Home Bodhicitta Teachings Buddhist Teachings Meditation World Religions About this site


Arya Nagarjuna

Translated by Christian Lindtner

Bowing to the glorious Vajrasattvas embodying the mind of
enlightenment, I shall expound the development of the
bodhicitta that abolishes [the three kinds of] existence [in

The Buddhas maintain that bodhicitta is not enveloped in
notions conscious of a self, skandhas, and so forth, [but] is
always marked by being empty [of any such notions].

[Those] with minds [only] tinged by compassion must develop
[bodhicitta] with particular effort. This bodhicitta is constantly
developed by the compassionate Buddhas.

When the self imagined by the tirthikas is analyzed logically, it
obtains no place within the [five] skandhas.

If it were [identical with] the skandhas [the self] would not be
permanent, but the self has no such nature. And between
things permanent and impermanent a container- content
relationship is not [possible].

When there is no so- called self how can the so- called creator
be permanent? [Only] if there were a subject might one begin
investigating its attributes in the world.

Since a permanent [creator] cannot create things, whether
gradually or all at once, there are no permanent things,
whether external or internal.

Why [would] an efficacious [creator] be dependent? He would
of course produce things all at once. A [creator] who depends
on something else is neither eternal nor efficacious.

If [he] were an entity he [would] not be permanent, for things
are perpetually instantaneous (since [you] do not deny that
impermanent things have a creator).

This [empirical] world, free from a self and the rest, is
vanquished by the [Sravakas'] understanding of the skandhas,
elements, sense- fields, and subject and object.

Thus the benevolent [Buddhas] have spoken to the Sravakas
of the five skandhas: form, feeling, apprehension, karma-
formations and consciousness.

12- 13.
But to the Bodhisattvas [the Buddha], the best among those
who walk on two legs, has always taught this doctrine about
the skandhas: "Form is like a mass of foam, feeling is like
bubbles, apprehension is like a mirage, karma- formations are
like the plantain, and consciousness is like an illusion."

The form skandha is declared to have the four great elements
as its nature. The remaining [four skandhas] are inseparably
established as immaterial.

Among these eye, form, and so forth are classified as [the
eighteen] elements. Again, as subject- object these are to be
known as the [twelve] sense- fields.

Form is not the atom, nor is it the [organ] of sense. It is
absolutely not the active sense [of consciousness]. [Thus] an
instigator and a creator are not suited to producing [form].

The form atom does not produce sense consciousness,
[because] it passes beyond the senses. If [empirical forms are
supposed to] be created by an assemblage [of atoms], this
accumulation is unacceptable.

If you analyze by spatial division, even the atom is seen to
possess parts. That which is analyzed into parts — how can it
logically be an atom?

Concerning one single external object divergent judgments
may prevail. Precisely that form which is pleasant [to one
person] may appear differently to others.

Regarding the same female body, an ascetic, a lover and a
wild dog entertain three different notions: "A corpse!" "A
mistress!" "A tasty morsel!"

Things are efficacious due to being like objects. Is it not like
an offense while dreaming [i. e., nocturnal emission]? Once
awakened from the dream the net result is the same.

As to the appearance of consciousness under the form of
subject and object, [one must realize] that there exists no
external object apart from consciousness.

In no way at all is there an external thing in the mode of an
entity. This particular appearance of consciousness appears
under the aspect of form.

The deluded see illusions, mirages, cities of gandharvas, and
so forth. Form manifests in the same way.

The purpose of the [Buddha's] teachings about the skandhas,
elements, and so forth is [merely] to dispel the belief in a self.
By establishing [themselves] in pure consciousness the
greatly blessed [Bodhisattvas] abandon that as well.

According to Vijhanavada, this manifold [world] is established
to be mere consciousness. What the nature of this
consciousness might be we shall analyze now.

The Muni's teaching that "The entire [world] is mere mind" is
intended to remove the fears of the simple- minded. It is not a
[teaching] concerning reality.

[The three natures] — the imagined, the dependent, and the
absolute — have only one nature of their own: sunyata. They
are the imaginations of mind.

To [Bodhisattvas] who rejoice in the Mahayana the Buddhas
present in brief the selflessness and equality of [all]
phenomena [and the teaching] that mind is originally unborn.

The Yogacarins give predominance to mind in itself. [They]
claim that mind purified by a transformation in position
[becomes] the object of its own specific [knowledge].

[But mind] that is past does not exist, [while] that which is
future is nowhere discovered. [And] how can the present
[mind] shift from place [to] place?

[The alayavijnana] does not appear the way it is. As it appears
— it is not like that. Consciousness essentially lacks
substance; it has no other basis [than insubstantiality].

When a lodestone is brought near, iron turns swiftly around;
[though] it possesses no mind, [it] appears to possess mind.
In just the same way,

The alayavijnana appears to be real though it is not. When it
moves to and fro it [seems to] retain the [three] existences.

Just as the ocean and trees move though they have no mind,
the alayavijnana is active [only] in dependence on a body.

