Pramana (Dharmakirti and The Indian Philosophical Debate)

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Item Code: NAJ298
Author: Lama Doboom Tulku and Maya Joshi
Publisher: Manohar Publishers and Distributors
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788173048555
Pages: 126
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 350 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


Indian philosophical thought on Pramana (Valid Cognition) is a rich archive that merits attention not only for its technical brilliance and variety but also for the ways in which it reverberates with contemporary discussions in science: arguably the ‘master discourse’ of the modern world. In a spirit of free and open enquiry, characteristic of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s preferred mode of engaging with the world, Tibet House collaborated with the Drepung Monastic University at Mundgod, Karnataka, to organize a Monastic Debate that was both traditional and contemporary.


Tibetan Buddhism has a long tradition of Monastic Debates. This Debate was special in that it drew upon the pre- Buddhist traditions of thought on this crucial question in Logic while also incorporating a perspective that leapt across the centuries: that of contemporary Physics. While the different schools such as Vedanta, Sankhya, Nyayavaisesika, Purvamimamsa, and Jaina were represented by scholars from academia, there was a lively interaction with monks being trained in traditional Tibetan philosophy at monasteries across India.


The seminar was multilingual - with presentations and queries in Tibetan, Hindi, Sanskrit and English. While this book presents lightly edited versions of the key papers presented there, the lively debates in Tibetan could not be transcribed due to logistical difficulties. Hence, this bi-lingual volume, attempts to make available to the scholarly community and curious students a valuable resource for understanding this crucial issue in Logic from a rich, multifaceted, comparatist perspective.


About the Author


Lama Doboom Tulku was born in Tibet in 1941 and recognized as the incarnation of the previous Doboom Tulku at the age of three by Ven. Lama Phurchog Jamgon Rinpoche. Since 1981 Lama Doboom Tulku has been Director of Tibet House, Cultural Centre of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, working for the promotion of Tibetan cultural heritage to a wide audience. He is the author of Buddhist Translations: Problems and Perspectives; Buddhist Path to Enlightenment and Gyalwai Chostsul.


Maya Joshi has inherited an interest in Buddhist studies which she keeps alive with her active association with Tibet House and the World Buddhist Culture Trust, of which she is a Trustee. She edits the Tibet House Bulletin and is on the Faculty of English, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi.




Tibet House has a long tradition of Monastic Dialogues. In collaboration with the Drepung Monastic University at Mundgod, Kamataka, Tibet House, Delhi organized the seventh monastic dialogue on ‘Indian Philosophical Thought and Pramana’ from 10 to l3 November 2003. The seminar was unique in facilitating a dialogue not only amongst all the traditions of Buddhist thought, but also in including scholar-practitioners from other Indian philosophical traditions such as Vedanta, Sankhya, Nyayavaisesika, Purvamimamsa, and Jaina. It also reached out to the world of modern science by inviting an eminent physicist to the dialogue. This was a most unusual gathering of diverse perspectives and one that generated much discussion.


It gives me great pleasure to see the publication of the proceedings of this stimulating seminar. I would like to thank Ms. Maya Joshi and Ms. Raji Ramanam for their editorial assistance in the production of this volume. I trust it will provide a valuable resource to anyone interested in a fuller understanding of the concept of Pramana which is so central to philosophical thought as it developed in India and Tibet.




Indian philosophical thought has developed through discussions, debates and encounters among different schools, systems, and thinkers with Vade vade jayate tattva bodhah as the guiding spirit. From the time of Vedic thought, it has been asserted that truth can be approached, understood, and expressed in diverse ways. The game of philosophizing can thus be played by mutual supplementations and complementarities. Philosophical thought in each school has developed in an atmosphere of intimate interaction, so that to understand anyone school of Indian thought requires knowledge of the other prevalent systems. While the different philosophical schools freely borrowed from or corrected one another, or simply agreed to disagree, never could they ignore or overlook one another.


Pramana has been a major subject of debate and discussion among philosophers through the ages. Exponents of Nyayavaisesika, Sankhya, Purvamimamsa, Vedanta, Jaina and Buddhist thought have presented their own definitions and also expounded varieties of pramana, eleven in all. The primary objective of the seminar was to understand and appreciate pre-Buddhist Indian philosophical thought on the three classic points of pramana (‘correct knowledge’ or ‘valid cognition’) leaving aside, the fourth, namely, the result. The three points under debate were the characteristics of pramana, the types of pramana and finally, the objectives of pramana.


