The Sun of Wisdom: Teachings on the Noble Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way [NOOK Book]


Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way

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The Sun of Wisdom: Teachings on the Noble Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way

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Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way

was written in the second century and is one of the most important works of
Nagarjuna, the pioneering commentator on the Buddha's teachings on the
Madhyamika or Middle Way view. The subtle analyses presented in this treatise
were closely studied and commented upon by many realized masters from the
Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Nagarjuna's root text and the great modern master Ju Mipham's commentary as a
framework, Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso explains the most important verse from
each chapter in the text in a style that illuminates for modern students both
the meaning of these profound teachings and how to put them into practice in a
way that benefits both oneself and others.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834825406
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso is a noted Buddhist scholar and teacher who was born in Eastern Tibet in 1934. Known for his highly engaging teaching style, he has traveled and taught in North America, Europe, and Asia from 1977 to 2007. He is the author of The Sun of Wisdom, The Moon of Wisdom, and Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness, and numerous songs of realization.

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Read an Excerpt

the Introduction

activity we engage in,

motivation is very important. According to the tradition of Mahayana (Great
Vehicle) Buddhism, the motivation we should cultivate is
turned toward supreme enlightenment. One way to do so is to think first of our
father and mother in this lifetime, and then extend the love and compassion we
feel for them to all sentient beings, including even our enemies. It is the
case that all sentient beings, including our enemies, have been our own father
and mother countless times, and therefore they have been indescribably kind to
us countless times. The greatest thing we can do to repay sentient beings'
kindness is to lead them all to the state of complete and perfect
enlightenment, the state of buddhahood, and in order to do this, we must listen
to, reflect upon, and meditate on the teachings of the genuine Dharma with all
the enthusiasm we can muster. This is the supreme motivation of
bodhichitta—please give rise to it as a first step whenever you read, reflect
on, or meditate upon the teachings in this book.

topic of this book is the text known as
Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way,
by the noble protector Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna is a special teacher in the history
of Buddhism. The Buddha himself prophesied that Nagarjuna would be born four
hundred years after the Buddha's own passing and that he would give vast and
perfect explanations of the Buddha's teachings. Nagarjuna fulfilled this
prophecy both as a teacher of many students who went on to become great masters
themselves and as an author of texts that expound and clarify the meaning of
the Buddha's words. Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike have studied these texts
from Nagarjuna's time to the present.

commentaries form three main collections of texts that explain, respectively,
the Buddha's own three series of teachings known as the three turnings of the
wheel of Dharma. Thus, in the set of compositions known as
Collections of Advice,
focus is the first turning of the wheel. He describes how a human life gives
one the invaluable opportunity to practice the Dharma; how this life and
everything one knows of and experiences within it are impermanent; how
samsara—the cycle of existence in which confused sentient beings endlessly
wander from one lifetime to the next—is characterized by constant suffering,
in both gross and subtle forms; and how practicing the Dharma leads to the
attainment of nirvana, the state of liberation that transcends samsara's
suffering once and for all. This is a brief summary of the teachings the Buddha
gave in his first turning of the wheel of Dharma. These are teachings from the
perspective that appearances truly exist in just the way they seem to—that the
individual, the individual's past and future lives, the suffering the
individual experiences in samsara, and the liberation the individual can attain
in nirvana all exist in precisely the way they appear.

the middle and final turnings of the wheel, the Buddha described the true
nature of reality, explaining that the way things appear to be is different
from the way they actually are. The Buddha taught that of all the progressively
subtle ways of explaining the true nature of reality, the ultimate description
one can make is that the true nature of reality is the true nature of mind, the
union of luminous clarity and emptiness. It is difficult, however, to
understand what "the union of luminous clarity and emptiness" means
as an initial statement, and therefore the Buddha taught about the two aspects
of emptiness and luminous clarity separately and in great detail in the sutras
of the middle and final turnings, respectively. Once students understand what
emptiness is, and then what luminous clarity is, they can then much more easily
understand how it is that genuine reality is in fact the union of the two.

the profundity and vastness of the Buddha's teachings in the sutras make them
difficult for ordinary individuals to understand. For this reason, Nagarjuna
Six Collections of Reasonings
explain the middle turning's
Collection of Seventeen Praises
explain the final turning's
on the Buddha Nature.
Six Collections of Reasonings,
major text is
Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.

is the Middle Way?

it is a commentary on the middle turning of the wheel of Dharma, the main topic
Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way
emptiness. In fact, the terms
that the true nature of the phenomena we experience lies in the middle, between
all possible extremes that can be conceived of by the intellect. The true
nature of reality cannot be described by any conceptual fabrication, by any
conventional term or expression. Thus, it is not existent, not nonexistent, not
something, not nothing, not permanent, not extinct; it is not the lack of these
things, and it is not even the middle in between them, for that is a
conceptually fabricated extreme as well. The true nature of reality transcends
all the notions we could ever have of what it might be. This is also the
ultimate understanding of the second turning's description of emptiness.
Emptiness ultimately means that genuine reality is empty of any conceptual
fabrication that could attempt to describe what it is.

