Thinking the Unthinkable / Unthinking the Thinkable: Conceptual thought, nonconceptuality, and Gorampa Sonam Senge's Synopsis of Madhyamaka Open Access

Kassor, Constance E. (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5712m675f?locale=en
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Abstract

The fifteenth-century Sakyapa scholar-monk Gorampa Sonam Senge was a prolific author, but he is most renowned for his philosophical writings on Madhyamaka. His encyclopedic Synopsis of Madhyamaka (dbu ma'i spyi don) has come to represent the mainstream philosophical view of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and its arguments continue to be studied in both Sakya and non-Sakya monastic institutions throughout Asia. Gorampa's unique flavor of Madhyamaka is distinguished based on his understanding of the two truths (bden pa gnyis), his methods for employing analysis within the tetralemma (mu bzhi), and his conception of a buddha's enlightened awareness (ye shes). Focusing on these key issues, Gorampa manages to successfully debate with other Mādhyamika thinkers using rational, analytic arguments, while simultaneously employing those rational arguments against the entire project of rational analysis itself. As a result, Gorampa advocates for a philosophical practice by which one utilizes conceptual thought in order to eradicate conceptual thought in its entirety.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Gorampa, the Synopsis, and The Way Things Really Are... 1

Appearances and Reality............................................................................................ 3

A Brief Biography of Gorampa.................................................................................... 7

The Suppression and Resurgence of Gorampa's Texts.......................................... 10

Gorampa's Philosophical Identity and Interlocutors........................................ 15

Situating the Synopsis in Buddhist Scholarship...................................................... 19

Situating Gorampa in University Scholarship........................................................ 21

Approaches to Madhyamaka in Western Philosophy.......................................... 22

Situating Gorampa's Views of Conceptual Thought in Academic Contexts....... 28

The Structure of the Synopsis, and a note on what follows................................ 29

Chapter 2: The Two Truths: The Scaffolding of Madhyamaka.......... 33

The two truths are two realities............................................................................. 34

Gorampa's general presentation of the two truths............................................. 37

Gorampa on the Conventional Truth: What it isn't.............................................. 43

Refutation of the assertion that all conventions are the system of worldly persons........ 50

Refutation of the assertion that the two truths are the systems of ordinary persons and Aryas, respectively 56

Refutation of the assertion that the conventional is neither existent nor nonexistent..... 58

Refutation of the existence of a designation on a nonexistent designated object.......... 61

Gorampa on the Conventional Truth: What it is................................................... 64

Three ways of understanding the conventional: the Svatantrika perspective................ 71

One way of understanding the conventional: the Prasangika perspective.................... 74

Gorampa's way(s) of understanding the conventional................................................ 78

The Ultimate Truth is Beyond Concepts and Language...................................... 83

Conclusion.................................................................................................................. 91

Chapter 3: The Experiential Division Between the Two Truths........... 95

Interpreting Candrakirti.......................................................................................... 97

The Twofold Divisions of the Two Truths........................................................... 106

The Two Truths Structure the Path...................................................................... 112

Tsongkhapa's Ontological Distinction Between the Two Truths................... 119

What's at stake, here? Gorampa and Ontological Deflationism..................... 124

Chapter 4: The Tetralemma: A logical process with a soteriological goal 134

The Tetralemma....................................................................................................... 136

Interpretations of the Tetralemma...................................................................... 143

Analytic Approaches to the Tetralemma.................................................................... 144

Dialetheism and the Tetralemma.............................................................................. 150

Implications of these views........................................................................................ 154

Gorampa on the Tetralemma: Refutation of the Four Extremes Results in spros bral 155

Refutation of the First Extreme.................................................................................. 156

Refutation of the Second Extreme............................................................................. 168

Refutation of the Third Extreme................................................................................ 169

Refutation of the Fourth Extreme.............................................................................. 171

Tsongkhapa on the Tetralemma: Refutation of the Four Extremes Preserves Conceptual Thought 176

Gorampa's Response to Tsongkhapa..................................................................... 181

The Implications of Tetralemmic Analysis.......................................................... 184

Chapter 5: Buddhahood as Knowledge-How.......................................... 187

Buddhahood as Knowledge-how.......................................................................... 189

Madhyamaka as the Path that is to be practiced................................................ 195

Madhyamaka as the Result that is to be realized............................................... 209

Inquiry into whether the two truths exist or do not exist on the buddha ground......... 209

Inquiry into whether appearances exist or do not exist.............................................. 211

Inquiry into whether awareness exists or does not exist.............................................. 214

Inquiry into whether mind and mental factors exist or do not exist............................ 216

Inquiry into whether arising and ceasing exist or do not exist.................................... 217

Competing views: Candrakirti on Buddhahood................................................... 221

Implications and further questions...................................................................... 226

Chapter 6: Conclusion....................................................................................... 231

The View of No-View................................................................................................. 232

A note on the conventional.................................................................................... 235

Gorampa the Madhyamika(?).................................................................................. 237

Appendix: Topical Outline of the Synopsis................................................. 244

Bibliography........................................................................................................... 253

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