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Selected Verses From Nagarjuna

Being a selection of verses from three of Nagarjuna's major treatises on the subject of emptiness.

Sixty Stanzas of Reasonings

I prostrate to the Mighty One
Who has taught about dependent arising,
The principle by which
Arising and disintegration are abandoned. (Homage)

Those whose intelligence has gone beyond existence and nonexistence
And who do not abide [in any extremes]
Have realized the meaning of dependent arising,
The profound and unobservable [truth of emptiness]. (1)

Those who see with their intelligence
That existence is like a mirage and an illusion
Are not corrupted by believing in
The extremes of earlier and later. (17)

By understanding arising, disintegration is understood.
By understanding disintegration, impermanence is understood.
By understanding impermanence
The truth of the genuine dharma is realized. (22)

Without a stable focus or location,
Not remaining and without root,
Arisen totally as a result of ignorance,
Without beginning, middle, or end . . . (26)

Without core, like a banana tree.
Like an unreal city in the sky,
The suffering world—the lands of confusion—
Manifests in this way—like an illusion. (27)

To those students in search of suchness
At first teachers should say, “Everything exists.”
Then after they realize the meaning of this and abandon desire,
They will gain perfect transcendence. (30)

Those who realize that all entities are dependently arisen,
And just like a moon that appears in a pool of water,
Are neither true nor false,
Are not carried away by philosophical dogmas. (45)

Children are tricked by reflections
Because they take them to be real.
In the very same way, because of their ignorance,
Beings are imprisoned in the cages of their [conceptual] objects. (53)

The great ones, who with the eyes of primordial awareness
See that entities are just like reflections,
Do not get caught in the mire
Of so-called “objects.” (54)

The immature are attached to form.
The moderate are free from attachment to [the sense objects],
And those endowed with supreme intelligence
Know the true nature of form and [by so knowing] are liberated. (55)

The awful ocean of existence
Is filled with the tormenting snakes of the afflictions.
But those whose minds are not moved even by thoughts of voidness
Have safely crossed over [its dangers]. (59)

By the power of the virtue performed here
May all beings perfect the accumulations of merit and wisdom,
And from this merit and wisdom,
May they attain the twin dimensions of genuine [enlightenment]. (60)

Under the guidance of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, adapted by Ari Goldfield from a translation in Nagarjuna: Studies in the Writings and Philosophy of Nagarjuna, Christian Lindtner, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 100-120. May 17, 1997.

Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness

Entities do not exist
In their causes, in their conditions,
In aggregations of many things, or in individual things.
Therefore, all entities are empty. (3)

Because it already exists, that which exists does not arise.
Because it does not exist, that which does not exist does not arise.
Because they contradict each other, existence and nonexistence do not
[arise] together
Since there is no arising, there is no remaining or cessation either. (4)

Without one there are not many, and
Without many there is not one.
Therefore, dependently arisen entities [like these]
Have no characteristics. (7)

[In the true nature] there is neither permanence nor impermanence,
Neither self nor nonself, neither clean nor unclean
And neither happiness nor suffering.
Therefore, the [four] mistaken views do not exist. (9)

Without a father there is no son, and without a son there is no father. (i.e. like cause & effect)
These two do not exist without depending on each other.
Neither do they exist simultaneously.
The twelve links are exactly the same. (13)

Composite and uncomposite [phenomena]
Are not many, are not one,
Are not existent, are not nonexistent, [and] are not both existent and nonexistent.
These words apply to all phenomena [without exception]. (32)

[Defiled] actions have afflictions as their cause,
And the afflictions themselves arise due to [defiled] actions.
The body [also] has [defiled] actions as its cause,
So all three are empty of essence. (37)

All formations are like unreal cities in the sky,
Illusions, mirages, falling hairs,
Foam, bubbles, phantoms,
Dreams and wheels of fire—
They have absolutely no core or substance to them. (66)

The unequaled Thus Gone One
Explicitly taught that
Since all entities are empty of any inherent nature,
All phenomena are dependently arisen. (68)

When one understands that “this arose from those conditions,”
The net of wrong views is lifted.
One abandons desire, ignorance and aversion,
And attains the undefiled state of nirvana. (73)

Under the guidance of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, adapted by Ari Goldfield from a translation in Nagarjuna: Studies in the Writings and Philosophy of Nagarjuna, Christian Lindtner, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 31-69. May 17, 1997.

The Refutation of Criticism

Dependently arisen entities
Are called “emptiness,”
[For] that which is dependently arisen
Is that which has no inherent nature. (22)

One magical creation halts another,
One illusory being puts an end to
The wrong views of his illusory opponent.
When I refute the arguments of others, that is exactly what is happening. (23)

Another example: suppose a man falls in love with an illusory woman,
Then another illusion comes along
And shows the man what a fool he has been—
That’s my work. (27)

If I took a position,
Then I would have a flaw.
Since I take no position,
I have no flaw at all. (29)

If the son is produced by the father,
But the father is also produced by that very son,
Then will you please tell me,
Which one is the true “cause” and which the true “result?” (49)

If emptiness is possible,
Then all objects are possible, all levels attainable.
If emptiness is impossible,
Then everything else is [impossible] as well. (70)

I prostrate to the Awakened One, the Buddha,
Who taught that dependent arising and emptiness have the same meaning,
And that this is the middle way path.

Your words are supreme, their meaning unsurpassed. (Concluding homage)

Under the guidance of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, translated by Ari Goldfield, May 21, 1997.