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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Which are often backed by the Nyaya system


in the second alternative where difference of two


things is defined as the absence of each thing in the other, we find that if difference in jug and cloth means that the jug is not in the cloth or that cloth is not in jug, then also the same difficulty arises; for when I say that the absence or negation of jug in the cloth is its difference from the jug, then also the residence of the absence of jug in the cloth would require that the jug also resides in the cloth, and this would reduce difference to identity. If it is said that the absence of jug in the cloth is not a separate thing, but is rather the identical cloth itself, then also their difference as mutual exclusion cannot be explained. If this mutual negation (_anyonyabhava_) is explained as the mere absence of jugness in the cloth and of clothness in the jug, then also a difficulty arises; for there is no such quality in jugness or clothness that they may be mutually excluded; and there is no such quality in them that they can be treated as identical, and so when it is said that there is no jugness in cloth we might as well say that there is no clothness in cloth, for clothness and jugness are one and the same, and hence absence of jugness in the cloth would amount to the absence of clothness in the cloth which is self-contradictory. Taking again the third alternative we see that if difference means divergence of characteristics (_vaidharmya_), then

the question arises whether the vaidharmya or divergence as existing in jug has such a divergence as can distinguish it from the divergence existing in the cloth; if the answer is in the affirmative then we require a series of endless vaidharmyas progressing _ad infinitum_. If the answer is in the negative then there being no divergence between the two divergences they become identical, and hence divergence of characteristics as such ceases to exist. If it is said that the natural forms of things are difference in themselves, for each of them excludes the other, then apart from the differences--the natural forms--the things are reduced to formlessness (_ni@hsvarupata_). If natural forms (_svarupa_) mean special natural forms (_svarupa-vis'e@sa_) then as the special natural forms or characteristics only represent difference, the natural forms of the things as apart from the special ones would appear to be identical. So also it may be proved that there is no such quality as p@rthaktva (separateness) which can explain differences of things, for there also the questions would arise as to whether separateness exists in different things or similar ones or whether separateness is identical with the thing in which it exists or not, and so forth.


The earliest beginnings of this method of subtle analysis and dialectic in Indian philosophy are found in the opening chapters of _Kathavatthu_. In the great _Mahabha@sya_ on Pa@nini by Patanjali also we find some traces of it. But Nagarjuna was the man who took it up in right earnest and systematically cultivated it in all its subtle and abstruse issues and counter-issues in order to prove that everything that appeared as a fixed order or system was non-existent, for all were unspeakable, indescribable and self-contradictory, and thus everything being discarded there was only the void (_s'unya_). S'a@nkara partially utilized this method in his refutations of Nyaya and the Buddhist systems; but S'rihar@sa again revived and developed it in a striking manner, and after having criticized the most important notions and concepts of our everyday life, which are often backed by the Nyaya system, sought to prove that nothing in the world can be defined, and that we cannot ascertain whether a thing is or is not. The refutations of all possible definitions that the Nyaya could give necessarily led to the conclusion that the things sought to be defined did not exist though they appeared to do so; the Vedantic contention was that this is exactly as it should be, for the indefinite ajnana produces only appearances which when exposed to reason show that no consistent notions of them can be formed, or in other words the world-appearance, the phenomena of maya or ajnana, are indefinable or anirvacaniya. This great work of S'rihar@sa was followed by _Tattvadipika_ of Citsukha, in which he generally followed S'rihar@sa and sometimes supplemented him with the addition of criticisms of certain new concepts. The method of Vedanta thus followed on one side the method of S'unyavada in annulling all the concepts of world-appearance and on the other Vijnanavada Buddhism in proving the self-illuminating character of knowledge and ultimately established the self as the only self-luminous ultimate reality.

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