ye thog tu grol ba) found in
the rDzogs-chen literature so rational.
An ordinary person would simply pass by this critical moment
without even having realised it. For a yogin who has still not been able
to make the final breakthrough, the amount of time in which the
inherent gnosis remains in its immaculate state would depend on the
length of what is called a meditation day (bsam gtan gyi zhag), which
varies according to the quality of the yogins meditative training. A
meditation day is the period of meditative absorption that is completely
free from conceptual thoughts. In other words, it is the gap between the
preceding and the following conceptual thought, and is thus
characterised by luminosity and lucidity. The longer one manages to
abide in such a meditation day during the meditative practice, the
greater is the chance that one becomes completely awakened during
such moments of a total collapse of the psycho-physiological apparatus,
and one is thus commonly advised to stabilize ones meditative
concentration while still alive.
In the present paper an attempt has been made to provide a general idea
of the meta-physiology of the gnosis said to be inherent and immanent
in the centre of the heart of all sentient beings; its abode; and how ones
physiological constituents can be exploited to induce this gnosis to
manifest. It has also been shown that although this gnosis can be caused
to emerge by means of meditative techniques, it can also become
manifest in the course of a natural process of dissolution, and that then
even an ordinary being can come very close to a state normally
accessible only to a fully awakened being. I should like to conclude by
stating that, while one does occasionally find statements that
descriptions of this gnosis in terms of light, colours, shapes, and the like
are merely meant as aids for confused sentient beings who have not yet
recognised this gnosis within themselves,
the physicality and
Ibid. (vol. 2, fol. 109b3): bzhi pai dus su phra ba thim pas sgrib pa mtha dag bral
bai skabs shig der byung bas ye thog tu grol bai thad pa ste| sangs rgyas mngon
du byed dus bzhin no||.
Ibid. (vol. 2, fols. 109b3110a4).
Prajpravea (P, fol. 413b56; S, vol. 43, pp. 837.19838.2):
sems can ma lus thams cad la||
materiality ascribed to gnosis in such descriptions is too vivid to be
ignored, and it appears that such descriptions have been often taken
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The So-called Yoga of Suppression in the
Ptajala Yogastra

In his outstanding pioneering study Strukturen yogischer Meditation

shows beyond doubt that the Ptajala Yogastra (PY)
teaches four kinds of yogic meditations which differ from each other
with regard to their respective objects of meditation as well as with re-
gard to their structure, i.e. in the treatment (or development) of content
of consciousness within meditation.
The present paper takes up Ober-
hammers line of thought with regard to the first two kinds of medita-
tion which are the subject of larger parts of the PYs first chapter, the
Samdhipda. A fresh look at these meditations has become possible
(and indeed necessary), as there has been a good deal of scientific pro-
gress within the last thirty years.
First of all, there has been a considerable advancement in yoga
philology. Oberhammer had to rely on the first edition of the Ptajala-
yogastravivaraa (Madras 1952), which is based on one single manu-
script. The version of the basic text (i.e. the YS together with the YBh)
published together with the Vivaraa is not, as the title of the edition
might suggest, a critically edited text. Very probably the editors simply
copied it from the edition published by Kntha str ge as No.
47 of the nandrama Sanskrit Series in 1904.
Every now and then
the editors of the Vivaraa modified the text of their exemplar with

Sincere thanks to Professor Eli Franco for his thought provoking comments on an
earlier version of this paper. I would also like to thank Susanne Kammller, M.A.
and Dr. Elizabeth De Michelis for taking a close look at my English.
Cf. the review of Oberhammers work by Alper 1980.
Oberhammer 1977: 134230. Since the publication of Oberhammers study, Frau-
wallners interpretation of the PY as dealing with only two different kinds of me-
ditation (1953: 427443) is clearly outdated. Bronkhorst 1993: 6875, who ap-
parently is not aware of Oberhammer 1977, distinguishes two kinds of meditation in
the YS leading to saprajta samdhi and to asaprajta (samdhi) respectively.
Cf. Maas 2006: xiiixxv.
readings they derived from a reconstruction of the Vivaraas basic
In the meantime, we have not only come into possession of a
new critical edition of the Vivaraas first chapter (YVi), but also of a
critical edition of the first chapter of the YS together with the YBh,
based on 21 printed editions and 25 manuscripts (Maas 2006).
ing to manuscript colophons and secondary evidence, both texts taken
collectively bear the common title Ptajala Yogastra and, as I argue
in the introduction to my edition, probably have one single, common
author named Patajali.
This author would have collected the stras
from different sources and furnished them with explanations, which in
later times came to be regarded as the YBh.
The date of the work is
still uncertain, but a time span reaching from 325 to 425 A.D. seems to
be most likely.
In accordance with Frauwallner (1953), Oberhammer calls the
first two types of yoga as discussed in the PY yoga of suppression
(Unterdrckungsyoga). This, however, is an unfortunate designation, as
it evokes misleading associations. Unterdrckung, according to Frh-
lichs Wrterbuch der Psychologie has a double meaning. In psychology
the word designates the complete deletion of a reaction; in contrast to
inhibition (Hemmung) which can be removed . In psychoanalysis,
on the other hand, suppression means a voluntary suppression of cer-
tain impulses for action (Handlungsimpulse); in contrast to repression
In the course of this paper it should become obvious
Cf. Maas 2006: xiix.
