Dharmakīrti (fl. c. 6th or 7th century) was an influential Indian Buddhist philosopher who worked at Nālandā.[1] He was one of the key scholars of epistemology (pramana) in Buddhist philosophy, and is associated with the Yogācāra[2] and Sautrāntika schools. He was also one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism.[3] His works influenced the scholars of Mīmāṃsā, Nyaya and Shaivism schools of Hindu philosophy as well as scholars of Jainism.[4]

Dharmakīrti's Pramāṇavārttika, his largest and most important work, was very influential in India and Tibet as a central text on pramana ('valid knowledge instruments') and was widely commented on by various Indian and Tibetan scholars. His texts remain part of studies in the monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism.[5]

Flourished6th or 7th century
Notable work(s)Pramanavarttika


Little is known for certain about the life of Dharmakirti.[1] Tibetan hagiographies suggest he was a Brahmin born in South India[6] and was the nephew of the Mīmāṃsā scholar Kumārila Bhaṭṭa. When he was young, Kumārila spoke abusively towards Dharmakirti as he was taking his brahminical garments. This led Dharmakirti to take the robes of the Buddhist order instead, resolving to "vanquish all the heretics."[7] As a student of Buddhism, he first studied under Isvarasena,[8] and later moved to Nalanda where he interacted with 6th century Dharmapala.[1][6] However, the accuracy of the Tibetan hagiographies is uncertain, and scholars place him in the 7th-century instead. This is because of inconsistencies in different Tibetan and Chinese texts, and because it is around the middle of 7th-century, and thereafter, that Indian texts begin discussing his ideas,[1][9][5] such as the citation of Dharmakirti verses in the works of Adi Shankara.[3] Dharmakīrti is placed by most scholars to have lived between 600–660 CE, but a few place him earlier.[4]

Dharmakirti is credited with building upon the work of Dignāga, the pioneer of Buddhist logic, and Dharmakirti has ever since been influential in the Buddhist tradition.[5] His theories became normative in Tibet and are studied to this day as a part of the basic monastic curriculum.[5]

Dharmakirti worked at Nalanda as a lay Buddhist, not as an ordained monk, and his work reflects his belief that no one will understand the value of his work, his efforts soon forgotten.[1][10] History proved his fears wrong.[1]


Historical context

The Buddhist works such as the Yogacarabhumi-sastra and the Mahāyānasūtrālaṅkāra composed before the 6th century, on hetuvidyā (logic, dialectics) are unsystematic, whose approach and structure are heresiological, proselytical and apologetic.[4] Their aims were to defeat non-Buddhist opponents (Hinduism, Jainism, Ājīvikism, others), defend the ideas of Buddhism, develop a line of arguments that monks can use to convert those who doubt Buddhism and to strengthen the faith of Buddhists who begin to develop doubts.[4] Around the middle of the 6th century, possibly to address the polemics of non-Buddhist traditions with their pramana foundations, the Buddhist scholar Dignāga shifted the emphasis from dialectics to more systematic epistemology and logic, retaining the heresiological and apologetic focus.[4] Dharmakīrti followed in Dignāga footsteps, and is credited with systematic philosophical doctrines on Buddhist epistemology, which Vincent Eltschinger states, has "a full-fledged positive/direct apologetic commitment".[4] Dharmakīrti lived during the collapse of the Gupta Empire, a time of great insecurity for Buddhist institutions. The role of Buddhist logic was seen as an intellectual defense against Hindu philosophical arguments formulated by epistemically sophisticated traditions like the Nyaya school. However, Dharmakīrti and his followers also held that the study of reasoning and its application was an important tool for soteriological ends.[4]


2 Pramana Epistemology Buddhism
Buddhist epistemology holds that perception and inference are the means to correct knowledge.

Dharmakīrti's philosophy is based on the need to establish a theory of logical validity and certainty grounded in causality. Following Dignāga's Pramāṇasamuccaya, Dharmakīrti also holds that there are only two instruments of knowledge or 'valid cognition' (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.[1] In the Pramāṇavārttika Dharmakīrti defines a pramana as a "reliable cognition". What it means for a cognition to be reliable has been interpreted in different ways. Following commentators like Dharmottara, who define it as meaning that a cognition is able to lead to the obtaining of one's desired object, some modern scholars such as Jose I. Cabezon have interpreted Dharmakīrti as defending a form of Pragmatism.[11] Tillemans sees him as holding to a weak form of correspondence theory, which holds that to "confirm causal efficacy" (arthakriyāsthiti) is to have a justification that an object of cognition has the causal powers we expected.[1] That justification comes through a certain kind of non-conceptual perception (pratyakṣa) which is said to be an "intrinsical source of knowledge" (svataḥ prāmāṇya) which is ultimately reliable. Dharmakīrti sees a cognition as being valid if it has a causal connection with the object of cognition through an intrinsically valid, un-conceptual perception of the object which does not err regarding its functionality. As Dharmakirti says: "A pramāṇa is a reliable cognition. [As for] reliability, it consists in [this cognition’s] compliance with [the object’s capacity to] perform a function" (Pramāṇavārttika 2.1ac).[4]

