International Conference: Madhyamaka in South Asia and Beyond

From August 18–22, 2024, Dr. Philippe Turenne and Dr. Daniel McNamara will represent the Rangjung Yeshe Institute at the International Conference on Madhyamaka in South Asia and Beyond, taking place in Vienna, Austria. This conference will bring together scholars from around the world to present and discuss their research on various aspects of the Madhyamaka tradition, including philological, historical, and philosophical perspectives.

Dr. Turenne will share his views on reassessing the third option in the Madhyamaka Tetralemma: A comprehensive survey and methodological analysis of contemporary interpretations on August 18, 2024.

Dr. Turenne completed his PhD at McGill University in Buddhist studies under the supervision of Professors Thupten Jinpa and Victor Hori. Dr. Turenne wrote his PhD dissertation on the topic of textual interpretation in Tibetan Buddhism, with a particular focus on the works of 15th and 16th-century Sakya author Shakya Chokden.

Dr. Turenne has participated in several translations through Dharma Samudra publications and has worked as an editor and translator for works published through the 84000 project. He is currently completing a series of translations to be included in the Institute of Tibetan Classics series.

Dr. McNamara will share his views on “The Two Truths are Not Enough: Ratnākaraśānti’s Critiques of [Pseudo-] Mādhyamikas in the Madhyamakālaṃkāravṛtti-Madhyamāpratipad-siddhi” August 22, 2024.

Abstract for Madhyamaka conference

One of the most pervasive themes in Mahāyāna philosophy is the idea that Madhyamaka is, or could be misconstrued to be, some kind of nihilism. Given this concern, there are surprisingly few texts presently available to us that are dedicated specifically to this topic. This paper is focused on one such text, composed by the Vikramaśīla scholar-siddha Ratnākaraśānti (c. 970-1045): Proving the Middle Path: A Commentary that Ornaments Madhyamaka (Madhyamakālaṃkāravṛtti Madhyamāpratipad-siddhi, hereafter MAV). This text casts Mādhyamikas as the worst kind of nihilists, declare that the three natures are necessary for any authentic Mahāyāna view—including that of Nāgārjuna himself. This paper will explicate Ratnākaraśānti’s critiques of his Mādhyamika colleagues with special attention to why and how he asserts that Nāgārjuna accepted the three natures.

This paper follows the progression of the MAV. After a brief introduction, it will summarize the text, highlighting its broad division into critiques of others’ views and proofs of Ratnākaraśānti’s own. It then attends to refutations of three “pseudo-Mādhyamika” positions: (a) those who say that everything is false, (b) those who say everything is non-existent, and those who hold that “all phenomena are illusion-like.” It concludes with some reflections about what I take to be the text’s main point: the two truths are not enough—at least, not on their own. Ratnākaraśānti does not reject the two truths outright but insists that they are only coherent if one accepts the three natures.


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