University of Calgary

Atiśa, The Great Middle Way of Mere Appearance


The Routledge Handbook of Indian Buddhist Philosophy


The famous eleventh-century Bengali Atiśa (982–1054) was a master of Madhyamaka (Middle Way thought and practice) who upheld a lineage based on Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti that descended down to Atiśa’s direct teachers Bodhibhadra and Avadhūtipa. Atiśa’s lineage of the Middle Way of Nāgārjuna was contemplative in nature and did not utilize epistemological warrants (pramāṇa) to realize ultimate reality. Atiśa’s Middle Way synthesized the teachings of Bhāviveka and Candrakīrti, bringing together compatible elements of their teachings for soteriological efficacy in progression on the path. The following chapter outlines Atiśa's great middle way (dbu ma chen po) or mere appearance (snang ba tsam).


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