Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Madhyanta-vibhanga : Discourse on discrimination on middle and extremes

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Int phil.jpg
8v17ghh n.jpg
5 793320.jpg
Guru padmasambhava zz94.jpg
Mountains-clouds 00428445.jpg
29145fa z.jpg
KsatBodhGaya 468.jpg
Pema dakini.jpg
984562 n.jpg
Er g-levine.jpg
4cx0737 n.jpg
Dc1a grande.jpg

 The Vijnanavada school of Buddhism represents the latest and final form of that religion, the form in which, after having transformed India's national philosophy and leaving its native Indian soil, it spread over almost the whole of the Asiatic continent up to Japan in the East and Asia Minor in the West where it amalgamated with gnosticism.
    The Madhyanta-vibhanga-sastra (or sutra) of Maitreya-Asanga with its commentaries, the bhasya of Vasubandhu and the tika of Sthiramati, belong to the most fundamental works of this Vijnanavada (alias Yogacara, Vijnaptimatrata or Cittamatrata) school of Northern Buddhism,

    The till now unique MS of its sanscrit original has had the curious fate of having been discovered twice.

The story of this double discovery and of the double text-edition which followed has been very pointedly narrated by the illustrious first discoverer, the much regretted late Prof. Sylvain Levi.

In his preface to the second (which really was the first) edition he inter alia writes: "il est facheux que l'edition concurrente, publiee en 1932 ne fasse pas mention (de l'autre edition) dans sa preface".

It seems that I have not been the only victim of this strange reticence. It is only much later that owing to the kind attention of Prof. L. de La Vallee Poussin and Prof. E. Lamotte I became aware of the second edition.

    As soon as Prof. G. Tucci's edition2 reached me I started on the work of translating this important text for the Bibliotheca Buddhica series whose publication was going to be resumed. Unfortunately I had no inkling of the existence of the other edition.

My pupil, the late Dr E. Obermiller published a review of Prof. G. Tucci and V. Bhattacharya's edition3 in which he suggested some corrections of those parts of the published text which represented retranslations from the Tibetan to fill up the lacunae of the sanscrit MS. He also did not suspert the existence of the other edition which made some of his critical remarks superfluous.

    1) Sthiramtti. Madhyantavibhagatika, edition par Susumi Yamaguchi (Nagoya, 1934).
    2) Madhyantavibhagasutrabhasyatika of Sthiramati edited by Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya and Giuseppe Tucci (Calcutta, 1932, Calcutta Oriental series № 24).
    3) Indian Historical Quarterly, vol. IX № 4, p. 1019 ff.

    My English version, besides the karika's of Maitreya-Asanga, contains a translation of Vasubandhu's bhasya in full as well as of the tika of Sthira-mati. For Vasubandhu I have made use of a very correct block-print executed in the printing office of the Aga monastery in Transbaikalia, its folios are marked in my translation by figures preceded by the letter V. The other figures in margin refer to the pages and lies in Prof. Tucci and V. Bhatta-chasya's edition. I am sorry I could consider Prof. S. Yamaguchi's text, as far as the first part is concerned, only in the notes. The division in chapters and sections, as well as their titles, are added by me.

    It is t great pleasure for me to express my gratitude to my young friend Prof. A. Vostrikov, PhD with whom I discussed several hard passages of the text and to whom I am indebted for many valuable suggestions.

    An analysis of the philosophy of this treatise and an appreciation of its value will be contained in a following volume of the Bibllotheca Buddhica series.

    Anticipatively I subjoin the following remarks.

    This translation aims at an intelligible rendering of Buddhist ideas; It therefore, with rare exceptions, avoids untranslated terminology, it tries to render Buddhist technical terms by more or less corresponding equivalents borrowed from European philosophy.

This method seems to me not hopeless, because, in my opiniom, Indian philosophy has reached a very high standart of development and the princinple lines of this development run parallel with those which are familiar to the students of European philosophy.

India possesses parallels to our rationalism and to our empiricism, it has a system of empirical idealism and a system of spiritual monism, it has, first of all a logic and, what is remarkable, an epistemology. In this epistemology Buddhist authors play a leading part.

From the Indian standpoint Buddhism is a sastra and what an Indian sastra is Indologists well know from the example of the great grammatical sastra's of Panini and Patanjali's.

    Now it is a remarkable fact, which variously can be explained, but which is undisputable, that the Pali-school of Buddhologists entirely overlooked that sastra, the system of philosophy which however is present on every page of the Pali kanon.

An Indian sastra first of all frames a special terminology for the concepts with which it operates and establishes clear-cut definitions of these concepts.

The Tibetans, being the pupils of Indian tradition, have carried this care of minutely precise definitions to an extreme, almost artistic, perfection.

Therefore the study of Tibetan sources has greatly contributed to our understanding of Buddhism. At the dawn of European Indology there has been a controversy between the great French scholar E. Burnouf and the great Russian scholar W. Wassilieff on the question whether Buddhism could be better understood from Indian or also from Chinese and Tibetan sources.

    According to the first, only Indian sources provided evidence on genuine Buddhism, according to the second, Buddhism in the totality of its development could be understood only from Chinese and Tibetan sources in addition to the Indian ones, Wissilieff's standpoint enabled him to determine the exact meaning of the crucial term sunyata in which he discovered under a dialectical terminology an idea similar to the Absolute dea of Hegel.

The present translation brings an eloquent confirmation of Wassilieff's discovery made a century since, whereas the Pali-school discovered in Mahayana nothing but degeneration and nihilism.

Working in the traditions of the school of Professors W. Wassilicff and I. Minayeff, my much regretted pupil Prof. O. Rosenberg in his "Problems of Buddhist Philosophy"and myself in my "Central Conception of Buddhism" and "Conception of Buddhist Nirvana" established the exact meaning of the basic technical terms of the system:

1) the term dharma meaning Element of existence;

[2) the term samskara (= sam-bhuya-karin) meaning cooperating Element of existence and

3) the term pratitya-samutpada (= samskrtatvam) meaning cooperation of the Elements of existence.

The three terms refer to one and the same system of pluralistic empiricism which is the core of early Buddhism. Prof. O. Rosenberg has given to Buddhism the name of a dharma-theory and indeed Buddhism in the three main forms of its development is nothing but a theory of dharmas, i. e. a system of a plurality of ultimate Elements of Reality to which a monistic foundation has been added in the Mahayana.

The recent capital work of Prof, de La Vallee Poussin "Vijnaptimatrata-siddhi" (here quoted LVP) which is a magnificent thesaurus of the most precious information on the ultimate phase of Buddhism contains among its 820 pages hardly a single one which would not be concerned with the elucidation and the profound implications of this or that dharma.

