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From the twelfth chapter of
Great Exposition of 'Tenets'
Sun of the Land of Samantabhadra
Brilliantly Illuminating
All of Our Own and Others' Tenets
And the Meaning of the Profound [Emptiness],
Ocean of Scripture and Reasoning
Fulfilling All Hopes of All Beings

By Jam-yang-shay-ba ('Jam-dbyangs-bzhad-pa, 1644-1721). Published in 1699.
Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins

Chapter 3: The Object of Negation

The explanation of PrÓsa´gika tenets has three parts: their presentation of (1) the base, (2) paths, and (3) fruits of these paths. [The first of these is translated here.]

The PrÓsa´gika presentation of the base has five parts: (1) the object of negation in the view of selflessness, (2) the reasonings refuting the object of negation, (3) the basic objects of the two truths, (4) the uncommon features [of the PrÓsa´gika system], and (5) the valid cognizers certifying the above as well as an elimination of error. [The first two are translated here.]


This section has two parts: the measure of what is negated [58] and the correctness of this measure.

3.1.1 Measure of what is negated in the view of selflessness

(See pp. 35-41.) The root text says:

Forms and so forth are the phenomena of cyclic existence—the afflicted class—and [the phenomena of nirvana]—the pure class (see pp. 201-12). These phenomena are all included within ‘the varieties and their mode which appear to and are renowned to the mind’. All these phenomena must be posited [as existing] for the inborn worldly [mind] which does not analyze [to try to find] the object designated and does not superimpose [falsity] through the conception [of phenomena] as truly existent. [ka, p. 131]

Therefore, all the varieties and their mode [their emptiness] are only imputed [from the subject’s side to] there [the object’s side] by terms and thoughts. This is because these phenomena, except for being just nominally imputed [from the subject’s side] to there, are not their individual parts, nor the mere composite of their parts, nor the continuum [of their moments], etc. [59] For example, in darkness a coiled speckled rope is imputed by thought to be a snake, and from a distance a cairn [a pile of stones] is merely imagined to be a human. NÓgÓrjuna’s Precious Garland says: 599

Ôryadeva’s Four Hundred says: 600

ChandrakŃrti’s Commentary on (Ôryadeva’s) ‘Four Hundred’ says: 601

Also, the Meeting of Father and Son Sutra says: 602 [ga, p. 133]

The meaning of this Sutra is that [the constituents and so forth] do not exist, except as only nominal imputations. This is indicated by the quote from the beginning through to ‘The earth constituent, except for only being a designation, should not be viewed as an earth constituent.’ Then the passage, ‘That which has the designation is not the woman and is not the man,’ explains that the basis of the imputation—that which has the name—is not the phenomenon which is imputed, a woman or a man.

NÓgÓrjuna’s Precious Garland, condensing the meaning of that, says: 605

The passage ‘a person is not earth, not water, not fire, not wind, not space, not consciousness’ explains that a person is not each of the bases of the imputation ‘person’. The statement ‘not all’ explains that a person is not even the composite of the bases of imputation ‘person’ [that is, not even the composite of the six constituents]. The statement ‘What person is there other than these?’ explains that there is no person which does not depend on [the six constituents that are] the bases of the imputation ‘person’.

Thus, [70] the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras say that even [the highest of phenomena,] nirvanas and emptinesses, are only established [from the subject’s side to] there [the object’s side] through names and thoughts. Similarly, [the PrÓsa´gika system,] unlike SvÓtantrika and so forth, asserts that the members of the following list, except for being different names, are [hypothetical] 606 synonyms. [The PrÓsa´gika system] treats these terms as [hypothetical] synonyms in that they are what is negated by the reasonings [proving emptiness. The terms that mean ‘self’ in the view of selflessness are:]

  1. existing ‘on’ [that is, as a natural predicate of] the object [which gets] the imputation
  2. substantially existing
  3. existing able to establish itself—[this term and the preceding term] are opposites of dependent-arising [as are all the others in the list]
  4. existing by way of its own character
  5. existing from [the object’s] own side [rather than being imputed from the subject’s side]
  6. existing through its own power
  7. truly existing
  8. existing inherently.[ca, p. 133]

Ôryadeva’s Four Hundred says: 607

ChandrakŃrti’s commentary says, 608 ‘Here, that which has its own intrinsic existence, has inherent existence, has its own power, or has no dependence on another would exist by itself; therefore, it would not be a dependent-arising.’ [cha, p. 134]

3.1.2 Correctness of the measure of what is negated

(See pp. 539-47) The root text says: [71]

Thus, that which is to be refuted [by reasoning] must be identified from its subtlest level. For, if it is not, one cannot ascertain the actual non-existent which is the negative [of self]. For, ShÓntideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds says: 609

