Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About usFaculty of PhilosophyEducationThesis summaries

Hendriks, L.

Department of History of Philosophy and Department of Theoretical Philosophy

Two Truths or None at All

The Buddha taught by means of samvrti-notions. Then what is the status of his teachings? Also, the Buddha was surely awakened. But if everything is emptiness, what is the status of the Buddha? And why are bodhisattvas still seemingly affected by samsara?

These are some of the problems Santideva (8th century CE) tries to solve in the Wisdom-chapter of his Bodhicaryavatara. They concern the Two Truths Doctrine, which is a central doctrine in the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism. Santideva is considered to be one of the most important adherents of the Madhyamaka school of thought and his works have a canonical status. The Wisdom-chapter is considered to be a highlight of Indian philosophy, but at the same time, it is a very difficult text. The canonical fixation may be the cause of some of the confusion. In 1900, an older, Tibetan edition was discovered in Tun Huang, China. This edition differs in some places from the canonical version and is considerably shorter. This leads to the following questions:

  1. Does Santideva succeed in solving the problems with the Two Truths Doctrine, and if so, what are his solutions?
  2. What is the relevance of the Tun Huang finds for understanding the ninth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara, given that this chapter contains a great number of fallacies, unclear examples and incoherent arguments, and given that the Tun Huang version is considerably shorter than the canonical version?

In my thesis, I apply the Principle of Charity twice: in order to answer these questions: the first time in the analysis of the notions of samvrtisatya and paramarthasatya as employed by Santideva in the discussion with the Yogacara school in the ninth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara; and a second time in the comparison between the canonical edition and the Tun Huang edition.

Last modified:30 March 2015 12.21 p.m.