Mahayana Buddhism and Early Advaita Vedanta (Study)

by Asokan N. | 2018 | 48,955 words

This thesis is called: Mahayana Buddhism And Early Advaita Vedanta A Critical Study. It shows how Buddhism (especially Mahayana) was assimilated into Vedantic theorisation in due course of time. Philosophical distance between Mahayana Buddhism and Advaita-Vedanta became minimal with the advent of Gaudapada and Shankaracharya, who were both harbinge...

Chapter 2.1 - Madhyamika Philosophy

According to Mahasanghikas, Buddha was transcendental, eternal and infinite. Buddha’s teachings characterized as ‘Madhyama Pratipad’. Nagarjuna evolved his Philosophical treatise as Madhyamika Shastra. His followers are called Madhyamikas. Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika philosophy laid the foundation for all subsequent Mahayana thinking. Nagarjuna was born in Amaravati as a Brahmin about 2nd century AD in Andhra Desha.[1] By the 2nd Century AD, Nagarjuna’s time, Sanskrit became a delicately sophisticated medium for Philosophers, poets, religious writers, scientists and bureaucrats.[2] Nagarjuna was the contemporary of Kanishka.

Tibetans ascribe several books to Nagarjuna. Important of them are,

  1. Madhyamika Karika (Shastra) of Nagarjuna,[3]
  2. Vighara Vyavartani,
  3. Shunyata Saptati,
  4. Dvadashamukha Shastra,
  5. Ekashloka Shastra, etc.[4]

Madhyamika Karika has 27 chapters and it contains 448 sutras. The Madhyamika dialectic and Madhyamika Philosophy is known as ‘Prajna Paramita’. Shunyata is the crest of Madhyamika teaching. Summarily ‘Shunyata’ is ‘Prajna’. We will discuss later the chief characteristics of Shunyata. The essential teaching of the Madhyamika is the voidness or nothingness or Anatma (Anatta). The concept of voidness as taught by Nagarjuna is vividly explained in Mula-Madhyamika-karika He has proclaimed the principle of universal relativity.

Footnotes and references:


Sarachandra Sastri, Kolkkatta, 1897.


Mervyn Sprung, Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way, Preface (P-IX).


Mr. Brian Hougton Hodson, an English Orientalist, discovered 381 Bundles of Buddhist manuscripts from Nepal in Sanskrit language. It was similar to the Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese Texts. Among these manuscripts they found the ‘Madhyamika Karika (Shastra) of Nagarjuna and its first available Sanskrit manuscript. Its commentary is known as ‘Prasanna Pada’ by Chandra Kirti.


Kewal Krishn Mittal and Lama Jamspal, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

Delhi, 1977, p. 68.

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