Date of this Version
Published as: Komarovski, Yaroslav. "Śākya mchog ldan (1428–1507)," 2023, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis. https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/biographical/sakya-mchog-ldan-1428-1507/v-1. doi:10.4324/9780415249126-ZB006-1
gSer mdog Paṇ chen Śākya mchog ldan was an influential Tibetan scholar who developed a novel approach to the key systems of Buddhist thought and practice. While he is renowned as one of the most famous Sa skya thinkers, his approach has never become accepted as the mainstream within the Sa skya due to his espousal of the views of other-emptiness, as well as critical inquiry into the views of Sa skya paṇḍita Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan, the supreme authority of the Sa skya tradition. Besides involvement in his own Sa skya tradition, Śākya mchog ldan also maintained connection with bKa’ brgyud traditions throughout his life.
One of Śākya mchog ldan’s main contributions to the development of Buddhist thought lies in in-depth analysis and interpretation of the nature and relationship of its two major systems: Yogācāra and Madhyamaka. In contrast to most Tibetan thinkers, he does not limit the Madhyamaka system to that of Niḥsvabhāvavāda only. He accepts the twofold division of Yogācāra into Alīkākāravāda and Satyākāravāda, but identifies Satyākāravāda as synonymous with Cittamātra, and Alīkākāravāda as a subdivision of Madhyamaka that is on an equal footing with Niḥsvabhāvavāda and surpasses Cittamātra. He thereby interprets Alīkākāravāda as bothYogācāra and Madhyamaka.
In his analysis of these two main Madhyamaka systems as he understands them – Alīkākāravāda and Niḥsvabhāvavāda – Śākya mchog ldan also characterises their views as those of ‘other-emptiness’ (gzhan stong) and ‘self-emptiness’ (rang stong), respectively. He argues that although on the conceptual level, followers of the two systems determine emptiness differently, all of them can eventually reach the same access to the same direct realisation of the view of reality within the meditative equipoise. Demonstrating thereby the compatibility of the two systems, he sharply distinguishes their unique features on a conceptual level and, at the same time, demonstrates how both can lead to – and provide sufficient tools for – the same nonconceptual realization of reality.