University of Calgary

The Spiritual Exercises of the Middle Way: Reading Atiśa’s Madhyamakopadeśa with Hadot


Hadot and Buddhist Thought


This chapter provides a close reading of the Special Instructions on the Middle Way (madhyamakopadeśa) of Atiśa Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna (982-1054 CE) using the approach of Pierre Hadot (1922-2010) to interpreting philosophia as a way of life. The paper first outlines the attractiveness of Pierre Hadot’s program for reading ancient philosophy and his notions of spiritual exercises and philosophia. The paper then addresses recent critiques of interpreting Buddhist thought as philosophia within the socio-historical context of Indian Buddhism. In response to such criticisms, a reading of Atiśa’s Special Instructions on the Middle Way (hereafter, Special Instructions) furnishes a case study for Buddhist spiritual exercises within a way of life that brings about self-transformation.


Mangalam Research Center
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