Sunyata 03- Arya Nagarjuna

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Arya Nagarjuna
Biographical sketches
Arya Nagarjuna

It is accepted that Arya Nagarjuna was not
only the pioneer of Madhyamaka system
but also he was the originator of
Mahayana according to some writers. But
it is not easy to find a proper biography of
him. We cannot find anything of him from
him books. Taranatha, a Tibetan writer’s
book “History of Buddhism” (Tr.Schiefner)
which was written in 1608 has a chapter
of Nagarjuna.
Arya Nagarjuna
Another Tibetan writer lived earlier to
Taranatha, Bu-ston’s (1290-1364) “History
of Buddhism” (Tr.by Obermiller) as to the
information of Nagarjuna, he was born at
Vidarbha city of Maharastra. He was ordain
In Nalanda at the very young age received
Education from teacher called Rahulabhadra
(Rahula Sribhadra).

Arya Nagarjuna

As he had a sharp knowledge in a very
short period of time finalized his education
and became an expert on Buddhist
Philosophy. According to Chinese sources
he was born in a Brahmin family in South
India. He received the education on Veda
and Vedanga and after that he was
ordained. At first he studied Hinayana
Arya Nagarjuna

But later he learned Mahayana Sutras
from a monk who was near Himalayas.
According to the Chinese and Tibetan
information he has gained knowledge on
secret science and, Chemical studies and
he became an expert on them. He
maintain the relationship With the King of
Nagas.It is said he lived long time as to
Arya Nagarjuna
The power of secret science and with the power
of chemicals. According to the relationship he
had with Naga king in Naga Loka he has gone to
the Naga world on an invitation of Naga King.
Naga King gave him ‘Sata sahasrika
Prajnaparamita”.
He brought that large volume to human world
and started to teach it. This teaching inspired to
commence the System of Mahayana.

Arya nagarjuna
According to Taranatha’s details Nagarjuna
was a guide for the both Hinayana and
Mahayana monks. He supported to built
Pagods and temples
And by that way he did a great service for
the Buddhasasana. At the last part of his
life he went to the Southern part of India
and says he has converted King Udayana

Arya Nagarjuna

Nagarjunas life story is full of myths and
old legends among those legends scholars
accepted only Nagarjuna was born in the
South Andra province and he had
connections with King Satavahana dynasty
“Suhurllekha” ( a letter to a friend) volume
was written to one of the kings of
satavahana dynasty. As to A.K.Warder
Arya Nagarjuna

This king was non other than famous
literary person and literary sponsor and
who reconstructed the Amaravati temple
King 2nd Pulumayi. The Nagarjuni Konda in
Andra province is a proof for the historicity
of Nagarjuna, an inscription near the
Pagoda of Jagayyapura also mentions
about Arya Nagarjuna. Therefore
Nagarjuna has been the historical teacher.
Arya Nagarjuna
As to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition which
treated Arya Nagarjuna as a Second
Buddha believed to be lived around 400
years. He could have lived 400 years due
to the knowledge of Secret science (Gupta
vidya) and the knolwedge of chemistry.
But modern scholars accepted these stories
to show how much respect Tibetan
Buddhist tradition had towards

Arya Nagarjuna

Arya Nagarjuna. According to these
stories we have to accept at least
there have been few teachers in the name
of Nagarjuna. There is an Indian custom
some writers write books and ascribe
them to the name of a famous teachers.
According to that system some famous
writers when compiled books they
ascribed
Arya Nagarjuna
Them to the Name of Nagarjuna. But we
have to clarify among those teachers who
have written Mulamadhyamaka Karika and
when he lived.
 Nagarjuna’s Time
Arya Nagarjuna’s time is a controvercial
issue. Scholars only infer about his time.
There are many Chinese sources mention

Arya Nagarjuna
That Arya Nagarjuna lived in the 3rd
Century. This calculation was done as to
the Hui Yuan teacher. This teacher Hui
yuan thinks Arya Nagarjuna lived in the 9th
Century after the decease of the Buddha.
He takes the 637 B.C.year of the Buddha’s
Parinirvana.
 Kumarajiva lived in 04th century (344413) and has translated biography of

Arya Nagarjuna

Nagarjuna in to Chinese. In that book it
was mentioned about a pagoda which was
built 100 years after his death for the
commemoration of Arya Nagarjuna. If we
consider that this book was written in the
middle of the 4th Century then we can
conclude the time of Nagarjuna is the 3rd
Century. This study is done by R.H.
Robinson
Arya Nagarjuna
(Early Madhyamaka in India and China.
 Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1976).
Robinson also thinks that Nagarjuna lived
in the 3rd Century. T.R.V.Murti mentions
Nagarjuna might have lived in the 2nd
Century. Therefore it is better to accept
that Nagarjuna lived between second and
third Century.

