A Chinese Madhyamaka Theory of Truth :
The Case of Chi-Tsang
By Ming-Wood Liu

Philosophy East & West
V. 43 No. 4 (October 1993)
pp. 649-673

Copyright 1993 by University of Hawaii Press





Chi-tsang (549-623) was the key figure in the revival of Chinese Madhyamaka in the late sixth century, and his teaching is commonly acknowledged to be the apex of the development of Madhyamaka thought in China.[1] This essay attempts to examine the conception of truth underlying a number of ideas generally considered as central to Chi-tsang's philosophy, including "refutation of falsehood" (p'o-hsieh), "revelation of truth" (hsien-cheng), and "two truths" (erh-ti).[2] But before entering into these ideas, we shall take a brief look at one idea which determines the overall direction of Chi-tsang's thought and which constitutes the very theoretical basis of his teaching of truth, namely, the idea of nonattachment.

Nonattachment as the Central Spirit of Chi-tsang's Teaching

    Chi-tsang is very fond of quoting the words of Fa-lang (507-581), his teacher, to support his own theories. In the following resume which Chi-tsang gives of Fa-lang's instruction, students are enjoined to follow the rules of "nonabidingness" (wu-chu) and "nonacquisitiveness (wu-te) in their speech and thought:

Whenever our teacher, the Reverend [Fa-]lang, ascended the high seat and instructed his followers, he often said: [Our] words should take "nonabidingness" as the point of departure, and [our] minds should take "nonacquisitiveness" as the principal [guide]. Hence, the profound suutras and eminent masters enlighten living beings by making their minds free from attachment. It is so because attachment is the root of encumbrances. As the origin of all sufferings is attachment, Buddhas of the three periods (of past, present, and future) devise suutras and lecture `saastras, all in order to make the minds of sentient beings free from attachment.[3]

Chi-tsang takes up Fa-lang's view of attachment as the "root of encumbrances" when he observes that "the existence of dependence and attachment is the root of various defilements" and when he disparages those practitioners liable to the error of attachment as "ignorant" and "devoid of the [true] way and the [true] fruit."[4] Chi-tsang also follows Fa-lang in considering the cultivation of nonattachment as the principal objective of the teaching of all Buddhist scriptures, when he makes out that "nondependence" and "nonattachment" are the main principles of all suutras and `saastras:

Buddhas of the three periods, for the sake of sentient beings of the six ways whose minds are attached,[5] appear in the world to preach the suutras. The "four categories of enlightened masters" (ssu-i k'ai-shih),[6] for the sake of




[those] Mahaayaana and Hiinayaana learners whose minds are dependent, appear in the world to compose the `saastras. Hence, dependence and attachment are the roots of sa.msaara, and nondependence and nonattachment are the major principles of the suutras and `Saastras.[7]

In Chi-tsang's writings, nonattachment is represented as the basis of deliverance and the entrance to the true Way.[8] Lauded as the "one mark and one taste" of the Buddha Dharma,[9] it is looked upon as forming the very essence of the superior Buddha-vehicle.[10]

    The importance attributed to the practice of nonattachment by Fa-lang and Chi-tsang is grounded on the Buddhist scriptures. Its origin can be traced back to the very beginning of the Buddhist religion, when `Saakyamuni, prompted by the realization that desire is the root of all ills,[11] formulated such doctrines as the "five skandhas" and "non-self" with a
view to eliminating the attachment of sentient beings to sa.msaaric existence.[12] The emphasis on nonattachment in Buddhism came to a head in the Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutras and the early Madhyamaka works of Naagaarjuna and Naagaarjuna's followers. These works exempted nothing, not even the cardinal Buddhist ideals of nirvaa.na and Buddhahood, from the rule of abandonment.[13] Chi-tsang's clear knowledge of the thorough form of nonattachment which the Madhyamaka tradition advocates is clearly demonstrated in the following comments he makes on the purpose of Naagaarjuna's writings:

Further, the general purport of the works which Naagaarjuna composed during his appearance in the world is first of all to refute and to eliminate all errors of acquisitiveness, until they are totally done away with. Any mind with the slightest [proclivity for] dependence and any discourse with the smallest [sign of] determinateness, whether they be Mahaayaana or Hiinayaana, Buddhist or non-Buddhist, based upon the words [of the scriptures] or created without the support of the words [of the scriptures], are all to be cleansed, until they are made entirely pure. However, when the impure have been got rid of, the pure also do not remain.[14]

According to Chi-tsang, Naagaarjuna aimed to achieve with his treatises the eradication of all forms of acquisitions, including not only the eradication of the acquisition of the thoughts and words of the Hiinayaana and the non-Buddhists, but also the eradication of the acquisition of the thoughts and words of the Mahaayaana and the Buddhists. Hence, he prescribed that the pure should be given up together with the impure, for grasping at the pure is as serious a mistake as grasping at the impure. Quoting the words of Fa-lang, Chi-tsang laments how often truth, wisdom, and meditation become additional obstacles on the path of enlightenment due to the deliberate frame of mind of the practitioners:

Further, whenever my teacher, the Reverend Master of the Hsing-huang [Monastery], ascended the high seat, he often said as follows: Practitioners of




the Way want to forsake the false ways and seek the True Way, and thus are bound by [their longing for] the Way. Practitioners of meditation [try to) stop disturbances and seek calmness, and thus are bound by [their fondness for] meditation. Pursuers of scholarship claim that there is wisdom [to be cultivated], and thus are bound by [their love of] wisdom. They further say, "We should practice contemplating [the truth of] nonorigination so as to eliminate the mind of acquisition." As a consequence, they are bound by [the idea of] nonorigination. Living in the midst of bondages, they want to abandon bondages, not really knowing that [their attempts to abandon bondages] are all [additional causes of] bondages.[15]

Among the objects of nonattachment cited by Chi-tsang is the notion of nonattachment itself. So Chi-tsang chides those practitioners who are attached to the practice of nonattachment as blind to the Buddha's real intention,[16] and warns his readers not to adhere to the idea of "non-acquisitiveness" as definitely correct:

If we definitely take "nonacquisitiveness" as right, it would still be [a form of] acquisitiveness and is not called "nonacquisitiveness." Just the complete absence of dependence is called "nonacquisitiveness."[17]

In Chi-tsang's opinion, real abandonment is achieved only when one abandons "abandonment" as well as "procurement."[18]

Chi-Tsang's Concept of Truth as Nonattachment

A.    Nonattachment as the Criterion of Truth.    That Chi-tsang's teaching of absolute nonattachment has a direct bearing on his teaching of truth is testified to by where Chi-tsang draws the line between the true and the false:

If we harbor [the distinction between] Buddhist and non-Buddhist and dwell upon [the division between] Mahaayaana and Hiinayaana, we shall fall into the falsehood of one-sidedness and lose sight of the true principle.... Only the simultaneous allaying of [the thoughts of] Buddhist and non-Buddhist and the concurrent subduing [of the ideas of] Mahaayaana and Hiinayaana are known as the true principle[19]

This passage links "falsehood" to the harboring, and "truth" to the forsaking, of the distinction between Hiinayaana and Mahaayaana, between Buddhist and non-Buddhist, and so forth. Another passage associates falsehood with acquisitiveness and truth with nonacquisitiveness:

Falsehoods are innumerable, and truths are also of many kinds. Roughly speaking, they do not fall outside two categories: "with acquisitiveness" and "without acquisitiveness." Those [ideas] which are with acquisitiveness are false and have to be refuted; those [ideas] which are without acquisitiveness are true and have to be expounded.[20]




In sum, as Chi-tsang sees it, truth rests entirely upon nonattachment.

