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Nagarjuna was a great contributor to the Mahayana tradition.

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Introduction

Nagarjuna was a great contributor to the Mahayana tradition. He acted as the interpreter and clarifier of the tradition's texts clarifying the notion of the Middle way as offered and taught by Buddha. Nagarjuna's system of the Middle Way greatly influenced not only the Mahayana tradition but also would influence the future developing schools of thought that would originate from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, namely the Zen Buddhist tradition. Nagarjuna's philosophy of the Middle Way is manifested in the methods of the Zen Buddhist tradition. There are fundamental elements in Nagarjuna's philosophy of the Middle Way that are manifested in the Zen Buddhist tradition and way of thought. A case can be made for the Zen tradition being a practical application of Nagarjuna's Middle Way. Hsueh-li Cheng in one of his published works has already explored the proposition that Zen is a practical application of the Middle Way in 1979.1 The aim of this paper is to build upon the foundation Hsueh-li Cheng has already laid down to bring closer the ties of a notion of a Middle Way in the thought of Nagarjuna and Zen. The approach taken will examine how the central tenets of the Middle Way as described by Nagarjuna are manifested in the application of Zen discipline. The teachings that will be highlighted from Nagarjuna's philosophy of the Middle Way will be emptiness (sunyata), the Twofold Truth, and reductio ad absurdum. The Middle Way's central teaching of emptiness is also found in the Zen disciple, and the two teachings of the Twofold Truth and reductio ad absurdum will be seen as practically applied in the Zen tradition's balanced way of life and discipline in their search for enlightenment. The notion of what the Middle Way means in regards to the Buddhist Tradition, Madhyamika Buddhist Tradition (tradition based on Nagarjuna's Middle Way), and the Zen Buddhist Tradition will first be examined. ...read more.

Middle

The doctrine of ultimate truth and conventional truth are complementary to one another, and when one is able to understand the ultimate truth nirvana can then be achieved. The practical application of Nagarjuna's Twofold Truth can be seen through Zen discipline and method. When considering this proposition one must look at the basic ideas of the Twofold Truth being represented in Zen Buddhist monastic living. Zen monks live in a world of conventional truth and attempt, through their discipline, to break through their mindset that this world is non-ultimate and conditional and therefore be released from all attachments so that they may attain enlightenment. The early Zen masters by themselves were able to reach enlightenment through the process of spiritual reflection and searching. With the complexity of modern times it has become almost impossible for one to attain satori solely and the development of Zen discipline training resulted. In the Zen Buddhist tradition one must seek Zen, Zen does not come to you. Before a follower discovers Zen they are a common person one lives in a life of ignorance, attachment, and dualistic human intellect. The beginnings of a Zen follower coincides with the description of Level 1 of the Twofold Truth where one sees all things as having a real and absolute nature. For one to seek out Zen there first must be a recognition that there is something missing in one's existence and this creates the Great Doubt. The Great Doubt is one of three conditions that are particularly emphasized in order to join Zen training as described by Shibayma, "To have the Great Doubt ?Spiritual Quest?which will be the prajna (true wisdom) basis in searching for the Truth".6 The Great Doubt is the recognition that there is more to the world than attachments and dualistic thought in life. The Great Doubt that drives a follower to Zen discipline, is similar to level two of Nagarjuna's Twofold Truth, where one begins to realize the limitations of one's dualistic thinking in conventional truth. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Soto sect's emphasis is on zazen or sitting meditation. In attempting to cleanse the mind or as termed by S. Suzuki as 'a general house cleaning of your mind', one must not concentrate too hard on anything while in zazen, for right concentration means freedom (111). When one concentrates on something, such as breathing, one can forget oneself, however the converse can also occur, and if one forgets oneself then one will be concentrated on breathing. A delicate balance must be found when concentrating. The S. Suzuki offers a comment on how to attain emptiness through zazen, "Concentration means freedom. So your effort should be directed at nothing. [...] Just do as much as you can. If you continue this practice, eventually you will experience the true existence which comes from emptiness".16 This concentration on nothing is not only applied to the act of zazen. This mindfulness is supposed to carry over through all of the Zen student's daily activities and life so eventually emptiness will be experienced by the "whole being", unlike the stress on mental focusing of the koan in Rinzai. Thus for Soto Zen realizing the contradiction that reductio ad absurdum emphasizes is based completely on one's whole body, both physical and mental, experience, which can be argued as a more experiential based approach than that of the Rinzai for there is no metal device being used external from one's own mind. The notion of a Middle Way is emphasized both in Nagarjuna's philosophy and that of the Zen Buddhist Tradition. The emphasis that emptiness is crucial to the attainment of a Middle Way is evident in both Nagarjuna's philosophy and Zen tradition. Zen not only emphasizes emptiness, but also offers a experiential method to achieve it particularly the living out of Nagarjuna's doctrines of the Twofold Truth and reductio ad absurdum. Zen offers a venue in where one may develop through personal experience the middle way philosophy, as proposed by Nagarjuna, and thus experience enlightenment that is sunyata and prajna. ...read more.

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