THE PHILOSOPHY OF NAGARJUNA
The Meaning Of Sunyata _ Nagarjuna's philosophy which is known as Sunya-vada oU the 'Doctrine of Void* is based on the Buddhist theory of 'dependent origination’ (pratitya-samutpada). This doctrine states that whatever exists, exists as being dependent on its causes and conditions. Phenomenon ’A' exists only as being•dependent on its cause ‘B‘, the latter again depends on itf prior condition 'C1 and so on ad infinitum. Each phenomenon, be it 'A' or ’B’ or ’C, thus enjoys only a sort of relative or conditioned existence. There is nothing which exists by itself without support from some other thing^ Nagarjuna maintains that this dependent existence cr relativity of the objects of the world proves their unsubstantiality or essential vacuity. If a thing depends for its 1 apratitya samutpanno dharmah kas'cinna vidyate - MK, XXIV, 19. na asanskrto hi vidyate bhavah kvacana kascana
apratitya astita nasti kadacit, kasyacit, kvacit
existence on'something else, it cannot be said to have an essence of its own. He says that by essence or svabhava we are to ?understand intrinsic reality, i.e. reality which a thing is supposed to possess by its own right and on its own account. Essence must be integral and self-contained, neither borrowed nor derived from anything external. Hence if a thing is to have any essence (svabhava). this essence or being must be a necessary part and parcel of it, and, as such,cannot be dependent on other things (paraniraneksa) or artificial (akrtrima); consequently, about a truly real thing it would not be correct to say that having no existence before, it comes into being
(abhutva-bhavah). Nothing in this world has an essence or svabhava in this sense, because nothing exists in its own right and by the strength of its own intrinsic nature without being dependent on its causes and conditions. Each phenomenon is tagged on to its preceding one, its cause, and as such cannot be conceived to have an intrinsic existence which a real, by its very definition, must possess. If 'A' depends on 1B1 for its existence, we cannot assert unconditionally that 'A' exists; for if *B' did not exist, 1 Ar would not do so. The existence 1 svabhavah krtako nima bhavisyati punah katham; akrtrimah svabhavo hi nirapeksah paratra ca. - MK, XV, 2. krtakasca svabhavasca iti paraspara viruddhatvad asangatartham eva tad - MKV, XV, p.260. purvam abhutva paseat utpadena krtakatvacca na svabhava iti yujyate - HK.V, XV, p.&63.
of 'A*, therefore, is not intrinsic to it. It is derived from. its relation with *B*. But what cannot exist by itself, on its owr. account,cannot do so even in relation to, or in consequence of, its association with something else. If 'A1 2cannot exist by itself, it is unintelligibleg how it can come to exist when it is related with *Bf 5 for it is absolutely impossible for ’l’, which has no existence of its own, to enter into any relation with any other thing^ A hare's horn cannot,enter into any relation with anything. If 'A' be essenceless, that is, nothing in itself, it cannot, really speaking, be related with 'B‘. The same is the case with ’B', too. It is also a conditioned pheromenon and hence lacks an essence or being of its own, that is. in itself, 'B' too, like ’A*, is unsubstantial and cannot be related with fAr. Tlius 'A* and 'B* which have no existence of their own and consequently are nothing in themselves, cannot, really speaking, have any relation with each other, so that 2 they cannot be said to enjoy even a relative existence. Their existence as well as their interrelation, therefore, is only a figment of imagination. Similarly, the things of the world which are all conditioned facts and possess no existence of their own and consequently are not anything in themselves cannot, really speaking, have any relation with one another. Their 1 bhavanam nihsvabhavanam* na satta vidyate yatah; sati idam asmin bhavati iti etat naiva upapadyate. - MK, I, 10. 2 prthak prthag, asiddhayoh sahabhavadarsanat s'as'asrngayor iva atmopadanayos ca paraspara-nirapeksayoh prthak prthag asictcciatvat sampratam api nlsti - MKV, p.199.
related existence which we experience is merely an illusory appearance due to our imagination which constructs different objects and weaves a network of relation amongst them. Nagarjuna makes a searching analysis of the physical as well as the spiritual world and shows that each fact of the universe is as essenceless, hollow or unsubstantial (suhya) as a 'barren woman's son' or a 'flower in the sky*. B The physical world consists of material things, Space and Time. None of these can be said to have an essence or existence of its own. Ordinarily we think that a thing has an essential core in it -which is .called the thinghood of the thing. What changes in a thing .is a particular aspect or quality of it while this essence remains the same and persists through all change, through all motion, through all time. Yet by rational analysis, it is impossible to find out in what this essence cr substance or thinghood of a thing really consists. Is it something different from, i.e., over and above, its qualities? If so, it could exist apart from its qualities. A table is different from a chair and hence can exist apart from the chair. But the essence or thinghood of a thing is never experienced apart from its qualities. The thinghood or essence of a thing, therefore, Is not anything over and above its qualities.
Is it, then, identical with the changing qualities? The Hinayana Buddhists hold that a thing is a mere bundle of presentations or changing states unrelated to any central cere or essence. But Nagarjuna argues that these presentations or changing states or qualities cannot hang loose without being referred to a central core. Qualities or states, without a substance to which they belong as qualities or states, are impossible. Our very idea of a quality or a state is that it #is a quality or a state of something. Hence we cannot think of a quality or a state which does not belong to a substance. Besides, we all speak of the change of qualities or change of states. We can do so only because we make a distinction between a thing and its quality or state and believe that a thing remains the same although its quality or state changes. If there were only ohanging qualities or changing states, it would have been meaningless to speak of their changes. Change is intelligible only in the background of some identity. When we speak of change of qualities, we presuppose an unchanging essence or thinghood which a thing has. Apart from reference to this identical essence, change of states is not meaningful. The Hinaylha Buddhists hold that a state is only a momentary particular which they call the svalaksana. But are we to "• ..• ^ ” suppose this momentary particular to be such that it comes into being as an altogether new creation which inherits nothing from its preceding event and passes away without leaving any legacy for its succeeding one ? If so, though it may have origination
and cessation, still it would be meaningless to say that it changes. If, however, it is held, as is admitted by the Hinayaha Buddhists, that it comes into being out of its preceding event and immediately perishes leaving a legacy (in nhe form of traces or sanskaras) for its successor, i.e., if anything handed down by the preceding event to the succeeding one be admitted to continue from the past to the present, and from the present to the future,, we can, no doubt, meaningfully •speak of a change of states, but in that case some identity of being persisting in the preceding and succeeding states must be admitted. It is, therefore, impossible to grant that there can be change of states without granting at the same rime an identical essence to which these changing states belong. • The essence of a thing, therefore, cannot be either a substance different from the changing states or just those states themselves. It appears to be an identity which runs through and holds together the different changing states, i.e., the essence of a thing appears to be an identity-in-difference. But Nagarjuna holds that the concept of identity-in-differenc'e is a patent contradiction. He insists that a thing can never be different from itself, i.e., a thing can never be what it is not. The concept of identity-in-difference presupposes the absurd idea of a thing’s being what it is not and hence it must be considered as false. The essence of a thing, therefore, cannot be rationally conceived in any way whatsoever — neither
as different from its qualities, nor as identical with them, nor as both identical with and different from them. A thing and its qualities are, Nagarjuna says, like fire and fuel which, no doubt, are perceived to exist together but nevertheless have no existence in themselves. Fire cannot exist without fuel; for fire is fire only when it is fed by fuel. Nor can fuel exist without fire; for fuel is fuel only in relation to fire. Neither fire nor fuel, therefore, has an
essence or existence of its own. And when neither has any existence of its own, how can they exist together?"^ Their relative existence which is perceived by us must, therefore, be illusory. Similarly, neither the pure thing divorced fron its quality nor thee pure quality divorced from the thing can be said to exist. And when neither has any existence of its own, it is impossible that they can exist together. Our perception of a qualified thing is, therefore, illusory? The physical world consists of Space and Time, besides material things. But Space and Time, too, Nagarjuna says, are equally unsubstantial.
1 yadi indhanam apeksya ^agnih, apeksya agnim yadi indhanam; katarat purvanispannam yadapeksyagnirindhanam. - MK, X, £. See also Gandrakirti's comment on it - MKV, p.207. 2 agnindhanabhyim* vyikhyata atmopadlnayoh kramah; sarvo niravasesena sardham ghatapatadibhih. - MK, X, 15. yo’peksya siddhyate bhavas tam evapeksya siddhyati; yadi yo*peksitavyah sa siddhyatam kanTapeksya kah. - MK,X^LO.
The concept of Space, Nagarjuna says, involves contradiction and therefore metaphysically it must he regarded as an invalid and empty concept. Our idea of Space is that of an all-pervasive something in which different physical objects exist. Ordinarily we think that some space is filled with objects and some space is empty. Now if different objects exist in Space and some space is filled and some empty, it must be admitted that Space has parts. Had Space been partless, d single object would occupy the whole of Space and not merely a part of it; in that case, other objects could not at all exist in Space; nor could there be any un»oecupied part of Spaced But as a matter of fact we perceive that different objects occupy different parts of Space and there is unoccupied space as well. It must, therefore, be admittedJthatl Space has parts. It is a whole of parts. Now, the whole cannot exist without the parts, nor can the parts exist without the whole. Space as a whole of parts is, therefore, as essenceless as ary other physical object which involves an identity of substance along with a diversity of changing qualities. Time, too, is a whole of parts. The different moments of Time are its different parts. The same difficulty of relating the whole with its parts proves that Time, too, like Space, is an essenceless appearance. That every moment of Time is intrinsically essenceless, can be proved from its 1 pradesini na sarvasmin pradeso^iama vartate,; / tasmat suvyaktam anyo'pi pradeso'sti pradesini. - CS, IX, 3. See also Candrakirti's comment on it.
completely relative nature. A moment of Time is called future or present. But relative to what is it future or present? A moment of Time can be called present or future only in relation to some other moment which is called past. But the present or future, in order to be related with the past, must be simUL1 taneous with it. This means the abolition of the division of Time into past, present and future. But this division is vital to the conception of Time. Time thus is shown to be a mere
appearance without a substantial nature of its own. Therefore, all physical objects (material things, Space and Time) are essenceless appearance. The same argument which is used to dispossess material phenomena of essence or thinghood is turned against the phenomena of spirit. Aryadeva, therefore, says that one who understands the hollowness of a particular thing, understands 3 the hollowness of all things.
