DIGNāGA (c. 480 – c. 540 CE) was an Indian Buddhist scholar and
one of the Buddhist founders of
Indian logic (hetu vidyā). Dignāga's
work laid the groundwork for the development of deductive logic in
India and created the first system of
Buddhist logic and epistemology
Pramana ). According to Georges B Dreyfus, his philosophical school
brought about an Indian "epistemological turn" and became the
"standard formulation of
Buddhist logic and epistemology in India and
Tibet." Dignāga's thought influenced later Buddhist philosophers
Dharmakirti and also Hindu thinkers of the
Dignāga's epistemology accepted only "perception" (pratyaksa ) and
"inference" (anumāṇa ) are valid instruments of knowledge.
Dignāga was born into a South Indian Brahmin family in Simhavakta
Kanchipuram and very little is known of his early years, except
that he took as his spiritual preceptor Nagadatta of the Pudgalavada
school before being expelled and becoming a student of
* 1 Philosophy
* 2 Works
* 3 Tradition and Influence
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Further reading
* 7 External links
Buddhist epistemology holds that perception and inference are
the means to correct knowledge.
Dignāga's epistemology holds that there are only two 'instruments of
knowledge' or 'valid cognitions' (pramāṇa); "perception" (pratyaksa
) and "inference" (anumāṇa ). Perception is a non-conceptual
knowing of particulars which is bound by causality, while inference is
reasonable, linguistic and conceptual. This conservative epistemic
theory was in contrast to the
Nyaya school who accepted other means of
knowledge such as Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy).
During Dignāga's time, the
Nyaya school of Hinduism had begun to
hold debates using their five-step approach to making and evaluating
arguments with logic. Buddhist debaters such as
Dignāga wanted to
engage in these debates, and also have a way to logically evaluate
arguments, but a premise such as "all dogs are mammals" proved
problematic for his idealist Yogacara philosophy.
Dignāga was a
Vasubandhu , and therefore believed that "dharmas are
empty." In other words, there are not universal qualities such as
"dog-ness" or "mammal-ness." Such universals would have to be
unchanging, and since all things are subject to change and are lacking
in essential essence according to his school of philosophy, Dignāga
attempted to find a way to engage in argument within the
without positing metaphysical Universals .
To do this he employed what is referred to in formal logic in the
West as contraposition, or in Sanskrit, Apoha, where one switches the
terms and swaps them for their term complement. Therefore, the example
premise above, "all dogs are mammals" becomes "all non-mammals are
non-dogs." These two statements are logically equivalent. Once this
had been done,
Dignāga could make arguments about non-mammals without
explicitly positing that mammals have an essential nature. While this
move gets off the ground towards his goal, reflection shows that
making universal statements about non-mammals still implies that there
are mammals who share an essential nature, and everything else, which
lacks this "mammal-ness." Still, using this method
Dignāga and other
Buddhist logicians were able to further their logical discourse and
felt more comfortable engaging in
Nyaya structured debates.
Among Dignāga's works there is
Hetucakra (The wheel of reason),
considered his first work on formal logic, advancing a new form of
deductive reasoning . It may be regarded as a bridge between the older
doctrine of trairūpya and Dignāga's own later theory of vyapti which
is a concept related to the Western notion of implication .
Dignāga's most important work, the
of Valid Cognition), examined perception, language and inferential
reasoning. It presents perception as a bare cognition, devoid of
conceptualization and sees language as useful fictions created through
a process of exclusion (Apoha ).
Other works include:
Alambana -parīkṣā, (The Treatise on the Objects of Cognition)
* Abhidharmakośa-marma-pradīpa – a condensed summary of
Vasubandhu's seminal work
* A summary of the Aṣṭasāhasrika-prajñāpāramitā sūtra
TRADITION AND INFLUENCE
Dignāga founded a tradition of Buddhist logic, and this school is
sometimes called the "School of Dignāga" or the
Dharmakīrti school". In Tibetan it is often called “those
who follow reasoning” (Tibetan: rigs pa rjes su ‘brang ba); in
modern literature it is sometimes known by the Sanskrit
'pramāṇavāda', often translated as "the Epistemological School"
or "The logico-epistemological school."
