Atmatattvaviveka by Udayanacarya

Atmatattvaviveka by Udayanacarya

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Item Code: IDF909
Author: N. S. DRAVID
Publisher: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
Language: With Translation, Explanation and Analytical-Critical Survey
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 8185952280
Pages: 587
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.7" X 6.5"
Weight 970 gm

About the Book:

This is a voluminous philosophical treatise in Sanskrit which seeks to defend the Nyaya Vaisesika conception of self by critically examining and refuting the Buddhist doctrine of Universal momentariness, unreality of the objective world and so on that are directly or indirectly opposed to the reality of self. As a work of unrelenting and sustained polemics, Atmatattvaviveka ha no parallel in the philosophical literature of India or the West. Udayanacarya the author of the work was a giant of a scholar who syncretised the Nyaya and Vaisesika schools and put them on a firm logical foundation by writing both destructive and constructive works on the philosophy of the schools. The controversy between Nyaya Vaisesika and Buddhism dates back to the 2nd century AD when Vatsysysna wrote his Bhasya commentary on the Nyayasutras and criticized therein the views of Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu etc. the great Madhyamika Buddhists. The process of criticism and counter-criticism of each other views in the Nyaya Vaisesika and the Buddhist schools continued unabated after the advent of Vatsyayana's Bhasya for about a thousand years. Only when they appeared on the scene did the age-old controversy between the two hostile philosophical camps came to an abrupt end. No Buddhist scholar ever dared to challenge the criticism of the Buddhist views contained in the Atmatattvaviveka. Many eminent scholars have commented upon this work. In preparing this translation-sum-explanation of the work all-important commentaries of the work available today have been utilized. Philosophical issues of current interest are also incidentally discussed in the work.

About the Author:

He come of an illustrious family of Nyaya and Vedanta scholars domiciled in Varanasi. He was trained in Nvyanyaya by the traditional method for over 12 years by his brother the Late Rajeshwar Shastri the famous Naiyayika and his famous pupil the late Hariram Shastri. He studied Western philosophy and Buddhism in M. A. in the Banaras Hindu University under the guidance of the late Professor T. R. V. Murthy. For his Ph. D thesis He chose Nyaya Epistemology as his subject. When the Nagpur University took over post-graduate teaching in 1959 he was appointed as the first head of the Post-graduate philosophy department of the university. During his teaching career in the university spanning over 25 years he actively participated as symphsiast and chairman in many all Indian seminars and conferences and also contributed several philosophical papers to English, Hindi and Marathi journals of repute. In 1976 he visited the University of Hawaii, USA as Associate Professor of Philosophy and worked there in the faculty colloquium, which were greatly appreciated. On his retirement in 1984, he joined IIAS Shimla to work on Atmatattvaviveka.



Atmattavaviveka of Udayanacary, written nearly a thousand years ago, is a major philosophical text of the classical Indian tradition. It markts a significant stage in ‘orthodox’ Indian philosophy’s response to Buddhis. But more valuable than its polemical interest is its subtle and, frequently profound, treatment of philosophical problems wich defy history and context.

Problems of translating, as is well-known, are immense, specially translating a text across great linguistic, temporal and cultural barriers. Professor Dravid’s translation of Atmattatvaviveka and his explanatory notes are a marvellous example of how many of these problems can be creatively overcome and the philosophical and literary content of the original can be made available to an ‘alien’ audience. Professor Dravid’s serious contribution to philosophical thought.



To transalte a Sanskrit philosophical treatise in fluent idiomatic English without distorting or rendering unintelligible the import of the original text is a rather difficult job. For one thing, the precise and concise technical terms used in the philosophical treatises of Sanskrit do not have even approximately parallel synonyms in English and for another the styles of expression of the two languages differ very widely from eath other. An expression like say 'Padarvinda' which appears natural in Sanskrit appears rather ludicrous when translated as 'Lotus-feet' in English. If a treatise happens to be polemical in character then the compactness of its logical syntax makes the task of the English translation of the treatise still more difficult. But Atmattatvaviveka of Udayanacarya is not merely a philosophical treatise in Sanskirt, it is also a work of a master-stylist in Sanskrit. The charm, vigour and expressiveness of this treatise entitles it to be ranked with great Sanskrit works like Sankara's Bhasya and Patanjali's Mahabhasya. Udayanacarya's frequent use of Sanskrit proverbs with stunning effect in the course of hitting the nail of his argument on the head of the Buddhist adversary and thereby poohpooing his position is also a unique phenomenon in Sanskrit philosophical literature. To capture the beauty and philosophical content of such an extraordinary work through literal translation of it is simply a wasted effort. The next best course open to an honest translator is to give a free non literal but precise English rendering of the content of the Sanskrit original without bothering much for its literary quality. This is the course adopted by the present translator. But to help those readers who have some acquaintance with Sanskrit, the compound words-which are so frequent in Sanskrit philosophical treatises-have been split up into their component words so that such readers can verify for themselves the faithfulness of the translation to the original.

