Gorampa’s Madhyamaka - 129
Gorampa (1429-89) - About the true meaning of emptiness (Madhyamaka):
merely refutation of inherent existence (= mere emptiness), or
transcendence of all extremes & middle, of all conceptual dualistic proliferations (ex. the four extremes of: existence, non-existence, both together, neither) (= Genuine-emptiness free from all extremes).
Passages from the book: FREEDOM FROM EXTREMES, Gorampa’s “Distinguishing the Views (written Jan-Feb 1469)” and the Polemic of Emptiness, Josè Ignacio Cabezón, Geshe Lobsang Dragyay, Wisdom Publication, 2007
TABLE OF CONTENT OF THE BOOK
Thematic subdivisions of the text
Distinguishing the Views. … The text is lucid and structurally very simple, with little complexity in its subdivisions (sa bcad). It can roughly be divided into seven parts:
three short sections that describe, respectively, (Chapter 1)
Dolpopa's views (eternalism; grasping at an ultimate truth / reality; the doctrine of the emptiness of other),
Tsongkhapa's views (nihilism, grasping at emptiness as real, as the ultimate truth), and
Gorampa's own views (freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from all conceptual proliferations),
followed by three much longer sections in which
he refutes each of the first two views (chapter 2 - Dolpopa’s views)
“ (chapter 3 - Tsongkhapa’s view)
and sets forth his own position in more detail, responding to possible objections along the way. (chapter 4 - freedom from all extremes)
The seventh and last section of the work consists of 36 stanzas summarizing his arguments. (not included)
[Chapter 1 - The three systems of those who claim to be Mādhyamikas] 69
1.1 Those who claim that the extreme of Eternalism is the Madhyamaka 71
1.2 Those who claim that the extreme of Nihilism is the Madhyamaka 77
1.2.1 [Tsongkhapa's] Exposition of Emptiness, the Ultimate 79
1.2.2 [Tsongkhapa's] Exposition of Appearances -- That is, of the conventional [world] 83
1.2.3 Some Points that remain [to be discussed) in the wake of these [points just raised] 85
220.127.116.11 [How Tsongkhapa] identifies the two obscurations 85
18.104.22.168 [How Tsongkhapa] identifies the two selves 87
22.214.171.124 [How Tsongkhapa propounds] the differences between what the hīna-and mahā-yānas [accept as the objects to be abandoned and realized 87
126.96.36.199 How [Tsongkhapa] accepts external objects (phyi don), given that [he does not believe in the foundation (consciousness) or in reflexive awareness 89
188.8.131.52. What it means for there to be no autonomous reasons (rang rgyud kyi rtags) and no theses 91
1.3. Those Who Claim that the Freedom from [all] extremes is the [true] Madhyamaka 93
[Chapter 2 - The refutation of the system that advocates that the extreme of Eternalism is the Madhyamaka = The refutation of Dolpopa] 97
[Chapter 3 - The refutation of the system that advocates that the extreme of Nihilism is the Madhyamaka = The refutation of Tsongkhapa] 115
3.1 An Examination of [Tsongkhapa's] Exposition of the Ultimate 115
3.2 An Examination of [Tsongkhapa's] Exposition of the Conventional 133
3.2.1 An Examination of the way that Karma Gives Rise to its Effects 137
3.2.2 An Analysis of [Tsongkhapa's View Concerning] How the Eye Consciousnesses of the Six Classes of Beings Perceive (Objects) 139
3.3 The Analysis of Some Ancillary Points 143
3.3.1 The Analysis of [Tsongkhapa's Views Concerning] the Identification of the Two Obscurations 143
3.3.2 An Examination of [Tsongkhapa's] Identification of the Two Selves 149
3.3.3 An Examination of [Tsongkhapa's] Views Concerning the Differences between What the Mahā- and Hīna-yāna [Believe] Ought to Be Abandoned and Realized 157
3.3.4 An Examination of [Tsongkhapa's View that Prāsangikas] Accept External Objects Despite the fact that They Do Not Believe in the Foundation (Consciousness) and in Reflexive Awareness 173
3.3.5 An Examination of [Tsongkhapa's Views] Concerning Why There Are No Autonomous Reasons and Theses 177
184.108.40.206 The Differences [Between Prāsangikas and Svātantrikas] with Respect to Theses 191
220.127.116.11 The Difference [Between Prāsangikas and Svātantrikas] As Regards Adequate Argumentation 193
18.104.22.168 The Basis for Distinguishing Between the Two Truths