    The term sunyata is an innovation of the Mahayana, an innovation made necessary by the course of philosophic development.

Its germs are found in the Hinayana, but the Mahayana has given it a quite new interpretation, an interpretation in which the two main schools of the Mahayana radically diverged.

    The whole chapter V of the first part of the treatise is devoted to the elucidation of the Yogacara conception of this term as contrasted with the Madhyamika view of it.

It is there most clearly and emphatically stated that, for the Yogacaras, it means

1) grahya-grahaka-abhava and

2) tasya ca svabhava, i. e.

1) the (ultimate) non-reality of the relation of subject to object and

2) the (ultimate) reality of their (subjacent monistic Absolute.

In other words the denial of Pluralism and the vindication of Monism, with the Implication that this Monism has a superstructure of phenomenal Relativity or that the phenomenal Relativity has a subjacent foundation of Absolute, non-relative, Reality.

The Absolute is thus the "Reality of Unreality" or as Prof. W. Wassilieff has expressed it—to quote the German version of his celebrated translator Th. Benfey (p. 121—2}"das mit dem Subject identische

    Object, welchcs, so wie es in den Kreis unseres Denkens tritt, unmittelbar zu etwas subjectivem wird....... Affirmation und Negation werden identisch" (cp. below, p. 104). This Absolute represents the unique substance of the Universe lekam dravyami.

There is no other substance. It embraces the totality of everything relatively real, but is itself the non-relative Absolute.

It has, so to speak, a reflex on the opposite end of the scale, in the so called Thing-in-Itself (svalksana) which is a point-instant of spiritual Reality.

There are thus two Absolutes, the absolute Particular and the absolute Universal, the extreme concrete and particular and the extreme abstract and Universal, the limit, so to speak, from the bottom and the limit at the top.

Between them we must locate the relative Reality of the phenomenal Universe. All phenomenal objects are interrelated and related to the two limits between which they must find their place.

The one of them is the point-instant (ksana) of reality, the other represents its eternal (nitya). Whole; the one is particular (sva-laksana), the other Universal (samanya-laksana); the one is a single Element (dharma), the other represents their totality (dharmata); the one is "the" Real (vastu = sat), the other is the Reality (satya); the one is interdependent (paratantra), the other independent or Absolute (pasinispanna); the one is paramartha-sat, the other is paramartha-satya.

Applying Kantian terminology we could perhaps say that the one is transcendental (suddha-laukika), the other transcendent (parisuddha, lokottra).1

    How are these two Absolutes related between themselves?

They are, says the Yogacara, neither different nor identical (p. 39—40), just as every other Universal; although it cannot be separated from its respective particulars, it is not identical with them.

Each of them represents the "Reality of Unreality", the paratantra as abhuta-parikalpa, the sunyata as abhavasya svabhava.

As such sunyata can be characterized as being neither Affirmation nor Negation (cp. p. 78), or as Wassilieff puts it "Affirmation and Negation become identical".

    Now the Madhyamikas deny the ultimate reality of both these concepts.

They neither admit the reality of the paratantra nor of the parinispanna = sunyata. For them these two Absolutes are as relative as all the rest.

They admit no exceptnion from their principle of Universal Relativity, no paramariha-sat, no Thing-in-Itself.

They, of course, have a paramartha-satya, or Highest Principle, of their own, but it consists just in the denial of the Thing-in-Itself, the dental of every ultimately real Element in existence.

Tson-kha-pa, a good judge, says in his Legs-bsad snin-po that among all systems of philosophy, Buddhist as well as non-Buddhist, there is only a single one which denies every kind of an ultimately Real; and is the system of the Madhyamikas.

According to the German expression, it represents "eine Verabsolutierung des Relativen".

From this universal Relativity there can be no exceptions. Neither the Buddha, nor the Bodhisattva, nor Salvation and Nirvana are excepted. They are dialectical Ideas, not realities.

As concepts they are constructions of our productive imagination, hence ultimately unreal, bden-par med as the Tibetan emphatically states.

Highly instructive is from this point of view the division of sunyata into 16 varieties. Of these 16 varieties there are 8 which refer to the mahayanistic Buddha and Bodhisattva.

For the Yogacara they represent Relativity also, Inasmuch as they are objects of conceptual thought which distinguishes object and subject, but this Relativity has a subjacent Absolute Reality: for the Madhyamikas it has none, for them if is mere advaya without any eka-dravya at the bottom.

    1 We thus can establish two corresponding series of equivalents -- dharma = ksana = samskrta-dharma = paratantra = svalaksana = paramartha-sat. On the other hand -- dharmata = sunyata = tathata = asamkrta-dharma = parinispanna = samanya-laksana = paramartha-satya.

    But this does not at all mean that the Madhyamikas are nihilists.

They were accused of nihilism by the polemical fervour of the Yogacaras who imputed on them the principle sarvam sarvena nasti (B. bhumi, p. 44), as well as by the European scholars of the Pali-school.

They however emphatically protested against that accusation. Relativism is not Nihilism. In Japan, where the Yogacara tradition prevails, there is a tendency either to minimize the discrepancy of the two schools (Suzuki and others) or to accuse the Madhyamikas of nihilism (Masuda and others).

The Madhyamika philosophy however is the doctrine officially professed by the Tibetan church.

It would sound exceedingly strange if we would interpret the solemn and exuberant Catholicism of that church as a disguised nihilism.

This is the only point in which I would venture to diverge from the views expressed by Prof. L. de La Vallee Poussin in his capital work on the Yogacara system.

In accordance with some Japanese scholars, he is inclined to underrate the difference between the two main schools of Mahayana and to neglect the importance of the war which they were waging, whereas the whole of the Vijnaptimatrata-sastra, as the title shows, is written with the aim of vindicating the Yogacara views against the theories of the Madhyamikas.

He says p. 757 "il y a Madhyamikas et Madhya-mikas, Yogacaras et Yogacaras".

This is quite right in this sense that we have intermediate schools and subschools, but it is wrong when it tends to obliterate the difference between the main schools.

It is also, in my opinion, not quite exact to say that Nagarjuna "admet une realite vide".

The dictum of the "void vessel", the vessel which is void but real, is a characteristic Yogacara dictum directed against the Madhyamikas, as is clearly stated in the present treatise on p. 12.20 (transl., p. 22).

    True is however that the Madhyamikas have a paramartha-satya, and that this paramartha-satya consists in the negation of every paramariha-sat.

