Nagarjuna's Middle Way: Mulamadhyamakakarika

Overview

Nagarjuna's renowned twenty-seven-chapter Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way (Mulamadhyamakakarika) is the foundational text of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. It is the definitive, touchstone presentation of the doctrine of emptiness. Professors Siderits and Katsura prepared this translation using the four surviving Indian commentaries in an attempt to reconstruct an interpretation of its enigmatic verses that adheres as closely as possible to that of its earliest proponents. Each verse ...

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Nagarjuna's Middle Way: Mulamadhyamakakarika

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Overview

Nagarjuna's renowned twenty-seven-chapter Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way (Mulamadhyamakakarika) is the foundational text of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. It is the definitive, touchstone presentation of the doctrine of emptiness. Professors Siderits and Katsura prepared this translation using the four surviving Indian commentaries in an attempt to reconstruct an interpretation of its enigmatic verses that adheres as closely as possible to that of its earliest proponents. Each verse is accompanied by concise, lively exposition by the authors conveying the explanations of the Indian commentators. The result is a translation that balances the demands for fidelity and accessibility.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyakamakarika has long been one of the most important works in the Asian philosophical traditions, but access to it is difficult for Western philosophers and scholars. Katsura and Siderits’ translation and commentary renders the work accessible in an outstanding fashion. The scholarship is of the very highest quality, the translation is authoritative, and the commentary provides a picture that is vivid and illuminating.”—Graham Priest, author of Logic: A Very Short Introduction

“This new translation by Shoryu Katsura and Mark Siderits is accurate, faithful to the Indian interpreters, and clear. These two scholars have rendered the Madhyamakakarikas with an exemplary combination of philological and philosophical rigor, making this the translation of choice for Nagarjuna's seminal verses.”—Tom Tillemans, Professor Emeritus, University of Lausanne

“At last! At last we have a translation of the Mulamadhyamakakarika that can be enthusiastically recommended to students! This translation has the authentic flavour of Nagarjuna. It should certainly become the first translation of choice for all English language work on the Madhyamakakarika in the foreseeable future. It is highly recommended. Bravo – I am delighted!”—Paul Williams, Emeritus Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy, University of Bristol, author of Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition

“Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura have produced a masterful translation that is both philologically precise and philosophically sophisticated and sets extremely high standards for further work on the Mulamadhyamakarika. Based on the four extant Indian commentaries their explanations of Nagarjuna's concise verses are a paragon of conceptual clarity. Every student of Buddhist philosophy will want to own a copy of this book.”—Jan Westerhoff, Oxford University, author of Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction

“Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura have produced what will justly be received as the go-to translation of one of the most important works of the Indian Buddhist philosophical tradition. The authors’ comments—based on sensitive attention to all the available Indian commentaries on Nagarjuna's magnum opus—clarify Nagarjuna's verses with admirable concision, while yet permitting a range of interpretations of Nagarjuna's purport. Siderits and Katsura have thus achieved something remarkable -- a rendering of Nagarjuna's foundational text that is clear and concise, but that nevertheless lets us see how Nagarjuna can have been so variously read by interpreters both traditional and modern.”—Dan Arnold, University of Chicago Divinity School, author of Buddhists, Brahmins, and Belief: Epistemology in South Asian Philosophy of Religion

“This is an amazing book. It provides a refined translation of Nagarjuna's text and creates a lucid synthesis of the traditional commentaries, pointing us on our way, challenging every step and at the same time pushing us to our own intimate insight into the fundamental matter. If a book could ever be a Zen teacher, this comes as close as we're likely to find. Every Zen student should read it, return to the pillow, then return to the text, again, and again. And again.”—James Ishmael Ford, coauthor of The Book of MU

