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Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy (Tsongkhapa's Quest for the Middle Way)

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Item Code: HAS467
Author: Thupten Jinpa
Publisher: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group
Language: English
Edition: 2024
ISBN: 9781032634296
Pages: 248
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5x5.5 inch
Weight 290 gm
Book Description
About the Book

Thupten Jinpa explores the historical and intellectual context of Tsongkhapa's philosophy and addresses the critical issues related to questions of development and originality in Tsongkhapa's thought. The work also deals extensively with one of Tsongkhapa's primary concerns, namely his attempts to demonstrate that the Middle Way philosophy's de-constructive analysis does not negate the reality of the everyday world. The central focus of the study is the question of the existence and the nature of self. This is explored in terms of both Tsongkhapa's de-construction of the self and his re-constructive theories of person. Finally, the work explores the concept of reality that emerges in Tsongkhapa's philosophy, and deals with his understanding of the relationship between critical reasoning, no-self, and religious experience. The interpretations of Tsongkhapa's thought are grounded in the original works, thus enabling Tsongkhapa to speak, as far as possible, in his own voice, while articulating his philosophical thought in language familiar to contemporary western philosophy.

About the Author

Thupten Jinpa is a Tibetan Geshe and has been the principal English translator to the Dalai Lama for more than fifteen years. He holds a BA and PhD from Cambridge University, and is currently the president of the Institute of Tibetan Classics, Montreal. He lives in Canada with his wife and two daughters.


The emergence of Tsongkhapa marked an important turning point in the history of philosophy in Tibet. Following his advent in late fourteen century CE, philosophical discourse in the vast regions of Tibetan cultural sphere were changed forever. Like his predecessors in India and Tibet, however, Tsongkhapa's philosophical vision and endeavour remained firmly anchored to the basic spiritual goal of seeking freedom from unenlighented existence, a soteriological dimension that has always been a vital impetus behind the Indo- Tibetan philosophical traditions. One area where Tsongkhapa's contributions proved perhaps greatest is the exploration and elucidation of Nāgārjuna's philosophy of emptiness. Tsongkhapa did not remain content with the mere platitude that Nagarjuna's teachings on emptiness represented the highest philosophical insight into the ultimate nature of reality. As a true philosopher, Tsongkhapa strove hard to develop a deep understanding of what such an insight might entail and what it must feel like to embody this vision of emptiness in one's life. The result is, of course, the rich gourmet of philosophical treatises from which we can still draw much benefit and intellectual nourishment even in today's highly scientific and technological era.


It is said that when Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), Tibet's foremost religious reformer and one of its greatest philosophers, finally arrived at the perfect 'middle view,' he experienced a powerful surge of admiration and devotion for the Buddha. This combination of deep reverence and insight, together with a profound sense of joy, that followed this breakthrough in Tsongkhapa's philosophical thinking inspired him to compose one of the most eloquent praises to the Buddha ever written in Tibetan. In perfectly metered poetry, Tsongkhapa celebrates the Buddha's teachings on the principle of dependent origination and expresses his deep appreciation to the Buddha for having taught this profound truth. At the heart of Tsongkhapa's inner exultation is also a sense of wonder and amazement at the convergence between what appear to be two contradictory natures of things - their lack of intrinsic existence on the one hand, and their coming into being by means of dependent origination on the other. This study seeks to articulate, as far as is possible in contemporary language, Tsongkhapa's insight into this profound Middle Way.

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