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The Concept of Emotion in Classical Indian

Most discussions of the term emotion in classical Indian literature take place in the context the
rasa theory of Indian aesthetics. The word rasa can mean juice, sap, essence, condiment or even
flavour and refers to the different sentiments invoked by a work of art, for example a piece of
music. However, this entry focuses on the emotions in Indian philosophical thinking outside of
the realm of aesthetics. While there is no equivalent for the term emotion in Sanskrit, the
concept nevertheless plays an important role in Indian philosophy. Terms used in Sanskrit texts
include vedan (feeling) and bhva (feeling) as well as names of individual emotions, such as
rga (love, attraction), dvea (hatred, aversion), hara (joy), bhaya (fear) and oka (sorrow).
One of the reasons why emotions are philosophically interesting in India and the West is their
relationship with the mental phenomenon of vijna or jna which is translated as cognition.
The relationship between emotion and cognition is important for any account of reason and
rationality. While the importance of the emotions for rational deliberation and decision-making
has been acknowledged in recent discussions in the philosophy of mind, the history of Western
philosophy contains many views, for example those of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, which
emphasize the dangerous and destructive role of the emotions. At the heart of these views lies a
division of our mental lives into cognitions and feelings. Cognitions are representational
thoughts. They are often regarded as rational because they are capable of representing the
external world and therefore they provide us with access to the external world, based on the best
available evidence. So, according to this view of rationality, when I think that there is a book on
the table, based on my available evidence, and there really is one, then my thought is rational.
However, if I am hallucinating that there is a book on the table, my thought that there is a book
might also be rational because the available evidence points towards this thought. In order to
make sure that our thoughts represent reality correctly, we require an account of what counts as
good evidence, which is one of the main foci of epistemology in Indian and Western philosophy.
Nevertheless, cognitions derive their status as thoughts capable of rationality from the fact that
they have objects which represent the external world. By contrast, feelings are some of the nonrepresentational attitudes one can have towards the objects of the representations of our thoughts.
For example, when a person thinks about her daughters, she has a cognition which represents her
daughters. The objects of her thought are her daughters and her thought picks them out among
various objects and subjects in the world. There are several ways in which these objects can be
picked out: one can simply have the thought that one has two daughters or one's thought can be
coloured with love and affection. This colouring of thought is often regarded as an affect.
Together with the thought, it accounts for an emotion. So, the emotion of love, for example, is the
thought of the object of love plus an affect. The affect is non-representational and regarded as a
mere feeling.
The reason why many philosophers regard the emotions as an obstacle to rational thought is the
influence of the non-representational feeling. The fact that feelings do not seem to have objects
means, according to some views, that they can interfere with rational thought. According to these
views, rational thought, which is representational and therefore object-directed, is subject to
disturbing interferences from the feelings. The feelings themselves, however, are non-rational
because they arise due to some physical imbalance in the body, for example through an
imbalance of the various humours. This imbalance can negatively influence rational thought.
An example is the person who acts against her better judgment because she is in the grip of some
feeling. This is of course also the basis for the term passion as something that we suffer,

which was discussed by many philosophers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, e.g.
Descartes, Spinoza and Hume. Since rational thought is an ideal for many philosophers and the
feelings can interfere with this ideal, the natural consequence seems to be to advocate for the
extinction or at least the control of the feelings and, as a consequence, of the emotions. This is
what many philosophers throughout the history of philosophy have done, most notably of course
the Stoics. While they often recognize that the emotions contain a cognitive, and therefore
potentially rational, element, they try to uncover this element by advocating its separation from
the affect. Of course, if the affect were to be purged from the emotion, the resulting cognition
would cease to be an emotion.
There is a parallel between this Western view and a prejudice that attaches to Indian philosophy.
The prejudice is that Indian philosophy, because of its soteriological nature with its emphasis on
the attainment of liberation, is about freeing the mind from feelings and emotions because they
constitute an attachment to the world. While this is true of some schools of Indian philosophy, it
is by no means a justified account of Indian philosophy as a whole. The different positions within
Indian philosophy on this topic are more complex, as is the case with regard to Western
philosophy. This article introduces some of the main positions regarding the emotions and their
relation to cognitions in Indian philosophy. The sections of the article roughly correspond to the
division into philosophical schools in classical Indian philosophy. Since arguably Buddhist
philosophers have paid more attention to those phenomena that Western philosophers would
classify as emotions than other Indian philosophers, the Buddhist account of the emotions will be
discussed in more detail than the other accounts.
1. The Nyya-Vaies ika account of the emotions
2. The Vednta account of the emotions
3. The Smkhya-Yoga account of the emotions
4. The Buddhist account of the emotions
o 4.1 Buddhist cognition
o 4.2 ntaraks ita on love and hatred
o 4.3 Cognitions, emotions and kleas
o 4.4 Buddhist emotions
5. Conclusion

1. The Nyya-Vaies i ka account of the emotions

The discussion of this account will focus on the Nyya-stras, Vtsyyana's Nyya-bhsya,

Uddyotakara's Nyya-vrttika and Jayanta Bhat t a'sNyya-majar. In addition, the Vaiesika

stras together with akara Mira's Vaies ika-stra-upaskra will be mentioned. The NyyaVaies ika account of the emotions involves a strict division into cognition (jna) and mental

phenomena that include a feeling aspect, such as love or attraction (rga) and aversion (dvesa).

