Bhāviveka and Avalokitavrata on the Two So-Called Non-cause Theories (ahetuvāda) of the Lokāyatikas

In: Indo-Iranian Journal
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The article discusses Bhāviveka’s Prajñāpradīpavṛtti and Avalokitavrata’s Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā commentaries on the “not without a cause” (nāpy ahetutaḥ) alternative of Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 1.1ab, from which it emerges that at least two distinct theories of causality can be attributed to the Lokāyata school. The first one is a physicalist theory that confines all causal relations within the sphere of material elements and is assimilated to accidentalism. The second one is a naturalist theory that attributes causal power to inner nature (svabhāva). The paper discusses the theoretical differences between these two approaches, considers Bhāviveka’s and Avalokitavrata’s counter-arguments and concludes that some of the conjectures that modern scholars have put forward on the relation between svabhāvavāda, accidentalism and Lokāyata should be revised.


The article discusses Bhāviveka’s Prajñāpradīpavṛtti and Avalokitavrata’s Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā commentaries on the “not without a cause” (nāpy ahetutaḥ) alternative of Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 1.1ab, from which it emerges that at least two distinct theories of causality can be attributed to the Lokāyata school. The first one is a physicalist theory that confines all causal relations within the sphere of material elements and is assimilated to accidentalism. The second one is a naturalist theory that attributes causal power to inner nature (svabhāva). The paper discusses the theoretical differences between these two approaches, considers Bhāviveka’s and Avalokitavrata’s counter-arguments and concludes that some of the conjectures that modern scholars have put forward on the relation between svabhāvavāda, accidentalism and Lokāyata should be revised.

To professor Ramkrishna Bhattacharya,

friend and fellow-traveller,

in loving memory.

1 Introduction

All1 the texts of the Lokāyata school are lost.2 Our perception of the Lokāyata thought depends therefore on (1) a handful of fragments that survive embedded in works by non-Lokāyatika authors and (2) the pūrvapakṣa sections contained in treatises of opponents that discuss and reject the Lokāyata perspective. Despite the paucity of direct sources at our disposal and the difficulty in reconstructing in full its theoretical framework, modern scholars have been able to outline a fairly comprehensive profile of the Lokāyata standpoint. Yet, there are still many shadows to dissipate and several texts, so far little considered, await to be taken into account.

One of these overlooked works is Avalokitavrata’s (8th c.) Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā (henceforth PPṬ),3 which is a sub-commentary on Bhāviveka’s (490/500–570) Prajñāpradīpavṛtti (henceforth PPV) on Nāgārjuna’s (1st–2nd c.) Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. The original Sanskrit version of the PPṬ is unfortunately lost, but the text survives in a single Tibetan translation, the Śes rab sgron ma rgya cher ’grel pa, accomplished in the 8th c. by Jñānagarbha and [l]Cog-ro kLu’i-rgyal-mtshan. To the same scholars we owe also the Tibetan translation of the PPV (the dBu ma rtsa ba’i ’grel pa śes rab sgron ma), whose Sanskrit original is lost as well.4

In this paper I will mainly focus on a portion of the PPV and PPṬ discussion of the fourth causal alternative, rejected by Nāgārjuna in Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 1.1ab, with the purpose of shedding light on how both Bhāviveka and Avalokitavrata understood and dealt with the Lokāyata theories of causality. I will also consider the Tarkajvālā (henceforth TJ) commentary on Bhāviveka’s Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā, which has reached us in a 11th c. Tibetan translation, by Adhīśa and Tshul-khrims-rgyal-ba, with the title dBu ma’i sñiṅ po’i ’grel pa rtog ge ’bar ba.5 In the process, some still unconsidered or little considered aspects will be touched.

As is well known, Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 1.1ab argues that nothing originates from itself (na svato), from other (nāpi parato), from both (na dvābhyāṃ) itself and other, or without a cause (nāpy ahetutaḥ). We will see that Bhāviveka, followed by Avalokitavrata, expands the “without a cause” alternative into several philosophical perspectives, of which at least two are attributable to the Lokāyatikas.

2 The Two Lokāyata Non-cause Theories

Let us begin by observing that, while discussing the “not from itself” alternative of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 1.1ab, the PPV explains that:6

This negation “not from itself” must be seen as a pure and simple negation (*prasajyapratiṣedha), because it is principally (*prādhānya) a negation […]. If it is taken as an implicative negation (*paryudāsa), since [in this case] it is principally an affirmation […] it would be beyond our accepted tenets (*kṛtānta).

The PPV further specifies that also in the cases of “not from other” and “not from both” the negation should be understood as a pure and simple negation.7 The difference between a pure and simple (med par dgag pa; *prasajyapratiṣedha) and an implicative negation (ma yin pa dgag pa; *paryudāsa) lies in that the first one negates in the first place the very possibility that what is negated could exist—for this reason the PPV says it is principally a negation—whereas the second one negates that something exists in a certain way, implying however that it is or could be otherwise—hence, it is principally an affirmation. Sentences like “this is not originated from itself/other/both” are of the “S is not P” kind, where S is a subject and P a predicate. If such a negation is interpreted as a pure and simple negation, it follows that S cannot be P because S does not exist at all and/or it is impossible. Accordingly, “this is not originated from itself/other/both” because “this” does not exist. If, on the contrary, “S is not P” is interpreted as an implicative negation, it would entail that S cannot be P but could be P1 or P2 etc. Accordingly, “this is not originated from itself” does not prevent that “this” could be originated from other or both etc.8 Since the Mādhyamikas assert that, from an ultimate standpoint (don dam par; paramārthatas), events do not originate because they do not exist in an absolute sense, for this reason the PPV maintains that the first three alternatives of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 1.1ab are pure and simple negations.

This preliminary remark offers us a good starting point from which to observe how the PPV tackles the remaining alternative, i.e., “without a cause”. In this case indeed it is not specified how the negation should be interpreted. The PPV explains instead that “without a cause” has two meanings, according to whether it refers to (1) a negation of a cause, which brings us to the concept of mere “non-cause” (rgyu med pa; *ahetu),9 or to (2) a “bad cause” (rgyu ṅan ba; *kuhetu),10 an expression that indicates causal principles or entities such as “inner nature (*svabhāva), Īśvara, Puruṣa, primordial matter, time, Nārāyaṇa and so on”.11 The PPV adds that bad causes are non-causes because they are unreal (yaṅ dag pa ma yin pa; *abhūta)12 and they are unreal because they do not function as causes.

The PPṬ glosses:13

“Without a cause” has two aspects: non-substantial and substantial. There, non-substantial [refers to the] doctrine of the absolute non existence of a substantial cause. It is the doctrine of the origination without a cause of entities [that we know] from the philosophical tenets (*siddhānta) of the Lokāyatikas. Substantial [refers to the] doctrine of the existence of an unequal substantial cause, different [in scope from its effect]. It is the doctrine of the unequal cause, from the philosophical tenets of the causal doctrines [based on] inner nature, Īśvara and so on.

