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The term Great Madhyamaka is utilized in different contexts depending on the tradition. In the Jonang tradition, it generally refers to the Zhentong Madhyamaka philosophy as it was developed and systematized by Dölpopa. In this context, the Great Madhyamaka refers to the presentation of ultimate truth, while Madhyamaka describes the emptiness of the relative level of truth. In the Nyingma tradition, Great Madhyamaka refers to the subtle, inner Madhyamaka that unifies the philosophical positions of Nāgārjuna and Asaṅga. This is presented in opposition to the coarse, outer Madhyamaka that is the dialectic approach of Prāsaṅgika and Svātantrika. In the Kagyu tradition, the term is used in a similar vein in that Madhyamaka is used to refer to philosophical inquiry, while Great Madhyamaka is used to refer to the view arrived at through yogic accomplishment. However, in all of these traditions, Great Madhyamaka is heavily associated with buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha) and the definitive status of these teachings.
This paper will examine Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita’s doxography, considering the way in which he attempts to demonstrate that the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness is ultimate within the Buddhist doctrinal history originating from India. According to Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita, the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness is said to have been the intent of the Last Tuming of the Wheel of the Dharma which is of definitive meaning, teaches the Buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha), and, as pointed out by Duckworth, "accords with the Great Perfection"'"`UNIQ--ref-00000206-QINU`"' (rdzogs chen). Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita’s gzhang stong view is explicitly taught in the following doxographical texts: the Bde gshegs snying po'i rgyan, the Grub mtha'i rnam gzhag nges don dgongs gsal, the Rton pa bzhi ldan gyi gtam, the first chapter of the Rnying ma rgyud 'bum dkar chag lha'i rnga bo che,'"`UNIQ--ref-00000207-QINU`"' and the Sangs rgyas gnyis pa'i dgongs pa'i rgyan,'"`UNIQ--ref-00000208-QINU`"' which is Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita's commentary on the Gsang sngags lam gyi rim pa sal ba'i sgron me, a gter ma of Nyang ral Nyi ma 'od zer (1124/1136-1192/1204).
This paper will also suggest that Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita should be recognized as a forerunner of the ris med movement in Khams, as supported by the following facts: his view on the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness embraces the major practice lineages (sgrub brgyud)—Jo nang pa, Bka' brgyud pa, Sa skya pa, early Dge lugs pa, Rnying ma pa, and Zhi byed—within a single overriding intent of the Buddha’s teachings;'"`UNIQ--ref-00000209-QINU`"' Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita as the teacher of Zhe chen dbon sprul ’Gyur med mthu stobs rnam rgyal, also known as Zhe chen Mahāpaṇḍita (b. 1787), who was a gzhan stong pa,'"`UNIQ--ref-0000020A-QINU`"' and who in tum was the teacher of the three masters Kong sprul (1813-99), Mkhyen brtse'i dbang po (1820–2), and Dpal sprul (1808-87).'"`UNIQ--ref-0000020B-QINU`"' Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita’s Legs bshad gser gyi thur ma, which is his response to the Lta ba'i gsung mgur by Lcang skya Rol pa'i rdo rje (1717-86),'"`UNIQ--ref-0000020C-QINU`"' would hint at the seeds of the ris med movement which grew up among the three schools, the Sa skya, Bka' brgyud, and Rnying ma.'"`UNIQ--ref-0000020D-QINU`"' With this paper, then, I hope to add to our understanding of the practice lineages of Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka. (Makidono, introduction, 77–80)
An absolute treasure for students of the tradition, it is also an indispensable reference for anyone with an interest in Buddhism. The book includes chronologies and glossaries that elucidate Buddhist doctrine, and it provides fascinating insights into the Buddhist history of Tibet. Two treatises form the present volume, namely the Fundamentals of the Nyingma School and the History of the Nyingma School. Among the most widely read of all His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche’s works, these treatises were composed during the years immediately following his arrival in India as a refugee. His intention in writing them was to preserve the precise structure of the Nyingma philosophical view within its own historical and cultural context. (Source: Wisdom Publications)
