Dignāga’s Explanation of acandraḥ śaśī – A Survey of Its Interpretation in the hetuvidyā-Tradition

Visiting Scholar Talks

Mar 28, 2024 | 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Mingjun Tang | Associate Professor at the Department of Religious Studies, School of Philosophy, Fudan University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2023-24


Parimal Patil | Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, Harvard University

Co-sponsored with the Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard University

In his Nyāyamukha and Pramāṇasamuccaya, Dignāga (ca. 480–540) had a short passage explaining the paradoxicality of the thesis acandraḥ śaśī (“the rabbit-possessor [an epithet of the moon] is not the moon”). Dharmakīrti (ca. 550–660), in his Pramāṇavārttika and Pramāṇaviniścaya, offered three interpretations of this passage. Dharmakīrti advocated the first two while criticized the third one, which was later ascribed to a Nyāyamukhaṭīkākāra (“author of the commentary on the Nyāyamukha”).

The Nyāyamukha was translated into Chinese by Xuanzang 玄奘 (602–664) in 650. Three commentaries on the Nyāyamukha by early disciples of Xuanzang had an interpretation of this short passage, which agreed with the Nyāyamukhaṭīkākāra’s interpretation. Dharmapāla (ca. 530–561), in his Da cheng guang bai lun shi lun 大乘廣百論釋論, once discussed a thesis similar to acandraḥ śaśī. His interpretation of the thesis shares the same spirit with that of the Nyāyamukhaṭīkākāra’s interpretation.

The Nyāyamukhaṭīkākāra’s interpretation existed, being accepted at some intermediate stage between Dignāga and Dharmakīrti. The issue at stake when interpreting Dignāga’s words here discussed concerns questions whether and how far propositions in the form A is B where A and B are coreferential can be rationally justified