The Classical Indian Axiomatic
By Richard H. Robinson

Philosophy East and West
V. 17 (1967)
pp. 139-154

Copyright 2000 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, USA


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    I PROPOSE TO EXPLORE a topic hitherto neglected in the search for the foundations of Indian philosophy; an enterprise that has progressed markedly in the last few years with the rising interest in Indian logic and linguistics, and with the typological and structural approach exemplified by Potter [l] and Smart. [2] The arguments of the classical philosophers rest on a small number of axioms which are frequently cited and are so generally known as to be easily supplied when tacitly assumed in a proof. But none of the philosophical dar`sanas attempted to list its complete axiomatic, much less to justify it, and criticisms of opponents' axioms were made ad hoc and unsystematically.

    Systematic treatment of the general axiomatic considerably exceeds the bounds of this exploration. One would have to proceed text by text, extracting the axioms, formulating or reformulating them, and deciding whether to merge variants, to treat one as a corollary of the other, or to list both as separate axioms. One would have to collect and classify the contexts and uses, note the critical objections and defenses of each axiom, and plot the variations of axiomatic according to period, author, and school. The result would be inductively derived, historical, critical, and complete.

    As a sample, I have collected a list of axioms from Naagaarjuna's Maadhyamaka-kaarikaas, [3] II`svarak.r.s.na's Saa^mkhya-kaarikaas [4] and `Sa^mkara's Brahma-suutra-bhaa.sya. [5] The three authors are sufficiently different in thought and in period, and are important enough, to guarantee that the results, though tentative, will not be trivial.

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    1. Karl H. Potter, Presuppositions of India's Philosophies (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963).

    2. Ninian Smart, Doctrine and Argument in Indian Philosophy (London: George Alien and Unwin, Ltd., 1964).

    3. Louis de La Vallee Poussin, Muulamadhyamakakaarikaas de Naagaarjuna, avec la Prasannapadaa, commentaire de Candrakiirti (St. Petersbourgh, 1903-1913).

    4. Ganganath Jha, The Tattva-kaumudi, Vaacaspati Mi`sra's commentary on the Saa^mkhya-kaarikaa (3rd ed.; Poona: Oriental Book Agency, 1965). Hereafter abbreviated "Jha."

    5. Brahma-suutra-`saa^nkara-bhaa.syam, Naaraayan Raam Aachaarya, ed. (3rd ed.; Bombay: Nir.naya Saagar Press, 1948). Hereafter abbreviated "Text." Translation by George Thibaut, in Sacred Books of the East, vols. 34 and 38.

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AXIOM ONE: SOMETHING DOES NOT COME OUT OF NOTHING,
AND SOMETHING DOES NOT BECOME NOTHING.

    This may be called the rule of the conservation of being. It was already formulated by the end of the middle archaic period, about 200 B.C. Bhagavadgiitaa 2.16: "Of the nonexistent there is no coming to be; of the existent there is no ceasing to be" [6] (naasato vidyate bhaavo naabhaavo vidyate sata.h). The key terms sat (existing, real) and bhaava (coming-to-be, presence, entity) are not defined in the Giitaa, but this passage asserts that only sat possesses bhaava, whatever that may mean.

    In the early archaic creation myths, being (sat) comes out of non-being (asat), as in .Rg Veda 10.72 [7] while .Rg Veda 10.129 [8] states that the primordial One preceded both sat and asat. At this period, sat meant "solid," "reified" and asat meant "unsolid," "unreified." [9] Sat meant "this which is here and now," and asat meant "that which has not yet come to be." [10] The two are conjoined in a solidarity of opposites (see Axiom Two): "The sages searching in their hearts with wisdom/Found out the bond of being in non-being" (RV 10.129.4). The bond, though, is not a logical or metaphysical one, but an affiliation; asat is the matrix from which sat arises.

    The turning point is evidenced in Chaandogya Upani.sad, where Uddaalaka objects, "But how could being be produced from non-being? In the beginning only being was here, one alone, without a second" [11] (Ch.U. 6.2.2). The sequel -- in which he asserts that being (or The Being) willed to multiply, and so created heat, which created water, which created food -- shows that the realm of thought is still that of creation myth rather than classical metaphysics: Uddaalaka advances no argument to prove the primacy of being over non-being. The antecedent (Ch.U. 6.1.4-6) enunciates the axiom that effects having a common material cause are substantially alike and that the differences between them are "unreal." "Just as by one clod of clay all that is made of clay becomes known, the modification (vikaara) being a designation (naamadheya) that has its basis in Speech (vaac), while the truth is that it is just clay." [12] At this stage, sat is redefined to mean the enduring ground as

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    6. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, eds., A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957). Hereafter abbreviated "RM."

    7. Ralph T. H. Griffith, trans., The Hymns of the .Rgveda (4th ed.; Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1963), Vol. 2, p. 486. Included in RM, p. 20.