B.    "Refutation of Falsehoods" Is Equivalent to '"Revelation of Truths" (P'o-hsieh chi hsien-cheng).    The implications of Chi-tsang's conception of truth as nonattachment can be seen from Chi-tsang's exposition of the two ideas of "refutation of falsehoods" and "revelation of truths," which are made out in Chi-tsang's writings as the two main themes of the Three Treatises, the principal Indian Madhyamaka texts in the eyes of the Chinese Buddhists:[21]

However, although there are three treatises, their purports are just two: first, revealing truths, second, refuting falsehoods. By refuting falsehoods, they rescue [sentient beings] sunk [in sins] below; by revealing truths, they promote the Great Dharma above. Hence, summing up the essential points, [we obtain] just these two [principles].[22]

However, just to say in general that the Madhyamaka is concerned with "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" tells us little about the peculiar character of Madhyamaka thought, for the same can be said of the thought of all other Buddhist schools, and, as a matter of fact, of the thought of all non-Buddhist schools as well. What is special about the Madhyamaka in this respect is its singular way of conceiving the relation between the two functions, a way arising from its conception of the quintessence of truth as nonattachment:

The other `saastras refute [some ideas] and establish [other ideas]. This is to aggravate [the error of] acquisitiveness. Not only are they incapable of expounding [truths], but they are also incapable of refuting [falsehoods].... These `saastras (the Four Treatises) only refute and never establish. [As a result,] not only are they capable of refuting [falsehoods], but they are also capable of establishing [truths].[23]

    While "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" are tasks common to all Buddhist schools, whether Madhyamaka or non-Madhyamaka the non-Madhyamaka schools generally espouse some special theories of Reality, such as the theory of the real existence of dharmas in the case of the Sarvaastivaadins, the theory of universal nothingness in the case of the Satyasiddhi-`saastra, the theory of ideation-only in the case of the Yogaacaarins, and so forth.[24] Ideas and practices in conflict with these theories are rejected by them as definitely false, whereas ideas and practices in agreement with these theories are embraced by them as definitely true; and "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" appear as two distinct functions in their teachings. The Madhyamaka, on the other hand, admits nothing other than nonattachment to be the truth, and
nonattachment, as we have just explained, is understood in the Madhyamaka as the nongrasping of any form of idea and practice, up to the very idea and practice of nonattachment. Consequently, "revealing truths'' in




the Madhyamaka consists not in establishing the validity of certain doctrinal and behavioral patterns, but rather in demonstrating the untenability of any such attempt, that is, in "refuting falsehoods"; and "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" are actually two sides of the same coin in the Madhyamaka's case.

    This explains why Chi-tsang would fault the other schools for"aggravating the error of acquisitiveness" and for "being incapable of refuting falsehoods' in practicing "refuting falsehoods" and "revealing truths" in separate. This also explains why Chi-tsang, while proffering "refutation of falsehoods" and "revelation of truths" as the dual concerns of the Three Treatises, would declare at the same time that the Madhyamaka "only refutes and never establishes." In Chi-tsang's opinion, just because the Three Treatises do not establish any truth, they establish most perfectly the truth of nonattachment.

C.    The Two Forms and Three Forms of Truth.    In thus making nonattachment the sole criterion of truth, Chi-tsang empties the concept of truth of any determinate content. And if he still describes some statements and beliefs to be true, he makes it perfectly plain that his primary consideration is their efficacy in refuting false views and cultivating nonattachment. We can see this from his analysis of truth into the two aspects of "substance" (ti) and "function" (yung):

[What is] neither "supreme" nor "mundane" is called "truth qua substance"; the "supreme" and the "mundane" are designated "truths qua function." It is so because the true character of dharmas defies description and is beyond thought, and is never [to be considered as] "supreme" or "mundane." Hence, we call it "substance." Since it transcends all [forms of] one-sidedness and falsehood, we designate it "truth." Hence, we speak of "truth qua substance."

    As for "truths qua function," since [the "truth qua] substance" is beyond names and speech, [ordinary] beings have no means of realizing it. [Hence,] although [the holy man] is without the thoughts of "being" and "nonbeing." he talks tentatively of [the idea of nonbeing as the] "supreme [truth]" and of [the idea of being as the] "mundane [truth]." Thus, we call [their ideas of "supreme" and "mundane"] "function." [As] these [ideas of] "supreme" and "mundane" are also not one-sided and false, we designate them "truth." Thus, we call them "truths qua function."[25]

The terms "supreme" and "mundane" in the passage above refer to the supreme truth" and the "mundane truth," the former pertaining to the realm of the enlightened and the latter pertaining to the realm of the nonenlightened. We shall deal with Chi-tsang's interpretation of these two forms of truth in detail later. Meanwhile, for our present purpose, it Is significant to observe that Chi-tsang maintains that the "truth qua substance," that is, truth-in-itself, is neither supreme nor mundane, that is, is not tied to any specific truth, be it of the supramundane or of the mundane order.




    Chi-tsang duly notes the need to resort tentatively to the supreme and mundane truths in order to reveal the "truth qua substance." For instance, in order to make his followers give up the belief in a permanent self, which he considered to be the most serious impediment to the realization of nonattachment, the Buddha disparaged this belief as a notion of the mundane world, and lauded the doctrine of five skandhas, which he put forward to undermine the belief, as a case of supreme truth.[26] In like manner, the Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutras apply the epithet "mundane" to the Aabhidharmika theory of the real existence of self-sufficient dharmas and append the description "supreme" to its own teaching of emptiness.[27] Yet, it should always be borne in mind that such judgments of "mundane" and "supreme" derive their validity entirely from their effectiveness as means to make known the "truth qua substance", that is, they are "truths qua function." As such, they enjoy no independent status as truth outside the function of eradicating false beliefs, and should not be held onto irrespective of change in circumstances.

    Chi-tsang goes on to give another analysis of truth into three forms:

But there are three forms of truth:
1.    What is designated "truth" in contradistinction to the error of one-sidedness. It is called "truth in contradistinction to one-sidedness" (tui-p'ien cheng).
2.    What is called truth due to the complete clearance of one-sidedness. It is referred to as "truth qua complete [clearance] of one-sidedness" (chin-p'ien cheng).
3.    When the error of one-sidedness has been removed, the truth also is not retained, and there is neither one-sidedness nor truth. Not knowing how to laud [this state], we tentatively extol it as true, and refer to it as the "non-conditioned truth" (chueh-tai cheng).[28]

The first form of truth, "truth in contradistinction to one-sidedness," earns the title of "truth" for its potency to eliminate the error of one-sidedness, and is equivalent to "truth qua function." Its successful application results in the "complete clearance of one-sidedness," which is enumerated as the second form of truth. Yet, if one grasps at the complete clearance of one-sidedness as the truth, that would also be a kind of one-sidedness. Hence, one has to get rid of the thought of the distinction between one-sidedness and truth before the real abolition of one-sidedness can be achieved. The consummate state of nonattachment thus attained, in which reliance on every category of thought and action has disappeared, is presented as the third form of truth and is given the name "non-conditioned." It is equivalent to "truth qua substance."




