Nagarjuna: A Commentary on the Awakening Mind, Bodhicittavivarana



A Commentary on the Awakening Mind


Sanskrit title: Bodhicittavivarana

Tibetan title: byang chub sems kyi ‘grel pa

Homage to glorious Vajrasattva!

It has been stated:

Devoid of all real entities;

Utterly discarding all objects and subjects,

Such as aggregates, elements and sense-fields;

Due to sameness of selflessness of all phenomena,

One’s mind is primordially unborn;

It is in the nature of emptiness.

Just as the blessed Buddhas and the great bodhisattvas have generated the mind of great awakening, I too shall, from now until I arrive at the heart of awakening,

generate the awakening mind in order that I may save those who are not saved, free those who are not free, relieve those who are not relieved, and help thoroughly

transcend sorrow those who have not thoroughly transcended sorrow.

Those bodhisattvas who practice by means of the secret mantra, after having

generated awakening mind in terms of its conventional aspect in the form of an aspiration, must [then] produce the ultimate awakening mind through the force of meditative practice. I shall therefore explain its nature.

1 | Bowing to the glorious Vajra Holder

Who embodies the awakening mind,

I shall explain here the meditative practice

Of awakening mind that destroys cyclic existence.

2 | The Buddhas maintain the awakening mind

To be not obscured by such conceptions

As consciousness of “self,” “aggregates” and so on;

It is always characterized by emptiness.

8 | May none of this ever be sullied

By thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.

May I see all things as illusions

And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.

3 | It is with a mind moistened by compassion

That you must cultivate [awakening mind] with effort.

The Buddhas who embody great compassion

Constantly develop this awakening mind.

4 | The self postulated by the extremists,

When you thoroughly analyze it with reasoning,

Within all the aggregates [of body and mind],

Nowhere can you find a locus for this.

5 | Aggregates exist [but] are not permanent;

They do not have the nature of selfhood.

A permanent and an impermanent cannot

Exist as the support and the supported.

6 | If the so-called self does not exist,

How can the so-called agent be permanent?

It there were things then one could

Investigate their attributes in the world.

7 | Since a permanent cannot function [to cause]

In gradual or instantaneous terms,

So both without and within,

No such permanent entity exists.

8 | If it were potent why would it be dependent?

For it would bring forth [everything] at once.

That which depends upon something else

Is neither eternal nor potent.

9 | If it were an entity it would not be permanent

For entities are always momentary;

And with respect to impermanent entities,

Agency has not been negated.

10 | This world devoid of self and so on

Is utterly vanquished by the notions

Of aggregates, elements and the sense-fields,

And that of object and subject.

11 | [Thus the Buddhas] who seek to help others

Have taught to the Disciples

The five aggregates: form, feelings, perception,

volitional forces and consciousness.

12 | The excellent among the bi-peds

Always taught as well “Forms appear as mass of foams;

Feelings resemble bubbles in water;

And perception is like a mirage;

13 | Mental formations are like the plantain trees;

Consciousness is like a magical illusion.”

Presenting the aggregates in this manner,

[The Buddhas] taught thus to the bodhisattvas.

14 | That which is characterized by the four great elements

Is clearly taught to be the aggregate of form.

The rest are invariably established

Therefore as devoid of material form.

15 | Through this the eyes, visible forms and so forth,

Which are described as the elements,

These should be known also as [the twelve] sense-fields,

And as the objects and the subjects as well.

16 | Neither atom of form exists nor is sense organ elsewhere;

Even more no sense organ as agent exists;

So the producer and the produced

Are utterly unsuited for production.

17 | The atoms of form do not produce sense perceptions,

For they transcend the realm of the senses.

[If asserted] that they are produce through aggregation,

[Production through] collection too is not accepted.

18 | Through division in terms of spatial dimensions

Even the atom is seen as possessing parts;

That which is analyzed in terms of parts,

How can it logically be [an indivisible] atom?

19 | With respect to a single external object

Divergent perceptions can arise.

A form that is beautiful to someone,

For someone else it is something else.

20 | With respect to the same female body,

Three different notions are entertained

By the ascetic, the lustful and a [wild] dog,

As a corpse, an object of lust, or food.

21 | “It’s the sameness of the object that functions,” [if asserted],

Is this not like being harmed in a dream?

Between the dream and wakeful state there is no difference

Insofar as the functioning of things is concerned.

22 | In terms of objects and subjects,

Whatever appears to the consciousness,

Apart from the cognitions themselves,

No external objects exist anywhere.

23 | So there are no external objects at all

Existing in the mode of entities.

The very perceptions of the individual consciousnesses

Arise as appearances of the forms.

24 | Just as a person whose mind is deluded

Sees magical illusions and mirages,

And the cities of gandharva spirits,

So too forms and so on are perceived.

25 | To overcome grasping at selfhood

[The Buddha] taught aggregates, elements and so on.