The self or the atman is something which all people believe to be real. But what, after all, is this self? Is it 1 pratyutpanno1 2 3 nagatas^ ca yadyatitam apeksya hi; pratyutpanno1 nagatas ca kale' tite bhavisyatah. - MK, XIX, 1. 2 anapeksya punah__siddh£r natitam vidyate tayoh; pratyutpanno' nagatas ca tasmat kalo na vidyate. - MK, XIX, 3. 3 bhavasyadkasya yo drast a drasta sarva^ya ssl smrtah; ekasya sunyata yaiva saiva sarvasya sunyata. VIII, 16,
something different from what are called its states ? If so, why is it never experienced apart from the states? The table is different from the chair and may, therefore, be experienced apart from the chair. But the self is never experienced apart from the states. It cannot, therefore, be different from the states^- Is it then identical with the states? It is difficult to entertain this alternative, too. The changing states without being referred to a principle of identity that gives unity to them, cannot account for the personal identity whieh the concept of atman always implies? The self, therefore, is not anything different from the states. Nor is it just the states themselves. It may be.said that the states, no doubt, belong to a principle of identity, but this identity is not the identity of a permanent soul-substance. This identity indicates the characteristic unity which.pervades the various thoughts of a particular person. The mental states belonging to the life history of an individual form a characteristic unity of theii own, because each state is causally determined by, and therefore, 1 anyah punar upadanad atml naivops^dyate; grhyeta hi anupadano yadi anyo na ca grhyate. - MK, XXVII, 7.
2 na copadaham evatma vyeti tatsamudeti ca; katham;hi namopadanam upadata bhavisyati. - MK, XXVIi, 6. 3 evam nahya upadahan na copadinam eva sah; - MK, XXVII,
intimately related with, its preceding state. The term 11 * stands for this unity of a single stream of thoughts causally determined by one another and does not refer to any persistent numerically identicaljself apart from the states. But tjhe original difficulty is not in any way removed by holding this position. The question that was originally raised about the relation between the soulsubstance and its various states now re-emerges as a question about the relation between ’the unity of the states’ on the one hand and ’these states themselves' on the other. Is this identical principle which is constituted by the relation of f causal determination which holds among the different states, anything over and above the states themselves ? If so, it should be experienced even apart from the states. But it is impossible for the unity ox the states to exist independently of those states. The factor of identity, therefore, cannot be anything over and above the states. Is it then identical with the states themselves ? If so, the changing states hang loose and cannot account for the feeling of personal identity. It may be contended that this identity is an identity-indifference which runs through the different states and holds them together. But the concept of Identity-in-difference is rejected by Nagarjuna as patently contradictory. The nature or essence of the atman. therefore, cannot be conceived in any rational way. It is, of course, always experienced along
with the states; hut rational analysis shows that neither the self nor any of its states can exist by itself. Hence their related existence is only an illusory appearance. It would .seem, therefore, that none of the phenomena with which we ordinarily reckon ourselves to be acquainted are real. They are, one and all, illusory, intrinsically essenceless (nihsvabhava). They are significant only as they appear to be related to other things and are nothing apart ±*rom those relations. This essencelessness or intrinsic vacuity or unsubstantiality of all empirical phenomena, which / is due to their dependent existence, is known as Sunvata in the Madhyamika philosophy. Nagar^una, therefore, says time and again that what.is meant by dependent origination _ _ (pratitvasamutnada) is .the same as what is meant by Sunvata. It should be observed, however, that though Nagarjuna <1 _ says that 'dependent origination' it is which means Sunvata. the word 'means' in this connection, is not equivalent to 'is synonymous with'. When we say 'unity means strength', the words 'unity' and 'strength' are not synonymous. Unity means
-L pratitya-samutpada-sabdasya yo'arthalj sa eva sunyatasabdasya arthah - MKV, XXIV, p.491. /_ sunyah sarva-dharmah nlhsvabhavayogena iti - MKV, p.500.
yasca pratitya bhavo bhavanam sunyateti sa prokta - W. 22. A
strength only In the sense that it gives indication of strength Similarly, when it is said that relativity means Sunvata. the former should not he taken exactly as a synonym for the latter. What is meant by this is that relativity indicates Sunvata. That relativity is considered by Ifagar juna to be an indicatioh of, and not a synonym for, Sunvata is clear from his own writings. He says that the objects of experience lack a nature of their own and are essenceless (suhya) because they depend for their existence on their prior conditions« Relative existence thus implies, and is not literally the same as Sunvata. So Sunvata should not be translated as ‘relativity*
as is done by Stcherbatsky. Sunvata means emptiness or esserce lessness of which relativity is only an indicator. This vacuity, unsubstantiality or hollowness is the • 2 true nature (Prakrti) of everything of the world and is,
thing which is in itself something. Sunvata is regarded as 1 ye hi pratitya samutpanna bhlvaste na sa-svabhava bhavanti, svabhava-bhavat/kasmat/hetu-pratyaya-sapeksatvat/yadi hi svabhavato bhava bhaveyuh, pratyakhyayapi hetu-pratyayan’ ca bhaveyuh/na caivam bhavanti/tasmannihsvabhavah/nihsvsbhavatvat suhyah ityabhidhiyante - W, p.ll. 2 atha keyam dharmanam dharmata/aharminam* svabhayah/koyam svabhavah/prakrtih/ka ceyam prakrtih/yeyam* suhyata
- ' * -* MKV, p.264.
the true nature of phenomena only in the sense that they have no essence or true being. One must not think that this essencelessness itself is a kind of essence or character. Candrakirti warns us against such a possible misunderstanding and ridicules those who understand 'lack of character* or 'lack of essence' itself to be a kind of positive character by comparing them to a beggar who, when told that he would get nothing, expected that something named 'nothing' would actually 1 _ — * t;e given to him. Candrakirti repeatedly asserts that Sunvate is the true nature of phenomena only in the sense that they are absolutely empty or void (nihsvabhava). unsubstantial
or vacuous; there is no such thing as can be called Sunvata. _ Sunvata or Nothing would thus appear to be only the absolute negation of everything which in our experience appears to exist. It does no-6 in any way imply its own being. With a view to making this point clear, Nagarjuna makes a distincticn _ between Sunvata and abhava. The former, in his opinion, is absolute Non-existence or mere Void; and the latter is only an instance of relative non-existence; abhava means the absence of this or that thing which is taken to exist at some time and place or other. If something be not taken to be real, its abhava or non-existence cannot be significantly spoken of. Nobody speaks of the abhava or non-existence of a barren 1 yo na kimcid api te panyam etc. - MKV, pp.247-248
woman’s son. Non-existence or abhava thus necessarily refers to an object which is believed to exist at some particular space and time. This kind of non-existence is, therefore, relative. It is not intelligible except as the non-existence of some existent thing? And in itself, too, it is a kind of existence — a negative existence or a negative fact. For just as on certain occasions we may rightly say that there is an elephant in this village, so we may truly say on certain other occasions that there is the non-existence of an elephant there. Non-existence, in this context, thus is a kind of existence or fact. But the Non-existence which is called Sunyata is quite different from this kind of negative fact. For it is not the non-existence of anything which ever exists anywhere. It is the non-existence of all empirical objects. These objects, according to Nagarjuna, do not really exist — they only appear to do so. Our perceptions of them are like the perceptions of hairs where there are none, on the part of a person who suffers from some special optical disease, called timira (opthalmia) which causes such hallucinations? Sunya-ta. 1 tasmanna vandhyaputradihim abhavatvam - MKV, p. 528.' tatra abhavali_anityata va_bKavam upadaya prajnapyate; khara-visanadinam anityata anupalambhat. - MKV, p.527. 2 bhavasya ced aprasiddhirabhavo naiva sidhyati - MK, XV, 5. 3 bhavasya hi anyathabhavam abhavam bruvate janah - MK, XV, 5. 4 akas’am* sasasrangam ca vandhyayah putra eva ca$ asantali ca* abhilapyante, tatha bhav,e§u kalpana. — quoted by Candrakirti from Catuhsatakam in MKV, p.528. 5 taimirikopalabdha kesa-dars”anavat - MKV, p.30,75,261,274 erzc. .
