A Translation and Investigation of Vidyānandin’s Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā

Published: 30.10.2017

Centre of Jaina Studies Newsletter: SOAS - University of London

My thesis, A Translation and Investigation of the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā (Investigation into the True Teaching), focuses on a 10th century Jain philosophical Sanskrit text composed by the Digambara philosopher Vidyānandin. Though it has been known and available since around 1920, the text has received little scholarly attention. It was edited —based on three manuscripts— and published by Gokul Chandra Jain in 1964, with a foreword by Nathmal Tatia. It is this edition that has been used as a basis for the present translation. In addition to this, a transliteration of the Sanskrit text of the chapter dealing with the Vijñānādvaita (Yogācāra Buddhism) was published by Jayandra Soni (2003), and parts of the Vaiśeṣika chapter have been translated into German and form the basis of a doctoral dissertation by Himal Trikha, submitted at the University of Vienna in 2009. With the exception of Trikha's indepth study of the parts of the Vaiśeṣika chapter dealing with the Vaiśeṣika concept of samavāya, what little treatment this text has received has been rather superficial. While Trikha has translated parts of the introduction and about two thirds of the chapter dealing with Vaiśeṣika philosophy into German and accomplished a very deep philosophical investigation of these parts, the aim of my thesis has been to provide a more comprehensive study of this work as a whole and to make an English translation of the entire text.

The text, as it stands today, makes up 47 pages in Devanāgari print, and it presents and refutes 12 Indian philosophical systems, the most important of which are Sautrāntika and Yogācāra Buddhism, Advaita Vedānta, Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Mīmāṃsā and Cārvāka. Focusing on ontological issues and criticizing these from the standpoint of the Jain anekāntavāda (theory of manysidedness), Vidyānandin aims to establish the superior status of Jain philosophy.

From Vidyānandin's introduction and the structure of the text it is clear that the text either originally comprised, or was intended to comprise, 10 chapters refuting altogether 13 rival philosophical systems and establishing Jainism as the true teaching. Chapters 9 and 10, dealing with the Tattvopaplavavāda (the sceptical branch of the Cārvāka) and the Anekāntavāda (here refering to Jain philosophy as a whole) respectivelly, are lost or were never composed, and the text breaks off in the Mīmāṃsā chapter. The original structure of the text was thus intended as an investigation and refutation of the various one-sided (ekānta) rival doctrinal systems culminating in a demonstration of the truth of the Anekāntavāda. This is consistent with the text's title and the goals expressed by Vidyānandin in his introduction. The goal of the text was to demonstrate that the Jain Anekāntavāda is the true teaching as only it is not contradicted by perception and inference (dṛṣṭeṣṭāviruddhatva).

In addition to providing an English translation of this text from the Sanskrit, with explanatory notes, the thesis also places it in the context of Jain philosophy and investigates the arguments Vidyānandin employs in his refutations of his rivals. The doctrines Vidyānandin ascribes to his rivals are also examined and compared to presentations of their doctrines both in secondary literature on Indian philosophy and in the original literature of the schools in question. Some issues are highlighted as requiring further research.

An interesting example of such an issue calling for further study is Vidyānandin's presentation of the Buddhist eightfold path in §§4-5 of the Bauddha Pūrvapakṣa. Firstly, the path is referred to by the word mārgaṇa ('desiring', 'seeking', 'begging', not found in the MMW with the meaning 'path'), and not the usual mārga ('path', 'road'). Further, the eightfold path presented here does not match any standard presentation of the Buddhist eightfold path, in some cases incorporating what seems to be considerable Jain influence by adding more ascetic elements. A detailed account of the differences is not possible here, but one example is the usual second member of the path, samyaksaṃkalpa (right resolve) being replaced by saṃjñā ('name', 'term'), explained by Vidyānandin as 'the expressing word'. Another example is the seventh member of the path ājīvasthiti ('lasting for life'), which is similar to the usual samyagājīva ('right livelihood') in name only as Vidyānandin explains it as 'holding one's breath until there is cessation of life'. Given Vidyānandin's general accuracy in presenting his rival's doctrines, it is curious that his presentation of the eightfold path shows such drastic dissimilarities with other sources.

The thesis further investigates the influence of Vidyānandin's predecessors Samantabhadra (ca 600 CE) and Akalaṅka (ca 770 CE) on Vidyānandin's argumentation and overall strategy. This influence has been investigated with reference to Samantabhadra's Āptamīmāṃsā and Akalaṅka's Aṣṭaśatī (a commentary on the Āptamīmāṃsā), and is visible in several ways. It is not surprising that Vidyānandin should be influenced by both Samantabhadrta and Akalaṅka. Samantabhadra was after all an important figure in Jain philosophy and Vidyānandin's predecessor. In addition, Vidyānandin wrote a commentary on the Āptamīmāṃsā (Aṣṭasahasrī), a work on which Akalaṅka also wrote a commentary.

