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Wonhyo and Logic

Charles Muller

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Buddhist Logic in East Asia
3. Background of The Two Texts
4. Comparative Structure of the Two Texts
5. Problems Concerning the Existence of Buddha-nature


In a recent article, the writer has broached the topic of indentifying distinctions in the modes of commentarial discourse within the exegetical works of the Korean scholiast Wonhyo (617-686), taking note of (1) a rational/logical form of discourse that attempts to elucidate the point of a passage — and especially to resolve any doctrinal problems contained therein — using clear rational argumentation, and (2) an intuitive, poetic, form of discourse that tends to emphasize the fact that the ultimate Buddhist truth is inapprehensible through discriminatory thought. In that paper, attention was paid primarily to the second mode, which tends to be seen itself in the opening and closing portions of his commentaries — or in works, or portions of works — that deal primarily with issues of faith. In that paper, examples were drawn primarily from his commentaries on the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith and the Sutra of Immeasurable Life. This paper advances that discussion by paying attention to the rational/logical strain of his work, which is clearly of equal, and possibly even greater importance. Here we look at passages from two of his works that both make use of logic, yet which also subject logic itself to a critique in terms of testing the limitations of its applicability in resolving the most fundamental of religious truths.

1. Introduction

In a recent article, in which I discussed Wonhyo's (617-686) Doctrinal Essentials of the Sūtra of Immeasurable Life (Muryangsu gyeong jong-yo),1 I attempted to show how two distinct modes of discourse can be identified in Wonhyo's commentaries. These are: (1) a rational/logical form of discourse that attempts to elucidate the point of a passage — and especially to resolve any doctrinal problems contained therein — using clear rational argumentation. Prose written in this mode usually includes citations from scriptural sources that operate with a similar rational discourse — a good example being basic Yogâcāra works such as the Yogâcārabhūmi-śāstra, etc. (2) an intuitive, poetic, form of discourse that tends to emphasize the fact that the ultimate Buddhist truth is inapprehensible through discriminatory thought. When writing in this mode, Wonhyo usually concludes with the pronouncement that absolute faith is the only ultimate solution to the resolution of doctrinal problems. In a characteristic turn in Wonhyo's commentarial work, after examining a certain doctrine, or set of doctrines at length in a systematic and rational manner, he will declare that the ultimate understanding regarding a Buddhist truth can only be met when one fully abandons the words, lets go of discriminating thought, and approaches the Buddhist teachings with deep faith.

Soon after publishing the above-mentioned article on the Muryangsu gyeong jong-yo, I had the opportunity to work with two more of Wonhyo's texts — texts that deal more directly with, and make greater use of logic. The first is the Simmun hwajaeng non (十門和諍論 "Ten Approaches to the Reconciliation of Doctrinal Disputes").2 This is a treatise in which Wonhyo examines a series of seminal Buddhist doctrinal problems through various forms of logical argumentation and analysis. Although it is unfortunately only available in fragmentary form, from the way we find it cited in Korean historical records, it seems as though it may have been regarded by early scholars as his magnum opus.3

The second text is unfortunately also available only in fragmentary form. This is the Pan biryang non (判比量論 "Critique of Inference"; hereafter PBN) which is, as the title suggests, a work that tests the application of Buddhist formal logic. However, instead of working with the stock epistemological arguments of Indian philosophy that are usually presented in the logic texts, such as discussions of the nature of sound and other physical phenomena, Wonhyo puts both the process of formal logic, as well as the doctrines themselves to the test through the treatment of several of the most thorny problems of East Asian Mahāyāna — problems such as those of the Yogâcāra five natures; the application of the emptiness theory in the context of everyday discourse — and the topic that is always first and foremost for Wonhyo — the matter of the possibility of becoming a buddha. Thus, while attempting to fully unpack the doctrinal issues at hand, the PBN also represents an exercise in testing the effectiveness of logic itself in addressing such issues. We will examine the arguments of the texts in detail below, but first, let us briefly review the history of the Buddhist logic tradition, focusing on the way it was received in East Asia.

2. Buddhist Logic in East Asia

The term "Buddhist logic" refers most commonly to the Sanskrit term hetu-vidyā, but it also can refer, according to the context, to pramāṇa, nyāya (which means "logic," but is also the name of a specific non-Buddhist school in India), and anumāna (which, more strictly interpreted, indicates a specific mode of knowing). The Buddhist logic tradition, as compared with various "religious schools" of Buddhism, developed as an integral part of the overall philosophical milieu in India, where hetu-vidyā constituted one of the five branches of Indian science 五明. Thus, so-called "Buddhist" logic was cultivated as a common ground for engaging in debate with other Indian philosophical schools, such as Sāṃkhya, Vaiśeṣika, Vedānta and so forth.

