to main page in English

ON COURSE WITH NATURE ©

Home | Site Map | QandA | 8fold Path | Glossary | Spinoza | Advayavadananda | in Dutch

RELEVANT EXCERPTS E-F-G-H

A-B-C-D | I-J-K-L | M-N-O-P | Q-R-S-T-U | V-W-X-Y-Z


Nothingness cannot be affirmed or negated (Vicente Fatone)
The Theory of Double Truth (Fung Yu-lan)
The Conventional Reality of Phenomena (Jay L. Garfield)
The Emptiness of Phenomena is not Nonexistence (Jay L. Garfield)
Buddhism is about Solving a Problem (Jay L. Garfield)
The Buddhism of the Nikayas (Rupert M.L. Gethin)
What is Reality? (Jeff Hawkins with Sandra Blakeslee)
Introduction to the Ethics (Stuart Hampshire abt. Spinoza)
For Prasangika Nothing Exists Objectively (Jeffrey Hopkins)
Two Types of Negation (C.W. Huntington Jr.)
Svatantrika vs. Prasangika (C.W. Huntington Jr.)

top to site map

Share/Save/Bookmark

Nothingness cannot be affirmed or negated (from The Philosophy of Nagarjuna, by Prof. Vicente Fatone, 1962, translated by K.D. Prithipaul, Delhi 1982) Here we find ourselves in the attitude, so familiar to us in the West, according to which nothingness can neither be affirmed nor thought of nor can it contain something more than the concept of something (the latter and its negation). Strictly speaking, we cannot refer to nothingness either affirmatively or negatively. In the face of nothingness the quality of the copula is disssolved. Every judgement is either affirmative or negative, and affirmation, as well as negation, is incompatible with nothingness. Nothingness cannot be affirmed, nothingness cannot be negated. Indian thought has laid emphasis on the second aspect, for the negative judgement has in it an importance greater than what obtains in the Western tradition. Nagarjuna concedes that what is not cannot be negated. Affirmation and negation only make sense insofar as they refer to that which is. The Buddhist texts abound in the formulation, in a variety of forms, of this principle: that which is not is neither affirmed nor is it negated. The affirmation, as well as the negation, of that which is not implies contradiction.

What does Nagarjuna affirm, if indeed he affirms something? Shunyata. Thus, to negate shunyata would mean, according to this principle, to acknowledge it. "All the dharmas are deprived of essence, they are void." Is this negated? By being negated shunyata is acknowledged and admitted as existent. Shunyata is affirmed by Nagarjuna and negated by the adversary. How can one claim to negate shunyata, if it is affirmed and negated, and if it has been said that what is not can neither be affirmed nor negated? One may insist by saying that shunyata is negated de facto in reality 'just as cold is negated in the flame'. Shunyata cannot be affirmed, because it is not. And it would not need to be negated, precisely because its negation is given in fact. Judgement always affirms. If the essence of the dharmas did not exist, what would be negated by the judgement which claims to negate the self-essence of the dharmas? Nothingness, and nothingness cannot negate itself. Negation is always negation of something..

All this discussion is a process in which the concept of shunyata and the negation of the reality of the dharmas becomes clearer. Once the discussion has begun in agreement with the interpretation which the adversary makes of the doctrine of Nagarjuna, the latter seems to affirm that the dharmas lack their own essence. Immediately, with the first objections, it is made clear that such an affirmation does not exist: "There can be no error in my thesis, because I do not have a thesis". Nagarjuna's position then must be negative. Once the statements necessary to the problem of negation have been made, Nagarjuna hastens to observe: "I do not negate", just as before he had said: "I do not affirm". The affirmation would have led to a recognition of the thesis of the adversary. Negation would lead to the same. If one affirms, if one negates, one falls into contradiction. The essence of the dharmas cannot be affirmed, because the essence of the dharmas does not exist, Nagarjuna said. Now he says that he does not affirm the void of the dharmas, for he knows that affirmation demonstrates the essence of something. He adds that, as the essence of the dharmas does not exist, it cannot be negated, for its negation cannot refer itself to a non-existent object. There are no negatable objects; there is no negation. What sense is there in refuting Nagarjuna who neither affirms nor negates?

