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Prof. Alex Wayman

The steady increase of translations and scholarly studies of the Maadhyamika school of Buddhism would lead one to suppose that the topic had become thoroughly clarified. Yet in recent times, article and studies have appeared that challenge traditional conclusions. The present writer, for example, wrote an article on Naagaarjuna that even claimed for this celebrated author the role of inaugurating Mahaayaana Buddhism (granting that certain earlier scriptures would later be included in the category) and `ghost' authorship of the A.s.tasaahasrikaa Praj~naapaaramitaa-suutra;(1) and the present writer wrote another article that included a new translation of the Muula-Madhyamaka-kaarikaa(MK), chapter 2, and rejected the usual conclusion that Naagaarjuna denied motion.(2) Another writer, Kalupahana, has put out a new translation of MK, denying therein that Naagaarjuna is a ahaayaanist and deciding that Candrakiirti's Prasannapadaa commentary on MK has departed so far from the intent of MK as not to deserve translation (although European scholars some time back translated the whole of this commentary).(3)

With such astonishing claims by myself and now by Kalupahana, the matter deserves further attention to sort out some of the relevant evidence. I have

chosen a study of the Tathaagata chapter (chapter 22) of MK, because this chapter dovetails with the chapter 2 examination of gataagata. The question that needs answering is how does Naagaarjuna construe the term tathaagata? Of course, various theories have been offered about this word.(4) We shall soon see that the usual explanations do not face up to this chapter of MK especially the last kaarikaa (number 16), which uses the term tathaagata along with jagat, since both terms have the root gam (to go). Thus Naagaarjuna informs the attentive reader that the problem is not, as Kalupahana opined on kaarikaa 1-2, one of `agent' but rather whether the realm in which there is gata (the gone) or agata (the come) implies a realm in which there is sthita (staying), recalling that in chapter 2 Naagaarjuna set forth that a person either goes or stays. Since Naagaarjuna did not deny motion in chapter 2 of his MK, this helps for understanding MK chapter 23, in which it is clear that the Tathaagata went (gata). Before going further, Kalupahana's striking claims deserve responses. As to Naagaarjuna not being a Maahaayanist, Kalupahana points out that Warder had previously written an article claiming this. If they so understand the MK, they should be able to translate the verses correctly. However, Kalupahana on MK 24.32 claims that Naagaarjuna criticizes the Maahaayana bodhisattva practice, but fails to translate the te (Tibetan khyod kyi, "according to you") which shows that the verse represents the opponent's view, not Naagaarjuna's. The reader is invited to compare Kalupahana's (or for that matter, some other translator's) rendition of MK chapter 2 with mine in the article mentioned,(5) or with my rendition of MK chapter 22 in the present article,(6) and decide for himself which of them better makes sense of Naagaarjuna's verses. Besides, Naagaarjuna's Ratnaavalii chapter 5, portrays the six paaramitaas and the ten Bodhisattva stages that are characteristic of Maahaayana Buddhism.' Granted that someone may raise a question, doubting that the Ratnaavalii is really by Naagaarjuna. It is a wonderful trait of humans to raise questions that elicit answers, provided they do not conclude that their question is itself the answer. Kalupahana's attitude toward drakiirti's commentary may well be due to a disappointment shared by other readers who expected Candrakiirti to help in understanding the MK. My article on Naagaarjuna dealt with this matter: Candrakiirti, of course, would not hold that the student must read his commentary in order to understand the MMK [the Muula-MK], for that would imply that no one had ever understood it previously. The precise opposite seems to be the case, Candrakiirti expected the student to have already understood the MMK in terms of the words of the verses, and to read his commentary for his system, usually called Praasa^ngika-Maadhyamika. This should have been noticed from his kind of commentary, which is not grammatical, i.e., on the words in their order of occurrence, but the kind of commentary which says more. Furthermore, the Prasannapadaa has more difficult Sanskrit than does the MMK, so if one cannot understand the MMK by its words, it appears useless to go to the more complicated commentaries.(8)

Accordingly, I did not employ Candrakiiti's commentary, but did refer to Buddhapaalita's, in my translation of MK 2 since I was concerned with the words employed by Naagaarjuna. Here also, when rendering MK 22, I am concerned with the words, and find the commentaries Candrakiirti's:

Sanskrit-Tibetan; Buddhapaalita's: Tibetan) useful for more information. In so doing, my own explanation of the verses is along the lines of Kalupahana's by way of the premise that one can comment on the verses by means of one's own background of research, and not have to rely on one of the commentaries, except sporadically. I do not, however, denigrate Candrakiirti's commentary, as Kalupahana does. And admittedly my comments follow a certain school of interpretation, namely, accepting the relevance of canonical Buddhist teachings as concerns the notion of Tathaagata.The Tathaagata chapter of MK appears to fall into these verse groups:

kaarikaas 1-9, Does a Tathaagata Adopt Personal Aggregates (skandha) ?
kaarikaas 10-14, Tathaagata and Voidness (`suunyataa); kaarikaa 15, Seeing a Tathaagata; and kaarikaa 16, The Tathaagata and the Moving World (jagat).

Because of these verse divisions, I have employed two renditions of the term svabhaava;(9) for kaarikaas 1-9, the rendition "one's own origination," and for kaarikaas 10-16, the rendition "own-nature." Anticipating a conclusion, the rendition "own-nature" intends that "own-nature" belongs to the unmentioned, but implied, world of `staying' that is complementary to the world of 'going'. My translation of the verses agrees usually with the grammatical interpretation in de ong's French translation, (10) and accordingly diverges from Kalupahana's rendition.


skandhaa na naanya.h skandhebhyo naasmin skandhaa na te.su sa.h/
tathaagata.h skandhavaan na katamo `tra tathaagata.h // 1 //

The Tathaagata is not the personal aggregates (skandha). Nor is he different from them; to wit, the personal aggregates are not in him, nor he in them, nor is he possessed of the personal aggregates. When then is a Tathaagata?

The authority for translating the verse in this manner is Candrakiiti's Madhyamakaavataara, where this very verse is cited under 6.144. That is to say, when contemplating each of the five personal aggregates (ruupa and so forth) in four ways to counter what are called the 'twenty reifying views' (Paali sakkaayadi.t.thi), the four ways amount to one denial of identification and three denials of difference.(11) That Candrakiirti would clarify the structure of the verse in his Mavataara, but not in his commentary on the MK, agrees with his assuming the reader's ability in the kaarikaas themselves.

What then is Tathaagata? He 'went' (gata) that way (tathaa). The opening scripture in the Paali canonical Samyuttanikaaya tells that a certain deva, as dawn was approaching, came to the Jeta Grove where the Buddha was staying and asked how he had crossed the flood. The Buddha responded: "Not staying (Paali appati.t.tham) , friend, and not conjecturing (Paali anaayuham), did I cross the flood."(12) This shows that the Buddha went (gata) and avoided wayward views (Sanskrit d.r.s.ti), so he is Tathaagata. If he had stayed (sthita) it would have been in the personal aggregates, and so he could not be called 'Tathaagata.'

buddha.h skandhaan upaadaaya yadi naasti svabhaavata.h/
svabhaavatas ca yo naasti kuta.h sa parabhaavata.h // 2 //

If a Buddha (exists) by adopting personal aggregates, he does not exist by way of his own origination. When someone does not exist by way of his own origination, how can he exist by way of another's origination? If a Buddha exists by adopting the five pure aggregates (skandha), morality (`siila), intense concentration (samaadhi), (perfected) insight (praj~naa), liberation (vimukti), and the knowledge and vision of liberation (vimuktij~naanadar`sana),(13) he does not exist by way of his own origination (of these), since they were adopted by previous saints. And just as they were not his own origination as a basis for existence as a Buddha, how can he exist as such by another's origination of these?

pratiitya parabhaava.m ya.h so `naatmety upapadyate/
ya`s caanaatmaa sa ca katha.m bhavi.syati tathaagata.h //3//

When someone exists in dependence upon another's origination, it is not valid to call him a 'self'. When someone is without self, how will he become a Tathaagata?

That 'nonself' (anaatma) is examined by the sole aspect of `nonself-dependence' (asvaatantrya) is taught also in Asa^nga's Sraavakabhuumi.(14) And the Udaanavarga, its Tathaagata chapter 21.2, has this celebrated verse about the 'self':

I am the Tathaagata,(15) teacher of gods and men; have comprehended enlightenment as a revealer by myself; having reached omniscience, am endowed with the powers; incomparable and unequalled, who can teach me!

yadi naasti svabhaava`s ca parabhaava.h katha.m bhavet/
svabhaavaparabhaavaabhyaam .rte ka.h sa tathaagata.h //4//

If there is not one's own origination, how can there be another's origination? Except frappe one's own origination and another's origination, who would be the Tathaagata?

