NĀGĀRJUNA'S SEVENTY STANZAS: A BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY OF EMPTINESS
Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas: A Buddhist Psychology ofEmptiness David Ross Komito Translation and commentary on the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness by Venerable Geshe Sonam Rinchen, Venerable Tenzin Dorjee, and David Ross Komito.
Snow Lion Publications P . O. Box 6483 lthaca, New York 1485 1 USA Copyright © 1 987 David Ross Komito First Edition U. S.A. 1 987 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means without prior written permission from the publisher. Printed in Canada Library of Congress Catalogue Number ISBN 0-937938-39-4 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Nagilrjuna, 2nd cent . Nagarjuna's seventy stanzas. Translation of: Simyatasaptatikilrika. Bibliography: p. Includes index. 1. Madhyamika (Buddhism)-Early works to 1800 . I. Sonam Rinchen, 19372. Sunyata-Psychology. 11. Tenzin Dorjee. Ill. Komito, David Ross, 1946IV. T itle. BQ2910.S9422K6513 1987 294.3'85 87-9654 ISBN 0-937938-39-4
The author wishes to express his gratitude to his many teachers, without whose kind instruction this work could never have been accomplished, and especially to Helmut Hoffmann, Tara Tulku Kensur Rinpoche, and Geshe Sonam Rinchen. The author also wishes to thank the National Endowment for the Humanities, whose grant of a Summer Stipend was instrumental in the completion of this project.
Contents Preface 11 Foreword The Legend of Niigiirjuna's Encounter with the Niigas 17 Chapter 1 Buddhist Psychology 19 Section 1 - 1 General Comments 21 23 1-2 Buddhadharma 36 1-3 Perception & Conception 1 -4 Subject; Part 1 : Attention 52 1 -5 Subject; Part 2 : Meditation 59 1 -6 Object 66 Chapter 2 The Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness 77 Section 2- 1 Seventy Stanzas Explaining How Phenomena Are Empty of Inherent Existence 79 2-2 Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness with Tibetan text and Commentary by Geshe Sonam Rinchen 96
Section 3-1 Treatises by Nagarjuna 185 3-2 Translation of the Seventy Stanzas During the First Introduction of Buddhism to Tibet 192 3-3 Translation of the Seventy Stanzas During the Second Introduction of Buddhism to Tibet 199 3-4 Contemporary Translation Activities 206 Footnotes 210 2 16 Bibliography Index 22 1
"Reality according to Buddhists is kinetic, not static, but logic, on the other hand, imagines a reality stabilized in concepts and names. The ultimate aim of Buddhist logic is to explain the relation between a moving reality and the static constructions of thought. " T. Stcherbatsky Buddhist Logic Vol. 2, p. 2
Preface In the summer of 1982 I traveled to Dharamsala, India to do some advanced study on Nagarjuna's Madhyamika sys tem with Geshe Sonam Rinchen, one of the scholars at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. I had reached a limit in what I could understand about Madhyamika by merely reading texts, and had a number of questions which remained unanswered. I felt that these questions could only be answered through dialogue with an accomplished scholar who had trained in the venerable monastic tradition. For some time the focus of my Madhyamika studies had been Nagarjuna's treatise ShUnyatiisaptatikiirikaniima, the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness (hereafter referred to as the Seventy Stanzas). I'd begun work on this treatise while a graduate student, translating it under the supervision of Professor Helmut H. Hoffmann and commenting upon it and its relation to the Prajiiaparamita literature for my Ph. D . dissertation at Indiana University. In this project we utilized the standard commentaries on the Seventy Stanzas for guidance. The translation produced at that time repli cated the terseness of Nagarjuna's treatise. In the course of our work together I had learned much about Nagarjuna's system, but felt that what I didn't know was perhaps even 11
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
more vast as a result of having learned a title. Frustratingly, there seemed to be few, if any, scholars in the west with whom I could consult who were any better off. As I began asking Geshe Sonam Rinchen my questions about the Seventy Stanzas, I realized that I had finally met a true treasure house of knowledge about Madhyamika. He had begun his studies at Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet, fled in 1959 to India with about 100,000 other Tibetans and completed his scholarly studies there, finally obtaining his Geshe (Doctor of Theology) degree. His answers to my questions were always lucid, and many difficult points in Madhyamika began to come clear. Amazingly, when I put questions to him he often asked me which explanation did I want? As he showed me, there were many ways to analyze the subtle points in Nagarjuna's system. His own prefer ence was to adopt the Prasarigika view of Candrakirti, as his monastic tradition followed the Prasarigika interpretation favored by Tsong kha pa, the founder of the dGe lugs pa sect to which Sera was connected. I found that this view profoundly enriched my understanding of the Seventy Stan zas, a draft of which I had brought with me. In the course of our discussions we determined that the most profitable way for me to continue my training in Madhyamika would be for us to read the Seventy Stanzas from beginning to end, discussing problems as they arose in our reading. As our reading progressed I began to revise my translation of the Seventy Stanzas under Geshe Sonam Rin chen's direction, all the while taking notes on his explana tions of the significance of the stanzas (Sanskrit: karika(s)). During this process I realized that my notes represented a nucleus of a contemporary commentary on this ancient treatise which reflected both the views of Candrakirti and the oral tradition of interpretation which Geshe Sonam Rinchen had learned in Sera. This struck me as being of particular value, and after some discussion we determined to continue our work with the formal intention of actually producing a contemporary
commentary o n the Seventy Stanzas which could b e of use to the modern reader. This is also why we did not choose simply to translate the Candrakirti commentary, for Can drakirti himself can be extremely difficult for the nonschol ar, and we felt that we would have simply found ourselves in the regress of needing to comment upon Candrakirti as well as Nagarjuna, leaving the modern reader with a larger task, and perhaps not succeeding in providing him/her with what we had intended to provide: a readable version of one of Nagarjuna's philosophical treatises. This desire to serve both the needs of the nonscholar and the scholar also presented us with a problem in translating. The terseness of the stanzas themselves is often very confus ing to the nonscholarly reader, and both Geshe Sonam Rinchen and I felt that many other translations of Nagar juna's treatises were prone to being inaccurately read, though translated correctly, simply because they were so terse. Therefore we determined to interpolate English words into our translation of the stanzas which are not found in the original text but do reflect the meaning of Nagarjuna, at least as the Tibetans interpret Nagarjuna. To preserve the accuracy of the translation we have adopted the device of italicizing all the words in the English translation found in chapter two, section 2-2, which actually corres pond to the Tibetan. In section 2-1 the stanzas are pre sented without italics or commentary. In this way we hope to satisfy both the needs of the scholar for a precise transla tion and the needs of the nonscholar for a readable and comprehensible translation. We have taken great care in our work to select English terminology which conforms to the style now being de veloped at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and also which carries the appropriate English connotations. For this I must express special appreciation to Venerable Tenzin Dorjee, the third member of this translating pro ject. V en. Dorjee is fluent in both Tibetan and English, and has taken pains to develop his command of English by
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
studying English Literature at Indian universities. We spent considerable time discussing the specific English words we wished to use in the translation of both Nagiir juna's treatise and Geshe Sonam Rinchen's commentary on it, attempting to select English words which had both the appropriate denotations and connotations. This was parti cularly difficult and yet important. In this respect our trans lation has the merit of being an accurate reflection of what an indigenous tradition believes the text is saying, and is not merely what western scholarship says the words in the text mean. Those who would prefer a more literal translation may wish to consult either my earlier translation of the Seventy Stanzas or else Chr. Lindtner's translation of it. I believe, however, that they will find our translation to be of great help in understanding Niigarjuna's thought. In addition to the translation of Niigarjuna's Seventy Stanzas, this volume contains another section� chapter one, which is my own commentary on N"agarjuna's thought. No Tibetan scholar would attempt to fathom one of Nagiir juna's treatises without a commentary, but just as signifi cantly, no Tibetan attempting to understand Niigarjuna would be doing so without the benefit of a monastic educa tional training. Western readers are not in this position, and I believe that much that Niigarjuna says seems obscure because the modern reader does not have a context in which to place the treatise. My own commentary is intended to provide this context. To do this I have chosen to adopt the perspective of a Buddhist psychology and to focus on those aspects of Niigarjuna's thought which could be called "psychological. " I do this for several reasons. For one thing, the whole purpose of Buddhadharma is to alleviate suffering, and all Buddhists assert that this is primarily a mental operation, for the root of suffering is ignorance. Indeed, the whole thrust of Niigarjuna's system is its in tended clarification of erroneous cognition. In the west, scientific psychology is the discipline which seeks to allevi ate sufferings cause by mental problems. In this respect, the
intentions of psychology and Buddhadharma are the same, and so I believe that psychology can serve as a context for translating Nagarjuna's conceptions and intentions into a form which will be meaningful to the modern person. I hope that I have been able to accomplish this to some small extent by showing how much of Nagarjuna's system can be understood as a psychology and how this psychology can be of use to the modern person who, afterall, is in many respects faced with the same human problems as were Nagarjuna's contemporaries. 1 Finally, in chapter three I locate the Seventy Stanzas within the context of Nagarjuna's other treatises and relate the history of its transmission to us. David Ross Komito Stanford University March 1986
Foreword The Legend ofNagarjuna's Encounter with the Nagas According to legend, Niigiirjuna was an abbot at the great Buddhist monastic university of Niilandii. He was a great debater and vigorous supporter of the Mahiiyiina doctrine, teaching to large audiences in the monastery. At one time he noticed that whenever a certain two young men attended his teachings, the entire area became filled with the fra grance of sandalwood, and when they departed the fra grance disappeared. When Niigiirjuna questioned them ab out this they replied that they actually were not human beings but sons of the niiga king, and that they had annointed themselves with sandalwood paste as a protection against human impurities. (Niigas are water serpents or dragons.) They told Nagarjuna that in the time of the Buddha the nagas had attended the Buddha's discourses on the Perfection of Wisdom and that because few human beings had understood the discourses, they had written them down to save them for a time when a human being would be born who could understand them. They invited Niigiirjuna to their kingdom to read those Perfection of Wisdom siitras, 17
Niigiirjuna's Sevenly Stanzas
and he accompanied them to their undersea world. After spending some time in the kingdom of the nagas, Nagar juna returned to the human world to teach what he had learned, bringing the 100,000 Stanza Perfection of Wisdom Siitra with him. Nagarjuna took his name from his encounter with the nagas, and the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness is one of his expositions on the Madhyamika system which he learned from the siitras in the keeping of the nagas.
Section 1-1 General Comments Buddhist psychology is a label which can be applied to a complex fabric of systems of thought and practice of some 2500 years duration which is the fruit of some of the best minds of Asia. It is a tightly woven fabric which, if viewed up close, can be bewildering in its complexity. The text which is translated in this book is a treatise which can be likened to a single thread in this fabric. The concepts ex pressed in this treatise interlock with the concepts in all the other treatises in this fabric and derive their meanings from them. Thus it must be comprehended in dependence on the larger context of the other treatises which form this fabric. Over the course of this 2500 years of Buddhist history various systems have been developed to describe this fabric and its strands. In principle, any one of these systems could be used as a basis for explaining or describing a single thread, such as our own: Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness. Naturally, some systems are better than others because they represent more sophisticated or clearer attempts to reach their common goals. As the Seventy Stan zas on Emptiness has for 1 ,000 years been extant only in Tibetan, it makes sense to approach the problem of expli cating the text from the perspective of one of the analytic 21
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
and synthetic systems in use in Tibet. Even in making this decision many choices are available, for there were numer ous systems taught in the Tibetan monasteries where such exegetical activities were carried on. Although the ancient monastic system of Tibet has been destroyed in Tibet proper, some remnants of it remain in the communities of the Tibetan refugees in India. In par ticular, the monks of the dGe lugs pa sect have not only taken on the task of carrying on their traditional educational system, but they have also opened it to western students. My exposition depends on what I have learned from them either in person or from what they have written. This exposition can be grouped into three divisions which structure it and follow the pattern of the traditional psychological notion that subject (consciousness), and ob ject always arise and cease in dependence on each other, and that their functional relationship is what is referred to by the terms "perception" and "cognition. " Following this scheme, the Seventy Stanzas itself would be placed in the object division (section 1-6), as would the commentaries on it or collateral to it, because it considers objects or things. Within the subject division (sections 1-4 and 1-5) I have followed treatises based on Asaiiga's Com pendium ofAbhidharma and a variety of dGe lugs pa texts on meditation. Within the perception division (section 1-3) I have followed treatises based on Dharmakirti's Commentary to Ideal Mind. In all cases I have merely summarized those aspects of these treatises which are important for under standing the Seventy Stanzas and Geshe Sonam Rinchen's comments on it. I have provided references in the footnotes for those readers who wish to learn more about these trea tises.
Section 1-2 Buddhadhanna What is called "Buddhism" in the English speaking west is called "Buddhadharma" in the Sanskrit of the old Indian monastic universities. It is a complex of doctrines and prac tices which derive their authority indirectly from the ex periences of the masters of Buddhist doctrine and practice, and directly from the experience and teaching of the Bud dha himself. Indeed, his teaching itself derives from his experience, particularly the experience known as his "en lightenment." This experience is described in rather flowery terms in the Buddhacarita, a text which postdates the Buddha by 500 years, but is based on traditional teachings about his life. According to this text, Shakyamuni, the Buddha to be, renounced the householder's life at age 29 and set out on a religious quest that was marked by ascetic practices and mental disciplines which are generally known to us under the rubric "yoga." The text tells us that he attained mastery of two kinds of yogic concentration exercise under two different masters. Under the first master he attained a state of "nothing at all." Under the second master he attained a state of "neither perception nor nonperception." These, as we will see in section 1-5, were later known as the seventh 23
Niigarjuna's Seventy Stanzas
and eighth dhyana(s) (concentrations), respectively. The mastery of these forms of concentration did not, however, satisfy Shakyamuni's religious quest, a significant point, for here he breaks with the tradition prevalent at his time which taught that the mastery of subtle states of concentra tion would liberate one from the sorrows of the world. Next, he set out on a long fast (as a form of purification), but gave that up as merely weakening the mind. Finally, seating himself under what later came to be called the "bodhi tree," he vowed not to move from that spot until he had attained his goal. Shortly thereafter Mara, a god who is the personification of lust and death, attempted to budge Shakyamuni from his seat, but touching the ground with one hand, Shakyamuni remained immoveable. In an inter pretive sense, we may say that the meaning of this tale of the attack of Mara is that having vowed not to move until he attained freedom, Shakyamuni was immediately beset with impulses deriving from his own instincts to live, which were threatened by his vow of immovability. In touching the earth he calls to witness the previous compassionate actions performed in his lives on earth which provided the strength (i. e . , his store of merit) to resist his own desire for life. As night began, he ascended the eight stages of concen tration known as the "eight dhyana(s)," which he had mas tered under his teachers, and during the four divisions of the night achieved a deepening understanding of the nature of existence, which understanding constituted his enlight enment. It is the content of his enlightenment experience which formed both the basis of his teaching and his author ity to teach. It may be said that the entire subsequent history of the Buddhadharma is simply a progressive ex planation, systematization and interpretation of this experi ence. In the first watch of the night Shakyamuni saw all of his previous lives. As the text says, he saw that in such and such a place he had such and such a name and lived a certain life history. That is, he directly perceived all his
previous lives, almost as if reviewing a motion picture series of biographies in total detail. In the second watch of the night he obtained the divine wisdom eye and saw the whole universe of birth and death as if in a mirror. That is, he directly perceived, with the clarity and passivity of a mirror, the death and rebirth of all beings. Particularly importantly, he saw that of the five realms into which beings could be reborn, the realm into which they were in fact reborn was the result of their own actions: their rebirths were determined by their own karma, a word which literally means "action." In the third watch of the night he obtained the extinction of the outflows and perceived the more detailed operation of karma. The text says that he perceived the four truths and the twelve limbs of dependent origination, which formula tions are the detailed working out of the law of karma and the truth of selflessness. Finally, in the fourth watch of the night he obtained omniscience, and when the sun rose, he was Shakyamuni no longer, but a Buddha, "an enlightened one," "an awakened one." We may interpret this enlightenment experience as a progressive unfoldment of a single truth about existence, whose implications are ampliiied over the course of the night. When the whole of this truth and all of its implica tions are not just comprehended, but directly perceived, the goal of the religious quest has been obtained. What is this one truth? Most simply put, it is causality and all its im plications, but certainly not causality as we understand it. The causality that the Buddha speaks of is "dependent origination" (Sanskrit: pratityasamutpada, Tibetan: brten 'brel). Formally, this causality is described by the following standard formulation: When this is present, that comes to be; from the arising of this, that arises. When this is absent, that does not come to be, on the cessation of this, that ceases. 1
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
This is not causality in the sense of some mechanistic phy sics of western science where the action of one object pow ers the action of some other object, much like one billiard ball striking another billiard ball and setting it in motion. Something else is being described by the Buddha which can be best understood through the use of an example derived from his enlightenment experience. As we saw, in the third watch of the night Shakyamuni directly perceived the "twelve limbs of dependent origina tion. " According to some current scholarly interpretations, this twelve limb formulation is a later compilation2 and in some of the oldest texts recording the Buddha's dialogues the full twelvefold formulation is not to be found, although its elements are indeed embedded in the oldest texts. The Buddha usually speaks about several of the limbs in com bination, and in one location, in a later text, speaks of eight of the limbs. Scholars do agree, however, that even if the full twelve limb formulation is a later scholastic elaboration, and in this form cannot be directly attributed to the Bud dha, still it does represent a compilation of something essential in his teaching and enlightenment experience. TWELVE LIMBS OF DEPENDENT ORIGINATION 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
can only be understood when viewed as an interconnected complex, which is why they are often portrayed on the rim of a wheel: the circular rim symbolizing the beginningless interconnectedness of these twelve features. They cannot be properly understood if viewed as separate disconnected en tities, though they are elaborated separately and identified as "first limb" or "seventh limb," etc. The limbs designate features of a complete field, but the field and its features only have real meaning when viewed as a dynamic whole. It is taught that these twelve limbs arise in dependence on each other, and it is certainly this arising or origination in dependence that Shiikyamuni saw on the night of his en lightenment. Let us begin our description with the fourth through seventh limbs. The fourth limb is identified as "name and form" (ming dang gzugs), which is a Buddhist technical term for the psychophysical entity usually called a person. "Name" identifies consciousness and its various aspects while "form" identifies matter and its various aspects. In cluded under "name" are the aggregates (skandha, phung po) of feeling, perception, karmic formations and con sciousness; that is, all the immaterial aspects of a being3 (more on this shortly). The fifth limb is identified as "the six sense fields" or "gateways" or "entrances" (skye mched drug) that is, the six fields in which consciousness operates. These are the fields of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body (i.e., tactile senses) and mind. It may seem odd to list mind as a sense organ; this will be explained under section 1-3 below. Suffice it to say for the moment that mind is considered an organ whose objects are concepts, mental images and other sense consciousnesses; for example, the concept "me" or the image of a person who is identified as "me." The sixth limb is identified as "contact" (reg pa), that is, the coming together of an object of perception, a sense organ and a consciousness; for example, an eye, a material form and a visual consciousness. The seventh limb is identified as "feelings" (tshor ba), which are either pleasant, painful, or neither pleasant nor painful. There are six classes of feel-
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
ings, in accordance with the sense organ upon which the feeling depends. "Depend" is the key word here, for what is described in the twelve limbs scheme is not a causal chain in the strict sense of causality as understood by modern western science. It would, for example, be incorrect to say that name and form cause the six sense fields in the way that the kinetic energy of one billiard ball causes the movement of a second billiard ball which it strikes. Rather, the existence of matter is a prerequisite for the existence of a sense organ, such as an eye, which is a prerequisite for the existence of a visual field. Likewise, the occurrence of contact between an eye, a material form and a visual consciousness is a prerequisite for the occurrence of a feeling of pleasure in regards to a pleasing sight. Thus it is said that the phenomenon of feeling arises in dependence on the phenomenon of contact, that the phenomenon of contact arises in dependence on the phenomenon of a sense field, and that the phenomenon of a sense field arises in dependence on the phenomenon of name and form, the psychophysical being. The Buddha, after all, is teaching about his experience, he is teaching a phenomenology. Thus he posits the observed connections between phenomena; he is not speak ing about forces which effect things in some mechanistic physics. Dependent origination, however, does not neces sarily thereby exclude this sort of strict causality. It could be argued that contact does indeed "cause" feeling, although the Buddha does not formulate his teaching in this way because in other cases one limb does not "cause" a second limb. For example, the eye does not "cause" con tact; rather its existence is required before there can be visual contact. Thus, causality, as understood by modern western science, could be considered a special case of the larger category of relations designated by the term "depen dent origination. " Proceeding then on through the twelve limbs: "craving" (sred pa) arises in dependence on "contact," and "grasp ing" (nye bar len pa) arises in dependence on "craving."
That is, we crave pleasant sense experiences and grasp after their continuation, while we crave the cessation of painful sense experiences and grasp after their cessation. It was the Buddha's experience in the course of his enlightenment that all phenomena arise and cease, and so, of course, feelings must arise and cease. But we crave for the pleasant to remain and grasp after it even though it may begin to cease, and we crave for the unpleasant to cease and grasp after it, even though it may remain for longer than we wish. This cycle of grasping after the transitory is the nature of our existence; it is the limb of "becoming" (srid pa) and it depends upon craving for sense objects and the pleasures or pains associated with them, especially the grasping after objects and feelings appropriated to the notion "1," a con cept which is the object of the sense organ known as "mind" (yid) . It was the Buddha's experience that our becoming does not begin with this particular life, nor does it end with it. On the night of his enlightenment he saw his own begin ningless series of lives, and the continuua of lives of mhers. This continuum of life depends upon our firmly grasping after the continued existence of "I" with its associated sense experiences so that upon the cessation of one particular life we obtain another. And of course whatever is born will die; thus birth occurs in dependence on becoming and in de pendence on birth is death. Now the notion that grasping after the continued exist ence of a self, i.e. , the experience of "1-ness," could bring about a new birth is particularly foreign to the Judeo Christian mind. To understand this aspect of the twelve limbs it is best to work our way around backwards from the fourth limb, "name and form," to the first, "ignorance" (ma rig pa), and then to the twelfth, "death, grief, suffer ing" (rga 'i) and the eleventh, "birth" (skye ha). For the twelve limbs are a closed circle in which every limb depends upon the previous eleven. So ignorance depends on death, just as death depends upon ignorance. Buddha taught that "name and form" originate in de-
Niigarjuna's Seventy Stanzas
pendence on the third limb, "consciousness" (rnam par shes pa) . From one perspective, no body ("form") could exist without consciousness, for then it would be dead. Sleep is not considered an exception here, for sleep is consi dered to be a total unawareness of objects of sense, i.e . , consciousness of nothing, not a nonexistence of conscious ness; thus it is said that the continuity of consciousness persists even during dreamless sleep. 4 From another per spective, for the ordinary person consciousness is never ex perienced devoid of the influences of previous experience. These previous experiences leave traces in memory which mold consciousness (more on this in section 1-4). Thus consciousness depends on the second limb, "dispositions" or "karmic formations" (samskara, 'du byed). Here the term "formations" is important, for the traces left by pre vious actions (karma, las) form the consciousness in certain ways: it is never "raw consciousness" uninfluenced by past actions. The karmic formations themselves arise in dependence on the first limb, "ignorance. " Here ignorance means an unknowing of the real nature or existential status of phe nomena, both internal and external. Rather, because of previous experience humans interpret things and react to them in the context of desires and aversions, thus overesti mating the attractive and repulsive aspects of phenomena. People do not see things for what they are, but rather see them in a distorted fashion. This distorted perception and conception is habitual, thus the "consciousness" which arises in dependence on "karmic formations" is fun damentally distorted by "ignorance. " This ignorance is so deep that it could not depend on the experiences of a single life but rather depends on the experi ences of a multiplicity of lives; thus it depends on the previous limbs (eleven and twelve) of "birth" and "death." Moreover, it is especially the pleasures and sufferings of lives which leave the traces which distort consciousness: it is the shrinking from the unpleasant and the grasping after the pleasant, the pain of birth and the terror of death, the
frustration of growing old and feeble that leave the most profound traces on consciousness. It is the inability to ex perience these things just as they are, without blocking or warping our experiences of them, that leave distorted traces (klesha, nyon mongs pa) on consciousness. Even the pleasant things in life are grasped after with an unwarranted desire which overestimates the pleasure they will give, and is accompanied by a constant fear of their loss. Thus we can see that the twelve limbs of dependent origination describe the course of the unfolding existence of beings in a dynamic way. Life after life, as the Buddha saw on the night of his enlightenment, beings grasp after transi tory satisfactions in an ignorant fashion. It is "grasping" that impels beings into the flux of rebirth, but this grasping itself ultimately depends upon "ignorance," which is an incorrect understanding of the actual nature of phenomena and the consequent attraction to or revulsion from these phenomena. Thus, the twelve limbs are often described as a wheel, with the limbs themselves comprising the rim and the "three poisons" of delusion (gti mug), attraction or lust ('dod chags) and revulsion or hatred (zhe sdang) forming the hub of the wheel. The Buddha saw beings as endlessly cycling through this existence whose nature is described by the twelve limbs, moment by moment turning on the hub of the three poisons. This is the state of things, which he called "samsara" ('khor ba). But the Buddha also saw that there was a way out of this cycle, a way to "get off the wheel," or stop its turning. Because each of the twelve limbs is a condition upon which the others depend, if any of these conditions could be destroyed, the entire cycle would cease. This cessation of the cycle is what he called "nirviiiJ.a" (mya ngan las 'das pa), and it can come about precisely because each of the twelve conditions arises in dependence upon the others: if one limb were to cease, so the whole interdependent chain would break. The Buddha expressed this formally as the "Four Noble Truths," which was his perception on the night of his
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
enlightenment that because the unpleasantness (sdug bsngal) of existence (the first truth) depends upon ignorant grasping (the second truth), so upon the cessation of this ignorant grasping, the unpleasantness would also cease (the third truth) . This cessation is, again, referred to as "nir ViiQ.a," a term which literally means "blowing out," i.e., the blowing out or cooling of the passions, the ignorant grasp ing after satisfaction. He also saw how to bring this cessa tion about, which is, formally, the Buddhist path (the fourth truth), that is, what one can do to break the chain of the twelve limbs of dependent origination. If we consider this formulation of the twelve limbs we will note that although it is a dynamic description of the relations between motivation, habits, actions and consequ ences, nowhere does it make mention of a person to whom these consequences occur, although the occurrence of con sequences for actions is certain (as the Buddha saw in the second watch of the night). This is quite intentional, for in the third watch of the night the Buddha not only perceived the operation of the twelve limbs and the Four Noble Truths, but also the truth of selflessness (bdag min). What does this selflessness mean? It is best to answer this question by looking for the closest thing to a "person" in the twelve limbs which the Buddha perceived in the third watch of the night (in which he also perceived the truth of selflessness). The closest thing to a person in the twelve limbs is "name and form" (the fourth limb). Form means matter, which is composed of the "four great elements" ('byung ba chen po bzhi): earth, air, fire and water. When we perceive something, it is this form which, at base, we are actually perceiving. It is also the basis for the human body, the compound of various organs, bones, etc. which is the physical basis of a "person." "Name" is the consciousness which does the perceiving of forms: it is what is commonly referred to as "mind." Like the body, it is not a unity, but rather a compound of various factors which are generally grouped into four classes. These
four are: feelings, of which there are either pleasant, pain ful, or neither pleasant nor painful feelings; perceptions, of which there are six, in accordance with their sense organ basis; karmic formations, of which there are many classes which are meant to include all the traces of previous experi ence plus some basic characteristics of the functioning of attention and memory; and raw consciousness itself, pure awareness unmolded by the karmic formations or percep tions, which are other classes. One will immediately note that these classes (which are called "aggregates: " skan dha(s), phung po) include four of the other eleven limbs, although the perception skandha differs slightly from the limb of the six sense fields, as the limb designates the organs of perception while the skandha refers to the per ceiving of objects, and the consciousness skandha differs from the consciousness limb as it is consciousness consi dered in the abstract, without the molding effect of the karmic formations. What we have here are two intersecting descriptive sys tems. The skandha system is static and analytic; it describes the components, as it were, which make up a person. The twelve limbs system is dynamic: it describes the way the skandha(s) interact in the course of the unfoldment of hu man existence and how they effect each other over time. Nowhere in the skandha description do we find reference to a person. One could identify a subjective thought "I" within this system as a memory or name, in which case it would fall into the karmic formations skandha. Or one could identify that thought "I" as an object of perception of the mind sense, in which case it would fall into the percep tion skandha. But nowhere would there be found an organ or entity, as it were, which was an actual "I" or "ego." It is this self which is nowhere to be found as an actual entity, but is to be found merely as a label applied to subjective experiences, which is identified by the Buddha in his teaching of the selflessness of the person. What the Buddha saw in the third watch of the night was that the being which
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
we take to be a person was simply the five skandha(s) arising and ceasing over many continued existences. No where was an actual person or self to be identified; thus beings are empty of a self, or "selfless." Now, the Buddha did not say that there was no subjective "1," but rather that there was no actual person to act as a referent for the concept "I." It is clear that we all use the label "I" and all experience an "I" as an apparent subject of "our" experiences, but the Buddha showed that upon analysis no actual entity of a self can be found that corres ponds to that experience of "I" which is wrapped up in common subjective experience. If there were an actual self or person or being that corresponded to the subjective sense of "1," then it should be findable upon analysis of the human being. As all of a human being can be found within the sort system of the five skandha(s), so an actual self should be found there also. Yet, if the form skandha is removed, is a self to be found? Or if the consciousness skandha is removed, is a self to be found? No matter where one looks within the five skandha(s) no actual self is to be found, only an idea of an "I" which is supposed to be a self or refer to a self. Moreover, nothing associated with a human being can be found outside of the five skandha(s). Thus, the Buddha taught that the idea of a self arises in dependence upon the five skandha(s) and ceases when they cease, but if they were to be separated, no actual self could be found either within one of them or as a remainder left over after the process of separation. Thus, no self actually exists, there is merely a label "I" which refers to a nonexis tent self and which is imputed upon or designated upon the five skandha(s). It is the essence of ignorance to believe that such a self exists at the core of beings and to grasp after such a self; indeed that is why beings are reborn. Moreover, the belief that there is an actual self which can be designated by the label "self' or "I" or the experience "me" is only a special case of the general ignorant habit of believing that there are
actual entities of any kind which are the objects of reference for any labels and which bear the characteristics attributed to them by the labels. It is the demonstration of this subtle selflessness of entities or phenomena which is Nagarjuna's basic discourse in his Seventy Stanzas (cf. section 1-6). It is also the destruction of this ignorant and distorted belief that selves and things are what they appear to be that breaks the chain of the twelve limbs, that brings about the nirvaQa which the Buddha proclaimed. For, as ultimately all the limbs arise in dependence on ignorance, and ignor ance is primarily the belief in self where there is no actual self, so upon the cessation of this incorrect belief, the whole complex of the twelve limbs breaks down, the five skan dha(s) have no basis for coming together, rebirth stops, and suffering ceases. But if there is no actual person, what is reborn in the first place, and what is freed in nirvaQa? The Buddha's experi ence in the second watch of his night of enlightenment certified that actions bear fruit in future lives, and that beings would be reborn in one of five realms. How does this connect with his experience in the third watch of the night, that beings lack selfhood? The answer is that the skandha of consciousness is a continuum of moments of consciousness, and although this continuum is constantly changing as perception changes and as the various karmic formations mold consciousness, the continuum itself is without begin ning or end. Thus the taking of rebirth is simply the con nection of a new body with the continuum of changing moments of consciousness which preexisted in connection with an old body. And with the connection to a new body the idea of "I" arises again, and the experiences of the new body are appropriated to that "I" which is, in fact, without an actual self as a referent, but merely appears to the continuum of moments of consciousness the way any other idea or object would appear.
