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R. P. Hayes, Dignaga on the Interpretation of Signs

Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988
Introduction to translation

In the two chapters that follow I have presented English

translations of passages selected from Pramii1J.asamuccaya chapters two
and five. Chapter six of the present study contains the first twenty-five
verses (kiirikii) of the second chapter of the PramiifJ.asamuccaya, in which
Diimaga sets down his own views on the limits of the inferential process.
Chapter seven contains four selections from Pramii1J,asamuccaya chapter
five. The first selection comprises Pramii1J,asamuccaya 5: 1-13, in which
Diimaga discusses the nature of the knowledge yielded by verbal symbols
and the content of that knowledge. The second selection, consisting of
Pramii1Jasamuccaya 5:14-16, deals with the question of how symbols that
express preclusion (apoha) combine to form longer units of expression, the
relationships between longer expressions and their components, and the
relations among the components within longer expressions. In the third
selection, consisting of Pramii1J,asamuccaya 5:17-20, DiIinaga deals with
the relations among components in complex states of affairs consisting of
individuals and their properties. He deals as well with the relations
between symbol-complexes and property-complexes. In this context DiIi-
naga offers his main objections to the view that universals and qualities
exist as realities that have a relation to individuals, which relation exists
outside cognition as a fact to be discovered by awareness. The fourth
selection contains Pramii1J,asamuccaya 5:25cd-36 (omitting 31d-32) and
deals in general with the question of what it is exactly that a given term's
application to a subject of discourse precludes. This in turn leads to a
discussion of the metaphysical basis underlying the contrariety of terms
and of propositions. To all of the passages translated I have added my own
commentary, which not only contains information on how DiIinaga's
arguments were interpreted by such philosophers as Uddyotakara,
Jayamisra, Parthasarathimisra, and Jinendrabuddhi, but also ventures
occasionally to express the line of arguments used by the classical Indians
in a way intended to make them a little more accessible to modern readers.
The principal text on which these translations are based is
Kanakavarman's Tibetan translation of the Pramii1J,asamuccaya entitled
Tshad rna kun las bdus pa. Only occasionally does Kanakavarman's
translation seem less coherent than Vasudhararaksita's, and on those

224 Introduction to translation

occasions I have followed the translation of Vasudhararaksita and have so

indicated in notes. Since both of the two Tibetan translations are very
difficult to interpret, and since their interpretations of Diimaga are so
frequently different from one another, I have relied heavily on the Tibetan
translation of the subcommentary (tika) by Hnendrabuddhi. More will be
said below about the Tibetan translations of all these works, but first I
should like to offer some account of how I have gone about doing this

First, on the question of sources, it cannot be emphasized too

strongly how difficult of access Dinnaga's thought is. His style of
composition is generally procataleptic. That is, he presents his position and
argues for it summarily, then strengthens his position by entertaining and
ultimately rejecting any number of plausible counterpositions to this own.
But he also refines his basic position by entertaining possible objections to
it and modifying the first expressed position in light of those anticipated
objections. It is in practice not always possible to determine, when
confronted with a particular passage in the Prama1J.aSamuccaya, which
sentences represent refinements that Dinnaga wishes to incorporate into his
own theory and which sentences represent anticipated counterarguments to
his position. Consequently, while it is most often clear what his overall
position is on a matter, it is just as often unclear what his opinion is on
many more subtle points within the confines of the overall opinion.
Deciding these matters would most probably be a serious problem even if
we had before us the original Sanskrit texts of Dinnaga's works. When
what we in fact have are two Tibetan translations that disagree in their
interpretations on numerous subtle points, it must be conceded that the
obstacles standing in the way of our gaining a perfectly accurate picture of
Dinnaga's thought are formidable. And therefore we have little choice but
to turn to sources outside Dinnaga himself for clues to his views on many
matters. The obvious question is, which outside sources are reliable guides
to Dinnaga's thought? On first consideration it would seem reasonable to
expect that Dharmakirti's work would be as reliable as any, for
Dharmakirti is relatively near in time to Diimaga. If Diimaga's dates are
ca. 480-540 C.E. and DharmakIrti's ca. 600-660 C.E., then Dharmakirti is
much nearer in time to Dinnaga than are any of the sources that I rely so
heavily upon: Jinendrabuddhi (eighth century?), PiirthasarathimiSra (late
eleventh century), Jayamisra (late seventh or early eighth century).
Moreover, Dharmakirti is honoured by tradition as the expositor par
excellence of Dinnaga's thought and is credited by legend to have
understood Dinnaga far better than even Dinniiga's own direct disciple,
Isvarasena. That we cannot place a great deal of confidence in Dharma-
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kIrti's interpretations of Dirinaga as guides to Dirinaga's own arguments is

