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Realistic Reasoning and the Unreal World: Gauḍapāda’s Use of Nyāya Methodology to Argue for Illusionism

Issue: Vol 11 No. 1 (2017)

Journal: Religions of South Asia

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies

DOI: 10.1558/rosa.36474


The ancient Indian philosopher/theologian Gauḍapāda (probably fifth century ce) is credited with having founded the school of Advaita Vedānta. He unfolds his doctrines in four separate but related treatises which tradition has always transmitted under the title Gauḍapādīya-kārikā. Gauḍapāda’s treatises evince a persistent tendency towards illusionism; he uses logic to argue for the unreality of the perceivable world. Especially in book 4, he develops his argument that the world was never created, that therefore it is an illusion or magic, māyā, and that it is only our perceiving consciousness. What is most baffling is the fact that in order to develop his arguments against the reality of the world, he uses the logical terminology and methodology of the early Nyāya, a school whose outlook on the world is realistic and thus the exact opposite of the outlook Gauḍapāda is espousing. This article will try to discuss and resolve the seeming contradiction between Gauḍapāda’s illusionism and the realism of early Nyāya.

Author: Victor A. van Bijlert

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