Section 1-3 Perception and Conception It should be apparent from the preceeding section that the Buddha's teaching about the path to salvation is highly psychological. That beings are bound to a suffering exist ence is primarily a result of ignorance; that they can become free is primarily a result of dispelling ignorance through acquiring its opposite, wisdom. As the Buddha's own per sonal path included mental disciplines, an analysis of the mind's operation, and the acquiring of merit through com passionate activity, one should not be surprised that the universal path which he then taught also relied heavily upon an analysis of the mind. Let us begin this analysis of the mind from an epistemo logical perspective (that of Dharmakirti), 1 and ask, what is involved in perception? By doing so, we can begin in the same place where we began our analysis of the twelve limbs of dependent origination, with the fourth limb (name and form, ming dang gzugs) and the fifth limb (six sense fields, skye mched drug). Perception, recall, is described as both a skandha and as one of the twelve limbs: the limb of the six sense fields. From the point of view of the basic psycho physical organism (name and form) which does the perceiv ing and is the basis for the designation "person," the
tangibles reg bya
This chart indicates the limits of human cognition: all cognitions are limited by our senses, of which there are six. There are five types of material sense cognition and one type of nonmaterial mental sense cognition, i.e . , mental consciousness. Actual perception occurs when there is con tact (the sixth limb) between a sense organ, an object in its field and consciousness. For example, seeing is the contact between a form, the eye and consciousness. It is said that these three arise and cease together over a sequence of moments. A moment (skad chig) is a very short duration of time: it is said that there are sixty five of these moments in the time it takes to snap a finger, so a moment is defmed as a period of time equivalent to one sixty fifth of a finger snap. It should be noted that although the chart above seems to identify six different types of consciousness, there is actual-
ly only one fundamental consciousness (consciousness skan dha, rnam shes, or consciousness limb, usually designated "primary consciousness," sems, or "consciousness," shes pa). But as consciousness always arises and ceases moment by moment in conjunction with a sense organ, and is mod ified or molded by habits and attentional factors (usually designated "secondary mental factors," sems 'byung, cf. section 1-4), it is always experienced as a certain "type" of consciousness. That is, consciousness (defined as an aware ness which is clear and knowing, gsal zhing rig pa) is always consciousness of something. What this chart signifies for the first five (material) senses is clear, but what it signifies for the sixth sense, mind, is less clear. Here mind does not mean brain, or even some nonmaterial cognitive organ, but something different. Re call that consciousness is said to arise and cease as a series of moments, and that any phenomenon which arises does so in dependence on certain causes and conditions or prere quisites; this is the dependent origination discussed in sec tion 1-2. Visual consciousness, for example, arises in de pendence on three conditions: a dominant condition (dbag rkyen), the eye organ, which makes it a "visual" conscious ness; an object condition (dmigs rkyen), a form, which is the sort of object taken by an eye; and an immediate condi tion (de ma thag rkyen), the actual cause, which is the immediately preceeding moment of consciousness. These three conditions are required for a moment of visual con sciousness to arise. The immediate condition, which is the immediately preceeding moment of consciousness, is a re quirement because consciousness does not occur in a vacuum; each moment of consciousness is simply and necessarily part of a stream of moments of consciousness stretching into the past and future. Consciousness has a continuity, a continuum. In the chart above, what is called "mind" (yid), which is the "organ" or dominant condition upon which mental consciousness depends is simply the preceeding moment of consciousness. Thus mind( organ) is
both a dominant condition and an immediate condition for mental consciousness. It is in this way that mind(organ) is immaterial and is not a thing or "organ" proper, as is an eye. What constitutes the object condition for the arising of a moment of mental consciousness? Whereas the first five (material sense) consciousnesses in our chart are primarily receptive, passively receiving impressions of material ob jects, the sixth consciousness, mental consciousness, is re sponsive and reflective. The five material sense conscious nesses apprehend their objects through the force of the objects appearing to them. The sixth, mental, conscious ness apprehends its objects primarily due to the influence of subjective dispositions, the secondary mental factors. The objects of mental consciousness could be concepts, memor ies, emotional states, or perceptions, i.e. , one or more of the five material sense consciousnesses. In the case of percep tions being the objects of mental consciousness, we need to understand that a perception is actually just a moment of a perceptual consciousness and is the moment of conscious ness immediately preceeding the arising of a moment of conceptual, mental consciousness taking that perception as its object. Thus, for a mental consciousness whose object is a perception, such as a visual consciousness, the dominant condition, the object condition and the immediate condi tion are the same: the immediately preceeding moment of a consciousness, such as a visual consciousness. Generally speaking, the five material sense perceptions and mental perception work together, arising and ceasing moment by moment, and so creating our image of the world. However, we tend not to be aware of the "raw image" created in perceptual consciousness because mental consciousness also registers concepts, memories and emo tions from the side of the observer, and these enter into the representation of the total perceptual field which consti tutes our cognitions. To understand how this process works it is necessary to look in greater detail at the three condi-
tions upon which a mental consciousness depends . When there is contact between, say, a form, an eye and a visual consciousness, a visual perception occurs. It lasts for just one moment, although it can recur as a series of subse quent moments. That first fresh moment of a bare visual consciousness would be a cognition of a mere form of a certain color. However, that first fresh moment of a bare visual consciousness can serve as the condition for the aris ing of a moment of mental consciousness, in which case one would, in that second moment, have a mental perception of a visual consciousness. But due to the power of the subjec tive secondary mental factors (derived from past memories, emotions and concepts, i.e. , the karmic formations skan dha), a memory or mental image (don spyi) will arise at that same moment as the arising of the mental consciousness and will, for all subsequent moments of the arising of the visual consciousness associated with a specific object, be mixed with that visual consciousness and these together will serve as the condition for the arising of all subsequent moments of mental consciousness. Thus, except for the initial mo ment of the arising of a visual consciousness of a certain object, all the subsequent moments of that visual conscious ness which serve as an object for a mental consciousness will be mixed with mental images, memories, emotional responses, etc . , and these will serve as the condition for the arising of mental consciousness. During those subsequent moments the mental consciousness will not be able to per ceive the visual consciousness free of the mental images and subjective dispositions mixed with it. Thus, ordinary men tal consciousness cannot directly perceive the material sense consciousnesses or their appearing objects (snang yul). This point is most important, for in the initial moment of a cognition of a certain object the five material sense con sciousnesses do directly perceive their objects noner roneously because these perceptual consciousnesses are not mixed with a mental image. However, during the subse quent moments of the arising of these sense consciousnesses
which are cognizing a certain object they are mixed with mental images and this whole complex serves as object condition, dominant condition and immediately preceeding condition for the arising of mental consciousness. Such a mental consciousness, which is what we commonly refer to as "thought," or our "thinking mind," is therefore unable to separate the mental images from the actual bare percep tions, and is thus always erroneous and distorted in that it confuses this mixture of mental image and perceptual con sciousness for the object itself. This mental consciousness which takes such a mixture of mental images and perceptual consciousnesses as an object is called a conceptual type of cognition, while a bare perceptual consciousness which is unmixed with any mental images is called a perceptual type of cognition. Since the whole point of the Buddha's teaching was to show how beings are bound to suffering existence through ignorant grasping, and since ignorance is defined as erroneous understanding of the nature of phenomena, so the analysis of how conceptual cognition is fundamentally erroneous becomes the essential issue in determining how to develop nonerroneous, i.e. , valid cognitions (tshad ma). Note, again, that perceptual cognitions in and of themselves are generally valid, but that a person only has them for moments of such brevity that they are generally not observed before they are mixed with mental images. What one generally does observe as the stream of mo ments of consciousness are conceptual cognitions which take perceptions as objects, for these persist for many mo ments subsequent to the perceptual cognition, and so far and away occupy most of a person's attention. The problem with conceptual cognition, as we have seen, is the mixing of the mental images with perceptions; this is what produces erroneous conceptual cognition; this, along with the erroneous innate belief in selfhood or entityness of phenomena, is the source of ignorance, the first of the twelve limbs. If this erroneous view could be corrected and
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
this process could be suspended, then there would be no ignorance (the first limb) to serve as the condition for the arising of the karmic formations (the second limb), which distort consciousness (the third limb), and so forth. Thus the whole twelve limb complex would be dismembered and nirval}a would be obtained. These mental images (don spyi) are not necessarily sub jective visual replications of an external object, although they could be. Rather, a mental image is usually a complex of images, ideas, assumptions, beliefs and emotions which are interconnected in a single image-like pattern. For exam ple, a person may have never been to Lhasa, but has read about this city and may have a variety of vague images of what it might be like. He or she might even know some thing about the history of the city and the events which have taken place there, and these too are connected to the mental image of Lhasa. Moreover, a person may, having read about Lhasa, have a strong desire to go there. This whole complex of information about Lhasa, a place that this person has never visited, forms his or her mental image of Lhasa. Whenever he or she hears the word "Lhasa" this image of Lhasa is, after the first moment of auditory con sciousness, immediately mixed with all subsequent mo ments of auditory consciousness as well as all the subse quent moments of mental conceptual consciousness which depend upon that initial nonconceptual moment of auditory consciousness. This type of mental image is called a nomin al mental image (sgra spyi), as it is based upon words. If, however, a person were to visit Lhasa, and then after leav ing the city someone were to ask about Lhasa, the person would have a mental image of Lhasa based upon their experience of it. This would be an experiential mental im age (don spyi). Of course these two can be mixed, as when a person reads about Lhasa and then visits Lhasa. In a gener al sense, we refer to such mental images as conceptions (rtog pa), because especially in the case of nominal mental images, the conception is not an exact replication of the
object which is its referent, but strictly speaking, concep tions are based upon mental images. Conceptual cognitions can be distinguished in two ways, depending on whether they simply give a name to an object or ascribe certain qualities to an object. For example, upon seeing a picture of Lhasa, one might think, "That is Lhasa;" this is called a term-connecting conception (ming sbyar ba'i rtog pa), because the conceptual consciousness has apprehended its object through the use of the term "Lhasa." However, if upon seeing the picture of Lhasa one were to think "That place is very large," that would be a fact-connecting conception (don sbyar ba'i rtog pa), be cause the conceptual consciousness has apprehended its object through ascribing certain characteristics to it. These two types of conception may also be mixed. Dharmakirti's epistemology teaches that all conceptual cognitions are deceived in regards to their objects because they apprehend their objects through the medium of a conception, i.e., either a nominal mental image or an ex periential mental image or a fact-connecting conception or a term-connecting conception, or some combination of them. This deception is necessarily the case because in the first moment of a conceptual cognition (which is also the second moment of a perceptual cognition) the mixing of the con ception and the perceptual consciousness will begin and will continue for all subsequent moments of that cognition. Because the mental consciousness of the conceptual cogni tion cannot separate the conception from the perception it is said to be deceived about the mode of appearance of the object as well as the mode of existence of the object. The mode of appearance of the object refers to how the object appears in consciousness (that is, the mode of appearance is the mixture of the mental image with the bare perception); the mode of existence of the object refers to how the object actually exists in and of itself. For example, if one cognizes a red rose growing on a vine before one, one's cognition of the rose is said to be deceived because one is incapable of
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
separating one's conceptions about the rose from the mere appearance of a red shape, which is all that is actually cognized by a visual consciousness. Moreover as one neither thinks, "This rose is impermanent," nor perceives the im permanence of the rose, but rather just sees a rose as if it were permanently there, so one is deceived about the mode of existence of the rose, which is, after all, impermanent. If, however, when one cognizes a red rose one were to think, "This rose is impermanent," then one would not be de ceived about the mode of existence of the rose, but would still be deceived about the mode of appearance of the rose, for one would still be mixing the red shape with the concep tion "rose," thus cognizing a rose which was impermanent. The examples given above have all been of cognitions oriented toward experiences of the present, but one can also recollect past objects or experiences and imagine future objects and experiences. Such cognitions are similar to cognitions of present objects and experiences except that they are not mixed with perceptual cognitions. It is important to understand the way these conceptual cognitions develop because according to Buddhist teachings erroneous, distorted cognitions are the source of all our troubles, they are the reason why our activities in the world produce suffering rather than peace. However, it is possible to develop cognitions which are not erroneous and de ceived; such cognitions lead to actions which bring about peace rather than suffering. Just as there are erroneous perceptual cognitions and erroneous conceptual cognitions, so there are nonerroneous and valid perceptual cognitions (mngon sum tshad ma) and nonerroneous and valid concep tual cognitions (rjes dpag tshad ma). These are referred to as ideal or perfect or valid cognitions or states of conscious ness. Different schools of Buddhist thought have differing opinions about these perfect cognitions. In the Sautrantika system, for example, only the first moment of perceptual cognition of an object can be a perfect cognition, all subse quent moments in the stream of moments of that particular
cognition are not considered perfect because they are in duced by the force of that first moment. However, in this book we are following the Prasaiigika Madhyamika view, and from this perspective both the first moment of cogni tion and all the subsequent moments of cognition which arise in dependence on that first moment may be perfect cognitions if they have certain characteristics, which are described below. On the other hand, since phenomena are actually impermanent and change from moment to mo ment, it can be argued that each moment of perceptual cognition of a particular object is the first moment of per ceptual cognition of that particular object, because the ob ject has changed over the course of moments, and is a different object each moment. Thus in this regard, there is not so much difference between the view of the Sautranti kas and the Prasaiigikas. What then is a perfect, and therefore valid, cognition? According to the Sautrantikas it must be fresh and infallible (mi slu ba). Fresh means that it is the first moment of cognition of an object in a series of moments which cognize a particular object. According to the Prasaiigikas this is not a requirement, as all subsequent moments of the cognitive series can be interpreted as initial moments, as indicated above. The second aspect of a perfect cognition is its infalli bility. This means that a perfect cognition correctly ascer tains its object and eliminates misconceptions about it. Both perceptual cognitions and conceptual cognitions can be valid, perfect cognitions, although a perceptual cognition must be nonconceptual to be valid while a conceptual cogni tion must be established on the basis of a perfect reason or inference (rjes dpag) to be valid. Two examples will help. A perception of a rose which creates a sufficient impression on consciousness to induce a cognition that ascertains its object is a valid perception. Thus the mere seeing of the rose is a valid perception. A conception which is based on valid reasoning, such as "sound is impermanent" is a valid con ceptual cognition, because impermanence is the mode of
existence of sound. In both these examples, the perceptual cognition of the rose and the conceptual cognition of the impermanence of sound, the cognitions are infallible be cause they induce certainty about their objects: one is cer tain of what is seen or one is certain that all sounds are impermanent because on the basis of valid reasoning one had ascertained that all sounds must eventually cease. This is a very important point, because if it were not possible to have valid perceptual cognitions it would not be possible to correctly perceive the world, and if it were not possible to have valid conceptual cognitions, it would not be possible to eradicate ignorance, i.e. , replace erroneous con ceptions with valid conceptions. One might think that all perceptual cognitions are infalli ble, because they all induce certainty about their objects, but this is not so. Many perceptions are, for example, inattentive. Indeed, for ordinary persons, the first moment of perceptual cognition is always inattentive, which is why ordinary persons don't see things for what they are, devoid of mixing them with mental images. Inattentive perception (snang la ma nges pa) means that a perception is not attended to because it is either so brief that it does not register in the observing consciousness, as in the case above, or else that the observing consciousness is so intent on some object that it does not register other perceptions. A case here might be that of a person driving a car and being so attentive to the traffic that he or she did not notice the clouds on the horizon, even though those clouds were in their field of perception. Such inattentive perception of the clouds could not induce certainty about them, for if you asked the driver if the clouds were white or grey, he or she couldn't answer. Similarly, there are mistaken sensory perceptions (rtog med log shes su 'gyur pa'i dbang shes), such as mirages, the seeing of the world as yellow because one suffers from jaundice, and so forth. These perceptual cognitions are invalid not because they are incapable of inducing certainty
about their objects, but because they are deceived about their objects due to a defect in the sense organ or due to certain factors in the overall perceptual situation. Just as there are mistaken sensory cognitions, so there are mistaken conceptual cognitions (rtog pa log shes) . It is obvious that the belief that the earth is flat, or that rabbits have horns is mistaken. The real problem lies with mis taken conceptions about subtle aspects of phenomena. For example, the conception that sound is impermanent will probably become obvious to anyone that thinks about it, and the conception that a rose is impermanent, though one probably does not think about this upon initially perceiving a rose, will also become obvious should one think about it. However, it is harder to think about our own impermanence and arrive at certainty about that, for we naturally think of ourselves as permanent. Such a cognition of permanence about oneself is simply a mistaken cognition; however, one can reason about the situation and develop a correct belief (yid dpyod) that one is indeed impermanent. Such a correct belief is not, however, a valid cognition, for it will not induce certainty about this impermanence of oneself. In the case given above, the syllogism which underlies the development of the correct belief would be as follows: All persons are impermanent; I am a person; therefore, I am impermanent. This syllogism is correct, but the ref erent, an actually existent person, has no actual existential status or basis. This is because the person or self which is the object of the conception of impermanence can never be found, for it does not actually exist as an object, but rather simply exists as a name or designation. The preceeding syllogism is, in essence, no different than the following: All persons are impermanent; the son of a barren woman is a person; therefore, the son of a barren woman is imperma nent. The problem, of course, is that there is no actual existential referent for "the son of a barren woman," so permanence or impermanence is out of the question. On the other hand, the statement that "I am impermanent because
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
'I' is a mere designation upon the transitory skandha(s)" goes beyond being a correct belief, and is a valid conceptual cognition of its referent "I." This is because in this case the cognition has grasped the true existential status of its ref erent, and so can induce certainty about it. The whole point of Nagarjuna's discourse in the Seventy Stanzas is to convert mistaken conceptions into correct beliefs and, eventually, valid cognitions. This can be done through the use of a logical exposition and is the method referred to as "prasaiiga," (which is the root for the name applied to Candrakirti's school, Prasaiigika Madhyamika. It is the school of thought followed by the Tibetans upon whose expositions this book is based). However, developing a correct belief is not adequate for obtaining liberation, it is only a preliminary. Yet this preliminary is important, be cause based upon correct beliefs one can move on to de velop valid cognitions. As said above, one aspect of a valid cognition is its ability to induce certainty about its referent; a correct belief can contribute to the development of such a valid conceptual cognition. Yet even this is not enough for liberation, for the problem with valid conceptual cognitions is that they are conceptual, that is, they ascertain their objects through the use of a mental image or conception, and even valid conceptual cognitions cannot separate the mental image or conception from the bare perception mixed with it so as to directly and nonconceptually cognize the object (mngon sum tshad ma), which is what is required to break the samsaric twelve limb cycle. An Arya, however, can directly and nonconceptually cognize objects. As was said above, conceptual cognitions always confuse the appearing object (snang yul) with the referent object of bare nonconceptual perceptual cognition. Thus even if one were to have a correct belief or valid conceptual cognition, such as "sound is impermanent," nevertheless, cognizing the conception "sound is impermanent" is not the same as directly cognizing impermanence, as an Arya would. On the other hand, unless one first correctly reasons that sound
is impermanent, one will not be able to go on to directly and nonconceptually cognize impermanence. In a manner of speaking, a correct belief or valid conceptual cognition shows one where to look, but then must be removed or else it will obscure the view. This is perhaps more obvious if one utilizes a subtle example, such as the lack of actual selfhood for persons. First one must reason about what selflessness means, and come to understand how the conception of a self or a person is something which is merely imputed or super imposed (sgro 'dogs) upon the five skandha(s). Having developed a correct belief about this lack of selfhood in the apparent person does not mean that one will be absolutely certain about it, for one will continue to act as if one were really a self identified by a certain name. One must utilize the correct belief about selflessness, which is a mental im age, a conception, to develop a valid conceptual cognition and use this as a theme for meditation. Thus practicing, one can eventually come to see the actual mixing of the concep tion of selflessness with the perception of a specific being. However, this is still a mixture of a mental image with a perception, and is not a direct nonconceptual perception itself. Yet, if one continues to practice, one can then remove the mental image, and one will be left with a bare direct perceptual cognition of a being which lacks selfhood. Upon obtaining such a direct cognition one is said to have become an Arya and have obtained the Path of Seeing.2 The cognition of the lacking of selfhood in a being was initially induced by the valid conceptual cognition, which showed one where to direct one's attention when meditat ing, but once one can directly and nonconceptually cognize the lack of selfhood in a being, then that direct, fresh, nonconceptual cognition will induce certainty about the lack of selfhood in beings: one will experience this lack of selfhood in beings. This is a valid perceptual cognition, and will remove the misunderstandings about selfhood which have accumulated over the cycle of countless lives. Because such valid cognitions destroy ignorance, they are liberative;
they break the cycle of the twelve limbs which is samsara. To summarize, there are two key operations in the prac tical application of Dharmakirti's epistemology: developing valid conceptual cognitions and separating mental images from perceptions. Nagarjuna's discourse in the Seventy Stanzas establishes the valid cognitions about both persons and phenomena (things, for example). One of the most important points he establishes is that the objects of percep tion are different from our conceptions or mental images of them. Thus, Nagarjuna devotes considerable attention to showing that what we take for objects of perception which have certain qualities or characteristics inherent in them are actually pervaded by deluded conceptions about those ob jects and that the qualities or characteristics which we be lieve inhere in the objects are merely imputed to them or projected on them by the observer. Recall, for example, that conceptual cognitions often ascertain their objects through the medium of fact-connecting conceptions and that fact-connecting conceptions function by ascribing qualities to objects. These qualities are imputed to the object or designated upon the object from our side, from our store of memories, presumptions, emotions, etc. These qualities do not inhere in the objects themselves. Nagarjuna intends to show how these conceptions, which are mixed with perceptions, are erroneous and distorted by showing how they are logically unsound in the sense that these conceptions are an interdependent web of definitions, assumptions and so forth. As such, they do not only depend upon the object of perception, but primarily depend on each other. They are thus other than the object of percep tion, and so must be removed from the cognitive process if one is to be able to develop direct cognition of objects devoid of our assumptions about them. We will attend to Nagarjuna's discourse in more detail in section 1 -6, but first we must turn to some consideration of the secondary mental factors, especially those which de scribe how attention operates in the overall cognitive pro-
cess (section 1-4), and how one can develop the mental concentration (section 1-5) to become aware of this process and so be able to utilize valid conceptual cognitions in the process of developing valid perceptual cognitions.
Section 1- 4 Subject; Part 1: Attention The previous section on perception and conception dealt with material which Tibetan monks generally learn in con junction with the material in this chapter, the two together being classed as blo rig, "ways of knowing. " As the author ity for the preceeding material is, ultimately, Dharmakirti, so the authority for this material is, ultimately, Asaiiga. 1 At the beginning of section 1-3 I presented a chart which schematized what appeared to be six types of consciousness, and pointed out that in actuality there is only "conscious ness" (sems) or (rnam par shes pa, the third limb), and that consciousness always arises and ceases in conjunction with a particular sense organ which serves as the dominant condi tion for its arising. Thus there only appear to be six dif ferent types of consciousness. In section 1-2, where I ex plained the twelve limb formulation, I also said that con sciousness, the third limb, always arises in dependence on karmic formations ('du byed), the second limb. That con sciousness (the "name" in "name and form," min dang gzugs) arises in dependence on karmic formations and also arises in conjunction with sense organs is not contradictory, even though the six sense fields ( skye mched drug) are the fifth limb in the sequence. This is because the five material 52
sense organs, being material, are part of form, while the nonmaterial sense organ called mind is part of name (be cause it is actually simply a moment of consciousness pre ceeding the moment of the arising of a mental conscious ness). I also pointed out that the karmic formations quite literally mold the consciousnesses which depend upon them. At this point we will begin to investigate this process in some detail. The category of teachings referred to as Abhidharma is essentially an elaboration of the karmic formations and consciousness limbs in the twelve limbs formulation, (or the karmic formations skandha and consciousness skandha; re call that the skandha formulation and the twelve limbs formulation analyze many of the same phenomena, but from different perspectives). Within this framework the various consciousnesses are referred to under the rubric "primary consciousness" (gtso sems) or (sems). This is an abstract category because consciousness is always molded by the karmic formations and always arises in conjunction with a sense organ. It cannot be experienced in any other way. When speaking about the way primary consciousness is molded by karmic formations the term "secondary men tal factors" (sems 'byung) is utilized to designate the pri mary consciousness which has been molded by the karmic formations. Geshe Rabten explains the relationship be tween primary consciousness and secondary mental factors as being like the relationship between a hand (primary consciousness) and the fingers, palm, etc. (secondary men tal factors).2 He further explains "It is not the function of a primary mind [i.e. , consciousness] to be specifically con cerned with any aspect of the objective field, it is a mere [raw] consciousness of the data presented to it. As we shall see, it is the individual [secondary] mental factors that are responsible for the selection and processing of this data. "3 This is consistent with the twelve limbs formulation be cause, as we saw, the karmic formations are the traces of previous actions, emotions, etc . ; that is, they are the
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"habits" or "dispositions" of a person, and as such they control cognition, cognition being a process which selects specific aspects out of the overall perceptual field. It is important to recall that the secondary mental factors are merely descriptions of how consciousness functions, they are not entities which act in some way. Thus a secondary mental factor like "sleep" is simply descriptive of a state of consciousness or an activity of consciousness, and the factor of "wisdom" describes consciousness examining the charac teristics of a recollected object. These are not something outside of consciousness that do something to conscious ness; the mental factors are simply descriptions of how consciousness can be observed to function. According to Asaiiga's system, there are fifty one second ary mental factors which are arranged into six catagories in accordance with the way they function. Three of these catagories, the wholesome mental factors (dge ba'i sems 'byung), the root afflictions (rtsa ba'i nyon mongs) and the proximate afflictions (nye ba'i nyon mongs), contain thirty seven secondary mental factors which are not directly rele vant to the functioning of attention. These thirty seven secondary mental factors make consciousness wholesome (i. e . , leading toward peace) or unwholesome (i.e. , leading toward suffering). For example, the three poisons at the hub of the wheel of the twelve limbs of dependent origina tion (delusion, attraction and revulsion) are three of the six root afflictions. The fourteen secondary mental factors in the other three catagories describe the way in which cognition selects and rejects particular aspects of the data presented to primary consciousness. These three catagories of secondary mental factors are listed below.
