Mipam's Middle Way Through Yogācāra and Prāsaṅgika

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In Tibet, the negative dialectics of Madhyamaka are typically identified with Candrakīrti's interpretation of Nāgārjuna, and systematic epistemology is associated with Dharmakīrti. These two figures are also held to be authoritative commentators on a univocal doctrine of Buddhism. Despite Candrakīrti's explicit criticism of Buddhist epistemologists in his Prasannapadā, Buddhists in Tibet have integrated the theories of Candrakīrti and Dharmakīrti in unique ways. Within this integration, there is a tension between the epistemological system-building on the one hand, and "deconstructive" negative dialectics on the other. The integration of an epistemological system within Madhyamaka is an important part of Mipam's ('ju mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912) philosophical edifice, and is an important part of understanding the place of Yogācāra in his tradition. This paper explores the way that Mipam preserves a meaningful Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika distinction while claiming both Yogācāra and Prāsaṅgika as legitimate expressions of Madhyamaka. Mipam represents Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka as a discourse that emphasizes what transcends conceptuality. As such, he portrays Prāsaṅgika as a radical discourse of denial. Since the mind cannot conceive the "content" of nonconceptual meditative equipoise, Prāsaṅgika, as the representative discourse of meditative equipoise, negates any formulation of that state. In contrast, he positions Yogācāra as a discourse that situates the nonconceptual within a systematic (conceptual) structure. Rather than a discourse that re-presents the nonconceptual by enacting it (like Prāsaṅgika), the discourse of Yogācāra represents the nonconceptual within an overarching system, a system (unlike Prāsaṅgika) that distinguishes between the conceptual and the nonconceptual.