Critically edited texts, of course, facilitate the correct understanding of passages
which have been corrupted in the course of the transmission. The critical edition of
PY I.29 provides two striking examples for an improved text. The vulgate reads
the corrupt svarpadaranam instead of the correct svapuruadaranam in I.29,3,
and instead of the correct madya purua, it reads ya purua (or simply purua)
in the next line. For a more detailed discussion of these variants cf. Maas 2006:
lxviii f., 104 f., and 168 f.
Bronkhorst 1985: 191203 comes to the same conclusion, albeit for different rea-
The identification of Patajalis source books is of course impossible as no syste-
matic expositions of pre-classical Yoga have come down to us. For the considerable
influence of Buddhist terminology on Patajali see La Vale Poussin 19361937.
Maas 2006: xiixix.
Frhlich 1993: 413, col. 2, s.v.: Unterdrckung (suppression). [1] Bezeichnung fr
die vollstndige Lschung einer Reaktion; im Unterschied zur Hemmung, die durch
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that neither of these meanings is applicable in yoga psychology. In us-
ing the designation yoga of suppression Frauwallner has neither a
psychological nor a psychoanalytical connotation in mind. In his view,
the use of suppression is justified by the type of meditation which Pa-
tajali teaches in the first chapter of his work, starting with YS I.2 yo-
ga cittavttinirodha yoga is the shutdown of the mental capacitys
The aim of this type of yoga, according to Frauwallner is
to suppress all mental activity, and to eliminate cognition
. The sec-
ond part of this statement is not fully consonant with the text from
which it is derived. If deletion of cognition as a whole were the aim of
yoga, this would imply not only a deletion of mental processes, but also
a deletion of the self, which is per definitionem pure consciousness. Pa-
radoxical as this might seem, the aim of yoga is not the elimination of
consciousness but the deletion of consciousness content.
the term suppression should be avoided because of its use as technical
term in psychology and psychoanalysis. In replacing the term, I would
suggest the expression non-theistic yogic concentration, which would
do justice to its theistic variant, as well as to sampatti and to sayama,
which are under discussion in later parts of the PY.
Before discussing non-theistic yogic concentration, I would
like to briefly brush up our knowledge of the metaphysical and onto-
logical foundations of Skhya Yoga, as far as they are indispensable
for the following discussion of yogic states of consciousness and forms
of meditation.
Classical Skhya Yoga is known to be an ontologically dualis-
tic philosophy. It upholds that the world is divided into two fundamen-
tally different kinds of entities. On the one hand there exists an infinite
spontane Erholung u.. wieder aufgehoben werden kann. [2] Allgemeine psycho-
analytische Bezeichnung fr das willkrliche Unterdrcken bestimmter Handlungs-
impluse bzw. Handlungsweisen; im Unterschied zur Verdrngung, die durch unbe-
wut wirksam Abwehrmechanismen erfolgen soll.
Oberhammer 1977 argues convincingly that the first chapter of the PY does not
deal with one single kind of meditation, but with three different types.
Frauwallner (1953: 438): sucht man durch den Yoga jede geistige Ttigkeit zu
unterdrcken und damit auch jede Erkenntnis auszuschalten.
Cf. the immediately following summary of the metaphysical and ontological foun-
dations of Skhya Yoga.
For which see Oberhammer 1977: 177209, and 209230.
Cf. Schmithausen 1968: 331.
number of transcendental selves, or spirits (purua). The selves are
pure consciousness, bare of any content. They are infinitenot only in
number but also with regard to time and spaceinactive, and un-
changeable. Besides the selves, the world consists of the products of
primordial matter (prakti) which is completely unconscious, active and
changeable. The products of matter not only make up all things of the
outside world, but in human beings they also fashion the sense-capaci-
ties (buddhndriya) as well as the mental capacity which is most fre-
quently called citta.
These metaphysical assumptions are crucial for
the view of classical Skhya Yoga on epistemological issues, as men-
tal processes are thought to depend upon the existenceand as it were
interactionof both kinds of entities. The mental capacity supplies
the content of a mental process to the self, which by seeing it pro-
vides the mental content with consciousness. Everyday experience, of
course, does not conform to this analysis. We neither experience con-
sciousness without content, nor do we experience content without con-
sciousness. According to Skhya Yoga, however, the analysis of men-
tal processes in every day experience as being of a uniform nature is
wrong. It is caused by nescience (avidy), which deludes the self about
its own true ontological status. The selfpure consciousnessis at-
tracted by the mental capacity like iron is attracted by a lodestone. This
attraction is possible because of the mutual compatibility or fitness
(yogyat) of the self and the citta. The mental capacity, which consists
mainly of the luminous substance sattva, one of three constituents of
primordial matter, is often called the visible (dya). It displays its
content to the self, which frequently is designated as the seer (dra).
Their compatibility is determined by their nature and cannotin terms
of Skhya Yogabe meaningfully questioned.