something that I have argued in Chapter one and will not repeat here.
What does need to be justified here, however, is my reliance on
authors who postdate DharmakIrti and who without any doubt were
themselves influenced by DharmakIrti in their overall understanding of
Dirinaga's thought. Especially in need of some clarification is how it is that
I, knowing that linendrabuddhi believes that Dharmaklrti's interpretation
of Dirinaga is essentially correct, trust linendrabuddhi any more than
Dhatmaldrti. One obvious feature of Jinendrabuddhi's commentary that
makes it more useful as a guide to Dirinaga's thought than Dharmaklrti's
work is that linendrabuddhi offers an explanation of nearly every phrase in
the Pramii1J.asamuccaya, for both the verses and the prose
autocommentary. This accountability for every single passage of the work
he is explaining compels him to formulate some hypothesis on what the
overall strategy of a passage is and the tactics by which that strategy is
carried out. That is, he must offer some account of what the passage aims
to establish and how each sentence in the passage fits into. the overall plan
of the passage. Insofar as linendrabuddhi's commentary is concerned with
this analysis of the strategy and tactics of the text commented upon, it is a
most skillfully executed piece of work and generally inspires full
confidence in its faithfulness to the theories of the text it is trying,
sometimes with almost as much difficulty as a modern scholar feels, to
explain. DharmakIrti, on the other hand, is less interested in offering a
detailed commentary on the passages of Dirinaga' s work than in building
his own structure and drawing upon the authority of quotations from Diri-
naga almost as "proof texts. "
Even when linendrabuddhi leaves off the task of phrase-by-phrase
commentary and introduces further arguments of his own in support of
Dirinaga's conclusions, the deviations from Dirinaga's conceptual
framework are easy to spot and cause little confusion. l Thus, for example,
when Jinendrabuddhi brings the concept of causal efficiency (arthakriyiij
into the discussion of what differentiates real entities from conceptual
structuring, it is easy to see that the explanation is gratuitous in that it goes
entirely beyond any explanation that Diimiiga himself explicitly states or
even suggests. Similarly, when linendrabuddhi accounts for certain speech
habits and mental attitudes as speaker's predispositions inherited from the
karmic influences of previous lives, it is not difficult to see that ideas very
different from any that Dirinaga himself appeals to are being called into
service. 2 But these deviations from Diimaga's own argumentation do not
flaw Jinendrabuddhi's commentary, for they have no serious effect on the
accuracy of the phrase-by-phrase account of Dirinaga's writing. Rather,
226 Introduction to translation

