Madhyamika


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Madhyamika

(mädyŭ`mĭkə) [Skt.,=of the middle], philosophical school of Mahayana BuddhismBuddhism
, religion and philosophy founded in India c.525 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. There are over 300 million Buddhists worldwide. One of the great world religions, it is divided into two main schools: the Theravada or Hinayana in Sri Lanka and SE Asia, and
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, based on the teaching of "emptiness" (see sunyatasunyata
[Skt.,=emptiness], one of the main tenets of Mahayana Buddhism, first presented by the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna-paramita) scriptures (1st cent. B.C. on) and later systematized by the Madhyamika school.
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) and named for its adherence to the "middle path" between the views of existence or eternalism and nonexistence or nihilism. The school was founded by Nagarjuna (2d cent. A.D.) who came from S India to the Buddhist university of Nalanda and entered into debate with other schools including the Hindu logic school, or Nyaya, and the Buddhist AbhidharmaAbhidharma
[Skt.,=higher dharma, or doctrine], schools of Buddhist philosophy. Early Buddhism analyzed experience into 5 skandhas or aggregates, and alternatively into 18 dhatus or elements.
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. About 25 works are attributed to Nagarjuna, the most important being the Middle Stanzas (Madhyamika Karika). Nagarjuna took key ideas from early Mahayana scriptures and expounded them using a rigorous dialectic. He attacked the concept of essence or "self-nature" (svabhava) as self-contradictory, holding that nothing self-existent can be subject to change. He then refuted all possible answers to philosophical problems such as causality, identity, and change by showing their logical inconsistency, with the aim of freeing the mind from all speculative views, which are the source of attachment that prevents enlightenment. He claimed to have no view of his own and to be attempting only to refute the views of his opponents. Nagarjuna's ultimate principle of emptiness was equated by him with "dependent co-arising," the causally conditioned, relative nature of all phenomena. He declared that there is no distinction between nirvananirvana
, in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, a state of supreme liberation and bliss, contrasted to samsara or bondage in the repeating cycle of death and rebirth.
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 and samsara (bondage in birth-and-death) when the latter is seen without delusory concepts. He recognized two levels of truth, the absolute and the conventional. Thus his system does not deny the validity of empirical experience in its own sphere, although it does not accept the possibility of statements about absolute reality, which is beyond conceptualization. Nagarjuna's immediate disciple Aryadeva carried on his teaching. About A.D. 500 Bhavaviveka, heading the Svatantrika school of the Madhyamika, held that the Buddhist position can be put forward by positive argument. The Prasanga school, championed by Candrakirti, opposed him and reaffirmed the simple refutation of opponents by reductio ad absurdum as the true Madhyamika position. Santideva (691–743) wrote the philosophical and inspirational classic Bodhicaryavatara (tr. by M. L. Matics, Entering the Path of Enlightenment, 1970). Santaraksita and Kamalasila were the chief representatives of the Madhyamika's last phase, a syncretism with the YogacaraYogacara
[Skt.,=yoga practice], philosophical school of Mahayana Buddhism, also known as the Vijnanavada or Consciousness School. The founders of this school in India were Maitreya (270–350), his disciple Asanga (c.
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 school that was transmitted to Tibet. Madhyamika was also transmitted to China as the San-lun, or Three Treatises, school, introduced by KumarajivaKumarajiva
, 344–413, Buddhist scholar and missionary, b. Kucha, in what is now Xinjiang, China. When his mother, a Kuchean princess, became a nun, he followed her into monastic life at the age of seven.
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.

Bibliography

See T. R. V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (2d ed. 1960, repr. 1970); D. T. Suzuki, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism (1963); R. H. Robinson, Early Madhyamika in India and China (1967); F. Streng, Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning (1967).

Madhyamika

 

(Sanskrit, “the mean”), the basic philosophical doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism, which arose in India in the second century A.D. and developed during the second through ninth centuries in India, as well as in China (from the fourth century), Tibet (from the ninth century), Mongolia, and Japan. The founder of Madhyamika is traditionally considered to have been Nagarjuna. The doctrine is based on the idea that truth cannot be perceived in categories of being or nonbeing. Instead, the concept of shunyata (“emptiness,” the “zero” characteristic) is introduced as the absolute condition, from the standpoint of which all reality lacks essence and is pure form or energy.

The epistemological position of Madhyamika is characterized by consistent methodological criticism. The dialectical method of Madhyamika is applied in order to demonstrate that any mental concept whatsoever is an illusion. The ethics of Madhyamika, flowing naturally from its metaphysical and epistemo-logical assertions, teaches that the “middle way” is the optimal means of religious salvation. The views of Madhyamika had an influence on the development of Indian mathematics (the discovery of zero) and the dialectical logic of the Advaita Vedanta. Outside of India, Madhyamika contributed directly to the genesis of Zen.

A. M. PIATIGORSKII

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