Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhist doctrine and institutions named after the lands of Tibet, but found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas and much of Central Asia. It derives from the latest stages of Indian Buddhism and preserves "the Tantric status quo of eighth-century India." It has been spread outside of Tibet due to the Mongol power of the Yuan dynasty, founded by Kublai Khan, that ruled China. Tibetan Buddhism applies Tantric practices deity yoga, aspires to Buddhahood or the rainbow body. Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet has four major schools, namely Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug; the Jonang is a smaller school, the Rimé movement is an eclectic movement involving the Sakya and Nyingma schools. Among the prominent proponents of Tibetan Buddhism are the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, the leaders of Gelug school in Tibet. Westerners unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhism turned to China for an understanding. There the term used; the term was taken up by western scholars including Hegel, as early as 1822.
Insofar as it implies a discontinuity between Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, the term has been discredited. Another term, "Vajrayāna" is used mistakenly for Tibetan Buddhism. More it signifies a certain subset of practices included in, not only Tibetan Buddhism, but other forms of Buddhism as well; the native Tibetan term for all Buddhism is "doctrine of the internalists". In the west, the term "Indo-Tibetan Buddhism" has become current, in acknowledgement of its derivation from the latest stages of Buddhist development in northern India. Buddhism was formally introduced into Tibet during the Tibetan Empire. Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures from India were first translated into Tibetan under the reign of the Tibetan king Songtsän Gampo, In the 8th century King Trisong Detsen established it as the official religion of the state. Trisong Detsen invited Indian Buddhist scholars to his court, including Padmasambhāva and Śāntarakṣita ), who founded the Nyingma, The Ancient Ones, the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism.
There was influence from the Sarvāstivādins from Kashmir to the southwest and Khotan to the northwest. Trisong Detsen invited the Chan master Moheyan to transmit the Dharma at Samye Monastery. According to Tibetan sources, Moheyan lost the socalled council of Lhasa, a debate sponsored by Trisong Detsen on the nature of emptiness with the Indian master Kamalaśīla, the king declared Kamalaśīlas philosophy should form the basis for Tibetan Buddhism. A reversal in Buddhist influence began under King Langdarma, his death was followed by the socalled Era of Fragmentation, a period of Tibetan history in the 9th and 10th centuries. During this era, the political centralization of the earlier Tibetan Empire collapsed; the late 10th and 11th century saw a revival of Buddhism in Tibet. Coinciding with the early discoveries of "hidden treasures", the 11th century saw a revival of Buddhist influence originating in the far east and far west of Tibet. In the west, Rinchen Zangpo founded temples and monasteries.
Prominent scholars and teachers were again invited from India. In 1042 Atiśa arrived in Tibet at the invitation of a west Tibetan king; this renowned exponent of the Pāla form of Buddhism from the Indian university of Vikramashila moved to central Tibet. There his chief disciple, Dromtonpa founded the Kadampa school of Tibetan Buddhism, under whose influence the New Translation schools of today evolved; the Sakya, the Grey Earth school, was founded by Khön Könchok Gyelpo, a disciple of the great Lotsawa, Drogmi Shākya. It is headed by the Sakya Trizin, traces its lineage to the mahasiddha Virūpa, represents the scholarly tradition. A renowned exponent, Sakya Pandita, was the great-grandson of Khön Könchok Gyelpo. Other seminal Indian teachers were his student Naropa; the Kagyu, the Lineage of the Word, is an oral tradition, much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was an 11th-century mystic, it contains one major and one minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu schools that trace back to the Indian master Naropa via Marpa Lotsawa and Gampopa Tibetan Buddhism exerted a strong influence from the 11th century CE among the peoples of Inner Asia the Mongols.
