In Jay Garfield’s translation of Nagarjuna’s, Mulamadhyamikakarika, the last verse reads thus;
I prostrate to Gautama
Who through compassion
Taught the true doctrine
Which leads to the relinquishing of all views.
I’ve made reference to Pyrrho’s journey eastwards with Alexander’s army in the 320’s BCE before, and the disappointment that only now, nearly 2500 years later, are we getting the benefit of the true teaching of Sunyata through the migration of Zen westwards.
It is a pity that Pyrrho arrived too early to encounter Nagarjuna or his texts which give philosophical expression to the coming into being of the Great Vehicle’s teaching. Because for all the value of the western philosophical tradition and its Ataraxia, Scepticism has not flourished.
However, Nagarjuna’s, Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way, can give, in their sharp logic, a way out of our western malaise of Nihilism. This is especially true for the tradition known as Anglo-American Philosophy. Fortunately, there have been attempts to bring Nagarjuna’s text before this tradition through the translations of Streng, particularly Kalupahana and also Sprung.
However, it is in the embodiment of Zen that Nagarjuna’s words are best expressed, and it is of some interest that Nagarjuna has been of especial importance in the development of Zen (Chan) in China. Although Inada’s translation of this text is useful, I would very much like to see Gudo Wafu Nishijima’s recent version, to get a modern perspective from an important Zen master.
Of course, if philosophical expression leaves you cold – and what need is there for such words for a tradition outside of the ‘scriptures’ – then may I recommend Angelus Silesias’s mystical poetry, The Cherubic Wanderer.
Although, with Zen, meditation is more than enough to begin with!