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Nagarjuna
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Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE) is widely considered one of the most important Buddhist philosophers.Garfield, Jay L. (1995), The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Along with his disciple Āryadeva, he is considered to be the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Nāgārjuna is also credited with developing the philosophy of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras and, in some sources, with having revealed these scriptures in the world, having recovered them from the nāgas (water spirits often depicted in the form of serpent-like humans). Furthermore, he is traditionally supposed to have written several treatises on rasayana as well as serving a term as the head of Nālandā.Hsing Yun, Xingyun, Tom Manzo, Shujan Cheng Infinite Compassion, Endless Wisdom: The Practice of the Bodhisattva Path Buddha's Light Publishing Hacienda Heights California

History

Very little is reliably known of the life of Nāgārjuna, since the surviving accounts were written in ChineseRongxi, Li; Dalia, Albert A. (2002). weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20150920131638weblink">The Lives of Great Monks and Nuns, Berkeley CA: Numata Center for Translation and Research, pp. 21–30 and Tibetan centuries after his death. According to some accounts, Nāgārjuna was originally from South India.Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh By Omacanda Hāṇḍā (Page 97) Some scholars believe that Nāgārjuna was an advisor to a king of the Satavahana dynasty. Archaeological evidence at Amarāvatī indicates that if this is true, the king may have been Yajña Śrī Śātakarṇi, who ruled between 167 and 196 CE. On the basis of this association, Nāgārjuna is conventionally placed at around 150–250 CE.According to a 4th/5th-century biography translated by Kumārajīva, Nāgārjuna was born into a Brahmin familyNotes on the Nagarjunikonda Inscriptions, Dutt, Nalinaksha. The Indian Historical Quarterly 7:3 1931.09 pp.633–653 "..Tibetan tradition which says that Nāgārjuna was born of a brahmin family of Vidarbha." in VidarbhaGeri Hockfield Malandra, Unfolding A Mandala: The Buddhist Cave Temples at Ellora, SUNY Press, 1993, p. 17Shōhei Ichimura, Buddhist Critical Spirituality: Prajñā and Śūnyatā, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (2001), p. 67Bkra-śis-rnam-rgyal (Dwags-po Paṇ-chen), Takpo Tashi Namgyal, Mahamudra: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (1993), p. 443 (a region of Maharashtra) and later became a Buddhist.Some sources claim that in his later years, Nāgārjuna lived on the mountain of Śrīparvata near the city that would later be called Nāgārjunakoṇḍa ("Hill of Nāgārjuna").Hirakawa, Akira. Groner, Paul. A History of Indian Buddhism: From Śākyamuni to Early Mahāyāna. 2007. p. 242 The ruins of Nāgārjunakoṇḍa are located in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. The Caitika and Bahuśrutīya nikāyas are known to have had monasteries in Nāgārjunakoṇḍa. The archaeological finds at Nagarjunakonda have not resulted in any evidence that the site was associated with Nagarjuna. The name "Nagarjunakonda" dates from the medieval period, and the 3rd-4th century inscriptions found at the site make it clear that it was known as "Vijayapuri" in the ancient period.BOOK, K. Krishna Murthy, Nāgārjunakoṇḍā: A Cultural Study,weblink 1977, Concept Publishing Company, 4541213, 1,

Writings

There exist a number of influential texts attributed to Nāgārjuna though, as there are many pseudepigrapha attributed to him, lively controversy exists over which are his authentic works.

Mūlamadhyamakakārikā

The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā is Nāgārjuna's best-known work. It is "not only a grand commentary on the Buddha's discourse to Kaccayana,See SN 12.15 Kaccayanagotta Sutta: To Kaccayana Gotta (on Right View) {{webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20130329025311weblink |date=29 March 2013 }} the only discourse cited by name, but also a detailed and careful analysis of most of the important discourses included in the Nikayas and the agamas, especially those of the Atthakavagga of the Sutta-nipata.{{sfn|Kalupahana|1994|p=161}}}}In the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, "[A]ll experienced phenomena are empty (sunya). This did not mean that they are not experienced and, therefore, non-existent; only that they are devoid of a permanent and eternal substance (svabhava) because, like a dream, they are mere projections of human consciousness. Since these imaginary fictions are experienced, they are not mere names (prajnapti)."{{sfn|Kalupahana|1992|p=120}}

