Exploring the Structure of Emptiness
Philosophical Hermeneutics of the Text Catusstava of Nagarjuna: Translation & Interpretation
By Mathew Varghese
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
Nagarjuna is one of the finest philosophers who were ever lived. This second century Buddhist philosophers from south India is known for his criticism on speculative theories and viewpoints. But his name is better known for introducing the idea of emptiness (sunyata), a philosophical concept that had hugely influenced the discourses of Eastern philosophy, religion, and culture for about 2000 years. Nagarjuna cleverly introduced emptiness (sunyata), into Buddhist discourses to explain is central philosophy: the philosophy of Middle Path. Through the negative mode of argumentation, he taught how we naturally get trapped into extreme viewpoints and speculate on them. His philosophy of Middle Path (Madhyamika) explains the progress of human reasoning moving in its natural course avoiding extreme viewpoints for finding harmony and freedom.
During the second century, in a different milieu, Nagarjuna warned his students about the dangers of speculative thought created out of extreme viewpoints and philosophical doctrines. He taught them to look into the structures of such doctrines critically by using negation to know what the truth is. Therefore, the philosophical idea of emptiness (sunyata) is not the end of negation assuming perfect nihilism, but teaching us that it would work like medicine for removing all our ignorance. More precisely, it is like zero (sunya) in mathematics, a number with an undefined value, but real numbers find newer values by associating with it. It is a philosophical tool that helps us control our alleged fears, anger, pretty hatred, etc., by invoking the natural course of human compassion (karuna) for us to live and die naturally. Therefore, the structure of emptiness is the philosophy of Middle Path.
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