For the meaning, notice the definition of `Tathaagata' in the Praj~naapaaramitaa`saastra.(16)

(1) He preaches the character of dharma (dharmalak.sa.na) according to the manner (tathaa) in which he understood it (gata). (2) In the manner by which the (earlier) Buddhas have gone on the path of acquirement (yoga) and security (k.sema), so (tathaa) the (present) Buddha has gone (gata), and there are no more rebirths. That is why he is called 'Tathaagata'. Thus, the first sentence of kaarikaa 4 can be construed as intending that the Buddha's own attainment shows the way for others to follow the path, while the second sentence intends that the present Buddha followed the course of preceding Buddhas; hence both his own attainment and their attainment is implicated in the name 'Tathaagata'.

skandhaan yady anupaadaaya bhavet ka`scit tathaagata.h /
sa idaaniim upaadadyaad upaadaaya tato bhavet //5//

If someone could be a Tathaagata without adopting personal aggregates, he might adopt them now and later adopting them, be (a Tathaagata).

Candrakiirti's commentary provides a hint of the meaning, giving the illustration that Devadatta existed before he acquired riches, and acquired them later.(17) Therefore, it appears that Naagaarjuna understands the first explanation of the term 'Tathaagata' (given already under kaarikaa 4) to mean a Tathaagata who has not yet advanced to yoga-k.sema. Later, this Tathaagata could acquire the five pure aggregates (the yoga), and then secure them (the k.sema) by way of the ten powers and other Buddha natures.

skandhaan caapy anupaadaaya naasti ka`scit tathaagatah./
ya`s ca naasty anupaadaaya sa upaadaasyate katha.m // 6 //

A Tathaagata does not exist unless he adopts personal aggregates. Anyone, not adopting them, does not exist. How can he appropriate them?

A Tathaagata, in order to exist, must adopt the ordinary personal aggregates, ruupa, and so forth. According to Buddhapaalita's commentary, since sa.msaara is without beginning or end, there does not exist anyone who has not adopted the aggregates, and how can anyone appropriate them if he had not done so previously.(18)

na bhavaty anupaadattam upaadaana.m ca ki.m cana /
na caasti nirupaadaana.h katha.m cana tathaagata.h //7//

No adoption occurs prior to its adoption. No Tathaagata exists without an adoption (of skandhas). The first half appears to deny the Saa.mkhya position that the effect preexists in the cause, as though there were a pregenetic adoption. And a Tathaagata must adopt personal aggregates in order to exist. Naagaarjuna, in his Friendly Letter (to a king). The Suh.rllekha, kaarikaas 59-60, stresses the value of human birth for practice of the Dharma and progress toward enlightenment.(19) Hence, the personal aggregates (skandha) of a human are meant. The five are formation (ruupa), feelings (vedanaa), ideation (sa.mj~naa), motivations (sa.mskaara), and perceptions (vij~naana).

tattvaanyatvena yo naasti m.rgyamaanas ca pa~ncadhaa /
upaadaanena sa katha.m praj~napyate tathaagatha.h // 8 //

Who being sought for in five ways does not exist as different from the elements (=aggregates) or as the adoption (of aggregates), how can he be designated a Tathaagata?

The five ways are the five personal aggregates listed under the preceding verse. He can be designated a Tathaagata because the Paali canon Sa.myutta-nikaaya, at 2.25, has a famous remark:

"Whether Tathaagatas arise or do not arise, there remains this realm (dhaatu), the continuance of dhamma, the rule of dhamma, the having of this for condition." This rule of dhamma (Sanskrit dharma) means the Dependent Origination of the natures (dharma) of which the five personal aggregates are composed. Thus, the continuance of the five personal aggregates is independent of whether there is a Tathaagata.

yad apiidam upaadaana.m tat svabhaavaan na vidyate /
svabhaavata`s ca van naasti kutas tat parabhaavata.h // 9 //

But also this 'adoption' (of aggregates) is not found by way of its own origination. And when something does not exist by way of its own origination, how can it exist by way of another's origination?

