The Meaning of the Title of the Book: “Entering the Middle Way”

The Meaning of the Title of the Book:

“Entering the Middle Way”

 

,’DIR ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA’I DON GNYIS, PHYIN CI MA LOG PAR GTAN LA ‘BEBS PA’I BSTAN BCOS CHEN PO DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA RANG GI ‘GREL PA DANG MTHUN PAR ‘CHAD PA LA BZHI, MTSAN GYI DON, ‘GYUR GYI PHYAG ,GZHUNG GI DON, MJUG GI DON NO,,

 

The great classical commentary entitled Entering the Middle Way sets forth, in an unmistaken way, the meaning of both the profound side of the teachings, and their widespread side.  Here I undertake to explain this work, following the intent of its autocommentary.  My explanation covers four broad sections: the meaning of the title of the work; the translator’s obeisance; the meaning of the body of the text; and finally the meaning of its conclusion.

 

 

[*,,RGYA GAR SKAD DU, MA DHY’A MA KA AA BA T’A RA N’A MA, BOD SKAD DU, DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA ZHES BYA BA,]

 

[From Entering the Middle Way:

 

In the language of India, this book is called Madhyamaka Avatara Nama.  In the language of Tibet, it is called Uma la jukpa shejawa.  [In the English language, these translate as “The Book known as Entering the Middle Way”]

 

 

 

 

DANG PO NI, RGYA GAR NA SKAD RIGS BZHI YOD PA’I LEGS PAR SBYAR BA’I SKAD DU NA, BSTAN BCOS ‘DI’I MTSAN MA DHY’A MA KA AA BA T’A RA N’A MA’O, ,DE BOD KYI SKAD DU BSGYUR NA, DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA ZHES BYA BA’O,,

 

Here is the first.  In India, there were four major language groups;[1] of these, the title of this classic is given in Sanskrit: Madhyamaka Avatara Nama. [2]  Translated into Tibetan, this would be Uma La Jukpa, [or in English, Entering the Middle Way].

 

 

‘DIR GANG LA ‘JUG PA’I DBU MA NI, DBU MA’I BSTAN BCOS LA ‘JUG PAR BYA BA’I PHYIR, ZHES GSUNGS PAS DBU MA’I BSTAN BCOS YIN LA, DE YANG ‘DI’I ‘GREL PAR RTZA SHE KHUNGS SU MDZAD PA NA DBU MA LAS, ZHES MANG DU GSUNGS PA LTAR RTZA SHE LA BYA’I, DBU MA’I GZHUNG GZHAN DANG, DBU MA’I DON GZHAN LA MI BYA’O,,

 

Now just what is the “middle way” that the commentary is “entering” into?  It is the Classical Commentary on the Middle Way;[3] after all, he says “because it enters into the Classical Commentary on the Middle Way.[4]  And in his commentary as well Master Chandrakirti often says “from The Middle Way” when he is using The Foundational Verses entitled “Wisdom” as a source.[5]  As such, “middle way” in this case refers to The Foundational Verses entitled “Wisdom,” and not to some other major work on the middle way, nor to some other connotation of “middle way.”

 

 

MA DHY’A MA KA’I SKAD KYI BYINGS LA BRTZAMS NAS, DBU MA’I BSTAN BCOS SAM DBU MA’I GRUB MTHA’ LA DBU MAR BYAS PAR SHES RAB SGRON MAR YANG BSHAD PAS, DBU MA ZHES PA TZAM LAS MA BYUNG YANG, ‘DIR DBU MA’I BSTAN BCOS LA GO BAR BYA’O,

 

The Lamp on Wisdom, which of course is working from the original Sanskrit term madhyamaka, also refers both to the Classical Commentary on the Middle Way and to the philosophical system of the Middle Way as “middle way.”[6]  Thus we can say that here in the title of Master Chandrakirti’s work we are meant to understand that he is referring to the Classical Commentary on the Middle Way even when he directly mentions no more than “the middle way.”

