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Buddhism, Mādhyamika: India and Tibet

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F006-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Madhyamaka (‘the Middle Doctrine’) Buddhism was one of two Mahāyāna Buddhist schools, the other being Yogācāra, that developed in India between the first and fourth centuries ad. The Mādhyamikas derived the name of their school from the Middle Path (madhyamapratipad) doctrine expounded by the historical Siddhārtha, prince of the Śākya clan, when he gained the status of a buddha, enlightenment. The Madhyamaka, developed by the second-century philosopher Nāgārjuna on the basis of a class of sūtras known as the Prajñāpāramitā (‘Perfection of Wisdom’), can be seen in his foundational Mūlamadhyamakakārikā(Fundamental Central Way Verses). Therein he expounds the central Buddhist doctrines of the Middle Path in terms of interdependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda), conventional language (prajñapti), no-self nature (niḥsvabhāva) and voidness (śūnyatā). He grants that the dharma taught by the enlightened ones is dependent upon two realities (dve satye samupāśritya) – the conventional reality of the world (lokasaṃvṛtisatyam) and reality as the ultimate (satyam paramārthataḥ). Although voidness is central to Madhyamaka, we are warned against converting śūnyatā into yet another ‘ism’.

Historically, Madhyamaka in India comprises three periods – the early period (second to fifth century), represented by the activities of Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva and Rāhulabhadra; the middle period (fifth to seventh century) exemplified by Buddhapālita and Bhāvaviveka (founders respectively of the *Prāsaṅgika and *Svātantrika schools of Madhyamaka), and Candrakīrti; and the later period (eighth to eleventh century), which includes Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla, who fused the ideas found in the Madhyamaka and Yogācāra systems. Many of the Indian Madhyamaka scholars of the later period contributed to Madhyamaka developments in Tibet.

Citing this article:
Kawamura, Leslie S.. Buddhism, Mādhyamika: India and Tibet, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F006-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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