Considering that without a body there is no consciousness,
you must also state what kind of specific knowledge of itself
this [consciousness] possesses!

By saying that a specific knowledge of itself [exists] one says
it is an entity. But one also says that it is not possible to say,
"This is it!"

To convince themselves as well as others, those who are
intelligent [should] always proceed without error!

The knowable is known by a knower. Without the know- able
no knowing [is possible]. So why not accept that subject and
object do not exist [as such]?

Mind is but a name. It is nothing apart from [its] name.
Consciousness must be regarded as but a name. The name
too has no own- being.

The Jinas have never found mind to exist, either internally,
externally, or else between the two. Therefore mind has an
illusory nature.

Mind has no fixed forms such as various colors and shapes,
subject and object, or male, female, and neuter.

In brief: Buddhas do not see [what cannot] be seen. How
could they see what has lack of own- being as its own- being?

A 'thing' is a construct. Sunyata is absence of constructs.
Where constructs have appeared, how can there be sunyata?

The Tathagatas do not regard mind under the form of know-
able and knower. Where knower and knowable prevail there is
no enlightenment.

Space, bodhicitta, and enlightenment are without marks;
without generation. They have no structure; they are beyond
the path of words. Their 'mark' is non- duality.

The magnanimous Buddhas who reside in the heart of
enlightenment and all the compassionate [Bodhisattvas]
always know sunyata to be like space.

Therefore [Bodhisattvas] perpetually develop this sunyata,
which is the basis of all phenomena; calm, illusory, baseless;
the destroyer of existence.

Sunyata expresses non- origination, voidness, and lack of self.
Those who practice it should not practice what is cultivated
by the inferior.

Notions about positive and negative have the mark of
disintegration. The Buddhas have spoken [of them in terms of]
sunyata, [but] the others do not accept sunyata.

The abode of a mind that has no support has the mark of
[empty] space. These [Bodhisattvas] maintain that
development of sunyata is development of space.

All the dogmatists have been terrified by the lion's roar of
sunyata. Wherever they may reside, sunyata lies in wait!

Whoever regards consciousness as momentary cannot accept
it as permanent. If mind is impermanent, how does this
contradict sunyata?

In brief: When the Buddhas accept mind as impermanent, why
should they not accept mind as empty?

From the very beginning mind has no own- being. If things
could be proved through own- being, [we would] not declare
them to be without substance.

This statement results in abandoning mind as having
substantial foundation. It is not the nature of things to
transcend [their] own own- being!

As sweetness is the nature of sugar and hotness that of fire,
so [we] maintain the nature of all things to be sunyata.

When one declares sunyata to be the nature [of all
phenomena] one in no sense asserts that anything is
destroyed or that something is eternal.

The activity of dependent co- origination with its twelve
spokes starting with ignorance and ending with decay [we]
maintain to be like a dream and an illusion.

This wheel with twelve spokes rolls along the road of life.
Apart from this, no sentient being that partakes of the fruit of
its deeds can be found.

Depending on a mirror the outline of a face appears: It has not
moved into it but also does not exist without it.

Just so, the wise must always be convinced that the skandhas
appear in a new existence [due to] recomposition, but do not
migrate [as identical or different].

To sum up: Empty things are born from empty things. The
Jina has taught that agent and deed, result and enjoyer are [all
only] conventional.

Just as the totality [of their causes and conditions] create the
sound of a drum or a sprout, [so we] maintain that external
dependent co- origination is like a dream and an illusion.

It is not at all inconsistent that phenomena are born from
causes. Since a cause is empty of cause, [we] understand it to
be unoriginated.

That phenomena [are said] not to arise indicates that they are
empty. Briefly, 'all phenomena' denotes the five skandhas.

When truth is [accepted] as has been explained, convention is
not disrupted. The true is not an object separate from the

Convention is explained as sunyata; convention is simply
sunyata. For [these two] do not occur without one another,
just as created and impermanent [invariably concur].

Convention is born from karma [due to the various] klesas,
and karma is created by mind. Mind is accumulated by the
vasanas. Happiness consists in being free from the vasanas.

A happy mind is tranquil. A tranquil mind is not confused. To
be unperplexed is to understand the truth. By understanding
truth one obtains liberation.

It is also defined as reality, real limit, signless, ultimate
meaning, the highest bodhicitta, and sunyata.

Those who do not know sunyata will have no share in
liberation. Such deluded beings wander [among] the six
destinies, imprisoned within existence.

When ascetics (yogacarin) have thus developed this sunyata,
their minds will without doubt become devoted to the welfare
of others, [as they think]:

"I should be grateful to those beings who in the past
bestowed benefits upon me by being my parents or friends.

"As I have brought suffering to beings living in the prison of
existence, who are scorched by the fire of the klesas, it is
fitting that I [now] afford them happiness."

The sweet and bitter fruit [that beings in] the world [obtain] in
the form of a good or bad rebirth is the outcome of whether
they hurt or benefit living beings.

