Early Greek philosophy and Maadhyamika
By Thomas McEvilley

Philosophy East and West
V. 31 No. 2 (April 1981)
pp. 141-164

Copyright 1981 by The University Press of Hawaii


AUTHOR'S NOTE: My thanks to both Edward Conze and Frederick Streng, who generously read and helpfully commented on earlier versions of this article.



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"The motives and methods of the Indian schools, and the theological and mystical background of their thought, are so utterly different from those of the Greeks that there is little profit in the comparison." [1] So says the author whose recent history of Greek philosophy appears likely to become the standard one in English. In this article I will attempt to show that in certain areas the methods of the two traditions were identical, that the motives for applying these methods were, at times anyway, extraordinarily similar, and that the possibility that the two traditions were historically linked at important points cannot be dismissed. Specifically, I will present parallels from the Greek philosophical schools founded before Alexander the Great's expedition to India, to the methods and motives of the Maadhyamika school, and will then consider the possibilities of historical connections.

    In referring to the methods of the Maadhyamika school I mean primarily the reductio ad absurdum applied in the dichotomy and dilemma pattern, with liberal use of regressus ad infinitum, and certain characteristic arguments against motion, potentiality, and so on. [2] The question of motives is more complex. Recent scholarship has presented two quite different views of the Maadhyamika motive, each of which seems to be accurate for some of the Maadhyamika thinkers and not for others: the "absolutist" view which is presented by Stcherbatsky, Suzuki, Conze, Murti, and Radhakrishnan, [3] and which seems to show considerable influence from Vedaantic monism; and the "phenomenalist" (or "dynamicist") view espoused by Streng, Inada, and others. [4] For the absolutist, the Maadhyamika double-truth consists in a rather Parmenidean or Vedaantin distinction between conditioned and unconditioned being; in this case the dialectic aims to destroy the belief in the reality of conditioned being so that a mystical intuition of unconditioned being may ensue; reality is sought outside of phenomenal experience, through a negation of that experience. For the dynamicist there is no need (or indeed justification) for postulating a reality outside phenomenal experience; the double truth does not distinguish between conditioned and unconditioned being, but between conditioned being experienced "bare," or in itself, and conditioned being experienced through a vikalpa, a "partial truth" which is "superimposed" "on to the dynamic character of reality." [5]

   This dichotomy in modern interpretations seems to correspond to the distinction between the Praasa^ngika Maadhyamika as expressed by Buddhapaalita and Candrakiirti and the Svaatantrika Maadhyamika of Bhaavaviveka. [6] Both these schools felt they were expressing Naagaarjuna's real meaning; which of them was more correct in that belief is a question I will not address; both will be treated here as legitimate forms of Maadhyamika, and our comparison



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will show that a remarkably parallel distinction in use of the dialectic obtained in Greece.

    In fact, I hope to show, first of all, that the Maadhyamika methods were clearly and fully developed among Greek dialecticians long before they are attested in India; second, that in Greece as in India this dialectic served at times the absolutist and at times the anti-vikalpa motive; and finally that it is quite possible that there is a historical connection between the Greek and Indian dialectical traditions.

    It is probable that the reductio ad absurdum first appeared in the history of philosophy in the Eleatic arguments against origination, destruction, motion, plurality and change. [7] Parmenides' central argument against origination and destruction, as expanded by Gorgias (DK 82b3 [71]) and followed by Aristotle (Phys. 191a27) and Simplicius (on Phys. 78.24), may be paraphrased as follows: "It is impossible for anything to come into being, because it must come either from something, in which case it already existed, or from nothing, which is impossible, since nothing does not exist; likewise it is impossible for anything to cease to exist, because it must go either somewhere, in which case it still exists, or nowhere, which is impossible." "Therefore," says Parmenides (DK B21), "origination and destruction are eradicated."

    Here already, at the very beginning of the Greek dialectical tradition, we find the central method of the Maadhyamika school, which Robinson calls "dichotomy and dilemma": first the question is dichotomized, by excluded middle, into A and not-A; then "each half of the dichotomy is shown to lead to contradiction.... Since the two propositions of each dichotomy are contradictories, a dilemma ensues..." [8] Parmenides' argument has the form: 'If anything comes into being it must come either from being or from not-being, and in either case contradiction ensues.'

    In fact, Naagaarjuna has a very similar argument at MK 7: "Does the originating thing exist prior to its origination? If so, its origination is no origination; if not, then it must come from nothing, which is impossible" (MK 7.13, 17, 20).

    In addition, Naagaarjuna attacks the concepts of origination and destruction with an argument based on infinite regress -- a type of argument which seems to have been developed in Greece not by Parmenides but by his disciple Zeno. "If origination exists, then it must also have origination; infinite regress follows: origination must have origination, and the origination of origination must have origination also, and so forth" (MK 7.18, 19). If we turn to the critique of concepts of space, which is where the Eleatics applied the reductio by infinite regress, we will find close parallels.

    Both Zeno and Naagaarjuna criticized the claim that space can be understood as a continuum, on the ground that this view cannot account for our experience of motion. Since a continuum is infinitely divisible, a discrete point can never be located on it. This problem is the basis of Zeno's "Dichotomy"



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and "Achilles" paradoxes and of Naagaarjuna's statement that motion is impossible because we cannot locate a point where it might begin (MK 2.14, 15).

    Following the dichotomy and dilemma method, which had already been employed by Parmenides, Zeno proceeded to turn his dialectic against the counterthesis, namely, that space and time are discontinuous, space being made up of points and time being made up of moments. As Aristotle said of the argument called the "Arrow":

The flying arrow is at rest. This conclusion follows from the assumption that time is composed of instants; for if this is not granted the conclusion cannot be inferred (Phys. Z9.239b30).

To paraphrase: "If in any moment the arrow is only in one place (that is, in a space equal to itself), then the arrow is always at rest; in order to be moving, the arrow would have to be in one place during part of the moment and in another place during another part of the moment; but since the moment is an indivisible 'particle' of time, there is no such thing as part of a moment; thus motion is impossible if time is made up of separate successive moments." As the "Arrow" undermines the idea of particulate time, so the idea of particulate space, conjoined to it, is reduced to absurdity in the argument called the "Stadium." [9]

    Further, it is worth pointing out that one of Zeno's arguments against plurality in general can be turned specifically against the possibility of motion through discontinuous space or change in discontinuous time. In the words of Simplicius (DK B3):

If there exist many things, they must be as many as they are and neither more nor fewer, but, if they are as many as they are they will be limited. If many things exist, then things that exist are infinite; for there are always things between the things that exist, and again other things between them and the things that exist (and so on), and thus the existing things are infinite in number. [10]

    The disproof of the counterthesis of this argument can be used (as Zeno may have been aware) to deny motion through discontinuous space or time. In this case we can avoid the problem of the infinitely divisible continuum and can locate a point; the problem arises when we try to move from this point to the next, for, in order to exist as a separate entity, this point must be separated by something from its neighbors; the infinite regress follows, and we find that in order to move from one point to the next we must traverse an infinite series of intermediary separators. The same argument may be used to prove the impossibility of change in discontinuous time.

    The Eleatic arguments together yield the following conclusions: if time is continuous there can be no present, and if time is discontinuous there can be only the present (no change); if space is continuous there can be no here, and if



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space is discontinuous, there is only here (no motion). In either case the naive realist view of motion and change is found untenable (as are various philosophical views). [11]

    A second Zenonion argument against the existence of a plurality of indivisible units has a very clear Maadhyamika parallel. "If a thing exists," says Zeno, "it must have size" (DK B1). ("If it did not have size, then no matter how many such particles we added together, the sum would get no bigger, and no matter how many we took away, no smaller. Therefore the units which are being added or taken away must be nothing; but nothing does not exist. Therefore if a thing exists it must have size" [DK B2]). "Since it has size, it must have distinguishable parts. (If it has size, it is measurable; if it is measurable, it has beginning and end, hence parts.) If it has parts, it is not an indivisible unit. Infinite regress follows: each of the parts must have parts, and so on" (Dk B1).