top to site map

The Theory of Double Truth (from A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, by Prof. Fung Yu-lan, New York 1948) The K'ung tsung or School of Emptiness, also known as the School of the Middle Path, proposed what is called the theory of double truth: truth in the common sense and truth in the higher sense. Furthermore, it maintained, not only are there these two kinds of truth, but they both exist on varying levels. Thus what, on the lower level, is truth in the higher sense, becomes, on the higher level, merely truth in the common sense. One of the great Chinese Masters of this school, Chi-tsang (549-623), describes this theory as including the three following levels of double truth:

1) The common people take all things as really yu (having being, existent) and know nothing about wu (having no being, non-existent). Therefore the Buddhas [i.e. the Buddhist sages] have told them that actually all things are wu and empty. On this level, to say that all things are yu is the common sense truth, and to say that all things are wu is the higher sense truth.

2) To say that all things are yu is one-sided, but to say that all things are wu is also one-sided. They are both one-sided, because they give people the wrong impression that wu or non-existence only results from the absence or removal of yu or existence. Yet in actual fact, what is yu is simultaneously what is wu. For instance, the table standing before us need not be destroyed in order to show that it is ceasing to exist. In actual fact it is ceasing to exist all the time. The reason for this is that when one starts to destroy the table, the table which one thus intends to destroy has already ceased to exist. The table of this actual moment is no longer the table of the preceding moment. It only looks like that of the preceding moment. Therefore on the second level of truth, to say that all things are yu and to say that all things are wu are both equally common sense truth. What one ought to say is that the 'not-one-sided middle path' consists in understanding that things are neither yu nor wu. This is the higher sense truth [on the second level].

3) But to say that the middle path consists in what is not one-sided (i.e. what is neither yu nor wu), means to make distinctions. And all distinctions are themselves one-sided. Therefore on the third level, to say that things are neither yu nor wu, and that herein lies the not-one-sided middle path, is merely common sense truth. The higher truth consists in saying that things are neither yu nor wu, neither not-yu nor not-wu, and that the middle path is neither one-sided nor not-one-sided (Erh-ti Chang, sec. 1)..

When all is denied, including the denial of the denial of all, one arrives at the same situation as found in the philosophy of Chuang Tzu, in which all is forgotten, including the fact that one has forgotten all. This state is described by Chuang Tzu as 'sitting in forgetfulness', and by the Buddhists as Nirvana. One cannot ask this school of Buddhism what, exactly, the state of Nirvana is, because, according to it, when one reaches the third level of truth, one cannot affirm anything.

top to site map

The Conventional Reality of Phenomena (from The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, by Prof. Jay L. Garfield, New York 1995) The central topic of Mulamadhyamakakarika (literally Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way) is 'emptiness' - the Buddhist technical term for the lack of independent existence, inherent existence, or essence in things. Nagarjuna relentlessly analyzes phenomena or processes that appear to exist independently and argues that they cannot so exist, and yet, though lacking the inherent existence imputed to them either by naive common sense or by sophisticated realistic philosophical theory, these phenomena are not nonexistent - they are, he argues, conventionally real.

This dual thesis of the conventional reality of phenomena together with their lack of inherent existence depends upon the complex doctrine of the two truths or two realities - a conventional or nominal truth and an ultimate truth - and upon a subtle and surprising doctrine regarding their relation. It is, in fact, this sophisticated development of the doctrine of the two truths as a vehicle for understanding Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology that is Nagarjuna's greatest philosophical contribution. If the analysis in terms of emptiness is the substantive heart of Mulamadhyamakakarika, the method of reductio ad absurdum is the methodological core. Nagarjuna, like Western sceptics, systematically eschews the defense of positive metaphysical doctrines regarding the nature of things, arguing rather that any such positive thesis is incoherent and that, in the end, our conventions and our conceptual framework can never be justified by demonstrating their correspondence to an independent reality. Rather, he suggests, what counts as real depends precisely on our conventions (though in the end, as we shall see, ultimate reality depends on our conventions in a way, it depends on our conventions in a very different way from that in which conventional reality does; despite this difference in the structure of the relation between convention and reality in the two cases, however, it remains a distinctive feature of Nagarjuna's system that it is impossible to speak coherently of reality independent of conventions).

