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Candrakīrti: Madhyamakāvatāra
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Click to Expand/Collapse OptionTitle
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionPreface
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 1: Pramuditā
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 2: Vimalā
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 3: Prabhākarī
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 4: Arciṣmatī
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 5: Sudurjayā
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 6: Abhimukhī
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 7: Dūraṃgamā
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 8: Acalā
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 9: Sādhumatī
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 10: Dharmameghā
Click to Expand/Collapse OptionChapter 11: buddhabhūmi
Candrakīrti: Madhyamakāvatāra
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1. Preface
2. Introduction
3. References
4. Abbreviations
5. Bibliography
6. Secondary source(s)
7. Other resources
8. Credits


We are very happy to be able to here present a multilingual edition of the 7th century Indian Buddhist philosopher Candrakīrti’s seminal work Madhyamakāvatāra (Ma; Entering the Middle Way). This important Buddhist treatise lays out the Mahayāna Buddhist path of the bodhisattva with its ten grounds (bhūmi), paying particular attention to the ground of intelligence/wisdom (prajñā) presented in its sixth chapter, where the philosophy of what came to be known as the Prāsaṅgika Madhyāmika (Middle Way Consequence School) is treated in detail. Candrakīrti also wrote an auto-commentary (Bhāṣya; Mabh) which is presented here along with the root verses. The background for the preparation of the Tibetan texts of these two and their English translations is presented in the translator’s introduction below.

We have also added the very elaborate 11th century commentary by Jayānanda, the Madhyamakāvatāraṭīkā (Maṭ), which was used by the translator during his work. When Jayānanda gives a commentary on a specific word or term from Candrakīrti’s commentary, these words have in most cases been underlined, and although this has not been done consistently throughout, it is hoped that this makes this text all the more helpful.

For now, the only part of the Madhyamakāvatāra available in Sanskrit are the verses from chapter six. See “other resources” below for information on the ongoing project at University of Vienna to make the rest of the Sanskrit text as well as the Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya available.


The translations of Candrakīrti’s (7th century) root verses of and auto-commentary to Entering the Middle Way (Madhyamakāvatāra) offered here grew out of necessity, but soon became a deeply engaging work that spent most of my free-time over two years preparing and revising. The project started while I was participating in a long-term retreat based on the Tibetan three-year retreat system at Sekhar Retreat Center, a part of Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery, close to Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley from 2015 to 2019. Our retreat master Drupon Rinpoche Karma Lhabu’s great concern was that the participants of the retreat should not only take part in the formalities of the program, but that they had an opportunity to develop a good understanding of what they were engaging in. Only through proper understanding of Buddhist principles and the development of the mind would the retreat we worthwhile. Much emphasis was therefore put on teaching, and as part of this Rinpoche invited Khenpo Wangchuk, previously of the Thrangu Gompa monastic institute, to come teach the participants the core texts of the tradition. The first that was taught was Candrakīrti’s auto-commentary to Entering the Middle Way.

We started out using George Churinoff’s (1991, 1994) translation, the only known translation at the time, but for all its virtues of literality it soon became clear that we needed something else. As I was also serving as the interpreter to Khenpo at the time, I therefore began preparing a translation myself. I would prepare a chunk of the text beforehand to hand out to the participants, and after having received an explanation of the relevant parts, and having had the opportunity to clear up difficult points, I could then revise my translation. We received explanations every other day, and being in retreat there was no hurry for us to finish, and the whole text took about a year a half to complete. We were therefore able to deal with most issues in quite minute detail. Khenpo would also stress that the text should be relevant to our meditation training, and would therefore spend much time explaining how the points in question were meant to be worked on and influence our thinking. I hope and believe that this process has improved the translation.

Throughout the process I have had the opportunity to benefit from many previous translations of relevant texts, both the above mentioned work by Churinoff, but also several translations of the root verses, as well as commentaries by other masters (Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse 2003; Goldfield et al. 2005; Padmakara Translation Group 2004; Wangchuk Dorje 2008). In several of these, Candrakīrti’s own auto- commentary has been used extensively, and seeing how these translations have solved difficult passages has been of tremendous help. I have also benefitted from the insights of several commentaries that have not been translated into English (f.ex. Tsongkhapa’s). But what proved most useful, and at times essential, was Jayānanda’s (12th century) incredibly detailed Madhyamakāvatāraṭīkā, a vast commentary on Candrakīrti’s commentary, often providing detailed treatments of especially difficult points and phrases. His is the only known Indian commentary on Candrakīrti’s text , and although he has bee much criticised by the tradition, Jayānanda seems to have been instrumental to the influence that Candrakīrti’s ideas gained in Tibetan, and to the prominence of the Prāsaṅghika tradition for Tibetan Buddhist philosophy (Vose 2009, 6).