Graham Priest
"Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyakamakarika has long been one of the most important works in the Asian philosophical traditions, but access to it is difficult for Western philosophers and scholars. Katsura and Siderits' translation and commentary renders the work accessible in an outstanding fashion. The scholarship is of the very highest quality, the translation is authoritative, and the commentary provides a picture that is vivid and illuminating."
Tom Tillemans
"This new translation by Shoryu Katsura and Mark Siderits is accurate, faithful to the Indian interpreters, and clear. These two scholars have rendered the Madhyamakakarikas with an exemplary combination of philological and philosophical rigor, making this the translation of choice for Nagarjuna's seminal verses."
Paul Williams
"At last! At last we have a translation of the Mulamadhyamakakarika that can be enthusiastically recommended to students! This translation has the authentic flavour of Nagarjuna. It should certainly become the first translation of choice for all English language work on the Madhyamakakarika in the foreseeable future. It is highly recommended. Bravo - I am delighted!"
Jan Westerhoff
"Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura have produced a masterful translation that is both philologically precise and philosophically sophisticated and sets extremely high standards for further work on the Mulamadhyamakarika. Based on the four extant Indian commentaries their explanations of Nagarjuna's concise verses are a paragon of conceptual clarity. Every student of Buddhist philosophy will want to own a copy of this book."—
Dan Arnold
"Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura have produced what will justly be received as the go-to translation of one of the most important works of the Indian Buddhist philosophical tradition. The authors' comments—based on sensitive attention to all the available Indian commentaries on Nagarjuna's magnum opus—clarify Nagarjuna's verses with admirable concision, while yet permitting a range of interpretations of Nagarjuna's purport. Siderits and Katsura have thus achieved something remarkable — a rendering of Nagarjuna's foundational text that is clear and concise, but that nevertheless lets us see how Nagarjuna can have been so variously read by interpreters both traditional and modern."
James Ishmael Ford
"This is an amazing book. It provides a refined translation of Nagarjuna's text and creates a lucid synthesis of the traditional commentaries, pointing us on our way, challenging every step and at the same time pushing us to our own intimate insight into the fundamental matter. If a book could ever be a Zen teacher, this comes as close as we're likely to find. Every Zen student should read it, return to the pillow, then return to the text, again, and again. And again."
From the Publisher
“This new translation by Shoryu Katsura and Mark Siderits is accurate, faithful to the Indian interpreters, and clear. These two scholars have rendered the Madhyamakakarikas with an exemplary combination of philological and philosophical rigor, making this the translation of choice for Nagarjuna's seminal verses.”—Tom Tillemans, Professor Emeritus, University of Lausanne

"Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyakamakarika has long been one of the most important works in the Asian philosophical traditions. Access to it is difficult for Western philosophers, scholars, and others interested in Buddhist thought, however. Even those who read Sanskrit or Tibetan can find Nagarjuna’s thought cryptic and elusive. Katsura and Siderits’ translation and commentary renders the work accessible in an outstanding fashion. The scholarship is of the very highest quality. The translation is authoritative, and the commentary, drawing on the texts of the most notable Indian commentators, provides a picture of Nagarjuna’s thought that is vivid and illuminating."-Graham Priest, author of Logic: A Very Short Introduction

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781614290506
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications MA
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Series: Classics of Indian Buddhism Series
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 698,408
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Siderits was trained in Asian and Western philosophy at the University of Hawaii and Yale University. He has taught both Asian and Western philosophy, for many years at Illinois State University, and most recently as Professor of philosophy at Seoul National University, from which he retired in 2012. He is the author or editor of five books and has published numerous articles on a wide variety of subjects in Indian Buddhist philosophy and comparative philosophy. Much of his work aims at building bridges between the classical Indian tradition and contemporary philosophy, by using insights from one tradition to cast light on problems arising in the other.

