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The late and retrospective nature of the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction, as well as its apparent non-Indian provenance, together signal its unusual status as a doxographical category that should render us cautious about its use in the interpretation of Indian material.

By themselves, however, these qualities do not warrant rejection of the distinction. The mere fact that the Indian authors themselves were not cognizant of being Svatantrika or Prasangika and that it is only later Tibetan exegetes who thought of them as such is not enough to disqualify these descriptions. There is no problem in principle in retrospectively applying a description to an author even if he or she never conceived of it.

For is this not what interpretation is largely about? It requires that the use of the term and its counterpart, Svatantrika be well grounded in an analysis of the original texts. Such analysis, however, is not easy. If at least there were some degree of unity in their understanding of the terms, it might be possible to examine this understanding, consider the reasons behind the use of the terms, and then decide whether or not they apply to the original Indian sources. Whereas Tsongkhapa, the founder of what later became known as the Gelugs-pa school and the most ardent proponent of the distinction, argues that the two subschools are separated by crucial philosophical differences, including a different understanding of emptiness and of conventional reality, many other Tibetan commentators have tended to downplay the significance of any differences.

Svatantrika–Prasaṅgika distinction

Bu ston rin chen grub , for example, goes as far as to claim that this distinction is an artificial Tibetan conceptual creation bod kyi rtog bzo without much merit. Indeed, the Tibetan tradition is so deeply divided over the meaning of the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction that there is even dispute about whether the distinction has legitimacy at all. The highly contested nature of this distinction, like its status as late and retroactively applied, also does not in itself disqualify its use.

At the same time, however, the contentious nature of the distinction does require anyone choosing to employ these terms to make a strong effort at clarifying how he or she understands them.

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To meet this challenge, the editors have solicited contributions to this volume along two distinct avenues of inquiry. This avenue is explored in the first part of the book, where the reader will find articles examining the works of some of the great Indian Madhyamaka commentators such as Bhavaviveka, Candrakirti, Santaraksita, Kamalasila, and Jnanagarbha in light of the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction and some of the issues that it raises.

Although these two endeavors-the analysis of Indian sources and the exploration of Tibetan interpretations-may be conceived as discrete, they are not and cannot be entirely separate.


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Hence all of the contributions dealing with Indian sources, to greater or lesser extent, analyze their texts in the light of concepts provided by later Tibetan intellectuals. Likewise, because the distinction was created vis-a-vis Indian sources and as a means to classify Indian thought, any investigation of the distinction in the Tibetan context necessarily requires a degree of direct consideration of the Indian texts. Thus all of the articles on Tibetan thinkers refer to the Indian sources, even when the focus is not on the Indian sources per se but rather on the Tibetan interpretations of those sources.

As the patient reader by now realizes, the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction is far from obvious when examined closely. It is a highly involved and contested issue among Tibetan scholars, who created the distinction to bring some order to what they perceived to be different Indian Madhyamaka interpretations.

Candrakirti's works were known in Tibet as early as the 8th century, but "specifically in connection with the logical tradition," when Candrakirti's Yuktishashtika was translated by Yeshe De Jnanasutra and some others. A related doctrinal topic of profound disagreement is between Rangtong-Shentong , which concerns the "nature" of ultimate truth as empty of a self or essence, or as constituting an absolute reality which is "truly existing" and empty of any other, transitional phenomena.

Initially, this new distinction based on Candrakirti's Prasannapada met with fierce resistance in Tibet, but gained in popularity and was strongly supported by Je Tsongkhapa [3] — CE. His critics rejected his interpretation as "inadequate, newfangled, and unsupported by tradition. Tsongkhapa's view became the dominant view in the beginning of the 17th century, when Gusri Khan ended the civil war in central Tibet, putting the 5th Dalai Lamai in command of the temples in Tibet. This gave the Gelugpa school a strong political power, and the means to effectively ban the writings of Tsongkhapa's critics.

Tsongkhapa objected against Bhaviveka's use of autonomous syllogistic reasoning in explaining voidness or essencelessness.

This common ground is the shared perception of the object whose's emptiness of inherent existence is to be established. According to Bhaviveka, this shared perception is possible because the perceived objects are mentally imputed labeled based on characteristic marks which distinguishes them from other objects. Tsongkhapa holds reductio ad absurdum of essentialist viewpoints to be the most valid method of demonstrating emptiness of inherent existence , and of demonstrating that conventional things do not have a naturally occurring conventional identity.

However, in a circumstance where one or both parties in a debate or discussion do not hold a valid understanding, "the debate [should be] founded on what the parties accept as valid.

Svatantrika Madhyamika

Hence, it is proper to refute opponents in terms of what they accept. While Tsongkhapa's view met with strong resistance after their introduction, [31] his views came to dominate Tibet in the 17th century, with the Ganden Phodrang government, after the military intervention of the Mongol lord Gusri Khan. He supported the Gelugpa's against the Tsangpa family, and put the 5th Dalai Lama in charge of Tibet.

From there, "the ultimate truth in itself, which is completely free from all ssertion, is reached.

Svatantrika-Prasangika Distinction : Sara McClintock :

According to Ju Mipham, Tsongkhapa's approach was seriously flawed. The Sakya teacher Gorampa was critical of Tsongkhapa and his views. He does also critique the Svatantrika approach as having too much reliance on logic, because in his view the component parts of syllogistic logic are not applicable in the realm of the ultimate. But this critique is constrained to the methodology, and he believed both approaches reach the same ultimate realization. With regard to the view of the ultimate truth there is no difference between them. Kagyu and Sakya scholars have argued against the claim that students using Svatantrika do not achieve the same realization as those using the Prasangika approach.

They also argue that the Svatantrika approach is better for students who are not able to understand the more direct approach of Prasangika, but it nonetheless results in the same ultimate realization. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Part of a series on Tibetan Buddhism Sects. Key personalities. Practices and attainment. Major monasteries. Institutional roles.

History and overview. History Timeline Outline Culture Index of articles.

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See also: Two truths doctrine. See also: History of Tibetan Buddhism. Because it must be established as commonly appearing to both parties. So how could the conventional eye, as the subject of a syllogism, exist for an accurate consciousness? According to Tsongkhapa, this is not sufficient for Madhyamikas, since this object as it appears is a mistaken perception: "Since no phenomenon can, even conventionally, have a nature that is established by way of its intrinsic character, there is no valid cognition that establishes such a thing.