Although Buddhist logic is an epistemologically-oriented philosophical discipline rather than a school of religion, most of its main early figures are Yogâcāras. The earliest references to this specific terminology are found in the texts of the Yogâcāra founders Asaṅga 無著and Vasubandhu 世親 (both 4th c.), with the most important later developments coming from the Yogâcāra philosopher Dignāga 陳那 (ca. 480-540). According to tradition, the founder of Indian logic was Akṣapāda 足目 (d.u.), who formulated the Nyāya school. Over time, however, Buddhists came to refer to their system as hetu-vidyā, which becomes distinguished into early logic 古因明 (pre-Dignāga) and new logic 新因明(Dignāga and afterward).4

The main purpose for constructing this formal system of logic was to apply it as the structure for inter-school debate— concerning, of course, philosophical principles. To this end, it was well-used in ancient India, and developed extensively in Tibet. However, while a number of logic texts were transmitted to and studied in East Asia, no enduring "live-debate" tradition developed in East Asia, comparable, for example, to that of the Gelukpa school in Tibet.

The three part syllogism is laid out by Dignāga in his Nyāyamukha ( "Gateway to Logic" ), translated by Xuanzang as 因明正 理門論本 (T 1628) and by Yijing as 因明正理 門論 (T 1629) 5 A central part of the discourse of this tradition is the setting up of clear guidelines as to the various properties contained in a valid proof. There are extensive and detailed explanations of the classes and types of logical errors, which can lead to conclusions that are indeterminate for different types of reasons, conclusions that are unsupportable, contradictory, irrelevant, and so forth. To clarify what kinds of combinations of semantic properties generate these different possibilities, the logicians compiled tables of fallacies, which became standardized into a set, including nine fallacies in the thesis 宗九過, fourteen fallacies in the reason 因十四過 (which are analyzed in nine ways 九句因), and ten in the example 喩十過 — totaling thirty-three.6

The definitive work by Dignāga mentioned above, as well as the Nyāyapraveśa 因明入正 理論 (T 1630) by Śaṃkarasvāmin 商羯羅主 (6c.; possibly a student of Dignāga) are the three most important source texts for Buddhist logic transmitted in East Asia. While these logic texts actually constitute only a tiny fraction of the amount of texts that Xuanzang 玄奘 (660-664) brought back from India, they nonetheless succeeded in attracting a good deal of attention in certain circles of the East Asian Yogâcāra tradition, as one can see from browsing the titles of the numerous commentaries on logic listed in Ono's Bussho kaisetsu daijiten. Unfortunately, most of these commentaries are not extant. In terms of the dissemination of Buddhist logic in East Asia, two of Xuanzang's students played a critical role: Kuiji 窺基7 (632-682) and Huizhao 慧沼 (650-714), who in their works also include the opinions of many other contemporary scholars. In Korea, at least fifteen logic commentaries were composed, mostly on the Nyāyamukha, but the only text that remains among these is Wonhyo's Critique of Inference. In Japan, commentarial work on logic was also extensive, with much earlier influence coming from the Hossō scholar Zenju 善珠 (727-797).8

For the tradition of Buddhist logic overall, Dharmakīrti 法稱 is also important as the influential successor to Dignāga. Unfortunately, his great treatises, such as the Nyāyabindu and the Pramāṇavārttika were never translated into Chinese, and thus his influence in East Asia was minimal as compared with that which he held in India, and later, Tibet.

3. Background of The Two Texts

Simmun hwajaeng non (Ten Approaches to the Harmonization of Doctrinal Disputes)

The one term that is used more than any other to describe Wonhyo's distinctive approach to scholarly commentarial work, is that of hwajaeng 和諍 or the "resolution of doctrinal disputes." As a methodological approach, hwajaeng refers to Wonhyo's ubiquitous habit of taking ostensibly variant or conflicting Buddhist doctrinal positions, investigating them exhaustively until identifying the precise point at which their variance occurs, and then showing how differences in fundamental background, motivation, or sectarian bias lead to the production of such apparent contradictions. Wonhyo carries out this process repeatedly, in every extant commentary, in every essay and treatise — to an extent, to my knowledge, not seen in the works of any other East Asian scholar or exegete. Thus, it is not surprising that he was known in East Asia as the "reconciler of doctrinal disputes."

In his view of Buddhism as a vast, interpenetrated doctrinal system, Wonhyo would not tolerate loose ends, and so, when perceiving apparent disagreements in certain strata or families of texts, he could not be satisfied with stopping at some arbitrary point and constructing a doctrinal taxonomy (pangyo  判教) in order to close the case.9

The Simmun hwajaeng non (hereafter SHN), for which we unfortunately only have fragments from the beginning portion, is one of Wonhyo's very few works that is not actually a commentary, and is not composed for the purpose of resolving a singular doctrinal theme. It is rather a methodological exercise based on a combined application of Mādhyamika and Dignāgan logic, interwoven with the motifs of the major Mahāyāna scriptures, including the Lotus Sūtra, Nirvāṇa Sūtra, Yogâcārabhūmi-śāstra, Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, and so on. As in his other works, his point is to show how ostensibly conflicting doctrinal problems stand up under the scrutiny of a rigorous logical examination.

