In Defense of His Guru: Dratsepa’s Rebuttal to the Challenges Articulated by the Proponents of the Other-Emptiness Doctrine [Book Review]

Journal of Indian Philosophy 39 (2):147-165 (2011)
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The buddha-nature literature has a significant place within the Indian Mahāyāna tradition and Tibetan Buddhism. While it is usually included in the so-called Last Wheel of the Buddha’s teachings, many Tibetan thinkers began to cast doubts about the textual significance of buddha-nature discourse in fourteenth-century Tibet. In this article, I will examine one particular case where there is apparent tension between multiple Tibetan masters over the importance of buddha-nature teachings. This paper primarily analyzes Dratsepa’s commentary to the Ornament (mdzes rgyan) written by his teacher, Buton. Dratsepa construes the Ornament as a work critiquing Dolpopa’s interpretation of the buddha-nature literature. He levels a barrage of criticisms against Dolpopa by referring to Indian śāstras and sūtras that are equally important to both of them, and also by tracing his own assessment of the tathāgata-essence teachings to early Tibetan scholars. In contradistinction to Dolpopa’s claims, Dratsepa offers several nuanced readings of the buddha-nature literature and complicates the notion of what it means to have tathāgata-essence, what a definitive or provisional meaning entails, and the relationship between the Middle Wheel and the Last Wheel teachings. In brief, Dratsepa’s text sheds light on one of the earliest discourses on the tension between self-emptiness and other-emptiness presentations



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