Dharmakīrti also holds that there were certain extraordinary epistemic warrants, such as the words of the Buddha, who was said to be a authoritative/reliable person (pramāṇapuruṣa) as well as the 'inconceivable' perception of a yogi (yogipratyakṣa). On the role of scriptural authority, Dharmakīrti has a moderate and nuanced position. For Dharmakīrti, scripture (Buddhist or otherwise) is not a genuine and independent mean of valid cognition. He held that one should not use scripture to guide one on matters which can be decided by factual and rational means and that one is not to be faulted for rejecting unreasonable parts of the scriptures of one's school. However scripture is to be relied upon when dealing with "radically inaccessible things", such as the laws of karma and soteriology. However according to Dharmakīrti scripture is a fallible source of knowledge and has no claim to certainty.[1]


According to Buddhologist Tom Tillemans, Dharmakīrti's ideas constitute a nominalist philosophy which disagrees with the Madhyamaka philosophy, by asserting that some entities are real. Dharmakīrti states that the real is only the momentarily existing particulars (svalakṣaṇa), and any universal (sāmānyalakṣaṇa) is unreal and a fiction. He criticized the Nyaya theory of universals by arguing that since they have no causal efficacy, there is no rational reason to posit them. What is real must have powers (śakti), fitness (yogyatā) or causal properties which is what individuates a real particular as an object of perception. Dharmakīrti writes "whatever has causal powers (arthakriyāsamartha), that really exists (paramārthasat)."[1] This theory of causal properties has been interpreted as a form of trope theory.[1] Svalakṣaṇa are said to be part-less, undivided and property-less, and yet they impart a causal force which give rise to perceptual cognitions, which are direct reflections of the particulars.[4]

Dharmakīrti's ultimately real (paramārthasat) particulars are contrasted with conventionally real entities (saṃvṛtisat) as part of his presentation of the Buddhist Two truths doctrine. The conventionally real for him are based on linguistic categories, intellectual constructs and erroneous superimpositions on the flow of reality, such as the idea that universals exist.[4] According to Dharmakīrti, cognitive distortion of the direct perception of particulars occurs during the process of recognition (pratyabhijñāna) and perceptual judgment (niścaya) which arises due to latent tendencies (vāsanā) in the mind left over from past impressions of similar perceptions. These latent dispositions come together into constructed representations of the previously experienced object at the moment of perception, and hence it is an imposed error on the real, a pseudo-perception (pratyakṣābhāsa) which conceals (saṃvṛti) reality while at the same time being practically useful for navigating it.[4] Ignorance (avidyā) for Dharmakīrti is conceptuality, pseudo-perception and superimposition overlaid on the naturally radiant (prabhāsvara) nature of pure perception. By correcting these defilements of perception through mental cultivation as well as using inference to gain "insight born of (rational) reflection" (cintāmayī prajñā) a Buddhist yogi is able to better see the true nature of reality until his perception is fully perfected.[4]

Dharmakīrti, again following Dignāga, also holds that that things as they are in themselves are “ineffable” (avyapadeśya). Language is never about the things in themselves, only about conceptual fictions, hence they are nominalists.[1] Due to this theory, the main issue for Dharmakirti becomes how to explain that it is possible for our arbitrary and conventional linguistic schemas to refer to perceptual particulars which are ineffable and non conceptual. To explain this gap between conceptual schema and perceptual content, Dharmakirti takes up Dignaga's theory of "exclusion" (apoha). Dignāga's view is that "a word talks about entities only as they are qualified by the negation of other things."[1] Dharmakīrti's unique take on this nominalist theory, which underlies his entire system, is to reinterpret it in terms of causal efficacy—arthakriyā (which can also be translated as 'telic function', 'functionality', and 'fulfillment of purpose').[4]

Dharmakīrti developed his philosophical system to defend Buddhist doctrines, so it is no surprise that he developed a number of arguments for rebirth, the Four Noble Truths, the authority of the Buddha, karma, anatta and compassion as well as attacking Brahminical views such as the authority of the Vedas.[4]

