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Nagarjuna - Founder of Madhyamaka

By Gaurav Manandhar at
Nagarjuna, King of the Naga
Nagarjuna, known as the greatest Buddhist philosopher and was also considered as the king of nagas.

Nagarjuna is one of the most famous Buddhist philosophers and was even considered as the greatest Buddhist philosopher after Lord Buddha himself. According to Buddhist tradition , Nagarjuna was the founder of the Madhyamika School . Madhamaka School is one of the important schools where Buddhist monks and disciples are preached and taught about Mahayana Buddhism . It is said that Nagarjuna together with his disciple Aryadeva founded this famous school and Mahayana Buddhism thus became popular and famous. One of the greatest achievements of Nagarjuna was his work on the Middle Way . He wrote “ Mula-Madhyamaka-karika ” for Madhyamaka School which is also known as “ Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way ”. The Mula-Madhyamaka-karika is considered as the best-known work of Nagarjuna .
In Mahayana Buddhism , Nagarjuna is depicted as the “titanic figure” and also depicted as Buddhist monk with naga characteristics. Many Buddhist scholars have praised him for his influence in the foundation of Mahayana Buddhism . According to Mahayana Buddhism , Nagarjuna was born in a Brahmin family and became Buddhist monk later.

  • Nagarjuna

Nagarjuna’s Philosophy

Nagarjuna was considered as the most important philosopher after Gautama Buddha in the history of Mahayana Buddhism . One of the most important philosophies that Nagarjuna contributed to Buddhism was the concept of Sunyata . The sunyata simply means “ emptiness ” and Nagarjuna concept of Sunyata was about bringing together main Buddhist doctrines . Nagarjuna particularly tried to bring Buddhist doctrines such as Anatman “not-self” and Pratityasamutpada “dependent origination” . According to Nagarjuna’s Concept on Sunyata , all sentient beings cannot exist independently thus these sentient beings are without any self-nature.
Another greatest philosophy proposed by Nagarjuna was the concept of Two Truths . According to Nagarjuna , there are two truths or two levels of reality in Buddha’s teachings . Thus, the concept of Two Truths was the key things in the development of Two Truths Doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism . The Two levels of reality or Truths represent two types of truths in Buddhist Course . These two truths are relative truth and absolute truth . The relative truth is also known as the commonsensical truth and the relative truth describes the experience in the concrete world or life. The absolute truth is also known as the ultimate truth and the absolute truth refers to the reality of Sunyata .

Nagarjuna as Friend of Nagas

The legend of Nagas can be found in the myths of Hinduism as well as Buddhism . Nagas are the snake beings and according to Buddhist tradition , they are from the unseen realms . According to legend related to Nagarjuna , nagas were keeping and protecting sutras that contained the teachings of Buddha and they are hiding these sutras from mankind. Nagas entrusted these sutras to Nagarjuna and asked him to take the sutras back to the human realm . The sutras entrusted to Nagarjuna were called Wisdom Sutras and Nagarjuna collected these sutras under the Prajnaparamita Sutra (Perfection of Wisdom) . That’s why Nagarjuna is remembered for his work on Wisdom Sutras .

Madhyamaka School

Madhyamaka School is the school that refers to Mahayana Buddhist School that is based on the philosophy of Nagarjuna on Middle Way .

“Whatever is dependent arising; We declared that to be emptiness.
That is dependent designation And is itself the middle way.”Nagarjuna

According to Madhyamaka , all phenomena are dependent and are empty and without essence. They have no independent reality of their own.