Upaadaana is the ninth member of the Buddhist formula of Dependent Origination (pratiitya-samutpaada). It arises dependent on the preceding member, t.r.s.naa (craving), and so does not arise by way of its own origination. However, it does not exist by way of t.r.s.naa's origination, since this 'craving' is not the cause of upaadaana ('adoption'), but only the condition for its arising.(20)


eva.m `suunyam upaadaanam upaadaataa ca sarva`sa.h /
praj~napyate ca `suunyena katha.m `suunyas tathaagata.h //10//

Thus, adoption and adopter are completely void (of svabhaava). How can the Tathaagata be designated as void by what is void?

As recorded in the Sa.myutta-nikaaya, 4.54, AAnanda asked the Buddha about the saying "The world is void! The world is void!" (su~n~no loko su~n~no loko 'ti), and the Buddha explained: "Because it is void of self or of what belongs to self, therefore, 'The world is void'." So, here, because it is void of adopter and of adoption, the world is void. As to the ability of words to designate something as `void', this is a matter dealt with by Naagaarjuna in his Vigrahavyaavartinii. The opponent claimed that words being void (of svabhaava) were incapable of denying anything or establishing the voidness of anything. Let us accept K. Bhattacharya's translation of this text, 70, "All things prevail for him for whom prevails this voidness (prabhavati ca `suunyateya.m yasya prabhavanti tasya sarvaarthaa.h). Nothing prevails for him for whom voidness does not prevail (prabhavati na tasya kimcin na prabhavati `suunyataa yasya)."(21)

`suunyam iti na vaktavyam a`suunyam iti vaa bhavet /
ubhaya.m nobhaya.m ceti praj~naptyartha.m tu kathyate //11//

One should not say he is void or nonvoid, both or neither. But one may use terms for (such) designation.

Having insisted that words, although void of own-nature (svabhaava), have the power to designate something as 'void', Naagaarjuna does not admit that words are always employed wisely. In order to designate something as 'void', one should add 'void of' (something). Notice in the preceding that simply to say "The world is void" oes not convey much comprehension to the hearer, and so the Buddha had to add: "void of self or of what belongs to self." Then, how can a person of ordinary comprehension state what the Tathaagata is void of, when declaring the Tathaagata 'void'? Hence, one should not say he is void and so forth. The Pa.tisambhidaamaga of the Paali canon has lofty praise of a Tathaagata in the 'Faculties' chapter:(22)

na tassa adi.t.tha.m idh' atthi ki~nci atho avi~n~natam ajanitabbam /
sabba.m abbinnaasi yad atthi neyyam. Tathaagato tena samantacakkhuuti.

Here in this world there is nothing he has not seen, nothing not understood, nothing unknowable. He has experienced supernormally all that is knowable.

Therefore the Tathaagata is called All-seer.

Therefore, the Tathaagata is not explained by the word 'void' how much less by the word 'empty'!

`saa`svataa`saa`svataady atra kuta.h `saante catu.s.taya.m/
antaanantaadi caapy atra kuta.h `saante catu.s.taya.m //12//

How can the eternal, noneternal, and so on kind of four alternatives be in the peaceful? How can the finite, nonfinite, and so on kind of four alternatives be in the peaceful?

Candrakiirti's commentary(23) points out that these two sets of four alternatives are among the fourteen avyaak.rta-vastuuni, meaning the questions which the Buddha refused to answer. The verse mentions the first set, namely, that the world is eternal, noneternal, both eternal and noneternal, and neither eternal nor noneternal, and the second set, namely,

that the world is finite, nonfinite, both finite and nonfinite, and neither finite nor nonfinite. The third set is alluded to in the next verse, number 13; they are: the Tathaagata exists after death, does not exist after death, both exists and does not exist after death, and neither exists nor does not exist after death. The last two of the fourteen are: the self (jiiva) is identical with the body, and the self is different from the body. As to the question, "How can they be in the peaceful?" the peaceful is apparently a reference to Nirvaa.na, or to a person in whom the phenomenal turbulence has been appeased and so finds these fourteen questions not worth answering.

yena graaho g.rhiitas tu ghano 'stiiti tathaagata.h /
naastiiti sa vikalpayan nirv.rtasyaapi kalpayet // 13 //

The one attached to the gross positing, imagining that the Tathaagata exists or that he does not exist, would also imagine (the alternatives) for one in Nirvaa.na.

