Sleep, Perception, and Other Problems: Somānanda’s Arguments Against the Dualist Naiyāyikas (MT23)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Prof. John Nemec
Date: October 25, 2023
Time: 3.00pm – 4.00pm

It has been known for some time that the non-dual Śaiva philosopher Utpaladeva (fl. c. 925-975 C.E.) turned away from arguing with Naiyāyikas and Vaiśeṣikas in his Īśvarapratyabhijñākārikās, even while his teacher Somānanda  (fl. c. 900-950 C.E.) engaged those schools extensively.  The arguments the latter offered to oppose the views of these dualist “Hindu” interlocutors, however, have to date hardly been explored.  In this talk, I will outline two major lines of argumentation offered against these competing schools of thought.  One involves the nature of sleep, and the nature of the perceptual process by which awakening from sleep might be explained.  Somānanda argues that the dualists’ model simply cannot account for such a mundane phenomenon, because the knower, the self or ātman, cannot play any decisive role in the same.  The second argument involves a comprehensive critique of the two-step perceptual process by which sense-organs convey knowledge to the ātmanvia the “mind” or manas.  Here, the dualism of the system in question, which suggests that the sense-organs and the manas have form or are mūrta, could in no way logically be linked to the ātman, which is said to be amūrtaor to have no form—unless, that is, Somānanda’s Śaiva non-dualism of all-as-the-consciousness-of-Śiva were to be implicitly adopted.

Prof. John Nemec is Professor of Indian Religions and South Asian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Ubiquitous Śiva: Somānanda’s Śivadṛṣṭi and His Tantric Interlocutors (Oxford University Press, 2011), which includes a critical edition, annotated translation, and extended study of the founding work of the famed Śaiva tantric philosophical school known as the Pratyabhijñā, as well as a sequel volume, The Ubiquitous Śiva: Somānanda’s Śivadṛṣṭi and His Philosophical Interlocutors (Oxford University Press, 2021), which also edits and translates a portion of the same text and deals with the same author’s arguments against Buddhist philosophical opponents and competing Hindu philosophical schools. A third book, entitled Brahmins and Kings, examines the intersection of religious authority and temporal power in the Sanskrit narrative literatures and is currently under peer review. Nemec serves as Editor of the Religion in Translation Series of the American Academy of Religion, and he is a Trustee of the American Institute of Indian Studies (2020-2023). He holds a Ph.D. degree in South Asia Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (2005), an M.Phil. in Classical Indian Religions from the University of Oxford (2000), an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara (1997), and a B.A. in Religion from the University of Rochester (1994). He was a Fulbright Scholar in India in the 2002-2003 academic year and Directeur d’études invité (DEI) at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris) in the spring of 2016. His current research examines not only tantric philosophical works but also the larger intellectual and cultural context of the Valley of Kashmir of the ninth to twelfth centuries, and currently he is beginning a book on the study of religion and the place of historical and textual studies in the same.