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They say that just as truly existent external phenomena were refuted by the Chittamatra school, a truly existent perceiving mind must also be refuted, since both are equally lacking in inherent existence, being mere dependent originations.
The Madhyamika school originates with Nagarjuna, who commented upon the direct meaning of the Prajñaparamita sutras in his Collection of Reasoning, which includes the famous Root Verses on the Middle Way.
(skt.: madhyamika; tib.: uma) It is a system founded by Nagarjuna in the second century C.E., based on the Prajnaparamita Sutras of Shakyamuni Buddha, and considered to be the supreme presentation of the wisdom of emptiness.
The Madhyamika is concerned both with the transcendence of logical affirmation and negation, and stresses the dependent origination of all things and the limitations of rational constructs. It represents a great philosophical tradition of Mahayana buddhism, which was expounded in detail by the great Master Nagarjuna, which adopts a middle position between two extreme views of eternalism and nihilism. Madhyamika is a response to essential questions concerning the existence or the nonexistence of things (phenomena) as well as beings.
Nagarjuna states that in the final analysis of any conventionally established object, it is an error either to affirm or deny its existence, nonexistence, to say it possess attributes of the two at the same time, or neither, are all insufficient to describe its true nature.
Since the Buddha taught the emptiness of appearance, nowhere will one find substance, essence or ontological foundation; with proper analysis, the problem disappears on its own since there is no further referenceto an ego or real things. Nagarjuna equated emptiness with interdependent origination, thecausally-conditioned, relative nature of all compounded phenomena.
About A.D. 500 Bhavaviveka, heading the Svatantrika school of the Madhyamika, held that the Buddhist position can be put forward by positive argument. The Prasanga school, championed by Chandrakirti, opposed him and reaffirmed the simple refutation of opponents by reductio ad absurdum as the true Madhyamika position.
Madhyamika is divided in two schools:
This approach is called prasangika, meaning “consequence”.
This approach is called svatantrika.
The three authoritative texts of the school are the Mādhyamika-śāstra (Sanskrit: “Treatise of the Middle Way”) and the Dvādasá-dvāra-śāstra (“Twelve Gates Treatise”) by Nāgārjuna and the Śataka-śāstra (“One Hundred Verses Treatise”), attributed to his pupil Āryadeva.
In the final analysis, reality can only be attributed to something entirely different from all that is known, which must therefore have no identifiable predicates and can only be styled the void (sunyata).
The basic Mādhyamika texts were translated into Chinese by Kumārajiva in the 5th century, and the teachings were further systematized (as the San-lun, or Three Treatises, school) in the 6th–7th century by Chi-tsang.