Nagarjuna

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Jechbi » Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:53 am

Paññāsikhara wrote: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.

Thank you, Ven. Huifeng. Your contributions in this thread are a breath of fresh air.

________________________
Hello Jack,
BlackBird wrote:Okay everyone, I'm sorry this has gone off track

I apologize if my initial post in this thread was perceived as off-topic to your OP. I was trying to make a positive contribution.

[EDIT: Meta-discussion removed - Retro.]

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:06 am

Jechbi wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote: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.

Thank you, Ven. Huifeng. Your contributions in this thread are a breath of fresh air.

Yes, it's certainly useful to have the subtleties (or not-so-subtleties) of the history pointed out...

Besides, even if one takes a Classical Theravada version to be authoritative, and the other sects as suspect, then, as I understand it, one should neither dismiss teachings from other schools, nor accept without question teachings from post-Canonical Theravada teachers (ancient or modern) but should check everything for consistency against the Tipitika and Canonical Commentaries (as in the OP of this thread...).

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Dan74 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:19 am

Tilt has his valid perspective and has clearly stated in the past that he's an unapologetic jackal on these issues pertaining to the perceived slight of the notion of "hinayana."


I think discussions would be a lot more productive if everybody checked in their own or projected sense of superiority/inferiority at the door, so to speak.

I am here to learn and share my perspective, and I try (perhaps not always successfully?) not to preach, ego-trip, pontificate or even convince anyone of anything. We are fellow practitioners after all, and whether in debate or a laid-back discussion, I hope old sectarian gripes can be safely laid to rest.

:meditate:

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:focus:

PS I did a quick search and couldn't even find excerpts from Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa, Bhante. Is this something you've translated or plan to translate in part or in whole?
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:37 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Yes, it's certainly useful to have the subtleties (or not-so-subtleties) of the history pointed out...

Besides, even if one takes a Classical Theravada version to be authoritative, and the other sects as suspect, then, as I understand it, one should neither dismiss teachings from other schools, nor accept without question teachings from post-Canonical Theravada teachers (ancient or modern) but should check everything for consistency against the Tipitika and Canonical Commentaries (as in the OP of this thread...).

Mike


Well, it is worth noting that in recent times, the very question of whether Nagarjuna's MMK text is strictly speaking a Mahayana text or not, has been risen.

Traditionally, given that elsewhere a large number of important Mahayana treatises are attributed to Nagarjuna, it was often (almost always) considered that the MMK was also representing such a Mahayana POV. The (previously mentioned) source bias approach of "if it isn't Theravada, it must be Mahayana" was applied, and since there are some points in the MMK which are not in conformity with the Theravada (commentarial / Abhidhamma) position, it was thought - "Yes, it's Mahayana".

But, now that there is an attitude of making a distinction between early Suttas, and the later Theravada Abhidhamma / commentarial tradition, this has been brought into question. Key points include, that the MMK does not directly cite any Mahayana texts, and that no mention of a Bodhisattva path (etc.) is mentioned. Re the former, there is a parallel passage between the MMK and the early Prajnaparamita, but again, this does not necessitate "borrowing" or "citation" of Nagarjuna from that text, as the passage is something that would have been accepted by a number of early schools. Could be a "same source" issue, not one from the other other.

This question of Nagarjuna's MMK being a non-Mahayana text was raised in the West a few decades ago, and people like Gombrich and Vélez de Cea, have written on it. However, again, they only use the Pali suttas as material to investigate this matter. Before these Western scholars made such statements, Yinshun said:

“The Middle Śāstra (中論 Mūlamadhyamaka Kārikā [with commentary]) is a śāstra to elucidate the Āgamas”, and “the Middle Śāstra takes the perspective of the Mahāyāna scholars … and selectively develops the profound meaning of dependent origination in the Āgamas, and firmly establishes the right view of (Mahāyāna) Buddha Dharma on the key-stone of dependent origination, the middle way.”[1]

[1] [Yinshun “Modern Discussion on the Madhyamaka (中觀今論)” in Collection of Sublime Clouds (妙雲集), p. 18, 24. 1949]

That was written in 1949!