By abiding in the [state of] mind only,

The beings of great fortune even renounce that [teaching].

26 | For those who propound consciousness [only]

This manifold world is established as mind [only]

What might be the nature of that consciousness?

I shall now explain this very point.

27 | “All of this is but one’s mind,”

That which was stated by the Able One

Is to alleviate the fear of the childish;

It is not [a statement] of [final] truth.

28 | The imputed, the dependent,

And the consummate – they have

Only one nature of their own, emptiness;

Their identities are constructed upon the mind.

29 | To those who delight in the great vehicle

The Buddha taught in brief

Selflessness in perfect equanimity;

And that the mind is primordially unborn.

30 | The proponents of yogic practices assert

That a purified mind [effected] through

Mastery of one’s own mind

And through utter revolution of its state

Is the sphere of its own reflexive awareness.

31 | That which is past is no more;

That which is yet to be is not obtained;

As it abides its locus is utterly transformed,

So how can there be [such awareness in] the present?

32 | Whatever it is it’s not what it appears as;

Whatever it appears as it is not so;

Consciousness is devoid of selfhood;

[Yet] consciousness has no other basis.

33 | By being close to a loadstone

An iron object swiftly moves forward;

It possesses no mind [of its own],

Yet it appears as if it does.

42 | The distinctions of colors and shapes,

Or that of object and subject,

Of male, female and the neuter –

The mind has no such fixed forms.

43 | In brief the Buddhas have never seen

Nor will they ever see [such a mind];

So how can they see it as intrinsic nature

That which is devoid of intrinsic nature?

44 | “Entity” is a conceptualization;

Absence of conceptualization is emptiness;

Where conceptualization occurs,

How can there be emptiness?

45 | The mind in terms of the perceived and perceiver,

This the Tathagatas have never seen;

Where there is the perceived and perceiver,

There is no enlightenment.

46 | Devoid of characteristics and origination,

Devoid of substantive reality and transcending speech,

Space, awakening mind and enlightenment

Possess the characteristics of non-duality.

47 | Those abiding in the heart of enlightenment,

Such as the Buddhas, the great beings,

And all the great compassionate ones

Always understand emptiness to be like space.

48 | Therefore constantly meditate on this emptiness:

The basis of all phenomena,

Tranquil and illusion-like,

Groundless and destroyer of cyclic existence.

49 | As “non-origination” and as “emptiness,”

Or as “no-self,” [grasping at] emptiness [as such],

He who meditates on a lesser truth,

That is not [true] meditation.

34 | Likewise the foundational consciousness too

Appears to be real though it is false;

In this way it moves to and fro

And retains [the three realms of] existence.

35 | Just as the ocean and the trees

Move about though they possess no mind;

Likewise foundational consciousness too

Move about in dependence upon the body.

36 | So if it is considered that

Without a body there is no consciousness,

You must explain what it is this awareness

That is the object of one’s own specific knowledge.

37 | By calling it specific awareness of itself,

You are asserting it to be an entity;

Yet by stating that “it is this,”

You are asserting it also to be powerless.

38 | Having ascertained oneself

And to help others ascertain,

The learned proceeds excellently

Always without error.

39 | The cognizer perceives the cognizable;

Without the cognizable there is no cognition;

Therefore why do you not admit

That neither object nor subject exists [at all]?

40 | The mind is but a mere name;

Apart from its name it exists as nothing;

So view consciousness as a mere name;

Name too has no intrinsic nature.

41 | Either within or likewise without,

Or somewhere in between the two,

The conquerors have never found the mind;

So the mind has the nature of an illusion.

50 | The notions of virtue and non-virtue

Characterized by being [momentary and] disintegrated;

The Buddha has spoken of their emptiness;

Other than this no emptiness is held.

51 | The abiding of a mind which has no object

Is defined as the characteristic of space;

[So] they accept that meditation on emptiness

Is [in fact] a meditation on space.

52 | With the lion’s roar of emptiness

All pronouncements are frightened;

Wherever such speakers reside

There emptiness lies in wait.

53 | To whom consciousness is momentary,

To them it cannot be permanent;

So if the mind is impermanent,

How could it be inconsistent with emptiness?

54 | In brief if the Buddhas uphold

The mind to be impermanent,

How would they not uphold

That it is empty as well.

55 | From the very beginning itself

The mind never had any [intrinsic] nature;

It is not being stated here that an entity

Which possesses intrinsic existence [somehow] lacks this.

56 | If one asserts this one abandons

The locus of selfhood in the mind;

It’s not the nature of things

To transcend one’s own intrinsic nature.

57 | Just as sweetness is the nature of molasses

And heat the nature of fire,

Likewise we maintain that

The nature of all phenomena is emptiness.

58 | When one speaks of emptiness as the nature [of phenomena],

One in no sense propounds nihilism;

By the same token one does not

Propound eternalism either.