    8. Cf. Griffith, Vol. 2, p. 575. Included in RM, p. 23.

    9. J. A. B. van Buitenen, "Studies in Saa^mkhya (III)," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 77, 2 (1957), 104.

    10. J. A. B. van Buitenen, Raamaanuja's Vedaarthasa.mgraha (Poona: Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute, 1956), pp. 4 ff.

    11. On the translation, see van Buitenen, Vedaarthasa.mgraha, p. 8, n. 18.

    12. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, ed. and trans., The Principal Upani.sads (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1953), pp. 446-447. Also see van Buitenen, Vedaarthasa.mgraha, p. 12.

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opposed to transient variations, the substance in contrast to the forms. Note that asat is not explicitly redefined in this passage; by implication it is that from which the modifications do not emerge, but it is not asserted that the modifications are asat. "Nor is the diversity emerging from the stuff sat disparaged as being merely effects: there is nothing discreditable in things being created by naming out of their common substratum." [13]

    The early Buddhist view, as instanced in the Kaatyaayana-avavaada-suutra, presupposes some such view as Uddaalaka's in addition to the .Rg-Vedic one:

The world for the most part holds either to a belief in being or to a belief in non-being. But for one who in the light of the highest knowledge considers how the world arises, belief in the non-being of the world passes away. And for one who in the light of the highest knowledge considers how the world ceases, belief in the being of the world passes away. [14]

    The sequel expounds the twelvefold chain of dependent arising and dependent cessation. Here "being" (astitaa) is considered as a possible predicate of "world" rather than as the stuff which creates the world out of itself. The problem has changed from the creation of the world to its ontological status, whether it exists or does not exist. Definitions of a sort can be extracted from the context. That which arises is not non-being or non-existent. That which ceases is not being or existent. But apparently that which arises is not existent and that which ceases is not non-existent, since we are told in the sequel that the Tathaagata avoids the two extremes of being and non-being. We might suspect a sort of Intuitionist definition of negation here, inasmuch as "not non-existent" is not the same as "existent." A more primitive and so more plausible solution is that "existent" is being used in two senses; first, "to have arisen and be present at a given time," and second, "to be present at all times and not to have ceased." But the axiom that what arises will surely cease was evidently accepted in the middle archaic period when the Early Buddhist canon was formulated. Hence the first sense of "existent" is incompatible with the second. "Not existent and not non-existent" is to be read "in one sense not existent, and in another sense not non-existent." The objections to equating this with "in one sense existent and in another sense not existent" seem to be tactical rather than logical.

    This passage contains no indication that the world is illusory, nominal, or

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    13. Van Buitenen, Vedaarthasa.mgraha, p. 13.

    14. Henry Clarke Warren, Buddhism in Translations (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1896), p. 165. Sa.myutta-nikaaya 2.12.15; Kaccaanagotta-sutta, PTS ed., Vol. 2, p. 17.

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conceptual, though centuries later both Naagaarjuna and `Sa^mkara so interpreted the statement that the world is neither sat nor asat. The principle of Giitaa 2.16 fits this Early Buddhist view formally. That which has come to be (arisen) is not unreal (asat), while that which is going to cease is not existent (sat). But the Giitaa meant that there is an underlying substance which neither comes into being nor ceases to be, while the Buddhists meant that there is no underlying substance, because phenomena arise and cease. Axiom One is manifestly equivocal.

    II`svarak.r.s.na attempts no definition of sat and seldom uses the word. Nonetheless, he accepts and relies on Axiom One. Prak.rti (the world-stuff) is sat rather than asat (S.K. 8), and the modifications (vikaara) of it are also sat (sat kaaryam, S.K. 9). His first reason for asserting that the effect (kaarya) is present (sat) in the cause before the operation of the cause is that a non-existent entity cannot be subjected to any operation, and since production is an operation, a non-existent entity cannot be produced. This rests on a variant of Axiom One: "Something cannot be made out of nothing, and something cannot be made into nothing." The added assumption, that all effects are modifications of a persisting substance, is unacceptable to the Buddhists, and in the specific Saa^mkhya form is not admitted by Nyaaya-Vai`se.sika.

    Naagaarjuna rests his arguments time and again on Axiom One, but he refuses to acknowledge the distinction between "existing" and "being manifested" on which the Saa^mkhya case is founded.

Neither for a non-existing (asat) nor for an existing (sat) object is a condition (pratyaya) admissible. What non-existing (thing) has a condition? And what use is a condition for the existing? [15]

The Blessed One, discerner of the existent (bhaava) and the non-existent (abhaava), in the Kaatyaayana-avavaada-suutra, denied that (the world) is, that it is not, and that it both (is and is not). If is-ness (astitaa) were due to nature (prak.rti), its is-not-ness (naastitaa) would not take place, since the alteration of nature never in fact happens. When the nature is non-existent, of what, will alteration take place? When the nature is existent, of what will alteration take place? [16]

    Candrakiirti presents the Saa^mkhya reply and three later Maadhyamika attempts to counter it -- Buddhapaalita's, Bhaavaviveka's, and Candrakiirti's own. [17] As Stcherbatsky says, "By leaving the main issue, the difference between origination and manifestation, intentionally in the dark, by taking the ex-

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    15. Maadhyamaka-kaarikaas (hereafter M.K.) 1.6. Prasannapadaa, p. 82 (cf. n. 3).