One of the main reasons for this is the acceptance of the existence of a permanent immaterial self
(tman) by the Nyya-Vaies ika philosophers. According to their arguments, the tman is a
substance (dravya) which possesses several qualities (gun as), such as cognition, desire, effort,
aversion, pleasure and pain. This enumeration shows that there is no common Sanskrit term for
the concept emotion in the Nyya-Vaies ika texts. One general term used is samvedana which
translates as feeling, for example sukha-samvedana (feeling of pleasure).
The important aspect of the Nyya-Vaies ika account is that the individual emotions, such as
attachment and aversion are regarded as defects (dosas)
[NB 1.1.18] or impurities (upadh) [VS
and VSU 6.2.4]. These defects are the result of ignorance (mithyjna) and they give rise to
actions that lead to the feeling of pleasure or pain. The reason why this is regarded as negative is
that the feeling of pleasure and pain is responsible for our attachment to the world and, more
importantly, for our attachment to the self and therefore presents an obstacle to liberation. For
this reason, any emotion is deemed to have a negative influence on the individual. However, NV
1.1.22 mentions one exception, namely the desire for eternal pleasure and absence from pain
which is final liberation. While, strictly speaking, a desire is not an emotion, it usually has the
same negative effect because it results in attachment to the object of desire. The desire for eternal
pleasure, however, is not detrimental to liberation; in fact it is a precondition for liberation.
The Nyya-Vaies ika philosophers clearly distinguish between pleasure (sukha) and pain
(duh kha) on the one hand and the experience of pleasure (sukha-pratyaya) and pain (duh khapratyaya) on the other hand. Pain and pleasure are qualities of the soul but they need to be
cognized by the self in order to be experienced. This means that cognition has a special status
among the qualities of self: no other quality can be experienced without cognition.
Another reason why cognition is an important quality is that it is not necessarily a defect whereas
the other qualities are always defects. The defects fall into 3 groups: i) attraction (rga), ii)
aversion (dvesa)
and iii) illusion (moha) [NS 4.1.3]. Among the first group we find love,
selfishness and greed. The second group includes anger, jealousy, envy, malice and resentment.
The Third group encompasses error, suspicion, pride and negligence. These groupings show that,
according to the Nyya-Vaies ika account, there are no positive emotions. Even love, which is
regarded as a positive emotion in many cultures, is ultimately a defect because all emotions lead
to attachment and error.
The opposite of all three types of defect is described in NB 4.1.4 as knowledge of truth
(tattvajna), right knowledge (samyamati), truthful cognition (ryapraj) and right
apprehension (sambodha). This shows that, according to the Nyya-Vaies ika philosophers,
emotions are defects because they prevent our thinking from turning into right knowledge. This
knowledge can thus only be had if we eliminate these defects and thereby our emotions.
According to NS 4.1.6, illusion is the worst defect because without it the others are not going to
appear. This means that one has to be under an illusion already in order to think that the object of
one's attraction provides pleasure and the object of one's aversion pain. In fact, NS and NB 4.1.58
state that ordinary pleasure should be regarded as pain:
The ordinary man, addicted to pleasure, regards pleasure as the highest end of man, and feels that
there is nothing better than pleasure; and hence when pleasure has been attained, he feels happy
and contented, feeling that all he had to attain had been attained; and under the influence of
illusion, he becomes attached to the pleasure, as also to the things that bring about its

