Madhyamaka

Madhyamaka ("middle way" or "centrism"; Chinese: 中觀見; pinyin: Zhōngguān Jìan; Tibetan: དབུ་མ་པ ; dbu ma pa) also known as śūnyavāda (the emptiness doctrine) and niḥsvabhāvavāda (the no svabhāva doctrine) refers to a tradition of Buddhist philosophy and practice founded by the Indian philosopher Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE).[1][2] The foundational text of the mādhyamaka tradition is Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Root Verses on the Middle Way). More broadly, madhyamaka also refers to the ultimate nature of phenomena as well as the non-conceptual realization of ultimate reality that is experienced in meditation.[3]

Classical Indian Mādhyamika thinkers. Clockwise from upper left: Nāgārjuna (founder), Bhāviveka and Chandrakirti (commentators), Śāntarakṣita (synthesized the school with yogacara).

Madhyamaka thought had a major influence on the subsequent development of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It is the dominant interpretation of Buddhist philosophy in Tibetan Buddhism and has also been influential in East Asian Buddhist thought.[4]

According to the classical madhyamaka thinkers, all phenomena (dharmas) are empty (śūnya) of "nature,"[5] a "substance" or "essence" (svabhāva) which gives them "solid and independent existence," because they are dependently co-arisen.[6] But this "emptiness" itself is also "empty": it does not have an existence on its own, nor does it refer to a transcendental reality beyond or above phenomenal reality.[7][8][9]


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