• Dianne McKinnon

Beyond The Two Extremes

Furthermore when the extreme of existence is eliminated by appearances,


And the extreme of non-existence is eliminated by emptiness,

The nature of arisings through cause and effect is known – and

One will not be swept away by the view that grasps at extremes.

~Je Tsongkhapa ~ The Three Principal Aspects of the Path


How Middle Way Takes us Beyond the Two Extremes


This requested commentary was given by Geshe Jinpa Sonam 1/8/21


In the system of the Middle Way philosophy it is asserted that all phenomena are “mere” appearances- merely appearing– that is, based on and in dependence upon interdependent factors, they relatively (merely) exist. This assertion ‘eliminates the extreme of existence’ of phenomenal appearances- the eternalistic view

The Middle Way’s assertion of emptiness of an intrinsic existence of phenomena eliminates the ‘extreme of non-existence,’ or complete nothingness. In other words, emptiness counters holding the view of a complete nihilistic view of never having existed at all [as some systems posit]. This nihilistic view is refuted by the Prasangika Madyamakas who assert that in order to have a lack or an emptiness of something, there must be a basis of designation upon which to assert that emptiness.

When one understands this well, this mutual interplay of relationship between appearance and emptiness, then one understands the highest Buddhist philosophical view, and one can discerning from amongst the lower tenets viewpoints, pick out the authentic view. One sees that it is not that things don’t at all exist, but rather, but that they arise and exist out of interdependent relation. The Madhyamaka Prasangika’s state this quite well, and His Holiness stated this so eloquently in his recent teaching [Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is form, etc…] on the Heart Sutra.

When one understands this well, this mutual interplay of the relationship between appearance and emptiness, then one understands the highest Buddhist philosophical view, and one can, discerning from amongst the lower tenets' viewpoints, pick out the authentic view of reality. One sees that it is not that things don’t at all exist, but rather, but that they arise and exist out of interdependent relation. The Madhyamaka Prasangika really states this quite well, and His Holiness stated this so eloquently in his recent teaching [Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is form, etc…] on the Heart Sutra.

When we say form/appearance is empty, this is what is meant by “mere” appearances. ‘Merely appearing,’ meaning it is not actually what it is appearing to be. It lacks being truly intrinsically existent, but it’s not that it is completely non-existent; it does exist by way of conventions. So it holds both aspects: appearance and emptiness- a mutual interplay. This is the extraordinary view of Middle Way.



Translated for #Indiana #Buddhist Center by Dianne McKinnon


ལམ་གཙོ་ལས། །གཞན་ཡང་སྣང་བས་ཡོད་མཐའ་སེལ་བ་དང་། །སྟོང་བས་མེད་མཐའ་སེལ་ཞིང་སྟོང་བ་ཉིད།

།རྒྱུ་དང་འབྲས་བུར་འཆར་བའི་ཚུལ་ཤེས་ན། །མཐར་འཛིན་ལྟ་བས་འཕྲོག་ཕར་མི་འགྱུར་རོ། །ཞེས་དང་

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