The PPṬ attributes to the Lokāyatikas the first non-cause theory, which is labeled as “non-substantial” (dṅos por gyur pa ma yin pa; *avastubhūta) by contrast to the “substantial” (dṅos por gyur pa; *vastubhūta) non-cause theory. A non-substantial non-cause presupposes the absence of whatsoever substantial cause, where “substantial” refers to any principle or entity—such as inner nature, Īśvara etc.—that adherents of various philosophical schools believe capable of producing effects. This substantial kind of non-cause is marked as “unequal” (mi mthun pa; *viṣama) because, according to Buddhists, there is no commensurate correspondence between the scope of the cause and the scope of its effects: for instance, Īśvara’s immense and miraculous causal potency cannot be compared to any of the finite worldly effects he bestows or provokes.14

So, what kind of negation is entailed in the “without a cause” alternative according to the PPV? The answer is: both kinds. Indeed, (1) the “non-cause” interpretation (“non-substantial” in the PPṬ) is clearly associated with a pure and simple negation, because no cause is here postulated, (2) the “bad cause” interpretation (“substantial” in the PPṬ) is instead associated with the implicative negation, because, on the one hand, principles or entities, such as inner nature, Īśvara etc., are in fact postulated and, on the other hand, because the primary aim here is not to reject the very existence of these entities, it is rather to deny their having causal efficacy.15

From the PPV and PPṬ we therefore understand that, unlike the substantial non-cause theory, the non-substantial one does not posit a cause in the sense that (1) it does not accept any principle or entity that functions as a cause and whose scope is different from the scope of the effect, but this (2) does not mean that the non-substantial non-cause theory actually implies an absolute absence of any causality whatsoever, since it does not deny the emergence of effects: non-substantial non-cause, we conclude, alludes to the absence of an unequal causal principle.

2.1 The Non-substantial Non-cause Theory

To describe the non-substantial non-cause theory, the PPṬ resorts to two examples purportedly taken from the writings of a certain *Lokākṣin (’Jig-rten-mig),16 who is depicted as a very prolific Lokāyatika author:17

Here, as the spreading of [all] the very numbers depends on the [number] one, so the maharṣi called *Lokākṣin wrote a hundred thousand philosophical tenets of the Lokāyata, in this words:

Neither there are living beings that come into existence here [in this world] occasioned by the full accumulation of wholesome and unwholesome actions [performed] in another lifetime, nor is there a previous life. Then, neither is there anyone who comes here [from a previous life], nor, hence, there is another [future] life where one will go.

[first example:] Accordingly, the cause [of the present life] is without [relation to past] actions and afflictions, [and this is explained as follows:] by mixing and pressing herbs such as raw sugar, water, [fruits of the] myrobalan tree, [flowers of the] red bell bush, ferments, rice flour, barks and so on, various kinds of sweet liquors with different taste, [inebriating] power and maturation will be produced, but since those [tastes, inebriating powers and maturation] do not arise here having come from another life, it follows that [the cause of the present life] will be like that sweet liquor [which is produced] out of mixing and pressing just those material herbs […]. Similarly, also the internal bases (*ādhyātmikāyatana), being without [relation to past] actions and afflictions, arise [exclusively] from the association of semen, blood and so on.

[second example:] Moreover, if a mass of meat as large as Mount Sumeru were heaped up and there it rained for an entire week, once it is there arisen a mass of worms of exactly the same extension of the mass of meat, [say!,] how did those so many living beings come from another [previous] life?

So [*Lokākṣin] says.

These examples stress the typical Lokāyata opposition to the doctrine of rebirth and in particular have the purpose of rejecting the Buddhist idea that the present birth is caused by wholesome (dge ba; *kuśala) and unwholesome deeds (mi dge ba; *akuśala) accomplished in previous lives.

The first example is a real forte of the Lokāyatikas, variously referred to in several works.18 Its shortest form is expressed in the aphorism: “like the inebriating power [arises] from ferments etc.” (kiṇvādibhyo madaśaktivat).19 The PPṬ version of the simile stresses two points that are functional to the Lokāyata argument: (1) the alcohol content does not manifest itself if the elements of the mixture, ferments and juices, are kept separated and (2) it does not enter the mixture from a previous condition or existence. The second example is less known and rarely quoted20 but the ideas implied are the same as in the previous instance: (1) the worms arise out of the combination of meat and rain under precise circumstances and (2) they do not enter the meat (which is a non-living material) from a past existence.

Well equipped with these arguments, the Lokāyatika launches his attack against the Buddhist idea of rebirth: it is not true that the present life—or, as the PPṬ puts it, the internal bases (naṅ gi skye mched; *ādhyātmikāyatana)—is determined by past actions (las; *karman) and afflictions (ñon moṅs; *kleśa). On the contrary, it is occasioned by the mere combination (tshogs pa; *samūha) of male’s semen (khu chu; *śukra) and female’s blood (khrag; *śoṇita). We exist exclusively because of our parents, not because of our past deeds.

This causal theory explains the arising of phenomena as depending on sheer physical interactions between present and perceivable elements, without the intervention of something external (in space, time and nature) to the specific environment within which those interactions take place. Hence, despite being labeled as a non-cause theory, this perspective does not really deny causes, which would be quite naive, for our experience testifies that nothing is born out of nothing. As a matter of fact, according to the Lokāyatikas the alcoholic power is caused by the mixture of ferments etc., worms are caused by the mixture of meat and rain and a fetus is caused by the mixture of semen and blood in the mother’s womb.

Because these Lokāyatikas confine all causality in the frame of mere interactions between physical elements, I will call their viewpoint “physicalist”.

2.1.1 Bhāviveka’s Counter-Argument to the Non-substantial Non-cause Theory

Bhāviveka’s rejection of this non-cause theory relies on two counter-arguments:21 (1) no valid inference (rjes su dpag pa; *anumāna) can properly substantiate it and (2) it conflicts with common knowledge (grags pa; *prasiddha).22

The inference counter-argument is illustrated by way of an inference:23

[thesis:] events such as the inner bases (*ādhyātmikāyatana), accepted [by us only] conventionally, do not originate without a cause, [reason:] because they have generality and particularity, [example:] like for instance a sprout.

The PPṬ explains the logical reason “generality and particularity” in two ways. (1) If a single being is intended, then the generality of inner bases is the common characteristic of being inner bases of that single being, whereas the particularity refers to the specific distinctions between each of the inner bases (i.e., the sense of sight is different from the sense of hearing, of smell and so on). (2) If different beings are intended, then the generality is the common characteristic shared by all their inner bases, whereas the particularity refers to the distinctions between the inner bases of each class of beings, such as men, gods, animals etc.24 The example of the sprout, adds the PPṬ, clarifies the point, since all sprouts have the general characteristic of being sprouts and the particular characteristics of being rice sprouts, wheat sprouts etc.25 Therefore: “[…] since [both inner bases and seeds] originate from a beginningless succession of causes, they do not arise from a non-cause”.26 As the current sprout depends on a seed produced by a past sprout, so the current inner bases depend on actions accomplished by past inner bases, in an infinite succession.

