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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 75 |summer 2007 over the past four decades, no scholar has done more than Jeffrey Hopkins to bring to life for Western audiences the philosophical literature of the Geluk tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Through his studies and translations of masterworks by Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), Jamyang Shepa (1648–1721), and others, he has helped demonstrate both the profundity and the precision of the Gelukpa tradi- tion’s comprehensive vision of reality and Buddhist practice. Although Hopkins’s interests have never been solely confined to the Geluk, there is no small irony in the fact that his two most recent translations are of major texts from the Jonang school, whose philosophical views and political alliances were anathema to those of the Gelukpas. The Jonang’s institutional iden- tity was also suppressed in central Tibet when the Fifth Dalai Lama established Geluk control over the area in the mid- seventeenth century. Until its marginalization, the Jonang was an important part of Buddhism in central Tibet for more than four centu- ries. Its most significant contributions to religious life were its preservation and transmission of a vital lineage of Kala- chakra tantra practice, the Dro, and its promulgation of an original and contro- versial interpretation of the doctrine of emptiness: the “other-emptiness” (shen- tong) view. Other-emptiness was declared to be the heart of a “Great Madhyamaka” philosophical system rooted in India and superior to the “self-emptiness” (rang- tong) view of the Prasangika school regarded by Gelukpas (and others) as the acme of Buddhist thought. Although it originated with the Jonangpas, the other- emptiness view found adherents over the years within the other principal lineages of Tibet: the Nyingma, the Kagyu, and to a lesser extent, the Sakya. It is taught by certain masters of those traditions to this day. As recently as fifteen years ago, the Jonang was believed to survive only in hard-to-find texts. Since then, however, important Jonang writings have been collected and published, thriving Jonang monasteries have been discovered in the northeastern Tibetan region of Amdo, and Jonangpa scholars have begun to work with their Western counterparts, including Hopkins. His translations of Dolpopa Sherap Gyaltsen’s (1292–1361) compendious Mountain Doctrine, which is replete with scriptural citations, and Taranatha’s (1575–1634) concise text, The Essence of Other-Emptiness, make available for the first time in English two seminal Jonang treatises on the other- emptiness view. Added to earlier works by Cyrus Stearns, Matthew Kapstein, and others, these translations now give us a critical mass for the serious study of a Tibetan tradition whose influence has always been far greater than its size. The conflict between Rangtongpas and Shentongpas (as I will denote them) is perhaps the most significant philo- sophical debate in Tibetan history. The ground on which it was contested includes arguments about the Buddha’s intent in teaching emptiness in multiple ways, the significance of discourse about buddhana- ture (or the “matrix-of-one-gone-thus,” as Hopkins translates it)1 and dharmakaya, the parameters of the two truths, and the sort of negation that emptiness is. To its participants, though, the debate is not mere scholastic speculation about how many nothings can fit on the non-head of a non-pin. Rather, it impinges directly on the great question of spiritual freedom: for Mahayana Buddhists, enlightenment is contingent on a direct realization of emp- tiness, and emptiness cannot be directly realized if one’s philosophical understand- ing of it is incorrect. Thus, the stakes in the debate could not be higher. Rangtongpas and Shentongpas agree that emptiness is the most profound and liberating of the Buddha’s teachings. They also agree that the Buddha turned the wheel of dharma three times in his career. In the first turning, at Sarnath, he taught the basic Buddhist sutras. These establish that the persons, places, and things that appear to us are not real. What is real is the irreducible components that they’re composed of, known as dharmas (not to be confused with “the dharma,” which generally refers to the teachings or to the truth).2 In the second turning, at Rajagriha, the Buddha taught the Mahayana perfec- tion of wisdom (prajnaparamita) sutras. These establish that all dharmas – whether roger JackSon iS tHe autHor of TanTric Treasures (oxford univerSity preSS) and a profeSSor of religion and SoutH aSian StudieS at carleton college in nortHfield, minneSota. The eSSenCe oF oTheR-eMPTineSS By Taranatha Translated and annotated by Jeffrey hopkins Snow Lion Publications, 2007 148 pages; $16.95 (paperback) MounTain doCTRine: Tibet’s Fundamental Treatise on other-emptiness and the Buddha Matrix By dolpopa Sherap Gyaltsen Translated and introduced by Jeffrey hopkins Snow Lion Publications, 2006 853 pages; $59.95 (hardcover) Reviewed by Roger Jackson the Great debate on eMptiNess 1 This approximates the meaning of the most common Sanskrit term for buddhanature: tathagata-garbha. Tathagata is a synonym for the Buddha, while garbha means “womb,” “embryo,” or, by extension, “matrix,” in the sense of “source,” related to the Latin for “mother.” 2 The first turning led to the development of the “real- ist” philosophical schools of the so-called Hinayana.