BUDDHAPĀLITA (c. 470–540), Indian Buddhist dialectician belonging to the Madhyamaka (Mādhyamika) school. According to the Tibetan historian Tāranātha, Buddhapālita (Tib., Sangs rgyas skyangs; Chin., Fo-hu; Jpn., Butsugo) was born at Haṃsakrīḍa (Ngang pas rtse ba) in the South Indian district of Tambala. Having taken religious ordination there, he learned much about the scriptures of Nāgārjuna from Saṃgharakṣita (Dgeʾ dun bsrung ba), a disciple of Nagāmitra (Kluʾi bshes gnyen). He attained the highest knowledge through intense meditation and had a vision of Mañjuśrī. Residing in the Dantapurī monastery, he delivered many sermons on the Dharma and composed commentaries on treatises by such authors as Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva. Finally, he attained the miraculous powers (siddhi ). More or less the same account of his life is given in Buston's Chos 'byung (History of Buddhism) and Sum pa mkhan po's Dpag bsam ljon bzang, although these works exist only in fragments.
Buddhapālita is one of the traditionally reported "eight commentators" on Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, the seven others being Nāgārjuna himself, Bhāvaviveka, Candrakīrti, Devaśarman, Guṇaśrī, Gunamati, and Sthiramati (the last four commentators are Yogācāras). According to tradition, he composed commentaries on many Madhyamaka treatises, but only one has survived: the (Buddhapālita ) Mūlamadhyamakavṛtti. The original Sanskrit text is actually lost; the work is only preserved in the Tibetan translation made by Jñānagarbha and Klu'i rgyal mtshan in the beginning of the ninth century. This commentary is one of the six extant commentaries on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, the five others being: (1) the Akutobhayā (Derge edition of the Tibetan Tripiṭaka 3829, hereafter cited as D.; Beijing edition of the Tibetan Tripiṭaka 5229, hereafter cited as B.); (2) Qingmu's (Piṅgala?) Zhonglun (T.D. no. 1824); (3) Bhāvaviveka's Prajñāpradīpa (D. 3853, P. 5253); (4) Sthiramati's Dasheng zhong guan shilun (T.D. no. 1567); (5) Candrakīrti's Prasannapadā (Sanskrit ed. by L. de La Vallée Poussin in Bibliotheca Buddhica 4; D. 3860, P. 5260).
Buddhapālita's commentary consists of twenty-seven chapters in accordance with its basic text the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. Chronologically, it was composed between the Akutobhayā and the Prajñāpradīpa. It incorporates most of the Akutobhayā' s passages; the last five chapters are almost identical. Chapter titles in Buddhapālita's commentary are the same as those of the Akutobhayā and the Prajñāpradīpa (perhaps because the translators of these three commentaries are the same: Jñānagarbha and Klu'i rgyal mtshan), but they differ slightly from the titles of Candrakīrti's Prasannapadā (particularly chapters 2, 3, 7, 11, 13, 15, 18, and 20). Buddhapālita's titles thus represent an older text of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, which was known to these translators before the revision by Pa tshab Nyi ma grags (b. 1055) and his collaborators when they translated the Prasannapadā. The main authorities cited by Buddhapālita in his commentary are Nāgārjuna (Mūlamadhyamakakārikā ), Āryadeva (Catuḥśataka ), Rāhu-labhadra (Prajñāpāramitāstotra ), and 'Phags pa 'jigs med (Āryābhaya?).
Buddhapālita's main philosophical methodological approach consisted of his explaining the philosophy of Nāgārjuna by the method of prasaṅgavākya (reductio ad absurdum ). That is, without himself maintaining any thesis or proposition to be established, he tried to point out the necessary but undesired consequences resulting from a non-Madhyamaka opponent's thesis. This method was strongly criticized by Bhāvaviveka, who wanted to make use of independent inferences (svatantrānumāna ) to prove the Madhaymaka standpoint, but it was later defended by Candrakīrti. The Tibetan doxographers accordingly classified Buddhapālita with Candrakīrti as members of the Prāsaṅgika (Thal 'gyur ba) school, while Bhāvaviveka was classed in the Svātantrika (Rang rgyud pa) school.
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Mimaki Katsumi (1987)