The common knowledge counter-argument is clarified in the PPV through two examples that emphasize how whatever exists in this world has a cause, like a cloth is made of threads and a hut of grass.27 The PPṬ points out that even the wife of a cowherd knows that cloths, huts and everything else has a cause, hence the view that the inner bases are causeless is contrary to what is commonly accepted and must therefore be rejected.28

The PPV examples used in these two counter-arguments tell us something interesting from a philosophical point of view. The sprout of the inference counter-argument is a living being that results from the germination of a seed, which is another living being produced by a previous sprout. Cloths and huts in the common knowledge counter-argument are fabricated things that, in order to exist, need the intervention on raw material of external agents, like weavers or hut builders. The use of living and artificial phenomena in the PPV examples is by no means secondary because it suggests that the living/artificial distinction did not play a pivotal role in the physicalist causal theory, which indeed resorts indistinctly to similes both of living worms and of artificially made liquors.

2.1.2 The Label of Accidentalism

The PPṬ explains that the purpose of Bhāviveka’s counter-arguments is to establish that “there is no accidental (*āgantu) arising from a non-substantial non-cause”.29 This is a relevant information, since it suggests that the physicalists were labeled as accidentalists (āgantukavādin). By definition, something accidental is born by chance, happens adventitiously, without any detectable connection with a cause.30 Yet, the physicalists do accept that phenomena arise from causes, i.e., from the commingling of elements. So, why does the PPṬ equate physicalism and accidentalism? The idea that phenomena come to be by virtue of a mix of physical elements may seem acceptable to modern people but it must have been a real heresy for ancient Buddhists, who believed that the reason (hetu) for the existence in this world has its cause (hetu) in the moral retribution brought about by karman. Buddhists had to deem inadmissible that the conception of a child depends only on a mere physical mixture of the father’s semen and the mother’s blood, without a reason being there that justifies that another life of suffering31 or another chance of attaining spiritual emancipation is taking place. They had to consider such a view as pure accidentalism inasmuch as it lacks existential meaning. The physicalists, on the contrary, did not see the need for any intervention of additional and/or predetermined causes (like karman), distinct from what we perceive with our senses. Exactly this, I suggest, provides Bhāviveka with a sufficient justification to consider the physicalist interpretation of the “without a cause” alternative as a pure and simple negation, not as an implicative one: according to a Mādhyamika it is indeed impossible for phenomena to emerge without a cause that is at the same time the reason for their being there.

We conclude the discussion of the physicalist standpoint by noticing that Buddhists and physicalists are trying to answer two different questions. The physicalists aim to explain how phenomena arise by focusing on the observation of the manner material elements combine and interact (physical level). Buddhists are instead focused on why phenomena exist, and provide the theory of karman (metaphysical level). No wonder then that for a Buddhist like Avalokitavrata accidentalism means a lack of “why”, but not necessarily a lack of “how”: whether the effect is a living or non-living being does not make much difference when the causal theory rules out “why-s”, since not having a why amounts to happening by chance, without a reason, but not perforce without a (physical) cause.

2.2 The First Substantial Non-cause Theory

The PPV addresses the substantial non-cause theories beginning with an example: “Alternatively, ‘without a cause’ [means] bad cause (*kuhetu), like [when one says] ‘without a wife’ and so on”.32 The PPṬ glosses:33

In this regard, alternatively means that “without a cause” [refers] not solely to the non-substantial non-cause [theory], explained above, but in one way “without a cause” has also the meaning of bad substantial non-cause. “Without a cause” [means] bad cause: since there is no efficacy of the cause, it is called “without a cause” because it is similar to a non-cause, and since also whatever is self-evidently existent is not productive, that bad [cause] is called “non-cause”. In this regard, how so? The example like [when one says] “without a wife” and so on is expounded. For instance, as a bad wife who is defective [towards her husband] because she does not perform the activities of a wife though she is substantially existent, therefore one says “[I am] without a wife”, and a bad son who is defective [towards his parents] because he does not perform the activities of a son though he is substantially existent, therefore one says “[I am] without a son”, so also the proponents of the unequal cause [based] on the philosophical tenets of the causal doctrines [that rely upon] inner nature, Īśvara etc., [lean on] a bad cause that is defective because it does not perform the activity of a cause though it is substantially existent, [therefore] that too is called “non-cause”.

The PPṬ stresses that bad causes are non-causes though they are substantially existent, like bad wives are non-wives though they really exist. But how can this be in accordance with the aforementioned idea expressed in the PPV, namely, that a bad cause is a non-cause because it is unreal (yaṅ dag pa ma yin pa; *abhūta)? Can causes be at once existent and unreal?34 The PPṬ answers, yes, they can:35

[1] Because they are substantial [only] conventionally (*saṃvṛtyā) but [actually] there is no generativeness and [2] because a bad [cause] is like a non-[cause, it follows that] there is no causality.

This is the typical Madhyamaka argument: substantial existence can be accepted at most on a conventional level, but ultimately there are neither substances, nor causal activities.

The PPV then addresses one by one the bad cause theories (listed above, in section 2.), beginning with the partisans of causation by nature (ṅo bo ñid du smra ba dag; *svabhāvavādins),36 who maintain that phenomena arise out of what they call “inner” or “own nature” (ṅo bo ñid; *svabhāva).37 For this reason I will refer to them as “naturalists”. They object that: [thesis:] the inner bases are as they are by virtue of their own inner nature, [reason:] because bodies, of which they are inner bases, are all different from each other, [example:] “like the beautiful color, shape, leaf, stalk, petal, anther, flower of the lotuses, and like the part of the neck of peacocks, [which] is dark-blue like sapphire and emerald gems, and the eyes of the multitude of [the peacock’s] tail feathers, [which] are variegated and brilliant”.38 The reader will recall that the PPV inference quoted in section 2.1.1. resorted to the logical reason of generality and particularity, which the naturalists now seem to implicitly take into account, responding that: (1) each body is different, therefore its cause must be different from the cause(s) of all the other bodies, and (2) each set of inner bases belongs to each specific body, therefore every single set must be different from all the others, which entails that also the inner bases are all different from each other. The reasoning, on the one hand, stresses a—so to speak—hyper-particularization and, on the other hand, seems to concede the status of common element of all bodies (generality) only to inner nature. This has the double aim to demonstrate that it is the inner nature what determines both (1) the existence in general and (2) the specific characteristics of each single body (or flower, peacock, thorn etc.).