Suhvata is, therefore, a Non-existence, corresponding to which there is nowhere any truly real negatum. Hence such Nonexistence cannot he called abhava which is significant only as the non-existence of an existent thing. It is more adeL quately described as Sunva or Void which is absolute Nonexistence or utter Vacuity and is not even a negative fact. The multifarious objects of the wotId hide this Void. which Is the ultimate Tattva and, therefore, are called samvrti o*r false appearances which conceal the Truth". They are mere
fictive constructions of the imagination — due to the influence of certain mental dispositions or psychic impressions (sanskaras). These impressions (sanskaras) again are due to the experience of prior imaginary objects, which again, in their turn, are due to their prior impressions and so on ad infinitum. Thus appearance and disappearance of the so called facts of experience occur only in the realm of imagination. Nothing in the objective world really originates. Nagarjuna shows, by an analysis of the principle of causality, that it is unintelligible how anything can originate at all. The principle of causality, he says, Is a fundamental category of thought believed to be real by ordinary men as well as some philosophers. We take certain things to be causes in relatio* 1 samantad avaranam hi samvrtih/ajnanam hi s amantad sarvapadartha-tattvacchldanat samvrtih iti ucyate - MKV.p.492. 2 rupa-sabda-rasa-spar/a gandhah dharmasca kevalah - MK,XXIII, 8. kevala iti parikalpita-matra nihsvabKava ityarthah - MKV,p.4S7.
to certain other things and believe that the former produce the latter. But it is not intelligible to reason how a cause can produce an effect. Ordinarily it is believed that the effect is non-existent before its production and comes to exist only after its production. But this is untenable. The non-existent can never come into existence. That which does not exist and is not real in itself, cannot be made so by anything else. If anybody holds that the non-existent can q,ome Into existence, he will have to admit that even a skyflower or a hare*s horn can be brought into existence. But 1 that surely is an absurdity. Besides, if the effect is nonexistent before its production, the cause cannot have any relation with it. How can the existent cause have any relation with the non-existent effect? If the effect be nonexistent or unreal'before its production it cannot enter into any relation with the cause at that time. But that the cause must have some relation with the effect even before the production of the latter is clear from the fact that for a particular effect we look for a particular cause. Any cause 2 does not produce any effect. Causation therefore does not mean the production df the non-existent. Does it, then, mean the production of the existent? If so, production would be 1 na tu_yujyate asatah udbhavah kharavisanadeh api utpadaprasangat *- CSV,*p.233, * ’ 2 apratyayebhyo'pi kasmanriabhipravartate phalam - MK, .
meaningless. Moreover, it will lead to a regressus ad infi1 nitum. If the existent can again he brought into existence, there is no reason why it will not again be brought into existence, and so on ad infinitum. If It be said that production only means making the implicit existence explicit i.e., bringing forth a change of form merely, Nagarjuna would raise the same difficulty In respect of this form. Does the new particular form exist or not prior to its production? If the former, production is meaningless. If the latter, we • cannot explain how the non-existent can ever come into 2 existence.
Utpatti or Origination, therefore, cannot be either of the existent or of the non-existent and consequently the principle of causality is unintelligible. A cause is not the cause of the non-existent, for in that case, of what is it the cause? Nor is the cause the cause of the existent; for if it 3 be the cause of the existent, of what use is a cause? 1 na svata utpadyante bhavah, tadutpadavaiyarthyad atiprasangadosae ca. na hi svatmana vidyamananam* padarthanam* punarutpade prayojanam asti - Buddhapalita quoted in MKV,
atha sata utpadah parikalpyate tadotpadanavasthaprasangah
- - CSV, p.234.
2 MKV, p.22
3 naivasato naiva satah pratyayo,' rthasya yujyate; asatah pratyayah kasya satasca pratyayena kirn. ' - MK, I, 6.
The conclusion, therefore, is that causation is only an illusory appearance. The so-called hard facts of the world do not originate at all. The existence which they enjoy is illusory like that of dreams and castles in the air and is due only to our ignorance or wrong notions; and with the dissolution of our false notions, they, too, are hound to 1 dissolve. Such a philosophy should be characterised as bare phenomenalism and not as absolutism. For it declares the relative objects of experience to be merely an illusory appearance but does not accept any absolute reality as the
ground of this appearance. It thus differs from the philosophy of Kant. According'to Kant the objects of experience are, nc doubt, phenomena but a phenomenon or appearance,for him, always implies a noumenon or some reality which appears differently from what it is. He, therefore, asserts that the appearance of the world is grounded in something which, however, is 1 yatha maya yatha svapno gandharvanagaram yatha; tathotpadas tatha sthanam* tatha bhanga udahrtam
sa cayam laukikah jarapanco niravasesah Sunyatayam sarva' bhava-svabhava-*sunyata-darsane sail ‘nirudhyate - MKV, p.350.
2 tasmat sibtramidam,bhavanam nirmulasvabhavatva matram darsayati - CSV, p.294.
unknown, ana unknowable to us. But Nagarpuna's philosophydoes not recognise any such basic reality — here the last word is the negation of the reality of all empirical objects. That is why we have characterised his philosophy as a type of bare phenomenalism. If, however, we emphasize Nagarjuna*s account of Tattva or ultimate Truth, we may perhaps call him an absolutist as well. The Non-existence which is the Tattva or ultimate Truth is absolute in nature. We have already seen that Nag*ar-
juna makes a distinction between Non-existence as Sunvata anc non-existence as a negative fact or abhava. The latter, he says, is relative in nature — relative to a positive fact, while the former is’absolute in nature in the sense that corresponding to it there is nowhere any truly real negatum. The Truth of this world is thus absolute in nature; Nagarjuna describes it as non-dual, perfectly quiescent, purely indeterminate, indescribable by words and transcedent to thought^ It is non-dual (a-nanartham) because the absolute Vacuity of phenomena can in no way be characterised as plural. An existent object (bhava) is always of a distinct nature and consequently different from other existent objects. The existents (bhava) are thus conceived as plural (nana) in nature. Non-existence 1 apara-pratyayam sintam prapancairaprapancitam; nirvikalpam a-nanartham etat tattvasya laksanam.- MK,XVIII,9. • •
or absence (abhava) too is always of a distinctive nature and consequently different in different cases. For example, the non-existence of a pot on the floor is different from the nonexistence of a table there. If the two cases of non-existence were not different but identical, then, whenever there is the absence of the pot on the floor, there must also be the absence of the table there. But evidently this is not the case. Therefore, the two cases of non-existence or absence (abhava) must be considered as different. Absence or non-existence has thms to be conceived as various in nature as it is the absence of this or that specific object which stands as the correlative (nrativogin) of the absence Cabhava) in question. But the utter Vacuity of phenomena called Sunvata is not an absence of this kind. It Is not the absence or non-existence (abhava) of the objects of the world taken separately or collectively; fcr these objects are not real existents. The objects of the world are illusory or phenomenal in nature, they do not exist at all, and therefore, their utter Vacuity (Sunvata) which is their Truth (Tattva) cannot be distinguished or differentiated in any way by these plural objects of the world. It is, therefore, It is also called santam or perfectly quiescent as this Sunvata is absolutely unruffled by origination and cessation. 1 tadevam a-nanarthata tattvasya laksanam veditavyam sunyataya ekarasatvat - MKV, p.375. * *
It has no origination because the phenomenal objects really are not there so that their negation can be said to produce this Sunyata: nor can this Sunyata have any cessation; for it is only the real creation of the objects of experience / which could bring their•Sunyata or absolute Non-existence to y _
an end; and this is an impossibility. Therefore, this Sunyata is absolutely calm and always remains the same^ It is also altogether indeterminate (nirvikalpa) sfod indescribable by words (prapancairaprapancita) because no category of thought can be applied to it. Sat or existence ana asat or non-existence are the two most fundamental categories of thought. But we have already seen that neither of these two categories can be applied to Sunyata or absolute Void which is /
the Tattva, As this Sunyata cannot, in any way, be said to imply an essence of its own, the category of sat or existence does not apply to it. And as it is the principle of absolute Negation or pure Non-being corresponding to which there is nowhere any truly real negatum, the category of asat or nonexistence, too, does not apply to it. Thus the two most fundamental categories of thought, sat or existence (bhava-buddhi, astiti-buddhi) and asat or non-existence (abhava-buddhi. nastTtibuddhi) fail to describe the true nature of Truth (Tattva). And when we cannot characterise Truth as either existent or nonexistent, it is obvious that it cannot also be characterised as 1 etacca santasvabhavam ataimirika-kesadarsanavat-svabhavavirahitam ityarthah - WKV, p.373.
both existent and non-existent (sadasat). We cannot even characterise it as neither-existent-nofi-non-existent (no1 bha/am). / To say that Sunvata or absolute Void is neither-existent-nornon-existent is to predicate a certain character of that Voil — the character being 'being neither existent nor non-existent . / But as Sunvata or Void does not stand for anything real which exists, no assertion regarding it is at all possible'!' In orcer to make a meaningful assertion, that of which a character is predicated must be something which is. or exists: we cannot meaningfully make any assertion regarding a barren woman's sen. Hence Sunvata or absolute Void is beyond the application of the four possible concepts of understanding — existence, nonexistence, both existence and non-existence, neither existence nor non-existence2 (catuskoti-vinirmukta) and consequently this ultimate Truth is said to be indeterminate (nirvilcalna).
indescribable by words (prapancairaprapancita). As it is beyond the application of all concepts of intellect, it cannot be communicated either, i.e., made intelligible by other persons but, has to be realised in one's own intuition of it (apara4 ‘ pratyaya).
See pp. 38 of the present thesis. sadasat sadasacceti sadasanneti ca kramah / CS, XIV, 21. prapancairaprapancitam vagbhih avyahatam ityarthah - MKV, p.373. aparapratyayam paropade/agamyam svayamevadhigantavyam ityarthah - MKV, p.373.