Being under attraction of the mental capacity, the self identifies
with it. The self is erroneously convinced to be affected by the content
of experience. It feels happiness and suffers pain, although these, as
well as all other kinds of mental events, exclusively take place within
the mental capacity. In reality, the self, due to its transcendental onto-
logical status, is incapable of being anything else than it is, viz. pure,
contentless, and unchanging consciousness.
The terms manas or buddhi are also in frequent use without any apparent difference
in meaning. Cf. Frauwallner 1953: 411.
The aim of Skhya Yoga in its soteriological dimension is to
end the wrong identification of the self with its mental capacity once
and for all, which amounts to the final liberation from the cycle of re-
births and its innate suffering. The means to this end is the realization of
the ontological difference between the self and matter in meditative
concentration, which is therefore called knowledge of the difference
(vivekakhyti). This knowledge is the final content of consciousness, the
last involvement of the self with its mental capacity. When the citta is
no longer interested in such knowledge of the difference, even this
content ceases to exist and gives room for the un-eclipsed self percep-
tion of the self. The mental capacity continues to exist as long as the
liberated yogi lives, due to mental impressions (saskras) which it has
stored. Finally, after the physical death of the yogi, the mental capacity
dissolves in matter (prakti). The self, on the other hand, continues to
exist in isolation (kaivalya), freed from the bonds of the cycle of re-
Right at the beginning of his work, Patajali (PY I.1,2 f.) de-
fines yoga in a very general way:
yoga samdhi; sa ca srvabhauma cittasya dharma. kipta mha vi-
kiptam ekgra niruddham iti cittabhmaya. tatra vikipte cetasi vikepopa-
sarjanbhta samdhir na yogapake vartate. yas tv ekgre cetasi sadbhtam
artha dyotayati, kioti klen, karmabandhanni lathayati, nirodham mu-
khkaroti, sa saprajto yoga ity khyyate. sarvavttinirodhe tv
asaprajta. tasya lakabhidhitsayeda stra pravavteyoga
cittavttinirodha (YS I.2).
Yoga is awareness / concentration; and this is the quality of the mental
capacity in all its states (literally: levels). Fixed, dull, distracted, one-pointed,
and shut down [these] are the states of the mental capacity. Of these,
awareness / concentration which exists in [the first three states including] the
distracted one, as they are under the influence of distractive factors (like
disease, lethargy etc.
), do not belong to the part of [the enumeration which
makes up] yoga [proper]. On the other hand (tu), [concentration being]
conscious [of an object] (saprajta) is called yoga, which [occurring] in a
one-pointed mental capacity, makes the really true object appear,
the defilements, loosens the bonds of karman, [and] brings about the shutdown
[of mental processes]. When all mental processes are shut down, however,
[concentration] is not conscious [of any object]. With the intention to give a
definition of this [concentration not conscious of an object], the [following]
The whole group of distractive factors is listed in YS I.30.
I take the expression sadbhta artham to refer to the self (purua).
stra (YS I.2) has been composed: Yoga is the shutdown of the processes of
the mental capacity.
Patajali uses the word yoga in a number of related meanings. In its
broadest sense yoga designates awareness as a characteristic of men-
tal processes in general. There are, however, different kinds of aware-
ness, which qualify five states of the mental capacity. Three states are
not specifically yogic, and this is the reason why Patajali excludes
them from his exposition. Nevertheless, as Wezler convincingly shows
on the backdrop of information provided by the Vivaraa, the arrange-
ment not only of those states specific to yoga, but also of the first three
ones is quite consistent[ly] determined by the final goal of yoga,
viz. stopping the mental processes in general.
The first state, called
fixed, is characterised by a strong and involuntary connection be-
tween the mental capacity and its object.
The mental capacity, com-
pletely attached to its object, is incapable of becoming aware of any
different object. It is quite obvious that an involuntary fixation to a sin-
gle object completely rules out the possibility of mental training, and
this is the reason why Patajali places this state at the beginning of his
The second place is held by the dull mental capacity, which is
equally involuntarily connected to a single object. Its connection to the
object, however, is very weak. Although the explanations of the YVi are
not comprehensive, one can quite safely regard the dull mental capacity
as having a very basic and limited awareness of its object only.
mental capacity is not able to perceive the object distinctly. This
weakness is the reason why the dull state in terms of yoga psychology is
superior to the state called fixed. The lack of firmness seems to
provide the condition for an awareness of different objects, which leads
to a possible transition of the mental capacity to the next higher state,
called distracted.
Wezler 1983: 23. Wezler is not aware of Oberhammer 1977 and clings to Frau-
wallners differentiation of nirodha- and agayoga.
YVi 150,2 f.: kiptam aniaviaysajanena stimitam. The attached [mental capa-
city] is paralysed by clinging to a not deliberately chosen object. Cf. Wezler 1983:
20. Oberhammer (1977: 136, n. 6) translates as ... das durch die Frbung durch
nicht angestrebte Gegenstnde gebannte [psychische Organ]. I do not see any ne-
cessity to emend sajanena to rajanena. Moreover, the grammatical number of
viaya is singular; cf. the following interpretation of this passage.
The only explanation is mha nirvivekam (YVi 150,3).
For this state, too, the explanations of the YVi are quite scarce.