THE OMNIPRESENT MENTAL FACTORS kun 'gro ba'i sems 'byung tshor ba feeling 'du shes discernment intention sems pa reg pa contact yid la byed pa attention THE OBJECT ASCERTAINING MENTAL FACTORS yul nges pa'i sems 'byung aspiration 'dun pa appreciation mos pa recollection dran pa concentration ting nge 'dzin intelligence/wisdom shes rab THE VARIABLE MENTAL FACTORS gzhan 'gyur ba'i sems 'byung sleep gnyid regret 'gyod pa general examination rtog pa precise analysis dpyod pa The omnipresent mental factors and the object ascertaining mental factors are neither wholesome nor unwholesome in and of themselves, whereas the variable mental factors can be either wholesome or unwholesome depending upon cir cumstance. In this group, sleep and regret are of no particu lar concern to us, while general examination and precise analysis will be, as these two factors, along with the ten in the previous two catagories, are involved in that aspect of the cognitive process which actually produces the mental images and conceptions discussed in section 1-3. Contact (also identified as the sixth limb) is a secondary mental factor which indicates that a perceptual object, a sense organ and a primary consciousness have come into contact, establishing the basis for the occurrence of a cogni tion. Feeling (also identified as the seventh limb) is a re-
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
sponse of pleasure, pain or indifference; it is a cognition which arises in dependence on consciousness coming into contact with an object. Intention is the orienting of con sciousness to the general field of perception; it describes the habitual tendency of consciousness to become involved with and apprehend objects. Geshe Rabten describes it as "the actual principle of activity. It is karma itself. Whether an action is mental, vocal or physical, the formative element that is primarily responsible and that accumulates tenden cies and imprints on the mind is intention. Thus it acts as a basis for conditioned existence. "4 Attention is the focusing of consciousness on a specific aspect of the general field of perception. Discernment is the identifying and discriminat ing of that specific aspect of the general field of perception as being one thing rather than another either through the use of signs (mtshan ma), such as labels, or without the use of signs. It is in discernment through the use of signs that the nominal and experiential mental images and the term connecting and fact-connecting conceptions directly effect cognition. Examples of discernment without signs are the discernment of a child who has not yet learned language and the discernment "of a meditative perception of ultimate truth in which there is no sign of any conditioned phenomenon,"5 that is, a valid cognition of an accom plished meditator, an Arya. Aspiration is the taking of a strong interest in the aspect of the general field of percep tion that has been attended to and discerned as being one thing rather than another. Appreciation is the stabilizing of attention upon the aspect of the perceptual field which has been attended to and discerned. It is the resisting of distrac tion by other aspects of the perceptual field and serves as the basis for recollection. Recollection is the repeated re turning of attention to that aspect of the perceptual field which had earlier been discerned as being one thing rather than another. It serves as a basis for concentration. Concen tration is the one-pointed fixing of attention on a specific aspect of the perceptual field. Intelligence or wisdom ex-
amines the characteristics or the value of that aspect of the perceptual field being attended to. General examination is the searching for a rough understanding about that aspect of the field of perception which has been discerned by labels or examined by intelligence, while precise analysis is the analyzing of it in some detail. All these fourteen secondary mental factors function together in the creation of an appearing object (snang yul) within the field of perception. This appearing object is not an actual external object. Rather it is a representation which is constructed by the secondary mental factors operating within the overall cognitive process described in section 1-3. Many of the factors simply describe the way in which cognition is an attending to one aspect of bare perception (a primary mind) over another, thus isolating that aspect as a potential object of perception, and this is determined by various factors such as the power of recollection, concentra tion, and the karmic traces ('du byed). Furthermore, this aspect of the perceptual field, though it is cognized noncon ceptually in bare perception, must be mixed with mental images or concepts in order to be cognized by mental con sciousness, and this is a further obscuration. Factors such as discernment describe the way in which an aspect of the perceptual field thus isolated is identified as being a specific object through the use of concepts. Clearly then, the nature of the appearing object which is constructed in this process will to a great extent be determined by the characteristics of the concepts employed in discerning it. These concepts are Nagarjuna's principle concern in the Seventy Stanzas. Still, it is possible to cultivate one's powers of intelli gence/wisdom and concentration so that conceptual cogni tion can be transformed into valid conceptual cognition (cf. section 1-3). Moreover, as developing one's powers of con centration also makes it possible to discern objects without utilizing signs (mtshan ma med pa'i 'du shes), that is, without imputing labels or concepts to various aspects of the perceptual field, so it is possible to develop valid per-
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ceptual cognition. This is bare, direct perception which is devoid of distortion; it is the mode of cognition of the Arya(s) who have perfected themselves in meditation and moral discipline. These powers of concentration are the topic of the next section.
Section 1-5 Subject; Part 2: Meditation The practice of meditation can be traced back to the very beginning of the Buddhadharma, for as we saw in section 1-2 , Shiikyamuni mastered concentration exercises under two different teachers prior to his enlightenment and ascended the eight stages of dhyana (concentration, bsam gtan) on the evening of his enlightenment. As can be seen from the following description, these stages of dhyana rep resent a progressive concentration of the attention and de tachment from both physical sense and mental sense experi ence. First stage of dhyana: Detached from sense-desires, detached (also from the other four) unwholesome states, he dwells in the attainment of the first dhyana, which is accompa nied by applied and discursive thinking, born of detachment, rapturous and joyful. Second stage of dhyana: From the appeasing of applied and discursive think ing, he dwells in the attainment of the second dhyana, where the inward heart is serene and u niquely exhalted, and which is devoid of applied and 59
60 Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas discursive thinking, born of concentration, raptur ous and joyful. Third stage of dhyana: Through distaste for rapture he dwells evenminded ly, mindful and clearly conscious; he experiences with this body that joy of which the Ariyans de clare, " joyful lives he who is evenminded and mindful. " Fourth stage of dhyana: From the forsaking of joy, from the forsaking of pain, from the going to rest of his former gladness and sadness, he dwells in the attainment of the fourth dhyana , which is neither painful nor pleasureable, - in utter purity of evenmindedness and mindfulness. Fifth stage of dhyana: By passing quite beyond all perceptions of form, by the going to rest of the perceptions of impact, by not attending to the perception of manifoldness, on thinking "endless space," he dwells in the attain ment of the station of endless space. Sixth stage of dhyana: By passing quite beyond the station of endless space, on thinking "endless consciousness," he dwells in the attainment of the station of unlimited consciousness. Seventh stage of dhyana: By passing quite beyond the station of unlimited consciousness, on thinking "there is not anything," he dwells in the attainment of the station of nothing whatever. Eighth stage of dhyana: By passing quite beyond the field of nothing what ever, he dwells in the attainment of the station of neither perception nor non-perception. 1
The purpose of developing such capacity in concentra tion is not merely to detach the mind from the fetters of worldly existence, which was the purpose of concentration exercises for the Buddha's contemporaries, but rather to have a servicable instrument for developing the direct valid cognitions which would reveal the true nature or existential status of consciousness and its objects. The Buddha recog nized that bondage and suffering lay in the perpetuation of ignorance (the first limb of dependent origination), which ignorance is the belief in an actual selfhood or identity or inherent existence in phenomena. He recognized that so long as this erroneous view was held by a being, that being, would continue to cycle through the various realms of exist ence. While it is true that attaining the higher stages of dhyana refines and detaches the subjective consciousness to the point that it no longer experiences anything unpleasant, yet when a being is no longer meditating, suffering will be experienced because all the ignorant views and karmic formations will regain their power over that being. This is because they are merely suppressed during meditation, they are not rooted out. When that being dies, this ignorance and store of karmic formations will propel it into a new samsaric existence. Moreover, even if that being were to spend an entire lifetime on one of the levels of dhyana and die in such a state, it would merely be reborn in a realm of existence that corresponded to the level of dhyana it had obtained in life. Such a solitary peace may appear not to be an unpleasant state, but it is still within the salilsaric cycle, and is not permanent. When that being's stock of merit is exhausted it will have to be reborn in a lower state, and such a state will be attended by suffering. Only by cutting the source of suffering and bondage off at the root, ignorance, can a being be liberated. To cut off ignorance, one must be able to validly and directly perceive the true nature of those phenomena which are erroneously grasped at by ignorance. In part, this requires developing one's powers of concentrated attention so that one can
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
directly observe the processes of perceptual and conceptual cognition. In this way, for example, inattentive perception (snang la ma nges pa) of the moments of cognition would be converted into attentive perception of the moments of cognition. As we saw in section 1-3, such a bare cognition would be valid. One could actually have bare perceptions of phenomena and see how it was that mental images were combined with these bare perceptions in the production of erroneous conceptual consciousnesses . Such a direct perception would contribute to liberation, but even it would not eradicate the store of ignorant views about phe nomena which are the source for the production of the mental images. Such ignorant views can only be dispelled by their opposite, wisdom, i.e. , erroneous views can only be rooted out by valid inferences (rjes dpag tshad ma) and mistaken perceptions can only be rooted out by valid perceptions (mngon sum tshad ma) . The meditative path, as described in Tibetan Prasaiigika, combines these two operations. 2 The commentary to Seventy Stanzas 62 presents a sum mary of the meditative path within the context of develop ing a consciousness which can directly and validly cognize the emptiness of phenomena. Here reasoning is an initial step on the meditative path because for a person without training the emptiness of phenomena is not something that can be seen directly, and the meditator must know what to meditate upon. The karika(s) of the Seventy Stanzas de scribe the actual nature of phenomena; to study and com prehend them is to replace mistaken conceptual cognitions (rtog pa log shes) first with correct beliefs (yid dpyod) and then with valid conceptual cognitions (rjes dpag tshad ma). The intense intellectual effort made to comprehend the reasonings of the karika(s) and develop valid conceptual cognitions is referred to as an analytic meditation (dpyad sgom). This sort of meditation is a concentration of mental consciousness (yid kyi rnams par shes pa) on an idea and is discursive rather than one pointed. Utilizing the mental
factor (sems 'byuQ.g) of recollection (dran pa) one returns over and over again to the reasonings in the karika(s) and in this way cultivates the mental factor of intelligence or wis dom (shes rab). When wisdom is sharp one can convert the correct beliefs which are based upon the study of the kari ka(s) into valid conceptual cognitions. The mental images (don spyi) of the valid conceptual cognitions developed in this analytic meditation are then utilized as the objects of attention in the practice of stabilizing meditations ('jog sgom), which are onepointed. In the next stage of the actual meditative path one seeks to develop what is called calm abiding (zhi gnas) because upon the calming of the distractions originating in the five material senses the mental consciousness abides one pointedly and nondiscursively on a mental object of observation (in this case the mental image of emptiness). Here one utilizes the mental factor of recollectedness in regards to an object of meditation to develop concentration (ting nge 'dzin) on it, which is an actual onepointedness of consciousness. Over time one's calm abiding becomes more stable, clear, intense and serviceable. When not actually performing this stabilizing meditation one would return to an analytic meditation on emptiness to further cultivate valid conceptual cognitions of emptiness. Initially these two are done as separate meditative sessions because the discur siveness of the analytic meditation would interfere with the cultivation of onepointedness in the stabilizing meditation and the onepointedness of the stabilizing meditation would interfere with the discursive reasoning process in the analyt ic meditation which develops the valid conceptual cogni tions about emptiness. The next stage on the meditative path is the development of special insight (lhag mthong). Initially one strengthens and harmonizes the stabilizing meditations and the analytic meditations by alternating between the two of them. Even tually each one reinforces and induces the other; the one pointedness developed in the stabilizing meditations makes
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
the analytic meditations onepointed, penetrating and powerful, while the understanding of emptiness developed in the analytic meditations makes the stabilizing medita tions firmer and more intense. At this point one has actually obtained calm abiding and special insight and one's experi ence of emptiness goes beyond mere conceptualizations. Upon their union, with emptiness as their object, the Path of Preparation (sbyor lam) is obtained. There are four stages on the Path of Preparation in which the meditator successively removes the experienced distinc tions between subject (consciousness) and object (mental image of emptiness) and then removes the mental image of emptiness itself. When this happens and the meditator directly perceives emptiness itself without the mediation of a mental image he is said to have entered the Path of Seeing (mthong lam) and is called an Arya. Here the meditator has developed valid perceptions (mngon sum tshad ma) which last longer than one sixty fifth of a finger snap. On the Path of Seeing the meditator removes all the con ceptions of inherent existence of phenomena which are based on erroneous systems of teaching, language and social convention. This all happens in the course of one medita tive session. However, the conceptions of inherent exist ence of phenomena which are innate to beings from begin ningless time still remain, and these are to be removed on the next level, the Path of Meditation (sgom lam). It should be noted that the Arya only has valid perceptual cognitions while actually meditating. When he or she arises from meditation he or she will see a world of conventional appearances; that is, phenomena will appear to exist in herently until all the innate conceptions of inherent exist ence are removed. The various types of innate conception of inherent exist ence which are removed on the Path of Meditation are arranged according to the nine levels of consciousness, by which are meant ordinary consciousness plus the conscious ness of the eight dhyana(s). As indicated earlier, these are
not only concentrated states of consciousness but also places of rebirth for those beings with strong powers of concentra tion. Mere power of concentration and the ability to attain one of these high dhyana(s) cannot bring about liberation because of the innate conceptions of inherent existence of phenomena which remain even in these states. Now, on the Path of Meditation, the Arya removes all these innate con ceptions of inherent existence. When these innate concep tions of inherent existence have been removed the medita tor obtains the Path of No More Learning (mi slob lam), i.e . , Buddhahood.3 Finally, with Buddhahood, both the conventional appearance of phenomena and their empti ness, i.e., the two truths (conventional truth: kun rdzob bden pa and ultimate truth: don dam bden pa) appear simultaneously (which is the definition of omniscience), and there is no distinction to be made between a period of meditation and a period of nonmeditation - all a Buddha's cognitions are direct and valid.
Section 1-6 Object Up to now we have been discussing the process of percep tion and the way it can be transformed through meditation. In explaining this perceptual process the Buddhist episte mologists point out that what we take for a concrete per ceived object with the appearance of an existence which is external to the perceiving subject is, in actuality, a mentally constructed image (an appearing object, snang yul), whose characteristics depend upon both external factors and sub jective factors. Some of these subjective factors are the actual process of perception itself, while others are emo tions and desires. An additional key subjective factor which effects the construction of perceptual objects is the imputa tion of concepts upon the object being formed; i.e., the mixing of concepts or mental images with the objects pre sented in bare perception, which was discussed in section 1-3. Recall that in the formulation of the twelve limbs of dependent origination the six sense fields arise in depend ence on mind and body, which arise in dependence on consciousness, which arises in dependence on karmic formations, which arise in dependence on ignorance. The fifty one secondary mental factors elaborated by Asariga are 66
a systematic description of the linkage between karmic formations and consciousness. As consciousness is always "consciousness of something," so Asanga describes in detail how this "consciousness of something" is molded by habits, conceptions and emotions - the karmic formations that consciousness arises in dependence upon. The perceptual scheme elaborated by Dharmakirti is a systematic descrip tion of the linkage between the six sense fields and con sciousness through the medium of mind and body; it de scribes the process of perceiving the something. That is, Dharmakirti demonstrates how perception is a linkage be tween the consciousness-molded-by-karmic-formations and the perceptual field. In dependence upon both of these linkages, contact arises: an object is actually cognized. Here we understand "cognized" to mean that in the perceptual process an object is created in a consciousness which func tions in dependence on the karmic formations. The karmic formations themselves arise in dependence on ignorance, which is defined as an incorrect knowledge about the status of phenomena. 1 It is this incorrect know ledge which at root is responsible for the discerning (' du shes) of objects in the perceptual field in the first place. On the other hand, intelligence or wisdom (shes rab) examines the characteristics or value of the objects perceived, and cultivating wisdom about objects and the process of cogni tion itself can serve as an antidote to ignorance. When ignorance is converted to correct knowledge, fallacious im putations cease and the whole twelve limb cycle is cut at its root, so suffering ceases. Samsara becomes nirval}a as ob jects are perceived for what they actually are. It is this ignorance which is Nagarjuna's particular concern in the Seventy Stanzas; his intention is to provide its antidote through the means of his logical discourse which first estab lishes correct beliefs (yid dpyod) and later develops wis dom. Based upon these one can develop valid cognitions (tshad ma) about the nature of phenomena which results in a transformation of the karmic formations and so the entire
perceptual process which depends upon them is also trans formed. As the creation of objects in the perceptual process is transformed, what had previously appeared as samsara now appears as nirva)}a. Nagarjuna's whole position is summed up in stanzas two and three of the Seventy Stanzas, which I abridge below: All phenomena which are the subject of this treatise are similar to nirva]}a because all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence. What is the reason for this? It is because the inherent existence of all phe nomena is not to be found in causes, conditions, aggregations or individualities. Thus all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence and are empty. To boil this down to its essentials, Nagarjuna is simply making the following basic formulation: All phenomena are devoid of inherent existence. The entire Seventy Stanzas is just an elaboration of how specific phenomena which are of particular concern to Buddhists are empty (shiinya, stong pa) of inherent. existence (svabhava, rang bzhin). To understand Nagarjuna's discourse, it will be useful to begin by examining the three elements of the above sum mary in turn: phenomena, inherent existence and devoid ness/emptiness (they are two ways of saying the same thing). "Phenomenon" or "thing" or " functional phe nomenon" or "functional thing" (cf. , stanza 16) (vastu, dngos po) is a term which designates an object of cognition. It is equivalent to an object condition (dmigs rkyen), which Candrakirti defines as a support or basis (alambana, dmigs pa) for the arising of the three poisons.2 As we saw in section 1-3, a phenomenon (object condition) can be an external object, or it can be a bare perceptual cognition, or it can be a conceptual cognition, for any of these can serve as the basis for the arising of the three poisons. "Inherent existence" (svabhava, rang bzhin) is a term which refers to the pervasion of the phenomenon by a
certain ontological status: existence . This concept is best understood by breaking the Sanskrit and Tibetan words into their components: "sva-" and "rang" correspond to "self' or "own" in English, while "-bhava" and "bzhin" correspond to "being" or "existence" in English. The "own-being" or "self-existence" designated by the terms svabhava and rang bzhin is an existence which inhers in something itself, a being which inhers in something on its own. That is to say, this term designates an actual indepen dent existential status which is a characteristic of the phe nomenon in and of itself. This existential status should not be something that is imputed to the phenomenon from the subjective side ("from our side," as the Tibetans would say), nor should this existential status depend on any factor which is not a part of the object itself. Rather, this existence must be a status which inhers in the very nature of the phenomenon: this is what is meant when it is said that this existential status must be independent. "Inherent exist ence" refers to the very essence of the phenomenon, that which makes it be. Svabhava!rang bzhin has been translated by a number of English equivalents; we have chosen "inherent existence" rather than some other possible terms because it is precisely Nagarjuna's point that existential characteristics are not independent and do not inhere in phenomena but rather are dependent because they are imputed upon phenomena which in and of themselves actually lack those characteris tics. This is what is meant by the term "devoid" in the summary statement above. It is a simple negation, which is formulated throughout the Seventy Stanzas in the following ways: phenomena lack inherent existence, phenomena are devoid of inherent existence, phenomena are empty of inher ent existence, phenomena are empty, phenomena do not exist (this last statement being a kind of shorthand for "do not exist inherently" or "do not exist as they appear"). These all mean the same thing. However, this does not mean that phenomena have no existence whatsoever. If this
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
were the case, what would serve as the basis for the false imputation of inherent existence? Since existence does not inhere in this basis, but is imputed to it in the process of cognition, so Nagarjuna says that this basis does not exist inherently, or exists non-inherently (rang bzhin med), or more simply, that this basis is empty (shii.nya, stong pa). This is the actual status of phenomena in and of themselves. To translate svabhava/rang bzhin as "own-being" or "self existence" would therefore also require formulating its negation as "non-own-being" or "non-self-existence," which are obscure in English, not to mention clumsy. On the other hand, "non-inherent-existence" is precisely what Nagarjuna means when he states that phenomena are empty of svabhava/rang bzhin. That is, the actual status of phe nomena is that they are full of non-inherent existence, they actually exist non-inherently and they appear to us as being full of our imputations. How is it possible that existence does not inhere in the objects of perception? Recall that typically we do not cog nize actual objects in and of themselves, but rather cognize conceptions or representations of objects in consciousness; that is, a mixture of bare perceptions and mental images. These images are pervaded by concepts and the ordinary person is not aware of the difference between the bare image and the concepts which pervade it. As Nagarjuna points out in stanza 27, "Without depending on the defined one cannot establish a definition and without considering the definition one cannot establish the defined. " That is to say, although it is possible to intellectually consider an object and its characteristics as being two different things, in fact we only cognize them in an interdependent fashion. When we cognize an object it appears to us that it exists, but actually existence is a characteristic which defines an object, just as non-existence is a characteristic which de fines an object. Existence or non-existence are concepts or characteristics imputed upon bare perceptions in the per ceptual process of forming an object.
Indeed, if one considers how one develops the belief that existence is an attribute of an object, that existence inhers in an object, it becomes apparent that one develops such a belief in dependence on that object having a certain aggregation of characteristics. For example, if I listen for the singing of my pet bird and I do not hear any sound, I may say that there is no singing. That is, the singing is non-existent. I can make such a statement because in the past I heard my bird singing, but in the present it is not singing. The singing has ceased, so it is non-existent in the present, but it occurred in the past (or "arose" in the past, as Nagarjuna would say), at which time it was existent. Now this example demonstrates how the characteristic of existence is dependent upon other characteristics, such as the arising, enduring and ceasing of a phenomenon over periods of time. A sound must arise in the present for it to exist; "presentness" and "arising" must be characteristics of a sound in order for me to cognize the sound as existing. If these characteristics are lacking, then I cannot cognize a sound as existing, rather I cognize it as non-existing. In this way existence is a characteristic which is imputed upon a phenomenon if it is arising in the present, but existence is not something which inhers in a phenomenon itself, such as singing, for if the characteristics "present" and "arising" are separated from the phenomenon itself, the phenomenon can no longer be said to exist. Now, it may seem that this is just an intellectual exercise, for even if one accepts that existence is merely designated upon appearing phenomena, still something does appear in perception. Nagarjuna does not refute this. Indeed, this is precisely his point, and he refers to this mere appearance as the true status of phenomena; the ultimate truth (don dam dben pa) about phenomena is that they are mere appear ances which are empty of the characteristics we attribute to them, while the conventional truth (kun rdzob bden pa) about phenomena is the fact of their erroneous appearance to ordinary beings.
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
Moreover, existence is not the only characteristic we attribute or impute to phenomena. In the above example of the singing bird our analysis forced us to consider singing as a phenomenon which arises, endures and ceases over the past and present. Even if we are not considering the existen tial status of a phenomenon, still we typically perceive it as having characteristics such as arising or enduring, or as having shape and color and so forth. We naturally consider that these characteristics inhere in the phenomenon itself, but do they? If enduring were a characteristic that inhered in a phenomenon then it would be independent of anything else, such as the characteristics of arising and ceasing. But we can only know that something endures to the extent that we have the ideas of arising and ceasing, for enduring only has meaning in relation to these two, it depends upon them. Moreover, a phenomenon can't actually endure unless it has previously arisen. And what phenomenon would cease if it had not arisen? Furthermore, these occur over time. For something to cease in the present it must have arisen in the past. But the past is only the past in dependence on the present. Thus not only the concepts "arising," "enduring" and "ceasing" but also their phenomenal referents are mutually interdependent. Thus they are not independent characteristics which inhere in phenomena. To use the example of shape and calor, we seem to cognize a thing as having both shape and calor, even if we cognize it barely. But can a phenomenon have shape with out calor or color without shape? They seem to be different, and the modes of describing one cannot be used for describ ing another. We cannot use terms such as red or blue to distinguish between rectangles and circles, for any shape can have any calor. Such characteristics only are what they are in relation to each other, they are not what they are in relation to the phenomena which they are supposed to characterize. Thus these characteristics cannot be said to exist independently of each other nor, as we have seen from stanza 27 of the Seventy Stanzas, can they be said to exist
independently of the objects they characterize. That is to say, these characteristics are only what they are in depend ence on each other and in dependence on the objects they are supposed to characterize. Do they, then, actually exist? Nagarjuna devotes most of the Seventy Stanzas to this question. As he shows in exam ple after example, these characteristics exist in dependence on each other, they do not inhere in phenomena but are merely imputed upon phenomena in the perceptual pro cess. Yet he also demonstrates that it cannot be said that they do not exist, for they do exist, but dependently and non-inherently. This question about the existential status of phenomena and their characteristics is relevant because Nagarjuna is, afterall, teaching within the context of the Buddhist tradi tion. His purpose, like that of all Buddhist teachers, is to show a path for the liberation from suffering. The twelve limbs of dependent origination formulation shows that the source of suffering is ignorant grasping after phenomena, but what is it we are grasping after? We grasp after phe nomena to satisfy desires and obtain happiness or else to avoid suffering. But we do not grasp after phenomena in and of themselves independent of their characteristics. In deed it is the characteristics of phenomena which we pre sume will satisfy us. It is, for example, the taste of food and the feeling of a full stomach which is gratifying, not the "stuff' of the food in itself. But, as Nagarjuna demon strates, these characteristics are imputed on phenomena, they do not inhere in phenomena themselves. Yet they are not independent of phenomena, for there must be a basis upon which the imputation can be made. Here Nagarjuna shows us the fundamental distortion in the cognitive process which sets the samsaric cycle of the twelve limbs in motion and drags beings through the var ious realms of existence. This fundamental distortion is the tendency to take an extreme view toward phenomena, that is, to overestimate their natures. This extreme view or
overestimation is that phenomena are independent, self sufficient entities which bear their own characteristics inde pendently of the preceiving subject; that is, the view that their characteristics exist in or inhere in them independent ly of any other subjective or external factors. Due to this extreme view attachment or revulsion for objects is de veloped and peace is lost. Destroy this extreme view and peace (nirvaQ.a) will be gained. As Nagarjuna says in stanza 65 : Understanding the non-inherent existence of things means seeing the reality [i.e., emptiness] which elim inates ignorance about the reality of things. This brings about the cessation of ignorantly grasping at an apparently true existence. From that the twelve limbs of dependent origination cease. Finally, we should recollect that there are both external phenomena and internal phenomena toward which we can develop extreme views. Indeed, grasping after internal phe nomena based on extreme views about the so called "per son" produces the greatest amount of suffering, for external objects are only of value to us in relation to that very "us." To crush extreme views about internal phenomena and destroy the grasping after internal phenomena Nagarjuna analyzes the complex of the six sense fields, six sense organs and six consciousnesses, as well as the twelve limbs in the twelve limbs of dependent origination. As he shows for each scheme, its elements arise in dependence on each other in an inextricable way. For example, there is no consciousness without an object basis for consciousness, nor vice versa. Since they both arise in dependence on each other, so neither exists inherently. Similarly, no single limb in the twelve limb scheme arises independently of any other limb. Thus all object bases, limbs and consciousnesses lack inher ent existence and only exist in dependence on each other. They are merely transitory phenomena flashing into aware ness and immediately disintegrating. Yet they are not mere
hallucinations �ithout any basis whatsoever. When this real nature of phenomena is seen, grasping after them will naturally cease. Key among these internal phenomena are consciousness and cognizing, for these are the basic, fun damental phenomena which we grasp after. When such grasping ceases, cognizing goes on placidly, consciousness remains clear and lucid and all phenomena are seen to be " . . . similar to nirviiQ.a because all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence. "3
Section 2-1 Seventy Stanzas Explaining Hmv Phenomena Are Empty ofInherent Existence Prostration is made to the Youthful Manjushri. [ 1 ] "Arising," "enduring," and "disintegrating;" "ex isting" and "non-existing;" "inferior," "middling," and "superior" do not have true existence. These terms are used by the Buddha in accordance with worldly conventions.  All phenomena must have either self-existence or non-self-existence. There is no phenomenon which is other than these two, nor are there any expressions which do not come under these two catagories. All phenomena which are the subject of this treatise are similar to nirval).a because all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence.  What is the reason for this? It is because the inherent existence of all phenomena is not to be found in causes, conditions, aggregations or individualities. Thus all phe nomena are devoid of inherent existence and are empty. 79
 Some assert that a result already exists inherently in the nature of its cause; but then it cannot arise because it already exists. Others assert that a result exists inherently but not in the nature of its cause; so it cannot arise because it is not in the nature of its cause. Yet others assert that a result both does and does not exist inherently in its cause; but then they are asserting contradictory views about an object because an object cannot simultaneously both exist and not exist. Because phenomena do not arise inherently so also they do not endure or cease inherently.  Whatsoever has already arisen will not be able to arise. Whatsoever has not arisen will not arise. Either a phenomenon has already arisen or else it will arise; there is no other possibility beyond these two. Whatever is in the process of arising should have already arisen or else it will arise in the future.  The cause of a result which already exists is similar to that which is not a cause. Also in the case where a result does not already exist, then its cause will be similar to that which is not a cause. A phenomenon should be either existent or non-existent but cannot be both non-existent and not-non-existent because these two are contradictory. Therefore it is not suitable to assert that there is either an inherently existing cause or an inherently existing result in the three times.  Without one there cannot be many and without many it is not possible to refer to one. Therefore one and many arise dependently and such phenomena do not have the sign of inherent existence.  The twelve limbs of dependent origination result in suffering: since the twelve limbs and suffering do not arise independently of each other, they don't exist inherently. Furthermore, it is not acceptable to assert that the twelve
limbs are based on a single moment of a mind nor on successive moments of a mind, as such moments arise de pendently and do not exist inherently.  Because contaminated things arise in dependence on one another they do not exist inherently as permanent phe nomena nor do they exist inherently as impermanent phe nomena; neither as phenomena with self-nature nor without self-nature; neither as pure nor impure; neither as blissful nor as suffering. It is thus that the four distortions do not exist as qualities which inhere in phenomena, but rather are imputed to phenomena. [ 10] There are no four distortions which exist inherently and thus there can be no ignorance arising from them. Because that ignorance does not exist inherently it cannot give birth to karmic formations, which means karmic formations will not arise and so also the remaining limbs too. [ 1 1 ] Ignorance cannot originate as a cause except in de pendence on the karmic formations. Also, the karmic formations cannot originate except in dependence on their cause, which is ignorance. Because ignorance and karmic formations are interrelated as cause and effect so these two are known by a valid cognizer not to exist inherently. [ 12] By itself none of the twelve limbs can originate inherently, but must depend on the remaining limbs. How then can one limb produce another limb? Moreover, be cause one limb has originated as a cause in dependence on the other limbs, so how can it act as a condition for the origination of results such as the other limbs? [ 1 3] The father is not the son and the son is not the father. These two are mutually not non-existent and the two of them cannot arise simultaneously. It is likewise with the
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twelve dependent limbs. [ 14] Just as in a dream, happiness and suffering depend on dream objects and upon awakening these objects are known not to actually exist, likewise any phenomenon which arises in dependence on another dependent phe nomenon should be known not to exist in the manner of its appearance. [ 1 5] Vaibha�ika: If you assert that phenomena don't exist inherently then you are asserting that they don't exist at all. So how can you make distinctions like inferior, middling and superior or that there are different beings in the six realms of existence? How then can you assert the manifesta tion of a result which arises from causes? [ 16] Response: When you assert that phenomena exist inherently you are asserting that they do not originate in dependence on causes and conditions and thus that phe nomena actually do not exist. For if phenomena do not depend on causes and conditions, then they should have independent existence throughout the three times. There fore there cannot be any inherent existence for functional phenomena which arise from causes and conditions or non functional phenomena which do not arise from causes and conditions, and there cannot be any third mode of existence for phenomena. [ 1 7] Opponent: If phenomena do not exist inherently, how can you use terms to refer to their own characteristics or their characteristics in relation to other phenomena or non-functional phenomena? Response: Although phe nomena lack inherent existence, still we can use terms like own-characteristi c s , other-characteristics and non functional phenomena for although these are unfindable upon analysis, still, like the objects of a dream they appear to have existence to ordinary perception. So the way they
exist and the way they appear are different and these con ventional existences are called distortions or false. [ 1 8] Hinayanist: If phenomena are devoid of inherent existence then they will be completely non-existent like the horns of a rabbit, and so there can be no occurrence of their arising or their cessation. As Buddha has spoken about arising and cessation, they must exist, so how can things be devoid of inherent existence? [ 19] Response: An object cannot simultaneously arise as a functional phenomenon and cease as a non-functional phe nomenon. If a non-functional phenomenon does not exist then a functional phenomenon cannot exist because an ob ject cannot arise and endure as a functional phenomenon without depending on its cessation as a non-functional phe nomenon, or else it would exist at all times. If a non functional phenomenon which is different from a functional phenomenon does not exist then it is impossible for a func tional phenomenon to exist.  If there is no arising and enduring, which are func tional phenomena, then there can be no disintegration or cessation, which are non-functional phenomena; so the lat ter would be completely non-existent. If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it must have arisen from its own nature or from some other nature, but it cannot arise from its own nature and because a phenomenon cannot have a different nature than its cause, so it cannot arise from some other nature which has inherent existence. Because of that, a functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently and be cause a functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently, so a non-functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently. [21 ] If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it should be permanent. If a phenomenon were to disintegrate com pletely then you must accept the annihilationist view. If a
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
phenomenon were to exist inherently it would either exist permanently or else undergo complete disintegration: it cannot occur in a way which is different than these two. Therefore one should not assert that a phenomenon has inherent existence.  Opponent: Because of continuity there is no danger of the two extreme views. Acting as a cause of another causal phenomenon the original causal phenomenon ceases to exist. Reply: As explained before, the cause and the result, like a functional phenomenon and a non-functional phenomenon, cannot arise with inherent existence either simultaneously or sequentially. In your view their lack of inherent existence makes them completely non-existent, in which case you cannot assert their continuity or that of the moments between them. Therefore the faults of the two extremes remain in your view.  Opponent: When Buddha explained the path to liberation he spoke about arising and disintegration, so they must have true existence. Response: It is true that Buddha spoke about arising and disintegration, but they are devoid of inherent existence. For that reason the way they appear and the way they. exist are dissimilar, and they appear in a deceptive way to the world.  Opponent: If arising and disintegration do not exist then suffering can not exist, so what cessation will bring forth nirv�a? But because nirval).a can be attained that means there is suffering which has inherent existence and therefore there is arising with inherent existence and disin tegration with inherent existence. Response: Nirv�a refers to that state where suffering does not arise with inherent existence and does not cease with inherent existence. Don't we call that state the naturally abiding nirval).a? Therefore arising and disintegration do not exist inherently.
