Open Journal of Philosophy
2011. Vol.1, No.2, 48-56
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ojpp.2011.12009
Is Cognition an Attribute of the Self or It Rather Belongs to the
Body? Some Dialectical Considerations on Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s
Position against Nyāya and Vaiśeika
Krishna Del Toso
University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy.
Received October 14th, 2011; revised November 15th, 2011; accepted November 20th, 2011.
In this article an attempt is made to detect what could have been the dialectical reasons that impelled the Cār-
vāka thinker Udbhaabhaṭṭa to revise and reformulate the classical materialistic concept of cognition. If indeed
according to ancient Cārvākas cognition is an attribute entirely dependent on the physical body, for Udbha-
abhaṭṭa cognition is an independent principle that, of course, needs the presence of a human body to manifest
itself and for this very reason it is said to be a peculiarity of the body. Therefore, Udbhaabhaṭṭa seems to de-
scribe the cognizing faculty according to a double ontology: it is both a principle and a characteristic, both inde-
pendent and dependent. Two philosophical contexts—Vaiśeika and Nyāya schools—are here taken into account
as possible anti-Cārvāka fault-finding points of view that spured Udbhaabhaṭṭa to reconsider the Cārvāka per-
spective. Although we do not have so much textual material on this particular aspect of the ancient and medieval
philosophical debate in India, it nonetheless can be supposed that Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s reformulation of the concept
of cognition was a tentative response to the Vaiśeika idea that cognition is not an attribute of the body, rather of
the mind (which is here supposed to be eternal), and to the Naiyāyika perspective according to which cognition
would be an attribute of an everlasting self. In the case of the Nyāya school, fortunately we have at our disposal
the criticism put forward by Vātsyāyana against the materialistic conception of cognition during this time. By
examining some Vātsyāyana’s objections, it will emerge that Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s idea of cognition really seems to
have the aspect of a consistent answer to them, from a renewed materialistic point of view.
Keywords: Cognition, Cārvāka Materialism, Udbhaabhaṭṭa, Vaiśeika, Nyāya, Vātsyāyana
This paper is to be considered as a philosophic exercise ba-
sed on what can be called a case study because here I will take
into consideration a particular aspect of the discussion con-
cerning the nature of cognition (caitanya, buddhi, āna etc.)1
according to three different philosophical perspectives, which
are on the one hand, the “reformed” Cārvāka materialism of
Udbhaabhaṭṭa (or Bhaṭṭodbhaa, 8th - 9th century CE?) and, on
the other hand, both the classical Vaiśeika and Vātsyāyana’s
Naiyāyika points of view. It is a philosophic exercise because,
in spite of the paucity of the sources available at present on
Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s thought, an attempt is here proposed to make
two different philosophical contexts—Cārvāka and Nyāya-Vaiśei-
ka—interact critically on the same subject, namely, the idea of
cognition. Furthermore, I will try to give some indication on the
possible reasons for Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s reformulation of the clas-
sical Cārvāka concept of cognition, on the basis of Vaiśeika
and Nyāya material.
Classical Cārvāka View on Cognition
Even if only very few fragments of the Cārvākas’ aphorisms
have reached us, from the extant excerpts fortunately we can
infer the general position on cognition upheld by the adherents
to this school. The materialistic perspective on cognition pecu-
liar to the classical Cārvāka system is, hence, summarized by
the following aphorisms:2
01. pthivyāpastejovāyur iti tattvāni |
“Earth, water, heat and air are the principles”.
02. tatsamudāye śarīrendriyaviayasaā |
“What is called “body”, “sense organs”, “object” [takes
place] in the combination of those [principles]”.
03. tebhyaś caitanyam |
“Out of those [there is] cognition”.
04. kivādibhyo madaśaktivat |
“Like the inhebriating power [that takes place] out of fer-
ments and so on”.
05. caitanyaviśiṣṭa kāya purua |
“The man is [nothing but] a body characterized by cogni-
06. śarīre bhāvāt |
“Because of the existence/appearance [of cognition only]
when there is a body”.
From these aphorisms we deduce that, according to the Cār-
vākas, the material elements are only four, and that these ele-
ments constitute not only the physical body (śarīra, kāya) and
the external objects (viaya), but also cognition (caitanya), whi-
ch appears in the body as, for instance, the alcoholic power in a
hotchpotch of juices, ferments, sugar, etc. Consequently, the
1As a preliminary note it has to be underlined that with “cognition” I mean
here both knowledge (cognition of objects) and self-awareness (cognition o
oneself or of one’s self). This is because it seems to me that within the Cār-
vāka philosophy caitanya sometimes can stand for “knowledge” (buddhi,
ñāna), whereas some other times for “consciousness” (caitanya tout court).
2For the full list (with all the references) and translation of the extant San-
skrit fragments of the Cārvākas see Bhattacharya (2009: pp. 78-92), from
which I quote with little adaptation. All the passages from Sanskrit texts
referred to in this paper have been, when necessary, adapted to the quotation
style used here, without of course changing the structure and meaning.
human being is here reduced to a very particular mixture of
physical elements, characterized by the presence of a cognizing
faculty, which is likewise physical. Anantavīrya (10th - 11th cen-
turies CE), in his Siddhiviniścayaīkā (Explanation of The as-
certainment of logical demonstrations), informs us that one of
the adherents to the classical Cārvāka philosophy, viz. Puran-
dara, theorized that the arising of cognition from a mass of
elements is possible only when those very elements assume a
certain and well-determined shape. In all the other cases, cogni-
tion would not appear:3
07. mūrtasya pthivyādicatuṣṭayasya jñānam anena paura
mata darśitam |
“[There is appearance of] cognition of the four [elements
such as] earth etc., [only when they are] settled into a fix-
ed shape. By means of this, the opinion of Paura[ndara] is
Unfortunately, the exiguity of Purandara’s and other classical
Cārvākas’ fragments at our disposal does not allow us to know
in detail which was his conception of cognition. In any case, on
the basis of our aphorism 05. we can suppose also that the fixed
shape (mūrta), needed for the appearance of cognition, to which
Purandara alludes to, were the human figure.
However, even if we agree to consider cognition as somehow
dependent on the material elements (aphorism 03.) only when
they assume the form of a human body (quotation 07.), we still
have to solve the problem of defining which kind of relation
exists between the body and cognition itself. Indeed, the pas-
sage 07. shows us a Purandara’s reasoning on the cognizing
faculty that, although it is evidently based on the abovemen-
tioned aphorism 05., unfortunately does not provide in itself
any further explanation of that very aphorism. In other words,
we still do not know whether cognition is a product of the ma-
terial body, or if it is rather some material thing, which is added
to the body. Indeed, this one is the crucial philosophical prob-
lem related to the cognizing faculty. More precisely, the ques-
tion is whether the relation between body and cognition is
similar to the one between cause and effect, or to the one be-
tween substance and its attribute(s).
