5. Early Mahayana: Nagarjuna

5.1 Nagarjuna - May 14, 2020

Nagarjuna interprets the middle way teachings to include the middle way between affirmation and negation; eternalism and nihilism.

The Five Eyes of Wisdom:

  1. Eye of Flesh

  2. Eye of Deva

  3. Eye of Wisdom

  4. Eye of Dharma

  5. Eye of Buddha

5.2 Nagarjuna On the Five Eyes of Wisdom - May 21, 2020

5.3 Nagarjuna on Relative and Ultimate Reality - May 28, 2020


Great Treatise on Prajnaparamita

Relative and Ultimate Reality

The teachings of the Buddha are based on two truths, the relative and the ultimate. Those who do not know the distinction between these two truths do not understand the profound meaning of the Buddha’s teachings.

The common people dwell only in names and signs, in thought constructions that are devoid of substantiality.

The ignorant pursue names while what they seek is reality.

All things are a creation. Among these there are the creations of the sravakas, the creations of the pratyekabuddhas, the creations of the bodhisattvas, and the creations of the Buddha. There are also the creations of klesa and of karma.

Whatever things there are that are subject to birth and death all that is a creation. Although all things are alike creations and therefore devoid of reality still there holds among them the distinction of one thing from another, even as the things seen in dream, despite their unreality, admit of distinctions.

Under ignorance, the mind does not know itself; does not see itself, it is due to ignorance that one seizes the determinate nature of mind. Mind thus seized becomes false. All these things arise from ignorance. The bodhisattva penetrates into the ultimate reality of all things, unchanging sunyata.

Whatever in the three realms, all that is the construction of mind. How is it so? It is in accordance with one’s thought that one realizes all things. By mind does one see the Buddha and by mind does one become a Buddha. The mind itself is the Buddha, the mind itself is the body.

When one lives by seizing, by grasping, by clinging, then the world becomes samsara; but when one lives free from seizing and clinging, the world is Nirvana.

The bodhisattva constantly loves and delights in meditating on the Buddha and therefore while leaving the body and while assuming the body, everywhere they realize the presence of the Buddha.

Everything stands in harmony with the one who is in harmony with sunyata.

In the ten kinds of knowledge there are the eyes of wisdom and truth, but in perfect, complete wisdom, there is only the eye of the Buddha.

5.4 Nagarjuna Verses on the Middle Way (Mulamadhyamakakarika) - June 4, 2020


Verses on the Middle Way


I pay homage to the Fully Awakened One

The supreme teacher, who has taught

The doctrine of relational origination

The blissful cessation of all phenomenal thought constructions

Therein, every event is marked by:

Non-origination, non-extinction into destruction,

Non-permanence, non-identity, non-differentiation

Non-coming into being

Non-going out of being

Chapter 1: Relational Condition


At nowhere and at no time can entities ever exist by originating out of themselves, from others, from both self-other, or from the lack of causes.


There are four and only four relational conditions: namely primary causal, appropriating or objectively extending, sequential or contiguous and dominantly extending conditions. There is no fifth.


In these relational conditions, the self-nature of the entities cannot exist. From the non-existence of self-nature, other-nature too cannot exist.


The functional force does not inhere relational conditions, nor does it not inhere them. The relational conditions, vice versa, do not inhere the functional force, nor do they not inhere it.


Only as entities are uniquely related and originated can they be described in terms of relational conditions. For, how can non-relational conditions be asserted of entities which have not come into being?


Relational condition does not validly belong to either being or non-being. If it belongs to being, for what use is it? And if to non-being, for whose use is it?


When a factor of experience does not evolve from being, non-being, nor from both being and non-being, how can there be an effectuating cause? Thus such a cause is not permissible.


It is said that a true factor of experience does not have an appropriating or objectively extending relational condition,. If it does not exist, then again, wherein is this type of relational condition?


It is not possible to have extinction where factors of experience have not yet arisen. In an extinguished state, for what use is a relational condition. Thus the sequential or contiguous relational condition is not applicable.


As entities without self-nature have no real status of existence, the statement “from the existence of that this becomes” is not possible.


The effect (i.e, arisen entity) does not exist separated from relational condition nor together in relational condition. If it does not exist in either situation, how could it arise out of relational conditions?


Now the, if non-entity arises from these relational conditions, why is it not possible that the effect (i.e. arisen entity) cannot arise from non-relational conditions?


The effect, i.e., arisen entity has the relational condition but the relational conditions have no self possessing nature. How can an effect, arising from no self-possessing nature have the relational condition?


Consequently, the effect, i.e., arisen entity is neither with relational nor without non-relational condition. Since the effect has no existing status, wherein are the relational and non-relational conditions?

Translation by Kenneth K. Inada