It simply paraphrases vikiptam as nnkiptam being fixed to several
[objects]. Wezler takes this to mean that the mental capacity is bound
to several objects simultaneously.
I doubt that this interpretation is
correct. The distracted mind is rather bound to several objects in a short
succession of time. It corresponds to our everyday awareness, which
usually lacks permanent concentration on a single object. The content of
consciousness changes according to the different sense data which come
to the mind by means of the sense capacities. The mental capacity is
attached to one object for a more or less short period of time, and be-
comes attached to the next when it has lost interest in the preceding one.
Presumably because the mind in its distracted state is connected to
several objects, it develops a certain distance, oras the author of YVi
has itimpartiality to its objects. This impartiality provides the mental
capacity with the freedom to deliberately choose a desired object,
which, of course, not only is the precondition for acting as an autono-
mous subject, but also for entering upon the path of mental training and
spiritual progress.
A voluntary connection of sufficient strength between the men-
tal capacity and a deliberately chosen object, which comes about every
now and then in the distracted state, is the characteristic of the state
called one-pointed (ekgara), the first of the specifically yogic states.
Patajalis discussion of yoga proper starts with PY I.12. This
passage deals with two methods conducive to the shutdown of mental
processes, viz. practice (abhysa) and detachment (vairgya). Their ef-
ficiency is elucidated by a comparison of the mental capacity with a
river being capable of flowing in two directions. The mind-river either
flows, when guided by practice and detachment, in the direction of
well-being (kalya) or, when uncontrolled, in the contrary direction of
a bad condition (ppa). Detachment in this context is said to obstruct
the stream towards objects, in other words, it prevents the mind from
entering into an involuntary connection with objects.
Patajali elaborates on the concept of detachment in PY I.15
16. He teaches that detachment is of two kinds, a lower and a higher
one. Lower detachment refers to all things which are subject to percep-
tion, like women, food, drinks and the execution of power. Moreover, it
Wezler 1983: 22:[The] citta clearly [does] not [have] one object only, but
several at a time.
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also applies to objects which are known from authoritative tradition,
like heavenly objects. The detached mental capacity, even when in con-
tact with these objects, keeps a neutral attitude. It neither wants to avoid
nor does it want to possess them, because it sees their defect, which ob-
viously lies in their transient nature. This sovereignty of the mind in
dealing with objects is called consciousness of the controllability [of
all objects] (vakrasaj).
The second kind of detachment is called detachment from the
constituents of matter (guavaitya) and refers to the entities be-
longing to the realm of matter (prakti) in Skhya Yoga ontology. The
mind, because of practice of perception of the Self (puruadaran-
bhyst), is satisfied with the selfs difference from the realm of matter,
and therefore becomes detached from all potential objects. The highest
degree of detachment, according to Patajali, is only clearness of
knowledge (jnaprasdamtra). This is knowledge without content,
in other words, an unrestricted self-perception of the self, which isor
leads tothe liberation of the self from the cycle of rebirths. In order to
achieve this self-perception, the yogi has to cultivate detachment as an
all-embracing and unrestricted attitude towards the content of his con-
sciousness. Even the liminal content which exists in the mental capacity
at the border with liberation has to be given up in a final step. When un-
restricted perception of the self has been achieved, this experience ter-
minates attachment once and for all. Patajali, in a remarkable passage,
lets the liberated yogi describe the degree of his detachment. He says:
prpta prpayam, k ketavy kle, chinna liaparv bhavasa-
krama, yasyvicchedj janitv mriyate, mtv ca jyate, iti (PY I.16,5 f.).
I have attained all that is attainable, I have destroyed all defilements being
subject to destruction, I have cut the succession of existences with its [tightly]
connected joints, due to the continuation of which after having been born, one
dies, and after having died, one is born [again].
Cf. the YVis gloss in 218,8 ff.: vakartu akyante sym avasthy sarve gau-
padrth, vakartavyatvena sajyante. vaktni ca tasym avasthym
indriyi sajyante. vakaraam v sajyate sym iti.
In this state [of mind] all things (padrtha) consisting of the constituents of matter
(gaua) can be controlled [so that] one is aware of their being controllable. And one
is aware of the sense-capacities as being controlled. Or one is aware of their control
in this [state of mind].
As mentioned before, PY I.12 names a second concept besides de-
tachment which is conducive to the shutdown of mental processes, i.e.
practice (abhysa). Within a comparison of the mental capacity to a
river practice of perception of the difference [between the self and
matter] (vivekadaranbhysa) is said to open the stream to well-
In the passage immediately following Patajali gives a more
detailed definition: practice is the effort for steadiness (YS I.13).
He explains: The mental capacitys state of flowing calmly, when its
processes are reduced, is steadiness. Practice [means] complying to
the methods with the desire to produce this [steadiness].
This quotation confirms the analysis of the specifically yogic
form of concentration (samdhi) outlined above. In order to belong to
yoga proper, concentration has to fulfil two requirements: (1) It must
consist of a stable connection between the mental capacity and an ob-
ject, and (2) the object has to be a deliberately chosen one. The second
requirement corresponds to detachment from all objects being poten-
tially subject to an involuntary connection caused by attachment. The
first requirement, i.e. stability of the connection, is the aim of practice.