Dharmakīrti also defended the Buddhist theory of momentariness (kṣaṇikatva), which held that dharmas spontaneously perish the moment they arise. Dharmakīrti came up with an argument for the theory which stated that since anything that really exists has a causal power, the fact that its causal power is in effect proves it is always changing. For Dharmakīrti, nothing could be a cause while remaining the same, and any permanent thing would be causally inert.[1]

Philosophy of mind

Dharmakīrti defends Dignāga's theory of consciousness being non-conceptually reflexive (svasamvitti or svasaṃvedana). This is the idea that an act of intentional consciousness is also aware of itself as aware.[1] Consciousness is said to illuminate itself like a lamp that illuminates objects in a room as well as itself. Dharmakīrti also defends the Yogācāra theory of "awareness-only" (vijñaptimātratā), which held that 'external objects' of perception do not exist.[1] According to Dharmakīrti, an object of cognition is not external or separate from the act of cognition itself. This is because the object is "necessarily experienced simultaneously with the cognition [itself]" (Pramāṇavārttika 3.387).[4] The view that there is a duality (dvaya) between an object (grāhya) and a subjective cognition (grāhaka) arises out of ignorance.

Dharmakīrti's Substantiation of Other Mindstreams (Saṃtānāntarasiddhi) is a treatise on the nature of the mindstream and Buddhist response to the problem of other minds[12] Dharmakirti held the mindstream to be beginning-less yet also described the mindstream as a temporal sequence, and that as there are no true beginnings, there are no true endings, hence, the "beginningless time" motif that is frequently used to describe the concept of mindstream.[13]


There is disagreement among Indian and Tibetan doxographers as to how to categorise Dharmakīrti's thought. The Gelug school asserts that he expressed Yogācāra views, most non-Gelug Tibetan commentators assert that he expressed Sautrāntika views and, according to one Tibetan source, a number of renowned later Indian Madhyamikas asserted that he expressed Madhyamaka views.[14]

Among modern scholars, some like Tillemans argue that Dharmakīrti represented the Yogācāra school, while Amar Singh argues that he was a Sautrāntika.[15] For Christine Mullikin Keyt, Dharmakīrti represents a "synthesis of two schools of Indian Buddhism, the Sautrantika and the Yogacara."[16] Likewise, Dan Arnold argues that Dharmakīrti's alternating philosophical perspectives of Sautrāntika and Yogācāra views are ultimately compatible and are applied at different levels of his ‘sliding scale of analysis.’[17]

There is also a tendency to see Dignāga and Dharmakīrti as founding a new type of Buddhist school or tradition, which is known in Tibetan as "those who follow reasoning" (rigs pa rjes su ‘brang ba) and sometimes is known in modern literature as pramāṇavāda.

Writings and commentaries

Dharmakīrti is credited with the following major works:

  • Saṃbandhaparikṣhāvrtti (Analysis of Relations)
  • Pramāṇaviniścaya (Ascertainment of Valid Cognition)
  • Pramāṇavārttika-kārika (Commentary on Dignaga's 'Compendium of Valid Cognition')
  • Pramāṇavārttikasvavrtti (Auto-commentary on the above text)
  • Nyāyabinduprakaraṇa (Drop of Logic)
  • Hetubindunāmaprakaraṇa (Drop of Reason)
  • Saṃtānāntarasiddhināmaprakaraṇa (Proof of Others' Mindstreams)
  • Vādanyāyanāmaprakaraṇa (Reasoning for Debate)

There are various commentaries by later thinkers on Dharmakīrti, the earliest commentators are the Indian scholars Devendrabuddhi (ca. 675 C E.) and Sakyabuddhi (ca. 700 C.E.).[18] Other Indian commentators include Karṇakagomin, Prajñākaragupta, Manorathanandin, Ravigupta and Śaṅkaranandana.[19]

