The Gzhan stong Model of Reality: Some More Material on Its Origin, Transmission, and Interpretation

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The Gzhan stong Model of Reality: Some More Material on Its Origin, Transmission, and Interpretation
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Citation: Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. "The Gzhan stong Model of Reality: Some More Material on Its Origin, Transmission, and Interpretation." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 34, no. 1–2 (2011): 187–223. https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/view/10602/4454.

Article Summary

By the time Tibetans inherited Indian Buddhism, it had already witnessed two major doctrinal developments, namely the notion of the Prajñāpāramitāsūtras that all factors of existence (dharmas) lack an own-being (emptiness), and the Yogācāra interpretation of this emptiness based on the imagined (parikalpita-), dependent (paratantra-) and perfect natures (pariniṣpanna svabhāva).[1] Closely related to this threefold distinction was the Tathāgatagarbha restriction of emptiness to adventitious stains which cover over an ultimate nature of buddha-qualities. There can be, of course, only one true reality towards which the Buddha awakened, so that exegetes were eventually forced to explain the canonical sources (i.e., Mahāyāna Sūtras) which contain mutually competing models of reality. This set the stage for the well-known hermeneutic strategies of the Tibetan schools. The main issue at stake was whether or not one needs to distinguish two modes of emptiness: being "empty of an own-being" (Tib. rang stong), and being "empty of other" (Tib. gzhan stong). (Mathes, introductory remarks, 187)

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  1. This threefold distinction is related to the three niḥsvabhāvatās of the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra: the lack of essence in terms of characteristics (lakṣaṇa-niḥsvabhāvatā), arising (utpatti-n.) and the ultimate (paramārtha-n.). See Mathes 1996: 161.