Sunday, 22 December 2013


SR 1989: 3
Perhaps in the Buddhist context “apophaticism” is to be understood in the sense of expressing of the ultimate reality via negationis.


Substantialism: SR 1989: 41.


SR 1989: 3

Perhaps in the Buddhist context “cataphaticism” is to be understood in the sense of expressing of the ultimate reality via affirmationis.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


“Religiology” is a term coined/proposed by Hideo Kishimoto to express “science of religion” or “scientific study of religion,” very close to German Religionswissenschaft. I personally like the term, better than “Religious Studies.” I propose chos lugs rig pa in Tibetan (if it has not yet been opposed). For details, Hideo Kishimoto, ““Religiology.” Nvmen 14 (2), 1967, pp. 81–86.

An Apology for Buddhist Philosophy and Buddhist Philology

Why Philosophia Buddhica? Even as someone who tries to do philology, one’s actual interest lies in philosophy. One does philology because one has to. One does philosophy because one likes it. The temptation, however, is that one does what one likes, but does not do what one has to. This seems to be particularly true in the field of Buddhology (i.e. Buddhist Studies). So honestly, I am sceptical about those of us who do (or rather try to do) Buddhist philosophy without relying on historical-philological works. Let us say all of us are interested in what the Buddha thought or said, what Nāgārjuna thought or said, and so on, but how are we to be sure that is what the Buddha actually thought or said and what Nāgārjuna thought or said. One of the greatest challenges thus is finding out if our attribution of a certain Buddhist philosophical idea to a certain person, a certain time, a certain place, a certain work, and so on, is accurate and thus reliable. None of us would, I would assume, prefer to live in a fool’s paradise! Because of such difficulties regarding past thoughts and ideas, we have no choice but to resort to historical-philological works, which may not always succeed in meeting these challenges but at least address these difficulties and draw caution to them. To be sure, historical-philological works are dreary and tedious, but that in way should suggest that we do not need them. In my view, a good student of Buddhist philosophy is also a good student of Buddhist philology, and vice versa. A student of Buddhist philology who does not understand Buddhist philosophy cannot do good Buddhist philology. A student of Buddhist philosophy who does not practise Buddhist philology cannot do good Buddhist philosophy. Of course, it is also a matter of personal interest. Not everyone who can do Buddhist philology or philosophy may want/like to do Buddhist philology or philosophy. This is an absolutely legitimate choice. But we should resist the temptation or tendency (in our academia, mostly those of us who are politicians in the academia) to denounce (or undermine) those fields or disciplines at which we are not particularly good at. The simple (il)logic seems to be: We do not need all those difficult disciplines at which I am not particularly good at. This is an apology for both Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist philology! 

Buddhist Misology?

According to a Wikipedia entry, “misology” is “the hatred of reasoning; the revulsion or distrust of logical debate, argumentation, or the Socratic elenchus.” The question is whether we can speak of “Buddhist misology” or designate any Buddhist philosophy or ideology as “misology.” According to Seyfort Ruegg 1981: 2, one of the various terms used to describe the doctrine of Madhyamaka school and particularly of Nāgārjuna, is “misology,” which he, of course, rejects. Mādhyamikas would claim that the Madhyamaka reasoning is reasoning par excellence and if there is one person that truly loves and lives reasoning then that person would be a Mādhyamika. Hence nothing can be more off the tract than describing Madhyamaka philosophy as “misology.” For Tibetan scholars such as Rong-zom-pa, there would no such thing as absolutely immaculate reasoning that can prove or disprove everything to everyone and thus all kinds of reasoning are maculate and limited, but there are various kinds of reasoning, one reasoning more incisive than the others. The more incisive ones can refute the less incisive ones. We can assume that Buddhist logicians and philosophers would like to think that they have some of the most incisive kinds of reasoning ever. They would contend that the Buddha taught only what is logical/rational/reasonable, and anything or everything that is logical/rational/reasonable should be acceptable to the Buddha and a Buddhist philosopher. From such a perspective, it would make no sense at all to talk of “Buddhist misology.” But what about Buddhist yogins and devotional Buddhists? Are they not supposed to hate reasoning? Buddhist yogins would warn people of the limitation of theoretical type of reasoning, pure speculation, and “eristics” (i.e. arguments that aim at winning rather than gaining insights) but they cannot be said to hate reasoning. Devotional Buddhists, knowledgeable about Buddhist logics and reasoning, would not hate reasoning. Devotional Buddhists, who are ignorant of the Buddhist logics and reasoning, might hate reasoning, but as Candrakīrti states, fools are never authorities. Any way, the word “hate” is totally inappropriate. Even if a person is ignorant of reasoning or disproves reasoning, it does not mean that the person actually hates it. In short, the term “Buddhist misology” would be a complete misnomer.

