This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature in English on the history and philosophy of the most famous school of Buddhist thinkers known as the Madhyamaka. For a thousand years (100 to 1000 A.D.) this school held aloft the banner of Buddhist soteriology and gnosiology in India and produced a series of technical treatises (sastras) in Sanskrit. Most of these treatises were destroyed by anti-Buddhist fanaticism and vandalism carried on first by the Brahmanical Hindus and then by invading Muslims. Only a small number of Buddhist texts in their original form has survived not in India but in the neighbouring Buddhist lands.
Recently Professor David Seyfort Ruegg has published a short but excellent account of the literature of this school (The Literature of the Madhyamaka School of Philosophy in India, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1981). This book for the first time presents a systematic history of the Madhyamaka literature in India. Although a history of the Madhyamaka School of Buddhist Philosophy is still a desideratum, a number of able scholars have over the years contributed significantly to our knowledge of several aspects of the Madhyamaka thought. Since the original works of the philosophers of this school are preserved in their Tibetan translations, most of the modern scholars interested in the study of the Madhyamaka doctrines and dialectics are making use of Tibetan sources. Two recent doctoral dissertations in this area based on Tibetan materials are still unpublished: Language and Existence in Madhyamika Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford University D. Phil. Thesis (1978), pp. 390 by Dr. Paul Martin Williams, and A Question of Nihilism: Bhavaviveka's Response to the Fundamental Problems of Madhyamika Philosophy, Harvard University Ph.D. Thesis (1980), pp. 428 by Dr. Malcolm David Eckel. An important and valuable work, also a doctoral thesis, based on both the Sanskrit and Tibetan sources has been recently published. This is called Reason and Emptiness: A Study of Logic and Mysticism by Dr. Shotaro Iida (Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1980). Japanese Buddhist scholars have been publishing their valuable researches in the area of the Madhyamaka thought and literature mostly in Japanese language, and a large number of students of the subject are not able to read their publications.
Dr. Peter Della Santina's Madhyamaka Schools in India: A Study of the Madhyamaka Philosophy and of the Division of the System into the Prasangika and Svatantrika Schools is based on the Tibetan sources. He has made use also of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika with Candrakirti's Prasannapadanamamadhyamakavrtti. In his treatment of the philosophical problems which become the centre of controversies between the Prasangikas and the Svatantrikas, he largely follows the outlines found in the dBu ma spyi ston of bSod names Sen ge.
The work is well planned and well executed. In earlier chapters the author sets forth early history and basic doctrines of the Madhyamaka School. Here he also discusses elements of Indian formal logic which appear in the sources employed in subsequent chapters. In a series of four chapters we are then presented with a detailed picture of the rise and growth of controversy between the two groups of the Madhyamika thinkers. In another series of subsequent four chapters, we have a brilliant discussion of the trenchant critique of the theory of origination of entities offered by the great masters like Nagarjuna, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, and Candrakirti. In course of this discussion the reader will find the differences between different sets of arguments against the same theory advanced by the philosophers of the two schools. This section also brings to light Bhavaviveka' criticism of the views of the Prasangikas and Candrakirti's polemics against Bhavaviveka. The last chapter attempts kind of summing of the entire work.
This book of Dr. Santina is substantially based on his doctoral dissertation approved by the University of Delhi. It is the result of several years of his devoted study and patient intellectual labour. In spite of his serious physical disabilities, he studied Buddhist thought, mastered Tibetan language to a remarkable degree, and has set an inspiring example of a heroic struggle for conquest of ignorance and possession of the proverbial 'wisdom eye'. I have no doubt that his book will earn for him a place of honor in the assembly of Buddhist scholars in general, and Tibetologists in particular. Students of India's philosophical history will find this a source of much needed knowledge about the subtle and profound teachings bearing on the crucial conceptions of sunya and sunyatva. Here they will find, in readable language and lucid style, an account of the ideas of those ancient Buddhist sages and philosophers who sought to clear the forest of speculative opinions by rationally examining the structure of language and logical reasoning. As a philosophy of philosophies, the Madhyamaka System has stood the test of time and advancement of a modern thought, and is likely to become a long lasting source of intellectual challenge to all thinking minds. I hope this book will contribute to a better understanding of the Madhyamaka thought and promote further studies into the niceties of and differences between absolute negation (prasajyapratisedha) and relative negation (paryudasapratisedha) of any theoretical proposition.