77- 78.
If Buddhas attain the unsurpassed stage by [giving] living
beings support, what is so strange if [those] not guided by the
slightest concern for others receive none of the pleasures of
gods and men that support the guardians of the world,
Brahma, Indra, and Rudra?

The different kinds of suffering that beings experience in the
hell realms, as beasts, and as ghosts result from causing
beings pain.

The inevitable and unceasing suffering of hunger, thirst,
mutual slaughter, and torments result from causing pain.

Know that beings are subject to two kinds of maturation: [that
of] Buddhas [and] Bodhisattvas and that of good and bad

Support [living beings] with your whole nature and protect
them like your own body. Indifference toward beings must be
avoided like poison!

Though the Sravakas obtain a lesser enlightenment thanks to
indifference/ the bodhi of the Perfect Buddhas is obtained by
not abandoning living beings.

How can those who consider how the fruit of helpful and
harmful deeds ripens persist in their selfishness for even a
single moment?

The sons of the Buddha are active in developing
enlightenment, which has steadfast compassion as its root,
grows from the sprout of bodhicitta, and has the benefit of
others as its sole fruit.

Those who are strengthened by meditational development find
the suffering of others frightening. [In order to support others]
they forsake even the pleasures of dhyana; they even enter
the Avici hell!

They are wonderful; they are admirable; they are most
extraordinarily excellent! Nothing is more amazing than those
who sacrifice their person and riches!

Those who understand the sunyata of phenomena [but also]
believe in [the law of] karma and its results are more
wonderful than wonderful, more astonishing than astonishing!

Wishing to protect living beings, they take rebirth in the mud
of existence. Unsullied by its events, they are like a lotus
[rooted] in the mire.

Though sons of the Buddha such as Samantabhadra have
consumed the fuel of the klesas through the cognitive fire of
sunyata, the waters of compassion still flow within them!

91- 92.
Having come under the guiding power of compassion they
display the descent [from Tusita], birth, merriments,
renunciation, ascetic practices, great enlightenment, victory
over the hosts of Mara, turning of the Dharmacakra, the
request of all the gods, and [the entry into] nirvana.

Having emanated such forms as Brahma, Indra, Visnu, and
Rudra, they present through their compassionate natures a
performance suitable to beings in need of guidance.

Two [kinds] of knowledge arise [from] the Mahayana to give
comfort and ease to those who journey in sorrow along life's
path— so it is said. But [this] is not the ultimate meaning.

As long as they have not been admonished by the Buddhas,
Sravakas [who are] in a bodily state of cognition remain in a
swoon, intoxicated by samadhi.

But once admonished, they devote themselves to living
beings in varied ways. Accumulating stores of merit and
knowledge, they obtain the enlightenment of Buddhas.

As the potentiality of both [accumulations], the vasanas are
said to be the seed [of enlightenment]. That seed, [which is]
the accumulation of things, produces the sprout of life.

The teachings of the protectors of the world accord with the
[varying] resolve of living beings. The Buddhas employ a
wealth of skillful means, which take many worldly forms.

[Teachings may differ] in being either profound or vast; at
times they are both. Though they sometimes may differ, they
are invariably characterized by sunyata and non- duality.

Whatever the dharams, stages, and paramitas of the Buddhas,
the omniscient [Tathagatas] have stated that they form a part
of bodhicitta.

Those who thus always benefit living beings through body,
words, and mind advocate the claims of sunyata, not the
contentions of annihilation.

The magnanimous [Bodhisattvas] do not abide in nirvana or
samsara. Therefore the Buddhas have spoken of this as "the
non- abiding nirvana"

The unique elixir of compassion functions as merit, [but] the
elixir of sunyata functions as the highest. Those who drink it
for the sake of themselves and others are sons of the Buddha.

Salute these Bodhisattvas with your entire being! Always
worthy of honor in the three worlds, guides of the world, they
strive to represent the lineage of the Buddhas.

[In] Mahayana this bodhicitta is said to be the very best. So
produce bodhicitta through firm and balanced efforts.

[In this] existence there is no other means for the realization
of one's own and others' benefit. The Buddhas have until now
seen no means apart from bodhicitta.

Simply by generating bodhicitta a mass of merit is collected. If
it took form, it would more than fill the expanse of space!

If a person developed bodhicitta only for a moment, not even
the Jinas could calculate the mass of his merit!

The one finest jewel is a precious mind free of klesas.
Robbers like the klesas or Mara cannot steal or damage it.

Just as the high aspirations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in
samsara are unswerving, those who set their course on
bodhicitta must make [firm their] resolve.

No matter how amazing [all this seems], you must make
efforts as explained. Thereafter you yourself will understand
the course of Samantabhadra!

Through the incomparable merit I have now collected by
praising the excellent bodhicitta praised by the excellent
Jinas, may living beings submerged in the waves of life's
ocean gain a foothold on the path followed by the leader of
those who walk on two legs.


Our good fortune is solely due to this translation of this wonderful text by Chris Lindtner