Professor Shoryu Katsura received his training in Sanskrit and Buddhist Studies at Kyoto University and the University of Toronto. From 1974 to 2004 he taught in the Department of Indian Philosophy at Hiroshima University; from 2004 he was Professor of Buddhist Philosophy at Ryukoku University, Kyoto, until his retirement in 2012. He remains active at Ryukoku University, where he is Director of their Research Center for Buddhist Cultures in Asia. He is the author or editor of seven books, and has published over sixty articles on various facets of classical Indian Buddhist thought. He is perhaps best known for his work on Buddhist epistemology-the thought of Dignaga, Dharmakirti, and their commentators-but has also made important contributions to the study of Madhyamaka, Abhidharma, and later Mahayana thought. In addition he serves as chief priest of Kodaiji, a small Jodo-shinshu temple in Shiga Prefecture.

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Read an Excerpt

Nagarjuna's Middle Way

The Mulamadhyamakakarikas
By Mark Siderits

Wisdom Publications

Copyright © 2013 Mark Siderits
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781614290506

1. An Analysis of Conditions

This is the first of several chapters investigating the concept of causation. It is important to note at the outset that in classical Indian philosophy causation is usually understood as a relation between entities (“the seed, together with warm moist soil, is the cause of the sprout”) and not, as in modern science, between events (“the collision caused the motion of the ball”). It begins with a statement of the thesis: that existing things do not arise in any of the four logically possible ways that causation might be thought to involve. The Abhidharmika opponent then introduces their conditions-based analysis of causation, which is a version of the second of the four possible views concerning causation. The remainder of the chapter consists of arguments against the details of this theory that entities arise in dependence on distinct conditions. In outline the chapter proceeds as follows:

1.1 Assertion: no entity arises in any of the four possible ways: (a) from itself, (b) from a distinct cause, (c) from both itself and something distinct, or (d) without cause

1.2 General refutation of arising on possibilities a–d

1.3 Opponent: entities arise (b) in dependence on distinct conditions of four kinds

1.4 Refutation of relation between conditions and causal activity

1.5–6 Definition of “condition” and argument for the impossibility of anything meeting the definition

1.7–10 Refutations of each of the four conditions

1.11–14 Refutation of thesis that effect arises from conditions

* * *

na svato napi parato na dvabhyam napy ahetutah |
utpanna jatu vidyante bhavah kva cana ke cana ||1||

1. Not from itself, not from another, not from both, nor without cause,
never in any way is there any existing thing that has arisen.

This is the overall conclusion for which Nagarjuna will argue in this chapter: that existents do not come into existence as the result of causes and conditions. There are four possible ways in which this might be thought to happen, and he rejects all of them. According to the first, when an effect seems to arise it does so because it was already in some sense present in its cause; its appearance is really just the manifestation of something that already existed. The second view claims instead that cause and effect are distinct entities. The third has it that cause and effect may be said to be both identical and distinct. The fourth claims that things originate without any cause; since there are thus no causes, an originating thing could not be said to originate either from itself or from something distinct—it does not originate from anything.

We follow Ye (2011), and accordingly diverge from translations that follow the La Vallée Poussin edition, in reversing the order of the second and third verses of this chapter. (This ordering is clearly attested to by Akutobhaya and the commentaries of Buddhapalita and Bhaviveka.) On this reading, general arguments against all four views are given in the next verse. But in his comments on this verse Bhaviveka anticipates by giving arguments against the four views. He says, for instance, that the fourth view would mean that anything could be produced from anything at any time, something we know is false.

catvarah pratyaya hetur arambanam anantaram |
tathaivadhipateyam ca pratyayo nasti pañcamah ||2||

2. The intrinsic nature of existents does not exist in the conditions, etc.
The intrinsic nature not occurring, neither is extrinsic nature found.

According to the Akutobhaya, 2ab gives the argument against the first possibility mentioned in verse 1, that an existent arises from itself. The argument is that if that out of which the existent arose were really that existent itself, then it should have the intrinsic nature (svabhava) of the existent. But this is simply not the case. Indeed as all the other commentators point out, if this were the case then arising would be pointless. For instance we want to know the cause of fire because we want to produce something with its intrinsic nature, heat. If that nature were already present in its cause, then it would be pointless to produce fire. For then in order to feel heat we would only need to touch unignited fuel.