Khenpo would often refer to the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje's commentary 'Jug ṭīk dwags brgyud grub pa'i shing rta bde bar 'dren byed skal bzang dga' ston (Feast for the Fortunate; Wangchuk Dorje 2008), and used the topical outline of this work to help us navigate the text as a whole. This outline has therefore been included in the present translation. The Tibetan tradition of providing topical outlines for the works of the Indian Buddhist masters is a widespread practice, and such an outline is in its own way an interpretation and commentary on the text. It must therefore be stressed that the outlines of other Tibetan commentators do differ in many cases, and that what is presented here is just one among many such suggested systematic presentations of the text.

I would also like to mention the invaluable input that I received from many my fellow retreatants throughout the process of translating the text. During the retreat Drupon Rinpoche, with the support of Thrangu Rinpoche, established the Marpa Translation Society, and the discussions we had and input I received throughout my retreat from my fellow translators of the Society were essential. I would also like to mention two English language spesialists who were essential in improving the readability of the translation: Zangpo from South Africa meticulously read through innumerable versions of the translation, suggesting improvements and enlightening me about the English language, which unfortunately is not my first language. Chönyi from the UK helped with the verses in particular, patient and generous with her time and help, in order to improve my attempt at a poetic translation.

A particular attempt has been made to give the translation of the verses a poetic resemblance. The reason for this is of course that the original verses are in the form of Sanskrit poetry, using the tools of metre and imagery available in that language. Most Tibetan Buddhist translations to date emphasise meaning and are less concerned with form, and it is a tall order to give a philosophical treatise such as this one a poetic face. Still, a bold attempt has here been made to translate Candrakīrti’s verses in a regular English metric form, both to aid readability but also to help those who wish to memorise the verses and the insights that this text provides. The constrains that this has placed on the translation has often, and perhaps to my surprise, greatly helped the translation process as I have been forced to work extra hard to convey difficult points in the most condense and clearest way possible. I hope that this attempt helps communicate also the poetic qualities of the original, and even though metre is a bit out of fashion today, that this can perhaps be an inspiration to other translators who are led to believe that metric translations are impossible, or perhaps even pointless. I believe they can serve an important purpose.

Every translator strives towards accuracy, but will have to prioritise. I will not here delve into a discussion about translation theory in general, but will suffice to say that my priorities throughout this work has been to communicate as clearly as possible through the tools of the English language what I have understood the intent of the original author to be. That this is a translation of a translation has of course not made things easier. Fortunately, a nearly complete Sanskrit manuscript of Candrakīrti’s text has recently come to light, and is being studied and prepared for publishing by Dr. Anne MacDonald at the University of Vienna. Unfortunately, I only had access to the Sanskrit versions of the first 97 verses of chapter six (Li Xuezhu 2012) during work on this translation, and when this edition is, hopefully soon, made available to the public, the field of Madhyamakāvatāra-studies will change dramatically. The present translation, mostly only based on the Tibetan, is therefore thus just a small contribution to the understanding of Candrakīrti’s great work that I am sure will be eclipsed by much improved translations very soon.

Fredrik Liland, Oslo, 2020

Click here to download a PDF of Liland (2019)

The translation has not been published elsewhere for now. To reference the translation, please refer to this page.


Ma san: Sanskrit text of root verses; references are to page number in Li Xuezhu (2015).

Ma tib: Tibetan translation of root verses; references are to page, side and line in Tilakakalaśa et al. (11th-12th century).

Ma eng: English translation of root verses; see pages 11-43 in Liland (2019).

Mabh tib: Tibetan translation of Candrakīrti’s auto-commentary (bhāṣya); references are to page and side in Tilakakalaśa et al. (11th-12th century).

Mabh eng: English translation of the Bhāṣya; see pages 61-441 in Liland (2019).

Maṭ tib: Tibetan translation of Jayānanda’s commentary to the Bhāṣya; references are to page and side in Jayānanda et al. (11th century).


Ma -

Madhyamakāvatāra (Entering the Middle Way) by Candrakīrti (7th century)

Mabh -

Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya (Auto-Commentary to Entering the Middle Way) by Candrakīrti (7th century)

Toh -

Tohoku Catalogue number; see Ui, Suzuki, Kanakura and Tada (1934), A Complete Catalogue of The Tibetan Buddhist Canons (Bkaḥ-ḥgyur and Bstan-ḥgyur).

Abbreviations for the whole library.


Candrakīrti. (7th century). Madhyamakāvatāra. English translation of root verses, extracted from Liland, Fredrik. (2019). Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya: Chandrakirti’s Auto-Commentary to
Entering the Middle Way
. Oslo: Bibliotheca Polyglotta ( (see introduction; download PDF), pp. 11-43.