Other attributed works

According to one view, that of Christian Lindtner,Lindtner, C. (1982). Nagarjuniana: studies in the writings and philosophy of Nāgārjuna, Copenhagen: Akademisk forlag, page 11 the works definitely written by Nāgārjuna are:
  • MÅ«lamadhyamaka-kārikā (Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way)
  • Śūnyatāsaptati (Seventy Verses on Emptiness)
  • VigrahavyāvartanÄ« (The End of Disputes)
  • {{IAST|Vaidalyaprakaraṇa}} (Pulverizing the Categories)
  • Vyavahārasiddhi (Proof of Convention)
  • {{IAST|Yuktiṣāṣṭika}} (Sixty Verses on Reasoning)
  • {{IAST|Catuḥstava}} (Hymn to the Absolute Reality)
  • RatnāvalÄ« (Precious Garland)
  • {{IAST|PratÄ«tyasamutpādahṝdayakārika}} (Constituents of Dependent Arising)
  • SÅ«trasamuccaya
  • {{IAST|Bodhicittavivaraṇa}} (Exposition of the Enlightened Mind)
  • {{IAST|Suhá¹›llekha}} (Letter to a Good Friend)
  • {{IAST|Bodhisaṃbhāra}} (Requisites of Enlightenment)
Buston considers the first six to be the main treatises of Nāgārjuna, while according to Taaranaatha only the first five are the works of Nāgārjuna. TRV Murti considers Ratnaavali, Pratitya Samutpaada Hridaya and Sutra Samuccaya to be works of Nāgārjuna as the first two are quoted profusely by Chandrakirti and the third by Shantideva.TRV Murti, Central philosophy of Buddhism, pages 89-91In addition to works mentioned above, several others are attributed toNāgārjuna. There is an ongoing, lively controversy over which of thoseworks are authentic. Contemporary research suggest that these works belongto a significantly later period, either to late 8th or early 9th century CE,and hence can not be authentic works of Nāgārjuna.However, several works considered important in esoteric Buddhism areattributed to Nāgārjuna and his disciples by traditional historianslike Tāranātha from 17th century Tibet. These historians try to accountfor chronological difficulties with various theories. For example, apropagation of later writings via mystical revelation. For a usefulsummary of this tradition, see Wedemeyer 2007.Lindtner considers that the Mahāprajñāpāramitāupadeśa "Commentary on the Great Perfection of Wisdom" is not a genuine work of Nāgārjuna. This work is only attested in a Chinese translation by Kumārajīva.There is much discussion as to whether this is a work of Nāgārjuna, or someone else. Étienne Lamotte, who translated one third of the work into French, felt that it was the work of a North Indian bhikṣu of the Sarvāstivāda school who later became a convert to the Mahayana. The Chinese scholar-monk Yin Shun felt that it was the work of a South Indian and that Nāgārjuna was quite possibly the author. These two views are not necessarily in opposition and a South Indian Nāgārjuna could well have studied the northern Sarvāstivāda. Neither of the two felt that it was composed by Kumārajīva, which others have suggested.