[Chapter 4 - Those who claim that the Freedom from [all] extremes is the [true] Madhyamaka = Gorampa's own system] 203
4.1. Identifying the Vessel - That is, the Student, to Whom Reality Is to Be Taught 203
4.1.1 Those Who (First Adhere to Any One of the Philosophical Positions of the Realists -- Whether Buddhist or Non-Buddhist - and Subsequently] Change Their Philosophical Outlook [to the Madhyamaka] 205
4.1.2 Those Who Do Not Change Their Minds Philosophically, [but Who from the Very Beginning Exert Themselves at Understanding Reality through the Power of the Awakening of their Mahāyāna Lineage] 205
4.2 What Is to be taught: The [inconceivable) nature of Reality 207
4.2.1 [GROUND] The Madhyamaka Qua Basis: The Union of the Two Truths [U2T] 207
22.214.171.124 The Exposition of the Conventional [T1] 207
126.96.36.199 The Exposition of the Ultimate [U2T] 211
188.8.131.52.1 The Quasi-Ultimate, Which Involves Analysis 211
184.108.40.206.2. The Real Ultimate, Which is what appears to the [meditative] equipoise of Aryans in a way that is devoid of the proliferations 217
4.2.2 [PATH] The Madhyamaka Qua Path, which is the Union of Method and Wisdom 219
220.127.116.11 The identification of the Two Obscurations, the (objects) to be eliminated 219
18.104.22.168 The identification of the Antidotes that eliminate those [two obscurations] 221
4.2.3 [FRUITION] The Madhyamaka Qua Result, which is the Union of the Two Bodies [i.e. Union of the three kayas - U3K] 227
(Not covered in this book)
4.3 Bringing trustworthy scriptural [evidence) to bear (on these questions] 229
4.3.1 The Division of the Ultimate Truth into two: The Ultimate Truth in name only, and the Ultimate Truth not in name only 229
4.3.2 The Scriptural sources for the freedom from the proliferations of the four extremes 231
A. PASSAGES FROM THE INTRODUCTION
Gorampa in fact calls his version of the Madhyamaka “the Middle Way qua freedom from extremes”
Intertextuality “Distinguishing the Views” is ostensibly written as an assault against the Madhyamaka views of Dolpopa and Tsongkhapa. … Since Dolpopa and Tsongkhapa had already penned refutations of Sakyapa Madhyamaka views, however, there is reason to believe that Distinguishing the Views is also a text of the second type -- a defense of the tradition in the wake of other scholars' prior challenges.
(… Through a rather long and circuitous route, we have finally come to the two individuals who are the objects of Gorampa's critique in Distinguishing the Views. These are, of course, Dolpopa Shes rab rgyal mtshan (1292-1361) and Tsongkhapa Blo bzang grags pa (1357-1419). While these two figures held quite different philosophical views, they also shared a great deal in common. Each was the founder/systematizer of a major school of Tibetan Buddhism. Dolpopa was the chief systematizer of the Jonangpa, Tsongkhapa the founder of the Dga' ldan pa (later called the Gelukpa pa). Both wrote extensively on a wide range of doctrinal topics -- both esoteric and exoteric. Each of them showed a special interest in Madhyamaka. Their rivals held that each of the two figures was also an innovator, propounding controversial theories that were departures from the Indian and Tibetan tradition that had preceded them.141
Dolpopa's theory of Madhyamaka came to be known as "the emptiness of what is other" (gzhan stong), so-called because it maintained that the ultimate (don dam), while empty of all things different from itself (rang ma yin pas stong pa = gzhan stong), is not empty of itself (rang stong ma yin). In Dolpopa's view, the ultimate, which he equates with the buddha nature (bde bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po = rigs) and gnosis (ye shes), is a positive reality beyond intellectual comprehension. It is a radiant, permanent, stable unity that is self-sufficient. It can never be understood in terms of the deconstructionist and reductive dialectic of the negationist (chad pa'i) branch of the Madhyamaka tradition epitomized in the rationalist works (rigs tshogs) of Nāgārjuna. Rather, says Dolpopa, it is the positivist tradition found, for example, in Nāgārjuna's "corpus of hymns" or "praises” (bstod tshogs) that is the best source for understanding the ultimate.
Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka theory has come to be known simply as the Prāsangika. Like many of the luminaries of Tibetan scholasticism before him, Tsongkhapa saw the great texts of Indian Buddhism as the foundation for Buddhist theory and practice. As regards the doctrine of emptiness, he cast his lot with Indian Madhyamika thinkers like Buddhapālita, Candrakīrti, and sāntideva, claiming that it was their interpretation of Nāgārjuna, and their interpretation alone, that constituted the correct theory (yang dag pa'i Ita ba) of the nature of things. Tsongkhapa maintained that emptiness, the ultimate truth, was an absolute negation (med dgag) -- the negation of inherent existence -- and that nothing was exempt from being empty, including emptiness itself. The ultimate truth, he claimed, could be understood conceptually, and while that conceptual understanding needed to be transformed through meditation into a deeper and more transformatively efficacious mode of cognition (the gnosis of the aryan, the direct realization of emptiness; 'phags pa’i mnyam bzhag ye shes = stong nyid mngon sum du rtogs pa'i blo), he believed that the object of the conceptual understanding of the ultimate and the object of gnosis were no different. Moreover, he believed that since emptiness is a truth that is not evident, it could only be approached (at least initially) through the path of reasoning, that is, through the Madhyamaka dialectical strategies. The logic of the Madhya-maka, he felt, was not fundamentally inconsistent with the theories of Buddhist logicians like Dharmakīrti.142 …)
Tsongkhapa, as we have mentioned, never wrote a philosophical work that was polemical in its entirety, but he did write critiques of Sakyapa views in several of his Madhyamaka treatises. Although he rarely mentions his opponents by name, we know, for example, that it is the Sakyapas that Tsongkhapa has in mind when he refutes what he calls the “view that things are neither existent nor non-existent" (4th extreme) (yod min med min gyi Ita ba).219 In his Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path (Lam rim chen mo), for example, Tsongkhapa lays out this position in some detail, and then attempts to show how it is in contradiction to both “scripture and reasoning.” For Tsongkhapa, the view represents a faulty understanding of emptiness, one that "goes too far” (khyab che ba) in its negation of the "object to be refuted" (dgag bya).220 By denying existence altogether, he claims, it falls into the extreme of nihilism. Because it repudiates the law of double negation (dgag pa gnyis kyi rnal ma go ba), he says that it flies in the face of our ordinary understanding of the workings of language, wherein the negation of the existence of something necessarily implies the affirmation of its non-existence. This is but one example of the ways in which Tsongkhapa takes on the Sakyapas. There are others as well. Taken together, they constitute a critique of the mainstream Sakyapa interpretation of the Middle Way. ...
Gorampa uses as a structural device the widely accepted Buddhist notion that in philosophy, as in ethics, one should follow a middle way (madhyamaka, dbu ma) between extremes.236
Distinguishing the Views is then structured so as to demonstrate how Gorampa's interpretation of the Indian Madhyamaka, which he calls the “Madhyamaka qua freedom from proliferations” (spros bral kyi dbu ma) or “Madhyamaka qua freedom from extremes” (mtha' bral dbu ma), is the true middle way between two extremist views prevalent in his day: the eternalistic view of the Jonangpas, and the nihilistic view of the Gelukpas.
