A report on Buddhist philosophy

The Buddhist Nalanda university and monastery was a major center of learning in India from the 5th century CE until the 12th century.
Gautama Buddha surrounded by followers, from an 18th-century Burmese watercolour
Indian Emperor Aśoka and the elder Moggaliputta-Tissa, who is seen as a key thinker of the Vibhajyavāda tradition (and thus, of Theravada).
Buddhaghosa (c. 5th century), the most important Abhidharma scholar of Theravāda Buddhism, presenting three copies of the Visuddhimagga.
Nagarjuna, protected by the Nagas snake spirits who are said to be the guardians of the Prajnaparamita sutras.
Vasubandhu wrote in defense of Vijñapti-matra (appearance only) as well as writing a massive work on Abhidharma, the Abhidharmakosa.
Dignāga in formal debating stance
Abhayākaragupta, one of "the last great masters" of Indian Buddhism (Kapstein).
Tsongkapa, 15th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art
Gorampa Sonam Senge
Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso.
Painting of Śramaṇa Zhiyi of the Tiantai school.
A 3D rendering of Indra's net.
The Garbhadhatu mandala. The center square represents the young stage of Vairocana Buddha.
A portrait of Gendün Chöphel in India, 1936.
Kitarō Nishida, professor of philosophy at Kyoto University and founder of the Kyoto School.

Buddhist philosophy refers to the philosophical investigations and systems of inquiry that developed among various Buddhist schools in India following the parinirvana (i.e. death) of the Buddha and later spread throughout Asia.

- Buddhist philosophy
The Buddhist Nalanda university and monastery was a major center of learning in India from the 5th century CE until the 12th century.

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Nāgārjuna (right) and Āryadeva (middle).

Madhyamaka

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Nāgārjuna (right) and Āryadeva (middle).
Kamalashila
Thangkha with Jonang lama Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292–1361)
Tsongkhapa
Gorampa Sonam Senge, the most important madhyamaka philosopher in Sakya
Mikyö Dorje, 8th Karmapa Lama
Jamgön Ju Mipham Gyatso (1846–1912), a key exponent of madhyamaka thought in the Nyingma school, known for harmonizing madhyamaka with the dzogchen view.
A painting of Kumārajīva at White Horse Pagoda, Dunhuang

Mādhyamaka ("middle way" or "centrism"; ; Tibetan: དབུ་མ་པ ; dbu ma pa), otherwise known as Śūnyavāda ("the emptiness doctrine") and Niḥsvabhāvavāda ("the no svabhāva doctrine"), refers to a tradition of Buddhist philosophy and practice founded by the Indian Buddhist monk and philosopher Nāgārjuna (c.

The bodhisattva Maitreya and disciples, a central figure in Yogacara origin myth. Gandhara, 3rd century CE.

Yogachara

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The bodhisattva Maitreya and disciples, a central figure in Yogacara origin myth. Gandhara, 3rd century CE.
Statue of a traveling Xuanzang at Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang
Kuījī (632–682), a student of Xuanzang
Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292–1361), founder of the Jonang school and popularizer of Yogācāra-Tathāgatagarbha thought
Tibetan depiction of Asaṅga and Maitreya

Yogachara (योगाचार, IAST: ; literally "yoga practice"; "one whose practice is yoga") is an influential tradition of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing the study of cognition, perception, and consciousness through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices.

An illustration in a manuscript of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra from Nalanda, depicting the bodhisattva Maitreya, an important figure in Mahāyāna.

