Articles by alphabetic order
 Ā Ī Ñ Ś Ū Ö Ō
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0


From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā [1] (Devanagari: मूलमध्यमककारिक), or Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way, is a key text of the Madhyamaka-school, written by Nagarjuna, one of the most important Buddhist philosophers.



The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā is Nagarjuna's best known work.

It is :Not only a grand commentary on the Buddha's discourse to Kaccayana,[2] the only discourse cited by name, but also a detailed and careful analysis of most of the important discourses included in the Nikayas and the agamas, especially those of the Atthakavagga of the Sutta-nipata.

In this work,

Utilizing the Buddha's theory of Pratītyasamutpāda"dependent arising"(pratitya-samutpada), Nagarjuna demonstrated the futility of [...] metaphysical speculations. His method of dealing with such metaphysics is referred to as "middle way" (madhyama pratipad).

It is the middle way that avoided the substantialism of the Sarvastivadins as well as the nominalism of the Sautrantikas.


Nagarjuna insisted that...

All experienced phenomena are [[sunyata|empty (sunya)]].

This did not mean that they are not experienced and, therefore, non-existent;

only that they are devoid of [[Svabhava|a permanent and eternal substance (svabhava)]]. Since they are experienced, they are not [[Prajnaptivada|mere names (prajnapti)]].

Exegesis and commentarial literature

The Akutobhayā, whose authorship is unknown, though is attributed to Nagarjuna in the tradition, is held by Ames to be the first commentary on the MMK.[3]

The earliest known commentary by another author is now preserved within the first Chinese translation of the Kārikā, known as the "Middle Treatise" (中論 Zhong Lun), translated by Kumārajīva in 409.

The author of this commentary is given as either "Blue Eyes" (青目; back translated as *Vimalākṣa) or *Piṅgala (賓伽羅).

This is by far the best known commentary in East Asian Mādhyamaka, forming one of the three commentaries that make up the San Lun School.

The best-known commentary in later Indian and Tibetan Buddhism is Candrakirti's Prasannapadā (Clear Words), which survives in Sanskrit and Tibetan translation.

Buddhist bells.jpg

Form and content of the text

The early chapters

  1. Pratyayaparīkṣā: Analysis of conditions
  2. Gatāgataparīkṣā: Analysis of going and not going
  3. Cakṣurādīndriyaparīkṣā: Analysis of the eye and the other sense-organs
  4. Skandhaparīkṣā: Analysis of the skandhas ((mental) "aggregates")
  5. Dhātuparīkṣā: Analysis of the dhatūs ("constituents" or "strata" (in the sense of metaphysical substrata))
  6. Rāgaraktaparīkṣā: Analysis of passion and the impassioned
  7. Saṃskṛtaparīkṣā: Analysis of the conditioned
  8. Karmakārakaparīkṣā: Analysis of action and actor
  9. Pūrvaparīkṣā: Analysis of the past
  10. Agnīndhanaparīkṣā: Analysis of fire and fuel
  11. Pūrvaparakoṭiparīkṣā: Analysis of past and future limits
  12. Duḥkhaparīkṣā: Analysis of suffering

The later chapters


These chapters are as follows; note the clustering of 24-26, and also the nature of the last chapter:




Author Title Publisher Date ISBN Notes
Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Brad Warner Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika Monkfish Book Publishing 2011 ISBN 978-0-9833589-0-9 A modern interpretation from a Zen perspective.
Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü Ornament of Reason: The [[Great Commentary to Nagarjuna's Root of the Middle Way Snow Lion 2011 ISBN 978-1-55939-368-3 Commentary translated by The Dharmachakra Translation Committee.
Jones, Richard H. Nagarjuna: Buddhism's Most Important Philosopher Booksurge 2010 ISBN 978-1-4515-3979-0 Translation into idiomatic English with commentary and translations of other works by Nagarjuna.
Padmakara Translation Group The Root Stanzas on the Middle Way Éditions Padmakara 2008 ISBN 978-2-916915-44-9 A translation from the Tibetan, following (but not including) the commentary of the Nyingma and Rimé master Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche. This volume, containing both the Tibetan text and translation, was made to mark the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to France in August 2008, and as a support for the teachings scheduled for that occasion.
Luetchford, Michael J. Between Heaven and Earth - From Nagarjuna to Dogen Windbell Publications 2002 ISBN 978-0-9523002-5-0 A translation and interpretation with references to the philosophy of Zen Master Dogen.
Batchelor, Stephen Verses from the Center Diane Publishing 2000 ISBN 978-1-57322-876-3 Batchelor's translation is the first nonacademic, idiomatic English version of the text.
McCagney, Nancy Nagarjuna and the Philosophy of Openness Rowman & Littlefield 1997 ISBN 978-0-8476-8626-1 Romanized text, translation and philosophical analysis.
Garfield, Jay L. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way Oxford University Press 1995 ISBN 978-0-19-509336-0 A translation of the Tibetan version together with commentary.
Kalupahana, David J. Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way State University of New York Press 1986 ISBN 978-81-208-0774-7 Romanized text, translation, and commentary. Interpretation of the text in the light of the Canon.
Sprung, Mervyn Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way Prajna Press, Boulder 1979 ISBN 978-0-7100-0190-0 Partial translation of the verses together with Chandrakirti's commentary.
Inada, Kenneth K. Nagarjuna: A Translation of his Mulamadhyamakakarika With an Introductory Essay The Hokuseido Press 1970 ISBN 978-0-89346-076-1 Romanized text and translation.
Streng, Frederick Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning Abdingdon Press 1967 (predates ISBN) Translation and considerable analysis.



Neither from itself nor from another,
Nor from both,
Nor without a cause,
Does anything whatever, anywhere arise.
Nagarjuna with 84 mahasiddha.jpg


If intrinsic nature does not exist, of what will there be alteration?
If intrinsic nature does exist, of what will there be alteration?


अस्तीति शाश्वतग्राहो नास्तीत्युच्चेददर्शनं
astīti śāśvatagrāho nāstītyuccedadarśanaṁ
To say "it is" is to grasp for permanence. To say "it is not" is to adopt the view of nihilism.
तस्माद् अस्तित्वनास्तित्वे नाश्रीयेत विचक्षणः।
tasmād astitvanāstitve nāśrīyeta vicakṣaṇaḥ
Therefore a wise person does not say "exists" or "does not exist".


न निर्वाणसमारोपो न संसारापकषणम्
na nirvāṇasamāropo na saṁsārāpakaṣaṇam
यत्र कस्तत्र संसारो निर्वाणं किं विकल्प्यते
yatra kastatra saṁsāro nirvāṇaṁ kiṁ vikalpyate
Where there is neither an addition of nirvana nor a removal of samsara; There, what samsara is discriminated from what nirvana?

23 5.JPG


ātmetya api prajñapitam anātmetyapi deśitam
Although (the term) "self" is caused to be known (of, about), and although (a doctrine or teaching of) "no self" is taught,
buddhair nātmā na cānātmā kaścid ity api deśitaṁ| 6
No "self" or any "nonself" whatsoever has been taught by the Buddhas.
nivṛtam abhidhātavyaṁ nivṛtte cittagocare
The designable is ceased when/where the range of thought is ceased,
anutpannāniruddhā hi nirvāṇam iva dharmatā| 7
Nirvana is like phenomenality, unarisen and unstopping.
sarvaṁ tathyaṁ na vā tathyaṁ tathyaṁ cātathyam eva ca
Everything is actual, or not actual, or actual and not actual
naivātathyaṁ naiva tathyam etad buddhānuśāsanaṁ| 8
Or neither actual nor not actual; this is the Buddha's teaching.
aparapratyayaṁ śāntaṁ prapañcair aprapañcitaṁ
Independent, peaceful, not delusionally diversified by delusional diversification
nirvikalpam anānārtham etat tattvasya lakśaṇaṁ| 9
Devoid of mental construction, without variation, this is the mark of thatness.
pratītya yad yad bhavati na hi tāvat tad eva tad
Whatsoever becomes dependently, is not insofar, that and only that.
na cānyad api tat tasmān noccinnaṁ nāpi śāśvataṁ| 10
Nor is it the other; therefore, it is neither exterminated nor eternal.
anekārtham anānārtham anuccedam aśāśvatam
Not singular, not plural, not exterminated, not eternal,
etat tal lokanāthānāṁ bhuddhānāṁ śāsanāmṛtaṁ| 11
This is the immortal teaching of the Buddhas, lords of the world.
sambhuddhānām anutpāde śrāvakāṇāṁ punaḥ kśaye
And again, when the disciples are destroyed and full Buddhas do not arrive,
jñānaṁ pratyekabuddhānām asamsargāt pravartate|12
The gnosis (knowledge, etc.) of the independently enlightened Buddhas proceeds without association (with teachings).
20 Nagarjuna.JPG