Firstly, Vidyānandin's overall strategy, focusing on one-sided ontological doctrines, is clearly influenced by the model set up by Samantabhadra in his Āptamīmāṃsā. As has been pointed out by Dixit (1971: 137), the sections of the Āptamīmāṃsā dealing with ontological issues are structured around six pairs of mutually contradictory views, such as 'everything is absolutely permanent' and 'everything is absolutely transient', etc. Samantabhadra then refuted these views as one-sided, establishing that only a non-one-sided synthesis of these views is tenable. In other words, reality is both permanent and transient.

This approach is taken up by Vidyānandin in the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā as well, and several of the onesided ontological doctrines dealt with by Samantabhadra are found in the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā. The structure of the two texts is, however, different in significant ways. Firstly, while the Āptamīmāṃsā is written in verse, the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā is not. Secondly, and more importantly, while the Āptamīmāṃsā is structured around the above mentioned one-sided doctrines, the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā is structured around specific rival philosophical schools, arguing against one such school at the time. So while Samantabhadra never names his opponents in the Āptamīmāṃsā and the general one-sided doctrines he argues against —such as 'everything is absolutely permanent'—  can in varying degrees be ascribed to several philosophical systems, Vidyānandin's critique of his opponents is more direct. While Samantabhadra in a sense argues against more general one-sided stances, Vidyānandin —though relying very much on the model and arguments of Samantabhadra and Akalaṅka— argues against specific rival schools.

The clearest example of this influence is however shown on comparing the sections of the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā in which Vidyānandin quotes the Āptamīmāṃsā of Samantabhadra with Akalaṅka's commentary to these verses in his Aṣṭaśatī. Here it is seen that Vidyānandin draws heavily on Akalaṅka's work, the two texts sometimes being identical. On the other hand it is also seen that Vidyānandin utlizes Akalaṅka's text in new and creative ways. For instance, in §§24-26 of the Bauddha Uttarapakṣa, Vidyānandin utilizes the whole of Akalaṅka's commentary (word for word) to verse 62 of the Āptamīmāṃsā. This verse, and Akalaṅka's commentary on it in the Aṣṭaśatī, is directed towards the Vaiśeṣika concept of absolute difference between parts and wholes. But instead of using Akalaṅka's arguments against the Vaiśeṣika, Vidyānandin here uses them as a hypothetical objection raised by the Sautrāntika Buddhists against the Jains.

As constraints of both time and space did not permit it, a thorough comparison of the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā with Vidyānandin's Aṣṭasahasrī has not been undertaken. However, a comparison of §§35-36 of the Bauddha Uttarapakṣa of the Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā with Aṣṭasahasrī 183/6-8 (published and translated by Jayandra Soni in 2009) reveals great similarities betweeen the two texts. It is thus likely that further such comparison would reveal similar correspondance between the two works.

The findings of the present thesis show the need for a broader and more thorough investigation of the relationship between the works of Samantabhadra, Akalaṅka and Vidyānandin, as well as of the relationship between Vidyānandin's works. This thesis is a contribution to further understanding the relationship between these three important Jain philosophers, though much work still remains to be done.


Dixit, Krishna Kumar. Jaina Ontology. Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1971.

Jain, G. C. (ed.). Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā of Āchārya Vidyānandī, with Hindi Introduction and Appendices. Varanasi: Bhāratīya Jñānpītha, 1964.

Soni, Jayandra. 'Vidyānandin's Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā and His Examination of the Buddhist Vijñānādvaita'. Jainism and Early Buddhism – Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini. Edited by Olle Qvarnström, 677-88. Fremont California: Asian Humanities Press, 2003.

Soni, Jayandra. 'A Section of Vidyānandin's Critique of Buddhism'. Pāsādikadānaṃ – Festschrift für Bhikkhu Pāsādika, edited by Martin Straube, Roland Steiner, Jayandra Soni, Michael Hahn and Mitsuyo Demoto, 449-58. Marburg: Indica et Tibetica, 2009.

Trikha, Himal. Schluss mit ungültigen Perspektiven! Polemik gegen das Vaiśeṣika in der Satyaśāsanaparīkṣā des Digambara Vidyānandin vor der Hintergrund des kritischen Perspektivismus der Jainas. Wien: University of Vienna, 2009.

Jens Wilhelm Borgland received an MA Sanskrit from the University of Oslo in 2010. He is currently working on translations into Norwegian of Jain Prakrit works (Mahāvīra's biography in the Kalpasūtra, parts of the Uttarādhyayana and Sūtrakṛtāṅga and stories from Kamalasaṃyama's and Devendra's commentaries on the Uttarādhyayana) which will be published in Norway next year.

CoJS Newsletter • March 2011 • Issue 6
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