He was extremely influential in Tibet, where Phya pa Chos kyi Seng ge (1182-1251) wrote the first summary of his works, called "Clearing of Mental Obscuration with Respect to the Seven Treatises on Valid Cognition" (tshad ma sde bdun yid gi mun sel). Sakya Pandita wrote the "Treasure on the Science of Valid Cognition" (tshad ma rigs gter) and interpreted Dharmakirti as an anti-realist against Phya pa's realism.[20] These two main interpretations of Dharmakīrti became the foundation for most debates in Tibetan epistemology.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Tom Tillemans (2011), Dharmakirti, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. ^ Donald S. Lopez Jr. (2009). Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed. University of Chicago Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-226-49324-4.
  3. ^ a b Hajime Nakamura (1980). Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 301 with footnotes. ISBN 978-81-208-0272-8.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Eltschinger 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Kenneth Liberman (2007). Dialectical Practice in Tibetan Philosophical Culture: An Ethnomethodological Inquiry into Formal Reasoning. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-7425-7686-5.
  6. ^ a b Lal Mani Joshi (1977). Studies in the Buddhistic Culture of India During the 7th and 8th Centuries A.D. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 146–147. ISBN 978-81-208-0281-0.
  7. ^ Buton, Rinchen Drub (1931). History of Buddhism in India and Tibet. Translated by E. Obermiller. Heidelberg: Harrossowitz. p. 152.
  8. ^ Hajime Nakamura (1980). Indian Buddhism: A Survey with Bibliographical Notes. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 301. ISBN 978-81-208-0272-8.
  9. ^ Kurtis R. Schaeffer (2013). Sources of Tibetan Tradition. Columbia University Press. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-231-13599-3.
  10. ^ Collins, Randall (2000). The sociology of philosophies: a global theory of intellectual change. Volume 30, Issue 2 of Philosophy of the social sciences. Harvard University Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-674-00187-9.
  11. ^ Cabezón, José I., 2000, “Truth in Buddhist Theology,” in R. Jackson and J. Makransky, (eds.), Buddhist Theology, Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars. London: Curzon, 136–154.
  12. ^ Source: [1] (accessed: Wednesday 28 October 2009). There is an English translation of this work by Gupta (1969: pp.81–121) which is a rendering of Stcherbatsky's work from the Russian: Gupta, Harish C. (1969). Papers of Th. Stcherbatsky. Calcutta: Indian Studies Past and Present. (translated from Russian by Harish C. Gupta).
  13. ^ Dunne, John D. (2004). Foundations of Dharmakīrti's philosophy. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Wisdom Publications. ISBN 978-0-86171-184-0. Source: [2] (accessed: Monday May 4, 2010), p.1
  14. ^ Ngawang Palden in the Sautrantika chapter of his Explanation of the Conventional and the Ultimate in the Four Systems of Tenets (Grub mtha' bzhi'i lugs kyi kun rdzob dang don dam pa'i don rnam par bshad pa legs bshad dpyid kyi dpal mo'i glu dbyangs, New Delhi: Guru Deva, 1972, 39.5–39.6) says that some such as Prajñakaragupta, Suryagupta, Shantarakshita, Kamalashila, and Jetari interpret Dharmakirti’s Commentary on [Dignaga’s] Compendium of Valid Cognition (Tshad ma rnam 'grel, Pramanavarttika) as a Madhyamika treatise. Dependent-Arising and Emptiness: A Tibetan Buddhist Interpretation of Madhyamika Philosophy Emphasizing the Compatibility of Emptiness and Conventional Phenomena Napper, Elizabeth. Boston: Wisdom Publications. p. 685, note 142
  15. ^ Singh, Amar; The Heart of Buddhist Philosophy: Dinnaga and Dharmakīrti, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1984. xvi + 168 pp. Appendices, glossary, bibliography and indices.
  16. ^ Keyt, Christine Mullikin; Dharmakīrti's concept of the Svalakṣaṇa, 1980, https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/5723
  17. ^ Arnold, Dan; Buddhist Idealism, Epistemic and Otherwise: Thoughts on the Alternating Perspectives of Dharmakīrti, 2008
  18. ^ Dunne, John D; Foundations of Dharmakirti's Philosophy, page 4
  19. ^ Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context" of the University of Heidelberg, http://east.uni-hd.de/buddh/ind/7/16/
  20. ^ Recognizing Reality: Dharmakirti’s Philosophy and its Tibetan Interpretations, (Suny: 1997), page 23-24


  • Dreyfus, Georges (1997). Recognizing Reality: Dharmakirti's Philosophy and Its Tibetan Interpretations. New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-3098-9. extensive discussion of the Dharmakirti's Tibetan reception
  • Dunne, John D. (2004). Foundations of Dharmakirti's Philosophy. Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 978-0-86171-184-0.
  • Eltschinger, Vincent (2010). "Dharmakīrti: Revue internationale de philosophie". Buddhist Philosophy. 2010.3 (253): 397–440.
  • Pecchia, C. (ed., with the assistance of Pierce P.). (2015). Dharmakīrti on the Cessation of Suffering. A Critical Edition with Translation and Comments of Manorathanandinʼs Vṛtti and Vibhūticandraʼs Glosses on Pramāṇavārttika II.190-216. Leiden, Brill.
  • Shcherbatskoy, Fyodor (1932) Buddhist Logic', introduced the West to Buddhist logic, and more specifically to Dignaga. Although pioneering, this work is now regarded as outdated by some Buddhist scholars. — David Loy complains about viewing Buddhist philosophy "through the categories of another system – Stcherbatsky's Kant, Murti's Vedānta, Gudmundsen's Wittgenstein – which (as with earlier interpretations of nirvāṇa) reveals more about the interpreter than the interpreted." (Loy, David (1984). "How not to criticize Nāgārjuna". Philosophy East and West. 34 (4): 437–445. doi:10.2307/1399177.).
  • Tillemans, T. J. F. (1999). Scripture, Logic, Language: Essays on Dharmakirti and His Tibetan Successors. Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 978-0-86171-156-7.