    Naagaarjuna's student and colleague, AAryadeva, argues very similarly against Vai`se.sika atomism: when one atom contacts another it does not contact it with its entire physical being, for then the sum would be no larger than one of its units (this would be like Zeno's particles without magnitude) . It must, therefore, contact its neighbor with only part of itself. Therefore it has parts and is not an atom. And again: since the atoms are said to move, each must have a front (that aspect of it which is "facing" its destination) and back (that which "faces" the place of departure); but front and back are distinguishable parts, and whatever has them cannot be an atom (CS IX). [12]

    We find, then, that in the Eleatic school, at the very beginning of Greek dialectic, the dichotomy and dilemma method was already present and had been applied to many of the same problems to which the Maadhyamikas were later to apply it. But while the similarity of method is clear, there remains a fundamental difference in motive. One does not find, among the Eleatics, a rejection of all concepts, as among the Praasa^ngika Maadhyamikas. On the contrary, the Eleatics seem to destroy plurality and process while espousing unity and stasis. At least, this is the case with Parmenides. Zeno's case is less clear and deserves separate attention.

    Murti may be in error when he chides Zeno as an inconsistent dialectician for reducing only one side of the unity-plurality and rest-motion pairs. [13] As Heidel has pointed out, [14] Zeno's argumentation, though it may have been aimed against the atomic unit of the Pythagoreans, works just as effectively against the Parmenidean One. Parmenides clearly meant his One to be extended in space, and if it is extended it must have limits and a middle area in between them -- in other words, parts -- which means that it is not one after all. The ancient commentators Eudemus and Alexander of Aphrodisias commented on this point, Eudemus saying that Zeno, in arguing against the atom, "does away with the one" (ap. Simplicius 99.7), and Alexander that he proves that "the one is non-existent" (ap. Simplicius 138.3). [15] It is hard to believe that



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Zeno himself was not aware of this. Vlastos argues that Zeno was in fact pointing to the need to change from Parmenides' corporeal One to an incorporeal One, as his contemporary Melissus tried to do. [16] Plato, in the Parmenides (128c), represents Zeno not as teaching simply that plurality is absurd, but that it is more absurd than unity, which also is absurd, and in the Phaedrus (261d) he clearly implies that Zeno would argue both sides of a question without resolving the dilemma, "so that the same things appear to his listeners to be both like and unlike, both one and many, both at rest and in motion."

    It is hard, finally, to reject the ancient view (espoused by Aristotle [ap. DL 8.57] that Zeno was the "father of the dialectic." He seems to have been the first to attempt a "systematisation of a methodical doubt." [17] "Zeno's work did not consist of making additions to the Eleatic metaphysics but of developing new operational methods for dialectic." [18] Specifically, he clarified and systematized the dichotomy and dilemma method of Parmenides and added to it the reduction by infinite regress. It may be helpful to compare Murti's strategy of (1) assigning the tradition of the Buddha's noble silence to primitive Buddhism, (2) accepting the traditional Paali date for the parinirvaa.na, and (3) asserting without evidence that the noble silence arose from a clear awareness of "dialectical equipollency" (to use Sextus Empiricus's term). [19]

    In any case, the Eleatic tenderness toward one side of an argument (which, if perhaps it does not apply to Zeno, still applies to Parmenides and Melissus) was soon enough rectified. In about 445 B.C. appeared the work On Nature, or On Non-Being, attributed to Gorgias of Leontini, a sophist and teacher of rhetoric who evidently had studied the Eleatic philosophers. [20] The work contains a critique of ontology that goes far beyond Parmenides (and probably Zeno) -- an uncompromising dialectical rejection of both being and nonbeing, both one and many. It takes the form of three hypotheses, which I will discuss in order.

    Hypothesis One: that Nothing Exists. This is defended first by arguments against being and nonbeing, then by arguments against both monism and pluralism. Against being and nonbeing: if anything exists it must be either being or nonbeing. It cannot be nonbeing, for then it would both be and not-be, which is absurd. Nor can it be being: for if it is being it must be either created or uncreated. It cannot be uncreated, for then it would have no beginning, and if it has no beginning it is infinite; if it is infinite, it is nowhere, for it must be either in something, in which case it is not infinite but bounded, or in itself, which is absurd because the container and the contained are not one. Therefore it is nowhere, and what is nowhere does not exist. Therefore, if being exists, it cannot be uncreated. But neither can it be created: for if it is created it must be created from something, that is, either from nonbeing (which is impossible, as Parmenides has shown), or from being; but being cannot be created from itself, for then it would be different from itself and



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would no longer be being. (Compare Naagaarjuna's argument at MK 1.1.) So being, which, if it exists, must be either created or uncreated, can be neither, and therefore does not exist. Thus neither being nor nonbeing exists.

    Against monism and pluralism: if anything exists, it must be either one or many. But if it is one it has quantity and extension, in which case it has limits and parts and is divisible; but if it has parts and is divisible, it is not one. But neither can it be many, for a plurality is an aggregation of ones, and if there cannot be a one, there cannot be an aggregation of ones. Therefore, since existence must be either one or many, and cannot be either, there is no existence.

    The argument is a complex, stratified reductio ad absurdum which echoes Parmenides and Zeno and anticipates with great clarity the total dialectic of the Maadhyamikas. The dichotomy and dilemma method, inherited from Parmenides and Zeno, is applied with diagrammatic clarity, leaving no doubt whatever that Gorgias is fully conscious of it.

    Furthermore, Gorgias' work is the earliest extant example of a total dialectic -- one in which both sides of the being/nonbeing and one/not-one pairs are relentlessly reduced to absurdity and no solution to the dilemma is proposed. The work is, if for this reason alone, an important one, and the modern tendency to regard it as a joke (a paignion) has prevented it from receiving the attention it deserves. A more serious view holds that Gorgias' work is a direct attack on Parmenides, Zeno, and Melissus: with great wit and implied irony Gorgias uses the method developed by Parmenides and Zeno to destroy their own point of view." [21] It is very probable that both Parmenides' and Melissus' books were originally entitled On Nature, or On Being; Gorgias' title, then, (On Nature, or On Non-being) announces his intention to controvert their position while employing their own style and methods.He arrives at a position "between" being and nonbeing, having rejected both, which anticipates the famous Middle Position of the Maadhyamika school.

    The second hypothesis of On Nature, or On Non-being modulates out of ontology into epistemology: if anything does exist, it can never be known. In this argument Gorgias goes beyond the Eleatic "mathematical" type of dialectic to introduce an important sophistic critique of the five senses and mind (or, as the Buddhists call them, the six senses). The senses, being different from one another, are separate and isolated, and the evidence of one sense cannot be used to confirm or deny the evidence of another. Each of the senses may be perceiving a different universe. Confirmation and denial of multisensory perceptions are impossible.

    The same critique of the senses, based on declaring their isolation from one another, is found in a Maadhyamika context, in the Bodhicaryaavataara of `Saantideva, about a thousand years later:

If form gives birth [to consciousness], then why does it not hear? Because there is no connection with sound? But then it is not consciousness (BCA 9.63).



