The syllogism is one of the most basic rhetorical structures used in Buddhist philosophy and logic. It is used to link ideas together in logical sequences of thesis and proofs (signs or reasons). The grammar and terms used in Tibetan Buddhist syllogistic logic and debate is a particular, technical vocabulary and grammar that is sometimes very specific to that domain.
The basic format is:
SUBJECT PREDICATE ཡིན་ ཏེ་ REASON ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།
SUBJECT is PREDICATE because of REASON.
The syllogism structure violates the rule that all Tibetan sentences end in verbs. Syllogisms do not end in a verb but in a syntactic particle ཕྱིར.
Here's a simple example of a syllogism:
བུམ་པ་ → མི་རྟག་པ་ → ← ཡིན་ ཏེ་ → ← བྱས་པ་ → ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།
[A] pot is impermanent because of being [a] product.
Pots are impermanent because of being products.
བྱས་པ་ (n) product, produced thing; (v) do, act, perform
ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར because of being
ཏེ་ continuative; following a verb indicates a logical sequence; what's before the continuative logically precedes in some way what comes after; in texts sometimes can be translated as and or then, but in syllogistic format, is untranslated and simply separates the thesis (subject and predicate) from the reason.
Once again, notice the ambiguity caused by the lack of specific plurality or singularity of Tibetan nouns. Are we saying pots are impermanent? A pot is impermanent? All pots are impermanent? There is actually a lot buried in this question. What does it mean when we call something pot? What does it mean when we say that pot is impermanent? For a deep dive into these questions, read Dreyfus, Recognizing Reality.
བུམ་པ་[nom] མི་རྟག་པ་[nom] ཡིན་[vb] ཏེ་[sp] བྱས་པ་[nom] ཡིན་[v]པའི་ཕྱིར།[sp]
pots impermanent are product being because of
In བུམ་པ་མི་རྟག་པ་ཡིན་ཏེ་བྱས་པ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།, the first ཡིན་ can be understood as the main verb of the sentence. བུམ་པ་མི་རྟག་པ་ཡིན་ (pots are impermanent) can be understood as the main clause, which is modified by བྱས་པ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར་ (because of being a product).
The syntactic particle ཕྱིར་ is usually a postposition in that a connective case marking particle connects it to a word, phrase, or clause that follows. However, when it is used to mark a reason, it is not declined. Therefore, it is a syntactic particle and not a postposition. And in this formal style of stating a proof, the ཕྱིར་ ends a phrase that relates to what precedes it (breaking a general guideline about Tibetan syntax that phrases and clauses generally relate to the verb that follows it).
Here is another example of a simple syllogism, this one with a NOUN-ADJECTIVE phrase as a subject.
ཆོས་དུང་[na] དཀར་པོ་[nom] མི་རྟག་པ་[nom] ཡིན་[v] ཏེ་[sp] རྟག་པ་[nom] མ་ཡིན་[v]པའི་ཕྱིར།[sp]
ཆོས་དུང་དཀར་པོ་→ མི་རྟག་པ་ → ← ཡིན་ཏེ་ → ← རྟག་པ་ → མ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།
[A] white religious conch is impermanent because of not being permanent.
ཆོས་དུང་ religious conch
Here are a couple more syllogisms, including a slightly more complex one:
The horns of a rabbit do not exist because of being non-existents.
[They] are not existent because they are not permanent and are not impermanent.
རི་བོང་རྭ་ horns of a rabbit
གང་ཞིག་ [for-one] used to mark the first part of a syllogism's reason; whoever, which
The second reason above has two parts: (1) not being impermanent, and (2) not being impermanent. The two parts are separated by the syntactic particle གང་ཞིག་, which can be thought of as marking the first part of the reason. They are not alternative reasons. In a two part (or multipart) reason, both must be true for the reason – and thus the syllogism – to be valid. Nonexistence is only proven if something is BOTH not impermanent and not permanent (since permanent / impermanent is an exhaustive dichotomy, all existents must be either one or the other).
The first line (རི་བོང་རྭ་མེད་པ་ཡིན་ཏེ་ཡོད་པ་མ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།) is a simple syllogism. The second line continues the argument. The understood subject of ཡོད་པ་མ་ཡིན་ཏེ་ is རི་བོང་རྭ་, the subject of the first syllogism. The reason stated in the second line (རྟག་པ་མ་ཡིན་པ་གང་ཞིག་མི་རྟག་པ་མ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།) relates to the claim immediately preceding it (ཡོད་པ་མ་ཡིན་ཏེ་) but does not relate grammatically to anything in the first sentence.