path leading to the direct realization of this inconceivable, genuine nature of
reality begins with gaining certainty in this profound view of emptiness. This
is an essential first step because it is not enough just to read the teachings
that say, "All phenomena are emptiness; the nature of reality is beyond
concept," and, without knowing the reasons these teachings are accurate,
to accept them on blind faith alone. If we do, we will not remove our doubts,
and our mere opinion that the teachings are valid will not do us any good when
these doubts come to the surface. When we gain certainty in the teachings on
emptiness, however, then it will be impossible for doubts to arise.

way that Nagarjuna helps us to gain such certainty is through the use of
logical reasoning. This is particularly important for us in this day and age,
when academic inquiry, science, and technology are at the forefront. At the
dawn of the twenty-first century, people are very well educated and are used to
using their intelligence to examine and understand things. Nagarjuna's method
is perfectly in harmony with this—he teaches us how to determine the true
nature of reality for ourselves by logically analyzing the things that appear
to us. By analyzing in this way we can gain stable certainty in the profound
view. Many of Nagarjuna's logical reasonings negate the true existence of
things and conclude that things do not truly exist, that they are empty of
inherent nature. This leads some people to think that Nagarjuna's view is
nihilistic—he negates actors, actions, causes and results, the Buddha, and
everything else in samsara and nirvana. What then is left of our experience?
What is the use or meaning of life if everything is empty in this way?

three stages of analysis

is therefore very important to know that the Buddha taught about the nature of
reality in three stages. First, in order to teach his disciples that positive
actions lead to happiness and negative actions lead to suffering, the Buddha
taught about these things as if they were real. In order to help disciples give
rise to renunciation of samsara and longing for nirvana, he taught about
samsara's suffering and nirvana's liberation from that suffering as if they
were real. Furthermore, since all of these teachings depend upon the existence
of a self, the Buddha taught about the self, who performs positive and negative
actions and experiences their results, who wanders from lifetime to lifetime in
samsara, and who can gain the liberation of nirvana, as if it were real. This
was the first stage of the teachings, the teachings of the first turning of the
wheel, called the stage of no analysis—no analysis of the true nature of the
phenomena about which the Buddha taught.

second stage reflects the fact that once students gain confidence in the law of
cause and result and develop renunciation of samsara and longing for nirvana, it

then important that they reverse their clinging to themselves and these
phenomena as being truly existent, because this clinging actually prevents them
from gaining the liberation for which they strive. In the second stage,
therefore, the Buddha taught that phenomena do not truly exist. For example, in
of Wisdom Sutra,
Buddha taught, "There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no
mind," and so forth. This second stage is called the stage of slight
analysis— the point at which phenomena are analyzed and found to be lacking in
inherent nature, to be empty of any truly existent essence.

this way, we can see that we need the teachings on nonexistence to help us
reverse our clinging to things as being existent. The true nature of reality,
however, transcends both the notion of existence
of nonexistence. Therefore, in the third stage, the stage of thorough analysis,
the Buddha taught that we must also give up our clinging to nonexistence if we
are to realize the simplicity, the freedom from all conceptual fabrications,
that is reality's ultimate essence.

Buddha taught these latter two stages in the middle turning of the wheel of
Dharma. Of the two philosophical schools whose explanations are based on this
middle turning, the Middle Way Autonomy school (Svatantrika Madhyamaka)
emphasizes the second stage, that of slight analysis, whereas the Middle Way
Consequence school (Prasangika Madhyamaka) emphasizes the third stage, that of
thorough analysis. The Autonomy school refutes true existence and asserts
emptiness to be the true nature of reality; the Consequence school refutes true
existence but does not assert anything in its place, because its proponents
recognize that to do so would obscure realization of the freedom from all
conceptual fabrications that is the true nature of reality itself.

Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way
from the perspectives of both the second and third stages, and therefore both
the Autonomy and Consequence schools find their roots in this text. It is
important for us to identify what stage a particular teaching in the text is
coming from so that we can link it with the explanations of one of these two
schools and also understand its intended purpose. If it is a refutation of
existence, its purpose is to help us overcome our clinging to things as being
real; if it teaches the freedom from all conceptual fabrications, it is
intended to help us understand how reality is actually beyond all our concepts
of what it might be.

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Table of Contents


1. An
Examination of Causal Conditions
2. An
Examination of Coming and Going
3. An
Examination of the Sources of Consciousness
4. An
Examination of the Aggregates

5. An
Examination of the Elements
6. An
Examination of Desire and the Desirous One
7. An
Examination of the Composite
8. An
Examination of Actors and Actions
9. An
Examination of What Comes First
10. An
Examination of Fire and Firewood
11. An
Examination of Samsara
12. An
Examination of Suffering
13. An
Examination of the Precise Nature of Reality
14. An
Examination of Contact
15. An
Examination of Things and the Absence of Things
16. An
Examination of Bondage and Liberation
17. An
Examination of Karmic Actions and Results
18. An
Examination of Self and Phenomena
19. An
Examination of Time
20. An
Examination of Collections
21. An
Examination of Emergence and Decay
22. An
Examination of the Tathagata
23. An
Examination of Mistakes
An Examination of the Four Noble Truths
25. An
Examination of Nirvana
26. An
Examination of the Twelve Links of Existence
27. An
Examination of Views

1. Root Verses from

The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way
The Heart of Wisdom Sutra
3. The Twenty Emptinesses from Chandrakirti's

Entering the Middle Way

Authentic Portrait of the Middle Way:

Vajra Song of Realization of the Lord of Yogis Milarepa
Glossary 207

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