    16. M.K. 15.7-9; Prasannapadaa, pp. 269-272.

    17. Prasannapadaa, pp. 16-18; Th. Stcherbatsky, The Conception of Buddhist Nirvaa.na (Leningrad: Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1927), pp. 96 ff.

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pressions svata utpaada.h 'origination out of one's own self' and satkaarya 'preexistence of the result' literally, Buddhapaalita secures a dialectical triumph." [18] Candrakiirti declares that the Saa^mkhya objection and Bhaavaviveka's criticism against Buddhapaalita do not hold, but in his elaborate defense he never once confronts, much less disposes of, the damaging criticism that Buddhapaalita (following Naagaarjuna) is not in fact exposing a self-contradiction in the Saa^mkhya case but rather imputing to it a self-contradiction unjustly by refusing to use Saa^mkhya terms as Saa^mkhya defines them.

    `Sa^mkara affirms the rule of the conservation of being, and exploits it for his own special purposes. On Brahma-suutra 3.2.38, he argues that the Lord is the source of karmic retribution, since it must come either from the deeds themselves or from the Lord, and it cannot come from deeds because they pass away as soon as they are done, and it does not in fact happen that something comes from nothing (abhaavaad bhaavaanutpatte.h). [19]

    In his commentary on Giitaa 2.16, `Sa^mkara discusses the meaning of sat and asat with unusual fullness. [20] He takes asat to mean modifications such as heat and cold, which have causes. He glosses bhaava (coming-to-be, existent, thing) with bhavana (act of being/becoming) and astitaa (is-ness). These states perceived through the senses are devoid of real-thing being (vastu-sat), because they are modifications (vikaara), and modifications pass away. Two reasons are given: because no modification is perceived apart from its material cause (kaara.na), and because no modification is perceived before its birth and after its destruction. Thus to be asat is to be dependent and impermanent. But the asat may still be perceptible and may "exist" in the ordinary sense of the term, which as `Sa^mkara concedes elsewhere is the opposite of his sense.

    A further feature of `Sa^mkara's definition, and one that places him closer to Berkeley and Descartes than to the archaic Vedaanta of the Upani.sads, is that he links being and cognition. He rejects the objection that the unreality of modifications implies the unwelcome consequent (prasa^nga) of universal nothingness, giving the elegant reason that being is a predicate truly apprehended in every finite act of cognition. "No, because of perception with a twofold cognition in every case, cognition of sat and cognition of asat. That object (vi.saya) of which cognition (buddhi) does not pass away, is sat. That object of which cognition passes away, is asat." He goes on to say that in commonsense experience, the perception is "an existing cloth," "an existing

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    18. Stcherbatsky, op. cit., p. 97, n. 2.

    19. RM, p. 538.

    20. Bhagavad-giitaa-bhaa.syam, `Srii-`saa^mkara granthaavalii.h (`Sriira^ngam: `Sriivaa.niivilaasa Printing Press, n.d.), Vol. 8, pp. 22-24.

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pot," "an existing elephant." The cloth, pot, and elephant are asat, because the cognition of them is temporary. But the object of the cognition "existing" is not asat, because it does not pass away.

    `Sa^mkara is committed to the exegetical position that the Upani.sads are both consistent and true. Yet some Upani.sadic texts assert that the world originates from asat, while others declare this view to be wrong. `Sa^mkara, following the Brahma-suutras, accepts Uddaalaka's view that sat, equated with Brahman, is the primal entity, and eliminates the apparent inconsistency of other passages by taking asat in another sense. For example, Taittiriiya 2.7 says "Non-being, indeed, was here in the beginning" (asad vaa idam agra aasiit). [21] `Sa^mkara comments: "Asat means unmodified Brahman, in the aspect opposite to that characterized by manifested (vyaak.rta) name-and-form, not just utter non-being, since there is no birth of being from non-being." [22] He elaborates further in his commentary on Brahma-suutra 1.4.15, concluding "Therefore, while the word 'being' is usually accepted as meaning a thing (vastu) manifested with name-and-form, it is metaphorically said, in relation to the absence of manifestation in it, that real (sad eva) Brahman was non-being." [23]

    It does not seem to have bothered `Sa^mkara that his use of "being" and "non-being" was the reverse of the ordinary one.

