The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction - Praise

What Difference Does a Difference Make?


416 pages, 6 x 9 inches


ISBN 9780861713240

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“For those intrigued by Tibetan interpretation of Indian Madhyamaka thought, The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction is a must read. [...] The contributors to this volume do not all agree, which is one reason this anthology is so compelling. It stands as a contemporary enactment of a long-standing debate rather than its authoritative closure. Readers can look forward to edifying discussions of intellectual history in the development of Madhyamaka thought from India to Tibet.”—Buddhadharma

“A brilliantly riveting and scholarly tour-de-force. Every essay brings forward crucially illuminating insights into the famous, but little studied, distinction between Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika. Constructed over many centuries, this difference has enormous significance for our understanding of Buddhist intellectual and philosophical developments in India and Tibet from Candrakīrti to Tsong kha pa. A vitally important work.”—Anne C. Klein, Rice University, author, Path to the Middle

“The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction is the most important work on Madhyamaka published in years. With an impressive mix of linguistic expertise, philosophical acuity, methodological sophistication, and clarity of style, the contributors—who include many of the world’s top Madhyamaka scholars—illuminate a controversy that has significant ramifications for our understanding of the relation between Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, the complexity of Madhyamaka in both India and Tibet, and, ultimately, the origins and ideologies of this most influential of all Indian Buddhist philosophical schools. It is a work of the highest standard, and should find its way onto the bookshelf of every serious student of Madhyamaka, anywhere in the world.”—Roger R. Jackson, Professor of Religion, Carleton College

“This fine volume is on the leading edge of what promises to be an important development. Collected here are nine essays by well-known and well-regarded American, European, and Japanese authorities, all attending to the difference between the two primary schools of the ‘middle way’: the Independent school (Svātantrika) and the Reductive school (Prāsaṅgika). The essays are divided into the Indian tradition (five essays) and the Tibetan tradition (four essays) although some seem to cross back and forth between the two. It is gratifying that the volume presents Tibetan Buddhism as an independent form, not as a simple reiteration of Indian ideas, and that the discontinuities between the two cultures are as important as the continuities.” —Religious Studies Review

“[The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction ] provides a valuable historical examination of the creation and significance of the distinction between Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika, a distinction that is usually traced back to Candrakīrti. Comprising nine papers by leading contemporary scholars, this is an essential work for study of Candrakīrti’s place in medieval Indian Buddhist thought and the ways in which the distinction he is considered to have established has been understood through the lens of Tibetan attempts to systematize the wealth of philosophic texts and issues inherited from India. While the distinction between Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika forms the unifying topic of the collection, the theme developed by the editors in their introduction is doxography, that is, the writing about beliefs. This is a critical dimension of all Buddhist thought, and was as much a central part of the development of Buddhism in East Asia as it was in Tibet. For this reason, the value of the collection extends far beyond the study of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism.”—Richard Payne, in Pacific World

The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction represents the most important attempt to date to address systematically the basic questions raised by the distinction, questions that constitute the heart of Madhyamaka philosophy in India and Tibet. [ . . . ] This book will substantially alter common misperceptions concerning the history of Madhyamaka in India and Tibet. [ . . . ] As a study in the ways that meanings arise, are contested, and evolve historically, this book provides ample material for future philosophical explorations of the creation and use of doxographical distinctions and order. The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction is marked by the virtues of the best edited volumes...The editors’ introduction does an excellent job of articulating the questions that motivate the collection and summarizing the contributions. And the index is extremely thorough, differing from the indexes of most edited volumes in that it is actually intended to be a valuable research tool. The work of the editors, together with uniformly excellent contributions, makes The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction one of the most important contributions to the study of Madhyamaka in contemporary scholarship.”—Philosophy East and West