59 | Starting with ignorance and ending with aging,

All processes that arise from

The twelve links of dependent origination,

We accept them to be like a dream and an illusion.

60 | This wheel with twelve links

Rolls along the road of cyclic existence;

Outside this there cannot be sentient beings

Experiencing the fruits of their deeds.

61 | Just as in dependence upon a mirror

A full image of one’s face appears,

The face did not move onto the mirror;

Yet without it there is no image [of the face].

62 | Likewise aggregates recompose in a new existence;

Yet the wise always understand

That no one is born in another existence,

Nor does someone transfer to such existence.

63 | In brief from empty phenomena

Empty phenomena arise;

Agent, karma, fruits, and their enjoyer –

The conqueror taught these to be [only] conventional.

64 | Just as the sound of a drum as well as a shoot

Are produced from a collection [of factors],

We accept the external world of dependent origination

To be like a dream and an illusion.

65 | That phenomena are born from causes

Can never be inconsistent [with facts];

Since the cause is empty of cause,

We understand it to be empty of origination.

66 | The non-origination of all phenomena

Is clearly taught to be emptiness;

In brief the five aggregates are denoted

By [the expression] “all phenomena.”

67 | When the [ultimate] truth is explained as it is

The conventional is not obstructed;

Independent of the conventional

No [ultimate] truth can be found.

68 | The conventional is taught to be emptiness;

The emptiness itself is the conventional;

One does not occur without the other,

Just as [being] produced and impermanent.

69 | The conventional arises from afflictions and karma;

And karma arises from the mind;

The mind is accumulated by the propensities;

When free from propensities it’s happiness.

70 | A happy mind is tranquil indeed;

A tranquil mind is not confused;

To have no confusion is to understand the truth;

By understanding the truth one attains freedom.

71 | It’s described as suchness and as the reality-limit,

As signlessness and as the ultimate truth,

As the supreme awakening mind;

It’s described also as the emptiness.

72 | Those who do not understand emptiness

Are not receptive vehicle for liberation;

Such ignorant beings will revolve

In the existence prison of six classes of beings.

73 | When this emptiness [as explained]

Is thus meditated upon by yogis,

No doubt there will arise in them

A sentiment attached to others’ welfare.

74 | “Towards those beings that have

Bestowed benefits upon me in the past,

Such as through being my parents or friends,

I shall strive to repay their kindness.”

75 | “To those beings that are being scorched

By the fire of afflictions in existence’s prison,

Just as I have given them sufferings [in the past],

It’s befitting [today] that I give them happiness.”

76 | The fruits which are desirable or undesirable

In the form of fortunate or unfortunate births in the world,

They come about from helping the sentient beings

Or harming them.

77–78 | If by relying upon the sentient beings

The unexcelled state [of Buddhahood] is brought about,

So what is so astonishing about the fact

That whatever prosperities there are in the gods and humans,

Such as those enjoyed by Brahma, Indra and Rudra,

And the [worldly] guardians of the world,

There is nothing in this triple world system

That is not brought forth by helping others?

79 | As hell beings, as animals and as hungry ghosts,

The different kinds of sufferings,

Which sentient beings experience,

These come about from harming others.

80 | Hunger, thirst, and attacking each other,

And the agony of being tormented,

Which are difficult to avert and unending –

These are the fruits of harming others.

81 | [Just as] there is Buddhahood and awakening mind

And the fortunate birth [on the one hand]

And the unfortunate birth [on the other],

Know that the [karmic] fruition of beings too is twofold.

82 | Support others with all possible factors;

Protect them as you would your own body.

Detachment towards other sentient beings

Must be shunned as you would a poison.

83 | Because of their detachment,

Did not the Disciples attain lesser awakening?

By never abandoning the sentient beings

The fully awakened Buddhas attained awakening.

84 | Thus when one considers the occurrence of

The fruits of beneficial and non-beneficial deeds,

How can anyone remain even for an instant

Attached [only] to one’s own welfare?

85 | Rooted firmly because of compassion,

And arising from the shoot of awakening mind,

The [true] Awakening that is the sole fruit of altruism –

This the conqueror’s children cultivate.

86 | When through practice it becomes firm,

Then alarmed by other’s suffering,

The [bodhisattvas] renounce the bliss of concentration

And plunge even to the depths of relentless hells.

87 | This is indeed amazing, praiseworthy it is;

This is the excellent way of the sublime;

That they give away their own flesh

And wealth is not surprising at all.

88 | Those who understand this emptiness of phenomena

Yet [also] conform to the law of karma and its results,

That is more amazing than amazing!

That is more wondrous than wondrous!

89 | Those who wish to save sentient beings,

Even if they are reborn in the mires of existence,

They are not sullied by the stains of its events;

Just like the petals of a lotus born in a lake.

