All lineages of Tibetan Buddhism today claim allegiance to the philosophy of the Middle Way, the exposition of emptiness propounded by the second-century Indian master Nagarjuna. But not everyone interprets it the same way. A major faultline runs through Tibetan Buddhism around the interpretation of what are called the two truths--the deceptive truth of conventional appearances and the ultimate truth of emptiness. An understanding of this faultline illuminates the beliefs that separate the Gelug descendents of Tsongkhapa from contemporary Dzogchen and Mahamudra adherents. The Two Truths Debate digs into the debate of how the two truths are defined and how they are related by looking at two figures, one on either side of the faultline, and shows how their philosophical positions have dramatic implications for how one approaches Buddhist practice and how one understands enlightenment itself.
Sonam Thakchoe (PhD, University of Tasmania) is a senior philosophy lecturer at University of Tasmania, where he teaches Asian philosophy, coordinates the Asian Philosophy Program, and directs the Tasmanian Buddhist Studies in India Exchange Program. His research focuses on Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka philosophy, with a particular emphasis on ontology, epistemology, ethics, and Buddhist philosophy of mind. His publications include two dozen of referred articles and six scholarly books: Knowing Illusion: Bringing a Tibetan Debate into Contemporary Discourse, Vol. I: A Philosophical History of the Debate (Oxford University Press, 2021; coauthored with the Yakherds); Knowing Illusion: Bringing a Tibetan Debate into Contemporary Discourse, Vol. II: Translations (Oxford University Press, 2021; coauthored with the Yakherds); Dignaga’s Investigation of the Percept (Oxford University Press, 2016; coauthored with the Yakherds); Moonpaths: Ethics and Emptiness (Oxford University Press, 2015; coauthored with the Cowherds); Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2011; coauthored with the Cowherds); and his monograph, The Two Truths Debate: Tsongkhapa and Gorampa on the Middle Way (Wisdom Publications, 2007).