The Mongols invaded Tibet in 1240 and 1244. The Mongols had annexed Kham to the east. Sakya Paṇḍita was appointed Viceroy of Central Tibet by the Mongol court in 1249. Tibet was incorporated into the Mongol Empire, retaining nominal power over religious and regional political affairs, while the Mongols managed a structural and administrative rule over the region, reinforced by the rare military intervention. Tibetan Buddhism was adopted as the de facto state religion by the Mongol Yuan dynasty, founded by Kublai Khan, whose capital is Xanadu. With the decline of the Yuan dynansty and the loose administration of the following Ming dynasty, Central Tibet was ruled by successive local families from the 14th to the 17th century, Tibet would gain de facto a high autonomy after the 14th century. Jangchub Gyaltsän became the strongest political family in the mid 14th century. During this period the reformist scholar Je Tso
The Lotus Sūtra is one of the most popular and influential Mahayana sutras, the basis on which the Tiantai, Tendai and Nichiren schools of Buddhism were established. According to Paul Williams, "For many East Asian Buddhists since early times the Lotus Sutra contains the final teaching of the Buddha and sufficient for salvation." The earliest known Sanskrit title for the sūtra is the सद्धर्मपुण्डरीक सूत्र Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra, which translates to Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma. In English, the shortened form; the Lotus Sūtra has been regarded in a number of Asian countries where Mahāyāna Buddhism has been traditionally practiced. Translations of this title into the languages of some of these countries include: Chinese: 妙法蓮華經. In 1934, based on his text-critical analysis of Chinese and Sanskrit versions, Kogaku Fuse concluded that the Lotus Sūtra was composed in four main stages. According to Fuse, the verse sections of chapters 1-9 and 17 were created in the first century BCE, with the prose sections of these chapters added in the first century CE.
He estimates the date of the third stage, chapters 10, 11, 13-16, 18-20 and 27, around 100 CE. Chapters 21-26 belong to the last stage. According to Stephen F. Teiser and Jacqueline Stone, there is consensus about the stages of composition but not about the dating of these strata. Tamura argues that the first stage of composition, chapters 2-9, was completed around 50 CE and expanded by chapters 10-21 around 100 CE, he dates the third stage, chapters 22-27, around 150 CE. Karashima proposes another modified version of Fuse's hypothesis with the following sequence of composition: chapters 2-9 form the earliest stratum; the first layer of this stratum includes the tristubh verses of these chapters which may have been transmitted orally in a Prakrit dialect. The second layer consists of the sloka verses and the prose of chapters 2-9. Chapters 1, 10-20, 27, a part of chapter 5, missing in Kumarajiva's translation. Chapters 21-26 and the section on Devadatta in chapter 11 of the Sanskrit version. Three translations of the Lotus Sūtra into Chinese are extant: The Lotus Sūtra of the Correct Dharma, in ten volumes and twenty-seven chapters, translated by Dharmarakṣa in 286 CE.
The Lotus Sūtra of the Wonderful Dharma, in eight volumes and twenty-eight chapters, translated by Kumārajīva in 406 CE. The Supplemented Lotus Sūtra of the Wonderful Dharma, in seven volumes and twenty-seven chapters, a revised version of Kumarajiva's text, translated by Jnanagupta and Dharmagupta in 601 CE; the Lotus Sūtra was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Dharmarakṣa in 286 CE in Chang'an during the Western Jin Period. However, the view that there is a high degree of probability that the base text for that translation was written in a Prakrit language has gained widespread acceptance, it may have been composed in a Prakrit dialect and later translated into Sanskrit to lend it greater respectability. This early translation by Dharmarakṣa was superseded by a translation in seven fascicles by Kumārajīva´s team in 406 CE. According to Jean-Noël Robert, Kumārajīva relied on the earlier version; the Sanskrit editions are not used outside of academia. In some East Asian traditions, the Lotus Sūtra has been compiled together with two other sutras which serve as a prologue and epilogue the Innumerable Meanings Sutra and the Samantabhadra Meditation Sutra.