With regard to the limitation of theoretical type of reasoning, pure speculation, and “eristics,” I think we can glean quite a bit of information from materials associated with different periods, places, and persons. Propositions and deliberations on the status of logic and epistemology in Buddhism will be of particular relevance and interest. In this regard some studies have already been done. We would find Buddhist thinkers who seem markedly pro-Pramāṇic, and others who appear markedly anti-Pramāṇic, but in the end we might find a consensus. That is, when people like Atiśa tell us that anumāṇas and pratyakṣa are dispensable for Buddhist soteriology, they really do not really or actually seem to reject altogether the utility or instrumental/epistemic value of inferences and perceptions as such. Because if this were the case, they would have to even reject existence and utility of yogic perceptions (e.g. śuddhalaukikajñāna and nirvikalpajñāna), which, however, could have hardly been the case. For most, if not for all, buddhajñāna would be the ultimate pratyakṣa. What these people are perhaps trying to tell is that Buddhists, who aspire for Arhathood or Buddhahood, do not need a system of theory (or a theory system) that is devoted to the theorization of logic and epistemology. Perhaps something like: You just play or enjoy the music. You don't have to theorize it. The consistent and categorical rejection of pure speculations as being irrelevant to and detrimental for one’s aspiration for salvation is attributed to the Buddha himself. Dignāga, too, warns us against dragging Buddhist teachings along “eristic paths” (rtog ge’i lam). The points of consensus between (seemingly) pro-Pramāṇic and anti-Pramāṇic Buddhist thinkers is perhaps that (a) risks of being carried away by pure theoretical speculations and not being able to avail oneself of the teachings of the Buddha that are actually and initially meant as medicine against the ills of saṃsāra, but (b) liberating insight, be it prajñaic or jñānaic, which must be ultimately acquired through meditation, is indispensable for causing one’s soterical breakthrough

There is also the relativisation of pramāṇa (i.e. kind of “higher” and “lower”). gNubs-chen, (citing the sPyi bcingsbSam gtan mig sgron (pp. 295–296):

gsang sngags rgya mtsho chen po ni ||
dpe dang tshad ma gtan tshigs dang ||
rjes su dpog pa’i shes rab kyis ||
rtogs par nus pa ma yin te ||
de bas gsang sngags bdag nyid che ||
dngos grub rlabs chen ’khrigs pa can ||
bsam yas gting ni dpag dka’ bas ||
lung dang man ngag thob pas ’grub  ||.


Saturday, 7 December 2013

Buddhist Toxicology

Buddhist Toxicology

[Two previous notes put together and hence some redundancies!]

§1. “Toxicology” (in a dictionary) is defined as “the branch of science concerned with the nature, effects, and detection of poisons.” But I will use the term here in the sense of “theory or conception of poison,” and “Buddhist toxicology” in the sense of “the theory or conception of poison that one finds in Buddhist sources.” Our concern here is not so much whether the nature, types, and effects of poison were properly understood by those authors behind our sources but rather what they thought about poison and poison-related issues. If we will, we might even call our topic “Buddhist meta-toxicology.” 

§2. Alex Wayman seems to one scholar who has been interested and engaged in Buddhist toxicology: See Wayman 1987 and Wayman 1957. I have not yet seen the latter. It goes without saying that any further study of Buddhist toxicology should presuppose our knowledge of previous studies. But this is not the actual purpose of my small entry here. What I intend here is to record a small reference to the theme before I lose it. 

§3. In Rong-zom-pa’s commentary on the Sarvabuddhasamāyogatantra (pp. 608–609), there is an interesting passage that contains four types of dug gi las (lit. “poison activities,” i.e. techniques or methods of curing/treating/detoxicating poison): 

(a) Detoxicating poison by [setting it] ablaze (’bar bas) by just looking at it.
(b) Detoxicating poison by curbing (’dul bas) it with magical formula.
(c) Detoxicating poison by binding (’ching bas) it with mudrās.
(d) Detoxicating poison by consuming (zos pas) it.

(a) By setting it ablaze, it would be burnt.
(b) By curbing, it is transformed into something else.
(c) By binding, it is neutralized.
(c) By eating, it is caused to vanish.