Again according to the Akutobhaya, 2cd gives the argument against the second possibility mentioned in verse 1, that an existent arises from something distinct from itself. This would mean that the existent must borrow its nature from its cause, thus making its nature something that is extrinsic (parabhava). The argument is that in the absence of the intrinsic nature of the existent in question, its extrinsic nature is likewise not to be found. This is because in order for something to exist its intrinsic nature must occur: There is, for instance, no fire without the occurrence of heat. And something cannot be in the position of borrowing a nature from something else unless it exists. So an existent cannot arise from something distinct.

The third possibility is to be rejected on the grounds that it inherits all the faults of the first and second. And according to Akutobhaya the fourth is false because it is one of the extreme views rejected by the Buddha. (Other commentators give more philosophically respectable reasons to reject this view.)

na hi svabhavo bhavanam pratyayadisu vidyate |
avidyamane svabhave parabhavo na vidyate ||3||

3. There are four conditions: the primary cause, the objective support, and the proximate condition,
and of course the dominant condition; there is no fifth condition.

The commentators represent this as the view of a Buddhist opponent, someone who holds the second of the four possible views about the relation between cause and effect mentioned in verse 1. Candrakirti has this opponent begin by rehearsing the reasons for rejecting the first, third and fourth views. On the first, origination would be pointless, since the desired effect would already exist. We seek knowledge of causes because we find ourselves wanting to produce something that does not currently exist. The third view is to be rejected because it is the conjunction of the first and second, and we already know that the first is false. The fourth view, that of causelessness, is one of the absurd extremes said to be false by the Buddha (M. I.408, A. I.173). But, the opponent claims, the second view was taught by the Buddha and so should not be rejected.

The classification of four kinds of condition is the Abhidharma elaboration of the Buddha’s teaching of origination. (See Abhidharmakosabhasya II.64a.) (1) The primary cause is that from which the effect is thought to have been produced—for example, the seed in the case of a sprout. (2) Only a cognition has an objective support, namely its intentional object, that of which it is conscious. A visual cognition has a color-and-shape as its objective support, an auditory cognition has a sound, etc. (3) The proximate condition is that entity or event that immediately precedes the effect and that cedes its place to the effect. (4) The dominant condition is that without which the effect would not arise. After criticizing the basic notion of causation, Nagarjuna will take up each of these four types in turn: primary cause in verse 7, objective support in verse 8, proximate condition in verse 9, and dominant condition in verse 10.

Candrakirti sets the stage for verse 4 by having the opponent answer the question raised by 3cd as follows: “Then, those who claim that origination is by means of conditions having been refuted, it is said that origination is by means of an action (kriya). The conditions such as vision and color-and-shape do not directly cause consciousness [as effect]. But conditions are so called because they result in a consciousness-producing action. And this action produces consciousness. Thus consciousness is produced by a condition-possessing, consciousness-producing action, not by conditions, as porridge [is produced] by the action of cooking.” (LVP p. 79) (For more on satkaryavada and asatkaryavada see chapters 10 and 20.)

kriya na pratyayavati napratyayavati kriya |
pratyaya nakriyavantah kriyavantas ca santy uta ||4||

4. An action does not possess conditions, nor is it devoid of conditions.
Conditions are not devoid of an action, neither are they provided with an action.

This “action” is supposed to be the causal activity that makes the cause and conditions produce the right kind of effect. It is supposed to explain why only when a seed is planted in warm moist soil does a sprout appear (and why a sprout doesn’t arise from a stone). But if this action is the product of the co-occurrence of the conditions, and thus may be said to possess the conditions, then presumably it occurs when these conditions are assembled. But is this before or after the effect has arisen? If before, then it does not perform the producing activity that makes an event an action. If after, then since the effect has already been produced, the producing activity is no longer to be found. And, adds Candrakirti, there is no third time when the effect is undergoing production, since that would require that the effect be both existent and nonexistent, which is a contradictory state.

