[[Nagarjuna]] ([[Bodhisattva]])*

Fourteenth Patriarch of the Chan School in India and founder of the emptiness (Madhyamaka) school of Mahayana Buddhism, he probably lived during the 2nd Century AD. He also is included in the Patriarchal lineage of other Buddhist school]]s.

“The Venerable One was from India. When the thirteenth Patriarch, in the course of his travelling and teaching, reached the part of India where Nagarjuna was cultivating, the Venerable Nagarjuna went out to greet him with these words: 'The deep mountains are so quiet and Solitary, the abode of Dragons (Naga) and pythons. How is it that you, who are so virtuous, have strayed so far to come here? What brings you here?' The Patriarch said, 'I am not Venerable. I have come to see you Worthy One.' Nagarjuna thought to himself, 'The thirteenth Patriarch is lying when he denies he is Venerable.' The Patriarch knew what he was thinking, and Nagarjuna regretted it, apologizing for being so stupid. The Patriarch immediately transmitted the Great mind-to-Mind Seal to him, and Nagarjuna and the five hundred who were Cultivating the way with him all received the complete precepts (Monk Precepts of Bhikshu and Bodhisattva Vows and Samaya).

“After obtaining the Dharma, the Venerable Nagarjuna travelled and taught. When he reached southern India, he found the people there preoccupied with the quest for rewards of heavenly Blessings and unaware of how to seek the Buddha Dharma. The Patriarch told them the meaning of the Buddha Nature, and how their own natures were endowed with limitless meritorious qualities and blessed rewards. When the Multitudes heard that Dharma, they all stopped seeking blessings and turned away from the small (Hinayana) to go towards the Great (Mahayana Sutrayana and Mahayana Vajrayana).

Right where he was sitting, the Patriarch made his body look like the orb of the full moon. The fifteenth Patriarch-to-be, Kanadeva, was in the crowd and remarked, 'The Venerable One is showing us the substance and characteristics of the Buddha Nature.' Nagarjuna thereupon transmitted the Dharma to Kanadeva and entered the moon's Orb Samadhi, extensively displaying spiritual transformations. Immediately afterwards, he entered Cessation (Nirodha).

“His eulogy reads:

The Buddha Nature in its meaning

Neither exists nor non-exists.

He made appear Samadhi's Orb,

A coral moon on high

An elder brother in the household]],

He fell not to biases;

Eyebrows both raised and lowered,

From one mallet dual sounds. . . .”


  1. 100 (Sept. 1978), p 2)

The philosophical underpinnings of Nagarjuna's teachings have been summarized as follows:

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna

”. . . a synthetic Survey (Samksepa) of Nagarjunas's chief religious and philosophical persuasions.

“The best starting point for such an exposition is the theory of Two Truths (Satyadvaya): a relative Truth]] or Conventional Truth (Samvriti Satya) that serves as the means for obtaining the absolute or Ultimate Truth (Paramartha Satya).

“The ultimate goal of all endeavors is the highest good of oneself and of others: abolition of rebirth, or Nirvana [i.e., enlightenment. It implies the attainment of Buddhahood, or a twofold body (Kayadvaya). This may be considered from four perspectives:

Ontologically: All phenomena (Dharma) are empty (Shunya) since they lack own-being (Svabhava), inasmuch as empirically and logically they only occur in mutual dependence (pratityaSamutpanna).

Epistemological Truth

epistemologically (epistemology

The ultimate Truth (tattva) is the object of a cognition without an object (Advaya Jnana), and thus only an object metaphorically speaking (Upadaya Prajnapti).

Psychological Truth

Psychologically: It is the abolition of all the passions (klesha), primarily desire-lust (raga), anger-hatred (dvesha) and stupidity-ignorance-delusion (moha).

Ethical Truth

Ethically: It implies freedom from the bonds of karma but subjection to the altruistic imperatives of compassion (Karuna).

“The conventional Buddhist means (Samvyavahara) devised for the fulfillment of this objective may be classified variously, but fit most briefly and comprehensively under the heading of the Two Accumulations (Two Collections for enlightenment (Bodhi Sambhara):

Accumulation or Collection of Merit

Accumulation (Sambhara) of Merit (Punya Sambhara).

This comprises four perfections]] (Paramita): Liberality (Dana - First Paramita) and good morals (Shila - Second Paramita), which are mainly to benefit others, and patience (Kshanti - Third Paramita) and energy (Virya - Fourth Paramita), which are for one's own good. Their practice presupposes faith (shraddha) in the 'law' of [[karma and results in the attainment of the physical body (Rupa Kaya) of a Buddha. Along with the pursuit of meditation (Dhyana Shamatha calm abiding mindfulness meditation), the fifth Paramita, this constitutes temporal happiness (abhyudaya).

Accumulation or Collection of Wisdom

Accumulation of Wisdom (Jnana Sambhara). This consists in blissful meditation (Dhyana) surpassed by insight into the emptiness (Shunyata) of all phenomena (Dharmas), or wisdom realizing emptiness (Prajna Paramita) conjoined with bliss (see Wisdom-Blisss). This is the non plus ultra or ultimate good (highest good or naihsreyasa) of all living beings. It amounts to the attainment of a 'spiritual body' (Dharma Kaya).

“In other words, direct realization of emptiness (beyond words and experience) and display of acts of compassion are – to the chosen few – the two means of realizing enlightenment.”

(Lindtner, Chr. Master of Wisdom: Writings of the Buddhist Master Nagarjuna (Dharma Press, 1986, pp. xx-xxi).

1) Chinese: Long Shu , 2) Sanskrit: Nagarjuna.

See Also: emptiness, Bodhisattva, Madhyamika, Nalanda, Second Conqueror.*

BTTS References: FAS Ch1 (VBS).

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