To make things more tricky:
So, getting back to the issue of "should check everything for consistency against the Tipitika (sic) and Canonical Commentaries", one still has to ask the question of - The Tripitaka and commentaries of which school? Now here, it is going to be Theravada, but if one wishes to open things up to a broader perspective, and in my view, this is really necessary, then one is going to have to go further than that. Given Walser's comments, the Mahasamghika Tripitaka would be the place to start, but we don't have this. Can we really ever do justice to Nagarjuna, then? Or, are we just going to measure him by the standards of some other school?
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:42 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Walser presents in his book a persuasive argument that Nagarjuna was a Mahasanghika, not a Sarvastivadin.


Yes, he does. However, I think that first of all, Walser really wants him to be one, to fit with the rest of his theories.

This is one of things I like about modern buddhology. ""Let a hundred flowers bloom...."

Secondly, he argues more that he "lived in a Mahasamghika monastery", but this does not necessarily mean that he himself was 100% Mahasamghika.
Which would be typical of Mahayanists in India at that time.
Thirdly, there is no reason to think that while he lived in a Mahasamghika monastery, that he was also not very familiar with Sarvastivadin lines of thought. Nagarjuna reportedly lived to an old age - even 100 yrs if we discount the more incredible centuries of later hagiography - and thus may have spent even decades in a number of different monastery surroundings. Walser bases himself largely on the Ratnavali, but this is perhaps only one of his works. And then, we are not sure if he wrote it during his younger, or older, years.
On this, Ven Sir, I will easily defer to you.

You mentioned above a Chinese commentary on Nagarjuna, which I believe is the same one Kaluphana mentions, which takes a bit of a different take on Nagarjuna than what we find in the Tibetan sources. If you are working with that commentary, are you translating it?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:45 am

Dan74 wrote:
PS I did a quick search and couldn't even find excerpts from Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa, Bhante. Is this something you've translated or plan to translate in part or in whole?


Here is a link to PDFs of English translations of the five volumes of the first 1/3 of the text in French, translated by Lamotte:
http://www.gampoabbey.org/translations2 ... ations.htm
However, I strongly suspect that although the good venerable who translated these knows her French very well, she could neither read / check the Chinese, nor understood the Sanskrit notes from Lamotte. Still, extremely useful indeed!

You can also find large chunks translated by the good Bhiksu, Dharmamitra / Heng Shou:
http://www.kalavinka.com/
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=s ... ra&x=0&y=0

This monster sized text would take maybe 3000-8000 pages in English in translation. (Think about five times the size of Conze's Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, or three times the size of de la Valle Poussins's Abhidharmakosa in four volumes, or twice the size at least of Cleary's Avatamsaka Sutra.)
It is on my "to do" list, if one day I can hole myself up in a good environment, and have 20-50 years without too many other things to worry about or deal with.

Any sponsors!? :P

Anyway, one can get a great taste of the whole Madhyamaka inspired Mahayana movement in it's early phases from this text. It is a true early encyclopedia of Buddhism, circa, 3rd century.
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Dan74 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:50 am

Thank you very much for those!

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:53 am

Dan74 wrote:
Tilt has his valid perspective and has clearly stated in the past that he's an unapologetic jackal on these issues pertaining to the perceived slight of the notion of "hinayana."


I think discussions would be a lot more productive if everybody checked in their own or projected sense of superiority/inferiority at the door, so to speak.
Any one here done that? No one that I have seen.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:58 am

tiltbillings wrote:
You mentioned above a Chinese commentary on Nagarjuna, which I believe is the same one Kaluphana mentions, which take a bit of a different take on Nagarjuna than what we find in the Tibetan sources. If you are working with that commentary, are you translating it?


A Chinese biography? Yes, quite different from the Tibetan, and of course, much earlier too.

The commentary is the Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa, mentioned above, but this biography of Nagarjuna is different. Written down about the same time the Upadesa was translated.

More from Lamotte:

Later, a biography of the bodhisattva Nāgārjuna entitled Long-chou-p’ou-sa-tchouan (T 2047) and publishedunder Kumārajīva’s name was circulated. It has been translated into English by M. Walleser.65 It probably collected some information previously furnished by Kumāramjīva,66 but he was not the author.