This should have been a fundamental matter of discussion
also within the Cārvāka cyrcles, as it emerges from for instance
the different interpretations assigned by Cārvākas to some of
the abovementioned aphorisms. In particular, it is worth noting
here that aphorism 03. accounts for at least two readings on the
basis of both grammatical and semantic considerations. Gram-
matical considerations, because the term tebhya can be inten-
ded either as a dative (“to them”) or as an ablative case (“from
them”). Semantic considerations, because the absence of a verb
specifying the nature of the relation between the terms involved
in the sentence is undoubtedly problematic. These ambiguities
led at a certain point to two parallel commentarial positions on
that aphorism, as Kamalaśīla (8th century CE) clearly points out
in his Tattvasagrahapañjikā (Running commentary on The
collection of philosophical principles):4
08. tatra kecid vttikārā vyācakate utpadyate tebhyaś caitan-
yam | anye abhivyajyata ity āhu | ata pakadvayam
āha jayate vyajyatetha ceti |
“There, some commentators explain that “consiousness
originates from those [principles]”; others say “[cognition]
is manifested”. Therefore, they set forth a double position:
“[cognition] is born” and “[cognition] is manifested”.
Hence, according to the first interpretation, cognition origin-
nates (utpadyate), or comes into being (jayate), from the mix-
ture of material elements. The verbs utpadyate and jayate con-
vey the idea of a somehow productive relation between two fa-
ctors, one of which plays the role of cause and the other the role
of effect. In this case, the link between cognition and body cou-
ld be philosophically interpreted according to at least two per-
spectives. On one side, cognition could be considered as an
attribute of the body, which is therefore its substance (this posi-
tion is in accordance with our aphorism 05., where the human
body is defined caitanyaviśita, “characterized by cognition»).
On the other side, cognition could be thought as the effect of the
body, with the specification that the two must be necessarily
involved in a particular kind of causal relation in which, when
the cause ceases, the effect does not survive to it in any way
(this is a possible reading of the abovementioned aphorism
The second perspective referred to by Kamalaśīla recalls the
idea that the elements are not the cause stricto sensu, rather the
occasion for the apparition of cognition (note the passive forms
abhivyajyate, vyajyate, “is manifested”): in this case, cognition
would somehow (but unfortunately our sources do not allow us to
understand exactly how) differ from the four elements, although
existing in dependence on them. If the first position (utpadyate,
jayate) seems to represent the classical Cārvāka perspective, the
second one (abhi vyajya te , vyajyate) depicts or, better, anticipates
the so-called “reformed” Cārvāka philosophy of Udbhaabhaṭṭa.6
Cakradhara (11th century CE), in his Granthibhaga (Break-
ing the knot), a commentary on Jayantabhaṭṭa’s (9th century CE)
Nyāyamañjarī (The flower of Nyāya), appears to be more accu-
rate in explaining which are the fundamental distinctions be-
tween the two perspectives. In doing that, he also informs us
that the first position, besides other ancient Cārvāka thinkers,
was upheld by Bhāvivikta:7
09. cirantanacārvākair hi bhāviviktaprabhtibhi bhūtebhyaś
caitanyam iti sūtram bhūtebhya iti pañcamyantapaday-
ojanayā vyākhyātam bhūtebhya utpadyate caitanyam iti ||
udbhaena tu bhūtebhya itipada caturthyantatayā
vyākhyātam bhūtebhyaś caitanya bhūtārtha caitan-
ya svatantram eva śarīrārambhakabhūtopakārakam ity
artha ||
(Indeed, by the ancient Cārvākas, beginning with Bhāvi-
vikta, the aphorism “bhūtebhyaś caitanyam” is explained
with the use of the term bhūtebhya in the fifth [ablative]
5Unfortunately, we do not have any witness of what Cārvākas thought about
causal relations except for a fragment from Vādidevasūri’s Syādvādaratnā-
kara (The jewel mine of the doctrine of may be”), where Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s
conception of effect is referred to (Osval, 1988: p. 764): yatra tu bhaṭṭodb-
haa prācīkaat | na hy atra kāraam eva kāryātmatām upaiti yata ekas-
ākāraātmana ekakāryarūpatopagame tadanyarūpābhāvāt tadanyakāry-
ātmanopagatir na syāt | ki tv apūrvam eva kasyacid bhāve prāgavidya-
māna bhavat tat kāryam |. I propose the following translation: “Whereas
Bhaṭṭodbhaa demonstrated that in this case the cause itself does not obtain
the nature of the effect since, when there is assimilation/acquisition of the
essential form of a certain effect by something that is not a cause, then it
[i.e., that non-cause] could not get the nature of the effect [which is] othe
than that [cause], because it has not the essential form of the other [i.e., o
the cause]. Nonetheless, that which is completely new, [and although hav-
ing being] formerly absent, [becomes] existent when something [else] is
present, that is the effect». Quotedbut not translatedalso in Bha-
ttacharya (2009: p. 82).
6For a discussion on these two positions see Bhattacharya (2010b: pp. 537-
7Quoted from Bhattacharya (2009: p. 81).
3Quoted from Bhattacharya (2009: p. 83).
4Tattvasagrahapañjikā ad Tattvasagraha (The collection of Philoso-
hical Principle) verses 1857-1858 (Śāstrī, 1968: p. 633).
case: “from the elements, cognition originates”. But by
Udbhaa the word bhūtebhya is explained with the fourth
[dative] case: “to the elements, cognition [is added]”; in-
deed, cognition is [for Udbhaabhaṭṭa] a material object,
[which is] independent [but] auxiliary to the elements
that constitute the body. This is the meaning).
Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s New Approach
The main point that distinguishes Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s from Bhā-
vivikta’s perspective, as can be inferred from our quotation 09.,
is the idea that cognition would be a material (bhūtārtha), self-
dependent (svatantra) element, which nonetheless needs the
presence of a likewise material body for manifesting itself (see
the abovementioned aphorism 06.). Hence, Udbhaabhaṭṭa see-
ms to describe a cognition that is actually a principle (because
of its being svatantra, “self-dependent”), but a non-primary
principle (because it is bhūtopakāraka, “subsidiary to the ele-
ments”). In this very consideration lies the fundamental differ-
rence between cognition, on the one hand, and earth, water, heat
and air (that could be consequently considered as primary prin-
ciples), on the other hand. Once again, it is Cakradhara who he-
lps us to better understand Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s thought:8
10. tatra hi pthivyāpastejovāyur iti ya itiśabda sa eva
prāyaprameyāntaropalakaatvena tasyābhimata |
“There, indeed, [in the sūtra] “pthivyāpastejovāyur iti
the word iti is thus supposed by him [scil. Udbhaabhaṭṭa]
to imply similar objects of knowledge, [but] different [from
earth, water, heat and air]”.
Besides the four material elements—we infer from this pas-
sage—Udbhaabhaṭṭa supposes the existence of other elements
that remain unmentioned in the aphorism, but implicitly for-
shadowed by the particle iti (“thus”). Vādidevasūri (12th cen-
tury CE), in his Syādvādaratnākara (The jewel mine of the do-
ctrine of may be”), confirms to us that this was the original
perspective of Udbhaabhaṭṭa:9
11. yadā caṣṭa bhaṭṭodbhaa itiśabda pradarśanaparo na
puna samāptivacanaś caitanyaśabdasukhadukhecchā-
dveaprayatnasaskārāām tattvāntaratvāt |
“Whereas, Bhaṭṭodbhaa said [that] the word iti is noth-
ing but illustrative and is not [at all] an indication of con-
clusion, because of the [existence of the] other principles
of cognition, sound, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, ef-
fort and subliminal impressions”.
Moreover, Cakradhara elucidates as follows Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s
position on the relation existing between cognition and the phy-
sical body:10
12. yathā udbhaenoktam śarīrārambhakakāraānām eva
bhūtānā sa kaścit tādśo vicitrasukhadukhopabhoga-
do dharma svabhāvaviśea ity artha |
“As said by Udbhaa, this [cognition] is such a certain
property, [which is capable of] enjoying the various plea-
sures and pains, a particular intrinsic nature of just the e-
lements that are the causes that constitute the body. Thus
is the meaning”.
