Nagarjuna: Sixty stanzas of reasoning



Sanskrit title: Yuktisastika-karikaTibetan title: rigs pa drug cu pa

Homage to the youthful Manjushri.

Homage to the great Sage

Who taught dependent origination,

The means by which are eliminated

Arising and destruction.


Those whose mind has transcended

Existence and non-existence and abides no more [in them],

They’ve realized the meaning of conditioned existence,

The profound absence of objectification.


First non-existence, the source of all faults,

Had already been undone;

Now listen to the reasoning

That undoes existence itself as well.


If things were truly existent,

As imagined by the childish,

What is the reason they’re not accepted

As liberated with no entity [of existence at all]?


One is not freed by existence;

One does not transcend samsara through non-existence;

It’s through understanding existence and non-existence

That the great beings are liberated.


Those who do not see ultimate reality

Grasp at samsara and nirvana;

But those who see ultimate reality possess

No pretentions of world and its’ transcendence.


Both samsara and nirvana,

Neither of these two exists;

The thorough understanding of cyclic existence-

This is referred to as “nirvana.”


Just as cessation is imputed

On the disintegration of an arisen entity;

So too the sublime ones accept

Cessation that is illusion-like.



Things cease due to utter destruction,

But not due to understanding their conditioned nature;

To whom will this be evident?

How can “destruction” be possible?


If [grasping at] aggregates do not cease,

Even if afflictions are extinct one’ll not transcend;

However when they come to cease,

At that instant one attains freedom.


When the perfect gnosis sees

That things come from ignorance as condition,

Nothing will then be objectified,

Either in terms of arising or destruction.


This is transcendence of sorrow

In this very life and one’s task is complete;

If, after the knowledge of truth,

Differentiations occur here,


And even with respect to most subtle things

One imputes originations,

Such an utterly unskilled person does not see

The meaning of conditioned origination.


If samsara comes to an end

For a monk whose afflictions are extinguished,

Why have the perfectly awakened Buddhas

Not explained that [samsara] has beginning?


If there were a beginning, then certainly

There too would be clinging in the form of dogmas;

That which is dependently originated,

How can there be its beginning or end?


That which has arisen before,

How can it cease again later on?

Devoid of the limits of beginning and end,

The world appears like an illusion.


When one views the arising of illusions

Or the dissolution of the illusions,

One who recognizes illusions is not confused;

Those who do not thoroughly crave.


Those who sees with their mind

That existence is like a mirage and an illusion,

They will not be corrupted

By views [grasping at] beginning and end.


Those who imputes arising and disintegration

With relation to conditioned things,

They do not understand well the movement

Of the wheel of dependent origination.



That which has originated due to “this” and “that,”

That has not done so as its own being;

And that which has not arisen as its own being,

How can it be called “arisen”?


The tranquility derived from extinction of cause,

This is understood to be a cessation;

That which is not extinguished through its intrinsic nature,

How can that be called an “extinguishment”?


Since there is nothing that arises,

There is nothing that disintegrates;

Yet the paths of arising and disintegration

Were taught [by the Buddha] for a purpose.


By understanding arising, disintegration is understood;

By understanding disintegration, impermanence is understood;

By understanding how to engage with impermanence,

The sublime dharma is understood as well.


Those who understand the dependent origination

To be utterly devoid of arising and disintegration,

Those who have such knowledge will cross

The ocean of samsara of dogmatic views.


Ordinary beings who hold at entities,

Who, due to distortions of existence and non-existence,

Are therefore under the domination of faults of afflictions –

They’re being fooled by their own minds.


Those who’re learned with respect to the facts,

They see that things are impermanent,

Deceptive, mere shells, empty and selfless;

They see them as utterly isolated.


Devoid of locus, there is nothing to objectify;

Rootless, they have no fixed abode;

They arise totally from the cause of ignorance,

Utterly devoid of beginning, middle and end.


Like a plantain tree they have no essence;

They resemble the city of Gandharvas;

Thus this dreadful world, a city of ignorance,

Appears like a magical illusion.


Brahma and so on that appear

So real to the beings of this world,

They’re said to be false to the Noble Ones;

Other than that, what more is left?


The world blinded by ignorance

Follow after the current of desire;

The wise, who’re excellent, are free of craving;

How can these two be equal at all?



To those searching for ultimate reality,

First one should say that everything exists;

Later when they understand the meaning

And are free of attachment, then teach the absence.


