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From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Bhavyaviveka (or Bhavya) (Chinese: 清辯 (pinyin: Qīngbiàn); Tibetan: slob-dpon bha-vya or skal-ldan/legs-ldan) (c. 500 – c. 578) was the founder of the Svatantrika tradition of the Mādhyamaka school of Buddhism. Ames (1993: p. 210), holds that Bhavyaviveka is one of the first Buddhist logicians to employ the 'formal syllogism' (Wylie: sbyor ba'i tshig; Sanskrit: prayoga-vākya) of Indian Logic in expounding the Mādhyamaka which he employed to considerable effect in his commentary to Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, entitled the Prajñāpradīpa.


According to one source, Bhavyaviveka was born to the east of Magadha in India of a Kashatriya family. He was ordained by Nagarjuna.

Another source claims he was born of a royal family of "Mālaya-ra" in South India. After becoming a monk he travelled to Madhya-desa ('Middle India') and received teachings on the Mahayana sutras and Nagarjuna's texts from Acarya Samgharakṣita. After this he returned to southern India and became the head of 50 temples and taught extensively.


Madhyamakahṛdaya-karika and its autocommentary, the Tarkajvala

Bhavya wrote an independent work on the Madhyamaka entitled the Madhyamakahrdaya-karika which Bhavya in turn wrote an autocommentary upon entitled the Tarkajvala (Blaze of Reasoning).

Prajñāpradīpa (or Janāndeepa)

The Prajñāpradīpa (Wylie: shes rab sgron ma; or shes rab sgron me) is Bhavyaviveka's commentary upon Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. The Sanskrit is no longer extant (except for a few embedded quotations in the Prasannapadā, Candrakīrti's commentary of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā and critique of the Prajñāpradīpa) but according to Ames (1993: p. 211) is available in both an excellent Tibetan translation, rendered by Jñānagarbha and Cog ro Klu'i rgyal mtshan (Wylie) in the early ninth century. Ames (1993: p. 211) also conveyed that the Chinese translation is poor, where the inference of inferiority was drawn from the work of Kaliyama (1963: p. 39). The Sanskrit name has been reconstructed as either Prajñāpradīpa or Janāndeepa (where Janāndeepa may or may not be a Prakrit corruption or a poor inverse-translation, for example).

Contention with Buddhapalita's view

After the death of Buddhapalita (470–550), Bhavyaviveka refuted his views by writing a commentary on the Root Wisdom called Wisdom Lamp (Janāndeepa) relying on Nagarjuna's teachings. This text laid the foundations for the Svatantrika school of Buddhism.

In the Svatantrika tradition reasoning is used to establish that phenomena (dharmas) have no self-nature, and further arguments to establish that the true nature of all phenomena is emptiness. This school differs from the predominant Prasangika tradition in that the latter refrain from making any assertions whatsoever about the true nature of phenomena.

The Padmakara Translation Group (2005: p. 386) convey a respected philosophical legacy, a dialectical chicane inaugurated by Bhavya, in that:

Bhavya holds that the consequential arguments of Buddhapalita are not on the same footing as those of Nagarjuna. In both cases, the consequences imply negations that could theoretically be formulated as positive (syllogistic) arguments. The difference between them is that, given what is known to be Nagarjuna's intention (the negation of all four positions of the tetralemma), his negations are to be understood as nonimplicative. But such a concession is not to be granted to the commentator, whose task is to render explicit to the fullest extent the obscurities of the commented text. If the commentator uses consequences (unaccompanied by any positive and clarificatory statement), the resulting negations cannot automatically be regarded as nonimplicative. On the contrary, they are implicative and therefore undesirable in the Madhyamaka context...It is worth noting that it is in Bhavya that the important distinction between implicative and nonimplicative negations first appears.

In the above quotation, 'tetralemma' should be understood to refer to the Catuskoti. 'Nonimplicative negation' (Tibetan: མེད་དགག, Wylie: med dgag; Sanskrit: niṣedha) may also be rendered as 'existential negation'. 'Implicative negative' (Tibetan: མ་ཡིན་དགག, Wylie: ma yin dgag; Sanskrit: paryudāsa) may also be rendered 'predicative negation'.

"Founder" of the Svatantrika school

The designation as Bhavyaviveka as 'founder' of the Svatantrika school is not uncontroversial, not least because the very existence of an independent 'Svatantrika' school in India is not well attested. While it is certain that later Tibetan doxographers divided the Madhyamaka philosophy of Nagarjuna into Svatantrika (other inference) and Prasangkika (consequence), and that this manner of division has currency today in contemporary Tibetan monasteries, other methods of division existed.

Panchen Lama lineage

In the lineage of the Tibetan Panchen Lamas there were considered to be four Indian and three Tibetan mindstream emanations of Amitabha Buddha before Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, who is recognised as the 1st Panchen Lama. The lineage starts with Subhuti, one of the original disciples of Gautama Buddha. Bhavaviveka is considered to be the third Indian mindstream emanation of Amitabha Buddha in this line.