    The Discourse on Discrimination between Middle and Extremes is written with the same aim as the Vijnapti-matrata-siddhi. It repudiates the Universal Relativism of the Midhyasaikas. It repudiates also the Pluralism of Hinayana. By a stricter discrimination between Appearance and Reality it establishes its own system of a spiritual Monism. There is a transcendent Absolute Reality subjacent to the Appearance of the phenomenal world, it is the reality of the Pure Spirit (vijnapti-matrata), Hegel's Absolute Idea. The Mahayanistic Nirvana (the so called apratisthita) is nothing but this Absolute Idea in which the totality of life is merged.


Chapter 1

    § 1. Vasubandhu's Salutation Stanza.................... 5
    § 2. Every word of the salutation stanza singly explained... 7
    § 3. The aim of the treatise and the topics discussed in it........... 10
    § 4. The seven topics......—
    § 5. The consecution of the topics ......13

Chapter II


    § 1. General Statement .............16
    § 2. The first meaning of the stanza Repudiatiom of extrame scepticism..... 17
    § 3. The second meaning of the stanza. Repudiation of extreme realism..... 18
    § 4. The third meaning of the stanza. The middle way between the two extremes
of scepticism and ralism .............19
    § 5. The fourth interpretation of the stanza. The contrast between Phenomenal and
Absolve Reality................20
    § 6. The two Absolutes: the extreme concrete and particular and the extreme
abstract and universal ........................ 22
    § 7. The Middle Path ...................24
    § 8. The categories of ideas in which the Creator of the phenomenological worlds mani-
fests himself........... 26
    § 9. Another division of ideas in three, resp. eight classes. Mind-store ideas,
Ego-ideas, six kinds of sensational ideas........... 29
    § 10. The Postulate of Buddhism....................... 33

Chapter III


    § 1. General statement................ 37
    § 2. The unreality of the external world ................. 40
    § 3. Repudiation of the Sautrantikas.......... 42
    § 4. Repudiation of the Sarvastivadins........ 45
    § 5. Cognition of the Monistic Absolute.............. 46
    § 6. The hells, the earth and the heavens are the phenomenal worlds created by
    the Constructor of Appearance....... 48
    § 7. The other name of the Constructor of the phenomenal words...... 51
    § 8. Controversy between the Pluralist and the Monist on the reality of separate
    mental phenomena ............ 52

Chapter IV


    § l. The Subconcous Mind-Store or the Psyche .............. 54
    § 2. The dynamic aspect of the Creator of the World-Ilusion. The 12 stages of
tha rotation of phenomenal life..................... 58
    § 3. The root cause of phenomenal life. Transcendental Illusion........ 60
    § 4. Use second member of Dependent Origination. The prenatal Biotic Forces . —
    § 5. The third stage. Intermediate existence ............ 62
    § 6. The fourth stage. The Embryo.................... 63
    § 7. The fifth stage. The Sense faculties................. 64
    § 8. The fifth stage. Sensation....................... —
    § 9. The seventh stage. Feeling............... 65
    § 10. The eigth stage. Sexual desire.................... —
    § 11. The ninth stage. Attachment to cherished objects........... —
    § 12. The tenth stage. The full realization of a new life. ........... 66
    § 13. The eleventh and twelfth stages. The suffering of a new birth on which
a new death follws................. —
    § 14. The twelve members of Dependent Origination united is groups and regarded
from different standpoints.................... 67
    § 15. The division of the twelve members in three and in two groups..... 68
    § 16. The division on seven groups..... 69
    § 17. Other meanings of the twelve membered formula of Dependent Origination. 70
    § 18. Summary of the theory of the Constructor of Appearance......... 72



    § 1. The five topics to be considered in connection with the problem of the
Absolute.............................. 74
    § 2. Another explanation of the five topics................. 75
    § 3. The definition of the Absolute. ............ 76
    § 4. Other names of the Absolute and their meanings............. 81
    § 5. The varieties of the Absolute ........ 83
    § 6. The sixteen modes of Relativity-Reality................. 86
    § 7. The Relativity of Relativity and the Relativity of the Highest Truth... 89
§§ 8-14. Eight modes as manifestations of the Mahayanist Buddha and Bodhisattva.

Their Relativity and subjacent Unique Absolute Reality......... 90
    § 8. The seventh and eighth mode............. __
    § 9. The ninth mode ................. 91
    § 10. The tenth mode.............. —
    § 11. The eleventh mode ................. 92
    § 12. The twelfth mode........................ —
    § 13. The thirteenth mode ................ 93
    § 14. The fourteenth mode........ 94
    § 15. The last two modes of Relativity-Reality ........—
    § 16. Review of the 16 modes.............. 96
    § 17. The proof estabilishing the existence of the Absolute........ 99
    § 18. Summary............... 104

    NOTES ..... 107(01)-165(058)

This book is part of a series on the five works of Maitreya, the next Buddha

Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes
(Skt. Madhyantavibhanga)
(Tib. û ta nam ched)
Asanga based on the inspiration of the Buddha Maitreya

A Commentary by

Thrangu Rinpoche
Geshe Lharampa

Translated by

Jules Levinson, Ph. D.

Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes

This treatise is one of the classic Mahayana texts written by Asanga in the fourth century who was visited by Maitreya, the next Buddha, and brought this text back as one of the Five Books of Maitreya.

This text was preserved by the Tibetans and is studied in the Tibetan monasteries, particularly, by the Kagyu lineage. This text explains what the fundamental nature of samsara and of nirvana is and gives a comprehensive explanation of emptiness. It also presents the five paths leading to enlightenment and the obstacles to these paths. It then presents the Four Noble Truths and the obstacles to understanding each of these truths. Finally, it presents the 37 harmonies to enlightenment, the definitive characteristics of suchness (dharmata), and the three natures.

This book presents a translation of the root verses by Maitreya and Thrangu Rinpoche's commentary elucidating this text. Taking these together allows the student of Buddhism to read and understand one of the fundamental texts of Mahayana Buddhism.

Thrangu Rinpoche has taught students for 40 years (20 of these for Western students) and is well-known for taking advanced topics and making them understandable to Western dharma students.

Namo Buddha Publications


The Buddha's teachings may be categorized into the hinayana, the mahayana, and the vajrayana teachings. In the Theravada, or hinayana, teachings the Buddha taught the four noble truths, which explain the causes for our suffering in samsara and tell how we can reach liberation by engaging in meditation and the eight-fold path. The ideal was the arhat who had achieved complete mastery over the mind.