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The argument aims, as Matics says, to "tear apart any sense of connection between the forms of sense perception. If form (ruupa) occasions sense perception then why does it not hear?... the answer is that ruupa and `sabda are without relationship and that neither one can claim to be a principle of consciousness in and of itself." [22]

    The third hypothesis introduces the critique of language, or of the idea of a language-reality isomorphism, which again is basic to Maadhyamika thought: if anything could be known, it still could not be communicated to anyone. Words are sounds; they are not identical with the things they seek to express, and thus cannot express them. Words express only words. Similarly, "Naagaarjuna denies that... words gain their meaning by referring to something outside of the language system... Naagaarjuna explicitly denies that his argument, or any statement, has validity because of a supposed ontological basis outside the language system." [23] E. J. Thomas, speaking of the Maadhyamika school, says that "The Buddhist thinkers had without realizing it stumbled upon the fact that the terms of ordinary language do not express the real facts of experience.... The contradictions were attributed not to the defects of verbal expression, but to the nature of the experience." [24] Whether in fact the Maadhyamikas felt that they were criticizing experience rather than language is not at all certain -- Streng clearly disagrees -- but the distinction is useful for us anyway. It seems to be an accurate enough description of early Eleatic thought; clearly Parmenides at least believed that the problem was in reality itself rather than in language; but Gorgias had already, in the fifth century B.C, perceived the possibility that the problem resides in language, and had opened the Greek dialectic to language criticism as well as criticism of metaphysics.

    Gorgias is classified as a sophist, and by the time of the sophistic movement the critique of speculative philosophy had become a major preoccupation of Greek thinkers. Protagoras is reported as arguing that "of everything two contradictory accounts can be given" (DL 9.51), that "Everything is true," (ibid.), and that refutation is impossible (ibid., 9.53) -- in other words, that reality is of indeterminate nature in relation to the concepts embodied in language. He is said to have written two books of Contradictory Arguments in which he argued both sides of various questions and, in rather Maadhyamika fashion, left the antinomy unresolved (DL 9.55). His arguments were probably not dialectical, however, but relativistic and inductive, judging from Plato's Protagoras (334a-c).

    Euthydemus, another sophist known primarily through Plato's dialogue bearing his name, emphasized the dichotomy of sameness and difference, or the denial of partial identity; for example: if Socrates knows something, then he is knowing. If he is knowing, he must know everything; otherwise he would be both knowing and not-knowing at the same time, which is impossible (or so Euthydemus says). Either the subject (Socrates) is completely the same as the



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predicate (knowing) or it is completely different; there can be no partial identity. The same dichotomy probably lies behind Naagaarjuna's critique of cause and effect in MK 1: if they are one, the words are meaningless; if they are separate, there is no way to connect them. In the sophistic milieu of the Euthydemus the motive of undermining both philosophical and commonsense reasoning is clearly shown in Dionysodorus' triumphant conclusion, "Both and neither!" (300d).

    Several late-fifth century thinkers not connected with the sophistic movement, and of whom we know very little, seem also to have been impressed by the "dialectical equipollency" which Zeno, Gorgias, and Protagoras had revealed. The most striking example is the Neo-Heraclitean Cratylus (a younger contemporary of Socrates). Heraclitus had taught that in a realm of becoming or flux nothing can be said to exist in and by itself; since all things are continually flowing and interpenetrating, nothing can be said to have an essence, an inner principle as a result of which it is what it is. On the contrary, what we experience is between being and nonbeing (compare the middle position of the Maadhyamikas); as Heraclitus put it (fr. 49a): We both are and are not. This point of view is very closely related to the Buddhist doctrines of impermanence and not-self (nonessence), and to Naagaarjuna's doctrines of pratiitya-samutpaada and svabhaava-`suunyataa, which similarly teach that since things rise and pass away in dependence on the process of flux, they have no essence (svabhaava, 'own being'). It is this quality of dependent origination that Naagaarjuna identifies as 'emptiness' (`suunyataa) (MK 24.19): "No dharma occurs that is not dependently co-arisen; hence no non-empty dharma arises." [25] Heraclitus used a closely related term, which appears in post-Naagaarjunan Mahayaana Buddhism, "fullness-emptiness" or "plenum-void," to indicate the reality which both is and is not:

Fr. 67:
God is ... fullness/emptiness.

Fr. 65:
Fullness and emptiness are the same thing.

Although not a dialectician, and thus not treated in any detail in this paper, Heraclitus seems to have sensed a dialectical tension underlying reality, much as Murti says Gautama Buddha did.

Fr. 8:
That which is in opposition is in concert and from things that differ comes the most beautiful harmony.

Fr. 10:
Connections whole/not-whole, agreement/disagreement, consonance/dissonance, and from all things one and from one thing all.

In the latter half of the fifth century B.C., after the dialectical movement had



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added logical substance to Heraclitus' intuition, the Heraclitean Cratylus was so impressed with the impossiblity of making meaningful statements that he abandoned verbal teaching altogether, evidently thinking that "to utter any statement is to commit oneself to the affirmation that something is." [26] According to Aristotle (Met. 1010a10ff.), Cratylus "did not think it right to say anything, but only raised his finger." And one cannot help being reminded of the Buddha of Zen legend, who was so aware of the emptiness of language that he only held up a flower and smiled. It should be noted that the later dialectical schools, especially the Cynics and Pyrrhonists, felt themselves to be based ultimately on the attitude of Heraclitus (supported by the method of Parmenides), as the Maadhyarnikas felt themselves based on the three marks of primitive Buddhism.

    That there were other late-fifth century teachers involved in the critique of speculative philosophy is clear, but we know next to nothing about them. Xeniades of Corinth, for example, taught "that everything is false, that every impression and opinion is false" (Sextus, Adv. Math. 7.53). One may compare the words of the modern Zen master Seung Sahn: "The moment you open your mouth you are wrong." [27]

    It was Plato of course (or Socrates ap. Plato) who made the word "dialectic" so prominent in the Greek tradition. Yet Plato's own attitude toward the dialectic is strangely obscure. Because in his later dialogues he tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to develop a positive or constructive logic (laying the ground-work for Aristotle's more successful completion of the task), scholars in general regard him as more sympathetic to Aristotelian than to Zenonian methods.

    But in all the early dialogues and several of the most prominent middle and late ones (Republic, Theatetus, Parmenides) Plato used an essentially Eleatic dialectic. The famous Socratic elenchus or 'trial' of the early dialogues, Republic I, and Theatetus operates only negatively, deducing from the most cherished beliefs of the interlocutor contradictory consequences, and, in good Maadhyamika fashion, proposing no solution. What is going on in these dialogues is in several senses very like the Praasa^ngika Maadhyamika. In the first place, Socrates always attacks the interlocutor's conclusions and never offers a solution in the form of a positive teaching of his own; second, "the answerer was expected to say what he himself really thought, and nothing else." [28] Cf. Murti, that "the true Maadhyamika('s)... sole endeavour is to reduce to absurdity the arguments of the opponent on principles acceptable to him." [29] This requirement is essential due to the third similarity, namely, that for Plato, as for the Maadhyamika, the dialectician's work is not the constructing of an idea system much as the alteration of personality in the direction of wisdom (Grk. phronesis, Skt. praj~naa). [30]

    In the Parmenides, Plato offers, in a completely Eleatic setting, a massive demonstration of total dialectic, employing the dichotomy and dilemma with



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infinite regress to turn the contraries being/nonbeing, one/many, and same/different against one another in a mood as paradox-loving as the most extreme of the Buddhists. Plato has learned the lesson of Gorgias' book (to which he seems to allude at 162a) and criticizes the one-sided dialectic of Zeno: Parmenides advises the young Socrates to test the consequences of both a proposition and its contradictory, and criticizes Zeno for neglecting to reduce the contradictory. (135d-137c.) Parmenides, in his demonstration of this method, brings us to a position in which either no proposition or contradictory propositions must be affirmed, concluding, in the last sentence of the dialogue:

Whether one is or is not, it and the others, in relation both to themselves and to each other, both are and are not, and both appear and do not appear, everything in every possible way.