This excerpt reminds us of the abovementioned aphorism 05.,
where cognition is described as a characteristic of the body.
Also in the present case, indeed, cogniton is defined by Udbha-
abhaṭṭa as a property (dharma) or an intrisic attribute (svab-
hāvaviśea) of the four elements, but only (eva) when they are
mixed up in the shape of a human body (śarīra; see the passage
07., quoted above). This very property is what experiences the
different feelings to which the body is subjected. Furthermore,
the parallel reading of the passages 11. and 12. suggests to us
that also those feelings like pleasure, pain, desire etc., should be
considered as peculiar properties of the physical body, because
they share a similar nature with cognition. All this helps us to
understand the nature of the auxiliary principles: they are prin-
ciples because they are svatantra (“self-dependent”), but they
are in a certain way properties because they are bhūtopakāraka
(“auxiliary to the elements”). Put it in another—somehow con-
tradictory—way, they are self-based properties.
However, why did Udbhaabhaṭṭa deviate from the classical
Cārvāka perspective on cognition? Why did he feel the need for
developing a definition of cognition, which is more sophisti-
cated than the one accepted by the ancient Cārvākas? Is this due
to the fact that, like apparently other Cārvākas, Udbhaabhaṭṭa
accepted within his philosophical horizon some tenets belong-
ing to other traditions of thought such as the Nyāya and/or the
Vaiśeika (as scholars generally believe)?11 Well, I think that,
even if it could be, in this case it is not unlikely to suppose that
Udbhaabhaṭṭa reconsidered the materialistic concept of cogni-
tion because at a certain point Cārvākas had to face up to many
opponents who articulated more and more their rebuttals a-
gainst the idea that cognition could be a simple effect or attri-
bute of the material elements.12 Therefore, in order to give more
internal consistence to his theories in the light of the criticism
put forward by the non-materialists, as was the case of the ob-
jections discussed below and raised against Cārvāka philosophy
by Vātsyāyana (5th century CE) in his Nyāyasūtrabhāya (Com-
mentary on The Nyāya aphorisms), it is not impossible that
Udbhaabhaṭṭa tried to find new interpretations of some pro-
blematic Cārvāka aphorism.
First of all, with the aim of giving more substance to this per-
spective, let us take into consideration the Vaiśeika notion of
cognition. If Udbhaabhaṭṭa was really influenced by this phi-
losophical school, the outline of his possible dialectical interac-
tions with Vaiśeikas will help us to understand in what the two
ideas of cognition differ.
Udbhaabhaṭṭa and the Vaiśeikasūtras
on Cognition
The abovementioned Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s passages give the im-
pression that, in developing his point of view on cognition, he
took care in distinguishing his own understanding of the na-
ture of the cognizing faculty from the Vaiśeika understanding
of the same concept. Indeed, if we look at the Vaiśeikasūtras
(The Vaiśeika aphorisms, compiled around the turn of the
common era and traditionally attributed to the sage Kaāda),13
we remark that the substances and the qualities admitted here
are (Vaiśeikasūtra 1.1.4-5):
11Consider for instance Bhattacharya (2010a: p. 423): “Aviddhakara and
Udbhaa were basically Naiyāyikas. Even if they were converted to the
Cārvāka/Lokāyata, they brought the whole baggage of Nyāya-Vaiśeika
terminology when they composed their commentaries on the Cārvākasūtra”.
A similar opinion on Aviddhakara has been upheld by Solomon (1972); see
also Solomon (1977-1978).
12Consider the following opinion of Halbfass (1991: p. 293): “the old [Cār-
vāka] ideas attributed to Bhaspati and Purandara were adjusted, modified,
and refined in response to the arguments presented by the Hindu and Bud-
dhist opponents”.
13For an outlook on the Vaiśeikasūtras see, among others, Matilal (1977: pp
53-59). All the quotations from the Vaiśeikasūtras, and the relative num-
ers of the aphorisms, when not specified otherwise, are here referred to
from Jambuvijayaji (1961).
8Quoted from Bhattacharya (2009: p. 81).
9Quoted from Bhattacharya (2009: p. 82).
10Quoted from Bhattacharya (2009: p. 81).
13. pthivyāpastejovāyurākāśakālodigātmāmaneti dravyā-
i |
“The substances are earth, water, heat, air, ether, time, s-
pace, self and mind”.
14. rūparasagandhasparśā sakhyā parimāāni pthakt-
va sayogavibhāgau paratvāparatve buddhaya suk-
hadukhe icchādveau prayatnaś ca guā |
“The qualities are form/colour, taste, odour, touch, num-
ber, weight, distinctiveness, conjunction, separation, other-
ness, non-otherness, cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, aver-
sion and effort”.
Besides the elements barely material, according to Vaiśei-
kas there are other non strictly material principles, such as time
or space. But what is worth noting here is that some among the
qualities listed in aphorism 14.—cognition, pleasure, pain, desi-
re, aversion and effort—are the same that Udbhaabhaṭṭa consi-
dered to be principles (see quotation 11.), which have the nature
of properties (see quotation 12.) of material bodies. Because of
the almost identical order according to which these qualities are
listed in both cases, it can be argued that Udbhaabhaṭṭa could
have been actually influenced by the Vaiśeikas. For instance,
he could have derived from the Vaiśeikas the very idea that
cognition, pleasure etc.—because they need a substratum for
actually taking place—should necessarily have the nature of
quality or property. What makes the fundamental difference
between Vaiśeika philosophy and Udbhaabhaṭṭa is the follo-
wing point: for Udbhaabhaṭṭa, cognition, pleasure etc. are all
independent attributes of the physical body, whereas for Vaiśe-
ikas, on the one hand, cognition is thought as a sign of the mi-
nd (manas) and, on the other hand, pleasure, pain, desire, aver-
sion and effort are thought as signs of the self (ātman), the body
being here confined to a secondary level or role. Indeed, as
concerning the mind, we read (Vaiśeikasūtra 3.2.1):
15. ātmendriyārthasannikare jñānasyābhāvo bhāvaś ca ma-
naso ligam |
“When there is contact between self, senses and object,
the presence or absence of cognition is the mark of the
Moreover, concerning the self we have the following apho-
rism (Vaiśeikasūtra 3.2.1):
16. prāāpānanimeonmeajīvanamanogatīndriyāntaravikā-
rā sukhadukhe icchādveau prayatnaś cety ātmaligā-
ni |
“The marks of the self are prāa and apāna [breaths],
closing and opening of the eyes, vital and mental mo-
tions, alteration of [some sense with] another sense, plea-
sure, pain, desire, aversion and effort”.