90 | Though Bodhisattvas such as Samantabhadra

Have burned the wood of afflictions

With the wisdom fire of emptiness,

They still remain moistened by compassion.

91 | Those under the power of compassion

Display acts of departing, birth and merriment,

Renouncing kingdom, engaging in ascetic penance,

Great awakening and defeating the maras;

92 | Turning the wheel of dharma,

Entering the realm of all gods,

And likewise display the act of going

Beyond the bounds of sorrow.

93 | In guises of Brahma, Indra and Vishnu,

And that of fierce Rudra forms,

They perform the compassionate dance

With acts bringing peace to the beings.

94 | For those disheartened on existence’s road,

For their respite the two wisdoms that lead

To the great vehicle had been taught;

They are [however] not ultimate.

95 | So long not exhorted by the Buddhas,

So long the Disciples will remain

In a bodily state of wisdom

Swoon and intoxicated by absorption.

96 | When exhorted then in diverse forms

They will become attached to others’ welfare;

And if they gather stores of merit and wisdom,

They will attain the Buddha’s [full] awakening.

97 | Because the propensities for two [obscurations] exist,

These propensities are referred to as seeds [of existence];

From the meeting of the seeds with conditions

The shoot of cyclic existence is produced.

98 | [The paths] revealed by the saviors of the world,

Which follow the pattern of beings’ mentalities,

Differ variously among the diverse people

Due to the diverse methods [employed by the Buddhas].

99 | [The instructions] differ as the profound and as the vast;

On some occasions [an instruction] is characterized by both;

Though such diverse approaches are taught,

They are [all] equal in being empty and non-dual.

100 | The retention powers and the [bodhisattva] levels,

As well as the perfection of the Buddhas,

The omniscient ones taught these to be

Aspects of the awakening mind.

101 | Those who fulfill other’s welfare in this way

Constantly through their body, speech and mind,

Who advocate the dialectic of emptiness,

There is no dispute at all of being nihilistic.

102 | Neither in cyclic existence nor in nirvana

The great beings reside;

Therefore the Buddhas taught here

The non-abiding nirvana.

103 | The single taste of compassion is merit;

The taste of emptiness is most excellent;

Those who drink [the elixir of emptiness] to realize

Self and other’s welfare are conqueror’s children.

104 | Bow to them with your entire being;

They are always worthy of honor in the three worlds;

These guides of the world reside

As representatives of the Buddhas.

105 | This awakening mind is stated

To be the highest [ideal] in the great vehicle;

So with an absorbed [determined] effort

Generate this awakening mind.

106 | To accomplish self and others’ welfare

No other means exist in the world;

Apart from the awakening mind

To date the Buddhas saw no other means.

107 | The merit that is obtained

From mere generation of awakening mind,

If it were to assume a form

It will fill more than the expanse of space.

108 | A person who for an instant

Meditates on the awakening mind,

The heap of merit [obtained from this],

Not even the conquerors can measure.

109 | A precious mind that is free of afflictions,

This is the most unique and excellent jewel;

It can be neither harmed nor stolen by

Such robbers as the mara of afflictions.

110 | Just as aspirations of the Buddhas

And the bodhisattvas are unswerving,

Likewise those who immerse themselves in

Awakening mind must hold firm their thought.

111 | Even with wonder you should strive

As explained here [in the preceding lines];

Thereafter you will yourself realize

Samantabhadra’s [great enlightened] deeds.

112 | By praising the awakening mind hailed by the excellent conquerors,

The incomparable merits I have obtained today from this act,

May through this all sentient beings submerged in the waves of existence ocean

Travel on the path trodden by the leader of the bipeds.

This concludes A Commentary on the Awakening Mind composed by the great master Arya Nagarjuna. It was translated and edited by the Indian abbot Gunakara and the translator Rapshi Shenyen, and was later revised by the Indian abbot Kanakavarma and the Tibetan translator Patsap Nyima Drak.

© English translation. Geshe Thupten Jinpa, 2006; revised 2007. This translation was prepared on the basis of reading the Tibetan root text against Smriti Jnanakirti’s commentary (Tengyur, Derge, rgyud ‘grel Ci, p.117a-142b) and Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa’s commentary entitled Jewel Garland (The Collected Works of Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa, vol.ka).

Nagarjuna: Exposition of Bodhicitta Bodhicittavivarana (a critique of Vijnanavada)


This regrettably neglected text comprises 112 stanzas introduced by a brief prologue in prose. It has sometimes been grouped as a tantric work, but a glance at its contents shows how unwarranted such a classification is.

The Bodhicittavivarana is never mentioned or cited by Buddhapalita or Candrakirti. On the other hand it forms one of the basic authorities for Bhavya in his most mature work, the Ratnapradipa. It is never quoted in his earlier works, the Tarkajvala, Prajnapradipa and [*Kara-]talaratna. Among other ‘good’ authors citing the Bodhicittavivarana are especially Asvabhava and Santaraksita. I have also come across scores of quotations by other commentators; fortunately several of these are in Sanskrit. It is my general impression that the Yuktisastika, Catuhstava, and Bodhicittavivarana are the most frequently quoted among all works ascribed to Nagarjuna in later Indian literature.

