Dharmapala's Yogacara Critique of Bhavaviveka's Madhyamika Explanation of Emptiness the Tenth Chapter of Ta-Ch'eng Kuang Pai-Lun Shih Commenting on Aryadeva's Catuhsataka Chapter 16

Author: Keenan, John
In his Sataka Commentary, the Yogacara philosopher Dharmapala levels the earliest explicit critique of Madhyamika notions of emptiness, arguing that his Yogacara interpretation is preferable, because it avoids the nihilistic implications of the Madhyamika, and affirms the other-dependent validity of language and reason. He specifically takes aim at the Madhyamika philosopher Bhavaviveka, refuting his previous criticisms of the Yogacara thinkers.


“. . . a valuable resource for those interested in the history of the controversy between Madhyamika and Yogacara, the two main philosophical schools of Mahayana Buddhism. A sixty-four page introduction sets the context for Keenan’s sixty-page reconstruction of the dispute. . . followed by nine plates reproducing the Taisho Chinese. . . . None of the primary materials is still available in Sanskrit, but Keenan undertakes an admirable re-creation of Dharmapala’s text from the Chinese translation of Hsuan-tsang. The controversy is important as the first extant argument between Yogacara and Madhyamika. Keenan shows that the disagreement turns on the role of language in generating meaning and truth. . . . Keenan’s extensive notes probably do as much as can be done to bring them alive and show their relevance today.” – Religious Studies Review