Jayānanda. (11th century). Madhyamakāvatāraṭīkā; translated by Jayānanda and Kun dga' grags, dBu ma la 'jug pa'i 'grel bshad. In Derge Tengyur, vol. ra, 1-365.

Li Xuezhu. (2012). "Madhyamakāvatāra-kārika". In China Tibetology, No 1, March 2012.

________. (2015). "Madhyamakāvatāra-kārikā Chapter 6". In Journal of Indian Philosophy, March 2015, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 1-30.

Liland, Fredrik. (2019). Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya: Chandrakirti’s Auto-Commentary to
Entering the Middle Way
. Oslo: Bibliotheca Polyglotta ( (see introduction; download PDF), pp. 11-43.

Tilakakalaśa. Kanakavarman. Pa tshab ñi ma grags. (11th-12th century). Dbu ma la ’jug pa’i bshad pa zhes bya ba (Tibetan translation of Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya), in Tg vol. 'a, 220b–348a.

Tilakakalaśa. Kanakavarman. Pa tshab ñi ma grags. (11th-12th century). Dbu ma la ’jug pa (Tibetan translation of Madhyamakāvatāra), in Tg vol. 'a, 201b–219a.

Secondary source(s):

Balantyne, James R. (1891). The Laghukaumudī: A Sanskrit Grammar by Varadarāja. Delhi: Motilala Banarsidass.

Bendall, Cecil. Rouse, W. H. D. (1981). Śikṣā-samuccaya: A Compendium of Buddhist Doctrine. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Berzin, Alexander (tr.). Four Hundred Verse Treatise, by Aryadeva., 2016.

Bodhi, Bhikku. (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Brunnhölzl, Karl. (2004). The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyü Tradition. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications.

Churinoff, George. Thubten Jampa, Acharya. (1991; revised 1994). Supplement to the 'Middle Way' (Madhyamakavatara) and Explanation of the 'Supplement to the "Middle Way"' (Madhyamakavatarabhashya) by Chandrakirti. Instituto Lama Tzong Khapa.

Cleary, Thomas. (1993). The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston: Shambhala.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. (2003). Introduction to the Middle Way: Chandrakirtiś Madhyamakavatara, with Commentary by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, edited by Alex Trisoglio. Khyentse Foundation.

Garfield, Jay L. (1995). The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna’s Mūladahyamakakārikā. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goldfield, Ari. Levinson, Jules. Scott, Jim. Scott, Birgit. (2005). The Moon of Wisdom: Chapter Six og Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle way, with commentary from the Eight Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje’s Chariot of the Dakpo Kagyü Siddhas. Ithaca: Snow Lion.

Larson, Gerald James. (1979). Classical Sāmkhya: An Interpretation of Its History and Meaning. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Mipham Gyatso. Dharmachakra Translation Committee. (2006). Middle Beyond Extremes: Maitreya’s Madhyāntavibhāga with commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham. Ithaca: Snow Lion.

Padmakara Translation Group. (2004). Introduction to the Middle Way: Chandrakirtiś Madhyamakavatara with commentary by Jamgön Mipham. Boston & London: Shambhala.

Ruegg, David Seyfort. (1981). The Literature of the Madhyamaka School of Philosophy in India. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

Tsongkhapa. (14th-15th century). Bstan bcos chen po dbu ma la ’jug pa’i rnam bshad dgongs pa rab gsal.

Ui, Hakuju. Suzuki, Munetada. Kanakura, Yenshô. Tada, Tôkan. (1934). A Complete Catalogue of The Tibetan Buddhist Canons (Bkaḥ-ḥgyur and Bstan-ḥgyur). Sendai, Japan: Tôhoku Imperial University.

Vaidya, P. L. (1960). Madhyamakaśāstra of Nāgārjuna, with the commentary: Prasannapadā by Candrakīrti. Buddhist Sanskrit Texts - No.10. Darbhanga Mithila Institute.

Vaidya, P. L. (1967). Daśabhūmikasūtra. Buddhist Sanskrit Texts - No.7. Darbhanga: Mithila Institute.

Vallée Poussin, Lous de la. (1912). Madhyamakāvatāra par Candrakīrti: Traduction Tibétain. St. Petersburg: Imprimerie de l’académie impériale des sciences.

Vose, Kevin A. (2009). Resurrecting Candrakīrti: Disputes in the Tibetan Creation of Prāsaṅgika. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Wangchuk Dorje, The Ninth Karmapa (auth.). Dewar, Tyler (tr). (2008). The Karmapa's Middle Way: Feast for the Fortunate. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications.

Other resources:

A nearly complete manuscript of the Sanskrit MABh has recently come to light, and project is underway at the Austrian Academy of Sciences to produce an edition of this. The edition presented here has not had access to this material, except for the verses from chapter 6 published by Li Xuezhu (2015).


Input by Fredrik Liland, 2019–2020.

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