Radical Nondualism in the Works of 'Ju Mi pham rNam rgyal rGya mtsho (1846-1912): The Interplay of Knowledge and Liberation in a Tibetan Philosophical Discourse on yuganaddha


Gregory Forgues

  • Betreuung: Klaus-Dieter Mathes

Mi pham (1846-1912) was one of the greatest scholars of the rNying ma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He spent his life in Kham where he took part in the ris med movement of the late nineteenth century. He was one of Tibet greatest polymaths, his works covering a wide range of subjects including art, language and science. However, Mi pham’s influence on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy has somewhat eclipsed his other contributions to Tibetan culture. As noted by Karma Phuntsho (Mi pham’s Dialectics and the Debate of Emptiness, New York 2005: Routledge Curzon, p. 13), two thirds of his works consist in subjects connected with philosophical topics such as epistemology, ontology and metaphysics. His interest in writing numerous commentaries on the most important treatises of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism was, according to his biography, a consequence of a request made by his master, ’Jam dbyangs mKhyen brtse dbang po (1820-1892). Among these, Mi pham wrote in 1878 a commentary on the Bodhicaryāvatāra (BCA), the Sher le’u ’grel pa nor bu ke ta ka (NK). This exposition of the BCA was an occasion for Mi pham to expound his interpretation of Madhyamaka, based upon the rNying ma tradition and doctrinal positions. Mi pham had written two years earlier in 1876 his commentary on Śantarakṣita’s Madhyamakālaṃkāra, an extensive and systematic presentation of Madhyamaka expounded in accordance with Śantarakṣita’s synthesis of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra. The NK had however deeper consequences on Tibetan Buddhist hermeneutics. At the very beginning of his commentary on the BCA, the Nor bu Ke ta ka (NK 4,1-9,5), Mi pham, explaining the verse IX,2 of the BCA, defines the two realities and explains their relation, stressing their eminently propaedeutic function. Although Mi pham’s tone is prima facie not particularly polemical, he clearly seizes this occasion to present his own interpretation of the satyadvaya. The aim of the present investigation is therefore to give an account of Mi pham’s interpretation of the satyadvaya as expounded in the NK from the perspective of their soteriological function in Mi pham’s Madhyamaka.