Svatantrika–Prasaṅgika distinction

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The Svatantrika–Prasaṅgika distinction is a doctrinal distinction made within Tibetan Buddhism between two stances regarding the use of logic and the meaning of conventional truth within the presentation of Madhyamaka.

Svātantrika is a category of Madhyamaka viewpoints attributed primarily to the 6th-century Indian scholar Bhāviveka. Bhāviveka criticised Buddhapalita’s abstinence from syllogistic reasoning in his commentary on Nagarjuna.[1] Following the example of the influential logician Dignāga, Bhāviveka used autonomous syllogistic reasoning (svātantra) syllogisms in the explanation of Madhyamaka. To have a common ground with essentialist opponents, and make it possible to use syllogistic reasoning in discussion with those essentialists, Bhāviveka argued that things can be said to exist conventionally 'according to characteristics'. This makes it possible to take the mere object as the point of departure for the discussion on inherent existence. From there, it is possible to explain how these things are ultimately empty of inherent existence.[2]

Prasaṅgika views are based on Candrakīrti's critique of Bhāviveka, arguing for a sole reliance on prasaṅga, "logic consequence," a method of reductio ad absurdum which is used by all Madhyamikas, using syllogisms to point out the absurd and impossible logical consequences of holding essentialist views.[3][page needed] According to Candrakīrti, the mere object can only be discussed if both parties perceive it in the same way.[4][note 1] As a consequence (according to Candrakirti) svatantrika reasoning is impossible in a debate, since the opponents argue from two irreconcilable points of view, namely a mistaken essentialist perception, and a correct non-essentialist perception. This leaves no ground for a discussion starting from a similarly perceived object of discussion, and also makes impossible the use of syllogistic reasoning to convince the opponent.[note 2]

Candrakīrti's works had no influence on Indian and early Tibetan Madhayamaka, but started to rise to prominence in Tibet in the 12th century. Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), the founder of the Gelugpa school and the most outspoken proponent of the distinction, followed Candrakīrti in his rejection of Bhavaviveka's arguments.[5] According to Tsongkhapa, the Svātantrikas do negate intrinsic nature ultimately, but "accept that things conventionally have intrinsic character or intrinsic nature."[6] Tsongkhapa, commenting on Candrakirti, says that he "refute[s] essential or intrinsic nature even conventionally."[7] For Tsongkhapa, as well as for the Karma Kagyu school, the differences with Bhavaviveka are of major importance.[8][page needed]

Established by Lama Tsongkhapa, Candrakīrti's view replaced the Yogācāra-Mādhyamika approach of Śāntarakṣita (725–788), who synthesized Madhyamaka, Yogacara and Buddhist logic in a powerful and influential synthesis called Yogācāra-Mādhyamika. Śāntarakṣita established Buddhism in Tibet, and his Yogācāra-Mādhyamika was the primary philosophic viewpoint until the 12th century, when the works of Candrakīrti were first translated into Tibetan.[3] In this synthesis, conventional truth or reality is explained and analysed in terms of the Yogacara system, while the ultimate truth is presented in terms of the Madhyamaka system.[9] While Śāntarakṣita's synthesis reflects the final development of Indian Madhyamaka and post-dates Candrakīrti, Tibetan doxographers ignored the nuances of Śāntarakṣita's synthesis, grouping his approach together with Bhāviveka's, due to their usage of syllogistic reasonings to explain and defend Madhyamaka.[3]

After the 17th century civil war in Tibet and the Mongol intervention which put the Gelugpa school in the center of power, Tsongkhapa's views dominated Tibetan Buddhism until the 20th century.[3] The Rimé movement revived alternate teachings, providing alternatives to Tsongkhapa's interpretation, and reintroducing Śāntarakṣita's nuances. For the Sakya and Nyingma schools, which participated in the Rimé movement, the Svatantrika–Prasaṅgika distinction is generally viewed to be of lesser importance.[10][11][8][page needed] For these schools, the key distinction between these viewpoints is whether one works with assertions about the ultimate nature of reality, or if one refrains completely from doing so. If one works with assertions, then that is a Svātantrika approach. Refraining from doing so is a Prāsangika approach.[web 1][better source needed]

Indian Madhyamaka[edit]