This verse may provide a clue to the prohibition which the Bhagavat announced to the first five disciples, namely, that they should not address a Tathaagata as 'long-lived one' (aayu.smat). That is to say, the disciples would be guilty of the 'gross positing'. In other words, that title, `long-lived one', could be relevant for one who 'stays' (sthita), but the name 'Tathaagata' means 'one who went that way'.

svabhaavata`s ca `suunye 'smi.ms cintaa naivopapadyate /
paraa.m nirodhaad bhavati buddho na bhavatiiti vaa // 14 //

The speculation that the Buddha exists or does not exist after death is not admissible, since he is void of own-nature.

The statement that the Buddha is void of svabhaava does not constitute a denial of svabhaava, but rather assigns svubhaava to a status plementary to the Tathaagata, as in the celebrated remark already cited, "Whether Tathaagatas arise or do not arise, there remains...."(24) The inadmissible speculation is in terms of remaining.


prapa~ncayanti ye buddha.m prapa~ncaatiitam avyaya.m /
te prapa~ncahataa.h sarve na pa`syanti tathaagata.m // 15 //

Those who verbally elaborate the incessant Buddha who has transcended verbal elaboration none of them, impaired by verbal elaboration, can see the Tathaagata.

This verse agrees with Udaanavarga, chapter 22, verse 11. This chapter, on the 'Hearer', immediately follows the 'Tathaagata' chapter (21). It is a reassonable assumption that Dharmatraata's Udaanavarga delighted Naagaarjuna who was probably very young when it first appeared.(25) Udaanavarga 22.11 follows, rendered from the Tibetan:

/ gan dag gzugs kyis nes par 'dzin /
/ na la sgra yis rjes su 'bran /
/ 'dun pa'i 'dod chags dban gyur la /
/ skye bo de dag na mi ses //

Those who apprehend me by (corporeal) formation, and follow me by speech, those persons, when dominated by passionate craving, do not know me.

While the message, as originally told, is said to be by a certain dwarf (Paali) Bhaddiya, rendered in the commentary to the Udaanavarga in the Tibetan canon, 'Phags pa Lan-tshwa-bza^n-po,(26) the application in the present context is certainly to the Tathaagata. Asa^nga, in his Yogaacaarabhuumi, in the section on `sariiraarthagaathaa, cites the set of five verses, Udaanavarga 22. 11-15, and explains:(27)

It is like this: The ordinary person (p.rthagjana), who has not completely eliminated his passionate craving, when he sees a Tathaagata possessed of the thirty-two characters of the Great Person, apprehends and thinks, "Gosh! This Bhagavat is a Rightly Perfected Buddha! His Doctrine is well-stated. His congregation of auditors is rightly installed." Thereafter, this person relies on unworthy persons, heeds pernicious doctrines... and comes to blame the Buddha, his Doctrine, and his Congregation ('di ltar 'di na so so'i skye bo'i 'dun pa'i 'dod chags ril gyis ma spans pa la las de bzin gsegs pa'i skyes bu chen po'i mtshan sum cu rtsa gnis dan ldan pa mthon ba na / kye ma bcom ldan 'das de ni yan dag par rdzogs pa'i sans rgyas yin no / de'i chos ni legs par gsuns pa yin no / nan thos kyi dge 'dun ni legs par zugs pa yin no snam du nes par 'dzin te / de phyis skye bu dam pa ma yin pa bsnen pa / dam pa'i chos ma yin pa thos pa la brten nas /.... sans rgyas dan chos dan dge 'dun la yan skur pa 'debs te /).

Ancient Buddhism declared that the signs of a Complete Buddha were held in common with the Universal Emperor (cakravaartin); so one could not know just from those signs that one was looking at a Complete Buddha. According to Naagaarjuna's verse, the ordinary person did not really see this Tathaagata. The Udaanavarga commentary on this verse points out that the 'passionate craving' is a hindrance to samaadhi (tin ne 'dzin gyi sgrib pa); and commenting upon the part, "Those persons... do not know me," cites the well-known precept: "The man whose mind is equipoised, sees exactly as it is" (mnam par bzag na ji lta ba bzin du mthon bar `gyur ro).(28) Buddhapaalita's commentary on the MK verse explains the term prapa~nca (verbal elaboration) as 'existence and nonexistence', permanence and impermanence', and so forth;(29) hence the term suggests the creation of divisive cross-purposes (dvandva), or two things where there are really one, and that it is instigated by the 'passionate craving'.(30) And so one does not see objects exactly as they are.


