South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Maṇḍana Miśra on the Buddha’s Omniscience: A “Dharmakīrtian” Response to Kumārila?

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

This paper focuses on the early stages of the debate on the Buddha’s omniscience from the perspective of a little-known (but historically crucial) treatise of Vedic exegesis (Mīmāṃsā), the Vidhiviveka (“An enquiry into the cause of human activities”) by Maṇḍana Miśra (670-720). From the first centuries AD, Buddhist thinkers acknowledged the Buddha’s omniscience as one of their most fundamental dogmas, and as the very foundation for the validity of their Scriptures. Yet it is not until much later that the possibility of such an all-encompassing knowledge became the topic for philosophical debate. The two great Buddhist “logicians” of the 5th and 6th centuries, Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, for instance, still devote only a very limited space to that question. Around the same time, however, the Buddha’s omniscience became a major topic of discussion among Brahmanical thinkers, anxious to preserve against their opponents the validity of the “authorless” Veda. In our presentation, we will investigate the mutation of this “debate” between the time of Kumārila (6th-7th century) and that of his main follower, Maṇḍana Miśra. We will show in particular how Maṇḍana makes a subtle use of Dharmakīrti’s logic, of which he reveals himself a great adept, to systematically counter the arguments of his predecessor. We will also suggest that the construction of such a “Dharmakīrtian” response to Kumārila, although not propounded by Dharmakīrti himself, allows the question of omniscience to be put at the center of the philosophical stage, both Brahmanical and Buddhist.

Hugo David

French School of Asian Studies, India


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4 - Maṇḍana Miśra on the Buddha’s Omniscience: A “Dharmakīrtian” Response to Kumārila?

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