According to the Tibetan Tsong kha pa one of the eight difficult points in understanding Madhyamaka philosophy is the way in which Prasangika Madhyamaka does not accept even conventionally that reflexivity is an essential part of awareness- that in being aware there is also an awareness of being aware. One of the most systematic and detailed refutations of Tsong kha pa's approach to this issue can be found in the commentary to the ninth chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara by the rNying ma lama Mi pham (1846-1912), together with Mi pham's own replies to his subsequent critics. In the course of this Mi pham reveals a vision of what is going on in Madhyamaka which is rather different from the more familiar Tibetan approach of Tsong kha pa.
Paul Williams places this controversy in its Indian and Tibetan context. He traces in detail Mi pham's position in his commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara, the attack of one of his opponents, and his response, as well as indicating ways in which this controversy over the nature of awareness may be important within the context of Mi pham's rNying ma heritage of rDzogs chen thought and practice.
This book is the first book length study of its subject, and also includes a reprint of a previous paper by Williams on the reflective nature of awareness, as well as the relevant Tibetan texts from Mi pham. The book will be of interest to all students of Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka, as well as associated areas of Buddhist thought such as Yogacara and the philosophy of Dharmakirti. It will also be of value to those concerned with the intellectual foundations of rDzogs chen.
Reflexive Nature of Awareness, Paul Williams, Curzon, Hardcover, 268 pages, $124.95
D. Phil (Buddhist Philosophy), Oriental Institute and Wadham College, University of Oxford (1978)
Most of his work has been on Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophy, a school of Buddhism which developed in India probably initially during the first century C.E. and had a wide influence on Buddhist thought throughout India, Tibet and East Asia. In particular this tradition was often taken in Tibet as the final philosophical position of Buddhism, and it has been studied as such by Tibetans to the present day. He has also worked on the Tibetan assimilation and scholastic extension of Madhyamaka ideas, notably the complex understanding developed by a sub-school known as Prasangika Madhyamaka. More recently he has become particularly interested in ethics, -and is planning a book on Virtue Ethics and the principles of bodhisattva conduct - and also medieval Western philosophical and mystical theology.