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The path to liberation constitutes the background of much of the early South Asian philosophical discussion, which also finds its justification in the contribution it can provide to a theory of the ‘path’. This theory aims to explain methods of practice and patterns of religious behaviour leading to the goal of liberation.

The project was designed to investigate, translate and critically edit a section in Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika (including a newly surfaced manuscript) concerning the path to liberation, namely the mārgasatya-section. In addition, Manorathanandin’s commentary (vṛtti) and Vibhūticandra’s glosses to this section were considered. The section displays how Dharmakīrti, one of the foremost and influential South Asian philosophers, understood and justified the Bodhisattva path. Contrasting various models of liberation antagonistic to those expounded in the teaching of the four Truths, the text offers a historically relevant overview of the philosophical issues related to the contemporaneous debate about paths to liberation (6th–7th cent.). Dharmakīrti’s overarching stance is that there cannot be liberation in connection with any form of view of a Self, and only a practice that addresses this view as an obstacle can be successful against the perpetuation of suffering. The text also provides a distinct doctrinal backdrop for the entire philosophical enterprise with which Dharmakīrti was engaged, namely to establish an epistemological method that demonstrates which contents remain valid after scrutiny.

Manorathanandin’s commentary and Vibhūticandra’s glosses, being the last attested commentarial undertakings in Sanskrit on the Pramāṇavārttika, constitute a privileged observatory for the study of the reception of this work in the Northern Indian subcontinent around the beginning of the second millennium. They also provide textual materials for the reconstruction of ideas and interpretations, whose sources are no longer available in Sanskrit.

The project therefore consisted of a philological and historical study of the selected texts together with a philosophical and hermeneutic analysis. Based on a reliable edition and a historically determined interpretative point of view, such as that of Manorathanandin, the results of the project have enhanced our understanding of the cultural and intellectual history to which the texts belong, highlighting how main epistemological subjects are brought into a discussion about the path, and contributing to the study of path theories and their role in the classical philosophy of South Asia.

Project results

Cristina Pecchia, 2015
Dharmakīrti on the Cessation of Suffering: A Critical Edition with Translation and Comments of Manorathanandinʼs Vṛtti and Vibhūticandraʼs Glosses on Pramāṇavārttika II.190–216. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2015.

As a part of this project, an international symposium was organized in 2015. Some of the contributions to the symposium are collected in:

Cristina Pecchia and Vincent Eltschinger (eds.), Mārga. Paths to Liberation in South Asian Buddhist Traditions. Vol. I. Papers from an international symposium held at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, December 17–18, 2015. Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, Vienna 2019 (forthcoming).



    Project Data