Samkhya and Nyaya Assertions of Atman and Buddhist Refutation

The method for gaining an accurate and decisive understanding of any of the Buddhist assertions, such as concerning the nature of the self, is to challenge the Buddhist position with the assertions of the “purva paksha,” the other side, and then answer these challenges. The “other side” refers to the assertions of the Indian non-Buddhist schools with which the Buddhists debated at the Indian monastic universities such as Nalanda. By examining ourselves to see if we somehow misunderstand the Buddhist positions and unknowingly hold some of these “other side” ones, we clarify our understanding. For example, Buddhism asserts that the self knows things, but is not a way of knowing like consciousness is. Samkhya challenges this by asserting that the self is an independently existing atman that is merely passive consciousness separate from the mind and without any object. Nyaya asserts it as something lacking consciousness, but that uses the mind to know things. To clarify our understanding in the face of these challenges, we need to explain how the Buddhist position is neither of these.