The Theravada teachings of the Buddha were practiced predominately for about 500 years, when a new movement, the mahayana, become prevalent. The mahayana movement can be traced to the teachings of Nagarjuna in about the first century of our era.

Nagarjuna presented extensive treatises based on the Buddha's teachings, which showed that not only was the self empty of inherent existence, but that all phenomena—tree, rocks, people—were also empty of inherent existence. In the mahayana schools of Buddhism the teachings of Nagarjuna and the vast body of the Prajnaparamita sutras were extensively studied and analyzed. The ideal for this school was the bodhisattva, who vowed to forgo the liberation of nirvana until all sentient beings had reached enlightenment.

The mahayana school, studied and practiced extensively in the countries of China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet, was further developed in the fourth century with the birth of two brothers, Asanga and Vasubandhu, in India. Vasubandhu, the younger brother, wrote an extensive commentary on the Abhidharma portion of the Buddhist teachings.

The Abhidharma, to simplify greatly, was an attempt to classify and codify all the concepts that the Buddha had taught in his numerous scriptures—a body of knowledge which, incidentally, is the size of about thirty Christian bibles. His Abidharmakosha has been studied widely.

Asanga, the older brother, went into meditation retreat for twelve years and the fruition of this extensive practice was that he was able to meet with the Buddha Maitreya, who gave him five works. This meeting with a being of the sambhogakaya realm which we ordinary beings cannot even conceive is still being accomplished by highly evolved lamas in Tibet. Asanga published these five books, which classified the mahayana path; The present text is one of these five works. The publishing of these texts actually led to the founding of a whole new school of Buddhism, called the Chittamatra school.

The Chittamatra or Mind-only school emphasizes that all phenomena are just mind. This work could be considered a Chittamatra work, but as Thrangu Rinpoche points out, it has elements of many different Buddhist philosophies, not just the Chittamatra.

In Distinguishing the Middle Way from the Extremes we present, first of all, the original text of Maitreya. This text was preserved by early Tibetan translators who entered India in the seventh to tenth centuries, before the Muslim destruction of the Buddhist colleges. The original root text of Maitreya was translated into English by Khenpo Tsultrim's Marpa Translation Group. As the reader can see, just reading the root text leads to little understanding of the mahayana path. Namo Buddha publications is pleased to present a commentary of this great work by Thrangu Rinpoche.

Thrangu Rinpoche is particularly qualified to give a commentary on this work because he has worked tirelessly on the mahayana path himself, has done extensive mediation and study on this topic, and has taught the most important tulkus of the Kagyu lineage. As pointed out in Rinpoche's introduction to this text, several other lineages of Tibetan Buddhism subscribe to the Rangtong view which does not study this particular work of Maitreya carefully. The Shentong school, however, does consider this text important and Rinpoche is a special lineage holder of the Shentong school.

If the reader were to study this text in a Tibetan Buddhist monastic college, he or she would most likely begin by memorizing the root verses. After the verses were memorized, typically a learned teacher would explain these verses line by line and allow the students to ask questions. In a similar fashion, this book presents the verses and gives Thrangu Rinpoche's commentary as it was presented at the Namo Buddha Seminar in Nepal at Thrangu Rinpoche's monastery in 1992.

Graduates of Tibetan monastic colleges, khenpos, can often recite thousands of root verses of various Buddhist texts and if they cannot recite the actual root verses, they can easily recite dozens of categories of items listed in the text from memory.

For this reason we have helped the Western student by including charts of the categories, as well as an extensive glossary of technical and Tibetan terms, because different translators use different English words for these concepts.

This book is not one of the easier dharma books to read. If the reader wants a careful explanation of the mahayana path and an explanation of emptiness and the bodhisattva path, Thrangu Rinpoche's The Three Vehicles of Buddhist Practice should be read first.

Because it was written 1,600 years ago by a Buddhist philosopher, this book may will seem like an endless list of categories, but The Differentiation of the Middle and Extremes is much more. It is an exposition, a road map, a guidebook of the path we take as a Buddhist from our ordinary confused state all the way to Buddhahood.

The book devotes a great deal of time to the characteristics of Buddhahood so we can see what it is we are aiming our practice toward. As Thrangu Rinpoche once said, "If you don't know what enlightenment is like, it is like shooting an arrow without a target." The text also devotes a great deal of time to the characteristics of the path and stages to show what the proper path is. Finally, and most practical to the meditator, it explains the problems and misconceptions we may have and how to remedy them.
Clark Johnson, Ph. D.

Outline of the Text

The Foreword ix
The Title 1
The Homage 9


    A. Definitive Characteristics of Samsara 10
    1. The Way Things Exist 10
    2. The Way Things Appear 13
    3. How to Understand the Topic 14
    a. According to the Three Natures 14
    b. According to the Obstructions 15
    B. Definitive Characteristics of Liberation 19
    1. The Brief Description 19
    2. The Detailed Description 19
    a. The Definitive Characteristics 20
    b. The Enumeration of the Names 20
    c. The Meaning 21
    d. The Classifications 21
    e. The Argumentation 26


    A. Brief Summary 27
    B. Detailed Description 28
    1. Nine Obstructions to Liberation 28
    2. The Thirty Obstructions 29
    a. Obstructions Preventing Entering the Path 31
    b. Obstructions Preventing Bodhichitta 31
    c. Obstructions to Entering the Mahayana Path 32
    d. Obstructions to Becoming a Bodhisattva 32
    e. Obstructions to the Path of Seeing 33
    f. Obstructions to Path of Meditation 33
    g. Obstructions to Skillful Methods 34
    h. Obstructions to Fearlessness of the Mahayana 34
    i. Obstructions to Activities of the Mahayana 34
    j . Obstructions to Ten Powers of the Buddha 35
    3. Obstructions to the Antidotes 35
    a. The Brief Summary 35
    b. The Detailed Description 35
    (1) Obstructions to 37 Harmonies 35
    (2) Obstruction to Ten Paramitas 41
    (3) Obstructions to Bodhisattva Levels 44
    4. Summary of the two Obstructions 44


    A. The Brief Summary 47
    B. The Detailed Description 48
    1. Root Suchness 48
    2. The Definition of Suchness 48
    3. Definitive Characteristics of Suchness 49
    (a-d). The Four Noble Truths 49
    (e) Conventional and Ultimate Truth 51
    (f) The Knower 52
    (g) The Pure Object 52
    (h) The Five Dharmas 53
    (i) The Nine Classifications 53
    (j) The Ten Skills 54