There is, however, a logical relationship between the two lines. Notice that what is being proven in the second syllogism is the reason for the first. Spelled out in its most complete form, then, we have the following.
The typical syntactic structure of a logical sequence is a statement of the form SUBJECT + PREDICATE + REASON. The SUBJECT and PREDICATE are known as the THESIS [to be proven]. The REASON, or SIGN, is what proves that the SUBJECT is the PREDICATE, or proves the THESIS.
In a logical sequence, one syllogism is often followed by another syllogism in which the first REASON becomes the new PREDICATED.
A sequence might be:
Notice how the subject is staying the same in this sequence. Ultimately, the goal is to prove that A is B. The sequence is necessary to show the logical entailment.
Ultimately, in Tibetan Budhdist debate, the goal is always to remove mistake views or superimpositions. The goal is not to be “right” in the sense of beating an opponent but to discover and correct mistaken assumptions.
For example, say you wanted to prove your dog is an animal to your friend Bob, who is skeptical.
YOU: Bubba, my dog, is an animal because of having fur.
BOB: How do you know he has fur?
YOU: Bubba has fur because he leaves fur all over my couch.
BOB: How do you know it was Bubba that left fur on your couch?
YOU: Bubba leaves fur all over my couch because there are no other furry animals in the house.
BOB: Ah, OK. I accept that Bubba is an animal.
Thus, since there are no other animals in the house, the fur on the couch must be Bubba's, and since the fur on the couch is Bubba's, Bubba has fur, and since Bubba has fur, he must be an animal. Bob, being astute, realized that you had employed a valid series of syllogisms and once he accepted that it was Bubba that had left the fur on the couch, he had implicitly accepted that Bubba was an animal.
This is a logically tenuous and somewhat silly example, but it demonstrates a bit of how the logical sequences work. Here's a more classic example using everybody's favorite subject: pot.
Pot is impermanent because of being a product.
Pot is a product because of being a created phenomenon.
Pot is a created phenomenon because of being a [functioning] thing.
སྐྱེས་པ་ created phenomenon (definition of བྱས་པ་), created; man; human being [synonymous with སྐྱེས་བུ་]
དངོས་པོ་ functioning thing, effective thing
If we imagined this conversation between yourself and Bob, it might go like this.
YOU: This subject, my favorite pot, is impermanent.
BOB: No it's not.
YOU: Yes it is.
BOB: Why? How do you know it's impermanent?
YOU: Because it's a product.
BOB: No it's not.
YOU: Yes it is. Of course it's a product. Don't be silly. We all know it's a product because it's a created phenomenon.
BOB: How do you know it's a created phenomenon?
YOU: We know it's a created phenomenon because it is a functioning thing.
BOB: What the hell is a functioning thing? That's weird. You're weird. It's just a pot. You cook with it.
YOU: So you agree that it's a functioning thing?
BOB: OK. Sure.
YOU: And if it's a functioning thing, it has to be a created phenomenon.
BOB: That's right. I guess.
YOU: And if it's a created phenomenon then it's necessarily impermanent!
BOB: Sure, whatever. Cook me some food or something.
YOU: Just say it's impermament.
BOB: OK, fine. I accept it. The subject, your pot, is impermanent. I want pizza.
YOU: You can't cook pizza in a pot.
The terms subject and predicate, which have been used grammatically, are now used doctrinally. In the context of philosophy and debate, that have a technical meaning separate from their grammatical meaning. These terms are particularly important in the study of རྟགས་རིགས་, or Signs and Reasons literature, as well as in commentaries on Dharmakīrti's Pramāṇavārttika, or the ཚད་མ་རྣམ་འགྲེལ་ (Commentary on Valid Cognition).
