Prasangika is a sub-school of Madhyamaka Buddhism that holds the method of logical consequence (prasanga) to be the only valid method of demonstrating the nature of the Two Truths to opponents in debate.
The Prasangika school has dominated Buddhism in Tibet since the Second Dissemination, and most surviving works of the principal exponents exist only in Tibetian translation.
Buddhapalita, a student of Samgharaksita, was one of the first Madhyamaka masters to fully adopt syllogistic methods in his teachings, although of a particularly limited form. While Candrakirti is generally credited with the founding of the Prasangika school, it was in fact Buddhapalita who first introduced the method of using logical consequence to refute the arguments of an opponent. It is this use of prasanga, also described as a proof reductio ad absurdum, that characterizes the Prasangika school of Madhyamaka Buddhism.
The Prasangika point of view originally developed in opposition to the Svatantrika school, founded by Bhavaviveka with his commentary and criticism of Buddhapalita’s earlier work. It was Candrakirti’s response to this criticism that became the foundation for Prasangika doctrine.
The Prasangika-Svatantrika debate included both a technical component and a set of metaphysical implications. On one level, the disagreement centered around the role of prasanga in formal debate. While the Prasangika held it to be the only valid method of demonstrating the Two Truths to the unenlightened, the Svatantrika felt that the Buddhist logician must not only use prasanga to show how an opponent’s position leads to false conclusions, but that the Buddhist must also put forward a concrete thesis of his own.
The Prasangika rejection of the Svatantrika position was based on the belief that any Buddhist making positive assertions about the conventional world was committed to the existence of an illusion. The Svatantrika countered by arguing that there were different levels of existence, and that a conventional thing could self-exist, exist from its own side, and have inherent existence, but that it still would not exist absolutely, ultimately, or really.
- Lopez, Donald. A Study of Svatantrika. Snow Lion Publications. Ithaca, New York. (1987)
- della Santina, Peter. Madhyamaka Schools in India. Motilal Banarsidass. Delhi. (1986) Прасангака