This composite sutra is called the Threefold Lotus Sūtra or Three-Part Dharma Flower Sutra. The first French translation of the Lotus Sūtra, based on a Nepalese Sanskrit manuscript, was published by Eugène Burnouf in 1852. Hendrik Kern completed his English translation of an ancient Nepalese Sanskrit manuscript in 1884. Translations into English, French and German are based on Kumarajiva's Chinese text; each of these translations incorporate different approaches and styles that range from complex to simplified. Ch. 1, Introduction – During a gathering at Vulture Peak, Shakyamuni Buddha goes into a state of deep meditative absorption, the earth shakes in six ways, he brings forth a ray of light which illuminates thousands of buddha-fields in the east. Bodhisattva Manjusri states that the Buddha is about to expound his ultimate teaching. Ch. 2, Ways and Means – Shakyamuni explains his use of skillful means to adapt his teachings according to the capacities of his audience. He reveals that the ultimate purpose of the Buddhas is to cause sentient beings "to obtain the insight of the Buddha" and "to enter the way into the insight of the Buddha".
Ch. 3, A Parable – The Buddha teaches a parable in which a father uses the promise of various toy carts to get his children out of a burning house. Once they are outside, he gives them all one large cart to travel in instead; this symbolizes how the Buddha uses the Three Vehicles: Arhatship, Pratyekabuddhahood and Samyaksambuddhahood, as skillful means to liberate all beings – though there is only one vehicle. The Buddha promises Sariputra that h
Buddhism in Vietnam
Buddhism in Vietnam, as practised by the ethnic Vietnamese, is of the Mahayana tradition. Buddhism may have first come to Vietnam as early as the 3rd or 2nd century BCE from the Indian subcontinent or from China in the 1st or 2nd century CE. Vietnamese Buddhism has had a syncretic relationship with certain elements of Taoism, Chinese spirituality and the Vietnamese folk religion. There are conflicting theories regarding whether Buddhism first reached Vietnam during the 3rd or 2nd century BCE via delegations from India, or during the 1st or 2nd century from China. In either case, by the end of the second century CE, Vietnam had developed into a major regional Mahayana Buddhist center centering on Luy Lâu in modern Bắc Ninh Province, northeast of the present day capital city of Hanoi. Luy Lâu was the capital of the Han region of Jiaozhi and was a popular place visited by many Indian Buddhist missionary monks en route to China; the monks followed the maritime trade route from the Indian sub-continent to China used by Indian traders.
A number of Mahayana sutras and the āgamas were translated into Classical Chinese there, including the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters and the Anapanasati. Jiaozhi was the birthplace of Buddhist missionary Kang Senghui, of Sogdian origin. Over the next eighteen centuries and China shared many common features of cultural and religious heritage; this was due to geographical proximity to one Vietnam being annexed twice by China. Vietnamese Buddhism is thus related to Chinese Buddhism in general, to some extent reflects the formation of Chinese Buddhism after the Song dynasty. Theravada Buddhism, on the other hand, would become incorporated through the southern annexation of Khmer people and territories. During the Đinh dynasty, Buddhism was recognized by the state as an official faith, reflecting the high esteem of Buddhist faith held by the Vietnamese monarchs; the Early Lê dynasty afforded the same recognition to the Buddhist church. The growth of Buddhism during this time is attributed to the recruitment of erudite monks to the court as the newly independent state needed an ideological basis on which to build a country.
Subsequently, this role was ceded to Confucianism. Vietnamese Buddhism reached its zenith during the Lý dynasty beginning with the founder Lý Thái Tổ, raised in a pagoda. All of the kings during the Lý dynasty sanctioned Buddhism as the state religion; this endured with the Trần dynasty but Buddhism had to share the stage with the emerging growth of Confucianism. By the 15th century, Buddhism fell out of favor with the court during the Later Lê dynasty, although still popular with the masses. Officials like Lê Quát attacked it as wasteful, it was not until the 19th century that Buddhism regained some stature under the Nguyễn dynasty who accorded royal support. A Buddhist revival movement emerged in the 1920s in an effort to reform and strengthen institutional Buddhism, which had lost grounds to the spread of Christianity and the growth of other faiths under French rule; the movement continued into the 1950s. From 1954 to 1975, Vietnam was split into South Vietnam. In a country where surveys of the religious composition estimated the Buddhist majority to be 50 to 70 percent, President Ngô Đình Diệm's policies generated claims of religious bias.