To that, it must be added that both mind and self are by the
Vaiśeikas believed to be everlasting substances. The following
aphorism, repeated twice (once referring to the mind and once
to the self) clarifies exactly this point (Vaiśeikasūtra 3.2.2, 5):
17. dravyatvanityatve vāyunā vyākhyāte |
“[Its] substance-hood and permanence are explained by
[the reference to] the air [which is unseen but exis-
It is because the mind and the self are conceived as eternal,
not strictly material elements, that they are denied by the mate-
rialist Cārvākas, who cannot admit that something does actually
survive to the death of the body.15 Even if we do not have any
specific fragment bearing witness on Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s position
on this particular issue, it is not difficult to imagine that also
him, like all the other Cārvākas, accepted this perspective. Con-
sequently, in theorizing the attributive nature of cognition,
pleasure, pain etc., Udbhaabhaṭṭa assigned to the body the sta-
tus of their substratum. In doing so, he implicitly refuses the
Vaiśeika opinion that, on the one side, the mind is the actual
substratum of cognition16 and, on the other side, the self is the
actual substratum of pleasure, pain etc. To say the truth, Udbha-
abhaṭṭa probably had to face himself with a later Vaiśeika
theory, according to which cognition was listed among the at-
tributes of the self, rather than among those of the mind. This
suspect acquires more substantiality when we compare the list
of the “other principles” in passage 11., quoted above, with the
following excerpt from Candrānanda’s (around 8th - 9th century
CE) Vaiśeikasūtravtti (Glosses on The Vaiśeika aphorisms)
15As fas as the theory of the existence of a former life is concerned, the
Cārvāka perspective is summarized for instance in the extant Tibetan
translation of Bhāviveka’s (6th century CE) Prajñāpradīpavtti (Glosses
called The lamp of wisdom) on Nāgārjuna’s (2nd century CE) Mūlamad-
hyamakakārikā (Root stanzas on the middle) stanza 16.1 (foll. 164a7-
b1): ’di ltar ma śi bai bar du gnas pa rnams la blo gcig kho nar zad pai
hyir te | de ltar re źig jig rten sa ma med do | | (“Thus, because, until
the[ir] death, there is nothing but one [faculty of] cognition for [each of]
those who remain [in this world], hence, then, [it is to be concluded that] a
former world does not exist”). Other Cārvāka arguments against the idea
of a stream of consciousness underlying several existences is met with in
the following excerpts. Tattvasagrahapañjikā ad Tattvasagraha verses
1871-1876 (Śāstrī, 1968: p. 637): punarukta deśāntara kalāntaram
avasthāntara vā paraloka (“It is repeted [by the Cārvākas] that the
world beyond [the present one] is another place, another time or another
condition”) . Tattvasagrahapañjikā ad Tattvasagraha verse 1938 (Śās-
trī, 1968: p. 663): ihalokaparalokaśarīrayor bhinnatvāt tadgatayor api
cittayor naika santāna (“Because of the difference between the body in
this world and [the body] in the world beyond, also the stream of the two
cognitions that adheres [respectively] to those [two bodies] is not the
same”). All these passages are referred to also in Bhattacharya (2009: p.
83), with the exception of the excerpt from Bhāviveka’s Prajñāpradī-
avtti that is quoted there from a Sanskrit restoration provided by San-
itkumar Sadhukhan (see Bhattacharya, 2009: p. 91). A text entirely de-
voted to the Buddhist rebuttal of the Cārvāka idea of the inexistence of a
world beyond the present one is Dharmottara’s (8th century CE) Paralo-
kasiddhi (The proof of rebirth), on account of which see Steinkellner
16See Candrānanda’s Vaiśeikasūtravtti (Glosses on The Vaiśeika apho-
risms) on Vaiśeikasūtra 3.2.1 (Jambuvijayaji, 1961: p. 28): ātmendriyār-
- thānā sannikare yadabhāvāj jñāna na bhavati yadbhāve ca bhavati
tad mana | evaānotpattyanutpattī manaso liga | (“When there is
contact of self, senses and objects, mind is that which, because of its
absence, there is no cognition, while in its presence, there is [cognition].
Thus, the occurrence and non occurrence of cognition is the mark of the
mind”). On the absence of cognition among the characteristics of the sel
in our aphorism 16. see Bronkhorst (1994: pp. 675-676). Within the phi-
losophical Vaiśeika horizon, cognition can be admitted as an attribute o
the mind because the mind is considered to be a substance and not, as it
happens in other systems of thought, an organ of sense (see below, note
23). In spite of its being a characteristic of the mind, cognition is in any
case accepted among the proofs of the existence of the self, as Vaiśe-
ikasūtra 3.1.2 is reputed to demonstrate: indriyārthaprasiddhir indri-
ārthebhyorthāntaratve hetu (“The accomplishment of [the contact
between] senses and objects [i.e., cognition,] is the proof of something
different from senses and objects”). It is perhaps for this very reason that
at a certain point in the development of Vaiśeika philosophy, and not-
withstanding the clear import of our aphorisms 15. and 16. quoted above,
cognition began to be considered a mark not of the mind, rather of the self,
as we will see in a while.
14The term vāyunā, “by the air” here refers to the arguments in favour of the
permanence of the air contained in Vaiśeikasūtra 2.1.11 (adravyavattvā
dravyam; “[The air] is a substance because of [its] non inherence to [other]
substances”) and 2.1.13 (adravyavattvena nityatvam uktam; “The perma-
nence [of the air] is affirmed by means of [its] non inherence to [other] sub-
stances”). The same reasoning, according to our aphorism 17., should be
applied to the self and the mind.
on Vaiśeikasūtra 3.2.17:17
18. tasya guā buddhisukhadukhecchādveaprayatnādṛṣṭ-
asaskārā vaiśeikā ||
“Its [scil. the self’s] peculiar qualities are cognition,
pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, effort, the unseen [me-
rit and demerit] and subliminal impressions”.
The list is almost identical in both cases, except for ādṛṣṭa
(“the unseen”, referring to karman, the moral law of cause and
effect) in Candrānanda’s passage, which is—so to speak—sub-
stituted by Udbhaabhaṭṭa with śabda (“sound”). In any case,
the Vaiśeika re-elaboration of the concept of “self”, of which
Udbhaabhaṭṭa was surely aware, does not invalidate in itself
his dialectical position towards the classical Vaiśeika dichoto-
my between the mind and the self. In sum, the point against
which Udbhaabhaṭṭa seems to hurl himself is the Vaiśeika
idea that cognition, pleasure etc., although they need a body for
actually taking place, depend nonetheless primarily on the mind
and the self (or on the self alone, according to Candrānanda): it
is, indeed, the presence of the mind and the self that for Vai-
śeikas would allow the origination or the manifestation of co-
gnition, pleasure etc. Therefore, a body devoid of a mind and a
self could not—we infer from our aphorism 15.—experience
any cognition, pleasure and so on. On the contrary, according to
Udbhaabhaṭṭa (and to Cārvākas in general), it is exactly be-
cause the occurrence of those events is observed to take place
only when and where there is a body, that we should consider
the body itself to be the actual basis for the intervention of cog-
nition etc. (this is the primary meaning of our aphorism 06.).
Consequently, the need for a mind and/or a self becomes com-
pletely unnecessary.
