View Full Version : Verses from the Center question

29 Apr 12, 15:37
Hi everyone,

I'm new to this forum, as well as to Buddhism. I've been taking a class on Buddhist psychology in school this semester, and have become very interested in practicing it in my own life. Right now for my final project, I'm working on an assignment that has to do with Nagarjuna's Verses from the Center.

I'm to write an essay as well as give a visual demonstration on his verse 'Awakening.' However, I'm having trouble grasping the concept of emptiness that he talks about and am pretty stuck on what to talk about.

Would anyone familiar with Verses from the Center be so kind as to share their thoughts and maybe explain it in a bit more detail? Thanks so much for your help!

29 Apr 12, 17:07
Welcome elyse,

I'm a little surprised that someone completely new to Buddhism would be trying to understand Nagarjuna's verses on emptiness.

Anyway, I'll move your post to the Mahayana forum and wish you all the best.

Kind wishes

Aloka ;D

29 Apr 12, 17:13
Hi elyse1,

This resource may be of interest to you given its summarization of sunyata (emptiness) and its explanation of "enso", a visual depiction of emptiness in Zen, as well as its mention of a Tibetan visual representation of emptiness, namely the sky: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sunyata

Nagarjuna's discussion of emptiness centers on the lack of anything inherent, intrinsic, or innate to any sort of phenomena. All things are empty of self, being mutually dependent on countless other causes and conditions. As for the relationship between awakening and emptiness, here are some excerpts from the Verses from the Center:

Mulamadhyamakakarika - Nagarjuna

Chapter XXV

Nirvana has been said to be neither eliminated nor attained, neither annihilated nor eternal,
Neither disappeared nor originated.
MMK 25.3

The teacher Gautama has taught that a "becoming" and a "non-becoming" (vibhava) are destroyed;
Therefore it obtains that: Nirvana is neither an existent thing nor a non-existent thing.
MMK 25.10

It is not expressed if the Glorious One the Buddha exists (1) after his death,
Or does not exist (2), or both (3) or neither (4).
MMK 25.17

Also, it is not expressed if the Glorious One exists (1) while remaining in the world,
Or does not exist (2), or both (3) or neither (4).
MMK 25.18


These verses illustrate the relationship between Nirvana and Sunyata. Awakening is empty of self or anything pertaining to a self. Nirvana is an extinction of the flames of {ignorance/delusion}, {attachment/greed}, and {aversion/hatred}. Likewise, Sunyata is the extinction of self-view, which when un-extinguished, helps fuel these fires. In Mahayana Buddhism, a deep understanding of emptiness is conducive to awakening.

Mulamadhyamakakarika I.3.
Certainly there is no self-existence (svabhava) of existing things in conditioning causes, etc;
And if no self-existence exists, neither does "other-existence" (parabhava).



29 Apr 12, 17:16
...his verse 'Awakening.'
hi Elyse

it may be helpful if you post the verse 'Awakening', so the forum can read it

kind regards


29 Apr 12, 17:22
Thanks for your reply. So basically emptiness is about the principle of dependent co-arising?

29 Apr 12, 17:36
Emptiness is the principle of there is no inherent selfhood in things

Dependent co-arising is a way to demonstrate there is no inherent selfhood in things

For example, take a "flower". the holistic term "flower" implies a "selfhood" or "independence" of the flower

But if the leaf is taken away, does a "flower" remain? then of a petal is taken away, does a "flower" remain? if the stem is taken away, does a "flower" remain?

Does a "flower" really exist or is a flower merely a perception based on a collection of parts, i.e., various causes & conditions?


29 Apr 12, 17:40
Thanks for your reply. So basically emptiness is about the principle of dependent co-arising?


MMK 24.18
The "originating dependently" we call "emptiness";
This apprehension, i.e., taking into account all other things, is the understanding of the middle way.

29 Apr 12, 17:50
a relevent verse from original Pali Buddhism

Why now do you assume 'a being'?
Mara, have you grasped a view?
This is a heap of sheer constructions:
Here no being is found.

Just as, with an assemblage of parts,
The word 'chariot' is used,
So, when the aggregates are present,
There's the convention 'a being.'

It's only suffering that comes to be,
Suffering that stands and falls away.
Nothing but suffering comes to be,
Nothing but suffering ceases.

Vajira Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn05/sn05.010.bodh.html)

30 Apr 12, 18:46
I was actually thinking of using Rilke's Duino Elegies as my form of expressive media that demonstrates the concept of emptiness and awakening...does anyone else feel like these lines might tie into it?

