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 is a former Tibetan monk trained in Tibetan Buddhist tradition for fifteen years. He obtained his PhD (2002) from the University of Tasmania, Shastri (BA, 1995) and Acharya (MA, 1997) with double majors on the history of Indo-Tibetan philosophy and religious studies from Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, India. He has taught Buddhist philosophy at the University of Tasmania for the past eight years and is now a full-time lecturer in Asian and comparative philosophy. Jay Garfield is Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Logic Program and of the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program at Smith College, Professor in the graduate faculty of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Professor of Philosophy at Melbourne University and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. He teaches and pursues research in the philosophy of mind, foundations of cognitive science, logic, philosophy of language, Buddhist philosophy, cross-cultural hermeneutics, theoretical and applied ethics and epistemology. Garfield's most recent books are his translation, with the Ven. Prof Geshe Ngawang Samten of the Fourteenth-Fifteenth Century Tibetan Philosopher Tsong Khapa's commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika (Ocean of Reasoning) and Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation (Oxford University Press 2002 and 2006, respectively. Garfield is also working on projects on the development of the theory of mind in children with particular attention to the role of pretence in that process; the acquisition of evidentials and its relation to the development of theory of mind (with Jill deVilliers, Thomas Roeper and Peggy Speas), the history of 20th Century Indian philosophy (with Nalini Bhushan) and the nature of conventional truth in Madhyamaka (with Graham Priest and Tom Tillemans). He recently co-directed, with Peter Gregory, Jill Ker Conway Professor of Religion and Buddhist Studies, a year-long research institute, Trans-Buddhism: Transmission, Translation and Transformation investigating the interaction of Buddhist societies with the West. Other books in progress include the Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy (editor), Readings in Buddhist Philosophy (co-editor with William Edelglass for Oxford University Press), Trans-Buddhism: Transmission, Translation and Transformation (co-editor with Nalini Bhushan and Abraham Zablocki, for the University of Massachusetts Press), and Sweet Reason: A Field Guide to Modern Logic (co-authored with Jim Henle and the late Thomas Tymoczko).