Firstly, the first catalogue to mention it was the Li-tai-san-pao-ki (T 2034, k. 8, p. 79a7) compiled at Tch’ang-ngan in 597 by Fei Tchang-fang and, contrary to his custom, this editor was unable to refer to any earlier catalogue.

Secondly, this biography, which correctly mentioned the Upadeśa in 100,000 gāthās (T 1509) and the Madhyamakaśāstra in 599 gāthās, also attributes to Nāgārjuna three works unknown as yet and which will not be considered further: a śāstra on the marvelous Bodhi of the Buddhas in 5,000 gāthās, a śāstra on the skillful means of great compassion in 5,000 gāthās and a śāstra on the absence of fear of which the Madhyamakaśāstra would be an extract.67
Finally and above all, this biography presents its hero as a high-flying adventurer and complacently describes his stormy youth, his exciting voyages, his daring attempts at reform, his sensational discoveries in the Nāga palace, his quarrels with the prince, his magic contests with the Brāhmins and finally, his mysterious death. The picture thus sketched gives a good idea of what the upper middle ages thought of a siddha, but corresponds poorly to the image that we ourselves have of this penetrating and rigorous logician who was the author of the Madhyamakaśāstra, this wise encyclopedist who was the author of the Upadeśa.68


You can check out Volume iii, from the link above to the Gampo Abbey translation. It has all the details, and considering it is online, I don't need to cut and paste here.

Strangely enough, I can't find the details there, but it goes like this:
A talented genius of a young brahmin, he learnt all sorts of magical arts like invisibility, and with his friends, thus secretly snuck into the king's harem. When the harem girls became pregnant, the king set a trap, and although Nagarjuna escaped, his friends were caught and executed. He saw the impermanence of life, and became a bhiksu. He mastered the Tripitaka in three months, but was still unfullfilled. He then when meditating, and learnt some Mahayana sutras from an old mahayana bhiksu in the (Himalaya?) mountains. Then, seeking more, he was led by the Naga king to the Naga realm, where he received huge amounts of Mahayana texts, many of which he brought back to the human realm. etc. etc.

Yinshun makes good arguments about the "Naga realm" story being linked to a place on the SE coast of India, old Mahasamghika territory, where there was strong worship of Naga spirits in a shrine there. Later, that shrine became something of a shrine to Nagarjuna, where he was "worshipped like a Buddha" in later centuries. ie. the "naga and naga realm" may have been a way of describing a naga shrine.

Also, "naga" was a name for a sage / holy man (even in India to this day). So, the story may not be as far fetched as literalists (who don't have context) may make it out to be.
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:00 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Dan74 wrote:
Tilt has his valid perspective and has clearly stated in the past that he's an unapologetic jackal on these issues pertaining to the perceived slight of the notion of "hinayana."


I think discussions would be a lot more productive if everybody checked in their own or projected sense of superiority/inferiority at the door, so to speak.
Any one here done that? No one that I have seen.


Unless we are arhants who have cut through self-conceit (mana), one of the last of the bonds, then probably not, eh?
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby BudSas » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:06 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Maybe some people are wondering why all this importance placed on this so-called Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa? Most Western Buddhists have barely or never even heard of it, even if they are serious Mahayana practitioners and study Nagarjuna. This is simply due to the fact that it does not exist in Sanskrit or Tibetan, and thus is overlooked by most Western scholars and practitioners, or easily rejected as "not written by Nagarjuna" (even though the same people often study a lot of Candrakirti, Santideva, and the like). In China and East Asia, this is an extremely important text. It is not only one of the most important texts for the East Asian Sanlun - Madhyamaka school, but also is cited by pretty much every other school as well (except maybe the Tantric and Vijnaptimatra schools). Problem is, it is in Chinese, and it is also very, very huge. Still, if one is looking for a single text which is representative of much of Chinese Buddhism, this is probably the best one in the end.


Thank you, Bhante, for your information. Very much appreciated.

I agree with you, this treatise by Ven Nagarjuna is an important text to study. I may come back to it later when I have more time (and being conscious of the fact that this is the forum on the Dhamma of the Theravada, I don't know if it is appropriate to discuss about it).

