Metaphysics and Epistemology of the Nyãya Tradition I

01.08.2004 - 30.09.2006

Project lead: Karin Preisendanz

FWF, P17244-G03


  • Yasutaka Muroya
  • Sung Yong Kang


The Nyāya ("logic"), one of the most important traditions of classical Indian philosophy until the modern period, crystallized as a systematic philosophical tradition, with a strong emphasis on metaphysics and epistemology, during the time of Gupta rule in South Asia (fourth to sixth centuries). Its foundational treatise, the Nyāyasūtra, must have been finalized by anonymous redactors towards the middle of the fifth century and was fully commented upon briefly afterwards by the philosopher Vātsyāyana Pakṣilasvāmin. This early commentary, which is simply known as the Nyāyabhāṣya (“Commentary on Nyāya”), is of crucial importance not only for our understanding of the early phase of Nyāya philosophy, but also for our knowledge of the other philosophical traditions that formed during the Gupta era and the immediately preceding Kushana period, because only a fraction of the rich literary and scholarly production of this period has survived over the centuries. The Nyāyabhāṣya is also the main testimony for the earliest shape, as regards its extent and wording, of the Nyāyasūtra.

This high significance of the work, together with the frequently unsatisfactory state of the transmitted Sanskrit text as presented in the printed editions, called for a new critical edition of the Nyāyabhāṣya. The project created the foundation for establishing such an edition. Copies of some fifty manuscripts of the Nyāyabhāṣya in several Indian scripts, some of which were known to be preserved in South Asian and Western collections and some discovered in hitherto unexplored South Asian collections, were made available and a unique archive created, which also contains copies of manuscripts of other relevant Nyaya works and contributes to the documentation of the threatened cultural treasure of South Asian Sanskrit philosophical manuscripts. After in-depth description, these manuscripts were collated for the first chapter of the text. The text-critical analysis of the numerous readings resulted in completely new knowledge about the transmission of the Nyāyabhāṣya. It could be shown that two manuscripts from the West and South of India (Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and Trivandrum in Kerala) preserve a text which is much closer to the original wording than the one found in the large majority of manuscripts and in the printed editions, which were also analysed with regard to their sources and mutual relationship. This important finding could be supported by text-critical consideration of later commentaries on the Nyāyabhāṣya as well as of the secondary testimony provided by other, subsequently composed philosophical works. The accepted text, however, has been influenced by the wording of its first commentary and suffered other changes. It could also be shown that an earlier form of the aphorisms of the Nyāyasūtra, transmitted in the Nyāyabhāṣya and in separate manuscripts, is preserved in the Jaisalmer and Trivandrum manuscripts. The first steps towards the critical edition of the work taken in the project demonstrated that a more original well-founded text can indeed be established for the Nyāyabhāṣya. This will be undertaken for approximately half of the work in the follow-up project, accompanied by studies of individual metaphysical and epistemological topics on the basis of the revised text.