Philosophy

File:Nagarjuna.JPG|thumb|left|Statue of Nāgārjuna in Tibetan monastery near 200pxFrom studying his writings, it is clear that Nāgārjuna was conversant with many of the Śrāvaka philosophies and with the Mahāyāna tradition. However, determining Nāgārjuna's affiliation with a specific nikāya is difficult, considering much of this material has been lost. If the most commonly accepted attribution of texts (that of Christian Lindtner) holds, then he was clearly a Māhayānist, but his philosophy holds assiduously to the Śrāvaka Tripiṭaka, and while he does make explicit references to Mahāyāna texts, he is always careful to stay within the parameters set out by the Śrāvaka canon.Nāgārjuna may have arrived at his positions from a desire to achieve a consistent exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the āgamas. In the eyes of Nāgārjuna, the Buddha was not merely a forerunner, but the very founder of the Madhyamaka system.Christian Lindtner, Master of Wisdom. Dharma Publishing 1997, page 324. David Kalupahana sees Nāgārjuna as a successor to Moggaliputta-Tissa in being a champion of the middle-way and a reviver of the original philosophical ideals of the Buddha.David Kalupahana, Mulamadhyamakakarika of Nāgārjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way. Motilal Banarsidass, 2005, pages 2,5.Nāgārjuna assumes a knowledge of the definitions of the sixteen categories as given in the Nyaya Sutras, the chief text of the Hindu Nyaya school, and wrote a treatise on the pramanas where he reduced the syllogism of five members into one of three. In the Vigrahavyavartani Karika, Nāgārjuna criticizes the Nyaya theory of pramanas (means of knowledge) S.Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy Volume 1, page 644Nāgārjuna was fully acquainted with the classical Hindu philosophies of Samkhya and even the Vaiseshika.TRV Murti, The central philosophy of Buddhism, page 92Because of the high degree of similarity between Nāgārjuna's philosophy and Pyrrhonism, particularly the surviving works of Sextus EmpiricusAdrian Kuzminski, Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism 2008 Thomas McEvilley suspects that Nāgārjuna was influenced by Greek Pyrrhonists texts imported into India.Thomas McEvilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought 2002 pp499-505 Pyrrho of Elis (c. 360-c. 270 BCE), who is usually credited with founding this school of skeptical philosophy, was himself influenced by Indian philosophy, when he traveled to India with Alexander the Great's army and studied with the gymnosophists.

Sunyata

Nāgārjuna's major thematic focus is the concept of śūnyatā (translated into English as "emptiness") which brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anātman "not-self" and pratītyasamutpāda "dependent origination", to refute the metaphysics of some of his contemporaries. For Nāgārjuna, as for the Buddha in the early texts, it is not merely sentient beings that are "selfless" or non-substantial; all phenomena (dhammas) are without any svabhāva, literally "own-being", "self-nature", or "inherent existence" and thus without any underlying essence. They are empty of being independently existent; thus the heterodox theories of svabhāva circulating at the time were refuted on the basis of the doctrines of early Buddhism. This is so because all things arise always dependently: not by their own power, but by depending on conditions leading to their coming into existence, as opposed to being.Nāgārjuna means by real any entity which has a nature of its own (svabhāva), which is not produced by causes (akrtaka), which is not dependent on anything else (paratra nirapeksha).S.Radhakrishnan, Indian philosophy Volume 1, page 607Chapter 24 verse 14 of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā provides one of Nāgārjuna's most famous quotations on emptiness and co-arising:BOOK, Siderits, Mark, Katsura, Shoryu, Nagarjuna's Middle Way: Mulamadhyamakakarika (Classics of Indian Buddhism), Wisdom Publications, 2013, 1614290504, 175–176, As part of his analysis of the emptiness of phenomena in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, Nāgārjuna critiques svabhāva in several different concepts. He discusses the problems of positing any sort of inherent essence to causation, movement, change and personal identity. Nāgārjuna makes use of the Indian logical tool of the tetralemma to attack any essentialist conceptions. Nāgārjuna’s logical analysis is based on four basic propositions:
All things (dharma) exist: affirmation of being, negation of non-being All things (dharma) do not exist: affirmation of non-being, negation of being All things (dharma) both exist and do not exist: both affirmation and negation All things (dharma) neither exist nor do not exist: neither affirmation nor negation Dumoulin, Heinrich (1998) Zen Buddhism: a history, India and China, Macmillan Publishing, 43
To say that all things are 'empty' is to deny any kind of ontological foundation, therefore Nāgārjuna's view is often seen as a kind of ontological anti-foundationalismWesterhoff, Jan. Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction. or a metaphysical anti-realism.Siderits, Mark. Nagarjuna as anti-realist, Journal of Indian Philosophy December 1988, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 311-325.Understanding the nature of the emptiness of phenomena is simply a means to an end, which is nirvana. Thus Nāgārjuna's philosophical project is ultimately a soteriological one meant to correct our everyday cognitive processes which mistakenly posits svabhāva on the flow of experience.Some scholars such as Fyodor Shcherbatskoy and T.R.V. Murti held that Nāgārjuna was the inventor of the Shunyata doctrine, however, more recent work by scholars such as Choong Mun-keat, Yin Shun and Dhammajothi Thero has argued that Nāgārjuna was not an innovator by putting forth this theory,Yìn Shùn, An Investigation into Emptiness (Kōng zhī Tànjìu 空之探究) (1985)Choong, The Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism (1999)Medawachchiye Dhammajothi Thero, The Concept of Emptiness in Pali Literature but that, in the words of Shi Huifeng, "the connection between emptiness and dependent origination is not an innovation or creation of Nāgārjuna."Shi huifeng: “Dependent Origination = Emptiness”—Nāgārjuna’s Innovation?