    The phenomenal world, for `Sa^mkara, neither exists nor does not exist. "For maayaa is unmanifested, because it cannot be described as identical with (Brahman) or different from (Brahman)." [24] "As name-and-form, which seem to be the Self of the all-knowing Lord (and) are figmented by ignorance (avidyaa), are not describable (anirvacaniiya) as being identical with (Brahman) or different from (Brahman)...." [25]

    This position, though of the same form as the Buddhist thesis that "The world neither exists nor does not exist," is radically different in meaning. `Sa^mkara means that phenomena are real qua substance and unreal qua form, just as the waves are unreal (asat) while the water is comparatively real. He accepts, while the Buddhists reject, the axiom that common properties imply a common substance. Thus it is evident that at least part of the apparent multivalence of a given axiom stems from its being construed with divergent other axioms.

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    21. Cf. Radhakrishnan, Principal Upani.sads, p. 548.

    22. Hari Raghunath Bhagavat, ed., The Upanishadbhashya (Poona: Ashtekar & Co., 1927), Vol. 2, part I, p. 374.

    23. Text, p. 164. Cf. RM, p. 516.

    24. Text, p. 149. Thibaut (Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 34, p. 243; RM, p. 516) translates "Since it cannot be defined either as that which is nor as that which is not."

    25. Text, p. 201. See Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 34, pp. 328-329.

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    The interpretations of the axiom of the conservation of being also turn out, not surprisingly, to vary according to the definitions of "being." There is a gradual progress in explicitness and precision from the early archaic to the late classical period. But even `Sa^mkara, the most analytic thinker in our sample, does not acknowledge the arbitrary character of the definitions without which this fundamental principle is meaningless.

AXIOM TWO: TO EXIST MEANS TO EXIST IN SPACE AND TIME.

    This is the use of "exist" in most Buddhist texts and in some though not all Brahmanical ones. Schayer asserts: "In this connection it must be strongly emphasized that the concept of a non-spatial Being, especially the hypostasis of a psychic, non-extended reality which has been current in Occidental philosophy since Descartes, remained foreign to the Indian systems." [26] And E. H. Johnston says: "Early Indian thought, as exemplified for instance by Saa^mkhya, drew no clear line of demarcation between the material, mental and psychical phenomena of the individual.... All classes of phenomena are looked on alike as having a material basis, the difference resting merely on the degree of subtlety attributed to the basis." [27]

    A case in point is the early Buddhist treatment of the question whether the Tathaagata "exists" after death. The Aggi-vacchagotta-sutta [28] reports the questioner Vaccha paraphrasing his question as "Where is the liberated one reborn?" The Buddha parries with the question, "In what direction has the fire gone when it has gone out ?" Vaccha concedes that the question does not fit the case. It appears that in the early Buddhist world-view the nirvaa.na-dhaatu (realm) was not a location either inside or outside the cosmos, that is, the triple realm. It was not a place.

    In early archaic terms, the fire would go to asat -- the unmanifested state -- when it goes out. If we are right in surmising that to be sat is to have a location, then the asat is not located anywhere. This non-being, though, would not be an absolute nothingness; the concept is too abstract for such archaic thought. But with Uddaalaka, the concept of absolute being emerges; not as the crowning abstraction in a pyramid of universals, but as the one subtle substance underlying and constituting all modifications, existing unmanifested at all times and everywhere. The middle-period Upani.sads vividly

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    26. Stanislaw Schayer, "Das mahaayaanistische Absolutum nach der Lehre der Maadhyamikas," Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 38 (1935), 405.

    27. E. H. Johnston, Early Saa.mkhya (London: The Royal Asiatic Society, 1937), p. 38.

    28. Warren, op. cit., pp. 123 ff.; RM, pp. 289-292. Pali text, Majjhima 72.

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assert that it is at once infinitesimally subtle and infinitely extensive. "The aatman that is subtler than the subtle and greater than the great..." (Ka.tha 1.2.20). [29] Terms for place are applied to Brahman-Aatman in these texts, but it is hard to tell whether they are being used literally or otherwise. "I tell you briefly that goal/word (pada) that all the Vedas proclaim..." (Ka.tha 1.2.15). "This is the best basis/foundation (aalambana)" (Ka.tha 1.2.17). "The wise, freed from the bonds of birth, go to the ill-free place (pada)" (Giitaa 2.51). "I will tell you briefly that place (pada)..." (Giitaa 8.11, paraphrase of Ka.tha 1.2.15). "That place (pada) is to be sought having gone to which they do not return..." (Giitaa 15.4). "By my grace he reaches the eternal unperishing state (pada)" (Giitaa 18.56). Perhaps these passages do not intend that Brahman be a locus, but they take no precautions to avoid giving such an impression. As the ordinary popular idea is that liberation is going to a place, failure to deny this notion makes it likely that the authors of these `sruti texts accepted it.