The structure of the non-theistic yogic concentration as being
conscious of its object is briefly described in PY I.17:
vitarkavicrnandsmitrpnugamt saprajta (YS I.17).
vitarka cittasylambane sthla bhoga. skmo vicra. nando hlda.
ekarptmik savid asmit. tatra prathama catuaynugata samdhi
savitarka. dvityo vitarkavikala savicra. ttyo vicravikala snanda.
caturthas tadvikalo smitmtra. sarva ete slamban samdhaya (PY
[Concentration is] conscious [of an object], because it is accompanied by
thinking, by evaluation,
by joy, and by the form [?] (rpa) of individuality
(YS I.17).
PY I.12,6 f.: vivekadaranbhysena kalyasrota udghyate.
sthitau yatno bhysa (YS I.13).
cittasyvttikasya prantavhit sthiti. [] tatsapipdayiay sdhannuh-
nam abhysa (PY I.13,2 f.).
The parallels to the Buddhist dhyna meditation (for which see Eimer 2006: 25)
have been noted by Bronkhorst 1993: 71; cf. also Cousins 1992: 148 and 151 ff.
The meanings of vitarka (Pli vitakka) and vicra as stages of samdhi in Buddhism
and Yoga are the subject of Cousins 1992. He concludes that [f]or the canonical
abhidhamma, vitakka is the ability to apply the mind to something and to fix it
Thinking is the mental capacitys gross investigation
of an object
. The
subtle investigation is evaluation. Joy is pleasure. Consciousness having a
single form is individuality. Of these [four kinds], the first concentration,
which is accompanied by all four [kinds of consciousness content], is
accompanied by thought. The second, which is devoid of thought, is
accompanied by evaluation. The third, which is devoid of evaluation, is
accompanied by joy. The fourth, which is devoid of this [joy], is individuality
only. All these concentrations have an object.
Four key words sketch the development of the mental capacity towards
conscious concentration: Thinking (vitarka), evaluation (vicra), joy
(nanda), and individuality (asmit). Each keyword is characteristic of
one phase in the development of concentration. In the first phase, all
four forms of mental activity exist in succession. Nevertheless, it is
thinking which establishes the connection between the mental capa-
city and its deliberately chosen object, the self.
Thinking obviously
has to be understood as the comprehension of the teachings concerning
the self in Skhya Yoga philosophy, which provides a basis for the
practice of the perception of the self (puruadaranbhysa). In the se-
cond stage, the connection between the mental capacity and its object is
upon a (meditative) object. Vicra is the ability to explore and examine an
object (153). Oberhammer (1977: 149 f.), whose work seems to be unknown to
Cousins, draws upon Vasubandhus Abhidharmakoabhya and Yaomitras com-
mentary thereon. He concludes his discussion stating that Vitarka und Vicra
ein von Sprache begleitetes diskursiv-begriffliches Erfassen des Gegenstandes
ist. Der Unterschied der beiden scheint darin zu liegen, da der Vitarka ein pr-
fendes berlegen (ha, paryeaam) ist, whrend der Vicra jene erwgende Ein-
sicht am Ende ist, in der das prfende berlegen auf das Ergebnis hin berstiegen
wird, und die daher subtiler als jenes genannt werden kann (150).
bhoga according to BHSD (99, col. 2, s.v), means effort, endeavour. Ober-
hammer (1977: 148) takes it as tasting (Verkosten); Cousins (1992: 148) pre-
sumably in accordance with the meanings ideation, idea, thought which are re-
corded in PTSD (103, col. 2, s.v.) translates more appropriately as directing (the
mind) towards. With some hesitation I decide to translate as investigation, which
should be taken as directing the mind towards an object in order to grasp it con-
The meaning object for lambana is recorded in pw (187, col.1, s.v.) for Buddhist
texts. It was not properly included in MW (also dharma or law belonging to manas
153, col. 2, s.v.), but it found entry into BHSD (105, col. 2, s.v.). Oberhammer
(1977: 148) in translating Objektsttze apparently follows Woods (1914: 40)
supporting [object]. The correct translation was already known to Ganganatha Jha
(1934: 30).
Cf. Oberhammer 1977: 156.
fixed to a degree which makes a rethinking of yoga philosophy dispen-
sable. The yogi can draw upon the insights he has gained from his oc-
cupation with yoga teachings concerning the self, and does not need to
investigate the subject again. This presumably is the reason why eva-
luation is termed a refined investigation of the object in comparison
to thinking which is seen as gross. In the third phase, which is charac-
terised by joy, the connection between the mental capacity and its object
is deprived of its conceptual and linguistic dimension. The self, which
in the previous phase was the object of conceptualisation, now turns
into the content of a direct, joyful experience. The passage cited
unambiguously states that the penultimate concentration has two
aspects, the characteristic aspect of joy, and a secondary aspect of indi-
viduality. The last mentioned aspect is not only a constituent of con-
sciousness in this phase of concentration, but of experience in general.