རྟགས་རིགས་ signs and reasonings (type of Tibetan Buddhist philosophical literature)
ཚད་མ་རྣམ་འགྲེལ་ Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇavārttika, Commentary on Valid Cognition or Commentary on Dignāga's Compendium on Valid Cognition
ཚད་མ་ཀུན་ལས་བཏུས་པ་ Pramāṇa-samuccaya, Dignāga's Compendium on Valid Cognition
ཚད་མ་ valid cognition (in the sense of being incontrovertible); also refers to study of epistemology and logic
ཚད་མ་ refers most basically to incontrovertible cognition. It is often translated valid cognition. It may also be translated prime cognition. By extension, the term ཚད་མ་ also refers to the study of epistemology and logic and those texts that discuss these topics. Thus, although ཚད་མ་རྣམ་འགྲེལ་ literally means Commentary on Valid Cognition, it is understood to mean Commentary on Dignāga's Compendium on Valid Cognition (Pramāṇa-samuccaya – ཚད་མ་ཀུན་ལས་བཏུས་པ་)
To read more on ཚད་མ་ as prime cognition, see Lati Rinbochay, Mind in Tibetan Buddhism, pp. 31-32 and 116-129ཚད་མ་
དམ་བཅའ་ thesis (pratijñā)
ཆོས་ཅན་ subject (dharmin)
བསྒྲུབ་བྱའི་ཆོས་ predicate to be proven (sādhya-dharma)
བསྒྲུབ་བྱ་ probandum or proposition (sādhya) – same as thesis, དམ་བཅའ་
སྒྲུབ་བྱེད་ [prover] proof
རྟགས་ sign (liṅga)
གཏན་ཚིགས་ reason (hetu)
Following the རྟགས་རིགས་ presentation there are two parts to a syllogism:
The thesis itself has two parts:
For example, our simple syllogism བུམ་པ་མི་རྟག་པ་ཡིན་ཏེ་བྱས་པ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།
བུམ་པ་ མི་རྟག་པ་ཡིན་ཏེ་ བྱས་པ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར།
subject predicate sign or reason
བུམ་པ་མི་རྟག་པ་ཡིན་ཏེ་ → དམ་བཅའ་ thesis
བུམ་པ་ → ཆོས་ཅན་ subject
མི་རྟག་པ་ཡིན་ → བསྒྲུབ་བྱའི་ཆོས་ predicate to be proven
བྱས་པ་ཡིན་པའི་ཕྱིར། → རྟགས sign or གཏན་ཚིགས་ reason
བུམ་པ་མི་རྟག་པ་ཡིན་ (pots are impermanent) is the thesis. བུམ་པ་ (pot) is the subject. མི་རྟག་པ་ (impermaent) is the predicate to the proven. These are the two parts of the thesis, which is, to restate, that pots have the quality of being impermanent. How are we going to prove this? Through the sign (རྟགས) or reason (གཏན་ཚིགས་). Pots have the quality of being impermanent because of being a product.
For more on this, see Daniel Perdue, Debate in Tibetan Buddhism, pp. 33-60
Subjects are often marked off with a label, ཆོས་ཅན་, in apposition. ཆོས་ཅན་ literally means attribute-possessor and is translated as subject.
The subject, pot, is impermanent because of being a product.
ཆོས་ཅན་ subject [attribute-possessor]
Notice that in the literal translation of ཆོས་ཅན་, ཆོས་ is being translated as attribute. ཆོས་ is the translation for the Sanskrit word dharma. If you look up ཆོས་ in the dictionary, you'll find that it has a whole range of meanings: attribute; quality, phenomenon, topic, doctrine, religion, practice, and way. It is a very rich word in the Tibetan language with a broad range of meanings and inflections.
ཀུན་འབྱུང་, short for ཀུན་ཏུ་འབྱུང་བ་ – true sources (of suffering). This is the second of the four truths, ཀུན་འབྱུང་བའི་བདེན་པ་, which is the cause of the first truth, སྡུག་བསྔལ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་, true sufferings (that is, rebirth in cyclic existence).
True sources (of suffering), the second noble truth, are divided into two:
Actions and afflictions actually means afflictions and actions that are motivated by afflictions, chiefly ignorance, anger, and attachment.
The three main main afflictions—attachment, aversion, and ignorance—were introduced in Chapter 10.
ཁོང་ཁྲོ་ is often used as a synonym for ཞེ་སྡང་ and also means anger. In a verbal commentary, Yangsi Rinpoche explained that ཁོང་ཁྲོ་ has more the sense of anger or frustration that arises as a reaction to something but also quickly passes away. Even highly realized beings might experience this. ཞེ་སྡང་, however, perhaps better translated as hatred or malice, has the sense of being persistent and planned, a deliberate intent to do harm to another sentient being. ཞེ་སྡང་ isn't necessarily as hot or emotional as “hatred” makes it feel but can also be cold as long as there is a persistent intent to do harm.
From Rigpa Wiki: His Holiness the Dalai Lama has advised that ཞེ་སྡང་ should be translated as hatred, because the word anger (ཁོང་ཁྲོ་) can sometimes, in rare circumstances, be seen as positive, whereas hatred like ཞེ་སྡང་ can never be positive. However, when it appears in the context of tantra, he says, it should be translated as anger.