Madhyamaka originated with the works of

  • Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE), and his commentators. The Svatantrika–Prasaṅgika distinction can be traced to the following three commentators:
  • Buddhapālita (470 – 550 CE), a minor author in India,[3] whom Tibetan tradition credits as the founder of the Prasangika "school," was an early adopter of syllogistic and consequentialist methods in his writings, although of a particularly limited form;
  • Bhāviveka (c. 500 – c. 578 CE), who was influenced by the developing Buddhist logic initiated by Dignāga (c. 480 – c. 540 CE), and used syllogistic reasoning in his commentary on Nagarjuna. He did so to catch up with these developments in Buddhist logic, and prevent Madhyamaka from becoming obsolete.[12] His criticisms of Buddhapalita are retrospectively imagined as the foundation of the Svatantrika "school";
  • Candrakīrti (c. 600 – c. 650 CE), who defended Buddhapālita against Bhāvyaviveka. Although he "attracted almost no following and made no impact on the development of the Madhyamaka tradition" in India,[3] he became regarded by the Tibetan tradition after 1200 CE as an important proponent of Prāsangika.
  • Śāntarakṣita (725–788), who synthesized Madhyamaka, Yogacara and Buddhist logic in a powerful and influential synthesis called Yogācāra-Mādhyamika. He established Buddhism in Tibet, and his Yogācāra-Mādhyamika was the primary philosophic viewpoint established there, which reigned superior until the 12th century, when the works of Candrakīrti were first translated into Tibetan.[3]

The name Prasangika is derived from Prasaṅga, a method of logical inquiry which deconstructs the opponents' argument in debate through the use of unwanted logical consequences. It arises from Bhāvaviveka's criticism that Buddhapālita ought not to have relied solely on reductio ad absurdum argumentation —hence the name "Prāsangika", from prāsanga ("consequence")—but ought to have set forth "autonomous" (svātantra) syllogisms of his own.[13][note 3]


Bhāviveka (c. 500 – c. 578 CE) argued that autonomous syllogistic reasoning was required when explaining or commenting on Nagarjuna's teachings on voidness or essencelessness.[3][note 4] To be able to use syllogistic reasoning, both parties need to share a common object of discussion at the conventional level. While the various opponents have different opinions on the specifics of their teachings, the mere objects or mere forms are commonly appearing to both parties, "enjoy[ing] a certain existence 'according to their characteristics."[4][note 5]

Bhāviveka criticised Buddhapalita for merely repeating Nagarjuna's ad absurdum approach in his commentary, instead of clarifying Nagarjuna's teachings. According to Bhāviveka, syllogistic reasoning could be used for the sake of clarification.[note 6] Bhāviveka further argued that Buddhapalita only showed the logical consequences, and incoherence, of the Samkhya's views on causation and inherent existence, but failed to address their arguments against Buddhist critiques. Furthermore, simply negating the opponent's view, without positing one's own position, "leaves room for doubt in the opponent's mind," and is unwarranted.[15]

To facilitate the possibility of discussing Madhyamaka with opponents, Bhāviveka made a provisional division of the two truths, accepting that phenomena exist "according to their characteristics."[16] Bhāviveka made a further distinction in his treatment of ultimate truth or reality. Ultimate truth or reality transcends discursive thought, and cannot be expressed in words. To be able to talk about it anyway, and distinguish it from relative truth or reality, Bhāviveka makes a distinction between the "world-transcending" or "ultimate truth in itself," which is ineffable and beyond words; and the "pure worldly wisdom" or "approximate truth," which can be talked about and points to the "ultimate truth in itself," which has to be personally experienced.[17]

Dreyfus and McClintock observe that Bhāvaviveka was more influential in Indian Madhyamaka than was Candrakirti: "In this regard, Bhāvaviveka should probably be seen as quite successful: apart from Candrakirti and Jayananda, nearly all other Indian Madhyamikas were to follow in his footsteps and embrace autonomous arguments as important tools in their endeavors to establish the supremacy of the Madhyamaka view."[18]


Candrakirti (c. 600 – c. 650 CE) had little impact during his lifetime. The first commentary on his Madhyamakavatara was written in India in the 11th century, more than 300 years after his death.[3] In the 12th century his works were translated in Tibetan, and became highly influential.[3]

Candrakirti rejected Bhāviveka's criticism of Buddhapālita, and his use of independent logic.[3] According to Candrakīrti, the mere object can only be discussed if both parties perceive it in the same way.[4][note 1] According to Candrakirti, this is impossible, since the opponents argue from two irreconcilable points of view, namely a mistaken essentialist perception, and a correct non-essentialist perception. This leaves no ground for a discussion starting from a similarly perceived object of discussion, and also makes impossible the use of syllogistic reasoning to convince the opponent.[note 2] According to Chandrakirti, without a conventionally appearing set of characteristics to designate upon, the Svātantrika would not be able to establish a syllogism.[note 7]