Each passage-unit in the text is provided with an independent heading which epitomises the content of the unit thus enabling the reader to know at a glance what is being said in the passage under the heading. Each translation-piece is followed by a detailed explanation-piece. Important or difficult points discussed in the translated passage are elucidated in the explanation. Sometimes some new points are also raised and discussed in the explanation. The explanations are generally based on the most important available commentaries of Atmatattvaviveka. A large number of commentaries have been written on this work by eminent scholars in the past. Only a few of these commentaries are available in full, today. The explanations given in the book are based mainly upon three published commentaries. These are the Kalpalata by Sankaramisra, the Prakasika by Murlidhar Thakkura and the Didhiti by Raghunatha Siromani. Of these three Kalpalata is mainly expository and quite lucid in expression. Its author Sankarmisra is quite well-known for his commentarial work. He has authored commentaries on philosophical works as varied as Nyayaleelavati, Kbandanakhandakhadya and so on. Prakasika of Murlidhar Thakkura is both elucidatory and innovative. It is also critical at times. Raghunatha Siromani's Didhiti however is a most insightful commentary on the treatise. Almost on every passage some novel interpretation is presented by Didhiti. The points raised by it by way of elaborating and refining the import of the text are invariably very ingenious. This is quite natural as Raghunatha Siromani, the author of the commentary is reputed to be the greatest logician and thinker of India after Gangesa of the 12th Century A.D.

A comprehensive analytical-critical survey of the whole treatise is appended at the end of the translation. In this survey the essence of each important argument and counter-argument is presented in an unbroken sequence. This has become necessary in view of the fact that because of the unusually long chain of each argumentation the reader is apt to lose the thread of the main point of an argument by the time he reaches its conclusion. The critical part of the survey is concerned with an independent critical evaluation of the author's as well as the Buddhist's position on each issue discussed in the treatise. On many points it has not been possible for the present writer to see eye to eye with Udayana. The translator has, therefore, frankly expressed the points of his disagreements with Udayana at different places for the critical consideration of scholars. A glossary of certain important technical terms with their meanings is given at the end. Many of these terms are current in Buddhist philosophical literature only.

Lest it may be thought that Atmatattavaviveka, being a work composed about a thousand years ago in an age with a totally-different philosophical ambience, its study can be only of historical interest to modern readers, it needs to be emphatically stated that the work is not only of topical interest today, it is in some respects even ahead of the current thinking on certain burning philosophical issues. For example, semantic and logical paradoxes and their various proposed solutions are a hot topic of discussions among philosophers today. This topic happens to be elaborately thrashed out in Atmatattaviveka in the context of the Buddhist assertion and the Non-Buddhist denial that the unreal can be the referend of a significant proposition. To prove that what is not momentary cannot be real, in order to establish the theory of universal momentariness, the Buddhist has to make a significant reference to the non-momentary which in his view is unreal. For the non-Buddhist however neither the non-momentary nor the momentary is unreal. Certain entities like the last sound vibration in the series of sound-vibrations emanating from a source is regarded as momentary by the non-Buddhist. The problem of paradoxical assertions and negations that arises in connection with the discussion of universal momentariness is discussed in detail by Udayana. The solution to the problem suggested by him though not quite unusual is quite ingenious.

The Buddhists do not admit the reality of the universals which they equate with other-exlusions called "Apoha" in Sanskrit. Western nominalists, both ancient and modern, do not seem to have a clear notion of what is to take the place of the universal in the universal propisitions if the reality of the universal is denied. A long tortuous and very interesting discussion of this problem is available in Atmatattvaviveka.

Far more interesting and quite original is the discussion of the problem of personal identity that we have in the fourth section of the treatise. Recognition is the basis of personal identity. Can recognition be based on cause-effect relationship? If it can, then, is it the relation of the material cause or the efficient cause to its effect which sustains recognition? But can there be a material cause at all in the Buddhist view? Further, is the causal relation just the basis of recognition or both the basis and the agent of recognition? All these questions arising out of the main question of personal identity or the reality of the individual self are discussed in detail in the treatise.

The reality of the substantive locus of qualities is the problem which is considered in a chapter by itself in the treatise. The manner in which the problem is tackled in the treatise is quite unique both in Indian and Western Philosophy. Again, there is a good deal of novel reflective material in the discussions of the nature of difference, the cosmological argument for the existence of God, types of causality and so on, in the treatise. On each of these and other related topics the author has many original things to say.

It may be pointed out here that the translator was attracted to the study of and work on the treatise not simply because the treatise is philosophically very interesting but also because of his peculiar personal involvement in it. The translator's uncle the late Laxman Shastri Dravid, a great Vedantist, was, first the coeditor and later the sole editor of the first edition of the treatise brought out by the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. Subsequently the Choukhamba Press of Varanasi brought out two other editions of the treatise of which the editors were the translator's brother, the Late Rajeshwar Shastri Dravid, the foremost Indian logician of his time and his well known pupil of Hariram Shastri-a great Naiyayika and the teacher of the translator. This translation may be taken as the last stage in the revival of the work lying shrouded in obscurity for a long time. The translator wishes this work of his on the treatise to be treated as a concrete expression of his immense gratitude to his uncle, brother and teacher.


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