    The idea of the Being which or who is everywhere and forever evidently came together with the idea of a non-being which is a universal and eternal absence. The Kaatyaayana-avavaada-suutra assumes that being is everlasting presence and non-being is permanent non-occurrence. Phenomena ("the world") occur at certain times and places, so they neither exist nor do not exist. On the other hand, nirvaa.na does not have a particular locus or duration, so it does not exist; yet it is attained, so it does not inexist. Thus we see that the absolutist redefinition of sat and asat excluded the finite and relative occurrences which are the proper references of "being" and "non-being" in ordinary language. Yet Axiom Two continued to obtain, and the term "being" was not given a trans-cosmic sense.

AXIOM THREE: OPPOSITE THINGS CANNOT OCCUPY THE SAME PLACE AT THE SAME TIME.

    This statement comprises both the logical rule of contradiction and a principle of physics which is instanced in the stock similitude, "like light and darkness." I have found no archaic texts that express the principle. Naagaarjuna cites it several times, and constantly relies on it. "And cessation of an existing entity does not in fact occur, for existence (bhaava) and non-existence (abhaava) do not in fact occur in a unity" (M.K. 7.30). "For where are there the mutually contradictory sat and asat in a unity?" (M.K. 8.7.) "How could there be both existence and non-existence in nirvaa.na? There is no being in one place for those two, like light and darkness" (M.K. 25.14).

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    29. For all Upani.sad references, see Radhakrishnan, The Principal Upani.sads.

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    A few paradoxical statements seem to violate this principle. "That moves, that does not move, that is far, that is near, that is inside all, that is outside all" (II`saa U. 5). `Sa^mkara explains away the seeming paradoxes. "The meaning is that it does not move from itself, and yet it is the of itself immobile being that moves.... It is outside all because it is pervasive like space-ether, and it is inside all because it is extremely subtle." [30] The Upani.sad presents a riddle, and `Sa^mkara gives one set of answers. That he does so shows sufficiently his allegiance to the rule of contradiction.

AXIOM FOUR : THE EXISTENCE OF NON-A IMPLIES THE EXISTENCE OF A.

    This is the counter-twin rule (pratidvandvin, pratiyogin). It corresponds to the European principle of the solidarity of opposites. We have already seen its archaic genesis in the .Rg Veda, where being and non-being are tied together with a bond. The idea that the pairs of opposites are associated in the unfree world and that they are to be transcended by the liberated man runs throughout the Giitaa. [31] The dominant concern is with achieving imperturbability and immunity to the suffering engendered by the opposites. It is affirmed that there is a state which is free from A and from non-A. In other words, A and non-A are contraries rather than contradictories.

    One genuine philosophical problem central to the Giitaa is whether action (karman) or inaction (akarman) is superior. We may disregard the specious third term "mis-action" (vikarman) in 4.17, as it is merely a kind of action. We are then told in 4.18 that the wise yogin is he who sees action in inaction and inaction in action. Note that it does not say that action is inaction, or vice versa; this is not a true identity of opposites. But it still looks like a violation of Axiom Three. `Sa^mkara's discussion of this verse is one of the longest in his Giitaa Commentary. The objector asks: "Why is this contradiction (viruddha) expressed 'who sees inaction in action' 'and action in inaction'? For action cannot be inaction, or inaction (be) action. How can the seer see something contradictory there?"

    `Sa^mkara replies: "No, the real (sat), which in the absolute (paramaarthatas), is just inaction, appears like action to the world whose vision is deluded. There the Blessed One, to show the true case, says 'who sees inaction in action,' etc. Hence it is not a contradiction." [32]

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    30. Bhagavat ed., op. cit., p. 4.

    31. See, e.g., Giitaa 2.14, 27, 45, 50, 56, 57; 3.34; 4.18, 20; 5.3, 20; 6.7; 7.27, 28; 9.28; 12.13, 17, 18, 19.

    32. Text, p. 105.

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    To a critic who is not partisan to one Vedaanta faction, it is evident that the Giitaa did not intend the illusionism (maayaavaada) that `Sa^mkara adduces to explain this verse. The distinction between the two truths is a `Suunyavaadin Buddhist contribution, later than and alien to the Giitaa. `Sa^mkara's judgment that no contradiction is intended here is nonetheless worthy of trust; he is a notable witness to the abhorrence of contradiction evidenced in many places throughout the classical Indian tradition.

    It seems that the Giitaa was no more bothered than were the Upani.sads by the appearance of contradiction. We are dealing with another philosophical riddle, of a kind that is not posed in later periods in the milieu of technical philosophers, though it continues to occur in religious poetry, Hindu and Buddhist alike. The question, then, is which solution to the riddle would have been considered right by its author.

    `Sa^mkara gives a reason for the riddle: "Because starting up (prav.rtti) and halting (niv.rtti) are dependent on an agent." This seems to mean that inasmuch as the agent is a common ground underlying action and inaction, these two are modifications of the same substance. But the one absolutely real substance, Brahman, is not an agent, and `Sa^mkara concludes that action pertains only to the realm of ignorance (avidyaa).