A brief summary of the content of the work in which Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita unfolds his understanding of the history of Buddhism is as follows. After the title, his homage to buddhas, and a statement of the composition’s purpose, he sets out to give an account of the Three Turnings of the Wheel of the Teaching. Doxographically, the First Turning gives rise to the doctrines of the Vaibhāṣika and Sautrāntika schools of the Lesser Vehicle. The author explains the ultimate truth as conceived by the Vaibhāṣika School, but rejects its atomic theory as being deluded, since it posits the existence of subtlest particles of both matter and cognition. He likewise cannot follow the Sautrāntikas in their assertion of the true existence of external objects. From there, he jumps to the Last Turning, which he deals with until the end of the work, primarily on the basis of quoted scriptures. Among them, those concerning the Mind-Only school focus in on the Three Natures theory, which in turn he disallows, given that a truly existing perceiving subject does not comport with the essencelessness of phenomena. That school, he claims, died out, and their works did not gain entry into Tibet. From there he moves on to the next great figures to arrive on the scene: Nāgārjuna and Asaṅga. He goes on to explain the two modes of Madhyamaka, and contends that though both of them are in fact Mādhyamikas of the Middle Wheel, some biased persons claim Asaṅga for the Mind-Only school. Mādhyamikas, whose doctrine is grounded in the Two Truths, divided into two subschools, the Svātantrikas and Prāsaṅgikas. The former, represented in the Indian tradition by Bhāviveka, accepted the existence of phenomena only on the relative level. The latter, by contrast, represented by Buddhapālita, do not accept phenomena even on the relative level. That was the stage to which the Indian Mādhyamikas developed. Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita identifies his own position as that of a true successor of Indian Buddhism’s Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka. In Tibet, Tsong kha pa (1357-1419) initiated a new approach, whereby the truth was subject to confirmation by means of valid cognition, which led to a tradition of rigorous debate. Extensively citing the Ratnapradīpa of Bhavya (clearly distinguished from the Svātantrika Bhāviveka), which expounds the subtle, inner Madhyamaka of practice, he refutes the use of logic when it comes to ultimate reality. He asserts that the doctrine of mind-only as taught in such works associated with the Last Turning of the Wheels as the Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra and the Ghanavyūha-sūtra is the subtle, inner Madhyamaka—and Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Candrakīrti, and Bhavya also taught it as such. He equates it with the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness, which he also terms the Great Madhyamaka of definitive meaning. He defends Hwa shang's "abandoning mental engagement," as being the tradition of the instruction of Madhyamaka. The practitioners of Rdzogs chen, he notes, label the doctrine of the Last Turning the "king and creator of all" (kun byed rgyal po), and so he regards Rdzogs chen as the same as the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness. Thus, he places Madhyamaka at the summit of the doxographical hierarchy of Buddhist schools as it crystallized in Tibet from its roots in India. He thereby emphasizes that the two modes of emptiness, or two forms of Madhyamaka, that is, self-emptiness and other-emptiness, are in harmony. For Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita, the essence of the Buddhist doctrine, which is the Great Madhyamaka of other¬emptiness, is shared by all Tibetan Buddhist schools, be they Jo nang pas, the early Dge lugs pas, Bka' brgyud pas, Sa skya pas, or Rnying ma pas. He ends by stating that Tantric practice is fundamental to the Great Madhyamaka of other-emptiness, and that it is predicated on the existence of the Buddha-nature—that is, Buddhahood—in every sentient being. (Makidono, preliminary remarks, 77–79)
Notes:2. Dge rtse Mahāpaṇḍita. Nges don dbu ma chen po'i tshul rnam par nges pa'i gtam bde gshegs snying po'i rgyan. I have used three editions of the text for my translation; see the References. The section headings in the translation have been added.
|Key Term||Great Madhyamaka|
|Topic Variation||Great Madhyamaka|
|Tibetan||དབུ་མ་ཆེན་པོ་ ( Uma Chenpo)|
|Wylie Tibetan Transliteration||dbu ma chen po ( Uma Chenpo)|
|Buddha-nature Site Standard English||Great Middle Way|
|Basic Meaning||The term Great Madhyamaka is utilized in different contexts depending on the tradition. In the Jonang tradition, it generally refers to the Zhentong Madhyamaka philosophy as it was developed and systematized by Dölpopa. In this context, the Great Madhyamaka refers to the presentation of ultimate truth, while Madhyamaka describes the emptiness of the relative level of truth. In the Nyingma tradition, Great Madhyamaka refers to the subtle, inner Madhyamaka that unifies the philosophical positions of Nāgārjuna and Asaṅga. This is presented in opposition to the coarse, outer Madhyamaka that is the dialectic approach of Prāsaṅgika and Svātantrika. In the Kagyu tradition, the term is used in a similar vein in that Madhyamaka is used to refer to philosophical inquiry, while Great Madhyamaka is used to refer to the view arrived at through yogic accomplishment. However, in all of these traditions, Great Madhyamaka is heavily associated with buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha) and the definitive status of these teachings.|