these supplementary argument~ and explanations that linendrabuddhi

provides may be seen as attempts to defend Dinnaga from his critics by
pulling him into line with what had come to be the orthodox interpretation
of the system built upon the foundation of his thought. For this reason I
have all but ignored Dharmaklrti's views on Diimaga, feeling that Dharma-
kIrti's work is a study unto itself that is best kept separate for the time
being from any study of Dinnaga, and have felt confident that in following
linendrabuddhi I would not be led too far into the wilderness. Negotiating
the text by my own wits alone without following linendrabuddhi's
guidance, I would surely have made countless outrageous blunders of
interpretation; as the translation now stands, I hope that the many
imperfections in it are not outrageous but merely a little comical.
The Pramii1')asamuccaya is composed in mixed verse and prose in
a style in which verse passages are so interwoven into the prose passages
that neither the verse text nor the prose text stands alone as an intelligible
text. In my translation I have separated the verses from the prose
commentary, setting them off in large letters. The verses are numbered
K.O.O, where "K" stands for the number of the karika as given in the
critical edition by Hattori Masaaki (Dinnaga 1982 ed.). Following each
verse is the prose commentary, in which the parts of the verse being
explained are embedded; these embedded parts of verses are indicated by
italics, and the prose passages are numbered K.V.O, where "V" stands for
the number that I have assigned to a passage of prose commentary under a
given verse. My own commentary is keyed to the translations of Diimaga's
commentary in passages numbered K.V.T, where "T" is a number I have
assigned to passages to my commentary. Notes that contain information
about key Sanskrit or Tibetan words are placed at the end of each chapter.

The history of the PramiiIJasamuccaya in Tibet

Diimaga's Pramii1')asamuccaya is known to have been translated

into Tibetan three times. Bu ston reports that a pundit by the name of
Candrarahula was invited to Tibet and that he and the Tibetan translator (10
tsa ba) Ting nge 'dzin bzang po translated the Pramii1')asamuccaya and
other works.3 Since Candrarahula is named, along with Ansa (982-1054),
as one of the teachers of 'Gos khug pa, a disciple of the great scholar
'Brog mi (992-1074), it is likely that this early translation of the Pramii1')Q-
samuccaya was executed in the middle part of the eleventh century.4 The
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index to the Peking edition of the Tibetan Tripitaka lists eight translations
by Ting nge 'dzin bzang po, but his translation of the Pramii1;tasamuccaya
does not survive in the Peking or in any of the other redactions of the
Bstan 'gyur.

One of the two Tibetan translations of the Pramii1J.asamuccaya that

still survive was done by a layman (dge bsnyen; upiisaka) by the name of
Zha rna Seng ge, who is referred to by the names of Seng ge rgyal po,
Seng ge rgyal mtshan or simply Seng rgyal. According to Bu ston, Zha rna
Seng ge executed his translation in collaboration with several pundits, but
the only one named by Bu ston is one whose name in Tibetan translation is
Nor bzang srung ba, which probably represents the Sanskrit name Mal).i-
bhadrarak$ita. 5 Zha rna Seng ge's translation still survives in the Sde dge,
Co ne, Peking and Snar thang editions of the Bstan 'gyur. The collophon to
this translation gives both the Tibetan form, Nor 'dzin srung ba, and the
Sanskrit form, Vasudhararak$ita, of the Indian pundit with whom Zha rna
Seng ge worked. It is recorded that Zha rna Seng ge was the youngest of
six children of Zha rna rdo Ije rgyal mtshan, three of whose offspring
became prominent scholars. Since Zha rna Seng ge studied the art of
translation under Rma 10 tsa ba (b. 1044) and Rngog 10 tsa ba (1059-1109),
it seems most likely that he translated the Pramiil)asamuccaya sometime in
the late eleventh or early twelfth centuries, a time of great moral reform
and renewed scholastic zeal among the Buddhists of Tibet. Zha rna Seng
ge is reported to have been a master of several fields of Buddhist literature,
including exegesis, Madhyamaka philosophy, abhidharma and logic, and
is credited with the translation of Maitreyanatha's Dharmadharmatii-
vibhangakiirikii and several Madhyamaka works and commentaries to the
Prajiiaparamita and tantric writings.
Despite Zha rna Seng ge's education, his reported intellectual
prowess and his general skill as a translator, his rendering of Dirinaga's
work is far from perfect. It tends to be unnecessarily literal and mechanical
and often shows poor judgement in rendering technical terms into Tibetan.
Also since Tibetan is much less tolerant of compounding than Sanskrit and
the Indo-European languages in general, a Tibetan translator is often
compelled to make explicit in his translation the syntactic relations of
words that appear in long compounds in the original Sanskrit. In the
analysis of compounds Zha rna Seng ge's translation is particularly
unreliable, often giving them a misleading interpretation. I suspect that
these imperfections in Zha rna Seng ge's translation may be due largely to
his pundits' imperfect understanding of Dirinaga's writing. Neither Vasu-
dhararak~ita nor Mal).ibhadrarak~ita is mentioned in 'Oos 10 tsa ba Ozhon
nu dpal's Blue Annals, nor does either name appear in either its Sanskrit or
228 Introduction to translation