For Nagarjuna and his followers this point [that what counts as real depends on our conventions] is connected deeply and directly with the emptiness of phenomena. That is, for instance, when a Madhyamika philosopher says of a table that it is empty, that assertion by itself is incomplete. It invites the question: empty of what? And the answer is: empty of inherent existence, or self-nature, or, in more Western terms, essence. Now, to say that the table is empty is hence simply to say that it lacks essence and importantly not to say that it is completely nonexistent. To say that it lacks essence, the Madhyamika philosopher will explain, is to say, as the Tibetans like to put it, that is does not exist 'from its own side' - that its existence as the object that it is - as a table - depends not on it, nor on any purely nonrelational characteristics, but depends on us as well. That is, if our culture had not evolved this manner of furniture, what appears to us to be an obviously unitary object might instead be correctly described as five objects: four quite useful sticks absurdly surmounted by a pointless slab of stick-wood waiting to be carved!

top to site map

The Emptiness of Phenomena is not Nonexistence (from Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, by Prof. Jay L. Garfield, in Buddhist Philosophy, Essential Readings, edited by William Edelglass and Jay L. Garfield, Oxford and New York 2009) That all phenomena are dependently originated is the heart of Buddhist ontological theory. In the Mahayana tradition, this dependency is spelled out in three ways: all phenomena are dependent for their existence on complex networks of causes and conditions; a dollar bill, for instance, is dependent on the printing press that printed it, the miners who extracted the ore out of which the metal for the press was smelted, the trees that were pulped for the paper, the United States Treasury, and so on. All wholes are dependent on their parts, and parts on the wholes they help make up. The dollar bill depends for its existence on the particles of paper and ink that constiture it but also, for its existence as a dollar bill, on the entire economic system in which it figures. Finally, all phenomena are dependent for their identities on conceptual imputation. The dollar bill is only a dollar bill, as opposed to a bookmark, because the United States Treasury so designates it. To exist, according to Buddhist metaphysics [sic], simply is to exist dependently in these senses, and hence to be merely conventionally existent.

To exist dependently is, importantly, to be empty of essence. For a Madhyamika, like Nagarjuna, this emptiness of essence is the final mode of existence of any phenomenon, its ultimate truth. For to have an essence is to exist independently, to have one's identity and to exist not in virtue of extrinsic relations, but simply in virtue of intrisic properties. Because all phenomena are interdependent, all are empty in this sense. Just as the conventional truth about phenomena is made up by their interdependence, their ultimate truth is their emptiness. These are the two truths that Nagarjuna adumbrates throughout his corpus.

It follows immediately that the emptiness of all phenomena that Nagarjuna defends is not nonexistence: to be empty of essence is not to be empty of existence. Instead, to exist is to be empty. It also follows that emptiness is not a deeper truth hidden behind a veil of illusion. The emptiness of any phenomenon is dependent of the existence of that phenomenon, and on its [inter]dependence, which is that in which its essenceless consists. Emptiness is itself dependent, and hence [also] empty. This doctrine of the emptiness of emptiness, and of the identity of interdependence, or conventional truth, and emptiness, or ultimate truth, is Nagarjuna's deepest philosophical achievement. The two truths are different from one another in that the ultimate is the object of enlightened knowledge and liberating, while the conventional is apprehended by ordinary people through mundane cognitive processes. Nonetheless, they are in a deep sense identical. To be empty of essence is simply to exist only conventionally. The conditions of conventional existence are interdependence and impermanence, which, as we have seen, for Nagarjuna, entail essencelessness.

top to site map

Buddhism is about Solving a Problem (from Taking Conventional Truth Seriously, by Prof. Jay L. Garfield, in Moonshadows - Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy, by The Cowherds, Oxford 2011) Buddhism is about solving a problem - the problem of the omnipresence of suffering - and the central intuition of Buddhism is that the solution to that problem is the extirpation of ignorance. Epistemology is located at the foundation of morality and gets its point just from that location. The mechanism of the extirpation of ignorance is the competent use of our authorative epistemic instruments. What that use delivers is hence, at least indirectly, always of soteriological significance - always instrumental to liberation. Inasmuch as that is the central moral virtue, and inasmuch as epistemology is so tightly bound to the soteriological project, it is also the central epistemic virtue, and what we call the goal of epistemic activity is truth. Conventional truth is hence no to truth as blunderbusses are to buses or as fake guns are to real guns but rather is simply one kind of truth.