    A simpler explanation is suggested by the context. Giitaa 4.19 reads: "The wise call him a sage all of whose undertakings are purged of sense-desire and purpose, whose deeds are burned up in the fire of wisdom." Here karman signifies the results rather than the process of action. So in 4.18 "action" is being used in two senses. The wise yogin is he who sees how to act without incurring reward or punishment, and sees that retribution follows as much from omission as from commission.

    Notice that the Giitaa does not say expressly that the existence of good and pleasure depends on the existence of evil and suffering. But the frequent references to the three gu.nas enable us to surmise that good (sattva) and evil (rajas and tamas), light (sattva) and darkness (tamas), motion (rajas) and rest (tamas) take turns at dominance, supporting and giving rise to each other, as described in Saa^mkhya-kaarikaas 12. [33]

    II`svarak.r.s.na rests one of his arguments for the existence of souls (puru.sa) on Axiom Four. "The puru.sa exists... because (there must be an entity with attributes) opposite to the three gu.nas, etc...." (S.K. 17). As the Tattva-kaumudii elaborates the argument, [34] there would be an endless series of composite objects unless a non-composite enjoyer of the composite were

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    33. Jha, p. 60; RM, p.429.

    34. Jha, p. 79; RM, p. 431.

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posited. This amounts to saying that Axiom Four is necessary to prevent a vicious infinite regress.

    Naagaarjuna invokes the solidarity of opposites often in the Kaarikaas where, it must be remembered, he is exploiting axioms affirmed by his opponent rather than asserting his own belief in them. "When the conditioned is not established, how will the unconditioned be established?" (M.K. 7.33.), "When entity does not occur, of what/whom will there be non-entity (abhaava) ?" (M.K. 5.6.) "If entity is not established, non-entity is not established, either, since people call an alteration of entity 'non-entity' " (15.5). "We pronounce that there is nothing impure independent of the pure" (M.K. 23.10). "If nirvaa.na is not an entity, how will it be a non-entity? For non-entity does not occur where there is no entity" (M.K. 25.7). "Nirvaa.na is unconditioned, while entity and non-entity are conditioned" (M.K. 25.13).

    The last statement contains a key to the meaning and justification for this axiom. Bhaava (entity, coming-to-be) and abhaava (non-entity, anti-entity, not-coming-to-be) are both conditioned (sa^msk.rta), that is, finite. So the sum of bhaava and abhava is finite.

    In the Vigrahavyaavartanii, [35] Naagaarjuna represents the Nyaaya opponent as trying to trap the Maadhyamika with sophistries based on the counter-twin role. The objector claims:

Since negation is just of the real (sat), as 'There is no pot in the house,' this observed negation of yours must belong to a real/existing: own-being. But if the own-being, does not exist, what indeed is negated by you through this statement? For the negation of an unreal (entity) is established without any statement.... If the negation, the negatable and the negators do not exist, all the entities of their own-being are established (V.v.11,12,16).

To paraphrase, if a class has no members that exist, there will be no word for it. If there is a word for it, there must have been some actual occurrences of its members at some time. Thus in saying "There is no pot" you imply that pots do occur. Naagaarjuna replies: "If negation pertains only to the real, then is not this emptiness established? For you negate the own-being-less-ness of entities" (V.v.61).

    The difficulty is that own-being-less-ness and pots are not comparable entities. The first is a metaphysical construct and the second is a commonsense thing. The unanswered question is whether and how abstractions are bhaavas.

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    35. E. H. Johnston and A. Kunst, eds., "The Vigrahavyaavartanii of Naagaarjuna," Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques, 9 (1951), 108-151. For translations, cf. Frederick J. Streng, Emptiness (Nashville and New York: Abingdon Press, 1967), pp. 222-227.

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    `Sa^mkara makes a characteristic use of the counter-twin rule:

It is not possible that ('Not so, not so') should deny both, due to the unwelcome consequence of `suunyavaada (asserting emptiness). For the non-absolute is negated on the basis of something absolute (paramaartha), as the snake, etc., is negated concerning the rope. But this is in order when some entity remains. If both were negated, what other entity would remain? If no other remains, the negation of some other that we may wish to undertake becomes impossible, because the latter becomes absolute and unnegatable. [36]

    At this point, the subject moves over into the later logicians' discussions of terms that are kevalavyatirekin (having negative instances only) and kevalaanvayin (having positive instances only), which is beyond the present topic. The classical philosophers realized that the counter-twin rule was fraught with difficulties, but each nevertheless tried to exploit it for his own ends. Obscurity and uncertainty persisted after all their best efforts.

AXIOM FIVE: EVERY EFFECT HAS A CAUSE; NOTHING HAPPENS WITHOUT A CAUSE.