 You have accepted that the extinction of the con tinuation of suffering is nirviiQ.a, in which case you have held an annihilationist view. And if you modify your posi tion and assert that nirviiQ.a is a state where suffering has inherent existence and has not been extinguished, then you accept permanent suffering which even includes the state of nirviiQ.a, which is an eternalist view. Therefore you cannot assert that nirviiQ.a refers to a state where suffering is a non-functional phenomenon which has been extinguished nor can you assert that nirviiQ.a refers to a state where suffering is a functional phenomenon which has not been extinguished. These two assertions about nirval}.a are not appropriate. Therefore nirviiQ.a refers to that state where suffering does not arise with inherent existence and does not cease with inherent existence.  If you assert a cessation that is different than a functional phenomenon then you are asserting a cessation which does not depend on a functional phenomenon and which exists inherently and permanently. Because we have refuted the inherent existence of a functional phenomenon and also the inherent existence of a non-functional phe nomenon which depends on a functional phenomenon, so here a cessation cannot have independent existence and so it cannot exist inherently or permanently.  Without depending on the defined one cannot estab lish a definition and without considering the definition one cannot establish the defined. As they depend on each other, they have not arisen by themselves, so therefore the defined and the definition are devoid of inherent existence and also they do not exist inherently in a mutually dependent way, so none of them can be used to establish the inherent existence of another one.  Following the logic of this explanation of mutually
dependent origination one cannot use the cause of a result to prove that the result has inherent existence because the cause of the result originates in dependence on the result and so is devoid of inherent existence. The same applies to all the pairs such as feeling and the one who feels or seeing and the seer, and so forth. Taking these as examples one should understand how all the pairs are explained as being devoid of inherent existence because they originate in mutual dependence.  Time d Jes not exist inherently because the three periods of time do not maintain continuity by themselves, but are dependent on each other. If the three times were to have inherent existence in a mutually dependent way, then we could not make distinctions between them, but because we can make distinctions so time itself cannot be estab lished as having inherent existence. Because time does not have inherent existence, the functional basis on which the three times is imputed cannot have inherent existence, so therefore the three times do not have inherent existence and are merely imputed by concepts.  Following the reasoning just given, the three charac teristics of a composite phenomenon which are arising, enduring and ceasing are unfindable upon ultimate analysis even for you, so then a functional phenomenon which is characterized by these three attributes is also unfindable, in which case the functional basis of a composite phenomenon becomes unfindable. So when a composite phenomenon cannot exist inherently, how can a non-composite phe nomenon which depends on a composite phenomenon have inherent existence in the least.  At the point of its complete disintegration does a phenomenon disintegrate which has already disintegrated or at that point does a phenomenon disintegrate which has not yet disintegrated? In the first case the process of disin tegration is complete, so this cannot be accepted. In the
second case it is free from the function of disintegration, so this cannot be accepted. The same applies to enduring and arising. If a phenomenon were to endure at that point when it has already endured then the process of enduring is complete and we cannot say that it is enduring at that point. And a phenomenon which has not endured cannot be accepted as enduring at that point because it is free from the function of enduring. If a phenomenon were to arise at the point of arising which has already arisen then the process of arising is already complete, so this cannot be accepted. And if a phenomenon were to arise at that point which has not arisen then that case is not acceptable, because it is non existent.  If we examine composite phenomena and non composite phenomena then we cannot find them as one, because then we cannot differentiate between these two types of phenomena, and we cannot find them as many, because then these two would be completely unrelated. If a composite phenomenon is asserted to exist, then it cannot arise because it is already existent and if it is asserted not to exist, then it cannot arise because it is non-existent. If it is asserted to be both existent and non-existent, this is not possible because such a state is contradictory. Every differ ent type of phenomenon is included within this criterion of non-inherent existence.  Opponent: The Peerless Subduer has taught that there is continuity in the flow of actions. Likewise, he has taught about the nature of actions and their results. He has also taught that the results of actions performed by an individual sentient }?eing must be experienced by him and that whatever actions are performed are certain to bear fruit. For these four reasons actions have inherent exist ence.  Reply: Buddha taught that actions do not exist in herently and so they cannot arise inherently. Although ac-
tions do not exist inherently, they will not be wasted but it is certain that they will bear fruit. From these actions arise consciousness, name and form, and the rest of the limbs of dependent origination. Conception of self is generated through focusing on the person who is merely imputed upon these dependent limbs. Also, it arises from the pre conception which takes improper objects and overestimates them.  If actions were to have inherent existence then they would not be impermanent but would have the nature of permanence, and then the body which results from those actions would also be permanent. If actions were to be permanent then they could not give rise to suffering, which is the ripening of actions. If actions were non-changing then
the'Y would have the nature of permanence and then they would have self-existence. But then Buddha would not have taught about the lack of self-nature.  If actions were to exist at the time of conditions, those actions could not arise from those conditions. And if conditions do not have the potential to give rise to actions, then actions cannot arise from conditions because those conditions are similar to non-conditions. Because actions cannot arise even slightly from non-conditions, so therefore all composite phenomena are like an illusion, and a gan dharva town and a mirage, and therefore they lack inherent existence.  Actions are caused by delusions. Our body arises from the nature of delusions and actions. Because the cause of the body is actions, and actions arise from delusions, so therefore these three are devoid of inherent existence.  When actions do not have inherent existence there will be no person to perform actions. Because both of them do not exist, results do not exist. When there are no results there will be no person to experience those results physical-
ly and mentally. Because of that reason that actions do not exist inherently, so all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence.  If one understands how actions are devoid of inher ent existence, then he sees the suchness of actions. When he has seen suchness he will have eliminated ignorance and when there is no ignorance then the actions which are caused by ignorance cannot arise in him, and so the results of actions such as consciousness and so forth up to aging and dealth will not be experienced by him. When con sciousness ceases to exist the dependent limb of aging and death cannot occur; thus he will attain the state of liberation free from aging and death. [40-41 ] Through his miraculous powers, Tathagata the Subduer emitted an emanation and that emanation emitted another emanation. As the emanation emitted by the Tatha gata is devoid of inherent existence, it is hardly necessary to say that the emanation emitted by the emanation is also devoid of inherent existence. When we say that these two emanations do not exist inherently, that does not mean that they are completely non-existent but rather that both of them, just like actions and the one who performs actions, merely exist through terms because they are separated from the nature of inherent existence. They do exist, but merely through imputation by thought in a deceptive way.  The person who performs actions is said to be similar to the emanation emitted by the Tathagata because he is led by ignorance. And so his actions are said to be similar to the emanation emitted by the emanation. All of these are de void of inherent existence, though they do have a slight existence as mere imputations supported by terms and con cepts.  If actions were to have the nature of inherent exist ence, then they would be permanent. But if actions were
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
permanent then they would not depend on a person, and if there were no person to perform actions, then actions would not exist. In that case, nirviiQ.a, which is the state of cessa tion of delusions and actions, could not be attained. If actions did not exist through mere terms and concepts then their ripening results such as happiness and suffering could not arise.  Whatever is said by the Buddha has the two truths as its chief underlying thought; it is hard to understand and must be interpreted in this light. When the Buddha says "existence" his chief underlying thought is conventional existence; when he says "non-existence" his chief under lying thought is non-inherent existence; when he says "ex istence-and-non-existence" his chief underlying thought is conventional-existence-and-non-inherent-existence as a mere object of examination.  Neither does inherently existent form, having the nature of elements, arise from elements nor from itself and not even from others. Therefore, it does not exist, does it?  A form cannot have the fourfold nature of the ele ments because if the form has four elements then it will be fourfold and the four elements cannot have a singular form or else they will become one like form, so how can form arise from the four great elements as its cause?  Form is not apprehended as inherently existing, so therefore the form does not exist inherently. If it is said that the inherent existence of form is understood by the mind which apprehends it, then such a mind does not exist in herently because it has arisen from causes and conditions so it cannot be used as a reason for proving the inherent existence of a form.  If a mind apprehends a form with inherent existence
then the mind will apprehend its own nature. Such a mind has arisen from causes and conditions, so it is a dependent arising which lacks inherent existence. In the same way, form does not exist truly, so how can that mind apprehend a form with true existence?  The kind of form, which has arisen but not ceased to exist, that I have explained is not apprehended by each moment of the mind in the present. Therefore, how can such a mind apprehend forms of the past and also the future?  In all times color and shape do not exist as two different things. If they were to exist as two different things then a mind could apprehend shape without considering color or color without considering shape. Because these two do not exist as two different things, so therefore there is not a mind which apprehends shape without taking color into consideration nor color without taking shape into consid eration. In the world, a form is known to be singular; if its shape and color were to exist as two different things then the form would appear to the world as two instead of one.  The eye has no consciousness because the eye is a form but eye consciousness is formless and that which is formless cannot adhere to form. In the same way the form which is observed has no eye consciousness, nor is it be tween eye and form. Because eye consciousness is generated in dependence on eye and form, if it is apprehended as having inherent existence, that is a mistaken conception.  When the eye does not see itself, how can it see forms? Therefore the eye and the forms do not have self existence and the remaining entrances should be under stood in the same way.  The eye is devoid of its own self-existent nature. It is
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
also devoid of the self-existent nature of an other. In the same way, form is devoid of its own self-existent nature as well as that of another. And it is the same with the rest of the entrances.  When any of the six internal entrances arises simul taneously with contact, at that time the rest of the entrances will be devoid of the nature of contact. The rest of the entrances which are devoid of the nature of contact do not depend on the nature of contact. That which is not devoid of the nature of contact will not depend on that which is devoid of the nature of contact.  The eye, eye consciousness and its object arise and immediately disintegrate, so they cannot exist as abiding in their natures and so those three cannot assemble. When these three cannot assemble, contact cannot exist and if contact cannot exist, so there cannot be feeling.  Consciousness arises in dependence on internal and external entrances. Because consciousness arises in depend ence on the entrances, so it is like a mirage and an illusion which are devoid of inherent existence.  Consciousness cannot arise without taking its object, so it depends on the object of knowledge. The object of knowledge cannot arise without depending on the con sciousness which apprehends it, and therefore because they exist in a mutually dependent way both of them lack inher e n t existen c e . The o b j ect of knowledge and the apprehension of the object do not exist inherently, therefore the person who knows the object does not exist inherently.  Buddha has. seen no essence in composite phe nomena with inherent existence so he said that all compos ite phenomena are impermanent, so therefore they are de void of inherent existence, or because he said that all com posite phenomena are impermanent, so how could they
exist inherently in the nature of permanent phenomena? If phenomena were to have inherent existence they should either be permanent or impermanent: how can there be phenomena which are both permanent and impermanent at the same time?  Through superimposltlon one develops the three distorted preconceptions toward pleasing, repulsive and neutral objects, which respectively· cause attachment, hatred and closed-mindedness. Because they arise in de pendence on these conditions, the essential nature of attach ment, hatred and closed-mindedness is without inherent existence. [60) A pleasing object does not exist inherently because some persons develop attachment towards it, others de velop hatred towards it, and still others develop closed mindedness towards it. Therefore such qualities of the ob ject are merely created by preconceptions, and these pre conceptions also do not exist inherently because they de velop from superimposition.  Whatever may be an object of examination does not exist inherently. As that object of examination does not exist inherently, how can the thought-consciousness of that non-inherently existing object exist inherently? Therefore, because the object of examination and the thought consciousness arise from causes and conditions, they are empty of inherent existence.  The mind which directly understands emptiness is an unmistaken mind which eliminates the ignorance that arises from the four evil preconceptions. Without that ignorance the karmic formations will not arise, and so neither will the remaining limbs.  Anything which arises in dependence on any causes will not arise without those causes. Hence, functional
things in the form of produced phenomena and non functional things as unproduced phenomena would be empty of inherent existence which is the natural state of nirviii].a.  The Teacher, Buddha, said that the conception of true existence of functional things which arise from causes and conditions is ignorance. From this ignorance arise the twelve dependent limbs.  Understanding the non-inherent existence of things means seeing the reality [i.e., emptiness] which eliminates ignorance about the reality of things. This brings about the cessation of ignorantly grasping at an apparently true exist ence. From that the twelve limbs of dependent origination cease.  Produced phenomena are similar to a village of gan dharvas, an illusion, a hair net in the eyes, foam, a bubble, an emanation, a dream, and a circle of light produced by a whirling firebrand.  There is nothing which exists inherently. In that fashion even non-functional things do not exist. Therefore, functional things which arise from causes and conditions as well as non-functional things are empty of inherent exist ence.  Because all things are empty of inherent existence the Peerless Tathagata has shown the emptiness of inherent existence of dependent arising as the reality of all things.  Ultimate reality is contained within the limit of the non-inherent existence of a thing. For that reason, the Accomplished Buddha, the Subduer, has imputed various terms in the manner of the world through comparison.
 What is shown conventionally to the v. ,;ld appears to be without disintegration, but the Buddha has never actually shown anything with true existence. Those who do not understand what is explained by the Tathagata to be conventionally existent and empty of the sign of true exist ence are frightened by this teaching. [7 1] It is known in the way of the world that "this arises in dependence on that. " Such statements are not refuted. But whatsoever arises dependently does not exist inherent ly, and how can that non-inherent existence itself have inherent existence? In fact, that non-inherent existence must definitely not exist inherently !  Those who have faith in the teaching of emptiness will strive for it through a number of different kinds of reasoning. Whatever they have understood about it in terms of non-inherent existence, they clarify this for others, which helps others to attain nirviiQ.a by abandoning grasping at the apparently true existence of cyclic existence and non-cyclic existence.  By seeing these internal and external phenomena arising from causes and conditions they will eliminate the whole network of wrong views. With the elimination of wrong views they will have abandoned attachment, closed mindedness and hatred and thereby attain nirviiQ.a un stained by wrong views. These Seventy Stanzas Explaining How Phenomena Are Empty of Inherent Existence have been written by the Teacher Arya Nagarjuna and complied by an unknown editor who referred to the better wordings and meanings of the translations by the translators Gzhon nu mchog, Gnyan dharma grags and Khu.
Section 2-2 Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness with Tibetan Text and Commentary by Geshe Sonam Rinchen Sanskrit: S hilnyatasaptatikarikanama Tibetan: sTong pa nyid bdun cu pa'i tshig le'ur byas pa zhes bya ba Author: Nagarjuna (kLu sgrub) Text based upon the Peking Edition (P) #5227 (dbu ma tsa 27a-30b) printed in the Tokyo-Kyoto reprint of the bsTan 'gyur, D.T. Suzuki, Ed. and the sDe dge Edition (D) #3827 (dbu ma tsa 24a-27a) kept in the library of the University of California, Berkeley. Amended with reference to Candrakirti's Shilnyatasaptativrtti, sTong pa nyid bdun cu pa'i 'grel pa, Peking Edition # 5268 (mdo 'grel ya 305b38 lb) printed in the Tokyo-Kyoto reprint of the bsTan 'gyur, and the sDe dge Edition kept in the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, India.
Prostration is made to the Youthful Manjushri. When the translators of the past were translating texts dealing with the training in higher wisdom they made pros trations to the Youthful Manjushri in order to be able to complete their work successfully. He is about sixteen years old and remains in this youthful state forever because of his high wisdom. All texts dealing with higher wisdom are classified in the Abhidharma Pi�aka. STANZA 1 /gnas pa'm skye 'jig yod med dam/ /dman pa'm mnyam dang khyad par can/ /sangs rgyas 'jig rten snyad dbang gis/ /gsung gi yang dag dbang gis min/
"Arising," "enduring," and "disintegrating;" "ex isting" and "non-existing;" "inferior," "middling," and "superior do not have true existence. These terms are used by the Buddha in accordance with worldly conventions. The Buddha has abandoned both the obscurations which prevent liberation and the obscurations which prevent omniscience. Thus he can perceive in a single instant both
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
the absolute truth about phenomena and the conventional truth of how phenomena appear to ordinary people. Although Nagarjuna himself outwardly appeared to ordi nary people to be a first stage Bodhisattva, inwardly he was actually a Buddha. The term "arising" refers to a situation in which some phenomenon like an object or a thing is caused by some other phenomenon. By this it is meant that certain causes and conditions have the power to bring about the arising of a phenomenon, for no phenomenon can arise by its own power. But this does not mean to imply that the presence of some god, such as Shiva, is necessary for the arising of something. When we carefully examine a phenomenon we find that the basis of its presumed existing as an independent entity is unfindable, and yet the phenomenon does arise in de pendence on certain causes and conditions. We also find that all phenomena come into existence with imputation. By this is meant that we impute certain characteristics upon a basis of imputation (which basis is actually unfindable upon analysis) and the basis of imputation and the imputed phenomenon should be recognized as merely dependently arising phenomena. The concept that "there is a thing or phenomenon which arises without imputation" is to be abandoned through meditative analysis and it is Nagiir juna's purpose in this treatise to refute erroneous concep tions about phenomena. Such phenomena as arising, enduring and disintegrating, and also the terms "arising, enduring, disintegrating" do not have true existence. This does not mean that they are totally devoid of any kind of existence, but that they are devoid of inherent existence. True existence refers to that which exists inherently from its own side without depend ing on any other thing. However, no phenomenon is depend ent on itself for its existence, but all phenomena are depend ent on other causes and conditions for their existence, so it is said that they are devoid of inherent existence or true
existence or self-existence, which are synonymous in this context. It is not said that they are devoid of conventional existence, which is how they appear to the ordinary person, for they do appear before us in some fashion. When it is understood that arising, enduring and disin tegrating are devoid of true existence, then it will be under stood that "existing" and "non-existing" are also devoid of true existence. Here "existing" is a term which refers to the aggregates, elements, entrances and composite phenomena of the present. "Non-existing" is a term which refers to the aggregates, elements and entrances of the past and future and to non-composite phenomena in general. These all are devoid of inherent existence because they all arise, endure and disintegrate. Likewise, "existing" and "non-existing" must be devoid. of true existence because they are desig nated upon phenomena which are devoid of true existence such as the elements, etc. "Existing" is also used to refer to the person, which is merely the "I" which is imputed on the collection of five aggregates. "Non-existing" refers to the non-person, which is the collection of five aggregates which serves as the basis for the imputation "I. " "Existing" can also refer to functional things and "non existing" can refer to non-functional things. These too are devoid of inherent existence. "Inferior" refers to deluded (i.e. , non-virtuous) phe nomena, "middling" refers to phenomena which are not specified as virtuous or non-virtuous, and "superior" refers to virtuous phenomena. All these differing terms which are defined above refer to what lacks true existence, and are not used for what lacks conventional existence. They are used to eliminate the be lief in inherent existence and to establish the belief in non inherent existence. STANZA 2 In the preceeding explanation it was said that "existing" is
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
used in reference to the "I" which is imputed on the collec tion of the five aggregates, but that the "I" is actually devoid of true existence. Now someone may ask why it was, then, that Buddha spoke of the existence of a self or an "I" in many scriptures? The following stanza answers this ques tion. /dbag l)med bdag med min bdag dang/ /dbag med min pas 2)brjod 'ga' med/ /brjod bya mya ngan 'das dang 3)mtshungs/ /dngos po kun gyi rang bzhin stong/ l)P:med 2)P:brjod 'ga' 'ng med 3)P:mcu ngas All phenomena must have either self-existence or non-self-existence. There is no phenomenon which is other than these two, nor are there any expressions which do not come under these two catagories. All phenomena which are the subject of this treatise are similar to nirvii11Q because all phenomena are devoid of 4)inherent existence. 4)rang bzhin It is not possible to talk about phenomena, such as the " I ," without using the two catagories of self-existence and non-self-existence, although in actuality all phenomena are devoid of self-existence. In order to recognize the grasping at self which is to be eliminated one needs to know the distinction between the "conventional I" and the "I" or "self' which is to be refuted. Buddha speaks about an "I" in order to refute it's self-existence. Considering the "I" or "self' which is to be refuted he said there is "no I or self." But considering the "conventional I or self' he said there is "I or self. " Because he has seen the non-existence of the "I" which is refuted he taught us that it is the "conventional I" who performs actions, roams in cyclic existence, attains liberation and the state of Supreme Enlightenment. Nirvaq.a refers to a state which is beyond suffering. Grasping at self (which is the object of elimination), arises when a person focuses on the "conventional ! . " When he is
introduced to the "emptiness of self," then a good acquaint ance can be gained through meditation on it, and after meditation he can see it directly. The practice of meditation will help him to see the exhaustion of the grasping at self-existence of self with its seed. That is, the non-inherent existence of an I is seen when its inherent existence is refuted. Then one can abandon the grasping at self by meditating on what one has seen - the emptiness of inher ent existence of an I . At this point, the person attains the state of nirviiQ.a and becomes an Arhat. From the time he becomes an Arhat he will never take rebirths through ac tions and grasping at self-existence of self, the object of elimination. When a person refutes the inherent existence of phenomena what remains is their conventional existence, and this is similar to the state of intrinsic liberation (rang bzhin myang 'das) . According to the Prasarl gika Madhyamika school one attains the state of nirviiQ.a without remainder before attaining the state of nirvaQ.a with remain der. But Svatantrika Madhyamika and the schools below assert that a person attains the state of nirviiQ.a with remain der before the accomplishment of the state of nirviiQ.a with out remainder. STANZA 3 As there are different views about inherent existence, some persons may still not understand how the various phe nomena and nirviiQ.a are similar in the aspect of their being empty. Therefore, the following stanza is put forth to answer some objections which they may raise. /gang phyir dngos rnams thams cad kyil /rang bzhin rgyu 1)rkyen tshogs pa 'm/ /so 2)so'i dngos po thams cad la/ /yod min de 3)phyir stong pa yinl 1 )P:rkyin 2)P:so 3)P:pyir
What is the reason that phenomena are devoid of inher ent existence? It is because there is no phenomenon which arises without depending on causes, conditions and the aggregation of causes and conditions. "Cause" means im mediate cause and "condition" means contributing condi tion. "Aggregation" refers to these being joined together and "indi7iduality" means taking them separately. For ex ample, in the case of a phenomenon such as a sprout, a seed is the immediate cause of the sprout while water and earth are contributing conditions which allow that cause to come to fruition, or produce a result, which is the sprout. Also, contributing conditions produce general classes of results while causes produce specific results. In the case of the example above, water can contribute to the production of any sprout, but a specific seed is the cause for a specific sprout. If we examine causes, conditions, and their aggrega tions we discover that their individual existence is unfind able because they can not be separated and still retain their own natures in dependence on each other. In our example, if water is examined separately from the sprout, earth and seed we can hardly call it a condition which exists with the nature of a condition independently of the other factors, for without taking the result, the cause and the other condi tions into consideration at the same time as one considers the water, that water is not a condition for anything. All these phenomena are interdependent, and since only an independent phenomenon could have inherent existence, which is existence by its own nature alone, so no phe nomenon has inherent existence and all phenomena are empty. STANZA 4 /yod phyir yod pa skye min te/
/med phyir med 1 )pa skye ma yin/ /chos mi mthun 2)phyir yod med min/ /skye ba med pas gnas 'gag med/ 1 )P:pas 2)D:pyir Some assert that a result already exists inherently in the nature of its cause; but then it cannot arise because it already exists. Others assert that a result exists inherently but not in the nature of its cause; so it cannot arise because it is not in the nature of its cause. Yet others assert that a result both does and does not exist inherently in its cause; but then they are asserting contradictory views about an object be cause an object cannot simultaneously both exist and not exist. Because phenomena do not arise inherently so also they do not endure or cease inherently. Some persons assert that there are individualities or indi vidual things which have an existence which is independent of causes and conditions and that upon examination such independence can be found. They say that results have the same nature as their causes and that during the time of the existence of a cause, its result exists in the cause in the form of a potential which bears the same nature as the cause. Since the result exists within the cause at the time of the cause, they assert that the cause and the result must have the same nature, and that they are inherently existent. As their existence is thus not dependent on anything which is other than themselves, so they exist independently as indi vidual things. We refute that assertion by saying that if a result were inherent in the nature of its cause then because it would already exist in the cause at that time there would be no need for the result to arise from the cause at some future time. Some others respond to our refutation by asserting that even if the result is not inherent in the nature of its cause, still it does have an inherent existence which is independent of its cause. But we refute this because all results depend on
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
causes, so how can they have independent, inherent exist ence? Any result which is asserted to be independent of a cause must be completely non-existent; like the horns of a rabbit, it is impossible for such a result to arise. A third kind of assertion is made by some which is a combination of the first two. They say that although a result does not exist in the nature of its cause as an entity, still it does exist as a potential. But this is also incorrect because they are asserting the simultaneous existence and non existence of a phenomenon before the time of its arising. It is not possible for a single phenomenon to simultaneously have two contradictory states of existence. For example, some people assert that a vase has two aspects: one aspect is the form of the vase which appears before our eyes, and the other aspect is the aggregation of the elements which we discover when we closely examine the vase. They say that the vase does not exist as an entity, but that it does exist as a term "vase" which is imputed on an aggregation of elements which actually exist. We say that the term vase is imputed on an aggregation of elements, but that if we were to examine those elements we would see that they are as unfindable as the vase; thus there is no contra diction in our assertions. But their assertions are contradic tory because they assert the existence of one aspect of a phenomenon and the non-existence of the other. Now these refutations may lead to some confusion about the occurrence of phenomena such as the person, and a question may be raised, does the person endure or not? We say that the person endures, but not inherently, because a person is a phenomenon which is produced and is com pounded. Produced and compounded phenomena do not have inherent existence, but they do exist conventionally as produced and compounded phenomena. In this manner they do arise, endure, disintegrate and cease and it is in this manner that when a phenomenon has newly arisen we say "the arising of a thing," "the enduring of a thing," and so forth.
