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Nagarjuna’s Buddhist Philosophy Investigation Essay

Buddhist Philosophy by Nagarjuna

There is no use denying the fact that Buddhism is one of the most ancient religions in the world and it has a great influence on people and their minds. Additionally, it is possible to say that it is not just a religion, however, it is the way of life and philosophy.

A great number of ideas peculiar to Buddhism are nowadays popular all over the world and people try to understand their inner sense. There are many different sacred texts which are taken as the main source of this religion and philosophy, which, additionally, help people to get to know more about the main sense of Buddhism. Written many years ago, these works, however, are very often reviewed by different people and philosophers who try to find another or hidden sense in these words.

Nagarjuna was one of these people. He is very often taken as the most important person for Buddhism after Buddha. He deserves such attitude by his great work devoted to the development and investigation of the philosophy of Buddhism. He is also famous for his philosophy of the middle way which centers around the notion of emptiness. Being rather influential, the work, devoted to the discussion which is based on this issue, triggered the appearance of a great number of different debates all over the world.

Moreover, in Tibet, it became part of the official religion. That is why it is necessary to analyze Nagarjunas work connected with his vision of emptiness to understand his ideas better. Moreover, analysis of the work can help to understand Buddhism better.

First of all, it should be said that the main concept of Nagarjunas work and philosophy is emptiness and all arguments are connected with it. Under this term, the absence of something is meant. However, the English word emptiness cannot express all complexity of the term which is used by the philosopher. There are at least two fields or dimensions to which this concept can be applied. The first one refers to how the object exists and the second one refers to a way in which an object is taken by people. In his work, the philosopher tries to investigate different dimensions and ways in which emptiness can be seen and cogitates about the nature of this phenomenon.

Moreover, he tries to suggest his vision of the given text. Nagarjuna does not argue with Buddha, as he accepts his vision of the world and religion, however, he tries to show his vision of the ideas peculiar to Buddhism and suggests his cogitations which main aim is to make the main concepts of Buddhism more understandable to common people and explain to them how the world functions. Another important part of his work is devoted to the vision of action, its nature, and its aftermath. The traditional Buddhist approach has its image of actions. According to it, any action is like a seed. This simile is used to show that any action has its aftermath.

Just as any seed will result in the appearance of some fruit so any action will cause some change in the world. However, the intention to act is also vital and Dharma also gives much attention to its analysis and outlines its unique character. The action is the intention and no action is possible if a person does not have a clear vision of the purpose and definite intention to obtain some result. Moreover, according to Nagarjuna action is like an uncancelled promissory note as it is impossible to get rid of it. Moreover, he also describes it as the illusion of an illusion. All these ideas are presented in his karika which cogitates about some main aspects of Buddhism.

In his Examinations of Actions and Their fruits, Nagarjuna says that “actions are either intentionally or intentional” (MMK 17.2). It becomes obvious that this verse can be taken as the evidence of great attention given to action and its character by the philosopher. This statement shows that he follows Buddha, though, he wants to analyze different ideas. He then explains that intention is “mental desire”(MMK 17.3) while intentional “comprises physical and verbal” (MMK 17.3).

This explanation helps to understand the main idea of the whole chapter. It becomes clear that Nagarjuna wants to determine what the action is and to cogitate about its character. He shows that three elements comprise any action. These elements are mental desire combined with physical and verbal aspects. This triad is very important for every person as he/she should act according to it. Moreover, as it has already been said, the philosopher wants to show a causal relationship between action and result. He says that the sprout “comes from a seed from that arises a fruit” (MMK 17.7). This verse shows that everything has a beginning.

The author wants to show that without the action a person and the world, on the whole, will not be able to develop. However, Nagarjuna also states that there is “neither nonexistence nor permanence” (MMK 17.8). By these words, he wants to say that as everything comes from the continuum, both the seed and the fruit, so intention starts to play a significant role. In the following parts of the text the author tends to show that nothing will arise without intention as “since from the intention comes the continuum” (MMK 17.10) and as we already know, the continuum leads to the appearance of the fruit.

The author ends his cogitation with an already mentioned simile comparing action with the “illusions illusion” (MMK 17.32). This comparison comes from another one, when the author says that teacher by magic creates an illusion which, in its turn, leads to the appearance of another illusion. The same deals with the action. One leads to another and in this way the world is organized.

Having analyzed the given text and the main ideas presented in it, it is possible to make a certain conclusion. It should be said that this very chapter is part of a great work done by this philosopher. Within the framework of his cogitations about the role of emptiness and its peculiarities, it is possible to say that Nagarjuna’s ideas are very similar to Buddhas vision of the world. Moreover, the great similarity between Buddhas dependent arising and Nagarjunas emptiness can be observed.

This similarity is quite obvious as the philosopher did not try to refute Buddha, he just wanted to make some ideas more clear for people to be able to follow them. With this in mind, it should be said that stating the fact that every action appears from intention which, in its turn, is the part of a continuum, Nagarjuna comes close to traditional Buddhist philosophy.

Works Cited

Nagarjuna. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika. Trans. Jay Garfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.

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"Nagarjuna's Buddhist Philosophy Investigation." IvyPanda, 12 Aug. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/nagarjunas-buddhist-philosophy-investigation/.

1. IvyPanda. "Nagarjuna's Buddhist Philosophy Investigation." August 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nagarjunas-buddhist-philosophy-investigation/.


IvyPanda. "Nagarjuna's Buddhist Philosophy Investigation." August 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nagarjunas-buddhist-philosophy-investigation/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Nagarjuna's Buddhist Philosophy Investigation." August 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nagarjunas-buddhist-philosophy-investigation/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Nagarjuna's Buddhist Philosophy Investigation'. 12 August.

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