APPEARANCE AND REALITY: The Two Truths in the Four Buddhist Tenet Systems

by Guy Newland

When someone seeks to understand Buddhism, where should that person start? With the meaning of taking refuge in the three jewels? With the four noble truths? The Dalai Lama, when asked this question, suggested that for many in the West today, understanding the two truths, conventional truth and ultimate truth, is the best place to start.

When the Buddha awoke from the dream we still dream, he saw the ultimate reality of things just as they are. There are shifting appearances and conventions, the manners and traditions of the vast and diverse world; and then there is the mystery of the sheer reality of things. And yet we cannot find this reality anywhere else but right here.

Each system of Buddhist philosophy has its own way of explaining exactly what these two truths are and how they relate to one another. In exploring these systems, we are looking over the shoulders of Buddhist thinkers as they grappple with a basic question: What is real? This is not an idle intellectual exercise, but a matter which cuts to the heart of our practice in life.

“Professor Newland’s intellectually engaging examination of the four Buddhist tenet systems navigates the maze of complex theories that must be mastered to understand each system’s contribution to the whole.”–John Tigue, Ph.D., for Explorations

“It has been a Rosetta stone for understanding emptiness.”– a customer

“Brilliant. It should be in the hands of every Western Gelug practitioner. Congratulations on it–it is well conceived, well written, and extremely useful. A real gem.”–a customer

“Seven of us spent over six months of weekly meetings studying Appearance and Reality and found it to be incredibly helpful. Most of us had only a few years of experience with Tibetan Buddhism. We broke into the fascinating world of the Tibetan Buddhist tenet systems and were able to get a hold of the thread of reasoning from Vaibashika to Prasangika Madyamika. We all felt your book was extraordinarily helpful in getting us started. Thanks so much for the great book!”–a customer

Guy Newland received a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 1988 and is now Associate Professor of Religion at Central Michigan University. He has studied with several leading tibetan scholars in the U.S. and India. One of his earlier works, The Two Truths, analyed the Geluk view of Nagarjuna’s two truths doctrine. He has collaborated with Joshua Cutler in editing the first complete English translation of Tsonghkapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.