2.2.1 Who Are the Naturalists?

Before going any further, it will be useful to identify who these naturalists are. The PPV does not provide any clue, however the PPṬ explains:39

Naturalism (*svabhāvavāda) is the doctrine of the origination of entities from inner nature and the maharṣi called *Lokākṣin provided the Lokāyata philosophical tenets [on inner nature]. The term naturalists (*svabhāvavādins) indicates [therefore] the so-called proponents of the philosophical tenets of maharṣi *Lokākṣin and has the meaning of Lokāyatikas.

Also the TJ confirms this identification in the introductory section to Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā 3.194:40

Here, the Lokāyatikas say: […] entities such as the internal bases arise just from [their] very inner nature, independently of [other] causes and conditions.

To illustrate the naturalists’ viewpoint, then, the TJ resorts to the same examples mentioned in the PPV:41

Like for instance the lotus that has a slightly yellow and red fresh pigmented anther [which is also] fragrant, a beautiful stamen, a smooth leaf, a rough stem, [or like] the peacock that has the totality of the tail-feathers of the wheel abundant in variegated brightness and the bluish feathers of the body and wings less brilliant, [or like] the thorn that has a sharp and harsh, cutting tip.

If also these naturalists are Lokāyatikas, as our sources tell us, this suggests that during Bhāviveka’s and Avalokitavrata’s time there were at least two approaches to causality, which we can assume were upheld by two different Lokāyata schools—physicalists and naturalists.

2.2.2 Avalokitavrata’s Definition of Inner Nature

At this point, a last aspect deserves our attention: what is exactly this inner nature that both Bhāviveka and Avalokitavrata criticize? The PPṬ offers the following definition:42

In this regard, inner nature is what is truly established by its very nature independently of any [other] entity, innate and not artificial. This is called “inner nature”.

Three main aspects of the inner nature are highlighted here, which suggest also how the naturalists’ causal theory might have been modeled. Naturalistic Aspect

All Lokāyatikas consider that what exists exists within the domain of nature, which excludes any kind of supernatural entity, like Īśvara, Puruṣa etc. Physicalists believe that everything is physical and arises from a mixture of physical causes: for them this is nature, plain and simple. The naturalists have a different angle. The PPṬ explains indeed that inner nature is what is not artificial (bcom ma ma yin pa; *akṛtrima), namely, it has no creator or maker. This also hints at what the naturalists’ concept of “nature” was in its broadest sense: “natural” is whatever is determined by inner nature, not fabricated. Such a view seems to be peculiar to the naturalists or, at least, we do not find anything similar in the accounts of the physicalists, as pointed out in section 2.1.1.: a physicalist indeed considers both worms and liquors within the scope of a same causal theory. The fact that naturalists emphasized the distinction between natural and artificial suggests that their causal theory is to be considered accordingly. The inner nature would be therefore involved for instance in the arising of worms, since worms come to life naturally out of rotten meat, not artificially, but it would not be involved in the fermentation of a liquor, which, though deriving from a mixture of natural elements, each of them possibly determined by its own inner nature, requires nonetheless external agents like a liquor maker, able to properly put together raw materials in order to artificially get the desired effect. Metaphysical Aspect

The PPṬ underscores also that inner nature is truly established (yaṅ dag par ’grub pa; *samudāgata) by its own nature, which appears to be a logical consequence of not being artificial. The term “independently” (mi ltos pa; *nirapekṣa) introduces an argument by exclusion, which secures that there be no preceding or external entity functioning as a cause of inner nature, other than inner nature itself. It follows that inner nature is self-established, and natural phenomena depend exclusively on its causal power, which is to say that inner nature is an uncaused cause—this earned it the label of “unequal” in the PPṬ, but is also an elegant way to stem any possible objection of a regressus ad infinitum (if inner nature itself depended upon another inner nature, then the second inner nature should depend in its turn upon a third inner nature, and so on). This, too, distances the naturalists’ from the physicalists’ perspective and pushes the former towards the terrain of metaphysics. Indeed, the inner nature seems to have more the contours of a principle, however natural it may be considered, than of a physical element.43 Unlike physical elements, in fact, the TJ remarks that inner nature is imperceptible, which raises doubts on its very existence: “[…] there is nothing as an invisible cause [like the inner nature] of whatever internal and external entity in the world”.44

Such a conception of inner nature looks like an attempt to surpass the aforementioned how-centered causal view of the physicalists and related problems, first and foremost the accusation of accidentalism. As a matter of fact, the naturalists’ theory seems to respond to the need to find a reason that justifies why phenomena are (the way they are), playing therefore on the same ground of Buddhism, as far as both positions try to answer the same questions: why are there beings and why do they have exactly the characteristics they have? Because of karman, says the Buddhist, because of inner nature, says the naturalist. Spatial-Chronological Aspect

The third characteristic of inner nature is its being innate (lhan cig skyes pa; *sahaja). Innate means intrinsic, congenital, naturally inherent. To say that inner nature is innate implies then that it naturally inheres to the phenomenon of which it is the inner nature—and this hides a logical problem: in order to be consistently a nature that is inner, the innate inner nature can never be external to its phenomenon, where “external” is to be intended both spatially and chronologically. Consequently, if the inner nature is the determining cause of its phenomenon, as we have seen in section 2.2., it must co-arise (and co-cease) together with the latter, because:

  • If the inner nature existed before its effect, then when the effect is not yet existent, its inner nature would be inner to nothing and nature of nothing, i.e., it would be a non-innate innate cause, which is nonsense.

  • If the inner nature originated after the origination of its effect, an effect whose existence depends on a cause that does not yet exist when it arises is likewise nonsense.

In addition, we have seen in the previous point that inner nature is imperceptible. How then can it be ascertained? The ascertainment of an imperceptible inner nature can only take place through an a posteriori inference: we perceive the effect, we know that it has an innate inner nature, then we conclude that the inner nature is there. But how can we be sure that the inner nature is the cause of the effect of which it is the inner nature, if all we can do is seemingly to conjecture its presence once the effect is already there? The TJ passage that introduces Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā 3.194, quoted in section 2.2.1., helps us on this matter by recalling that the effect of inner nature arises “independently of [other] causes and conditions”, implying that no other element is involved in the causal bond between inner nature and its phenomenon.

We can now try to make sense of the naturalists’ causal view: (1) in the causal bond only two elements are involved, the phenomenon and inner nature, but (2) only the phenomenon is the effect and (3) every effect is such because it has a cause, therefore (4) of the two only the inner nature is the cause. The status of cause of the inner nature is further stressed by the fact, discussed above, that it is a self-established, uncaused cause, which implies that it can never be an effect, which brings us to the conclusion that, even though the inner nature is innate to its effect, it cannot depend in any way on the latter (because it does not depend on anything else than itself), nor is there any mutual causal dependence between the two.