D.    The Concept of "Truth as Nonattachment" as a Hermeneutic Principle.    Chi-tsang's highly negativistic conception of truth and pragmatic view of the truth of propositions are clearly reflected in his opinion about the purpose of Buddhist teachings and scriptures. Chi-tsang reports these words of Fa-lang on the significance of Buddhist teachings:

[My] teacher said: Whatever we say [should] all be for the sake of stopping errors. When errors are stopped, speech ceases. It is just like hailstones which crush grass. When the grass is dead, the hailstones disappear. We should not adhere to words and form opinions. If we adhere to words and form opinions, we shall fall into errors once again and can not attain deliverance.[29]

In the opinion of Fa-lang and Chi-tsang, Buddhist ideas and theories are not formulated as eternal truths depicting the constituents and essence of the ultimate reality, but are invented as instruments to check errors. Consequently, they should be abandoned right away once they have fulfilled their intended role. Chi-tsang is hotly hostile to any tendency to divorce scriptural teachings from their original function of refuting falsehoods and to treat Buddhist doctrines as fixed dogmas. Commenting on those Buddhists who, having missed the critical intent of Naagaarjuna's system of eight negations,[30] construct various positive theories based on their surface meanings, Chi-tsang writes:

Such a person cannot be converted. It is so because he who harbors fixed opinions on investigating [the meanings of] the suutras cannot be converted even by the Buddhas, and he who forms the mind of attachment after studying the `saastras cannot be converted even by the Bodhisattvas. When a person cannot be converted, whether by suutras or `saastras, both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we know that his faculties are dull and his sins are serious. To this person, whether suutras or `saastras, both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, all are poisons.[31]

He who reifies the provisional remarks of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and looks upon the sayings of the suutras and `saastras as eternally valid "cannot be converted," for whatever advice is addressed to him will be taken up by him forthwith as another object to adhere to, and will become another cause of attachment as a result. Thus, it is asserted that "to this person, whether suutras or `saastras, both Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, all are poisons."

    But if what are originally beneficial will turn harmful when they are being approached in an acquisitive frame of mind, what are judged harmful by the common standard would become beneficial when they contribute to the realization of the state of nonattachment. Hence, after criticizing miscellaneous theories about the central theme of the Saddharmapu.n.dariika-suutra, Chi-tsang turns around and observes:




Supposing [an explanation] agrees with the suutras but hearing it does not lead to awakening, it is not the [right] medicine for its objects [of instruction] and should be abandoned. [On the other hand,] if an explanation conflicts with the Buddhist suutras and yet hearing it results in acceptance of the [Buddhist] Way, it becomes [salutary like] sweet dews and it is only right that it should be recorded down. Hence, whether [an explanation is] sweet or poisonous is not definite. Only awakening is the essential principle.[32]

    Chi-tsang considers the central theme of the Saddharmapu.n.dariika-suutra and, as a matter of fact, of all Buddhist suutras to be "awakening" (wu), which means, in the context of his teaching of nonattachment, the liberation from all adherences to and reliances on definite patterns of thought and behavior. So long as an exposition of the scripture serves this end, it should be adopted even if it seems to go against the outward meaning of the text. On the other hand, an explanation which appears to be truthful to the text should be rejected, when its promulgation produces the opposite effect. Chi-tsang goes so far as to suggest that diverse interpretations of the same scripture can all be judged "not wrong" when they lead similarly to awakening, and should all be deemed "not right" if they give rise alike to delusion:

To sum up what has been said, there are altogether three ways [of looking at these diverse explanations]: first, if their objects [of instruction] all achieve awakening [on listening to them], then these various explanations are not wrong. Second, if on hearing them, [the objects of instruction] all become deluded, then these diverse theories are not right. Third, there may be occasions [when an explanation is conducive to] awakening at one place and produces delusion at another place. Then, it is called "true" at one place and is named "false" at another place.[33]

    All in all, practical religious consideration has superseded consistency and accuracy as the guiding principle of Chi-tsang's hermeneutics.

Chi-tsang's Teaching of Two Truths

    An examination of Chi-tsang's theory of truth would not be complete without some discussion of his interpretation of the important Buddhist concept of "two truths," an interpretation so innovative that it is commonly regarded as Chi-tsang's most important achievement as a Buddhist thinker.[34]

A.    Theories of Two Truths before Chi-tsang.    The Sanskrit original of the term "two truths," satyadvaya, suggests the existence of two levels of Reality and their corresponding states of knowledge: the first, pertaining to the common world of everyday discourse, is named "mundane truth" (sa.mv.rti-satya, su-ti, shih-ti); the second, understandable only to the transcendental wisdom of the enlightened, is called "supreme truth" (paramaartha-satya, chen-ti, ti-i-i ti).[35] The notion of two levels of Being




and knowledge, one inferior and one superior, was already present in Early Buddhist writings.[36] It later found its way into various Hiinayaana texts, such as the Abhidharmamahaavibhaa.saa-`saastra and the Abhidharmako`sa-`saastra,[37] and was touched upon in such early Mahaayaana works as the Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutras.[38] We find in early Madhyamaka writings constant reference to the concept. The best-known case by far is the following, in chapter 24 of Naagaarjuna's famous Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa:

The Buddhas have recourse to the two truths on preaching the Dharma for sentient beings: first, the mundane truth, second, the supreme truth.

If a person does not know how to distinguish between the two truths,
He will not know the real meaning of the profound Buddha Dharma.[39]

The Madhyamaka-`saastra, the earliest extant exegesis on the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa; comments thus on these verses:

With respect to the "mundane truth," all dharmas are in nature empty. Yet, [the opinion of] the world is fallacious, and hence there arise false dharmas which are [regarded as] real "from the standpoint of the world" (yu shih-ch'ien). The sages and the holy men truly know the fallacious nature [of the opinions of the world], and hence they know that all dharmas are empty and nonoriginating. [This knowledge] is the "supreme truth" [seen] "from the standpoint of the holy men" ( yu sheng-jen) and is called "real." The Buddhas have recourse to these two truths on preaching the Dharma for sentient beings. If a person cannot correctly distinguish between the two truths, then he will not know the real meaning of the very profound Buddha Dharma.[40]

The "mundane truth" is truth by the standard of the world. For example, ordinary people do not realize that dharmas are conditioned in nature, and erroneously look upon them as real. This view of the real existence of dharmas is a "mundane truth." The "supreme truth" is truth as known to the saints. For example, recognizing the conventional belief of real existence to be erroneous, the saints deem all dharmas to be in essence empty and nonoriginating. This view of the emptiness of dharmas is a "supreme truth." According to the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa and Madhyamaka-`saastra, the distinction between "mundane truth" and "supreme truth" is postulated by the Buddhas in order to instruct sentient beings, and we can never come to see the true meaning of the Buddha Dharma without first comprehending its real significance.

    It is important to note that the Madhyamaka does not dismiss the "mundane truth" offhandedly as worthless, despite the intimation of its being the truth of the worldly realm. This can be seen from the next stanza of the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa and the Madhyamaka-`saastra's exposition of it:




Without having recourse to the two truths, the supreme [truth] cannot be obtained.