Experience by its very nature belongs to an individual, who is able to
refer to the subject of experience with the pronoun I. Usually, how-
ever, individuality is eclipsed by the content of consciousness, and does
not turn into an object of perception. In the final stage of conscious con-
centration the situation is different. As joy, the content of consciousness
characteristic in the previous phase has been given up, it is now the
form of consciousness that turns into a content of consciousness, ex-
perienced as individuality, oraccording to the author of YVias the
state of being experience only (pratyayamtrat).
Nevertheless, con-
sciousness here still is a consciousness of something. It is being con-
scious of belonging to an individual. The self, therefore, does not ex-
perience itself as being ontologically different from matter. It still per-
ceives as the subject of perception in association with its mental capa-
city. And the existence of a content within the mental capacity justifies
the designation concentration being conscious of an object (sapra-
jtasamdhi) even in its ultimate phase.
The transition from concentration having a content to content-
less concentration is the subject of PY I.18:
athsaprajta kimupya, kisvabhva iti?
virmapratyaybhysaprvaka saskraeo nya (YS I.18).
tasya para vairgyam upya. slambano bhysas tatsdhanya na kalp-
yate, iti virmapratyayo nirvastuka lambankriyate. tadabhysaprvaka cit-
YVi 223,8: asmit pratyayamtrat.
ta nirlambanam abhvaprptam iva bhavati. sa ea nirbja samdhir
asaprajta (PY I.18,17).
What means is there for [concentration being] not conscious of an object, and
what is its nature?
The other [concentration], which has a remainder of impressions, is preceded
by practicing the cessation experience (YS I.18).
The means to this [concentration] is higher detachment. Practice having an
object is not capable to bring about this [concentration]. Therefore, the
cessation experience, which does not refer to a thing (nirvastuka), is used as its
object. The mental capacity, preceded by the practice of this [cessation
experience], having no object [at all], seemingly becomes non-existent. This
seedless (= having special impressions [?])
concentration is not conscious of
an object.
Higher detachment is the means to bring about concentration that is not
conscious of an object. This supports the role of detachment as outlined
above. In order to finish the interaction between the mental capacity and
the self, the remaining content of consciousness, viz. the experience of
individuality, has to be given up. The consequence is severe. The yogi,
in order to let the transcendental self appear within the mental capa-
cityclear and un-eclipsed by any content of consciousnesseven has
to detach himself from the coherence of his own existence as an indi-
vidual. The yogi, as it were, gives up his empirical personality in order
to win his true self.
How can this goal be achieved? The very nature of individuali-
ty, the content of consciousness in the ultimate phase of conscious con-
centration, rules out the possibility of any act of will. The only reason
for a transition from concentration with content to concentration with-
out content therefore is the self-perception of the self (purua), which
by itself leads the mental capacity away from the realm of matter. It
seems that it is this dynamism that found its way into the definition of
higher detachment in the following statement:
YVi 226,15 glosses nirbja with saskravieasvabhva[] but this does not con-
tribute much to my understanding of the term. Maybe Patajali alludes to a concept
discussed in PY II.4. There we learn that defilements may exist in the mental
capacity in a latent (prasupta) form. These defilements exercise their effect as soon
as the mental capacity comes into contact with an object which serves as a trigger.
This, however, does not happen in the case of yogis who have burned the de-
filement-seeds with the fire of prasakhyna meditation.
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puruadaranbhyst tacchuddhipravivekpyyitabuddhir guebhyo
vyaktvyaktadharmakebhyo virakta (PY I.16,2 f.).
Because of practising sight of the self (puruadaranbhyst) the [yogi]
having his mental capacity satisfied with distinguishing the pureness of the
[sight] (or: of the self) [from the sight itself]
is detached from all constituents
of matter, whether their characteristics are manifest or not manifest.
The starting point for the development to concentration without content
is individuality. This content decreases in proportion to the increasing
clearness of the perception of the self. When almost no content is left,
the very insignificant remainder serving as support of the mental ca-
pacity is called cessation-experience (virmapratyaya). The YVi ex-
plains the compound cessation-experience as a descriptive determina-
tive (karmadhraya) compound.
Accordingly, the expression does not
denote an experience having the content of cessation, but an experience
being characterised by cessation. In other words, it is the final experi-
ence of the mental capacity immediately before its complete loss of
content. The YVi gives an illustrative example. It compares the liminal
experience with the final flame of a fire that has consumed its fuel.
In the state of being free from content, the mental capacity
makes room for the unlimited consciousness of the self. In dealing with
this state of consciousness Oberhammer correctly refers to PY I.3
YVi 219.10 ff.: tad iti puruadaranam parmyate. tasya uddhis tacchuddhi.
niriktakledimalatvam. athav tasya puruasya uddhis tacchuddhi. tacchuddes
tadlambanadaranam pravivicyate. tatpravivekenpyyit buddhir asya yogina.
[The word] its (tad) refers to the sight of the self. The compound tacchuddhi is a
dependent determinative compound with a genitive case relation. [Pureness of the
sight of the self is] the sate of having the defilements of taints (klea) etc. cleansed.
Or otherwise, its pureness [means] the pureness of the self. [The yogi] disting-
uishes the pureness [of the self] from the sight, which has the [self] as its object. The
yogis mental capacity is satisfied with distinguishing it.
YVi 225,10: virma csau pratyaya ca virmapratyaya.
