Nagarjuna



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Fast Facts
Nagarjuna.JPG
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Acharya Nāgārjun
Function: 
Philosopher
Traditions: 
Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism
Main Countries of Activity: 
India
Date of Birth: 
150 CE
Place of Birth: 
Andhara Pardesh, India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
250 CE
Ancestor Gurus: 
Descendant Gurus: 

Biography

Acharya Nāgārjuna was an Indian philosopher and the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism.

His writings are the basis for the formation of the Madhyamaka school, which was transmitted to China under the name of the Three Treatise (Sanlun) School.

He is credited with developing the philosophy of the Prajnaparamita sutras, and was closely associated with the Buddhist university of Nalanda. In the Jodo Shinshu branch of Buddhism, he is considered the First Patriarch.

He was born in Southern India, near the town of Nagarjunakonda in present day Nagarjuna Sagar in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh. He was born into an upper-caste 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 Pāli or Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.

Nagarjuna wished to achieve a consistent understanding of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the Canon. In the eyes of Nagarjuna the Buddha was not merely a forerunner, but the very founder of the Madhyamaka system.

Teachings

Nāgārjuna's primary contribution to Buddhist philosophy is in the use of the concept of śūnyatā, or "emptiness," which brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anatta (no-self) and pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origination), to refute the metaphysics of Sarvastivada and Sautrantika (extinct non-Mahayana schools).

For Nāgārjuna, as for the Buddha in the early texts, it is not merely sentient beings that are Selfless; all phenomena are without any svabhāva, literally "own-nature" or "self-nature", and thus without any underlying essence; they are empty of being independent; thus the heterodox theories of svabhava circulating at the time were refuted on the basis of the doctrines of early Buddhism.

Nāgārjuna was also instrumental in the development of the two-truths doctrine, which claims that there are two levels of truth in Buddhist teaching, one which is directly (ultimately) true, and one which is only conventionally or instrumentally true, commonly called upāya in later Mahāyāna writings.

Nāgārjuna differentiates between saṃvṛti (conventional) and paramārtha (ultimately true) teachings, but he never declares any to fall in this latter category; for him, even śūnyatā is śūnya--even emptiness is empty.

Nagarjuna also taught the idea of relativity; in the Ratnavali, 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).

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas: A Buddhist Psychology of Emptiness

by David Ross Komito, Nagarjuna

(Paperback)

This volume contains a translation of Seventy Stanzas, a fundamental work of Nagarjuna on the Madhyamika system of Buddhist philosophy, along with a commentary on it from the Prasangika viewpoint by Geshe Sonam Rinchen. David Komito summarizes basic Buddhist doctrines on perception and the creation of concepts, which have traditionally served as the backdrop for Nagarjuna's teachings about how people consistently misperceive and misunderstand the nature of the reality in which they live and the means through which they experience it. This book will interest Buddhist practitioners, scholars, and psychologists who seek a deeper understanding of Buddhist psychology and epistemology.

Pro Opinions

Remaining in the middle

NIDHI PARKASH's picture

Extreme going to any stage must be avoided has been main advice delivered but Buddha and also remain in the between both the extremities and the same stuff of wisdom available in Gita when Lord Krishn