tathaagato yat svabhaavas tat svabhaavam ida.m jagat /
tathaagato ni.hsvabhaavo ni.hsvabhaavam ida.m jagat // 16 //

Were the Tgthaagata to have own-nature (svabhaava), then this moving world would have own-nature. Given that the Tathaagata lacks svabhaava, this moving world lacks svabhaava.(31)

Naagaarjuna's final verse of the chapter shows what the Tathaagata and the jagat have in common going; and it shows what they both do not have svabhaava. In short, svabhaava (own-nature) perforce has no 'going'. Indeed, according to the commentator Buddhapaalita, this svabhaava is the same for the Tathaagata and the jagat. Thus the comment (Derge, ed., f. 266b-1, 2):

"What be the own-nature of a Tathaagata is the own-nature of the moving world (jagat). Since the own-nature of a Tathaagata is the own-nature of the moving world, the examination of Tathaagata is also the examination of the moving world" (/ de bzin gsegs pa dnos nid gan / de ni 'gro `di'i no bo nid / gan gi phyir de bzin gsaegs pa'i no bo nid gan yin pa de ni 'gro ba 'di'i no bo nid kyan yin pa de'i phyir de bzin gsegs pa brtags pa 'di nid kyis 'gro ba 'di dag kyan brtags pa yin no /).

It seems to be a contradiction in terms to speak of the Tathaagata lacking svabhaava, and then to refer to the "own-nature of a Tathaagata." In fact, there is no contradiction. It is almost as when we use an expression like "our world" and then admit that the world is not ours. The point of the discussion is that Naagaarjuna never denied 'svabhaava'; he never claimed that fire lacks the own-nature of burning; rather he insisted that an actual fire is not due to its own-nature. But, in a manner of speaking, it is necessary to refer to the svabhaava of a Tathaagata in order to say that the Tathaagata lacks svabhaava. A passage from the ancient Paali canon should clarify the foregoing in part. This is Sa.myuttanikaaya 5.41-42, in the Tathaagata-sutta:

sattaa apadaa vaa dvipadaa vaa catuppadaa vaa bahuppadaa vaa
ruupino vaa aruupino vaa sa~n~nino vaa asa~n~nino vaa nevasa~n~niinaasa~n~nino vaa, tathaagato tesa.m aggam akkhaayati
araham sammaasambuddho;

Of sentient beings (Sanskrit sattva), whether footless, two-footed, four-footed, or many-footed; whether having (material) formation or not having (material) formation; whether ideational, or nonideational, or neither ideational nor non-ideational of these, the Tathaagata, the Arhat, the Rightly Complete Buddha, is declared the chief. Notice that the Tathaagata is counted among sentient beings, agreeing with Naagaarjuna's verse and its commentary that the same examination can be made for the Tathaagata as for the moving world (jagat). The Paali passage begins with jagat language by classifying sentient beings by their number of feet for purposes of locomotion. It then classifies by 'formation', which, as was already mentioned, deceives those who have not equilibrated their minds. Finally it classifies by ideation, which characterizes a 'sentient being'. Hence, the Tathaagata is a kind of flowering of the sentient world. Whatever is appropriately said of the Tathaagata does not apply to the realm of staying (sthita), called the realm of Dharma. But it must also be admitted that the Tathaagata uses this realm of Dharma, and that to see the Tathaagata is to see the Dharma. So it is said in the Sa.myutta-nikaaya (3.120) and other places that "he who sees the Dhamma sees me, and he who sees me sees the Dhamma."

In conclusion, the annotations which the present writer has brought to bear upon the sixteen verses of this chapter rest upon the testimony of ancient

Buddhism. It was not necessary to appeal to the special language of the Mahaayaana scriptures, such as the Samaadhiraaja-suutra. But this is not to deny the applicability of such scriptures, as cited in Candrakiirti's commentary. Bach commentator follows his line of comments in accordance with a lineage which he continues. The present commentary is not exempt from this condition. Indeed, there is little purpose to speculating about such matters. If authentic scriptures cannot be alluded to, if one has to guess through it, why add another commentary? Indeed, in common between the preceding approach to this chapter 22 and the approach to my previously published translation of chapter 2 is an attitude toward the author Naagaarjuna that he was a religious genius. His MK is a kind of relic. It requires of the translator both a command of language, meaning the kind of Sanskrit Naagaarjuna employs, and an evocation of the context of the disputes then current.(32) So it is easy to criticize previous translation attempts, as does Kalupahana in addition to myself. And that does not mean that we necessarily do better.