External links


Abhava means non-existence, negation, nothing or absence. It is the negative of Bhava which means being, becoming, existing or appearance.


Adarsana refers to the real non-seeing of objects which already exist; it refers to the ignorance of factual existence of things. This term figures prominently in the Yoga school of thought, and in Jain philosophy.


Anupalabdhi (Sanskrit: अनुपलब्धि) means 'non-recognition', 'non-perception'. This word refers to the Pramana of Non-perception which consists in the presentative knowledge of negative facts. Anupalabdhi or abhāvapramāṇa is the Pramana of Non-perception admitted by Kumārila for the perception of non-existence of a thing. He holds that the non-existence of a thing cannot be perceived by the senses for there is nothing with which the senses could come into contact in order to perceive the non-existence.According to the Bhāṭṭa school of Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā and Advaita-Vedānta system of philosophy, Anupalabdhi is a way to apprehend an absence; it is regarded as the source of knowledge, the other five being – pratyakṣa ('perception'), anumāna ('inference'), śabda ('testimony'), upamāna ('comparison') and arthāpatti ('presumption'). The perception of negation or non-existence in its various forms is also due to the relation of attributiveness.All things exist in places either in a positive (sadrupa) or in a negative (asadrūpa) relation, and it is only in the former case that they come into contact with the senses, while in the latter case the perception of the negative existence can only be had by a separate mode of movement of the mind, a separate pramāṇa – anupalabdhi. Indirect knowledge of non-existence can be attained by other means but direct knowledge of non-existence of perceptible objects and their attributes is available only through this kind of pramāṇa which is not inference.There are four verities of Anupalabdhi which have been identified, they are – a) kāraṇa-anupalabdhi or 'non-perception of the causal condition', b) vyāpaka-anupalabdhi or 'non-perception of the pervader', c) svabhāva-anupalabdhi or 'non-perception of presence of itself', and d) viruddha-anupalabdhi or 'non-perception of the opposed'. The lack of perceptible (yogya) adjuncts (upādhi) is known through non-perception of what is perceptible (yogya-anupalabdhi) and the lack of imperceptible adjuncts is known by showing that which is thought to be an adjunct.The followers of Prabhākara and the Vishishtadvaita do not accept anupalabdhi as a separate parmāṇa because the same sense organs which apprehend an entity can also cognize its abhāva or the non-existence.According to Dharmakirti, anupalabdhi is the affirmative assertion of a negative prediction, and is same as anumāna of an abhāva.

Buddhist atomism

Buddhist atomism is a school of atomistic Buddhist philosophy that flourished on the Indian subcontinent during two major periods. During the first phase, which began to develop prior to the 6th century BCE, Buddhist atomism had a very qualitative, Aristotelian-style atomic theory. This form of atomism identifies four kinds of atoms, corresponding to the standard elements. Each of these elements has a specific property, such as solidity or motion, and performs a specific function in mixtures, such as providing support or causing growth. Like the Hindus and Jains, the Buddhists were able to integrate a theory of atomism with their logical presuppositions.

According to Noa Ronkin, this kind of atomism was developed in the Sarvastivada and Sautrantika schools for whom material reality can be: reduced to discrete momentary atoms, namely, the four primary elements. These momentary atoms, through their spatial arrangement and by their concatenation with prior and posterior atoms of the same type, create the illusion of persisting things as they appear in our everyday experience. Atomic reality is thus understood first and foremost as change, though not in the sense of a thing x transforming into y. That is, change itself is the very nature of atomic reality rather than its being made of enduring substances the qualities of which undergo change. Atoms that appear to endure are, in fact, a series of momentary events that ascend and fall in rapid succession and in accordance with causal relations. Unlike the atoms of the Vaifesika, the atoms of the Sarvastivada-Vaibhasika and the Sautrantika are not permanent: they come into being and cease from one moment to the next going through a process of birth, continuance, decay and destruction. Yet the material compounds that consist of these atoms are real, if only in the minimal, phenomenological sense.The second phase of Buddhist atomism, which flourished in the 7th century CE, was very different from the first. Indian Buddhist philosophers, including Dharmakirti and Dignāga, considered atoms to be point-sized, durationless, and made of energy. In discussing Buddhist atomism, Stcherbatsky writes:

... The Buddhists denied the existence of substantial matter altogether. Movement consists for them of moments, it is a staccato movement, momentary flashes of a stream of energy... "Everything is evanescent," ... says the Buddhist, because there is no stuff ... Both systems [Sānkhya and later Indian Buddhism] share in common a tendency to push the analysis of Existence up to its minutest, last elements which are imagined as absolute qualities, or things possessing only one unique quality. They are called "qualities" (guna-dharma) in both systems in the sense of absolute qualities, a kind of atomic, or intra-atomic, energies of which the empirical things are composed. Both systems, therefore, agree in denying the objective reality of the categories of Substance and Quality, ... and of the relation of Inference uniting them. There is in Sānkhya philosophy no separate existence of qualities. What we call quality is but a particular manifestation of a subtle entity. To every new unit of quality corresponds a subtle quantum of matter which is called guna "quality", but represents a subtle substantive entity. The same applies to early Buddhism where all qualities are substantive ... or, more precisely, dynamic entities, although they are also called dharmas ("qualities").

Buddhist logico-epistemology

Buddhist logico-epistemology is a term used in Western scholarship for pramāṇa-vāda (doctrine of proof) and Hetu-vidya (science of causes). Pramāṇa-vāda is an epistemological study of the nature of knowledge; Hetu-vidya is a system of logic. These models developed in India during the 5th through 7th centuries.

The early Buddhists texts show that the historical Buddha was familiar with certain rules of reasoning used for debating purposes and made use of these against his opponents. He also seems to have held certain ideas about epistemology and reasoning, though he did not put forth a logico-epistemological system. The structure of debating rules and processes can be seen in the early Theravada text the Kathāvatthu.

The first Buddhist thinker to discuss logical and epistemic issues systematically was Vasubandhu in his Vāda-vidhi ("A Method for Argumentation"), who was influenced by the Hindu work on reasoning, the Nyāya-sūtra.A mature system of Buddhist logic and epistemology was founded by the Buddhist scholar Dignāga (c. 480–540 CE) in his magnum opus, the Pramāṇa-samuccaya. Dharmakirti further developed this system with several innovations. Dharmakirti's Pramanavarttika ('Commentary on Valid Cognition') became the main source of epistemology and reasoning in Tibetan Buddhism.

Buddhist universities and colleges in the United States

There are several Buddhist universities in the United States. Some of these have existed for decades and are accredited. Others are relatively new and are either in the process of being accredited or else have no formal accreditation. The list includes:

Dhammakaya Open University – located in Azusa, California, part of the Thai Wat Phra Dhammakaya

Dharmakirti College – located in Tucson, Arizona Now called Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute (http://awaminstitute.org/)

Dharma Realm Buddhist University – located in Ukiah, California

Ewam Buddhist Institute – located in Arlee, Montana

Institute of Buddhist Studies – located in Berkeley, California

Maitripa College – located in Portland, Oregon

Naropa University – located in Boulder, Colorado

Soka University of America – located in Aliso Viejo, California

University of the West – located in Rosemead, California

Won Institute of Graduate Studies – located in Glenside, Pennsylvania


Dharmakīrtiśrī (Tibetan: Serlingpa; Wylie: gser gling pa; Chinese: 金州大師, literally "from Suvarnadvīpa"), also known as Kulānta and Suvarṇadvipi Dharmakīrti, was a renowned 10th century Buddhist teacher remembered as a key teacher of Atiśa. His name refers to the region he lived, somewhere in Lower Burma, the Malay Peninsula or Sumatra.


Dharmottara (Tibetan: chos mchog) was an 8th-century Buddhist author of several important works on pramana (valid cognition, epistemology), including commentaries on the writings of Dharmakirti. Only one of his works survives in the original Sanskrit, the Nyāyabinduṭīkā, while other survive in Tibetan translation.


Dignāga (a.k.a. Diṅnāga, 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 like Dharmakirti and also Hindu thinkers of the Nyaya school. Dignāga's epistemology accepted only "perception" (pratyaksa) and "inference" (anumāṇa) are valid instruments of knowledge and introduced the widely influential theory of "exclusion" (apoha) to explain linguistic meaning. His work on language, inferential reasoning and perception were also widely influential among later Indian philosophers. According to Richard P. Hayes "some familiarity with Dinnaga's arguments and conclusions is indispensable for anyone who wishes to understand the historical development of Indian thought."Dignāga was born in Simhavakta near 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 Vasubandhu.