its Tibetan fonn on any text in the Tibetan Tripitaka other than the
PramaIJasamuccaya, so it is possible that Zha rna Seng ge had to make do
with less than distinguished pundits on this project. And it is also possible
that neither he nor his pundits had access to linendrabuddhi' s
subcommentary, without which much of Dinnaga's work is almost
hopelessly difficult to decipher. Indeed, many of the errors in translation
made by Zha rna Seng ge are of the sort that would probably have been
avoided had he been thoroughly familiar with linendrabuddhi's
commentary .

The second of the two SUrvlvlOg translations of the PramalJa-

samuccaya was done by the Tibetan Dad pa'i shes rab in collaboration
with an Indian pundit named Kanakavarman (Gser kyi go cha). Dad pa'i
shes rab's name does not appear on any other text in the Tibetan Tripitaka,
and neither he nor Kanakavarman is mentioned in 'Gos 10 tsa ba's Blue
Annals. In the Peking redaction of the Bstan 'gyur Kanakavarman's name
appears altogether on twelve texts--on six as a principal translator and on
another six as a reviser of earlier translations done by others. As a reviser
he worked most often with Pa tshab 10 tsa ba Nyi rna grags pa, another
very active translator and reviser who is mentioned frequently in the Blue
Annals as a great scholar who trained numerous other translators. His
period of activity was the early twelfth century. Therefore,
Kanakavannan's translation of the PramaIJasamuccaya was probably done
at approximately the same time as Vasudhararak~ita's.6
Kanakavannan's translation of Dinnaga's work is generally
speaking far more clear than the translation by Vasudhararak~ita and Zha
rna Seng ge, and it is also more in line with the grammatical analyses and
philosophical expositions given by linendrabuddhi. In cases where a
fragment of the original Sanskrit passage has survived, a comparison of
this fragment with the two Tibetan translations most often shows that
Kanakavannan's shows more finesse and accuracy than the other
translation. It is surprising, given the general superiority of
Kanakavarman's translation, that it does not appear in the Sde dge
redaction of the Bstan 'gyur, especially since all of Kanakavarman's other
translations do appear there.
linendrabuddhi's PramalJasamuccaya(fka entitled Visa!amalavatf
was translated into Tibetan by a monk (dge slong) named Dpal Idan Blo
gros brtan pa (1276-1342), a very productive scholar whose name appears
as translator of twenty-six treatises in the Tibetan Bstan 'gyur. Twelve of
his translations were of tantric texts, and fourteen were of scholastic
treatises. Aside from linendrabuddhi's commentary to Ditinaga's
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PramiifJasamuccaya, the only other text dealing with logic and