Also, one cannot ascertain the emptiness of former and later births, for example, without ascertaining that aspect which is their non-existence by way of their own being. Thus, the emptiness of births is not ascertained through only perceiving an utter vacuity that is merely the non-perception of former and later births. BuddhapÓlita, the honorable ChandrakŃrti, and many others assert this; BuddhapÓlita says [in his commentary on NÓgÓrjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way]: 610

Also, [ChandrakŃrti’s] Clear Words says: 611

Therefore, [the PrÓsa´gikas] refute the subtle object of negation—that is, refute that even particles exist from their own side—[74] but know how to posit all actions and agents of cyclic existence and nirvana within [asserting] that all phenomena are only nominalities and only imputations by thought. [A person who maintains such a system] is a MÓdhyamika—one who does not abide in the extreme of existence or permanence [such as asserting that phenomena] exist inherently, etc., and who [through propounding] the suitability of the existence of all phenomena conventionally as only nominalities, does not abide in the extreme of non-existence or annihilation. As [Buddha] says in the KÓshyapa Chapter: 613

Also, such is said in NÓgÓrjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way: 614

Also, through affixing ‘inherent existence’ (svabhÓva, rang bzhin) [to the refutation of existence] the extreme of non-existence is avoided. [75] [This is because that which is negated as a predicate of phenomena is only inherent existence and not existence in general; a negation of existence in general would be an extreme of non-existence because phenomena do exist conventionally.] The extreme of [inherent] existence is avoided by [affirming that phenomena are] only imputations [and thus not inherently existent]. Therefore, the SvÓtantrikas’ estimation of what is to be negated [merely true existence and not inherent existence] is coarser than that [of the PrÓsa´gikas who refute that phenomena inherently exist even conventionally].

Also, with respect to this assertion of phenomena as only imputations, some Tibetans [wrongly] do not accept even worldly trueness and falseness. [It is true that there is no difference between] an illusory horse created by a magician and an actual horse with respect to their existing or not in accordance with how they appear. [Both an illusory horse and an actual horse appear as if they inherently exist, but in fact do not; therefore, they equally do not exist even conventionally in accordance with how they appear.] However, if one does not accept a [worldly] 615 trueness and falseness with respect to whether something does or does not exist, then one contradicts ChandrakŃrti: 616

And, ‘Do not lose the conventionalities renowned in the world.’ And, ‘Perceivers of falsities are asserted as two types [those perceiving the real and unreal relative to a worldly consciousness].’

One should understand that [not accepting any worldly trueness and falseness] does not pass beyond adhering to extremes. [Asserting a coarser object of negation] also does not pass beyond adhering to extremes. Thus, one should cast aside [such assertions].


This section has two parts [76]: brief indication and extensive explanation.

3.2.1 Brief indication of the reasonings refuting inherent existence

(See pp. 127-9)

Question: [The two selflessnesses, i.e., the lack of inherent existence in persons and in other phenomena] are realized by way of separate reasonings. Is this similar to the opinion of SvÓtantrikas and below [i.e., ChittamÓtrins] and some Tibetan ‘PrÓsa´gikas’ that the objects negated in the two selflessnesses differ in that the selflessness of persons is coarser and the selflessness of other phenomena is subtler?

Answer: [No, the two selflessnesses are realized by way of separate reasonings, but the object of negation, inherent existence, is the same in each case; thus, one is not coarser or subtler than the other.] Though the two selflessnesses do not differ in subtlety, the reasonings used for their realization are separate. In order to indicate this the root text says:

ChandrakŃrti’s Commentary on (Ôryadeva’s) ‘Four Hundred’ says: 617

Thus, the self to be negated is non-dependence or non-reliance on another, the ‘other’ being terms, thoughts, and so forth. Absences of this self on its bases—persons and [other] phenomena—are respectively posited as the selflessness of persons and of phenomena. This is the thought of the master BuddhapÓlita.

Four types of reasonings refute a self of phenomena [other than persons], whereas a self of persons is refuted by the reasoning in Sutra and in NÓgÓrjuna’s Treatise 618 that is a searching for it in five ways. A self of persons is also refuted in ChandrakŃrti’s Supplement by the reasoning that is a searching for [but not finding the self] in seven ways. [ChandrakŃrti added to the fivefold reasoning] two more refutations based on the teaching that the mere composite of the five aggregates is the basis of the imputation [and not the I]; these refute the assertions that the mere composite of the aggregates is the self and that the shape [of the body] is the self.

Both selves [of persons and of phenomena] are refuted by the reasoning that they lack being one and many and by the reasoning that they are dependent-arisings. These will now be explained.

Copyright Jeffrey Hopkins, 1994. All Rights Reserved.