was an India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...
n scholar and one of the Buddhist
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...
founders of Indian philosophical
Philosophical logic is a term introduced by Bertrand Russell to represent his idea that the workings of natural language and thought can only be adequately represented by an artificial language; essentially it was his formalization program for the natural language...
The development of Indian logic dates back to the anviksiki of Medhatithi Gautama the Sanskrit grammar rules of Pāṇini ; the Vaisheshika school's analysis of atomism ; the analysis of inference by Gotama , founder of the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy; and the tetralemma of Nagarjuna...
. He was one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism
Buddhist atomism is a school of atomistic Buddhist philosophy that flourished on the Indian subcontinent during two major periods . During the first phase, which began to develop prior to the 4th century BCE, Buddhist atomism had a very qualitative, Aristotelian-style atomic theory. This form of...
, according to which the only items considered to exist are momentary states of consciousness.
Born around the turn of the 7th century, Dharmakirti was a Srivijayan (Sumatran) and became a teacher at the famed Nalanda University, as well as a poet. He built on and reinterpreted the work of Dignaga
Dignāga was an Indian scholar and one of the Buddhist founders of Indian logic.He was born into a Brahmin family in Simhavakta near Kanchi Kanchipuram), and very little is known of his early years, except that he took as his spiritual preceptor Nagadatta of the Vatsiputriya school, before being...
, the pioneer of Buddhist Logic, and was very influential among Brahman logicians as well as Buddhists. His theories became normative in Tibet and are studied to this day as a part of the basic monastic curriculum.
Collins (2000: p. 240) colourfully contextualized Dharmakirti and his experience of disaffection and collegiate misunderstanding at Nalanda:-
Dharmakirti's synthesis is the apex of Buddhist philosophy, at the moment when it was institutionally fading. Nalanda was still bustling, buoyed by cosmopolitan incursions of Brahmans and lay students, but the weeds were growing around the deserted stupas not just in the south but in northern India as well. Dharmakirti is the last flaming of the torch before it blows out, the owl of Minerva taking wing at dusk: the creativity of synthesis as a fading institutional base goes on the defensive. Dharmakirti himself was a lay Buddhist, not a devout monk, and his personal tone sounds like secular ambition rather than a quest for salvation. The closing stanza of his great work laments the dearth of capable intellectuals to follow his philosophy: "My work will find no one in this world who would easily grasp its deep sayings. It will be absorbed and perish in my own person, just as a river in the ocean." A Tibetan historian says that when he finished the work, his pupils showed no appreciation, and his enemies "tied up the leaves [of the palm-leaf manuscript] to the tail of a dog and let him run through the streets where the leaves became scattered" (Stcherbatsky, 1962: 1:35-36). In fact, Dharmakirti did end up dominating the leading philosophers of the last generations of Indian Buddhism. But his pessimism was prescient. Leaving Nalanda, he retired to his home in the south, where he founded a monastery. The next successful Brahman student from the south was to be Shankara, and when he came north, it would be to plunder the carcass of a dying [Indian] Buddhism.
- The Seven Treatises on Valid Cognition:
- (Analysis of Relations)
- (Ascertainment of Valid Cognition)
- (Commentary on Dignaga's 'Compendium of Valid Cognition')
- (Drop of Reasoning)
- (Drop of Reasons)
- (Proof of Others' Continuums)
- (Reasoning for Debate)
Dharmakirti presents most of his ideas in the guise of commentary on Dignaga's works, even if his theories go beyond what was presented by his predecessor. Some of his ideas, like his proof for the authority of the Buddha's words, are innovations, for Dignaga considered language just as fallible as inference.
There has long been disagreement among Indian and Tibetan doxographers as to how to categorize Dharmakirti's thought. The Gelug
The Gelug or Gelug-pa , also known as the Yellow Hat sect, is a school of Buddhism founded by Je Tsongkhapa , a philosopher and Tibetan religious leader...
school asserts that he expressed Yogachara views, most non-Gelug Tibetan commentators assert that he expressed Sautrantika views and, according to one Tibetan source, a number of renowned later Indian Madhyamikas asserted that he expressed Madhyamaka
Madhyamaka refers primarily to a Mahāyāna Buddhist school of Buddhist philosophy systematized by Nāgārjuna. Nāgārjuna may have arrived at his positions from a desire to achieve a consistent exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the āgamas...
Stcherbatsky relates Dharmakirti to his own understanding of Kant
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...
. He compares Dharmakirti’s ‘point-instant’ to Kant’s thing in itself.
For a brief but thorough exposition of Dharmakirti's contributions, see http://books.google.com/books?id=2HS1DOZ35EgC&pg=PA177&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=0_0#v=onepage&q=plunder&f=false
Mindstream: the play of beginninglessness and temporality, a continuum
Dharmakīrti (fl. 7th century) wrote a treatise on the nature of the mindstream
Mindstream in Buddhist philosophy is the moment-to-moment "continuum" of awareness. There are a number of terms in the Buddhist literature that may well be rendered "mindstream"...
in his Substantiation of Other Mindstreams
). Ratnakīrti (fl. c7-8th century), a disciple of Dharmakīrti, wrote a work that further developed and refined the themes therein, entitled: 'Refutation of Other mindstreams' (Saṃtãnãntaradusana
). He did not refute the tenets of the Saṃtãnãntarasiddhi
but further developed the topic from an empirical one, that is, where there are manifold minds cognized by one's experience of others' mental processes attributed through the perceived actions of other sentient beings
Sentient beings is a technical term in Buddhist discourse. Broadly speaking, it denotes beings with consciousness or sentience or, in some contexts, life itself. Specifically, it denotes the presence of the five aggregates, or skandhas...
to an absolutist view, where there is only "one mindstream" (ekacitta
). Ratnakīrti's argument is that the valid cognition
Pramana is an epistemological term in Hindu and Buddhist dialectic, debate and discourse.Pramāṇavāda and Hetuvidya can be glossed in English as Indian and Buddhist Epistemology and Logic, respectively.-In Hinduism:...
) of another's mindstream is an inference (anumāna
), not a direct perception (pratyakṣa
). Moreover, Ratnakīrti introduced the two truths doctrine
The Buddhist doctrine of the two truths differentiates between two levels of truth in Buddhist discourse: a "relative" or commonsense truth , and an "ultimate" or absolute, spiritual truth...
as key to the nature of the discussion as inference is trafficking with illusiory universals (samanya
), the proof of the mindstreams of others, whilst empirically valid in relative truth (saṃvṛtisatya
), does not hold ultimate metaphysical certainty in absolute truth (paramārthasatya
Dharmakirti held the mindstream to be beginningless yet also described the mindstream as a temporal sequence, and that as there are no true beginnings, there are no true endings, hence, the "beginningless time" motif that is frequently used to describe the concept of mindstream, as Dunne (2004: p. 1) relates:
Buddhist philosophers often speak of beginninglessness. It is claimed that the minds of living beings, for example, have no beginning, and that our current [U]niverse is only one in a beginningless cycle of expansion and decay. Some Buddhist thinkers would claim that even the most mundane task can have no true beginning. That is, if a beginning occurs, there must be some moment, some "now", in which it occurs. For the present to exist, however, there must be a past and a future, for what would "now" mean if there were no time other than now? And of course, if there is a past, then how could now be a beginning? Now should instead be the end of the past. Each beginning in short, must itself have a beginning.