However, the materialistic reduction of psychological or psy-
cho-physical events, such as cognition or pleasure, to the sim-
ple aggregation of four material elements, and the total denial
of some non-physical substratum (mind, self or whatever), on
which make those events depend, may have put Udbhaab-
haṭṭa (and of course many other Cārvākas) in front of a serious
problem. Indeed, in order to be consistent with the assumption
that cognition, pleasure etc., are qualities or characteristics, the
Vaiśeikas admitted the mind and the self as their substantial
substrata. Furthermore, the Vaiśeika consideration that the
mind and the self are substances quite different from the mate-
rial elements that constitute the physical body represents a good
position to explain why events like cognition or desire etc.,
notwithstanding their being qualities, do not manifest them-
selves in the same way in which other (physical) qualities, like
form, taste etc., do. Indeed, being cognition, pleasure etc., psy-
chological characteristics, the ancient Vaiśeikas should have
remarked that their intervention into or onto the substance (s) to
which they adhere to, had to depend on precise and more ar-
ticulated causes than the causes allowing the manifestation of a
colour, of a form, and so on. To exemplify this point, we can
say that a white stone of 21 pounds remains always a stone that
is white and whose weight is 21 pounds: in this case the sub-
stance “stone” holds—so to speak—permanently the characteri-
stics “white” and “21 pounds”. Pleasure, on the contrary, rises
in or on its very substance only on certain occasions, and when
there is pleasure, generally there is not pain, which in its turn
takes place on other occasions. To justify, on the one hand, the
collection of all the cognitions, all the pleasures etc., experi-
enced in one’s life under a unifying principle that could gua-
rantee the reference of all those psychological events to the one
and the same person or body and, on the other hand, the fact
that a body is not always affected by cognitions, pleasures etc.,
the Vaiśeikas admitted the mind and the self as permanent
substances—underlying bodies—of, respectively, cognition and
pleasure, pain etc. Hence, for the ancient Vaiśeikas the cog-
nizing faculty can actually take place not merely when and
where there is a body, but primarily where and when there is an
active mind (which of course dwells in the body): in this way
they explain why cognition does not always characterize the
body. The same for the self with pleasure, pain etc.
The Cārvāka denial of any substance different from the body
and able to support the cognizing faculty, the pleasures etc.,
could have represented a serious philosophical problem in the
differentiation of bare characteristics (such as colour, form, and
so on), which are observed to belong always to their characteri-
zed, from psychological events (such as cognition, desire etc.)
that, albeit adhering to the same substratum, are nonetheless
occasional. Hence, facing this consideration, the fundamental
question could have been: how can we save the materialistic
assumption of the inexistence of the self etc., and simultaneou-
sly justify the fact that, because cognition, pleasure etc., mani-
fest themselves in one and the same body, but only on certain
occasions, they—unlike the other characteristics—seem to have
a sort of partial independence from their own substratum? Per-
haps, it is because he was impelled exactly by problems of this
kind that Udbhaabhaṭṭa theorized what could be called a new
materialistic ontology of cognition, rethinking it in terms of
svatantra (self-dependent). Of course, being both svatantra
(self-dependent) and bhūtārtha (material), cognition cannot ob-
viously be a mere characteristic: indeed, characteristics are by
definition paratantra, that is, “dependent on something other”.18
Therefore, if a certain thing is not a characteristic tout court, it
must have also some aspect of the nature of the characterized,
that is, of a principle, a tattva. However, cognition as a prince-
ple is observed to take place only in the presence of a body
(constituted in its turn by other principles). This means that,
when a body is absent, also what depends on it does not occur:
it is for this very reason—I suggest—that earth, water etc. are
taken to be bhūtas (elements) while cognition is defined by
Udbhaabhaṭṭa as bhūtārtha (litt: “object/thing made by/based
on elements”; see quotation 09. above). To put it in simple wo-
rds, cognition in Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s system of thought preserves
its—so to speak—behaviour of property, without being exactly
a property: it can be described as a secondary or auxiliary prin-
ciple (that is, not a principle tout court). Transposed in more
philosophical terms, we could say that Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s cogni-
tion seems to lie on a double ontology: it is a characteristic
when compared with its substance (i.e., the body), but it is also
17Jambhuvijayaji (1961: p. 31). Note the presence of “subliminal impres-
sions” (saskāra) among the characteristics of the self. Another thinker,
who flourished some century before Candrānanda, namely the Buddhist
Bhāviveka, asserted a similar perspective in his Tarkajvālā. Bhāviveka, in-
deed, upheld that the Vaiśeikas admitted the following qualities of the sel
(I quote from He, 2011: p. 25, note 8): blo da | bde ba da | sdug bsal ba
da | dod pa da | źe sda ba da | bad pa da | chos da | chos ma yin pa
da | śes pa da | dus byas (“Cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion,
effort, merit, demerit, knowledge and subliminal impressions”). He (2011: p
25) translates dus byas with “conditioned”, thus interpreting this term as
meaning saskta. No doubt that here it is to be taken rather as the Tibetan
translation of the Sanskrit saskāra. Bhāviveka belongs to the so called
Vaiśeika “dark period” (Matilal, 1977: pp. 59-62) and for this very reason
his witness is particularly important for the reconstruction of the history o
Vaiśeika philosophy.
18In Vaiśeikasūtra 1.1.15, the author describes the nature of a quality (gua)
as: dravyāśrayī agunavān (“Resting on a substance and not endowed with
[other] qualities”).
an independent principle when compared with the other char-
acteristics of its very substratum.19 A reasoning of such a kind
could have been what led Udbhaabhaṭṭa to reformulate the
Cārvāka idea of cognition.
Of course, all this would remain only a supposition, although
likely, unless we find some further corroboration. I suggest he-
re—also on the basis of the abovementioned familiarity of Ud-
bhaabhaṭṭa with the Nyāya philosophy—that a possible argu-
ment in favour of this thesis could be (found) forshadowed in
some passages of Vātsyāyana’s (4th - 5th century CE) Nyāya-
sūtrabhāya against materialism, with which Udbhaabhaṭṭa cer-
tainly had to face up to.
Vātsyāyana on Cognition and His Criticism
towards Materialism
Before taking into account Vātsyāyana’s reasoning, it will be
helpful here to contextualize in brief the general, classical Nyā-
ya perspective on cognition—as is drawn in the Nyāyasūtras
(The Nyāya aphorisms)—and the subjects related to it. To be-
gin with, we find that the principles admitted by the Naiyāyi-
kas are five (Nyāyasūtra 1.1.13):20
19. pthivyāpastejovāyurākāśam iti bhūtāni |
“Earth, water, heat, wind and ether are the elements”.
Moreover, we are also reminded that several words are to be
taken as synonyms referring to cognition (Nyāyasūtra 1.1.15):
20. buddhir upalabdhir jñānam ity anarthāntaram |
“Cognition, conception and knowledge have the same
On the basis of this specification we are allowed to consider
all these three terms as indicating the same faculty. This is an
important assumption for correctly interpreting the excerpts that
follow. Taking these aphorisms as general premises, let us con-
sider now the following one (Nyāyasūtra 1.1.10):
21. icchādveaprayatnasukhadukhajñānāni ātmano ligam
iti |
“Desire, aversion, effort, pleasure, pain and cognition are
the mark of the self”.
What is worth noting here, is the fact that according to the
Naiyāyikas, contrarily to what was asserted by the ancient Vai-
śeikas (see our aphorisms 15. and 16.), but in at least partial
accordance with the abovementioned position of Candrānanda,
also cognition is a characteristic of the self. However, like in
the case of Vaiśeikas, the Naiyāyikas accepted the existence of
a self,21 which is conceived as an entity that, albeit its dwelling
within the body, survives to the physical or biological death
(Nyāyasūtra 1.1.9 mentions pretyabhāva, litt. “the state after
death”, as a peculiarity of the the self). Consequently, the body
is described as nothing but the place or the means that allows
the self’s wordly experiences (Nyāyasūtra 1.1.11):
22. ceṣṭendriyārthāśraya śarīram |
“The body is the recipient of exertion, senses and [the
feelings derived from] objects”.