Candrakirti also rejected Bhāviveka's argument that autonomous arguments should be used in commentaries to clarify the original text, noting that Nagarjuna himself, in his auto-commentary on the Vigrahavyavartani, also didn't use autonomous arguments.[3]

Candrakirti rejected "the use of autonomous arguments, for the very reason that they imply the acceptance (however provisional) of entities.[3] According to Chandrakirti, this mode of thinking is a subtle form of grasping at inherent existence: one's mind is still searching for some way to hold on to an essence, self, or identity for conventionally perceived objects.[14] For Candrakirti, there is no use in explaining the relative truth in any philosophical system; "the relative truth consists simply of phenomena as we observe them, the unanalyzed constituents of the common consensus."[3] The only aim of consequential arguments "is to introduce the mind to the direct knowledge of emptiness, not an intellectual understanding of it,"[3] making "no concessions to the spiritually unprepared."[3]

Candrakirti's criticism was "part of a wider rejection of the logico-epistemological tradition of Dignāga, which he regarded as a misguided attempt to find "philosophical completeness" and a sense of intellectual security that is antithetical to the fundamental insight of Madhyamaka."[3] Candrakirti did not reject the use of logic, but it served to demarcate the limits of discursive thought.[3] In the absence of any agreement between Madhyamikas and substantialists, prasanga is the best approach "to indicate the ultimate without making statements that [...] compromise or [...] obscure their own position."[3] Since the use of autonomous arguments implies the acceptance of real entities, even if only provisional, they should not be used.[3]


Born and educated in India, Śāntarakṣita (725–788) came to the Tibetan Empire at the instigation of King Trisong Detsen after Nyang Tingdzin Zangpo had encouraged the King to make the invitation. Śāntarakṣita came to Tibet sometime before 767 CE. He oversaw the construction of the first Buddhist monastery at Samye in 787 CE, ordained the first monastics there, had Indian Buddhist texts brought to Tibet, and started the first translation project. He also advised the king to invite Padmasambhava to come to Tibet. He was also instrumental in the coming of Kamalaśīla to Tibet, who participated in the so-called "council of Lhasa," which, according to Tibetan tradition, led to the defeat of the Chinese chan monk Moheyan, and the establishment of Indian Buddhism as the norm for Tibetan Buddhism.[21]

Śāntarakṣita synthesised Madhyamaka, Yogacara, and the logico-epistemological tradition of Dignaga and Dharmakirti. In this synthesis, conventional truth or reality is explained and analysed in terms of the Yogacara system, while the ultimate truth is presented in terms of the Madhyamaka system.[9]

Tibetan Madhyamaka[edit]

Divisions prior to the distinction[edit]

When Buddhism was established in Tibet, the primary philosophic viewpoint established there was that of Śāntarakṣita (725–788), a synthesis of Madhyamaka, Yogacara and Buddhist logic called Yogācāra-Mādhyamika.[3] A common distinction of Madhyamaka teachings was given by Jnanasutra (Wylie: ye shes sde, 8th–9th centuries), a student of Śāntarakṣita:[22]

  1. "Sautrāntika Madhyamika," including Bhāviveka; and
  2. "Yogācāra Madhyamaka," including Śāntarakṣita, Kamalaśīla, and Haribhadra.

The difference lies in their "acceptance or rejection of extramental phenomena on the conventional level."[3] While Bhavaviveka considered material phenomena at the conventional level as to be existent outside the mind, he applied Sautrantika terminology to describe and explain them. Śāntarakṣita rejected this approach, denying "the extramental status of phenomena appearing within the sphere of conventional truth." Instead, he saw conventional phenomena as manifestations of the mind, in line with the Yogacara approach.[22]

Candrakirti's works were known in Tibet as early as the 8th century, but "specifically in connection with the logical tradition," when Candrakirti's Yuktishashtika was translated by Yeshe De (Jnanasutra) and some others.[23] The Prāsangika-Svātantrika distinction was possibly invented by the Tibetan translator Pa tshab nyi ma grags (1055-1145), using the terms Rang rgyud pa and Thal 'gyur ba, which were Sanskritized by modern scholars as Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika.[24] According to Dreyfus and McClintock, Tibetan scholars themselves state that the distinction "is a Tibetan creation that was retroactively applied in an attempt to bring clarity and order to the study of contemporary Indian Madhyamaka interpretations."[25][note 8] Later Gelugpa scholars as well as Nyingmapas, after Candrakīrti's works were translated in Tibetan in the 12th century,[3] considered both of the above to constitute subdivisions of Svatantrika, however, under the names of

  1. "Sautrantika Svātantrika Madhyamaka"
  2. "Yogācāra Svātantrika Madhyamaka."

