• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Nagarjuna was a great contributor to the Mahayana tradition.

Extracts from this document...


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.


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.


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Buddhism section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Buddhism essays

  1. Choderlos de Laclos: Les Liaisons Dangereuses - In what ways may "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" ...

    Merteuil refers to other characters around her as creatures (e.g. Letter 2 "Oh dull-witted creature!"), and her two faced nature is clear from her spite towards other characters (such as the Presidente de Tourvel) in the novel when writing to Valmont, yet her apparently respected personality among her "friends" as displayed in her letters to them.

  2. The development of the Enlightenment.

    had begun to ask dangerous questions. Francois Rabelais, a rebellious French monk, challenged the church's authority in his Gargantua and Pantagruel by ridiculing many religious doctrines as absurd. The thinkers of the Enlightenment wanted to renew the society and base it on common sense and tolerance.

  1. The Eighteenth century saw a radical change in the way the church and state ...

    This he explains is because of what the Law of Moses states, 'Jews as people are almost completely separate from other people' and so therefore they can never be part of German society. This was another revival to what is known as 'rational anti-Semitism' that stems back to the expressions of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

  2. Comparison between Christianity and Buddhism

    The third truth is given in the term "Nirodha" and it declares that "Dukkha" can be overcome through the extinguishing of "Tanha": the ultimate cessation of life's unsatisfactoriness comes with the attainment of "Nibbana" or "Nirvana". The fourth truth is called "Marga", in English "the Path".

  1. Buddhism: The Concept of Dukkha

    dislikes and separation from what one likes; not getting what one wants. The five skandhas are seen as the source of suffering. Second, the threefold dukkha; as ordinary physical and mental pain meaning pure or intrinsic suffering; suffering as the result of change, suffering owing to the impermanent and ephemeral

  2. Summarise and discuss the origin and development of Mahayana Buddhism.

    Traditional Buddhists, however, denied their canonical authority.10 Mahayana Buddhism at first was known as Bodhisattva - yana, `the (spiritual) vehicle of the Bodhidsattva',11 and to stress their superiority, as a higher spiritual path they called themselves the 'Great Vehicle' or Mahayana.

  1. Religion is both a problemwhere its structures of dominance have oppressed women, as ...

    Considering the teachings of Christianity, now more rights and privileges have been given to women. Compared to women in other religions, Christianity has given more liberty and freedom to the women. Thus, women in Christianity lead a liberal life and are able to practice their freedom.

  2. Reality, Morality, and the Afterlife: A Comparison of Christian and Bhuddist Thought

    To go back to the evolution debate, some would say that Christians refuse to look at the evidence. However, these believers are convinced that the only evidence that matters is what has been revealed. If natural phenomena seem to contradict that, then they need to be reinterpreted in light of the Scripture.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work