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In this, his major work, Jeffrey Hopkins, one of the world's foremost scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, offers a clear exposition of the Prasasgika-Madhyamaka view of emptiness as presented in the Ge-luk-ba tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In bringing this remarkable and complex philosophy to life, he describes the meditational practices by which emptiness can be re In this, his major work, Jeffrey Hopkins, one of the world's foremost scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, offers a clear exposition of the Prasasgika-Madhyamaka view of emptiness as presented in the Ge-luk-ba tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In bringing this remarkable and complex philosophy to life, he describes the meditational practices by which emptiness can be realized and shows throughout that, far from being merely abstract, these teachings can be vivid and utterly practical. Presented in six parts, this book Is indispensable for those wishing to delve deeply into Buddhist thought. This 1996 Revised Edition includes a critical edition of Jamyang Shêpa Ngawang Tsöndrü's root text Great Exposition of the Tenets (1689) in Tibetan text.


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In this, his major work, Jeffrey Hopkins, one of the world's foremost scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, offers a clear exposition of the Prasasgika-Madhyamaka view of emptiness as presented in the Ge-luk-ba tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In bringing this remarkable and complex philosophy to life, he describes the meditational practices by which emptiness can be re In this, his major work, Jeffrey Hopkins, one of the world's foremost scholar-practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, offers a clear exposition of the Prasasgika-Madhyamaka view of emptiness as presented in the Ge-luk-ba tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In bringing this remarkable and complex philosophy to life, he describes the meditational practices by which emptiness can be realized and shows throughout that, far from being merely abstract, these teachings can be vivid and utterly practical. Presented in six parts, this book Is indispensable for those wishing to delve deeply into Buddhist thought. This 1996 Revised Edition includes a critical edition of Jamyang Shêpa Ngawang Tsöndrü's root text Great Exposition of the Tenets (1689) in Tibetan text.

30 review for Meditation on Emptiness

  1. 5 out of 5

    r0b

    My admiration for Hopkins has jumped a whole other level after reading this. “My aim is not to present original reflections on emptiness but to portray as well as I can how emptiness is a practical force within the Gelukpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.” Jeffrey Hopkins Approaching this book requires a certain amount of commitment. It is over a 1,000 pages long and it is a rather academic and very dense read, encyclopedic in scope. I don’t recommend it as an entry level book! After a relatively bri My admiration for Hopkins has jumped a whole other level after reading this. “My aim is not to present original reflections on emptiness but to portray as well as I can how emptiness is a practical force within the Gelukpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.” Jeffrey Hopkins Approaching this book requires a certain amount of commitment. It is over a 1,000 pages long and it is a rather academic and very dense read, encyclopedic in scope. I don’t recommend it as an entry level book! After a relatively brief (and somewhat endearing*) Introduction Hopkins proceeds for about 600 pages with his commentary on Jam-yang-shay-pa’s text “Emptiness in the Prasangika System". Following this is the actual text (140 pages) by Jam-yang-shay-pa (translated by Hopkins, of course). Besides the bibliography and glossary there is also about a 100 pages of very extensive notes, some notes are themselves several pages long. All very helpful. To understand emptiness according to the Gelukpa tradition it is encouraged to study the four tenet systems: Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Chittamantra and Madhyamika. The Madhyamika tenet system is subdivided into Svatantrika- and Prasangika-Madhyamika, (which is “considered in Tibet to be the acme of philosophical systems”). Nagarjuna founded Madhyamika and “his thought was further clarified as being Prasangika-Madhyamika by Chandrakirti, and in the domain of emptiness Chandrakirti’s system has held almost complete sway in the various Tibetan orders.” In his commentary Hopkins makes extensive use of Tsongkhapa’s teachings as well as Chandrakirti. I began this book this book last year with our small dharma study group. However, due to the pandemic our meetings were eventually put on hold. I think we will regroup sometime soon, perhaps September (karma willing ;). I am looking forward to that because there is much in this book that I found quite difficult and I will benefit from having a group discussion, especially with someone who has some expertise in this area (which we are fortunate enough to have). I highly recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in studying emptiness in the Gelugpa tradition. *After a few pages offering a fairly gentle overview of emptiness Hopkins then for a couple of pages briefly gives a biographical context for his book...”I first encountered the Great Exposition of Tenets in 1963 when I began studying with Geshe Wangyal...”. I found his account of his early contact with his first teachers (including Kensur Rinpoche, Geshe Gedun Lodro and the Dalai Lama) and his immense gratitude for their patience, wisdom and kindness rather moving.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott Gates