The expression "freedom from proliferations” or spros bral (nisprapanca) has a long history in the Madhyamaka literature of both India and Tibet.237 Gorampa, however, uses the term as much denominatively as descriptively, which is to say that he uses the term to designate his particular brand of Madhyamaka -- that is, as an appellation or trademark for a lineage of Madhyamaka philosophical speculation that includes, but is not limited to, the Sakyapas -- in much the same way as emptiness of what is other (gzhan stong) came to be the trademark of the Jonangpas, and Prāsangika that of the Gelukpa pas.238
It is clear that Gorampa believes that his theory of emptiness represents the orthodox Sakyapa interpretation. This does not mean that Gorampa relies only on Sakyapa sources. The lineage of the Madhyamaka that he describes in the text is exceedingly eclectic but, he says, quite old, including both the Rngog (eleventh century) and Patshab lineages, and even Marpa and his student Milarépa.
Patsab Nyima Drakpa (Tib. པ་ཚབ་ཉི་མ་གྲགས་པ་, Wyl. Patsab nyi ma grags pa) (1055-1145?) was a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and translator of the Sarma (New Translation) era. He was a monk at Sangpu monastery and traveled to Kashmir where he translated Buddhist Madhyamika texts.
He is best known for being an important translator and exegete of Madhyamaka philosophy in Tibet, associating himself with what he called the "Prasangika" school and the views of Chandrakirti. He is thus considered to be the founder of the "Prasangika" school in Tibet and may have invented the Tibetan term thal 'gyur ba (which modern scholars have back translated to prasangika).
Patsab translated Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, Aryadeva's Four Hundred Verses, and Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara. Three commentary works are attributed to him, and they have recently been published in the "Selected Works of the Kadampas, volume II". Patsab's commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika seems to be the first Tibetan commentary on this work.)
Although he mentions Rngog's Gsang phu lineage 239 Gorampa calls Patsab Nyima Drakpa “the one who introduced the Madhyamaka as freedom from extremes [into Tibet],” indicating his greater allegiance to Patsab, and therefore to the tradition of Candrakīrti 240 Despite his proclivity for Patsab's lineage -- that is, for the Prāsangika view -- Gorampa is reticent to identify himself as exclusively Prāsangika, and there are probably several reasons for this. First, Tsongkhapa had already co-opted this term, and Gorampa obviously wished to distance his interpretation of the Madhyamaka from that of the Gelukpa. Secondly, Gorampa's unequivocal adherence to the “freedom from extremes” doctrine precludes advocating any strong duality, even the Svātantrika/ Prāsangika one.
Both the grasping at duality and at nonduality must be negated, so that any object that is grasped in terms of the four extremes cannot be found. It is the non-grasping (of things) in those [terms] that we call “the realization of the Madhyamaka view." But if there arises a one-sided grasping of the form "this is the Madhyamaka view," then whether one grasps things as empty or as not empty, one has not gone beyond grasping at extremes, and this is not the Middle Way.
Finally, Gorampa has a wide-ranging and holistic view of the Madhyamaka that permits his reliance on Indian texts usually classified in Tibet as Svātantrika -- for example, jñānagarbha's Satyadvayavibhanga -- making it difficult for him to side with Candrakīrti's Prāsangika to the exclusion of other Madhyamaka systems of thought.
Gorampa's interpretation of Madhyamaka is committed to a more literal reading of the Indian sources than either Dolpopa's or Tsongkhapa's, which is to say that it tends to take the Indian texts at face value. For example, Gorampa believes that the fourfold negation found in the tetralemma or catuṣkoti -- not x, not non-x, not both, and not neither -- is to be taken literally as a repudiation of, for example, existence, non-existence, both, and neither without the need for qualification. (i.e. applicable to the opposites of any duality) Hence, contra Tsongkhapa, existence itself is an object of negation for him, there being no need to add the qualifier “ultimate" (as in “ultimate existence") to make this negation palatable.