The style of the Bodhicittavivarana is similar to that of the Yuktisastika, Ratnavali, and Catuhstava. From a historical point of view the most significant feature of this text is its extensive critique of Vijhanavada; i.e. Buddhist idealism as testified in the Lankavatarasutra. Having seen how vehemently Nagarjuna attacks any kind of acceptance of svabhava, one would also expect him to have criticized those who might have thought themselves justified in maintaining the absolute existence of vijnana, or citta. But in the texts dealt with hitherto this happens only incidentally. The Bodhicittavivarana provides us with the missing link. None of Nagarjuna’s other works exhibit such a well-balanced and coherent structure as the Bodhicittavivarana. This is to some extent a natural consequence of the fact that the theme is at once simple and comprehensive: bodhicitta. It has a relative aspect consisting in the desire (prarthana) for the bodhi of all living beings, and an absolute consisting in the unlimited cognition of sunyata, or bodhi. The Bodhicittavivarana thus provides us with a compendium of the practice and theory of Mahayana addressed to Bodhisattvas, grhasthas as well as pravrajitas. It may indeed be said to be nothing but a vivarana of the celebrated formula of RA IV, 96: sunyatakarunagarbham ekesarh bodhisadhanam. Sanskrit fragments apart, only two Tibetan versions of the Bodhicittavivarana are at our disposal. I have identified these in the section on sources and variants in Part I, using the abbreviations A, B, and C. B, as we would expect from the names of the revisers, is an excellent piece of work, and it forms the basis of my edition. Throughout I have carefully compared A and C. In a few cases A has proved invaluable, (for example, for verse 16, left out in B due to haplography (homoearcton). C is a commentary of high standard. It quotes pratikas from all the 112 stanzas and explains all debatable points exhaustively. In a few cases, like A, it permits us to emend corruptions in B. I have, however, only registered variants in A and C when they affect the sense in such a way that it may possibly be more authentic than the one transmitted by B. Lindtner

Prologue: The theme of this treatise is bodhicitta. Samvrtitah it is a yearning for the bodhi of all living beings; paramarthatah it is the realization of sunyata; i.e., bodhi.

It has been stated: “Due to the sameness [or] selflessness of phenomena, one’s own mind — devoid of all entities, exempt from the skandhas, elements, sense-fields, and subject and object — is originally unborn; in essence empty.” Just as the Buddhas, our Lords, and the great Bodhisattvas have produced the thought of Great Enlightenment (mahabodhicitta), thus I shall also, from now until [I dwell] in the heart of enlightenment, produce the thought of Great Enlightenment in order to save living beings unsaved, liberate those not liberated, console those not consoled, and lead to nirvana those who have not arrived at nirvana.

When a Bodhisattva, having practiced a course by way of mantras, has thus produced the bodhicitta that in its relative aspect has the nature of aspiration, he must by means of meditational development produce the absolute bodhicitta. Therefore I will reveal its nature.

The significance of developing bodhicitta. (1-3)

1.Bowing to the glorious Vajrasattvas embodying the mind of enlightenment,

I shall expound the development of the bodhicitta that abolishes

[the three kinds of] existence [in samsara].

2.The Buddhas maintain that bodhicitta is not enveloped in notions conscious of a self, skandhas, and so forth, [but] is always marked by being empty [of any such notions].

3.[Those] with minds [only] tinged by compassion must develop [bodhicitta]

with particular effort. This bodhicitta is constantly developed by the compassionate Buddhas.

Nagarjuna’s Bodhicittavivarana

Refutation of the belief in an atman, a permanent soul and a creator, as held by tirthikas.

4.When the self imagined by the tirthikas is analyzed logically,

it obtains no place within the [five] skandhas.

5.If it were [identical with] the skandhas [the self] would not be permanent,

but the self has no such nature. And between things permanent and impermanent a container-content relationship is not [possible].

6.When there is no so-called self how can the so-called creator be permanent?

[Only] if there were a subject might one begin investigating its attributes in the world.

7.Since a permanent [creator] cannot create things, whether gradually or all at once, there are no permanent things, whether external or internal.

8.Why [would] an efficacious [creator] be dependent? He would of course produce things all at once. A [creator] who depends on something else is neither eternal nor efficacious.

9.If [he] were an entity he [would] not be permanent, for things are perpetually instantaneous (since [you] do not deny that impermanent things have a creator).

Nagarjuna’s Bodhicittavivarana 5

Refutation of the existence of the skandhas, as held by the Sravakas. (10-25)

10.This [empirical] world, free from a self and the rest, is vanquished by the [Sravakas’] understanding of the skandhas, elements, sense-fields, and subject and object.