Those various teachers, and their approaches were grouped together due to their usage of syllogistic reasonings to explain and defend Madhyamaka, in disregard of the philosophical nuances of Śāntarakṣita's approach.[3]

A related doctrinal topic of profound disagreement is between Rangtong-Shentong, which concerns the "nature" of ultimate truth as empty of a self or essence, or as constituting an absolute reality which is "truly existing" and empty of any other, transitional phenomena.[note 9]

Lama Tsongkhapa and Gelugpa's dominant view[edit]

Initially, this new distinction based on Candrakirti's Prasannapada met with fierce resistance in Tibet, but gained in popularity and was strongly supported by Je Tsongkhapa[3] (1357 – 1419 CE). He became the most outspoken defender of the Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika distinction, arguing that "the two subschools are separated by crucial philosophical differences, including a different understanding of emptiness and of conventional reality."[10] Tsongkhapa was a powerful personality with a large following, but he too met with a strong resistance, especially within the Sakya school to which he originally belonged. His critics rejected his interpretation as "inadequate, newfangled, and unsupported by tradition."[3] According to those critics, Tsongkhapa had "greatly exaggerated the divergence of view."[3]

Tsongkhapa's view became the dominant view in the beginning of the 17th century, when Gusri Khan (1582-1655) ended the civil war in central Tibet, putting the 5th Dalai Lamai in command of the temples in Tibet. This gave the Gelugpa school a strong political power, and the means to effectively ban the writings of Tsongkhapa's critics.[3]

Tsongkhapa's view[edit]

For Tsongkhapa, the Svatantrika–Prasaṅgika distinction centers around the usage of autonomous syllogistic reasoning to convince opponents of the Madhyamaka point of view, and the implications of the establishment of conventional existence 'according to characteristics'.

Tsongkhapa objected against Bhaviveka's use of autonomous syllogistic reasoning in explaining voidness or essencelessness.[5] To be able to use syllogistic reasoning, both parties need to have a common ground onto which those syllogistic reasonings can be applied. This common ground is the shared perception of the object whose's emptiness of inherent existence is to be established. According to Bhaviveka, this shared perception is possible because the perceived objects are mentally imputed (labeled) based on characteristic marks which distinguishes them from other objects.[3][page needed][web 1][note 10]

The Prāsaṅgika reject this idea, arguing that "[w]hat establishes that things exist is only that they are imputable, not that they are imputable with a findable characteristic."[web 1] According to Tsongkhapa, there is no such common ground or shared perception,[note 2][note 11] while the reliance on characteristic marks implies an inherent existence at the conventional level, which is not in accord with the Madhyamaka point of view.[2]

Tsongkhapa holds reductio ad absurdum of essentialist viewpoints to be the most valid method of demonstrating emptiness of inherent existence, and of demonstrating that conventional things do not have a naturally occurring conventional identity.[29][web 2][note 12] According to Tsongkhapa, if both people in a debate or discussion have a valid understanding of emptiness already, then autonomous syllogistic arguments could be quite effective. However, in a circumstance where one or both parties in a debate or discussion do not hold a valid understanding, "the debate [should be] founded on what the parties accept as valid. Hence, it is proper to refute opponents in terms of what they accept."[19] In other words, it is more appropriate to establish a position of emptiness through showing the logical consequences of the incorrect position that the opponent already accepts, than it is to establish emptiness through syllogistic reasoning using premises that the opponent (and perhaps even the proponent) do not fully or deeply understand.[30]

While Tsongkhapa's view met with strong resistance after their introduction,[31] his views came to dominate Tibet in the 17th century, with the Ganden Phodrang government, after the military intervention of the Mongol lord Gusri Khan. He supported the Gelugpa's against the Tsangpa family, and put the 5th Dalai Lama in charge of Tibet.[32] Seminal texts which were critical of Tsongkhapa's views, such as Gorampas critique, "ceased to be available and were almost lost."[33]

Tsongkhapa's Eight Difficult Points[edit]

Lama Tsongkhapa outline eight key points that differentiate the Prasaṅgika from his opponents that, acordding to him, hold a Svatantrika view. They are:[34]

  1. Refutation, even at a conventional level, of the ālāyavijñāna or storehouse-consciousness;
  2. Self-awareness;
  3. Rejection of autonomous syllogisms in order to establish the ultimate view;
  4. The assertion of the existence of external objects on the same level as cognition;
  5. The assertion that the Śrāvakas and Pratyekabuddha comprehend the selfless of phenomena;
  6. The assertion that the grasping to the self of phenomena is a negative emotion;
  7. The assertion that disintegration is an impermanent thing;
  8. The consequent uncommon presentation of the three times (past, present and future).