Without obtaining the supreme [truth], nirvaa.na can not be obtained.[41]

The supreme [truth] is [made known] entirely through speech, and speech is [a kind of] mundane [object]. Hence, [it is said that] without having recourse to the mundane [truth], the supreme [truth] cannot be taught. And without obtaining the supreme [truth], how can nirvaa.na be attained? Hence, although dharmas are nonoriginating, there are [two forms of] truth.[42]

Here, the Madhyamaka-`saastra goes further to identify the "mundane truth" with speech, which is generally considered in Buddhism as an outgrowth of the worldly belief in the real existence of dharmas. Now, although the "supreme truth," being the negation of the belief of real existence, has basically nothing to do with speech, it cannot be communicated to the noninitiated without the aid of speech. Hence, it is said that without the "mundane truth" (now understood as "speech"), people cannot obtain the "supreme truth." And without obtaining the "supreme truth," people naturally cannot realize nirvaa.na.[43]

    The translation of the Madhyamaka-`saastra, as well as of the Dvaada`samukha-`saastra, the `Sata-`saastra, and the Mahaapraj~naapaaramitaa`saastra, into Chinese by Kumaarajiiva in the first decade of the fifth century marked the beginning of the Chinese Madhyamaka movement. Since most of the aforementioned texts contain remarks about the two truths,[44] it was not surprising that the attention of Kumaarajiiva`s followers would become drawn to the concept. Bath Seng-tao and Chu Tao-sheng (ca.360-434) had written special treatises on the two truths,[45] and Tan-ying and Seng-chao (374-414) cited the terms "supreme truth" and "mundane truth" a number of times in their Writings.[46] While the influence of Madhyamaka texts was on the wane by the mid-fifth century with the ascendancy of the Satyasiddhi-`saastra and the Mahaayaana Mahaaparinirvaa.na-suutra, the interest of Chinese Buddhists in the two truths did not subside, since discussions about the two truths also figure prominently in these two newly revered scriptures.[47]

    By the early sixth century, the "two truths" had established itself as a cardinal Buddhist theme in the minds of most Chinese Buddhist thinkers. A considerable amount of information about the various interpretations of the two truths in circulation at that time, mostly of a piecemeal, secondary nature, has been passed down to us, from which we learn that the idea had been analyzed from a variety of perspectives and had been correlated with other currently popular Buddhist ideas, such as the "middle path," "Buddha-nature," and so forth. However, since most of the presently known exponents of the idea of two truths of that period had left behind no comprehensive, systematic philosophical writing, it is impossible for us today to place their fragmentary observations about the




two truths in the context of their overall teachings in order to apprehend their precise import. On the whole, it is safe to assume that with respect to the two main Chinese Buddhist doctrinal traditions of the sixth century, commonly referred to as the Cheng-shih School and Ti-lun School, the former, basing its teaching upon the Satyasiddhi-`saastra (Cheng-shih lun), took over the `Saastra's interpretation, considering the notion of the real existence of everyday objects and dharmas to be the "mundane truth," and regarding the knowledge of the nonexistence of all forms of beings to be the "supreme truth."[48] As for the latter, we shall take the opinion of Ching-ying Hui-yuan (523-592), a leading Ti-lun master of Chi-tsang's time, as representative.

    In his monumental work, the Ta-cheng I-chang, Hui-yuan devotes a special section to the topic of the two truths, where he considers the relation between the "mundane truth" and the "supreme truth" from the two aspects of "dependence" (i-ch'ih) and "origination"( yuan-chi):

When the two [truths] are explained from [the perspective of] "dependence," the raise phenomena are taken as the dependent [objects] and the true [consciousness] is [considered as the subject] being depended on. The false phenomena which are dependent are said to be the "mundane truth"; the true [consciousness] being depended on is classified as the "supreme truth."

    When the two [truths] are explained from [the perspective of] "origination," the pure Dharmadhaatu, [that is,] the tathaagatagarbha, [engages in the activities of] origination and gives birth to [the realms of] sa.msaara and nirvaa.na. The true nature [of the tathaagatagarbha] itself is said to be the "supreme truth"; the function of "origination" is classified as the "mundane truth."[49]

In this passage, the "supreme truth" is equated with the true consciousness, which constitutes the ontological ground of both sa.msaaric and nirvaa.nic existence in the Ti-lun picture of Reality; and the "mundane truth" is identified with false phenomena which arise from the true consciousness, also known as the tathaagatagarbha, when the latter comes under the influence of ignorance. The aspect "origination" indicates that the false phenomenal order originates from the true consciousness; the aspect "dependence" indicates that the false phenomenal order is sustained by the true consciousness. All in all, in the Ta-cheng I-chang, the concept of "two truths" has been assimilated into the Ti-lun metaphysical framework, and is used to illustrate the teaching of consciousness-only espoused by the School.[50]

B.    The Two Truths qua Instruction (Chiao-ti).    The preceding sketch of the early Chinese interpretations of the "two truths" has shown that there existed a general tendency to associate the "supreme truth" and the "mundane truth" with two ontological levels of Reality, one actual and the other illusory. Chi-tsang devotes a large part of his exposition of the two truths to demonstrating the untenability of this approach. Quoting




Naagaarjuna's statement that "the Buddhas have recourse to the two truths on preaching the Dharma for sentient beings," he asserts that the distinction between "supreme truth" and "mundane truth" is postulated by the Buddhas as a "means of instruction," and that the two truths do not stand for two objective "realms" and "principles"

[Naagaarjuna] explains that the Tathaagatas always have recourse to the two truths on preaching the Dharma: first, the mundane truth, second, the supreme truth. Hence, the two truths are just means of instruction and are not concerned with objects and principles.[51]

To take the two truths as indicating two separate realms and principles is an instance of dualistic thinking; and dualistic thinking is synonymous with attachment in Madhyamaka thought. Being a Maadhyamika and strongly opposed to attachment of any form, Chi-tsang naturally deems it impossible that the Buddhas would conceive the two truths as referring to two separate realms and principles:

Further, if [we take] the two truths as two principles, that would constitute acquisitiveness." ... Sentient beings already have the error of [harboring] dualistic views. If the Buddhas further teach that the true principle is dual, then not only is their old error not got rid of, but new delusions would also be added. For this reason, the Buddhas, [with a view to] adapting to [the understanding of] sentient beings, say that there are two truths. Actually, the true principle is not dual.[52]

    Pivotal to Chi-tsang's teaching of the two truths is the concept of "two truths qua instruction," which is defined as follows:

By [the two truths qua] "instruction," [we mean that] the true [principle] is originally nondual, and it is for the sake of the objects [of instruction] that it is spoken of as dual. Hence, [the two truths] are called "instruction."[53]

Given the centrality of the precept of nonattachment in Chi-tsang's teaching, the "true principle" mentioned here should be none other than the principle of nonattachment. As nonattachment is the abolition of all thoughts of duality, it is said that "the true principle is originally nondual." However, sentient beings cling to all sorts of beliefs, and to make them abandon their clingings, the Buddhas disparage the beliefs they cherish as "mundane" and extol the opposite beliefs as "supreme." Hence, it is said that "it is for the sake of the objects of instruction that the true principle is spoken of as dual." In Chi-tsang's opinion, the duality Of "mundane" and "supreme" is invented by the Buddhas purely as a pedagogical device to uproot attachments, and does not reflect the Buddha's true state of knowledge, which is absolutely nondiscriminating This opinion is reflected in Chi-tsang's rejection of the popular understanding of the "mundane" as "void and fleeting" and of the "supreme"




as "real and solid." It is also implied in the following remarks, which assert that "mundane" has "nonmundane" and "supreme" has "nonsupreme" as meaning:[54]

The two truths are also like that. As "supreme" signifies "nonsupreme" and "mundane" signifies "nonmundane," "supreme" and "mundane" are provisional expressions. Being provisional expressions, [the two] terms do not have the effect of acquiring things, and things do not have the substances corresponding to [the two] terms.[55]

According to Chi-tsang, only when one gives up the idea that the terms "supreme" and "mundane" indicate specific "supreme" and "mundane" objects will one truly come to comprehend the real significance of the Buddhas' usage of the terms "supreme" and "mundane."

