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Ngrjuna (Devanagari:, Telugu: , Tibetan: klu sgrub, Chinese: , Sinhala ) (ca. 150250 CE) was an important Buddhist teacher and philosopher. Along with his disciple ryadeva, he is credited with founding the Mdhyamaka school of Mahyna Buddhism.[1] The Mdhyamaka school was in turn transmitted to China under the name of the Snln School (Ch. , "Three Treatise School"). In some Mahyna traditions, Ngrjuna is regarded as a second buddha.[2] Ngrjuna is sometimes credited with developing the philosophy of the Prajpramit stras, and being associated with the Buddhist university of Nland. In the Jodo Shinshu branch of Buddhism, he is considered the First Patriarch.

Golden statue of Nagarjuna at Samye Ling Monastery



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Bodhisattvala SamdhiPraj unyatTrikya

Mahyna Stras
Prajpramit Stras Lotus Stra Nirva Stra Sadhinirmocana Stra Avatasaka Stra ragama Stra


Mahyna Schools
Mdhyamaka Yogcra Esoteric Buddhism Pure LandZen TiantaiNichiren

According to most available accounts, Ngrjuna was originally from Southern India.[3] [4] Archaeological discoveries at Amarvat confirm the fact that Ngrjuna maintained a friendship with the Stavhana king Gautamputra takari, to whom he addressed his Letter to a Friend (Skt. Sahd-lekh).[5] On this basis, Ngrjuna is conventionally placed at around 150250 CE.[6] According to a biography translated by Kumrajva, he was born into a Brahmin family, but later converted to Buddhism. This may be the reason he was one of the earliest significant Buddhist thinkers to write in classical Sanskrit rather than a prakrit. From studying his writings, it is clear that Ngrjuna was conversant with many of the rvaka philosophies and with the Mahyna tradition. However, determining Ngrjuna's affiliation with a specific Nikaya is difficult, considering much of this material is presently lost. If the most commonly accepted attribution of texts (that of Christian Lindtner) holds, then he was clearly a Mhaynist, but his philosophy holds assiduously to the rvaka canon, and while he does make explicit references to Mahyna texts, he is always careful to stay within the parameters set out by the rvaka canon. Nagarjuna may have arrived at his positions from a desire to achieve a consistent exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the gamas. In the eyes of Nagarjuna the Buddha was not merely a forerunner, but the very founder of the Madhyamaka system.[7] David Kalupahana sees Nagarjuna 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.[8] Ngrjuna is said to have lived on the mountain of rparvata in his later years, near the city that would later be called Ngrjunakoa ("Hill of Ngrjuna").[9] Ngrjunakoa was located in what is now the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. The Caitika and Bahurutya nikyas are known to have had monasteries in Ngrjunakoa.[10]

There exist a number of influential texts attributed to Ngrjuna, although most were probably written by later authors. The only work that all scholars agree is Nagarjuna's is the Mlamadhyamakakrik (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way), which contains the essentials of his thought in twenty-seven short chapters. According to Lindtner[11] the works definitely written by Nagarjuna are: Mlamadhyamaka-krik (Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way) nyatsaptati (Seventy Verses on Emptiness) Vigrahavyvartan (The End of Disputes) Vaidalyaprakaraa (Pulverizing the Categories) Vyavahrasiddhi (Proof of Convention) Yuktiika (Sixty Verses on Reasoning) Catustava (Hymn to the Absolute Reality) Ratnval (Precious Garland) Prattyasamutpdah dayakrika (Constituents of Dependent Arising) Strasamuccaya Bodhicittavivaraa (Exposition of the Enlightened Mind) Suhllekha (Letter to a Good Friend) Bodhisabhra (Requisites of Enlightenment)