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:12 am

Greetings BudSas,

BudSas wrote:I agree with you, this treatise by Ven Nagarjuna is an important text to study. I may come back to it later when I have more time (and being conscious of the fact that this is the forum on the Dhamma of the Theravada, I don't know if it is appropriate to discuss about it).


If you can keep it related to the OP's framing of the topic, then it would be suitable here.

If not, feel free to start a new topic in the appropriate sub-forum when the time is right.

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Retro. :)
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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:14 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Unless we are arhants who have cut through self-conceit (mana), one of the last of the bonds, then probably not, eh?

Of course, but nothing so overt that it requires comment, at least in my conceited opinion (which I do not necessarily cherish).
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:15 am

BudSas wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
Maybe some people are wondering why all this importance placed on this so-called Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa? Most Western Buddhists have barely or never even heard of it, even if they are serious Mahayana practitioners and study Nagarjuna. This is simply due to the fact that it does not exist in Sanskrit or Tibetan, and thus is overlooked by most Western scholars and practitioners, or easily rejected as "not written by Nagarjuna" (even though the same people often study a lot of Candrakirti, Santideva, and the like). In China and East Asia, this is an extremely important text. It is not only one of the most important texts for the East Asian Sanlun - Madhyamaka school, but also is cited by pretty much every other school as well (except maybe the Tantric and Vijnaptimatra schools). Problem is, it is in Chinese, and it is also very, very huge. Still, if one is looking for a single text which is representative of much of Chinese Buddhism, this is probably the best one in the end.


Thank you, Bhante, for your information. Very much appreciated.

I agree with you, this treatise by Ven Nagarjuna is an important text to study. I may come back to it later when I have more time (and being conscious of the fact that this is the forum on the Dhamma of the Theravada, I don't know if it is appropriate to discuss about it).

BDS


Well, I think that it is relevant to the OP.

When I teach this text, I usually begin by pointing out Nagarjuna's (for most regular classes at our Dharma centers, I just run the line that he is the author) usage of a variety of texts. When presenting a point or doctrine, he has a kind of hierarchy that he follows, something like this:

1. Agamas
2. Vinaya
3. Abhidharma (Sarvastivada, but often non-orthodox Gandhari, not just Kasmiri)
4. Mahayana Sutra (esp. Prajnaparamita)
5. Madhyamaka sastra

This is for general doctrines, eg. insight contemplations, etc. However, for Buddhological stuff, slightly different:

1. Agamas
2. Vinaya
3. Abhidharma
4. "Bodhisattva literature" = Jatakas, Avadanas, Nidanas, etc.
5. Mahayana Sutra

So, as I mentioned in this thread (?) earlier, although the approach is very inclusive, it is stratified, as to which is neyartha and which is nitartha. This is important, because I find that a lot of western practitioners who are more inclined towards a particular school are quite sectarian, and are not so inclusive, and rather than using the traditional neyartha / nitartha hermeneutics, they simply reject what does not match their favored school.

Thus, a main difference between Nagarjuna and Theravada, is that the Theravada in the end takes the Abhidhamma / Atthakatha as nitattha, whereas Nagarjuna takes Madhyamaka as nitartha. Of course, his Madhyamaka is itself based on Agama, too. So, in my mind, these are really more like parallel systems of thought, different ways of understanding the Agamas and Vinaya. Remember, Nagarjuna is a couple of centuries before Buddhaghosa.
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:20 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
You mentioned above a Chinese commentary on Nagarjuna, which I believe is the same one Kaluphana mentions, which take a bit of a different take on Nagarjuna than what we find in the Tibetan sources. If you are working with that commentary, are you translating it?


A Chinese biography? Yes, quite different from the Tibetan, and of course, much earlier too.


Not biography, but commentary. You wrote above:Due to source bias in western scholars, they almost always overlook the earliest sources we have on this, namely the Zhong Lun, translation of the Madhyamakakarika by Kumarajiva, in ~400, with it's commentary (centuries before Candrakirti, etc.) Not being at home, I do not have access to Kaluphana's book were he talks about the Chinese commentary to the MMK and it certainly is not the Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
You mentioned above a Chinese commentary on Nagarjuna, which I believe is the same one Kaluphana mentions, which take a bit of a different take on Nagarjuna than what we find in the Tibetan sources. If you are working with that commentary, are you translating it?


