Okay everyone, I'm sorry this has gone off track
Paññāsikhara wrote:To what extent are the writings of Nagarjuna in line with Theravadin thought?
What do you mean by "Theravadin"? If it is the commentaries of the Theras, their Abhidhamma, and so forth, then there is quite a distance between them. If you mean sutra based Sthaviras, then there is a lot of overlap. However, I agree with Walser, and think that a look into the south-eastern Mahasamghikas may be the best place to start looking. There are strong connections, though over divergent, between the Mahavihara and the Andhakas.
Hi Bhante, thank you for your response.
You are welcome.
It's good to know there's quite some overlap in regards to the Suttas. I had initially meant a Mahavihara-whole kit and caboodle definition of Theravada. But perhaps it's much like taking apart an engine, stripping back the outer pieces 'till you get to the core, then seeing how the new bits fit in the with the core, before reapplying the outer pieces and seeing if it can all fit in somewhat, if not where these outer pieces don't fit together.
Well, one of the biggest problems in earlier scholarship, and one that is certainly very rife on Internet Buddhist Discussion Forums, is the approach which assumes that there are only two schools - Theravada and Mahayana. (Or maybe three, if one adds Tibetan Vajrayana.) Then, people try to argue that if one makes a Mahayana point, then it must be contra Theravada, etc. etc. Actually, this is extremely dubious indeed.
First of all, it has now been shown quite clearly by a number of brilliant scholars, that at the time in question - that of Nagarjuna, c. 2nd-3rd cty CE - the Mahayana was a very low key and unimportant group, and even the Sri Lankan Mahavihara was not really that important at all. The big schools, and thus the main line of thinking, was held by the various Pudgalavadins, the Sarvastivadins, and some other groups such as general Mahasamghikas and so on. Without considering these groups at all, then one will almost certainly come to completely bizarre conclusions. Sadly, this has often been the case.
Paññāsikhara wrote:Though the MMK doesn't mention it, other works of Nagarjuna are strongly Mahayana, and advocate the Bodhisattva path. This is well before the Theravadin Dhammapala wrote anything about it, by maybe 500 years.
This is intriguing, I saw a little passage (albeit on wikipedia) which raises an interesting point:
There exist a number of influential texts attributed to Nāgārjuna, although most were probably written by later authors. The only work that all scholars agree is Nagarjuna's is the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way)
Now knowing next to nothing on this topic, I don't attempt to assume the weighting of the above quote, knowing wikipedia's track record of innaccuracy, but how does this sit with you Bhante?
There are a number of text attributed to (a / the / some) Nagarjuna. True.
"Most" written by later authors? Some, yes. Many, probably. Most? - not so sure.
One of the problems is this - we have the text, but not the author. So, nowadays, the very definition of "Nagarjuna" has virtually become "whoever wrote the Mulamadhyamaka Karika". So, with this in mind, the above statement is kind of tautological, and doesn't really say anything at all.
Most scholars in this area still agree that he wrote some other texts, including: Suhrllekha, Ratnavali, Vigrahavyavatani, and others. Walser bases himself mainly on the Ratnavali, which has its pros and cons.
One big discussion is on the commentary to the Prajnaparamita, the Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa 大智度論, which is only preserved in Chinese. Lamotte worked on a huge five volume translation of only 1/3 of it, over decades. In the third volume, he concluded that the author of this text is a former Sarvastivadin Abhidharmika, and this, and other reasons, led him to conclude that it was not written by Nagarjuna. This is now the standard view on this text in the West. Yinshun wrote an interesting response to this, but it is unknown outside of Chinese circles.
There is a similar issue with a commentary on the Dasabhumika Sutra, part of the Avatamsaka Sutra, too, also attributed to Nagarjuna. Again, only in Chinese.