From the Jacket
Nagarjuna has held continuous attention of Buddhist scholars in Asia since his own day. Even today he commands the greatest attention in the Western world insofar as philosophic Mahayana tradition is concerned. Though he did not establish a school of a system of thought as such, he did attract such overwhelming interest and appeal on the part of the masses by way of his unique writings that a tradition of a sort soon arose during his lifetime and a large following in consequence of it. His ideas though subtle and profound, carried such deep understanding and implications of fundamental Buddhist truths that they will influence, one way or another, all or most the subsequent Mahayana developments in India, China, Tibet, Korea and Japan.
The present work lay bare before the scholars the unique thought of Nagarjuna in translation by way of his major work, the Mulamadhyamakakarika and by way of an introductory essay on his philosophy. The complete English translation of the Karika in 27 Chapters is presented in sequence with the Romanized version of the Sanskrit verses for easy reference short prefatory remarks to each chapter have been inserted in order to present the reader a quick glipse of each chapter content. The book contains glossary of Sanskrit terms with their English meanings. The book is published in the Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica Series.
Kenneth K. Inada is presently Distinguished Service Professor at Department of Philosophy, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Addendum to the Preface
Twenty three years have elapsed since the original publication of this work. Despite its second printing within five years, the copies were quickly sold and it soon became out of print.
But now under the good graces of Mr. Sunil Gupta of the Indian Books Centre, the fate of the work took a new turn. He kindly suggested that it be reprinted and included as a volume in the Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica Series. I of course heartily agreed and am profoundly appreciative of this gesture. I regret, however that I do not presently have the time to revise the work, i.e., to review the translations for accuracy and style and to expand on the introductory essay so as to update studies on Madhyamaka philosophy and literature which have inundated the field in the last twenty years. It proves that the field is alive and well, and that the future of its movement bodes well in Mahayana studies as well as in the extended areas of comparative thought and culture.
The present work is but a humble attempt to lay bare before the public the unique thought of Nagarjuna (c. 150-250 A.D.) in translation by way of his major work, the Mulamadhyamakakarika (here-after, referred to as the Karika throughout the work) and by way of an introductory essay on his philosophy. The Karika or verses are, to be sure, very concise and for this reason cryptic and perhaps confounding. But it should be noted that it is not the written language that should be looked at askance since Sanskrit is a rather precise language and a remarkably advanced one at that for the presentation and propagation of thought. Basically, like all great works, it is the ideas relative to the truth of things that must be taken to task and not the language in use or the methodology involved. And yet, however defiant the ideas may be to clear analysis, scholars must constantly strike out for a better basis of understanding. To this end the present work is dedicated and thus, should it arouse even a single response from the reader for a better perspective of Nagarjuna’s philosophy and thereby Mahayana Buddhism as a whole, it would have served its basic and final purpose.
The complete English translation of the Karika in 27 Chapters is presented in sequence with the Romanized version of the Sanskrit verses for easy reference. The Karika were derived from the Prasannapada of Candrakirti (c. 600-650 A.D.), edited by Louis De La Valee Poussin and published by the Bibliotheca Buddhica between 1903 and 1913. Being a commentary work, the Prasannapada contains the original Karika by Nagarjuna. For the advanced student of the Mahayana, nothing could be better than to compare the Prasannapada with the Chinese work, Chung-lun (Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo, XXX, No. 1564), another commentary work by Pingala (C. 4th century A.D.) and admirably translated into Chinese by the famed Kumarajiva (in China 401-413 A.D.). It was the Chung-lun, including its subsequent commentary works, which kept the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist scholars versed on the Madhyamika or Sunyavada in a continued sense and fired the spirit of sectarian development and propagation in this respective countries.
Besides Th. Stcherbatsky’s monumental work, The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana, which contains the Karika translation of Chapters I & XXV, plus the complete translation of Chapters I & XXV of the Prasannapada, the following works in English can be referred to for comparative purposes.
Frederick J. Streng: Emptiness, A Study in Religious Meaning, Appendix A, “Fundamentals of the Middle Way,” is the complete Karika translation.
Richard H. Robinson: Early Madhyamika in India and China. Chapter II on Early Indian Madhyamika contains many important translations from the Karika.
Heramba H. Chatterjee: Mula-Madhyamaka-Karika of Nagar-juna. Part I (Chapters I-V) and Part II (Chapters VI-VIII) have thus far appeared.
Other foreign language translations can be seen in the Bibliography.
Short prefatory remarks to each chapter have been inserted in order to present the reader a quick glimpse of each chapter content.
It only remains for me to thank those who are responsible for the publication of this work. Originally, to the late venerable Dr. Daisetz T. Suzuki who was a silent Zen godfather to me between 1949 and 1966 and who was responsible for introducing me to Dr. Shoson Miyamoto of the University of Tokyo who, in turn, introduced me to the intricacies but delights of the Madhyamika; Dr. Miyamoto’s enlightening seminars and cordial personal contacts outside the classroom will always be treasured; to Dr. Shinsho Hanayama whose Bodhisattvacarya will always be held as a model and in highest esteem; to Dr. Hajime Nakamura, former Dean of Humanities and current Head of the Department of Indian and Buddhist Studies, the University of Tokyo, whose genuine leadership and scholarship will always be objects of emulation; his personal interest in and encouragement of my work and well-being cannot fully be expressed; incidentally, he is directly responsible for the selection of this work as No. 2 in the Tokyo Eastern Series; to Dr. Reimon Yuki whose stimulating seminars on Yogacara-vijnanavada thought immeasurably aided me in understanding the Madhyamika; to Dr. Mitsuyoshi Saigusa, scholar of Buddhist and Comparative philosophy, whose endearing friendship and kind suggestion have finally made it possible for the work to be published in this form; although the has kindly consented to see the work through the press, besides typographical errors which are inevitable, I must take full responsibility for all errors committed since the release of the manuscript to the press; finally, I must thank my wife, Masako, without whose abiding concern, closeness and understanding the myriad obstacles would have been insurmountable.
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