One of the Buddha's deepest insights was that there are two truths and that they are very different from one another. They are the objects of different kinds of cognition, and they reflect different aspects of reality. They are apprehended at different stages of practice. Despite the importance of the apprehension of ultimate truth, one can't skip the conventional. Despite the soteriological efficacy of ultimate truth, even after Buddhahood, omniscience and compassion require the apprehension of the conventional.

Nagarjuna's deepest insight was that, despite the vast difference between the two truths in one sense, they are, in an equally important sense, identical. We can now make better sense of that identity and of why the fact of their identityis the same fact as that of their difference. Ultimate reality is, as we know, emptiness. Emptiness is the emptiness not of existence but of intrinsic existence. To be empty of intrinsic existence is to exist only conventionally, only as the object of conventional truth. The ultimate truth about any phenomenon, on this analysis, is hence that it is merely a conventional truth. Ontologically therefore, the two truths are absolutely identical. This is the content of the idea that the two truths have a single basis: That basis is empty phenomena.Their emptiness is their conventional reality; their conventional reality is their emptiness.

Nonetheless, to know phenomena conventionally is not to know them ultimately. As objects of knowledge - that is, as intentional contents of thought, as opposed to mere phenomena - they are objects of different kinds of knowledge despite the identity at a deeper level of those objects. Hence the difference. But the respect in which they are different and that in which they are identical are, despite their difference, also identical. A mirage is deceptive because it is a refraction pattern, and it is the nature of a refraction pattern to be visually deceptive. The conventional truth is merely deceptive and conventional because, upon ultimate analysis, it fails to exist as it appears - that is, because it is ultimately empty. It is the nature of the conventional to deceive. Ultimately, since all phenomena, even ultimate truth, exist only conventionally, conventional truth is all the truth there is, and that is an ultimate and therefore a conventional truth. To fail to take conventional truth seriously as truth is therefore not only to deprecate the conventional in favor of the ultimate but also the deprecate truth per se. That way lies suffering.

top to site map

The Buddhism of the Nikayas (from The Buddhist Path to Awakening, by Rupert M.L. Gethin, Leiden 1992) How does one begin to answer the question: "What does the Buddhism of the Nikayas teach?" One way is to ask why the Nikayas were written at all. Why do they regard what they have to say as significant? What is their raison d'être? The answer is surely not hard to find. The Nikayas understand themselves as pointing towards the solution of a problem. This problem is stated in the texts in a variety of ways. Suffering, the ultimately unsatisfactory nature of life, dukkha (the first of the noble truths) is perhaps the most familiar. A rather more informal statement of the matter can perhaps better bring out what dukkha is to the Nikayas: the problem is that many people find life a problem. But the significance of even this basic premise of the Nikaya thought-world is, I think, sometimes misconstrued or not adequately set forth. For the Nikayas are not seeking to persuade a world of otherwise perfectly content beings that life is in fact unpleasant; rather they address something that is, as the Nikayas see it, universally found to exist and will sooner or later confront us all. In other words, understanding the first noble truth involves not so much the revelation that dukkha exists, as the realization of what dukkha is, or the knowledge of the true nature of dukkha. In their own terms, the Nikayas teach but two things: dukkha and the cessation of dukkha. In other words, they postulate a situation where there is a problem and a situation where there is no longer a problem, and are concerned with the processes and means involved in passing from the former to the latter. If this is the Nikayas' ultimate concern, then everything in them might be viewed as at least intended to be subordinate to that aim.