The description of Sunvata as indeterminate, indescribable by words, transcendent to thought, quiescent, nondual, etc., thus brings out the absolute nature of the principle of pure Non-being which is the Tattva. And as the Tattva accepted by Nag"arjuna is not relative but absolute in nature, we may characterise his philosophy as a form of absolutism. But this form of absolutism has no parallel either in the East or in the West. In all forms of absolutism with which we are acquainted, the negation of the relative phenomena is based on the assertion of some Reality which is absolute m nature. The different absolutists, no doubt, disagree as to the precise nature of the Absolute Reality. But in spite of this disagreement, they all agree in asserting something to be absolutely Real — be it ’Concrete Thought', or 'Immediate Experience' or an utterly distinctionless 'Pure Consciousness *• In all these forms of absolutism the negation of the finite and the relative is based on the assertion of a positive ultimate. Nagarjuna, however, negates the relative phenomena as unreal but does not find anything Real which can be regarded as Absolute Truth. He therefore accepts this Absolute Negation itself to be the Absolute Truth. This Truth may, consequently, be
characterised as a 'Negative Absolute* in contrast with the concept of 'Absolute Reality' which is positive in nature. 1 Cf. The Nava-Nalanda-Mahavihara Research Publication,Vol.L. "The Absolutist's Standpoint in Logic" - p.3. We are, however, not sure if the term 'negative absolute' which occurs in this article has been employed in the sense in which we have employed it, here.
Does Sunvata Stand For An Absolute Reality ? The foregoing interpretation of Nagarjuna's view is accepted by the main schools of Indian philosophy. All of tlem £ _ hold that Sunvata in Nagarjuna's philosophy means mere emptiness or vacuity.
Most of the modern scholars of Buddhism, however, hold that the vacuity of appearances or th@ denial of the reality of individual things constitutes only the negative aspect of Nagarjuna's philosophy. All objects of the world are declared to be sunva or devoid of essence because of their essentially relative nature. But behind this empty show, these scholars think, Nagarjuna also accepts an absolute Reality which is, like the Brahman of Advaita-Vedinta,wholly indeterminate in nature,, To call it being (bhava) is wrong, for only concrete things are properly so called. To call it non-being Cabhava) is equally wrong; for non-being or non-existence is only a negative fact as distinct from a positive one. But though this absolute Reality is not a positive fact as contrasted with a negative one, nor a negative fact as contrasted with a positive one, soill it cannot be concluded that it is pure Nothing or Void. It is an ineffable supra-relational positive principle of pure Being which is beyond the relativity of positive and negative facts This positive ultimate Reality is called Sunva because it is devoid of all determinations. Sunvata thus, in the opinion of these scholars, signifies two things — essencelessness, unsudstantiality or vacuity of empirical things on the one hand, and a non-empirical principle of pure, indeterminate Being on the other — and applies both to phenomena and to the foundational absolute Reality. Phenomena are slinva. as they are devoid of
substantiality (nihsvabhava). The Real is Sunva as it is utterly beyond the reach of all conceptual constructions (nirvikalua, nisprapanca. avacva. anabhilanva). Hence Madhyamika philosophy, according to these scholars, is neither nihilism nor bare phenomenalism but a form of positive absolutism. The absolute Reality is not Void, but a positive principle which is devoid of all empirical characters. It is avidya or ignorance that invests it with empirical characters, hides its true nature and puts forth the manifold objects of experience in its place. These objects are unreal appearances but they are the unreal appearances of the
Absolute Reality called Sunvata.
1 Stcherbatsky observes nHe (Nagarjuna) extols the principle of relativity and destroys through it every plurality only i* order to clear the ground and establish on it the unique indefinable (anirvacaniya) essence of Being,the one-withoutsecond" — The Conception of Nirvana,
Prof. Radhakrishnan also says that Sunvata is a positive principle". "To call it being is wrong, only concrete things are. To call it non-being is equally wrong. It is best to avoid all descriptions of
it" — Indian Philosophy, Vol.I. pp.663-664.
Prof. Murti supports Radhakrishnan and says that he correctly interprets Sunvata as a positive principle — The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.333, foot-note I. As this positive principle is "incommensurable and inexpressible" it is called Sunva — The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.231.
But it is difficult to accept this modern interpretation of Nagarjuna's philosophy. If Sunyavada-Buddhism holds that the empirical world of subjects and objects is only an illusory appearance of an absolute indeterminate principle of pure Being, in what way does Advaita-'Vedanta differ from this school ? why does Sankara so vehemently oppose it ? Modern scholars who give this new interpretation of Nagarjuna's philosophy hold that,really speaking, there is \*ery little difference between Nagarjuna's Sunyata-darsana and Sankara's Advaita-Vedinta. The long drawn battle fought between these schools is entirely without reason and due either to religious animosity or to the faulty understanding of each other's philosophy.. Stcherbatsky says, "There is but little difference between Buddhism and Vedanta — a circumstance ^teich Sankara carefully conceals"^ According to Stcherbatsky, therefore, Nagarjuna's philosophy does not in any important respect differ from the philosophy of Sankara, Sankara knows this tut conceals this fact by intentionally mispresenting Nagarjuna's philosophy as the philosophy of pure Void. Somewhat more generous are those scholars who think that Sankara's opposition to the Madhyamika school isjduelto misunderstanding. The terms
Sunva and Suhvata which are used by the Madhyamikas in referring to their Tattva seem to be the principal source of this misunder- <1 standing. Sankara takes the word Sunva in its literal sense of 1 The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana, pp.38-39.
vacuity and concludes that a philosophy which advocates Vacuity itself as ultimate Truth is an absurdity. Had he Z realised that Sunvata as Tattva stands for an absolute indeterminate Reality which only illusorily appears as this empirical world, he would have found in Nagarjuna a friend and not a foe. But neither of these alternative explanations of the alleged misunderstanding is convincing. Religious fanaticism, It is true, often leads to disputes both in theory and in practice. Still it would not be proper to hold that a philcsopher like Sankara is subject to it in his philosophical discussions. It will, perhaps, be admitted by all competent scholars that he hap faithfully presented the views of such ouher systems as Sankhya, Jainism, VijnSnavada, etc., in spioe of his holding religious views very different from theirs, toy should his sense of intellectual fairness be vitiated by religious prejudice in the particular case of the Madhyamika school alone? Moreover, Nagarjuna*s philosophy has been
presented as the doctrine of pure Void not only by Sankara but also by all other classical schools of Indian philosophy. Not the Hindus alone, but the Jainas, too, hold the same view^ Rven 1 Prof. Hiriyanna says, "Not the Hindus alone, but the Jains also, we may add, hold the Madhyamika to be a nihilist", He referp to Pramanaanaya-tattvalokalamkara, i.15, com.
- sarva sunyataiva param tattvam* and to Prameya-kamalamartanda, p.25, Nirnaya Sag Pr. - Outlines of Indian Philosophy, p.222. *
Vijnanavada, a school of Buddhism itself, maintains the same view as Sankara in this respect^ Should we hold that Vijnina-? vlda, too, has willingly distorted the Madhyamika position ? / The suggestion, therefore, that Sankara wilfully misinterpreted Nagarpuna's view, on account of religious animosity or "bigotry, would seem to be rather inept. As for the|a ssumptionl that Sankara unknowingly misunderstood Nagar^nna's philosophy, this would appear to be illfounded when we take into account how the different schools of philosophy gradually developed in India. In the history of European thought, we usually find the different schools coming into existence successively: each school predominates for a period till another, comes In and almost replaces It. In India, on the other hand, we find that though the different schools have come ihto existence at different times, they have, nevertheless, developed together on parallel lines and flourished aide by side during many centuries. And in pursuing parallel courses of growth, they have developed through mutual discussion, criticism and countercriticism. Consequently, had there been any misunderstanding of one school on the part of another, it would 1 The Vijnahavadin, in criticising the Madhyamika school, contends that it is unreasonable to maintain that there could be a false appearance except on the ba^is of some real thing which appears falsely. Cf. Trirfsikabhasya, p.16, upaearasya ca niradharasya casambhavad-etc.* This evidently shows that the Vijnanavadins also do not think that Sunvata stands for a principle of absolute Reality
have been removed in the course of such discussions. But th= Madhyamikas have nowhere said that the interpretation of their philosophy as the philosophy of pure Void is a misunderstanding. The only complaint which Candrakirti makes about the critics of the Madhyamika school is that they have wrongly represented them as Kastikas,'i.e., nihilists in the sense of denying lifeafter-death and moral values. He saysHiat the Madhyamika philosophy which preaches the truth of pure Void or absolute Ncn-being differs vitally from the Nastika-darsana. A nastira philosopher negates the existence of life in any form after death; but nevertheless he believes in its real existence before death. But the Madhyamika does not believe in the reality of this life even when it is experienced^ Therefore if the Madhyamika philosophy be called Nastika-vada. it must be a distortion of the true Madhyamika position. Candrakirti complains only against this misrepresentation of his school of philosophy. To our knowledge, he nowhere says that the Absolute Reality
called Sunvata has been mistaken as absolute Void or Vacuity by the critics of the Madhyamika philosophy. Under these circumstances, one can hardly assume that the interpretation of the Madhyamika philosophy as the doctrine of pure Void is a 1 yo hi bhagayan purvam raga-dvesa-moha-bhava-bhyupagamam krtva pascanna santi raga-dvesa-moha-bhava iti braviti sa bhagavan vai histiko bhavati - MKV, p.274. See also Section III of Chapter I of the present thesis entitled "Sunyata-Darsana and Nastika-Darsana".