This Volume traces the development of one of the most divisive debates in Buddhist philosophy in which leading parts were taken by Nagarjuna, Bhavaviveka and Candrakirti.
The interesting debate between the Prasangikas and Svatantrikas has thus far received comparatively has thus far received comparatively little attention. It has been largely assumed that the division between the two schools occurred as a result of the disagreements on the essentials of the Madhyamaka Philosophical view.
In the present work the author argues that the school split not over philosophy but over forensic methodology or, in other words, over the way in which the philosophy or emptiness was to be communicate to and vindicated for others. He draws substantially on the Tibetan sources to prove his viewpoint. He also makes use of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika and Candrakirti's Prasannapadanamadhyamakavrtti.
The volume extends not only the current understanding of the Madhyamaka system, but also offers a new and eminently reasonable interpretation of the nature of the division between the Prasangikas and Svatantrikas.
Peter Della Santina (b, U.S.A.) graduated in Religion from Wesleyan University in 1972. He studied Indian philosophy at Varanasi and Delhi. In 1978 he obtained Ph.D. from the University of Delhi.
Dr. Santina has worked as a research scholar for the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions in the USA. He has lectured widely in Europe and Asia. Besides working as Co-ordinator of Buddhist Studies Programme for the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore, a Department of the Ministry of Education, Government of Singapore, Dr. Santina has written a number of scholarly papers, and is the co-author of Nagarjuna's Letter to King Gautamiputra.
The modern study of the Madhyamaka philosophy can there-fore be said to have actually commenced only a scant sixty or seventy years ago. Two great Occidental Ideologists, one French and one Russian, must be credited with initiating the serious study of the Madhyamaka among modern scholars.1 Both these pre-eminent figures, La Vale Poisson and Theodor Stcher-batsky, turned their attention to the works of Nagarjuna and Candrakirti. Stcherbatsky's The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana2 remains even today a valuable aid to students of the Madhya-maka philosophy.
Thereafter, the modern study of the Madhyamaka again fell into a period of relative neglect, and it was not until the last two decades that the Madhyamaka again began to receive the attention of Indian and Occidental scholars. Among these recent contributions to the study of the Madhyamaka philosophy, Professor T. R. V. Murti's The Central Philosophy of Buddhism' stands out as a remarkably comprehensive exposition of the Madhya-maka philosophy on the basis of authoritative texts. Recent years have also seen the publication of two English translations of the Millamadhyamakakarika of Nagarjuna, the fundamental treatise of the Madhyamaka system, one by Doctor Frederick Streng and the other by Dr. Kenneth K. Inada.5 Dr. K. V. Ramayana and Dr. R. H. Robinson' have also contributed valuable studies of the Madhyamaka based primarily upon Chinese sources.
Nonetheless, the state of our knowledge of the Madhyamaka philosophy is still far from satisfactory. Although as we noted, the Malamadhyamakakarika has recently been twice translated into English, we still have no complete translation into English of Candrakirti's commentary on this work, the Prasannapada.
This is a serious deficiency because the karika is extremely cryptic and tends to be unintelligible without the aid of an authoritative commentary. Again, the ganyatasaptati and Tuktisastikit of Nagarjuna, which are important treatises of the Madhyamaka system, have thus far not been translated into any modern European language. As for the works of the other principal exponents of the Madhyamaka like Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Candrakirti, gantideva, gantaraksita and Kamalagila, only three—the giksd-samuccayas and Bodhicarydvatiira9 of gantideva and the Tattva-Sathgrahaw of ga'ntaraksita have been translated into English while another, the Madhyamakavatdra of Candrakirti has been partly translated into French." The Karatalaratna of Bhavaviveka has also been translated into French.12 Thus; it is evident that our knowledge of the Madhyamaka philosophy is still fragmentary, inasmuch as a comprehensive picture of the Madhya-maka is not readily available to scholars and students.
This is perhaps why, even today, the Madhyamaka philosophy is often misunderstood by those who are only superficially acquainted with it. The most conspicuous example of this kind of misunderstanding is the interpretation of the Madhyamaka, which is popular in some circles, as nihilism. This interpretation, however, does not withstand comparison with the actual doctrine of the Madhyamaka as it is presented in the original texts of the system. In this connection, it must be noted that the publication of Professor Murti's work has gone a long way toward correcting this facile misunderstanding.
The author expired in 2007.
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