 

 

,’O NA [@3a] RTZA BA SHES RAB LA BSTAN BCOS ‘DIS ‘JUG TSUL DE JI ‘DRA ZHIG CE NA, ‘DI LA KHA CIG BSTAN BCOS DER KUN RDZOB DANG DON DAM PA’I RANG BZHIN RGYAS PAR MA BRJOD LA, ‘DIR DE GNYIS RGYAS PAR BSTAN PAS DE LA ‘JUG GO ,ZHES ZER RO,,

 

“Well then,” you may ask.  “Just how is it that Master Chandrakirti’s classical commentary ‘enters’ the Foundational Verses called “Wisdom”?  Some have made the claim that “In that other classical commentary[7] the deceptive and ultimate natures of things are not described in detail; whereas here they are.”[8]

 

 

DE KHO NA NYID GTAN LA ‘BEBS PA’I RIGS PA’I RNAM GRANGS NI, ‘JUG PA LAS RTZA BA SHES RAB SHIN TU RGYAS PAS, BSHAD PA DE LEGS PAR MA MTHONG NGO,,

 

The fact though is that the Foundational Verses called “Wisdom” uses a much wider variety of reasoning to set forth suchness than does Entering the Middle Way.  As such, this last explanation doesn’t seem so fine to me.

 

 

RANG GI LUGS NI RTZA BA SHES RAB LA ‘JUG PA’I TSUL GNYIS YOD DE, ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA’I SGO NAS SO, ,DE’I DANG PO NI RANG ‘GREL LAS, ,LUGS ‘DI NI THUN MONG MA YIN PA’O, ,ZHES MKHAS PA RNAMS KYIS NGES PAR BYA’O, ,ZHES PA DANG,

 

Our own position is that there are two ways in which Master Chandrakirti’s text enters into the Foundational Verses called “Wisdom.”  One is through the profound side of the teachings, and the other is through the widespread side of the teachings.  As for the first, the Autocommentary says that “Sages should understand one thing: that this is a truly unique system.”[9]

 

 

DE NYID MA RTOGS PAS CHOS ZAB MO ‘DI SPANGS PAS, DE’I PHYIR BSTAN BCOS KYIS DE KHO NA NYID PHYIN CI MA LOG PAR BSTAN PAR BYA BA’I PHYIR, DBU MA’I BSTAN BCOS LA ‘JUG PA ‘DI SBYAR BA YIN NO,

 

It states as well, “They fail to understand suchness, and so they have rejected this profound teaching; as such, I have composed this work, which enters into the classical commentary on the middle way, so that this classical commentary might present suchness in an unerring way.”[10]

 

 

ZHES RANG GIS DBU MA’I DON GTAN LA PHAB PA DE, DBU MA PA GZHAN DANG THUN MONG MA YIN PAR BSTAN PA DANG, BSTAN BCOS KYI DON RNAM PAR RIG PA TZAM DANG MTHUN PAR BSHAD DU MI RUNG BA LA NGES PA BSTAN PAR BYA BA’I PHYIR DU DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA BRTZAMS PAR GSUNGS TE,

 

 

What Master Chandrakirt is saying here then is that “I have composed Entering the Middle Way to demonstrate, first of all, why the way that I set forth the meaning of emptiness is truly unique in comparison to the way it is set forth by other proponents of the Middle Way School.  Secondly, I wish to demonstrate how one should come to an understanding that it is mistaken to explain emptiness in the same way that those who belong to the Consciousness-Only School do.”

 

 

TSIG GSAL LAS BRTEN NAS BTAGS PA’I TSUL DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA LAS SHES PAR BYA BAR GSUNGS SHING, RNAM RIG PA’I LUGS DGAG PA RTZA SHE DANG, TSIG GSAL DU MI RGYAS PA [@3b] ‘DIR RGYAS PA’I PHYIR RO,,

 

After all, A Clarification of the Verses advises us to consult Entering the Middle Way for an explanation of the way in which things are projected based on a relationship of dependence;[11] and whereas the refutation of the Consciousness School is presented in a detailed way neither in the Foundational Verses called “Wisdom” nor in A Clarification of the Verses, the details of this refutation are to be found here in Entering the Middle Way.

