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date: 03 December 2022

Candrakīrti’s Middle Way Philosophylocked

Candrakīrti’s Middle Way Philosophylocked

  • Kevin VoseKevin VoseDepartment of Religious Studies, College of William & Mary


The Indian Buddhist philosopher Candrakīrti (c. 570–640) created a systematic and far-reaching interpretation of the central Madhyamaka (“Middle Way”) doctrine of emptiness (śūnyatā) that many in Tibet regard as the highest philosophical view and as essential to the attainment of awakening. His unique reading of the “two truths,” all in the self-portrayal of a faithful interpreter of Nāgārjuna, offered an austere interpretation of emptiness that redefined the awakened state and took effort to align with the Mahāyāna Buddhist path. His bivalent portrayal of “the world” portended a conservative approach to a Buddhist’s relationship to authoritative scripture and its trustworthy interpreter, Nāgārjuna, as well as reconceiving the role of philosophical argument within ordinary practices. As is the case with many Indian Buddhists, little is known about his life; he is placed historically on the basis of his references to somewhat better-known figures. His thoroughgoing critique of the emergent “valid cognition” (pramāṇa) tradition and rejection of the role of inference (anumāna), favoring instead argument by logical consequence (prasaṅga), for demonstrating emptiness put his views out of step with his time; his influence would be muted for several centuries. His eventual rise to the attention of Indian Buddhists set the stage for the transmission of his texts to Tibet, where his philosophy touched off widespread debates on the relationships between the ultimate truth of emptiness, valid ways of knowing it, the bodhisattva’s path in which it is embedded, and buddhahood. Candrakīrti’s views would eventually win the day, placing his so-called Prāsaṅgika school at the pinnacle of most Tibetan Buddhist doxographies.


  • Buddhism

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