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Madhyamaka ("Middle way" or "Centrism"; Sanskrit: मध्यमक, Chinese: 中觀見; pinyin: Zhōngguān Jìan, Tibetan: dbu ma pa) also 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 philosopher Nāgārjuna (c. 150-250 CE).[1][2] The foundational text of the Mādhyamaka tradition is Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Root Verses on the Middle Way). More broadly, Madhyamaka also refers to the ultimate nature of phenomena and the realization of this in meditative equipoise.[3][clarification needed]

Madhyamaka thought had a major influence on the subsequent development of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It is the dominant interpretation of Buddhist philosophy in Tibetan Buddhism and has also been influential in East Asian Buddhist thought.[4]

According to the classical Madhyamaka thinkers, all phenomena (dharmas) are empty (śūnya) of "nature,"[5] a "substance" or "essence" (svabhāva) which gives them "solid and independent existence," because they are dependently co-arisen.[6] But this "emptiness" itself is also "empty": it does not have an existence on its own, nor does it refer to a transcendental reality beyond or above phenomenal reality.[7][8][9]

In Tibetan Buddhist scholarship, a distinction began to be made between the Autonomist (Svātantrika, rang rgyud pa) and Consequentialist (Prāsaṅgika, Thal ’gyur pa) approaches to Madhyamaka reasoning. The distinction was one invented by Tibetans, and not one made by classical Indian Madhyamikas.[135] Tibetans mainly use the terms to refer to the logical procedures used by Influential early figures who are important in the transmission of Madhyamaka to Tibet include the Yogacara-Madhyamika Śāntarakṣita (725–788), and his students Haribhadra and Kamalashila (740-795) as well as the later figures of Atisha (982–1054) and his pupil Dromtön (1005–1064) who were mainly influenced by Candrakirti's Madhyamaka.[133]

The early transmission of Buddhism to Tibet saw these two main strands of philosophical views in debate with each other. The first was the camp which defended the Yogacara-Madhyamaka interpretation centered on the works of the scholars of the Sangphu monastery founded by Ngog Loden Sherab (1059-1109) and also includes Chapa Chokyi Senge (1109-1169).[134] The second camp was those who championed the work of Candrakirti over the Yogacara-Madhyamaka interpretation, and included Patsab Nyima Drag (b. 1055) and Jayananda (fl 12th century).[134] According to John Dunne, it was the Madhyamaka interpretation and the works of Candrakirti which became dominant over time in Tibet.[134]