The Structure of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy: A Study of Object-Cognition in the Perception Chapter (pratyakṣapariccheda) of the Pramāṇasamuccaya, the Pramāṇavārttika, and Their Earliest Commentaries Open Access

Yiannopoulos, Alexander (Summer 2020)

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This dissertation examines the theory of perceptual cognition laid out by the 7th century Buddhist scholar, Dharmakīrti, in his magnum opus, the Pramāṇavārttika. Like most theories of perception, both ancient and modern, the sensory cognition of ordinary objects is a topic of primary concern. Unlike other theorists, however, Dharmakīrti advances a technical definition of “perception” as a cognition which is both nonconceptual and non-erroneous. Dharmakīrti’s definition of perception is thereby deliberately inclusive of three additional types of “perceptual” cognition, in addition to veridical sensory awareness: the nonconceptual mental apprehension of an immediately-preceding cognition (“mental perception”), the vivid appearance of soteriologically efficacious objects of contemplative practice (“yogic perception”), and the sheer unmediated presence of the contents of cognition—whatever these might be—to the cognizing mind (“reflexive awareness”). Through the logical examination of what it means to be aware of an object, Dharmakīrti demonstrates that the awareness of an object is just the awareness of a phenomenal form or cognitive image produced by that object. Pursuing this analysis further, however, Dharmakīrti argues that the very notion of an object of cognition that exists “externally” or outside the mind is incoherent. Additionally, Dharmakīrti maintains that the phenomenological structure of subject and object—that is, the “first-personal” sense of one’s own cognitions as pertaining to oneself (“for-me-ness”), together with the inseparably concomitant sense that the objects of cognition exist “out there” in an extramental world—is strictly a form of cognitive error. Therefore, because ordinary sensory cognition is inherently structured by this subject-object duality, ordinary sensory cognition must in the final analysis be understood as erroneous. According to Dharmakīrti, in other words, ultimately only the nondual “luminosity” of reflexive awareness is genuinely perceptual, because only reflexive awareness is undistorted by nature. In this way, Dharmakīrti’s epistemology provides a theoretical foundation for the advanced nondual contemplative practices of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, particularly Mahāmudrā and rDzogs chen.