Mahayana

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An illustration in a manuscript of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra from Nalanda, depicting the bodhisattva Maitreya, an important figure in Mahāyāna.
The Five Tathāgatas in Shishoin Temple (Tokyo). A unique feature of Mahāyāna is the belief that there are multiple Buddhas which are currently teaching the Dharma.
Mahāyāna Buddhist triad, including Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Buddha, and Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. 2nd–3rd century CE, Gandhāra
Seated Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva. Gandharan, from Loriyan Tangai. Kushan period, 1st – 3rd century CE. Indian Museum, Calcutta.
Cave complex associated with the Mahāsāṃghika sect. Karla Caves, Mahārāṣtra, India
Ruins of the Nalanda Mahavihara (Great Monastery) in Bihar, a major center for the study of Mahāyāna Buddhism from the fifth century CE to c.  1200 CE.
Buddhist expansion in Asia, from Buddhist heartland in northern India (dark orange) starting 5th century BCE, to Buddhist majority realm (orange), and historical extent of Buddhism influences (yellow). Mahāyāna (red arrow), Theravāda (green arrow), and Tantric-Vajrayāna (blue arrow). The overland and maritime "Silk Roads" were interlinked and complementary, forming what scholars have called the "great circle of Buddhism".
The use of mandalas was one new feature of Tantric Buddhism, which also adopted new deities such as Chakrasamvara (pictured).
A Ming bronze of the Buddha Mahāvairocana which depicts his body as being composed of numerous other Buddhas.
The female bodhisattva Prajñaparamita.
Tibetan depiction of Buddha Amitāyus in his Pure Land of Sukhavati.
Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Ajaṇṭā Caves, Maharashtra, India.
Illustrated Korean manuscript of the Lotus Sutra, Goryeo Dynasty, c. 1340. The three carts at the top which are symbolic of the three vehicles.
Guanyin (Avalokiteśvara) with multiple arms symbolizing upaya and great compassion, Leshan, China.
The Lotus, especially the puṇḍarīka (white lotus), is used in Mahāyāna to symbolize the nature of bodhisattvas. The lotus is rooted in the earthly mud and yet flowers above the water in the open air. Similarly, the bodhisattva lives in the world but remains unstained by it.
A statue of the Mahāyāna philosopher Nagarjuna, founder of the Madhyamaka school. Considered by some to be an Arya (noble) bodhisattva or even the "second Buddha".
A Kamakura period reliquary topped with a cintamani (wish fulfilling jewel). Buddha nature texts often use the metaphor of a jewel (i.e. buddha-nature) which all beings have but are unaware of.
The Japanese monk Kūya reciting the nembutsu, depicted as six small Amida Buddha figures.
Zen master Bodhidharma meditating, Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1887.
An 18th century Mongolian miniature which depicts a monk generating a tantric visualization.
Astasahasrika Prajñaparamita Manuscript. Prajñaparamita and Scenes from the Buddha's Life (top), Maitreya and Scenes from the Buddha's Life (bottom), c. 1075
Frontispiece of the Chinese Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, the oldest known dated printed book in the world.
Map showing the three major Buddhist divisions.
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, Taiwan.
The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso with Desmond Tutu in 2004. Due to his charisma, the Dalai Lama has become the international face of contemporary Tibetan Buddhism.

Mahāyāna ("Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, philosophies, and practices.

A simile from the Pali scriptures (SN 22.95) compares form and feelings with foam and bubbles.

Śūnyatā

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Indian philosophical and mathematical construct.

Indian philosophical and mathematical construct.

A simile from the Pali scriptures (SN 22.95) compares form and feelings with foam and bubbles.
Sea froth at sunset
In the Prajñaparamita sutras, the emptiness of phenomena is often illustrated by metaphors like drops of dew.
Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva, two classic Indian philosophers of the Buddhist emptiness doctrine.
In Tibetan Buddhism, emptiness is often symbolized by and compared to the open sky which is associated with openness and freedom.

Over time, many different philosophical schools or tenet-systems (Sanskrit: siddhānta) have developed within Buddhism in an effort to explain the exact philosophical meaning of emptiness.

Painting of Nāgārjuna from the Shingon Hassozō, a series of scrolls authored by the Shingon school of Buddhism. Japan, Kamakura Period (13th-14th century)

Nagarjuna

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Nāgārjuna (c.

Nāgārjuna (c.

Painting of Nāgārjuna from the Shingon Hassozō, a series of scrolls authored by the Shingon school of Buddhism. Japan, Kamakura Period (13th-14th century)
Painting of Nāgārjuna
A map of the Satavahana Kingdom, showing the location of Amaravathi (where Nāgārjuna may have lived and worked according to Walser) and Vidarbha (the birthplace of Nāgārjuna according to Kumārajīva).
A model of the Amaravati Stupa
Nicholas Roerich "Nagarjuna Conqueror of the Serpent" (1925)
Golden statue of Nāgārjuna at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland

Nāgārjuna is widely considered to be the founder of the Madhyamaka (centrism, middle-way) school of Buddhist philosophy and a defender of the Mahāyāna movement.

