Dharmottara on arthakriyā
Arthakriyā, the key concept of Dharmakīrti’s epistemology, has been the object of many investigations. Dharmakīrti used arthakriyā to distinguish svalakṣaṇ a from sāmānyalakṣaṇa. The Pramāṇavārttika states that svalakṣaṇa is capable of bringing about arthakriyā, whereas sāmānyalakṣaṇa is not (PV 3.3: arthakriyāsamarthaṃ yat tad atra paramārthasat | anyat saṃvrtisat proktaṃ te svasāmānyalakṣaṇe ||). Post-Dharmakīrti commentators have developed colorful arguments for this concept, and these arguments have been a major locus of research in Buddhist pramāṇ a theory. Nevertheless, the arguments made by Dharmottara, a famous commentator on Dharmakīrti’s works, have not been fully investigated. The purpose of this paper is to clarify Dharmottara’s arguments, to further the understanding of this notable concept, arthakiryā. A close examination of Dharmottara’s statements in his Nyāyabinduṭīkā clarifies his view of arthakriyā:
1. Dharmottara deems arthakriyā to be the obtaining of desirable objects or the shunning of undesirable objects (heyasya hānam upādeyasya upādānam) in the cases of both inference (anumāna) and perception (pratyakṣa).
2. Through inference, one wishes to obtain or shun an external object. To delineate that inference is not the direct cause of “the obtaining of an object,” Dharmottara shows how inference leads us to obtain the object. When inference occurs, we remember what we have observed before; this remembrance stimulates a will to take action, and this action leads us to obtain the object (NBṬ on NB 1.1: samyagjñāne hi sati pūrvadrṣṭasmaraṇam | smaraṇād abhilāṣaḥ | abhilāṣāt pravrttiḥ pravrtteś ca prāptiḥ | tato na sākṣāddhetuḥ |). Although Dharmottara does not explain how inference leads us to shun an object, the explanation is the same as aforementioned, i.e., when inference occurs, we remember what we have observed before; this remembrance stimulates a will to take action, and this action leads us to shun the object.
3. Through perception, one wishes only to obtain an object. In this case, the arising of a cognition is “the obtaining of an object,” because one’s object is achieved when a cognition arises (NBṬ on NB 1.1: arthakriyānirbhāse ca jñāne sati siddhaḥ puruṣārthaḥ |). Therefore, perception is the direct cause of “the obtaining of an object.” As for the shunning of an object, Dharmottara makes no statements, but his perspective can be understood as follows: since the arising of a cognition means “the obtaining of an object,” “the shunning of an object” should be the non-arising of a cognition.