    A. Description of the Five Paths 61
    1. The 37 Harmonies 61
    (a) The Four Foundations of Mindfulness 62
    (b) The Four Genuine Abandonments 62
    (c) The Four Powers over Appearances 63
    (d) The Five Strengths as Heat and Peak 66
    (e) The Five Powers of Endurance 66
    (f) The Seven Harmonies on Path of Seeing 67
    (g) The Eight-fold Path 67
    2. The Three Phases of the Path 68
    3. The Results of the Path 68

    V. Levels of the Path 69
    A. Nine Phases 69
    B. Three Aspects of the Path 70

    VI. Results of the Paths 71
    A. The Brief Summary 71
    B. The Detailed Description of the Results 71


    A. The Vast Mahayana Practice 73
    1. The Twelve Aspects 73
    2. The Ten Paramitas 76
    3. Practice in accord with the Dharma 80
    (a) Shamatha Meditation 80
    (b) Vipashyana Meditation 82
    4. Abandoning the Two Extremes 85
    5. Practice with a Focus 86
    6. Practice without a Focus 86
    B. The Vast Mahayana View 87
    C. The Vast Mahayana Accomplishment 87

    The Conclusion 89
    Notes 91
    Glossary of Terms 95
    Glossary of Tibetan Terms 105

    An Introduction to the Text

    The Title

    In Sanskrit: Madhyantavibhanga-karika.
    In Tibetan: dbus mtha' 'byed bzhugs

    The Five Books of Maitreya

        The present text that I am going to present is known by its short title as u ta nam ched in Tibetan, Madhyantavibhanga in Sanskrit, or The Treatise that Distinguishes the Middle from the Extremes in English.

        Gampopa established the monastic training of the Kagyu lineage and directed his students, who were practitioners of mahamudra, to study the great texts ofMaitreya.1 Therefore the practitioners of the Kagyu tradition regard The Five Books of Maitreya, as extremely important.

These came to us through Asanga. Asanga (4th century C.E.) went to the pure realm of Tushita where he met directly with Maitreya and received these texts. Nowadays scholars have some doubt about whether that meeting actually took place. In particular, Ganga Tsultrim who studied at the School in Varanasi and lived in Japan for some years wrote a text called The Analytical Interpretation of the Books of Maitreya in which he suggested that Asanga could not possibly have gone to the sambhogakaya realm of Maitreya to receive this text but that Asanga received it from a human being, a learned person whose name was Maitreyanatha.

My own opinion is that his analysis shows evidence of pride and mistaken understanding. He states that it would not be possible through samadhi, or meditative stabilization, to visit another region not normally accessible. However, someone as accomplished as Asanga who had achieved the third bodhisattva level and was a master of meditation, could go to Tushita and since Maitreya does dwell there, Asanga could receive these texts from Maitreya. Thus, I don't think there is any reason to doubt the case.2

        Generally speaking, the word of the Buddha is divided into three sets of teachings. In the first turning of the wheel of dharma, the Buddha taught principally the egolessness of the individual, a person's lack of a self. In the second turning of the wheel of dharma, the Buddha taught principally the egolessness of phenomena, or emptiness (Skt. shunyata, Tib. tong pa nyi)3 and decisively settled the meaning of emptiness.

To demonstrate that this emptiness was not a mere blank voidness, in the third turning of the wheel of dharma, the Buddha elucidated the sugatagarbha, "the essence of the one gone to bliss." The mahayana tradition holds the second and third turnings as most important.

The texts of the second turning of the wheel of dharma are principally the Prajnaparamita sutras of which the explicit teaching of the Prajnaparamita is emptiness. The implicit teaching, of the Prajnaparamita sutras are the ten bodhisattva levels and Has five paths.

        The Prajnaparamita sutras were clarified by Nagarjuna and his followers who composed a great many treatises (Skt. shastra) clearly elucidating the Madhyamaka or Middle-way and explaining through reasoning the nature of emptiness. The hidden meaning of the Prajnaparamita sutras was clarified by Asanga in his five books of Maitreya.

        The first book of Maitreya is The Ornament of Clear Realization4 (The Abhisamaya-lamkara) which clearly spells out the teachings on the bodhisattva levels and five paths that were presented in a hidden manner in the Prajnaparamita. This book is concerned with the meaning of the second turning of the wheel of dharma while the other four books of Maitreya are devoted to elucidating the meaning of the third turning of the wheel of dharma.

        The words the Buddha spoke are contained in a great many sutras some which require further clarification. In particular, Maitreya composed a second treatise known as The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras (Mahayana-sutra-lamkard) in which he gathered together a vast array of mahayana sutras and explained them extensively.

        To help students avoid the extremes of eternalism and nihilism, Asanga wrote this third text, Distinguishing the Middle Way from the Extremes.

        The fourth text by Maitreya is The Differentiation of Dharma and Dharmata5 and the final treatise, the Uttara Tantra is a commentary on the sugatagarbha or Buddha-nature.
        When the Buddha-dharma reached Tibet, there arose four traditions of dharma: the Nyingma, the Sakya, the Gelugpa, and the Kagyu traditions. All four of these traditions consider the first text of Maitreya, The Ornament of Clear Realization, to be extremely important. However, those who follow the Gelugpa and Sakya traditions do not regard the other four books of Maitreya as particularly important.

There is a historical reason for this. When Buddhism was introduced in Tibet, a great many learned scholars appeared and spread the dharma widely. They taught realization mainly by way of analytical reasoning. Taking that approach, they devoted themselves to long and extensive studies of the Buddhist literature, especially by carefully studying the texts of Nagarjuna, who primarily commented on the meaning of the second turning of the wheel of dharma.

This topic was covered in The Ornament of Clear Realization but not in the other four books. For that reason, the other four of Maitreya's texts did not play a very important role in the Gelug and Sakya traditions.

Also the Sakyas and Gelugpas practiced the vajrayana by focusing principally upon the Guhyasamaja practice, which does not emphasize the creation stage (Tib. kye rim). Of course, they do put a great deal of emphasis on the completion stage (Tib. dzog rim) which was explicitly described in the tantras, but not in the quintessential instructions that were given only as part of the oral tradition.

        The other two traditions that flourished in Tibet, the Nyingma and the Kagyu, have taken the quintessential instructions on the nature of mind as the essential point for practice. In fact, Gampopa himself said that his practice lineage led back to the presentation of the mind's true nature and therefore it was important right at the outset to recognize the nature of the mind.

If one does this, then the four other texts of Maitreya become extremely important because they clearly indicate just what the nature of the mind is. In particular, these four texts show that in the context of relative truth, all phenomena are nothing other than appearances of mind. In this way Maitreya's other four texts lead to the Chittamatra or Mind-only school.

