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Madhyamika as a subject of study

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2012 11:28 am
by wangdak
What would be appropriate study plan for follower of vajrayana who wants to know more about Middle way/Madhyamika/Nagarjuna? About its history and philosophy. I would rather start with something sort of simple and then continue with some more advanced stuff. Are Western commentators worth it? Like Garfield, Williams or Westerhoff? Or should one stick with Chandrakirti? :reading:

Thank you for any comments.

Re: Madhyamika as a subject of study

Posted: Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:38 pm
by Jnana
Here's a few suggestions for non-Gelug sources:

Causality & Emptiness: The Wisdom of Nāgārjuna by Peter Della Santina.

Introduction to the Middle Way: Madhyamakāvatāra with Commentary by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.
(Send an e-mail request via the request form on the website and receive a free downloadable PDF copy.)

The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyü Tradition by Karl Brunnhölzl.

Ornament of Reason: The Great Commentary to Nāgārjuna's Root of the Middle Way by Mabja Jangchub Tsondru.


Re: Madhyamika as a subject of study

Posted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 3:35 am
by tobes
I think Jay's trans and commentary on the MMK is the best. Of course he comes from a particular standpoint - Tsong khapa via Chandrakirti - but he is a great philosopher in his own right, and his analysis is cogent and insightful. Of course there is much to be gained by engaging with it ~ even if (perhaps especially) if you disagree on particular points.

I also like Bhattacharya, Johnston & Kunst's trans of the Vig as well. Westerhoff has done a more recent one, with a more comprehensive explanation, but I think the earlier trans is better.


Re: Madhyamika as a subject of study

Posted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:44 am
by zerwe
The approach I have taken with the guidance of my teacher is:

First, a little background in logic. Dignaga's Pramanasamuccaya, etc.. and then Dharmakirti. ( haven't quite completed this)

Then, studying Chandrakirti's 6th chp. of the Madhyamakavatara...drawing upon

all the commentaries and modern resources I can find. While pursuing this I have been instructed to become familiar with

the five Madhyamaka lines of reasoning and then to search for the stanzas that are representative of these lines of argumentation within the

text. The Diamond slivers and dependent arising arguments dominate and are primary to the sixth chapter of the Madhyamakavatara, but the other three are there if you dig.

All five lines of argumentation are, in some respects, interconnected and a basic understanding of them all is invaluable to study of any Madhyamaka texts.

I also found the following very helpful:

Santaraksita's Madhyamakalamkara

DKR's teaching/commentary on the Madhyamakavatara (already mentioned by Huseng)

Jeffery Hopkin's Meditation on Emptiness

Ju Mipham-mkhas ‘jug

And many others...

Shaun :namaste:

Re: Madhyamika as a subject of study

Posted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 6:01 am
by Huseng
It would be best to first understand the environment in which Nāgārjuna wrote his work.

Nāgārjuna in Context: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Early Indian Culture by Joseph Walser is a superb introductory work to the background of Nāgārjuna. It is well written and easy to read.

It would also be wise to understand his opponents, which in his time was mostly Abhidharma proponents. The Abhidharma-kośa by Vasubandhu is probably a good place to start as a way of grasping the points of Abhidharma, though it postdates Nāgārjuna's works. The primary opponent of Nāgārjuna was probably the Sarvāstivādins.

I think studying Abhidharma first is the best route to take.

Re: Madhyamika as a subject of study

Posted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 10:37 am
by DarwidHalim
"The sun of wisdom" is the best starting point.

Easy to read and hit the point in very short pages.

Really good book.

Re: Madhyamika as a subject of study

Posted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:18 pm
by Pema Rigdzin
I really favor DKR's commentary on Chandra's Madhyamakavatara because it's a transcript of teachings he was giving to an audience of western shedra students. So it's very thorough yet it's written in conversational English rather than dry, philosophical jargon and phrasing. He also does two other helpful things: he explains many of the ancient Indian analogies such scholars as Chandrakirti often used which would have made perfect sense to Indians (I.e. speaking of some sort of mythological plant, animal, object and comparing something's qualities to that mythological something's qualities, etc) which often makes no sense to westerners who've never heard of said mythological thing. He also creates his own modern versions if such analogies with things westerners are culturally familiar with so the the examples actually have more power to inspire deeper understanding. Although this commentary offers a pretty complete explanation in its own right, it would also be a great primer or key to more difficult texts that require more unpacking.