Questions on Buddhism (was Re: [Advaita-l] Re: gauDapAda and Sankara)

Lakshminarayana narayana_kl_71 at
Tue Aug 1 22:11:04 CDT 2006


Interesting questions you raised.

> 2) Right in the middle of his MMK, Nagarjuna says:
> Shunyata = Pratitya Samutpada = Madhyamika
> Question: What does this (apparently incongruous)
> equation represent?

I think Mahadevan is more or less right. I dont have
MMK with me right now but I can try to hunt it down
and give the appropriate sloka-s soon. Meanwhile I
will answer this from my memory so I may be not exact
in some details. I hope I wont be seriously
misrepresenting nAgarjuna here.

Being a buddhist, nAgArjuna cannot accept an eternal
Atman or brahman. shUnyata is not a metaphysical or
transcendental entity (or non-entity). It is not a
metaphysical counterpart of brahman with just brahman
just replaced by void. According to mAdhyamika,
shUnyata is a property of everything. It indicates
that everything is devoid of an eternal
self-nature/sva-bhAva. This is more or less the
definition of shUnyata.

Now consider this. If an object has an eternal
sva-bhAva, where does it get it from? According to
nAgArjuna, it cannot get it from anything other than
itself. This makes sense because if it gets it from
anything else, then why is it not being called
para-bhAva? Therefore, there can be no eternal
sva-bhAva which can be obtained from something else,
for sva-bhAva is inbuilt. Since sva-bhAva is inbuilt,
it cannot be dependant on any entity other than the
object itself. (This line of reasoning can be inimical
to certain vedAntic philosophies like dvaita. Because
if you say that all living jIvas are eternally and
completely dependant on brahman for their existence,
and hence for their sva-bhAva, then nAgArjuna would
say that the jIvas dont really have a sva-bhAva but
instead the goodness or badness of the jIvas is
actually the goodness or badness of brahman itself).

Therefore if something is dependantly arising out of
something else, then it cannot have an eternal
sva-bhAva because in that case its sva-bhAva should be
more appropriately called as para-bhAva. (This clearly
applies even if that something is "eternally
dependant" on something else for its existence, and
hence for its sva-bhAva. The converse is also easily
seen to be true though I wonder if it holds in case of
a beginningless entity that gets destroyed at some
point of time). According to buddha, there is only
dependant origination of everthing. Therefore
nAgArjuna would say that everything is shUnya.

> Question: Why don't Buddhists use the dual logic of
> "being and
> non-being"? In other words, why not the
> straightforward two-fold
> logical system instead of a contrived four-fold one?

I remember reading the justification for this in a
book on mAdhyamika written by a western or Japanese
author, but I unfortunately dont remember what book it
was. I might try to find it out and if I do I will
inform you.

> 3) Seldom does Nagarjuna actually refer to the
> Buddha's own words in
> the MMK, but scores of Buddhists claim that the MMK
> correctly
> represents Buddha. 
> Question: Is there some good reason to believe that
> Nagarjuna is
> correctly representing Buddha? 

If buddha's main teaching can be considered to be
pratItya samutpAda and nAgArjuna's main teaching can
be considered to be shUnyata, then the above(even if
not well argued by me) shows that nAgArjuna correctly
represents the buddha.

>If so, why are there
> virtually no
> references or quotes to the Buddha in the MMK to
> justify that claim?
> (There are a couple of references to the personage
> of Buddha, but no
> quotes from any of Buddha's sermons).

I dont know the answer but I have a question. Do
buddhists in general have the habit of quoting the
buddha directly in their works?

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