11.Thus the benevolent [Buddhas] have spoken to the Sravakas of the five skandhas:

form, feeling, apprehension, karmaformations and consciousness.

12-13.But to the Bodhisattvas [the Buddha], the best among those who walk on two legs,

has always taught this doctrine about the skandhas: “Form is like a mass of foam, feeling is like bubbles, apprehension is like a mirage, karma-formations are like the

plantain, and consciousness is like an illusion.”

14.The form skandha is declared to have the four great elements as its nature.

The remaining [four skandhas] are inseparably established as immaterial.

15.Among these eye, form, and so forth are classified as [the eighteen] elements.

Again, as subject-object these are to be known as the [twelve] sense-fields.

16.Form is not the atom, nor is it the [organ] of sense. It is absolutely not the active sense [of consciousness]. [Thus] an instigator and a creator are not suited to producing [form].

17.The form atom does not produce sense consciousness, [because] it passes beyond the senses. If [empirical forms are supposed to] be created by an assemblage [of atoms], this

accumulation is unacceptable.

18.If you analyze by spatial division, even the atom is seen to possess parts. That which is analyzed into parts — how can it logically be an atom?

19.Concerning one single external object divergent judgments may prevail.

Precisely that form which is pleasant [to one person] may appear differently to others.

20.Regarding the same female body, an ascetic, a lover and a wild dog entertain three different notions: “A corpse!” “A mistress!” “A tasty morsel!”

21.Things are efficacious due to being like objects. Is it not like an offense while dreaming

[i.e., nocturnal emission]? Once awakened from the dream the net result is the same.

22.As to the appearance of consciousness under the form of subject and object,

[one must realize] that there exists no external object apart from consciousness.

23.In no way at all is there an external thing in the mode of an entity.

This particular appearance of consciousness appears under the aspect of form.

24.The deluded see illusions, mirages, cities of gandharvas, and so forth.

Form manifests in the same way.

Nagarjuna’s Bodhicittavivarana 6

Refutation of the fundamentals of the Vijnanavada: trisvabhava, svasamvedana, asrayaparivrtti, and alayavijnana. In reality, vijnana is dependent, momentary, illusory, and empty. (26-56)

25.The purpose of the [Buddha’s] teachings about the skandhas, elements, and so forth is [merely] to dispel the belief in a self.

By establishing [themselves] in pure consciousness the greatly blessed [Bodhisattvas] abandon that as well.

26.According to Vijhanavada, this manifold [world] is established to be mere consciousness. What the nature of this consciousness might be we shall analyze now.

27.The Muni’s teaching that “The entire [world] is mere mind” is intended to remove the fears of the simple-minded. It is not a [teaching] concerning reality.

28.[The three natures] — the imagined, the dependent, and the absolute — have only one nature of their own: sunyata. They are the imaginations of mind.

29.To [Bodhisattvas] who rejoice in the Mahayana the Buddhas present in brief the selflessness and equality of [all] phenomena [and the teaching] that mind is originally unborn.

30.The Yogacarins give predominance to mind in itself. [They] claim that mind purified by a transformation in position [becomes] the object of its own specific [knowledge].

31.[But mind] that is past does not exist, [while] that which is future is nowhere discovered. [And] how can the present [mind] shift from place [to] place?

32.[The alayavijnana] does not appear the way it is. As it appears — it is not like that. Consciousness essentially lacks substance; it has no other basis [than insubstantiality].

33.When a lodestone is brought near, iron turns swiftly around;

[though] it possesses no mind, [it] appears to possess mind. In just the same way,

34.The alayavijnana appears to be real though it is not.

When it moves to and fro it [seems to] retain the [three] existences.

35.Just as the ocean and trees move though they have no mind,

the alayavijnana is active [only] in dependence on a body.

36.Considering that without a body there is no consciousness, you must also state what kind of specific knowledge of itself this [consciousness] possesses!

37.By saying that a specific knowledge of itself [exists] one says it is an entity.

But one also says that it is not possible to say, “This is it!”

38.To convince themselves as well as others, those who are intelligent [should] always proceed without error!

Nagarjuna’s Bodhicittavivarana 7

39.The knowable is known by a knower. Without the know-able no knowing [is possible].

So why not accept that subject and object do not exist [as such]?

40.Mind is but a name. It is nothing apart from [its] name. Consciousness must be regarded as but a name. The name too has no own-being.

41.The Jinas have never found mind to exist, either internally, externally, or else between the two. Therefore mind has an illusory nature.

42.Mind has no fixed forms such as various colours and shapes,

subject and object, or male, female, and neuter.

43.In brief: Buddhas do not see [what cannot] be seen. How could

they see what has lack of own-being as its own-being?

44.A ‘thing’ is a construct. Sunyata is absence of constructs.

Where constructs have appeared, how can there be sunyata?