YVi 225,11-13: sarvaviayebho vinirvartamnasya vinirvartanakle prg apratya-
y-{read apratyayat-}patte pratyayarpatvam etat{instead of etat read etasya
[?]}. yath pvakasya jvalata prakyamendhanasya anai anir upamyata
prg agratpatter jvaltmat.
At the time of turning away, [immediately] before the state of non-experience
occurs, [the mental capacity] which is turning away from all objects [still] has
[some] experience, like a flaming fire, when its fuel is being consumed, little by
little becomes diminished, immediately before it assumes the state of being embers,
[still] consists of a flame.
which gives a very short description of the cessation of all mental
tad drau svarpe vasthnam (YS I.3).
svarpapratih tadn cicchaktir, yath kaivalye (PY I.3,2 f.).
Then the seer (i.e. the self) abides in his own form (YS I.3). At that time the
capacity of consciousness (i.e. the self) is grounded in its own form, just as in
The second yogic concentration, which I am going to discuss briefly, is
a variant of yoga as outlined so far. It shares, however, the general aim
of meditation, i.e. the realization of unrestricted self perception of the
self, and therefore also culminates in concentration which is not con-
scious of an object (asaprajta samdhi).
In its initial stages it has
the supreme lord (vara) as its object. I would therefore like to name
this kind of yoga theistic yogic concentration. The theistic yogic
concentration is based on a special concept of God which lacks any
sectarian or mythological element.
The summary of Skhya Yoga ontology given above did not
even once refer to the supreme lord. This exclusion was justified, as the
ontological dualism of Skhya Yoga includes the concept of a supreme
lord alongside of the transcendental selves (purua), but only as in prin-
ciple identical with liberated selves, the only difference between the
supreme lord and ordinary liberated selves being that the latter, before
becoming liberated, were subject to bondage. The supreme lord, on the
other hand, was never bound to the realm of matter in the past, nor will
ever be bound in future. Apart from this, God and the selves are
They are pure, unchanging, contentless consciousness. The
question arises of course about how the transcendental nature of God
can be brought in harmony with the concept of Gods activity within the
world according to Skhya Yoga? In other words: How can a transcen-
Oberhammer 1977: 161.
Cf. Oberhammer 1977: 177.
Cf. for the following exposition Oberhammer 1977: 162177.
PY I.24,110: atha pradhnapuruavyatirikta ko yam vara iti?
kleakarmavipkayair aparma puruaviea vara (YS I.24).
kaivalya prpts tarhi santi bahava kevalina. te hi tri bandhanni cchittv kai-
valya prpt. varasya tatsabandho na bhto, na bhv. yath muktasya prv
bandhakoir jyate, yath v praktilnasyottar bandhakoi sabhvyate, naivam
varasya. sa tu sadaiva mukta sadaivevara iti.
dental self, pure consciousness, which per definitionem is totally free
from any kind of activity, intervene in the world which is the realm of
matter? The texts points out that Gods effectiveness within the world is
quite limited. At the beginning of each of the cyclically reoccurring cre-
ations of the world, he assumes a perfect (praka) mental capacity,
made out of the luminous substance sattva, in order to provide instruc-
tion to a seer, and to start a lineage of teachers and pupils.
This pro-
cess, according to Skhya Yoga, is not an activity in the full sense of
the word. It is an event that takes place in accordance with His com-
passionate nature. Besides this, the concept of God in Skhya Yoga
leaves no room for a this-worldly activity. The soteriological efficiency
of devotion to the supreme lord is therefore not a result of Gods action.
It is brought about by theistic yogic concentration.
Patajali provides a basis for his discussion of theistic yogic
concentration by way of philosophical reflections on the relationship
between verbal denotations (vcaka), i.e. words, and the objects of de-
notations (vcya), i.e. the referents of words. God, according to PY
I.27, is denoted by the praava, the sacred syllable om, which is his de-
Patajali holds a theory of language, which claims a perma-
nent connection (sabandha) between the objects of denotations (vc-
ya), and verbal designations (vcaka).
This permanence apparently can
be put down to an identical structure of language and its referent.
Although the relationship between language and its meaning is constant
and non-accidental, the shape of phonetic entitiesviz. the form of
wordsis non-constant and accidental, because it is established and
maintained by convention (saketa). The form of phonetic entities can
be subject to change, the logical structure of language cannot.
The author of YVi adds an empirical argument. The connection
between the syllable om and God is fixed, because the employment of
the mantra inevitably brings about its effect. It is therefore comparable
to the connection between food, which is the object of cooking, and fire,
which is the agent of cooking. If there was no fixed connection between
PY I.25,811: jnadharmopadeena kalpapralayamahpralayeu sasria
purun uddhariymi, iti. tath coktam: dividvn nirmacittam adhihya
kruyd bhagavn parama ir suraye jijsamnya provca (Pacaikha,
according to TV and YV), iti.
PY I.27,1: tasya vcaka praava (YS I.27); vcya vara.
PY I.27,3: sthito sya vcyasya vcakena sabandha.
these two entities, fire would not be a suitable means for cooking. In the
same way, if there was no fixed connection between the syllable om and
God, muttering of the mantra would not bring about a direct experience
of the supreme lord.