They explain very clearly the mind's true way of being by indicating the ultimate nature of the mind. For that reason, the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions rely principally upon the tradition of oral and quintessential instructions.

        Whether we are focusing on the meaning of the second or the third turning of the wheel of dharma, when it comes to actually practicing we need to rely on the quintessential instructions that show us very clearly the mind's actual nature.

To understand the mind's nature, it is important to understand both the way in which things appear and the way in which they actually exist.7 In that way, our understanding derived from studying the texts and our experience in meditation will come together. The last four books of Maitreya play a very important role because they explain exactly what is meant when we say that things exist or do not exist; what we mean by empty and not empty. This is made particularly clear in The Differentiation of the Middle Way from the Extremes.

        The third turning of the wheel of dharma is called "the wheel of good discrimination," which is to say that in the final turning of the wheel of dharma the Buddha showed clearly what exists and what does not exist.

The first turning of the wheel of dharma focuses principally upon the four noble truths, this turning indicates that everything exists. In the second turning, the Prajnaparamita, it seems that everything has been turned around and suddenly nothing exists. In the third turning, the Buddha differentiated clearly what is meant by saying that certain things exist and other things do not exist.

That is precisely what is meant by "Distinguishing the middle way from the extremes." Understanding this differentiation makes it easy to practice meditation because the conclusion we arrive at through study and investigation and the experience we arrive at through meditation come together and are joined.

        In The Treatise that Differentiates the Middle from the Extremes, what specifically is differentiated is what is empty and what is not empty; what exists and what does not exist when we say that all phenomena are emptiness. The notion that everything is empty doesn't fit with our experience, because in our experience things do appear and we do see and experience them. It doesn't make any sense to deny that we see appearances.

At the same time, we may wonder, "Do phenomena exist in the way that they appear?" No, phenomena do not exist in the manner in which they appear. In conventional truth they exist; in ultimate truth8 they do not exist.

If we say that all phenomena are just emptiness and do not exist, we are saying that there is no virtue to be practiced, no ill deeds to be abandoned, no possibility of falling into a lower realm or of achieving a higher rebirth. This is a dangerous assertion to make. If, on the other hand, we say that all phenomena really exist and are real, this view will not help us achieve liberation either.

        What then is the relationship between the conventional and the ultimate truth? Is one correct, and the other not? No, there is no contradiction between them. The ultimate truth is the very nature of the conventional truth, while the conventional truth is the way in which the ultimate manifests. So, it is possible to take the middle way and avoid falling into either extreme.

If one cannot understand the relationship between conventional and ultimate, then one will not be able realize the true nature of things, dharmata. If one does not realize dharmata, then one cannot meditate properly. Therefore, it is extremely important to differentiate between the middle way and the extremes.

        There are some who say that this treatise, Distinguishing the Middle Way from the Extremes is a text of the Chittamatra Mindonly school and others who say it isn't. Both are accurate because there are ways in which it is a text of the Mind-only school and ways it is not.

Its treatment of the three natures is from the Mind-only school view. These are the imagined nature, the dependent nature, and the thoroughly established nature, which are all important topics for the Mind-only school. However, the Mind-only school is somewhat inferior to the Middle-way or Madhyamaka school because it says that there are real, existing things. The Middle-way school is regarded as the superior interpretation because it goes beyond such a mistaken understanding.

    The Text and Meditation

        In the practice of meditation in the Kagyu tradition, we are introduced to the nature of the mind and meditate on that nature. We may ask how meditation on the nature of mind is going to help us abandon samsara. After all, the suffering of samsara is mainly in terms of what happens to our body, not the mind. It is precisely for that reason that the Mind-only school and its view of the nature of phenomena is helpful.

The Mind-only school presents the view that everything is mind, a view which is elaborated in the treatises commenting on the teachings of the Buddha. There is a real purpose for this view; it is both meaningful and beneficial to understand the view that every thing is mind.
        In the practice of mahamudra, the initial step is the pointing out of appearances as mind. In the Mind-only school the fact that appearances are just mind is settled through analytical reasoning. In the practice of mahamudra, we do not use analytical reasoning to arrive at this conclusion, but have it pointed out to us by directly examining the mind.

        This text teaches that external phenomena do not truly exist, and this view also agrees with the Mind-only school. At the same time, the Mind-only school believes that the mind is a real entity which is a mistake. They conceive of the mind as truly existent. This treatise, however, does not teach that the mind is existent, and from that point of view we would have to say that this is not a Mind-only text.

Rather, the text teaches that we all have the seed of enlightenment or sugatagarbha, the "union of wisdom and the expanse of reality" which is the principal teaching of the third turning of the wheel of dharma and of the mahayana school known as the Middle-way Shentong school.
        In the practice of mahamudra, we are first shown that appearances are mind. Then we are introduced to the true nature of mind which is empty. In this treatise, however, the same point is made through a path of reasoning. Either way, what it comes down to is emptiness.

        When the text says that all phenomena and the mind are empty, are they empty in the way that space is empty? No, because space is just a voidness, a nothingness, or what in Tibetan is called a "dead emptiness," meaning that it has no quality of luminous clarity, no quality of knowing. Such space-like emptiness is just a voidness that does not give rise to the qualities of an enlightened person.

We could meditate on space forever, but that will not result in achieving enlightenment. Whereas, meditating upon the emptiness of which we are speaking results in Buddhahood, the state of knowing everything. The nature of the emptiness of mind is not just some sort of blankness, but rather is of the nature of wisdom.

This wisdom is not a substance, but rather a luminosity; it is knowing. And from that point of view it is called "the essence of the one gone to bliss," or sugatagarbha, in that it is the seed or essence that contains the capacity for achieving omniscience. Furthermore, the fruition of omniscience is bliss. The Buddha is called "the sugata," or the "one gone to bliss," which is not voidness, but luminosity. So, as the third step in the practice of mahamudra, emptiness is pointed out as spontaneous presence.

        The Differentiation of the Middle from the Extremes holds that on the conventional level all phenomena are just mind. On the ultimate level, mind, or sugatagarbha, is of the nature of wisdom (Skt. jnana, Tib. yes he). It is not a substance and its nature is emptiness. One might think that for mind to exist, for it to be such wisdom, it would have to be some sort of actual thing. In fact, it is not. It is the union of wisdom and emptiness and, being this, is capable of knowing everything.

164. AUTHOR UNKNOWN, Madhyantavibhaga

    This work is usually ascribed to Asanga, or we are told it was given to Asanga by Maitreya while Asanga was studying with him in the Tusita heaven. It seems unlikely that it is by the same author as the other works said to be Asanga's.