In the Nikayas the processes and means that bring about the cessation of dukkha are conceived primarily in terms of spiritual practice and development. What in particular seems to interest the compilers of the Nikayas is the nature of spiritual practice and development, how spiritual practice effects and affects spiritual development, how what one does, says and thinks might be related to progress towards the cessation of dukkha. In other words, we might say that Buddhist thought is about the Buddhist path - a path that is seen as leading gradually away from dukkha towards its cessation, and as culminating in the awakening from a restless and troubled sleep.

top to site map

What is Reality? (adapted from Consciousness and Creativity, in On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins with Sandra Blakeslee, New York 2004) People are real, trees are real, my cat is real, the social situations you find yourself in are real. But your understanding of the world and your responses to it are based on predictions coming from your internal model. At any moment in time, you can directly sense only a tiny part of your world. That tiny part dictates what memories will be invoked, but it isn't sufficient on its own to build the whole of your current perception. Most of what you perceive is not coming through your senses; it is generated by your internal memory model. So the question 'What is reality?' is largely a matter of how accurately our cortical model reflects the true nature of the world.

Many aspects of the world around us are so consistent that nearly every human has the same internal model of them. The simple physical properties of the world are learned by all people. But much of our world model is based on custom, culture, and what our parents teach us. These parts of our model are less consistent and might be totally different for different people. Much of psychology is based on the consequences of early life experience, attachment, and nurturance because that is when the brain first lays down its model of the world.

Your culture thoroughly shapes your world model. For example, studies show that Asians and Westerners perceive space and objects differently. Asians attend more to the space between objects, whereas Westerners mostly attend to objects - a difference that translates into separate aesthetics and ways of solving problems. Different religious beliefs learned in early life can lead to completely different models of morality, how men and women are to be treated, and even the value of life itself. Clearly these differing models of the world can't all be correct in some absolute, universal way, even though they may seem correct to an individual. Moral reasoning, both the good and the bad, is learned.

Your culture (and family experience) teaches you stereotypes, which are unfortunately an unavoidable part of life. Throughout this book, you could substitute the word stereotype for invariant memory (or invariant representation) without substantially altering the meaning. Prediction by analogy is pretty much the same as judgment by stereotype. Negative stereotyping has terrible social consequences. If my theory of intelligence is right, we cannot rid people of their propensity to think in stereotypes, because stereotypes are how the cortex works. Stereotyping is an inherent feature of the brain.

The way to eliminate the harm caused by stereotypes is to teach our children to recognize false stereotypes, to be empathetic, and to be skeptical. We need to promote these critical-thinking skills in addition to instilling the best values we know. Skepticism, the heart of the scientific method, is the only way we know how to ferret out fact from fiction.

top to site map

Jeffrey Hopkins
For Prasangika Nothing Exists Objectively (from Meditation on Emptiness, by Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins, London 1983) For Prasangika nothing exists objectively, that is to say, as if of its own will right with its basis of imputation. Prasangika philosophy, though emphasizing the subjective element, is still not a turn to utter subjectivity in which what exists for the individual is what exists. There are standards and criteria for valid establishment, and in this sense both suchness and the phenomena qualified by it are objective. The division into two truths on epistemological grounds is a call to eradicate ignorance and to attain the highest wisdom. It is a call to recognition that a conventional cognizer, even if valid with respect to the existence or non-existence of objects, is not valid with respect to their suchness. It is a call to a new mode of perception, to a cognition of a reality that has been ever-present.

The two truths are not vague realms of misty truth as suggested by translations which use the singular, such as 'absolute truth' and 'conventional truth'. In Sanskrit and Tibetan the singular is used for a class name whereas in common English usage a general term is most often either in the plural, or in the singular with the indefinite article 'a'. It would be correct to refer to conventional truths as 'conventional truth' only if it were suitable to refer to tables as table, e.g. 'table is object', rather than 'tables are objects'.

