Buddhist logic – a quick summary of its origins

Hello, there!

I’m back after taking a disappointing presidential election hiatus. Life always makes sure to supply us with the best material to practice Buddhist mind control techniques, doesn’t she?

So, now I’m going to share with you my readings about Buddhist logic. Nothing profound here, just trying to learn something from Buddhist logic.

As always, if you are a grammar police, you need a warrant to enter this blog.

I’m using TH. STACHERBATSKY’s Buddhist Logic volume 1.

Buddhist Logic

Is a system of logic and epistemology. The author focuses on India’ system from AD vi to vii centuries, with the works of Dignaga and Dharmakirty.

Path of Buddhist logic is from the rudimentary and particular, to the general and complex:

  • theory of sensation – provides evidence of reality of external world as cognized in sensations and images.
  • theory of coordination between external world and images and concepts we use to represent that world
  • theory of Judgment
  • theory of Inference
  • theory of syllogism
  • theory of art of philosophical disputation

Purpose of Buddhist Logic

It is not for salvation or religious purposes. It seeks to understand the Relation between moving reality and static thoughts (amazing discussion about this).

  • it keeps ‘original’ Buddhism
  • it repudiates non-logical entities
  • there is no god (rejects Buddha as a god), no soul, and no eternity
    – only transient flow of evanescent events, which end in quiescence of Nirvana
  • Reality is kinetic, stabilized in concepts and names

History of Buddhist logic

This is a very superficial summary. Three periods:

First period: Early Buddhism and Doctrine of defilement and purification

  • studied elements of human personality
    • moral analysis –
      • elements of personality
        • good and bad, purifying and defiling
      • salvation =
        • a state of absolute quiescence
        • ordinary life as misery and degradation
      • purifying elements –
        • moral forces that lead to quiescence
      • defiling elements –
        • lead and encourage turmoil in life

Features of first period:

  1. No-soul theory, no ego, or enduring personality
  2. No-matter theory, no substance; only separate elements
    1. the external world as the dependent part of personality, its sense-data
      1. physical elements as changing and impermanent as the mind is.
      2. external world as a flow of existential moments.
  3. A theory of Causation, of Depended Origination
    1. causal laws (as substitute for soul theory)
      1. explains illusion of stable material world
      2. substitute to principle of soul and matter
    2. dependently originating elements
      1. flow of evanescent elements, not ‘free’
        1. even if momentarily, each element appeared by conformity with causal laws
    3. retribution as moral causation – explains karma
  4. Synergies of cooperation
    1. elements of existence as energies
      1. mental elements are moral, immoral, or neutral
      2. elements of matter –appear to be matter
  5. Doctrine of salvation
    1. eternal quiescence of all life
      1. inactive condition of the universe =
        1. elements lose their energy
    2. analysis of elements and energies
      1. to investigate their activity and STOPPING that activity
        1. to reach Nirvana

After Asoka, te first period divided into 18 schools. The Vatsiputriyas accepted semi-real personality.

Second period: No-elements doctrine

Forsook idea of a Human Buddha

  1. replaced by Divine Buddha in Nirvana full of life
  2.  went from personal salvation to universal
  3. from radical pluralism, to radical monism

No-elements doctrine

  1. a real ultimate existence
    1. meaning there is a reality WITHOUT relations
      1. un-related and independent reality
      2. denied previous philosophy of inter-related elements
    2. unity of the universe
      1. the only reality is the Buddha
      2. there is no soul, no data of experience

Features of the second period:

  1. denied ultimate reality of elements because they are ‘related’
  2. no origination or causality
    1. they retained the old definition but gave it a different meaning. Previously, causality meant a functional interdependence  of every element upon all others, not as producing something new out of nothing.
      1. they accepted this but said it is ultimately unreal because it is interdependent.
    2. no interdependent origination
      1. interdependent, yes; origination, no.
      2. nothing disappears or starts
      3. no flashing into existence
      4. reality is unity – one motionless whole
  3. complete equipollency
    1. between empirical world and the Absolute
      1. between samsara and nirvana
    2. empirical world exists but it is not the ultimate reality
    3. real knowledge
      1. through mystic intuition
      2. not through logic

Third period:


  1. renewed interest in logic
    1. Asanga and Vasubandhu
  2. introspection is necessary
    1. ‘I think, therefore I am’ is true
    2. introspection is valid as source of knowledge
  3. idealist Buddhism
    1. all existence is mental
    2. external reality doesn’t support our ideas or representation of it
    3. there are DEGREES of reality (previously considered all unreal):
      1. relatively real = real
      2. absolutely illusory
      3. absolutely real = real
  4. store-house of consciousness
    1. dropped later as ‘soul’ in disguise.

Coming up: Reality and Knowledge


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