Nagarjuna There are other works attributed to Ngrjuna, some of which may be genuine and some not. Some confusion may be caused by the fact that there were other Ngrjunas, f.e. the Siddha Ngrjuna, a holder of the Mahamudra-Lineage, who wrote probably several important works of esoteric Buddhism (most notably the Pacakrama or "Five Stages"), as contemporary research suggests that these works are datable to a significantly later period in Buddhist history (late eighth or early ninth century), but the traditional sources maintain the theory that there was only one Ngrjuna, who lived for almost 1000 years (as mentioned in Keith Dowmans "Masters of Mahamudra"). Traditional historians (for example, the 17th century Tibetan Trantha), aware of the chronological difficulties involved, account for the anachronism via a variety of theories, such as the propagation of later writings via mystical revelation. A useful summary of this tradition, its literature, and historiography may be found in Wedemeyer 2007. Lindtner considers that the Mhaprajparamitopadea, a huge commentary on the Large Prajparamita not to be a genuine work of Ngrjuna. This is only extant in a Chinese translation by Kumrajva.There is much discussion as to whether this is a work of Ngrjuna, or someone else. tienne Lamotte, who translated one third of the Upadea into French, felt that it was the work of a North Indian bhiku of the Sarvstivda 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 Ngrjuna was quite possibly the author. Actually, these two views are not necessarily in opposition, and a South Indian Ngrjuna could well have studied in the northern Sarvstivda. Neither of the two felt that it was composed by Kumrajva which others have suggested.

Ngrjuna's primary contribution to Buddhist philosophy is in the use of the concept of nyat, or "emptiness," which brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly antman (no-self) and prattyasamutpda (dependent origination), to refute the metaphysics of Sarvastivda and Sautrntika (extinct non-Mahayana schools). For Ngrjuna, as for the Buddha in the early texts, it is not merely sentient beings that are "selfless" or non-substantial; all phenomena are without any svabhva, literally "own-being" or "self-nature", and thus without any underlying essence. They are empty of being independently existent; thus the heterodox theories of svabhva 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. Ngrjuna was also instrumental in the development of the two-truths doctrine, which claims that there are two Statue of Nagarjuna in Tibetan monastery near levels of truth in Buddhist teaching, one which is directly (ultimately) Kullu, India true, and one which is only conventionally or instrumentally true, commonly called upaya in later Mahyna writings. Ngrjuna drew on an early version of this doctrine found in the Kaccyanagotta Sutta, which distinguishes ntrtha (clear) and neyrtha (obscure) terms By and large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by a polarity, that of existence and non-existence. But when one reads the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one reads the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

Nagarjuna "By and large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), and biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view. "'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle..."[12] Ngrjuna differentiates between savti (conventionally true) and paramrtha (ultimately true) teachings, but he never declares any conceptually formulated doctrines to fall in this latter category; for him, even nyat is nyat; even emptiness is empty. For him, ultimately, nivttam abhidhtavya nivtte cittagocare| anutpannniruddh hi nirvam iva dharmat||7 The designable is ceased when the range of thought is ceased, For phenomenality is like nirvana, unarisen and unstopped. This was famously rendered in his tetralemma with the logical propositions: X (affirmation) non-X (negation) X and non-X (both) neither X nor non-X (neither) Nagarjuna also taught the idea of relativity; in the Ratnval, 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 (svabhva). This idea is also found in the Pali Nikyas and Chinese gamas, 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."[13] For more on Ngrjuna's philosophy, see Mlamadhyamakakrik. Nagarjuna as Ayurvedic Physician Nagarjuna was also a practitioner of Ayurveda, or traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine. First described in the Sanskrit medical treatise entitled Sushruta Samhita (of which he was the compiler of the redaction), many of his unique conceptualizations, such as his descriptions of the circulatory system and blood tissue (uniquely described as rakta dhtu) and his pioneering work on the therapeutic value of specially treated minerals knowns as bhasmas, which earned him the title of the "father of iatrochemistry.[14]


Ngrjuna is often depicted in composite form comprising human and naga characteristics. Often the naga 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 realized arhat, or wise person in general. The term also means "elephant".

English translations
Other works
Author Loizzo, Joseph Title Nagarjuna's Reason Sixty (Yuktisastika) with Candrakirti's Commentary (Yuktisastikavrrti) Golden Zephyr The Dialectical Method of Nagarjuna Publisher Columbia University Press, 2007 Notes Standing midway between his other masterpieces on philosophy and religion, in the Reason Sixty Nagarjuna describes the central thrust of his therapeutic philosophy of language - the elimination of cognitive bias and affective resistances to the gradual cultivation of nondualistic wisdom and compassion. Translation of the Suhrlekkha with a Tibetan commentary A superb translation of the Vigrahavyavartani

Kawamura, L. Bhattacharya, Johnston and Kunst Lindtner, C.