developed many years after the growth of Sunvavada. And at that time, due to the devastating criticism by the Vi.Inanavadins. y _ Sunva-vada was not much in vogue and therefore mutual discussion between opposing schools which usually provides 'the occasion for removing such misunderstanding^ could not take place. I” rtas thus possible for Sankara to misunderstand Kagarjuna's position. This assumption, too, has little plausibility about
it. Even if it be admitted that Sunvavada was not much in vogue at the time of Sankara and Sankara could not hold discussion with orthodox ^uhva-vadins. we can, by no means, say that the same was the case with the Vi.1nana-vadins. For they are the
immediate successors of the Sunya-vadins and it is quite natural that these two schools of Buddhism came in close contact with each other and knew each other's position quite well. But the Vijnana-vadins also hold that the main defect of Nagarjuna’s philosophy is that he declares the world to be an illusion but does not accept anything real at its basis. It is, therefore, difficult to agree with the modem /_ _ scholars in holding that the Tattva called Sunvata In Nagarjuna's philosophy stands for an indeterminate absolute Reality \
of ’which the different empirical things are only illusory appearance. Modern scholars being actuated by the spirit of reconciliation, the characteristic spirit of the modern age, are eager to discover affinity between the opposed sfihools of Buddhism and Vedanta. And in their eagerness to find out the principle of unity, they foist Advaitic notions on Madhyamika philosophy. Nagarjuna* s acceptance of an ultimate Tattva and its description in an Advaitic fashion as non-dual indeterminate, unruffled by origination and cessation, etc. seem to have provided the cue for this wishful thinking on the part of these eclectic minds. But the fact that such an interpretation does not tally with the explicit statements of the founder and the principal exponents of the school itself would seem to indicate that it may be altogether misconceived. As already stated by us, these modern exegetes of Sunvavada maintain that the word Sunva means two things — (i) essencelessness or hollowness or absolute non-being of phenomena (svabhava-sunvata) and (ii) indeterminacy (prapancasunvata) of the Absolute Reality (Tattva). and so applies to phenomena as well as Reality. Phenomena are sunva because, owing to their relative existence, they are devoid of essence. The absolute Reality, having an essence intrinsic to it, is called Sunva only because it is devoid of all determinations. Sunya, therefore, does not mean 'Void1; it means on the contrary 'devoid'; so far as appearances are concerned, they are devoid of essence or being, and so far as Tattva is concerned, it is 33 devoid of plurality and determinations (and not of essence or being).
But an impartial student of Nagarjuna will find that Suhvata has only one meaning in Madhyamika philosophy, namely essencelessness or hollowness or vacuity of empirical things because of their dependent origination. Nagarjuna has, through-
out his harikas, invariably connected Sunvata with the doctrine of dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada)1 2and has not suggested even by implication any other meaning of it. Hot only in the Madhyamika Karikas of Hagarjuna but also in the other Wl S
find that the word Sunvata is used always to mean essencelessmess or unsubstantiality pf phenomena because of their essentially relative nature. In his commentary on the Catuhs'atakam, — * C. Candrakirti emphsfcically says that Sunvata carQiot have any other
meaning. It is, therefore, somewhat difficult to understand how serious students of Buddhism can come to the conclusion that the word Sunya. when applied to Tattva, stands for an absolute Reality which is not devoid of essence- but only devoid of all possible determinations. If Sunvata. as it is repeatedly asserted by the Madhyamikas, means Intrinsic essencelessness or non-being 1 V/e have already referred to these Karikas and Candrakirti ’ s comment thereon. See p. !& of the present thesis, Foot Notesri
2 svabhava-virahitarthah ca atra Suhyatartha Ityasakrdaveditam - CSV, XVI, p.263,*
of phenomena, it should mean the same even -when it applies to Tattva, l.e., when Suhvata is called the Tattva we must hold that the intrinsic Vacuity or absolute Non-being of phenomena itself is the ultimate Tattva. Of course, this Non-being is not a negative fact, and is altogether indeterminate in nature'!' Sunvata. therefore, implies also complete indeterminacy; but this indeterminacy (incapability of being described as sat. asat. sadasacceti. sadasanneti. etc.) characterises the principle of pure Non-being or Void and does not in addition refer to a*y Absolute Reality like the Brahman of Advaita-Vedinta. Nagarjuna has nowhere accepted any such Reality to which existence is intrinsic. On the contrary, he sSserts again and again that there is nothing which has an essence of its own and this intrinsic essencelessness or pure Non-being is the universal Truth (Tattva)
of the world and is-*known as Sunvata. Nagarjuna's description of this Suhvata appears to be similar to Sankara's description of Brahman only because it is very difficult to distinguish between pure Non-being and pure Beihg. Pure Being (Brahman) is called indeterminate, indescribable, non-dual,unruffled by origination 1 See pp. aa-^Sof the present thesis for an explanation of the purely indeterminate nature of the absolute Negation of phenomena which constitutes the Truth.
and cessation, etc. Pure Non-being also can be described in the same fashion. It is because of this that Sankara sometimes points out that one may mistake Brahman as pure Non-being or Sunya and then warns us against such a misunderstanding? The Madhyamikas also apprehend a similar danger and state time and again that Suhyata does not imply, in any way, an essence or 2 being of its own.
Under these circumstances it is difficult to agree with ?Chose modern scholars who think that Nagarjuna, like Sankara, accepts an absolute Reality behind the world of appearance and that Sunyata is only another name for this Reality. It also seems to us that the arguments by which they try to justify their interpretation are not convincing. (i) The main argument seems to be that Nagarjuna has explicitly accepted an ultimate Tattva which he has describe! as
non-dual, quiescent, indeterminate and indescribable. The acceptance of this Tattva and its description as non-dual, 1 digdesagunagat1phalabhedasUnyam hi paramarthasad advayam Brahma mandabuddhinam asad iva pratibhati. Bhasya on Chh. Up. (beginning of Chap. VIII). 2 Sunyam nama na kimcid asti iti siddham - CSV, p.272. 3 MK, XVIII,
quiescent, etc. means, according;to these scholars, the acceptance of an indeterminate absolute Reality. For example, Prof. Murti says, "Tattva (the Beal) is accepted explicitly, brat we are forbidden to characterise and clothe it in empirical terms'*^ Prof. Suzuki also says that Buddhism outspokenly
acknowledges the presence of the Real (Tattva) in the world",, The. argument shows that these scholars have evidently taken the word Tattva' to mean a positive Reality. But why should the word Tattva be necessarily translated as the Real, i.e., as something implying intrinsic being? It may, as wel_,
mean only the true, i.e., the undistorted nature of things. Now it is admitted on all hands that according to the Madhyanika the objects of experience, without any exception, are essenceless. But owing to our ignorance we misapprehend them to be individual realities. They have thus two forms owing to the manner of our apprehension. One is Tattva which is the object of right knowledge, and the other is the sanrvrti which is the object 6f false knowledgef Right knowledge (prajna) reveals 1 The Central philosophy of Buddhism, pp.312-313® 2 Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, p.219. 3 Cf. kim punah tattvam? satah ca sadbhavo'satasca __ asadbhavah/'1 2 3 4 sat' saditi grfiyaman.am* yathabhutam aviparitem tattvam bftavati/asacca. as aditi grhyamaiqam yathabhutam aviparitam tattvani bhavatf' - Introduction, Vat^ayan-bhasya on the Nyaya-sutras. 4 samyagdrskm* yo visayah sa tattvam, mpsadrskm samvrti-satyam uktam*- MA, VI, *23. ‘(as quoted by Prof’.Murti in*his Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.251).
tilings as absolutely hollow or vacuous in nature and therefore s' t.iis Vacuity or Suhvata constitutes their Truth or Tattva. False knowledge exhibits the things which are really essenceless as having an essence of their own. These individual things, therefore, constitute samvrti. If so, when anybody asks the question, what is the Truth or Tattva about the world, the <1 _ Sunvavadin can legitimately be supposed to answer that the Truth or Tattva about the world is that it is purely an empty show, there being no core of reality in it. The word Tattva • would, then, mean the pure Emptiness or Non-being of the objects of experience, as their Truth., and not any principle of Reality. The Madhyamikas, however, would not object to call this Tattva. Real, if the word ’Real' could mean the Truth ar opposed to the fictitious, the unconditioned as opposed to the conditioned, the objectively valid as opposed to the imaginec, the important as opposed to that which is of no value, without implying in any way that it exists. But most probably Reality cannot be conceived without implying an existence in some form or other. It may not be a spati©temporal existence, still it has to be conceived as an existence which is free from the limitations of space and time. Hence though the Madhyamikas describe their Tattva as Paramartha Satva1 or the highest 1 etad hi bhiksavah paramam satyam, etc. - MKV, p.4l. paramartha darsariat rsi-$- - MKV, p.306. paramartho nisprapanca svabhavah - MKV, p.494.