45.The Tathagatas do not regard mind under the form of knowable and knower.

Where knower and knowable prevail there is no enlightenment.

46.Space, bodhicitta, and enlightenment are without marks; without generation.

They have no structure; they are beyond the path of words. Their ‘mark’ is non-duality.

47.The magnanimous Buddhas who reside in the heart of enlightenment and all the compassionate [Bodhisattvas] always know sunyata to be like space.

48.Therefore [Bodhisattvas] perpetually develop this sunyata,

which is the basis of all phenomena; calm, illusory, baseless; the destroyer of existence.

49.Sunyata expresses non-origination, voidness, and lack of self.

Those who practice it should not practice what is cultivated by the inferior.

50.Notions about positive and negative have the mark of disintegration. The Buddhas

have spoken [of them in terms of] sunyata, [but] the others do not accept sunyata.

51.The abode of a mind that has no support has the mark of [empty] space.

These [Bodhisattvas] maintain that development of sunyata is development of space.

52.All the dogmatists have been terrified by the lion’s roar of sunyata.

Wherever they may reside, sunyata lies in wait!

53.Whoever regards consciousness as momentary cannot accept it as permanent.

If mind is impermanent, how does this contradict sunyata?

54.In brief: When the Buddhas accept mind as impermanent, why

should they not accept mind as empty?

Nagarjuna’s Bodhicittavivarana 8

55.From the very beginning mind has no own-being. If things could

be proved through own-being, [we would] not declare them to be without substance.

56.This statement results in abandoning mind as having substantial foundation.

It is not the nature of things to transcend [their] own own-being!

All internal and external dharmas are pratityasamutpanna, or sunya. To understand this is to realize the absolute bodhicitta, or liberation from the bonds of karma due to the klesas. (57-72)

57.As sweetness is the nature of sugar and hotness that of fire, so

[we] maintain the nature of all things to be sunyata.

58.When one declares sunyata to be the nature [of all phenomena]

one in no sense asserts that anything is destroyed or that something is eternal.

59.The activity of dependent co-origination with its twelve spokes starting with ignorance

and ending with decay [we] maintain to be like a dream and an illusion.

60.This wheel with twelve spokes rolls along the road of life.

Apart from this, no sentient being that partakes of the fruit of its deeds can be found.

61.Depending on a mirror the outline of a face appears: It has not

moved into it but also does not exist without it.

62.Just so, the wise must always be convinced that the skandhas appear in a new existence [due to] recomposition, but do not migrate [as identical or different].

63.To sum up: Empty things are born from empty things.

The Jina has taught that agent and deed, result and enjoyer are [all only] conventional.

Nagarjuna’s Bodhicittavivarana 9

64.Just as the totality [of their causes and conditions] create the sound of a drum or a sprout,

[so we] maintain that external dependent co-origination is like a dream and an illusion.

65.It is not at all inconsistent that phenomena are born from causes.

Since a cause is empty of cause, [we] understand it to be unoriginated.

66.That phenomena [are said] not to arise indicates that they are empty.

Briefly, ‘all phenomena’ denotes the five skandhas.

67.When truth is [accepted] as has been explained, convention is

not disrupted. The true is not an object separate from the conventional.

68.Convention is explained as sunyata; convention is simply sunyata. For [these two] do not occur without one another, just as created and impermanent [invariably concur].

69.Convention is born from karma [due to the various] klesas, and karma is created by mind. Mind is accumulated by the vasanas. Happiness consists in being free from the vasanas.

70.A happy mind is tranquil. A tranquil mind is not confused.

To be unperplexed is to understand the truth. By understanding truth one obtains liberation.

71.It is also defined as reality, real limit, signless, ultimate meaning,

the highest bodhicitta, and sunyata.

72.Those who do not know sunyata will have no share in liberation.

Such deluded beings wander [among] the six destinies, imprisoned within existence.

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A Bodhisattva who has thus become a Buddha is motivated by karuna (that is, by the power of his previous pranidhanas) to apply all possible means ( = upayakausalya) in order to rescue all beings from samsara. (73-104).

73.When ascetics (yogacarin) have thus developed this sunyata,

their minds will without doubt become devoted to the welfare of others, [as they think]:

74.“I should be grateful to those beings who in the past bestowed

benefits upon me by being my parents or friends.

75.“As I have brought suffering to beings living in the prison of existence,

who are scorched by the fire of the klesas, it is fitting that I [now] afford them happiness.”

76.The sweet and bitter fruit [that beings in] the world [obtain] in the form of a good or bad rebirth is the outcome of whether they hurt or benefit living beings.

77-78.If Buddhas attain the unsurpassed stage by [giving] living beings support, what is so strange if [those] not guided by the slightest concern for others receive none of the pleasures of

gods and men that support the guardians of the world, Brahma, Indra, and Rudra?

