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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
36 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY Madhyamaka, both existence and nonexistence are extreme posi tions; the absolute truth is beyond any extreme, beyond any view of existence or nonexistence. While the absolute truth refutes existence, it also goes beyond nothingness, beyond nonexistence. The great master Saraha said clinging to existence is very foolish, and clinging to nonexistence is even more foolish. For this reason, the stage of complete negation is sometimes called the “nominal absolute truth,” which means that, while it may be absolute or ultimate truth, it is still not the complete absolute truth. Santiraksita, whose teachings are central to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, distinguished between this nominal absolute truth and the “actual absolute truth.” The actual absolute truth is not simply descriptive of genuine reality, but is reality itself, the basic state, which goes beyond all conceptualization, beyond existence and nonexistence. This basic state of reality is called “free dom from all elaborations.” At this stage, we experience the abso lute truth, free from concepts of existence or nonexistence. There is nothing to hold on to, not even a real or correct view. DiFFeRing views If you are unclear about how to understand these concepts, you’re not alone. There is disagreement among, and even within, schools of Madhyamaka thought as to the nature of the relationship between the relative and the absolute. The primary divide is between the Svatantrika, or Autonomous, school of Madhyamaka and the Pra sangika, or Consequence, school. The Svatantrika Madhyamaka school is further split into the Sautrantika–Svatantrika Madhya maka and the Yogacara–Svatantrika Madhyamaka, representing two different views that prominent Svatantrika masters have asserted on the nature of relative truth. One position, expressed by Bhavaviveka, founder of the Sautran tika–Svatantrika school, separates phenomena in the world from the