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Mādhyamaka

Mādhyamaka (‘middle way’; Chin., San-lun; Jap., Sanron; Korean, Samnon). The ‘Middle School’, a system of Buddhist philosophy founded by Nāgārjuna in the 1st cent. CE, extremely influential within the Mahāyāna. The school claims to be faithful to the spirit of the Buddha's original teachings, which advocate a middle course between extreme practices and theories of all kinds, and it applies this principle to philosophical theories concerning the nature of phenomena. Thus the assertion that ‘things exist’ or that ‘things do not exist’ would be extreme views and should be rejected; the truth lies somewhere in-between and is to be arrived at through a process of dialectic, as opposing positions are revealed as self-negating. The adoption of any one position, it was argued, could immediately be challenged by taking up its opposite, and the Mādhyamaka therefore adopted a strategy of attacking their opponent's views rather than advancing claims of their own (which is not to deny that they might none the less hold their own philosophical views).

The scene for the appearance of the Mādhyamaka was set by the debates among the schools of the Theravāda over such basic doctrines as that all phenomena (dharmas) are impermanent (anicca) and without self (anātman). This gave rise to philosophical difficulties concerning questions such as causation, temporality, and personal identity. The scholastic solution was to posit a theory of instantaneous serial continuity according to which phenomena (dharmas) constantly replicate themselves in a momentary sequence of change (dharma-kṣaṇikatva). Thus reality was conceived of as cinematic: like a filmstrip in which one frame constantly gives way to the next, each moment, none the less, being substantially existent in its own right.

The Mādhyamaka challenged this notion of the substantial reality of dharmas, arguing that if things truly existed in this way and were possessed of a real nature or ‘self-essence’ (svabhāva), it would contradict the Buddha's teaching on no-self (anātman) and render change impossible. What already substantially exists, they argued, would not need to be produced; and what does not substantially exist already could never come into being from a state of non-existence. Thus real existence cannot be predicated of dharmas, but neither can non-existence, since they clearly present themselves as having a mode of being of some kind. The conclusion of the Mādhyamaka was that the true nature of phenomena can only be described as an ‘emptiness’ or ‘voidness’ (dharma-śūnyatā, i.e. ‘emptiness of self’); and that this emptiness of self-nature is synonymous with the principle of dependent origination (see PATICCA-SAMUPPĀDA) as taught by the Buddha. This process of reasoning is fully set out in Nāgārjuna's concise verses in the Mūla-Mādhyamaka-Kārikā, the root text of the system.

There were implications also for soteriology: since emptiness is the true nature of what exists there can be no ontological basis for a differentiation between nirvāna and saṃsāra. Any difference which exists must be an epistemological one resulting from ignorance and misconception. Accordingly, the Mādhyamaka posits ‘two levels of truth’: the level of Ultimate Truth (paramārthasatya), i.e. the perception of emptiness of the true nature of phenomena (the view of the enlightened); and the level of ‘relative’ or veiled truth (samvṛtisatya), i.e. the misconception of dharmas as possessing a substantial self-existent nature (the view of the unenlightened). The gaining of enlightenment is the passage from the latter to the former.

After Nāgārjuna the work of the school was carried forward by his disciple Āryadeva, but subsequently two schools divided, the Svatantrika, led by Bhāvaviveka; and the Prāsaṅgika, championed by Candrakīrti, which adhered to the negative dialectic of the founder. The Mādhyamaka system was transmitted from India to Tibet and China (where it flourished, particularly in Tibet, as a central school of Mahāyāna philosophy), and to Japan, where it is known as Sanron. See also SAN-LUN.

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Madhyamika

Madhyamika (mädyŭ´mĬkə) [Skt.,=of the middle], philosophical school of Mahayana Buddhism, based on the teaching of "emptiness" (see sunyata) 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. AD) 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 Abhidharma. 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 nirvana 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 AD 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 Yogacara school that was transmitted to Tibet. Madhyamika was also transmitted to China as the San-lun, or Three Treatises, school, introduced by Kumarajiva.

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).

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Mādhyamika

Mādhyamika. An adherent of Mādhyamaka.

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"Mādhyamika." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved May 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/madhyamika