C.    The Two Truths qua Standpoints (Yu-ti).    If "supreme truth" and "mundane truth" do not denote two distinct levels of Reality, the question then arises as to why the Madhyamaka-`saastra cites the popular belief in the real existence of dharmas as a case of "mundane truth" and gives the holy man's perception of the emptiness of dharmas as an instance of "supreme truth." Are "real existence" and "emptiness" not two levels of Reality? Are their cognitions not two levels of knowledge? Chi-tsang answers these queries by postulating another Corm of "two truths," the "two truths qua standpoints." The concept "two truths qua standpoints" is derived from the Madhyamaka-`saastra, which, as we have seen, says that everyday objects are considered as real "from the standpoint of the world" but are recognized as empty "from the standpoint of the holy man"[56]

The `Saastra itself explains: dharmas are empty in nature. [Yet, the opinion of] the world is fallacious, and maintains that they are existent. From the standpoint of the people of the world, [the view of existence] is true to the fact and is called a "truth." The sages and holy men truly know the fallacious nature [of worldly opinions] and the empty nature [of dharmas]. From the standpoint of the holy men, [the view of emptiness] is true to the fact and is called a "truth." These [views of "existence" and "emptiness"] are the "two truths qua standpoints." What the Buddhas preach having recourse to these [views] are called the "[two] truths qua instruction."[57]

As Chi-tsang sees it, when the Madhyamaka-`saastra puts forward the idea of real existence as the "mundane truth" and the idea of emptiness as the "supreme truth," it is relating two opposite "standpoints" concerning the nature of Reality, standpoints which the Buddhas bring up on preaching the Dharma without actually endorsing either of them. Thus, in order to counteract the everyday man's realistic standpoint, the Buddhas have recourse to the contrary standpoint of emptiness, disparaging the former as "worldly" and "mundane," and praising the latter as "holy" and "supreme."




    However, it should be remembered that the standpoint of emptiness is brought in by the Buddhas solely as an antidote to the standpoint of real existence. When the Buddhas picture "real existence" as a "mundane" concept and "emptiness" as a "supreme" concept, they are not asking their audiences to exchange "real existence" for "emptiness" as the true ontological idea. When the role of "truths qua standpoints" to eliminate attachment to every standpoint is properly comprehended, it would be perceived that the "truths qua standpoints" actually function in the Buddhas' teaching as "truths qua instruction."

The term "two truths qua standpoints" is coined for the sake of sentient beings. It is for the sake of sentient beings that [the Buddhas] say that [the view of] "existence" [represents] the standpoint of the ordinary [people and] is the mundane truth; it is for the sake of sentient beings that [the Buddhas] say that [the view of] "emptiness" [represents] the standpoint of the holy men [and] is the supreme truth. Since it is for the sake of sentient beings that [the Buddhas] talk about "emptiness" and "existence," which are the "two truths qua standpoints," the "two truths qua standpoints" are also "[truths qua] instruction."[58]

    Judging from the fact that "existence" and "emptiness" are two conflicting opinions about the nature of Reality, they are "truths qua standpoints." Judging from the fact that "existence" and "emptiness" are propounded by the Buddhas for the sake of guiding sentient beings and not for the sake of establishing a specific metaphysical position, they are "truths qua instruction." To perceive that "truths qua standpoints" serve in the teaching of the Buddhas mainly as tentative devices to negate standpoints is highly important, for failing to do so has resulted in the erroneous identification of some metaphysical standpoints as the Buddhas' standpoints. It is in order to guard against misunderstanding of this sort that Chi-tsang differentiates between two types of "truth qua standpoints": "truths qua standpoints [the Buddhas] have recourse to" (so-i yu-ti) and "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic [intent] (mi-chiao yu-ti) [of the Buddhas]":[59]

If it is so, then there are two forms of "truths qua standpoints": first, "truths qua standpoints [the Buddhas] have recourse to," second, "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic [intent]."... The "truths qua standpoints [the Buddhas] have recourse to" are "original"; the "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic [intent]" are "derivative."

    The "truths qua standpoints [the Buddhas] have recourse to" being original, let us discuss this by referring to `Saakyamuni's life work. Before the appearance of `Saakyamuni, there were already these "two truths qua standpoints." `Saakyamuni had recourse to these two truths on preaching the Dharma for sentient beings. For what reason? [It is because] all Buddhas without exception preach the Dharma by having recourse to the two truths. Hence, [`Saakyamuni] had recourse to the two truths from the very start on preaching [the Dharma.




Thus,] it should be known that the "truths qua standpoints [the Buddhas] have recourse to" are "original."

    The "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic [intent]" are derivative because they are "[truths qua] standpoints" formed when sentient beings entertain the opinions of "existence" and "nonexistence" after receiving the Tathaagata's teaching of the two truths of "existence" and "nonexistence." These ["truths qua standpoints"] come later [and so are known as "derivative"].[60]

    According to Chi-tsang, the two ideas of "existence" and "emptiness" were already a part of the popular conceptual apparatus before `Saakyamuni's appearance in the world,[61] and they were adopted by `Saakyamuni as expedient teaching devices from the very beginning of his preaching career. So they are called "truths qua standpoints the Buddhas have recourse to." Those practitioners of dull Faculties could not discern the soteriological intent behind `Saakyamuni's discourses on "existence" and "emptiness," and regarded `Saakyamuni's references to the former notion as "mundane" and to the latter notion as "supreme" as judgments about ontological primacy. They mistook provisional ideas for definite opinions, and so their definite opinions of "existence" and "emptiness" are called "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic intent of the Buddhas."

    Since the "truths qua standpoints the Buddhas have recourse to" inaugurated `Saakyamuni's mission of universal salvation, they are said to be "original." Since the "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic intent" came about due to the misconceiving of the real purpose of the "truths qua standpoints the Buddhas have recourse to," they are said to be "derivative." Chi-tsang goes further to distinguish "three alternatives" (san-chu) in connection with the correct comprehension and the incorrect comprehension of the "two truths qua standpoints":

There are three alternative [judgments] with respect to the "[two] truths qua standpoints": first, they are both correct, second, they are both incorrect, third, they are [one] correct and [one] incorrect.

[1]    [The two truths qua standpoints are one] correct and [one] incorrect: from the standpoint of the ordinary [people, things] are existent. This [view of] existence is incorrect. The sages and the holy men truly know that [things are] in nature empty. This [view of] emptiness is correct.

[2]    The two [truths qua standpoints] are both incorrect: since the two [views Of "existence" and "emptiness"] are both standpoints, both are incorrect.

[3]    The two [truths qua standpoints] are both correct: on knowing the two standpoints [of "existence" and "emptiness"], one knows right away [the truth of] "nonduality." Seeing neither "duality" nor "nonduality," one transcends all the five alternatives.[62]




Now, of these alternatives, the first two alternatives are equivalent to "truths qua standpoints," while the last alternative is equivalent to "truth qua instruction."[63]

    The alternative of "one correct and one incorrect" is exemplified by the initial propagation of the two truths by `Saakyamuni, when the standpoint of existence was dismissed as "mundane" and "incorrect" and the opposite standpoint of emptiness was proffered as "supreme" and "correct." It is the same as the "truth qua standpoint the Buddhas have recourse to." The alternative of "both incorrect" points to the fallacious interpretation of `Saakyamuni's reference to the standpoint of existence as "correct" and to the standpoint of emptiness as "incorrect" as an injunction to discard one ontological standpoint in favor of another ontological standpoint. It is none other than the "truths qua standpoints missing the heuristic intent of the Buddhas." Lastly, the alternative of "both correct" is the correct knowledge of `Saakyamuni's method of making use of one standpoint to undermine another standpoint, the final goal being the transcending of all specific standpoints, that is, the realization of the truth of nonduality. It rightly recognizes the role which the standpoints of existence and emptiness play in `Saakyamuni's teaching, that is, as "truth qua instruction."

