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A Dose of Emptiness
An Annotated Translation of the sTong thun chen mo of mKhas grub dGe legs dpal bzang
A Dose of Emptiness
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Jose Ignacio Cabezon - Author
SUNY Series in Buddhist Studies
Hardcover - 590 pages
Release Date: July 1992
ISBN10: 0-7914-0729-2
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-0729-5

Out of Print
Price: $33.95 
Paperback - 590 pages
Release Date: July 1992
ISBN10: 0-7914-0730-6
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-0730-1

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This book is an annotated translation of one of the great Tibetan classics of Mahayana Buddhist thought, mKhas grub rje's sTong thun chen mo. The text is a detailed critical exposition of the theory and practice of emptiness as expounded in the three major schools of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy: the Yogacara, Svatantrika, and Prasangika. Used as a supplement to the scholastic debating manuals in some of the greatest monasteries of Tibet, the sTong thun chen mo is a veritable encyclopedia of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, dealing with such topics as hermeneutics, the theory of non-duality, the linguistic interpretation of emptiness, the typology of ignorance, logic, the nature of time, and the perception of matter across world spheres. This book is an indispensable source for understanding the Tibetan dGe lugs pa school's synthesis of the Middle Way (Madhyamaka) and Epistemological (Pramanika) traditions of Indian Buddhism. In addition, it is an unprecedented source for the philosophical polemics of fifteenth century Tibet.

"It is encyclopedic and covers the most important ideas in the whole fabric of Indian Mahayana-Tibetan Buddhism. It brings to sharp relief of the many debates, controversies, and variant interpretations of the key issues. Some of the elucidations are only found in these Tibetan sources and thus increases the value of this work."-- Kenneth Inada, State Univeersity of New York at Buffalo

Jose Ignacio Cabezon is Assistant Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. He is the editor of Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender also published by SUNY Press.

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Table of Contents



A Short Biography of mKhas grub rje



[Reason for the Composition of the Text]
[The Buddha's Doctrine as the Ultimate Source of Salvation]
[The Prophecies of Nagarjuna's Coming]


1. The Reason Why It Is Correct to Seek Out Reality [The Emptiness Taught in the Tantras]
2. The Benefits of Trusting in the Profound [Doctrine of Emptiness]
3. The Vessel, That is, the Listen, to Whom This Doctrine Should be Explained
[A Misconception Concerning Emptiness and Its Consequences]
[The Characteristics of the Proper Disciple]
4. The Actual Doctrine to Be Explained
4.1 Identifying Which Scriptures Are of Definitive Meaning (nges don) and Which of Provisional Meaning (drang don)


[Yogacara Metaphysics and Hermeneutics]

[The Three Natures]
The Reality of the Dependent and the Real, and the Yogacara Critique of the Madhyamaka]
[The Rationale Behind the Prajnaparamita's Claims That Things "Do Not Arise" According to the Sutralamkara, a Yogacara Text]
[The Elucidation of Some Scriptural Passages Highlighting Unique Features of the Yogacara]
[The Yogacara Belief in Three Final Vehicles and a Foundation Consciousness (kun gzhi) as Another of Their Distinctive Features]
[Arguments Against the Advocates of "the Emptiness of What Is Other" (gzhan stong)]
[The Distinctively Yogacara Use of the Example of the Illusion and the Status of the Dependent]
[Tsong kha pa's Unique Exposition of the Yogacara Theory of Emptiness]
[On Latent Potentialities]
[The Proof of the Linguistic Interpretation of Emptiness]
[Nonduality as a Corollary of the Linguistic Interpretation of Emptiness]
[The Explanation of the Three Natures]
[Similarity in Terminology Between the Yogacara and Prasangika Is Not a Reflection of an Underlying Similarity in Meaning]
[Cittamatra Hermeneutics]


[The Sources of the Madhyamaka School]

4.2.1. How the Father, the Arya Nagarjuna, and His Son [Aryadeva], Following Such Sutras as the Aksayamatinirdesa, Set Forth the Doctrine of the Definitive and the Provisional
4.2 How, Step by Step, the Texts of Nagarjuna and the Commentaries on Their Purport (dgongs pa) Arose
4.2.1. The Explanation of the Way in Which the Scriptures of the Arya Were Written
4.2.2. The Explanation of How the Individual Commentaries on the Purport [of Nagarjuna's Treatises] Arose

[A General Introduction to the Madhyamaka]