 

DE’I PHYIR GZHUNG ‘DI LA BRTEN NAS DGOS PA DE GNYIS KYI SGO NAS RTZA SHE’I DON LEGS PAR NGES PA NI, GZHUNG ‘DIS DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA’I TSUL GCIG GO ,

 

Thus we can say that one way in which this work “enters” the “middle way” is that a person can use it to gain a good understanding of the meaning of the Foundational Verses called “Wisdom” through these first two goals of the text.[12]

 

 

RGYA CHE BA’I SGO NAS DBU MA LA ‘JUG TSUL NI, ‘PHAGS PA’I LUGS ‘DIR THEG PA GNYIS LA GNAS PA LA, SHIN TU ZAB PA’I DE KHO NA NYID RTOGS PA’I SHES RAB YOD MED KYIS MI ‘BYED CING, RTZA SHE LAS ZAB MO’I PHYOGS MA GTOGS PA RGYA CHE BA’I THEG CHEN GYI KHYAD CHOS MA BSTAN KYANG, GZHUNG DE NI THEG PA CHE CHUNG GNYIS KYI NANG NAS, THEG CHEN PA’I DBANG DU MDZAD PA YIN TE,

 

Here next is how Master Chandrakirti’s text enters the middle way through the widespread side of the teachings.  Here in the system of the Realized One, the distinction of which one of the two ways[13] a person belongs to is not drawn on the basis of whether or not they possess that wisdom which realizes the most profound form of suchness.  Furthermore—although it is true that Wisdom focuses on the profound side of the Greater-Way teachings, and not on the details of the widespread side of these teachings—nonetheless, in examining whether it is a scripture of the greater or lesser ways, we must say that it presents the Greater Way.

 

 

RIGS PA’I RNAM GRANGS MTHA’ YAS PAS CHOS KYI BDAG MED RGYAS PAR BSTAN PA NI, THEG CHEN PA’I GDUL BYA KHO NA’I DBANG DU MDZAD PA’I PHYIR DANG, RTZA SHER YANG DE BZHIN DU BSTAN PA’I PHYIR RO,,

 

This is because presenting the lack of a self-nature to things in a detailed way, by using infinite forms of reasoning, is something that is done only with regard to disciples who themselves belong the Greater Way; and this happens to be exactly how the presentation is done in Wisdom.

 

 

‘DI YANG RANG ‘GREL LAS, CHOS KYI BDAG MED PA GSAL BAR BYA BA’I PHYIR THEG PA CHEN PO BSTAN PA YANG RIGS PA NYID DE, RGYAS PAR BSTAN PA BRJOD PAR ‘DOD PA’I PHYIR RO, ,NYAN THOS KYI THEG PA LAS NI CHOS KYI BDAG MED PA MDOR MTSON PA TZAM ZHIG TU ZAD DO, ,ZHES SHIN TU GSAL BAR GSUNGS TE ‘OG TU ‘CHAD DO,,

 

This point is also made very clearly in the Autocommentary:

 

If one wishes to clarify the idea that there is no self-nature to things, then it is uniquely appropriate to present the Greater Way, since one will want to express the presentation in a very detailed way.  In the teachings of the Way of the Listeners, it is sufficient to cover the lack of a self-nature to things in but an abbreviated way.[14]

 

We will discuss this subject further as we continue through the current text.

 

 

DE LTAR NA GZHUNG DER BSTAN PA’I LAM LA THEG PA CHEN PO’I RGYA CHE BA’I LAM GZHAN ‘PHAGS PA’I MAN NGAG GIS KHA BKANG NA SHIN TU LEGS PAS, DE SKONG BA LA SO SKYE’I SA’I CHOS GSUM DANG, ‘PHAGS PA SLOB PA’I SA BCU DANG, [@4a] ‘BRAS BU’I SA DANG, SA LNGA PA DANG DRUG PA’I GO RIM GYIS BSAM GTAN GYI NGO BO ZHI GNAS LA BRTEN NAS, BDAG MED PA GNYIS KYI DE KHO NA NYID LA SO SOR RTOG PA’I SHES RAB KYIS DPYOD PA’I LHAG MTHONG SGOM PA RNAMS GSUNGS SO,,

 

As such, it is perfect if one supplements the path presented in that scripture[15] with other advices from the Realized One on the widespread path in the teachings of the Greater Way.  We thus find in the current work[16] descriptions of the three qualities of the levels of common beings;[17] the ten levels of realized beings who are still learning;[18] the level of the goal;[19] and the way in which—at the fifth and sixth bodhisattva levels, respectively—one masters quietude, which is the very essence of deep meditation, and then uses this as a platform from which to meditate upon high insight, wherein one explores suchness in the form of the two different types of the lack of a self-nature,[20] utilizing the wisdom of individual analysis.[21]

 

 