Haribhadra Suri was a Svetambara mendicant Jain leader and author. There are multiple contradictory dates assigned to his birth. According to tradition, he lived c. 459–529 CE. However, in 1919, a Jain monk named Jinavijayi pointed out that given his familiarity with Dharmakirti, a more likely choice would be sometime after 650. In his writings, Haribhadra identifies himself as a student of Jinabhadra and Jinadatta of the Vidyadhara Kula. There are several, somewhat contradictory, accounts of his life. He wrote several books on Yoga, such as the Yogadṛṣṭisamuccaya and on comparative religion, outlining and analyzing the theories of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.


Jñānaśrīmitra (fl. 975-1025) was an Indian Buddhist philosopher of the epistemological (pramana) tradition of Buddhist Philosophy, which goes back to Dignaga and Dharmakirti. He was also a poet, a dvarapandita (gate-scholar) of Vikramasila and was the teacher of Ratnakīrti. Jñānaśrīmitra was well known by Hindu and Jain thinkers and was the most significant Buddhist figure of his era.

Kumārila Bhaṭṭa

Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (fl. roughly 700) was a Hindu or brahminical philosopher and Mīmāṃsā scholar from medieval India. He is famous for many of his various theses on Mimamsa, such as Mimamsaslokavarttika. Bhaṭṭa was a staunch believer in the supreme validity of Vedic injunction, a great champion of Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā and a confirmed ritualist. The Varttika is mainly written as a subcommentary of Sabara's commentary on Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa Sutras. His philosophy is classified by some scholars as existential realism.Scholars differ as regards Kumārila Bhaṭṭa's views on a personal God. For example, Manikka Vachakar believed that Bhaṭṭa promoted a personal God (saguna brahman), which conflicts with the Mīmāṃsā school. In his Varttika, Kumārila Bhaṭṭa goes to great lengths to argue against the theory of a creator God and held that the actions enjoined in the Veda had definite results without an external interference.

Kumārila is also credited with the logical formulation of the Mimamsic belief that the Vedas are unauthored (apauruṣeyā). In particular, his defence against medieval Buddhist positions on Vedic rituals is noteworthy. Some believe that this contributed to the decline of Buddhism in India, because his lifetime coincides with the period in which Buddhism began to decline. Indeed, his dialectical success against Buddhists is confirmed by Buddhist historian Taranatha, who reports that Kumārila defeated disciples of Buddhapalkita, Bhavya, Dharmadasa, Dignaga and others. His work strongly influenced other schools of Indian philosophy, with the exception that while Mimamsa considers the Upanishads to be subservient to the Vedas, the Vedanta school does not think so.


The Mahābhāṣya (Sanskrit: महाभाष्य, IPA: [məɦaːbʱaːʂjə], great commentary), attributed to Patañjali, is a commentary on selected rules of Sanskrit grammar from Pāṇini's treatise, the Ashtadhyayi, as well as Kātyāyana's Varttika, an elaboration of Pāṇini's grammar. It is dated to the 2nd century BCE.

Padmapur, Rayagada

Padmapur is a village in the Rayagada district of Odisha, India. It is the most populated village and one of the identified tourist centers of the district. A hillock adjoins the village to its northern side to enhance the scenic beauty of the place. A 7th century inscription found here, in the Nilakantheswar Temple (a religious place i.e. the shrine of Lord Manikeswar Shiva), indicates that the Jagamanda hill, located close by, once housed the monastery of the famous Buddhist logician-philosopher Dharmakirti.


Pramana (Sanskrit: प्रमाण, Pramāṇa) literally means "proof" and "means of knowledge". It refers to epistemology in Indian philosophies, and is one of the key, much debated fields of study in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, since ancient times. It is a theory of knowledge, and encompasses one or more reliable and valid means by which human beings gain accurate, true knowledge. The focus of Pramana is how correct knowledge can be acquired, how one knows, how one doesn't, and to what extent knowledge pertinent about someone or something can be acquired.Ancient and medieval Indian texts identify six pramanas as correct means of accurate knowledge and to truths: perception (Sanskrit pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna), comparison and analogy (upamāna), postulation, derivation from circumstances (arthāpatti), non-perception, negative/cognitive proof (anupalabdhi) and word, testimony of past or present reliable experts (Śabda). Each of these are further categorized in terms of conditionality, completeness, confidence and possibility of error, by each school of Indian philosophies.

The various schools of Indian philosophies vary on how many of these six are epistemically reliable and valid means to knowledge. For example, Carvaka school of Hinduism holds that only one (perception) is a reliable source of knowledge, Buddhism holds two (perception, inference) are valid means, Jainism holds three (perception, inference and testimony), while Mimamsa and Advaita Vedanta schools of Hinduism hold all six are useful and can be reliable means to knowledge. The various schools of Indian philosophy have debated whether one of the six forms of pramana can be derived from other, and the relative uniqueness of each. For example, Buddhism considers Buddha and other "valid persons", "valid scriptures" and "valid minds" as indisputable, but that such testimony is a form of perception and inference pramanas.The science and study of Pramanas is called Nyaya.


