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Madhyamakalamkara Vritti by Abbot Shantarakshita

Shantarakshita’s Commentary on his Ornament of the Middle Way

Translated by Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche & Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche

in collaboration with Geshe Lozang Jamspal



Cool Grove Press | 4/18/23

Pages 244 | Size: 6 x 9

English | paperback

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1887276917



“Scripture, without a logic that is based on the evidence of things, will not satisfy even faithful followers.”

“Shantarakshita follows in the footsteps of Buddha Shakyamuni who stated that no one should accept his view without testing it as a goldsmith tests gold. In this seminal 8th century text he deconstructs, elucidates and defends Madhayamaka as the essence and central philosophical bases of Mahayana, as elaborated by Nagurjuna—which work preceded the advent of a Buddhist age over much of Asia for a 1000 years. It’s tenets still remains relevant today with discoveries and inventions based on science investigating the ‘nature’ of nature.

In the Madhyamakalamkaravritti, his commentary on his root text The Adornment of the Middle Way, Shantarakshita aims to completely clarify the position that, while ultimately reality eludes our comprehension, conventional knowledge is useful as a tool for navigating appearances all of which are no more real than the reflection of the moon in water.

His method of establishing this relies almost exclusively on one tool: to be real an entity must be one or many. If he can show that all the candidates for the real, such as atoms, matter, space, time, God, the soul, subject, object and causal relations fail this test, that if they cannot be said to be one, because the one is not substantial, then it cannot function to produce many.

Shantarakshita’s motivation for this radical destruction of our basic and cherished beliefs, is to liberate us from anything that can cause us suffering. If we cling to our illusory world, it will fail us, because it is impermanent.

In sloka 16, Shantarakshita does make one positive assertion about reality, when he asserts self-awareness. But he is careful not to become trapped in the classic Buddhist model of subject, object and activity. Self-awareness, he argues, cannot be understood in this way. Subject and object are not distinct nor identical, not one, not many. Self-awareness has no substantial existence.”



Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche (1938-2010) was a renowned scholar and meditation master of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in 1938 in the Doshul region of Kham, eastern Tibet. Around age four, before joining Gochen monastery, he began to read, write and lean chants and ritual ceremonies from his grandfather Lam Tharchok and his father Lama Chimed Namgyal. At the age of fourteen he entered the prestigious Riwoche monastic university where he excelled in Tibetan Medicine and literature, Sanskrit, and the Buddhist philosophy of all nine yanas.In 1959, Khenchen Rinpoche and his family left their homeland in Tibet and made their way to India. After the tumultuous period following their exodus in 1967 he was appointed head of the Nyingma department of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath by H. H. Dudjom Rinpoche. He held this position of abbot for seventeen years, dedicating all his time and energy to ensure the survival and spread of the Buddha’s teachings.Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche moved to the United States in 1984 to work closely with H. H. Dudjom Rinpoche. In 1985 he and his brother, Ven. Khenpos Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, founded Dharma Samudra Publishing. In 1988, they founded the Padmasambhava Buddhist Center. Together the Khenpo Rinpoches founded Pema Samye Ling in New York, Padma Samye Chokhor Ling monastery and Orgyen Samye Chokhor Ling nunnery in Sarnath, India. They erected the Miracle Stupa in Shravasti, India, and rebuilt Gochen monastery in Tibet.Khenchen Rinpoche has co-authored over 35 Dharma books in English with Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche and authored many other texts in Tibetan. He worked tirelessly his entire life to pass on the ancient and authentic practice traditions of Buddhism to inspire thousands of practitioners world-wide and to leave behind a community dedicated to peace, love and wisdom. In June 2010, displaying profound signs of his realization, Rinpoche entered mahaparinivana peacefully at Padma Samye Ling. Truly; he was a warrior who conquered all negativities to fully accomplish the wishes of Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava. We will honor and revere him and his legacy forever. A more extensive biography and full list of Rinpoche’s works can be found at www.padmasambhava.org


Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche was born in the Dhoshul region of Kham in eastern Tibet on June 10, 1950. On that summer day in the family tent, Rinpoche’s birth caused his mother no pain. The next day, his mother, Pema Lhadze, moved the bed where she had given birth. Beneath it she found growing a beautiful and fragrant flower which she plucked and offered to Chenrezig on the family altar.Soon after his birth three head lamas from Jadchag monastery came to his home and recognized him as the reincarnation of Khenpo Sherab Khyentse. Khenpo Sherab Khyentse, who had been the former head abbot lama at Gochen Monastery, was a renowned scholar and practitioner who lived much of his life in retreat.Rinpoche’s first Dharma teacher was his father, Lama Chimed Namgyal. Beginning his schooling at the age of five, he entered Gochen Monastery. His studies were interrupted when his family had to escape to India. In India, his father and brother, Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche (1932-2010), continued his education until he entered the Nyingmapa Monastic School of Northern India, where he studied until 1967. He then entered the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, which was then a part of Sanskrit University in Varanasi, where he received his B.A. degree in 1975. He also attended Nyingmapa University in West Bengal, where he received another B.A. and an M.A. in 1977. In 1978 Rinpoche was enthroned as the abbot of the Wish-fulfilling Nyingmapa Institute in Boudanath, Nepal by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, and later became the abbot of the Department of Dharma Studies, where he taught poetry, grammar, philosophy, and psychology. In 1981, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche appointed Rinpoche as the abbot of the Dorje Nyingpo Center in Paris, France. In 1982 he was asked to work with H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche at the Yeshe Nyingpo Center in New York. During the 1980s, until H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche’s mahaparinirvana in 1987, Rinpoche continued working closely with him, often traveling as his translator and attendant.In 1988, Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche founded the Padmasambhava Buddhist Center (PBC) to preserve the authentic message of Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava in its entirety, and in particular to teach the traditions of the Nyingma school and Vajrayana Buddhism. PBC includes over 20 centers in the U.S.A., India, Puerto Rico, Latvia, and Russia, as well as monastic institutions in India, the U.S.A., and Russia. As a holder of the complete Nyingmapa lineage, Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche is fully versed in the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana schools, and is a master of Dzogchen. He has co-authored over 35 Dharma books in English with Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, and has personally authored several books, including a biography on His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche named Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom, two books of poetry on the life of Guru Rinpoche, including Praise to the Lotus Born: A Verse Garland of Waves of Devotion, and a unique two-volume cultural and religious history of Tibet entitled “Expressing the Six Distinctive Greatnesses of the Ancient School by Recalling the Kind Legacy of the Great Masters, Translators, and Dharma Kings, Known as “Rejoicing Laughter of the Noble Beings,” which details the historical bases of the Dharma in Tibet from the sixth through ninth centuries.


Marie Friquegnon is an emeritus professor of philosophy and of Asian studies at William Paterson University. She studied at Convent of the Sacred Heart 91st Street, Barnard College (BA 1965) and New York University (PhD in Philosophy 1974) She authored A Short Introduction to the Philosophy of Santaraksita and Reflections on Childhood. She edited with Noe Dinnerstein Studies in the Yogacara Madhyamaka of Shantaraksita, with Raziel Abelson and Ben Abelson Clarity and Vision, and with Raziel Abelson Ethics for Modern Life. She published with Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche translations and commentaries of Santaraksita’s Tattvasiddhi and Madhyamakalamkara. She is editing with Benjamin Abelson a collection of readings, Great Disputes in Philosophy, and is currently at work on a philosophical memoir about her intellectual journey from Thomistic philosophy to Vajrayana Buddhist philosophy, Finding Santaraksita: A Philosopher’s Journey on the Buddhist Path. She was a student of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche, and currently is studying with the Buddhist teacher and scholar Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche.

Dimensions 6 × 9 × .55 in