Shakya Chokden's Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga: “Contemplative” or “Dialectical”? [Book Review]

Journal of Indian Philosophy 38 (4):441-452 (2010)
This reconciliation of the dialectical and contemplative approaches to the buddha-essence is related to and closely resembles Shakchok’s reconciliation of the two approaches to ultimate reality advocated respectively by Niḥsvabhāvavāda (ngo bo nyid med par smra ba, “Proponents of Entitylessness”) system of Madhyamaka and Alīkākāravāda (rnam rdzun pa, “False Aspectarians”) system of Yogācāra. These approaches in turn are connected respectively to the explicit teachings (dngos bstan) of the second dharmacakra (chos ’khor, “Wheel of Dharma”) and the definitive teachings (nges don, nītārtha) of the third dharmacakra that he also presents in a reconciliatory manner. In the same way as the teachings of the last two dharmacakras, as well as the Niḥsvabhāvavāda and Alīkākāravāda systems that derive from them, come to the same point, the dialectical and contemplative traditions also come to the same point. This point is the above-mentioned naturally pure primordial mind luminous by nature, the ultimate reality. In Shakchok’s opinion, application of non-affirming negations is a powerful tool for accessing direct realization of that reality, while its identification as primordial mind (ye shes, jñāna) is important for maintaining that realization and turning it into the basis of unfolding positive qualities on the path to buddhahood. When in the passage above Shakchok says that the two traditions are not contradictory, and when he reconciles the two last dharmacakras together with Alīkākāravāda and Niḥsvabhāvavāda, he is not arguing that their words are non-contradictory. They obviously are! Nevertheless, those systems are non-contradictory in terms of complementing each other in getting access to and maintaining realization of the ultimate reality of primordial mind
Keywords Buddhism  Buddhist philosophy  Buddhist epistemology  Tibetan Buddhism  Madhyamaka  Yogācāra  Buddhist theories of reality  Buddha-nature
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