A modern statue of Nāgārjuna, protected by the Nagas, snake spirits who are said to be the guardians of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

Mūlamadhyamakakārikā

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A modern statue of Nāgārjuna, protected by the Nagas, snake spirits who are said to be the guardians of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (मूलमध्यमककारिका, Root Verses on the Middle Way), abbreviated as MMK, is the foundational text of the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy.

Ācārya Bhāviveka Converts a Nonbeliever to Buddhism, Gelug 18th-century Qing painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Bhāviveka

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Sixth-century (c.

Sixth-century (c.

Ācārya Bhāviveka Converts a Nonbeliever to Buddhism, Gelug 18th-century Qing painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art
India in the late 6th century
Tibetan illustration of Bhāviveka

500 – c. 570) madhyamaka Buddhist philosopher. Alternative names for this figure also include Bhavyaviveka, Bhāvin, Bhāviviveka, Bhagavadviveka and Bhavya.

Portrait of Dharmakirti in silver, c. 15th–16th century, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Dharmakirti

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Dharmakīrti (fl.

Dharmakīrti (fl.

Portrait of Dharmakirti in silver, c. 15th–16th century, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Buddhist epistemology holds that perception and inference are the means to correct knowledge.

He was one of the key scholars of epistemology (pramāṇa) in Buddhist philosophy, and is associated with the Yogācāra and Sautrāntika schools.

Representatives from the three major modern Buddhist traditions, at the World Fellowship of Buddhists, 27th General Conference, 2014.

Schools of Buddhism

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The schools of Buddhism are the various institutional and doctrinal divisions of Buddhism that have existed from ancient times up to the present.

The schools of Buddhism are the various institutional and doctrinal divisions of Buddhism that have existed from ancient times up to the present.

Representatives from the three major modern Buddhist traditions, at the World Fellowship of Buddhists, 27th General Conference, 2014.
Map showing major Buddhist divisions
Districtwise Buddhist population percentage, India census 2011. India's West-centre area Maharashtra shows Navayana Buddhist population
Percentage of Buddhists by country, according to the Pew Research Center.
Map of the major geographical centers of major Buddhist schools in South Asia, at around the time of Xuanzang's visit in the seventh century. * Red: non-Pudgalavāda Sarvāstivāda school * Orange: non-Dharmaguptaka Vibhajyavāda schools * Yellow: Mahāsāṃghika * Green: Pudgalavāda (Green) * Gray: Dharmaguptaka Note the red and grey schools already gave some original ideas of Mahayana Buddhism and the Sri Lankan section (see Tamrashatiya) of the orange school is the origin of modern Theravada Buddhism.
The Tipitaka (Pali Canon), in a Thai Style book case. The Pali Tipitaka is the doctrinal foundation of all major Theravāda sects today
Nagarjuna, one of the most influential thinkers of Indian Mahāyāna Buddhism
Indian Buddhist Mahasiddhas, 18th century, Boston MFA.
B. R. Ambedkar delivering speech during conversion, Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur, 14 October 1956
Taixu, the founder of Chinese Humanistic Buddhism

The classification and nature of various doctrinal, philosophical or cultural facets of the schools of Buddhism is vague and has been interpreted in many different ways, often due to the sheer number (perhaps thousands) of different sects, subsects, movements, etc. that have made up or currently make up the whole of Buddhist traditions.

Painting depicting the life of Tsongkhapa, the largest image on the left showing the dream he had of the great Indian scholars like Buddhapalita.

Je Tsongkhapa

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Influential Tibetan Buddhist monk, philosopher and tantric yogi, whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Influential Tibetan Buddhist monk, philosopher and tantric yogi, whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Painting depicting the life of Tsongkhapa, the largest image on the left showing the dream he had of the great Indian scholars like Buddhapalita.
A depiction of Tsongkhapa communing with Mañjuśrī bodhisattva
Ganden Monastery, Tibet
Statue of Tsongkhapa at Yonghe Temple, Beijing.
Tsongkapa, 15th-century painting, Rubin Museum of Art
The Indian philosopher Candrakīrti, whom Tsongkhapa takes as his major authority on Nagarjuna's madhyamaka
Statue of Tsongkhapa, Linden-Museum, Stuttgart
Guhyasamāja mandala with Mañjuvajra as the central deity.
Bronze depicting Tsongkhapa, who is known and revered by Mongolians as Bogd Zonkhova.

Tsongkhapa was a prolific author with a broad knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, logic, hermeneutics and practice.