STANZA S Some people have the view that the composite things which arise, endure and disintegrate do have inherent existence. The following stanza refutes this view by showing its con tradictions. /gang zhig skyes de bskyed bya mini /ma skyes pa yang bskyed bya mini /l)skyes 2)pa dang ni ma skyes 3)ba'i/ /skye bzhin pa yang bskyed bya mini l)P:skyed 2)P,D:ba 3)P,D:pa'i
Whatsoever has already arisen will not be able to arise. Whatsoever has not arisen will not arise. Either a phenomenon has already arisen or else it will arise; there is no other possibility beyond these two. Whatever is in the process of arising should 4)have already arisen or else it will arise in the future. 4)Lit: bskyed bya min; is no future arising. A produced phenomenon, as we have already shown, does arise, but it does not arise with inherent existence. If it had inherent existence then it would be independent, so causes and conditions could not produce it and thus it could not arise. Now, a phenomenon must exist in either the past, pres ent or future. If it is said that some phenomenon with inherent existence had somehow been produced on some occasion in the past, then it could not be produced again on some future occasion because of its already having been produced. And if it is said that it could somehow be pro duced again then it would never become something not to be produced and so would never cease being reproduced. Thus it is said that whatever has not arisen will not arise. A phenomenon which has not yet arisen cannot be apprehended because it does not yet exist, so any state mtnts which are made about it are meaningless. Thus it is not possible to assert that certain things can act as its causes
and conditions, for this would be to assert that a non existent phenomenon has causes and conditions. Moreover, such a non-existent phenomenon cannot provide a basis on which the activity of production could take place, so how could it ever be produced by causes and conditions? Thus it is said that whatever has not already arisen will not arise in the future. There are no other possibilities for phenomena beyond their having already arisen or having not yet arisen. If it is asserted as an alternative that a phenomenon with inherent existence is currently in the process of arising, then that phenomenon is being asserted to be partly arisen and partly non-arisen. The arisen portion must have arisen in the past, while the non-arisen portion would have to arise in the future. But it has already been shown that anything with inherent existence which has not yet arisen will not be able to arise in the present or the future because it has no basis on which causal activity can take place and that anything with inherent existence which has already arisen will not be able to arise again in either the present or the future. Therefore a phenomenon with inherent existence cannot be partly arisen and partly non-arisen, and so such a phe nomenon cannot be currently arising. What is being refuted here is the inherent existence of a presently arising phenomenon, not its conventional exist ence, which appears before one. For example, take the case of a green shoot which is asserted to have inherent existence and to be currently arising. Such a green shoot cannot be shown to arise from a cause because the shoot must have either already arisen or not arisen; it has already been demonstrated that there is no third case. If it is said that it has alr.eady arisen, then it can't be said that it is currently arising for that is contradictory. Nor can it be said that it has not yet arisen and will arise in the future because it is appearing before one in the present. Thus it is clear that a presently arising phenomenon with inherent existence is unfindable and the belief in such a phenomenon is based on
fallacies and contradictions. STANZA 6 /'bras bu yod l)par 'bras ldan rgyu/ 2)/med de 3)la yang 4)rgyu min mtshungs/ /yod min med pa'ng min na 'gall /dus gsum rnams su 'thad ma yin/ l)P,D:pas 2)P and D interpolate an extra line here which is not found in Candrakirti; it reads /rgyu min dang mtshungs med pa *yangl (*P:pa'ng for D :yang). 3)P:la'ng 4)P:rgyun The cause of a result which already exists is similar to that which is not a cause. Also in the case where a result does not already exist, then its cause will be similar to that which is not a cause. A phenomenon should be either existent or non-existent but cannot be both non-existent and not-non-existent because these two are contradictory. Therefore it is not suit able to assert that there is either an inherently ex isting cause or an inherently existing result in the three times. The arguments which were previously applied to results can also be applied to causes and cause-effect relationships, demonstrating that they too lack inherent existence. The relationship between cause and effect can be sought in the past, the present or the future. Furthermore, in regards to that relationship, if there were a result with inherent exist ence, then that result should have been produced by a cause with inherent existence. If the relationship is asserted to exist in the past, then a result with inherent existence must have existed in a poten tial form at the time of its cause. We have already refuted this possibility when we examined results. Also, if we ex amine the cause, we find there is no need for a cause for the production of that result, for it already exists, so what is asserted to be a cause of a result does not have the character istics of a cause and is similar to that which is not a cause.
If a result does not currently exist and it and the causal relationship with it are in the future, then how can some thing be identified as causing it? Such a thing cannot act as a cause because no result exists. For example, yogurt is made from milk, not water. But without there being any yogurt we cannot say that this milk is a cause of yogurt whereas this water isn't, because neither of them have caus al properties in relation to some result for there is not yet any result to which they can be related as having causal properties. If it is said that the cause and effect relationship exists in the present, then both the cause and the effect must exist in the present. But this is contradictory and destroys the rela tion between cause and effect. For example, if it is said that a seed is the cause of a shoot with inherent existence in the present, then that seed must also have inherent existence, and then both seed and shoot would have to exist simul taneously, as things with inherent existence do not perish. But if they exist simultaneously, then no cause and effect relationship can be asserted between them. Thus no inherent existence can be found in the rela tionship of cause and effect in any of the three times. STANZA 7 Now, when some persons hear that it is not possible to assert the inherent existence of causes in the three times, they might wonder how this is possible because causes are numerous in number, so they should exist inherently. These persons further argue that it is not possible to refute the existence of causes because Buddha has enumerated many causes. Thus the causes must exist inherently because if they did not exist inherently how could Buddha have made enumerations of so many causes? For example, they say, how can we count the number of hairs on the back of a tortoise when there aren't any hairs on the back of a tor toise? Nagarjuna refutes this argument in the following stanza.
Without one there cannot be many and without many it is not possible to refer to one. Therefore one and many arise dependently and such phenomena do not have the sign of inherent existence. We refute their argument because the making of enum erations actually shows that causes do not have inherent existence. This is because when we enumerate many things we must first start counting with "one," and then we can go on to count the "many. " Because we must first have a "one" before we can have a "many" so the "many" are dependent on the "one. " Likewise, we cannot find a "one" without contrasting it with "many. " Thus one and many arise interdependently, and neither can be found to exist without the other. Since it is the case that the many arise in dependence on the one, so the Buddha's enumerating many causes demonstrates that causes arise in dependence, and as they arise in dependence, so they lack the sign of inherent existence, which is independence. The word "sign" (mtshan ma) has somewhat different meanings in different contexts. In some cases it refers to the aspects of phenomena, in other cases it refers to inherent existence and sometimes it refers to reasons. For example, the idea that all things have inherent existence is baseless and without reason. Here we say that they lack the sign of inherent existence and signlessness refers to the reason which is lacking inherent existence. Sometimes sign refers to the conventional mind. For example, if we bring two colors together such as yellow and blue, we say that they have different aspects or that they have different signs. A thing's sign allows us to differentiate that thing from another thing. But this is only so for the conventional mind
which does not examine things in their ultimate nature. In the spirit of emptiness, which is the ultimate reality of things, we find that things lack different aspects, or that they have the same aspect, but to the conventional mind they have different aspects because that mind does not examine things in the spirit of emptiness. "Sign" should not be confused with "mark" (mtshan nyid), which refers to the nature or identity or definition of a thing. A mark helps us understand a particular thing with our mind. For example, arising, enduring and disintegrat ing are the marks of composite things. These are the charac teristics or the definition by which we understand that things are composite. When we do not find these marks, then we know that things are not composite. STANZA S In the previous stanza the opponent's view of the enumera tion of causes was refuted, and now he asserts that there should be causes with inherent existence because of the teaching of the twelve limbs of dependent origination. Nagarjuna now refutes that assertion by showing how this argument is based on an overestimation or superimposition on the twelve limbs. /rten 'byung yan lag bcu gnyis gang/ /sdug bsngal 1)'bras can de ma skyes/ /sems gcig la yang mi 'thad cing/ /du ma la yang 'thad ma yin/ 1 )P : bral The twelve limbs of dependent origination result in suffering: since the twelve limbs and suffering do not arise independently of each other, they don't exist inherently. Furthermore, it is not acceptable to assert that the twelve limbs are based on a single moment of a mind nor on successive moments of a mind, as such moments arise dependently and do not exist inherently.
The twelve limbs start with ignorance and karmic forma tions and end with aging and death. They do produce suffering, but the very fact that they produce suffering proves that suffering is dependent on the twelve limbs. If suffering is dependent on the twelve limbs then it does not have a self-sufficient existence and so is without inherent existence. Moreover, the twelve limbs are a cause only in dependence on the production of the result of suffering, so they too, as a cause, do not have inherent existence because they are dependent on suffering. Furthermore, the twelve limbs need a mind basis on which their activity can occur. Such a mind basis must be either a single moment of mind or a succession of moments of mind, that is, a mind stream. It is not possible to assert that in a single moment of mind all twelve limbs occur simultaneously because that destroys the temporal cause and effect relation between the limbs. It is also not possible to assert that all twelve limbs occur simultaneously over many moments of a mind stream because this would mean that all twelve limbs and the mind stream would have a simultaneous cause and effect relationship. It is not possible to assert that in a single momertt of mind all twelve limbs occur sequentially because this destroys the meaning of "a moment," nor is it possible to assert that all twelve limbs occur simultaneously but over a sequence of many moments of mind because this destroys the meaning of "simultaneous. " Rather, both the twelve limbs and the mind basis must occur either simultaneously or sequentially, but this also cannot be used as an argument for the inherent existence of the twelve limbs. We have already shown how they cannot occur simultaneously but they also cannot occur sequential ly and have inherent existence. This is because such an argument would depend on either each moment of mind or the successive moments of the mind stream having inherent existence. But if each moment existed inherently we could not find the successive moments because succession re-
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quires that preceeding moments cease and this is contrary to the assertion of moments having inherent existence. But if there is no succession of moments with inherent existence so there can be no sequentiality for the moments and no sequential basis on which the twelve limbs can occur. Therefore, there is no way to argue that the twelve limbs have inherent existence and so they can not be used as a basis for arguing that their causes have inherent existence.
STANZA 9 In the preceeding stanza we have said that ignorance (the first limb) cannot exist inherently, but some understand this to mean that it does not exist at all. They say that this is wrong and that ignorance does exist inherently as a result of the mind misapprehending objects in four distorted ways. Nagarjuna agrees that an inherently existing ignorance could arise from the four distortions if they had inherent existence, but they don't, and he explains this below. /rtag min mi rtag min bdag dang/ /bdag min gtsang min mi gtsang mini /bde min sdug bsngal ma yin te/ /de phyir phyin ci log rnams med/ Because contaminated things arise in depend ence on one another they do not exist inherently as permanent phenomena nor do they exist inherently as impermanent phenomena; neither as phe nomena with self-nature nor without self-nature; neither as pure nor impure; neither as blissful nor as suffering. It is thus that the four distortions do not exist as qualities which inhere in phenomena, but rather are imputed to phenomena. The four distortions are four qualifications of composite and contaminated phenomena. The four distortions are the taking of impermanent phenomena as being permanent,
impure phenomena as being pure, selfless phenomena as having self and suffering phenomena as being blissful. They are a misapprehension of an object through ignorantly over estimating its nature and superimposing characteristics on it. As it is often said that the root of ignorance is the mis apprehension of self-existence in phenomena, and that many things arise out of this misapprehension, so one might ask if the distortion of taking selfless phenomena as having self is more fundamental than the other three distortions. This is not correct, however, for these four distortions are coarse misapprehensions, and one is not more fundamental than the others. The belief in the inherent existence of a self-nature in phenomena which is the root of ignorance is a subtle misapprehension. Now, one might develop some understanding about the four distortions and thus conclude that if phenomena are not permanent, are not pure, are not blissful and have no self, that they must be inherently impermanent, impure, suffering and without self-nature. But this is also incorrect. Since phenomena arise in dependence on each other they lack inherent existence, and also lack inherently existing characteristics of their own; they only have those character istics which are imputed to them from our side. For exam ple, if one grasps at the contaminated aggregates as in herently existing impermanent phenomena, this is a subtler distortion than grasping at the contaminated aggregates as inherently existing permanent phenomena. Because if one understands that aggregates do not exist inherently as im permanent phenomena, in this case, one has to understand that the aggregates do not exist inherently. But if one understands that the aggregates are not inherently existing permanent phenomena, here one does not need to under stand that the aggregates do not exist inherently. An undis torted mind does not superimpose any properties on phe nomena and recognizes that not even emptiness or selfless ness arise from the side of phenomena but are superim-
posed on them or imputed to them from the side of the mind. The opponent's error is in believing that freeing the mind from the four distortions has revealed true character istics which exist inherently and independently in the na ture of phenomena. In a conventional sense it is true that phenomena are impermanent, etc . , and thus in a conven tional sense ignorance does arise from the four distortions. But actually, because all phenomena arise in dependence on other phenomena, they do not have inherent existence and so neither do the characteristics which are attributed to them. Whether these characteristics are the four distortions or their opposites, they all are superimposed characteristics and these characteristics are devoid of inherent existence in the nature of those base objects. And, therefore, the ignor ance which conventionally arises from the four distortions must also lack inherent existence. STANZA 10 /de med phyi ci log bzhi las/ /skyes pa'i ma rig l)mi srid la/ /de med 'du 2)byed mi 'byung zhing/ /lhag ma rnams kyang de bzhin no/ l)D:min grid las 2)D:byid
There are no four distortions which exist inherently and thus there can be no ignorance arising from them. Because that ignorance does not exist inherently it cannot give birth to karmic formations, which means karmic formations will not arise and so also the remaining limbs too. If ignorance lacks inherent existence, then what is depen dent on it must also lack inherent existence. Thus karmic formations, which arise in dependence on ignorance, must lack inherent existence as do the other ten limbs, each of which in successive order is dependent on the preceeding limbs. There is a further problem with the opponent's position,
for actually he is unable to account for the existence of the four distortions. He believes that characteristics such as impermanence, selflessness, suffering and impurity have inherent existence in the nature of phenomena and that a mind which knows phenomena to have these characteristics is an unmistaken mind. For there to be an unmistaken mind there must be an opposite mind which is mistaken. If an unmistaken mind were to know phenomena to have inherently existing characteristics such as impermanence and selflessness, then a mistaken mind would know phe nomena to have inherently existing characteristics such as permanence and self, etc . , which are the four distortions. However, we argue that what the opponent calls an unmis taken mind is actually mistaken, for no characteristics exist inherently in the nature of phenomena, and a mind which believes them to exist inherently in the nature of phe nomena is mistaken. Now if what the opponent calls an unmistaken mind is actually a mistaken mind, then what he calls a mistaken mind would be unmistaken, and he would be asserting that phenomena do have characteristics such as permanence and self. This is obviously incorrect. Thus both the mind which takes the four distortions to be in herently existing in the nature of phenomena and the mind which takes the opposite of the four distortions to be in herently existing in the nature of phenomena are mistaken and neither mind can be the basis for the arising of four distortions with inherent existence. STANZA 1 1 /ma rig 'du byed med mi 'byung/ /de med 'du byed mi 'byung zhing/ /phan tshun rgyu phyir de 1 )gnyis nil /rang bzhin gyis ni ma grub yin/ 1)P:nyid
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas formations cannot originate except in dependence on their cause, which is ignorance. Because ignorance and karmic formations are interrelated as cause and effect so these two 2)are known by a valid cognizer not to exist inherently. 2)ma grub yin
The adherents of the Vaibha�ika school believe that ignorance and karmic formations are secondary minds or mental factors (sems 'byung) which simultaneously arise from the main mind (sems). Because ignorance and karmic formations simultaneously arise from the main mind, which is their cause, so ignorance cannot arise without depending on the simultaneous arising of karmic formations, and like wise karmic formations cannot arise without depending on the simultaneous arising of ignorance. Since these two are interdependent in this way, so each one is a cause for the other one, which is its effect. As they are each the simul taneous cause and effect of the other, so they cannot have inherent existence. This can also be known through another explanation. It is clear how karmic formations are dependent on their cause, which is ignorance, but ignorance, as a cause, is also dependent on karmic formations. This is because karmic formations result from ignorance, so ignorance is the cause of karmic formations, and thus without depending on the karmic formations we cannot say that ignorance is the cause of those karmic formations. Therefore, because they each have the relation of cause and effect to the other, so they are not independent of each other and so they cannot have inherent existence. An ordinary mind cannot come to an accurate conclusion about this, but a valid cognizer, which is an unmistaken mind investigating the ultimate nature of things, will not be able to find any inherent existence in ignorance or karmic formations.
By itself none of the twelve limbs can originate in herently, but must depend on the remaining limbs. How then can one limb produce another limb? Moreover, because one limb has originated as a cause in dependence on the other limbs, so how can it act as a condition for the origination of results such as the other limbs? With the help of a valid cognizer we can understand how a thing doesn't exist inherently, and we say that such a thing "lacks inherent existence. " Now, the view of the opponent, who has not developed such a valid cognizer, is that if ignorance, for example, doesn't exist inherently then it must be a non-existent thing. But since he has asserted that one limb produces another so he would then be assert ing that a non-existent thing produces something. This would be like a son being born to a barren woman! For example, how can the limb of ignorance, which does not exist inherently, produce the other remaining limbs? This ignorance has arisen as a cause in dependence on other factors such as karmic formations, etc . , so how can that ignorance, which is not independent and has not arisen by itself, but is conditioned by those other factors, produce it's effects, which are the remaining limbs such as karmic formations, consciousness, etc . ? Clearly, as ignorance does not have inherent existence, so it cannot produce the other limbs as effects with inherent existence. And obviously a non-existent thing cannot produce an existent thing, so the opponent's position is refuted in either case. But there are other limbs which lack inherent existence. The twelve limbs arise in dependence on each other, so they lack inher ent existence, but they are not totally non-existent. Thus
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
karmic formations, for example, arise in dependence on ignorance but do not arise inherently from ignorance. It is also like this with the rest of the limbs, from consciousness on to old age and death. STANZA 1 3 We have said that cause and effect are interrelated because it is not possible to establish a cause without an effect. We say that they are dependent arisings in mutual relation. Now when the opponent hears this, he thinks that this means that cause and effect must exist simultaneously like a father and son. This is refuted in the following stanza. /pha ni bu min bu pha min/ /de gnyis phan tshun med min la/ /de gnyis cig 1)char yang min ltar/ /yan lag bcu gnyis de bzhin no/ 1)P:car The father is not the son and the son is not the father. These two are mutually not non-existent and the two of them cannot arise simultaneously. It is likewise with the twelve dependent limbs. A father is the cause of a son, so he is not that son. A son is the result of a father, so he is not that father. Thus it is established that the father is not the son and that the son is not the father. Because the father has produced the son, so he is called a father, but if he had not produced a son, then he could not be called a father. Now, both of them cannot arise simultaneously because then we could not establish a relationship of cause and effect between them. This would be like looking at the two horns on the head of a cow, which have arisen simultaneously, and saying that the right horn has caused the left horn. The example of the father and the son is similar to the case of the twelve limbs of dependent origination; they have the same sort of relationship. Because they arise in depend-
ence on each other they can't arise simultaneously, nor can they be mutually non-existent, nor can they arise without depending on each other, nor can they be nondifferent. Now, one may wonder why we make this sort of argu ment, such as when we show how a cause can only arise in dependence on an effect. After all, we are not arguing that a particular cause is totally non-existent but rather that it can only exist as a cause in dependence on something else, in this case, a result. One might say that this is just arguing about definitions and terms such as "cause" and "effect." We say that there are differing levels of subtlety used in conveying the teaching of dependent arising. That which is produced in dependence on its causes and conditions is a coarse form of dependent arising. This law mostly applies to composite phenomena. But a phenomenon which is evolved in dependence on its parts and particles is a subtler form of dependent arising. This fact can be established on all phenomena. However, a phenomenon which comes into being merely through the imputation of those terms and concepts which are its designators is the subtlest form of dependent arising. It pervades each and every phe nomenon. All objects of knowledge can be analyzed in accordance with the reasoning which we are setting forth here, which shows how all things come into being in dependence on a basis of imputation and in dependence on terms and con cepts. Thus, in order to understand how an object of know ledge, such as a thing, arises one must understand how an imputed phenomenon is imputed upon a basis of imputa tion. To understand this one must be able to separate the imputed phenomenon from the basis of imputation. For example, a person is merely imputed on his basis of imputa tion - the aggregates - but there is no person who does exist or evolve from the side of the aggregates which are his basis of imputation. In the preceeding stanzas we have shown that all bases of imputation lack inherent existence and having established
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
this we have also shown how terms and concepts lack inherent existence. STANZA 14 In the preceeding stanza we talked about the lack of inher ent existence and dependent arising, saying that dependent arisings do not exist inherently but do exist conventionally. In the next stanza this is shown through the use of a metaphor. /ji ltar rrni 1)lam yul brten pa'i/ /bde sdug 2)de yi yul med pa/ /de bzhin gang zhig la brten 3)nas/ /gang zhig rten 'byung dang 'di 4)med/ 1 )P,D:las 2)D:dang de'i yul 3)P,D:na 4)D: 'd med
Just as in a dream, happiness and suffering depend on dream objects and upon awakening these objects are known not to actually exist, likewise any phe nomenon which arises in dependence on another de pendent phenomenon should be known not to exist in the manner of its appearance. When we are dreaming, the various objects in our dreams and the feelings which arise in dependence on them seem real, but when we awaken we know that they were not actually there. For example, in a dream we may smell the odor of a flower garland worn by an attractive woman and derive some feelings of pleasure from the odor. If when we awaken we try to find out about the nature of the attractive ness of the woman in the dream and whether she really has an attractive nature we cannot find such a nature because in our waking state she is no longer there. When we are awake we know that the woman and the flower garland, etc . , which appeared in the dream are devoid of being a real woman or a real flower garland. Likewise, all dependently arising phenomena do not exist in the way in which they
appear to be; thus, they are false. Similarly, when we see and examine the twelve depend ent limbs we can come to understand that they do not exist inherently. For example, ignorance, which causes the aris ing of karmic formations, doesn't exist inherently and it doesn't give rise to karmic formations inherently. There fore, the karmic formations have not arisen inherently from the cause of ignorance. It is just as with the objects in a dream: upon awakening it can be understood that they do not exist as they had appeared to exist during the dream. So we can come to understand that these limbs, such as ignor ance, do not exist in the manner in which they appear to exist. This means that they do not exist inherently, which is how they appear to exist to the ordinary person, nor do any of the things upon which they depend. To return to our previous example, a woman in a dream does not exist as a real woman, although she appears to, but she does exist as a dream woman. Similarly, all dependent arisings do not exist inherently, as they appear to, but they do exist nominally. STANZA 1 5 Taking dreams as an example, we have illustrated how all things do not exist inherently, but our opponent misunder stands the point of our example and makes the following statement. /gal te dngos rnams rang bzhin gyis/ /med 1)na dman mnyam khyad 'phags dang/ /sna tshogs nyid ni mi 'grub cing/ /rgyu las kyang ni mngon 'grub min/ 1)D:dan man Vaibha�ika: If you assert that phenomena don't exist inherently then you are asserting that they don't exist at all. So how can you make distinctions like inferior, middling and superior or that there are different beings in the six realms of existence? How then can
Our opponent has misunderstood our example, and thinking that when we say that phenomena don't actually exist we mean that they don't exist at all, he accuses us of nihilism. He says that if we assert that things don't exist, then we can't make distinctions among those non-existent things since those things are like a flower in the sky or the horns on the head of a rabbit. Also, he says, we cannot say that composite things arise from causes and conditions; yet we can see how composite things do arise from causes and conditions. For example, there are beings in the six realms of existence, and we can see some of them, they manifest before our eyes. But, he says, if things didn't exist then we couldn't make distinctions such as the six realms, and there could be no manifestation of results from causes, so there would be no transmigration through the six realms. If man ifest things such as persons or animals were not able to arise from causes, then how would we account for the beings of the six realms which we can see? STANZA 16 We answer our opponent's charges in the following way. /rang bzhin grub 1 )na rten 'byung gil /dngos po med 2)'byung ma brten na/ /rang bzhin med par ga la 'gyur/ /dngos po yod dang dngos med kyang/ 1 )P:da 2)D:'gyur Response: When you assert that phenomena exist inherently you are asserting that they do not originate in dependence on causes and conditions and thus that phenomena actually do not exist. For if phenomena do not depend on causes and conditions, then they should have independent existence throughout the three times. Therefore there cannot be any inherent existence for functional phenomena which arise from
causes and conditions or non-functional phenomena which do not arise from causes and conditions, and there cannot be any third mode of existence for phenomena. When the opponent asserts that phenomena exist in herently he is claiming that they have independent, self sufficient existence, which means that such phenomena are not dependent on causes and conditions for their existence. Thus the opponent is stating that there are no dependently arising phenomena. But if phenomena do not arise depend ently, then how can they ever cease to exist? So then they must exist over the three times. But this is clearly not the case because phenomena, such as beings, are not perma nent. If they were permanent then they would be independ ent throughout the three times, but this would contradict the teaching of the manifestation of results from causes and of the transmigration of beings through the six realms (be cause the differing destinies of beings in the six realms and their alterations in form are the results of the accumulating of causes). Since such permanent unchanging phenomena are not to be observed, so phenomena must arise in depend ence, which means that they are not self-sufficient and that they lack inherent existence. This applies both to functional phenomena, which result from causes and conditions and are themselves the causes and conditions for other phenomena, as well as to non functional phenomena, which do not result from causes or conditions and are themselves not the causes or conditions for other phenomena. There is no third alternative, so no phenomenon has an inherent existence and no non-existing phenomenon has an inherent lack of existence. STANZA 17 /med la rang dngos gzhan dngos sarnl /dngos med 'gyur ba ga la zhig/ /de na rang dngos gzhan dngos dang/ /dngos med phyin ci log pa yin/
Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas Opponent: If phenomena do not exist inherently, how can you use terms to refer to their own charac teristics or their characteristics in relation to other phenomena or non-functional phenomena? Response: Although phenomena lack inherent existence, still we can use terms like own-characteristics, other characteristics and non-functional phenomena for although these are unfindable upon analysis, still, like the objects of a dream they appear to have existence to ordinary perception. So the way they exist and the way they appear are different and these conventional existences are called distortions or false.
Now the opponent asks how can we even charaterize phenomena when they lack inherent existence? We answer that phenomena do appear to ordinary perception and so they can be characterized using various terms. This is simi lar to talking about the objects of a dream. Upon awakening they are known to be illusions and not to actually exist, yet we can use various terms to characterize them. So in regards to phenomena that lack inherent existence, we say that they have a conventional mode of existence which is how they appear to a nonanalytical mind but which is different than their actual mode of existence, and we refer to this conven tional appearance as being false or distorted. Here the term "distortion" refers to the objects of perception, not the mind which is perceiving them. These objects of perception are characterized in depend ence on their own natures or other natures. For example, fire is not different than heat because fire has the nature of heat. So we say that fire has its own characteristics in dependence on heat. Now when we compare fire to water we find that it is quite different, that it has a different nature than water, so it has other characteristics than water. And water, as compared to fire, has other characteristics, but as compared to its own nature, it has its own character istics.
STANZA 18 /gal te dngos po stong yin na/ /'gag pa med cing skye mi 'gyur/ /ngo bo nyid kyis stong pa la/ /gang la 'gag cing gang la skye/ Hinayanist: If phenomena are devoid of inherent ex istence then they will be completely non-existent like the horns of a rabbit, and so there can be no occurrence of their arising or their cessation. As Bud dha has spoken about arising and cessation, they must exist, so how can things be devoid of 1 )inherent existence? 1)ngo bo nyid This opponent has also misunderstood our teaching a bout phenomena being empty of true existence or inherent existence. He mistakenly believes that when we say that phenomena lack inherent existence we mean that they lack any existence at all and that our view is that phenomena are completely non-existent. So he asks how can a non-existent phenomenon arise or cease? He goes on to refute our view by asserting that arising and ceasing must exist because Buddha has used these terms. We answer in the next stanza. STANZA 19 /dngos dan dngos med cig car med/ /dngos med med na dngos po 1 )med/ /rtag tu dngos po'ng dnos med 'gyur/ /dngos med med par dngos mi sridl 1 )P:min Response: An object cannot simultaneously arise as a functional phenomenon and cease as a non-functional phenomenon. If a non-functional phenomenon does not exist then a functional phenomenon cannot exist be cause an object cannot arise and endure as a func tional phenomenon without depending on its cessa-
Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas tion as a non-functional phenomenon, or else it would exist at all times. If a non-functional phenomenon which is different from a functional phenomenon does not exist then it is impossible for a functional phenomenon to exist.