As a member of the Catholic Vietnamese minority, he pursued pro-Catholic policies that antagonized many Buddhists. In May 1963, in the central city of Huế, where Diệm's elder brother Ngô Đình Thục was the archbishop, Buddhists were prohibited from displaying Buddhist flags during Vesak celebrations yet few days earlier, Catholics were allowed to fly religious flags at a celebration in honour of the newly seated archbishop; this led to widespread protest against the government. This led to mass rallies against Diệm's government, termed as the Buddhist crisis; the conflicts culminated in Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation. President Diệm's younger brother Ngô Đình Nhu favored strong-armed tactics and Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces engaged in the Xá Lợi Pagoda raids, killing estimated hundreds. Dismayed by the public outrage, the US government withdrew support for the regime. President Diệm was killed in the 1963 coup. Political strength of the Buddhists grew in the 1960s as the different schools and orders convene to form the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
Leaders of the Church like Thích Trí Quang had considerable sway in national politics, at times challenging the government. With the fall of Saigon in 1975, the whole nation came under Communist rule. In the North the government had created the United Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, co-opting the clergy to function under government auspices but in the South, the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam still held sway and challenged the communist government; the Sangha leadership was thus imprisoned. In its place was the newly created Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, designed as the final union of all Buddhist organizations, now under full state control. Since Đổi Mới many reforms have allowed Buddhism to be practiced unhindered by the individuals; however no organized sangha is allowed to function independent of the state. It was not until 2007 that Pure Land Buddhism, the most widespread type of Buddhism practiced in Vietnam, was recognized as a religion by the government. Thích Quảng Độ the Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Sangha, once imprisoned, remains under surveill
Theravāda is the most ancient branch of extant Buddhism today and the one that preserved their version of the teachings of Gautama Buddha in the Pāli Canon. The Pāli Canon is the only complete Buddhist canon which survives in a classical Indian language, Pāli, which serves as both sacred language and lingua franca of Theravāda Buddhism. For more than a millennium, Theravāda has focused on preserving the dhamma as preserved in its texts and it tends to be conservative with regard to matters of doctrine and monastic discipline. Since the 19th century, meditation practice has been re-introduced and has become popular with a lay audience, both in traditional Theravada countries and in the west; as a distinct school of early Buddhism, Theravāda Buddhism developed in Sri Lanka and subsequently spread to the rest of Southeast Asia. It is the dominant form of religion in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand and is practiced by minority groups in India, China and Vietnam. In addition, the diaspora of all of these groups as well as converts around the world practice Theravāda Buddhism.
Contemporary expressions include Buddhist modernism, the Vipassana movement and the Thai Forest Tradition. The name Theravāda comes from the ancestral Sthāvirīya, one of the early Buddhist schools, from which the Theravadins claim descent; the Sthavira nikāya arose during the first schism in the Buddhist sangha, due to their desire to tighten monastic discipline by adding new Vinaya rules, against the wishes of the majority Mahāsāṃghika group who disagreed with this. According to its own accounts, the Theravāda school is fundamentally derived from the Vibhajjavāda "doctrine of analysis" grouping, a division of the Sthāvirīya. According to Damien Keown, there is no historical evidence that the Theravāda school arose until around two centuries after the Great Schism which occurred at the Third Council. Theravadin accounts of its own origins mention that it received the teachings that were agreed upon during the putative Third Buddhist council under the patronage of the Indian Emperor Ashoka around 250 BCE.