If, on the other hand, one were to say that the action occurs independently of the conditions, then we would be unable to explain why the productive action takes place at one time and not at others. The action, being free of dependence on conditions, would be forever occurring, and all undertakings like trying to make a fire would be pointless.

Given that one cannot specify a time when this action occurs, it follows that it does not ultimately exist. And from this it follows that it cannot be ultimately true that conditions either possess an action or do not possess an action.

utpadyate pratityeman itime pratyayah kila |
yavan notpadyata ime tavan napratyayah katham ||5|

5. They are said to be conditions when something arises dependent on them.
When something has not arisen, why then are they not nonconditions?

naivasato naiva satah pratyayo ’rthasya yujyate |
asatah pratyayah kasya satas ca pratyayena kim ||6||

6. Something cannot be called a condition whether the object [which is supposedly the effect] is not yet existent or already existent.
If nonexistent, what is it the condition of? And if existent, what is the point of the condition?

These two verses explain in greater detail the argument of verse 4. The supposed conditions for the arising of a visual cognition—functioning eyes, presence of an object, light, etc.—cannot be said to be conditions at the time when the visual cognition does not yet exist, since they have not yet performed the productive activity required to make them be what is properly called “conditions.” But when the visual cognition does exist, no productive activity is to be found. We might think there must be a third time between these two, a time when the visual cognition is undergoing production. But while we could say this about a chariot, it could not hold of something ultimately real such as a cognition. A chariot might be thought of as something that gradually comes into existence when its parts are being assembled. But precisely because we would then have to say that during that process the chariot both exists and does not exist, we must admit that the chariot is not ultimately real. That we can say this about a chariot shows that it is a mere useful fiction.

This pattern of argumentation, which we might call the “argument of the three times,” will figure prominently in chapter 2. The point of the argument as applied to the present case of origination is that for those who hold that cause and effect are distinct (proponents of the view known as asatkaryavada), the producing relation can only be a conceptual construction. According to asatkaryavada, cause and conditions occur before the effect arises. To claim that the effect originates in dependence on the cause and conditions, we must take there to be a real relation between the two items. But that relation is not to be found in either of the two available times. As for the third time, it holds only with respect to conceptually constructed entities such as the chariot. It follows that the relation of production or causation must be conceptually constructed. It is something that we impute upon observing a regular succession of events, but it is not to be found in reality.


Continues...

Excerpted from Nagarjuna's Middle Way by Mark Siderits Copyright © 2013 by Mark Siderits. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Preface
Introduction

Mulamadhyamakakarikas by Nagarjuna
Dedicatory Verse
1. An Analysis of Conditions
2. An Analysis of the Gone Over, the Not Yet Gone Over, and the Presently Being Gone Over
3. An Analysis of the Ayatanas
4. An Analysis of the Skandhas
5. An Analysis of the Dhatus
6. An Analysis of Desire and the One Who Desires
7. An Analysis of the Conditioned
8. An Analysis of Object and Agent
9. An Analysis of What Is Prior
10. An Analysis of Fire and Fuel
11. An Analysis of the Prior and Posterior Parts (of Samsara)
12. An Analysis of Suffering
13. An Analysis of the Composite
14. An Analysis of Conjunction
15. An Analysis of Intrinsic Nature
16. An Analysis of Bondage and Liberation
17. An Analysis of Action and Fruit
18. An Analysis of the Self
19. An Analysis of Time
20. An Analysis of the Assemblage
21. An Analysis of Arising and Dissolution (of Existents)
22. An Analysis of the Tathagata
23. An Analysis of False Conception
24. An Analysis of the Noble Truths
25. An Analysis of Nirvana
26. An Analysis of the Twelvefold Chain
27. An Analysis of Views

Bibliography

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