Did ’Gos lo tsā ba gZhon nu dpal (1392–1481) Espouse a gZhan stong View?

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Did ’Gos lo tsā ba gZhon nu dpal (1392–1481) Espouse a gZhan stong View?
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Citation: Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. "Did 'Gos Lo tsā ba gZhon nu dpal (1392-1481) Espouse a gZhan sTong View?" In Fifteenth Century Tibet: Cultural Blossoming and Political Unrest; Proceedings of a Conference Held in Lumbini, Nepal, March 2015, edited by Volker Caumanns and Marta Sernesi, 291–311. LIRI Seminar Proceedings Series 8. Lumbini, Nepal: Lumbini International Research Institute, 2017.

Article Summary

With Mathes' article―the last one in our volume―we move on to a "hot issue" of 15th-century scholastic philosophy, namely the contested view of "emptiness-of-other" (gzhan stong). The article investigates 'Gos Lo tsā ba gZhon nu dpal's analysis of Buddha nature and pursues the question of whether this master advocated a gzhan stong view. Mathes faces a difficult situation regarding sources, since no philosophical work by 'Gos Lo tsā ba has come down to us apart from a commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāga (in which the term gzhan stong is not mentioned). Therefore, Mathes makes use of "secondary sources" such as the Eighth Karma pa's polemical review of 'Gos Lo tsā ba's lost Kālacakra commentary and a biography composed by the Fourth Zhwa dmar pa. As Mathes is able to show, 'Gos Lo tsā ba's position on Buddha nature differs sharply from the position held by the Eighth Karma pa, who (like the Third and Seventh Karma pas) supported a type of gzhan stong view. It is, moreover, obvious that 'Gos Lo tsā ba was influenced, to a certain extent, by Tsong kha pa's scholastic exegesis and thus attempted to harmonize the latter's view of emptiness with the mahāmudrā approach of the bKaʼ brgyud pas. In the end, Mathes comes to the conclusion that it is problematic to describe 'Gos Lo tsā ba's position as gzhan stong, although the Eighth Karma pa (ironically) terms it as "great gzhan stong." (Sernesi and Caumanns, introduction to Fifteenth Century Tibet, xix)