Ronald Davidson writes: "I find it difficult to assume that the authors of the Mahayanasutralamkara and the Madhyantavibhaga were one and the same person. The MSA is a compilation of material, and it shows, in its final form, the use of multiple verse forms and literary devices (upama, etc.).

The MAV is a relatively straightforward versified sastra, obsessed with the doctrines surrounding abhutaparikalpa, the trisvabhava, and the path, with similes occurring in only three verses. Conversely, for the MSA, the cardinal system is that of the gotra, a term occurring once in an insignificant context in MAV 1.19a.

The longest chapter of the MAV is the final one, concerned with the anuttarayana, a term which does not occur in the MSA. Furthermore, the relative discussions of path structure are ordered quite differently. Examples could, of course, be extended ad infinitum, but this should be sufficient."412 We are on safer ground, then, if we assume that the work is by an unknown author who preceded Asanga by a few years at least

    This work has been edited a number of times (see Bibliography, #174.6). To the translations listed there add those contained among the references to translations of Vasubandhu's commentary in the Bibliography of Indian Philosophies under SWV and BDE in the Abbreviation List.

    "ET" references are to the edition and translation by Stefan Anacker433.

Summary by Stefan Anacker


    Introduction (E424; T211) The following should be calculated: the characteristic mark, its obstruction, its nature, its antidote, spiritual practice, its states, the acquisition of its result, and the superiority of the path.

    1.(E424; T211) Construction of what was not (abhutaparikalpa) exists. There is no duality in it. However, emptiness does exist there, and it (construction) is found there (in emptiness) also.

    2.(E424; T212) Nothing is empty or nonempty; therefore everything is accounted for because of existence, because of nonexistence, and again because of existence. This is the middle way (madhyama pratipad).

    3.(E425; T212) Consciousness puts itself forward as the appearance of objects, beings, selves, and manifestations. These do not exist.
    4.(E425; T213) The mental construction of what was not is established, since it does not exist as such. But it is not altogether absent either.
    5.(E425; T213) There are just constructed, dependent and perfected ways of being, distinguished as objects, constructed things, and the absence of both.
    6.(E426; T214) Apprehending this, nonapprehension arises; based on this non-apprehension, nonapprehension arises.

    7.(E426; T214) So the essential nature of apprehension is nonapprehension, and so what should be understood is the apprehension of nonapprehension.
    8.(E426; T214-215) The construction of what was not involves awareness and accompanying mental factors comprising the three realms. Consciousness perceives things, mental factors their specific qualities.

    9.(E426; T215) On the one hand there is the conditioning consciousness, on the other experiencing. In the latter are the accompanying factors of experiencing, discrimination and motivation.

    10-11.(E427; T215-216) Covering, establishing, leading, embracing, completing, triple determination, experiencing, drawing out, binding, turning toward, frustration. The world is afflicted in three, or two, or seven ways.

    12(E427; T217) These topics need to be understood: the defining characteristic of emptiness, the synonymous expressions for emptiness", its purpose, its distinctions and its proof.

    13.(E427-428; T217) The absence of two things, and the existence of this absence, is the defining characteristic of emptiness. It is not existent nor is it nonexistent, neither different nor the same--that is its mark.

    14.(E428; T218) "Suchness", "the reality-limit", "signless", "the highest", "the ground of all factors" these are the synonyms of "emptiness".
    15.(E428-429; T218) Nondifference, nonerroneous cessation, having to do with the noble realm these are the meanings of the synonyms for those of good dharma.
    16.(E428; T218-219) Emptiness can be defiled or clear, impure or pure, like elementary water, gold or space.
    17.(E429; T219) The experiencer, his experiencing, his body, the world around him, are actually empty, are the ways they are apprehended and their purpose.
    18.(E429 430; T220) Emptiness purpose is attaining two good ends, assisting living beings, not forsaking those in samsara, the nondestruction of what is good.
    19.(E430; T220) The Bodhisattva cognizes so as to clear the lineage and the Buddha's factors and to receive the marks of a great person.
    20.(E430; T220) The absence of persons and factors is one emptiness, and the existence of this absence is another emptiness.

    21.(E430; T221) If emptiness were not afflicted, everyone would be liberated; if it were clear all effort would be fruitless.
    22.(E431; T221) But it is neither afflicted nor unafflicted, neither clear nor unclear, since awareness is luminous and the afflictions of it are adventitious.


    1-3.(E432-433; T222-223) The pervading and the limited, the excessive and the equal, accepting and abandoning--these are called obstructions of the two. Their defining marks are ninefold, being the fetters that obstruct commitment, equanimity and the vision of reality by encouraging belief in a self, obstructing insights about the self and about objects, about frustration, about the path, the jewels, and the attainments of others, and by leading to one's being satisfied with little. Still other things obstruct goodness, etc. in ten ways.

    4-10.(E433-435; T224-227) These obstructions include lack of ability to rouse oneself from inactivity, nonuse of one's senses, carelessness, not doing good, not being ready, etc. (a long list). Obstructions arise for each of goodness, enlightenment, good attitude, insight, lack of confusion, nonobstruction, ability to develop, fearlessness, unselfishness and power. Ten corresponding kinds of causes of good results are listed.

In addition there are obstructions to the limbs of enlightenment, to the perfections and to the sages.
    11.(E435; T228) The obstructions to the limbs of enlightenment include lack of skill, sloth, two destructors of concentration, distractedness, weakness, fixed views and susceptibility to harm.

    12-13.(E435; T228) Obstructions to the perfections include obstructions to lordliness, to happy states, to nonforsaking of beings, to the elimination of faults and the growth of virtues, to liberation, to inexhaustibility, to remaining well, to ascertainment, to enjoyment and to maturation of dharma.
    14-16.(E436; T229) The stages are themselves the antidotes to their obstructions, which are listed.

    17.(E437; T231) Obstructions maybe divided into those that are defilements and those that obstruct what we can know.


    1-2.(E438; T231) The aspects of reality (tattva) to be discussed here include basic reality (mulatattva), the reality of characteristic marks, the reality that is nonerroneous, the reality that is result and cause, subtler and grosser realities, the accepted, the aspect of clearing, the aspect of difference, and the tenfold aspect of skill, antidotes to belief in a self.