To explain how existence can be repudiated, Gorampa resorts to a theory that bifurcates the ultimate truth into two parts. Emptiness for him is therefore of two kinds:
the emptiness that is the endpoint of rational analysis, and
the emptiness that yogis fathom by means of their own individual gnosis. 241
The first of these -- the emptiness that is arrived at rationally -- is of two kinds: the selflessness of persons and the selflessness of phenomena. Emptiness as the byproduct of rational analysis -- that is, the emptiness of truth -- is not the real ultimate truth, but only an analogue (rjes mthun) thereof, or, put another way, it is the ultimate truth in name only (rnam grangs pa). Since the cognition of this quasi-ultimate requires that the mind entertain the empty/non-empty dichotomy, where the first element of the pair is privileged, the conceptual understanding of emptiness must eventually be negated in order to achieve an understanding of the highest form of emptiness that is the object of yogic gnosis (i.e. let’s call this Genuine-emptiness). This latter form of emptiness -- the emptiness that is mystically fathomed -- is the real ultimate truth (don dam dngos, don dam mtshan nyid pa). Being ineffable, it cannot be expressed in linguistic terms, since it is beyond all proliferative dichotomizing. Nonetheless, for Gorampa understanding emptiness rationally is a necessary prerequisite to understanding it in its true, non-analytical form.
Gorampa accuses Tsongkhapa of holding a nihilistic interpretation of the Madhyamaka (i.e. grasping at emptiness). This is somewhat ironic, given that this is precisely the charge that Tsongkhapa levels against the neither existence nor non-existence (yod min med min) view (4th extreme) to which Gorampa (seems to) subscribes (according to the author; but he is not: he is free from all extremes: existence, non-existence, both together, neither). In one sense at least, Gorampa's accusations of nihilism are puzzling, for his central thesis is that Tsongkhapa and his followers do not go far enough in their negation (transcendence). While agreeing with the Gelukpas concerning the need to repudiate true existence, Gorampa maintains that both the emptiness that is that very negation and its apprehension/conceptualization must also be negated, a view that is anathema to Tsongkhapa. But according to Gorampa it is precisely this -- Tsongkhapa's grasping at emptiness -- that makes him a nihilist. As Gorampa says, “Those who grasp at emptiness have not gone beyond falling into the extreme of nihilism."
For Tsongkhapa, the object of the analytical/rational/conceptual understanding of emptiness is the real ultimate truth.
For Gorampa it (emptiness) is a conventional (and not an ultimate) truth.
Put another way, for Tsongkhapa, both inference and yogic gnosis understand the same object -- emptiness -- albeit in different ways.
For Gorampa only yogic gnosis, which is non-analytical and nonconceptual, is capable of perceiving the true (mtshan nyid pa) ultimate.
In Gorampa's view, the dichotomizing tendency of the mind that culminates in extremist proliferations (existence/non-existence, and so forth) is built into the very structure of conceptual thought and, as such, any object of conceptual thought, even emptiness, is of necessity contaminated with the type of dualistic proliferation that is the Madhyamaka's object of negation. That is why emptiness as the object of conceptual thought cannot be the real ultimate truth:
In brief, if one accepts that the direct object of the conceptual thought that apprehends things as truthless...is the real ultimate truth, then one would have to accept that the generic image (don spyi) of the ultimate truth is the ultimate truth. It would be like accepting the generic image of the pot to be the pot.
Hence, everything, including emptiness qua object of conceptual thought, is an object of the Madhyamaka critique, and this means that it must be negated (transcended) -- not simply negated as lacking mere inherent existence (as Tsongkhapa maintains), but negated (transcended) in toto through the fourfold dialectic (i.e. ex. not existent, not non-existent, not both together, not neither).
Gorampa is astute in anticipating the Gelukpa objection to this view. Like Gorampa, Tsongkhapa also believes that emptiness is the object of the Madhyamaka critique, not because it is itself to be negated, but because its true existence is to be negated. Gorampa, however, calls this “the deceptive blithering of individuals of little intelligence and merit, the demonic words that slander the 'freedom from proliferations view,' which is the heart of the teachings."