Table of Contents

Introduction.. 2

I.    The Pramāṇavārttika in Context 6

A.  Textual Chronology. 6

B.  Reading the PV.. 11

1. An Overview of the PV.. 11

2. The Relation of the PV to the PS. 16

3. The Relation of the PV to its Commentaries. 20

4. Method and Outline. 25

II.   Buddhist Epistemology and the “Sliding Scale”. 34

A.  General Considerations. 34

B.  Vaibhāṣika Direct Realism.. 36

C.  Sautrāntika Representationalism.. 42

D.  Yogācāra Idealism.. 49

III. The Instruments of Correct Awareness (pramāṇas) 54

A.  Correct Awareness. 54

B.  Perception and Inference. 57

C.  Yogic Perception and Instrumentality. 61

D.  Conceptuality (kalpanā) and Universals (sāmānya) 64

Chapter One: Pseudo-Perception.. 71

I.    Pseudo-Perception in the Buddhist Pramāṇa Tradition. 75

A.  Perception and Pseudo-Perception in the Vādavidhi 75

B.  Nonconceptual Error in the Pramāṇasamuccaya. 79

C.  Dharmakīrti’s Interpretation of PS 1.7cd-8ab. 83

II.   Dharmakīrti’s Theory of Conceptual Pseudo-Perception. 86

A.  Commentarial Problems. 86

B.  Exclusion (apoha), Convention (saṅketa), and Projection (āropa) 90

C.  Mental Perception. 94

1. Mental Cognition and Mental Perception. 94

2. The Instrumentality of Mental Perception. 99

3. Mental Perception, Mental Pseudo-Perception, and Determination. 105

D.  Object Persistence and Pseudo-Perception. 107

1. Conceptual Pseudo-Perception, Memory, and Recognition. 107

2. Simultaneous Cognition and Re-cognition (pratyabhijñā) 112

3. Recognition as Pseudo-Perception. 116

E.  The Firebrand-Circle. 119

1. Simultaneous or Sequential?. 119

2. The Example of the Firebrand. 122

III. Dharmakīrti’s Theory of Nonconceptual Pseudo-Perception. 129

A.  The Vivid Appearance of Cognition. 129

1. Two Tracks. 129

2. Reflexive Awareness and Vividness. 133

3. Reflexive Awareness as Pramāṇa. 135

B.  Myodesopsia and Defects in the Basis. 137

1. The Causal Origin of Nonconceptual Sensory Error. 137

2. Myodesopsia (timira) 143

C.  Duality and the Internal Distortion. 147

1. Phenomenological Duality as Cognitive Error. 147

2. The Nonconceptual Nature of Dualistic Error. 150

Chapter Two: The (Non-)Causal Structure of Cognition.. 157

I.    The Kāraka System and Cognition. 159

A.  Karaṇa, Sādhakatama, and Pramāṇa. 159

B.  Grammar, Ontology, and Eleutheriology. 165

C.  Determinate Perception and Temporal Sequence. 168

II.   Cognition and Causality. 173

A.  Instrument and Result in Buddhist Epistemology. 173

B.  Cognition Has No “Functioning” (vyāpāra) 179

C.  The “Determiner” (niyāmaka) 182

1. Causal Regularity and the Analysis of Cognition. 182

2. The Causal and Non-Causal Nature(s) of Cognition. 184

3. Determinative Factor (niyāmaka) as Instrument (pramāṇa) 187

4. Internal and External Stimuli 192

D.  Omniscience and the Nature of Awareness. 198

1. Implications of PV 3.301-319. 198

2. Omniscience and the Immediately Subsequent Judgment 203

3. The Infinitude of Causal Information. 207

4. Models of Omniscience. 210

III. The Form of the Object and the Unity of Cognition. 214

A.  The Form of the Object (artharūpa) as Means and Result 214

B.  “It is Asserted that a Real Thing is Undifferentiated”. 220

1. The Form of the Object as Intrinsic Patient 220

2. Phenomenological Duality and Ontological Differentiation. 223

Chapter Three: Isomorphism, Variegation, Nonduality.. 229

I.    Object-Isomorphism (arthasārūpya) 231

A.  The Instrumentality of Sensory Cognition. 231

B.  The Agglomerated Object of Sensory Cognition. 237

1. Particulars and Sensory Cognition in the PS. 237

2. PSṬ ad PS 1.4cd and the “sense-sphere particular” (āyatanasvalakṣaṇa) 242

C.  Individual and Universal Capacities. 249

1. Particulars in Proximity. 249

2. Three Key Takeaways. 253

II.   Variegation and Nonduality (citrādvaita) 257

A.  The Problem of the ‘Whole’ (avayavin) 257

1. Vasubandhu’s Critique of Vaiśeṣika Ontology. 257

2. Simultaneous and Sequential Cognition, Again. 259

3. The Variegation of Cognition and the Cognition of Variegated Entities. 265

B.  The Critique of Variegation and the “False Imagist” View (alīkākāravāda) 270

1. Variegated Images Are Unreal 270

2. False Object, False Image. 274

C.  Extension and Isomorphism.. 279

D.  Variegation and (Non)duality. 283

Chapter Four: Reflexive Awareness and Idealism... 291

I.    Reflexive Awareness as the Result 294

A.  The “Slots” of Pramāṇa Theory. 294

1. Pramāṇa Theory as Language-Game. 294

2. Perceptuality and Nonconceptuality, Revisited. 297

3. A General Overview of PS 1.9. 300

4. Rational Analysis and the Nature of Reality. 303

B.  Object, Object-Image, and Object-Awareness. 307

1. The Cause of Object-Awareness. 307

2. Shifting Contexts, Shifting Roles. 310

3. Arthasaṃvit and Jñānasaṃvit 313

II.   The Object of “Object-Awareness”. 319

A.  Defining the Object of Experience. 319

1. The Immediately-Preceding Condition (samanantarapratyaya) 319

2. The ‘Intimate Relationship’ Between the Seeing and the Seen 321

B.  External vs. Internal Causes of Object-Awareness. 324

1. The Sautrāntika Hypothesis. 324