epistemology that BIo gros brtan pa translated was the Tarkabhtisii of
Mok~akaragupta, a compendious text that summarizes the conclusions
reached at different stages of the six centuries of evolution of logical and
epistemological theory by Indian philosophers. But the great majority of
Blo gros brtan pa's translations were of works on Sanskrit grammar,
poetics and lexicography. Of the twenty-eight texts dealing with linguistic
science (sgra rig pa; *sabdavidyii) that are preserved in the Bstan 'gyur,
Blo gros brtan pa translated eight. Indeed his contributions to the progress
of the study of technical aspects of Sanskrit grammar are rivaled only by
those of his contemporary Nyi rna rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po, the Thar pa
10 tsii ba who translated several works of the Buddhist grammarian
Candragomin and who taught Sanskrit to Bu ston rin po che, the great
polymath and redactor of the Tibetan Tripitaka. Given this great interest in
Sanskrit grammar in the early fourteenth century Tibet, it seems likely that
Jinendrabuddhi ' s commentary to Dinniiga was translated at this time in the
belief that Dinnaga's commentator was the grammarian Jinendrabuddhi
who wrote a commentary on the Kiisikiivrtti. BIo gros brtan pa's
knowledge of Sanskrit works on grammar (vyiikarafJa) made him
particularly well qualified to translate the Viii1!iimalavatf of
Jinendrabuddhi, which is rich in technical discussions of grammar.
Especially for the fifth chapter of the PramiifJasamuccaya in which the
main topics are linguistic, Jinendrabuddhi's expertise in grammar sheds
much light on Dinniiga's presentation, and BIo gros brtan pa's solid
grounding in Sanskrit helped him in turn to produce a clear and accurate
translation of Jinendrabuddhi. This translation of Jinendrabuddhi' s
Visi1!iimalavatf is probably the most important study in the Tibetan
language on the philosophy of Dinniiga. But Jinendrabuddhi's expertise in
grammar also makes his commentary a rather difficult text to read in
Tibetan, a language in which the technical terms of Sanskrit grammar
become distorted almost beyond recognition. Indeed, anyone who might
try to read Dinnaga or Jinendrabuddhi in Tibetan without first gaining a
good grounding in Sanskrit linguistic vocabulary would likely come away
with the feeling that many of the passages of these two texts contained
little more than a random juxtaposition of words, like a dhiirafJf.
Some pasages of my own English translation of Dinnaga may seem
hardly much easier to read than the original Sanskrit fragments or the
Tibetan translations. No one is more painfully aware of this fact than I. It
represents the struggle of many years of work and a considerable amount
of reflection. It has been reworked many times over in an attempt to make
it more clear and more consistent, but it is still quite an ordeal to read
through it with any kind of understanding. It is for this reason that I have
230 Introduction to translation

seen fit to provide a running commentary in which I have followed the

time-honoured commentarial practice of explaining the obvious points in
great detail and passing over difficult points in silence. We must, I believe,
face the simple truth that a great deal of Diimaga' s work has been
irretrievably lost, except in the unlikely event that someone recover the
original Sanskrit versions of his key works. Trying to piece together his
thought on the basis of the Tibetan translations is like looking at a human
skull and trying to imagine what the person's face looked like when alive.
We shall probably never know for certain what many of the details of Diil-
naga's philosophy were all about, but we are in a good position to hazard a
few conjectures. It is my hope that other scholars will look at this
translation from time to time and bring their own expertise in closely
related areas to bear and that eventually, by a great cooperative effort, the
scholarly community will someday possess a much better picture of Diil-
naga's system of philosophy than is found in this meagre sketch.

-- Notes--

1. See, for example, JP285a-288b. Stcherbatsky (1932:461-470) translated this passage

into English.

2. See, for example, the passage beginning at JP352b.

3. Obermiller 1932:215.

4. Roerich 1949:360.

5. Obermiller 1932:221.

6. I am grateful to D. Seyfort Ruegg for pointing out to me that Nyi rna grags pa is listed
in the index to the Blue Annals under the name Pa tshab 10 tsli ba. In my Ph.D. dissertation
I had incorrectly stated that Nyi rna grags pa was unknown to the author of the Blue
Annals and must therefore have flourished after 1478, the date of the composition of the
Annals. Hattori Masaaki (1968:13) also suggested, following the same reasoning, that
Kanakavarman worked in the late fIfteenth century.