The main difference, however, asserted by many scholars is the point 3, the difference between the use of autonomous syllogisms and the reductio ad absurdum Prasaṅgika's approach, whereas the other points are just minor doctrinal differences between the other schools. Tsongkhapa exaggeretared this difference by positing another 7 points.

Alternate views and criticism[edit]

According to Dreyfus & McClintock, "many other Tibetan commentators have tended to downplay the significance of any differences."[10]


In the 19th century the concurring Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya schools joined forces in the Rimé movement, in an attempt to preserve their religious legacy against the dominant Gelugpa school.[35] Ju Mipham's commentary on Santarakshita's Madhyamakalankara ("The Adornment of the Middle Way") is an example of this new impetus to older strands of Tibetan Buddhism.[3] Mipham presents an alternative interpretation of the Svatantrika–Prasaṅgika distinction, in which the emphasis is not on "dialectical preferences," (consequential reasoning versus syllogistic reasoning), but on the distinction between the "approximate ultimate truth" and the "actual ultimate truth," just like Bhavaviveka did.[36] According to Mipham, "the authentic Svatantrika is the approach that emphasizes the approximate ultimate, while the Prasangika approach emphasizes the ultimate in itself, beyond all assertions."[33] His is a gradual approach, starting with sensory experience and the 'realness' of the "things" perceived through them, which are "provisionally accorded a certain existence." From there the approximate ultimate truth is posited, demonstrating that "phenomena cannot possibly exist in the way that they appear," invalidating the conventional reality of appearances. From there, "the ultimate truth in itself, which is completely free from all assertion, is reached."[33] While the Svatantrikas do make assertions about conventional truth or reality, they stay silent on the ultimate in itself, just like the Prasangikas.[37]

According to Ju Mipham, Tsongkhapa's approach was seriously flawed.[38] Tsongkhapa's approach leads students in the right direction but will not lead to the true ultimate until they go further.[39] Mipham further argues that Tsongkhapa's approach is an excellent Svatantrika approach, because of the way he refutes true establishment instead of objects themselves.[39] According to the Padmakara Translation Group, "its presentation of "conventional," as distinct from "true," existence seems very close to the "existence according to characteristics" that Bhavya had ascribed to phenomena on the relative level.[40]


The Sakya teacher Gorampa was critical of Tsongkhapa and his views. One of Gorampa's most important and popular works is Distinguishing the Views (Tibetan: ལྟ་བའི་ཤན་འབྱེད, Wylie: lta ba'i shan 'byed), in which he argues for his view of Madhyamaka. He and other Sakya teachers classify themselves as presenting the "Freedom from Proliferation" (Tibetan: སྤྲོས་བྲལ་, Wylie: spros bral) Madhyamaka.[41] Gorampa does not agree with Tsonghkapa that the Prasangika and Svatantrika methods produce different results, nor that the Prasangika is a "higher" view. He does also critique the Svatantrika approach as having too much reliance on logic, because in his view the component parts of syllogistic logic are not applicable in the realm of the ultimate. But this critique is constrained to the methodology, and he believed both approaches reach the same ultimate realization.[42]

Mainstream Sakyas (following Rongtön and Gorampa) also hold the position that the distinction between these two schools is merely of a pedagogical nature. With regard to the view of the ultimate truth there is no difference between them.[11]


Kagyu and Sakya scholars have argued against the claim that students using Svatantrika do not achieve the same realization as those using the Prasangika approach.[43] According to those critics, there is no difference in the realization of those using the Svatantrika and Prasangika approaches. They also argue that the Svatantrika approach is better for students who are not able to understand the more direct approach of Prasangika, but it nonetheless results in the same ultimate realization.[43]


The debate is also not strictly along lineage lines, since there are some non-Gelugpa's who prefer Je Tsongkhapa's points, while a notable Gelugpa, Gendün Chöphel, preferred and wrote about Ju Mipham's interpretation.[citation needed]

While Lama Tsongkhapa's approach to Madhyamaka is still viewed as authoritative in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, the 14th Dalai integrates Gelugpa Madhyamaka with Dzogchen views, as did the 5th Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama has published works like The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra which seem to be influenced by the views of Śāntarakṣita and Padmasambhava, and contain a blend of Tantric theory, Chittamātra, and Madyamaka-Prasangika.[44]