    This book was over my head twice over: first, though twenty-five years old, it’s a classic work on this particular school of Buddhism and its primary audience is Buddhist scholars who know their stuff; second, the intricacies of this philosophy are difficult to grasp fully (I think) if you’re not used to reading this type of thing. I have been told by a Buddhist scholar that this book is “anthropologically suspect.” Somewhat complex context. The sect is part of Mahayana school of Buddhism. And i This book was over my head twice over: first, though twenty-five years old, it’s a classic work on this particular school of Buddhism and its primary audience is Buddhist scholars who know their stuff; second, the intricacies of this philosophy are difficult to grasp fully (I think) if you’re not used to reading this type of thing. I have been told by a Buddhist scholar that this book is “anthropologically suspect.” Somewhat complex context. The sect is part of Mahayana school of Buddhism. And it’s the Madyamaka school within in the Mahayana sect. And within the Madyamakas, it’s the Prasingika subdivision. These are, it seems, crucial distinctions. Think of this next time somewhat talks about “Buddhism.” The fount of the Prasingikas is Nagarjuna (150-200 CE) and also Chandrakirtit (600-650). But the main texts that inform Meditation on Emptiness come from 13th century and 17th century Buddhist thinkers. These scholars have an ongoing dialogue that takes place over hundreds of years. It seems that Hopkins pulls on a wide variety of texts to come up with his paraphrases. I have to say, none of this is explained that clearly in the intro, you’re kind of just thrown into these texts. Or, rather, it’s more that there’s a wholesale indifference as to when a particular text was written and from whom. The arguments between the philosophers are presented as occurring in the timeless realm of Text, and it’s only be taking a step back that you realize one philosopher is mockingly refuting the argument of another after a span of several hundred years. Like all other great religions, this Tibetan school of Buddhism offers an outlook on life that comes off as joyless and life-negating. This Tibetan Buddhist sect (Prasingika) is at pains to differentiate themselves from Nihilists. Nihilists think that “making an effort at ethics is a waste of precious time because no moral carry-over from one lifetime to another is seen.” They do not believe that it matters what you do since when you’re dead your soul ceases to be. A crucial distinction is that Emptiness is different from Nothingness. Because the Prasingikas are the Sect of Emptiness, this opens them up to the charge of being Nihilists. They are anxious to distance themselves from the Nihilists. Existence, the Prasingikas believe, is inherently empty, though it is not “conventionally empty.” It doesn’t matter and it does matter. Basically, in spite of the fact that our existence is imbued with inherent Emptiness and is on some core level “not real” and insubstantial, what occurs in this existence is still important, not the least because your actions in this realm will carry over into your next incarnations. This is the well-known Buddhist middle path: understanding that the forms our existence (mores, laws, professional distinctions) do not really matter, while also giving them their due. There are similar paradoxes throughout the Prasingika philosophy: “The particular I of one lifetime is not the particular I of another lifetime, but they are both I. Still, this does not mean that there is a generality which is a separate entity from its individual instances.” One Buddhist compared this to the transfer of a candle’s flame from one candle to another. It is the same flame, and it is a different flame. Because in spite of their claims of the Emptiness of Selfhood, there is nonetheless some entity, whether you call it a soul or psyche or self, that is carried over from one lifetime to another, and it is this entity’s actions that determine the nature of this carryover. It seems that if the self is nothing more than a succession of ephemeral instances, such a carryover would not be possible. Here is the kind of swift sharp logic these Buddhist philosophers use to refute their Nihilist enemies. "The Nihilists say that there are no former and later births, no omniscience, and no effects of charity, etc., because they have not seen them directly. Does this mean that all persons have not seen them directly or that just the Nihilists have not seen them directly? Also, do they directly see them to be nonexistent or do they realize them to be nonexistent through inference? How, without omniscience, can anyone know what all have and have not seen? "How can the nonexistent be seen directly? For, the proponents of Nihilism say that only direct perception is valid. Thus, the nonexistence of former and later births and so forth not only cannot be established by valid inference, but also an attempt to do such would demolish their own position that inference is not valid." Buddhist time spans in their cosmologies are always grander (to put it mildly) than that of the Religions of the Book (Judaism, Christianity, Islam): “The life-span of humans, which at that time was extremely long, gradually began to shorten, and when it was 40,000 years, the first of the thousand Buddhas of this great eon… appeared.” The Bible also recounts that the lifetime of humans decreased through the years, but the longest anyone lived was around 1,000 years. For these Buddhists, 40,000 years of life was already a degradation. The Book religions talk about generations and centuries, the Buddhists talk about millennia and eons. Also registered by these Buddhists is the perennial Western debate of nominalism vs. realism (essentialism); or: the words we use express essential realities vs. the words we use are merely verbal conventions for things that might not (“naturally” or inherently) exist. To quote: “Therefore, when another asks what the expression ‘pot’ means, people do not say ‘It is the “pot” that is only nominally imputed to a bulbous thing capable of holding water,’ They say, ‘It is a bulbous thing capable of holding water.’” Again, the middle path is advocated. For if you begin to consider whether “pot” equals the bulbous thing capable of holding water, you can then further inquire as to whether “bulbous” equals the shape of the thing capable of holding water, and whether “water” equals the clear liquid substance used for drinking and washing; and so on ad infinitum. Language and sense would be destroyed, hence the necessity of the middle path. What pushed things beyond my level of comprehension was when the philosophers began to discuss Emptiness itself. Nothing seems to exist independently for these Buddhists, such as the Greek’s noumenon or some other idea of transcendental Forms, for Emptiness itself is just another phenomenon, and it requires our conventional contingent existence in order to be. Emptiness itself is empty. “Even emptiness is dependent-arising because it is imputed to a lack of inherent existence which is its basis of imputation and, like all other phenomena, cannot be found when sought among its bases of imputation.” Thus Emptiness itself is no more “real” than our Empty contingent existence. This is the type of section in which the philosophers would instruct neophytes to read at their peril. As I said before, I was in over my head reading this, so I could have any of number of things misrepresented above (this is a preemptive safeguard in case any Buddhist scholar swings by to read this).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julia Wahl