1. A. Wayman, "Naagaarjuna: Moralist Reformer of Buddhism," Studia Missionalia 34 (1985): 63-95.

2. A. Wayman, "The Gait (gati) and the Path (maarga) Reflections on the Horizontal," Journal of the American Oriental Society 105, no. 3 (July-September 1985): 579-588.

3. David J. Kalupahana, Naagaarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way (Albany, New York, 1986), Preface, pp. xiii-xv, and p. 7. At p. 26, he opposes the adulation of Naagaarjuna as a 'second Buddha', which my article(n. 1, preceding) justifies, on the grounds that he inaugurated Maahaayana Buddhism.

4. Cf. Le Traite de la Grande Vertu de Sagesse, as translated by Etienne Lamotte, vol.1(Louvain, 1944), p. 126, for various references.

5. There (article of n. 2, preceding) I showed the usage of gati in some other branches of Indian literature, and investigated the verb form gamyate in Sanskrit grammar, as a preparation for translating MK, chap. 2.

6. Here, for translating MK, chap. 22, I assumed that because the Udaanavarga has a Tathaagata chapter, some verses would be relevant (they were!); I assumed that important teachings about the Tathaagata in early Buddhist literature and later repeated, such as "whether a Tathaagata arises or not, there remains...," and what the Buddha said to the first five disciples, "Do not call a Tathaagata 'long-lived one' (aayu.smat)," would all be relevant (and they were!); and I assumed that the remark on the first page of the Sar.myutta-nikaaya about crossing the flood, because that requires 'going', would be relevant (and it was!). Moreover, I thought that the commentaries of Buddhapaalita and Candrakiirti, fortunately available to me, would be useful for certain verses (and they were!).

7. Cf. Michael Hahn, Naagaarjuna's Ratnaavalii(Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese) (Bonn, 1982).

8. Wayman, "Naagaarjuna," p. 89.

9. It should not be surprising that the same work employs the term svabhaava in more than one sense; cf. Ernst Steinkellner, "Wirklichkeit und Begriff bei Dharmakiirti," Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde Sudasiens 15 (1971): 179-211, for various senses of this term as employed by Dharmakiirti.

10. J. W. de Jong, Cinq Chapitres de la Prasannapadaa (Paris, 1949), has a translation of both the verses and Candrakiirti's commentary, with the Tibetan text for these.

11. Cf. A. Wayman, "The Twenty Reifying Views (Sakkaayadi.t.thi)," originally in Studies in Pali and Buddhism (1979), reprinted in Buddhist Insight: Essays by Alex Wayman, ed. by George R. Elder (Delhi, 1984), pp. 215-223, esp. p. 218.

12. I employ the edition in the Naalandaa-Devanaagarii-Paali-Series (Bihar Government, 1959).

13. These five are called jina-skandha (aggregates of the Victor); cf. Louis de La Vallee Poussin, L'Abhidharmako`sa de Vasubandhu (1924), under VI, 76c (p.297).

14.Cf. Alex Wayman, Analysis of the `Sraavakabhuumi Manuscript (Berkeley, California: 1961), pp. 130-131.

15. According to Praj~naavarman's Udaanavargavivara.na, ed. [from Tibetan] by Michael Balk (Bonn, 1984), vol. 2, in comments upon this verse at p. 609, this usage of the term 'Tathaagata' shows having gone (gata) for the sake of others, the candidates to be taught. Hence, it is the first kind of Tathaagata, as will be alluded to in the following verse, MK 22.4. It is this Tathaagata who needs a 'self'.

16. Le Traite, vol. 1 (n. 4, preceding), p. 126.

17. de Jong, Cinq Chapitres(n. 10, preceding), p. 77 and p. 147.

18. I employ the edition of Buddhapaalita's commentary in the Tibetan Tanjur, the Derge edition (published in Tokyo, 1977), the Dbu-ma section, vol.1, i.e. vol. Tsa (here, f. 263a-4 ff.), beginning: 'khor ba la thog ma dan tha ma med do.