A Chinese biography? Yes, quite different from the Tibetan, and of course, much earlier too.


Not biography, but commentary. You wrote above:Due to source bias in western scholars, they almost always overlook the earliest sources we have on this, namely the Zhong Lun, translation of the Madhyamakakarika by Kumarajiva, in ~400, with it's commentary (centuries before Candrakirti, etc.)

Not being at home, I do not have access to Kaluphana's book were he talks about the Chinese commentary to the MMK and it certainly is not the Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa.


Oh! Sorry, I was posting about the commentary (upadesa) on the Prajnaparamita, and then got confused.

Yes, this is indeed the version that Kalupahana refers to. In his Preface, p. vi, he says: "... I began to realize how Candrakirti was gradually leading me away from Nagarjuna's philosophical standpoint" ... "meeting with some scholars who were brought up in the Vedic tradition, I found them to be extremely comfortable with Nagarjuna as expressed by Candrakirti, and less impressed by the teachings of early Buddhism as recorded in the Nikayas and Agamas". ... "I found no justification whatsoever in looking at Nagarjuna through Candrakirti's eyes when there was a more faithful and closer disciple of Nagarjuna in Kumarajiva".

How many publications do we see about Nagarjuna that take this commentary as a key element are there? Very few indeed.

There is a translation by Bocking: Nagarjuna in China A Translation of the Middle Treatise
http://www.amazon.com/Nagarjuna-China-T ... 823&sr=8-1
Eesh! $139-! and only one review. Obviously shows that it is kind of rare, nobody takes this as the standard place to start looking, despite it being a quality book.
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:40 am

Paññāsikhara wrote: How many publications do we see about Nagarjuna that take this commentary as a key element are there? Very few indeed.

There is a translation by Bocking: Nagarjuna in China A Translation of the Middle Treatise
http://www.amazon.com/Nagarjuna-China-T ... 823&sr=8-1
Eesh! $139-! and only one review. Obviously shows that it is kind of rare, nobody takes this as the standard place to start looking, despite it being a quality book.
Thanks. It is too bad that this look at Nagarjuna is not more readily available. It would probably be a more appropriate door for those steeped in the Nikayas/Agamas into his thought in the MMK than the later works, which just are a bit too sterile for my tastes.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:52 am

Dear Venerable,
Paññāsikhara wrote:So, getting back to the issue of "should check everything for consistency against the Tipitika (sic) and Canonical Commentaries", one still has to ask the question of - The Tripitaka and commentaries of which school? Now here, it is going to be Theravada, but if one wishes to open things up to a broader perspective, and in my view, this is really necessary, then one is going to have to go further than that. Given Walser's comments, the Mahasamghika Tripitaka would be the place to start, but we don't have this. Can we really ever do justice to Nagarjuna, then? Or, are we just going to measure him by the standards of some other school?

Thank you for your input (I must learn to spell "Tipitaka"...). I don't want to take this too much off topic. However, the statement:
but if one wishes to open things up to a broader perspective, and in my view, this is really necessary

goes to the heart of some of the apparent disagreements (AKA "sectarianism") that can arise in discussions such as this. Personally I'm very grateful to have clarifications along the lines of: "according to sect X, Y is true", whether X is Theravada, Sarvastivada, or Aotearoavada. To me this is a quite separate issue from the question of which ideas one chooses to implement, or reject, in one's practise. Personally, I find these discussions helpful in clarifying to me exactly what it is I am implementing/rejecting...

Metta
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby BlackBird » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:15 am

Thank you Bhante

Food for thought :popcorn:

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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BlackBird
 
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Re: Nagarjuna

Postby Will » Tue Feb 08, 2011 3:25 am

Here is another translation of N.'s Mula, with an old Tibetan commentary: http://www.snowlionpub.com/html/product_10243.html

Also Bhikshu Dharmamitra is translating again, during his slow recovery from serious health issues. He is working on N.'s Treatise on the Ten Grounds of a bodhisattva, dasabhumika-vibhasa. He is about 1/3 of the way through and expects it will be in two volumes, with Chinese on facing pages, perhaps 1600 pages or so.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta
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Will
 
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