The means to this direct experience is described
in the opening passage of PY I.28:
vijtavcyavcakatvasya yoginatajjapas tadarthabhvanam (YS I.28).
The yogi, who has thoroughly understood that [God] is the object of
denotation and [the syllable om] is its denotation, mutters the [syllable om] and
makes its referent visible.
The interdependence of mantra-muttering and yogic concentration is
the subject of a stanza from the Viupura, which Patajali cites as
authority for his outline of the theistic yogic meditation.
svdhyyd yogam sta yogt svdhyyam manet |
svdhyyayogasapatty para tm prakate || (PY I.28,5 f. = VPura
One should practice yogic meditation after mantra-repetition, after yogic
meditation, one should perform mantra-repetition. By means of the
accomplishment of mantra-repetition and of yogic meditation, the highest self
becomes visible.
The author of YVi explains the process leading to an experience of God
as follows: Initially mantra-repetition establishes an orientation of the
mind towards the supreme lord. Once this orientation is secured, the yo-
gi practices a meditative vision (dhyna) of God. When his mind is un-
distracted and the vision has become solid, he takes up an internalised
form of mantra-repetition, which apparently increases the clearness of
the vision, until finally the supreme lord is the only content of con-
Then the mental capacity of the yogi attains one-pointed-
YVi 278,13: vcyavcakayor asthitasambandhatve tu praavarpebhimukhbha-
vatvara iti nvakalpate. na hi pcyapcakasambandhe navasthite pcakgnyu-
pdnam pkrtha kalpate. If the denotation and the object of denotation did not
have a settled connection, the direct appearence of the supreme lord in the form of
the praava would not be possible. As [for example], if the connection between
[food which is] the thing to be cooked and the thing that cooks were not settled, the
utilization of fire as the agent of cooking would not be fit for the purpose of
YVi 279,14280,2: svdhyyt praavajapd varam praty avanatacitta san
yogam sta tadartham varan dhyyet. tadarthadhync ca pra{ instead of ca
The similarity between the non-theistic yogic concentration hav-
ing a consciousness content (saprajta samdhi) and its theistic vari-
ant is obvious. The states of the mental capacity are identical in both
cases in that they both have a single content, which at first sight, how-
ever, seems to differ. In the first case it was the individual self, in the
theistic variant the content is the supreme lord. If we remember the con-
cept of God as outlined above, the difference is practically reduced to
nothing, as both are identical in nature.
Patajali provides an account of the experience of identity of the
self and God in PY I.29, which sums up the result of the theistic yogic
kicsya bhavati tata pratyakcetandhigam[a] (YS I.29). svapurua-
daranam apy asya bhavati: yathaivevara uddha, prasanna, kevalo, nu-
pasargas, tathyam api buddhe pratisaved madya purua, ity adhigac-
chatti. (PY I.29,1-5)
Moreover, from this (mantra-repetition and yogic meditation) [t]he [yogi] ac-
quires the realization of his inner consciousness (YS I.29). [This means,] he
even acquires sight of his own self (purua). He realizes: As God is pure,
clear, alone and free from trouble, so also is my self here that experiences its
mental capacity.
The yogis realization that his own self is identical in nature with the
supreme lord must not be understood as knowledge gained by concep-
tual thinking. This would, of course, not be compatible with the one-
pointedness of the mental capacity. The realization rather has to be seen
in analogy with the non theistic yogic concentration with content as de-
scribed above. In non-theistic meditation the content of consciousness is
pra read cpra with manuscript L}calitaman svdhyyam praavam manet
manasbhijapet. tath ca praavajapaparamevaradhynasampaty para tm
parameh prakate yogina iti.
after mantra-repetitionafter muttering the syllable om[the yogi] inasmuch
as he has a mental capacity which is directed to God should practice yogic medi-
tationshould visualise God, the referent of the [syllable om]. And after the visu-
alisation of the referent [of the syllable om], [the yogi] having a mind which is not
wandering [around] should practice mantra-repetition[he] should [silently] mutter
the syllable om in his mind. And this way, by means of the accomplishment of
muttering the syllable om and of visualising the supreme lord, the highest selfthe
one who is standing at the highest position becomes visible to the yogi.
PY I.28,24: tad asya yogina, praava japata, praavrtha bhvayata, cit-
tam ekgrat sapadyate.
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the individual self which experiences itself as the subject of individuali-
ty. The self-realization in this state is imperfect, since the self as the
subject of an experience is still bound to its own mental capacity. In the
course of development, the remaining content of the mental capacity is
reduced, and finally the self perceives itself as pure consciousness. In
the theistic variant the starting point is similar. Here too the self experi-
ences a self, viz. God. This experience is not a direct one. The self can
only perceive the content of its own mental capacity, and therefore just
has an image of God. In the course of the meditation, this content of
consciousness gradually decreases. The image of God as a self becomes
weaker and weaker, and the eclipse of pure consciousness by a content
of consciousness vanishes. Finally, when all mental processes are shut
down, the mental capacity allows for an unrestricted self-perception of
the self, a concentration which is not conscious of any object (asapra-
jta samdhi).
ge 1904 K. . ge (ed.),