Dharma, 1975 Motilal, 1978

Master of Wisdom: Writings of the Buddhist Master Ngrjuna

Dharma, 1986

An excellent introduction to Madhyamika, Master of Wisdom contains two hymns of praise to the Buddha, two treatises on Shunyata, and two works that clarify the connection of analysis, meditation, and moral conduct. Includes Tibetan verses in transliteration and critical editions of extant Sanskrit. Tibetan Translation (product ID: 0-89800-286-9) Contains Sanskrit or Tibetan texts and translations of the Shunyatasaptati, Vaidalyaprakarana, Vyavaharasiddhi (fragment), Yuktisastika, Catuhstava and Bodhicittavivarana. A translation only of the Bodhisambharaka. The Sanskrit and Tibetan texts are given for the Vigrahavyavartani. In addition a table of source sutras is given for the Sutrasamuccaya. Translation of the Shunyatasaptati with Tibetan commentary

Lindtner, C.


Motilal, 1987 [1982]

Komito, D. R.

Nagarjuna's "Seventy Stanzas" Vaidalyaprakarana

Snow Lion, 1987 South Asia Books, 1995

Tola, Fernando and Carmen Dragonetti Jamieson, R. C.

Nagarjuna's Verses on the Great Vehicle and the Heart of Dependent Origination Nagarjuna's Precious Garland: Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation In Praise of Dharmadhatu

D.K., 2001

Translation and edited Tibetan of the Mahayanavimsika and the Pratityasamutpadahrdayakarika, including work on texts from the cave temple at Dunhuang, Gansu, China ISBN 1559392746

Hopkins, Jeffrey

Snow Lion Publications, 2007 Snow Lion Publications, 2008

Brunnholzl, Karl

Translation with commentary by the 3rd Karmapa

Jones, Richard

Nagarjuna: Buddhism's Most Booksurge, Important Philosopher 2010

Translation into plain English with commentaries of the Mulamadhyamikakarikas, the Vigrahavyavartani with Nagarjuna's commentary, and part of the Ratnavali.


[1] Fowler, Merv. Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices. 1999. p. 84 [2] Fowler, Merv. Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices. 1999. p. 84 [3] Kalupahana, David. A History of Buddhist Philosophy. 1992. p. 160 [4] Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh By Omacanda H (Page 97) [5] Kalupahana, David. A History of Buddhist Philosophy. 1992. p. 160 [6] Kalupahana, David. A History of Buddhist Philosophy. 1992. p. 160 [7] Christian Lindtner, Master of Wisdom. Dharma Publishing 1997, page 324. [8] David Kalupahana, Mulamadhyamakakarika of Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way. Motilal Banarsidass, 2005, pages 2,5. [9] Hirakawa, Akira. Groner, Paul. A History of Indian Buddhism: From kyamuni to Early Mahyna. 2007. p. 242 [10] Hirakawa, Akira. Groner, Paul. A History of Indian Buddhism: From kyamuni to Early Mahyna. 2007. p. 242 [11] Lindtner, C. (1982) Nagarjuniana, page 11 [12] SN 12.15, (http:/ / www. accesstoinsight. org/ tipitaka/ sn/ sn12/ sn12. 015. than. html). The version linked to is the one in 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. See A.K. Warder, A Course in Indian Philosophy. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, pages 55-56, or for 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 MMK; in this regard see David Kalupahana, Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way. SUNY Press, 1986, page 232. [13] 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. [14] Frank John Ninivaggi Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide to Traditional Indian Medicine for the West, p.23. (Praeger/Greenwood Press, 2008). ISBN 978-0-313-34837-2.

