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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Nagarjuna
An Introduction to the Philosophy of Nagarjuna
Description
About the Book:

This book is a study of the Mulamadhyamakakarika (Middle Stanzas), the Chief work of Nagarjuna (2nd- 3rd cent.), who established the theoretical foundations of Mahayana Buddhism and is known in Japan as "the founder of the eight sects." The Middle Stanzas is a treatise that integrates the concepts of dependent co-arising (pratityasamutpada) and emptiness (sunyata), fundamental to the thought of Mahayana Buddhism, but the manner in which Nagarjuna develops his arguments is unusual, and the Middle Stanzas has acquired a reputation as a difficult work. The present book attempts to elucidate the distinctive and abstruse arguments presented in the Middle Stanzas by means of an original method not previously used in this context.

In addition to its examination of the logic of emptiness, this book also aims to explore the idea of emptiness from the perspective of religious studies. That is to say, the author seeks to situate the intuitive wisdom of emptiness within the full compass of religious experiences. Towards this end, he employs the concept of "the sacred" and "the profane," basic concepts in the field of religious studies, and proposes a method for considering the experience of the wisdom of emptiness within the same framework as Tantric practices such as mandala visualization and group rituals such as funeral rites.

About the Author:

Musashi Tachikawa (Ph. D., Harvard University [1975]; D. Litt., Nagoya University [1985]) formerly taught at Nagoya Universtiy 91970-92) and is now professor at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. His publications include The Structure of the World of Udayana's Realism (Reidel, 1980) and "A Hindu Worship Service in Sixteen Steps, Shodasa-upacarapuja" (Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology, 8:1 [1983]).

Preface

The starting point of our study of the Madhyamakakarika (referred to hereafter as the Middle Stanzas) was the doubts that we had come to entertain in regard to statements to the effect that Nagarjuna’s philosophy of emptiness as exemplified by the middle stanzas represents a logic transcending logic and that therefore Nagarjuna set a positive value in his arguments on logical contradiction and paradox. Even though it may be true that the philosophy of emptiness does embody certain elements of something that transcends logic it was inconceivable that the complex and persistent arguments of the Middle Stanzas should have been formulated with the disregard for such laws as those of the excluded middle and contradiction both basic to logic and it also seemed improbable that the passion of the Indian Nagarjuna to follow his arguments through to the very end should not be supported by sound logical operations. But even so how would it be possible to retrace Nagarjuna’s attempt to grasp by means of logic something that would appear to clearly transcend logic? A hint in reply to our continued questioning was provided by the perspective proposed by religious scholars and consisting of the two poles of the sacred and the profane. This perspective is usually employed in order to clarify the nature of group religious acts but the process leading from the profane to the sacred is the same in the case of individual religious acts too and we wondered whether this perspective might not also be applicable when considering the philosophy of emptiness in Mahayana Buddhism possessed as this latter is of features characteristic of individual religious acts. In particular the two vectors existing between the sacred and the profane and pointing in opposite directions proved to be most suggestive in their implications.

If, after having taken into our field of vision the two poles of the sacred and the profane and the two vectors between them, we then consider the Middle Stanzas, the logic of this work gradually becomes clear. When Ngarjuna repeatedly emphasizes that things do not arise,” he means that “things do not arise with own-being or as substantive entities, and the negation of the profane possessed of own-being is thus emphasized. The momentum of the process in the course of which such negation is performed (corresponding to religious praxis) becomes the vector pointing from the profane to the sacred. When, on the other hand, Nagarjuna says that “things arise by dependent co arising,’ he means that “things without own-being arise” by the principle of dependent co-arising or truth, and it is to be surmised that the vector in this case points from the sacred to the profane and that its momentum is bestowed by truth or the sacred on that which has come in contact with truth.

The “time” involved in the first vector is relatively slow in its movement, and in this process as delineated in the Middle Stanzas logical consistency is thoroughly pursued in all facets of Ngãrjuna’s arguments. But the moment when the profane touches the sacred and that same moment in which there occurs the sacralization of the profane, corresponding to the second vector, is the moment of religious awakening and does indeed “transcend logic.” Although Nãgärjuna does describe what takes place there “by provisional designation,” in contrast to the cumulative logic of the first vector, he is rather spare in words in regard to this second vector.

