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Shentong and Rangtong

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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The 16th-century Bengali scholar, Taranatha (so-named after his devotion to Tara,) was not only a great historian and practitioner who in later life traveled to teach in Mongolia, but was one of the foremost proponents of a view associated with the now absorbed Jonang school of Himalayan Buddhism. This denomination bridged the Kadampa (or, Gelugpa) and the Kagyupa views. The former promotes the rang-tong (self-emptiness) doctrine as expounded by Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, and other Indian teachers. The latter holds to shen-tong (other-emptiness.)

Shen-tong asserts that Emptiness, "in dispelling the illusive relative truths of the world, reveals an ineffable transcendental reality with positive attributes." Rang-tong holds that Emptiness is "merely the elimination of falsely imagined projections upon the relative truths of the world and does not imply anything else." Stephen Batchelor says further that "While such distinctions may strike us today as theological hairsplitting, in Tibet they became (and still are) crucial articles of faith."

Lama Karma Sherab of the Jamgon Kongtrul labrang (Pullahari, Nepal) insists that it must be emphasized that ultimately there is no difference between the two.