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Chizuko Yoshimizu

Updating Prāsaṅgika in Kashmir and Tibet

Time: 14 March 2019, 17:00–18:30
Venue: Seminar room 2.25, 2nd floor, Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
Hollandstr. 11–13, 1020 Vienna
Organisation: Pascale Hugon
half folio of Pa tshab's commentary on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā


In the late eleventh century, a Tibetan translator, Pa tshab Nyi ma grags (ca. 1055–1145), studied and translated Candrakīrti’s Madhyamaka works in Kashmir. He also composed a commentary on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā with the assistance of his teacher Mahāsumati. Claiming himself to be thal ’gyur ba (*prāsaṅgika), Pa tshab was not only aware of the distinction between the so-called Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika interpretations with regard to Nāgārjuna’s verses, but also strongly motivated to establish the superiority of the Prāsaṅgika over other scholastic systems, in particular, that of the rival Svātantrika. Pa tshab figured out the original Prāsaṅgika on the basis of the controversies between the early Indian Madhyamaka masters Buddhapālita-Candrakīrti and Bhāviveka as follows: The Prāsaṅgika (thal ’gyur ba) is the interpreter who construes Nāgārjuna’s intention as stating prasaṅga argument as well as the Madhyamaka thinker who uses prasaṅga argument but does not use independent inference (svatantrānumāna). With this respect, Nāgārjuna himself is considered to be a Prāsaṅgika, and this Madhyamaka position is named thal ’gyur smra ba’i dbu ma. However, for Pa tshab, the Prāsaṅgika system is not a legacy from the past but must be alive in the eleventh century as opposed to the Svātantrika system of Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla (eighth c.). He redesigned it for scholarly requirements of his time. He defines prasaṅga argument in accordance with Dharmakīrti’s Pramāṇaviniścaya. He reinterprets the “neither one nor many” (gcig dang du bral, *ekānekaviyoga) argument as prasaṅga, which he adopts from the works of Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla, and uses it to refute the existence of one or many real object(s) of cognition to which substantialists adhere. After Pa tshab introduced Candrakīrti’s works into Tibet, his student Zhang Thang sag pa ’Byung gnas ye shes further contributed to the modernization of the Prāsaṅgika system. He formulates some of Nāgārjuna’s verses into either prasaṅga or other-acknowledged inference (paraprasiddhānumāna), following Dharmakīrtian logical rules, and thereby demonstrates that Nāgārjuna actually intended to state these reasonings. In this paper, I will closely discuss how Pa tshab and Zhang Thang sag pa updated and strengthened the Prāsaṅgika system toward its triumph in Tibetan Buddhist scholasticism.


Chizuko Yoshimizu is Professor at Tsukuba University in Japan. She studied Indology, Tibetology, and Buddhism at Tokyo and Vienna Universities, and has lectured at several universities in Japan, Europe and the USA. Her publications on Buddhist philosophy include numerous articles and a book entitled Die Erkenntnislehre des Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka nach dem Tshig gsal stoṅ thun gyi tshad ma’i rnam bśad des ʼJam dbyaṅs bźad pa’i rdo rje (Vienna 1996). She is currently editing the dBu ma tshig gsal gyi ti ka by Zhang Thang sag pa (12th c.), the first portion of which was published in 2013 (The Toyo Bunko, Studia Tibetica No. 46).

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