Madhyāntavibhāga by Maitreya-nātha (ca. 4th century) - a key work of Yogācāra Buddhist philosophy - based on the commentaries by Vasubandhu and Ju Mipham (1846–1912), which delineates the distinctions and relationship (vibhāga) between the middle view (madhya) and extremes (anta).
Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes (Madhyantavibhaga) is one of five great treatises ascribed to Maitreya, Shakyamuni Buddha’s Regent and the next Buddha to appear in this Fortunate Eon. Maitreya, it is said, transmitted these teachings to the great Bodhisattva Asanga in the heavenly realm of Tushita. Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes applies the principles of the three natures (trisvabhava, ngo bo nyid gsum) to explain things both as they seem to be, and as they actually are. Unraveling the nature of the ground, the path and the fruition as discovered by means of the Buddhist vehicles for spiritual transformation, Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes is cherished as an inexhaustible treasure of profound and vast Dharma. The treatise has spurned rich and diverse commentarial traditions in South-, Central and East Asia. This volume presents Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes accompanied by the commentaries by Khenpo Shenga (1871-1927) and Ju Mipham (1846-1912).
Khenpo Shenga was a master of the non-sectarian Rime movement of 19th and 20th century Tibet. In his commentaries on the classical Indian treatises he applies an extraordinary approach. Rather than directly commenting on the treatise in question himself, Shenga instead draws quotations from the great Indian commentaries, which he then supplies as annotations to the treatise. In this way he achieves a format that lets the reader come intimately close to the original through a skillful and discrete use of annotations, which themselves are classical source material. In his commentary to Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes, all annotations are from the commentary by the 4th century master, Vasubandhu.
Ju Mipham, paramount master of the Nyingma school and primary exponent of the Rime movement, displayed a universal genius as he produced treatises on all aspects of Sutrayana and Mantrayana Buddhism as well on all the classical fields of secular learning. With his characteristic achievement of both profundity and clarity of expression Mipham in his commentary to Distinguishing Between the Middle and the Extremes illumines the path of vast activity, explaining the crucial principles that, for him, are fundamental for the entire Great Vehicle.
Maitreya's work speaks about the two sides of the same coin—mind in its confused state of daydreaming its own world versus waking up to its true nature. Like many other Yogacara scriptures, this text too describes the phenomenal world as being nothing but the product of our own essentially confused imagination and thus lacking any real existence outside of the imagining mind. The samsaric mind, which is ignorant about its own true nature, creates an imaginary split into subject and object and then becomes caught up in its own display of the subject grasping at all kinds of objects.
On the other hand, the nature of phenomena (or the mind) is described here in detail as the nonconceptual wisdom that lacks any duality of subject and object, but realizes its own primordially enlightened nature. This wisdom is not something newly produced through the path—it is said to exist primordially and is only obscured temporarily by adventitious stains (phenomena). Thus, its own natural state is always unchanging, just as the sun itself is never altered by the presence or absence of clouds. However, from the perspective of samsaric beings who do not realize mind's nature, it first seems to be obscured, thus appearing as the play of various dualistic phenomena, while later, its state seems to change into the pure awareness that is free of illusory dualistic creations.
Madhyānta-vibhāga-kārikā (Verses Distinguishing the Middle and the Extremes) is a key work in Yogācāra Buddhist philosophy, attributed in the Tibetan tradition to Maitreya-nātha and in other traditions to Asanga'
The Madhyānta-vibhāga-kārikā consists of 112 verses (kārikā) which delineate the distinctions (vibhāga) and relationship between the middle (madya) view and the extremes (anta); it contains five chapters: Attributes (laksana), Obscurations (āvarana), Reality (tattva), Cultivation of Antidotes (pratipaksa-bhāvanā) and the Supreme Way (yānānuttarya). Along with Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian translations, the text survives in a single Sanskrit manuscript discovered in Tibet by the Indian Buddhologist and explorer, Rahul Sankrityayan. The Sanskrit version also included a commentary (bhāsya) by Vasubandhu. An important sub-commentary (tīkā) by Sthiramati also survives in Sanskrit as well as a Tibetan version.