However, translating paramarthasatya in the singular as 'ultimate truth' even without an article can be considered a matter of choice depending on the context, because though there are many types of emptinesses, they are only enumerated as such in accordance with the various types of phenomena that are bases of the quality emptiness. Still, at least in the Ge-luk-ba [Gelugpa] interpretation of emptiness the one thing is not the emptiness of another in the sense of exact identity, and from this viewpoint the term has often been translated here either in the singular with the article 'an' as 'an ultimate truth' or in the plural as 'ultimate truths'. Despite this, when referring to a direct cognition in which all emptinesses are simultaneously realized, it seems cumbersome to say 'a yogi directly cognizes ultimate truths', because it seems to imply that only some ultimate truths are being cognized. Rather, usage of the singular as in 'a yogi direcly cognizes ultimate truth in a totally non-dualistic manner', or 'a yogi directly cognizes emptiness after having become accustomed to an inferential realization', at least suggests that there is no ultimate truth which at that point is not being cognized. The meaning, nevertheless, is not amorphous, but specific; an emptiness is a phenomenon's lack of inherent existence. Thus, one 'reflects on an emptiness' or 'generates an inferential cognition of an emptiness' because it is the emptiness of a specific phenomenon that is being reflected upon and realized.

Also, for paramartha, 'ultimate' is a better translation than 'absolute' because 'absolute' suggests something that exists in and of itself, independently, whereas nothing is independent in the Madhyamika system, even an emptiness.

top to site map

Two Types of Negation (from The Emptiness of Emptiness, by Prof. C.W. Huntington Jr., with Geshe Namgyal Wangchen, 1989, Delhi 1992) Within the Madhyamika system, soteriology plays an integral role as the practical application of philosophical reflection. Although things do not bear their individual existence within themselves, as they appear to do, they are nevertheless quite real insofar as they are efficacious. The eminent Tibetan scholar Tsong kha pa has referred to the concept of causal efficacy - the sole determining criterion for conventional truth and reality - as "the most profound and subtle matter within the Madhyamika philosophy". One needs, then, to appreciate the interdependent nature of appearances and to adjust attitudes accordingly in order to avoid a considerable amount of suffering.

Indian philosophers traditionally define two distinct types of negation:
(i) Negation which indirectly affirms the existence of something else (paryudasa); and
(ii) Negation which leaves nothing in its place (prasajya).
The Madhyamika has assigned a particular significance to each of these. The first type of negation is "relative", "implicative", or "presuppositional" negation. Taken as a philosophical principle, it leads to the opposed ontological positions of nihilism and absolutism. The second type, "nonimplicative" or "nonpresuppositional" negation, is used by the Madhyamika to express the radical, deconstructive negation effected through application of the concept of emptiness. When one negates the reality of a reflection he necessarily affirms the reality of the reflected entity, but when the Madhyamika philosopher negates the reality of the world, he affirms neither a "something" nor a "nothing" in its place. In other words, he does not supply the old, reified concept "reality" with a new, more refined and abstract referent, a metaphysical substrate of some novel and convincing variety. On the contrary, in order to know and accept the world as it is both in its everyday appearance and in the paradox and mystery of this appearance, he steps entirely outside the language game that can be played only by holding onto propositions (pratijñas) and views (dristis). In taking this step he makes the first critical move away from a form of life caught up in the anxious and generally manipulative attitude associated with this way of thinking and acting.

This is a very subtle point, and it lies at the heart of the Madhyamika philosophy for, as Candrakirti and others have often indicated, no matter what ingenious things may be written or said about emptiness by the cleverest philosopher, ultimately it must be "seen by nonseeing" and "realized by nonrealization". It is not an epistemic or ontic fact dissociated from everyday life, ensconced "out there" somewhere waiting to be discovered and possessed through the power of critical rationalism. "Emptiness" is a conventional designation (prajñapti), an ordinary word used, like all words, to accomplish a specific purpose registered in the intention of the speaker. In accordance with what the texts say, it is perhaps best understood as a way of being, a way of existing, knowing, and acting with complete freedom from clinging and antipathy. In the direct (noninferential) realization of emptiness, the claims of the part or individual are immediately experienced as harmonious with the claims of the whole world of sentient and insentient being. The direct realization of emptiness, what I call the "actualization" of emptiness, is the source of the bodhisattvas's universal compassion.

