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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Sautrantika Theory of Perception

Sautrantika Theory of Perception.

Dharmottara (847 A.D.), a commentator of Dharmakirtti's [Footnote ref 4] (about 635 A.D.) _Nyayabindu_, a Sautrantika logical and epistemological work, describes right knowledge (_samyagjnana_) as an invariable antecedent to the accomplishment of all that a man


[Footnote 1: _Lankavatarasutra_, p. 100.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._ p. 109.]

[Footnote 3: This account of the Vijnanavada school is collected mainly from _Lankavatarasutra_, as no other authentic work of the Vijnanavada school is available. Hindu accounts and criticisms of this school may be had in such books as Kumarila's _S'loka varttika_ or S'a@nkara's bhasya, II. ii, etc. Asak@nga's _Mahayanasutralamkara_ deals more with the duties concerning the career of a saint (_Bodhisattva_) than with the metaphysics of the system.]

[Footnote 4: Dharmakirtti calls himself an adherent of Vijnanavada in his _Santanantarasiddhi_, a treatise on solipsism, but his _Nyayabindu_ seems rightly to have been considered by the author of _Nyayabindu@tika@tippani_ (p. 19) as being written from the Sautrantika point of view.]


desires to have (_samyagjnanapurvika sarvapuru@sarthasiddhi_)

[Footnote ref 1]. When on proceeding, in accordance with the presentation of any knowledge, we get a thing as presented by it we call it right knowledge. Right knowledge is thus the knowledge by which one can practically acquire the thing he wants to acquire (_arthadhigati_). The process of knowledge, therefore, starts with the perceptual presentation and ends with the attainment of the thing represented by it and the fulfilment of the practical need by it (_arthadhigamat samapta@h prama@navyaparah_). Thus there are three moments in the perceptual acquirement of knowledge: (1) the presentation, (2) our prompting in accordance with it, and (3) the final realization of the object in accordance with our endeavour following the direction of knowledge. Inference is also to be called right knowledge, as it also serves our practical need by representing the presence of objects in certain connections and helping us to realize them. In perception this presentation is direct, while in inference this is brought about indirectly through the li@nga (reason). Knowledge is sought by men for the realization of their ends, and the subject of knowledge is discussed in philosophical works only because knowledge is sought by men. Any knowledge, therefore, which will not lead us to the realization of the object represented by it could not be called right knowledge. All illusory perceptions, therefore, such as the perception of a white conch-shell as yellow or dream perceptions, are not right knowledge, since they do not lead to the realization of such objects as are presented by them. It is true no doubt that since all objects are momentary, the object which was perceived at the moment of perception was not the same as that which was realized at a later moment. But the series of existents which started with the first perception of a blue object finds itself realized by the realization of other existents of the same series (_niladau ya eva santana@h paricchinno nilajnanena sa eva tena prapita@h tena nilajnanam prama@nam_) [Footnote ref 2].

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