Tibetan philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F003-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Tibetan philosophy – if we can make a rough separation between what is predominantly argument-oriented and analytical and what is more a question of ritual, devotion or vision – is best characterized as a form of scholasticism. It exhibits marked parallels with philosophy in Western medieval contexts, including a heavy emphasis on logic, philosophy of language and metaphysics, all in the service of exegesis of religious doctrine found in root texts. Just as in Western scholasticism, there is a reliance upon scripture, but within that traditional context there is also ample room for rational analysis and synthesis of potentially disparate doctrines, as well as a considerable quantity of argumentation which is a type of ‘fine tuning’ of Indian issues. Tibetan thinkers explored matters which are often of genuine importance in our understanding of Indian texts. In particular, in Mādhyamika Buddhist philosophy we find an important synthesis of Indian Yogācāra ideas with a relatively natural interpretation of key ideas in the literature on the Buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha); we also find important debates on the nature of the two truths, the status of means of valid cognition (pramāṇas), and on questions of philosophical method, such as the possibility or impossibility of Mādhyamikas holding theses and themselves defending positions. Beginning with the Great Debate of bSam-yas (Samyay) in the latter part of the eighth century, we find constantly recurring reflection on questions concerning the nature of spiritual realizations and the role of conceptual and analytic thought in leading to such insights. In the logico-epistemological literature, the hotly debated issues generally centre around the problem of universals, the Indian Buddhist philosophy of language and the theory of the triply characterized logical reason (trirūpahetu). In addition, the Tibetans developed an elaborate logic of debate, an indigenous system containing many original elements unknown in or even alien to Indian Buddhist logic.

    Citing this article:
    Tillemans, Tom J.F.. Tibetan philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F003-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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