How to argue and win?

An interesting profound discussion between a Vedantin and a Naiyyayika (follower of Nyaya philosophy).

Caution: Read only if you are willing to rattle your brains on logic.

In the 50th verse of Panchadasi, a Naiyyayika (follower of Nyaya philosophy) asks the propounder of the text who is a Vedantin (follower of Vedanta philosophy), that how can words (Mahavakyas like ‘Tat Tvam Asi’) indicate the Supreme Reality (as the Vedantin is claiming), because words have properties (JAti, GuNa, desha, KAla) and properties cannot indicate the Supreme Reality (as claimed by the Naiyyayika) for two reasons:

1. The Vedantin is saying that Supreme Reality is beyond name, forms and any other property. How can words (which always have properties) indicate something which does not have a property?
2. Because of point #1 one would be forced to conclude that the wordings of the Mahavakyas can only indicate something which does have a property. This means that the Supreme Reality is something which does have a property. This is again contradictory to what the Vedantin had earlier proposed (that the Supreme Reality is beyond name, form and other property).
Hence the Naiyyayika tries to establish that the words of the Mahavakyas cannot indicate the Supreme Reality.

This question is countered by the Vedantin. Since the question comes under the Vitanda way of argument (refer to my earlier post on three types of arguments), the Vedantin chooses to apply the ‘UShTra laguda nyAya’ which is to beat the opponent using the points from his own argument.

The Vedantin says, “Oh opponent, you say about properties and since you are a specialist in properties, before we discuss whether Mahavakyas can indicate the Supreme Reality or not, let us discuss what is the substratum of these ‘properties’…on what do they stand?” He continues, “There are two possibilities. Either the properties can come from something which has does not have a property or from something which has a property. Let us discuss on that case by case.”

Case #1: Assuming that properties come from something that does not have a property – This is would be self contradictory because something cannot come from nothing.
Case #2: Assuming that properties come from something that does have a property. Here we come across four different contradictions (doShAs)

Case #2.1: Contradiction of Self-dependence: – If the substratum of property A is dependent on property B, then there are two possibilities. Either A and B are same or A and B are different.
Case #2.1.1: If A and B are same, then it means B is the substratum of A and A is the substratum of B. How can B be the locus of A if A is the locus of B? How can A stand on something (B) where that (B) itself is standing on A? E.g. If we say, what is the substratum of an apple (A). The substratum would be some base (B). How can the base (B) be the substratum (on which it stands) be the same as the apple (A)? So this is contradictory. Hence there is a contradiction of Self-Dependence. Hence we are forced to assume that A and B should be different which leads to Case #2.2.
Case #2.2: Contradiction of Mutual-dependence: – If A and B are different, and if the substratum of property A is dependent on property B, and the substratum of property of B is dependent on property C, then there are two possibilities. Either C and A are same or C and A are different.
Case #2.2.1: If C and A are same, then it means that the substratum of B is A because in #2.2 we have assumed that the substratum of B is C and here we are considering C=A. In this case, it would mean that A is the substratum of B and B is the substratum of A which is contradictory by mutual-dependence because we cannot say that the substratum of the Apple is the Base and the substratum of the Base is the apple. Hence we are forced to believe that C and A are different which leads to Case #2.2.2
Case #2.2.2: Contradiction by Cyclic-dependence: – If we assume that C and A are different, and that the substratum of A is B and substratum of B is C, then the substratum of C should be something like D. Here again we have two possibilities. Either D and A are same or D and A are different.
Case #2.2.2.1: If D and A are same, then it means that C=A because in Case #2.2.2 we considered B as the substratum of A, C as the substratum of B, and D as the substratum of C which is contradictory because the dependence of A, B & C will be cyclic. How can the substratum of an Apple be a Base whose substratum is (let us say) a Chair whose substratum is again the Apple? This we are forced to believe that the D and A are different which would lead to Case #2.2.2.2.
Case #2.2.2.2: If D and A are different and the substratum of A is B, substratum of B is C, substratum of C is D, then the substratum of D should be some property E. Again there can be two possibilities. Either E and A are same or E and A are different. If E and A would be same, then it would mean that D=A (by the logic of cyclic-dependence). Else, E and A would be different. If they are different, then the substratum of E should be property F. This will go on infinitely. Hence we have a case of the fourth contradiction – Contradiction by Infinite Regression.

The Vedantin now asks, “Oh opponent Naiyyayika, please tell me, what is the substratum of a property? We have proved that the substratum cannot be something which does not have a property nor can it be something that does have a property. So before you argue that Mahavakyas cannot indicate the Supreme Reality because It is property-less, first tell me where does your ‘property’ come from? What is its substratum?”

Thus, using UShTra laguda nyAya, the Vedantin has muted the opponent.

This depth of this entire argument is covered in just one verse. One can only be left with awe on how deep and subtle the philosophical arguments explained in our scriptures like Panchadasi are!