DE’I PHYIR RTZA SHE’I DON YID LA BYED PA’I TSE, ‘JUG PA LAS GSUNGS PA ‘DI RNAMS DRAN NAS ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA GNYIS KA TSOGS PA’I LAM GYI RIM PA YID LA BYED PA MA BYUNG NA, GANG ZAG DE LA DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA BRTZAMS PA’I DGOS PA GNYIS STOR BA YIN NO,,

 

Suppose then that a person is contemplating the meaning of Arya Nagarjuna’s Wisdom, but fails to bring to mind the steps of the path which combines both the profound and the widespread sides of the teaching, by reflecting upon the points just mentioned as they are presented in Master Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way.  Such a person would then be obviating the entire purpose for which the latter text was composed.

 

 

DE’I PHYIR GZHUNG ‘DI LA BRTEN NAS RTZA SHE’I LAM LA RGYA CHE BA’I SGO NAS ‘JUG PA NI, DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA’I TSUL GNYIS PA’O,,

 

Thus we can say that the second way in which Master Chandrakirti’s work enters the middle way is the way in which we can use this text to engage in the path presented in Arya Nagarjuna’s Wisdom through the widespread side of the teachings.



[1] Four major languages of ancient India: Je Tsongkapa himself lists these four in his “Commentary of the Commentary of the Names”: A Revelation of the Meaning of the Words in “The Lamp of Illumination,” an Extensive Commentary upon the King of All Secret Teachings, the Glorious Secret Collection (Guhyasamaja) (bibliography entry %B2, ACIP S05282, f. 1b):

“In India there were four great language groups: Prakirta, the natural or native language of each different locality; Avabhransha, or corrupted dialects; Pishacha, or the language of the spirits [called meat-eaters, or pishacha]; and Sanskrit, the well-formed language—the Tongue of the Gods.”  Note that the Tibetan translation for the word sanskirta is typically literal: sam for well and kirta (the correct pronunciation of the vocalic r) for formed.  The correct spelling of the third language listed is apabhransha, or literally “languages that have wandered away,” and this line has been the apparent victim of a miscarving {@Ven J check}.  Please note that throughout this translation we will be presenting the prenasal sound in its correct pronunciation, dependent upon the quality of the following consonant, rather than confusing the pronunciation with the transcription (for example m with a dot under it), as is unfortunately often the case among many modern Sanskritists.

[2] Madhyamaka Avatara: The current rules of euphonic combination (sandhi) would require that these two words of the title be combined into one word with a long a between, and in fact the title appears this way for example in the ancient Tibetan transcription of the Sanskrit name of the commentary by Master Jayananda (see the opening lines at ACIP TD03870).  We also see though several other instances of the variant found here, with the short final a followed by a break and an then an initial short a (see for example the opening lines of the original text at ACIP TD03861, and of the autocommentary at ACIP TD03862).  It is interesting to speculate that this may be some Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit variant for the common conversion of a final e to a before vowels other than a short a; that is, “entering into the middle way,” with the use of a final e to indicate the locative, and the space between the two words retained after the change {%check this last with Buddhist Hybrid grammar}.

[3] Classical Commentary on the Middle Way: A popular nickname for Arya Nagarjuna’s masterpiece, The Foundational Verses on the Middle Way entitled “Wisdom” (ACIP TD03824, bibliography entry %S4).

[4] Because it enters…: From the opening lines of Master Chandrakirti’s autocommentary (ACIP TD03862, entry %S3, f. 220b).

[5] From “The Middle Way”: See for example f. 121a of the Autcommentary, where Master Chandrakirti uses this wording to reference the 18th chapter of Wisdom; f. 243a, where he references the 24th; and f. 252a, where he references the 20th (ACIP TD03862, entry %S3).

[6] Lamp on Wisdom: Master Bhavaviveka’s commentary upon Arya Nagaruna’s Wisdom; compare for example the two usages of “middle way” at f. 46a (dBu-ma’i bstan-bcos bshad par bya’o, or I shall undertake to explain the “Classical Commentary on the Middle Way”) and at f. 136b (dbu-ma smra-ba rnams, or those who belong to the school of the Middle Way) (ACIP TD03853, entry %S5).

[7] Other classical commentary: I.e., Arya Nagarjuna’s Wisdom.

