Jeffrey Hopkins. Absorption in No External World: 170 Issues in Mind-Only Buddhism—Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence III. Edited by Kevin Vose. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2005. Hardcover, xxiv + 578 pp.
Jeffrey Hopkins, a professor emeritus of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia, is one of the Dalai Lama’s principal translators and has more than 25 books to his credit. The present magnificent work is the final volume of a trilogy on the Mind-Only (Cittam Ëtra) school of Buddhism, which has taken two decades to complete.
Absorption in No External World contains translated extracts from no fewer than twenty-two Tibetan commentaries on Dzong-ka-pha’s (Je Tsongkhapa’s) famous Treatise Differentiating the Interpretable and the Definitive: The Essence of Eloquence. The commentaries range from Je Tsonkhapa’s disciple Kedrub (fifteenth century A.D.) to Jigme Damcho Gyatso (died 1946).
The 170 issues cover recondite points in Je Tsongkhapa’s work and questionable explanations by interpreters of his thoughts, including the nature of emptiness, “own-character,” phenomena, path of purification, “three natures,” “ultimate non-natures,” selflessness, and so forth.
This volume will quickly dispel any notion that Tibetan Buddhism is philosophically naïve. The 170 answers based on the traditional commentaries show an intricacy and fineness of thought that exceeds similar efforts within medieval Christian theology and readily compares with philosophical discourse in modern times. Stimulated by Je Tsonkhapa’s unquestionable genius, the commentators have produced a body of ideas that will be found challenging even by the seasoned student of Buddhism.
Only an accomplished scholar and translator of Hopkins’ quality could have done justice to this enormously difficult and massive work, which is a key to the deeper layers of Je Tsongkapa’s unique contribution to Buddhist philosophy. Once again we owe Jeffrey Hopkins a debt of gratitude.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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