    Here we encounter the basic problem in understanding Plato's dialectic. Plato seems clearly to have been (at least at times) a constructive philosopher, building an extensive model of the real -- an activity which his ruthless dialectic of the Parmenides seems out of harmony with; there is, of course, much controversy about his motives in this dialogue. Guthrie and others, impressed by the repetition of the word "exercise" (which occurs, as either verb, gymnazo, or noun, gymnasia, five times in the introduction to part two [for example, 135d5-6]) regard this dialogue (like Gorgias' book) as a kind of empty verbal display or paignion with nevertheless some serious implications for the relationship of Platonism to Eleaticism. [31] Cornford saw it as an attack on the Neo-Eleatic methods of the Megarians. [32] The Neoplatonists and some moderns have regarded it as a religious teaching involving the union of "transcendent mysticism and immanent pantheism." [33] On that interpretation, Plato's use of the dialectic here would seem similar to that of the absolutist Maadhyamika, designed to abolish belief in relative being so that a super-realization of unconditioned being may dawn. Other Platonic passages as well suggest that at the highest reach of Platonic thought (the top rung of the "ladder" of the Symposium [210a-212a], the source beyond all hypotheses which is to be found at the top of the divided line of the Republic [509a-511d]) there was a rejection of the constructed parts of Platonism (theory of ideas, and so on) on the grounds that they were not ultimately real, and the inculcation, in their place, of an absolute knowledge quite beyond verbalization. Modern scholars in general do not prefer the last alternative, but are nonetheless aware that Plato's own words, at the one point where he seems to speak directly to this question, clearly suggest it.

    In Republic 6 and 7 Socrates has outlined the preliminary saadhanaa for the attainment of the vision of the good. Mathematics and astronomy are prescribed as propaedeutic studies, and the practice of an ascetic morality is regarded as a necessary purification. Finally he speaks of the last and highest



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state -- the infallible knowledge which corresponds to the top of the divided line; at this point mathematics and other academic tools are specifically rejected because:

they merely dream about reality but cannot see it with waking eyes because they use mere hypotheses (533b; my italics).

"Hypothesis" here seems to mean more or less what vikalpa means to Maadhyamika and later Buddhist thinkers. We are now at the point where fallible "hypothetical knowledge" is to be replaced by the infallible "unhypothesized" knowledge which a mysteriously undefined "dialectic" is to produce. This is the point where Plato habitually pulls down the veil and has recourse to myth or metaphor. Only a moment before, Glaucon had asked, "Tell me, what is the nature of this dialectic? What are its ways?" And Socrates replied, "You would not be able, dear Glaucon, to follow me further, though on my part there would be no lack of good will" (532e-533a). The veil is coming down, but before it is lowered completely Plato has made one statement which alone in all the dialogues seems actually to describe how this transition to perfect knowledge is to be effected:

Then, said I, the dialectical method alone proceeds in this way, destroying the hypotheses, to the very beginning, in order to obtain confirmation. It gently pulls and draws upward the eye of the soul that is literally buried in a sort of Philistine filth, using the sciences we have detailed [i.e., mathematics, etc.] as its assistants in the conversion. "Knowledge", we often called them owing to custom; but they need another name clearer than opinion but less clear than "knowledge" (533c-d; my italics). [34]

The key phrase is "destroying the hypotheses." Socrates has just finished saying that geometry and so on, though higher than sense-impression, are nevertheless merely "hypothetical." Now, at the final stage of saadhanaa, the dialectic, which for Plato as for Zeno meant primarily the use of reductio ad absurdum refutations, will enter and "destroy the hypotheses," or assumptions, pointing beyond them to the unhypothesized beginning. Three stages are implied; first the mind is "stained" with beliefs in the ontological reality of sense impressions. Nonsensory tools such as mathematics are brought in to break the belief in the sense-world. Finally the mind is stained only by these tools themselves, and now one's teacher takes the sword of dialectic and cuts away the belief in these tools also, Now at last the mind is clear of both sensory and conceptual hypothesis; the resulting state is described only through metaphors (mainly the shining into the soul of light which had always been there but which the stains of opinions had kept from awareness [for example, Rep. 518e]).

    But to most scholars it seems unacceptable that dialectic, here as elsewhere in Plato before the Phaedrus, means a destructive reasoning rather than some method of additive thought, some supposedly superior and ultimate vikalpa.



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Some emend the text to remove "destroying the hypotheses" (which, however, is strong in the manuscript tradition). Other just reject the obvious interpretation out of hand; Robinson,for example,says,

Certainly the phrase ["destroying the hypotheses"] cannot have its most obvious meaning of 'refuting'. Plato cannot be thinking of proving an hypothesis to be false (although that is what Aristotle means by the phrase, EE 1222b28) for he implies that dialectic destroys all, or at least all relevant hypotheses, and he surely would not think that every hypothesis mooted would by some strange accident turn out to be false, that we should never hit upon a true one. [35]

    But the phrase "strange accident" does not work here. Plato has repeatedly told us that the ultimate real is beyond words, which is to say that it is beyond the reach of any and all hypotheses or concepts, like the absolutist conception of `suunyataa. It is no "strange accident" that finally we should have to reject all our hypotheses; it is the inevitable result of Plato's postulation of an ultimate reality which no verbal statement could approximate to (for example., Rep. 6.509, Symp. 211, Ep. 7.341c). We may compare Naagaarjuna:

Emptiness is proclaimed by the victorious one to be the refutation of all viewpoints (MK 13.8).

And Takakusu, speaking of the Chinese Three-Treatise (= Praasa^ngika Maadhyamika) school:

Refutation -- and refutation only -- can lead to ultimate truth. [36]

And Wing-tsit Chan on the same school:

Refutation of all erroneous views is essential for and indeed identical with the elucidation of right views. [37]

Surely it does not stretch the imagination that this is what the author of the Parmenides may actually have meant.

    Plato's contemporaries and fellow students of Socrates -- Antisthenes and Eucleides -- both founded schools which, like Plato's featured the Eleatic dialectical methods, but which were less ambiguous than Plato's in their motives. Here we find, alongside the absolutist use of the negative dialectic, the first occurrence of its use to restore our attention directly to the flow of phenomenality by eliminating the "superimposed partial truths" which cut us off from the dynamism of experience by artificially predetermining our responses to it.

    Eucleides, a Socratic disciple who was present at the scene of the Phaedo, founded in his native Megara a school devoted in large part to developing the Eleatic dialectic, for which their opponents called them "Eristics." Eucleides himself argued against the inductive or analogical arguments used by Socrates, employing the denial of partial identity. To paraphrase: "Either the objects



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compared are the same, in which case we have no need of the comparison, or they are different, in which case the comparison is invalid and can only add confusion" (DL 2.107). Eucleides, in Praasa^ngika Maadhyamika style, tended to attack the opponent's conclusions without offering a positive doctrine of his own. Nevertheless, the tradition implies that he considered himself a believer in the Parmenidean one (DL 2.106). (Though in a post-Melissean version the One becomes rather an infinite or absolute, it is still traditionally called the One.) Eucleides' criticisms of predication, then, may have been designed to redirect attention from relative truths toward this absolute, and if so, then Eucleides also may be compared to the absolutist or quasi-Vedaantin type of Maadhyamika.

    Furthermore, Aristotle tells us (Met. 1046b29) that some Megarian or Megarians had argued against potentiality, an attempt which he rejects with an appeal to common sense:

There are some who say, as the Megaric school does, that a thing 'can' act only when it is acting, and when it is not acting it 'cannot' act, e.g., that he who is not building cannot build, but only he who is building, when he is building; and so in all other cases. It is not hard to see the absurdities that attend this view.

