Vaidalyaprakarana

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Vaidalyaprakaraṇa (T. zhib mo rnam par ’thag pa ཞིབ་མོ་རྣམ་པར་འཐག་པ་), or Crushing the Categories, is a treatise attributed to Nagarjuna that belongs the Collection of Middle Way Reasoning. It is noteworthy for its engagement with the Hindu philosophers.

The Vaidalyaprakarana refutes the explanation of the sixteen categories of the Nyaya school as set forth in the Nyāyasūtra (of the Indian Nyaya school).[1] These categories formed the framework for many of the debates between Buddhist and Hindu philosophers. [2]

The Sanskrit version of this text is no longer extant. The text has survived in Tibetan translation, and has recently been translated into English.

Relation to other texts by Nagarjuna

Robert Thurman states:

Westerhoff makes clear — for the first time among contemporary students of the work — how the Crushing the Categories fits in with Nāgārjuna’s main critical philosophy works; indeed, how it is the natural complement of the Wisdom Root and logically precedes the Dispeller of Disputes (Vigrahavyāvartanī). Westerhoff’s interpretation is supported by no less a scholarly authority than the great Tsong Khapa (1357–1419), dean of Tibetan Centrist scholars, who wrote:
[Nāgārjuna,] in order to demonstrate mainly the truth of the relativity free of the extremes of existence and nonexistence, first [wrote] the Wisdom Root to negate the probandum — the intrinsic reality of persons and things presumed by the advocates of the [intrinsic] objectivity of phenomena — and [he then wrote] the Crushing the Categories to negate the means of proving it, the sixteen categorical instruments of [Indian] logicians, such as [that of intrinsically real] validating cognition.
Thus, Tsong Khapa ranks this work as the close partner of Nāgārjuna’s most famous critiques that make up the Wisdom Root, on the same level and with the same importance...
It is significant that Dr. Westerhoff came to wrestle with this work from his deep study of the Dispeller of Disputes, which fits very closely with the Wisdom and the Crushing. Again, Tsong Khapa writes:
To summarize these points: [Nāgārjuna, in] the Wisdom Root and the Crushing the Categories, teaches the manifest truth of relativity by refuting in detail the [intrinsically real] probandum and the probans of the opponents. [Again] to counter what one might think in regard to his system of such refutation — since [the critique shows that] the objective and the activity of [intrinsically real] refutation and proof are invalid, it follows that one cannot [absolutely] refute another’s position and cannot prove one’s own position — [he] taught in the Dispeller of Disputes the [conventional] validity in his own [system] of all objectives and activities of those [rational refutations and proofs] and so forth.[3]

English translations

  • Jan Westerhoff (translator), Crushing the Categories (Vaidalyaprakarana), Wisdom Publications, 2018

Notes

  1. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Vaidalyaprakarana.
  2. Crushing the Categories, Wisdom Publications
  3. Nagarjuna 2018, Series Editor's Preface.

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