Did Dignaga argue against real relations? I gather that his student, Dharmakirti, did.

I'm asking only because I'd disagree, but am skeptical about universals.

  • On what basis do you, "gather that his student, Dharmakirti" argued against real relations? I'm just looking for the sources that you are using to inform the context...
    – user13375
    Apr 23, 2018 at 15:39
  • i don't have the book to hand, sorry @YesheTenley
    – user2512
    Apr 23, 2018 at 18:54

1 Answer 1


DharmaKirti and Dignaga are highly revered in Tibetan Buddhism and their work is used as foundational materials in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries to this day including the famous Sera Jey Monastery. However, they are also considered to have espoused or based their work on either the Yogachara tenet system, the Sautrantika tenet system or some combination thereof.

In brief, Yogachara/Chittamatra is a tenet system of the Madhyamaka and the Mahayana which believes in the selflessness of persons and selflessness of phenomena, but also believes in true existence which is refuted by the Prasangika-Madhyamaka. The Sautrantikas in general did not posit the selflessness of phenomena and are a tenet system strictly associated with the Fundamental Vehicle (like modern Theravada) as opposed to the Mahayana.

So if by "real relations" you mean "true existence", then I think both Dignaga and Dharmakirti posited real relations. If by "real relations" you mean "inherent existence", then I think both refuted real relations.

However, perhaps it is best if you elucidate what you mean by real relations and/or universals otherwise it is very easy in my experience to misunderstand one another. In my experience, when discussing tenet systems precision of language is key and knowing the jargon is very important even if difficult. I'm still struggling with it :)

  • by relations i just mean the standard dictionary definition. e.g. being taller than. 'universals' is a more obscure term, but for the sake of argument we can mean everything except particulars and relations
    – user2512
    Apr 22, 2018 at 11:01
  • I think it is important to understand the Yogachara/Chittamatra viewpoint and especially the three natures doctrine in order to correctly categorize DharmaKirti and Dignaga's thought. Your usage of the word "real" I think is indicative of true existence and Yogachara does posit true existence.
    – user13375
    Apr 23, 2018 at 15:37
  • yes but they do say that universals aren't real
    – user2512
    Apr 23, 2018 at 18:54
  • I have a feeling that this is getting to the same issue that was discussed here recently: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/26061/13375 In other words, Prasangika does not accept conventional truth to be real from the perspective of an awakened mind. It only accepts conventional truths to be real from the perspective of an ordinary being... ie, conventional truths are only real conventionally ;) Yogachara on the other hand does not posit such a distinction. For them, conventional truths are real from the perspective of an awakened mind.
    – user13375
    Apr 23, 2018 at 19:02
  • i'm not sure, maybe i'm being unclear about what 'universal' means
    – user2512
    Apr 23, 2018 at 19:55

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