Madhyamaka Philosophy of No-Mind: Taktsang Lotsāwa’s On Prāsaṅgika, Pramāṇa, Buddhahood and a Defense of No-Mind Thesis

Journal of Indian Philosophy 47 (3):453-487 (2019)
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It is well known in contemporary Madhyamaka studies that the seventh century Indian philosopher Candrakīrti rejects the foundationalist Abhidharma epistemology. The question that is still open to debate is: Does Candrakīrti offer any alternative Madhyamaka epistemology? One possible way of addressing this question is to find out what Candrakīrti says about the nature of buddha’s epistemic processes. We know that Candrakīrti has made some puzzling remarks on that score. On the one hand, he claims buddha is the pramāṇabhūta-puruṣa (person of epistemic and moral authority), sarvākārajñatājñānaṃ (omniscient, wise), pratyakṣalakṣaṇam (exclusively perceptual in characteristic) [Candrakīrti (MABh VI.214)], and claims that there are clearly four pramāṇas—epistemic warrants—direct perception (pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna), testimony (āgama) and analogy (upamāna) [Candrakīrti (Pp I.3), cf. MacDonald 2015, pp. 287–288]. On the other hand, somewhat paradoxically, Candrakīrti claims that buddhahood is an embodiment of a complete cessation of “mind and mental processes” [Candrakīrti (MABh XI.1, 155a; MAB XI.17d)] Now how are we to make sense of these two seemingly contradictory statements? Do these statements reflect any deeper conflicts within Candrakīrti’s system or is there a coherent way to interpret these statements? The Tibetan Prāsaṅgika interpreters of Candrakīrti’s Madhyamaka largely agree that there is no internal contradiction in Candrakīrti’s system, and agree there is a way to make coherent sense of these statements. Nevertheless, the Tibetans exegetes bring to the table two radically conflicting proposals to approach Candrakīrti’s Mādhyamaka; both claiming to successfully address the apparent tension arising from Candrakīrti’s statements. One proposal is made by Tsongkhapa Losang Dakpa (Tsong kha pa bLo bzang grags pa, 1357–1419), who maintains the tension can be plausibly resolved by demonstrating that Candrakīrti’s unique non-foundationalist epistemological program renders him an epistemological coherentist. In contrast Taktsang Lotsawa Sherap Rinchen (sTag tshang Lo tsā ba Shes rab rin chen, 1405–1477) argues that according to Candrakīrti buddha is a global agnostic, on the ground of the nonexistence of mind and mental processes for those who have attained fully awakening. Taktsang instead proposes the no-mind thesis as a more plausible way to resolve the tension in Candrakīrti’s philosophy, categorically refusing to attribute to buddha any cognitive processes and epistemic warrants. This paper is an analysis of Taktsang’s no-mind thesis—the claim that buddhas utterly lack any knowledge of the world because they do not have epistemic processes and warrants to perceive the world—in what follows a rational reconstruction of his arguments is developed in order to evaluate his thesis. We shall then assess the implications of accepting Taktsang’s no-mind thesis.

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