Here's a definition of ཁོང་ཁྲོ་ from Mipham Rinpoche's མཁས་འཇུག་ (The Entrance to the Way of the Wise or Introduction to Scholarship):
Anger is a mind which is hostile towards a sentient being, suffering or the cause of suffering. It prevents one from remaining in peace and is the support for negative actions. [Rigpa Translations]
Anger is the hostile attitude towards a sentient being, a painful object, or pain [itself]. It makes one not abide in peace and creates the basis for negative action. [Erik Pema Kunsang]
གཏི་མུག་ obscuration, delusion – often used synonymously for མ་རིག་པ་ (ignorance) and is related to རྨོངས་པ་ (obscuration, delusion)
These three, along with pride, doubt, and afflicted view, make up the six principal, root, afflictions (རྩ་བའི་ཉོན་མོངས་, རྩ་ཉོན་)
རྩ་བའི་ཉོན་མོངས་ six root affliction
- འདོད་ཆགས་ attachment, desire, rāga
- ཞེ་སྡང་ aversion, hatred, pratigha
- ང་རྒྱལ་ pride, māna
- མ་རིག་པ་ ignorance, avidyā
- ཐེ་ཚོམ་ doubt, vicikitsā
- ལྟ་བ་ཉོན་མོངས་ཅན་ afflicted view, kliṣṭa-dṛṣṭi
ལྟ་བ་ཉོན་མོངས་ཅན་ is opposed to ཡང་དག་པའི་ལྟ་བ་ correct view (realization of emptiness)
There are five sorts of afflicted views. They are afflicted because they derive from ignorance. The most basic of these is the view of the transitory collection as a real “I” or “mine.”
འཇེག་ཚོགས་ transitory collection – aggregates of the mind and body, the five aggregates
འཇེག་ཚོགས་ལ་ལྟ་བ་ view of the transitory collection, satkāyaḍṛṣṭi
འཇེག་ཚོགས་ལ་ལྟ་བ་ is a short verbal noun phrase. ལྟ་ is an agentive-objective verb (view, look, see) with ལ་ marking what is viewed. The agent, as happens very frequently, is unstated. འཇེག་ཚོགས་ལ་ལྟ་ would mean [one] views [the] transitory collection. It is nominalized with the བ་ to become view of the transitory collection.
For more on the transitory collection and view of the transitory collection, see Hopkins, Meditation on Emptiness, pp. 251-261; Rabten, Treasury of Dharma, pp. 53-60, and HH Tenzin Gyatso, The Dalai Lama At Harvard, pp. 77-79.
Alex Berzin calls this a deluded outlook toward a transitory network. He has two definitions of it on StudyBuddhism.com.
- According to Vasubandhu and Asanga, the disturbing attitude that regards some transitory network from one's own samsara-perpetuating five aggregates as "me" or as "mine."
- According to Tsongkhapa, the disturbing attitude that focuses on the conventional "me" and regards it as a truly findable "me" identical with the aggregates, or as "me, the possessor, controller, or inhabitant" of the aggregates.
There are also a number of secondary afflictions, including the following.
ཉོ་བའི་ཉོན་མོངས་ secondary affliction
Actions in general are not always the sources of suffering, only actions motivated by afflictions, and, in particular, ignorance. Such actions are called contaminated actions.
There are three main types of actions: wholesome, unwholesome, and neutral.
ལུང་མ་བསྟན་ neutral (abbreviated form of ལུང་དུ་མ་བསྟན་པ་)
Wholesome or positive actions lead to the experience of pleasure (typically in a future lifetime, not this one). If they are uncontaminated, they bring about hte pleasure experienced in enlightenment; if they are contaminated, they cause an experience of pleasure in cyclic existence. All unwholesome or negative actions are contaminated and, thus, lead only to hte experience of suffering in one or another of the six types of rebirth. Neutral actions are inconsequential in terms of rebirth and the future epxerience of pleasure and pain.
All phenomena are either wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral. However, only those included within a sentient being's body and mind may be wholesome or unwholesome.
See Rabten, Treasury of Dharma, pp.33-36, and HH Tenzin Gyatso, The Dalai Lama At Harvard, pp. 59-61.
The are various levels of explanation of cause and effect in Geluk doctrinal primers (བསྡུས་གྲྭ་ Collected Topics). The most elementary explanation presents causality—that is, being a cause and an affect—as a primary characteristic of impermanent phenomena. (See the list of terms equivalent to མི་རྟག་པ་ in Chapter 9 or the list of terms equivalent to functioning thing in the page on Established Bases in the Collected Topics section of the wiki.).
བསྡུས་གྲྭ་ Collected Topics
The standard categorization is into six causes, four conditions, and five effects. This set of divisions is more a discussion of terminology occurring in Indian texts than it is a taxonomy of causes and conditions. Terminological divisions may be phrased in the following way.