He proceeds to the weightier ramifications of the denial of potentiality, clearly connecting it with the Eleatic school:

Again, if that which is deprived of potency is incapable, that which is not happening will be incapable of happening... Therefore these views do away with both movement and becoming. For that which stands will always stand and that which sits will always sit...... it is no small thing they are seeking to annihilate. [38]

    The Megarian position which Aristotle describes seems identical to a position adopted by Naagaarjuna in arguing against the substance-attribute relationship. [39] The substance in question is a moving object; the attribute, its motion. If the mover and motion both move, then there are two movers, and must be two motions (MK 2.11). (An infinite regress follows, a la Zeno, but Naagaarjuna does not mention it.) If only the mover moves and not the motion, then there is an unmoving motion, also absurd. At this point the concept of motion has already been reduced, but the argument goes on to become a general critique of the substance-attribute relationship. When the mover stops moving, either the attribute of motion must continue to exist by itself, namely, with no substance in which to inhere (which is absurd by the definition of attribute), or the mover, by stopping, has lost (annihilated) the attribute of motion and can never commence moving again (which is absurd empirically) (MK 2.20). The argument amounts to a rejection of potentiality, or of svabhaava claims for the concept of potentiality, and parallels the Megarian position described by Aristotle: according to Naagaarjuna's argument, that which is running will always run and that which is standing still will always



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stand still, as for the Megarian "that which stands will always stand and that which sits will always sit."

    Again the question of motive enters. The Megarians (who were interchangeably called Neo-Eleatics) may have been attacking the phenomena in favor of an alleged absolute, whereas Nagarjuna seems rather to have been attacking svabhaava claims for the concept of potentiality -- that is, he criticizes claims about the nature of experience, whereas the Neo-Eleatics, like the Eleatics, may have been criticizing the experience itself.

    The dichotomy and dilemma method was the basic tool of the Socratic schools in their war against the Peripatetic and other more speculative traditions. Indeed, by the fourth century it had become one of the dominant themes of Greek philosophy and acted as a powerful counterbalance to the academic quest for a pure mathematical logic and the Peripatetic quest for a constructive propositional logic which would tend to support the claims of common sense. Among the Socratics it was the Cynics who went furthest in the rejection of vikalpa and who provide a clear parallel not only to the methods but also to the motives of the "phenomenalist" or "dynamicist" Maadhyamika. Unlike the Eleatics and, probably, Plato and the Megarians, the Cynics do not seem to have postulated an unconditioned absolute being over against conditioned relative being; like Naagaarjuna himself (as interpreted by Streng) they sought to cease imposing supposed svabhaava concepts on the dynamic flow of experience, which in itself, if lived directly and without assumptions, they regarded as complete freedom. A hypothetical absolute they saw as no better than other superimposed concepts, and they tended to oppose their direct relationship with present experience to the Eleatic-Platonic rejection of phenomena for noumena; for example, when Diogenes heard the Eleatic disproofs of motion, he got up and walked away. (DL 6.39.)

    Antisthenes, who is usually accorded the title of founder of the Cynic tradition, [40] was a pupil of Gorgias, then of Socrates, whose ascetic lifestyle and negative elenchus he especially adopted (DL 6.1-2), and may himself have been the teacher of Diogenes, with whom Cynicism may be said to be in full career. Cynicism has two not inharmonious aspects: it is on the one hand a negative or critical philosophy like the Maadhyamika, not involved in "imaginatively constructing the real... and deluding itself that this is knowledge" (as Murti puts it [41]), but in stripping away spurious concepts -- which for the Cynics means all attempts to verbalize reality. On the other hand it advocates an austere ethic of total independence and indifference to phenomena, which even some in antiquity recognized as similar to that of the yogis of India. The Cynic Onesicritus, a student of Diogenes, accompanied Alexander to India and compared the yogic teaching of indifference to pleasure and pain to the teachings of Socrates and Diogenes (Strabo, XV 1.65).

    Antisthenes' great contribution to the negative dialectic was his almost total denial of predication. [42] He evidently declared (as have certain modern philos-



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ophers) that only tautologies are true statements; or, to put it in terms which are probably closer to those used by Antisthenes, the only true statement that can be made about a thing is to name it or, if it has parts, to name its parts. Names merely indicate experiences, and any conceptions which go beyond names are mental fictions (vikalpa). All predications other than tautologies breach the denial of partial identity: if A really is B, then to say "A is B" is merely to say "A is A": if A really is not B, then to say "A is B" is to speak nonsense. Thus all speculative metaphysics is rejected. As Monimus, the student of Diogenes, put it:

All opinions are like smoke (DL 6.83).

It is clear from a complete review of the evidence (which cannot all be arrayed here) that Antisthenes was consciously criticizing language and related mental conceptualization and was not criticizing the phenomena themselves. Parmenides, Plato, and the Megarians seem to have denied the existence of phenomena; Antisthenes (following the insights of Gorgias and Protagoras) rather denied our ability to make any meaningful statements about them, such as that they do or do not exist. In this Antisthenes seems to have brought the Greek dialectical tradition much closer to the Buddhist; rather than attacking phenomenality he is attacking the game of making conceptual claims on it. His belief that the mind distorts and remakes reality through the veil of language is illustrated by his advice to the Athenians that if they run short of horses they should simply vote that asses are horses (DL 6.8), as well as by his nominalist criticism of Plato that the forms are only mental constructs which are projected onto a reality which does not and (because of its exclusive immediacy) cannot correspond to them. [43]

Being asked what learning is the most necessary, he said, "Stripping away and unlearning" (DL 6.7).

The goal of Cynic teaching was "that it should no longer be difficult for the mind to be silent." [44]

    For the Cynics, phenomena can be dealt with legitimately only in a nonverbal and nonconceptual cognition (phronesis --- the same word Plato used for "unhypothesized knowledge" [= Sanskrit praj~naa]) which can only result from the ultimate elenchus of stripping the mind of all the conceptions with which it ordinarily tries to deal with them. A phenomenon is either composite or simple; if composite, it can be analyzed into simples (that is, its parts can be named); if simple, then no conception can apply to it (because a conception would add something to it, destroying its simplicity); it can be known only by a correspondingly simple or postconceptual knower, the mind of the philosopher who has cleared away the "smoke" of opinion.

    The rejection of predication was accepted by the Cynics in general and led to the concept of typhos, which was the center of their ontology and



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epistemology. The word means literally 'smoke' or 'mist', by extension (and most commonly) 'illusion' or 'error'. Sextus Empiricus tells us (AL 2.5) that the Cynic Monimus said, panta typhos, "all things are like smoke." According to Menander (ap. DL 6.83), he said, to hypolephthen pan esti typhos, "All opinions are like smoke," or "All opinions are delusions." We may compare the continually repeated assertions of the Praj~naapaaramitaa texts (which according to Edward Conze are the immediate forebears of the Maadhyamika teachings [45]) that all things are like foam, or bubbles, or smoke, or cloud, "empty, false and fleeting," "like a mock show which deludes the mind," like a lightning flash, a dewdrop, a dream, and so forth.

    From the central conception of typhos the Cynics developed an ethic which again is remarkably like that of the Buddhist schools which are based on the Maadhyamika. The sophos (sage or saint) who seeks to escape from illusion through the askesis kai mache (the discipline and struggle) of philosophy, must first practice autarkeia (self-rule), the great principle of Diogenes, derived from the example of Socrates, whereby all material and social habits and all beliefs connected with them are nullified through a realization of the emptiness, or "smoke like" nature, of all opinions. Cynic sages, like Buddhist monks, renounced home and possessions and took to the streets as wanderers and temple beggars. The related concepts of apatheia (nonreaction, noninvolvement) and adiaphoria (nondifferentiation) became central to the Cynic discipline. Certain qualities lead to "virtue" (self-rule and freedom from the delusion of opinion), others do not. Beyond this, no distinctions are to be made. All things else are adiaphora (nondifferent) from one another, and are alike to be treated with apatheia (nonreaction), an attitude which stands above pleasure and pain alike (and which seems closely related to Buddhist upek.saa). When we add to this the ideal of philanthropia (universal loving kindness) which was elevated to great prominence by Diogenes' pupil Crates, we have an attitude remarkably like the Mahaayaana Buddhist linkage of praj~naa and karu.naa.