[On the Classification of Madhyamikas]
[The Meaning of the Claim That Prasangikas Accord with the World]
4.2.3. Setting Forth Emptiness by Following Those [Madhyamaka Scriptures] Identifying Which Analyzes the Ultimate (don dam dpyod pa'i rtags) Why It Is Necessary to Identify What Is to Be Refuted Refuting the Scriptural Exegesis of Those Who [Proceed in the] Refutation without Identifying [the Object to Be Refuted] Refuting the One Who Overextends (khyab ches ba) Himself or Herself in the Identification of What Is to Be Refuted Stating What They Believe Refuting Them Demonstrating That They Have Refuted the Principle and Special Quality of the Prasangika Madhyamikas Identifying That Chief Quality How They Have Refuted That [Special Quality] by Their System [of Interpretation] Deomonstrating Those Reason to Be Faulty Demonstrating That Their Examination of What It Means for Something to "Withstand or Not Withstand Logical Analysis" Is Faulty Demonstrating That Their Analysis into the Four Possibilities, Existence, Nonexistence, and So Forth, Is Faulty [The Law of Excluded Middle and the Question of Whether the Madhyamaka Has a Viewpoint]
[A Critique of Quietism] Demonstrating That Their Analysis of [What It Means for Something] to Be Established or Not Established by a Valid Cognition, and Their Subsequent Refutation, Is Faulty Demonstrating That [Their] Examination of Whether Arising Can Be Determined to Exist in Any One of the Four Ways, Such as Arising from Self, Is Faulty Demonstrating That It Is Incorrect to Urge on Us the Absurdity That What We Advocate Goes Against the Four Reliances How We Refute the One Who Does Not Go Far Enough (khyab cung ba) in the indentification of the Object of Refutation The Explanation of What Our Own System [Considers] to Be the Extent of What Is to Be Refuted Explaining in a General Way the Layout of What Is to Be Refuted
[Innate and Philosophical Misconceptions]


[The Logic of the Svatantrika Critique] The Explanation of the Measure of the Svatantrikas' Object of Refutation
[The Analysis of the Svatantrikas' Object of Refutation Based on the Example of the Illusion]
[The Analysis of the Svatantrikas' Object of Refutation Based on Scriptural Sources]
[The Correct Identification of the Svatantrikas' Object of Refutation]
[The Reasoning of the One and the Many]
[How the Example of the Reflection in the Mirror Is Understood]
[The Diamond-Granule Reasoning and the Question of the Qualification of the Object of Refutation]
[The Reasoning Refuting Arising via the Four Extremes]
[The Reasoning Refuting the Arising of the Existent and Nonexistent]


[A General Expositiong of Prasangika Tenets] Explaining the Extent (tshad) of the Prasangikas' Object of Refutation (dgag bya)
[Does Reality Truly Exist or Is It Too a Mere Label?]
[An Excursus on the Essence Body of the Buddha]
[The Argument Concerning Reality Continues]
[The Reasoning Used to Prove That One Phenomenon Is Empty Applies to All Phenomena, Including Emptiness]
[As It Does Not Truly Exist, Emptiness Is Only a Mental Label]
[The Meaning of "According with the World" in the Prasangika System]
[The Scriptural Basis for Nominalism]
[True Existence, the Opposite of Nominal Existence] Refuting Misconceptions in Regard to the [Distinction between Svatantrikas and Prasangikas]
[On "Withstanding Logical Analysis"] An Explanation of the Implications of This An Explanation of (1) the Two Kinds of Selflessness to Be Refuted and (2) the Selflessness That Is the Refutation A Brief Mention of the Tenets Advocated by Other Systems Identifying the Self that Is the Perceived Object (dmigs yul) of the Innate View of a Self As Accepted by Both Buddhists and Others What Faults the Glorious Candra Finds in These [Views] How the Other Buddhist Schools Posit the Self That Is the Direct Object of the Two Views of the Self [the Person and Phenomena] and How That Self, Which Is Something to Be Refited, Is Posited as Nonexistent
[The Hinayana's Views on Liberation and Buddhahood] How the Glorious Candra's Critique Is to Be Expounded The Exposition of the System of the Prasangikas as a Distinct [System in Its Own Right]
[A Brief Explanation of the Differences between the Selflessness of the Differences between the Selflessness of the Person and Phenomena]

[Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas Understand Reality] The Explanation of Whether Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas Understand the Selflessness of Phenomena How the Glorious Candra Goes About Explaining This The Refutation of the Misconception That Believes That [Exposition] to Be Incorrect
[The Response to the Preceding Criticism] The Exposition of the Valid Scriptural Evidence Explaining that Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas Have an Understanding of the Selflessness of Phenomena The Exposition of the System of the Son of the Conqueror, Santideva The Explanations of This Point According to the Abhisamayalamkara, the Uttaratantra, and Their Commentaries How the Abhisamayalamkara and Its Commentaries Explain This Point The Explanation of the Meaning of the Uttaratantra and Its Commentary An Extensive Explanation of Scripture and Logical Reasoning Proving That It Is Correct [to Claim That] Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas Have an Understanding of the Selflessness of Phenomena The Exposition of the Logical Reasoning Bringing Scriptural Exegesis to Bear [on the Problem]
[On the Hinayana and Mahayana Understanding of Nirvana] The Explanantion of the Two [Kinds of] Obscurations (sgrib pa) and the Paths on Which They Are Abandoned
[How the Obscurations Are Eliminated on the Various Paths]

[The Status of Inference in Madhyamaka] As Regards the Refutation of That [Object of Refutation], the Explanation of the Differences between the Prasangikas and the Svatantrikas Refuting What Others Believe. [Do the Madhyamikas Have Philosophical Positions] Setting Forth Our own Position The Explanation of the Meaning of Svatantra and Prasanga The Explanation of the Reasons Why the Svatantra Is Not Accepted Bringing the Prasannapada to Bear on This [Question] and Explaining [Its Meaning]

[Madhyamaka Logical Strategies and Related Polemics] The Explanation of the Reasoning That Refutes the Object of the Refutation The Actual Explanation of the Reasoning That Refutes the Object of the Refutation The Reasoning That Refutes the Self of the Person The Explanation of the Refutation of the Self of Phenomena (A) The Actual Explanation of the Reasoning That Refutes the Self of Phenomena (B) The Refutation of Arising from Another (C) [The Refutation of the Arising from Both Self and Other] (D) [The Refutation of Arising Causelessly and Conclusion]

[Other Unique Tenets of the Prasangika School] Explaining Other Facets [of the Prasangika Tenets] That Are Not in Common with the Cittamatrins and Others The Explanation of the Uncommon Exposition of the Three Times The Explanation of the Proof of Why the Past and Future Are Entities The Explanations of [Two Other Factors] Differentiating [the Prasangikas from Other Schools], Namely, the Rejection of the Foundation Consciousness (kun gzhi) and the Acceptance of External Objects (phyi don) The Explanantion of How, Even Though We Do Not Accept the Foundation Consciousness, the Relationaship between Karma and Effects Is Still Possible Refuting the Fact That the Arya [Nagarjuna] and so on Accept [the Foundation Consciousness] The Reason Why They Do Not Accept [the Foundation Consciousness] The Refutation of the Belief That [the Prasangika Madhyamikas] Accept It The Explanation of How External Objects Are Posited Nominally
[The Prasangika Interpretation of the Cittamatra Sutras.]
[Sense Perception Across World Spheres: The Case of Water] The Explanation of Why We Do Not Accept Autocognition (rang rig) The Explanation of How We Refute the Position That Does Accept It The Explanation of the Opponent's Position The Explanation of How to Refute It The Refutation of the [Logical] Proof The Refutation of the Belief The Explanation of How We Posit Our Own System Which Does Not Accept [Autocogntion]

[The Two Truths and Thier Cognition] The Explanation of the Two Truths, Which Is the Basis Set Forth by Reasoning The Basis for the Division [into Two Truths] The Meaning of the Words [Ultimate and Conventional] Considering Whether They Are the Same or Different The Nature of Each [of the Two Truths] Individually The Definitions The Divisions The Divisions of the Ultimate Truth
4.2 The Divisions of the Conventional
[The Prasangika Interpretation of the Three Nature Theory of the Yogacaras] The Explanation of the Valid Cognition That Ascertains the Two Truths, [That Is, All Phenomena] The Definition The Divisions

[Conclusion] Having Set Forth Emptiness, How to Meditate on It The Exposition of the Result That Is the Culmination of Meditation
[Concluding Verses]

Appendix 1: The Verses to Rong ston

Appendix 2: The Eighteen Great Contradictions





Western Scholarly and Sanskrit Sources
Tibetan Sources


*[Brackets] indicate that the title it not originally found in the text, being instead the author's insertion.

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