accomplishment; becoming so attached, he makes an attempt to obtain the pleasure; and while he
is trying for it, there come down on him several kinds of pain, in the form of birth, old age,
disease, death, the contact of disagreeable things, separation from agreeable things, the nonfulfilment of desires and so forth; and yet all these several kinds of pain he regards as pleasure.
In fact pain is a necessary factor in pleasure; without suffering some pain no pleasure can be
obtained; hence as leading to pleasure, this pain is regarded by the man as pleasure; and such a
man, having his mind obsessed by this notion of pleasure, never escapes from metempsychosis,
which consists of a running series of births and deaths. And it is as an antidote of this notion of
pleasure that we have the teaching that all this should be looked upon as pain. [NB 4.1.58, p.
This quote shows that ultimately the feeling of pleasure is an illusion and that our ordinary
existence is necessarily beset with pain. This demonstrates the link between feeling and error,
according to the Nyya-Vaies ika philosophers. Both pleasure and pain are two factors that are
responsible for our notion of I that prevents us from attaining final liberation. Therefore, the
pursuit of pleasure is futile and ought to be abandoned in favour of final liberation.
For the Nyya-Vaies ika philosophers, pleasure and pain are not forms of cognition because they
have different causes than cognitions [VS and VSU 10.1.56]. This means that we can have a
cognition without a feeling and we can also have a feeling without a cognition. In addition, they
are experienced differently [NM, vol. 1, p. 118]. This separation between cognitions and feelings,
together with the view that feelings are defects that disturb cognitions, means that feelings are
regarded as purely negative. They lead to an attachment to the world which causes a sense of self
and this sense of self provides an obstacle to liberation.
The Nyya-Vaies ika view shows similarities with the received view of the emotions in Western
philosophy with regard to the point that feelings are a disturbance of cognition. However, in
many Western accounts cognition is regarded as an end in itself because it coincides with the
ideal of rational thinking, whereas according to the Nyya-Vaies i ka philosophers cognition is
not an end in itself. Rather, it is supposed to lead to the conclusion that final liberation is the
ultimate aim and final liberation means the end of cognition.
2. The Vednta account of the emotions
In his commentary on the Brahma-stras, amkara makes the well-known argument that the self
(tman) exists because its existence is the only way to account for the idea of a subject of
experience. This argument relies on the idea that the self has certain mental qualities, which are
termed manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), vijna (cognition) or citta (consciousness), depending
on what mental function is ascribed to them. Different mental functions are doubt, resolution,
egoism or recollection [BSBh 2.4.6]. These mental functions, regardless of how they are referred
to, have several qualities or modifications, including desire, imagination, doubt, faith, want of
faith, memory, forgetfulness, shame, reflection and fear [BSBh 2.3.32] as well as love, aversion,
pleasure and pain [BSBh 2.3.29]. This means that, according to amkara, the mind's cognitive
and emotional abilities are the qualities of our mental functioning which is different from the self.
At the heart of amkara's teaching lies the notion that the true knowledge of the tman is
knowledge that is devoid of any of the above-mentioned qualities. In this respect one can find a
similarity between the Nyya school and amkara because for both of them cognitive and
emotional qualities are due to false knowledge or ignorance of the true self. This means that the
removal of ignorance results in a removal of emotions as well as cognitions. However, it is clear

that the emotions present the main obstacle for the realization of the true self because desire and
aversion lead to attachment and clinging which cause us to neglect the search for liberation that is
crucial to Vednta teaching. So, while amkara distinguishes between what Western philosophers
would call cognitions and emotions, he does not present a purely cognitive state of mind without
emotions as the ideal state of mind because such a state would be impossible. By definition, any
purely cognitive state of mind presupposes the existence of a mind or intellect. For amkara,
however, the problem is that a mind will always have certain qualities that would be called
emotive in Western philosophy, such as desire, aversion, hatred, pleasure or pain. So, as long
there are cognitions, there will also be emotions. Therefore, both must be eliminated in order for
the self to attain liberation. On this point, amkara agrees with the Nyya-Vaies ika
philosophers. While amkara distinguishes between emotions and cognitions, his distinction is
not as pronounced as that of the Nyya-Vaies ika philosophers. He regards both as qualities of
the mind or intellect.
3. The Smkhya-Yoga account of the emotions
Unlike the Nyya-Vaies ika and Vednta accounts of the emotions, the Smkhya-Yoga account
does not draw a fundamental distinction between feelings and cognitions. The reason for this is
that the Smkhya account rests on the division between purusa and prakrti.
The former is pure
consciousness and does not contain any cognitions or feelings whereas prakrti is primordial
matter and has the three qualities (gun as) sattva, rajas and tamas, which are aligned with
different feelings: sattva with pleasure (sukha), rajas with pain (duh kha) and tamas with
confusion or illusion (moha). The terms sattva, rajas and tamas are difficult to translate but are
sometimes rendered as reflection, activity and inertia. The important point about this
dualist structure for the emotions is that, according to the Smkhya account, both cognition and
feeling belong to the realm of prakrti which means that they are material. This stands in contrast
to many dualist accounts in the history of Western philosophy, for example that of Descartes,
according to which cognitions are immaterial whereas emotions or passions are material, thus
making it easier to oppose the two. Larson and Bhattacharya (1987) summarize the difference
between Western and Smkhya dualism in the following way:
[A]ccording to Smkhya philosophy, the experiences of intellect, egoity, and mind, and the raw
feels such as frustration or satisfactionor, in other words, what conventional dualists would
consider to be inherently privateare simply subtle reflections of primordial materiality, a
primordial materiality undergoing continuous transformation by means of its constituent
unfolding as spontaneous activity, reflective discerning, and determinate formulation. Thus, the
modern reductive materialists' claim that sensations are identical with certain brain processes
would have a peculiar counterpart in the Smkhya claim that awarenesses [Sanskrit terms
omitted] are identical with certain gun a modalities. (Larson and Bhattacharya 1987, p. 76)
The relationship between purus a and prakrti in Smkhya philosophy is complex: purus a as pure
consciousness is characterized by inaction (akartrbhva)
and pure presence (sksitva).
It does not

stand in any relation with prakrti,

which comprises the material world, including mental
processes. Nevertheless, purus a forms the foundation of prakrti.
This means that purus a provides
the meaning for all material processes. Thus prakrti exists for purusa and it is only because of
this that the world is not simply a collection of meaningless physical processes. In addition, the
intellect as part of prakrti is supposed to realize that it is not consciousness and it is to become
aware of pure consciousness as the way to liberation. This means that the intellect is supposed to
understand the contentless pure consciousness but of course in order to do so it would have to
become contentless itself, which seems impossible. Therefore, the intellect can only achieve this

in an indirect way without cognition. Instead, we require meditative or yogic exercises to

understand the difference between purus a and prakrti.