"Empty" should not be asserted. "Nonempty" should not be asserted.
Neither both nor neither should be asserted. They are only used nominally.


तथागतो यत्स्वभावस्तत्स्वभावमिदं जगत
tathāgato yat svabhāvas tat svabhāvam idam jagat
What is the nature of the thus-gone one (the Buddha), that is the nature of the world.
Nagarjuna tibet.jpg
तथागतो निःस्वभावो निःस्वभावम् इदं जगत्। १६
tathāgato niḥsvabhāvo niḥsvabhāvam idaṁ jagat| 16
The thus-gone one is devoid of nature; the world is devoid of nature.

24:18, 24:19

Whatever is dependently co-arisen / That is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation, / Is itself the middle way.
Something that is not dependently arisen / Such a thing does not exist.
Therefore a non-empty thing / Does not exist.


न संसारस्य निर्वाणात् किं चिद् अस्ति विशेषणं
na saṁsārasya nirvāṇāt kiṁ cid asti viśeṣaṇaṁ
There is nothing whatsoever of samsara

distinguishing (it) from nirvana .

न निर्वाणस्य संसारात् किं चिद् अस्ति विशेषणं। १९
na nirvāṇasya saṁsārāt kiṁ cid asti viśeṣaṇaṁ| 19
There is nothing whatsoever of nirvana

distinguishing it from samsara.

निर्वाणस्य च या कोटिः।कोटिः। संसरणस्य च
nirvāṇasya ca yā koṭiḥ koṭiḥ
(That?) is the limit which is the limit of nirvana and the limit of samsara;
न तयोर् अन्तरं किंचित् सुसूक्ष्मम् अपि विद्यते। २०
na tayor antaraṁ kiñcit susūkśmam api vidyate| 20
Even a very subtle interval is not found of (between) them.


śūnyeṣu sarvadharmeṣu kim anantaṁ kimantavat
kim anantam antavac ca nānantaṁ nāntavacca kiṁ| 22
kiṁ tad eva kim anyat kiṁ śāśvataṁ kim aśāśvataṁ
aśāśvataṁ śāśvataṁ ca kiṁ vā nobhayam apyataḥ 'tha| 23
sarvopalambhpaśamaḥ prapañcopaśamaḥ śivaḥ
na kva cit kasyacit kaścid dharmo buddhena deśitaḥ|
When all dharmas are empty, what is endless? What has an end?
What is endless and with an end? What is not endless and not with an end?
What is "it"? What is "other"? What is permanent? What is impermanent?
What is impermanent and permanent? What is neither?
Auspicious is the pacification of phenomenal metastasis, the pacification of all apprehending;
There is no dharma whatsoever taught by the Buddha to whomever whenever, wherever.


  1. Also known as the Prajñā-nāma-mūlamadhyamakakārikā or as the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā-prajñā-nāma.
  2. See [ SN 12.15 Kaccayanagotta Sutta: To Kaccayana Gotta (on Right View)
  3. Ames, William L. (1993). "Bhāvaviveka's Prajñāpradīpa ~ A Translation of Chapter One: 'Examinations of Causal Conditions' (Pratyaya)". Journal of Indian Philosophy, 1993, vol.21. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, p.209
  4. Inada (1993) Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica Series No. 127, Sri Sat Guru Publications, ISBN 81-7030-385-0 pp37-172 (Sanskrit Only)