79.The different kinds of suffering that beings experience in the hell realms, as beasts, and as ghosts result from causing beings pain.

80.The inevitable and unceasing suffering of hunger, thirst, mutual

slaughter, and torments result from causing pain.

81.Know that beings are subject to two kinds of maturation: [that

of] Buddhas [and] Bodhisattvas and that of good and bad rebirth.

82.Support [living beings] with your whole nature and protect them like your own body. Indifference toward beings must be avoided like poison!

83.Though the Sravakas obtain a lesser enlightenment thanks to indifference,

the bodhi of the Perfect Buddhas is obtained by not abandoning living beings.

84.How can those who consider how the fruit of helpful and harmful deeds ripens persist in their selfishness for even a single moment?

85.The sons of the Buddha are active in developing enlightenment,

which has steadfast compassion as its root,

grows from the sprout of bodhicitta, and has the benefit of others as its sole fruit.

86.Those who are strengthened by meditational development find the suffering of others frightening. [In order to support others] they forsake even the pleasures of dhyana;

they even enter the Avici hell!

Nagarjuna’s Bodhicittavivarana 11

87.They are wonderful; they are admirable; they are most extraordinarily excellent!

Nothing is more amazing than those who sacrifice their person and riches!

88.Those who understand the sunyata of phenomena [but also] believe in [the law of] karma

and its results are more wonderful than wonderful, more astonishing than astonishing!

89.Wishing to protect living beings, they take rebirth in the mud of existence.

Unsullied by its events, they are like a lotus [rooted] in the mire.

90.Though sons of the Buddha such as Samantabhadra have consumed the fuel of the klesas through the cognitive fire of sunyata, the waters of compassion still flow within them!

91-92.Having come under the guiding power of compassion they display the descent [from Tusita], birth, merriments, renunciation, ascetic practices, great enlightenment, victory over the hosts of Mara, turning of the Dharmacakra, the request of all the gods, and [the entry into] nirvana.

93.Having emanated such forms as Brahma, Indra, Visnu, and Rudra, they present through their compassionate natures a performance suitable to beings in need of guidance.

94.Two [kinds] of knowledge arise [from] the Mahayana to give comfort and ease to those who journey in sorrow along life’s path— so it is said. But [this] is not the ultimate meaning.

95.As long as they have not been admonished by the Buddhas,

Sravakas [who are] in a bodily state of cognition remain in a swoon, intoxicated by samadhi.

96.But once admonished, they devote themselves to living beings in varied ways. Accumulating stores of merit and knowledge, they obtain the enlightenment of Buddhas.

97.As the potentiality of both [accumulations], the vasanas are said to be the seed [of enlightenment]. That seed, [which is] the accumulation of things, produces the sprout of life.

98.The teachings of the protectors of the world accord with the [varying] resolve of living beings. The Buddhas employ a wealth of skilful means, which take many worldly forms.

99.[Teachings may differ] in being either profound or vast; at times they are both. Though they sometimes may differ, they are invariably characterized by sunyata and non-duality.

100.Whatever the dharams, stages, and paramitas of the Buddhas,

the omniscient [Tathagatas] have stated that they form a part of bodhicitta.

101.Those who thus always benefit living beings through body, words, and mind advocate the claims of sunyata, not the contentions of annihilation.

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102.The magnanimous [Bodhisattvas] do not abide in nirvana or

samsara. Therefore the Buddhas have spoken of this as “the non-abiding nirvana/’

103.The unique elixir of compassion functions as merit, [but] the elixir of sunyata functions as the highest. Those who drink it for the sake of themselves and others are sons of the Buddha.

104.Salute these Bodhisattvas with your entire being! Always worthy of honour in the three worlds, guides of the world, they strive to represent the lineage of the Buddhas.

Conclusion: The reader is encouraged to produce bodhicitta. (105-111)

105.[In] Mahayana this bodhicitta is said to be the very best.

So produce bodhicitta through firm and balanced efforts.

106.[In this] existence there is no other means for the realization of one’s own and others’ benefit. The Buddhas have until now seen no means apart from bodhicitta.

107.Simply by generating bodhicitta a mass of merit is collected.

If it took form, it would more than fill the expanse of space!

108.If a person developed bodhicitta only for a moment, not even

the Jinas could calculate the mass of his merit!

109.The one finest jewel is a precious mind free of klesas. Robbers

like the klesas or Mara cannot steal or damage it.

110.Just as the high aspirations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in samsara are unswerving,

those who set their course on bodhicitta must make [firm their] resolve.

111.No matter how amazing [all this seems], you must make efforts as explained.

Thereafter you yourself will understand the course of Samantabhadra!

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A final dedication of merit. (112)

112.Through the incomparable merit I have now collected by praising the excellent bodhicitta praised by the excellent Jinas, may living beings submerged in the waves of life’s ocean gain

a foothold on the path followed by the leader of those who walk on two legs.