In spite of the fact that cognition and emotion are both material, emotions have a negative
connotation in Smkhya philosophy. In this regard the account is similar to that of many Western
philosophers. However, in Western philosophy the idea is to have cognition free from emotion.
By contrast, the Smkhya philosophers do not think of cognition as a desirable end in itself.
Rather, their idea is that ultimate liberation lies in the recognition of purusa by prakrti.
means that our everyday experience of ourselves as conscious intellects with cognitions and
emotions is an obstacle on the way to realizing what pure contentless consciousness is. In fact,
Smkhya philosophers argue that our experience of ourselves as conscious beings is a mistake
that needs to be rectified in order to achieve liberation. This realization is extremely difficult to
achieve and therefore Smkhya proposes first of all to clear the mind of the passions [SSu 2.15]
by separating them from cognition and then to free the mind from cognition in order to
comprehend contentless consciousness. So emotions or passions are regarded as negative but
they are not contrasted with cognitions because cognitions themselves are supposed to be
overcome in order to understand purus a.
In the Yogastras, Patajali provides a method for understanding the difference between purusa
and prakrti via a series of exercises that aim at stripping away all of the disturbing influences
from the mind, including what Western philosophers would classify as emotions. In fact,
Patajali argues that the mind is affected by afflictions (kleas) that keep it from becoming clear
about the difference between purus a and prakrti.
In YS 2.3, Patajali lists the afflictions:
Ignorance (avidy), egoism (asmit), attachment (rga), aversion (dvesa)
and adherence [to
mundane existence] (abhinivea) are afflictions. [YS 2.3]
These afflictions need to be removed in order to achieve liberation. Unlike in many Western
accounts of the emotions, the removal of the afflictions is not supposed to lead to a form of
rational thinking that is divorced from any emotion. Rather, rational thinking itself needs to be
overcome, in order to achieve true liberation by separating purus a from prakrti.

The main reason why emotions such as attachment and aversion are regarded as afflictions is that
they lead to a desire to change our circumstances and therefore to an attachment to the world.
This attachment, however, is precisely what is to be given up in order to achieve liberation. So,
Patajali and his commentators argue that emotions lead to desire and therefore have to be given
up as one of the root causes of ignorance that causes attachment to the world. Only then can the
mind discriminate between purus a and prakrti.

One interesting parallel between Western accounts of the emotions and Patajali is the use of the
colouring (uparga) or coloured (uparaktam) metaphor with regard to the mind [e.g. in YS
4.23]. Patajali claims that the mind is coloured by all of the objects it knows, including
cognitions and emotions. This means that in order to understand the difference between itself and
pure consciousness (purus a), it has to free itself from these colourings and become pure. Only
then can it recognize that it is different from the purusa which cannot be known in itself because
it cannot become an object of the mind. Vysa, in his commentary on YS 4.23, explains that the
mind itself is an object that appears as a conscious subject which is why many philosophers
mistake it for the subject. However, once the mind becomes empty of all objects the difference
between the mind and purus a reveals itself. Vysa makes the argument that a mind which is
empty of all objects can still know itself and thus it would have to become an object in the mind,

i.e. itself. In other words, cognition would have to be cognized by itself. This, however, is
impossible, according to him. Instead, purus a shows itself as that which makes cognition
possible. In this sense, purusa can be compared to Husserl's idea of the transcendental ego. So,
purusa can only reveal itself indirectly by emptying the mind of all cognitions, including
emotions. This means that emotions are regarded as an obstacle to liberation but at the same time,
they share this designation with other cognitions of the world.
The Smkhya-Yoga account of the emotions thus shows some similarities with the NyyaVaies ika account in that both regard the emotions as the first obstacle to liberation. Both
accounts differ from many Western views in that they regard emotion-free thinking not as an end
in itself but as the next obstacle to be removed. For the Smkhya-Yoga philosophers there is a
distinction between veridical and non-veridical cognition (vijna). The latter is classified as
ignorance (avidy), which, together with certain emotions, forms the afflictions (kleas). The
Yoga-stras [YS 2.4] emphasize that ignorance is the most fundamental affliction that is the root
of all other afflictions. In his commentary on YS 2.3, Vysa states that the afflictions are the five
forms of unreal cognition. So, as Sinha points out:
All afflictions (klea) are due to false knowledge (avidy) and can be destroyed by right
knowledge. The Yoga, like Spinoza, regards emotions as intellectual disorders which can be
cured by true knowledge. [Footnote omitted] (Sinha 1985, p. 97)
We therefore see similarities between a cognitive account of the emotions and the Smkhya-Yoga
account because both claim that emotions have mental objects but at the same time there is a
difference in how emotions can relate to knowledge, with the Smkhya-Yoga philosophers
claiming that knowledge and emotions are incompatible.
4. The Buddhist account of the emotions
While there are many nuances in the accounts of the emotions among Buddhist writers, there are
also certain key ideas that are common to all of them. This section, tries to bring out these key
ideas by analyzing some of the writings of the Buddhist philosophers Dharmakrti, ntaraks ita
and Kamalala.
4.1 Buddhit cognition
As with other Indian accounts of the emotions, the Buddhist conception of emotion appears in the
context of the discussion about the role of cognition (vijna). Buddhist philosophers argue
against the existence of a self (tman). At the same time, they acknowledge the existence of a
non-physical momentary consciousness or chain of cognitions (santna vijna) which carries
over from former births into the present and future rebirths. Thus, Buddhists try to find a middle
ground between a permanent non-physical self and the materialism of the Lokyata school
(materialist school of philosophy) which argues that the self is purely the result of bodily
processes. According to the materialists, the self comes into existence with the body and ceases to
exist when the body ceases to exist.
In the Pramn a-siddhi-chapter of the Pramn a-vrttika, Dharmakrti argues that past lives exist.
We can know this because of the authority of the Buddha and we have reason to accept his
authority because of his infinite compassion. This compassion can only be the result of practice
over many life times [PV 36]. The Lokyata philosophers argue that cognitions require the
support of a body and therefore cease to exist when the body ceases to exist. Dharmakrti objects

