The Buddhist–Brahmanic Controversy on Perception: Some Methodological Issues

16.10.2020 15:15 - 17:00

Victoria Lysenko | Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia; American Council for Learned Societies Grantee

This report is based on a project entitled Indian Epistemology of Perception in the Context of the Buddhist–Brahmanic Controversy: An Anthology of Texts. Translations from Sanskrit into Russian, Preface, Texts, Historico-philosophical Reconstructions, Footnotes, Dictionary of Terms, and Indexes, supported by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Grants for Critical Editions and Scholarly Translations.

My research into Indian theories of perception has been inspired by a prominent Russian neuroscientist, Boris Velichkovsky, who emphasized the desideratum of serious academic studies in Russian on Indian concepts of perception that are accessible to non-specialists. For some 15 years now I have been working on this, publishing translations of philosophical Sanskrit texts into Russian and my research thereupon. In my report, I will explain the challenges I am facing in this work and how I am trying to find a middle way between two extremes: the one being “the ivory tower” of purely Indological study meant for a narrow circle of specialists, the other being a widely speculative approach associated with the New Age spirit.

First, I will briefly present the project as a whole. Subsequently, I will focus on the translation and interpretation of the Pratyakṣa Chapter of Dignāga’s Pramāṇa-samuccaya-vṛtti, and his criticism of the definitions of perception pertaining to the Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya and Mīmāṃsā schools. In order to understand Dignāga, I propose to take into account 1) his close connection with Paninean linguistic philosophy, 2) his intention to create a Buddhist terminological language that would correspond to what Vasubandhu called śubha laukikajñāna (pure conventional knowledge), 3) his indebtedness to the Abhidharma tradition, primarily Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa, and finally 4) his soteriological concerns.

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