[8] Deceptive and ultimate natures: The great Jamyang Shepay Dorje of Drepung Monastery (1648-1721), in his Entry Point for Those of Great Virtue: A Dialectical Analysis of “Entering the Middle Way” which is a Veritable Treasure Trove of Scriptural Reference and Reasoning that Clarifies Every Profound Point of the Work (ACIP S13000, f. 4a), identifies this position as belonging to Master Jayananda, and in the latter’s commentary on Entering the Middle Way we do find the statement, “The Classical Commentary on the Middle Way [doesn’t] describe, in detail, the deceptive and ultimate natures of things; here though they are so described, and this is in fact why Master Chandrakirti wished to compose Entering the Middle Way, which is how this classical commentary thus enters into the other” (TD03870, f. 2b).  The negative particle is missing in the Derge carving!  (@JIK check carving)

[9] This is a truly unique system: From f. 347a of the Autocommentary (entry S3, TD03862).

[10] Present suchness in an unerring way: From f. 347b of the Autocommentary (entry %S3, TD03862).  With this spelling of the quotation especially, the second commentary mentioned is Master Chandrakirti’s own Entering the Middle Way.  Although this edition of Je Tsongkapa’s Illumination (the Trashi Hlunpo edition, ST05408) and the other two in the ACIP database (Kumbum edition, SK05408; and Gurudeva {@Jiki check, 267ff total} edition, SA05408) give the phrase by Master Chandrakirti here spelled as bstan-bcos kyis, the spelling in the Derge edition of the Tengyur referenced here is bstan-bcos kyi {@Jiki check carving}, which might then be translated as “to present in an unerring way how the Classical Commentary [of Arya Nagarjuna] teaches suchness.”

[11] The way in which things are projected: See f. 23a (entry %S6, TD03860) of Master Chandrakirti’s other classic treatment of Arya Nagarjuna’s verses, where he says, “This too I have presented in great detail in Entering the Middle Way, so please go and find it there.”  The brief title of this second work in Sanskrit, by the way, is Prasanna Pada.  Prasanna means clarified, and pada can mean either words or verses.  The former, in Tibetan, is translated as tsig; and the latter as tsigs-su bcad-pa, which is sometimes abbreviated to tsigs.  The Tibetan translation of the title of the work in our reference edition of the Tengyur (the Derge) uses the latter spelling (f. 1b) {Jiki check carving}, and in the opening section we see Master Chandrakirti promising to clarify (gsal) the verses (here tsig-le’ur byas-pa), and not the words (ff. 1b-2a).  As such, the correct English translation of the title would seem to be A Clarification of the Verses, although subsequently the Tibetan abbreviation Tsig-gsal (A Clarification of the Words) basically became universal, and we see this spelling even at the end of the Tengyur version.  Later Tibetan commentators will also make statements such as: “Master Chandrakirti’s Clarification of the Words covers the wording of the Foundational Verses called ‘Wisdom,’ whereas Entering the Middle Way covers its intent” (Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, 1878-1941, in The “Key that Opens the Door to the Excellent Path,” being Notes of an Explanation Granted when the Holder of the Diamond, the Good and Glorious Pabongka, Granted Profound Teachings upon “The Three Principal Paths,” entry %B4, S00034, f. 30b).

[12] First two goals: I.e., (1) to grasp how the presentation is unique within our own school, the Middle Way; and (2) to understand how the Mind-Only presentation is mistaken.

[13] The two ways: That is, the Greater Way (the Mahayana) or the Lesser Way (the Hinayana).

[14] It is uniquely appropriate: See f. 228a of the Autocommentary (%S3, TD03862).

[15] In that scripture: I.e., in Arya Nagarjuna’s Wisdom.

[16] The current work: Here referring to Entering the Middle Way.

[17] Common beings: That is, people who have yet to see emptiness directly.  The “three qualities” referred to here are compassion; the Wish for enlightenment; and the wisdom which is beyond all duality, as the exist in a person at this point in their spiritual evolution.

[18] Who are still learning: A reference to beings who have not yet reached full enlightenment.

[19] Level of the goal: I.e., the eleventh bodhisattva level, called “Light Everywhere,” at which one is now fully enlightened.

[20] Two different types of the lack of a self-nature: That is, the lack of a self-nature to the person, and the lack of a self-nature to things.

[21] Wisdom of individual analysis: Referring to a wisdom which has arisen from the direct perception of emptiness, leading to a direct experience—individually—of the Four Higher Truths.