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Madhyamaka Schools in Early Tibet

Kevin Vose 1

1College of William and Mary

Candidate

ABSTRACT

This paper examines two senses of Madhyamaka “schools” in eleventh and twelfth-century Tibet. On the first, the present work roughly sketches the monastic institutions that were instrumental in teaching Madhyamaka during this time when Tibetan exegesis of Nāgārjuna’s philosophy took firm root. Our present state of knowledge only allows a sense of the central figures and the monasteries with which they were affiliated in Central Tibet. On the second sense of “Madhyamaka school,” this paper analyzes the categories that Tibetan authors utilized to classify various Madhyamaka teachings and to stake out their preferred interpretations. After noting that some authors retained the eighth-century distinction between Sautrāntika and Yogācāra-Madhyamaka, this work explores many renditions of the “Illusionist” (sgyu ma lta bu / sgyu ma rigs grub pa) and “Non-Abiding” (rab tu mi gnas pa) schools of Madhyamaka. Through the many ways that Tibetan authors characterized these two camps, we see a range of evolving concerns that ultimately fed into the enduring Svātantrika – Prāsaṅgika divide. Arguing that Svātantrika – Prāsaṅgika does not, however, constitute a simple renaming of the “Illusionist” and “Non-Abiding” positions, this paper shows that the Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika (sometimes referred to in this period as “Great Madhyamaka”) categories classify a host of issues that divided Tibetan Mādhyamikas on both conventional and ultimate truths.

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