2.2.3 Bhāviveka’s Counter-Argument to the Substantial Non-cause Theory

Bhāviveka’s counter-argument relies, again, upon the distinction between the conventional (kun rdzob; *saṃvṛti) and the ultimate (don dam pa; *paramārtha), contending that:45

If the meaning of the [opponent’s] thesis [considered] from a conventional viewpoint [implies that] the inner bases, which are the domain of the knowledge of what is conventional, are originated from specific [causal] conditions because they do not depend on the activity of an independent agent and because they are indeed not made by anyone, [well, in that case the opponent] is establishing what is already established [by us].

In an ultimate sense the opponent’s thesis is instead untenable because from an ultimate standpoint nothing really originates.46

Let us consider only the first argument, on the conventional, which concerns us more closely. The PPV concedes that the opponent’s point of view is shared also by the Mādhyamikas since it is conventionally acceptable that the internal bases arise from specific conditions (rkyen; *pratyaya) and not out of an independent maker,47 or a creator like Brahmā etc.48 The PPṬ glosses:49

Specific [means] that a man’s [internal] bases will arise from [both] the conditions (*pratyaya) of the zygote etc. and [of past] actions [that lead] to a human destiny […]. Similarly, a lotus, a water-lily and so on will arise [each] from the same kind of seeds of a lotus, a water-lily, a blue water-lily, a white lotus and so on. This [is why it] is called “specific”.

The PPṬ confirms the PPV position. Yet, if there is agreement between the two views, then Bhāviveka can close his rebuttal imputing to the naturalists the logical fault of rejecting the Madhyamaka viewpoint by establishing what the Mādhyamikas already accept (grub pa la sgrub; *siddhasādhana). However, outside the strict field of dialectical arguments, Avalokitavrata does not fail to insist that the internal bases are caused also by one’s past actions, a position that no Lokāyatika could concede.

As a last remark, we must recall that, according to Buddhists, karman (past actions) functions as a causal principle involved in the generation of new beings. This justifies why the naturalist interpretation of the “without a cause” alternative offered by the PPV can or should be considered as an implicative negation, as anticipated in section 2. above, not as a pure and simple one. If it were a pure and simple negation, indeed, the Buddhists would expose themselves to the incongruity of denying (on a conventional basis at least) the very existence of causal principles such as inner nature (and Īśvara, Puruṣa etc.), while admitting the existence of karman as a causal principle.

3 Some Concluding Remarks

The first scholar to highlight the existence of at least two Lokāyata causal doctrines—which I have called here physicalist and naturalist—was Ramkrishna Bhattacharya, who sadly recently passed away. To him we owe a thoughtful and very useful general assessment of the matter, which I had the pleasure to discuss with him in several occasions. Yet, if we are to follow the sources examined here, some of Bhattacharya’s conclusions need to be revised or updated, to carry on his painstaking research and move a little step forward:

  • Bhattacharya upholds that svabhāva was interpreted by the ancient Buddhist scholars as “accident” and therefore naturalism must be considered as a synonym of “accidentalism”: “The question […] is how svabhāva, which was originally quite distinct from yadṛcchā, could become synonymous with it. Unfortunately we are not in a position to offer any definite solution. But it may be suggested that from at least the first century CE, svabhāva had come to refer to both accidentalism and inactivism”.50 Even though the sources examined by Bhattacharya do not allow us to explicitly assimilate accidentalism and naturalism,51 Vincent Eltschinger has recently corroborated Bhattacharya’s position showing that Buddhist scholars like Dharmakīrti, Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla interpreted the inner nature causal theory as a theory of the occasional (kādācitka) origination of events, which according to these thinkers amounts to saying that events are causeless/reasonless.52 However, we have seen that Avalokitavrata, who was probably active between Dharmakīrti’s and Kamalaśīla’s epochs, does not assimilate accidentalism and naturalism, dealing rather with these perspectives separately. This suggests that, at least from the 6th c. onwards, there were at least two Buddhist interpretations of accidentalism, one related to naturalism, upheld by Dharmakīrti, Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla (and probably inherited from some ancient Buddhist sources) but not by Bhāviveka and Avalokitavrata, and one related to physicalism, upheld by Bhāviveka and (consequently) Avalokitavrata.53

  • Bhattacharya asserts that the svabhāvavāda and Lokāyata came to coalesce after the 8th c.: “[I]t is also evident from the works of both Śāntarakṣita and Haribhadra that svabhāva and the Cārvāka/Lokāyata were not considered identical even in the eighth century CE. These two most well-versed savants never associate the two doctrines. […] It was then sometime after the eighth century CE that svabhāva became an integral part of the Cārvāka/Lokāyata”.54 Yet, we have seen that the 6th c. PPV and TJ evidently identify the doctrine of inner nature with the Lokāyata, which leads us to antedate the coalescence of the two perspectives by at least two centuries.


I would like to express here all my gratitude to the unknown reviewers for their suggestions and notes on the first draft of this paper and to Mr. Christopher Parks for his kind help with my English.


Maybe the only exception is Jayarāśi’s (8th–9th c. CE) Tattvopaplavasiṃha, but there is no agreement among scholars on Jayarāśi’s philosophical affiliation: Franco (1994, p. 553), Balcerowicz (2016) and Mills (2018, pp. 73–98) uphold that Jayarāśi was a Lokāyatika, whereas Werner (1995), Mehta (2010, p. xxi), Bhattacharya in Del Toso (2011, p. 189), Jha (2013, p. xi) and Bhattacharya (2016, part IV) uphold he was not.


In this paper I will refer only to the sDe-dge edition, dBu-ma section (henceforth D), of the Tibetan texts quoted.


Akira Saito (2001, p. 91) argues: “[…] Klu’i rgyal mtshan is considered to have first translated the Prajñāpradīpa with the constant consultation of Avalokitavrata’s subcommentary on it. Or, more strictly, he first rendered the latter text into Tibetan since every passage of the Prajñāpradīpa had been cited there. Once having put the Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā into Tibetan, Klu’i rgyal mtshan cannot have experienced the slightest difficulty in extracting the quoted sentences of the Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā from there. The way in which he established the translation of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā was probably that he further extracted it from the translation of the Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā”. The PPV is extant also in a Chinese translation, the 般若燈論釋 Bōrě dēng lùnshì (Taishō, vol. 30, n. 1566, ff. 50c4–135c29), which I will not take into account in this paper.


Scholars do not agree on the authorship of the TJ. It is beyond the purpose of the present paper to discuss this matter, yet, it must be noted that the excerpts of the TJ taken into consideration here closely recall passages from the PPV, thence, even though the author was not Bhāviveka, it seems he was strongly indebted to how Bhāviveka deals with the Lokāyata in the PPV. For this reason I consider that the TJ can be resorted to in order to clarify or better define some points of our discussion.


