The Shared Ontogical Principles of Madhyamaka and Abhidharma

Dubeau, Louis-Dominique, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Lang, Karen, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Groner, Paul, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Nemec, John, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Hueckstedt, Robert, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia

This study examines the positive continuity from Abhidharma philosophy to Madhyamaka philosophy. The principal thesis of this study is that the criterion by which the Vaibhāikas distinguish real from unreal is also the criterion by which the early Mādhyamikas perform this distinction. This criterion is seamlessness. In the Vaibhāika system, the ultimate truth is, in the final analysis, the only truth. This truth is composed of a plurality of ultimate factors (dharma) which are found through analysis but are themselves not further analyzable. These entities have no seams along which they can be further analyzed. In the Madhyamaka philosophy what is true is also seamless but this seamlessness operates before analysis begins. Since the world is seamless, there are no opportunities to perform the division which is fundamental to the analytical enterprise. Hence, analysis is a superimposition of seams onto a reality which is really seamless. Moreover, in spite of all their refutations, the Mādhyamikas do assert a single reality, nirvāa. This reality is also for them the ultimate truth. Hence, just like the Vaibhāikas, the Mādhyamikas have a reality and this reality for them too is seamless. This study relies on extending the hermeneutics of implicative and non-implicative negation to that of implicative and non-implicative existence to explain the difference between Madhyamaka and Vaibhāika philosophy, and also to explain how Mādhyamikas avoid self-contradiction. Whereas the Vaibhāikas conceive of a reality which exists implicatively, with essence (svabhāva), the Mādhyamikas perceive a reality which exists non-implicatively, without an essence. This interpretation of Madhyamaka philosophy raises questions as to whether Madhyamaka is monist, nihilist or something else. Therefore, this study examines iii these questions to show that these labels are by themselves incomplete, subject to equivocation. Depending on how we understand these labels, Madhyamaka can be monist and can be nihilist, and it can be neither. In addition, Nāgārjuna famously claimed to have no thesis. Since this claim appears to clash with his assertion that nirvāa alone is true, the meaning of the no-thesis doctrine is also examined.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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