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Mula Madhyamaka Karika
by Nagarjuna
Translated by Stephen Batchelor

1.    Investigation of Conditions
(Conditions)

1. No thing anywhere is ever born from itself, from something else, from both or without a cause.
2. There are four conditions:Causes, objects, immediate and dominant. There is no fifth.
3. The essence of things does not exist in conditions and so on. If an own thing does not exist, an other thing does not exist.
4. There is no activity which has conditions. There is no activity which does not have conditions. There are no conditions which do not have activity, and none which do have activity.
5. Since something is born in dependence upon them, then they are known as ?conditions?. As long as it is not born, why are they not non-conditions?
6. It is impossible for something that either exists or not to have conditions. If it were non-existent, of what would they be the conditions? If it were existent, why would it need conditions?
7. When things cannot be established as either existent, non-existent or both, how can one speak of an ?establishing cause.? Such would be impossible.
8. An existent phenomenon is clearly said to have no object at all. If the phenomenon has no object, where can the object exist?
9. If phenomena are not born, it is invalid for there to be cessation. Therefore, an immediate [condition] is unreasonable. What, having ceased, can also be a condition?
10. Because the existence of essence-less things does not exist, it is incorrect to say:?When this exists, that arises.?
11. There is no effect at all in the conditions individually or together. How can that which is not in the conditions itself be born from conditions?
12. If, although the effect is not there, it is born from those conditions, why is an effect not born from what are not its conditions?
13. Effects [are of] the nature of conditions. Conditions do not have own nature. How can those effects of what does not have own nature [be of] the nature of conditions?
14. Therefore, [it does] not have the nature of conditions, nor is there an effect with the nature of non-conditions. Since there is no effect, what could [be its] non-conditions or conditions?

18.    Investigation of Self and Things
(Self)
 
1. If the aggregates were self, it would be possessed of arising and decaying. If it were other than the aggregates, it would not have the characteristics of the aggregates.
 
2. If the self did not exist, where could what is mine exist? In order to pacify self and what is mine, grasping I and grasping mine can exist no more.
3. The one who does not grasp at me and mine likewise does not exist.
Whoever sees the one who does not grasp at me and mine does not see.
[c-d are omitted on the grounds of their being a reiteration of a-b]
4. When one ceases thinking of inner and outer things as self and mine, clinging will come to a stop. Through that ceasing, birth will cease.
5. Through the ceasing of action and affliction, there is freedom. Action and affliction [come] from thoughts and they from fixations. Fixations are stopped by emptiness.
6. It is said that ?there is a self,? but ?non-self? too is taught. The buddhas also teach there is nothing which is ?neither self nor non-self.?
7. That to which language refers is denied, because an object experienced by the mind is denied. The unborn and unceasing nature of reality is comparable to nirvana.
[Tsongkhapa (326) explains that c-d are an answer to the question implied in 5c-d, i.e. ?how does emptiness stop fixations??]
8. Everything is real, not real; both real and not real; neither not real nor real: this is the teaching of the Buddha.
9. Not known through others, peaceful, not fixed by fixations,
without conceptual thought, without differentiation: these are the characteristics of suchness.
10. Whatever arises dependent on something else is at that time neither that very thing nor other than it. Hence it is neither severed nor permanent.
 
11. That ambrosial teaching of the buddhas, those guardians of the world, is neither the same nor different, neither severed nor permanent.
[Buddhapalita commentary: Not the same, not different, not severed, not permanent - that is the ambrosial teaching of the buddha, the guardian of the world.]
12. When perfect buddhas do not appear, and when their disciples have died out, the wisdom of the self-awakened ones will vividly arise without reliance.


22. Investigation of the Tathagata
(Buddhanature)

[For Ts. 370, this and the following chapter on error both serve to ?demonstate that the flow of becoming is empty of inherent existence.?]
1. Not the aggregates, not other than the aggregates; the aggregates are not in him; he is not in them: the Tathagata does not possess the aggregates. What is the Tathagata?
 
2. If the buddha depends on the aggregates, he does not exist from an own-nature. How can that which does not exist from an own-nature exist from an other-nature?
3. It is not tenable for something dependent on other-nature to be self-existent. How can that which has no self-existence be tathagata?
 