2. A “Judicious” Investigation of the Cause of Sensory Cognition 326

3. External Objects and the Sahopalambhaniyama. 328

C.  Dharmakīrti’s Yogācāra. 332

1. Negative Concomitance (vyatireka) and the Cause of Cognition 332

2. Restriction in Time and Place. 334

3. Idealism and Solipsism.. 338

III. Inference and External Objects. 345

A.  Theoretical Preliminaries. 345

1. Non-Perception (anupalabdhi) as Inferential Evidence (hetu) 345

2. Immediately-Preceding Condition and Immediately-Preceding Cognition. 348

3. The “Production-Mode” (tadutpatti) Inference of External Objects. 352

4. “Production-Mode” Inference in an Idealist Context 355

B.  Inference in the Context of Epistemic Idealism.. 360

1. The Problem.. 360

2. The Solution. 362

3. The Role of the Storehouse in Idealistic Inference. 364

IV. The Luminous Nature of Mind. 370

A.  Idealism and Experience. 370

B.  The Simile of the Lamp. 372

C.  Reflexive Awareness and the Ultimate Pramāṇa. 377

D.  Concluding Remarks on PS 1.9a. 382

Chapter Five: Subjectivity and Reflexivity.. 384

I.    Reflexive Awareness and “Self-Appearance” (svābhāsa) 388

A.  Text-Critical Considerations. 388

B.  “Svasaṃvitti (i)” Is Not Svasaṃvitti 391

1. Jinendrabuddhi’s Initial Definition of Reflexive Awareness 391

2. Williams’ Distinction in its Intellectual-Historical Context 393

3. “Svasaṃvitti (i)” as Mental Perception. 395

C.  “Svasaṃvitti (ii)” Is Not Inherently “First-Personal”. 398

D.  Cognitively-Natured-Ness (jñānarūpatva) and Subjectivity. 405

1. Individually-Restricted Experience vs. Subjective Experience. 405

2. The Cognitive Nature of the Buddhas’ Awareness. 409

II.   Pleasure and Pain. 414

A.  The Nonconceptual Nature of the Affective Features of Experience. 414

1. Individual Experience as “Unshared” (asādhāraṇa) and Inexpressible. 414

2. (Experiences of) Pleasure and Pain are Particulars. 418

B.  Pleasure and Pain as “Self-Experiencing”. 423

1. Pleasure Knows Non-Erroneously. 423

2. Pleasure is a First-Order Feature of Awareness. 427

C.  Pleasure Experiences the Pleasurable Object 432

1. Affective Disposition as a Necessary Feature of Subjectivity. 432

2. The Object is ‘Transferred’ (saṅkrānta) into the Pleasure, and Vice Versa. 436

3. Some Practical Considerations. 439

4. Metonymical “Pleasure” and Internal Objects. 443

D.  Subjective Variation in the Quality of Experience. 444

1. Sharpness and Dullness. 444

2. The Example of the Halo. 451

III. The Affective Features of Conceptual Determination. 456

A.  The Determination of the Object is Reflexively-Experienced. 456

B.  A Comprehensive Ontological Perspective. 459

1. Dharmakīrti and Jinendrabuddhi on PS 1.9b. 459

2. Determination is Always Reflexively-Experienced. 463

C.  Difference in Object (viṣayabheda) 467

1. Cognition and Causal Activity, Revisited. 467

2. Kumārila’s Critique of PS 1.9. 474

3. Jinendrabuddhi’s and Dharmakīrti’s Responses. 478

4. “Honestly, I don’t understand such a thing, either”. 481

Conclusion.. 486

Appendices of Translations.. 505

Appendix A: PS(V) 1.2-16. 505

Appendix B: PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.4cd-16. 516

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.4cd. 516

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.5. 518

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.6ab. 521

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.6cd. 527

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.7ab. 528

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.7cd-8ab. 529

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.8cd. 535

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.9a. 537

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.9b. 539

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.9c. 540

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.9d. 541

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.10. 544

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.11ab. 545

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.11cd. 551

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.12. 552

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.13. 554

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.14ab. 554

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.14cd. 556

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.15. 561

PSṬ ad PS(V) 1.16. 561

Appendix C: Selections from PV 3. 563

PV 3.239-248 ad PS(V) 1.6a1 563

PV 3.288-300 ad PS(V) 1.7cd-8ab. 564

PV 3.301-319 ad PS(V) 1.8cd. 567

PV 3.320-337 ad PS(V) 1.9a. 570

PV 3.338-345 ad PS(V) 1.9b. 574

PV 3.346-352 ad PS(V) 1.9cd. 576

PV 3.353-366 ad PS(V) 1.10. 578

Bibliography.. 580


List of Tables

Table 1: Index of PV 3 and PVin 1 in Relation to PS 1. 19

Table 2: Four Presentations of Prameya, Pramāṇa, and Phala. 317


List of Figures

Figure 1: Sensory Perception, Mental Perception, and Determinate Judgment 104

Figure 2: Sensory Image as Determining Factor 192

Figure 3: Three Cognitions of ‘Blue’ 194

Figure 4: Individual Causal Capacities and Joint Single Effects. 251

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