Pan biryang non (Critique of Inference)

Like the SHN, the Pan biryang non (hereafter, PBN) is only available in fragmentary form, thus greatly limiting what we can understand of the text's arguments. What we can say about this text, is that it seems sufficiently clear from the title and the thrust of the discussion, that Wonhyo is, while applying to the tools of Buddhist logic in the examination of fundamental Buddhist problems, also attempting to test the limits of the hetuvidyā project itself—at least in the way that it has been received and presented up to that moment in time by his influential contemporaries in Chang'an—Xuanzang, Kuiji, Huizhao, His final exercise in applying the tables of fallacies to the problem of innate buddhahood and the Yogâcāra five natures seems to be intended — at least in part — to show how the problem of buddha-potential cannot be plumbed by Dignāga's argument structure. It does not take much to imagine that Wonhyo might take an ambivalent approach to hetuvidyā, given the strong non-conceptual faith orientation expressed at the conclusion of virtually all of his extant works. On the other hand, it is unlikely that Wonhyo took a one-sidedly negative view toward logic, given his extensive usage of its terminology in other works, along with the fact that he also wrote another full commentary on the topic.

4. Comparative Structure of the Two Texts

The SHN is composed as a series of arguments examining ten fundamental issues of Buddhist metaphysics, epistemology, and soteriology. The discussions remaining in this fragmentary text include:

(1) An argument dealing with an array of problems inherent in delivering a congruent explanation of the categories of existence and emptiness. This discussion is carried out largely in a Mādhyamika style, expressed in Wonhyo's own distinctive flavor.

(2) A longer and more complex inquiry into the Yogâcāra three natures of cognition. These arguments are carried out with frequent references to the rules of Buddhist logic.

(3) A topic that can be found in many of his other writings — that of the problems inherent in claims of either presence or lack of Buddha-nature in some or all sentient beings. These are argued by presenting the positions of adherents of both positions, after which Wonhyo gives his own analysis. Here, Wonhyo also often makes a case for invalidity of a given argument based on rules of Buddhist logic. This is the discussion we will be looking at in this paper.

(4) A discussion of the meanings of the two kinds of selflessness: that of persons and phenomena (dharmas).

The structure of the PBN is similar to the SHN, in that both are composed as a series of arguments which test fundamental Buddhist doctrinal problems. In the SHN, however, Wonhyo writes more freely, not constraining himself by the rules of a single formal system of logic. He does cite rules and terms from Buddhist logic frequently, but he is not operating exclusively within that formal framework, as he also cites, for example, the principle of the four and eight negations of Madhyamaka, as well as using plain logical reasoning that is not related to the fallacy tables of hetuvidyā. In the PBN, on the other hand, he is working exclusively within the framework of Buddhist logic (or, at least as he understands it), with two apparent aims: (1) To use this logical tool as a distinctive way to delve into these doctrinal problems, and (2) to test the tool itself, to see how well it really works, when faced with some of the more elusive conundrums of Mahāyāna doctrine. The list of topics covered in the text is as follows (numbering is as given in the extant fragment, which starts from the number 7.):

7. Problems inherent in the Pure Land doctrine.

8. Problems with the Yogâcāra theory of the Four Parts of Cognition (wherein, using a logical argument, Wonhyo rejects the fourth part as being redundant).

9-10. Examination of the nature of the relationship of the eighth (ālaya) consciousness with the seven forthcoming consciousnesses, with special attention to the standpoint of the Cheng weishi lun.

11-12. Examination of the content of some of the fallacies of Indian logic itself, through the traditional Buddhist vs. Mīmāṃsikā arguments regarding the nature of sound, etc.

13. Problems concerning the five natures and innate Buddhahood.

14. Emptiness of persons and phenomena.

15. Problems dealing with identity and difference that undermine the application of logic.

There is actually more overlap between the content of the two works than would be indicated by these topic headings alone, but direct overlap is to be seen between topic (3) in the SHN and section heading #13 in the PBN, as well as SHN (4) and PBN #14. In this paper, we will limit ourselves to the discussion of the first set, but the reader should know that the second set — the discussion of the matter of the selflessness of persons and dharmas is an equally rich and interesting one. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to deal with it in a future paper.

Let us now begin with the treatment of the issue the innate natures of sentient beings as given in the PBN, which is considerably shorter.

5. Problems Concerning the Existence of Buddha-nature

Critique of Inference: Innate Potential and the Five Natures

Preliminary Note: It is important to keep in mind when reading the following passages that the arguments for the presence or lack of buddha-nature are being carried out from the perspective of the negative and positive properties (同品, 異品) of the examples 喩 and evidence 因 of the argument, rather than being based on a wholistic, commonsense, or faith-based impression gleaned from the argument as a whole.

十三。或有爲難 五種之性、立比量言。

[宗] 無性有情必當作佛。

[因] 以有心故。

[喩] 如有性者。

此因不定、故成不難。爲如諸佛以有心故、非當作佛、爲如 菩薩以有心故、必當作佛。前別立因言 以未成佛之有情故。此因亦有他不定過。 爲如菩薩種性 爲如決定二乘。

[HBJ 1.816b] 13. Some raise an objection over the five kinds of innate potential for awakening, making this inference:

[Proposition:]10 Sentient beings who do not have the innate capacity for awakening are sure to become buddhas.

[Evidence:] Because they have mind.

[Example:] In this respect they are like those who do have the innate capacity for awakening.