    3.(E438; T232) The threefold essential nature is nonexistent, yet it always exists, but not really.
    4-5a.(E438-439; T232-233) The reality of characteristic marks includes the superimposition and denial of factors and persons, things grasped and their graspers, being and nonbeing.
    5b-6.(E439; T233) Objects are nonexistent, impermanent, arising and ceasing, are in basic reality with or without impurities.
    7a.(E439; T234) Emptiness as nonbeing, as the absence of this or that, and as nature.

    7b-8a.(E439 440; T234) Selflessness means being without a characteristic mark, having a different characteristic, or having itself as characteristic.
    8b.(E440; T235) The truth of frustration is said to arise from proclivities, from increase and from lack of separation.
    9a.(E440; T235) Nonarising of the double essential nature is considered as two kinds: impurity and peace.

    9b-10a.(E440; T236) The truth of the path involves comprehension, abandoning, attainment and immediate awareness.
    10b.(E441; T236) Nominal designation, progress and spiritual practice- but the highest pertains only to one.

    11.(E441; T237) This highest is thought of in three ways--as regards object, attainment and practice. It is of two sorts as changeless and errorfree.
    12.(E441; T237-238) What is commonly accepted is due to one, while what is right involves three. The twofold field of purity is only attained through one of them.
    13.(E441 442; T238) There are two ways of comprising--that of the sign and its constructions, and that of naming.

    14.(E442; T239) The aspects of positive activity are two as intent and as disturbed. One is correct devotion to purity in the awareness of defining marks.
    15-16.(E442; T239-240) There is self-view when there is the idea of single cause, a single enjoyer orhment of mindfulness comes about through susceptibility to depravity, through the causes of desire, through the actual scope of what is termed "I", and through lack of confusion in relation to the four truths.
    2.(E446; T246) When one fully comprehends the problems and their antidotes a fourfold energy arises for their removal.

    3.(E446; T247) Skill is steadiness to the satisfaction of all purposes, following the eight motivating factors for the abandonment of the five faults.
    4. (E447; T247) These five faults are sloth, forgetting instructions, slackness, excitedness, lack of motivation, and motivation.

    5-7.(E447-448; T247-249) The locus, what is located in it, its marks, and its results; nonloss of the object of meditation, recognition of slackness and excitedness, motivation for their removal, and maintenance of tranquillity: when these factors conducive to liberation have been planted through energetic application, nonwavering attention, and investigation, the adverse factors are diminished.

    8-9.(E448; T249-250) Two each of the factors conducive to penetration are faculties and powers. The limbs of enlightenment are the basis limb, the essential nature limb, the limb of deliverance, the limb of praising others, and the threefold limb of lack of defilements. It is called "threefold" because of its initial cause, support and essential nature.
    10.(E448; T250) The limbs of the path are eightfold, comprising distinguishing accurately, attaining, three kinds of cultivation, and antidotes to adverse factors. Understanding by others comes through moral practice and satisfaction with little.

    11-12.(E448-449; T251) The antidotes to defilements, afflictions and factors opposing ones power are favorable when reversed, supportive when unreversed, unsupportive of reversals when unreversed. There are differences between supporting objects, mental attention, and attainment.

    13-14.(E449; T252) The stages on the way involve descending, preparation, fruition, the stage where there is something left to do, and the one where there isn't, the distinctive situation, what is higher and what is highest, entry, confidence, certainty, prediction, working toward attaining power, having good effects, and completion of all undertakings.

    15-16.(E450; T253) There are three kinds of ground of all factors: impure, impure and pure, and pure. From this the stage of advancement of persons is known as fitting.
    17.(E450; T253) Results include maturation, the power that comes through it, delight, growing, becoming clear.
    18.(E451; T254) The order in which these results occur is described.


    1-2.(E452; T256-257) The supremacy of this method lies in its practice, its support and its full realization. Its practice involves six things--the highest, attending, after-dharma, the avoidance of extremes, distinct and indistinct practice. Its highest is twelve-fold.

    3-6.(E452-453; T257) The method involves generosity, persistence, development, inexhaustibility, continuity, lack of trouble, encompassing, undertaking, obtaining merit, outcome and fulfilment. The ten perfections correspond to these. They are giving, moral precepts, patience, energy, meditation, wisdom, skilful means, resolve, power and knowledge.

    7-10.(E453-454; T259-260) Attention comes about through three kinds of insight in the Bodhisattva--through nurturing sensory domains, through entry and through success in aims. It is connected with ten good acts of writing, reverencing, giving, hearing, saying, taking up, explaining, studying by oneself, reflecting and meditating. These ten acts involve an immeasurable heap of merit.

    11.(E455; T260) Practice after dharma is actions which may have to be taken immediately after emerging from meditation. Distraction may arise then.
    12.(E455; T261) Distractedness involves emergence, sensory experience, relishing, slackness and excitedness, deliberate intentions toward experience, a sense of ego in mental attention, and defective awareness.

    13-14.(E455-456; T261) Development of lack of reversals. In connection with a so-called object it may be thought "such and such is its name". Such a statement has meaning only because of its past familiarity, but is meaningless because of being a reversal.

    15.(E456; T261) There is irreversibility in regard to a thing when it is observed that the thing does not exist as it appears, since it appears with the subject-object duality.
    16-17a.(E456; T261-262) It is mental attention towards talk which is the only basis for the discrimination between object apprehended and the subject apprehender.
    17b-18.(E456-457; T262-263) An object exists and does not exist like maya, etc. Everything is merely names.

    19.(E457; T263) Being freed from the ground of all factors because no factor is found, a universal characteristic arises: this is a further lack of reversal.
    20.(E457; T2630 The knowledge that the nonclarity of this ground consists only in the nonabandonment of reversed mental attention, and that clarity is its abandonment, is non-reversal in regard to nonclarity and clarity respectively.

    21.(E457; T264) The ground is clear like the sky. There is total adventitiousness of duality and this is an additional lack of reversal.
    22.(E457-458; T264) There is no affliction or thorough clearing either for factors or persons, and because of this nonexistence there can be neither fear nor pride, and this is an additional lack of reversal.

    23-26.(E459; T266) The practice of avoidance of extremes is explained.

    27-28.(E461; T270) The similarities and differences among the ten stages is to be studied. Determination, the ground, what is to be brought about, bringing it about, sustenance, reflection, perseverance, penetration, extensiveness, going forth to meet others, remaining in a tranquil state, and pre-eminence.
    29-30.(E462; T271) Nondeficiency, non-turning-away, nondistractedness, fulfilment, arising, nurturing, skill, the state of no basis, the state of no obstructions, and not remaining tranquil in that state of no obstructions: that is full realization.

    31.(E463; T272) This work is called Madhyantavibhaga because it separates the Middle Path from extremes and explains them.