Two truths

Nāgārjuna was also instrumental in the development of the two truths doctrine, which claims that there are two levels of truth in Buddhist teaching, the ultimate truth (paramārtha satya) and the conventional or superficial truth (saṃvṛtisatya). The ultimate truth to Nāgārjuna is the truth that everything is empty of essence,Garfield, Jay. Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-cultural Interpretation, pp. 91. this includes emptiness itself ('the emptiness of emptiness'). While some (Murti, 1955) have interpreted this by positing Nāgārjuna as a Neo-Kantian and thus making ultimate truth a metaphysical noumenon or an "ineffable ultimate that transcends the capacities of discursive reason",Siderits, Mark, On the Soteriological Significance of Emptiness, Contemporary Buddhism, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2003. others such as Mark Siderits and Jay L. Garfield have argued that Nāgārjuna's view is that "the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth" (Siderits) and that Nāgārjuna is a "semantic anti-dualist" who posits that there are only conventional truths. Hence according to Garfield:Suppose that we take a conventional entity, such as a table. We analyze it to demonstrate its emptiness, finding that there is no table apart from its parts […]. So we conclude that it is empty. But now let us analyze that emptiness […]. What do we find? Nothing at all but the table’s lack of inherent existence. […]. To see the table as empty […] is to see the table as conventional, as dependent.Garfield, J. L. (2002). Empty words, pp. 38–39In articulating this notion in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, Nāgārjuna drew on an early source in the Kaccānagotta Sutta,BOOK, Kalupahana, David J., Nāgārjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way, 1986, State University of New York Press, which distinguishes definitive meaning (nītārtha) from interpretable meaning (neyārtha):The version linked to is the one found in the nikayas, and is slightly different from the one found in the Samyuktagama. Both contain the concept of teaching via the middle between the extremes of existence and non-existence.A.K. Warder, A Course in Indian Philosophy. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, pages 55–56For the full text of both versions with analysis see pages 192–195 of Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism: A comparative study basted on the Sutranga portion of the Pali Samyutta-Nikaya and the Chinese Samyuktagama; Harrassowitz Verlag, Weisbaden, 2000. Nagarjuna does not make reference to "everything" when he quotes the agamic text in his Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.David Kalupahana, Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way. SUNY Press, 1986, page 232.

Causality

{{See also|Causality}} Jay L. Garfield describes that Nāgārjuna approached causality from the four noble truths and dependent origination. Nāgārjuna distinguished two dependent origination views in a causal process, that which causes effects and that which causes conditions. This is predicated in the two truth doctrine, as conventional truth and ultimate truth held together, in which both are empty in existence. The distinction between effects and conditions is controversial. In Nāgārjuna's approach, cause means an event or state that has power to bring an effect. Conditions, refer to proliferating causes that bring a further event, state or process; without a metaphysical commitment to an occult connection between explaining and explanans. He argues nonexistent causes and various existing conditions. The argument draws from unreal causal power. Things conventional exist and are ultimately nonexistent to rest in the middle way in both causal existence and nonexistence as casual emptiness within the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā doctrine. Although seeming strange to Westerners, this is seen as an attack on a reified view of causality.JOURNAL, Garfield, Jay L, Dependent Arising and the Emptiness of Emptiness: Why Did Nāgārjuna Start with Causation?, Philosophy East and West, April 1994, 44, 2, 219–250, 10.2307/1399593, 1399593,