It is interesting, in this respect, to notice that Vātsyāyana, in
his Nyāyasūtrabhāya, clearly interprets the body as an instru-
ment of the self. Introducing his discussion on the aphorism just
quoted, he indeed writes:22
23. tasya bhogādhiṣṭhānam |
“[The body] is the basis of its [scil. self’s] experiences”.
The reason why the Naiyāyikas conceived the body as the
seat of the sense organs can be, in my opinion, understood quite
intuitively. Not so for exertion and objects, for which we need
to have recourse to Vātsyāyana’s interpretation:23
24. katha ceṣṭāśraya | īpsita jihāsita vārtham adhikt-
yepsājihāsāprayuktasya tadupāyānuṣṭhānalakaā samī-
hā ceṣṭā sā yatra vartate tac charīram | […] katham ar-
thāśraya | yasmin āyatane indriyārthasannikarād ut-
pannayo sukhadukhayo pratisavedana pravartate
sa eām āśraya tac charīram iti |
“How [is the body] a recipient for exertion? Concerning a
thing desired or avoided, exertion [consists in] the wish—
which aims at carring out the means for [obtaining or
avoiding] that [thing]—of appropriate desire to obtain or
desire to abandon; the place in which this [exertion] takes
place is the body. […] How [is the body] a recipient for
objects? The enjoyment of pleasure and pain arisen be-
cause of the contact between senses and objects occurs
where there is such a support [viz. the body, consequently]
that which is the recipient of those [objects], is the body”.
We conclude, hence, that the Naiyāyikas considered the self
as the actual experiencer of cognition, desire, aversion, pleasure
and pain, whereas the body would have a mere role of occa-
sioning factor or, better said, of bare place for the occurrence of
these very experiences. Furthermore, by not admitting—as, on
the contrary, the ancient Vaiśeikas did—the mind as substra-
tum of cognition,24 the Naiyāyikas had to refer the articulation
22Sastri Tailanga (1984: p. 25).
23Sastri Tailanga (1984: pp. 25 - 26), with the following readings: tadupāyā-
tadupāyānuṣṭhānalakaā; varttate vartate; ya-
sminn yasmin; utpannayo sukhadukhayo pravartate sa eām āśraya
ratisavedana utpannayo sukhadukhayo pratisavedana pra-
vartate sa eām āśraya.
24The most important distinction between the ancient Vaiśeika and the
aiyāyika psychologies lies in their different interpretation of the mind.
According to the Naiyāyikas, indeed, the mind is to be intended as having
the nature of internal sense organeven if it is not explicitly defined as
such in the Nyāyasūtras. Vātsyāyana is quite clear on this point in his com-
mentary on Nyāyasūtra 1.1.4 (Sastri Tailanga, 1984: p. 13): manas aś cen-
driyabhāvān na vācya lakaāntaram iti | tantrāntarasamācārāc caita
atyetavyam iti | paramatam apratiiddham anumatam iti hi tantrayukti|
(“And [mind] is not explicitly mentioned as another attribute [of perception,
different from the five sense organs,] because of the nature of sense organ o
the mind. This [notion] is to be admitted because of the customary [accep-
tance of it] in other systems [of thought]: it is indeed usage with [other]
systems that an opinion different [from ours, when] not denied, is [impli-
citly] approved”). Whereas, the Vaiśeikasūtras (Comba, 1987: p. 44):
“never clearly state that the manas is an indriya, on the contrary they de-
scribe it as something very different from the sense organs: the manas is
substance (dravya), while the sense organs are made of substances but do
not constitute separate substances; the manas is eternal, while the sense
organs die with the body, because of their composite and elemental nature;
the functions of the manas are totally different from the functions of sense
organs […]; every time that the sūtras speak of the manas and of the sense
organs, they are listed separately”. For a clear survey on the philosophical
import of Vaiśeika into Vātsyāyana’s thought see Thakur (2003: pp.
19What has been called here “double ontology”referring to a dialectical
perspectiveis to be considered as a quite different concept from Bhatta-
charya’s (2010a: p. 424) “the dualist position adopted by Udbhaa”refer-
ring rather to a philosophical definition. See also Bhattacharya (2010a: pp.
423, 427-428). According to Bhattacharya (2010b: p. 538): “
y saying that
consciousness is independent of the four elements that constitute the human
body Udbhaa leaves the door open to a non-materialist position. The Cār-
vāka position was essentially monistic: no body, no consciousness”. But, as
we have seen, our quotation 12. prevents us to think that for Udbhaabhaṭṭ
there could be actually any cognition without a body, a concept that seems to
e somehow forshadowed also in quotation 09., where cognition is said to be
bhūtārtha, “an object/thing made by/based on the elements”. Thus, the in-
dependence of cognition seems to be a concept that is dialectically (it is
svatantra without exactly being svatantra), more than philosophically use-
20All the quotations from the Nyāyasūtras follow the edition Chandra, Sinha
21A discussion on the Naiyāyika proofs of the existence of the self is avail-
able, among others, in Chakravarti (1982).
of all the psychological events to the self.25 This means that the
self is not only what experiences the various feelings and de-
sires, but it is also the actual knower of them. Hence, if the
ancient Vaiśeikas kept separated the feelings (referring to the
self) from cognition (referring to the mind), the Naiyāyikas—as
apparently some later Vaiśeikas like Candrānanda—prefer to
unify all these elements under one single factor, namely, the
self. The self is thus capable of both knowing and feeling.
Now, it seems to me that Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s idea of cognition
conceptually followed more—so to speak—the “self” unifying
principle of the Naiyāyikas, than the “self-mind” dichotomy
proposed by the ancient Vaiśeikas. Indeed, on the basis of the
abovementioned passage 12., and considered the fact that Ud-
bhaabhaṭṭa, as specified above, could not admit the existence
of a self without contravening the basic Cārvāka stance, we can
easily understand why for him cognition must represent not
only the knowing faculty (being it, by definition, the knowing
faculty) of the body, but also what experiences pleasures, pains
etc. In other words, Udbhaabhaṭṭa seems to confer to cognition
the same role that in the Nyāya system is played by the self.
