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The Pranyamla-stra-tika Of Ngrjuna


Indian Antiquary,

A Journal Of Oriental Research


Archology, History, Literature, Languages, Philosophy, Religion, Folklore,
&c., &c., &c.

Edited By

Jas. Burgess, M.r.a.s., F.r.g.s.

Vol. X.--1881

[Bombay, Education Society's Press]

{Scanned And Edited By Christopher M. Weimer, April 2002}

p. 87

The Chong-lun Or Pranyamla-stra-tika Of Ngrjuna.

By Rev. S. Beal, M.a., Rector Of Wark.

shall here give a translation of the 25th section of the "Chong-Lun Stra" or "Pranyamla-stra-tika", by Ngrjuna, on "Nirv.na".


If all things are unreal,

Then how is it possible to remove

From that which does not exist

Something, which, being removed, leaves "Nirv.na"?

This section argues that if all things are alike empty and unreal, then there is no such thing as Birth and Death; consequently there can be no removal from sorrow, and the destruction of the five elements of existence (limited existence), by removal of which we arrive at Nirv.na (what is called Nirv.na).


But if all things are real,

Then how can we remove

Birth and Death, real existence,

And so arrive at "Nirv.na"?

This section argues that we cannot destroy that which has in itself real existence, and therefore, if all things have this real being, we cannot remove Birth and Death, and so arrive at "Nirv.na"; therefore, neither by the theory of "Bhava", nor by the theory of "Sunyata" (emptiness), can we arrive at the just idea of "Nirv.na".


That which is not striven for or "obtained,"

That which is not "for a time" or "eternal,"

That which is not born, nor dies,

This is that which is called "Nirv.na".

p. 88

\"Not to be striven for," that is, in the way of religious action ("achrya"), and its result ("fruit").

"Not obtained" (or "arrived at"), that is, because there is no place or point at which to arrive.

"Not for a time" (or not by way of interruption) ["per saltum"] for the five skandhas having been from the time of complete enlightenment proved to be unreal, and not part of true existence, then on entering final "Nirv.na" ("anupadiesha Nirv.na").--What is there that breaks or interrupts the character of previous existence?

"Not for ever," or "everlasting," for if there were something to be obtained that admitted of distinctions whilst in the possession of it, then we might speak of an "eternal nirv.na", but as in the condition of silent extinction ("Nirv.na") there can be no properties to distinguish, how can we speak of it as "everlasting?"

And so with reference to Birth and Death.

Now that which is so characterised is what we call "Nirv.na".

Again, there is a "Stra" which says, "Nirv.na" is the opposite of 'Being' and 'not Being'; it is the opposite of these two combined, it is the opposite of the absence of 'Being', and the absence of 'not Being'.

So, in short, that which admits of no conditions such as are attached to limited existence; that is "Nirv.na".

\"Nirv.na" cannot be called "Bhava";

For if so, then it admits of old age and death,

In fact both "being" and " not being" are phenomena,

And therefore are capable of being deprived of characteristics ("lakshanam").

This means that as all things which the eye beholds are seen to begin and to end, and this is what the lka calls "Life" and "Death" (or birth and death). Now if "Nirv.na" is like this, then it would be possible to speak of removing these things and so arriving at something fixed--but here is a plain contradiction of terms--for Nirv.na is supposed to be that which is fixed and unchangeable.


If "Nirv.na" is "Bhava" (existent),

Then it is "personal";

But, in fact, that which cannot be individualized

Is spoken of as not "personal."

This means that as all phenomenal existence comes from cause and consequent production, therefore all such things are rightly called "personal."


If "Nirv.na" be "Bhava",

Then it cannot be called "without sensation" ("anuvedana");

For non-Being comes not from sensation,

And by this obtains its distinct name.

This means that as the "Stras" describe "Nirv.na" as being "without sensation" ("anuvedana"), it cannot be "Bhava"; for then "Abhava" would come from sensation. But now it will be asked, if "Nirv.na" is not "Bhava", then that which is "not "Bhava" ("abhava"), surely then is "Nirv.na". To this we reply--


If "Nirv.na" be not "Bhava",

Much less is it nothing ("abhava");

For if there be no room for "Being,"

What place can there be for "not Being."

This means that "not Being" is the opposite of "Being." If, then, "Being" is not admissible, how can we speak of "Not Being"? (its opposite).


If again "Nirv.na" is nothing,

How is it called without "sensation?" ("anuvedana"),

For it would be wonderful indeed if everything not capable of sensation,

Were forthwith spoken of as nothing.

If then "Nirv.na" be neither "Being," nor "non-Being," what is it?


By participation in cause and effect

Comes the wheel of continual existence,

By non-participation in cause and effect

Comes "Nirv.na".

As by knowing a thing to be straight we also know that which is crooked, so by the knowledge of the elements of finite existence comes the knowledge of continual life and death. Do away with those, and you do away also with the other.


As Buddha says in the "Stra",--

Separate "Being," separate "not Being,"

This is "Nirv.na",

The opposite of "Being," the opposite of "not Being."

"Being" here alludes to the three worlds of finite existence. The absence of these three worlds is "Not Being." Get rid of both these ideas, this is "Nirv.na". But it may now be asked, if "Nirv.na" is not "Being," and if it is not "Absence of Being," then perhaps it is the intermixture of the two.


If it is said that "Being" and "Not Being,"

By union, produces "Nirv.na",

The two are then one;

But this is impossible.

Two unlike things cannot be joined so as to produce one different from either.


If it is said "Being" and "Not Being"

United make "Nirv.na",

Then "Nirv.na" is not "without sensation;"

For these two things involve sensation.


If it is said that "Being" and "Not Being,"

United, produce "Nirv.na",

p. 89

Then "Nirv.na" is not Impersonal;

For these two things are personal.

\"Being" and "Not Being," joined in one,

How can this be "Nirv.na"?

These two things have nothing in common.

Can Darkness and Light be joined?


If the opposites of "Being" and "Not Being,"

Is "Nirv.na",

These opposites--

How are they distinguished?


If they are distinguished,

And so, by union, become "Nirv.na",

Then that which completes the idea of "Being" and "Not Being"

Also completes the idea of the opposite of both.


Tathgata, after his departure,

Says nothing of "Being" and "Not Being."

He says not that his "Being" is not, or the opposite of this.

Tathgata says nothing of these things or their opposites. The conclusion of the whole matter is, that "Nirv.na" is identical with the nature of Tathgata, without bound, and without place or time.

\"The Oriental", October 9, 1875.]
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