The evidence in this proof is inconclusive,11 and so it does not turn out to be an objection. Or suppose one asserts that all the buddhas have mind, and so they do not become buddhas; or suppose one asserts that all the bodhisattvas have mind, and so they do become buddhas. The prior-specified evidence is based on the definition of sentient beings as those who have not yet become awakened. This reason also contains other faults of inconclusiveness. Are sentient beings who are not enlightened to be considered as having the bodhisattva nature? Or are they of the nature determined for the two vehicles?

若爲避此 更立宗言。

[宗] 無性有情決定二乘、皆 當作佛。

[因] 以未成佛有情攝故。

[喩] 猶如菩薩。


[宗] 如是三人 非當作佛。

[因] 以無大乘無漏種子、而非菩薩種性攝故。

[喩] 如木石等諸無情物。

In order to avoid this difficulty, one proposes that:

[Proposition:] Sentient beings lacking the potential for awakening and those determined for the two vehicles will all become buddhas.

[Evidence:] Since those who have not yet become buddhas are included in the category of sentient beings,

[Example:] they are the same as bodhisattvas.

Since problems can be found [in this kind of logic], the argument is inconclusive.

[Proposition:] If these three categories of beings do not become buddhas,

[Evidence:] it is because they lack the pure seeds of the great vehicle and do not have the innate potential of the bodhisattvas.

[Example:] They are like non-sentient objects such as trees, rocks and so on.

又、有比量相違過失。謂五種性中餘四種性 墮地獄時、應有四德許作佛故、如菩薩姓。許則違教。不許違理、此違自語比量過也。五量。

This argument also contains a fallacy of contradictory inference. For example, implying that among the five kinds of potential for awakening, when the other four [non-awakened] lineages fall into hell, they must have the four virtues12 so it is accepted that they will become awakened, like the lineage of the bodhisattvas. If we admit this, then we commit the fallacy of contradicting the tenets of our own tradition,13 and if we do not admit this, then we commit the fallacy of contradicting our own statement 違自語過.14 (Fifth inference)

Simmun hwajaeng non: Do All Sentient Beings Possess the Buddha-nature?

又、彼經言 「衆生佛性不一不二。 諸佛平等、猶如虛空 。一切衆生同共有之。」 又、下文云 「一切衆生同有佛性。皆同一乘、一因、一果、同一甘露。一切 當得常樂我淨、是故一味。」 依此經文、若立一分無佛性者 則違大乘平等法性、同 體大悲如海一味。 又、若立言定有無性一切界差別可得故。如火性中無水性者。

他亦立云、定皆有性。一味性平等可得故。如諸麤色聚悉有大種 性。則有決定相違過失。又、若立云、定有無性、由法爾故者、他亦立云、定無 無性、由法爾故、是亦決定相違過失。

Furthermore, the [Mahāparinirvāṇa-]sūtra says:

Sentient beings and the buddha-nature are neither the same nor different. All buddhas are the same, just like space. All sentient beings share together in this same nature.15

Again, a passage below [in the same sūtra] says:

All sentient beings possess the same nature as the buddhas. All are [carried] in the same one vehicle, with the same cause [buddha-nature], the same results [enlightenment], and the experience of the taste of the same single sweet nectar. All will attain constancy, bliss, self-stability, and purity. Therefore it is [said to be] of a single taste.16

Taking into account the standpoint of this scripture, if one suggests that there is one group of sentient beings that lack the buddha-nature, this would be at odds with the great vehicle's advocacy of equality in nature, and the great compassion [of the buddhas and bodhisattvas] based on their realization of the essential commonality of their minds with those of sentient beings, which, like the ocean, is of a single taste. Some maintain that there are people who lack the buddha-nature based on the fact that it is readily observable that there are distinctions among [phenomena] in all worlds. For example, the nature of fire lacks the nature of water.

On the other hand, there are those who advocate that everyone definitely possesses the buddha-nature, since such phenomena are observable as [the ocean] having a single taste [no matter where you might test it]. It is like all compounds of coarse materiality having the nature of the gross elements.17 This is a fallacy wherein separately valid reasoning supports contradictory conclusions. One might propose that there are definitely sentient beings that lack [buddha-]nature, because that's just the way things are, while someone else says that there are definitely none who lack the [buddha-]nature, because that's just the way things are. This also constitutes a fallacy wherein differing, but individually valid reasons lead to contradictory conclusions.

Comment: Here Wonhyo is presenting a couple of sample arguments that were circulating in his era for and against the proposition of the possession of Buddhahood based on examples that can be seen in the material world. On one hand, we know that clear qualitative differences are observable between things. Yet on the other hand, there are phenomena that seem to provide an example of a single pervasive nature, such as that of the single salty taste of the ocean. Wonhyo then cites simultaneous proposing of both arguments as an example of one of the common fallacies documented in Buddhist logic.

