Third and forth day at the IABS: “Pramana Across Asia”: Introduction to the panel, Katsura, Lusthaus

The “Pramana across Asia” panel has been opened by Eli Franco, its convener, with the following hope: “In some years, through stimuli such as this panel, we will speak of Indo-Sinic Buddhism, just like we speak of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism”.

  • In fact, the first speaker, Shoryu Katsura, has focused on the Fangbianxinlun, attributed to Nagarjuna.
    The Fangbianxinlun (together with a text attributed to Vasubandhu) has been one of the two only texts on logic until Xuanzang introduced Dignaga’s New Buddhist Logic.

    The Fangbianxinlun is the Chinese translation of a no longer extant text whose title has been rendered as *Upayahrdaya (Tucci) or *Prayogasara (Frauwallner). After proposing a third alternative, namey *Prayogahrdaya, Katsura has shown that the first Chinese character is used only twice in the text itself, once with the meaning of upaya and the second time with the meaning of prayoga ‘formal representation of a syllogism’, so that we have no way to settle the issue. As for the authorship, due to the usage of dilemmas and prasanga-argumentation, Katsura agrees with the attribution to Nagarjuna or to his school.
    At the very beginning of the text, an objector states that people engage in debate because they are motivated by arrogance and hatred, so that it is better to avoid debates altogether. The author justifies himself by saying that he is only explaining the rules of debate because he needs to protect the truth of the Buddha’s teaching (cf. the similar arguments about jati and vitanda, which should have the same protective function, in the Nyayasutra), and not out of personal pride.

    As for its significance for the purpose of reconstructing the history of Indian philosophy, the Fangbianxinlun (henceforth *UH) encompasses 8 topics, which remind one of the 8 sadhanas in the Hetuvidya section of the Yogacarabhumi. There are also correspondences with the 44 elements of debate mentioned in the Carakasamhita. The *UH recognises 4 pramanas (pratyaksa, anumana —said to be purvavat, sesavat and samanyatodrstasabda/aptagama and upamana). In a list of schools, Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools are mentioned, and among the latter are Vaisesikas and Jains. Katsura has suggested that the omission of Nyaya might mean that the text predates the Nyayasutra.
    In this regard, Birgit Kellner has suggested that the absence of the Nyayasutra does not mean that there was no Nyaya school. According to Franco, the final redation of the NS occurred short before Vatsyayana, in the first half of the 5th c.

    Long story short, Katsura’s talk nicely served the panel’s purpose of creating a common field of Indo-Sinic Buddhist studies.

  • The same applies to Dan Lusthaus’ talk (on Friday morning), which was dedicated to the Chinese versions of Dharmapala’s commentary on the Alambanapariksa, and to the general topic of the presence of a Hetuvidya tradition in China which is independent of Dharmakirti (“as if there were a tradition of Greek Philosophy influenced by Plato but which has never known Aristotle”, Franco summarised).

Are times ripe for “Indo-Sinic Buddhism”? What are we expecting from this field of study?

This post is a part of a series on the IABS. For its first day, see here. For the first part of the second day, see here. For the second part of the second day, see here. For the third part of the second day, see here. Please remember that these are only my first impressions and that all mistakes are mine and not the speakers’ ones

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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