Twenty Mahayana Verses


By Nagarjuna

Homage to Manjushri!

I bow down to the all-powerful Buddha
Whose mind is free of attachment,
Who in his compassion and wisdom
Has taught the inexpressible.

In truth there is no birth --
Then surely no cessation or liberation;
The Buddha is like the sky
And all beings have that nature.

Neither samsara nor nirvana exist,
But all is a complex continuum
With an intrinsic face of void,
The object of ultimate awareness.

The nature of all things
Appears like a reflection,
Pure and naturally quiescent,
With a non-dual identity of suchness.

The common mind imagines a self
Where there is nothing at all,
And it conceives of emotional states --
Happiness, suffering and equanimity.

The six states of being in samsara,
The happiness of heaven,
The suffering of hell,
Are all false creations, figments of mind.

Likewise the ideas of bad action causing suffering,
Old age, disease and death,
And the idea that virtue leads to happiness,
Are mere ideas, unreal notions.

Like an artist frightened
By the devil he paints,
The sufferer in samsara
Is terrified by his own imagination.

Like a man caught in quicksands
Thrashing and struggling about,
So beings drown
In the mess of their own thoughts.

Mistaking fantasy for reality
Causes an experience of suffering;
Mind is poisoned by interpretation
Of consciousness of form.

Dissolving figment and fantasy
With a mind of compassionate insight,
Remain in perfect awareness
In order to help all beings.

So acquiring conventional virtue
Freed from the web of interpretive thought,
Insurpassable understanding is gained
As Buddha, friend to the world.

Knowing the relativity of all,
The ultimate truth is always seen;
Dismissing the idea of beginning, middle and end
The flow is seen as emptiness.

So all samsara and nirvana is seen as it is --
Empty and insubstantial,
Naked and changeless,
Eternally quiescent and illumined.

As the figments of a dream
Dissolve upon waking,
So the confusion of samsara
Fades away in enlightenment.

Idealizing things of no substance
As eternal, substantial and satisfying,
Shrouding them in a fog of desire
The round of existence arises.

The nature of beings is unborn
Yet commonly beings are conceived to exist
Both beings and their ideas
Are false beliefs.

It is nothing but an artifice of mind
This birth into an illusory becoming,
Into a world of good and evil action
With good or bad rebirth to follow.

When the wheel of mind ceases to turn
All things come to an end.
So there is nothing inherently substantial
And all things are utterly pure.

This great ocean of samsara,
Full of delusive thought,
Can be crossed in the boat Universal Approach.
Who can reach the other side without it?



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