Bhartrhari and the Buddhists: An Essay in the Development of Fifth and Sixth Century Indian Thought

The Viikyapadiya of Bhartrhari and the Pramii1Jasamuccaya of Dignaga * are seminal texts in the history of ancient Indian philosophy. One text deals with grammar, the other with logic, both are the work of committed metaphysicians. Written within a span of less than a hundred years, between the fifth and the sixth centuries A.D., these texts have generally been treated separately, as representing independent schools of thought. This essay attempts to interpret these texts jointly, as a dialogue between a grammarian and a logician. This way of approaching these texts highlights unexpected facets of Bhartrhari's and Dignaga's theories of language and is intended to identify the individual achievements of each. Above all, this treatment is an exercise in writing the intellectual history of a period in time, rather than a history of a school of philosophy. The prevailing view of Bhartrhari holds that his linguistic techniques are not intrinsic to his metaphysics. The conclusions reached in the present essay are that Bhartrhari's metaphysics underlie his linguistic techniques and articulate their presuppositions. The prevailing view of Dignaga maintains that for him language deals with illusory entities and must falsify what is real. The conclusions reached in the present essay are that Dignaga's logical rules are designed to ensure that in using language one is not committed to a belief in fictional entities. My debt to modern scholarship in the field is considerable.