Mind and liberation: the Sautrāntika tenet system in Tibet: perception, naming, positive and negative phenomena, impermanence and the two truths in the context of Buddhist religious insight as presented in Ge-luk literary and oral traditions

Klein, Anne C, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Aronson, Harvey B., Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

The three-fold purpose of the Exposition portion of this study is (1) to detail Ge-luk-ba presentations of major Sautrantika topics through analyzing the texts of and utilizing oral instruction by scholars from several Ge-luk-ba monastic colleges, (2) to establish Indian sources for the Ge-luk-ba presentation and contrast it with the very different interpretations of the 15th century Sa-gya-ba Dak-tsang and of modern scholarship based on Dignaga and Dharmakirti, (3) to assess the Ge-luk-ba presentation of Sautrantika in terms of liberative techniques, with specific reference to its potential for acting as a basis for an understanding of Madhyamika.

Three of the major sources for this study appear in the Translation portion with interpolated commentary from the oral tradition as it exists today: Selections from Den-dar-hla-ram-ba's. Presentation of Generally and Specifically Characterized Phenomena (Rang mtshan dang spyi mtshan gyi rnam gzhag); “The Presentation of Positive and Negative Phenomena” from text of Go-mang College, Collected Topics of Logic and Epistemology by a Spiritual Son of Jam-yang-shay-ba (Sras bsdus brva) by Nga-wang-dra-shi; and “The Sautrantika Tenet System” from Jang-gya’s Presentation of Tenets (Grub mtha’I rnam bzhag). According to Sautrantika, direct perception cognizes only impermanent phenomena and conceptual thought fully knows only permanent phenomena; these two categories knowable objects (jneya) are ultimate and conventional truths respectively. The Ge-luk-ba discussion of the two truths is given in Chapter I of the Exposition and, in Chapter II, is contrasted with that of Dak-tsang, who often took issue with Ge-luk-ba views. Chapters III and IV analyze how the two types of perception—direct and conceptual—operate in relation to impermanent and permanent phenomena. Objects observed by direct perception can be categorized according to whether or not they are cognized through the explicit elimination of another phenomenon, an object of negation (pratishedhya). Any object, whether permanent or impermanent, cognized through such an eliminative process is a negative phenomenon (pratishedha); objects not so cognized are positive (vidhi). This division, introduced in Chapter V and amplified in Chapters VI and VII, has important ramifications for the Buddhist presentation of a path (marga) or method for development of liberating knowledge. The reality which must be cognized as an antidote to ignorance-the cause of suffering—is itself a negative phenomenon. It is argued that negatives and thus reality itself can be cognized and that they can be expressed by words to a degree sufficient for helping a practitioner generate a vivid cognition of them. Finally, for the sake of completing the description of conceptual processes, the manner in which names are originally learned and later applied to objects is presented in Chapter VIII.

The topics of negation or exclusion (apoha) and naming are necessary for an understanding of how conceptual thought actually relates to and realizes external objects. These objects cannot appear as fully to thought as to direct perception, but thought does actually cognize them and words do actually describe them. For this reason it is possible to use thought—internal images and inferential reasoning—to cultivate an actual realization of impermanence and insubstantiality as taught in Sautrantika, and of emptiness or reality itself as taught in Madhyamika. As elaborated on in Chapter IX, later cultivation of the path makes these realizations non-conceptual, but they and the liberation which results from their banishment of ignorance are rooted in correct conceptualization.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Middle Way (Buddhism), Buddhism -- Psychology, Sautrāntikas, Truth -- Religious aspects -- Buddhism, Buddhist philosophy
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