D.    The Three Forms and Four Forms of Two Truths.    The foregoing discussion of the "two truths qua instruction" and the "two truths qua standpoints" underscores Chi-tsang's pragmatic view of truth. To be sure, pragmatism had already played a significant part in discussions of the two truths before Chi-tsang, in the form of affirming the necessity of resorting to the mundane truths in order to reveal the supreme truth. But pragmatism had seldom been extended to the reading of the very distinction between mundane truth and supreme truth. While the remark of the Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa that "the Buddhas have recourse to the two truths on preaching the Dharma for sentient beings" does suggest that the duality of "mundane truth" and "supreme truth" is adopted by the Buddhas to cater to the needs of ordinary sentient beings, this meaning is hinted at and is not directly expressed. The same is true of the reference to the duality of "existence" and "emptiness" to throw light upon. the relation between the two truths in the Madhyamaka-`saastra. Chi-tsang's ability to make explicit the implicit, thereby turning the theory of two truths into a powerful illustration of his conception of truth as nonattachment, bespeaks keen intellectual acumen.

    In conclusion, we shall take a brief look at Chi-tsang's schemes of three forms and of four forms of two truths. They are good illustrations of Chi-tsang's idea of two truths as means of instruction. The three forms of two truths are:




The first [form of two truths] takes "existence" as the mundane truth and "emptiness" as the supreme truth. The next [form of two truths] takes "existence" and "emptiness" as both mundane [truths] and [considers] "neither existence nor emptiness" as the supreme [truth]. The third [form of two truths] takes the "duality" and the "nonduality" [of existence and emptiness] as mundane [truths] and [considers] "neither duality nor nonduality" as the supreme [truth].[64]

The passage above can be summed up in a table (Table 1).

    Chi-tsang gives the following explanation of how teaching the three forms of two truths helps to free the minds of sentient beings from clinging to determinate ideas:

From the beginningless past. [sentient beings) cherish their bodily forms, their minds, external objects, and so forth, and maintain that they are real. Hence, the Buddhas appear in the world and preach for them as follows: "These [things] are real [at the level of] the mundane [truth] only, and are not real [in the eyes of] the holy [man]. Just [the knowledge that] all dharmas are empty in their original nature is called the supreme truth...." Then sentient beings maintain that "existence" is not the real [truth] and that "emptiness" is the real [truth]. They abandon [the idea of] "existence" [only] to grasp at [the idea of] "emptiness." Hence, [the Buddhas go on to] tell them, "Regarding emptiness' and existence,' these are two extremes and are both mundane truths. [Only the idea of] 'neither emptiness nor existence,' [that is] the truth of the middle way, is the supreme truth."

    Although the deluded ones [on hearing the second form of two truths] abandon the two extreme [ideas of "existence" and "emptiness"], they in turn get bogged down in [the idea of] the "middle way." Hence, [the Buddhas address them] the third time [and] explain that not to become attached to the "middle way" after leaving far behind the two extremes [of "existence" and "emptiness"] is the supreme truth, and that the two extremes and the "middle way" are all mundane truths.[65]

    Seeing that sentient beings cherish their bodily forms, their minds, and the objects of the external world, the Buddhas teach the first form of



Table 1.    The Three Forms of Two Truths

Form Mundane Truth Supreme Truth

1 Existence Emptiness
2 Duality of "existence" and "emptiness" Nonduality of "existence" and "emptiness" (neither "existence" nor "emptiness")
3 Duality of "duality" and "nonduality" Neither "duality" nor "nonduality"




two truths, upholding "emptiness" as the supreme truth in order to refute the mundane belief in real "existence." On hearing the Buddhas' words, those sentient beings of sharp faculties see right away the Buddhas' real objective to cultivate nonattachment, and would give up the standpoint of "existence" without retaining the standpoint of "emptiness." The majority of listeners, however, being of dull intelligence, are prompted by their ingrained habit of discriminative thinking to consider the ideas of "existence" and "emptiness" as two opposite ontological standpoints, the former to be discarded and the latter to be accepted. They abandon the standpoint of "existence," only to grasp at the standpoint of "emptiness." Noticing this, the Buddhas go on to bring in the second form of two truths, pointing out that their dualistic conception of "existence" and "emptiness" is still a case of mundane truth, and that the supreme truth is the foregoing of the standpoint of "emptiness" as well as the standpoint of "existence" ("neither being nor emptiness").

    Yet, the listeners' proclivity for grasping at standpoints persists. Although they forsake the "duality" of existence and emptiness following the instruction of the second form of two truths, they take up the "nonduality" of existence and emptiness as the standpoint to be endorsed. Consequently, the Buddhas preach the third form of two truths, which tells that to oppose "nonduality" to "duality" is itself a form of dualistic thinking pertaining to the realm of mundane truth, and that only the abolition of the duality of "duality" and "nonduality" ("neither duality nor nonduality") is the true nonduality characteristic of the supreme truth. Theoretically, this negative dialectic of successive cancellation and production of contradictions could go on ad infinitum;[66] practically, it would stop once the roots of attachment of the listeners have been eradicated.

    The scheme of four forms of two truths brings into focus the heuristic function of the teaching of three forms of two truths by introducing an additional form of two truths, in which the three forms of two truths are bracketed together as "mundane":

[1]    They (the Cheng-shih masters) merely take "existence" as the mundane truth and "emptiness" as the supreme truth.

[2]    Now, we explain that "existence" and "emptiness" are both mundane truths and only "neither emptiness nor existence" is the supreme truth.

[3]    "Emptiness" and "existence" are a [form of] duality; "neither emptiness nor existence" is a [form of] nonduality. "Duality" and "nonduality" are both mundane truths, "neither duality nor nonduality" is called the supreme truth.

[4]    These three forms of two truths are all means of instruction. We speak about these three categories [of two truths] in order to make [people] realize [the] non[difference of the] three [categories of two truths]. Only nondependence and nonacquisitiveness are called [the true] principles.




Table 2.    The Four Forms of Two Truths

Form Mundane Truth Supreme Truth

1 Existence Emptiness
2 Duality of "existence" and "emptiness" Nonduality of "existence" and "emptiness"
3 Duality of "duality" and "nonduality" Neither "duality" nor "nonduality"
4 The three forms of two truths Nondifference of the three forms of two truths

   QUESTION:     [Do you mean that] the first three [forms of two truths] are all mundane truths and the non [difference of the] three [forms of two truths] is the supreme truth?

    REPLY:    It is so.[67]

    The thesis of each of the four forms of two truths is illustrated in Table 2. Comparing Table 2 with Table 1, we can see right away that the first three of the four forms of two truths correspond to the three forms of two truths. The adding of the fourth form makes it clear that the three forms of two truths are "all means of instruction," that is, they are distinctions invented for the purpose of eliminating distinctions. Hence, they belong to the group of mundane truths to be transcended. The supreme truth is the "nondifference of the three forms of two truths," that is, it is the true principle of nonattachment which rises above all distinctions, including the distinction between three forms of two truths.






This essay is a part of an ongoing research on the development of Madhyamaka thought in China. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Kenneth K. S. Chen for kindly agreeing to read over my research manuscript and offering many insightful comments. I am indebted to the Hsu Long-sing Research Fund administered by the University of Hong Kong for a grant which defrayed part of the cost of producing this manuscript.

1    On Chi-tsang's life and contribution to the Chinese Madhyamaka movement, consult Tao-hsuan (596-667), Hsu Kao-seng chuan,T 50.513c-515a, and Hirai Shunei, Chugoku hannya shisoshi kenkyu (Tokyo, 176), pp. 60-79, 345-352.




2    Fa-lang's biography, in Tao-hsuan, Hsu Kao-seng chuan, T 50.477b-478a.

3     Sheng-man-ching Pao-k'u, T37.5c8-12.

4    Ching-ming hsuan-lun, T38.888b21; and Fa-hua i-su, T34.580cl11-12.

5    The "six ways" are the six forms of rebirth as beings of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, human beings, and gods.

