1. Mādhyamika School

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Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE)
Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE)

Mādhyamika

Mādhyamika (Middle Way) also known as Śūnyavāda (the Emptiness doctrine) and niḥ-svabhāva-vāda (the no-svabhāva doctrine) refers to a tradition of Buddhist philosophy and practice founded by the Indian philosopher Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE).

The foundational text of the Mādhyamika tradition is Nāgārjuna's Mūla-Mādhyamika-kārikā (Root Verses on the Middle Way).

More broadly, Mādhyamika also refers to the ultimate nature of phenomena as well as the non-conceptual realization of Ultimate Reality that is experienced in meditation.

Mādhyamika thought had a major influence on the subsequent development of the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition. It is the dominant interpretation of Buddhist philosophy in Tibetan Buddhism and has also been influential in East Asian Buddhist thought.

According to the classical Mādhyamika thinkers, all phenomena (dharmas) are Empty (śūnya) of nature, a substance or essence (svabhāva) which gives them solid and independent existence, because they are dependently co-arisen.

But this Emptiness itself is also Empty: it does not have an existence on its own, nor does it refer to a transcendental reality beyond or above phenomenal reality.

Etymology

Mādhya is a Sanskrit word meaning middle. The -ma suffix is a superlative, giving Mādhyama the meaning of mid-most or medium.

In a Buddhist context these terms refer to the Middle Path (Mādhyama Prati-pāda), which refers to Right View (samyag-dṛṣṭi) which steers clear of the metaphysical extremes of Annihilationism (uccheda-vāda) and Eternalism (śassata-vāda).

For example, the Sanskrit Katyāyana-sūtra states that though the world relies on a duality of existence and non-existence, the Buddha teaches a correct view which understands that:

Arising in the world, Kātyayana, seen and correctly understood just as it is, shows there is no non-existence in the world.

Cessation in the world, Kātyayana, seen and correctly understood just as it is, shows there is no permanent existence in the world.

Thus avoiding both extremes the Tathāgata teaches a dharma by the Middle Path (mādhya-mayā prati-pāda).

That is: this being, that becomes; with the arising of this, that arises.

With ignorance as condition there is volition ... (to be expanded with the standard formula of the 12 links of Dependent Origination”)

Though all Buddhist schools saw themselves as defending a Middle Path in accord with the Buddhist teachings, the name Mādhyamika refers to a school of Mahāyāna philosophy associated with Nāgārjuna and his commentators.

The term Mādhyamika refers to adherents of the Mādhyamika School.