D, TSHa, 58b6–49a1: bdag las ma yin źes bya ba’i dgag pa ’di ni med par dgag pa’i don du lta bar bya ste | dgag pa gtso che ba’i phyir […] ma yin pa dgag pa yoṅs su bzuṅ na ni de sgrub pa gtso che ba’i phyir […] mdzad pa’i mtha’ daṅ bral bar ’gyur te |.


D, TSHa, 49B3: dgag pa’i don rgyas pa daṅ bcas pa ni sṅa ma bźin no | |, and 50b2: dgag pa’i don ni sṅa ma bźin no | |.


For an overview on how a negation functions in Sanskrit, see Wayman (1990). On Bhāviveka’s use of negation see Chen, Wang (2020).


D, TSHa, 50b5: rgyu med par źes bya ba’i tha tshig go | |.


D, TSHa, 50b7: rgyu med ces bya ba ni rgyu ṅan pa ste |.


D, TSHa, 50b7–51a1: ṅo bo ñid daṅ | dbaṅ phyug daṅ | skyes bu daṅ | gtso bo daṅ | dus daṅ | sred med kyi bu la sogs pa. The Tibetan ṅo bo ñid (together with raṅ bźin) does not always allow one to establish whether the original Sanskrit is svabhāva or rather prakṛti, which philosophically speaking have often different meanings. In the present context, however, the problem seems not to be so relevant, for two main reasons: (1) the occurrence of gtso bo (*pradhana) in the list just quoted points to the concept of “nature” typical of the Sāṁkhya school and (2) we can accordingly assume that ṅo bo ñid (*svabhāva or *prakṛti) alludes to another concept of “nature”. It is to this other concept of nature that the PPV and PPṬ passages under concern here are referring.


D, TSHa, 51a1: yaṅ dag pa ma yin pa’i phyir ro | |.


D, Wa, 111a7–111b2: rgyu med pa ni rnam pa gñis te | dṅos por gyur pa ma yin pa daṅ | dṅos por gyur pa’o | | de la dṅos por gyur pa ma yin pa ni rgyu’i dṅos por gyur pa gtan med par smra ba ste | ’jig rten rgyaṅ pan pa’i grub pa’i mtha’ las dṅos po rnams rgyu med pa las skye bar smra ba yin no | | dṅos por gyur pa ni rgyu’i dṅos por gyur pa mi mthun pa gźan yod par smra ba ste | ṅo bo ñid daṅ dbaṅ phyug la sogs pa rgyur smra ba’i grub pa’i mtha’ las mi mthun pa rgyur smra ba yin no | |.


On the unequal cause see Kataoka (2012, pp. 350–351), who explains that a cause is unequal (viṣamahetu) when it does not respect the principle of similarity (sādṛśya) that should always exist between a cause and its effect.


See also Eckel (2019, p. 33). We observe that Avalokitavrata is not of the same opinion, since he takes also the “without a cause” alternative as a pure and simple negation (D, Wa, 111a3–4: ’dir yaṅ rgyu med min źes bya ba’i dgag pa ’di ni med par dgag pa’i don du blta bar bya ste |). This interpretation however is hard to harmonize, on the one hand, with the PPV concept of “bad cause” and, on the other hand, with the definition of Avalokitavrata himself of “bad cause” as “substantial”.


On ’Jig-rten-mig/*Lokākṣin in the PPṬ see Del Toso (2020, pp. 120–121).


D, Wa, 112a2–7: ’di la draṅ sroṅ chen po ’jig rten mig ces bya ba des graṅs can dag kho na’i gyes pa gcig la brten nas ’jig rten rgyan pan pa’i grub pa’i mtha’ ’bum byas pas de ’di skad ces | sems can skye ba gźan du las dge ba daṅ mi dge ba ñe bar bsags pa’i rgyu can dag ’dir skye bar ’gyur ba yaṅ med do | | ’das pa’i ’jig rten yaṅ med do | | de nas ’dir ’oṅ ba yaṅ ’ga’ yaṅ med do | | ’di nas gaṅ du ’gro bar ’gyur ba’i ’jig rten gźan yaṅ med de | ’di ltar rgyu las daṅ ñon moṅs pa med par yaṅ bu ram daṅ | chu daṅ | skyu ru ra daṅ | dha ta ki daṅ | phabs daṅ | ’bras phye daṅ | śiṅ śun la sogs pa sman bsdus te mnan pa las bu ram chaṅ gi khyad par rnam pa tha dad pa ro daṅ mthu daṅ smin pa tha dad pa dag ’byuṅ bar ’gyur ba de dag kyaṅ ’jig rten pha rol nas ’oṅs te ’dir skye ba ma yin gyi | ’di ltar […] sman gyi rdzas de dag ñid bsdus te mnan pa’i mthu las bu ram chaṅ de lta bur ’gyur ba yin no | | de bźin du naṅ gi skye mched rnams kyaṅ las daṅ ñon moṅs pa dag med par khu chu daṅ | khrag la sogs pa tshogs pa las skye’o | | gźan yaṅ gal te śa’i phuṅ po ri rab tsam spuṅs te | der źag bdun gyi bar du char bab par ’gyur na | der śa’i phuṅ po’i tshad kho na tsam gyi srin bu’i phuṅ po skye bar ’gyur na | ci de sñed kyi sems can de dag ’jig rten pha rol nas ’oṅs sam źes zer te |. Note the occurrence of rdzas (“material, substantial”) in sman gyi rdzas.


See also TJ (D, DZa, 107a5–b5) on Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā 3.209–210.


For a list of occurrences of this aphorism in the Sanskrit sources, see Bhattacharya (2009, pp. 79, 87).


In Guṇaratnasūri’s (1385–1425 CE) Tarkarahasyadīpikā on Haribhadrasūri’s (ca. 700–770 CE) Ṣaḍdarśanasamuccaya 49, corpse’s worms are mentioned but in this case the example is used against the Lokāyatikas (Jain, 1969, pp. 224–225): “Moreover, if you accept that consciousness does not exist [in a body] in the condition of death because of the absence of breath and heat, then, how [would you justify the presence of] consciousness of worms etc. produced in a corpse shortly after the hour of decease?” (kiṃ ca mṛtāvasthāyāṃ yadi vāyutejasor abhāvena caitanyābhāvo ’bhyupagamyate tarhi mṛtaśarīre kiyad velānantaraṃ samutpannānāṃ kṛmyādīnāṃ kathaṃ caitanyaṃ |). The Jain background for this argument can be traced back to Ācāraṅgasūtra 1.1.6, which explains that worms are born out of fluids and liquid substances. See Jacobi (1964, p. 11). We notice by passing that a similar idea is upheld also by Aristotle, who in his Generation of Animals (Περὶ ζῴων γενέσεως) 1.16 (721a) pinpoints that certain insects (Peck, 1943, pp. 46–47) “[…] are not produced out of animals at all but out of putrefying fluid (in some cases, solids); instances of this are fleas, flies, cantharides” ([…] οὐδὲ γίγνονται ἐκ ζῴων ἀλλἐκ σηπομένον ὑγρῶν, τὰ δὲ ξερῶν, οἷον αἵ τε ψύλλαι καὶ αἱ μνῖαι καὶ αἱ κανθαρίδες).


