In Western philosophy, one of the most common arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument, which states roughly that everything has a cause, and so the Universe must have a cause, namely God. (There's also a more sophisticated version of the cosmological argument developed by Thomas Aquinas, which I discuss in my Philosophy.SE question here.) This argument is known in Hindu philosophy as well; it was propounded by the Nyaya school, which believed that the existence of a supreme being could be proven through reason alone.

Now in this excerpt from his Agama Pramanya, the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Yamunacharya presents the Nyaya school's argument that the supreme being has perfect knowledge of Dharma, which includes the cosmological argument for the existence of a supreme being:

If one contends that such entities as mountains, earth and the like are not effects, the answer is as follows: The entities in question, earth etc., are effects, because they have a complex construction, like a king’s palace. Similarly from the fact that they are made up of parts we conclude that they are subject to destruction. Entities that can be destroyed are destroyed by someone who knows the means by which they can be destroyed, just as we can destroy clay vessels etc. when we know by what means to destroy them.... Motion, when there is mass, is sufficient ground to infer in this world that an entity which has mass and can move is subject to origination and to destruction. It being thus established that earth etc. are indeed effects, on the grounds adduced above, it follows that the Bhagavan has knowledge of dharma and adharma which are the instrumental causes of origination and annihilation. Consequently, the entities here in question, earth, mountains and the like, have been created by a maker who posses the described knowledge. Everything that has origin and end is, in our experience, created by such a maker, just because it is subject to origination and annihilation, like a house.

But as I discuss in this question, the vast majority of Hindus today do not subscribe to the Nyaya school, but rather to the Vedanta school. And as I discuss here, the Vedanta school believes that Brahman is not known through sensory perception or logical reasoning, but rather only through the Vedas, specifically the Upanishads. So in this section of the Sri Bhashya, the commentary on the Brahma Sutras by the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Ramnujacharya, he refutes the Nyaya school's cosmological argument:

That the world is an effected thing because it consists of parts; and that, as all effects are observed to have for their antecedents certain appropriate agents competent to produce them, we must infer a causal agent competent to plan and construct the universe, and standing towards it in the relation of material and operative cause--this would be a conclusion altogether unjustified. There is no proof to show that the earth, oceans, &c., although things produced, were created at one time by one creator. Nor can it be pleaded in favour of such a conclusion that all those things have one uniform character of being effects, and thus are analogous to one single jar; for we observe that various effects are distinguished by difference of time of production, and difference of producers. Nor again may you maintain the oneness of the creator on the ground that individual souls are incapable of the creation of this wonderful universe, and that if an additional principle be assumed to account for the world--which manifestly is a product--it would be illegitimate to assume more than one such principle. For we observe that individual beings acquire more and more extraordinary powers in consequence of an increase of religious merit; and as we may assume that through an eventual supreme degree of merit they may in the end qualify themselves for producing quite extraordinary effects, we have no right to assume a highest soul of infinite merit, different from all individual souls. Nor also can it be proved that all things are destroyed and produced all at once; for no such thing is observed to take place, while it is, on the other hand, observed that things are produced and destroyed in succession; and if we infer that all things are produced and destroyed because they are effects, there is no reason why this production and destruction should not take place in a way agreeing with ordinary experience. If, therefore, what it is desired to prove is the agency of one intelligent being, we are met by the difficulty that the proving reason (viz. the circumstance of something being an effect) is not invariably connected with what it is desired to prove; there, further, is the fault of qualities not met with in experience being attributed to the subject about which something has to be proved; and lastly there is the fault of the proving collateral instances being destitute of what has to be proved--for experience does not exhibit to us one agent capable of producing everything. If, on the other hand, what you wish to prove is merely the existence of an intelligent creative agent, you prove only what is proved already (not contested by any one).--Moreover, if you use the attribute of being an effect (which belongs to the totality of things) as a means to prove the existence of one omniscient and omnipotent creator, do you view this attribute as belonging to all things in so far as produced together, or in so far as produced in succession? In the former case the attribute of being an effect is not established (for experience does not show that all things are produced together); and in the latter case the attribute would really prove what is contrary to the hypothesis of one creator (for experience shows that things produced in succession have different causes). In attempting to prove the agency of one intelligent creative being only, we thus enter into conflict with Perception and Inference, and we moreover contradict Scripture, which says that 'the potter is born' and 'the cartwright is born' (and thus declares a plurality of intelligent agents). Moreover, as we observe that all effected things, such as living bodies and so on, are connected with pleasure and the like, which are the effects of sattva (goodness) and the other primary constituents of matter, we must conclude that effected things have sattva and so on for their causes. Sattva and so on--which constitute the distinctive elements of the causal substance--are the causes of the various nature of the effects. Now those effects can be connected with their causes only in so far as the internal organ of a person possessing sattva and so on undergoes modifications. And that a person possesses those qualities is due to karman. Thus, in order to account for the origination of different effects we must necessarily assume the connexion of an intelligent agent with karman, whereby alone he can become the cause of effects; and moreover the various character of knowledge and power (which the various effects presuppose) has its reason in karman. And if it be said that it is (not the various knowledge, &c., but) the mere wish of the agent that causes the origination of effects, we point out that the wish, as being specialised by its particular object, must be based on sattva and so on, and hence is necessarily connected with karman. From all this it follows that individual souls only can be causal agents: no legitimate inference leads to a Lord different from them in nature.--This admits of various expressions in technical form. 'Bodies, worlds, &c., are effects due to the causal energy of individual souls, just as pots are'; 'the Lord is not a causal agent, because he has no aims; just as the released souls have none'; 'the Lord is not an agent, because he has no body; just as the released souls have none.' (This last argumentation cannot be objected to on the ground that individual souls take possession of bodies; for in their case there exists a beginningless subtle body by means of which they enter into gross bodies).--'Time is never devoid of created worlds; because it is time, just like the present time (which has its created world).'

