When someone seeks to understand Buddhism, where should that person start? With the meaning of taking refuge in the three jewels? With the four noble truths? The Dalai Lama, when asked this question, suggested that for many in the West today, understanding the two truths, conventional truth and ultimate truth, is the best place to start.
When the Buddha awoke from the dream we still dream, he saw the ultimate reality of things just as they are. There are shifting appearances and conventions, the manners and traditions of the vast and diverse world ... and then there is the mystery of the sheer reality of things. And yet we cannot find this reality anywhere else but right here.
In examining what is real, each system of Buddhist philosophy explains in its own way what is fundamental and what is mistaken. Guy Newland examines the two truths - conventional and ultimate truth - in the four tenet systems from within the Tibetan Buddhist context.
Explanations of the distinction between the two truths find a place in the assertions of each of the four tenet systems recognized by the Gelugpa tradition. These are the Vaibhasika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra, and Madhyamika schools, plus their subdivisions. Each system has its own way of explaining exactly what these two truths are and how they relate to one another. In exploring these systems, we are looking over the shoulders of Buddhist thinkers as they grapple with a basic question: what is real?
This is not an idle intellectual exercise, but a matter which cuts to the heart of our practice in life.
Professor Newland's intellectually engaging examination of the four Buddhist tenet systems navigates the maze of complex theories that must be mastered to understand each system's contribution to the whole.