The Argument for the Existence of Sentient Beings who Lack Buddha-nature

執有無性論者、通曰經言、衆生悉有心者、汎擧一切有性無性未得已得諸有情也。凡 其有心當得菩提者、於中簡取有性未得之有心也。

Those who hold to the view that there are sentient beings who lack [buddha-]nature, interpret the line of the [Nirvāṇa-]sūtra that says "all sentient beings have mind..." as referring to all sentient beings, whether or not they have buddha-nature, or whether or not they have attained enlightenment. In the phrase "all those who possess mind will attain enlightenment," they take "possess mind" to refer especially to those who have buddha-nature but who have not yet attained enlightenment.

設使一切有心皆當得者。已得菩提者、亦應當得耶。故知非謂一切有心皆當得也。 又言、猶如虛空一切同有者、是就理性、非說行性也。 又說、一因一果乃至一切當得常樂我淨者。是約少分一切、非說一切一切。如是諸文皆得善通。

Suppose all those who possess mind will attain enlightenment. How can those who have already attained enlightenment also [newly] attain enlightenment? Hence we know that this does not mean that all those who possess mind will attain enlightenment. It is also said "all possess it equally, just like space." This is from the perspective of [buddha-]nature in principle, and does not explain actualized [buddha-]. It is also said "There is a single cause and a single result," as well as "all [sentient beings] will attain constancy, bliss, self-stability, and purity." This is from the perspective of a limited kind of totality, rather than an absolute kind of totality. These passages can be skillfully interpreted in this way.

Comment: Basically the argument is that when such scriptures as the Nirvāṇa Sūtra use the phrase "all who have mind," it obviously can't mean everyone, as in the case of buddhas, who obviously have minds, but who are already enlightened, and thus cannot be counted among those who are to attain enlightenment henceforth. The argument is also made that this statement is a sort of idealistic position — not something that happens in actual practice.18 Again, this argument is being made fully through the framework of logic.

又、若立云由法爾故、無無性者、則衆生有盡。 是爲大過。如前所立 由法爾故有無性者則無是失。故知是似決定相違、而實不 成相違過失。如有立言 火非濕性、由法爾故。 又、有立言火是濕性 由法爾故。 此似決定相違、而實無此過失。以火性是熱 實非濕故。無性有情道理亦爾。

If someone asserts that there are none who lack buddha-nature because that's the way things are, this implies that sentient beings are finite in number, which constitutes a major breach of logic. The prior assertion that there are sentient beings that lack buddha-nature because that's the way things are, does not make this error. Hence we know that although this appears to be a fallacy wherein differing but individually valid reasons lead to contradictory conclusions, it actually does not constitute a fallacy of contradiction. It is like saying that fire has no nature of wetness because that's the way things are, and then again saying that fire does have the nature of wetness because that's the way things are. While this appears to a fallacy wherein differing but individually valid reasons lead to contradictory conclusions, it actually is not such a fallacy. This is because since the nature of fire is heat, and is certainly not wetness. The argument for there being sentient beings who lack buddha-nature works the same way.

問。若立後師義、是說云何通。如顯揚論云。 「云何唯現在世非般涅槃法。不應理故。謂不應言 於現在世。雖非般涅槃法、於餘生中、復可轉爲般涅槃法。何以故。無般涅槃種 性法故。」

Question: If we take the position of the latter scholar, how can it be interpreted? As the Prakaranâryavāca-śāstra* says: "How could it be that it is only in the present lifetime that there is no attainment of final nirvāṇa? It does not make sense. [...] This means that one should not say 'in the present lifetime.' Even if there is no such thing as attainment of final nirvāṇa [in the present lifetime], in subsequent lives the dharma of final nirvāṇa can be developed. Why is this so? Because [otherwise] there would be no such thing as innate potential for attaining nirvāṇa."

Comment: From here, Wonhyo pursues an argument based on the problematicity of finitude/infinitude, fields of merit, and the definition of a buddha as one who saves sentient beings.

「又、若於此生 先已積集順解脫分善根、何故不名般涅槃法。若於此生都未積集、云何後生能般 涅槃。是故 (卷上第十五張)定有非般涅槃種性有情。」19 瑜伽論中亦同此說。又、若 一切皆當作佛、則衆生、雖多、必有終盡、以無不成佛者故。是則諸佛利他功德 亦盡。

Furthermore, if one has already accumulated the good roots conducive to liberation in this life, why would this not be called the [potential for] final nirvāṇa? If, in this life one has not at all accumulated the good roots conducive to liberation, how could it be possible to bring about final nirvāṇa in a subsequent life? In this case, there definitely would have to be sentient beings who do not possess the innate potential for nirvāṇa.20

The Yogâcārabhūmi-śāstra also has the same kind of teaching. Furthermore, if everyone will become a buddha, then sentient beings, even though numerous, are certainly finite in number, since there are none who will not become buddhas. If this is the case, then the buddhas' merit of bringing benefit to others is also finite.

又、若衆生必有盡者、後成佛、則無所化。所 化無故、利他行闕行闕成佛。不應道理。又、若說一切盡當作佛而言衆生無永盡 者、則爲自語相違過失。以永無盡者永不成佛故。

Also, if sentient beings are definitely finite in number, and later become buddhas, then there will be no one to teach. With no one to teach, the activities taken up by the buddhas for the benefit of others will be deficient. [The notion of ] becoming a buddha with deficiency in activities [for the benefit of others] is not logical. Or, if one says that all sentient beings without exception become buddhas, yet there is no end to them, then this constitutes the logical breach of contradiction within one's own words, since if there is no end to sentient beings, it means that they never become buddhas.