to this by arguing that mental cognitions do not derive from any physical support [PV 49].
ntaraks ita and Kamalala state that the relationship between the support and what is supported
can be analyzed either as a causal relationship or as the relationship between an object and its
capacity [TS and TSP 18581859]. In this respect they do not deviate from Dharmakrti who
rejects this position of the Lokyata philosophers by arguing that the body could be neither the
cause of cognition nor could it have the capacity of cognition. Franco explains Dharmakrti's
argument in the following way:
If the body were one lasting and changeless entity from birth to death, it could not produce
cognitions gradually, and thus all the cognitions one has throughout one's life would be produced
at once. If the body were the material cause of the cognition, the cognition would last as long as
the body, and thus there could be no dead body (v. 51). If the breaths are considered the cause of
cognition, the same inadmissible consequence applies: Because the body is the material cause of
the breaths, the breaths would last as long as the body and the cognition as long as the breaths (v.
53). All these inadmissible consequences do not apply if one admits that cognition is the cause of
cognition. (Franco 1997, pp. 134135)
Of course, there is no reason why the Lokyata philosophers should say that the body is
changeless. It might precisely be the changes that appear in the body, for example in the brain,
which are responsible for cognition. Dharmakrti argues that if cognition required the support of
the body, there is no reason why it should not arise everywhere where there exists a body or
matter [PV 3738]. The obvious objection to this argument is that not any form of matter
supports cognition. It has to be a particular kind of matter, ordered in a particular way, as is the
case in human beings and many animals.
According to Buddhist psychology, love and hatred are two of the afflictions (kleas) that
befall human beings and that need to be removed in order to attain liberation. There are a number
of sections in the Yogcra-bhmi, possibly written by either Asaga or Maitreya, that discuss
these kleas. The text provides several lists, most of which include love (rga) and hatred or
enmity (pratigha). Other kleas are: satkya-drs t i (false view with regard to the satkya (five
skandhas)), attachment to extreme views, attachment to unwholesome views, attachment to
practices and observances, pride, ignorance and doubt. These kleas could be associated with one
or more of the five possible feelings: pleasant feeling (sukha), unpleasant feeling (duh kha),
neutral feeling (upeks ), happy mood (sau-manasya) or unhappy mood (daur-manasya). A
translation of the psychological categories of the Yogcra-bhmi into the categories of Western
philosophy of mind would render the following distinctions: a klea is a mental phenomenon that
consists of a representation of an object plus a certain feeling, sensation or affect. For example, in
the case of love, the Yogcra-bhmi states that we have the object of love plus either a pleasant
sensation or a happy mood or indifference (neutral feeling). It is interesting to note that the
mental phenomenon of love can be connected with indifference. In general, this suggests that a
sensation is comparable to a psychological attitude and that we always have to have one attitude
or another towards a mental object. This means that our thinking is never without a feeling, even
if it is a neutral feeling. It is unclear, however, in what way we could experience the emotion of
love with the sensation of indifference. It seems that love always requires a positive feeling. The
Yogcra-bhmi allows for a mental phenomenon to count as the experience of love, as long as it
does not involve a negative, i.e. unhappy or unpleasant, feeling.
In addition, the text acknowledges that a representation can be about a real object or an imagined
object. In the latter case, the question arises in what way we can distinguish between an object
and its representation. This suggests that at least some Buddhist traditions distinguish between a

