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

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 Nyāyasūtra), 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 Nyayasūtra does not mean that there was no Nyaya school. According to Franco, the final redation of the NS occurred short before Vātsyāyana, in the first half of the 5th c. UPDATE: Please read Birgit’s comment below for a more precise version of what she said (I had not understood that she thinks that portions of the Nyāyasūtra might have existed even before the self-awareness of its author(s) and followers to be a distinct school).

    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 Dharmapāla’s commentary on the Ālambanaparīkṣā, and to the general topic of the presence of a Hetuvidyā tradition in China which is independent of Dharmakīrti (“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

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog:, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

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

  1. On ‘Indo-Sinic Buddhism’ and India-China thought generally, Tao Jiang at Rutgers and I have been running a session of Comparative Studies in Indian and Chinese Religion and Philosophy at the American Academy of Religion since 2007; and indeed, the very first panel was on nirvāṇa in Indian and Chinese Buddhism. But we generally have a more conceptually driven programme involving reading texts and contexts comparatively, rather than using the methodology of historical studies.

    • Thank you, Ram, I did not know. I wonder whether Franco knows about it (as you know, I am always inclined to think that scholars working on Indian philosophy should join their efforts).

      • The general problem is that European Indologists generally, but also people who take themselves to be working in ‘philosophy’ usually don’t come to the AAR. Dan Lusthaus has taken part and usually attends our panels, but doesn’t seem like there was much of an overlap between the attendance there and at the AAR panel.

        • Touchée! I never attended an AAR conference, thinking that it would have been a gigantic meeting with little chances for real exchanges and focusing merely about the non-theological side of religions (from rituals to the every day life of religious communities), a topic I am unfortunately not very interested in. Should I change my mind? And why don’t AAR-conveners come to IABS-like conferences? 😉

  2. Thaks for your perceptive and helpful conference summaries, Elisa.

    A small clarification: Katsura suggested that the NS might not have existed when the UH was written because the Nyāya school is not mentioned in a list of schools in the text. My point was that this need not mean the NS did not exist because (as others have argued) the existence of (parts of) the NS does not entail the existence of a self-consciously distinct Nyāya school. The awareness of Nyāya as a distinct “school” is likely to have arisen some time after the process of sūtra compilation began. So there might not have been a Nyāya “school”, but there could already have been parts of the Nyāyasūtras.

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