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Thread: Verses from the Center question

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    Verses from the Center question

    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!

  2. #2
    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

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    Forums Member Abhaya's Avatar
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    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

    http://www.orientalia.org/article492.html
    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).
    http://www.orientalia.org/article492.html
    Abhaya


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    Quote Originally Posted by elyse1 View Post
    ...his verse 'Awakening.'
    hi Elyse

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

    kind regards


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    Thanks for your reply. So basically emptiness is about the principle of dependent co-arising?

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    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?


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    Forums Member Abhaya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elyse1 View Post
    Thanks for your reply. So basically emptiness is about the principle of dependent co-arising?
    Yes.

    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.
    http://www.orientalia.org/article492.html

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    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

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    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."

    and

    "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."

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    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.

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