Idealistic Scepticism Concerning Objective Reality


But extreme Idealism identifies 'to be' with 'to be known,' and

assumes all phenomena to be ideas as illustrated in

Mahayana-vidyamatra-siddhi-tridaca-castra[FN#199] and

Vidyamatra-vincati-castra,[FN#200] by Vasubandhu. Then it

necessarily parts company with Zen, which believes in Universal Life

existing in everything instead of behind it. Idealism shows us its

dark side in three sceptic views: (1) scepticism respect
ng objective

reality; (2) scepticism respecting religion; (3) scepticism

respecting morality.

[FN#199] A philosophical work on Buddhist idealism by Vasubandhu,

translated into Chinese by Hiuen Tsang in A.D. 648. There exists a

famous commentary on it, compiled by Dharmapala, translated into

Chinese by Hiuen Tsang in A.D. 659. See Nanjo's Catalogue, Nos. 1197

and 1125.

[FN#200] A simpler work on Idealism, translated into Chinese by

Hiuen Tsang in A.D. 661. See Nanjo's Catalogue, Nos. 1238, 1239, and


First it assumes that things exist in so far as they are known by us.

It is as a matter of course that if a tree exists at all, it is

known as having a trunk long or short, branches large or small,

leaves green or yellow, flowers yellow or purple, etc., all of which

are ideas. But it does not imply in the least that 'to be known' is

equivalent to 'to be existent.' Rather we should say that to be

known presupposes to be existent, for we cannot know anything

non-existent, even if we admit that the axioms of logic subsist.

Again, a tree may stand as ideas to a knower, but it can stand at the

same time as a shelter in relation to some birds, as food in relation

to some insects, as a world in relation to some minute worms, as a

kindred organism to other vegetables. How could you say that its

relation to a knower is the only and fundamental relation for the

existence of the tree? The disappearance of its knower no more

affects the tree than of its feeder; nor the appearance of its knower

affects the tree any more than that of kindred vegetables.

Extreme idealism erroneously concludes that what is really existent,

or what is directly proved to be existent, is only our sensations,

ideas, thoughts; that the external world is nothing but the images

reflected on the mirror of the mind, and that therefore objective

reality of things is doubtful-nay, more, they are unreal, illusory,

and dreams. If so, we can no longer distinguish the real from the

visionary; the waking from the dreaming; the sane from the insane;

the true from the untrue. Whether life is real or an empty dream, we

are at a loss to understand.