Consider the following point also. Does the Lord produce his effects, with his body or apart from his body? Not the latter; for we do not observe causal agency on the part of any bodiless being: even the activities of the internal organ are found only in beings having a body, and although the internal organ be eternal we do not know of its producing any effects in the case of released disembodied souls. Nor again is the former alternative admissible; for in that case the Lord's body would either be permanent or non-permanent. The former alternative would imply that something made up of parts is eternal; and if we once admit this we may as well admit that the world itself is eternal, and then there is no reason to infer a Lord. And the latter alternative is inadmissible because in that case there would be no cause of the body, different from it (which would account for the origination of the body). Nor could the Lord himself be assumed as the cause of the body, since a bodiless being cannot be the cause of a body. Nor could it be maintained that the Lord can be assumed to be 'embodied' by means of some other body; for this leads us into a regressus in infinitum.--Should we, moreover, represent to ourselves the Lord (when productive) as engaged in effort or not?--The former is inadmissible, because he is without a body. And the latter alternative is excluded because a being not making an effort does not produce effects. And if it be said that the effect, i.e. the world, has for its causal agent one whose activity consists in mere desire, this would be to ascribe to the subject of the conclusion (i.e. the world) qualities not known from experience; and moreover the attribute to be proved would be absent in the case of the proving instances (such as jars, &c., which are not the work of agents engaged in mere wishing). Thus the inference of a creative Lord which claims to be in agreement with observation is refuted by reasoning which itself is in agreement with observation, and we hence conclude that Scripture is the only source of knowledge with regard to a supreme soul that is the Lord of all and constitutes the highest Brahman.

My question is, have there been any responses by the Nyaya school to Ramanujacharya's refutation of the cosmological argument? I'm not sure if Ramanujacharya was the one who came up with this refutation, or if it was developed by earlier Vedantic philosophers. But either way, has the Nyaya school ever responded to the ideas described in the passage above?

Now the Nyaya school pretty much entirely disappeared after the Vedanta school became the dominant school of Hindu philosophy, so it's possible that Nyaya philosophers never got a chance to hear Ramanujacharya's argument. But if they did hear of it, I'm interested in reading their response.

EDIT: Here's a brief summary of Ramanujacharya's argument:

  1. We would only have reason to believe that the Earth, the mountains, the oceans, and so on were created by a single creator if they were all at once. But in ordinary observation we see different effects produced at different times, so we have no reason to suppose that things like mountains and oceans were created all at once.

  2. So it's more likely that the Earth, the mountains, etc. were created at different times, in which case they may have been created by different intelligent beings, i.e. different Jivas. If it's objected that Jivas don't have the power needed to create the Earth, in ordinary life we observe that people who accrue more and more religious merit can obtain greater and greater magical powers, so some time in the past some Jivas might have accrued so much merit that they could create the Earth and mountains and so on.

  3. If the Earth was created by a single Lord, is this Lord bodiless or does he have a body? We have no reason to suppose that the Earth was created by a bodiless being, because in ordinary observation we only see effects produced by beings with bodies. And if the Lord created the Earth with a body, how did that body originate? If that body did not originate, we might as well say the Earth did not originate. And for the reasons above we have no reason to suppose it was created by a bodiless being. Thus it must have been created by using another body, but then we enter into an infinite regress.

  4. If a single bodiless Lord did create the Earth, did he have motive in creation or does he have no motives? We have no reason to suppose it was motiveless, for all the effects we observe in life were created with motives. And if the Earth was created in order to fulfill some desire, was this desire fulfilled with no effort or with effort? We have no reason to suppose it was without effort, for in ordinary observation we never see a desire fulfilled without effort. And the Lord cannot have made an effort, for only bodies make efforts.

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    Isn't there a summary explanation of Ramanuja's theory? Because, after a while, the mind tends to wander, if you get me.
    – Surya
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:40
  • It wasn't just Ramanuja, it was the very text of the Brahma Sutras that refuted the Nyaya school. I think it would be better to say that Vyasa refuted Nyaya. The texts that refuted Nyaya were expounded upon by all the commentators. I don't think there was any refutation as the school has been fossilized for so long. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 5:35
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    @SwamiVishwananda Well, before I posted this question I looked in Adi Shankaracharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya, and I couldn't find any discussion of the cosmological argument, at least in his commentary on Adhyaya 1 Pada 1 Sutra 3. He does say that Brahman cannot be known through perception or inference, but he doesn't address this particular argument of the Nyaya school. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 13:17
  • @Surya I just added a summary to the post. Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 13:30
  • I will respond to those ... Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 17:25


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