With no understanding of the meaning of absence,

But engaging only in mere studies

And failing to engage in meritorious acts-

Such base people are lost.


The karma and their results,

And the realms of rebirth are explained;

Full knowledge of their natures,

And their absence of origination are taught.


Just as the Buddhas have spoken of

I” and “mine” for a practical purpose;

Likewise they spoke too of “aggregates,”

Elements” and “sense-fields” for practical reasons.


Such things spoken of as the “great elements”,

These are fully absorbed into consciousness;

Since they are dissolved by understanding them,

Are they not falsely imputed?


Inasmuch as the Conquerors have stated

Nirvana is the sole truth,

What learned person would imagine

That the rest is not false?


As long as the mind remains wavering,

So long it remains within Mara’s sphere;

If this is so then why is it not reasonable

That this [dependent origination] is free of fault?


Since the Buddhas have stated

That the world is conditioned by ignorance,

So why is it not reasonable [to assert]

That this world is [a result of] conceptualization?


Since it comes to an end

When ignorance ceases;

Why does it not become clear then

That it was conjured by ignorance?


That which comes into being from a cause

And does not endure without conditions,

It disappears as well when conditions are absent-

How can this be understood to exist?


If the proponents of existence

Abide by clinging to real entities,

There is nothing to be surprised of;

For they live by such a path.



Deplorable are those who abide

By grasping at real entities with contention,

While, on the basis of the Buddha’s path,

They speak about impermanence of all things.


If nothing is observed

Through examination of “this” or “that,”

What learned person would assert

That this or that contention is true?


Those who cling to a self

Or to the world as unconditioned,

They are captivated by the views

About arising, permanence, impermanence, and so on.


Those who assert the conditioned things

As being established in terms of ultimate reality,

Why wouldn’t the faults of permanence and so on

Not arise within their minds?


Those who accept the conditioned things

As being neither true nor false,

Just like the moon in the water,

They are not carried away by dogmatic views.


If one has the thesis of real entities,

Awful and vicious views arise,

Which give birth to attachment and aversion;

From this contentions ensue.


This is the cause of all dogmatic views;

Without it no afflictions will arise;

So if this is understood thoroughly,

All views and afflictions will cease.


Who understands this?” one might wonder;

It’s those who see dependent origination.

The supreme knower of reality has taught

That dependent arising is unborn.


For those who are suppressed by false knowledge

And grasp the untrue to be true,

In them arises from attachment

A series of grasping and contentions.


Those who are great beings,

They have neither thesis nor contention;

For those who have no thesis,

How can there be opposing thesis?


Having found a locus one is caught

By the twisting snake of afflictions;

Those whose minds have no locus,

They will not be caught [by this snake].



In those whose minds possess a locus,

Why would the grave poison of afflictions not arise?

As for those who abide in between,

They too will be caught by the snake of afflictions.


Just as the child that thinks it to be real

Feels attached to a reflection of form;

Likewise, because the worldly beings are ignorant,

They are trapped in the cage of objects.


The great beings see with their wisdom eye

All things like reflections of forms;

They do not become stuck

In the mire of so-called objects.


The childish are attached to forms;

The moderate attains detachment;

By knowing the nature of forms,

Those of supreme intellect are free.


One becomes attached [to something]

By thinking of it as pleasant;

By turning away from it

One becomes devoid of attachment.


The faults of mental afflictions that torment

Due to false knowledge do not arise

To those who understand the meaning

Of conceptualizations of real and unreal entities.


If one possesses a locus,

One becomes attached or detached;

But the great beings who’re devoid of locus,

They have neither attachment nor detachment.


Those who do not waver, even with their fluctuating mind,

In such terms as “This is utterly absent,”

They’ll cross the unbearable ocean of samsara

Agitated by the monster of afflictions.


Through this virtue may all beings

Gather accumulations of merit and wisdom;

May they attain the two sublime Buddha bodies,

Which arise from merit and wisdom.

This completes “Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning” composed by master Nagarjuna himself. The Indian abbot Muditashri and the Tibetan translator Patsap Nyima Drak standardized it with further revisions.

English translation. Geshe Thupten Jinpa. This translation was prepared on the basis of a careful reading of both the Sanskrit original and its Tibetan translation and by consulting Candrakirti’s commentary (Tengyur, Dergé, dbu ma Ya, p.1a – 30b) as well as Je Tsongkhapa’s Notes on the “Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning” (rigs pa drug cu pa’i zin bris, The Collectected Works of Je Tsongkhapa,