cognition, the object of a cognition and the feeling accompanying a cognition. ntaraks ita
mentions kleas in TS 1955 and it is obvious that he operates within the context of this
psychological distinction which becomes clear in his discussion of love (rga) and hatred
(dves a).
4.2 ntarakita
on love and hatred
ntaraks ita argues that love and hatred exist due to habit and repetition which is ascertained by
confirming and disconfirming concomitance. This means that they are learned through
experience. For example, love is learned by a person being confronted with objects to which this
feeling is attributed and thus reinforced the more of these objects a person encounters. However,
we can observe the existence of love and hatred in babies who have not had the repeated
experience of these objects in this life. ntaraks ita claims that the existence of love and hatred
cannot be due to the first encounter with the object of love or hatred because it would be possible,
as indeed happens according to him, to encounter this object without the respective feelings of
love or hatred or to encounter it with another feeling, such as disgust. As an example,
ntaraks ita mentions the attraction a man might feel towards a woman. He claims that men are
attracted to women if they also attribute goodness and devotedness to them, even though a
particular woman might not possess these qualities. So the qualities that make, for example, a
woman lovable do not have to exist in the woman and therefore, according to ntaraks ita, the
woman cannot be said to be the cause of the feeling of love in the man. Love, then is not an
object of the senses (vis aya). Therefore, the reason why these feelings exist is through force of
habit in previous lives. We have learned over time that women are lovable. This argument is
meant to demonstrate that love and hatred could not exist if the materialists were right and mental
life was simply the result of bodily processes.
Kamalala explains this argument in his commentary on TS 19481953 in a rather
straightforward way and adds a very helpful example:
For the following reason also, the feelings of Love, etc. cannot be due to presence of the
excitants:Because, if the feelings appeared exactly in accordance with the excitants, they would
proceed from the excitant exactly in the same manner as the Cognition of Blue and other things
(which always proceeds in accordance with these things);the feelings however do not proceed in
this way; on the contrary, the said feelings appear in regard to the Woman and other things, in
men who attribute to the woman the form of their own lasting pleasure, etc. which have not been
experienced at all; and yet the objects (woman, etc.) are not actually possessed of the said form of
goodness, etc.;and when a thing is devoid of a certain form, it cannot be the excitant or basis of
the Cognition of that form; otherwise it would lead to absurdity. (TSP: 931)
In this passage, Kamalala draws a distinction between the cognition of blue and the feeling of
love. His point is that the cognition of blue is a perception and therefore requires an object
whereas a feeling of love does not. There is no basis for love in the way that there is a basis for
our perception of blue. So, ntaraks ita's argument, as explained by Kamalala, consists of two
parts: a) love, hatred etc. are learned through experience and reinforced by repetition and b) love,
hatred etc. are not perceptions.
In TS 1958, ntaraks ita provides a similar example of male animals that become perturbed by
the touch of female animals even though they do not know anything about any doings
or sexual intercourse, yet. His argument is that this feeling must be due to experiences

in previous lives. He does not account for the possibility of instinctual behaviour. If ntaraks ita

allowed for the existence of instinctual behaviour then his observation of babies and animals
might have let him to believe that love and hatred are mental phenomena that are not learned
through experience.
ntaraks ita clearly believes that there is something fundamental about the feelings of love and
hatred. They are so fundamental that even babies feel them. At the same time, they require
experience. So the question is how was the first feeling of love (or hatred) acquired? There might
have been a time when humans did not have the feeling of love and they only acquired it at some
point in their lives through experience and subsequent repetition of the experience. This sounds
like a strange idea precisely because love and hatred are so fundamental to our unenlightened
lives that the existence of a time when they did not exist seems impossible. Yet, ntaraks ita's
view implies either that there must have been such a time or that there is an infinite chain of these
feelings stretching backwards. In TS 1872, ntaraks ita makes it clear that he believes in the
latter option:
As regards the other world, there is no such other world, apart from the chain of causes and
effects, in the form of cognition and the rest. What is spoken of as the other world or this
world, that is only by way of a certain limit placed upon the said chain which is beginningless
and endless. (TS 1872)
So, ntaraks ita might argue that love and hatred are just as much part of a chain of cognitions
that is without beginning and end as all other cognitions. The reason why he postulates the
existence of this eternal chain of cognitions is the argument that no cognition could be caused
by anything other than a previous cognition and hence there cannot be a first cognition for
anything we call a particular being. If there was a first cognition for a particular being then,
according to ntaraks ita (TS 18781885), there would be five options: i) the first cognition
does not have a cause; ii) it is produced by an eternal cause; iii) it is eternal and unchanging; iv) it
is caused by another substance; and v) it is caused by a cognition from another chain.
ntaraks ita rejects the first option because he argues that according to this idea the foetus would
somehow receive the first cognition without any cause. This means that the cognition would be
eternal, rather than momentary. ntaraks i ta rejects the second option because if the cognition is
produced by an eternal non-material cause then it should itself be eternal. The argument is that if
something which exists eternally can bring about a cognition then there is no point in time at
which this cause could have brought about the effect. So the effect is eternal in the same way as
the cause. But an eternal effect cannot exist because something which is eternal does not have a
cause. The third option that the cognition is eternal runs counter to our experience which tells us
that cognitions are momentary. ntaraks ita also dismisses the Lokyata position that cognitions
are produced by physical substances because the Lokyata philosophers argue that material
substances are eternal. So, ntaraks ita makes a similar argument to the rejection of option two.
An eternal cause has to have an eternal effect but cognitions are not eternal. Option five is
rejected in TS 18931896 where ntaraks ita argues that the first cognition of one chain cannot
be solely caused by a cognition from another chain because in that case we would expect the
knowledge of parents to carry over into their babies.
The second part (b) of ntaraks ita's argument, that love and hatred are different from
perception, is intriguing in that he claims that there cannot be an external cause for love and
hatred because whatever we might want to postulate as this external object can elicit different
feelings in different people. The object of one person's love might be the object of another
person's aversion. For this reason, love and hatred cannot be acquired in this life, like