His (Gorampa’s) reason for leveling this invective against Tsongkhapa is interesting. Why should the Madhyamaka texts claim that all views and conceptual constructs are to be abandoned if there is one -- emptiness -- that should not? Gorampa implies that Tsongkhapa's view makes the fourfold structure of the catuṣkoți meaningless because it subsumes the entire Madhyamaka critique into a qualified first koți (the negation of true existence), making the other three kotis (the negation of non-existence, both, and neither) pointless. For Gorampa, the truth of things comes to be negated (transcended) (and their illusory nature understood) not through the negation of true existence, but through the negation (transcendence) of all four extremes -- existence, non-existence, both, and neither -- without the need for any qualification.
For Tsongkhapa, the problem of ignorance lies in the fact that the mind improperly reifies objects, imputing real or inherent existence to things that lack it.
For Gorampa, the chief problem lies in the fact that the mind operates through a dichotomizing filter that continuously splits the world into dualities (existent/non-existent, permanent/impermanent, empty/non-empty, and so forth).
Put another way, for Tsongkhapa the problem lies with the false quality that the mind attributes to objects, whereas for Gorampa it lies with the very proliferative character of the conceptual mind itself, an aspect of mental functioning that cannot be entirely eliminated through the selective negation of a specific quality (true existence), requiring instead the use of a method (the complete negation (transcendence) of all extremes (& middle)) that brings dualistic thinking to a halt (to be transcended: not accepted not rejected -- the Middle Way).
Given this view, it is not surprising that Gorampa should repudiate the law of double negation, for clearly the negation of existence does not for him imply the acceptance of non-existence.
[It is simple. REALITY is the Union of the Two Truths: a Middle Way free from the extremes of inherent existence & complete non-existence.]
Emptiness and non-existence ~ 14th Dalai Lama
The doctrines of emptiness [T2 - not inherent existence] and selflessness do not imply the non-existence of things. Things do exist [T1 - not complete non-existence].
When we say that all phenomena are void of self-existence [T2 - emptiness], it does not mean that we are advocating non-existence [nihilism / nothingness], that we are repudiating that things exist [rejecting / escaping the world].
Then what is it we are negating? We are negating, or denying, that anything exists from its own side without depending on other things.
Hence, 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘂𝗽𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 [𝗧𝟭] <==> 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗳-𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 [𝗧𝟮].
(i.e. UNION OF THE TWO TRUTH [U2T] : everything is empty of inherent existence [T2], like illusions, not really existing <==> exactly because everything is conventionally dependently co-arisen / interdependent relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances [T1] -- physical, conceptual, mental; subject, relation/action, object --, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its past / conditioning / karma -- individual, collective, cosmic --, not completely non-existent. One aspect / truth implying the other (<==>).)
(Note: Everybody agrees about that. The tricky part that not everybody agree about, but that is exactly true, is that this 'Union of the Two Truths: that something is empty <==> because it is dependently co-arisen / interdependent' also applies to the two truth themselves -- dependent origination / causality and emptiness of inherent existence --. That is called the Union of the Two Truths about the Two Truths themselves [U2T-2T].
The two tuths themselves -- dependent origination / causality & emptiness -- are themselves both empty of inherent existence [T2], not really existent <==> exactly because they are inseparable / interdependent / co-dependent [T1], merely labelled / imputed by the mind. And vice versa (<==>).
In other words: if appearances are not real, then their negation / emptiness is also not real. Without the belief in the inherent existence of things, then there is no more need for its antidote / emptiness. So 'emptiness' is not really some kind of Ultimate Truth or Reality. It is the ultimate truth only in name. The Ultimate Reality is inconceivable, beyond all dualities like empty vs. non-empty.
And this leaves nothing to grasp at all. This is transcending all views, all extremes & middle, all dualistic conceptual proliferations.
Tetralemma: Everything is not inherently existent, not completely non-existent, not both existent & non-existent together, not neither existent nor non-existent.)
– 14th Dalai Lama
from the book "Answers: Discussions With Western Buddhists"