These teachings were known as the Vibhajjavāda. Emperor Ashoka is supposed to have assisted in purifying the sangha by expelling monks who failed to agree to the terms of Third Council; the elder monk Moggaliputta-Tissa was at the head of the Third council and compiled the Kathavatthu, a refutation of various opposing views, an important work in the Theravada Abhidhamma. The Vibhajjavādins in turn is said to have split into four groups: the Mahīśāsaka, Kāśyapīya, Dharmaguptaka in the north, the Tāmraparṇīya in South India; the Tambapaṇṇiya, were established in Sri Lanka but active in Andhra and other parts of South India and across South-East Asia. Inscriptional evidence of this school has been found in Nagarjunakonda. According to Buddhist scholar A. K. Warder, the Theravāda. Spread south from Avanti into Maharashtra and Andhra and down to the Chola country, as well as Sri Lanka. For some time they maintained themselves in Avanti as well as in their new territories, but they tended to regroup themselves in the south, the Great Vihara in Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, becoming the main centre of their tradition, Kanchi a secondary center and the northern regions relinquished to other schools.
The Theravāda is said to be descended from the Tāmraparṇīya sect, which means "the Sri Lankan lineage". Missionaries sent abroad from India are said to have included Ashoka's son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta, they were the mythical founders of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, a story which scholars suggest helps to legitimize Theravāda's claims of being the oldest and most authentic school. According to the Mahavamsa chronicle their arrival in Sri Lanka is said to have been during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura who converted to Buddhism and helped build the first Buddhist stupas. According to S. D. Bandaranayake: The rapid spread of Buddhism and the emergence of an extensive organization of the sangha are linked with the secular authority of the central state... There are no known artistic or architectural remains from this epoch except for the cave dwellings of the monks, reflecting the growth and spread of the new religion; the most distinctive features of this phase and the only contemporary historical material, are the numerous Brahmi inscriptions associated with these caves.
They record gifts to the sangha by householders and chiefs rather than by kings. The Buddhist religion itself does not seem to have established undisputed authority until the reigns of Dutthagamani and Vattagamani... The first records of Buddha images come from the reign of king Vasabha, after the 3rd century AD the historical record shows a growth of the worship of Buddha images as well as Bodhisattvas. In the 7th century, the Chinese pilgrim monks Xuanzang and Yijing refer to the Buddhist schools in Sri Lanka as Shàngzuòbù, corresponding to the Sanskrit Sthavira nikāya and Pali Thera Nikāya. Yijing writes, "In Sri Lanka the Sthavira school alone flourishes; the school has been using the name Theravāda for itself in a written form since at least the 4th century, about one thousand years after the Buddha's death, when the term appears in the Dīpavaṁsa. Between the reigns of Sena I and Mahinda IV, the city of Anuradhapura saw a "colossal building effort" by various kings during a long period of peace and prosperity, the great part o
Buddhism in the United States
Buddhism, once thought of as a mysterious religion from the East, has now become popular in the West, is one of the largest religions in the United States. As Buddhism does not require any formal "conversion", American Buddhists can incorporate dharma practice into their normal routines and traditions; the result is that American Buddhists come from every ethnicity and religious tradition. In 2012, U-T San Diego estimated U. S. practitioners at 1.2 million people, of whom 40% are living in Southern California. In terms of percentage, Hawaii has the most Buddhists at 8% of the population due to its large Asian American community; the term American Buddhism can be used to describe Buddhist groups within the U. S, which are made up of converts; this contrasts with many Buddhist groups in Asia, which are made up of people who were born into the faith. Hawaii has the largest Buddhist population, amounting to 8% of the total Buddhist population of the United States. California follows Hawaii with 2%. Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming have 1% buddhist population.