Now, keeping in mind all what precedes and considering it as
a general premiss, let us turn our attention to a particular pas-
sage of Vātsyāyana’s commentary on the Nyāyasūtras, from
which we can take a sketch of the pre-Udbhaabhaṭṭa Cārvāka
argumentation in favour of the physicity of cognition. Accord-
ing to Vātsyāyana’s Nyāyasūtrabhāya ad Nyāyasūtra 3.2.35-
36, the first of these two aphorisms would expound a theory,
attributed to a general opponent, a partisan of materialism (call-
ed bhūtacaitanika, a term referring to the upholder of the doc-
trine that cognition is from material elements, and recalling our
aphorism 03.), according to whom activity (ārambha) and inac-
tivity (nivtti)—that in Nyāyasūtra 3.2.34 are said to be occa-
sioned by desire and aversion (which are, in their turn, the
marks/properties of the self, as our quotation 20. clearily testi-
fies)—would belong to the physical body. The second aphorism,
on the contrary, represents the Naiyāyikas’ answer:26
25. atra bhūtacaitanika āha | [Nyāyasūtra 3.2.35:] talliga-
tvād icchādveayo pārthivādyev apratiedha || āra-
mbhanivttiligāv icchādveāv iti yasyārambhanivttī ta-
syecchādveau tasya jñānam iti prāpta pārthivāpy ata-
ijasavāyavīyānā śarīrāām ārambhanivttidarśanād ic-
chādveajñānair yoga iti caitanyam |
[Nyāyasūtra 3.2.36:] paraśvādiv ārambhanivttidarśa-
nāt || śarīre caitanyanivtti | ārambhanivttidarśanād
icchādveajñānair yoga iti prāpta paraśvāde karaa-
syārambhanivttidarśanāc caitanyam iti | atha śarīra-
syecchādibhir yoga paraśvādes tu karaasyārambhani-
vttī vyabhicarata na tarhy aya hetu pārthivāpy
ataijasavāyavīyānā śarīrāām ārambhanivttidarśanād
icchādveajñānair yoga iti |
aya tarhy anyortha talligatvād icchādveayo pār-
thivādyev apratiedha | pthivyādīnā bhūtānām āra-
mbhas tāvat trasasthāvaraśarīreu tadavayavavyūha-
liga pravttiviśea loṣṭādiu ca ligābhāvāt pravtti-
viśeābhāvo nivtti | ārambhanivttiligāv icchādveāv
iti pārthivādyev auu taddarśanād icchādveayogas
tadyogāj jñānayoga iti siddha bhūtacaitanyam iti |
kumbhādiv anupalabdher ahetu | kumbhādimdavaya-
vānā vyūhaliga pravttiviśea ārambha sikatādiu
pravttiviśeābhāvo nivtti | na ca mtsikatānām āram-
bhanivttidarśanād icchādveaprayatnajñānair yoga |
tasmāt talligatvād icchādveayor ity ahetur iti ||
“There, the adherent to the doctrine that cognition is from
material elements says: [Nyāyasūtra 3.2.35] “Because
they are marks of those [activity and inactivity, which
takes place only in presence of a body], there [can] not
[be] negation of desire and aversion in these [bodies]
made by earth etc.” Desire and aversion are the marks of
activity and inactivity; [therefore,] activity and inactivity
[are characteristics] of some thing, of which [also] desire
and aversion [are characteristics, and] it is proper [to
think] that [also] knowledge [must be a characteristic] of
that [very thing]; moreover, the [body] made by earth—
because activity and inactivity are observed [to be the
marks] of bodies not [composed by] igneous and aereal
[elements]—does possess desire, aversion and knowledge,
and hence cognition.
[Nyāyasūtra 3.2.36] “[We Naiyāyikas reject all this,] be-
cause activity and absence of activity are observed in
[inanimated things like] axes etc.” [This functions as a]
rebuttal of [the idea that] cognition is in the body. [If] it
were proper [to admit] that the combination of desire,
aversion and knowledge [belongs to the body] because
activity and inactividy are observed [in it, then] cognition
[should be a property also] of instruments like an axe etc.,
because activity and inactivity are observed [also there].
But, [if only] the body possesses desire etc., then activity
and inactivity of instruments such as an axe etc. deviate
from [your argument], and in that case this [of yours] is
not a [valid] reason [for upholding that]: moreover, the
[body] made by earth—because activity and inactivity
are observed [to be the marks] of bodies not [composed
by] igneous and aereal [elements]—does possess desire,
aversion and knowledge.
25To explain this point in brief, let us follow this reasoning. Nyāyasūtra 1.1.16:
ugapaj jñānānutpatt
manaso liga | (“The non-arising of simultaneous
cognitions is the mark of the mind”). In this aphorism the function of the mind is
limited to the simple sieving of the several cognitions coming from the senses
and it does not, as in the abovementioned Vaiśeikas’ aphorims 15., constitute
the primary element whose presence allows consequently the presence of cogni-
tion. The perspective put forward in Nyāyasūtra 1.1.16 represents the theoretical
basis for Nyāyasūtra 3.2.19: yugapaj jñeyānupalabdheś ca na manasa | (“An
[cognition does] not [belong] to the mind because of the non perception o
simultaneous cognised objects”). Vātsyāyana comments on this last aphorism as
follows (Sastri Tailanga, 1984: p. 168): yugapaj jñeyānupalabdhir antakar-
aasya ligam tatra yugapaj jñeyānupalabdhyā yad anumīyate antakaraam
na tasya guo jñānam | kasya tarhi jñasya vaśitvāt | vaśīātā vaśya karaam
ñānaguatve ca karaabhāvanivtti | (“The non perception of simultaneous
cognised objects is the mark of the internal instrument [of cognition, scil. the
mind]; therefore, by means of the non perception of simultaneous cognised
objects, the internal instrument is inferred; [hence,] cognition is not a quality o
that [internal instrument]. Of what then [is cognition a quality]? [It is the quality]
of the cognizer [scil. the self], because of [its] being the controller. The control-
ler is the knower and the controlled is the instrument, and if [the mind] had the
quality of cognition, [there would be] cessation of [its] being an instrument”).
Therefore, according to the Naiyāyikas, cognition cannot be the mark of the
mind, rather it is the mark of the self. To the mind seems to belong the capacit
of processing just one cognition at a time.
26Sastri Tailanga (1984: p. 174). The enumeration of the aphorisms in Sastri
Tailanga’s edition differs from ours as follows: Nyāyasūtra 3.2.35 is Sastri
Tailanga’s Nyāyasūtra 3.2.36, and Nyāyasūtra 3.2.36 is Sastri Tailanga’s
yāyasūtra 3.2.37.
[Objection by the materialist:] in that case, this [sūtra],
“Because they are marks of those [activity and inactivity],
there [can] not [be] negation of desire and aversion in
these [bodies] made by earth etc.” has [to be interpreted
according to] another meaning. Activity is [a property] of
elements like earth etc., insofar as there is a particular
spontaneous attitude in moving or immovable [living]
bodies, which is a mark of the component limbs of those
[very bodies], and inactivity is the absence of that par-
ticular spontaneous attitude in [for instance] a lump of
clay etc., because of the absence of that mark. Desire and
aversion are the marks of activity and inactivity; as those
[activity and inactivity] are observed in the atoms27 of
those [elements like] the earthy one etc., there is con-
junction with desire and aversion. Because there is con-
junction with those [two], there is [also] conjunction with
knowledge. Thus it is established that cognition [belongs]
to elements.
[Answer: your argument] is not a [valid] reason because
of the non perception [of activity and inactivity] in [ob-
jects like] a jar etc. [Indeed, if we follow your reasoning,]
activity [should be also] a particular spontaneous attitude
that is the mark of the [whole] structure of the portions of
clay of a jar etc., and inactivity [should be] the absence of
that particular spontaneous attitude in [things such as]
gravel etc. [where there is no structure of parts]; but [in
these inanimate things] there is not conjunction with de-
sire, aversion, effort and knowledge [simply] because ac-
tivity and inactivity of jars and gravel are observed.
Therefore, “of desire and aversion, because they are mar-
ks of those” is not a [valid] reason».
The objection raised here by the hypothetical materialist can
be summarized in the following terms: (a) activity (ārambha) is
a mark of only the living beings (both movable, as animals, and
immovable, as vegetals); (b) activity is due to a particular
spontaneous attitude (pravttiviśea) that is peculiar to those
living beings; (c) this particular spontaneous attitude can be
peculiar to living beings because in primis it is a mark of the
material elements that constitute their parts, and manifests itself
only when and where the elements attain the form and nature of
a living being. Moreover, it is worth noting that (d) cognition is
by the materialist proved to belong to the material elements on
the basis of its link with desire and aversion (as the sentence
tadyogāj jñānayoga, “because there is conjunction with them,
there is conjunction with cognition”, reveals), which are seen in
their turn as the marks of activity and inactivity.