A typology of poison: 

(a) that which affects through being seen by oneself and others? (bdag gzhan gyis mthong bas ’dzin),

(b) that which seizes by coming in contact with breath (kha rlungs phogs pas ’dzin),
(c) that which seizes through touch (reg pas ’dzin), and
(d) that which seizes when bored with fangs and wounded (mche bas phug cing rma srol dod pas).

The bKa’ sde lnga (pp. 59–60) discusses dug rigs rnam pa bzhi and their antidotes.   

Some venues of thoughts:

§4. Is there anything intrinsically lethal or medicinal? Mādhyamikas are likely to argue that nothing is intrinsically lethal or medicinal. Anything can be lethal or medicinal purely in terms of its instrumental value. There is no poison that can kill anybody at all times is there any medicine that can cure everybody at all times. “One man’s poise is another man’s poison” is true also here. While poisons would cause most of us to perish they are said to nourish peacocks! (But please don’t feed peacocks with Potassium cyanide!) Even fake poisons can kill someone sometimes but even real poisons cannot kill some people sometimes. Poison is not what it is but what it does to certain sentient beings under certain circumstances and in certain doses. The idea that poison is poisonous only so long as one does not understand the true nature of poison is very important here. The idea of dug gsum and dug lnga has been discussed by Wayman? There can be said to be mental or material poisons. And also verbal!

§5. If Buddhists maintain that their religion can be tonic or toxic, depending on many factors, what about other religions? Would they also see other religions in a similarly way? One would assume so. That is, even Buddhist teachings might turn out to be detrimental to some human beings, whereas even non-Buddhist teachings might turn out to be beneficial.
§17. But would Buddhists still make a distinction Buddhist teachings and non-Buddhist teachings with regard to their efficacy to kill or cure. I assume they would. First of all, there would be for them a clear-cut distinction between ambrosia and venom. The main point here is that for some, even venom might turn out to be medicinal and even ambrosia might turn out to be lethal. For them Buddha’s teaching would be like ambrosia that might turn out to be lethal for some.

§6. I feel that Buddhism presupposes two kinds of “medication,” namely, one that treats the root-cause of the illness, and another that merely treats the symptoms. Although the ultimate goal is to uproot the cause of the disease, one may resort to any means, any religion, so long as it is efficacious in alleviating one’s immediate pain (i.e. as a kind of palliative). Listening to songs may be seen as a distraction to one’s meditation but if listening to songs helps one to relieve one’s crucial physical pain or mental distress, it would be permissible to listen to songs. 
Just some late-night thoughts.

§7. Somehow the ideas of poison and medicine used in Buddhist sources fascinate me, particularly as used in the context of healing and salvation (curation et salvatio), as already confessed in Wangchuk 2007: 34. Here are some random ideas that can be explored.

§8. The idea that the Buddha should be seen as a healer, Dharma as medicine, and so on. Cf. sDong bkod rgya dpe, pp. 13, 1523).

§9. One of the epithets of a buddha or the Buddha is ‘one who has annihilated poison’ (hataviṣa: dug bcom pa) (Mahāvyutpatti, no. 44).

§10. Four methods of treating poison is mentioned in the Buddhasamayogatantra (NyG, vol. 18, tsa, p. 238). Great detail in B, vol. 47, 1294. See also  B, vol. 47, 1309, 1349. English 2002: 397, n. 64, where the Mahācaṇḍaroṣaṇatantra is cited.

§11. The Black-Snake Analogy. See g.Yung-ston, rGyud don gsal byed (vol. sa, pp. 180.2–184.6), cf. also p. 531ff. Lha-rje Glan is supposed to have used black-snake analogy (gSang bdag zhal lung, p. 28, 33). Was he before or after Rong-zom-pa? No black snake is mentioned but see Nyi-seng, p. 532: only four kinds.

§12. Saṃvṛtiparamārthasatyanirdeśa (D, fol. 254a7–b1): lha’i bu ’di lta ste | dper na sbrul kha gdug pa’i rigs sngags ’don pa des ni sbrul kha gdug pa’i gdug pa rab tu zhi bar byed do || lha’i bu de bzhin du gang nyon mongs pa rnams kyi rigs rab tu shes pa de’i nyon mongs pa rnams shin tu mi dmigs pa’i tshul gyis rab tu zhi bar ’gyur ro ||.