The following is the percentage of Buddhists in the U. S. territories as of 2010: Buddhist American scholar Charles Prebish states there are three broad types of American Buddhism: The oldest and largest of these is "immigrant" or "ethnic Buddhism", those Buddhist traditions that arrived in America along with immigrants who were practitioners and that remained with those immigrants and their descendants. The next oldest and arguably the most visible group Prebish refers to as "import Buddhists", because they came to America in response to interested American converts who sought them out, either by going abroad or by supporting foreign teachers. A trend in Buddhism is "export" or "evangelical Buddhist" groups based in another country who recruit members in the US from various backgrounds. Modern Buddhism is not just an American phenomenon. Soka Gakkai International is the most successful of Japan's new religious movements that grew around the world after the end of World War II. Soka Gakkai, which means "Value Creation Society," is one of three sects of Nichiren Buddhism that came to the United States during the 20th century.
The SGI expanded in the US, attracting non-Asian minority converts, chiefly African Americans and Latino, as well as the support of celebrities, such as Tina Turner, Herbie Hancock, Orlando Bloom. Because of a rift with Nichiren Shōshū in 1991, the SGI has no priests of its own, its main religious practice is chanting the mantra Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō and sections of the Lotus Sutra. Unlike trends such as Zen, Vipassanā, Tibetan Buddhism, Soka Gakkai Buddhists do not practice meditative techniques other than chanting. An SGI YouTube series called "Buddhist in America" has over a quarter million views in total as of 2015. Buddhism was introduced into the USA by Asian immigrants in the 19th century, when significant numbers of immigrants from East Asia began to arrive in the New World. In the United States, immigrants from China entered around 1820, but began to arrive in large numbers following the 1849 California Gold Rush. Immigrant Buddhist congregations in North America are as diverse as the different peoples of Asian Buddhist extraction who settled there.
The US is home to Chinese Buddhists, Japanese Buddhists, Korean Buddhists, Sri Lankan Buddhists, Cambodian Buddhists, Vietnamese Buddhists, Thai Buddhists, Buddhists with family backgrounds in most Buddhist countries and regions. The Immigration Act of 1965 increased the number of immigrants arriving from China and the Theravada-practicing countries of Southeast Asia. Fanciful accounts of a visit to North America at the end of the 5th century written by a Chinese monk named Huishen or Hushen can be found in the Wenxian Tongkao by Ma Tuan-Lin; this account is challenged but it is "at least plausible" in the words of James Ishmael Ford. The first Buddhist temple in America was built in 1853 in San Francisco by the Sze Yap Company, a Chinese American fraternal society. Another society, the Ning Yeong Company, built a second in 1854. A casualty of racism, these temples were the subject of suspicion and ignorance by the rest of the population, were dismissively called joss houses; the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 curtailed growth of the Chinese American population, but large-scale immigration from Japan began in the late 1880s and from Korea around 1903.
In both cases, immigration was at first to Hawaii. Populations from other Asian Buddhist countries followed, in each case, the new communities established Buddhist temples and organizations. For instance, the first Japanese temple in Hawaii was built in 1896 near Paauhau by the Honpa Hongwanji branch of Jodo Shinshu. In 1898, Japanese missionaries and immigrants established a Young Men's Buddhist Association, the Rev. Sōryū Kagahi was dispatched from Japan to be the first Buddhist missionary in Hawaii; the first Japanese Buddhist temple in the continental U. S. was built in San Francisco in 1899, the first in Canada was built at the Ishikawa Hotel in Vancouver in 1905. The first Buddhist clergy to take up residence in the continental U. S. were Shuye Sonoda and Kakuryo Nishimjima, missionaries from Japan who arrived in 1899. The Buddhist Churches of
Madhyamaka known as Śūnyavāda and Niḥsvabhāvavāda refers to a tradition of Buddhist philosophy and practice founded by the Indian philosopher Nāgārjuna. The foundational text of the Mādhyamaka tradition is Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. More broadly, Madhyamaka refers to the ultimate nature of phenomena and the realization of this in meditative equipoise. Madhyamaka thought had a major influence on the subsequent development of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, it is the dominant interpretation of Buddhist philosophy in Tibetan Buddhism and has been influential in East Asian Buddhist thought. According to the classical Madhyamaka thinkers, all phenomena are empty of "nature," a "substance" or "essence" which gives them "solid and independent existence," because they are dependently co-arisen, but this "emptiness" itself is "empty": it does not have an existence on its own, nor does it refer to a transcendental reality beyond or above phenomenal reality. Madhya is a Sanskrit word meaning "middle".