Truth, it cannot he called an Absolute Reality, because the Madhyamikas remind us time and again that this ParamarthaSatya or Paramartha-Tattva is|of the nature of pure essenee1 lessness or vacuity. That the Tattva or ultimate Truth, for Nagarjuna, is nothing other than the absolute Non-existence of phenomena is also made clear by his refusal to entertain any paksa or thesis about it. As he says, to maintain a paksa or a thesis i«n regard to Tattva would amount to the assertion of some character in regard to it; and there could, at most, be four such Paksas (theses). One could say (i) that Tattva is existent, or (ii) it is non-existent or (iii) it is both-existent-and-non-existent or (iv) it is neither-existent-nor-nonexistent. Now each of these four statements would assert some character of the Tattva which stands as the subject of such an
assertion; "but in order to make a meaningful assertion, that 1 svabhava-sunyata laksanam tattvam - CSV, p.8. Suhyam nama na kimcid asti iti siddham - CSV, p.272. Prof.Murti says that Tattva or paramartha-satva is the knowledge of the Real, as it is xvrithout any distortion (a-krtrimam vasturupam) and quotes BCAP, p.354; (see Central Philosophy of Buddhism p.244) — Parama uttamo'rthah paramarthah a-krtrimam vasturupam*, sarva-dharmanam nihsvabhavata. Here the word 'vastu' might be thought'to support Prof. Murti's contention. But, then, it is explained immediately as dharmanam* nihsvabhavatawhere 'vastu' is paraphrased as 'dharma' and'if 'nihsvabhavata', would mean essencelessness, as it does usually, 'paramartha' would evidently mean essencelessness of phenomena and not anything else. Even when we say that the Tattva is 'neither-existent-nornon-existent' we assert the character of 'being neither-- existent-nor-non-existent' in regard to it. —See p. of the present thesis.
of which a character is predicated must he something which it or exists — we cannot meaningfully make any assertion regarding a barren woman’s son; hence no paksa can he entertained about the ultimate Tattva. inasmuch as it is no better than such an absolute Non-existence as that of a barren woman’s son. Sometimes the word paksa is taken in a technical sense to mean the subject of an Inferential judgment. Candrakirti says that the Madhyamikas cannot prove their conclusion by giving independent arguments, because in order to prove a thesis by arguments, there must be a subject about -which something is proved. This subject of an inferential judgment is technically called the paksa and the character which is predicated of this subject is called sadhva. Now the rules of valid inference demand that the paksa or the subject of an inferenm tial judgment must be something which is real. If the subject or raksa itself happens not to exist, we cannot predicate any character of it — such an attempt would be like proving the sadhva to exist nowhere. But the Madhyamika does not accept anything to be really existing, and hence he cannot have any paksa. nor, therefore, any valid inferential judgment. If, nevertheless, he would attempt to prove a thesis by an inference, such an inference would have the defect called 'asrayasiddhi*, i.e., the defect of establishing something in 1 regard to what is unreal. 1 Madhyamikanam paksa-hetu-drstahtanam asiddheh svatantranumana-anabhidhlyitvat etc.’ - MKV, p.18. * iti na vyavartate asiddhadKare paksa-dosah ’asrayasIdaho1 vi" hetudosah - MKV, p.30.
Thus in whatever sense the word naksa is taken, whether in the sense of a judgment in general or in the sense of the subject of an inferential judgment, the reason for the Madhyimika's statement that he cannot have any naksa. is the same, namely, the fact that he does not accept anything as real. This, however, should not be taken to imply that the Madhyamika does not maintain any position of his own regarding the Truth of fhe world and that his sole interest lies in the refutation of the different views of different philosophers. For just like other • philosophers, Nagarjuna also upholds his own conclusion abouv the Truth (Tattva) of things and this he indicates by the word 1Sunvatl1. But once more, this position of Nagarjuna in regard tc Truth cannot be regarded as a naksa since this Truth knowm
as Sunvata does not stand for anything which is or exists. Of course, most modern scholars of Buddhism interpret the matter in a different way. They say that the Real, accoiding to Nagarjuna, is purely indeterminate in nature, as no category of thought can be applied to it. And when Nagarjuna says that he has no naksa or drsti, he only wants to express • • • • this pure indeterminacy of the Absolute and nothing more. Thus the true Madhyamika view, according to these scholars, is that there can be no correct doctrine about the Real; but 1 Sunyam nama kimcid api nasti iti nasti sunyata-paksah, etc. - CSV, p.273. * *
this should not he Interpreted to imply the 1no-reality1 doctrine'. Such an interpretation of drsti-hinata or paksahinata is, surely^quite plausible. But the principal reason why we should refuse to accept this, in the case of Nagarjuna, is that not only does he himself not say so, hut, on the contrary, he also positively says that he has no paksa because
he accepts nothing as real. Sunvata is only another name for the absolute negation of all empirical realities; it does not in any way imply an .essence or being of its own. Hence there y cannot be any paksa about Suhvata just as there cannot be any
paksa about a barren woman's son. Therefore it is not correct to say that the Madhyamika's attitude of no-doctrine-about-the real has been misinterpreted as the no-reality-doctrine. On the contrary, we should say that, as according to Nagarjuna, there is nothing Real, there can be no question of his assuming any attitude whatsoever towards the Real. Thus the acceptance of the Tattva by Nagarjuna does not mean his acceptance of any Absolute Reality — the Tattva being only a name for the absolute Non-existence or utter Vacuity of phenomena. Nor need we think that the description of this Tattva as indeterminate, indescribable, transcendent to ‘thought, 1 "The 'no-doctrine-about-the-real* attitude of the Madhyamika is confounded with the 1no-reality-doctrine*". - The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.330.
unruffled by origination and cessation, non-dual, etc. necessitates the conclusion that such an account can apply only to an absolute Reality which is indeterminate and yet positive. S' We have already shown why Sunvata. i.e., the absolute Nonbeing of phenomena is called indeterminate, indescribable, non-dual, quiescent, etc. We must take Candrakirti seriouslv when he is so particular in pointing out repeatedly that the Tattva is non-dual, quiescent, etc.3 ©nly on account of its intrinsic and absolute non-existence. Thus neither Nagarjuna's acceptance of the Tattva nor his description of it as indeterminate, non-dual, quiescent etc., can prove that he accepts an absolute Reality as the foundation of the phenomenal existents.
Another argument which is offered in support of intery_ _ preting Sunvata as a positive principle is based on Nagarjuna*s refusal to describe the Truth as abhava or non-existence. When the Madhyamikas quite emphatically say that Sunvata is not abhava. how can we take it in its literal sense of emptiness 7 Prof. Murti says, "Not only affirmative predicates (bhava, sat) but also negative predicates (abhava. asat) are denied of the 1 See pp. <2,0-a.4 of the present thesis. 2 tad evam a-naharthata tattvasya laksanam veditavyaxn auhyalaya ekarasatvat - MKV, p.375._ tasmadayam svabhavah sarvesan abhinna rupa iti sarve bhavah syabhavena ajata*ekarupg y^duta abhava-svabliavarupSh - CSV, XVI, p.281. etacca sahta-svabhavam a-taimirika-ke^adarsanavat svabhavavirahitam ityarthah - MKV, p.373. 43 . real. The Madhyamika does not specially favour the negative view. We are on the contrary expressly warned against taking
Suhvata as abhava (non-existence)". Stcherbatsky also complains against Vacaspati that "Vacaspati knows that they (Madhyamikas) deny abhava just as much and in the same sense as they deny bhava. This does not prevent him from repeating
popular accusation". But Nagarjuna’s unwillingness to describe the Truth tfattva) as non-existence (abhava). I think, cannot prove that fry Suhvata Nagarjuna does not mean the mere Vacuity of phenomena as absolute Truth. We have already seen why Nagarjuna
has refused to describe Sunvata as abhava. Abhava in order to be significant must* be the absence of something real, that is, it must refer to the concept of a corresponding something which is technically designated as the correlative (prativogin) tc the non-existence in question. Non-existence (asat, abhava) is thus always relative to an existent thing (bhava) and cannot stand by itself. But the objects of the world are, in absolute truth, altogether unreal and on a par with a batren woman's son or a hare’s horn. This utter Vacuity or absolute Non-being of the objects of the world which constitutes their ultimate Truth 1 The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.234. 2 The Conception of Nirvana, p.38. 3 See pf, ig'of frfre present thesis.
(Tattva) cannot be equivalent to relative non-existence or abhava — a non-existence which is not significant except- as the non-existence of an existent thing. It is more adequately described as Sunva of Void or pure and absolute Non-being, corresponding to which there is nowhere any truly real correlative (nrativogin). That Suhvata means absolute Nothingness or pure Negation which is not relative to any affirmation is clearly stated £y Candrakirti when he makes a distinction between relative nihilists or nastikas or ucchedavadins or abhava-vadins and the absolute nihilists or Sunva-vadins who avoid both the Scylla of relative existence (sat, bhava) and the Charybdis of relative non-existence (asat* abhava). The relative nihilists or nastikas are abhava-vadins or upholders of the doctrine of nonexistence, for their thesis is that the objects of the world are real when they are experienced, but after their destruction they become non-existent. • They first assert and then negate the objects of the world and, therefore, are called relative nihilists or abhava-vadins^ But the Madhyamikas hold that the world is not 1 Purvam_ca vartamana-avasthayam bhava-svarupam abhyupetya i’danim* tad vinasta-tvad nasti iti pascad abhyupagacchata uccheda-dardanaiif*prasajyate etc. MKV, p.273. Vide MKV,p^368, also - kim tarhi aihalaukikam* vastujatam upalabhya svabhavatah etc. ,bhava-sadbhave hi tatra tan-nisedhat abhava-vado bhavet - CSV, p.28§,. For a detailed account of the distinction between Suhvata-darsana and Nastika-dardana. see pp. of the present thesis.
real even at the moment when: It is experienced. It is merely a phantom of imagination. Therefore, the negation of the illusory world-appearance is of such a kind that corresponding to it there exists no truly real negatum. Consequently, the
Vacuity of worldly objects is called Sunyata and not abhava by Nagar juna. Moreover, the Madhyamika himself occasionally describes this Vacuity or Void as abhava-svabhava-ruba. i.e., of • 1 __ the nature of non-being5 of course, here, abhava or non-being must be understood not as a relative non-being which is always pitted against some sort of being, but as absolute Non-being or pure emptiness as such.