又、如一佛一會能度百千萬億衆生今入涅槃、 於衆生界漸損。以不若有漸損、則有終盡、有損無盡不應理故。若無損者則無滅 度。有滅無損不應理故。如是進退終不可立。無同類故、其義不成。

Furthermore, when, in the course of the delivery of one sermon, one buddha causes billions of sentient beings to enter nirvāṇa, there must be a gradual decrease in the number of sentient beings. Saying that it is not the case that if there is gradual decrease, then there is eventual exhaustion — in other words, reduction without exhaustion — is not logical. If there is no reduction [in the number of sentient beings], then there can't be liberation, since liberation without decrease [in the number of sentient beings] is not logical. This kind of advance and regress ultimately can't be accepted. Since there are no suitable analogies, the doctrine cannot be accepted.

All Sentient Beings Possess Buddha-nature

執皆有性論者、通曰 彼新論文、正破執於先 來無性而後轉成有性義者。如彼文言 謂不應言於現在世。雖非般涅槃法 於餘生 中可轉爲般涅槃法故。今所立宗本來有性、非謂先無而後轉成。故不墮於彼論所 破。

Those who adhere to the position that all sentient beings possess buddha-nature interpret saying that the new treatise (Prakaranâryavāca-śāstra) correctly refutes attachment to the idea that sentient beings originally lack a [buddha-] nature but subsequently develop one. As that text says: "This means that it should not be explained in terms of the present lifetime. Even though they lack any [potential for] final nirvāṇa, [potential for] final nirvāṇa can be developed in subsequent lives." 21 This presently-asserted thesis of innate buddha-nature does not imply that sentient beings originally lacked it and will subsequently develop it. Therefore it is not refuted by that thesis.

又、彼教意立無性者爲欲廻轉 不求大乘之心。依無量時而作是說。由是密意故、不相違。彼救難云、一切有心 皆當得者 佛亦有心 亦應更得者。是義不然。以彼經中自簡別故。彼云、衆生亦 爾悉皆有心。凡有心者當得菩提。佛非衆生 何得相濫。

Furthermore, the teaching that proposes some beings to be lacking the nature of enlightenment is established because they want to turn the minds of those who do not seek the great vehicle. They make this teaching based on the limitlessness of time [required for attainment]. From the perspective of this hidden implication, there is no contradiction. They support their objection by saying, "all those who possess mind will attain enlightenment." But in that case, if the buddhas also have a mind, they should also re-attain enlightenment, and this illogical. The Nirvāṇa sūtra itself specifies this point, saying, "Sentient beings indeed all have a mind. All those who have a mind will attain enlightenment." Since the buddhas are not sentient beings, why should the two be conflated?

又、彼難云。若皆作佛必有盡者、是難還着自 無性宗。何者。如汝宗說無性有情本來具有法爾種子、窮未來際 種子無盡。我 今問汝 隨汝意答。如是種子當言一切 皆當生果。當言亦有不生果者。若言亦有 不生果者、不生果故則非種子。若言一切皆當生果者、是則種子雖多必有、終盡、 以無不生果者故。若言雖一切種子皆當生果、而種子無窮故、無終盡而無自語相 違過者。則應信受一切衆生皆當成佛、而衆生無邊故無終盡。又、汝難云、有滅 無(卷上第十六張)

Again, there was the objection that states "If all become buddhas then [the beings] must be finite." This objection ends up returning to the original thesis of the existence of beings who lack the [buddha-]nature. Why? As your22 [Yogâcāra] school teaches, sentient beings lacking the [buddha-]nature are endowed with seeds as part of their basic nature, and these seeds are never exhausted throughout the infinite future. I will now ask you question. Please answer as you see fit. Are these seeds to be explained as producing effects in the future without exception? Or should we say that there are some that do not produce effects? If you say that there are some that do not produce effects, then if they do not produce effects, they are not seeds.23 If we say that all will produce effects, then even though these seeds are certainly numerous, they will eventually be exhausted, since there are none that do not produce effects. If you say that even though all seeds will produce effects, yet since seeds are infinite in number, then there is no exhaustion, and also no contradiction of one's own statement. Then, one acknowledges that all sentient beings will become buddhas, yet since sentient beings are infinite in number, they will never be exhausted. Again, you object, saying: the existence of extinction has no [... ]

Here the discussion breaks off at the end of a textual fragment, but it is clear that Wonhyo is in the midst of contesting the Yogâcāra position of the existence of a class of sentient beings without seeds of Buddhahood, but not by citing opposing Buddha-nature sūtras like the Nirvāṇa or Lotus, or tathāgatagarbha texts like the Ratnagotravibhāga. Rather, he is trying to expose a logical consistency in the Yogâcāra's own doctrine. Thus, he is also choosing to stay within the realm of logical argumentation. The earlier citation of the line from the Nirvāṇa Sūtra — is not offered as scriptural evidence, but as the object of the critique. Unfortunately we do not have the closing portions of the SHN, so we do not know if at the very end he makes his usual shift to poetic, faith-oriented discourse, but it would be hard to imagine that he doesn't, given the degree to which this approach pervades his other works. As an example, in the Critique of Inference, despite the exclusive emphasis on logic that characterizes the text, Wonhyo concludes, after the final discussion of selflessness of person and phenomena, by saying:

證成道理甚難思 自非笑却微易解 今依聖典擧一隅 願通佛道流二世

The accomplishment of logic is exceedingly difficult to conceive,

I laugh at my mistake — taking the subtle to be easily understandable.

