From Buddha-Nature


dbu ma la 'jug pa

Madhyamakāvatāra. (T. Dbu ma la 'jug pa). 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. The lengthiest (comprising approximately half of the work) and most important chapter of the text is the sixth, dealing with the perfection of wisdom (prajñāpāramitā). This is one of the most extensive and influential expositions in Indian literature of Madhyamaka philosophical positions. In it, Candrakīrti provides a detailed discussion of the two truths—ultimate truth (paramārthasatya) and conventional truth (saṃvṛtisatya)—arguing that all things that have these two natures and that conventional truths (which he glosses as "concealing truths") are not in fact true because they appear falsely to the ignorant consciousness. He also discusses the crucial question of valid knowledge (pramāṇa) among the unenlightened, relating it to worldly consensus (lokaprasiddha). The sixth chapter also contains one of the most detailed refutations of Yogācāra in Madhyamaka literature, treating such topics as the three natures (trisvabhāva), the foundational consciousness (ālayavijñāna), and the statements in the sūtras that the three realms of existence are "mind-only" (cittamātra). This chapter also contains Candrakīrti's most famous contribution to Madhyamaka reasoning, the sevenfold reasoning designed to demonstrate the absence of a personal self (pudgalanairātmya). Adding to and elaborating upon a fivefold reasoning found in Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, Candrakīrti argues that the person does not intrinsically exist because of it: (1) not being the aggregates (skandha), (2) not being other than the aggregates, (3) not being the basis of the aggregates, (4) not depending on the aggregates, (5) not possessing the aggregates, (6) not being the shape of the aggregates, and (7) not being the composite of the aggregates. He illustrates this reasoning by applying it to the example of a chariot, which, he argues, is not to be found among its constituent parts. The sixth chapter concludes with a discussion of the sixteen and the twenty forms of emptiness (śūnyatā), which include the emptiness of emptiness (śūnyatāśūnyatā). The work was the most widely studied and commented upon Madhyamaka text in Tibet among all sects, serving, for example, as one of the "five texts" (zhung lnga) that formed the Dge lugs scholastic curriculum. The work is preserved only in Tibetan, although a Sanskrit manuscript of verses has been discovered in Tibet. (Source: "Madhyamakāvatāra." In The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, 489. Princeton University Press, 2014.

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.

Philosophical positions of this text

Text Metadata

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

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