Freedom from Extremes - Praise

Gorampa’s “Distinguishing the Views” and the Polemics of Emptiness

“Gorampa Sönam Sengé (1429 – 89) is among the the Sakya tradition’s greatest scholars, and his works have been considered seminal by many later masters of the school. In his Distinguishing the Views, Gorampa, critiques two divergent interpretations of Middle-Way philosophy: those of the Jonangpa and those of Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), whose followers had established doctrinal hegemony in many Tibetan seminaries. Gorampa composed this text early in his career, and its substance presages themes he returned to years later in his summa of the Madhyamaka, the Dgongs pa rab gsal. Gorampa’s trenchant criticisms have not lost their power. The Tibetan ‘modernist’ Gendun Choephel, after reading this long-banned work for the first time in the 1950s, shed tears and uttered high praise for its author. Now with Cabezón and Dargyay’s careful translation and notes, Western readers can follow the same discussions, many of which lay at the heart of Tibetan philosophy.”—David Jackson, University of Hamburg

“A magnificent translation of a pivotal Tibetan examination of the nature of reality. Essential for comprehending the variety of views on the middle ground.”—Jeffrey Hopkins, University of Virginia

“José Cabezón and Geshe Lobsang Dargyay have made a major contribution to the library of alternative Tibetan views of Madhyamaka. The text translated here is a classic of Tibetan polemical literature in which the great Sakya master Gorampa Sonam Senge presented refutations of the Madhyamaka explanations of both Dolpopa and Tsongkhapa. A wide-ranging introduction sets the stage for the text’s meticulously annotated translation.”—Buddhadharma

“Gorampa was a central figure in what was perhaps the most fertile period of Tibetan Buddhist philosophical and intellectual history. In his polemic tract, Distinguishing the Views, he not only sets forth his own view of Madhyamaka, one that he considers to be the orthodox Sakya view, but he also dedicates significant sections of the text to refuting the views of two towering Tibetan figures who were at one time associated with the Sakya tradition: Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen, founder of the other-emptiness or zhentong view, and Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the tradition that came to be known as Gelug. The fully annotated translation of Gorampa’s text and the historical Introduction that contextualizes the text, the ideas, the politics, and the role of polemics in Tibetan Buddhism make an outstanding new contribution to our understanding of Tibetan Buddhist philosophical history. Cabezón acknowledges in the preface the irony that one of the most famous criticisms of Tsongkhapa’s views would be ‘brought to the attention of a Western audience by two scholars trained in the great Gelug academies (Geshe Dargyay at Drepung and I at Sera).’ But he notes that not only does enthusiasm for good philosophical arguments transcend sectarian rivalries in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, but that often the greatest insight into one view comes from serious engagement with its critics. This is yet another excellent and welcomed addition to Wisdom Publications’ academic series: Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism.”—James Blumenthal, Oregon State University, for Mandala 

“José Cabezón and Geshe Lobsang Dargyay’s translation of Gorampa’s Distinguishing the Views (Lta ba'i shan ’byed) is a precious gift to scholars of Buddhist Madhyamaka philosophy.”—Khenpo Ngawang Jorden, University of Chicago