Battle for Middle Way: Bhāviveka’s Dialectical Strategy in Context

  • Karl-Stéphan Bouthillette (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


In  a  tumultuous  socio-historical  context,  the  Buddhist  Madhyamaka  philosopher Bhāviveka designed a coherent battle strategy that was to set the tone for the development of later philosophical compendia in India and beyond. Bhāviveka’s writings, especially his magnum opus, the Madhyamaka-hṛdaya-kārikā (MHK), his only text preserved in Sanskrit, is not only a rare window into  the  complex  intellectual  panorama  of  sixth  century  India,  but  it  offers  a  vivid  picture  of  an engaged Buddhist philosopher ascertaining various dialectical and exegetical strategies suited to the
challenges at hand. The first part of this paper is a briefing on the sociohistorical context in which Bhāviveka  intervened.  The  second  section  borrows  from  ‘social-ecological  coexistence  theory’  to examine  that  context  as  a  dynamic  ecosystem.  Finally,  the  mission  assigned  by  the  author  to  his bodhisattvas  is  presented  in  his  own  words,  from  the  MHK’s  opening  section,  the  bodhicitta-aparityāgaḥ.