The Pramāṇavārttika (Sanskrit, Commentary on Valid Cognition; Tib. tshad ma rnam 'grel) is an influential Buddhist text on pramana (valid instruments of knowledge, epistemic criteria), a form of Indian epistemology. The Pramāṇavārttika is the magnum opus of the Indian Buddhist Dharmakirti (flourit 6-7th centuries).

Rebirth (Buddhism)

Rebirth in Buddhism refers to its teaching that the actions of a person lead to a new existence after death, in endless cycles called saṃsāra. This cycle is considered to be dukkha, unsatisfactory and painful. The cycle stops only if liberation is achieved by insight and the extinguishing of desire. Rebirth is one of the foundational doctrines of Buddhism, along with Karma, nirvana and moksha.The rebirth doctrine in Buddhism, sometimes referred to as reincarnation or metempsychosis, asserts that rebirth does not necessarily take place as another human being, but as an existence in one of the six Gati (realms) called Bhavachakra. The six realms of rebirth include Deva (heavenly), Asura (demigod), Manusya (human), Tiryak (animals), Preta (ghosts), and Naraka (resident of hell). rebirth, state Buddhism traditions, is determined by karma, with good realms favored by Kushala (good karma), while a rebirth in evil realms is a consequence of Akushala (bad karma). While Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Buddhist teaching, much of traditional Buddhist practice has been centered on gaining merit and merit transfer, whereby one gains rebirth in the good realms and avoids rebirth in the evil realms.The rebirth doctrine has been a subject of scholarly studies within Buddhism since ancient times, particularly in reconciling the rebirth doctrine with its Anatman (no self, no soul) doctrine. The Buddhist traditions have disagreed on what it is in a person that is reborn, as well as how quickly the rebirth occurs after each death. Some Buddhist traditions assert that "no self" doctrine means that there is no perduring self, but there is avacya (inexpressible) self which migrates from one life to another. The majority of Buddhist traditions, in contrast, assert that Vijnana (a person's consciousness) though evolving, exists as a continuum and is the mechanistic basis of what undergoes rebirth, rebecoming and redeath. Some traditions assert that the rebirth occurs immediately, while others such as the Tibetan Buddhism posits an interim state wherein as many of 49 days pass between death and rebirth and this belief drives the local funerary rituals.

Richard Hayes (professor)

Richard Hayes (aka Dharmacārī Dayāmati) (born 1945) is an Emeritus professor of Buddhist philosophy at the University of New Mexico. He received his Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Toronto in 1982. Hayes moved to Canada in 1967 in order to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War.Hayes is a noted scholar in the field of Buddhist Sanskrit, specializing in the study of Dharmakīrti and Dignāga.Hayes was formerly Professor of Sanskrit at McGill University in Canada. He joined the University of New Mexico in the fall of 2003. and retired in 2014.

For many years Hayes was moderator and a prolific contributor to the now defunct online discussion group Buddha-L. Buddha-L attracted a mix of scholars and amateurs and hosted vigorous and at times acrimonious debates.

As well as teaching Buddhism and Sanskrit, Hayes is himself a Buddhist and a Quaker. In a brief blog bio he says he was "Initiated as a dharmachari with the name Dayāmati into the Triratna Buddhist Order on January 26, 2000. I am also a member of Albuquerque Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Hayes is a noted essayist (Land of No Buddha) and blogger (New City of Friends, Out of a Living Silence) of considerable wit and clarity. He has expressed vehement political opinions, and been critical in particular of Republican politicians.


Śāntarakṣita (Sanskrit: शान्तरक्षित, śāntarakṣita; Tibetan: ཞི་བའ་ཚོ, Wylie: zhi ba tsho, 725–788) was a renowned 8th century Indian Buddhist and abbot of Nalanda. Śāntarakṣita founded the philosophical approach known as Yogācāra-Mādhyamika (c.q. Yogācāra-Svatantrika-Mādhyamika), which united the Madhyamaka tradition of Nagarjuna, the Yogacara tradition of Asanga, and the logical and epistemological thought of Dharmakirti.

Śāntarakṣita was instrumental in the introduction of Buddhism and the Sarvastivadin monastic ordination lineage to Tibet which was conducted at Samye. His philosophic views were the main views in Tibet from the 8th century until it was mostly supplanted by Je Tsongkhapa's interpretation of Prasaṅgika Madhyamaka in the 15th century. In the late 19th century, Ju Mipham attempted to promote his views again as part of the Rimé movement and as a way to discuss specific critiques of Je Tsongkhapa's interpretation of Prasaṅgika.

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