§13. Ratnāvalī 3.63–64: gang la dug ni phan ’gyur na || de la dug kyang sbyin par bgyi || kha zas mchog kyang mi phan na || de la de ni sbyin mi bgyid ||.

§14. sbrul gyis zin la ji lta bur || sor mo bcad la phan bshad pa || de bzhin thub pas gzhan phan pa || mi bde bar bya bar gsungs ||. Cf. Hippocrates (ca. 460–370), Aphorisms 1.6: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” This is according to the translation of Francis Adams.

§15. Ratnāvalī 4.72: viṣeṇāpi viṣaṃ hanyād yathaivoktaṃ cikitsakaiḥ | duḥkhenāpy ahitaṃ hanyād ity ukte kiṃ virudhyate  || add. Tib.

§16. Slob ma la springs pa (B, vol. 96, p. 697). For concept of dug, see also Vanaratna’s Bla ba 50 pa’i ’grel pa (B, vol. 41).

§17. One would think that poison or medicine would be seen as having an intrinsic potence to kill or cure and that it is totally independent of whether one believes in their inherent potency or not and whether one knows their true nature or not. For example, the highly toxic Potassium cyanide would kill anyone including a Chemist. But it seems that in Buddhism, a substance in itself and by itself is never considered a poison or medicine. A substance is poison or medicine only by  its function. In other words, what one calls poison or medicine has no intrinsic value as either poison  or medicine. The same substance, however, can well have an instrumental value, either as poison or medicine. For example, a Sūtric citation states that even Buddhist teaching can be the supreme of all medicines or supreme of all poisons. See dPal-brtsegs, gSung rab rin po che (P, fol. 259b5–6): sangs rgyas kyi bstan pa … bdud rtsi’i mchog kyang yin no || dug gi mchog kyang yin no ||. Some textual problems here. Must check!  

§18. The idea that one who knows the true reality of poison would be immune to its harmful effects is also widespread.

§19. The belief that a peacock nourishes in poison and flourishes.     

§20. Saddharma has been compared to medicine or poison  By extension “religion,” too, can be compared to medicine or poison. It can cure or kill. Claiming that religion by all means and for everyone is poison would be as wrong as claiming that religion is always and for everyone medicine. And of course just as there are all kinds of herbs and chemicals that may or may not be tonic or toxic, so are there all kinds of religion. Tendentially, followers of one religion may consider religion of another as being toxic whereas one would consider one’s own religion as tonic. Notably, this does not seem to be always true in the case of Buddhism (see above). Buddhist religion is not always seen as being inherently tonic or toxic.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Buddhist X-logy

In the recent years, I have become obsessed with the desire to squeeze every aspect of Buddhist philosophy within the frame of x-logy words. So far, I have been using the following terms:

1. “Buddhist ontology” (i.e. Buddhist theory of being).

2. “Buddhist epistemology” (i.e. Buddhist theory of knowledge).

3. “Buddhist gnoseology” (i.e. Buddhist theory of jñāna), a kind of higher epistemology.

4. “Buddhist soteriology” (i.e. Buddhist theory of release from saṃsāric bondage).

6. “Buddhist axiology” (i.e. Buddhist theory of mainly ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual values) and now I also see a term “ethology” 

7. “Buddhology” (i.e. theory of the Buddha or a buddha).

8. “Buddhist Dharmology” (i.e. theory of Buddha’s teachings), analogous to “Buddhology.” I have not yet used this before.

9. “Sentientology” (i.e. Buddhist theory of sentient beings). 

10. “Buddhist cosmology”

11. “Buddhist eschatology” (q.v.)

12. “Buddhist psychology” (i.e. Buddhist theory of mind and mental associates).

13.  Buddhist thanatology (I did use this once).

14.  Buddhist semeiology? (Did I use this once?)
15. Buddhist ethology (used in Deleanu 2000)! Ethology = “the science of animal behavior,” “the study of human behavior and social organization from a biological perspective.”

16. “Buddhist hierographology” (study of Buddhist sacred scriptures”

17. (Buddhist) iconology: Seyfort Ruegg 1981: 115 “In addition, Abhayākaragupta was the author of a number of works on iconology, ritual and several Tantrik cycles.”

One may keep on adding to the list. Some people use “Buddhist theology,” but I deprecate it.

Buddhist theory of poison (thus “toxicology”) may become relevant. Buddhist polemology?

Buddhist thaumatology would be interesting.  

(Buddhist) misology?