Nagarjuna's refusal to apply the category of nonexistence (abhava)‘to the ultimate Tattva. therefore, does not _ contradict the thesis that by Sunyata he means absolute Void. It only proves that Sunvata is not a negative fact as contrasted with a positive fact; it is, nonetheless, a principle of pure Non-being above the ordinary distinction of being and non-being. (iii) Another line of argument which is offered to prove that Nagarjuna accepts an absolute Reality behind the world of appearance is based on Nagar junafs belief in "Pra.jna1. the immediate knowledge of Truth. The Truth or Tattva. for 1 sarve bhavah svabhavena ajata ekarupa yaduta abhavasvabhava-rupa£ - CSV, XVI, 281.
Nagarjuna, is beyond the application of the categories of thought, but still it is not unknown and unknowable like the thing-in-itself of Kant. He, like other Mahayana Buddhists, maintains that the Tattva is known by Pra.lna. It is not, however, known in the same way as an ordinary object is known. The knowledge of an object always involves the distinction between knowledge and its object. But the Madhyamikas, being advocates of non-dualism (advava-vadins). cannot assert any such distinction in the case of the right knowledge of Truth, It is held, therefore, that the knowledge of Truth by Prajna (Transcendental, Intuitive knowledge) is that immediate
realisation of Sunvata or Tattva in which Tattva and the experience of it are identical. Therefore, Pra.lna or this 1 Intuition, itself, is the Tattva or the Absolute. 1 "The possibility of Intellectual Intuition is not only accepted but is taken to be the very heart of reality. It is the Truth. In Intuition, knowledge and the Real coincide" and therefore, "The Real (Tattva)_ can indifferently be called dharmata (Absolute) or Pra.lna paramita (Intuition)" - The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.214 and p.212. See also "Buddha-Prasanga" by Mahesh Chandra Ghose (VisvaBharati Publication), Chapt. Nirvana Tattva, where the learned writer says that NSglrjuna1s definition of Tattva clearly shows that such definition can apply to pure consciousness alone which is known as PrajSa or Bodhl. Buddhism,__he says, means by Pra.lna or Bodhi what Vedanta means by Atman or Brahman or Samvit or Cit. Had this fact been recognised either by the Vedantists or by the Buddhists, the age-old battle fought without any reasonable ground on the soil of Indian Philosophy would certainly have been avoided.
This Pra.ina or Intuition which is called the Absolute, these scholars claim, is not a special state of consciousness which comes into existence de novo. It is the basic principle of awareness itself. This principle of awareness ordinarily remains obscure by the opacity of different notions and ideas, i.e., by different conceptual constructions which are known as a.Inina. When, however, by the application of the dialectic, it is freed of these conceptual constructions, it is known as Pra.ina. Pra.ina. therefore, is nothing but deconceptualised pure awareness which, though realised in its pristine form in the highest ecstatic state, is always there, being unruffled by origination and cessation. It is the prius of all things and must be viewed as that generic and invariable form of knowledge of which other modes of apprehension are only -species. The Tattva in Nagarjuna's philosophy thus stands for a positive principle of deconceptualised non-dual consciousness known as Pra.ina. 1 The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, by Prof.T.R.V.Murti, p.219. We have, however, found it difficult to understand what Praf. Murti exactly means when he says that Pra.ina or Intuition itself is the Absolute. Sometimes he says that Pra.ina as the Absolute is nothing but deconceptualised pure awareness (cf. "Non-dual knowledge (Pra.ina) is contentless Intuition. Nothing stands out against it as an other confronting it^ It is thus always described as advava (non-dual), advaidhikara (nonbifurcated)" - Central Philosophy, p.219). But at some other places, Prof.Murti also says that Pra.ina has to be understood as "the reflective awareness of the dialectical play of reason — of the 'is' and 'not-is1; it is none other than this critical awareness" - Ibid, p.326. Now, if Pra.ina is none other than this reflective critical awareness, it cannot be,at the sane time, deconceptualised pure awareness; for certainly reflective awareness cannot be non-dual (advava) or indeterminate (nirvikalna) in nature. Prof.Murti is certainly extremely obscure when he remarks, "The dialectic as Pra1naparamita is venerated as nirvikalnam". p. 146,foot-note - 1. The \<rord dialectic,as far as we can conjecture,perhaps means,here,rational analysis or vicara; if so, it is very difficult to understand how this dialectic itself can be either advava or nirvikalna in nature, as is claimed by Prof.Murti. At least-Nagarjuna has nowhere saia that Sunvata is identical with any kind of vicara or reasoning.
The above line of thinking, though it has the support of many distinguished scholars, appears to us to be misdirected because of the following considerations. It is true that, in the opinion of the Madhyamika, our ordinary knowledge or vi.Irana cannot know the Truth of the world. Vi.1nana reveals things as having an existence of their own when, really speaking, they are absolutely vacuous in nature. It is P'ra.ina which can reveal this ultimate Truth of things. Things, when looked at through Prajffa. exhibit their essentially hollow nature. It is, therefore, defined as *dharmanam bhutanratvaveksa1 — 'seeing into
h from the ultimate point of view. Sunvata and the consciousness that reveals it must, therefore, be taken as non-different. But in what sense can they be non-different ? In order to explain this non-difference, the view under consideration has reduced Sunvata to Pra.lna and then concluded that ultimate Truth is of the nature of pure awareness. But this can hardly be justified, seeing that it clearly contradicts the
numerous statements of Nagarjuna which expressly say that Sunvata means the essencelessness of the things which we experience. Besides, it woulc^be going against Nagarjuna1 s polemic against the thesis that consciousness can exist without an object. If Pra.lna as deconceptualised pure awareness is taken
as the ultimate Reality in Nagarjuna1s philosophy, we have to admit that Nagarjuna accepts the position that there can he contentless consciousness. But Naglrjuna vehemently criticises this position. It has, of course, been suggested that when Nagarjuna says that consciousness cannot be contentless, he refers to only empirical cognitions, and not to the Transcendental Knowledge called Pra.ina. But has Hagarjuna anywhere said any such thing ? If not, would It not be rash to foist Advaitic notions on Nag'arjuna's philosophy? He has said thar • consciousness cannot exist without its content. The natural conclusion which follows from this statement is that when there is no content, therejis no consciousness either; that is, we cannot admit the reality of consciousness when we reject all contents as unreal.
Moreover, If we hold, as is held by Prof. Murti, that Pra.ina which is nothing but deconceptualised pure awareness or contentless consciousness is itself the Real, we cannot make out any distinction between the Madhyamika school of Buddhism and the Vijninavada school of Buddhism. If, according to the Madhyamika, the Real is Pra.ina which is unfathomable, infinite, "that generic .and invariable form of knowledge of which the other modes of apprehension are species"^- should he not describe the Real as non-dual knowledge (advava-inana) like the Yogacara or the Advaita-Vedantins? 1 The Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.219
The identification of Pra.ina with Suhvata. therefore,
does not mean that Sunyata is nothing hut a principle of consciousness called Pra.ina. It is the other way round. It means that Pra.ina, too, like any other thing, is essentially / Sunya. It is thus in essence identical with Truth and, therefore, Truth or Tattva can he regarded as non-dual in nature. That Pra.ina itself falls within the world of 1 nratityasamutpada1 and consequently is devoid of essence or being (Sunya) is asserted hy Nagar.juna himself. He says that it is wrong to maintain that Pra.ina or Bodhi can exist by itself 1 without being dependent for its origination on Buddha. There is Bodhi only because there is Buddha. The Buddha and Bodhi, in so far as they exist, exist as being dependent on each other; but from the ultimate point of view there is neither Bodhi nor
Buddha — both are equally Sunya. Thus Pra.ina itself is as much relative in nature as the phenomena which it reveals to be absolutely empty. The reason on account of which every object of experience is pronounced to be Sunya is equally present in the case of Pra.ina, too, ancjflience it is itself Sunya. Nagarjuna's dialectic does not spare anything. Pra.ina can be no exception to the universal rule. As all modes of 1 apratityapi Buddham ca tava bodhi prasajyate - MK, XXI?, 31. ^ skandha sabhavatu sunya vivikta, bodhi sabhavatu sunya _ vivikta - The sayiiig of Lord Buddha quoted by Candrakirti, MK?, p.349.
being are called Sunva. the knowledge of the Sunvata of these modes of being, i.e., Pra.ina also is Sunva. In the 'Panea-
vimsati-sahasrika', we find twenty inodes of Sunvata. One of these twenty modes is designated 'Suhyata-Suhyata', i.e. 1 unreality of the knowledge of unreality. This shows that according to Nagarjuna Pra.ina itself is Ossenceless or Sunva, It may be objected that the contention that Pra.ina falls within the world of pratitya-samutpada is not justified. For everything which falls within the world of pratityasamutpada is subject to origination and cessation; but Pra.ina 2 is said to be unruffled by origination and cessation. We would meet this objection thus s We have already referred to some statements of Nagarjuna himself where he says that Pra.ina has only dependent origination. Hence when again it is stated to be without origination we have to see in what precise sense Pra.ina is meant to be non-originated. Evidently, Pra.ina is a higher state of consciousness which has to be achieved and brought about by the spiritual aspirant by a long course of religious discipline and, therefore, must be considered to have origination. But then, if it originates, why is 1 The Central Philosophy^jof Buddhism, See Appendix ’A1, Notes on twenty modes of Sunyata.