4. If self-nature does not exist, how can there be the existence of other-nature? What is a Tathagata apart from own-nature and other-nature?
 
5. If there exists a tathagata [who is] not depending on the aggregates, he exists in depending [on them] now and will henceforth depend.
6. If there does not exist a tathagata [who is]not depending on the aggregates, how does he grasp [depend on? them]?
 
7. [Since] there is nothing to be grasped/dependent on, there can be no grasping/depending. There is no tathagata at all who is without grasping/depending.
8. If having examined in five ways, how can that tathagata who does not exist as that one or the other be [conventionally] understood by grasping/depending?
 
9. That which is grasped/depended on does not exist from its own nature. It is impossible for that which does not exist from its own nature to exist from another nature.
 
10. In that way, what is grasped/depended on and what grasps/depends are empty in every aspect. How can an empty tathagata be [conventionally] understood by what is empty?
11. Do not say ?empty,? or ?not empty,? or ?both,? or ?neither:? these are mentioned for the sake of [conventional] understanding.
12. Where can the four such as permanence and impermanence exist in this peaceful one? Where can the four such as end and no-end [of the world] exist in this peaceful one?
 
13. Those who hold the dense apprehension, ?the tathagata exists? conceive the thought, ?he does not exist in nirvana.?
who hold dense apprehensions conceive thoughts of the tathagata?s ?existence? or ?non-existence? in nirvana.]
 
14. For that one empty of own-nature, it is entirely inappropriate to think that once the buddha has nirvana-ed he either ?exists? or ?does not exist.?
 
15. Those who make fixations about Buddha who is beyond fixations and without deterioration -- all those who are damaged by fixations do not see the tathagata.
16. Whatever is the own-nature of the tathagata, that is the own-nature of this world. The tathagata has no own-nature. This world has no own-nature.


24.    Investigation of the Ennobling Truths
(Awakening)

1. ?If all were empty, nothing could come about or perish. It would follow for you that the four ennobling truths could not exist.
 
2. ?Since the four ennobling truths would not exist, understanding, letting go, cultivating and realizing would no longer be valid.
3. ?Since they would not exist, the four fruits would also not exist. If the fruits did not exist, there could be no abiding in the fruits. Experiencing them would also not exist.
4. ?If those eight beings did not exist, the Community would not exist. Since there would be no ennobling truths, the sublime Dharma could also not exist.
5. ?If the Community and the Dharma did not exist, how could Buddha exist? When you talk of emptiness, the three Jewels are maligned.
6. ?The existence of actions and fruits, what is not Dharma and what is Dharma, the conventions of the world: all these too are maligned.?
7. An explanation for that: since you do not understand the need for emptiness, emptiness, and the point of emptiness, therefore in that way you malign.
8. The Dharma taught by Buddhas perfectly relies on two truths: the ambiguous truths of the world and the truths of the sublime meaning.
 
9. Those who do not understand the division into two truths, cannot understand the profound reality of the Buddha?s teaching.
10. Without relying on conventions, the sublime meaning cannot be taught. Without understanding the sublime meaning, one will not attain nirvana.
11. If their view of emptiness is wrong, those of little intelligence will be hurt. Like handling a snake in the wrong way, or casting a spell in the wrong way.
12. Therefore, knowing how difficult it is for the weak to understand the depths of this Dharma, the heart of the Muni strongly turned away from teaching the Dharma.
13. Since [those] erroneous consequences do not apply to emptiness, whatever rejections you make of emptiness do not apply to me.
14. Those for whom emptiness is possible, for them everything is possible. Those for whom emptiness is not possible, for them everything is not possible.
15. You are transferring your own mistakes onto me. This is like mounting a horse but forgetting about the horse itself.
16. If you view all things as existing from their own nature, then you would view all things as not having causes and conditions.
17. Cause and effect itself, agents, tools and acts, production and cessation, the effects too would be undermined.
18. Whatever is contingently related, that is explained as emptiness. That is contingently configured; it is the central path.
 
19. Because there are no things at all, which are not contingently emergent, therefore, there are no things at all, which are not empty.
20. If all were not empty, nothing could come about or perish. It would follow for you that the four ennobling truths could not exist.
21. If things were not contingently emergent, how could anguish exist? Impermanent things are taught to be anguish; in their very own nature they do not exist.
 