The misunderstanding that the logic of the Middle Stanzas is from the first supralogical, the attitude which by interpreting, what might be termed “immanentistic realism” in its overly popularized form would rest in the profane without having passed through the stage of negation, and the, existence of a tendency to emphasize the union of opposites by again simplistically superimposing the sacred and the profane—these could probably have been all avoided by correctly discerning the nature of the above two vectors. The dynamic significance attached by Nagarjuna to the central concepts of eraptiness and dependent co-arising also becomes clearer if we take into consideration these two vectors. The realization that one source of the various misunderstandings of the logic of the Middle Stanzas probably lies in a confusion of the two types of negation employed in the Middle Stanzas, namely, non-affirming or absolute negation and affirming or implicative negation—corresponding in the case of the Middle Stanzas to the negation of a proposition and the negation of a term respectively—also resulted from our reading of this work on the assumption that it had been composed with a view to observing logical consistency.

In the ancient India where Nagarjuna lived “things” (bhava) were probably far less sophisticated and of a far more natural form than they are today, and they would have existed in a state closer to man, sometimes even inspiring him with awe. It is difficult to comprehend the powerful will to completely extinguish all existing things at least once without taking into account the premise that this may indeed be possible. For us who live in the present age, overwhelmed by things that are frightfully distant towards us and of such profusion, the philosophy of emptiness that would hold that “all things do not exist” is at the most nothing more than something to be given fleeting thought while we are being totally immersed in the profane. We live surrounded by circumstances such that it is impossible to do otherwise. With our strong proclivity towards the pragmatic, it is necessary to realize that there is a risk of our minimizing that aspect of rigorous negation in Nagarjuna’s thought and interpreting the Middle Stanzas with a bias towards their aspect of the sacralization of the profane. Both the great Indian genius for the negation of the profane, as evident for example in yoga, and the optimistic confidence iii ultimate salvation common to all Indian religions must be accepted as a single unity, and Nagarjuna’s philosophy of emptiness is of course a case in point. The object of Nagärjuna’s inquiries, pursued with an intensity that is directly sensed by us readers living close to two thousand years later, was how to master the actuating moment that brings about the overlapping of the sacred and the profane. In this sense the Middle Stanzas represent a religious work expounding the path to liberation.

A variety of views in a variety of spheres and on a variety of planes are doubtless possible in regard to what the Middle Stanzas has to teach us who live in a situation so remote from that of ancient India. But in all cases one must start with as accurate as possible an understanding of Nagarjuna’s intent. We would like the reader to regard the present work as one attempt in this direction.

The present book has come into existence only through the help and kindness of a number of people. Here I would like to express my particular gratitude to Prof. F. Staal (Prof. Emeritus University of California Berkeley) Prof. P. Griffith (University of Chicago) Prof. G. Paul (University of Karlsruhe) Prof. S. Bahulkar (Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies Sarnath) and Dr. M. Kolhatakr (Deccan College Poona) who all gave invaluable suggestions regarding this book.

The present volume is an English translation of a revised version of my Japanese book entitled Ku no kozo (the Structure of Emptiness Daisan Bummeisha 1986) I would like to thank M. Rolf W. Giebel for having taken great pains to translate it.

Contents

Preface i
1The historical position of Nagarjuna’s thought 1
2The Religious position of the Middle Stanzas (mulamadhyamakakarika) 5
3The conventional and ultimate truths in nagarjuna’s thought 23
4Statements to be Treated in the Middle Stanzas the structure of the Profane 34
5A Survey of Nagarjuna’s arguments: An examination of Chapter II of the Middle Stanzas 53
6Complementary Relationship in the Middle Stanzas; The Negation of the profane (1) 61
7Syntactical relationship in the Middle Stanzas the Negation of the Profane (2) 65
8The Negation of a term and the negation of a proposition the negation of the profane (3) 93
9Own Being in the Middle Stanzas from the profane to the sacred 105
10The affirmation of the phenomenal world from the sacred to the profane 113
11Tetralemmas in the Middle Stanzas 132
12Nagarjuna’s Tetralemma in comparison with that of the Hua-yen school in china 150
13Later Interpretations of Dependent co-arising the Significance of the profane 168
Bibliography 196
Index 201