See Ames (1993, p. 227).


D, TSHa, 50b5–6: de ston pa’i rjes su dpag pa med pa’i phyir daṅ | rjes su dpag pa daṅ | grags pa’i gnod par ’gyur ba’i skyon yod pa’i phyir yaṅ.


D, TSHa, 50b6: kun rdzob tu khas blaṅs pa naṅ gi skye mched kyi dṅos po rnams rgyu med pa las skye ba med de | spyi daṅ khyad par ñid daṅ ldan pa’i phyir | dper na myu gu bźin no | |. The TJ specifies that the inner bases “have the general characteristic of impermanence etc.” (D, DZa, 104a3: mi rtag pa la sogs pa spyi’i mtshan ñid daṅ ldan pa) and “the particular characteristic known as ‘the nature of having a material form’ ” (D, DZa, 104a3–4: ’byuṅ ba las gyur pa’i gzugs daṅ ldan pa’i bdag ñid do źes bya ba’i khyad par gyi mtshan ñid daṅ ldan pa).


D, Wa, 113a3–6: spyi ñid daṅ ldan pa’i phyir źes bya ba ni mig la sogs paskye mched drug po dag la skye mched ces bya ba spyi yod pa’i phyir ro | | khyad par ñid daṅ ldan pa’i phyir źes bya ba ni mig la sogs pa skye mched drug pop dag la | mig daṅ | rna ba daṅ | sna daṅ | lce daṅ | lus daṅ | yid ces bya ba so so’i khyad par ñid yod pa’i phyir ro | | yaṅ na spyi ñid daṅ ldan pa’i phyir źes bya ba ni skye mched thams cad la skye mched rnams skye mched rnams źes bya ba spyi yod pa’i phyir ro | | khyad par ñid daṅ ldan pa’i phyir źes bya ba ni mi’i skye mched rnams źes bya ba daṅ | lha’i skye mched rnams źes bya ba daṅ | dud ’gro’i skye mched rnams źes bya ba khyad par ñid yod pa’i phyir |.


D, Wa, 113a6–7: myu gu la yaṅ myu gu thams cad la myu gu źes bya ba’i rigs spyi ñid kyaṅ yod la | ’bras kyi myu gu daṅ | nas kyi myu gu źes bya ba la sogs pa khyad par ñid kyaṅ yod pa ste |.


D, Wa, 113a7–b1: thog ma med pa’i rgyu brgyud pa las skye bas rgyu med pa las skye ba med pa.


D, TSHa, 50b6: grags pa’i gnod pa ni ’jig rten ’di na yod pa gaṅ yin pa de ni rgyu las skye bar grags te | dper na rgyu spun dag las snam bu daṅ | rtsi rkyaṅ dag las sab ma skye ba la sogs pa bźin no | |. The reading rtsi rkyaṅ may be a variant for rtsi skyaṅ.


D, Wa, 113b4–5: ba laṅ rdzi’i chuṅ ma yan chad la snam bu daṅ sab ma la sogs pa rgyu daṅ bcas pa las skye bar grags pas | khyod kyi kun rdzob tu naṅ gi skye mched kyi dṅos po rnams rgyu med pa las skye bar sgrub pa’i don de la ni grags pa daṅ ’gal ba’i gnod par ’gyur ba’i skyon yod pa’i phyir yaṅ dṅos po rnams rgyu med pa las skye ba med par dgoṅs so | |.


D, Wa, 113b5: rgyu med pa dṅos por gyur pa ma yin pa las glo bur du skye ba med do | |.


Consider, for instance, Kamalaśīla’s (740–795 CE) definition in his Tattvasaṃgrahapañjikā on Tattvasaṃgraha 112 (Śāstrī, 2006, p. 57): yat kādācitkaṃ tad ahetukaṃ niścitaṃ (“What is occasional, that is ascertained as [being] causeless”). The passage is discussed in Eltschinger (2021, pp. 102–103).


Dharmakīrti (6th or 7th c.) tackles exactly this aspect—it is unacceptable that suffering arises without a cause/reason—in Pramāṇavārtika, Pramāṇasiddhi 180. It is worthy of note that Śāntarakṣita (725–788 CE) in Tattvasaṃgraha 112 implies that the idea that suffering is causeless/reasonless is to be attributed to the upholders of the inner nature theory, not to the physicalists, and this position is shared of course by Kamalaśīla, but also by Dharmakīrti and his commentators, as highlighted in Eltschinger (2021, pp. 101–103). According to the sources under examination here, however, Bhāviveka seems not to agree on this attribution. As we have anticipated in section 2 and will be dealt with in greater detail from section 2.2 onwards, Bhāviveka classifies the inner nature as an unequal cause, which means that it is a causal principle, albeit defective (rgyu ṅan ba; *kuhetu). It follows hence that the effect of which the inner nature is cause cannot be considered as causeless/reasonless stricto sensu. Consistently with Bhāviveka’s view, Avalokitavrata can only attribute accidentalism to the physicalists, not—as Dharmakīrti and Śāntarakṣita do instead—to the upholders of the inner nature.


D, TSHa, 50b7: yaṅ na rgyu med ces bya ba ni rgyu ṅan ba ste | chuṅ ma med pa źes bya ba la sogs pa bźin no | |. See also Ames (1993, p. 227).


D, Wa, 113b7–114a3: de la yaṅ na źes bya ba ni rgyu med ces bya ba ni rgyu med pa dṅos por gyur pa ma yin pa sṅar bstan pa ’ba’ źig tu yaṅ ma zad de | yaṅ rnam pa gcig tu na rgyu med ces bya ba ni | rgyu med pa dṅos por gyur pa ṅan pa la yaṅ bya’o źes bya ba’i tha tshig go | | gyu med ces bya ba ni rgyu ṅan pa ste źes bya ba ni rgyu’i bya ba byed pa ñid ma yin pas rgyu med pa daṅ ’dra bar rgyu med pa źes bya ste | gaṅ ṅo bo ñid kyis yod kyaṅ skye bar byed pa ma yin pas ṅan pa de ni rgyu med pa źes bya’o | | de yaṅ ji lta bu źe na | dper na chuṅ ma med pa źes bya ba la sogs pa bźin no źes bya ba smras te | dper na chuṅ ma ṅan pa skyon chags pa dṅos por gyur pa yod kyaṅ chuṅ ma’i bya ba ni mi byed pas de la chuṅ ma med pa źes bya ba daṅ | bu ṅan pa skyon chags pa dṅos por gyur pa yod kyaṅ bu’i bya ba mi byed pas de la bu med pa źes bya ba bźin du | ṅo bo ñid daṅ dbaṅ phyug la sogs pa rgyur smra ba’i grub pa’i mtha’ las mi mthun pa rgyur smra ba dag kyaṅ rgyu ṅan pa skyon chags pa dṅos por gyur pa yod kyaṅ rgyu’i bya ba mi byed pas de yaṅ rgyu med pa źes bya’o | |. The terms in bold in the quotes from the PPṬ correspond to words or phrases of Bhāviveka’s PPV.