top to site map

Svatantrika vs. Prasangika (adapted from Was Candrakirti a Prasangika?, by Prof. C.W. Huntington Jr., in The Svatantrika-Prasangika Distinction, edited by Georges B.J. Dreyfus and Sara L. McClintock, Somervile 2003, p.68-69) We will probably never know who coined the enormously influential terms Rang rgyud pa (*Svatantrika) and Thal 'gyur ba (*Prasangika). They do not figure among the vocabulary used during the early dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet, but it seems likely that it was the translator Pa tshab nyi ma grags (1055-1145?) who began to use them in conjunction with his study of Candrakirti. An earlier concern with 'pragmatic' versus logical argumentation was preserved in these new terms, which apparently were then applied to the same two groups of Indian authors. The shift in terminology was no doubt seen as a refinement based on further study of Candrakirti. There is certainly no question about the fact that it was due to the force of Candrakirti's writing that Tibetan scholars felt compelled to revise the old classifications. Moreover, although to a certain extent scholarly opinion varied on the meaning and implications of Candrakirti's work, the Tibetans were virtually unanimous in judging his texts to be the pinnacle of Madhyamaka thought. Where Candrakirti was perceived to disagree with another commentator - either explicitly or implicitly - his word was invariably taken as the final authority. This was especially significant in the context of his criticism of Bhavaviveka, for it was there, in the first chapter of the Prasannapada, that he drove home the central features of his interpretation of Nagarjuna that figured so prominently in later Tibetan doxographical literature. The distinction between Bhavaviveka and Candrakirti - that is, the twofold division of Indian Madhyamaka into Rang rgyud pa and Thal 'gyur ba - became, in a very real sense, the linchpin around which the Tibetan doxographical tradition revolved.

In this literature, schools and subschools are defined on the basis of the tenets they hold. According to a prominent eighteenth-century dGe lugs pa doxographic manual, these tenets are to be regarded as 'established conclusions' that one 'will not pass beyond'. The minimum requirement for membership in a school or subschool is that an author must actively promote his own views, both defending those views against the views of his opponents and seeking to establish them on their own merits. The most obvious significance of the names Rang rgyud pa and Thal 'gyur ba - and the one most relevant to the present discussion - has to do specifically with the method by which a Madhyamika philosopher accomplishes this purpose. In its most fundamental (etymological) sense, the difference between the two schools is said to rest on their distinctive rhetorical styles, and on the philosophical implications of this rhetoric. Bhavaviveka insists on the necessity for a formal autonomous argument through which the Madhyamika's tenet or thesis is established as an independently valid conclusion. Bhavaviveka further insists that the argument through which the Madhyamika's thesis is established must be explicitly stated to his opponent. Candrakirti, on the other hand, rejects Bhavaviveka's use of inferential reasoning. For the most part he favors a type of reductio ad absurdum where one's thesis is not developed through the use of independently valid arguments, but rather by using the opponent's own words against him. When the untenable consequences (prasanga) in his assertions are drawn out, the opponent is left 'logically speechless', and for Candrakirti - within the doxographic context - this very inability to respond is taken as sufficient evidence that the Madhyamika's thesis has been established.

top to site map

Share/Save/Bookmark


TO BECOME A TRUE PART OF THE WHOLE.


to main page in English
Advayavada Buddhism Information Center
P.O.Box 10502, 1001 EM Amsterdam,
The Netherlands.
phone +31-20-6269602
or email info at advayavada.nl

Buddha figure at Amsterdam Zoo
Boeddhabeeld in Artis.

DONATIES DONATIONS

In Nederland: Gelieve uw vrijwillige bijdrage te storten op rekening NL83ABNA0814472079 t.n.v. de Advayavada Stichting, te Amsterdam. Elk bedrag is welkom. Hartelijk dank!

From abroad: Please use the handy PayPal 'make a donation' link or instruct your bank to transfer your donation to the Advayavada Stichting, account NL83ABNA0814472079 at the ABN-AMRO Bank, Singel 548, 1017 AZ Amsterdam (BIC: ABNANL2A). All amounts welcome. Thank you very much!

top to site map and guestbook

(last modified 2 September 2015)

twitter icon

Share/Save/Bookmark


Home | Site Map | QandA | 8fold Path | Glossary | Spinoza | Advayavadananda | in Dutch

search engine by freefind