The seminar brought together experts from all corners of India, specialists in different philosophical traditions prior to the era of Buddhist logicians, starting with Dignaga and Dharmakirti. As expected, this provided a wonderful exposure to these other traditions and generated debate amongst traditional Buddhist scholars studying in Tibetan monasteries in India. The traditions of pre-Buddhist India philosophical thought are usually presented as purva-paksha in Buddhist logic. The seminar also endeavored, in the spirit of open enquiry that His Holiness the Dalai Lama promotes, to look into the debate from the perspective of modern science. The questions were posed thus: do the findings and discoveries of modern science, utilizing instruments and relying on physical measurements, constitute pramiina as it is conceptualized in traditional thought? If yes, then, which of the traditional varieties of correct knowledge or valid cognition can they be identified with?


Dharmakirti is a prominent Buddhist thinker belonging to the syncretic phase of the Sautantric- Yogachara tradition. Parmana Vartika can be regarded as his magnum opus in which he expounds his thought in a systematic and detailed manner. In it, he undertakes a systematic exposition of the Buddhist conception of sarvajnata along with other arguments for proving the validity of Buddha vacana. He gives an elaborate account of the criteria and means of knowledge, dilating upon the nature and means of nirvana, along with providing an exposition of the Four Noble Truths, the theories of karma, samsara, and rebirth in the Buddhist context. Keeping in mind his centrality to the debate at hand, while the first three days of the, seminar were devoted to pre-Buddhist Indian philosophical thought, the last day focused almost exclusively on Dharmakirti’s contributions to the development of pramana theory.


The fascinating discussion around modern science, especially in the domain of physics, bought the debate to the present day and the urgent need to address the question of knowledge from a con- temporary perspective. Expectedly, many among the audience were interested in tracing the connections between Buddhist ontology and epistemology and the latest developments in the scientific understanding of the nature of matter.


Conducted as a multi-lingual exchange, with superb simultaneous translations between Tibetan, Sanskrit, Hindi, and English by a team of gifted and dedicated translators, the seminar proved to be a rich confluence of traditions-philosophical, linguistic, religious, and cultural. While the traditional panditas and university based academics savored the Tibetan ambience (the dialogues were conducted seated in the monastic fashion, in the magnificent hall of the Drepung Monastery), the Tibetan monks received a valuable chance to address their queries directly to the rare gathering of experts, provoking lively debates beyond the fixed space of the speakers’ presentations. The visitors were also treated to a demonstration of the traditional Tibetan style of debate, with its characteristic gestures and vigorous body language.


We publish below papers from the seminar, lightly edited and reproduced in the language they were presented in, in order to capture the original flavour and diversity of the exchange. Of course, the Tibetan oral exchange, largely in the form of queries from the audience of eager monks, could not be reproduced for publication due to logistical difficulties. But we do hope that his collection will prove to be a valuable and lasting asset to any scholar interested in the subject from a multi-dimensional perspective, and generate further exchanges of this kind.


I would like to express my gratitude to Ven. Doboom Tulku for involving me in this project, which was a rare learning opportunity. I would also like to thank our dear friend, Ms. Raji Ramanan, for agreeing at short notice to help with editing the materials in Sanskrit. Finally, Siddharth from Manohar who so patiently saw this volume through to its publication and lived up to his name.








Introduction: Seminar on Indian Philosophical Thought on Pramana and Dharmakirti: An Overview Maya Joshi



The Sankhya Concept of Pramana: Dharmakirti’s Critique



Purvamimamsa Concept of Pramana and a Review of Dharmakirti’s Concept



Pramanic Perspective in Sankara and Dharmakirti



The Jaina Theory of Pramdna: An Overview



बौद्ध और जैन प्रमाणमीमांसाएक तुलनात्मक अध्ययन



आचार्य धर्मकीर्ति और उनके प्रमाणलक्षण की विवेचना



Dharmakirti’s Contribution to Indian Philosophical Thought



Logic: Ancient and Modern/Scientific



List of Contributors



Sample Pages

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