D, TSHa, 51a1. See Ames (1993, p. 227).


D, Wa, 114a7: de dag ni kun rdzob tu dṅos por gyur pa yin du zin kyaṅ skyed par byed pa ñid ma yin pa’i phyir | ṅan pas med pa daṅ ’dra ba’i phyir rgyu ñid ma yin no | |.


See D, TSHa, 51a1.


See D, TSHa, 51a1–7 and Ames (1993, pp. 227–228).


D, TSHa, 51a2–3: padma dag gi kha dog daṅ | dbyibs daṅ | lo ma daṅ | chu ba daṅ | ’dab ma daṅ | ze ba daṅ | sñiṅ po mdzes pa lta bu daṅ | rma bya dag gi mgrin pa’i phyogs rin po che mthon ka chen po daṅ | an da rñil ltar mthon mthiṅ du ’dug la | mjug sgro’i tshogs dag gi mdoṅs bkra źiṅ ’tsher bag yod pa bźin no.


D, Wa, 115a5–6: ṅo bo ñid du smra ba źes bya ba ni dṅos po rnams ṅo bo ñid las skye bar smra ba ste | ’jig rten rgyaṅ pan pa’i grub mtha’ byed pa draṅ sroṅ chen po ’jig rten mig ces bya’o | | ṅo bo ñid du smra ba dag ces bya ba’i sgras ni draṅ sroṅ chen po ’jig rten mig gi grub pa’i mtha’ smra ba dag ces bya ba’i don te | ’jig rten rgyaṅ pan pa dag ces bya ba’i tha tshig go | |.


D, DZa, 103b4: ’dir ’jig rten rgyaṅ pan pa dag gis smras pa | […] naṅ gi skye mched kyi dṅos po rnams ni rgyu daṅ rkyen la mi ltos par ṅo bo ñid kho na las skye bar.


D, DZa, 103b5–6: dper na | padma ze ba kha dog gsar pa yid tsam ser źiṅ dmar ba dri źim po daṅ | ze’u ’bru mdzes pa daṅ | lo ma ’jam pa daṅ | sdoṅ bu rtsub pa daṅ ldan pa dag daṅ | rma bya mjug sgro’i tshogs [D chogs] zla gam sna tshogs gsal ba maṅ po daṅ | lus gyi sgro gśog sṅo źiṅ ’tsher bag can daṅ ldan pa dag daṅ | tsher ma rtse mo ma bźogs par rno źiṅ rtsub pa daṅ ldan pa dag bźin no źe na |.


D, Wa, 115a5: de la ṅo bo ñid ces bya ba ni gaṅ dṅos po thams cad la mi ltos par raṅ gi ṅo bo ñid kyis yaṅ dag par ’grub pa lhan cig skyes pa bcom ma ma yin pa de ni ṅo bo ñid ces bya’o | |. Compare with Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 15.2cd (Yè, 2011, p. 236): akṛtrimaḥ svabhāvo hi nirapekṣaḥ paratra ca ||.


Here I use the term “metaphysics” with the meaning of “beyond the strict domain of what is physical”, which does not necessarily and consequently imply “supernatural” or “extra-natural”: for instance karman according to Buddhists can be seen as natural even though not strictly physical.


D, DZa, 103b7: […] ’jig rten na naṅ daṅ phyi rol gyi dṅos po gaṅ la rgyu mi snaṅ ba de ni ’ga’ yaṅ med de |. The idea that inner nature is imperceptible is stressed also by, for instance, Kamalaśīla, who in his Tattvasaṃgrahapañjikā on Tattvasaṃgraha 110 states (Śāstrī, 2006, p. 57): anupalabhyamānasattākaṃ ca bhāvānāṃ kāraṇam iti svabhāvānupalabdhiḥ (“And the cause of the events [as upheld by the naturalists] exists as non-apprehended, so there is non-apprehension of inner nature”). On this passage see Eltschinger (2021, p. 102).


D, TSHa, 51a3–4: dam bcas pa’i don de gal te kun rdzob tu naṅ gi skye mched kun rdzob pa’i śes pa’i spyod yul rnams byed pa po raṅ dbaṅ can gyi bya ba la mi ltos pa’i phyir daṅ | sus kyaṅ ma byas pa kho na’i phyir | rkyen ṅes pa las skye ba yin na ni grub pa la sgrub bo | |.


D, TSHa, 51a4: ji ste don dam par na ni dpe med de | don dam par padma la sogs pa skye bar khas ma blaṅs pa’i phyir ro | |.


See D, Wa, 117b2–3: byed pa po’i mtshan ñid ni raṅ dbaṅ can yin la | de’i bya ba ni g.yo ba daṅ rtsol ba yin pas byed pa po raṅ dbaṅ can gyi bya ba źes bya ba ste.


See D, Wa, 117b4–5: tshaṅs pa la sogs pa sus kyaṅ ma byas pa kho na yin.


D, Wa, 118a1–3: ṅes pa źes bya ba ni mer mer po la sogs pa daṅ | mir gyur pa’i las kyi rkyen las mi’i skye mched rnams skye bar ’gyur ba daṅ | […] de bźin du padma daṅ | autpala daṅ | dri mchog daṅ | padma dkar po la sogs pa’i sa bon rigs mthun pa las | padma daṅ | autpala la sogs pa skye bar ’gyur ba de ni ṅes pa źes bya’o | |.


Bhattacharya (2007, p. 280).


Bhattacharya (2007, p. 278) mainly refers to Aśvaghoṣa’s (1st–2nd c.) Buddhacarita 9.57cd–62, where however the idea of accidentalism does not really occur. We find there, instead, the simple notion that everything depends on inner nature (svābhāvikaṃ in 9.58c, 9.61d; svabhāvaḥ in 9.59d; svabhāvataḥ in 9.62c), which in no way justifies the conclusion that entities are accidental. Bhattacharya in his research has resorted (also) to Cowell’s English translation of the Buddhacarita, in which svābhāvikaṃ, svabhāvaḥ and svabhāvataḥ are rendered as “spontaneously”. It shall be remarked however that Cowell’s work is by all means inaccurate.


Eltschinger (2021, pp. 101–106).


An investigation of the origin of, and specific philosophical differences between, these two approaches is beyond the scope of the present article. The topic requires further research, which may be the subject of future studies.


Bhattacharya (2012, pp. 603–604).


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