    Not easy to read but excellent (if you're already familiar with the topic; otherwise may be too challenging). Not easy to read but excellent (if you're already familiar with the topic; otherwise may be too challenging).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    It's been almost three years since I touched this, and there is still background I feel I need on predecessor Buddhist philosophical developments on śunyata before I'll be able to make significant progress. So, while I'm moving out, I'll return this to the lender with my thanks (and several other books) and hope for the future. It's been almost three years since I touched this, and there is still background I feel I need on predecessor Buddhist philosophical developments on śunyata before I'll be able to make significant progress. So, while I'm moving out, I'll return this to the lender with my thanks (and several other books) and hope for the future.

  5. 4 out of 5

    C.D. George

    This book is probably one of the most difficult spiritual books I have ever attempted to read. I've yet to finish it, but hopefully I'll find the spiritual energy to take up the endevour once more. This book is probably one of the most difficult spiritual books I have ever attempted to read. I've yet to finish it, but hopefully I'll find the spiritual energy to take up the endevour once more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    bad

    summary of selflessness in the consequentialist middle-way school primarily according to the gelug school of tibetan boddhism. one of my personal favorite books of all time...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brad

  8. 4 out of 5

    Spiritracker

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erin Rapacki

  10. 5 out of 5

    Krista

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott Peterson

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia

  13. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

  14. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  16. 5 out of 5

    Colin Keane

  17. 4 out of 5

    Darryl

  18. 5 out of 5

    Blaine

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lloyd-Billington

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

  22. 4 out of 5

    Graham Smetham

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bodo Balsys

  25. 4 out of 5

    JoXn

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tracey-Lee

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  29. 4 out of 5

    Simon Linnert

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tore

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