6     "Kai-shih" ("enlightened masters") is an epithet used in praise of Bodhisattvas and learned monks. The idea of "ssu-i" comes from the Mahaayaana Mahaaparinirvaa.na-suutra, in which we find mentioned "four" (ssu) categories of sages, from those who have just left the world up to the arhat, on whom sentient beings can rely (i) to give comfort and protection. See T 12.396c. In Chi-tsang's writings, the term "ssu-i k'ai-shih" usually refers to Naagaarjuna. See, for example, Chung-kuan-lun su, T42.1c.

7    San-lun hsuan-i, T 45.7a23-26.

8    Fa-hua yu-i, T34.644a1-2; and Fa-hua i-su, T34.483b24.

9     Chung-kuan-lun su, T34.418bl-2.

10    Fa-hua hsuan-lun, T34.418bl-2.

11    The Buddha frequently mentioned "desire" on discussing the cause of suffering:
Whatsoever III arising has come upon me in the past,--all that is rooted in desire, is joined to         desire. Whatsoever III arising may come upon me in future time,--all that is rooted in desire, is joined to desire. Desire is the root of III. (Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids and Frank L. Woodward, trans., The Book of the Kindred Sayings [Samyutta-nikaaya], 5 vols. [London: Pali Text Society, 1917-1930], vol. 4, p. 233)

12    The Buddha traced the origin of desire to the identification of one's self with the five skandhas (body, feeling, perception, activities, and consciousness), which are the five main aspects of sentient existence:

And how, brethren, is there grasping and worry? Herein, brethren, the untaught many-folk,...--these regard body as the self, the self as having body, body as being in the self, the self as being in the body. Of such a one the body alters and becomes otherwise. Owing to the altering and the otherwiseness of the body, his consciousness is busied with the altering body. From this being busied with the altering body, worried thoughts arise and persist, laying hold of the heart. From the laying hold of the heart he becomes troubled, and owing to vexation and clinging he is worried. He regards feeling as the self, the self as having feeling, feeling as being the self, the self as being in Feeling. Of such a one feeling alters and becomes otherwise...with the same result. So also with perception ... the activities ... the consciousness. Thus, brethren, comes grasping and worry. (Ibid., vol. 3, pp. 16-17)




13    The A.s.tasaahasrikaapraaj~naaparamitaa-suutra mentions among the objects to be abandoned not only the Hiinayaana fruits of Arhatship and Pratyekabuddhahood, but also the Mahaayaana fruit of Buddhahood:

I will teach you how a Bodhisattva should stand in perfect wisdom. Through standing in emptiness should he stand in perfect wisdom. Armed with the great armour, the Bodhisattva should so develop that he does not take his stand on any of these: not on form, feeling, perception, impulses, consciousness; not on eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;... not on Pratyekabuddhahood, nor on Buddhahood. (Edward Conze, trans., The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines & Its Verse Summary, 2nd rev. ed. [Bolinas, California: Four Seasons Foundation, 1975], p. 97)

The Muulamadhyamaka-kaarikaa teaches the nondifference of sa.msaara and nirvaa.na:

There is nothing whatever which differentiates sa.msaara from nirvaa.na.
And there is also nothing whatever which differentiates nirvaa.na from sa.msaara.
The extreme limit of nirvaa.na is also the extreme limit of sa.msaara;
There is not the slightest bit of difference between these two limits. (T 30.36a4-11)

14    Fa-hua hsuan-lun, T34.391b16-20.

15     Ching-ming hsuan-lun, T38.874b15-20.

16    Fa-hua i-su, T34.487c19.

17     Nieh-pan-ching yu-i, T38.232c17-19.

18    Pai-lun su, T42.239a22.

19    San-lun hsuan-i, T45.6c12-16.

20     Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T45.68c19-21.

21    The "three treatises" are the Madhyamaka-`saastra (verse by Naagaarjuna, commentary by Ching-mu), the Dvaada`samukha-`saastra (attributed to Naagaarjuna), and the `Saata-`saastra (verse by Aaryadeva, commentary by Bodhisattva Vasu).

22    San-lun hsuan-i, T45.1a13-15.

23     Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T45.70a3-6.

24    The teachings of the Sarvaastivaadins, the Satyasiddhi-`saastra, and the Yogaacaarins were very popular in China in the sixth century, and were constantly mentioned and criticized in Chi-tsang's writings. Central to the Sarvaastivaada picture of reality is the system of seventy-five dharmas made out to be the most basic elements of existence. The Satyasiddhi-`saastra subjects the dharmas to further analysis, and contends that the final reality is the total emptiness arrived at through continuous division. The Yogaacaara postulates the existence of a




basic consciousness in every sentient being, and considers all object of experience to be formed from the ideas produced by this consciousness.

25    San-lun hsuan-i. T 45.7b9-15.

26    Refer to note 12 above for information about the early Buddhist doctrines of "five skandhas" and "nonself."
27    Regarding the Hiinayaana belief of the real existence of dharmas, see note 24 above. To counter this belief, the Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutras teach the emptiness of all forms of existence. Hence, the A.s.tasaahasrikaapraj~naapaaramitaa-suutra asserts that all objective facts, all classes of saints, and even nirvaa.na are "like a magical illusion, like a dream":

Like a magical illusion are these beings, like a dream.... All objective facts also are like a magical illusion, like a dream. The various classes of saints, from Streamwinner to Buddhahood, also are like a magical illusion, like a dream.... Even Nirvaa.na. I say, is like a magical illusion, is like a dream. How much more so anything else! (Edward Conze, trans., The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines & Its Verse Summary, pp. 98-99)

28    San-lun hsuan-i, T45.7b23-27.

29     Chung-kuan-lun su, T42.27b13-16.

30    The eight negations are negations of four pairs of concepts, namely, origination and extinction, permanence and annihilation, identity and difference, and coming and going.

31     Chung-kuan-lun su, T42.37c26-32a2.

32    Fa-hua hsuan-lun, T34.381a15-17.

33    Ibid., T34.381b16-19.

34    On Chi-tsang's teaching of two truths, consult Aaron K. Koseki, "Chi-tsang's Ta-cheng-hsuan-lun: The Two Truths and the Buddhanature" (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1977), pp. 14-185; Hsueh-li Cheng, "Zen and San-lun Maadhyamika Thought: Exploring the Theoretical Foundation of Zen Teachings and Practices," Religious Studies 15 (1979): 346-351; Tokiwa Diajo, Zoku Shina ' Bukkyo no kenkyu(Tokyo, 1941), pp. 337-49; Hirai Shunei, Chugoku hannya shisoshi kenkyu, pp. 457-477, 561-592; Muranaka Yusho,  "Kajo Daishi no o.kyo, nitai ni tsuite," Indogaku Bukkyogaku kenkyu 8, no. 1 (1960): 160-161, Sato Seijun; "Kichizo no shiju nitai setsu," Sanko Bunka Kenkyujo nempo 8 (1976): 155-180; and Mitsugiri Jikai, "Kichizo no nitai-gi," Otani gakuho 60, no. 4 (1980): 1-10.

35    See Mervyn Sprung, "The Madhyamaka Doctrine of Two Realities as a Metaphysic, In Mervyn Sprung, ed., The Problem of Two Truths in Buddhism and Vedanta (Dordrecht, Holland/Boston, Massachusetts: D. Reidel, 1973), p. 40.