The 14th Dalai Lama, echoing sentiments from classical authorities like Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen (4th Panchen Lama), states that the credible teachers of the various systems of Buddhist philosophy all "arrive at the same intended point" of realization.[45] However, it is also stated that this non-denominational position is very difficult to establish through reason.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chandrakirti, as quoted by Tsongkhapa in the Lamrim Chenmo, Volume Three: "When one party posits something as a probative reason, even though valid cognition may establish it for the one who posits the syllogism, how can that person be certain that valid cognition establishes it for the other party?"[19]

    Tsongkhapa, presenting Bhavaviveka's argument: "[According to Bhavaviveka] we must use the mere eye or mere form as the subject. Why? Because it must be established as commonly appearing to both parties."[4]
  2. ^ a b c Candrakirti: "...inaccurate consciousness cannot exist when accurate consciousness is present. So how could the conventional eye, as the subject of a syllogism, exist for an accurate consciousness?"[27]

    Tsongkhapa: "The passage of the Clear Words that reply to Bhavaviveka show that the subject is not established as appearing in common to the two parties in the debate."[27]

    Tsongkhapa further explains that in non-Prasangika systems, the object as it appears to ordinary consciousness is the object just as it is. According to Tsongkhapa, this is not sufficient for Madhyamikas, since this object as it appears is a mistaken perception: "Since no phenomenon can, even conventionally, have a nature that is established by way of its intrinsic character, there is no valid cognition that establishes such a thing. It is with this in mind that the master Candrakirti refutes the notion of autonomous syllogism."[27]
  3. ^ Whether a Madhyamaka viewpoint would allow the necessary factual claims, or statements of epistemological principles, for such an argument was the major point in dispute.
  4. ^ Padmakar Translation Group: "[According to Bhavya,] the commentator’s role is not to repeat Nagarjuna’s already superlative performance but to discuss it and to present it skillfully. The task at hand is to resolve the element of doubt intrinsic to the consequentialist method, to deal with possible objections, and generally to facilitate the intellectual comprehension of those who require explanation and who cannot as yet penetrate, directly and unaided, the profound message of the original author. To that extent, it is both necessary and fitting to make positive, explanatory statements."[3]
  5. ^ Padmakara Translation Group: "Bhavaviveka was apparently aware [that, according to the rules of logic, independent syllogisms commit their user to an implicit and compromising acquiescence in the existence of the elements referred to], and we have seen that, in the interests of consistency, his use of the independent syllogism went hand in hand with a view that, on the conventional level, phenomena do indeed enjoy a certain existence 'according to their characteristics.'"[14]
  6. ^ Padmakara Translation Group, Note 12: "Bhavya holds that the consequential arguments of Buddhapalita are not on the same footing as those of Nagarjuna. In both cases, the consequences imply negations that could theoretically be formulated as positive (syllogistic) arguments. The difference between them is that, given what is known to be Nagarjuna's intention (the negation of all four positions of the tetralemma), his negations are to be understood as nonimplicative. But such a concession is not to be granted to the commentator, whose task is to render explicit to the fullest extent the obscurities of the commented text. If the commentator uses consequences (unaccompanied by any positive and clarificatory statement), the resulting negations cannot automatically be regarded as nonimplicative. On the contrary, they are implicative and therefore undesirable in the Madhyamaka context...It is worth noting that it is in Bhavya that the important distinction between implicative and nonimplicative negations first appears.[1]
  7. ^ Daniel Cozart: "[For the Svātantrika, if the subject of the debate is not] established as commonly appearing and as demonstrably established objectively, they are not able to prove the modes of the sign in terms of such (a subject) because it is not feasible that there be a predicate of a nonexistent substratum."[20]
  8. ^ Tsongkhapa commented on this distinction, stating that "since [the use of the terms Prāsangika and Svātantrika agree] with Chandrakırti’s Clear Words (Prasannapada), you should not suppose that" it is a Tibetan fabrication.[26]
  9. ^ This is also related to Rangtong-Shentong the idea of Buddha Nature
  10. ^ Alexander Berzin: "[In Svatantrika] [y]ou establish that [something] exists because it can be imputed (or labeled) with a name or concept; that’s what establishes that it exists. But it’s not only that which establishes that it exists, because there are findable characteristic marks on the side of the object which make it what it is, and in conjunction with mental labeling you can establish that it exists. So the relative truth of things: you have these findable characteristic marks. And deepest truth: no such thing as true unimputed existence.[web 1]
  11. ^ Daniel Cozart: "The meaning of autonomy (rang rgyud, svatantra) is asserted as: the generation of inferential cognition realizing the probandum (bsgrub bya) within the (context of the three modes)[of a syllogism] being established." Therefore, if the subject "on which depend the predicates about which the two parties debate [... does] not exist within being established as commonly appearing and as demonstrably established objectively, they are not able to prove the modes of the sign." Because "it is not feasible that there be a predicate of a nonexistent substratum."[28]
  12. ^ Sparham: "Tsongkhapa does not accept svātantra (“autonomous”) reasoning (the fourth point). He asserts that it is enough, when proving that any given subject is empty of intrinsic existence, to lead the interlocutor, through reasoning, to the unwelcome consequences (prasaṅga) in their own untenable position; it is not necessary to demonstrate the thesis based on reasoning that presupposes any sort of intrinsic (=autonomous) existence. This gives Tsongkhapa's philosophy its name *Prāsaṅgika-madhyamaka, i.e., a philosophy of a middle way (between nihilism and eternalism) arrived at through demonstrating the unwelcome consequences (in any given position that presupposes intrinsic existence)."[web 2]