Functional phenomena are produced by causes and con ditions, and are themselves the causes and conditions for other phenomena. Non-functional phenomena are not pro duced by causes and conditions and are not themselves the causes and conditions for other phenomena. Thus it would be contradictory to say that a phenomenon can simul taneously arise as a functional phenomenon and cease as a non-functional phenomenon. Rather, a phenomenon must sequentially arise as a functional phenomenon and cease as a non-functional phenomenon. For this to be the case, func tional phenomena and non-functional phenomena must be different and must exist in mutual dependence because if a phenomenon does not arise as a functional phenomenon, it could not have been produced by causes and conditions and could not produce results. Yet, if it does not cease as a non-functional phenomenon, it will never cease producing results and will be permanent. Thus a functional phe nomenon cannot exist without a non-functional phe nomenon and a non-functional phenomenon cannot exist without a functional phenomenon; they are mutually de pendent, but different. Since they occur at different times, they cannot arise simultaneously but must arise sequential ly, and they must lack inherent existence. This is because phenomena that exist inherently exist independently, so if they had inherent existence and arose simultaneously, then they would exist permanently at all times, which is impossi ble. If they had inherent, independent existence and arose sequentially, then they would be two different things with out relationship. Thus no phenomenon can have inherent existence, but phenomena must arise and cease without inherent existence, and so Buddha spoke of arising and ceasing.
What do we mean by arising, enduring, disintegrating and ceasing? These refer to four characteristics of a compos ite thing. Arising or production means the fresh arising of an identity of a thing from causes and conditions . Enduring refers to the abiding of the former continuity of a thing. Disintegrating refers to that which does not abide in the second moment of the time of its formation. Ceasing refers to the initial moment of a thing changing into the subse quent moment of a thing. When the process of disintegra tion has reached completion and the initial moment of a thing has changed into the subsequent moment of a thing, then the thing has ceased; it has gone beyond the limit of the original moment. STANZA 20 /dngos po med par dngos med mini /rang las l)min zhing gzhan las mini /de lta bas na de med nal /dngos po med cing dngos med 2)med/ l)P ,D:med 2)D:na If there is no arising and enduring, which are func tional phenomena, then there can be no disintegration or cessation, which are non-functional phenomena; so the latter would be completely non-existent. If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it must have arisen from its own nature or from some other na ture, but it cannot arise from its own nature and because a phenomenon cannot have a different na ture than its cause, so it cannot arise from some other nature which has inherent existence. Because of that, a functional phenomenon cannot exist inherent ly and because a functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently, so a non-functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently. Functional phenomena and non-functional phenomena are mutually dependent on each other for their existence,
which means that they do exist conventionally. This is because arising is the characteristic of functional phe nomena, while complete disintegration and cessation are the characteristics of non-functional phenomena. If a phe nomenon didn't arise, how could it disintegrate completely and cease? Thus, without functional phenomena, non functional phenomena would be completely non-existent. Likewise, we have already shown how the existence of functional phenomena is dependent on the existence of non-functional phenomena; thus they are mutually depend ent for their existence, and since they are not independent so they cannot have inherent existence. If someone were still to assert that a functional phe nomenon could exist inherently, then we would have to investigate whether it had arisen from its own nature or from another nature. Nothing can arise out of itself, so no phenomenon can arise from its own nature. However, no phenomenon can have a nature which is different than its cause, so it could not arise from some other nature which had inherent existence. So in neither case can a functional phenomenon exist inherently, and because non-functional phenomena exist in dependence on functional phenomena, so non-functional phenomena must also lack inherent exist ence. STANZA 2 1 /yod pa nyid na rtag nyid dang/ /med na nges par chad nyid yin/ /dngos po yod na de gnyis 'gyur/ /de phyir dngos po khas blangs mini
If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it should be pennanent. If a phenomenon were to !)disintegrate completely then you must accept the annihilationist view. If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it would either exist permanently or else undergo complete disintegration: it cannot occur in a way
which is different than these two. Therefore one should not assert that a phenomenon has inherent ex istence. l )Lit: med; not exist. Phenomena which exist inherently cannot undergo change. Thus, over the three times a phenomenon with inherent existence must either remain permanent or else be completely non-existent. These are the only two possibili ties for an inherently existing phenomenon, because if it can't change it must either remain the same at all times, i.e. , be permanent, or else have disintegrated completely, i.e. , become completely non-existent. The former is the eternalist view and the latter is the annihilationist view. Since these logical consequents are both extreme views, one should not assert that phenomena have inherent existence. If we perform this type of analysis through reasoning, we will come to understand that all phenomena lack inherent existence and with this understanding we will be able to eliminate the ignorance of grasping at the true existence of all things. The ignorance of grasping at the true, inherent existence of things is different than the ignorance of grasp ing at the two extreme views about things, which are the overestimation of the nature of a thing, i.e. , that it exists permanently, or the underestimation of the nature of a thing, i.e. , that it is completelly destroyed or doesn't even exist conventionally. The two extreme conceptions are not directly contradicted in their apprehension of the object by the mind which understands that the referent object of the ignorance of grasping at true existence does not exist. But if through meditation we familiarize ourselves with the mind which understands the lack of inherent existence of things, then we will later be able to eliminate the mind which grasps at those two extremes of overestimation and under estimation. STANZA 22 The opponent makes his answer in the next stanza, arguing
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
that in his view about objects there is no danger of falling into the extreme views of eternalism or nihilism. /rgyun l )gyi phyir na 'di med de/ /rgyu 2)byin nas ni dngos po 3)'gag/ /sngar bzhin 'di yang ma grub cing/ /rgyun chad par yang thal bar 'gyur/ l)D:gyis 2)D:pyin 3)P: 'ga' Opponent: Because of continuity there is no danger of the two extreme views. Acting as a cause of another causal phenomenon the original causal phenomenon ceases to exist. Reply: As explained before, the cause and the result, like a functional phenomenon and a non-functional phenomenon, cannot arise with in herent existence either simultaneously or sequen tially. In your view their lack of inherent existence makes them completely non-existent, in which case you cannot assert their continuity or that of the mo ments between them. Therefore the faults of the two extremes remain in your view. The opponent is asserting that one can find many mo ments of the existence of a thing and that a continuity is maintained over these moments of a thing. He argues that because a continuity is maintained, so the extremes are avoided. For example, in the case of a seed producing a shoot, a continuity of the first moment of a seed is main tained over the moments between the cause, the seed, and the result, the shoot. He explains that because the shoot in its turn can serve as the cause of something else in a mo ment subsequent to it, so a continuity of the initial moment of the seed is thus maintained. This is because when the subsequent moment of the shoot arises the initial moment of the seed has ceased, but since the seed has produced something, its continuity is maintained upon that. Thus there is a continuity maintained between cause and result and since the initial moment has ceased and then the subse-
quent moment has arisen, so permanence is not being asserted and there is no danger of eternalism. Also, the second moment will give rise to a third moment, so there is no danger of the extreme of nihilism because although the second moment does cease, a third moment does arise and a continuity is maintained. We refute this argument in the following way. If a cause and a result existed inherently, as the opponent maintains, then there would be no connection between them. This is because inherently existing things would be permanent, so one could neither assert their sequential arising and cessa tion, nor could one assert their simultaneous arising, be cause if they arose simultaneously, then they would lose their cause and effect relationship. Since inherently existing causes and effects can neither arise simultaneously nor se quentially, so it is impossible to say that a continuity of a cause is maintained in a result. Moreover, if it were to be asserted that somehow an inherently existing cause were to disintegrate completely, then how could one find its con tinuity with a result, because it has become non-existent? Therefore, in your assertion the faults of the two extreme views cannot be avoided. STANZA 23 /skye 'jig bstan phyir sangs rgyas kyi/ /lam bstan ma yin stong nyid phyir/ /'di dag phan tshun bzlog pa ru/ /mthong ba phyin ci log las yin/ Opponent: When Buddha explained the path to lib eration he spoke about arising and disintegration, so they must have true existence. Response: It is true that Buddha spoke about arising and disintegration, but they are devoid of inherent existence. For that reason the way they appear and the way they exist are dissimilar, and they appear in a deceptive way to the world.
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
This statement of our opponent is incorrect because the way arising and disintegration appear to ordinary percep tion is distorted. Because we have distorted perceptions, so arising and disintegration appear to ordinary perception as if they had inherent existence, but actually they lack inher ent existence. So just because the Buddha spoke about arising and disintegration, that does not mean that he spoke about their having inherent existence. STANZA 24 /gal te skye 'gag med yin na/ /ci zhig 'gags pas mya ngan 'das/ /rang bzhin gyis ni skye med cing/ I'gag med gang de thar min narnl Opponent: If arising and disintegration do not exist then suffering can not exist, so what cessation will bring forth nirviitJa? But because nirviiQa can be attained that means there is suffering which has inherent existence and therefore there is arising with inherent existence and disintegration with in herent existence. Response: NirviiQa refers to that state where suffering does not arise with inherent ex istence and does not cease with inherent existence. Don't we call that state the !)naturally abiding nir ViiQa? Therefore arising and disintegration do not exist inherently. l)Lit: thar; liberation. Our opponent believes that arising and momentary disin tegration ['gag as it is used here is the same as 'jig in stanza 1] have inherent existence and are impermanent, so they lead to suffering. He believes that when this suffering is eliminated and completely ceases ('gags) one attains the state of liberation. He argues that arising, disintegration, suffering and nirviiQa must have inherent existence, be cause if arising and disintegration didn't have inherent ex istence, they would be completely non-existent, in which
case there would be no suffering which could result from them. And without suffering there would be nothing to free oneself from and no nirviiQ.a to be attained. But, he argues, because nirviiQ.a can be attained, this proves that suffering, arising and disintegration all exist inherently. Nagarjuna responds that all composite things, such as suffering, disintegrate, but that does not mean that libera tion is attained. It is asserted in the system of the Lower Vehicle that nirviiQ.a or liberation means the extinction of suffering or its continuity through the application of anti dotes; however, the nirviiQ.a mentioned here at this point, according to Mahayanists, is not the one that the Hinayan ists are asserting but it has reference to the extinction of the inherent production and cessation of phenomena. In other words, phenomena are empty of inherent production and cessation; this is naturally abiding nirvana or intrinsic li beration. Conventionally, suffering can be extinguished by the power of antidotes, but in an ultimate sense, it can not be extinguished. Prasaiigika Madhyamikas assert that all com posite phenomena are in the nature of the extinction of inherent existence. The emptiness of inherent existence of all phenomena is the naturally abiding nirviiQ.a which can be seen directly by a person on the Path of Seeing. Thus the terms "natmally abiding nirviiQ.a" and "emptiness" are synonymous. When through repeated meditation one ac quaints oneself with this mental state and abandons all the delusions, then one attains the state of liberation according to the greater vehicle system. STANZA 25 The opponent, however, does not accept our assertions about the state of liberation because he does not accept that arising and disintegration lack inherent existence. So Nagarjuna continues to show the fallacies in his view. /gal te l )'gags las 2)mya ngan chad/
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas /gal te cig shos ltar na rtag/ /de phyir dngos dang dngos med dag/ /mya ngan 'das par 3)rung ma yin/ l)D: 'gag 2)P:myang 'das 3)P,D:ru ngam You have accepted that the extinction of the con tinuation of suffering is nirviirJa, in which case you have held an annihilationist view . And if you 4)modify your position and assert that nirvai].a is a state where suffering has inherent existence and has not been extinguished, then you accept permanent suffering which even includes the state of nirvai].a, which is an eternalist view. Therefore you cannot assert that nirvai].a refers to a state where suffering is a non-functional phenomenon which has been ex tinguished nor can you assert that nirval].a refers to a state where suffering is a functional phenomenon which has not been extinguished. These two asser tions about nirviirJa are not appropriate. Therefore nirvai].a refers to that state where suffering does not arise with inherent existence and does not cease with inherent existence. 4)Lit: cig shos ltar na; in the other way.
In general, a mere extinction of the continuation of suf fering is neither permanent nor impermanent; it has be come absolutely non-existent, therefore, how can it be a nirvai].a? In fact, it can not be a nirvai].a. A view based on such an assertion is a nihilistic view. If suffering doesn't exist, what liberation can be achieved by meditating on paths? If the opponent now sees that such a view is fallacious, and modifying his position, argues that sufferings exist inherently and are not extinguished, then there is a new fallacy. In his modified assertion, the opponent has stated a view which is at the extreme of eternalism for he is asserting that sufferings are functional phenomena with a permanent existence, which means that they must remain as suffering
phenomena even in the state of liberation. This is contradic tory because liberation is a state which is free from suffer ing. Such a view also implies that one could not hope to attain a state of liberation because there is no way to extin guish a permanent phenomenon. Moreover, such an asser tion contradicts the Buddha's teaching that the cessation of suffering is the state of liberation. In our system, we assert suffering as being free from inherent production and cessation, thus we do not have the faults of eternalism or nihilism. Suffering exists conven tionally but not inherently; its emptiness is the naturally abiding nirvaQa, a kind of nirvaQa explained here. STANZA 26 In the previous stanza Nagarjuna has refuted the oppo nent's assertions that suffering exists permanently or that it ceases to exist and is without continuity. So the opponent now comes to the conclusion that cessation is something which is different from a functional thing (which is a com posite phenomenon which gives rise to sufferings). Nagar juna now refutes that belief. /gal te 'gog pa 'ga' gnas na/ /dngos po las gzhan de yod 'gyur/ /dngos po med phyir 'di med la/ /dngos po med phyir de las med/
If you assert a cessation that is different than a func tional phenomenon then you are asserting a cessation which does not depend on a functional phenomenon and which exists inherently and permanently. Be cause we have refuted the inherent existence of a functional phenomenon and also the inherent exist ence of a non-functional phenomenon which depends on a functional phenomenon, so here a cessation can not have independent existence and so it cannot exist inherently or permanently. If the opponent asserts that cessation is different than a
functional phenomenon, then he is asserting that it is a phenomenon, and a phenomenon must be either functional or non-functional. We have shown that non-functional phe nomena depend on functional phenomena, and vice versa but if the opponent asserts that cessation is different than a functional phenomenon, then such a cessation will be a phenomenon which does not depend on a functional phe nomenon and does not arise and cease; that is, it will be permanent. And since it does not depend on a functional phenomenon, so it will also be independent, and being independent it will have inherent existence. However, we have already shown that it is impossible for a phenomenon to have inherent existence, or be independent or permanent inherently. In a general way we do accept that cessation is a perma nent phenomenon, but this should not be confused with the opponent's view about permanent phenomena. He asserts a cessation which exists inherently and differently from func tional phenomena: so it should have independent existence and should exist permanently. We do accept a kind of permanence, but it is a permanence that does not depend on any conditions or factors and which lacks inherent exist ence. No doubt we accept cessation as an existent phe nomenon, i.e. , a phenomenon which is permanent and doesn't depend on causes and conditions, but not as in herently existent. STANZA 27 The opponent now asserts that nirvaq.a must have inherent existence because it has a definition. Nagarjuna refutes this assertion in the following way. /mtshan gzhi las gzhan mtshan nyid las/ /mtshan gzhi grub par rang ma grub/ /phan tshun las kyang ma grub ste/ /ma grub ma grub sgrub byed mini Without depending on the defined one cannot estab-
lish a definition and without considering the defini tion one cannot establish the defined. As they depend on each other, they have not arisen by themselves, so therefore the defined and the definition are devoid of inherent existence and also they do not exist in herently in a mutually dependent way, so none of them can be used to establish the inherent existence of another one. "Defined" refers to the resultant establishment and "de finition" refers to the causal establishment of the identity of a phenomenon. Thus they are mutually dependent on each other which proves that neither the "defined" nor the "de finition" exist inherently. Since these two arise in depend ence on each other, they have not arisen on their own, and so they are not independent and therefore cannot have inherent existence. This is also proved in another way: if something were to exist inherently then there would be no need for it to depend on its characteristics or definition, but since the defined arises in dependence on its definition so it exists in dependence on its definition. This reasoning also applies to the definition, for if it existed inherently then there would be no need for it to depend on what it defines. Now Nagarjuna's argument convinces the opponent that the defined and the definition (or the object and its charac teristics) exist interdependently, but he still believes that they exist inherently. This is refuted in the second half of the stanza. If the defmed existed inherently then it would exist without depending on the definition, and likewise if the defmition existed inherently then it would exist without depending on the defined. But since they are interdepend ent they must lack inherent existence. Also� their mutual interdependence itself lacks inherent existence. This is so because it cannot be asserted that things exist inherently in a mutually interdependent way when the objects which are mutually interdependent themselves lack inherent exist ence. For example, a characteristic or definition of an object
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
(such as impermanence) cannot arise with its own identity without depending on an object (which is defined as im permanent). This is because we know an object through the perception of its characteristics and we know the character istics through perception of the object. This being under stood, we can see how it is incorrect to use something which lacks inherent existence as a reason or as proof or as evi dence for demonstrating that something else has inherent existence, and if neither of them separately has inherent existence how could they jointly be used as a basis for proof that they exist inherently in a mutually dependent way? STANZA 28 I' dis ni rgyu dang 'bras bu dang/ /tshor dang tshor ba po 1 )sogs dang/ /lta po 2)blta bya 3)sogs 4)ci'ng rung/ /de kun ma lus bshad pa yin/ l)D:scogs 2)P:lta 3)D:scogs 4)P,D:ca'ng Following the logic of this explanation of mutually dependent origination one cannot use the cause of a result to prove that the result has inherent existence because the cause of the result originates in depend ence on the result and so is devoid of inherent existence. The same applies to all the pairs such as feeling and the one who feels or seeing and the seer, and so forth. Taking these as examples one should understand how all the pairs are explained as being devoid of inherent existence because they originate in mutual dependence. Following the logic of the argument just given at the end of the explanation of the previous stanza we can see how causes and results lack inherent existence. For a thing to be called a cause of another thing, it needs to come into rela tionship with that specific other thing. For example, for a man to be a father, that man must have a child. Not any
child will do, but there must be a specific child who exists in dependence on a specific father. On this basis, we can call a man a father. We say that a father is the cause of a child, yet because that man can only be called a father in dependence on the existence of that particular child, so we see how the existence of a father arises in dependence on the existence of a child. The same logic applies to the child, which can only arise as a child in dependence on the exist ence of a father. The father and the child exemplify the situation for all causes and results. A thing can only become a cause in relation to the specific result which it produces, and a thing can only become a result in relation to the specific cause which produced it. Thus cause and result arise in mutual dependence. As the logic of the previous stanza demon strates, this means that they must both lack inherent exist ence, and that although they both have arisen in a mutually dependent way we cannot say that they have inherent exist ence in a mutually dependent way, and also that we cannot say that the relationship of mutual dependence has inherent existence. Furthermore, because each member of the cause and effect pair lacks inherent existence, it cannot be used to prove the inherent existence of the other. Thus one cannot use the cause of a result as a means of proving that a result has inherent existence. This argument applies to all mutually dependent pairs of phenomena. Just as a cause is regarded as the producer of a result which is its product, so feeling is the experience of the one who experiences and seeing is the experience of the one who sees. In this way, the one who sees or feels exists in mutual dependence on seeing or feeling, and seeing or feeling exist in mutual dependence on the one who sees or feels. All such pairs therefore lack inherent existence. Furthermore, following the logic which we have demon strated, no one of them can be used to prove that another exists inherently.
STANZA 29 Because we have refuted the inherent existence of phe nomena, the opponent thinks that phenomena don't exist, in which case the three times wouldn't exist. But, he argues, because the three times do exist, so functional phe nomena must also exist. We agree that if the three times were existent then functional phenomena would exist, but the three times do not exist inherently. /gnas med phan tshun las grub dang/ /'chol phyir rang nyid ma grub phyir/ /dngos po med phyir dus gsum nil /yod pa ma yin rtog pa tsam/ Time does not exist inherently because the three periods of time do not maintain continuity by them selves, but are dependent on each other. If the three times were to have inherent existence in a mutually dependent way, then we could not make distinc tions between them, but because we can make dis tinctions so time itself cannot be established as having inherent existence. Because time does not have inher ent existence, the functional basis on which the three times is imputed cannot have inherent exist ence, so therefore the three times do not have inherent existence and are merely imputed by concepts. Time does not exist inherently because there is no cogniz er which cognizes the inherent existence of time and also because there is no cognizer which cognizes its continuity. The opponent believes that such a cognizer exists because we understand how hours are formed into days and how days are formed into months; thus, he says, we cognize the continuity of time. However, this is conceptual, it is not a direct cognition of the gross flow or continuity of time, which is its apparently enduring nature. We cannot directly cognize the continuity of time, so how can we assert that time has continuity? Since we cannot assert any continuity
of time, then how can we assert there is any actual time, so, following the argwnent in stanza 27, it is impossible to actually make divisions in time, such as past, present, and future, except by way of their mutual dependence. Without their depending on each other we cannot identify them, so therefore they lack inherent existence, as must a supposedly existing continuity of time which is derived from them, as well as the functional basis on which we impute the three periods of time. The three periods of time also cannot depend on themselves, rather, the three periods of time depend on each other. If it were argued that the three periods of time existed inherently in a mutually dependent way, then they should be mutually dependent in all times. But then we could not make distinctions between them and they would be all entangled. For example, the past would exist in the present. Moreover, if the three times existed inherently in a mutual ly dependent way then they would always remain the same, and we could, for example, find the present and the future in the past. But if these two exist inseparably from the past in the past time, then we couldn't make distinctions in the three times. But we can make distinctions, so this is incor rect. Because of these fallacies the three periods of time cannot exist inherently in a mutually dependent way but are merely imputed by concepts on a functional basis and this also lacks inherent existence. The functional basis on which time is imputed has the nature of time but lacks inherent existence. This functional basis is unknowable when analyzed ultimately but must have some sort of existence in order for us to impute the qualities of time on it. If we do not understand this and we ask the question, is this functional basis in the past, present or future, we cannot answer this question. For example, take the case of a vase. The three times can be known with reference to it. The past of a vase is its cause. The future of a vase is its result. The present of a vase is its having existence. But it is different when we talk about a future
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
vase (i. e . , a vase in the future) at the time of its cause: it will be in the present when its whole identity is accomplished and it will be in the past after its identity is lost. STANZA 30 /gang phyir skye dang gnas dang 'jig /'dus byas mtshan nyid 'di gsum med/ /de phyir 'dus byas nyid ma yinl /'dus ma byas la'ng cung zad med/ Following the reasoning just given, the three charac teristics of a composite phenomenon which are arising, enduring and ceasing are unfindable upon ultimate analysis even for you, so then a functional phe nomenon which is characterized by these three attributes is also unfindable, in which case the func tional basis of a composite phenomenon becomes unfindable. So when a composite phenomenon cannot exist inherently, how can a non-composite phe nomenon which depends on a composite phe nomenon have inherent existence in the least. If you perform a careful analysis you will conclude that there is a basis upon which terms are imputed but that this basis cannot be found. If such a basis existed inherently it should be findable, but because it cannot be found, so it cannot exist inherently. If this reasoning is applied to com posite phenomena, we realize that ultimately they are un findable, so they must lack inherent existence. Therefore, non-composite phenomena, which depend on composite phenomena, must also be unfindable and lack inherent existence. For example, space is a mere negation of obstruction and contact. It is a permanent phenomenon merely imputed by terms and concepts on its basis of imputation: clear in termediate vacuity visible to the eyes, which is a composite thing. As they are mutually dependent on each other and cannot exist without the other, that means they are empty
of inherent existence. Furthermore, how can we establish non-composite phe nomena without depending on composite phenomena? For example, by abandoning the objects of abandonment we can obtain cessation, which is a permanent phenomenon. So in this case, cessation, which is permanent and non composite, is obtained in dependence on abandoning com posite phenomena. STANZA 3 1 Composite phenomena are said to disintegrate momentarily (that is, they disintegrate over a period of successive mo ments) and this entire process can be characterized as the arising, enduring and cessation or complete disintegration of a phenomenon. Now if a phenomenon is asserted to exist inherently, then certain fallacies will result when we care fully analyze any single moment in one of these three periods of time and attempt to find the characteristics which are said to inhere in that phenomenon. /ma zhig mi 'jig zhig pa'ng min/ /gnas pa gnas pa ma yin te/ /mi gnas 1 )pa yang gnas ma yin/ /skyes pa mi skye ma skyes mini l)P:la'ng At the point of its complete disintegration does a phenomenon disintegrate which has already disinte grated or at that point does a phenomenon disinte grate which has not yet disintegrated? In the first case the process of disintegration is complete, so this cannot be accepted. In the second case it is free from the function of disintegration, so this cannot be accepted. The same applies to enduring and arising. If a phenomenon were to endure at that point when it has already endured then the process of enduring is complete and we cannot say that it is enduring at that point. And a phenomenon which
Niigiirjuna's Sevenly Stanzas has not endured cannot be accepted as enduring at that point because it is free from the function of enduring. If a phenomenon were to arise at the point of arising which has already arisen then the process of arising is already complete, so this cannot be accepted. And if a phenomenon were to arise at that point which has not arisen then that case is not acceptable, because it is non-existent.
STANZA 32 I'dus byas dang ni 'dus ma byas/ /du ma ma yin gcig ma yin/ /yod min med min yod med min/ / l)mtshams 'dir sna tshogs thams cad 'dus/ l )P:mtshan If we examine composite phenomena and non composite phenomena then we cannot find them as one, because then we cannot differentiate between these two types of phenomena, and we cannot find them as many, because then these two would be completely unrelated. If a composite phenomenon is asserted 2)to exist, then it cannot arise because it is already existent and if it is asserted not to exist, then it cannot arise because it is non-existent. If it is asserted to be both existent and non-existent, this is not possible because such a state is contradictory. Every different type of phenomenon is included with in this criterion of non-inherent existence. 2)Lit: not non-existent. It is the view of the opponent that composite phenomena and non-composite phenomena have inherent existence, but Niigiirjuna shows that if we examine these phenomena from the standpoint of their having inherent existence, then certain fallacies are found. Composite and non-composite phenomena must be either the same ("one") or different ("many"). But if our examination shows them to be the
same, then we cannot differentiate between them. Yet, if our examination shows them to have inherent existence and to be different, then they will be completely unrelated, like a tree and a vase. But this is contradictory because compos ite and non-composite phenomena are known through their relation to each other and we cannot find a composite phenomenon with a self-sufficient existence which doesn't depend on non-composite phenomena. If the opponent accepts our argument up to this point, he may still assert that composite phenomena, at any rate, have inherent existence. Therefore we ask: within the context of your belief in inherent existence, does a composite phe nomenon arise which is already existent, or does a compos ite phenomenon arise which lacks existence, or does a composite phenomenon arise which is both existent and non-existent? If a composite phenomenon exists inherently, it would exist from the beginning, so it would have no need to arise. But if it doesn't exist inherently, then it couldn't come into existence because it would be non-existent for ever. Nor is it possible for a phenomenon to be both existent and non-existent as these are contradictory assertions in relation to a single object. Thus we have shown that all composite and non composite phenomena lack inherent existence, and since composite phenomena are compounded of parts and parti cles, all these must also lack inherent existence. STANZA 33 The opponent now offers reasons to prove that phenomena exist inherently. /bcom ldan bla mas las gnas dang/ /las bdag las kyi 'bras bu dang/ /sems can rang gi las dang nil /las rnams chud mi l )za bar gsungs/ l)D:bra Opponent: The Peerless Subduer has taught that
Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas there is continuity in the flow of actions. Likewise, he has taught about the nature of actions and their results. He has also taught that the results of actions performed by an individual sentient being must be experienced by him and that whatever actions are performed 2)are certain to bear fruit. For these four reasons actions have inherent existence. 2)Lit: chud mi za bar, will not be wasted.