Now, relying on the sacred teaching, I raise one corner [of the whole],24

May the buddha-dharma circulate in this life and hereafter.


Modern Works

Chi, R.S.Y.  Buddhist Formal Logic: A Study of Dignāga's Hetucakra and K'uei-chi's Great Commentary on the Nyāyapraveśa. London:  Royal Asiatic Society,  1969.

Iida Shotaro.  Reason and Emptiness: A Study in Logic and Mysticism. Tokyo:  Hokuseido,  1980.

Keith, Arthur Berriedale.  Indian Logic and Atomism; An Exposition of the Nyāya and Vaicesika Systems. Oxford:  Clarendon Press,  1921.

Stcherbatsky, Theodore.  Buddhist Logic. Leningrad:  Akademii Nauk,  1930-32.

Tachikawa, Musashi.  "A Sixth-century Manual of Indian Logic." Journal of Indian Philosophy. vol. 1, 1971. pages 111-145.

Tagawa Shun'ei.  Hajimete no yuishiki. Tokyo:  Shunjusha,  2002.

Tucci, Giuseppe.  The Nyāyamukha of Dignāga. Leipzig and Heidelberg:  Otto Harrasowitz,  1930.

Tillemans, Tom J.F.  Scripture, Logic, and Language: Essays on Dharmakīrti and his Tibetan Successors. Boston:  Wisdom Publications,  1999.

Vidyabhūsana, Satis Chandra.  History of Indian Logic. Calcutta:  University of Calcutta,  1921.

Wayman, Alex.  A Millennium of Buddhist Logic. Delhi:  Motilal Banarsidass,  1999.

General Classical Sources

Cheng weishi lun (成唯識論) (Establishing Consciousness Only) T 1585.31.1a-59a

Da niepan jing (大涅槃經) Mahāparinirvāṇa-sūtra T 374.12.365c-603c

Daeseung gisillon byeolgi (大乘起信論別記) Expository Notes on the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith T 1845.44.226a-240c

Dasheng qixin lun (大乘起信論) Treatise on Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith Attributed to Aśvaghoṣa .  T 1665.32.575b-583b

Gisillon so (起信論疏) Commentary on the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith T 1844.44.202a-226a

Huayan jing (華嚴經) Avataṃsaka-sūtra T 278.9.395a-788b

Ijangui (二障義) System of the Two Hindrances Wonhyo 元曉 .  HBJ 1.789c-814b

Jingang sanmei jing (金剛三昧經) Vajrasamādhi-sūtra T 273.9.365c-374b

Liuzu tanjing (六祖壇經) Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch T 2008.48.346a-362b

Pan biryang non (判比量論) HBJ 1.814-816

Simmun hwajaeng non (十門和諍論) HBJ 1.838-840

Seminal East Asian Logic Commentaries

理門論述記 T 1839 (1 fasc.) by Shentai 神泰

因明入正理論疏 T 1840 (3 fasc.) by Kuiji 窺基

判比量論 HBJ 1.814-816 (fragment) by Wonhyo 元曉

因明義斷; T 1841 (1 fasc.) by Huizhao 慧沼

因明入正理論義纂要 T 1842 (1 fasc.) by Huizhao 慧沼

因明論疏明燈鈔 T 2270 (12 fasc.) by Zenju 善珠

因明大疏抄 T 2271 (41 fasc.) by Zōshun 藏俊

因明大疏融貫鈔 T 2272 (9 fasc.) by Kiben 基辯

因明大疏導 T 2273 (3 fasc.) by Myōsen 明詮

因明大疏裏書 T 2274 (6 fasc.) by Myōsen 明詮


T = Taishō shinshū daizōkyō [Japanese Edition of the Buddhist Canon] (1924-35). Tokyo: Daizōkyōkai.

HBJ = Han'guk bulgyo jeonseo [The Collected Texts of Korean Buddhism] (1984). Seoul: Dongguk University Press.


1. Published as "Faith and the Resolution of the Four Doubts in Wonhyo's Doctrinal Essentials of the Sūtra of Immeasurable Life (Muryangsu gyeong jong'yo)", Bulletin of Tōyō Gakuen University, Vol. 15 (March 2007), pages 1-15.