19. Cf. Lozang Jamspal and others, Naagaarjuna's Letter to King Cautamiiputra (Delhi, 1978).

20. It is of course quite reasonable that when Naagaarjuna uses the term upaadaana, it can be construed as the term for the ninth member of

Dependent Origination; MK, chap. 26, is devoted to this twelve-membered formula. Again, while t.r.s.naa is a condition (pratyaya) for upaadaana, it by no means can be taken as its cause, but Naagaarjuna takes it as concomitant in MK, 26.6B: t.r.syamaana upaadaanam upaadatte caturvidham, "While craving, one indulges in adoption of four kinds."

21. K. Bhattacharya and others, The Dialectical Method of Naagaarjuna (Vigrahavyaavartanii) (Delhi, 1978), p.47.

22 Arnold C. Taylor, ed., Pa.tisambhidaamagga, vol. 2 (London, 1907), p. 31.

23. de Jong, Cinq Chapitres(n. 10, preceding), pp. 82-83.

24. For this kind of 'voidness', cf. Pa.tisambhidaamagga, vol. 2, the treatise on voidness (su~n~nakathaa), p. 179; or the translation by ~Naanamoli, The Path of Discrimination (London: The Pall Text Society, 1982), pp. 357-358, "What is voidness by characteristic?" and so on. Here the type is lakkha.nasu~n~nam, and of the examples, naturally the one of two kinds (i.e. of lak.sa.na). The translation of the example: "The characteristic of the fool is void of the characteristic of the wise man, and the characteristic of the wise man is void of the characteristic of the fool." In this case, the rendition 'devoid' may serve better than 'void'. For the case of MK 22.14, the characteristic of going is devoid of the characteristic of remaining, and the characteristic of remaining is devoid of the characteristic of going. Here the characteristic of remaining is the svabhaava, and the characteristic of going is the Buddha after death.


25. This is by the reasonable dating of Naagaarjuna's life as spanning practically the entire second century A.D., and by the dating of the Udaanavarga composition at the beginning of that century.

26. Udaanavargavivara.na (n. 15, preceding), p. 634.

27. Photoreproduction of Peking Tibetan canon, vol. 110, p. 15-5 to p. 16-1.

28. Udaanavargavivara.na (n.15, preceding), pp. 634-635.

29. Buddhapaalita's commentary (n. 18. preceding), sa, f. 266a-4, 5: yod pa dan med pa dan rtag pa dan mi rtag pa la sogs pa'i spros pa rnams.

30. An illustration is found in Kaalidaasa's `Sakuntalaa, the incident in which `Sakuntalaa with two girl friends, with a smallish pot (suitable to

her size), and attired in a tight-fitting garment of bark cloth, bends to water the basin of hermitage trees. Unknown to them, she is being observed by the king. As though by sympathetic magic of male-female craving, `Sakuntalaa asks her friend to loosen her garment; and promptly the discussion shifts to her two breasts. Here, the one waterpot is succeeded by two breasts, by the power of craving. Cf. M. B. Emeneau, Kaalidaasa's `Sakuntalaa, translated from the Bengali Recension (Berkeley, California: 1962), pp. 6-7.

31. I have noticed several translations of this verse along the same lines adopted by Kalupahana. This is his (p. 310): "Whatever is the self-nature of the tathaagata, that is also the self-nature of the universe. The Tathaagata is devoid of self-nature. This universe is also devoid of self-nature." In fact, de Jong's French translation is similar. Grammatically, the translation isimpossible. The reason is that svabhaava.m ida.m jagat shows that here svabhaava (both cases in the first line) is an adjective, and these translations agree in taking it as the subject of the sentence!

Both lines must be construed as nominative absolute, as I have done. Furthermore, the renditions agree that jagat means 'universe'. But then the verse is gibberish, and completely fails to render Naagaarjuna's point that the gata of Tathaagata agrees with jagat in having the same root 'to go'.

The way these translators have rendered the verse leaves the reader with the conclusion that Naagaarjuna said that both Tathaagata and world have svabhaava and both lack it, as though Naagaarjuna could not make up his mind.

32. Probably MK 2 was the most severely misrendered by the translators, who apparently wondered why Naagaarjuna was saying such silly things about motion. Oh, never admit that the translators do not know enough about the words and the contexts to do a competent job!


Transcribed for Buddhism Today by Bhikkhuni Lien Hoa


Updated: 1-12-2000

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