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CANDRAKĪRTI (Tib., Zla ba grags pa; Chin., Yue-cheng; Jpn., Gesshō), Indian Buddhist dialectician. Scholars have identified at least three Candrakīrtis. The first, who will be referred to as "Candrakīrti I," was a renowned Madhyamaka (Mādhyamika) philosopher who lived around 600650 ce; the second, "Candrakīrti II," was a Tantric master assumed to have lived slightly later than the former; and the third, "Candrakīrti III," was a Buddhist thinker of the eleventh century. Biographies are available only in Tibetan sources such as the histories of Bu ston, Tāranātha, and Sumpa mkhan po. These sources are not particularly helpful to the historian, for they tend to confuse history and legend and freely interchange the lives of the three Candrakīrtis. This did not pose a great problem in Tibet, however, for the Tibetan tradition acknowledges only one Candrakīrti, who lived for three or four hundred years.

Candrakīrti I wrote several important commentaries on the works of Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva: (1) the Prasannapadā (available in Sanskrit in Bibliotheca Buddhica 4, hereafter cited as Bibl. Bud.), a commentary on Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā ; (2) the Yuktiaikāvtti (Derge edition of the Tibetan Tripiaka 3864, hereafter cited as D.; Beijing edition of the Tibetan Tripiaka 5265, hereafter cited as B.); (3) the Śūnyatā-saptativtti (D. 3867, B. 5268); and (4) the Catuśatakaīkā (D. 3865, B. 5266, partially available in Sanskrit), a commentary on Āryadeva's Catuśataka. He also composed works of his own inspiration: (1) the Madhyamakāvatāra, with its autocommentary, the Madhyamakāvatārabhāya (Tib. edition in Bibl. Bud. 9), an introduction to the basic Madhyamaka treatise of Nāgārjuna; and (2) the Pañcaskañdhaprakaraa (Tib. edition, Lindtner, 1979), a treatise on Abhidharma topics (five aggregates, twelve bases, and eighteen elements) from the Madhyamaka point of view. Opinions differ concerning the authorship of the work titled Triśaraa[gamana]saptati (D. 3971, 4564; B. 5366, 5478). According to Lindtner it was composed by Candrakīrti I, but according to Ruegg (1981), by Candrakīrti II. As to the chronological order of these treatises, one can only state with certainty that the Madhyamakāvatāra (probably with the autocommentary) was composed before the two large commentaries, the Prasannapadā and the Catuśatakaīkā, since both of the latter refer to the former.

Candrakīrti I expounded the Madhyamaka philosophy of Nāgārjuna and defended the position of Buddhapālita (c. 470540) against the criticism of Bhāvaviveka (c. 500570), who had wanted to adopt independent inferences. Candrakīrti I thus tried to reestablish the prasaga method of reasoning. Tibetan doxographers accordingly classified him with Buddhapālita as representative of the Prāsagika school. He also lodged criticism against the doctrines of the Buddhist logico-epistemological school and the metaphysical and gnoseological theories of the Yogācāra-Vijñānavāddins.

Candrakīrti II composed a few Tantric works, the most important of which is the Pradīpoddyotana (D. 1785, B. 2650), a commentary on the Guhyasamāja Tantra. Candrakīrti III composed the Madhyamakāvatāraprajñā or Madhyamakaprajñāvatāra (D. 3865, B. 5264) and together with the translator 'Gos khug pa lhas btsas translated it into Tibetan. If the identification of Dpal ldan zla ba with Candrakīrti III is correct, this same pair of translators also translated Kapāda's commentary on the Hevajra Tantra (D. 1187, B. 2317). 'Gos khug pa lhas btsas also translated the Pradīpoddyotana with Rin chen bzang po (9581055) and others. We can thus fix the date of Candrakīrti III within the eleventh century.

Although Candrakīrti I and III are certainly two different people, it may be possible that Candrakīrti II is identical with either Candrakīrti I or III. Research on this point remains open.

See Also



Lindtner, Christian. "Candrakīrti's Pañcaskandhaprakaraa." Acta Orientalia 40 (1979): 87145.

May, Jacques, trans. Candrakīrti, Prasannapadā Madhyama-kavtti: Commentaire limpide au traité du milieu. Paris, 1959.

Ruegg, David S. The Literature of the Madhyamaka School of Philosophy in India. Wiesbaden, 1981.

New Sources

Āryadeva, Candrakīrti, and Karen Lang, "Aryadeva and Candrakīrti on Self and Selfishness" In Buddhism in Practice, edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., pp. 380398. Princeton, 1995.

Jong, J. W. de. "Materials for the Study of Aryadeva, Dharmapala and Candrakirti: The Catuhsataka of Aryadeva, Chapters 1213, 2 V." Indo Iranian Journal 36 (1993): 150153.

Scherrer Schaub, Cristina. "Tendance de la pensee de Candrakirti, Buddhajnana et Jinakriya." Buddhist Forum 3 (1994): 249272.

Mimaki Katsumi (1987)

Revised Bibliography