2. A translation of this text is available on my web site at

3. The Goseon-sa Seodang hwasang tapbi (Stele Inscription to Master Seodang [viz. Wonhyo] of Goseon-sa; the earliest extant account of Wonhyo's life, composed approximately 100 years after his death), mentions only two works of Wonhyo's: the SHN and the Hwaeom jong-yo (Thematic Essentials of the Flower Garland Scripture; not extant). This information is found in "Goseonsa Seodang hwasang tabpi", in Cho Myeonggi, ed., Wonhyo Daesa jeonjip (The Complete Works of Wonhyo) (Seoul: Boryon-gak, 1978), p. 661, lines 10,13. This is a fact of some significance, given the extensive influence of some of his commentarial works, such as his commentaries on the Awakening of Faith, Nirvāṇa Sūtra, and Vajrasamādhi Sūtra.

4. The earlier school of logic utilized a five-part syllogism that consisted of:

  1. 宗 (立宗, 立義) pratijñā, the proposition;
  2. 因 (辯因) hetu, the reason;
  3. 喩 (引喩, 譬如) udāharaṇa, the example;
  4. 合 (合譬) upanaya, the application; and
  5. 結 (決定) nigamana, the conclusion.
The new school of logic used the three part syllogism 三支作法, which dropped the latter two parts after Dignāga deemed them to be redundant.

5. For a detailed article on the system presented in this text, mostly definitive for the East Asian logic tradition, see the term 能立in the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism [DDB].

6. These tables of fallacies are also elaborated in detail in the DDB.

7. It should be noted that Kuiji's work is frequently criticized for major errors in understanding the technical terminology of the tradition.

8. Some of these major logic commentaries are listed below in the bibliography. Further detailed bibliographical information is provided in the DDB under the entry for 能立.

9. There is, in fact, a pangyo system is ascribed to Wonhyo in Fazang's Huayanjing tanxuan ji (T 1733.35.111a23-27), but we should be careful not to take this as an indication that Wonhyo was seriously involved in the work of doctrinal classification, as: (1) nowhere else in Wonhyo's extant corpus do we find anything indicating his having created, or having placed emphasis on a doctrinal classification system; (2) if we read Wonhyo's works extensively, it would seem that his entire approach is antithetical to the work of compartmentalization, and, most importantly, (3) in the final lines of his Doctrinal Essentials of the Nirvāṇa Sūtra (K. Yeolban jong-yo) he says: "You should know that the Buddha's meaning is deep and profound without limit. So if you want [like Zhiyi] to divide the scriptural meaning into four teachings, or limit the Buddha's intent with five periods, then this is like using a snail shell to scoop out the ocean, or trying to see the heavens through a narrow tube." (HBJ 1.547a.18-21; T 1769.38.255c5-6)

10. The bracketed terms, proposition, evidence, and example included here, as well as the equivalent in the Chinese text above, are not included in the Chinese original. Their inclusion here was recommended by Shōryū Katsura, a specialist in Buddhist logic. Prof. Katsura also provided a number of valuable comments on the earlier portions of this paper, and it is to my regret that he did not have time to comment fully on the entire piece, due to my need to meet the submission deadline.

11. In Buddhist logic "inconclusive" (Skt. anaikāntika doṣa) is a technical term for the case where there is a fault in either the second or third among the three properties of the reason 因三相 — i.e., either in the reason definitely having the same qualities as the proposition (in the case of a positive example) 同品定有性, or the reason being totally devoid of the same qualities of the proposition (in the case of a negative example), and thus the proposition cannot be validated. There are six kinds of fallacies of inconclusiveness 六不定過. For the full list, see the DDB at:'b4e0d-5b9a-904e')]

12. Probably referring to the four virtues taught in the Nirvāṇa Sūtra of permanence, bliss, personality, and purity.

13. K. chagyo sangwi (Skt. āgama-viruddha) the third of the nine possible fallacies of the thesis (K. chong kugwa). For the full list, see: DDB'b5b97-4e5d-904e')

14. (Skt. svavacana-viruddha), the fifth of the nine possible fallacies of the thesis. Please see the entry in the DDB.

15. T 374.12.539a9-10.

16. T 374.12.559a21.

17. Gross elements refers to the four main properties of physical sensation shared throughout the ancient world: (1) the earth element (pṛthivī dhātu), which represents distinctions in softness and hardness; (2) the water element (ab-dhātu), which represents distinctions in dryness and wetness; (3) the fire element (teja-dhātu), which represents distinctions in coolness and warmth; (4) the wind element (vāyū-dhātu), representing distinctions in movement and stillness.

18. This is the same argument that Tagawa Shun'ei makes in the ninth chapter of Hajimete no yuishiki, in his defense of the Yogâcāra teaching of the five natures and icchantika doctrine.

19. T 1602.31.581a4-5; a27-b4

20. T 1602.31.581a4-5; a27-b4

21. T 1602.31.581a27-29.

22. The presence of the term "you" here lends some credence to the supposition that the SHN (and other texts of Wonhyo's) are at least in part records of lecture sessions.

23. Especially since the metaphor of seeds refers specifically to the notion of "potentiality," for which the meaning of effect is obviously implied.

24. "Raise one corner" 擧一隅 comes from the Lunyu (Analects of Confucius) 7-8: Confucius said: "If a student is not eager, I won't teach him; if he is not struggling with the truth, I won't reveal it to him. If I lift up one corner and he can't come back with the other three, I won't do it again." See my translation of the Analects at

Copyright © Charles Muller— 2008