22. If it did exist from its own nature, why would it have an origin? Therefore, for those who undermine emptiness, it can have no origin.
23. If anguish existed by its own nature, there could be no cessation. Because its own nature would be totally present, cessation too would be undermined.
24. If the path existed by its own nature, cultivation would not be appropriate. If the path is to be cultivated, your own nature cannot exist.
 
25. When anguish, origins and cessation cannot exist, what ceasing of anguish could one seek to attain by the path?
26. If non-understanding existed by its very own nature, how could one ever understand? Doesn?t it abides by nature?
27. In the same way, your letting go, realizing, cultivating and the four fruits too are as impossible as understanding.
 
28. How can any fruits, which totally hold their own nature and by their own nature are unattained, be attained?
 
29. If the fruits did not exist, there could be no abiding in the fruits. Experiencing them would also not exist. If those eight beings did not exist, the Community would not exist.
 
30. Since there would be no ennobling truths, the sublime Dharma could also not exist. If the Community and the Dharma did not exist, how could Buddha exist?
 
31. It would also follow that your Buddha does not depend on awakening. It would also follow that your awakening does not depend on Buddha.
 
32. For you, someone who by his very nature is not Buddha could not attain awakening however much he strove in the practice of awakening for the sake of awakening.
33. No one would ever do what is Dharma and what is not Dharma. What can that which is not empty do? Inherent nature is inactive.
 
34. Even without Dharma and not-Dharma, you would have the fruits. You would not have the fruits which have arisen from the causes of Dharma and not-Dharma.
 
35. If you have the fruits which have arisen from the causes of Dharma and not-Dharma, why are the fruits which have arisen from the Dharma and not-Dharma not empty?
 
36. Whoever undermines emptiness which is contingent emergence also undermines all the conventions of the world.
 
37. If one undermines emptiness, there would be no actions at all and actions without an author and agents who do not act.
38. If there were inherent nature, all beings would be unborn and unceasing, would be fixed in place forever, separated from the variety of situations.
 
39. If [things] were not empty, there could be no attainment of what had not been attained, no ending of anguish and no letting go of all actions and afflictions.
40. He who sees contingent emergence sees anguish and origins and cessation and the path itself.

26.    Analysis of the Twelve Links of Becoming
(Contingency)

1. In order to become again, those obscured by ignorance are moved into destinies by actions which are impelled [by] the three kinds of formative impulses.
2. Consciousness conditioned by formative impulses enters into destinies. When consciousness has entered, name and form develop.
3. When name and form develop, the six senses emerge. In dependence upon the six senses, impact actually occurs.
 
4. Just as [it] only arises in dependence on the eye, [visual] form and attention, so consciousness arises in dependence on name and form.
[Tsongkhapa has a rather tortured way of explaining this; he compares the arising of visual consciousness from the dominant, object and immediate conditions (i.e. eye, visual form and attention) with its arising from name (= attention) and form ( = eye and visual form). But since he equates nama with the latter four skandhas, he is forced to imply that vijnana arises from vijnana, i.e. A is the cause of A. No doubt Tibetans would explain this away by arguing that A is the cause of A+1 etc., but this is not convincing in context. Tsongkhapa seems unaware that nowhere in the early canon does the Buddha include vijnana in nama. Nagarjuna, however, does seem to follow this early tradition here.]
5. The gathering of the three: eye and [visual] form and consciousness, that is ?impact.? From impact feeling totally arises.
6. Due to the condition of feeling, there is craving; one craves for what is felt. When one craves, one clings to the four aspects of clinging [sense objects, views, morals and rules, and views of self].
7. When there is clinging, the becoming of the clinger fully arises. When there is no clinging, one is freed; there is no [more] becoming.
8. Becoming is the five aggregates; from becoming one is born. Aging, death, torment, lamentation, pain,
9. mental unhappiness, anxiety: these vividly emerge from birth. Likewise, the entire mass of anguish emerges.
10. The root of life is formative impulses. Therefore, the wise do not form impulses. Therefore, the unwise are formers, but not the wise since they see reality.
 
11. When ignorance stops, formative impulses too do not occur. The stopping of ignorance [comes] through practising that with understanding.
12. By the stopping of the former, the latter will clearly not occur. The entire mass of anguish will likewise completely stop.
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