Arya Nagarjuna
Works of Nagarjuna
 There are a lot of books, which were
ascribed the authorship of Nagarjuna.
Among those books we have to select the
books for which we can ascribe real
authorship of Nagarjuna.
 China is the country where the
Madhyamaka Philosophy first spread
outside India. In China Madhyamaka

Arya Nagarjuna
Philosophy is known as Catur Sastra
Nikaya or Thri Sastra Nikaya. (Sata Sastra,
Madhyamka Sastra, and Maha Paramita
Sastra basing on these books Tri Sastra
name is given and it was named as Catussastra Nikaya after adding for these books
Famous Kumarajiva’s Dvadasamukha
Sastra into this list. That is the book which

Arya Nagarjuna

Was translated by Kumarajive into Chinese
language. Nagarjuna’s biography in
Chinese mentions some of the books
written by Nagarjuna: Upadesa sastra
(Sloka 100,000), Buddha Marga Alankara
and Maha matir upaya sastra ( with Slokas
5000), Mdhyamaka Sastra (sloka
500). Akutobhaya sastra (sloka 100,000))
Arya Nagarjuna

As to Taranatha Nagarjuna has written
05 Books.Those are: Mulamadhyamaka
Karika, Yukti Sataka, Sunyata saptati,
Vigraha vyavartani, Vaidalya Prakarana.
Bo-ston says Nagarjuna’s books are 06.
Prajna Mula (Mulamadhyamaka Karika),
Sunyata Saptati, Yukti Sataka, Vigraha
Vyavartani, Vaidalya Sastra and Prakarana,
Arya Nagarjuna
Vyavahara siddhi. Apart from these
volumes there are some more books are
considered Nagarjuna’s Books. Those are:
1.Ratnavali 2.Catuhstava 3.
Pratityasamutpada hridaya 4. Bava
sankranti sastra 6. Prajna danda and
7.Suhurllekha.
 Kumarajiva translated some books to

Arya Nagarjuna

Chinese language and those books remain
in that language only. Those books also
ascribed to Nagarjuna. Those are: 1.Maha
Prajnaparamita sastra 2. Dasabhumika
sastra 3. Dvadasa mukha sastra.
Apart from those books now only
remaining in Chinese language some
books which were the Nagarjuna’s books
Arya Nagarjuna
Ekasloka sastra, Astadasa sunyata sastra,
Bodhisambara sastra, Bodhicitta nimitta
rahita, Bodhi (sattva) caryavatara. Dharmadhatu
stotra.
 As to Richerd H.Robinson, among these books it
is difficult to decide what is the real work of
Nagarjuna. But Robinson says what have named
by Taranatha as the books of Nagarjuna
deciding with the help of what
contained in the Madhyamaka karika and those
`

Arya Nagarjuna

Books mentioned by Taranatha if can còmpare,
then can decided those books are belong to
Nagarjuna. Apart from those books Ratnavali,
Catuhstava, Pratityasamutpada Hridaya
and Bhava sankranti Sastra etc. from these 04
books Candrakirti has quoted some passages.
Therefore those books also can be ascribed to
Nagarjuna.
By the time of 5th Century Suhurllekha
Arya Nagarjuna
Has been twice translated in to Chinese.
Therefore that is also can be considered as
a book of Nagarjuna. Mahayana Vimsaka
work cannot decide belong to Nagarjuna.
 Lindtner, analysing the resemblance of
the Nagarjuna’s thought catagorized the
works of Nagarjuna and mentioned some
books as primary books of Nagarjuna.

Arya Nagarjuna
Those are:1. Mula Madhyamaka Karika,
2.Sunyata saptati 3. Vigraha vyavartani
4. Vidalya Prakarana 5. Vyavahara siddhi
6. Yukti sastika 7. Catuhstava 8. Ratnavali
9. Pratityasamutpada Hridaya Karika.
10.Sutra samuccaya. 11. Bodhicitta vivarana
12. Suhurlleka 13. Bodhisambhara.

Arya Nagarjuna

Lindtner has decided this after the careful
investigation of what is the Nagarjna’s
philosophy? To what tradition Nagarjuna
was belonged ? It seems that, to decide
what are the works of Nagarjuna? Lies on
the question of what kind of philosophy
shall we ascribe to Nagarjuna? (Lindtner,
C.1982. Nagarjuna. Studies in the Writings
Arya Nagarjuna

(Lindtner, C. 1982. Nagarjuna. Studies in
the Writings and Philosophy of Nagarjuna.
Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas).
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