Dharmakīrti, in the Pramāṇaviniścaya, defines perception as a valid cognition because it is reliable (avisaṃvāda) with regard to the fulfillment of one’s goal (arthakriyā) after one has discerned (paricchidya) the object of valid cognition. On the other hand, it is also well known that in his philosophy perception is supposed to be devoid of conceptualization. How is it possible to discern via perception that is unrelated to conceptual constructs?
rNgog lo-tsā-ba, in his commentary on the Pramāṇaviniścaya entitled dKa’ gnas rnam bshad, tries to solve this problem using Dharmottara’s assertion that perception, which “rides the carriage of conceptual knowledge,” discerns the object of valid cognition. rNgog lo-tsā-ba divides discernment into two levels: the primary (don dam pa) and the conventional (tha snyad pa). He claims that while valid perception can discern by itself an object on the primary level, it discerns an object on the conventional level only with the support of conceptual knowledge. He asserts that discernment on the conventional level is what Dharmakīrti and Dharmottara had in mind.
In this paper, I investigate how rNgog lo-tsā-ba’s explanation serves to strengthen Dharmottara’s argument.