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Hari Shankar Prasad

Professor Hari Shankar Prasad (b. 1953) has now retired from the Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi (June 2018) after serving it for 35 years. He has studied at Banaras Hindu University where he completed B.A. and M.A. courses (1971–1975). In January 1979, he was awarded “Australian National University Ph. D. Scholarship” to work under the supervision of Professor J.W. de Jong on the theme “The Buddhist Concept of Time,” which he successfully completed in February 1982 and subsequently he was awarded the Ph.D. Degree. Coming back to Indian, he joined the University of Delhi (August 1983) as a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy. With the passage of time, he served the University in various capacities as: Head of the Department, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Chaiman of Research Board of Humanities, Member of Executive and Academic Councils, Chairman of three Undergraduate Colleges, and many other responsibilities apart from teaching at different levels. He has published six edited books and one independent – The Centrality of Ethics in Buddhism – which has been appreciated internationally. Besides, he has published more than 45 research articles in national and international (European and American) journals and anthologies. At present, his next independent book is in press under the title “Sailing against the Current: The Buddha, Buddhism, and Methodology.” Besides, his three forthcoming independent books, which have been developed in the last 45 years of his academic career, are in progress: (i) “Philosophy of Time in Buddhism,” (ii) “The Indian Theories of Consciousness,” and (iii) “The Buddhist Theories of Meaning.




Issue: ()

The Buddhist Pramāṇa-Epistemology, Logic, and Language: with Reference to Vasubandhu, Dignāga, and Dharmakīrti

Issue: 12:1/2 (The forty fifth issue)
As the title of the present article shows, it highlights the three philosophically integrated areas – (1) pramāṇa-epistemology (theory of comprehensive knowledge involving both perception and inference), (2) logic (although a part of pramāṇa-epistemology, it has two modes, namely, inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning), and (3) language (or semantics, i.e. the double negation theory of meaning, which falls under inference). These are interconnected as well as overlapping within the Buddhist mainstream tradition of the process philosophy as opposed to the substantialist philosophy. The same is the case with the three celebrated Buddhist thinkers – Vasubandhu, Dignāga (also spelt as Diññāṇa), and Dharmakīrti – who develop their radical and critical views focusing on these areas in historical-cum-philosophical order. It is worth noting that within the same mainstream Buddhist tradition, each one of the three thinkers picks up the problematic issues from their predecessors – from the Buddha to their immediate predecessors respectively – for their solutions against the backdrop of the two conflicting mainstream traditions – Buddhist and non-Buddhist. The central focus of these thinkers is first to identify the crucial issues, doctrinal principles, terminology, and methodology in their own ways and conceptual frameworks, which generate not only the mutual conflicts in the course of dialogues but also strengthen their positions by means of their new radical ideas, innovations, terminologies, methodologies, and doctrinal principles. As a result, the three selected areas and their crucial issues are explained, elaborated, and interpretated for better understanding. All of which are rooted in the Buddha’s path of wisdom, ethics, and liberation from the human predicament (duḥkha-nivṛtti). In this grand project of the deepest concerns, the Buddha utilized multiple strategies like understanding and controlling the problematic nature of the mind (Pāli citta, manasa) and its concomitance (Pāli cetasika, dhammā) by means of the concentrative meditation (Pāli jhāna, Sanskrit (hereafter Skt., dhyāna), cultivation of knowledge (Pāli vijjā, Skt. vidyā) and conduct/moral purity (Pāli caraṇa, Skt. ācaraṇa), destruction of afflictions/defilements (Pāli kilesa, Skt. kleśa), critical and logical thinking with valid arguments, and so on. His disciples also treat him as the possessor of valid method, arguments, meaning, practice, and purpose (Skt. pramāṇabhūta, the term used by Dignāga). He believed in the common humanity as the community of sufferers and the autonomy of every human being (Pāli attakāra), but strongly rejected the hierarchy of humanity on the basis of caste, birth, and dogmatic religious identity. For these reasons, following the Buddha and his celebrated followers like Vasubandhu, Dignāga, and Dharmakīrti, my task in this article is how to clearly and elaborately discuss the above identified issues and theories, first to understand them for myself and then logically prove the whole process of knowledge and the designed purpose through communication to those who have the intention to hear and understand the framework of common language for their benefits. I wish the readers like students and young teachers benefit from my research work. Further, since my learning of the Tibetan language is zero, but comfortable in Sanskrit and Pāli, I have been heavily dependent on three great modern thinkers who have widely written independently and also translated the Buddhist Tibetan texts, which were translated from the original Sanskrit texts now lost, into English in the areas of Buddhist epistemology, logic, and semantics. These modern scholars are Masaaki Hattori, Shoryo Katsura, and Richard Hayes. Besides them, I have also little benefitted from some other scholars who have worked in the same areas.