Buddhist philosophers who wrote on pramana include:
Dharmakīrti (c. 7th century)
Dharmapala of Nalanda
Dharmottara (8th century)
Ratnakīrti (11th century)
This tradition of logic and epistemology continued in
Tibet , where
it was expanded by thinkers such as Cha-ba (1182–1251) and Sakya
Dignaga also influenced non-Buddhist
Sanskrit thinkers. According to
Lawrence J. McCrea, and Parimal G. Patil, Dignaga set in motion an
"epistemic turn" in Indian philosophy:
In the centuries following Dignāga’s work, virtually all
philosophical questions were reconfigured as epistemological ones.
That is, when making any claim at all, it came to be seen as incumbent
on a philosopher to situate that claim within a fully developed theory
of knowledge. The systematic articulation and interrogation of the
underlying presuppositions of all knowledge claims thus became the
central preoccupation of most
* ^ Zheng Wei-hong;
Dignāga and Dharmakīrti: Two Summits of
Indian Buddhist Logic. Research Institute of Chinese Classics; Fudan
University; Shanghai, China
* ^ Recognizing Reality: Dharmakirti’s Philosophy and its Tibetan
Interpretations, (Suny: 1997), page 15-16.
* ^ Karr, Andy (2007). Contemplating Reality: A Practitioner\'s
Guide to the View in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala Publications. p.
212. ISBN 9781590304297 .
* ^ Tom Tillemans (2011), Dharmakirti, Stanford Encyclopedia of
* ^ Tillemans, Tom, "Dharmakīrti", The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
* ^ Lawrence J. McCrea, and Parimal G. Patil. Buddhist Philosophy
of Language in India: Jnanasrimitra on Exclusion. New York: Columbia
University Press, 2010. p 5.
* Chu, Junjie (2006).On Dignāga\'s theory of the object of
cognition as presented in PS (V) 1, Journal of the International
Association of Buddhist Studies 29 (2), 211–254
* Frauwallner, Erich, Dignāga, sein Werk und seine Entwicklung.
(Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Süd- und Ostasiens 2:83–164,
* Hattori Masaaki, Dignāga, On Perception, being the
Pratyakṣapariccheda of Dignāga's Pramāṇasamuccaya from the
Sanskrit fragments and the Tibetan Versions (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1968)
* Hayes, Richard,
Dignāga on the Interpretation of Signs
(Dordrecht: Reidel Publishing Company, 1982)
* Katsura Shoryu,
Dharmakīrti on apoha in E.
Steinkellner (ed.), Studies in the Buddhist Epistemological Tradition
(Vienna, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1991), pp.
* Mookerjee, S. The Buddhist Philosophy of Universal Flux, an
Exposition of the Philosophy of Critical Realism as expounded by the
Dignāga (Calcutta, 1935)
* Sastri, N. Aiyaswami, Diṅnāga's Ālambanaparīkṣā and
Vṛtti. Restored with the commentary of Dharmapāla into Sanskrit
from the Tibetan and Chinese versions and edited with English
translations and notes with extracts from Vinītadeva's commentary.
(Madras: The Adyar Library. 1942)
* Tucci, Giuseppe, The Nyāyamukha of Dignāga, the oldest Buddhist
Text on Logic after Chinese and Tibetan Materials (Materialien zur
Kunde des Buddhismus, 15 Heft, Heidelberg, 1930)
* Vidyabhusana, S.C. A History of Indian Logic – Ancient,
Mediaeval and Modern Schools (Calcutta, 1921)
* Dignaga\'s Logic of Invention, by Volker Peckhaus
* Das Rad der Gründe, German translation of The Wheel of