Madhyamaka and the Mahayana Middle Way
Just as the Noble Eightfold Path begins with right view, our graduate program will start with this subject. In all Tibetan Buddhist schools, the right view is that of the Mahayana Middle Way, or Madhyamaka. This view is expounded most clearly by Chandrakirti in his Madhyamakavatara, or the Introduction to the Middle Way, which is a commentary on Nagarjuna’s “Root Verses on the Middle Way.” This text explains the right view as the complete freedom from the four extreme views: existence, non-existence, both, or neither.
This program will focus on this landmark text, while incorporating the basics of three of the other five traditional topics: logic, abhidharma, and the path. This program will consist of a series of six courses, each with eight class meetings, held over a period of 3 years, starting in the Winter/Spring of 2004, with one course each Winter/Spring and Fall, through the Fall of 2006. This program would be open to all, however prior study and practice would be strongly recommended. Students will be allowed to enter into the program at any stage, with the pre-requisite that they complete the primary reading for all of the prior courses.
Since this text is so central to the Tibetan tradition, the presentation of the study of this text has recently become popular in the West:
- Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche taught this text extensively in France over the course of four years, and is now teaching this again over the next four years in San Francisco, based upon commentaries from the Sakya tradition (transcripts of this extensive commentary have recently been published by the Khyentse Foundation).
- Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche has also taught this text in detail at the Nitartha Institute over a series of four years based upon a commentary from the Kagyu tradition (transcripts of these have been published by the Nitartha Institute).
- In addition, a translation of a commentary to this text by the great Nyingma scholar Mipham Jamgon Namgyal has recently been published, making the study of this text more accessible to the general public (The Introduction to the Middle Way, translated by the Padmakara Translation Committee, published by Shambhala Publications).
Both Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche have agreed to come to New York and teach a program once per year or as their schedules permit in conjunction with this course. In addition, other major teachers will be requested to teach similar programs (the goal is to have representatives from all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism). These programs will be open to all, but will clearly be directed towards those participating in this course and where possible we will arrange a private meeting for students in the course to discuss the finer points of this subject matter.
The main sources for the courses will include be the transcripts of the commentaries by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and the recently published book by Mipham. In addition, a commentary by the Ninth Karmapa is currently being translated under the direction of Ponlop Rinpoche and will hopefully be available by the second or third course in this series. Secondary source material will include readings from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and Glimpses of Shunyata), Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche (A Course on View: The Presentation of the Two Truths in the Four Buddhist Schools), and other major teachers.