The Truth about Śrīgupta’s Two Truths: Longchen Rabjampa’s “Lower Svātantrikas” and the Making of a New Philosophical School

In: Journal of South Asian Intellectual History
Allison Aitken Department of Philosophy, Columbia University New York, NY USA

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Longchen Rabjampa (1308–64), scholar of the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma tradition, presents a novel doxographical taxonomy of the so-called Svātantrika branch of Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy, which designates the Indian Mādhyamika Śrīgupta (c. 7th/8th century) as the exemplar of a Svātantrika sub-school according to which appearance and emptiness are metaphysically distinct. This paper compares Longchenpa’s characterization of this “distinct-appearance-and-emptiness” view with Śrīgupta’s own account of the two truths. I expose a significant disconnect between Longchenpa’s Śrīgupta and Śrīgupta himself and argue that the impetus for Longchenpa’s doxographical innovation originates not in Buddhist India, but within his own Tibetan intellectual milieu, tracing back to his twelfth-century Sangpu Monastery predecessors, Gyamarwa and Chapa.

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