The opponent believes that because the Buddha spoke of a continuity in the flow of actions, this means that these actions endure and have inherent existence. Continuity in the flow of actions is understood to mean, for example, that whatever actions we perform to accumulate wealth will bear some fruit in the future, even though at death the wealth we have accumulated will have to be left behind. The opponent believes that this teaching of the Buddha shows that such actions must have the nature of inherent existence or else they could not endure into the future. Furthermore, the Buddha taught that there is certainty that the result of actions will have to be experienced by the one who per formed them. For example, if a person performs nonvir tuous actions and does not apply the four powerful anti dotes but continues to perform nonvirtuous actions, then it is certain that that person will experience bad consequences. Since the Buddha has taught about actions in these ways, the opponent takes this as a proof that actions must have inherent existence. STANZA 34 We agree with the opponent that Buddha taught about the law of action and result, but we disagree with him in that we believe that Buddha taught these things conventionally, but not ultimately. So where the opponent understands the Buddha's use of the term "existence" to mean inherent existence, we understand the Buddha to mean conventional existence. We point out that the Buddha taught that all
composite or produced phenomena are impermanent. He also said that impermanent phenomena lack inherent exist ence. Because all actions are impermanent phenomena, so they must be devoid of inherent existence. If they did exist inherently then they couldn't be impermanent phenomena because phenomena which exist inherently should not undergo change. /las rnams rang bzhin med gsungs te/ /ma skyes gang de chud mi zal /de las kyang ni bdag 'dzin skye/ /de bskyed 'dzin de'ng rnam rtog las/ Reply: Buddha taught that actions do not exist in herently and so they cannot arise inherently . Although actions do not exist inherently, they will not be wasted but it is certain that they will bear fruit. From these actions arise consciousness, name and form, and the rest of the limbs of dependent origination. Conception of self l )is generated through focusing on the person who is merely imputed upon these dependent limbs. Also, it arisesfrom the precon ception which takes improper objects and overesti mates them. l)Lit: skye, arises. STANZA 35 /gal te las la rang bzhin yodl /de l)bskyed lus ni rtag par 'gyur/ /las kyang sdug bsngal rnam smin can/ /mi 'gyur de phyir bdag tu 'gyur/ l)D:bskyes
If actions were to have inherent existence then they would not be impermanent but would have the nature of permanence, and then the body which results from those actions would also be permanent. If actions were to be 2)permanent then they could not
Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas give rise to suffering, which is the ripening of actions. If actions were non-changing then they would have the nature of permanence and then they would have self-existence. But then Buddha would not have taught about the lack of self-nature. 2)Lit: mi 'gyur, unchangeable.
There must be a correspondence between cause and re sult, which is why, for example, nonvirtuous actions give rise to suffering. Following this principle, if the opponent asserts that actions have inherent existence, then so must their results. This means that the body, which is the result of previous actions, would have to exist inherently. Moreover, if actions existed inherently, then they would be permanent, and so would their results, which means that the body would be permanent. This is clearly false. Also, if actions were permanent they could not give rise to suffering because permanent phenomena cannot give rise to results. This is because permanent phenomena do not change, but for there to be some arising there must be some change. Thus, actions cannot be permanent, because ac tions do produce suffering. The Buddha taught that all composite phenomena are impermanent, and whatever is impermanent has a suffering nature. Because whatever has a suffering nature lacks self existence, so actions must lack a self-nature. STANZA 36 In the previous stanza we proved that actions lack inherent existence by demonstrating the fallacies which result from such a view. Now, taking another reason, we will again prove that actions lack inherent existence. /las ni rkyen skyes yod min zhing/ /rkyen min las skyes cung zad 1 )min/ I'du byed rnams ni sgyu ma dang/ /dri za'i grong khyer smig rgyu mtshungsi 1)P,D:med
If actions were to exist at the time of conditions, those actions could not arise from those conditions. And if conditions do not have the potential to give rise to actions, then actions cannot arise from condi tions because those conditions are similar to non conditions. Because actions cannot arise even slightly from non-conditions, so therefore all composite phe nomena are like an illusion, and a gandharva town and a mirage, and therefore they lack inherent ex istence. If actions exist inherently, do they arise from causes and conditions or not? If we answer that actions arise from conditions, then we must ask whether actions arise at the time of conditions or not. If an action does arise at the time of its conditions, then there is no need for the conditions, because the action is already existent at that time. If it doesn't, then the conditions have ceased when the action arises, so the conditions cannot serve their function in giv ing rise to the action. In this case, it is like a non-condition. It is impossible for actions to arise from non-conditions. Hence they lack inherent existence. All composite phe nomena are empty of inherent existence like illusions and mirages, etc. Here we are showing that actions lack inherent existence, but this does not mean that they are completely non existent. Rather, they are non-inherently existent, like illu sions and mirages. STANZA 37 /las ni nyon mongs rgyu mtshan can/ /nyon mongs 'du byed las bdag nyidl /lus ni lus kyi rgyu mtshan can/ /gsum ka'ng ngo bo nyid kyis stong/
In the previous stanza we have seen that actions have non-inherent existence, a type of existence which is like a mirage. Now Niigarjuna shows us that these non-inherently existing actions are caused by delusions, and that these two are, in their turn, the cause of the body. Because body exists in dependence on actions and actions exist in depend ence o>J. delusion and because we have already seen that actions lack inherent existence, so all these three lack inher ent existence. This is because whatever exists in depend ence on something must lack independent, inherent exist ence. Applying this principle to the relation of delusion and action, it can be seen that since action lacks inherent exist ence, so too must its cause, delusion. STANZA 38 Our opponent says that actions are inherently existent be cause a person who is dominated by ignorance is the perform er of unmeritorious actions and accumulates them. As he exists, actions exist to produce results which would be experienced by him. /las med na ni byed po med/ /de gnyis med pas 'bras bu med/ /de med nye bar spyod l)po med/ /de bas dngos po dben pa yin/ l)D:pa, P:bo When actions do not have inherent existence there will be no person to perform actions. Because both of them do not exist, results do not exist. When there are no results there will be no person to experience those results physically and mentally. Because of that reason that actions do not exist inherently, so all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence. Since actions are devoid of inherent existence there can
be no truly existent person to perform actions, but only an illusory, conventionally existent person (which is described in stanzas 40-42). The results of the actions of such an illusory person are also, still in a metaphoric sense, illusory; that is, they are devoid of inherent existence. As we have already seen, the body and the mind, which are interdepend ent, lack inherent existence, so there is no truely existent person having body or mind to experience the results of previous actions. But there is a conventionally existent per son having body and mind which does experience the con ventionally existent results of conventionally existent ac tions. STANZA 39 /las ni stong par yang dag 1)par/ /shes na de nyid mthong ba'i phyir/ /las 2)mi 'byung ste de med nal /las las 'byung gang mi 'byung ngo/ 1)D:pa'i 2)D:ni
ignorance and when there is no ignorance then the actions which are caused by ignorance cannot arise in him, and so 4)the results of actions such as conscious ness and so forth up to aging and death will not be experienced by him. When consciousness ceases to exist the dependent limb of aging and death cannot occur; thus he will attain the state of liberation free from aging and death. 3)Lit: yan dag; real or perfect. The real nature of actions is their being devoid of inherent exist ence. 4)Lit: las las 'byung gang; that which ori ginates from actions. Actions cannot arise without a cause, so when one has understood how actions are devoid of inherent existence
and seen the suchness of actions, then meditating on it one can eliminate the ignorance of grasping at the inherent existence of actions and since this ignorance is the cause of contaminated actions, so then such actions cannot arise. When contaminated actions cannot arise then their results, such as consciousness and so forth up to aging and death, also cannot arise and in that case one has achieved libera tion. However, a person who achieves liberation does not be come absolutely non-existent. In fact, such a person will take rebirths in dependence upon his uncontaminated ac tions and thereby work for others. As he has abandoned delusive obscurations he won't be influenced by them in his activities. Therefore, his actions become virtuous. Any other view would be nihilistic because if one could not perform actions after attaining the liberation which comes from destroying ignorance, then one couldn't work for the benefit of others. Within the context of the twelve dependent limbs, the dependent limb of consciousness does not refer to con sciousness in general but rather refers specifically to the sixth, mental consciousness (yid kyi rnams par shes pa), which is associated with the mind sense organ. This con sciousness receives the imprints of virtuous and nonvir tuous actions and entering the womb of the mother is the source of the person who ages and eventually dies. STANZAS 40-41 /ji ltar bcom ldan de bzhin gshegs/ /rdzu 'phrul gyis ni sprul pa sprull /sprul pa de yis slar yang nil /sprul pa gzhan zhig sprul gyur pa /de la de bzhin gshegs sprul stong/ /sprul pas sprul pa smos ci dgos/ /gnyis po ming tsam yod pa yang/ / 1 )ci yang rung ste rtog pa tsam/ 1)D:gang ci 'ng
Through his miraculous powers, Tathiigata the Sub duer emitted an emanation and that emanation emitted another emanation. As the emanation emitted by the Tathiigata is devoid of inherent existence, it is hardly necessary to say that the emanation emitted by the emanation is also devoid of inherent existence. When we say that these two emanations do not exist inherently, that does not mean that they are com pletely non-existent but rather that both of them, just like actions and the one who performs actions, merely exist through terms because they are separated from the nature of inherent existence. 2)They do exist, but merely through imputation by thought in a deceptive way. 2)Lit: ci yang rung; all that are existent. Stanzas 40 and 41 give examples whose meaning is given in stanza 42 . Though they constitute two separate stanzas, the Tibetan tradition is to explain them both at the same time. Though the stanzas end with the assertion "They do exist . . . ," this does not simply mean that only actions and the actor or the various emanations merely exist through im putation by thought, but that all phenomena merely exist through imputation by thought. This means that all phe nomena which conventionally exist have a deceptive appearance. It is possible to know the basis of imputation of phe nomena. For example, the five aggregates are the basis for imputing the existence of a person, and these aggregates are knowable. A person doesn't exist inherently from the side of his aggregates because he becomes unfindable under ultimate analysis, but he does exist conventionally by way of mere imputation by terms and concepts. Likewise, what you are now looking at is the basis for imputing the term "book," and when you see that the book is not inherently existent from the side of its basis of imputation, you have
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
understood its emptiness of inherent existence. Because the book exists merely through the imputation of words and concepts that is indicative of its conventional existence. Thus it is said that the world which we see merely exists through words and concepts and that there is no other world which exists except that world which exists through words and concepts. However, the imputations can be re moved and the six sense organs can know the basis of imputation as it actually is. STANZA 42 /de bzhin byed po sprul dang mtshungs/ /las ni sprul pas sprul dang mtshungs/ /rang bzhin gyis stong gang cung zad/ /yod pa de dag 1 )rtog pa tsam/ 1)P:ni
The person who performs actions is said to be similar to the emanation emitted by the Tathiigata because he is led by ignorance. And so his actions are said to be similar to the emanation emitted by the emanation. All of these are devoid of inherent existence, though they do have a slight existence as mere imputations supported by terms and concepts. Without the Tathagata there could be no existence of the Tathagata's emanation. Similarly, both the person who per forms actions and his actions cannot come into existence without there being the ignorance which leads that person. As both of the emanations, being dependent on the Tatha gata, lack inherent existence, so also do the person who performs actions and the actions which are performed lack inherent existence, for they depend on ignorance. Though the person who performs actions and the actions which are performed lack inherent existence, they are said to "have a slight existence. " The meaning here is that they have an existence through mere terms and concepts, that is, they exist conventionally. If this were not the case, then
Nagarjuna would b e arguing from a nihilistic extreme, asserting the actual non-existence of phenomena. (On this point, cf. stanza 44. ) STANZA 43 /gal te las kyi rang bzhin yod/ /myang 'das byed po la$ kyang med/ /gal te med na las bskyed pal /'bras bu sdug dang mi sdug med/
If actions were to have the nature of inherent existence, then they would be permanent. But if actions were permanent then they would not depend on a per son, and if there were no person to perform actions, then actions would not exist. In that case, nirvii'f)(l, which is the state of cessation of delusions and actions, could not be attained. If actions did not exist through mere terms and concepts then their ripening results such as happiness and suffering could not arise. If actions are inherently existent they should be perma nent and unchanging phenomena. In that case, nirvaq.a, which refers to the state of extinguished contaminated ac tions and delusions, could not be achieved. Moreover, such actions would be causeless as they could not depend on a person led by ignorance as their cause. But this is not appropriate. Also, if actions exist inherently they cannot have imputed existence, which means that happy and suf fering results will not arise from them. But this is not true, as we can see how happy and suffering results occur from virtuous and nonvirtuous actions. This clearly speaks to the fact that they exist merely through the imputation of terms and concepts. In other words, they exist conventionally. STANZA 44 In this stanza Nagarjuna clarifies the language he uses when discussing extreme views about existence which may be held by various opponents.
Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas /yod ces pa 1 )dang yod med ces/ /yod dang med ces de yang yod/ /sangs rgyas rnams kyi dgongs pa yis/ /gsungs pa 2)rtogs par 3)bla ma yin/ 1)D:yod med ces yod 2)P:rtog 3)P:sla Whatever is said by the Buddha has the two truths as its chief underlying thought; it is 4)hard to understand and must be interpreted in this light. When the Buddha says "existence" his chief underlying thought is conventional existence; when he says "non-existence" his chief underlying thought is non inherent existence; when he says "existence-and-non existence" his chief underlying thought is conven tional-existence-and-non-inherent-existence as a mere object of examination. 4)Lit: rtogs par bla ma; not easily understood.
Nagarjuna himself must use predicates such as "exists" in his discourse, but, like the Buddha, he does so only for the purpose of instructing the ignorant who need to develop a mental (generic) image of emptiness. He himself main tains the correct view as his chief underlying thought. In order to argue against the extreme of nihilism he uses the term "exists," thereby establishing conventional existence. Then, at the next level, he says "does not exist" in order to argue against the extreme of permanence, thereby estab lishing non-inherent existence. Finally, he says "exists-and does-not-exist" to show the middle view which is free from both of these extremes. This is his real goal, the demonstra tion that things are actually mere objects of examination upon which we impute extreme views. With this realization we cease grasping at the supposed true existence of objects. In regards to the topic under discussion, the nature of actions, the Buddha has made what appear to be contradic tory statements, even though his chief underlying thought has remained the same. This is because although his audi ence consistently held the view that actions exist inherently,
at different times the Buddha wished to refute different errors connected with this view. When the Buddha said that "actions exist" he meant that they exist conventionally, but not inherently. He knew that if he said that actions did not exist inherently his auditors would misunderstand him and take non-inherent existence to mean actual non-existence. To preserve them from this extreme nihilistic view which leads to the three lower realms he therefore said "actions exist. " At other times the Buddha told the same audience that "actions do not exist," by which he meant that they do not exist inherently. Here his purpose was to counter the eter nalist extreme that actions exist inherently and thus per manently, for unless his auditors discarded this extreme view they could not become free of cyclic existence. At yet other times the Buddha said that actions "exist and do not exist," by which he meant that actions exist conven tionally and non-inherently. In this third case his intention was to eliminate both extremes of nihilism and eternalism at the same time. STANZA 45 1)/gal te 'byung ba'i rang bzhin gzugs/ /'byung las gzugs ni 'byung ba min/ /rang las 'byung min gzhan las kyang/ /'byung min di phyin med min narnl 1)The wording of stanza 45 in the root text differs quite markedly from the wording of stanza 45 in the Candrakirti commentary, though there is no difference in meaning. We prefer the wording in the Candrakirti version, which is given above. The version in the root text is given below. /gal te gzugs ni rang 'byung bzhin/ /gzugs de 'byung las 'byung ma yin/ /rang las 'byung min ma yin narnl /gzhan las kyang min de med phyir/
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas Neither does inherently existent form, having the nature of elements, arise from elements nor from itself and not even from others. Therefore, it does not exist, does it?
When we say that form lacks inherent existence the oppo nent argues that this is wrong because the Buddha has said that form arises from the four elements. This statement of the Buddha expresses clearly how form lacks inherent exist ence because of its arising in dependence upon the ele ments. Also, we argue that if inherently existing form has arisen from the four elements, then we must consider whether or not form has the same nature as the four ele ments. If it is said that form has the same nature as the four elements then it would have arisen by itself. But here form refers to the material body (whereas in other cases form refers to shape and color), which can be seen, while the four elements can be experienced by the body sense but not seen, so these must be different. Because they are different they cannot have the same inherent nature, so then in herently existing form cannot have arisen by itself. Also, if the four elements have a different nature then the inherent ly existing form, in that case, after eliminating them, form should still be existent, but this is not the case, so form does not exist inherently other than the elements. As form is dependent on the four elements, then it exists conventional ly but not inherently. STANZA 46 /gcig la bzhi nyid yod min cing/ /bzhi la'ng gcig nyid yod min pas/ /gzugs ni 'byung ba chen po bzhil /rgyur byas nas grub ji ltar yodl
A form cannot have the fourfold nature of the ele ments because if the form has four elements then it will be fourfold and the four elements cannot have a singular form or else they will become one like form,
so how can form arise from the four great elements as its cause? Here again, form refers to the body. The question is, how can the four great elements be the cause of the body? There are two reasons why this is not possible. If form depends upon the nature of the four inherently existing elements then it should be like the four elements, that is, it should have a fourfold nature. Alternatively, the four inherently existing elements would have to have a singular nature, like form. But because form doesn't have a fourfold nature like the elements, and because the elements do not have a singular nature like form, therefore, how could form arise from the four inherently existing elements as its cause? In fact, form exists conventionally through a dependent relationship with the four elements. STANZA 47 In the previous stanzas we have refuted the inherent exist ence of form, but now the opponent asserts that form must have inherent existence because it can be apprehended by a mind. Nagarjuna answers: /shin tu mi 'dzin phyir de med/ /rtags las she na l )rtags de'ng med/ /rgyu dang rkyen las skyes pa'i phyir/ /2)rtags med par yang mi rigs so/ l )P:rtag 2)P:rtag Form is not apprehended as inherently existing, so therefore the form does not exist inherently. If it is said that the inherent existence of form is under stood 3)by the mind which apprehends it, then such a mind does not exist inherently because it has arisen from causes and conditions so it cannot be used as a reason for proving the inherent existence of a form. 3)Lit: rtags las; from a mark. If, says Nagarjuna, a form were to be perceived or
Niigiiriuna's Seventy Stanzas
apprehended, then, as you assert, that form should have inherent existence. But it is not apprehended at all, so form lacks inherent existence. What reason could you put forth to prove that the inherent existence of form can be apprehended by mind? The opponent answers that we know something is a form because we first perceive it as a form and then we can get an image of a form in our mind and we can think "that is a form." So, says the opponent, unless we can perceive a form we cannot think "it is a form" and with this reason we can understand how form is per ceived, and since it is perceived, it has inherent existence. But, says Niigiirjuna, what lacks inherent existence can not be used as a proof of something else having inherent existence. Since the mind which is doing the apprehending lacks inherent existence because it is dependent on causes and conditions so too must the form which is apprehended by that mind lack inherent existence. Moreover, the reasons put forth by that non-inherently existing mind must also lack inherent existence, so they too are not suitable for proving an argument about the inherent existence of some thing. Therefore, because the mind does not apprehend the form as inherently existing, so it does not exist inherently. STANZA 48 Again, refuting the assertion of the opponent that if a mind apprehends a form then the form must exist, Niigarjuna says: /gal te blo des gzugs 'dzin na/ /rang l )gi rang bzhin la 'dzin 'gyur/ /rkyen las skyes pas yod min pas/ /yang dag gzugs med ji ltar 'dzin/ l)P:gis
If a mind apprehends a form with inherent existence then the mind will apprehend its own nature. Such a mind has arisen from causes and conditions, so it is a dependent arising which lacks inherent existence. In
the same way, form does not exist truly, so how can that mind apprehend a form with true existence? If a mind which apprehends form were to exist inherently such a mind and its object - form - will have the same inherent nature and the mind would apprehend its own nature. If mind apprehends its own nature it would follow that the subjective mind and its object become inseparably one and we cannot find the distinction between the two: one as perceiver and the other as that which is perceived. But if such a mind does not apprehend itself then how can it apprehend another? It will be like a stone or vase which does not apprehend an other as it cannot apprehend itself. Because mind is a dependent arising, how can it apprehend an inherently existing form; in fact, it cannot. STANZA 49 Although we have explained how the mind which apprehends and the form apprehended do not exist in herently, still the opponent maintains that a person can apprehend a form with true existence because in the Siitra PiJaka it is explained how in the three times forms can be apprehended. Thus, says the opponent, form must exist. We agree that form may be apprehended, but not inherent ly existing form, while the opponent asserts that inherently existing form can be apprehended. Nagarjuna then argues as follows: /ji skad bshad gzugs skyes 1 )pa'i blo'i/ /skad cig skad cig gis mi 'dzin/ /'das dang ma 'ongs 2)pa gzugs kyang/ /de 3)yis ji ltar rtogs 4)bar 'gyur/ 1 )P:pa 2)D:gzugs kyi ni 3)P:yi 4)D:ngar
The kind ofform, which has arisen but not ceased to exist, that I have explained is not apprehended by each moment of the mind in the present. Therefore, how can such a mind apprehend forms of the past and also the future?
Both mind and form are momentary phenomena. Every moment of the mind (e.g. , eye consciousness) in the present is unable to apprehend a form which has arisen but not ceased because of its extremely short duration. If the oppo nent asserts that the passage of moments between the occurrence of the form and its apprehension by the eye consciousness is not a problem because the eye conscious ness can apprehend a form in the past or the future, we say that this is impossible because the form of the past has disintegrated and the form of the future is yet to arise. Thus both are non-existent at the time of the eye consciousness of the present, so how can they be apprehended? STANZA SO In the preceeding stanzas we explained how form doesn't exist inherently. Now the opponent argues that since the form entrance (i.e. , form as an object of perception) exists, so form should exist. Moreover, he says, form exists in herently because color and shape exist inherently. Niigiir juna refutes this assertion beginning from the position that the form entrance is coordinated to color and shape and cannot be identified individually if the color and shape of forms are excluded. If color and shape lack inherent exist ence, so must form and then so must the form entrance. /gang tshe nam yang kha dog dang/ /dbyibs dag tha dad nyid med pas/ /de dag tha dad 'dzin yod mini /gzugs de gcig tu'ng grags pa mini
In all times color and shape do not exist as two different things. If they were to exist as two different things then a mind could apprehend shape without con sidering color or color without considering shape. Because these two do not exist as two different things, so therefore there is not a mind which apprehends l)shape without taking color into consid eration nor color without taking shape into consid-
eration. 2)/n the world, a form is known to be singular; if its shape and color were to exist as two different things then the form would appear to the world as two instead of one. l)Lit: tha dad; distinction, difference, separated ness. 2)Lit: grags pa min; isn't known. Form refers to shape and color. If it exists inherently, does it exist as one with shape and color or different from them? If they exist as one, in that case both shape and color would mean the same thing, which means shape and color become undifferentiable. But if they exist differently, in that case also, form should exist individually after excluding its shape and color. An eye consciousness should be able to perceive a form without considering its shape just as we see a vase without depending on a pillar or woolen cloth for seeing it. But that is not the case. Therefore, form cannot exist inherently, so also its shape and color. Doesn't the world know that a form is singular? If it exists inherently, either its shape and color must be one, as it is, or it should be two, as are its shape and color. In reality, they are mutually dependent on each other and thus lack inherent existence. STANZA S ! The opponent now asserts that form exists inherently be cause an eye can perceive it. Nagarjuna refutes this by asking, does the subject have eye consciousness or does the object have eye consciousness? /mig blo mig la yod min te/ /gzugs la yod min bar na med/ /gzugs dang mig la brten nas de/ /yongs su rtog pa log pa yin/ The eye has no consciousness because the eye is a form but eye consciousness is formless and that which is formless cannot adhere to form. In the same way
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas the form which is observed has no eye consciousness, nor is it between eye and form. Because eye con sciousness is generated in dependence on eye and form, if it is apprehended as having inherent exist ence, that is a mistaken conception.
If form is inherently existent, does the eye sense or the form have eye consciousness? Also, does eye consciousness exist in between the eye sense and form? If form as an object has eye consciousness it means eye consciousness cannot be formless because of its being inseparably one with the in herently existing form. This is incorrect. But now if it is different from form that means there is no relationship at all between the two. Obviously it cannot exist between the eye sense and the form. Because of their mutual dependence, eye sense, form and eye consciousness are empty of inher ent existence and apprehending them to exist inherently is a mistaken conception. STANZA 52 /gal te mig bdag l )mi mthong na/ /2)des gzugs mthong bar ji ltar 'gyur/ /de phyir mig dang gzugs bdag med/ /skye mched lhag ma'ng de bzhin no/ l)P,D:mig 2)D:de
When the eye does not see itself, how can it see forms? Therefore the eye and the forms do not have self existence and the remaining entrances should be understood in the same way. If an eye could perceive a form with inherent existence then, as we have previously shown, it would be able to perceive itself. This does not mean that the eye sense organ should be able to perceive itself as an object which is an eye sense organ. Rather, this means that if the eye could per ceive a form with inherent existence then it too would have inherent existence and could therefore perceive its own
inherent existence. By this we mean that if the eye existed inherently it would not need to depend on any other factor or thing in order to perceive its object. Since it wouldn't need to depend on any other factor or thing it would be able to perceive itself. However, it can't perceive itself, so it is non-inherently existent, and by this logic it also can't per ceive the inherent existence of any other object. Because perception, eye and object are mutually interdependent it means they lack inherent existence, and whatever depends on something non-inherently existent must also be non inherently existent. For our opponent, lack of inherent existence means non-existence. So from the perspective of his assertions, the eye would not be able to perceive form at all. However the eye does, as we know, perceive form. If it is not perceiving inherently existing form then it must be perceiving non-inherently existing form, and since the one depends on the other, so both eye and form lack inherent existence or self-existence. The same logic can be applied to the remaining five entrances and prove their non-inherent existence. STANZA 53 /mig ni rang bdag nyid kyis stong/ /de ni gzhan l)bdag gis kyang stong/ /gzugs kyang de bzhin stong pa ste/ /skye 2)mched lhag ma'ng de bzhin no/ l)P:dag 2)P:de ched The eye is devoid of its own self-existent nature. It is also devoid of the self-existent nature of an other. In the same way, form is devoid of its own self-existent nature as well as that of another. And it is the same with the rest of the entrances. When it is said that eye and form are devoid of the self-existent nature of another, this refers to the fact that consciousness, eye and form arise together and the "other"
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
referred to are consciousness and eye in the case of form, and consciousness and form in the case of the eye. STANZA 54 In the previous stanza we showed how eye consciousness and form do not have inherent existence. The opponent, however, still asserts that they exist inherently because eye consciousness does arise in dependence on the contact of eye and form. /gang tshe gcig reg lhan cig 'gyur/ /de tshe gzhan rnams stong pa nyid/ /stong pa'm mi stong mi l)bsten la/ /mi stong pa yang 2)stong mi brten/ l)D:stong 2)P:brten, D:rten
When any of the six internal entrances arises simul taneously with contact, at that time the rest of the entrances will be devoid of the nature of contact. The rest of the entrances which are devoid of the nature of contact do not depend on the nature of contact. That which is not devoid of the nature of contact will not depend on that which is devoid of the nature of contact. Only one of the entrances at a time can arise simul taneously with contact; at that moment the rest of the entrances are not in contact with their objects. Now, if it is asserted that contact has inherent existence, then that which depends on it, the eye entrance, must also have inherent existence. In this case the eye entrance and contact have the same nature, which is their inherent existence, and these two would be inseparable. The other five entrances have not, at this moment, arisen and each of them is different than the eye entrance. For example, the eye entrance and the ear entrance are differ ent. Now if the eye entrance arises with contact and has inherent existence, then the other five entrances which are
different than the eye entrance and have not arisen at that moment (and so are devoid of the nature of contact) must lack inherent existence, for what does not have the nature of contact does not depend on what has the nature of contact. But what has inherent existence must exist inherently at all times, so these five entrances can never exist inherently. But since this example could have been used for the ear entrance, then in that case the eye entrance would lack inherent existence! So this shows that the argument is falla cious and neither the entrances nor contact exists in herently. STANZA SS /ngo bo mi nas yod min pas/ /gsum 'dus pa yod ma yin no/ /de l )bdag nyid 2)kyi reg med 3)pas/ /de 4)tshe tshor ba yod ma yin/ l )P:dag 2)D:gyis 3)D:nga 4)P:che, D:cha The eye, eye consciousness and its object arise and immediately disintegrate, so they cannot exist as abiding in their natures and so those three cannot assemble. S)When these three cannot assemble, con tact cannot exist and if contact cannot exist, so there cannot be feeling. S)Lit: de bdag nyid kyi, by those (having no) self-nature. If an eye consciousness were to exist inherently, in that case, it might be possible for the three - eye, eye con sciousness and its object - to have an assembled nature from which contact could arise. But eye, eye consciousness and object are all momentary phenomena without self nature. Since they disintegrate immediately after they arise there is not time for the three of them to assemble and for contact to occur between them. Also, since they do not have their own natures a� existing by themselves, how could they come together and have an assembled inherent nature?