" Oh, not because happiness exists,
that over-hasty profit from imminent loss,
not out of curiosity, or to practice the heart,
which could exist in the laurel......
But because being here is much, and because all
that’s here seems to need us, the ephemeral, that
strangely concerns us. We: the most ephemeral. Once,
for each thing, only once. Once, and no more. And we too,
once. Never again. But this
once, to have been, though only once,
to have been an earthly thing – seems irrevocable."


"More than ever the Things that we might experience are vanishing, for what crowds them out and replaces them is an imageless act."

"Look, I am living. On what? Neither childhood nor future grows any smaller....Superabundant being wells up in my heart."

01 May 12, 00:17
The dharma taught by buddhas
Hinges on two truths:
Partial truths of the world
And truths which are sublime.
Without knowing how they differ,
You cannot know the deep;
Without relying on conventions,
You cannot disclose the sublime;
Without intuiting the sublime,
You cannot experience freedom.

Misperceiving emptiness
Injures the unintelligent
Like mishandling a snake
Or miscasting a spell.

The Buddha despaired
Of teaching the dharma,
Knowing it hard
To intuit its depths.

Your muddled conclusions
Do not affect emptiness;
Your denial of emptiness
Does not affect me.

When emptiness is possible,
Everything is possible;
Were emptiness impossible,
Nothing would be possible.

In projecting your faults onto me,
You forget the horse you are riding.

To see things existing by nature,
Is to see them without
Causes or conditions,
Thus subverting causality,
Agents, tools and acts,
Starting, stopping and ripening.

Contingency is emptiness
Which, contingently configured,
Is the middle way.
Everything is contingent;
Everything is empty.

Were everything not empty,
There would be no rising and passing.
Ennobling truths would not exist.
Without contingency
How could I suffer pain?

This shifting anguish
Has no nature of its own;
If it did, how could it have a cause?
Deny emptiness and you deny
The origins of suffering.

If anguish existed by nature,
How would it ever cease?
Absolute misery could never stop.
How could you cultivate a path
That exists by nature?
How could it lead to the end of pain?
A path on which you tread
Can have no essence of its own.

If confusion existed by nature,
I would always be confused.
How could I know anything?
Letting go and realizing,
Cultivation and fruition
Could never happen.

Who can attain absolute goals
That by nature are unattainable?
Since no one could reach them,
There would be no community;
With no truths, no dharma either.
With no community or dharma
How could I awaken?
I would not depend on awakening
Nor awakening on me.

A naturally unawakened person
Would never awaken
No matter how hard
He practiced for its sake.
He would never do good or evil;
An unempty person would do nothing.
He'd experience fruits of good and evil
Without having done good or evil deeds.
How can fruits of good and evil not be empty
If they are experienced?

To subvert emptiness and contingency
Is to subvert conventions of the world.
It engenders passivity;
Acts without an author,
Authors who do not act.
Beings would not be born or die;
They would be frozen in time,
Alien to variety.

If things were unempty,
You could attain nothing.
Anguish would never end.
You would never let go of compulsive acts.

To see contingency is to see
Anguish, its origins, cessation and the path.

01 May 12, 11:22
When I encountered emptiness as a teaching for the first time, it was that what got me hooked on Buddhism - compelling and challenging as it was.

Twenty four years later (I'm a slow learner) and I understand that it can only be known through the breath/body and meditation, never by intellectual investigation.

The body discovers the truth, the mind is just a passenger.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there, but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.

Infinitely large and infinitely small; no difference, for definitions have vanished and no boundaries are seen.

01 May 12, 12:48
The dharma taught by buddhas
Hinges on two truths....

....To see contingency is to see
Anguish, its origins, cessation and the path.
Sounds wonderful. I look forward to reading this with care, hopefully on Thursday :hands:

01 May 12, 13:36
Hi elyse,

These verses are discussed from p13 in an article 'Emptiness and Freedom' by Leigh Brasington.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:OAO9Ovm-VVAJ:enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-BJ011/bj011376333.pdf+The+dharma+taught+by+buddhas+hinge s+on+two+truths+Partial+truths+of+the+world&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgqw5rExkT8XI_8i830et3zQ__0eNztL235rLga BvvKFmexneKTFXb4EYs4G2tTHAq5W1tLCgX_31-e9SeB4lEbdh23WDA5VvfFygyrv7fDsHCZBFPfKti3UL_5tnztS mSDiNu9&sig=AHIEtbSec21asC2ypIca3r27A-JR8mCeLg