perceptions. So the love and hatred that exist in a baby or young animal must be carried over
from another life. This argument assumes that there could not be non-perceptual cognition that
can arise without previous experience and therefore faces the same challenges as the claim that
all feelings have to be learned through repeated experience. But it goes beyond this discussion in
that it raises the question of what the object of love and hatred is. Kamalala uses the term vaa
(desire, love) rather than rga in his commentary on TS 19481953 which suggests that he does
not clearly distinguish between desire and love. If it is true that rga is a klea then it is plausible
that there is no distinction between love and craving. So he could be making the obvious point
that we can desire something without a basis in the external world, i.e. what I desire might not
exist, or that I might desire something for the wrong reasons. Love, hatred and desire all require
the existence of an object. However, unlike a perceptual object, the objects of love and desire can
be merely mental. I can love the idea of equality or I can desire something which does not
exist. This non-existence can be two-fold: i) I can desire something which cannot exist either
logically or physically, for example, I can desire that I had wings; ii) if I desire something to be
the case, then what I desire does not exist, yet. For example, if I desire an ice-cream then the state
of affairs in which I have an ice-cream does not exist, yet. In contrast with love and desire,
perception, at least on a realist account, requires its object to exist in the external world.
4.3 Cognitions, emotions and kleas
While the argument about the difference between perception and love does not show that love
requires previous experience, it raises, (at least) two interesting questions about the Buddhist
account of the emotions: i) why does ntaraks ita draw a distinction between perception and
feeling on the basis of the non-existence of external objects in the case of love, hatred and desire?
ii) why does he make a specific argument about love and hatred when he has already argued in
previous verses of the Lokyata-parks that all cognitions require other cognitions as their
In what follows, these questions are addressed briefly in reverse order. The second question raises
the general problem of the translatability of the concept of feeling or emotion into Sanskrit. As
mentioned in the introduction, there is no general term in Sanskrit for emotion and ntaraks ita
uses the expression love and hatred etc. (rga-dvesa + di). In the translation, Jha has taken the
etc. as referring to other feelings, assuming that ntaraks i ta was operating with a
psychological category such as feeling. However, there is no single word in the text which
would translate as feeling every time it appears in the translation. In fact, it is clear that
ntaraks ita does not mean feelings in the sense of non-representational attitudes towards
objects because love and hatred have objects according to him, albeit mental objects. Since
ntaraks ita remains within the context of Buddhist psychology and clearly refers to
Dharmakrti, it is plausible that he means other kleas instead of other feelings because love
and hatred are kleas and have objects.
In this context, it is also important to discuss the translation of the term vijna as cognition.
Both terms refer to a mental phenomenon that provides knowledge. This means that they refer to
a state of affairs that pertains in the world. Both terms presuppose an external or mental object
they are directed towards. One important difference between these two terms, which shows the
difficulty with translating vijna as cognition, is that, according to ntaraks ita, a vijna
always has an object but it does not have to have conceptual content. In this sense, even a
sensation or feeling, such as the sensation of pleasure, is a vijna because it has an object but
lacks conceptual content, according to ntaraks ita. The sensation has an object because it
provides knowledge about mental states and therefore has to have an object of knowledge.