All this reminds us of the abovementioned passage 12., in
which Udbhaabhaṭṭa speaks of a particular intrinsic nature
(svabhāvaviśea, to compare with pravttiviśea, “particular sp-
ontaneous attitude”, of quotation 25.), which is described as a
property (dharma, to compare with tadav ayavavy ūhaliga, “ma-
rk of the component limbs of those [bodies]”, of quotation 25.)
peculiar to the body, and which is able to experience pleasures,
pains, desires and aversions.
The argument of the materialist against which Vātsyāyana
directs his criticism seems, in any case, to have some weak as-
pect. Indeed, if the materialist upholds that desire and aversion
exist where activity and inactivity exist, Vātsyāyana argues that
activity and inactivity can be observed also in non living beings,
as for instance in an axe (whose activity depends on someone’s
utilization of it). The fundamental critical point is, therefore, the
following one: Vātsyāyana rejects the idea according to which
activity and inactivity are primarily defined as marks of bodies,
which are in their turn thought to be an assemblage of different
component parts, each of them subjected to activity and inac-
tivity. Indeed, Vātsyāyana points out that also inanimate objects
have parts—like for example a jar, which has a lip, handels
etc.—, but nobody would admit that these parts do actually ex-
perience desire, aversion etc. It follows that (A) cognition (and
desire and aversion as well) cannot be a simple or mere proper-
ty of the elements, otherwise it should be present in each ele-
ment, with the consequence that every single body would have
a number of cognitions according to as many elements concure
to constitute it (Nyāyasūtrabhāya ad Nyāyasūtra 3.2.37):28
26. bhūtacaitanikasyaikaśarīre bahūni bhūtāni jñānecchād-
veaprayatnaguānīti jñātbahutva prāptam |
“[If we accept the idea] of the adherent to the doctrine
that cognition is from material elements, [then] the va-
rious material elements [present] in a single body [would
each one] have the qualities of cognition, desire, aversion
and effort; [thus, we will] come to a multitude of cogni-
zers [in one and the same body]”.
Cognition (B) cannot be either a property of the parts that
constitute a body as such, otherwise it would/should be pre-
sent—according to Vātsyāyana’s reasoning—in almost every
body, because the majority of the existents are formed by dif-
ferent parts linked together (like in the case of a man, a jar etc.).
This is, I think, a good example of the kind of criticism to
which Udbhaabhaṭṭa intended to answer to with his reformula-
tion of the Cārvāka idea of cognition: to admit that cognition is
a bhūtārtha svatantra (a self-dependent thing consituted by
material elements), as we have seen, allows Udbhaabhaṭṭa to
confer to it a certain degree of autonomy from the body, on
which it depends nonetheless in toto for its manifestation.
Moreover, by virtue of its partial autonomy, cognition does not
depend stricto sensu on bare elements (atoms etc.) or on the
component limbs of a body tout court. Rather, it takes place as
a—so to speak— added principle, but only when and where the
elements are mixed up in a certain, precise manner, to consti-
tute bodies whose parts are organized in a likewise certain and
precise way. The concept of a svatantra (self-dependent) cogni-
tion, which is also a svabhāvaviśea (particular intrinsic nature)
of the body, therefore, can represent a tentative dialectical re-
sponse to both the abovementioned Vātsyāyana’s objections (A)
and (B).
Cognition, pleasure, pain etc., are defined by Udbhaabhaṭṭa
both as principles and as properties of the human body, for
distinguishing them from what we have called the bare proper-
ties, like colour, weight etc., which are characteristics not pecu-
liar to human bodies, but belonging to every existing thing.
Indeed, cognition, pleasure etc. are really of a particular nature,
because they do not manifest themselves for all the time their
substantial substratum remains present, as colour or weight ac-
tually do. This aspect—namely, the occasionality of cognition,
pleasure etc.—marks a fundamental difference also with, for
instance, the quality “inhebriating power” belonging to the su-
bstance “liquour” (see our aphorism 04.). When, in fact, the mi-
xture of ferments, juices etc., develops its alcoholic degree, this
alcoholic degree remains permanent in that very substance. In
other terms, a case in which a liquour does not manifest the
27The Sanskrit term au generally refers to “atom”. Atoms, according to
certain philosophers (among which the Vaiśeikas) would represent the
basic particles of every material element (earth, water etc.). Although Vāt-
syāyana’s reference to aus (atoms) is probably due to the fact that materi-
alists known to him upheld atomism (see Sinha, 1952: p. 242), nonetheless
we do not have any certain data on whether Cārvākas or other schools o
materialism were atomists or not. A
ossible source in favour of Cārvākas’
atomism could be for instance Guaratnasūri’s (14th - 15th century CE)
Tarkarahasyadīpikā (The lamp of subtle points on reasoning) on Haribha-
drasūri’s (8th century CE) adarśanasamuccaya (Collection of six points o
view) verses 48 - 49, where the materialistic point of view on this subject is
explained as follows (Jain, 1981: p. 218): aavopi hy apratyakā kitu
haādikāryatayā pariatās te pratyakatvam upayānti (“Although the
atoms are imperceptible, nevertheless [when] developed into the condition
of an effect [of their mixture,] like a jar etc., they gain perceptibility”).
28Sastri Tailanga (1984: p. 175). According to Sastri Tailanga’s edition this
is the commentary on Nyāyasūtra 3.2.39.
inhebriating power as its quality is not given, whereas we con-
tinuously have experience of ourselves enjoying pleasures and
pains only on certain occasions. Also cognition takes place just
when we cognize. Therefore, for instance, during the deep sleep
the cognizing faculty is reputed to be suspended. This means
that the simile of the liquour (the lion’s roar of the materialistic
conception of cognition), although being very attractive, does
not represent with the due accuracy the relation existing be-
tween body and cognition. The learned Vātsyāyana should have
remarked, and consequently criticized, exactly this kind of in-
Udbhaabhaṭṭa tried, with his reformulation of the nature of
cognition, to find a new definition of the psychological events
that were, at one time, in line with the materialistic assump-
tions—according to which cognition would be nothing but a
factor that is subordinated (note the compounds caitanyaviśiṣṭa,
“characterized by cognition”, in aphorism 05., and svabhāvavi-
śea, “particular intrinsic nature”, in quotation 12.) to the hu-
man body—, but more philosophically and dialectically ar-
ticulated—although it is definded by him as svatantra (self-de-
pendent), Udbhaabhaṭṭa’s cognition is not at all an independent
principle in the same way in which the four elements of the
aphorism 01. are independent, and nonetheless it is less de-
pendent on that four elements than a bare quality, such as co-
lour, weight etc., is to conclude, we can suppose that Udbha-
abhaṭṭa did so for better preventing and/or rebutting some pos-
sible spiritualistic or anti-materialistic objections, among which
those pointed out by Vātsyāyana undoubtedly represent a good
I would like to thank in particular Antonio Rigopoulos for
having read a draft of this paper, for his comments and sug-
gestions, Gianni Pellegrini for having discussed with me some
among the Sanskrit passages quoted here and Chiara Zaccone
for her valuable help in amending and refining the English text.
Moreover, I would have never been able to draw up the present
article without having been acquainted with the work and writ-
ings of Ramkrishna Bhattacharya—and without the intense epi-
stolary relationship occurred between him and me, to whom I
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