    Except for some Materialists, this axiom was generally affirmed. Naagaarjuna denies categorically that anything arises without a cause (M.K. 1.1, 4.2). He does not attempt to prove the case, except to ask why, if this is the case, effects do not come forth from non-causes, II`svarak.r.s.na asserts that the effect pre-exists in the cause "because all is not possible," i.e., effects only issue from their proper causes, and not from non-causes (S.K. 9). Goats do not give birth to rice sprouts, and rice grains do not sprout kids. `Sa^mkara says: "Only when the (material), cause exists is the effect observed to exist, not when it does not exist." [37] This axiom is a universal generalization from common observation, rather than a definitional decree like Axioms One and Two.

AXIOM SIX: THE CAUSE MUST BE LIKE ITS EFFECTS.

    Uddaalaka had declared the principle that through the material cause all the modifications might be known, II`svarak.r.s.na relied on it for several of his most crucial proofs. One reason for the existence of the Unmanifested as cause is that all phenomenal things consist of the three gu.nas. Common properties presuppose a common substance, so there must be one fundamental

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    36. On Brahma-suutra (hereafter B.S.) 3.2.22. See RM, p. 537.

    37. On BS. 2.1.15. Cf. RM, p. 531

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substance which consists of the three gu.nas. As the Tattva-kaumudii puts it: "And whatever is invariably connected with a certain form must have for its cause wherein it inheres, something which has that form for its constituent element." [38] The effect is said to exist in the cause "because the effect is a state (bhaava) of the cause" (S.K. 9). As the Tattva-kaumudii says: "Because it has the same nature (aatman) as the cause. For the effect is not separate from the cause, and the cause is existent. Then how can the effect, which is non-separate from it, be non-existent?" [39]

    Naagaarjuna says: "Form is not perceived apart from the cause of form, neither is the cause of form perceived apart from form" (M.K. 4.1). "That the effect is like the cause is not true to fact. That the effect is unlike the cause is not true to fact" (M.K. 4.6). Candrakiirti explains that cause and effect are observed to be unlike, as the seed and the sprout, hence identity is not the case. But because they (merely) have different attributes (lak.sa.na), like nirvaa.na and sa^msaara (which for Naagaarjuna are non-different), cause and effect are not dissimilar. [40]

    It would appear as if sameness of attributes and identity are not being properly distinguished. For Buddhists, though, the identity is merely the sum of the attributes. This being the case, Naagaarjuna's position on Axiom Six is discovered to presuppose the Buddhist school tenet of the denial of the substance-attribute relation and its terms. In Kaarikaas, chapter 4, he is arguing against Hiinayaanists, so his course is legitimate. It is wrong whenever he extends it to non-Buddhists, as for instance in chapter I, where he is arguing against Saa^mkhya as well as Hiinayaana.

    `Sa^mkara says: "Now the cognition of everything takes place when the material cause (upaadaana-kaara.na) is cognized, because the effect is not excluded from the material cause. But there is no non-exclusion (avyatireka) of the effect from the efficient cause (nimitta-kaara.na)." [41] An objector protests, "But how can the Vedaanta-texts if untrue convey information about the true being of Brahman?" `Sa^mkara replies that imaginary causes sometimes produce real effects, because the consciousness that experiences them is grounded in Brahman, which is real. He adduces a curious similitude: "We see that the knowledge of the real sounds A., etc., is reached by means of the unreal written letters." [42] This anticipation of the American linguists' view that spoken language is the real language serves to illustrate that effects are

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    38. On S.K. 15. Jha, pp. 79 ff.; RM, pp. 430-431.

    39. Jha, p. 47.

    40. Prasannapadaa, p. 126. See Jacques May, Candrakiirti Prasannapadaa Maadhyamaka-v.rtti ("douze chapitres traduits") (Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1959), p. 92.

    41. On B.S. 1.4.23. Cf. RM, p. 521.

    42. Text, p. 199. On B.S. 2.1.14. RM, p. 528.

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in some respects different from their causes. `Sa^mkara has to keep insisting on this because his system is biased so strongly against diversity. An objector holds that if Brahman is the cause of the world, cause and effect being alike, the commonsense distinction between experiencer and things experienced would be abrogated, an unwelcome conclusion. `Sa^mkara replies that there are commonsense examples to which the objection does not apply, for instance, sea-water and such modifications as waves, foam, and bubbles. Distinctions persist between the modifications even though they are non-different from the substance. [43]

AXIOM SEVEN : THE AGENT AND THE OBJECT OF AN ACTION CANNOT BE IDENTICAL.

    This principle is assumed in the objection that the experiencer and the experienced would coalesce. The idea is that actions are necessarily transitive and non-reflexive. The eye cannot see itself (M.K. 3.2), the fingertip cannot touch itself, and the knife cannot cut itself. Naagaarjuna says: "If the goer were the same as the going, it would lead to the absurdity of coalescence (ekiibhaava) of doer and deed" (M.K. 2.36). "If the fire is the fuel, (there is), oneness of doer and deed" (M.K. 10.1). "If (the effect) came-to-be self-made, it would not then come-to-be dependently, for 'dependent on those skandhas, these skandhas come-to-be'" (M.K. 12.2). "If there is oneness of effect and cause, there will be oneness of progenitor and progeny. If there is separateness of effect and cause, the cause will be equal to a non-cause" (M.K. 20.20).

