In this essay, I investigate how Chinese Yogācāra scholars of the Tang 唐 dynasty explicated and supplemented the theory of apoha (exclusion) propounded by the Indian Buddhist epistemologist Dignāga 陳那, according to which a nominal word functions by excluding everything other than its own referent. I first present a brief exposition of the theory. Then, I show that although they had very limited access to Dignāga’s theory, Kuiji 窺基 and Shentai 神泰 provide constructive and significant explanations that supplement the theory. I also show that the term zhequan 遮詮 (excluding expression) has been construed in Chinese Buddhism in at least three different senses to mean: (1) an expression that both excludes and signifies, (2) an expression that merely excludes and does not signify, and (3) a negative expression that merely excludes. The notion of apoha is related to the first two senses but not the third.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bhāviveka 清辯. Jewel in the Hand Treatise (*Karatalaratna; 大乘掌珍論). Trans. by Xuanzang 玄奘. In T, vol. 30, no. 1578.
Dignāga 陳那. The Nyāyamukha 因明正理門論本. Trans. by Xuanzang 玄奘. In T, vol. 32, no. 1628.
Gnoli, Raniero, ed. 1960. The Pramāṇavārttikam of Dharmakīrti: The First Chapter with the Autocommentary. Rome: Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.
Hayes, Richard P. 1988. Dignāga on the Interpretation of Signs. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Ho, Chien-hsing. 2015. “Resolving the Ineffability Paradox.” In Comparative Philosophy without Borders, edited by Arindam Chakrabarti and Ralph Weber. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Huizhao 慧沼. A Lamp for Illuminating the Meaning of the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi-śāstra 成唯識論了義燈. In T, vol. 43, no. 1832.
Katsura, Shoryu. 2011. “Apoha Theory as an Approach to Understanding Human Cognition.” In Apoha: Buddhist Nominalism and Human Cognition, edited by Mark Siderits, Tom Tillemans, and Arindam Chakrabarti. New York: Columbia University Press.
______. 2014. “Theory of Apoha in Kuiji’s Cheng Weishi Lun Shuji.” In A Distant Mirror: Articulating Indic Ideas in Sixth and Seventh Century Chinese Buddhism, edited by Lin Chen-kuo and Michael Radich. Hamburg: Hamburg University Press.
______. 2016. “A Report on the Study of Sanskrit Manuscript of the Pramāṇasamuccayaṭīkā Chapter 4: Recovering the Example Section of the Nyāyamukha.” Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies (Indogaku Bukkyogaku Kenkyu) 64.3: 1237−1245.
Kuiji 窺基. A Commentary on the Nyāyapraveśa 因明入正理論疏. In T, vol. 44, no. 1840.
______. Commentary Notes on the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi-śāstra 成唯識論述記. In T, vol. 43, no. 1830.
Lin, Chen-kuo. 2018. “How to Attain Enlightenment through Cognition of Particulars and Universals? Huizhao on Svalakṣaṇa and Sāmānyalakṣaṇa.” In Dao Companion to Chinese Buddhist Philosophy, edited by Wang Youru and Sandra A. Wawrytko. Dordrecht: Springer.
Pind, Ole. 2011. “Dignāga’s Apoha Theory: Its Presuppositions and Main Theoretical Implications.” In Apoha: Buddhist Nominalism and Human Cognition, edited by Mark Siderits, Tom Tillemans, and Arindam Chakrabarti. New York: Columbia University Press.
______. 2015. Dignāga’s Philosophy of Language: Pramāṇasamuccayavṛtti V on anyāpoha. Part I and Part II. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Priest, Graham. 2014. “Speaking of the Ineffable …” In Nothingness in Asian Philosophy, edited by Liu JeeLoo and Douglas L. Berger. New York: Routledge.
Saṅghabhadra 眾賢. The Abhidharmanyāyānusāraśāstra 阿毗達磨順正理論. Trans. by Xuanzang 玄奘. In T, vol. 29, no. 1562.
Śaṅkarasvāmin 商羯羅主. The Nyāyapraveśa 因明入正理論. Trans. by Xuanzang 玄奘. In T, vol. 32, no. 1630.
Sengzhao 僧肇. The Treatise of Sengzhao 肇論. In T, vol. 45, no. 1858.
Shentai. Commentary Notes on the Nyāyamukha 理門論述記. In T, vol. 44, no. 1839.
Shinsan Dainihon Zokuzōkyō 卍新纂大日本續藏經 (abbreviated as X). In CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripiṭaka Collection (CD-Rom), Version 2016. Taipei: Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association.
Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō 大正新脩大藏經 (abbreviated as T). In CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripiṭaka Collection (CD-Rom), Version 2016. Taipei: Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association.
Tillemans, Tom. 2011. “How to Talk About Ineffable Things: Dignāga and Dharmakīrti on Apoha.” In Apoha: Buddhist Nominalism and Human Cognition, edited by Mark Siderits, Tom Tillemans, and Arindam Chakrabarti. New York: Columbia University Press.
Wengui 文軌. A Commentary on the Nyāyapraveśa 因明入正理論疏. In X, vol. 53, no. 848.
Yao, Zhihua. 2009. “Empty Subject Terms in Buddhist Logic: Dignāga and His Chinese Commentators.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 37.4: 383−398.
Yoshimizu, Kiyotaka. 2017. “How Can the Word ‘Cow’ Exclude Non-cows? Description of Meaning in Dignāga’s Theory of Apoha.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 45.5: 973−1012.
Yunfeng 雲峰. An Enlightening Question and Answer for Consciousness-Only 唯識開蒙問答. In X, vol. 55, no. 888.
Zamorski, Jakub. 2019. “On Chinese Interpretations of the Distinction between Two Types of Negation in Indian Buddhist Logic.” Vienna Journal of South Asian Studies 56: 199−226.
Zhizhou 智周. Exposing the Secret Meaning of the Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi-śāstra 成唯識論演秘. In T, vol. 43, no. 1833.
______. Subsequent Notes on A Commentary on the Nyāyapraveśa 因明入正理論疏後記. In X, vol. 53, no. 854.
Zongmi 宗密. Preface to the Collection of Chan Sources 禪源諸詮集都序. In T, vol. 48, no. 2015.
I am grateful to the two anonymous reviewers of this journal for their helpful comments and suggestions.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.