Dynamic and Syncretic Dimensions to Śāntarakṣita's Presentation of the Two Truths

Asian Philosophy 19 (1):51-62 (2009)
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It is common for philosophers from the Madhyamaka school of Indian Buddhist thought to offer a presentation of the two truths, ultimate truth ( param rthasatya ) and conventional truth ( sa v tisatya ), as a vehicle for presenting their views on the ontological status of entities. Though there is some degree of variance, generally ultimate truths are described as objects known by an awareness of knowing things as they are. Conventional truths are objects as conceived by a mistaken awareness, one that superimposes a mode of existence onto objects that is not actually there. These two truths are contrasted (one is accurate; one is not) and used as a vehicle for understanding the ontological status of phenomena and the means by which they are known. ntarak ita (725-788 CE) was among the most important Madhyamaka thinkers in Indian Buddhist history, yet his presentation of the two truths has several features that signal its uniqueness. This paper will discuss two particular unique dimensions to ntarak ita's views on the two truths: his integration of aspects of Cittamatra/Yog c ra thinking, including the rejection of external objects, into his presentation of conventional truths, and the dynamic way in which conventional truths are not merely presented as objects of a mistaken awareness, but rather as an important soteriological step in the process of realizing the ultimate. This syncretic and dynamic integration of Yog c ra thought, where its ideas are fully engaged and incorporated into an over-arching Madhyamaka philosophical system is a key component to the thought of one of the most important, influential, and innovative figures in the late period of Indian Madhyamaka, and one which has yet to be fully acknowledged in secondary literature



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