Buddhist Texts · Cārvāka/Lokāyata

♦ Lokākṣa on causation: Avalokitavrata’s apparently discordant perspectives

In what follows, I  provide the English translation of some passages from Avalokitavrata’s Ṭīkā on Bhāviveka’s Prajñāpradīpa on Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakarika, from which some apparently discordant perspectives on the theory of causation of *Lokākṣa (’Jig rten mig), a mahārṣi among the Lokāyatas, are outlined. This is only a preliminary and incomplete collection (based only on the volume dBu-ma, Wa of the sDe-dge edition, to which this other post must be added) of excerpts concerning Lokāyata philosophy contained in a text, Avalokitavrata’s Ṭīkā, which is still to be examined with due accuracy. As I have checked only the sDe-dge edition (of which an on-line version can be found here), I think that the transcription of the Tibetan text is here unnecessary.

The main points that in my opinion deserve further investigation are: a) Lokāyatas are said to adhere to a non-substantial ahetuvāda; b) the doctrines of production by svabhāva, by Īśvara, etc., belong to the domain of the substantial ahetuvāda; thus, c) we would expect that *Lokākṣa’s Lokāyatas were described as asvabhāvavādins; but d) in passage 2) they are described as svabhāvavadins, and in passage 3) as both partisans of svabhāvavāda and of a “selective” doctrine of production by causal efficacy.

The Sanskrit equivalents of Tibetan main philosophical terms have been referred to.

1) Prajñāpradīpaṭīkā sDe-dge, dBu-ma, Wa 111a7-b2

[the concept of] “without cause” (ahetuta) is [interpreted in a] twofold [way]: non-substantial and substantial (adravyabhūta ca dravyabhūta). There, non-substantial [refers to the] doctrine (vāda) of the absolute non existence (atyantābhāva) of a substantial cause (hetuvastubhūta); this is the doctrine of the origination without cause of the entities (bhāva) [derived] from the argumentation (siddhānta) of the Lokāyatas. Substantial [refers to the] doctrine according to which there is another entity, dissimilar (asadṛśa) to the substantial cause; this is the doctrine of the different cause [derived] from the argumentations of the causal doctrines [referring to] svabhāva, Īśvara, etc.

2) Wa 115a5-b2

svabhāvavāda” is the doctrine of the origination of entities from own nature [upheld by] the mahārṣi called Lokākṣa, the author of [several] argumentations of the Lokāyata. The word “svabhāvavādin” refers to the followers of the argumentations of mahārṣi Lokākṣa and stands for (vākyādhyāhāra) Lokāyatikas.

3) Wa 120b6-121a3

From the treatises (śāstra) of those who have strength in [upholding] efficacy (pravṛttibalavat), [that is] the non-Buddhist (tīrthika) Lokāyatikas [we know that]: «some entities as a foetus (arbuda), a sprout (aṅkura), etc., arise by means of svabhāva without [the need for the intervention of other] conditions (apratyaya); some [other] entities as a jar (ghaṭa), a blanket (paṭa), etc., are caused to come forth in connection to [external] conditions», they say, «because not every entity is born by means of svabhāva, the Madhyamika establishes that all entities do not arise from svabhāva, [but this] is proving what is already proved» [this is] their explanation (uddeśa). There, “those who have strength in [upholding] efficacy” [refers to] the disciples of mahārṣi Lokākṣa, “to have strength in [upholding] efficacy” is said [with reference to] “origination”; hence, another opinion of the Lokāyatikas is here summarized (upasaṃhṛ). It is said “those who have strength in [upholding] efficacy” [with reference to] those who have adhered to the [doctrines of the] Lokāyatikas, and because there are classes and branches [among those who have] strength in [upholding] efficacy, it is said “those who have strength in [upholding] efficacy” [making use of the plural], so it is said “they say”. Thus it is explained.

4) Wa 163a1-2

ahetuvāda” is said [to be] the axiom (siddhānta) of the Lokāyata.


2 thoughts on “♦ Lokākṣa on causation: Avalokitavrata’s apparently discordant perspectives

  1. Dear Krishna,
    sorry for the minor point: I would not translate siddhānta as “axiom”, since a siddhānta is a *conclusion* established after a discussion, whereas an axiom is a self-evident proposition, which is, hence, accepted from the very beginning.



  2. Dear Elisa,

    many thanks for this comment. Indeed, the “minor points” are very important for making a good translation.

    Here I take “axiom”, perhaps forcing a bit its semantic range, as meaning “settled opinion”, which, for being “settled”, needs a preliminary discussion or something similar. But this is only a tentative translation of a word – siddhānta (a conjecture for the Tibetan grub pa’i mtha’), which of course basically means “conclusion” – that, according to the context (which I have not translated in full here because it would have been in any case irrelevant for my purposes), refers in my opinion to an idea/doctrine that both represents the “conclusion” of a dialectical discussion, and – by this very reason – is consequently taken as a sort of dogma (in the sense of admitted doctrine, as causation from svabhāva, Īśvara etc., are), or of starting point, for further discussions.

    🙂 k


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