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
If these three cannot assemble in this way, then how can there be any contact with a nature of inherent existence? Since feeling depends on contact, so feeling must also lack inherent existence. STANZA 56 /nang dang phyi yi skye mched la/ /brten nas rnam par shes pa 1 )'byung/ /de 2)lta has na rnam shes nil /smig rgyu sgyu ma bzhin du stong/ 1 )P: 'gyung, D:'gyur 2)P:ltang, D:ltar
Consciousness arises in dependence on internal and ex ternal entrances. Because consciousness arises in de pendence on the entrances, so it is like a mirage and an illusion which are devoid of inherent existence. Still, the opponent asserts that the entrances do exist inherently because consciousness arises in dependence on those entrances. We argue, however, that if consciousness were to exist inherently then it could not arise in depend ence on internal and external entrances, because what is inherently existent must be independent. As consciousness only arises in dependence upon external entrances such as form and internal entrances such as an eye, it is clear that it is empty of inherent existence. It is like a mirage which appears as water or a magician's illusion which appears as horses and elephants. Because consciousness lacks inherent existence it is like a mirage, which is something which exists, but not in the way it appears to exist. It is this very mode of the appearance of an object to our eye consciousness which is the thing which Niigarjuna wishes to refute. STANZA 57 /rnam shes shes bya la brten 1)na/ /'byung la shes bya yod ma yin/
Consciousness cannot arise without taking its object, so it depends on the object of knowledge. The object of knowledge cannot arise without depending on the consciousness which apprehends it, and therefore because they exist in a mutually dependent · way both of them lack inherent existence. The object of knowledge and the apprehension of the object do not exist inherently, therefore the person who knows the object does not exist inherently. Now, the opponent still believes that even though the object of knowledge and the apprehension of the object don't exist inherently, since there are persons who know the object, therefore these persons do have inherent existence. We argue that if the obj ect of knowledge and the apprehension of the object of knowledge don't exist in herently, how can the person who knows the object exist inherently? STANZA 58 /thams cad mi rtag yang na ni/ /mi rtag pa yang rtag pa med/ /dngos l )po rtag dang mi rtag nyid/ I' gyur na de lta ga la yod/ l)D:bo Buddha has seen no essence in composite phe nomena with inherent existence so he said that all composite phenomena are impermanent, so therefore they are devoid of inherent existence, or because he said that all composite phenomena are impermanent, so how could they 2)exist inherently in the nature of permanent phenomena? If phenomena were to have inherent existence they should either be permanent
Because Buddha has seen reality he has said that all composite things are impermanent. The opponent mis takenly believes that this means that impermanence has inherent existence. We refute this. Because all composite things are impermanent, they lack inherent existence. When Buddha says that all composite things are impermanent he also implies that permanent phenomena lack inherent existence. STANZA 59 /sdug dang mi sdug phyi ci log/ /rkyen las chags sdang gti mug dngos/ /'byung phyir chags sdang gti mug dang/ /rang bzhin gyis ni yod ma yin/ Through superimposition one develops the three distorted preconceptions toward pleasing, repulsive and neutral objects, which respectively cause attach ment, hatred and closed-mindedness. Because they arise in dependence on these conditions, the ! )essential nature of attachment, hatred and closed mindedness is without inherent existence. 1 )rang bzhin. Superimposition (sgro 'dogs) is an imposition or imputa tion of an extreme conception upon a basis of imputation, which is a supposed object. It is actually a process of over estimating the nature of such a basis in either of two ex treme directions. An example would be the seeing of permanence in what is actually a transitory phenomenon. Out of this superimposing process we develop attachment for what appears to be pleasing, hatred for what appears repulsive, and closed-mindedness or confusion for what
appears to be neutral. Such preconceptions (pleasing, re pulsive, and neutral thoughts and feelings) are mere im putations without inherent existence, because they arise in dependence on the condition of superimposition. STANZA 60 /gang phyir de nyid la chags shing/ /de la she sdang de la rmongs/ /de phyir rnam par rtog pas bskyed/ /rtog de'ng yang dag nyid du med/ A pleasing object does not exist inherently because some persons develop attachment towards it, others develop hatred towards it, and still others develop closed-mindedness towards it. Therefore such qualities of the object are merely created by preconceptions, and these preconceptions also l)do not exist inherently because they develop from superimposition. l)Lit: yang dag nyid du med; do not truely exist. Here Nagarjuna carries the argument in the previous stanza a step further. At a given moment three different observers may demonstrate the three distorted preconcep tions towards the same object. This shows that the qualities associated with an object do not inhere in it, but are im puted to it through the power of the preconceptions. For instance, an attractive thing does not exist inherently be cause its quality - attractiveness - is fabricated by a concept. Whatever is imputed upon it lacks inherent exist ence as it is created by a thought (a preconception). Such a preconception has to be empty of inherent existence be cause of its dependent arising. From that it also follows that the three poisonous delusions (attachment, hatred and ignorance) which are produced by such distorted precon ceptions lack inherent existence and so do the actions moti vated by them. Also, if a pleasant thing exists inherently it should be seen as pleasant by all people, which does not stand true as some see it as repulsive and generate hatred
towards it, whereas some others see it neither as pleasant nor as unpleasant and maintain a neutral feeling. If this object lacks inherent existence, so must the thought consciousness which imputes qualities to it, for they both arise in dependence, as Nagarjuna states in the next stanza. STANZA 6 1 /brtag bya gang de yod ma yin/ /brtag bya med rtog ga la yodl /de phyir brtag bya rtog pa dag /rkyen las skyes phyir stong pa nyid/
Whatever may be an object of examination does not exist inherently. As that object of examination does not exist inherently, how can the thought-consciousness of that non-inherently existing object exist inherently? Therefore, because the object of examination and the thought-consciousness arise from causes and conditions, they are empty of inherent existence. STANZA 62 Having demonstrated in the previous stanza that thought consciousness itself is without inherent existence, Nagar juna now turns to the heart of his discourse, which is its implications for liberation. 1de nyid rtogs l )pas phyin ci log /bzhi las byung ba'i ma rig medl /de med na ni 'du byed rnams/ /mi 'byung lhag ma'ng de bzhin no/ l)P:ba'i The mind which directly understands emptiness is an unmistaken mind which eliminates the ignorance that arises from the four evil preconceptions. Without that ignorance the karmic formations will not arise, and so neither will the remaining limbs.
When the mind directly sees the lack of inherent exist ence both of things and of itself (that is, their emptiness), then it is unmistaken. Such an unmistaken mind eliminates ignorance arising from the preconceptions by seeing the ultimate nature of things, thereby preventing the arising of new karmic formations, and so freeing one from the cyclic existence whose arising is described by the twelve limbs of dependent origination. Reasoning, such as that employed in the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness, is a necessary step in developing an unmis taken mind. This is because although one can directly per ceive the gross nature of an object, one must first reason about the subtle nature of the object, which is its lack of inherent existence, before one can develop the direct per ceiver which directly perceives this subtle nature of an object. A thought-consciousness which correctly analyzes the subtle nature of an object is converted through medita tion into an unmistaken direct perceiver which knows the subtle nature of an object, which is a mere vacuity: The conversion of thought-consciousness into an unmis taken direct perceiver can only be accomplished through meditation. This meditation must follow the earlier reason ing about the subtle nature of an object, for this has shown the practitioner what is to be meditated upon. A two-step process is being described here which a metaphor will help to clarify. Suppose a magician were to come to a crossroads and, setting up some sticks which were found there, magi cally convert them into horses and elephants. Attracting an audience, he bids the animals to do tricks for the entertain ment of the onlookers. When the crowd disperses, the magician goes on his way, leaving the sticks behind. If some person were now to pass by the crossroads he would know nothing of the earlier performance, and would simply see some sticks at the crossroads. In this metaphor, the magician sees a mere appearance of horses and elephants but does not cling to them as horses and elephants for he knows that he created them. Similarly,
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
the practitioner who has understood emptiness through modes of profound reasoning does not cling to phenomena as having true existence although they appear to exist tru ly. Ordinary people hold things to exist truely and phe nomena appear to them in such a manner. This is similar to the type of appearance and the perception of people who watch the magic illusion. Now as to the one who has elimin ated ignorance and sees emptiness directly, things neither appear to him as truly existent nor does he cling to them as having true existence. His position is similar to that of the person who has not watched the magic illusion, he won't see either the appearance of illusory horses and elephants or have any clinging to them as horses and elephants. The magician is also analogous to the practitioner who has entered the Path of Accumulation (tshogs lam). He gains his understanding through hearing and contempla tion, using a mental image of emptiness. Then, entering the Path of Preparation, he utilizes meditation in order to prog ress through four levels, successively removing the mental image at each level. When it is completely gone and the practitioner perceives emptiness directly, he has entered the Path of Seeing (mthong lam) and is called an "Arya. " What he sees and the state he has attained is indicated in the next stanza. STANZA 63 /gang gang la brten skye ba'i dngos/ /de de med pas de mi skye/ /dngos dang dngos med 'dus byas dang/ /'dus ma byas 'di mya ngan 'das/
Anything which arises in dependence on any causes will not arise without those causes. Hence, functional things in the form of produced phenomena and non functional things as unproduced phenomena would be empty of inherent existence which is the natural state of nirviit)ll .
Ignorance as a cause produces karmic formations and so forth, which are functional things, but these cannot arise without that ignorance. When such functional things do not exist, their opposite nature, non-functional things, cannot exist. Therefore functional things in the form of composite phenomena and non-functional things as non-composite phenomena are devoid of an inherently existent nature; this is known as natural nirvaQ.a. If a person develops the wisdom which understands this and acquaints himself more and more with this wisdom, assisted by the method of repeated meditation, he or she can attain the state of non abiding nirvaQ.a which is free from the extremes of cyclic existence and solitary peace. The two extremes of eternalism and nihilism do not exist but there are people who fall on these extremes. However, the two extremes of cyclic existence and solitary peace which are posited from the conventional point of view are existent and also there are people who fall on these ex tremes. The nonabiding nirvaQ.a of the Mahayana Vehi· :e is free from these extremes. STANZA 64 /rgyu rkyen las skyes dngos po rnams/ /yang dag nyid du rtog pa gang/ /de ni ston pas ma rig gsungs/ /de las yan l)lag bcu gnyis 'byung/ l )P:yag
The Teacher, Buddha, said that the conception of true existence of functional things which arise from causes and conditions is ignorance. From this ignorance arise the twelve dependent limbs. Things which are produced by causes and conditions do not exist truly or inherently. The conception of the self of phenomena refers to the ignorance of grasping at the true existence of aggregates contaminated by actions and delu sion. The twelve dependent limbs arise from this ignorance.
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
Understanding the non-inherent existence of things means seeing the reality [i.e., emptiness] which elim inates ignorance about the reality of things. This brings about the cessation of ignorantly grasping at an apparently true existence. From that the twelve limbs of dependent origination cease. In this and the previous stanza we have Nagarjuna's restatement of the four noble truths. The twelve limbs are suffering existence. Their source is ignorant grasping. Suf fering ceases when ignorant grasping ceases. Seeing reality is the path. The reality of things is then described in the next stanza in terms familiar to us from the MUlamadhyama kakiirikii and the Perfection of Wisdom sfltras.
Produced phenomena are similar to a village of gan dharvas, an illusion, a hair net in the eyes, foam, a bubble, an emanation, a dream, and a circle of light produced by a whirling firebrand. A less metaphoric description of the reality of things is found in the next two stanzas.
STANZA 67 /rang bzhin gyis ni 'ga' yang med/ /'di la dngos po med pa'ng med/ /rgyu dang rkyen las skyes ba yi! /dngos dang dngos med stong ba yin/ There is nothing which exists inherently. In that fashion even non-functional things do not exist. There fore, functional things which arise from causes and conditions as well as non-functional things are empty of inherent existence. STANZA 68 /dngos kun rang bzhin stong l )pas na/ /de bzhin gshegs pa mtshungs med pas/ /rten cing 'brel par 'byung ba 'dil /dngos po rnams su nye bar bstan/ l)D: has
Because all things are empty of inherent existence the Peerless Tathiigata has shown the emptiness of inher ent existence of dependent arising as the reality of all things. Stanza 67 lays the logical groundwork for stanza 68, but it does seem rather superfluous, as stanza 63 has already made the same argument. Indeed, although this stanza appears in the root verses and in the "autocommentary, it is missing from both the Candrakirti and Parahita commen taries, suggesting that it may be an interpolation. At any rate, stanza 68 is very interesting because it is such a clear statement of the actual nature of the reality whose conven tional aspect was metaphorically described in stanza 66. As we see, it is quite free from extremes. By asserting depend ent arising, nihilism is avoided, and by asserting the emptiness of inherent existence, eternalism is avoided. The reality revealed by the Buddha in the middle view is the empty nature of dependent arising. Its reverse face is the "
conventional appearance of things. In a certain sense the two complement each other, like concave and convex, be cause they are two aspects of one reality. In the next stanza this complementarity is implied by the postulating of a single limit for all reality. This naturally leads to a further discussion of the Buddha's use of conventional expressions when teaching about this reality. STANZA 69 /dam pa'i don ni der zad de/ /'jig rten ngor byas tha snyad dag/ /sna tshogs thams cad rdzogs sangs rgyas/ /bcom ldan 'das kyis l )bden brtags mdzad/ l)D:brten brtag
Ultimate reality is contained within the limit of the non-inherent existence of a thing. For that reason, the Accomplished Buddha, the Subduer, has imputed various terms in the manner of the world through comparison. Reality is not beyond the limit of what is known by a valid direct perceiver. This limit must also subsume con ventional reality. Within this limit the Buddha makes two kinds of comparisons. One is to examine the various things of conventional reality, to determine whether the names used to designate these objects are actually suitable for this purpose. In the second case, he compares the different aspects of an object to each other and to their names. These comparisons require that the Buddha utilize the different conventional terms used by the people of the world in order to examine the objects which they believe to exist. This process will eventually lead to the creation of a mental image of emptiness whose actual limit corresponds to that of reality. But in this process some people may become confused and, not understanding that the Buddha only uses these conventionalities for the sake of comparison, may take them to be realities, though actually they are merely im-
puted for the sake of analysis. This problem is described in the next stanza. STANZA 70 /'jig rten pa yi chos bstan mi 'jig cing/ /yang dag nyid du nam yang chos l)bstan med/ /de bzhin gshegs 2)pas gsungs pa ma rig pas/ /de las dri med brjod pa 'di las skrag/ l)D:bsten 2)P:psa What is shown conventionally to the world appears to be without disintegration, but the Buddha has never actually shown anything with true existence. Those who do not understand what is explained by the Tathii gata to be conventionally existent and empty of the sign of true existence are frightened by this teaching. Here we see that when making comparisons the Buddha and Nagarjuna seem to speak as if things were permanent, that is, do not disintegrate, but this is only because conven tional expressions make things seem permanent. Such permanence would imply true existence for things, which they never assert. People who make such interpretations merely demonstrate their lack of understanding of the Bud dha's intentions. Furthermore, many of these people have a dangerous misunderstanding of the middle way, believing that non-existence is being taught, when actually non inherent existence is being taught. They have fallen into the extreme of the nihilistic view, misinterpreting emptiness as indicating actual non-existence, and this nihilistic attitude causes them to be fearful when they hear the Buddha teach about non-inherent existence. Another misinterpretation would be to take the Buddha's teaching about causality at face value, forgetting his chief underlying thought. This is discussed in the next stanza. STANZA 7 1
I' di la brten nas 'di 'byung zhes/
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas /'jig rten tshul 'di mi 'gog cing/ / l)gang brten rang bzhin med 2)pas de/ /ji ltar yod 'gyur de nyid nges/ l)P:kang 2)P:bas It is known in the way of the world that "this arises in dependence on that." Such statements are not refuted. But whatsoever arises dependently does not exist in herently, and how can that non-inherent existence itself have inherent existence? In fact, that non inherent existence must definitely not exist in herently!
Here Nagarjuna reminds his auditors that causality, which in reality is dependent arising, is itself without inher ent existence. It would also be a mistake to believe that the non-inherent existence of dependent arising itself had true existence, when in actuality it too must be without inherent existence. In another context this is known as the emptiness of emptiness. Both are refutations of a subtle eternalist interpretation of a teaching meant to refute eternalism. In the last two stanzas of the Seventy Stanzas on Empti ness, Nagarjuna moves on from this point and summarizes the way in which his middle view leads to a nirviiQ.a which is superior to the nirviiQ.a of the lesser vehicle because it does not postulate the extreme view which asserts an actual non-cyclic existence. STANZA 72 /dad ldan de nyid l )chos 2)la brtson/ /3)tshul 'di rigs pas rjes 4)dpogs gang/ /S)rten med chos 6)'ga' 7)bstan pa yi/ /srid dang srid min spangs nas zhi/ l)P:tshol 2)D:lar rtson 3)P:chu la 4)P:dbogs S)D:brten 6)P,D:'gal 7)D:brtan
terms of non-inherent existence, they clarify this for others, which helps others to attain 8)nirvii1J.ll by abandoning grasping at the apparently true existence of cyclic existence and non-cyclic existence. 8)Lit: zhi; tranquility. STANZA 73 I'di dag rkyen 'di las 1 )rig nas/ /lta ngan dra ba kun ldog des/ /chags rmongs khong khro spangs pa'i phyir/ /ma gos mya ngan 'das pa thob/ 1)D:rigs
By seeing these internal and external phenomena arising from causes and conditions they will eliminate the whole network of wrong views. With the elimina tion of wrong views they will have abandoned attach ment, closed-mindedness and hatred and thereby attain nirvii1Jil unstained by wrong views. The clarification for others which is referred to in stanza 72 is not considered by Tibetans to be an act of compassion, or of bodhicitta, but a simple offering of the teaching which is an offshoot of the practitioner's own striving for under standing through reasoning. Tibetans hold two views on Nagarjuna's teaching about great compassion. One group asserts that compassion is implied in texts such as the Mulamadhyamakakiirikii and the Seventy Stanzas on Empti ness, while another group asserts that such texts are strictly philosophical and that Nagarjuna's teachings about com passion are to be found in other texts, such as Ratniivali, or Sutrasamuccaya. In any case, whatever our opinion on this subject may be, it is clear that here, in the concluding fifteen stanzas of the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness, Nagar juna has demonstrated the practical implications of adopt ing the correct view of the middle way. For this view, implemented by meditative practice, will free the yogi from grasping after cyclic existence and set him on the path to nirvai].a.
Niigiirjuna' s Seventy Stanzas
THE COLOPHON /stong nyid bdun cu 1)pa'i tshig le'ur byas pa zhes bya ha/slob dpon 'phags pa klu sgrub kyis mdzad pa rdzogs so/lo tsa' ba gzhon nu mchog dang/ 2)gnyan dharma grags dang khu'i 'gyur dag las don dang tshig bzang du bris pa'o 1 )P omits 2)D:snyan dar ma These Seventy Stanzas Explaining How Phenomena Are Empty Of Inherent Existence have been written by the Teacher A rya Niigiirjuna and compiled by an unknown editor who referred to the better wordings and meanings of the translations by the translators Gzhon nu mchog, Gnyan dharma grags and Khu. Nagarjuna's seventy three stanzas were translated into English in the years 1 982 and 1983 by the Venerable Geshe Sonam Rinchen, the Venerable Tenzin Dorjee and David Ross Komito at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India. The commentary on the seventy three stanzas is based on the oral explanations given by Geshe Sonam Rinchen while the translation was in prog ress and later edited by David Komito. The root stanzas and commentary were then orally retranslated into Tibetan and corrected by Geshe Sonam Rinchen. Our translation and interpretation of the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness pri marily follows the traditions of Sera Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet, and that given by Candrakirti in his ShUnyatiisaptati vrtti (sTong pa nyid bdun cu pa'i 'grel pa) and secondarily follows that given by Parahita in his ShUnyatiisaptativivrtti (sTong pa nyid bdun cu pa'i rnam par bshad pa). Italicized words in the English translation of the root stanzas corres pond to those Tibetan words which actually appear in the Tibetan root stanzas; words which are not italicized in the English translation of the root stanzas are interpolations placed in the stanzas in order to clarify their meaning and are based on the commentaries and on oral tradition.
Section 3-1 Treatises by Nagarjuna Nagarjuna, who seems to have lived in the second century, may be regarded as the father of philo sophical Mahayana. We know little or nothing a bout the circumstances of his life, and the legendary reports to be found in the works of Taranatha and other Tibetan historians obviously refer chiefly to a later Nagarjuna, a Tantric and sorcerer, whose fig ure has become merged into that of the earlier philosophical Nagarjuna in the consciousness of lat ter times. 1 Lamentably, this situation of minimal clarity concerning the details of the life of Nagarjuna has not-altered since 1956 when these words were written. Perhaps we shall never have much in the way of facts about Nagarjuna's life due to the general disinterest of Indians in historical or "biographi cal" records. K. Inada's work NO,garjuna (1970) contains a bibliography which lists all the significant articles and books which deal with such biographical concerns up to the date of its publication. If we survey these citations, we find a veritable quagmire of conflicting opinions. Robinson has quoted a number of these alternative views on pages 2 1 to 26 of his work Early Madhyamika in India and China. From
his summary it can be seen that scholars are unlikely to ever establish anything like a factual biography of Nagarjuna. I will simply follow the opinion of the majority of scholars and place his activities between 1 50 and 250 A.D. in India. As to the details of his life, I shall simply refer the reader to the above-mentioned references, as such details are second ary to our concerns in this book. The difficulty of identifying the authentic works of the second century Nagarjuna is clearly a more relevant issue, and is connected with the problem of establishing the best redaction of the text of the Seventy Stanzas for translation purposes. Some of the works in the Tibetan canon which are attributed to Nagarjuna have a clearly tantric character, and obviously belong to a later Nagarjuna. For other works, such a method of discrimination is not applicable, for their content is not so clearly tantric. The method typically adopted by the most discriminating Tibetan authorities, as well as by many modern scholars, is to only accept as authentic those works whose style and content closely agree with the Mulamadhyamakakarika (Mula). Thus, in essence, Nagarjuna is defined as being the author of the Mula, and any work which appears to accept or propose views other than those in the M ula is by definition authored by someone other than the Nagarjuna of the second century, and is not considered "authentic. " Such a method has its own strengths and weaknesses. Its strength lies in its exclusion of such clearly inappropriate works as those of the tantra class, for the tantric literature is, by common agreement of all modern scholars, a develop ment which postdates the second century Nagarjuna, no matter in what era its roots may lie. The weakness of this method lies in the tendency of some scholars to exclude works which seem to have minimal emphasis on the pras aJiga style of exposition. Thus, if a work seems to make some positive assertions or to have some Cittamatra tenden cies, for example, these scholars would have to consider it to be inauthentic. The problem here is that Nagarjuna
preceded such sectarian splits in the Mahiiyana stream which he so influenced. As the general approach I follow in this book is to express the views of Tibetan scholars, I will also do so in regards to the question of determining what are the authentic works of Nagarjuna. Modern scholarly opinion may disagree with the views of Tibetan scholars, and, indeed, often such modern scholarly opinion is not unanimous on a variety of issues. Lindtner has a very useful summary of the opinions of modern scholars concerning the authenticity of various works attributed to Nagarjuna. 2 But since our general pur pose is to present the Tibetan scholarly view, such disagree ments only become relevant in regards to questions about the authenticity of the so-called "autocommentary" (Shiinya ttisaptativrtti) to the Seventy Stanzas and its appropriate ness for establishing the text of the Seventy Stanzas, so I will simply refer the interested reader to Lindtner's summary. As to the authenticity of the "autocommentary" to the Seventy Stanzas, I will return to this problem shortly. If we turn to the writings of Tibetan authorities on Nagarjuna, we will find that there is a group of works which they all attribute to him and there is a second group of works which is considered authentic by some and is rejected by others. Bu ston, in his History of Buddhism (Chos 'byung) indi cates that there are " . . . six main treatises of the Madhyami ka Doctrine (by Nagarjuna) demonstrating that, which is expressed by the sii.tras directly, or otherwise, the essential meaning (of the Doctrine). " [sic] 3 They are, in the order which he gives them: Shunyatasaptati, Prajiiamula, Yuk tishash#ka, Vigrahavyavartani, Vaidalyasu.tra and Vyavahara siddhi. He further states that Shunyatasaptati expounds " . . . the theory of Relativity [shii.nyata] of all elements of existence, devoid of the extremities of causality (rten 'brel) and pluralism (spros pa) . . . "4 "Tson[g] kha pa in his Gser phren says that the sixth work is considered by some to be the Vyavahara-siddhi, by
Niigiirjuna's Seventy Stanzas
others - the Akutobhayii or the Ratniivali, but that it is not correct to insist upon the number of treatises as being six. "5 And he adds, in his rTsa she ti ka chen rigs pa'i rgya mtsho, that the Seventy Stanzas was written in response to an objection raised concerning chapter seven of the Mula. 6 Taranatha mentions "five fundamental works" which according to Walleser does not include Vyavahiirasiddhi. 7 According to Obermiller, this work was never translated into Tibetan. 8 Atisha also lists the important treatises of Nagarjuna. In his Lamp of the Enlightenment Path (Byang chub lam gyi sgron ma), which is a signally important work for Tibetan Buddhism, he mentions only two works by Nagarjuna: Seventy Stanzas and Mula. 9 In his autocommentary to that work (Byang chub lam gyi sgron ma'i dka' 'grel) he expands upon this grouping, stating that similar to these two are Akutobhayii, Vigrahavyiivartani, Yuktishash#kii, Ratniivali, Mahiiyiinavi'f!lshikii, Ak�arashqtaka and Shiilistambakati kii. 10 Taking the Chinese point of view, Robinson notes that " . . . the basic stanzas in the Three Treatises [i.e. , the Madhyamika school] are the work of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva and correspond fairly closely with counterparts in Sanskrit and Tibetan . . . " 11 One of these treatises is called the Twelve Topics (Shih-erh-men-lun, Taisho # 1568). As it quotes the eighth and nineteenth stanzas from the Seventy Stanzas and was itself translated by Kumarajiva, we have an established later limit for the composition of the Seventy Stanzas and a further attestation of its authenticity. Thus, if we define Nagarjuna as being the indiviaual who authored the M ula, then he certainly is also the same Nagarjuna who authored the Seventy Stanzas, and accord ing to the consensus of the indigenous experts, this same person also authored Yuktishash#kii, Vigrahavyiivartani and Vaidalyasutra. These are the agreed upon five fundamental treatises which comprise a class with certain authorship. The second class of works, accepted as authentic by some experts but not considered authentic by others would in.
elude : Vyavah arasiddhi, A k u to b haya, R a tnavali, Mahayanavi�shika, Ak�arashataka and Shalistambakatika. Note that the "autocommentary" to the Seventy Stanzas is not included in either of these classes and that the Aku tobhaya, which is an "autocommentary" to the Mula, is not considered by all authorities to have been authored by Nagarjuna. Besides the karika(s) of the Seventy Stanzas itself (Peking Ed. #5227), the bsTan 'gyur contains three commentaries on the Seventy Stanzas. The so called "autocommentary" is titled Shunyatasaptativrtti (sTong pa nyid bdun cu pa'i 'grel pa; Peking Ed. #5231); it is attributed to Nagarjuna. There is another and longer work of the same title which is au thored by Candrakirti (Peking Ed. #5268). The third com mentary is called Shunyatasaptativivrtti (sTong pa nyid bdun cu pa'i rnam par bshad pa; Peking Ed. #5269), and is authored by Parahita(bhadra). All three commentaries on the Seventy Stanzas, as well as the isolated karika(s) themselves, are extant only in Tibetan. 12 Just one karika has survived in Sanskrit, which is quoted in the Prasannapada. 13 Although the Seventy Stanzas was translated into Chinese, it has since been lost, 14 except for the two karika(s) found in the Twelve Topic Treatise. 15 In addition to the redaction of the Seventy Stanzas kari ka(s) in an isolated form, each of the three commentaries also contains a version of the Seventy Stanzas. As Ruegg says, " . . . the variations between these versions pose a num ber of philological and historical problems . . . . The version accompanying the Tibetan translation of Candrakirti's com mentary, and hence this commentary itself, differs from the version accompanying the commentary ascribed to Nagar juna; and the question arises as to whether Candrakirti knew this commentary or recognized it to be by Nagarjuna. " 16 I will investigate some ofthese historical and philological problems in the balance of this chapter. A parallel to the problem of the authenticity of the "auto commentary" to the Seventy Stanzas is the problem of the
authenticity of the "autocommentary" to the Mula, called the Aukutobhaya (Peking Ed. #5231). This treatise was translated into German by Max Walleser in 191 1 Y As the karika(s) of the Mula are embedded in this treatise, this translation was the first appearance of the complete text of the Mula in a western language. Walleser accepted the attribution of Nagarjuna's authorship, though later western scholars have taken exception to this view. De Jong does not consider this work to have been written by Nagarjuna, 18 nor does Lindtner/9 nor does Murti.20 The most convinc ing argument is given by Obermiller: As concerns the Akutobhaya, we have the following interesting statement in the Stoii thun Bskal bzaii mig hbyeq of Khai dub . . . It is said that many Tibetan authors consider the Akutobhaya to be an autocommentary (ran Q.grel) of Arya Nagarjuna, but such an opinion shows that they have not correctly analyzed the text. Indeed, the Akutobhaya, in com menting on the 2 7th chapter of the Miila Madhyamika, quotes from the Catul}.satika of Aryadeva with the indication: 'It has thus been said by the venerable Aryadeva.' It is quite impossible that Nagarjuna could have quoted the work of his pupil in such a manner . . . . Similar indications are to be found likewise in Tsoii kha pa's Legs bsad sftin po . . . where it is moreover said that Buddhapa lita, Candrakirti, and Bhavaviveka have not made a single quotation from the Akutobhaya and have not even mentioned it in their works. This is like wise an argument for denying the authorship of Nagarjuna. 2 1 Thus this commentary to the Mula loses some of its author itative character, though its usefulness for interpreting Madhyamika is not necessarily thereby diminished.22 It may be that we face a similar situation with the "auto commentary" to the Seventy Stanzas. As demonstrated by
the case of the "autocommentary" to the M ula, just because a text is attributed to Nagarjuna does not mean that it was authored by Nagarjuna. Following this line of reasoning, there is thus no basis for asserting that the "autocommen tary" to the Seventy Stanzas was authored by Nagarjuna just because the colophon makes this indication. Now this does not mean that the treatise is of no value, but it does suggest that there is no reason