Realistic Reasoning and the Unreal World

Gaudapada's Use of Nyaya Methodology to Argue for Illusionism


  • Victor A. van Bijlert Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam



consciousness, early Advaita, early Nyāya, illusionism, realism, reasoning


The ancient Indian philosopher/theologian Gaudapada (probably fifth century ce) is credited with having founded the school of Advaita Vedanta. He unfolds his doctrines in four separate but related treatises which tradition has always transmitted under the title Gaudapadiya-karika. Gaudapada's treatises evince a persistent tendency towards illusionism; he uses logic to argue for the unreality of the perceivable world. Especially in book 4, he develops his argument that the world was never created, that therefore it is an illusion or magic, maya, and that it is only our perceiving consciousness. What is most baffling is the fact that in order to develop his arguments against the reality of the world, he uses the logical terminology and methodology of the early Nyaya, a school whose outlook on the world is realistic and thus the exact opposite of the outlook Gaudapada is espousing. This article will try to discuss and resolve the seeming contradiction between Gaudapada's illusionism and the realism of early Nyaya.

Author Biography

Victor A. van Bijlert, Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam

Victor van Bijlert is Lecturer in Indian religions and Sanskrit at the Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His research interests cover Indian philosophy, history, modern Hinduism and Bengali literature. His latest book is a collection of Dutch translations of the Gauḍapādīya-kārikā, the Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya and the Vajracchedikā, Bewustzijn boven taal en dualiteit (Consciousness beyond language and duality) (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2016).


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How to Cite

van Bijlert, V. A. (2018). Realistic Reasoning and the Unreal World: Gaudapada’s Use of Nyaya Methodology to Argue for Illusionism. Religions of South Asia, 11(1), 28–52.