In case you’ve never heard of this before, the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) school of Mahayana Buddhism, headed by Nagarjuna and spread as the highest truth of all schools of Mahayana Buddhism during the Middle ages up to the present, by all who recognized it as the true meaning of the Buddha’s words. They even called Arya Nagarjuna the second Buddha himself, as indicated in the prophecy shown below. The Mulamadhyamikakarika is, I would say, the most important scripture in Mahayana Buddhism. Even today it forms the pillar of all six schools of the very popular Tibetan Buddhism. All of its schools agree Madhyamaka is the correct vision of the very subtle teachings the historical Buddha wished to impart, but this article isn’t about Buddhism, it’s about the profound knowledge one can extrapolate from what Nagarjuna wanted people to see.
This is because Nagarjuna was the moon to the Buddha’s son, and was prophesied to come:
“Ananda, four hundred years after I [Shakyamuni Buddha] pass away, this Licchavi youth Liked-When-Seen-by-All-the-World will become a monk known as Naga and will disseminate my teaching. Finally, in the land known as Very Pure Light he will become a One Gone Thus, a Foe Destroyer,’ a completely perfect Buddha named Light-Which-Is-a-Source-of-All-Wisdom) and reveal the very subtle intention of the Buddha’s philosophy; specifically the doctrine of interdependent co-origination of all things.” -The Great Cloud Superior Sutra of Twelve Thousand Stanzas:
The profound insight and phrases begin as early as the first first of the first chapter (Examination of Conditions) and extend to every single line in this extremely unique and insightful text:
I-1 “Neither from itself nor from another,
Nor from both,
Nor without a cause,
Does anything, whatever, anywhere arise.”
Which happens to be the starting lines of the first chapter on “Conditions”, immediately defeat all other philosophies which rely on separately existing entities, and therefore defeat the ego itself by undermining the ignorance that allows it to exist in the state of separation from everything else that renders it a dualistic trigger waiting to go off, enslaved by animal passions. Garfield, if you buy the full book or .pdf, (link to full book is at the bottom of this post) also offers some stunningly brilliant commentary on each verse after translating the main text.
Also the chapter Examination of Fire and Fuel explains profoundly the fallacy of the logic which fails to realize the inherent emptiness of ideas of separate things:
“If the elements were distinct from each other,
It would follow that there could be fire without fuel.
If they merge, they would lose their defining characteristics—
This logic applies to all the other elements.”
The Arya Nagarjuna rips apart our belief in a linear universe with his verse in chapter XI: Examination of Initial and Final Limits (do you see here how he is trying to use this logic to undermine our ignorant beliefs in conceptual framework generally accepted by whirling our supposed logic and turning it on its head?)
XI: 1 -”When asked about the beginning,
The Great Sage said that nothing is known of it
Cyclical existence is without end and beginning,
So there is no beginning or end”
XI 2- “Where there is no beginning or end
How could there be a middle?
It follows that thinking about this in terms of
prior, posterior, and simultaneous is not appropriate.”
With these two verses our superstitious belief that everything is not interconnected is utterly undermined; here it is revealed that even so-called past, present, and future are one continuum. How could there be a past of a past? It would require an infinite regression that could never begin, therefore things such as Akasic Records, ancestral memories, shared visions, psychic phenomena, reiki healing, shamanic ceremony, become more understandable. We were never out of communion with the Earth and with the Collective Conscious, because we are it and it is us! Forever and ever! When the mind does not realize that, it is the ego, when it does realize that, it is the Buddha.
“Samsara is mind turned outwardly, lost in its projections.
Nirvana is mind turned inwardly, recognizing its nature.”
~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
From the moment we drew breath on this planet our body was not our own, the tissue was given to us, dependent on our mother and father. The air that fills their and our lungs and blood came from the Earth, and so is not the property of the presumed ego. The water from the streams of the Earth that comprises 70% of their bodies came from the universe, to the Earth, to encompass their body, the food, the heat of the Sun that renders life possible, all of the 4 earthly elements, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, are here proven to be literally us, and no ego can stand on something which is not separate in and of itself.
There is a daoist saying I remember from an old social studies book from school, “If one feels punctured, one must have been a bubble.”
This means that when the ego, run rampant on its own inherent ignorance, views itself as a separate entity, it becomes a blind, world creating demiurge. Its passions, desires, envies, jealousies, and ignorance stem from the very fact that, not knowing its union with all things, it perceives all things in a purely dualistic way. “Me vs you”, “Earth and Me”, it makes statements, ignorantly, but innocently at times under the control of that ego, named in Buddhism as the demon Mara, and Tantra Rudra, the force which causes us to be trapped by a belief in a truly separate self.
These type of paradoxes meant to undermine our ignorance about reality were well known to the ancient Greek philosophers, and even have a name: The Tetralemma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetralemma).
The tetralemma is a figure that features prominently in the classical logic of India (and Greece, which had much contact with India). It states that with reference to any a logical proposition X, there are four possibilities:
\neg X (negation)
X \land \neg X (both) equiv.
\neg (X \lor \neg X) (neither)
However, Nagarjuna expertly applied this Tetralemma to show the fallacy of believing that things either “Exist (as independent entities, as in materialism and dualism), Don’t exist (as non-independent entities as in advaita and non-duality) both exist and don’t exist (as this would contradict the first two statements) and neither exist or don’t exist, (as this would be the fallacy of nihilism)
Many people, failing to understand this very subtle philosophy known as Buddhism, mistake emptiness for nihilism, and Buddhism as being nihilistic.. But they are falling into the error of what is called “eternalism”, that they believe that “things” exist as eternally separate entites. Nagarjuna is saying that they are empty of svabhava or “own-being” (nishsvabhava) and exist as a unique piece, which is always changing, dependent on everything else, the causes, elements, factors, conditions etc. in the environment wherein it arises, whether it be body, emotion, sensation, thought, or even consciousness (known as “the five psychic aggregates).
The goal of this recognition is to remove the tree of the grasping at an unchanging, permanent self (atman) by showing that there is no such thing, and liberating one with the correct view of emptiness, not nihilism, but the collective relationship of all things to one another.
By James Portocarrero
(Note: Real part of the book starts at pg. 22, the rest is just preface. READ THIS BOOK! It will change how you see reality forever and teach you to understand the subtle meanings of profound truth in a way you may never have considered before, and expand your horizons deeply with its tetralemmic formulae)
So can you make a Tetralemma? Have a quesiton or comment? Leave it below!