    The similarity could be extended through many details, of which I select a few. The Cynic typically gave up his possessions and limited himself to one robe, a bowl, and a wallet; one might compare `Saantideva's advice:

With the exception of the three robes of the monk, one ought to sacrifice all (BCA 5.87). [46]

The Cynic's poverty and his practice in general are "for the salvation of everyone" (10th Epistle of Diogenes). [47] Similarly `Saantideva advises the aspiring bodhisattva to "act only for the welfare of sentient beings" (BCA 5.101). [48] The Cynic lifestyle is based on a perception of suffering which is much like the Buddhist concept of du.hkha; first, pain is more prominent in life than pleasure; compare `Saantideva:



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Indeed, goodness is weak, but the power of evil is always great and very dreadful (BCA 1.6). [49]

There is in fact no avoiding suffering, and the attempt to avoid it is the surest way to increase it; acceptance is the surest way to mitigate it:

Suffer, so that you may not suffer; by attempting not to suffer, suffering is not avoided -- on the contrary, it is even pursued (4th Epistle of Crates). [50]

We may compare `Saantideva again:

... how difficult it is for happiness to be seized, while sorrow exists without effort. And still, escape is only by means of sorrow: Therefore make firm the mind! (BCA 6.12).

Happiness, the goal of Cynic practice, is not pleasure, nor the avoidance of pain (which is not to be hoped for), but consists of a complete independence (autarkeia) which is called virtue:

Happiness is not pleasure, for which we need externals, but virtue, which is complete without any externals (3rd Epistle of' Crates). [51]

This independence from externals restores man to his own mind, which is "the only real thing that belongs to man." [52] As a result, says Crates, "having nothing, we have everything" (7th Epistle of Crates). [53] This virtue which is self-rule which is wisdom consists precisely in "keeping the mind free from empty fancies," [54] that is, stripping away typhos (vikalpa, prapa~nca) so that the mind becomes silent and equanimous. [55] Mankind is divided into the wise and the foolish, the former being freed from typhos, the latter enslaved to it. All this sounds very much like the yogic paths of India, and specifically like the Buddhist attitude toward mind as expressed in the Sutta Nipaata and the Maadhyamika treatises.

    Perhaps the most striking parallels occur between Cynicism and the Ch'an and Zen traditions. Indeed, Cynicism seems almost a foreshadowing of the "sudden school" of Ch'an founded by Hui Neng in the seventh century. Some of the similarities may be listed briefly.

    1. The shortcut to enlightenment: the Theravadin texts say that the Buddha toiled for thousands of lifetimes to become enlightened; Zen of the sudden school aimed to bypass all unnecessary aspects of practice (including, generally, academic study) and achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. Similarly, Cynicism was called the "shortcut to happiness" (12th Epistle of Dingenes), "the short road to happiness" (13th Epistle of Crates) (understanding by "happiness" not a state of pleasure, but an attitude of equanimity toward the fluctuations of pleasure and pain).

    2. The nonreliance on scriptures: as Zen is said not to rely on scriptures but to proceed more directly to enlightenment through life-practice, so Diogenes wrote:



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Avoid discoursing, for the long road to happiness is through discourses, but that through the daily practice of deeds is the short way (21st Epistle).

As in Zen, the emphasis was always on direct practice, rather than on study:

They also dispense with the ordinary subjects of instruction... hence it has been said that Cynicism is a short-cut to virtue (DL 6.104).

And Julian the Apostate:

It (Cynicism) seems to be in some ways a universal philosophy and the most natural, and to demand no special study whatsoever (6th Oration, 187).

As Sayre noted, "The Cynics never had any canon or body of authoritative writings similar to those of the Stoics and Epicureans." [56] We may compare this with Inada's statement that the Maadhyamikas "'commit to the flames matters which have no immediate empirical concern." [57]

    3. Emphasis on the present moment and acceptance of it:

Teles quotes Crates as saying that a man should live contented with present things, not desiring what is not present and not discontented with chance happenings (Stobaeus, Flor. 3.97.31).

Acceptance of the present moment seems to be the key to "sudden enlightenment" among the Cynics. Teles said:

We should not try to change the things, but should prepare ourselves to meet and endure them (Stobaeus, Flor. 1.5.67).

Living from moment to moment dissolves goal-oriented activities and thought processes and frees us from enslavement to a hypothetical future; since concepts are "like smoke," so are the various strivings which they bring with them. We may compare the Heart Sutra (37ff.): "Because he attains nothing, the bodhisattva lives without thought-coverings [without "typhos"].... Through living without thought-coverings... he attains to nirvana." Like the Zen practitioner who "eats when he is hungry and sleeps when he is tired," the Cynic seeks to become hemerobios (one who lives from day-to-day), responding to the present moment rather than to concepts about the future.

    4. Sudden enlightenment: Plutarch attributes to the Stoics a view which is widely regarded as Cynic in origin (and whose meaning the Stoic thinkers compromised somewhat):

The wise man in a moment of time changes from the lowest possible depravity to an unsurpassable state of virtue... The man who was the very worst in the morning becomes the very best in the evening... (Progress of Virtue, 75).

This sudden attainment through nonattainment is connected both with the principle of self-rule and with the bypassing of systems and scriptures, and we may compare Hui Neng:



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Since it is with our own efforts that we realize the Essence of Mind, and since the realization and the practice of the Law are both done instantaneously and not gradually or stage by stage, the formulation of any system of law is unnecessary. [58]

    If we look into the anecdotal traditions of these two schools we find again an astonishing number of similarities. It is, for our purposes, a matter of indifference whether the anecdotal traditions are historical or fictional; they are hagiography, and the point is that they show a similar conception of what the wise man is and how he passes on his wisdom. In both traditions the following elements are prominent:

    1. An overwhelming emphasis on teaching by example rather than by discourse.

    2. The frequent use of perverse, irrational, and/or violent examples (Diogenes, like a Zen master, striking students with his staff to produce sudden insights; Diogenes sitting in the theatre gluing together the pages of a book [33rd Epistle of Diogenes]).

    3. A requirement of total dedication, and of signs of total dedication, from the student. The story of Diogenes' application to study under Antisthenes bears comparison with the story of Bodhidharma's student cutting his arm off:

On reaching Athens he fell in with Antisthenes. Being repulsed by him, because he never welcomed pupils, by sheer persistence Diogenes wore him out. Once when he (Antisthenes) stretched out his staff against him, the pupil offered his head with the words, "Strike, for you will find no wood hard enough to keep me away from you, so long as I think you've something to say." From that time forward he was his pupil (DL 6.21).

    4. The use of shocking and/or enigmatic verbal formulae as teaching devices (for example, Crates: "Having nothing, we have everything'').

    5. An emphasis on hardihood, indifference to phenomena, and extreme simplicity or frugality of physical milieu.

    6. A mirthful attitude which often expresses itself as ridicule of convention.

    7. An extreme self-possession, a mental balance impossible to disturb.

    8. A tendency to reject or at least neglect inherited doctrines such as reincarnation and purification, preferring the emptiness of no-doctrine.