36    On the inception of the idea of two levels of truth in Buddhism, consult Kulatissa N. Jayatilleke, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1963), pp. 361-368; Steven Collins, Selfless Persons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 153-156; and Yasui Kosai, Chugan shiso no kenkyu (Kyoto, 1961), pp 43-49.

37     Abhidharmamahaavibhaa.saa-`saastra, T27.399c-400b, and Abhidharmako`sa-`saastra, T 29.116b.

38    See, for example, the Pa~ncavi.m`satisaahasrikaapraj~naapaaramitaa-suutra, T 8.378c, 397b-c and 405a.

39     T30.32c16-19.

40     T30.23c20-25.

41    T30.33a2-3.

42    T30.33a4-7.

43    The Madhyamaka theory of two truths is discussed in most works on Madhyamaka thought, and is also the subject of numerous special studies. See, for instance, the papers by T.R.V. Murti, Frederick J. Streng, Mervyn Sprung, and Bimal K. Matilal, in Mervyn Sprung, ed., The Problem of the Two Truths in Buddhism and Vedanta.

44    For references to the two truths in the `Sata-`saastra, see T 30.165a, 181c-182a. The key passages on the two truths in the Mahaapraj~naapaaramitaa-`saastra are listed in Tamaki Koshiro, Chugoku Bukkyo shiso no keisei (Tokyo, 1971), pp. 462-467, and are discussed in Paul L. Swanson, "The Two Truths Controversy in China and Chih-i's Three-fold Truth Concept" (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1985), chap. 2, sec. 2.

45    Among Chu Tao-sheng's writings mentioned in Chu Tao-sheng's biography in Hui-chiao's (497-554) Kao-seng chuan is one titled the Erh-ti lun ("On the two truths"), T50.366c18. The Kao-seng chuan also mentions that Seng-tao was the author of a treatise called the Kung-yu erh-ti lun ("On the two truths of emptiness and being"), T 50.371b2.

46    Tan-ying's preface to the Madhyamaka-`saastra contains the earliest Chinese reference to the terms "mundane truth" and "supreme truth" (T 55.77b1-6). Seng-chao's writings also make reference to these two terms. See T 45.154a5-26. Contemporary scholars have stressed the contribution of these sources to the formation of Chi-tsang's idea of "two truths qua instruction." Consult Hirai Shunei, "Kichizo Nitaisho no shiso to kozo," Komazawa Daigaku Bukkyogaku-bu kenkyu kiyo 27 (1969): 60-62; Chugoku hannya shisoshi kenkyu,




pp. 462-466; and Ikeda Shujo, "Sojo no shui no hannyagaku shoshi no shiso ni kanshite," Taisho Daigaku Sogo Bukkyo Kenkyujo nempo 7 (1985): 34-36.

47    See, for instance, the Mahaayaana Mahaaparinirvaa.na-suutra, T 12.443a-b, 465b-c, 603c; and Satyasiddhi-`saastra, T 32.316c-317a, 327a-c, 333a-b.

48    So the Satyasiddhi-`saastra observes:

The annihilation of the marks of the five skandhas is called the supreme truth. (T 32.316c25)
The five skandhas are really inexistent, and are [only deemed to be] existent from [the aspect of] the mundane truth. (T32.333a8)
It should be known that [at the level of] "supreme truth," beings are all [considered to be] inexistent. It is only from [the aspect of] the "mundane truth" that [it is said that] there are various beings. (T 32.333c15-17)

49    T 44.483c14-21.

50    On the early Chinese interpretations of the two truths, see Whalen W. Lai, "Sinitic Understanding of the Two Truths Theory in the Liang Dynasty (502-557): Ontological Gnosticism in the Thought of the Prince Chao-ming," Philosophy East and West 28, no. 3 (1978); 339-351; "Once More on the Two Truths: What Does Chi-tsang Mean by; the Two Truths as 'Yueh-chiao'!" Religious Studies 19 (1983): 505-521; Paul L. Swanson, "The Two Truths Controversy in China and Chih-i's Threefold Truth Concept", chap. 2, sec. 3, and chaps. 4-6; Tokiwa Daijo, Zoku Shins Bukkyo no kenkyu, pp. 330-337; Fukushima Kosai, "Ryotai nitai shiso no tokushitsu," Bukkyogaku semina 2 (1965): 45-55, and "Myoho toshite no ennyu santai to sono shiso teki haikei," Otani Daigaku kenkyu nempo 28 (1976): 16-24.

51    Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T 45.15a15-17. The idea of "two truths qua instruction" was not invented by Chi-tsang. According to Chi-tsang, it was put forward by Seng-lang, Seng-chuan, and Fa-lang to counter the Cheng-shih masters' interpretation of the two truths as two independent ontological principles. see Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T 45.15a25-27, 22c10-11; Erh-ti i, T 45.86a29-b11; and Chung-kuan-lun su, T 42.28c19-26. Chi-tsang also mentioned the Elder Liang of Kuang-chou (in present Kuangtung Province), identified as Tao-liang of the mid-fifth century, as its advocate. See Erh-ti i, T45.90a24-b6. Also see Sato Tstsuei, "Sanron gakuha ni okeru yakukyo nitai setsu no keifu, Ryukoku Daigaku ronshu 380 (1966): 12-15. Recent scholars even trace its beginning back to Seng-chao and Tan-ying. See the works listed in note 46 above. As for the scriptural sources of the idea, Chi-tsang cites, besides the Madhyamaka-`saastra, the




Pa~ncavi.m`satisaahasrikaapraj~naapaaramitaa-suutra, the Mahaayaana Mahaaparinirvaa.na-suutra and the Sata-`saastra, See Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T 45.23a8-12, Erh-ti i, T45.78b7-8, 86b11-16; and Ching-ming hsuan-lun, T38.894b9-14.

52    Erh-ti i, T45.108c17-23.

53    Ching-ming hsuan-lun, T38.894a16-17. See a similar passage in Erh-ti i; T45.88c6-9.

54    Ta-cheng hsuan lun, T45.16a10-14.

55    Ibid., T45.16c26-28.

56    See note 40 above.

57    Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T45.15.15b7-10. For similar remarks, see Erh-ti i, T45.86c1-5.

58    Erh-ti i, T 45.92c23-26. Chi-tsang continues to comment that the "two truths qua standpoints" and the "two truths qua instruction," when correctly comprehended, are actually not different (ibid. T 45.93c3-11).

59    They are referred to as "two truths qua conditional, provisional names" (yin yuan ch'ia-ming erh-ti) and "two truths qua determinate natures" (ting-hsing erh-ti), respectively, in the Ching-ming hsuan-lun, T38.891c20-892a8,

60    Erh-ti i, T45.79b1-10.

61    Refer to ibid., T45.92c26-93a9.

62    The "five alternatives" are five different ways of reading the terms "truth" and "nontruth" mentioned in the paragraph preceding this quotation ( Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T45.16b12-c3).

63    Ibid., T45.16c14-20. A more detailed analysis, on which our explanation of this quotation below is based, is found in the Erh-ti i, T 45.93c23-94a9.

64    Fa-hua hsuan-lun, T 34.396a25-27. Also see Erh-ti, T45.90c2-8.

65    Fa-hua hsuan-lun, T 34.396b19-29. Also see Erh-ti i, T 45.90c26-91a15.

66    Unlike Hegel's "positive dialectic," in which the opposition between two conflicting moments is resolved in a higher moment incorporating the elements of the two lower moments, the "negative dialectic" of the Madhyamaka reconciles the contradiction between the two moments of the earlier level by writing off both of them as objects of attachment to be abolished at the next level.

67    Ta-cheng hsuan-lun, T45.15c5-11. Also see Chung-kuan-lun su, T 42.27c27-28b6.