Madhyamakāvatāra

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मध्यमकावतार
Madhyamakāvatāra
དབུ་མ་ལ་འཇུག་པ།
dbu ma la 'jug pa
Entrance to the Middle Way
SOURCE TEXT

In Sanskrit, “Entrance to the Middle Way” (translated also as “Supplement to the Middle Way”); the major independent (as opposed to commentarial) work of the seventh-century Indian master Candrakīrti, who states that it is intended as an avatāra (variously rendered as “primer,” “entrance,” and “supplement”) to Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. The work is written in verse, to which the author provides an extensive prose commentary (bhāṣya). The work is organized around ten “productions of the aspiration to enlightenment” (bodhicittotpāda), which correspond to the ten stages (bhūmi) of the bodhisattva path (drawn largely from the Daśabhūmikasūtra) and their respective perfections (pāramitā), describing the salient practices and attainments of each. These are followed by chapters on the qualities of the bodhisattva, on the stage of buddhahood, and a conclusion. (Source: The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, 489.)

Relevance to Buddha-nature

This treatise on Middle Way by Candrakīrti discusses the ten stages of Boddhisattvas, ten perfections and the nature and qualities of a buddha. A major bulk of the book dwells on the Perfection of Wisdom with focus on the explicit message of emptiness (དངོས་བསྟན་སྟོང་ཉིད་). It uses logical arguments such as the analysis of cause that is identical, different, both or neither, the analysis if result which existent, non-existent, both or neither, and the seven-fold reasoning of the chariot to establish all phenomena to be empty of self-existence or intrinsic nature.

With such emphasis on emptiness, Candrakīrti, in this treatise, considers the sūtras teaching buddha-nature to be provisional. Buddha-nature is interpreted as another designation for emptiness and taught by the Buddha merely to help lead beings, who are scared of non-self, on the path to enlightenment. As a result, most followers of and commentators on Candrakīrti consider him to have rejected buddha-nature. However, Candrakīrti's philosophical position regarding buddha-nature is not as straightforward as it seems, if we are accept him to be the author of the Pradīpoddyotana-nāma-ṭīkā. In this commentary on Guhyasamāja Tantra, which is said to have been written with instructions passed down from Nāgārjuna, the author accepts the innate nature of mind to be luminous and endowed with the qualities of the Buddha, argues five aggregates and elements to be buddhas in nature, and all sentient beings to possess buddha-nature.

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Text Metadata

Text exists in ~ Sanskrit
~ Tibetan
~ English
~ French
~ German
Canonical Genre ~ Tengyur · Sūtra · dbu ma · Madhyamaka
Literary Genre ~ Tengyur

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