    We will consider briefly whether a diffusionist hypothesis can account for these parallels. Sayre was so struck by the similarity between Cynics and yogis that he hypothezised Indian influence on Diogenes by way of Asian trade routes to the Black Sea. [59] While the idea is not unattractive, and may even be correct, the evidence is hardly sufficient to establish it. Tarn has seriously weakened belief in the so-called northern route from India to Greece by way of the Caspian and Black seas. [60]



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Most important, it is difficult to agree with Sayre's statement that "there were elements of Cynic teaching for which no Greek antecedents are found." [61] Apatheia and adiaphoria are clear implications of both Parmenidean monism and Democritean atomism; relativism and the rejection of traditional codes are at the heart of the sophistic movement; we need look no farther than Socrates for an example of extreme hardihood, and the itinerant Orphic preachers show us a class of "holy beggars" who seem at times anyway to have advocated celibacy; the Cynic espousal of cannibalism and other acts shocking to the Greek tradition arises from a combination of sophistic relativism with Herodotus 3.99. [62]

    Most scholars have preferred the historically solid occasion of Alexander the Great's visit to India in 326 B.C., for the transmission of yogic ideas into the Greek "philosophies of retreat." But most of the features which might be traced back to India had already appeared in Greece before Alexander's expedition. It is certain, for example, that the Antisthenean-Megarian rejection of conceptualization preceded Alexander's visit to India, and thus we can rule out the suggestion that Pyrrhon of Elis, who accompanied Alexander, brought it back with him. [63] The doctrine of apatheia (nonreactiveness) goes back in the Greek tradition at least to Speusippus and possibly to Democritus. The available evidence suggests that Diogenes was teaching autarkeia (self-rule) as the means of escape from typhos (delusion) in Athens by about 340 B.C. [64] But other elements of the Cynic style are less firmly anchored to a pre-Alexandrian personality. Crates, who may have been the first Cynic to teach philanthropia (love for all beings rather than just for those to whom we happen to be connected), was post-Alexandrian. The explicit emphasis on inner silence may be post-Alexandrian. But it at least seems clear that the Greek "philosophies of retreat" were underway before the opening of the East by Alexander, and that there is no problem in deriving them from exclusively Greek sources.

    But the question whether the reducing dialectic may have diffused from Greece into India during and/or after 326 B.C. is more difficult to deal with due to the lack of a precise and solid chronology for early Indian philosophy. The Maadhyamika dialectic of course does not seem to arise until long after the Eleatic-Megarian-Cynic dialectic. Conze traces the Maadhyamika back to the Praj~naapaaramitaa texts, and to these he assigns a date no earlier than 100 B.C., [65] again well within the period of Greek influence on northwest India. A recent suggestion that the roots of the Maadhyamika are to be found in the Sutta Nipaata of the Pali canon may (or may not) carry the tradition to a pre-Alexandrian date [66]; but in any case we do not find in the Sutta Nipaata any trace of the specifically dialectical approach.

    It is interesting to note that according to Strabo, the Gymnosophists (= Yogis) with whom Alexander's philosopher-pilot Onesicritus spoke taught him:



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That nothing that happens to a man is bad or good, opinions being merely dreams,

and that:

the best philosophy (is) that which liberates the mind from (both) pleasure and grief (Strabo, XV 1.65).

Clearly, then, the basic attitudes in question were present in pre-Alexandrian India (whether or not these were Buddhists to whom Onesicritus talked), but we still have no sign of the dialectic itself having been practiced there before the arrival of Greeks.

    In other words, the possibility that Greek influence contributed to the specifically dialectical formulation of Maadhyamika Buddhism, either through the Bactrian and Gandharan Greek centers of northwestern India (where the Praj~naapaaramitaa school may have arisen [67]), or through the Greco-Roman trading centers like Arikamedu (near the putative birthplace of Naagaarjuna), must be left open. The Indo-Greeks, being outside the caste system, gravitated to Buddhism and may well have occupied prominent positions in the early Buddhist power structure. A`soka himself may have been either one-half or one-quarter Greek [68]; his career started as viceroy of Taxila, a Greek center; he included Greeks among his high officials and, when he sent out Buddhist missionaries, one of the most famous (said to have converted tens of thousands) was a Greek. [69] In the centuries following A`soka, and leading up to the time of the Maadhyamika school,Greek traders opened up southeast India as well as the northwest,and archaeological evidence suggests that Greek influence penetrated from these frontier centers into the interior. [70] Clearly the channels for diffusion were open, though we cannot point to any specific mechanism. Certain post-Alexandrian developments in Greek thought increase the likelihood that such contact took place -- but that is a subject for another paper.




1. W. K. C. Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, 5 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962-1975), 2:53.

2. See Richard H. Robinson, Early Maadhyamika in India and China (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977), p. 42.

3. Th. Stcherbatsky, The Conception of Buddhist Nirvaana (The Hague: Mouton, 1965), pp. 46-48; S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1923), vol. 1, pp. 658-659, 662-669; D. T. Suzuki, On Indian Mahayana Buddhism (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), pp. 109, 236, 270, E. Conze, Buddhist Thought in India (London: Abingdon Press, 1962) , pp. 239-243; T. R. V. Murti, Central Philosophy of Buddhism (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1955), pp. 121-126.

4. Frederick Streng, Emptiness. A Study In Religious Meaning (Nashville, Tennesse, 1967);



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"The Significance of Pratiityasamutpaada for Understanding the Relationship Between Sa^mv.rti and Paramaarthasatya in Naagaarjuna," in M. Sprung, ed., Two Truths in Buddhism and Vedanta (Dordrecht, 1973), pp. 27-39; "The Process of Ultimate Transformation in Naagaarjuna's Maadhyamika," The Eastern Buddhist NS 11, no. 2 (October, 1978): 12-32; K. K. Inada, Naagaarjuna: A Translation of His Muulamadhyamakakaarikaa with an Introductory Essay (Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1970), pp. 9-11,18, 21-24.

5. Streng, "The Significance of Pratiityasamutpaada," pp. 30-31.

6. See, for example, Murti, Central Philosophy of Buddhism, pp. 95-98, and Streng, Emptiness, p. 35.

7. It may possibly have appeared earlier in the works of Pythagorean mathematicians, who employed it in their proof of incommensurability. See W. and M. Kneal, The Development of Logic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 8. For the view that the geometers learned it from the Eleatic philosophers see H. D. P. Lee, Zeno of Elea (Amsterdam, 1967 [1936]), p. 112; and A. Szabo, "Eleatica, " Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 3 (1955): 67-103, and "Wie ist die Mathematik zu einer deduktiven Wissenschaft geworden?" ibid. 4 (1956): 109-152. Szabo identifies the reductio ad absurdum in Eleatic context as the oldest form of logical argument.

8. Robinson, Early Maadhyamika, p. 42.

9. There is less than complete agreement on the purpose of the "Stadium." For the view I am using, see Lee, Zeno of Elea, pp. 83-102. For a contrary view see Michael C. Stokes, One and Many in Presocratic Philosophy, Center for Hellenic Studies Series (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 184ff.
    It is not certain that Naagaarjuna turned his dialectic against the particle view of space and time. Mark Siderits and J. Dervin O'Brien ("Zeno and Naagaarjuna on Motion," Philosophy East and West 26, (1976): 281-301) argue that MK 2.3 is directed either against the view that both space and time are discontinuous or against the view that time is discontinuous and space continuous. The interpretation is questionable, and I tend to follow Murti on this passage instead. (Murti, Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p. 179.) Siderits and O'Brien's overall view seems too dependent on Brumbaugh's reading of the Zenonian tetralemma (Robert S. Brumbaugh, The Philosophers of Greece [New York: Crowell, 1964], pp. 57-67), which, contrary to Siderits and O'Brien, is far from representing a consensus among Hellenists (see, for example, M. C. Stokes, One and Many, pp. 175-217). Even on the Siderits/O'Brien view, Zeno emerges as more thorough than Naagaarjuna in the "mathematical" dialectic against motion.