  1. ^ a b Padmakara Translation Group 2005, p. 386, note 12. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  2. ^ a b Tsong Khapa 2002, p. 251-257. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTsong_Khapa2002 (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Padmakara Translation Group 2005. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  4. ^ a b c d TsongKhapa 2002, p. 253.
  5. ^ a b Tsong Khapa 2002, p. 251-259. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTsong_Khapa2002 (help)
  6. ^ Tsong Khapa 2002, p. 255. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTsong_Khapa2002 (help)
  7. ^ Tsong Khapa 2002, p. 274. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTsong_Khapa2002 (help)
  8. ^ a b Cornu 2001.
  9. ^ a b Padmakara Translation Group, p. "Shantarakshita's importance [...] Dharmakirti".
  10. ^ a b c Dreyfus & McClintock 2015, p. 4.
  11. ^ a b Cabezon & Lobsang Dargyay 2007, p. 278n8.
  12. ^ Rizzi 1988, p. 4-5.
  13. ^ Shantarakshita & Ju Mipham 2005, p. 7-14. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFShantarakshitaJu_Mipham2005 (help)
  14. ^ a b Padmakara Translation Group 2012, p. Section "Mipham Rinpoche and the Prasangika-Svatantrika Distinction". sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2012 (help)
  15. ^ Padmakara Translation Group 2012, p. "Bhavaviveka objected [...] in the opponent's mind.". sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2012 (help)
  16. ^ Padmakara Translation Group 2005, p. "Turning to the question [...] that they appear.". sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  17. ^ Padmakara Translation Group 2005, p. "This division [...] "concordant ultimate"". sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  18. ^ Dreyfus & McClintock 2015, p. 8-9.
  19. ^ a b Tsong Khapa 2002, p. 227. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTsong_Khapa2002 (help)
  20. ^ Cozart, Daniel "Unique Tenets of the Middle Way Consequence School"|239
  21. ^ Padmakara Translation Group, p. "With regard to the role [...] Indian Buddhism".
  22. ^ a b Padmakara Translation Group 2005, p. "Shantarakshita's disciple Yeshe De [...] that observes them.". sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  23. ^ Padmakara Translation Group 2005, p. "One is tempted [...] after Chandrakirti's death.". sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  24. ^ Dreyfus & McClintock 2015, p. 3.
  25. ^ Dreyfus & McClintock 2015, p. 2.
  26. ^ Tsongkhapa, Lamrim Chenmo V3 P116
  27. ^ a b c TsongKhapa 2002, p. 254.
  28. ^ Cozart, Daniel "Unique Tenets of the Middle Way Consequence School", p.239
  29. ^ Tsong Khapa 2002, p. 224-267. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTsong_Khapa2002 (help)
  30. ^ Tsong Khapa 2002, p. 227-228. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTsong_Khapa2002 (help)
  31. ^ Padmakara Translation group 2005, p. "The brilliance [...] ontological matters.".
  32. ^ Padmakara Translation Group, p. "Not surprisingly [...] as late as 1975.".
  33. ^ a b c Padmakara Translation group 2005.
  34. ^ The Svatantrika-Prasangika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make?. pp. 324–5. ISBN 0861713249.
  35. ^ Padmakara Translation Group 2005, p. "It is important to situate [...] Gelugpa scholasticism.". sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  36. ^ Padmakara Translation group 2005, p. "When discussing the two [...] a little further.".
  37. ^ Padmakara Translation group 2005, p. "And with regard [...] no assertions.".
  38. ^ Padmakara Translation group 2005, p. "For in Miphams'opinion [...] severely flawed.".
  39. ^ a b Padmakara Translation group 2005, p. 21-24.
  40. ^ Padmakara Translation group 2005, p. 23.
  41. ^ Dreyfus (2003) p.302
  42. ^ Dreyfus (2003) pp.302-306
  43. ^ a b Padmakara Translation Group 2005, p. 21-24. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFPadmakara_Translation_Group2005 (help)
  44. ^ Dalai Lama & Berzin 1997.
  45. ^ a b Dalai Lama & Berzin 1997, p. 235.


