The Evolution of the Buddhist Apoha (Exclusion) Theory of Concept Formation through Inter-Traditional Debate in Tenth and Eleventh Century Kashmir


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


I examine the evolution of apoha in 10th-11th century Kashmir through a textual study of two key Buddhist and Saiva thinkers, Sankaranandana and Abhinavagupta. My inter-traditional approach allows a richer understanding of apoha than is possible by reading Buddhist works alone. I focus on a hotly contested aspect of apoha: whether or not the perceptual differentiation of subject from object is conceptual. Abhinava uses a definition of a concept subtly shifted from Dharmakirti’s original account and argues that subject/object duality is conceptual—even though Dharmakirti explicitly rejects this claim. Seeing if Sankaranandana's work, on which Abhinava based his reading, suggests Abhinava’s reformulation elucidates whether or not this shift tracks a change within Dharmakirti’s own tradition.