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Nagarjuna

Item Code:
IDC223
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
1997
ISBN:
81-208-1466-5
Size:
8.8" X 5.8"
Pages:
218
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 410 gms
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About the Book:

This book is a study of the Mulamadhyamakakarika (Middle Stanzas), the Chief work of Nagarjuna (2nd- 3rd cent.), who established the theoretical foundations of Mahayana Buddhism and is known in Japan as "the founder of the eight sects." The Middle Stanzas is a treatise that integrates the concepts of dependent co-arising (pratityasamutpada) and emptiness (sunyata), fundamental to the thought of Mahayana Buddhism, but the manner in which Nagarjuna develops his arguments is unusual, and the Middle Stanzas has acquired a reputation as a difficult work. The present book attempts to elucidate the distinctive and abstruse arguments presented in the Middle Stanzas by means of an original method not previously used in this context.

In addition to its examination of the logic of emptiness, this book also aims to explore the idea of emptiness from the perspective of religious studies. That is to say, the author seeks to situate the intuitive wisdom of emptiness within the full compass of religious experiences. Towards this end, he employs the concept of "the sacred" and "the profane," basic concepts in the field of religious studies, and proposes a method for considering the experience of the wisdom of emptiness within the same framework as Tantric practices such as mandala visualization and group rituals such as funeral rites.

About the Author:

Musashi Tachikawa (Ph. D., Harvard University [1975]; D. Litt., Nagoya University [1985]) formerly taught at Nagoya Universtiy 91970-92) and is now professor at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. His publications include The Structure of the World of Udayana's Realism (Reidel, 1980) and "A Hindu Worship Service in Sixteen Steps, Shodasa-upacarapuja" (Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology, 8:1 [1983]).

Preface

The starting point of our study of the Madhyamakakarika (referred to hereafter as the Middle Stanzas) was the doubts that we had come to entertain in regard to statements to the effect that Nagarjuna’s philosophy of emptiness as exemplified by the middle stanzas represents a logic transcending logic and that therefore Nagarjuna set a positive value in his arguments on logical contradiction and paradox. Even though it may be true that the philosophy of emptiness does embody certain elements of something that transcends logic it was inconceivable that the complex and persistent arguments of the Middle Stanzas should have been formulated with the disregard for such laws as those of the excluded middle and contradiction both basic to logic and it also seemed improbable that the passion of the Indian Nagarjuna to follow his arguments through to the very end should not be supported by sound logical operations. But even so how would it be possible to retrace Nagarjuna’s attempt to grasp by means of logic something that would appear to clearly transcend logic? A hint in reply to our continued questioning was provided by the perspective proposed by religious scholars and consisting of the two poles of the sacred and the profane. This perspective is usually employed in order to clarify the nature of group religious acts but the process leading from the profane to the sacred is the same in the case of individual religious acts too and we wondered whether this perspective might not also be applicable when considering the philosophy of emptiness in Mahayana Buddhism possessed as this latter is of features characteristic of individual religious acts. In particular the two vectors existing between the sacred and the profane and pointing in opposite directions proved to be most suggestive in their implications.

If, after having taken into our field of vision the two poles of the sacred and the profane and the two vectors between them, we then consider the Middle Stanzas, the logic of this work gradually becomes clear. When Ngarjuna repeatedly emphasizes that things do not arise,” he means that “things do not arise with own-being or as substantive entities, and the negation of the profane possessed of own-being is thus emphasized. The momentum of the process in the course of which such negation is performed (corresponding to religious praxis) becomes the vector pointing from the profane to the sacred. When, on the other hand, Nagarjuna says that “things arise by dependent co arising,’ he means that “things without own-being arise” by the principle of dependent co-arising or truth, and it is to be surmised that the vector in this case points from the sacred to the profane and that its momentum is bestowed by truth or the sacred on that which has come in contact with truth.

The “time” involved in the first vector is relatively slow in its movement, and in this process as delineated in the Middle Stanzas logical consistency is thoroughly pursued in all facets of Ngãrjuna’s arguments. But the moment when the profane touches the sacred and that same moment in which there occurs the sacralization of the profane, corresponding to the second vector, is the moment of religious awakening and does indeed “transcend logic.” Although Nãgärjuna does describe what takes place there “by provisional designation,” in contrast to the cumulative logic of the first vector, he is rather spare in words in regard to this second vector.