Primary printed sources
Secondary printed sources
  • Brunhölzl, Karl (2004), Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition, Snow Lion Publications
  • Garfield, Jay L.; Thakchöe, Sonam (2011), "Identifying the Object of Negation and the Status of Conventional Truth: Why the dGag Bya Matters So Much to Tibetan Mādhyamikas", in Cowherds (ed.), Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford University Press
  • Cheng, Hsueh-Li (1981), "The Roots of Zen Buddhism", Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 8: 451–478, doi:10.1111/j.1540-6253.1981.tb00267.x
  • Dreyfus, Georges B.J.; McClintock, L. Sara (2015), "Introduction", in Dreyfus, Georges B.J.; McClintock, L. Sara (eds.), Svatantrika-Prasangika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make?, Simon and Schuster
  • Hopkins, Jeffrey (1994), "A Tibetan Perspective on the Nature of Spiritual Experience", in Buswell, Jr., Robert E.; Gimello, Robert M. (eds.), Paths to Liberation. The Marga and its Transformations in Buddhist Thought, Motilal Banarsidass
  • Hopkins, Jeffrey (1999), "Emptiness Yoga", Kalachakra Tantra. Rite of Initiation, Wisom Publications
  • Jinpa, Thupten (2006), "Negation, identyfying its object", in Leaman, Oliver (ed.), Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy, Routledge
  • Newland, Guy (1999), Schijn en werkelijkheid. De twee waarheden in de vier boeddhistische leerstelsels, KunchabPublicaties
  • Padmakara Translation Group (2005), "Translator's Introduction", The Adornment of the Middle Way. Shantarakshita’s Madhyamakalankara with commentary by Jamgön Mipham, Shambhala
  • Padmakara Translation Group (2012), "Translator's Introduction", Introduction to the Middle Way. Candrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara; with commentary by Ju Mipham, Shambhala
  • Rizzi, Cesare (1988), Candrakīrti, Motilal Banarsidass
  1. ^ a b c d Alexander Berzin, Self-Voidness and Other Voidness
  2. ^ a b Gareth Sparham (2017), Tsongkhapa, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Further reading[edit]

  • Lopez (1987), "Introduction; Chapter 2: Svatantrika and Prasangika", A Study of Svatantrika, Snow Lion Publications
  • Padmakara Translation Group (2005), "Translator's Introduction", The Adornment of the Middle Way. Shantarakshita’s Madhyamakalankara with commentary by Jamgön Mipham, Shambhala
  • Padmakara Translation Group (2012), "Translator's Introduction", Introduction to the Middle Way. Candrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara; with commentary by Ju Mipham, Shambhala
Indian Madhyamaka
  • della Santina, Peter. Madhyamaka Schools in India. Motilal Banarsidass. Delhi. (1986)
Tibetan Madhyamaka (primary/secondary sources)
  • Candrakirti; Ju Mipham (2012), Introduction to the Middle Way. Candrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara; with commentary by Ju Mipham, Shambhala (Candrakirti/Nyingma)
  • Shantarakshita; Ju Mipham (2005), The Adornment of the Middle Way, Shambhala, ISBN 1-59030-241-9 (Shantarakshita/Nyingma)
  • Tsong Khapa (2002), The great treatise on the stages of the path to enlightenment: Volume 3, Snow Lion Publications, ISBN 1-55939-166-9 (Gelugpa)
  • Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, 1st Panchen Lama; 14th Dalai Lama; Berzin, Alexander (1997), "Session 10", The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra (PDF), Shambhala (Gelugpa)
  • Jang-Gya; Lopez, Donald (1987), A Study of Svatantrika, Snow Lion Publications (Gelugpa)
  • Brunhölzl, Karl (2004), Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition, Snow Lion Publications (Kagyu)
  • Cabezon, J. I.; Lobsang Dargyay (2007), Freedom from Extremes. Gorampa's "Distinguishing the View" and the Polemics of Emptiness, Wisdom (Sakya)
Tibetan Madhyamaka (secondary sources)

External links[edit]