Campbell, W. L. Ed. and trans. 1919. The Tree of Wisdom: Being the Tibetan text with English translation of Ngrjuna's gnomic verse treatise called the Prajdanda. Calcutta University. Reprint: Sonam T. Kazi, Gangtok. 1975. Forizs, Laszlo, 1998. "The Relevance of Whitehead for Contemporary Buddhist Philosophy. Pini, Ngrjuna and Whitehead." (http://www.forizslaszlo.com/filozofia_belepo_en.html) Hoogcarspel, E., 2005. The Central Philosophy, Basic Verses. Olive Press Amsterdam (translation from Sanskrit, commentary with references to contemporary philosophy) Kalupahana, David J. The Philosophy of the Middle Way. SUNY, 1986 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. McCagney, Nancy, Ngrjuna and the philosophy of openness. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield, c 1997. Magliola, Robert. Derrida on the Mend. Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue UP, 1984; 2nd ed. 1986; rpt., 2000. (Through a sustained comparison, this book first brings Nagarjuna to the attention of American and European specialists in Jacques Derrida and French 'deconstruction'.) Magliola, Robert. On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture. Atlanta: Scholars P, American Academy of Religion, 1997; Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. (This book further develops comparisons between Nagarjunist and Derridean deconstructions of substantialism.) 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. Ngrjuna's Philosophy. Charles E. Tuttle, Vermont and Tokyo. Reprint: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi. 1978. (This book gives and excellent and detailed examination of the range and subtelties of Nagarjuna's philosophy.) Samdhong Rinpoche, ed. 1977. Madhyamika Dialectic and the Philosophy of Nagarjuna. Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, India.

Nagarjuna Sastri, H. Chatterjee, ed. 1977. The Philosophy of Ngrjuna as contained in the Ratnval. Part I [ Containing the text and introduction only ]. Saraswat Library, Calcutta. Streng, Frederick J. Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1967. Walser, Joseph. Ngrjuna in Context: Mahyna Buddhism and Early Indian Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Wedemeyer, Christian K. 2007. ryadeva's Lamp that Integrates the Practices: The Gradual Path of Vajrayna Buddhism according to the Esoteric Community Noble Tradition. New York: AIBS/Columbia University Press. Zangpo, Ngorchen Kunga. 1975. The Discipline of The Novice Monk. Including crya Ngrjuna's The (Discipline) of the Novice Monk of the ryamlasarystivdn in Verse, and Vajradhara Ngorchen Kunga Zenpo's Word Explanation of the Abridged Ten Vows, The Concise Novice monks' Training. Translated by Lobsang Dapa et al. Sakya College, Mussoorie, India

External links
Ngrjuna (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nagarjuna) entry by Jan Christoph Westerhoff in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ((Buddhism and Quantum Physics)) http://www.upiasia.com/Blogosphere/Christian/20100306/ buddhism_and_quantum_physics/ Nagarjuna: a bibliography (http://indica-et-buddhica.org/sections/repositorium-preview/materials/nagarjuna/ bibliography) Nagarjuna Seminar (http://www.orientalia.org/forum6.html) The Life of Nagarjuna (http://www.meditationincolorado.org/nagarjuna.htm) Overview of traditional biographical accounts (http://www.sacred-texts.com/journals/ia/banav.htm#pp_2) Online version of the Mula madhyamaka karika with Tibetan and English (http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/ verses2.htm) Translated by Stephen Batchelor Online version of the Ratnval (Precious Garland) in English (http://www.vipassati.ch/english/books/ Nagarjunas-Precious-Garland-Buddhist-Advice-for-Living-and-Liberation-Vidyakaraprabha_ebook.html) Translated by Prof. Vidyakaraprabha and Bel-dzek Online version of the Suhllekha (Letter to a friend) in English (http://www.vipassati.ch/english/books/ Letter-to-a-friend-Berzin_ebook.html) Translated by Alexander Berzin Kaccayanagotta Sutta on Access to Insight (http://accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/samyutta/sn12-015.html) Nrgjuna vis--vis the gama-s and Nikya-s (http://www.byomakusuma.org/Articles/tabid/55/Default. aspx) Byoma Kusuma Nepalese Dharmasangha ZenEssays: Nagarjuna and the Madhyamika (http://www.thezensite.com/MainPages/nagarjuna.html) She-rab Dong-bu (The Tree of Wisdom) (http://librivox.org/she-rab-dong-bu-by-nagarjuna/) LibriVox recording

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