It is cognate with English mid. The -ma suffix is a superlative, giving madhyama the meaning of "mid-most" or "medium"; the -ka suffix is used to form adjectives, thus madhyamaka means "middleling". The -ika suffix is used to form possessives, with a collective sense, thus mādhyamika mean "belonging to the mid-most". In a Buddhist context these terms refer to the "middle path" between the extremes of annihilationism and eternalism, for example: ity etāv ubhāv antāv anupagamya madhyamayā pratipadā tathāgato dharmaṃ deśayati | - Kātyāyana Sūtra. Thus, the Tathāgata teaches the Dharma by a middle path avoiding both these extremes. Madhyamaka refers to the school of thought associated with his commentators. Mādhyamika refers to adherents of the Madhyamaka school. Note that in both words the stress is on the first syllable. Central to Madhyamaka philosophy is śūnyatā, "emptiness", this refers to the central idea that dharmas are empty of svabhāva; this term has been translated variously as essence, intrinsic nature, inherent existence, own being and substance.
Furthermore, according to Richard P. Hayes, svabhava can be interpreted as either "identity" or as "causal independence". Westerhoff notes that svabhāva is a complex concept that has ontological and cognitive aspects; the ontological aspects include svabhāva as essence, as a property which makes an object what it is, as well as svabhāva as substance, meaning, as the Madhyamaka thinker Candrakirti defines it, something that does "not depend on anything else". It is substance-svabhāva, the objective and independent existence of any object or concept, which Madhyamaka arguments focus on refuting. A common structure which Madhyamaka uses to negate svabhāva is the catuṣkoṭi, which consists of four alternatives: some proposition is true, it is false, it is both, or it is neither true or false; some of the major topics discussed by classical Madhyamaka include causality and personal identity. Madhyamaka's denial of svabhāva does not mean a nihilistic denial of all things, for in a conventional everyday sense, Madhyamaka does accept that one can speak of "things", yet these things are empty of inherent existence.
Furthermore, "emptiness" itself is "empty": it does not have an existence on its own, nor does it refer to a transcendental reality beyond or above phenomenal reality. Svabhāva's cognitive aspect is a superimposition that beings make when they perceive and conceive of things. In this sense emptiness does not exist as some kind of primordial reality, but it is a corrective to a mistaken conception of how things exist; this idea of svabhāva that Madhyamaka denies is not just a conceptual philosophical theory, but it is a cognitive distortion that beings automatically impose on the world, such as when we regard the five aggregates as constituting a single self. Candrakirti compares it to someone who suffers from vitreous floaters that cause the illusion of hairs appearing in their visual field; this cognitive dimension of svabhāva means that just understanding and assenting to Madhyamaka reasoning is not enough to end the suffering caused by our reification of the world, just like understanding how an optical illusion works does not make it stop functioning.
What is required is a kind of cognitive shift in the way the world appears and therefore some kind of practice to lead to this shift. As Candrakirti says:For one on the road of cyclic existence who pursues an inverted view due to ignorance, a mistaken object such as the superimposition on the aggregates appears as real, but it does not appear to one, close to the view of the real nature of things. Much of Madhyamaka philosophy centers on showing how various essentialist ideas have absurd conclusions through reductio ad absurdum arguments. Chapter 15 of Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā centers on the words svabhava parabhava bhava and abhava. According to Peter Harvey: Nagarjuna's critique of the notion of own-nature argues that anything which arises according to conditions, as all phenomena do, can have no inherent nature, for what is depends on what conditions it. Moreover, if there is nothing with own-nature, there can be nothing with'other-nature', i.e. something, dependent for its existence and nature on something else which has own