བརྗོད་པའི་རིགས་ types which are expressed
སྒྲ་ sound, term
སྒོ་ནས་ from the viewpoint of [through the door of], syntactic particle with adverbial sense
If causes are divided from the viewpoint of terminology, there are six.
The basic sentence is: རྒྱུ་ལ་…དབྱེ་ན་དྲུག་ཡོད། When causes are divided, there are six. The core of this sentence is དྲུག་ཡོད་, There are six. This is modified by an if-clause, which must be true for there to be six, for དྲུག་ཡོད་ to be true. The core of the if-clause is རྒྱུ་ལ་…དབྱེ་ན་, when causes are divided. This is modified by an adverbial clause, སྒྲས་བརྗོད་རིགས་ཀྱི་སྒོ་ནས་, from the viewpoint of terminology. Notice the use of ནས་ is not a fifth case but used as part of an adverbial expression. སྒྲས་བརྗོད་རིགས་ཀྱི་སྒོ་ནས་ more literally means “from the viewpoint of types expressed by terms." སྒྲས་ is སྒྲ་ in the agentive case (by means of), connected to the noun phrase བརྗོད་རིགས་, which is short for བརྗོད་པའི་རིགས་ (types which are expressed). The agentive case marker (ས་) on སྒྲ་ is dictated by the verbal བརྗོད་པ་.
སྒོ་ནས་ is a commonly seen expression. It literally means from the door [of], but more expressively from the viewpoint [of]. ནས་ is not a syntactic particle with an adverbial sense.
Of the six types of causes, the one most relevant here (in the discussion of the causes of cyclic existence) is the fruitional cause. There is a corresponding fruitional effect. There are two other effects that figure into discussions of karma as well, causually concordant effects and dominant effects.
རྣམ་སྨིན་གྱི་རྒྱུ་ fruitional cause
རྣམ་སྨིན་གྱི་འབྲས་བུ་ fruitional effect
རྒྱུ་མཐུན་གྱི་འབྲས་བུ་ causally concordant effect
བདག་པོའི་འབྲས་བུ་ dominant effect
Fruitional causes are either negative phenomena or afflicted positive phenomena and lead to fruitional effects, such as continued experience within cyclic existence. Rebirth as a human is an example of a fruitional effect.
སྲོག་གཅོད་ཀྱི་ལས་ action of killing
སྲོག་ life, life force
གཅོད་ cut, cut off V (pp. 122)
Although born as a human, liking to kill is an example of a causally concordant effect issuing from killing in a previous lifetime. The physical environment in which one is born is an example of a dominant effect.
བདེ་འགྲོ་ pleasant migration
དགའ་ delight in, enjoy
although born in a peasant migration, taking pleasure in killing
སྐྱེ་བ་ birth, arising
སྐྱེས་པ་ born, arisen, created
སྐྱེས་བུ་ being, man
འགྲོ་བ་ going, goer
ཆོས་ཅན་ subject [of logic]
གཏི་མུག་ obscuration, ignorance
རྟགས་ sign, reason
ལྟ་བ་ view, [wrong] view
ནད་པ་ ill person
ཕྱོགས་ side, direction, position
བྱས་པ་ produced, made, product
མྱོང་བྱ་ object of experience
རྩ་བ་ root, basis, principal
ཚད་མ་ valid cognition, prime cognition
ཞེ་སྡང་ hatred, aversion
ཡོན་ཏན་ good qualities, virtues, qualities
རང་དབང་ independence, own-power
སྲོག་ life, vitality
སྐྱེ་ be born III
སྐྱེད་ generate, produce V
གྲུབ་ was established, proven III
དགོས་ must, require VII
འགྲུབ་ is established, proved III
མངའ་ exist II, have VIII
མཆི་ go III
ཉམས་སུ་ལེན་ practice V
སྟེར་ give V
མྱོང་ experience V
ཟེར་ is called VIII
ཡོད་ exist II, have VIII
ཤར་ appear, rise III
གསུངས་ said, spoke V
བསགས་ accumulated V
ཁོ་ she, he, it
ཁོ་བོ་ I, me
ཁོ་བོ་ཅག་ we, us
ཁོ་བོ་ཅག་རྣམས་ we, us
ཁོང་ he, she, it (h)
ང་ I, me
ང་ཅག་ we, us
ང་ཚོ་ we, us
ང་རང་ I, I myself
བདག་ I, me, self
བདག་ཅག་ we, us
རང་ our, our own, its own
རང་ཅག་ we, ourselves