The misunderstanding that the logic of the Middle Stanzas is from the first supralogical, the attitude which by interpreting, what might be termed “immanentistic realism” in its overly popularized form would rest in the profane without having passed through the stage of negation, and the, existence of a tendency to emphasize the union of opposites by again simplistically superimposing the sacred and the profane—these could probably have been all avoided by correctly discerning the nature of the above two vectors. The dynamic significance attached by Nagarjuna to the central concepts of eraptiness and dependent co-arising also becomes clearer if we take into consideration these two vectors. The realization that one source of the various misunderstandings of the logic of the Middle Stanzas probably lies in a confusion of the two types of negation employed in the Middle Stanzas, namely, non-affirming or absolute negation and affirming or implicative negation—corresponding in the case of the Middle Stanzas to the negation of a proposition and the negation of a term respectively—also resulted from our reading of this work on the assumption that it had been composed with a view to observing logical consistency.

In the ancient India where Nagarjuna lived “things” (bhava) were probably far less sophisticated and of a far more natural form than they are today, and they would have existed in a state closer to man, sometimes even inspiring him with awe. It is difficult to comprehend the powerful will to completely extinguish all existing things at least once without taking into account the premise that this may indeed be possible. For us who live in the present age, overwhelmed by things that are frightfully distant towards us and of such profusion, the philosophy of emptiness that would hold that “all things do not exist” is at the most nothing more than something to be given fleeting thought while we are being totally immersed in the profane. We live surrounded by circumstances such that it is impossible to do otherwise. With our strong proclivity towards the pragmatic, it is necessary to realize that there is a risk of our minimizing that aspect of rigorous negation in Nagarjuna’s thought and interpreting the Middle Stanzas with a bias towards their aspect of the sacralization of the profane. Both the great Indian genius for the negation of the profane, as evident for example in yoga, and the optimistic confidence iii ultimate salvation common to all Indian religions must be accepted as a single unity, and Nagarjuna’s philosophy of emptiness is of course a case in point. The object of Nagärjuna’s inquiries, pursued with an intensity that is directly sensed by us readers living close to two thousand years later, was how to master the actuating moment that brings about the overlapping of the sacred and the profane. In this sense the Middle Stanzas represent a religious work expounding the path to liberation.

A variety of views in a variety of spheres and on a variety of planes are doubtless possible in regard to what the Middle Stanzas has to teach us who live in a situation so remote from that of ancient India. But in all cases one must start with as accurate as possible an understanding of Nagarjuna’s intent. We would like the reader to regard the present work as one attempt in this direction.

The present book has come into existence only through the help and kindness of a number of people. Here I would like to express my particular gratitude to Prof. F. Staal (Prof. Emeritus University of California Berkeley) Prof. P. Griffith (University of Chicago) Prof. G. Paul (University of Karlsruhe) Prof. S. Bahulkar (Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies Sarnath) and Dr. M. Kolhatakr (Deccan College Poona) who all gave invaluable suggestions regarding this book.

The present volume is an English translation of a revised version of my Japanese book entitled Ku no kozo (the Structure of Emptiness Daisan Bummeisha 1986) I would like to thank M. Rolf W. Giebel for having taken great pains to translate it.

Contents

Preface i
1The historical position of Nagarjuna’s thought 1
2The Religious position of the Middle Stanzas (mulamadhyamakakarika) 5
3The conventional and ultimate truths in nagarjuna’s thought 23
4Statements to be Treated in the Middle Stanzas the structure of the Profane 34
5A Survey of Nagarjuna’s arguments: An examination of Chapter II of the Middle Stanzas 53
6Complementary Relationship in the Middle Stanzas; The Negation of the profane (1) 61
7Syntactical relationship in the Middle Stanzas the Negation of the Profane (2) 65
8The Negation of a term and the negation of a proposition the negation of the profane (3) 93
9Own Being in the Middle Stanzas from the profane to the sacred 105
10The affirmation of the phenomenal world from the sacred to the profane 113
11Tetralemmas in the Middle Stanzas 132
12Nagarjuna’s Tetralemma in comparison with that of the Hua-yen school in china 150
13Later Interpretations of Dependent co-arising the Significance of the profane 168
Bibliography 196
Index 201
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