10. Translation as in Stokes, One and Many, p. 202.

11. Scholars in general once felt that Zeno's motive was the rather Vedaantin one of demonstrating that "motion is impossible", namely, that the world of sense and common sense is illusory; more recently he has been given the more Maadhyamika motive of criticizing extant conceptualizations of space as inadequate to account for the obvious fact of motion. In either case, various "solutions" of the paradoxes have been proposed: for "linguistic" solutions, see S. Quan, "The Solution of the Achilles Paradox," Review of Metaphysics 16 (1963): 473-485; Nelson, "Zeno's Paradoxes on Motion," pp. 486-490; for "philosophical" solutions by Bergson and Russell see Leo Sweeney, Infinity in the Presocratics (The Hague, 1972), pp. 112-115; for mathematical solutions by Cantor and others, Florian Cajori, "The History of Zeno's Arguments on Motion," American Mathematical Monthly 22 (1915): 1-6, 39-47, 77-82, 109-115, 143-149, 179-186, 215-220, 253-258, 292-297.

12. See Murti, Central Philosophy of Buddhism, pp. 200-201. The same arguments occur in `Saantideva, BCA 9.87, 95/6.

13. Ibid., p. 178.

14. W. A. Heidel, "The Pythagoreans and Greek Mathematics," in David J. Furley and R. E. Allen, eds., Studies in Presocratic Philosophy vol. 1, The Beginnings of Philosophy (New York: Humanities Press, 1970), p. 372, n. 51. Of course the idea of Pythagorean atomism has been attacked (see especially D. J. Furley, Two Studies in the Greek Atomists [Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1967], pp. 44ff.); it should be noted that this view of Zeno's motive is not necessary to my analysis of Maadhyamika parallels.

15. Lee (Zeno of Elea, p. 26) argues that this is not Zeno's intention; but the fact remains as Simplicius and Alexander stated it, whatever the intention may have been.



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16. Encyclopedia of Philosophy (N.Y., 1967) 8, p. 377.

17. T. G. Sinnige, Matter and Infinity in the Presocratic Schools and Plato (Assen, 1968). p. 95.

18. Ibid., p. 109.

19. Murti, Central Philosophy of Buddhism, pp. 36-54. For a critique of Murti's position see David J. Kalupahana, Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (Honolulu, Hawaii: The University Press of Hawaii, 1975), chapter 9.

20. For the text see Sextus, Adv. Math, 7.65ff. (= DK B3), and the Pseudo-Aristotelian work On Melissus, Xenophanes and Gorgias.

21. See, for example, T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers (London, 1931 [1905]), vol. 1, p. 489, and W. K. C. Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, 3:273.

22. Marion L. Matics, Entering the Path of Enlightenment (New York: Macmillan, 1970), p. 133.

23. Streng, Emptiness, pp. 141, 143.

24. Edward J. Thomas, The History of Buddhist Thought 2d ed. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1951), p. 218.

25. Translated as in Robinson, Early Maadhyamika, p. 40.

26. Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, 3:201.

27. Stephen Mitchell, ed., Dropping Ashes On The Buddha (New York: Grove Press, 1976), p. 126.

28. R. Robinson, Plato's Early Dialectic (Ithaca, New York: 1941), p. 82.

29. Murti, Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p. 95 (italics mine).

30. See Robinson, Plato's Early Dialectic, p. 78.

31. See Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, 5:53.

32. F. M. Cornford, Plato and Parmenides (London, 1950 [1939]).

33. J. Wahl, Etude sur le Parmenide de Platon (Paris, 1926), pp. 43 and 88 (quoted by Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, 5:34.) See also J. N. Findlay, Plato: The Written and Unwritten Doctrines (London, 1974), pp. 229-254.

34. Translation as in Robinson, Plato 'a Early, Dialectic, p. 157.

35. Ibid., p. 166.

36. Junjiro Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy (Honolulu, Hawaii: Office Appliance Company, 1956), p. 101.

37. Wing-tsit Chan, A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 359.

38. Translated as in Richard Mckeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle (NY, 1941), pp. 822-823.

39. The Megarian argument which Aristotle refers to may be Diodorus Cronus' so-called Master Argument. The question involves much controversy not strictly relevant to this article. Diodorus also formulated four arguments against motion which are basically refinements of Zeno and as such are, like Zeno's, parallel to the arguments in the second chapter of the Maadhyamikakaarikas.

40. Whether or not this is historically accurate is irrelevant here: the early Cynics certainly adopted his attitudes, whether or not he was their official leader.

41. Murti, Central Philosophy, of Buddhism, p. 295.

42. See Aristotle, Met. 1024b32ff, and 1043b23ff.

43. Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, 3:214; 5:45.

44. The 8th Epistle of "Heraclitus" in A. J. Malherbe, ed., The Cynic Epistles: A Study Edition (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1977), p. 208. I will make very sparing use of the Cynic Epistles, the earliest of which are dated to circa 300 B.C., to illustrate teachings which seem already to have been formulated in the generation of Diogenes and his disciples. It is interesting to note that Heraclitus, who of all early Greek thinkers is the closest to primitive Buddhism, was the only Presocratic to whom Cynic teachings are attributed in the Epistles.

45. Edward Conze, The Praj~naapaaramitaa Literature ('s-Gravenhage, 1960).

46. Matics, Entering the Path of Enlightenment, p. 170.

47. In Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles, p. 103.

48. Matics, Entering the Path, p. 171.

49. Ibid., p. 143.



p. 164

50. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles, p. 56.

51. Ibid., p.54.

52. E. Zeller, Socrates and the Socratic Schools (New York: Russell, 1962), p. 304 and n. 1.

53. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles, p. 59.

54. Zeller, Socrates and the Socratic Schools, p. 306.

55. Ibid., p. 309 and n. 5.

56. Farrand Sayre, Diagenes of Sinope, A Study of Creek Cynicism (Baltimore, Maryland: 1938) , pp. 34-35.

57. Inada, Naagaarjuna, p. 31.

58. Translation as in A. F. Price and Wong Mou-Lam, The Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui Neng (N.Y., 1969), p. 87.

59. Sayre, Diogenes, p. 40.

60. For the northern route see G. MacDonald in E. J. Rapson, ed., The Cambridge History of India (Cambridge, 1922), vol. 1, p. 433, for arguments against it, W. W. Tarn, The Greeks In Bactria and India (Cambridge, 1951), pp. 112-113, 444, 488-490.

61. Sayre, Diogenes, p. 38.

62. Daniel H. H. Ingalls, "Cynics and Pasupatas: the Seeking of Dishonor," HThR 55 (1962): 281-298), suggests that this aspect of Cynicism originated in Black Sea shamanism. I do not reject this possibility (which I will deal with in detail elsewhere); my point is that this strain of Cynicism can (pace both Sayre and Ingalls) be accounted for from within the Greek tradition.

63. The opinion that Pyrrhonism sprang from its founder's experiences in India is found in, for example, Conze, Buddhism, Its Essence and Development (New York: Peter Smith, 1959), pp. 140-143; G. Woodcock, The Greeks in India (London, 1966), p. 27; C. J. DeVogel, Philosophia I (Assen, 1970), p. 428; M. Patrick, The Greek Skeptics (N.Y., 1929), p. 57; L. Robin, Pyrrhon et le skepticisme grec (Paris, 1944), pp. 6, 8.

64. See Donald Dudley, The History of Cynicism (London, 1937), pp. 23ff.

65. E. Conze, "The Development of Praj~naapaaramitaa Thought," in Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies (London, 1967), p. 124.

66. L. O. Gomez, "Proto-Madhyamika in the Paali Canon," Philosophy East and West 26 (1976): 137ff.

67. See Conze, The Praj~naapaaramitaa Literature, p. 11.

68. See J. Allan, in The Cambridge Shorter History of India (Cambridge, 1934), p. 33; K. H. Druva, in Journal of the Bengal and Orissa Research Society 16 (1930): p. 35; W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, pp. 152-153.

69. See Woodcock, The Greeks in India, chapter 3.

70. For some of the evidence of Greek activities in India, see M. Cary and E. H. Warmington, The Ancient Explorers (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1963 [1929]), pp. 101ff., and R. E. M. Wheeler, "Arikamedu: An India-Roman Trading Station on the East Coast of India," in Ancient India 2(1946): 17-124.