Relativity

Nāgārjuna also taught the idea of relativity; in the Ratnāvalī, he gives the example that shortness exists only in relation to the idea of length. The determination of a thing or object is only possible in relation to other things or objects, especially by way of contrast. He held that the relationship between the ideas of "short" and "long" is not due to intrinsic nature (svabhāva). This idea is also found in the Pali Nikāyas and Chinese Āgamas, in which the idea of relativity is expressed similarly: "That which is the element of light ... is seen to exist on account of [in relation to] darkness; that which is the element of good is seen to exist on account of bad; that which is the element of space is seen to exist on account of form."David Kalupahana, Causality: The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. The University Press of Hawaii, 1975, pages 96–97. In the Nikayas the quote is found at SN 2.150.

Iconography

Nāgārjuna is often depicted in composite form comprising human and nāga characteristics. Often the nāga-aspect forms a canopy crowning and shielding his human head. The notion of the naga is found throughout Indian religious culture, and typically signifies an intelligent serpent or dragon, who is responsible for the rains, lakes and other bodies of water. In Buddhism, it is a synonym for a realised arhat, or wise person in general.WEB,weblink Nagarjuna (c. 150—c. 250), Berger, Douglas, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, May 2, 2017,

See also

References

{{Reflist}}

Bibliography

  • Garfield, Jay L. (1995), The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Garfield, Jay L. and Graham Priest (2003), “Nāgārjuna and the Limits of Thought”, Philosophy East and West 53 (January 2003): 1-21.
  • Jones, Richard H. (2014), Nagarjuna: Buddhism's Most Important Philosopher, 2nd ed. New York: Jackson Square Books.
  • Kalupahana, David J. (1986),The Philosophy of the Middle Way. Albany: SUNY Press.
  • {{Citation | last =Kalupahana | first =David J. | author-link = | year =1992 | title =The Principles of Buddhist Psychology | place =Delhi | publisher =ri Satguru Publications }}
  • {{Citation | last =Kalupahana | first =David J. | year =1994 | title =A history of Buddhist philosophy | place =Delhi | publisher =Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited}}
  • Lamotte, E., Le Traite de la Grande Vertu de Sagesse, Vol I (1944), Vol II (1949), Vol III (1970), Vol IV (1976), Institut Orientaliste: Louvain-la-Neuve.
  • Mabbett, Ian, (1998, “The problem of the historical Nagarjuna revisited”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 118(3): 332–346.
  • Murti, T. R. V. (1955), The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. George Allen and Unwin, London. 2nd edition: 1960.
  • Murty, K. Satchidananda (1971), Nagarjuna. National Book Trust, New Delhi. 2nd edition: 1978.
  • Ramanan, K. Venkata (1966), Nāgārjuna's Philosophy. Charles E. Tuttle, Vermont and Tokyo. Reprint: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi. 1978. (This book gives an excellent and detailed examination of the range and subtleties of Nagarjuna's philosophy.)
  • Ruegg, D. Seyfort (1981), The literature of the Madhyamaka school of philosophy in India (A History of Indian literature), Harrassowitz, {{ISBN|978-3-447-02204-0}}.
  • Sastri, H. Chatterjee, ed. (1977), The Philosophy of Nāgārjuna as contained in the RatnāvalÄ«. Part I [ Containing the text and introduction only ]. Saraswat Library, Calcutta.
  • Streng, Frederick J. (1967), Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
  • Tuck, Andrew P. (1990), Comparative Philosophy and the Philosophy of Scholarship: on the Western Interpretation of Nāgārjuna, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Walser, Joseph (2002), weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20150403235727weblink">Nagarjuna And The Ratnavali: New Ways To Date An Old Philosopher, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 25 (1-2), 209-262
  • Walser, Joseph (2005),Nāgārjuna in Context: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Early Indian Culture. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Westerhoff, Jan (2010), The Dispeller of Disputes: Nāgārjuna's VigrahavyāvartanÄ«. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Westerhoff, Jan (2009), Nāgārjuna's Madhyamaka. A Philosophical Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wedemeyer, Christian K. (2007), Ä€ryadeva's Lamp that Integrates the Practices: The Gradual Path of Vajrayāna Buddhism according to the Esoteric Community Noble Tradition. New York: AIBS/Columbia University Press.

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