2 tad ca anutpadarupam eva iti etc. MKY, XX?, p.533.
it again stated not to originate ? Pra.ina or Transcendental knowledge can be looked upon from two different points of view. It can be looked upon as a process of knowing and in that case it is empirical in nature. In.essence, however, it Is nothing but absolute Void which i^unruffled by origination and cessation. Therefore, when Pra.ina is stated to be non-originated, Pra.ina as a knowing process or a state of consciousness is not meant, what is meant is the absolute Vacuity which is the essen tial truth of that knowing process'!' That is why Nagarjuna • refuses to call this Pra.ina eternal or nitya. though he says that it is without origination and without cessation (anutpanna. aniruddha). Something is called eternal (nitya) when it is or exists and endures through time. A 'flower in the sky' or a 'barren woman's son' cannot be called eternal even
though it has neither origination nor cessation! If Pra.ina were a kind of Transcendental Consciousness, which has intrinsic essence or being and reveals the essential vacuity or nonbeing of everything else, there should be no objection to regarding it as eternal, when it is clearly stated to be 1 In order. to emphasize this essentially vacuous nature of Prajna, perhaps, it_JLs sometimes described not as the knowledge of Srunvata of things but as the non-excerience of the different_objects of the world yo anupalambhalj etc., cf. Asta-sahasrika-prajna-paramita,p.117 (quoted by Prof.Murti.in his Central Philosophy of Buddhism, p.218), 2 na ca avidyamanasya nityatvam yujyate ..... akas'akusumavat - CSV, IX, p.35. , ??-
without beginning and end. But eternity has been categorically denied of Pra.lna. This admits of only one explanation, Pra.lna. in spite of its being unruffled by origination and cessation, is incapable of being described as eternal (nitvaD because absolute Non-being or Vacuity, such as that of a barren woman's son, is the truth of Pra.lna. too. It may be asked, "If Pra.lna is described as without origination and without cessation because of its essentially vacuous nature, then, why does not Nagarjuna describe even vi.inlna to be non-originated and indestructible, when, that, too, Is essentially vacuous or void in nature"? The answer is: Sunyata is the essence or truth of vijpana or empirical knowledge, it is true, but though essentially void in nature, it does not and cannot reveal its own vacuity and its consequent non-origination and non-destruction; on the contrary it claims an Individual character of its own and seeks to confer the same on its objects also, taking itself and them as having origination and cessation. But Pra.lna emerges with a clear stamp of .absolute Vacuity on itself and at the same time shows the Vacuity of all other things^- Because of this unique feature of Pra.lna. namely, that it knows itself, too, as Vacuous or Sunya. it is free from the delusion to which other acts of 3- For the explanation of this peculiar trait of Pra.lna. namely, the peculiarity of revealing its own Sunyata, see p. of the present thesis.
cognition are subject and therefore it is held in so high esteem. In essence, however, it is as vacuous as other things. Hence all objects of experience, without any exception, are Suhva or Void, and this Sunvata or absolute Void is the ultimate Truth (Tattva) in Nagarjuna’s philosophy. Ill
We have seen that Sunvata in Madhyamika philosophy means only the absolute negation of the world which the uncritical mind takes as real. It states that all our experience is a delusion like a hallucinatory perception. Consequently it believes that, really speaking, there is no God, no Tathagats. no existence after death, no enjoyment or suffering due to actions done in this life. This philosophy, therefore, has some similarity with Nastika-darsana or Ucchedavada (nihilism). Nastika-dar/ana or Uccheda-vada. we know, is a negative doctrine in religion or morals. It does not believe in any postmortem future existence?- Consequently it does not also believe that man has either to enjoy or suffer in future in strict accordance with his actions done in this life. Because of these 1 *asti nasti dvi^tam matij' — "dvistam, paraloko' nasti" (quoted by Snri Phanibhusan Tarkavagisha in his "Nyayadarsana and Vatsyayana bhasya" Vol.I, p.67.) 55
similarities, Madhyamika philosophy is liable to be taken as a form of Uccheda-vada or Nastika-darsana. But really speakihg, there is a fundamental distinc- . _ / w / _ tion between Nastika-darsana and Sunyata-darsana« A Nastfka philosopher negates the existence of life in any form after death; but nonetheless, he believes in its real existence before death. But the Madhyamika does not believe in the
reality of this life even when it is experienced. All our experience is a delusion - future.existence cannot be accepted as real, nor can the present existence. They, in the view of the Madhyamika, stand on equal footing. From the point of view of Truth, neither present existence nor future existence can be accepted as real. But from the empirical point of view from which present existence is taken as real, future existence also must be taken as real. Consequently, a Madhyamika believes, though only from the empirical point of view, in the universal and necessary operation of the Law of Karma. A Nastika. on the other hand, does not attach any value either to the doctrine of after-life, or to the law of Karma although he asserts that the present existence is a reality. Candrakirti is ever on the alert in pointing out botli these points of distinction. He repeatedly says that the Madhyamika philosophy differs from the Nastika philosophy in that (i) it believes in the absolute negation of all existence — the present as well as the future, whereas the Nastika-darsana advocates only a kind of relative
non-existence — non-existence of, life-after-death, which is relative to the existence of the present lifel and (ii) it attaches great importance to the Law of Karma from the point of view that takes the present existence to he real, while Nastika-philosophy does not attach any value to it although it
takes the present existence to be real. There is, therefore, a fundamental distinction between Ucchedavada and Sunyavada. It may be asked : If there is such a fundamental distinction between Nastika-darsana and Sunvata-darsana, then why is it that Candrakirti himself says that really speaking a Madhyamika and an Uccheda-vadin uphold the same position? Candrakirti compares the Madhyamika to a witness who speaks in a court of law against a thief, fully knowing that he has committed the theft; and he compares the common Nastika to one who also speaks against the thief, but does so, not really 1 purvam_ca vartamana- avasthayam* bhava-s^arupam abhyupetya idanim tad vinas^ta-tvad nasti iti pascad abhyupagacchata uccheda-dar3anam**prasa;jyate etc. - MKV, p.273. Vide MKV, p. 368 _also, Kim tarhi aihaloukikam vastujatam upalabhya svabhavatah etc. bhava-sadbhave hi tatra tan-nisedhat abHava-vado bhavet
. yo hi bhagavan purvam raga-dvesa-moha-bhavabhyupagamam krtva pascanna santi raga-dvesa-moha-bhava iti braviti aa bhagavan vai nastiko bhavati - MKV, p.274. 2 samvptya madhyamikai rastitvena abhyupagamat na tulyata
knowing that he has committed the theft; his statement, therefore, though not false, is based merely on prejudiced The implication of the statement seems to be that the Truth, preached by the Madhyamika-philosophy, is the same as the Truth preached by Nastika-philosophy. The difference lies only in the fact that when the Madhyamika negates the world, the negation is the result of a logical scrutiny of experience and is not merely a dogmatic or whimsical denial of the world like that of the Mastikas. Depending on this statement of Candrakirti, Prof Hiriyanna designates the Madhyamika philo- _ / 2 sophy as a form of Ucchedavada or Nastika-darfesana. But we have' already referred to certain other passages where Candrakirti clearly states that the Madhyamika cannot be called a Hastika. there being a fundamental distinction between mmm
the Nastika-darsana and Sunyata-darsana. If we hold that a
Nastika or Ucchedavadin and a Sunya-vadin uphold the same position, we should be contradicting these statements of Candrakirti and that would certainly stand in the way of properly understanding the Madhyamika position. For certainly if it is possible to interpret all the statements of a philosopher in a consistent way without rejecting any, that would be the best way of understanding his true position. Let us see 1 MKV, p.368. 2 Outlines of Indian Philosophy, p.222.
In many places, Candrakirti has said that the Sunvavadin differs from .the Nastika in certain important respects. The Nastika takes the present life to he real but denies that / it has any existence after death, while the Sunva-vadin denies its reality or existence even when it is experienced'!' At the same time, it is also true that Candrakirti has said that / _ ideally speaking, a Nastika and a Sunva-vadin entertain the same ? view, only a Nastika does it unknowingly and a Sunva-vadin.
knowingly. In order to reconcile these statements with one another, we have to see in what context the latter statement
is made. The following is the context of the statement. The y Sunva-vadin has maintained that he does not believe in the existence of Tathagata. in the reality of the Four Noble Truths, in that of life-after-death, in the Doctrine of Karma etc. The objector then asks, MIf this be the case, what _ / is the difference between a Nastika and a Sunva-vadin? A Nastika. too, does not believe in these things”. Candrakirti answers this objection by conceding that indeed in this respect, there is not distinction between the respective positions of a Nastika
experience, while in the case of a Nastika, it is a mere dogmatic or whimsical denial. Hence when Candrakirti says that the Madhyamika and the Nastika schools of philosophy upholc. the same position, he really refers to merely this aspect of their philosophies. But in spite of this agreement, there is, he says, time and again, a vital difference between these two schools in other respects, i.e., in respect of the denial cf life and experience by the Madhyamika even when it is experienced and the acceptance of the future life by him from the empirical point of view. Both these points have already beer explained by us. In the face of these clear statements of Candrakirti, we cannot identify Nastika-dar/ana with the Madtyamika-philosophy. Keeping this fundamental distinction between the Nastika-darsana and Sunvata-darsana in view, let us see if can use the English word 'nihilism* to designate the Madhyamika philosophy. The word 'nihilism' means two things^ It means a negative doctrine in religion and morals; the word 'nihilism' in this sense is synonymous with 'Nastika-vada' of Indian philosophy. And the Madhyamika philosophy is certainly not 1 "Nihilism - (i) Negative doctrine in religion or morals; total rejection of current religious beliefs or moral principles.
'nihilistic' in this sense of the word. But the word also is used to indicate a form of scepticism involving the denial of all existents. Nihilism in this sense would not be synonymous with Nastika-vada. For a Nastika does not advocate absolute negation of all existents; it only negates the existence of life in any form after death. If the word 'nihilism' is taken in this latter sense to