Mādhyamika school ［中観派］ (; Chūgan-ha): Also known as the Madhyamaka school. A Mahayana school based on Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka-kārikā, or Verses on the Middle Way. The Mādhyamika school was one of the two major Mahayana schools in India, the other being the Vijnānavāda, or Consciousness-Only, school, also known as the Yogāchāra school. It upholds the doctrines of non-substantiality and dependent origination, which maintain that all phenomena arise interdependently and are without distinctive natures of their own, i.e., that they are non-substantial. In addition, it teaches that, by recognizing the interdependence of all phenomena, one can rid oneself of illusions and perceive the ultimate truth of the Buddha—the Middle Way that is beyond the two extremes of existence and nonexistence. Nāgārjuna (c. 150–250) is regarded as the founder of the school, from which emerged later important figures such as Āryadeva, Rāhulabhadra, and Pingala.
In the sixth century, two scholars, Buddhapālita and Bhāvaviveka, wrote conflicting commentaries on the Madhyamaka-kārikā. Their opinions differed on the method of approaching and demonstrating the truth of non-substantiality. As a result, the Mādhyamika school divided into two—the Prāsangika school, led by Buddhapālita, and the Svātantrika school, led by Bhāvaviveka. From the Prāsangika school emerged the scholar Chandrakīrti; and from the Svātantrika school, Avalokitavrata, Shāntarakshita, and his disciple Kamalashīla. Later Shāntarakshita and Kamalashīla established close doctrinal ties with the Vijnānavāda, or Yogāchāra, school, which gave rise to the Yogāchāra-Mādhyamika school. In China and Japan, the Three Treatises (Chin San-lun; Sanron) school inherited the philosophy of the Mādhyamika school. Mādhyamika philosophy spread also to Tibet, and its concept of non-substantiality formed a basis for Tibetan Buddhism.