    That things come-to-be dependently is a Buddhist school-tenet, grounded on the authority of the Buddha rather than established through observation and inference. Its denial is not an unwelcome consequence to either Saa^mkhya or Vedaanta, the two schools which hold in some sense that the cosmic progenitor and progeny are one. `Sa^mkara argues for the exemption of Brahman from Axiom Seven, and concludes: "The aatman is thus the operative cause, because there is no other ruling principle, and the material cause because there is no other substance from which the world could originate." [44] His proof is pertinent to the general problem of the role of axiomatic. `Sa^mkara has in mind a hierarchical ordering of axioms. That there must be a cosmic guiding principle takes precedence over the commonsense notion that material causes must be different from operative causes. Scriptural statements such as "Everything can be known through one thing" rank higher than the

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    43. On B.S. 2.1.13. Cf. RM, pp. 524-525

    44. On B.S. 1.4.23. Cf. RM, p. 521.

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axiom that agent and object are non-identical. Naagaarjuna does not allow his opponent any such rank-ordering of axioms. He insists that commonsense principles be absolutized, and then impales his opponent on the consequent absurdities.

    II`svarak.r.s.na argues that the soul (puru.sa) must be different from the world-stuff (prak.rti) because there must be a separate experiencer for which prak.rti is the object (S.K. 17). Similarly he argues that since all manifested things are limited, there must be an unmanifested, unlimited limiter which limits them (S.K. 15).

AXIOM EIGHT: THE UNSEEN IS TO BE KNOWN FROM THE SEEN.

    This affirms that theoretical knowledge by inference is possible even when the entity is imperceptible. All metaphysics and most science, in East and West, depend on this axiom. The difficulty lies in knowing what conclusions about the unseen are justified by the seen. For this, no single rule suffices. The task demands procedures of postulation, observation, inference, and calculation more complex and rigorous than any known to the ancient world.

    This last axiom surfaces here and there in classical `saastras. II`svarak.r.s.na says, "Knowledge of things beyond the senses is obtained through inference from likeness to what is observed" (S.K. 6). He goes on to say that though prak.rti is imperceptible its existence can be inferred from its effects (S.K. 8). `Sa^mkara says, "From what is seen we determine what is not seen." [45] The argument during which this axiom is invoked is intended to prove that the cause of the world must be intelligent like Brahman rather than unintelligent like prak.rti. Commonsense inanimate objects such as clay and chariots do not initiate action save when acted on by intelligent beings such as potters and horses. Therefore the cosmos can only move out of the interlude between destruction and re-creation if moved by an intelligent cause.

    Elsewhere `Sa^mkara argues that the world must have originated under the direction of an intelligent creator, "for we have no right to make assumptions contrary to what is actually observed." [46]

    To affirm the homogeneity of the empirical and the transempirical is an act of faith. Consequently every proof that assumes it carries an implicit "as if."

    A few characterizations of these eight axioms may be made in retrospect.

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    45. On B.S. 2.2.2. Text, p. 222: d.r.s.taac caad.r.s.ta-siddhi.h. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 34, p. 367.

    46. On B.S. 1.4.15. Text, p. 165: d.r.s.tavipariitakalpanaanupapatte.h. RM, p. 516.

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One and Two are partially matters of definition, and are curious in that the prevalent philosophical definition of "being" was the opposite of its ordinary-language meaning. But these two axioms do not reduce entirely to a question of lexical conventions. The conservation of being is tied to the principle of causality, that every effect has a cause. The common denominator is the accountability of things; events are not random, but structured by definite derivational relations. Axiom Two involves a point of fact; whether in some sense or other non-temporal, non-spatial existence is real.

    Axiom Three appears tautological. Opposites are things that cannot occupy one locus. Things that cannot occupy one locus are opposites. But here, too, a point of fact is at issue, whether logical contradictories are also physical incompatibles. Axioms Four, Five, and Six are metaphysical exaltations of commonsense principles based on observation. They assume Axiom Eight, and are tarnished by its arbitrary character. Nevertheless, one could still make a good pragmatic justification for adopting them, and could set up a series of restrictive conditions and operational procedures to reduce the ambiguities and indeterminacies that beset the classical formulations. Axiom Seven is a metaphysical principle founded on the syntactic thesis that the three-member transitive clause, subject-verb-object, is the canonical form in which to report events. This illustrates Hampshire's thesis that

Most metaphysical systems can be in part interpreted as exaggerated projections upon reality of some obsessive difficulty of logic and of the interpretation of the forms of language. They generally show an obsession with a particular form of expression, or type of discourse, and a determination to assimilate all forms of expression and types of discourse to this single model, whatever it may be. [47]

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    47. Stuart Hampshire, Spinoza (London: Penguin Books, 1951), pp. 218-219.