Freedom from Extremes

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“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


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

José I. Cabezón Geshe Lobsang Dargyay

What is emptiness? This question at the heart of Buddhist philosophy has preoccupied the greatest minds of India and Tibet for two millennia, producing hundreds of volumes. Distinguishing the Views, by the fifteenth-century Sakya scholar Gorampa Sönam Sengé, is one of the most important of those works, esteemed for its conciseness, lucidity, and profundity. Freedom from Extremes presents Gorampa’s elegant philosophical case on the matter of emptiness here in a masterful translation by Geshe Lobsang Dargyay.

Gorampa’s text is polemical, and his targets are two of Tibet’s greatest thinkers: Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug school, and Dölpopa, a founding figure of the Jonang school. Distinguishing the Views argues that Dolpopa has fallen into an eternalistic extreme, whereas Tsongkhapa has fallen into nihilism, and that only the mainstream Sakya view—what Gorampa calls “freedom from extremes”—represents the true middle way, the correct view of emptiness. Suppressed for years in Tibet, this seminal work today is widely regarded and is studied in some of Tibet’s greatest academic institutions.

Gorampa’s treatise has been translated and annotated here by two leading scholars of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, and a critical edition of the Tibetan text on facing pages gives students and scholars direct access to Gorampa’s own words. José Cabezón’s extended introduction provides a thorough overview of Tibetan polemical literature and contextualizes the life and work of Gorampa both historically and intellectually. Freedom from Extremes will be indispensable for serious students of Madhyamaka thought.

Learn more about the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series.

book information
  • Paperback
  • 432 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 inches
  • $32.95
  • ISBN 9780861715237
  • ebook
  • 432 pages
  • $22.99
  • ISBN 9780861718573
about the author
Freedom from Extremes

José Ignacio Cabezón (author of Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism and co-author of Freedom from Extremes) was co-chair of the Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism series from 2005 to 2022. He is XIVth Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Cabezón studied physics as an undergraduate at Caltech, trained as a monk at Sera Monastery in India, and translated for the Dalai Lama into Spanish on several occasions. He earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1987. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books on Indo-Tibetan scholasticism, Madhyamaka philosophy, Buddhism and sexuality, and Tibetan ritual. His co-authored Sera Monastery, also published by Wisdom, is a history of one of the great monastic universities of Tibet from its founding to the present. Cabezón served as president of the American Academy of Religion in 2020.

Other books by José I. Cabezón:
Sera Monastery
Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism
Meditation on the Nature of Mind

Freedom from Extremes

The late Geshe Lobsang Dargyay was trained at Drepung Monastery in Tibet. He got his doctorate in Buddhist and Tibetan Studies from the Ludwig Maximilians Universität and held teaching and research positions in Vienna, Hamburg, and Calgary. Geshe-la was the first Tibetan to receive a doctorate from a Western university. He passed away in 1994.

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