BHAVAVIVEKA (Bhaviveka, Bhavya, Bhavin)—an Indian philosopher of the madhyamaka school, the author of the svatantrika-madhyamaka system (as opposed to the traditional prasangika-madhyamaka system), also called sautranika-madhyamaka (as opposed to the synthetic yogacara-madhyamaka system), b. around 500, d. around 570.
Nothing is known of his life except that he supposedly came from southern India. No one is even certain how his name was pronounced, since we encounter different versions in various sources.
His works were a commentary (vrtti) to Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakariki that has been preserved only in Chinese translations (Taisho 1566) and Tibetan translation (Peking 5253); the orginal work Madhyamakahrdayakarika (Verses on the essence (doctrine) of madhyamaka) preserved in Sanskrit and in a Tibetan translation (Peking 5255), along with an extensive auto-commentary called Tarkajvala (only in Tibetan, Peking 5256); Treatise with a jewel in hand (Zhang zhen lun, *Karatalaratnashastra) preserved only in Chinese (Taisho 1578), and probably Madhyamakarthasammgraha (Compendium of problems of madhyamaka) also available only in Tibetan (Peking 5258). Of three other works ascribed to Bhavaviveka in the Tibetan canon, two are fragments of works mentioned above, and one work should be ascribed to another (later) author called Bhavya.
Bhavaviveka, as opposed to Buddhapalita, thought that it was necessary to apply logical methods developed by Dignaga and his school to provide a rational basis for the position of madhyamaka. Apart from the classical method of prasanga (reductio ad absurdum), which he regarded as inadequate, one must recognize the necessity of independent inference (svatantra-anumana—hence the name of the system), in order to achieve agreement with authoritative writings (agama) and correct reasoning (yukti). Such inferences must have the form of a syllogism; since they are negative and start from universal theses, in a syllogism it is possible only to introduce a homologous positive example (sapaksa), and one cannot indicate a heterologous term (vipaksa) in which a reason (hetu) would be lacking, the result of which from the point of view of logic would be that Bhavaviveka’s do not meet the full set of formal conditions. Bhavaviveka argued that his theses were not only purely negative, but they contained the subject (paksa), which is a vacancy (shunyata), and therefore they are not lacking in content.
Bhavaviveka added to each thesis of madhyamaka the expression “paramarthatah” (“in reality, from the point of view of ultimate truth”) and he summarized the school’s doctrine as follows: “In reality conditioned things (samskrta) are empty (shunya), because they are produced by a combination of conditions, as a product of magic. In reality unconditioned things (asamskrta) are unreal, because they are not produced, like the heavenly lotus”. In defense of the negative propositions of madhyamaka against the theory of the vijnanavadins about “dependent nature” (paratantra), he said that the above propositions contain a negation without presuppositions (prasajya-pratisedha), that is they show that what is negated is deprived of its own nature (svabhava), and they do not negate (part) of their own nature by the negated thing. Negation without presuppositions, as opposed to relative negation (paryudasa), does not presuppose the contradiction of what is rejected.
In the discussion of the two levels of truth—ultimate truth (paramartha-satya) and conventional truth (samvrti-satya)—Bhavaviveka thought that the first truth contains two aspects: not only pure knowledge beyond discursive thought (viparyaa) free from conceptual and verbal forms, but also a certain aspect connected with conceptualization (saparyaya) and verbalization. This second aspect starts from right reasoning used for the negation without presuppositions of the four possible positions (koti) concerning the existence of beings. Conventional cognition, however, is either true (tathya-samvrti), when it concerns things that have efficacious ability in a cause-effect connection, or false (mithya-samvrti), when it is joined with an imagined mental construct (e.g., a rope perceived as a serpent), or with a physical defect in the cognoscent organ. In such a situation the highest truth joined with conceptualization concerns only the negation of being as possessing its own nature (svabhava) and is connected with the highest reality of the vacant (shunyata). Ultimately only the vacant is non-discursive and it is subject to true cognition only by meditation (bhavana).
Bhavavivika’s doctrine was harshly criticized by Candrakiti as excessively complicating and distorting the thought of madhyamaka. In Tibetan philosophy, although the weight of Bhavavivika’s arguments is recognized and his works are studied, Buddhapalita’s and Candrakirti’s position is accepted as the authoritative interpretation of madhyamaka, as more in agreement with Nagarjuna’s original thought.
N. Ayyaswami Sastri, Karatalaratna, Vishva-Bharati Annals 2 (1949), 1–124; N. Katz, An Appraisal of the Svatantrika-Prasangika Debates, Philosophy East and West 26 (1976), 64–77; D. Seyfort Ruegg, The Literature of the Madhyamaka School of Philosophy in India, Wie 1981; K. Potter, The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Delhi 19832, I 108–110.
Maciej St. Zięba