However, this object is not conceptual. So, according to ntaraks ita, a vijna includes affective
mental states, such as feelings, sensations and emotions and therefore kleas. The Western term
cognition, by contrast, excludes affective mental states.
The whole of the Lokyata-parks of the Tattva-samgraha is one argument for the existence of
an infinite chain of vijnas that is independent of its physical manifestation. For ntaraks ita,
love, hatred and the rest are examples of vijnas. These vijnas are also kleas but not all
vijnas are kleas. Love and hatred are especially useful for his argument because they are
fundamental to our experience and emphasize the continuity of the chain of vijnas.
According to ntaraks i ta, vijnas can include feelings and emotions whereas in Western
psychology and philosophy cognitions are distinct from emotions and feelings. This means that
the role of vijnas in ntaraks ita's system is different from the role of cognitions in Western
psychology and philosophy. As I mentioned above, in the history of Western philosophy the
distinction between feeling and cognition has often been used as the demarcation between feeling
and rational thought with the ideal of affectless thought. For ntaraks ita and other Buddhist
philosophers the ideal is not necessarily that of affectless thought. Instead, their ideal is that of an
existence free from afflictions (kleas). So, they try to extinguish one kind of mental phenomenon
but their distinction is different from the distinction between feeling and thought. For them, all
mental phenomena that provide an obstacle to liberation should be eliminated. This includes what
Western psychologists would call emotions or feelings. However, it also includes many affectless
cognitions. This means that the Western psychological category emotions does not feature
prominently in ntaraks ita's account of the mind. In fact, it is not clear that he would even
recognize such a category. According to Buddhist psychology, some kleas straddle the Western
divide between feeling and thought. They involve both feeling and thought and they are a mental
phenomenon, called a vijna. Whereas for many philosophers in the history of Western
philosophy, the ideal has been to purge feeling from thought, in order to attain a standard of
rationality, the ideal for ntaraks ita and other Buddhist philosophers is to free our mental life
from those vijnas which are kleas. The reason is not to attain some standard of rationality
because, for Buddhists, most vijnas are suspect in that they involve an attachment to the
present life and therefore pose an obstacle to liberation.
One question that arises in this context is why does ntaraks i ta single out love and hatred,
instead of discussing kleas in general?. One answer might be that they are fundamental to our
human experience and therefore lend themselves to ntaraks ita's argument that cognitions in
general do not come into existence with the body.
In Western discussions of this topic, feelings are very often associated with some physical
change, such as a quicker heartbeat or a change in the chemical make up of the brain . For this
reason, emotions are very often regarded as providing some link between the mental and the
physical. ntaraks ita mentions this link between feeling and physical changes in TS 1960. He
claims that phlegm (balsa) and other bodily changes are not responsible for love, hatred or
perturbations through sexual arousal because there is no observed concomitance between them.
While this claim might be true with regard to phlegm, it is obviously false with regard to other
physical changes, especially changes in the brain. However, it would be wrong to completely
dismiss ntaraks ita's argument simply because he turned out to be wrong about this empirical
claim. After all, the argument raises important questions about the status of mental phenomena,
such as love and hatred. This becomes clear when we think about the other question mentioned
earlier: why does ntaraks ita distinguish between perceptions on the one hand and love and
hatred on the other hand based on the existence or non-existence of external objects? While

ntaraks ita often adopts an idealist position compatible with the Yogcra standpoint in the
Tattva-samgraha, he seems to switch to a realist position in this case which is compatible with a
Sautntrika standpoint. The best explanation for this switch is that ntaraks ita and Kamalala
are arguing against Lokyata philosophers (materialists), who do not share the Yogcra outlook
on reality. This means that ntaraks ita and Kamalala try to find common ground with these
philosophers and therefore share their assumptions about the mind-independent existence of an
external world. ntaraks ita's and Kamalala's argument then is that even with this assumption
in place, it does not follow that all cognitions are dependent on or even identical with the body.
According to them, the Lokyata philosophers would have to draw a distinction between
perceptions on the one hand and love and hatred on the other hand, and while they might be able
to account for perceptions they are not able to account for love and hatred.
4.4 Buddhist emotions
From the preceding arguments by the Buddhist philosophers Dharmakrti, ntaraks ita and
Kamalala it becomes clear that Buddhist philosophers do not operate with the psychological
category emotion; at least not in the way that other Indian (and Western) philosophers do. For
example, ntaraks ita and Kamalala do not consider love and hatred to be irrational because
they involve non-cognitive feelings that do not represent an external reality. Kamalala in
particular makes it clear that for him love and hatred do not require a relationship to objects in the
external world. He argues that not having an external object is a salient feature of love and
hatred. In Western philosophy of mind we often use the presence or absence of an object of love
in order to distinguish between rational and irrational love. ntaraks ita and Kamalala,
however, do not use this distinction in order to argue that love and hatred should be eliminated.
As Buddhists, their concern lies with the afflictions that prevent the mind from becoming
liberated and whatever mental state is an affliction ought to be eliminated. Emotions then are
vijnas and as such they always have an object. This position stands in contrast to philosophical
traditions, be they Indian or Western, in which feelings and emotions are often distinguished from
cognitions because they lack an object.
5. Conclusion
A number of themes emerge from this overview: 1) The Western categories of cognition and
emotion do not have equivalents in classical Indian philosophy. This is interesting because it
suggests that these concepts are not psychological categories but perhaps social categories. While
there has been some anthropological work done by, for example, Catherine Lutz on the
differences in the categorization of specific emotions across cultures, there is the possibility that
the category as a whole might not translate into all cultures (see Danziger 1997). 2) One common
theme in classical Indian philosophy is that the phenomena that would be labelled as emotions
in Western philosophy are to be eradicated because they prevent liberation. 3) None of the Indian
philosophical schools aim at emotion-free cognitions as an end in itself. In fact, those states
that would be labelled cognitions in Western philosophy are also to be eradicated because they
also prevent liberation. 4) Indian schools differ over the inclusion of feeling states under the
concept of vijna (cognition). Some schools distinguish between feeling states and vijna
whereas others, most notably Buddhists, do not. This last point suggests that there is an
interesting comparison to be made between Buddhist accounts and cognitive accounts of
the emotions. However, any comparison must be sensitive to the difficulties in translating
the concepts involved.

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