A Study of Svātantrika represents an important contribution to our understanding of Mādhyamika philosophy in India and Tibet. The Mādhyamika is considered to have two subschools, Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika. The Prāsaṅgika school of Candrakīrti is better known than Svātantrika, in part because the major Svātantrika texts are preserved only in Tibetan translation. The Svātantrikas, however, made important contributions to Buddhist philosophy in their expositions of the nature of reality, the role of reasoning in the process of enlightenment, and in their delineations of the paths to nirvana. The synthesis of Yogācāra and Mādhyamika philosophy by the Svātantrika master Śāntarakṣita represents the final development of Buddhist thought in India. In Tibet, Svātantrika was the first Indian Buddhist school to gain currency, prior to the translation of the works of Candrakīrti into Tibetan.
In preparing this Study of Svātantrika, Donald S. Lopez, Jr. consulted the major Indian works of the Svātantrikas, figures central to the development of Buddhist thought in India such as Bhāvaviveka, Jñānagarbha, Śāntarakṣita, and Kamalaśīla, and analyzed a number of Tibetan expositions of Svātantrika. The result is the most extensive examination of this influential school available in the West.