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To: talk.religion.buddhism,alt.religion.buddhism.tibetan,alt.religion.buddhism.theravada,alt.zen
From: "Mubul" 
Subject: Re: Nagarjuna
Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 09:26:25 -0500 wrote:

>Anyway, take this request as a serious one, not part of the food fight.
>Anyone want to take a shot at this, especially Prof. Hayes?

This message had my name written on it. How can I refuse to take up this
opportunity to display my ignorance and prejudice? (First let me scrape a
bit of food off my nose.)

>The question was:
>>> I really like the idea of consolidation of the concepts of
>>> impermanence rebirth to a moment-by-moment regeneration of all
>>> dharmas.  I first read about it in a tract by a Theravadin monk.
>>> I'd be interested to hear if Dharmatroll thinks this concept
>>> carries over successfully into Nagarjuna's conception of emptiness
>>> from the Karika.

There are various ways of reading Nagarjuna. One favourite way is to depict
him as a revolutionary figure who took out his sword of wisdom and hacked
away at the moribund scholasticism of the abhidharma teachers who had buried
the Dharma under layers of impenetrable concepts and silly definitions. So
people who see abhidharma as a "valley of dry bones" (to change the metaphor
and to quote a famous Buddhist studies specialist), in which the Dharma has
all but been lost, often see Nagarjuna as a figure who breathed life back
into the dying corpse of Buddhism.

I personally do not see abhidharma as a detour around Dharma or as a
moribund enterprise. I see it as the natural spelling out of the
implications of what the Buddha often said much more vaguely and
impressionistically. I see abhidharma as a vital mode of practice, not one
that is to everyone's liking, and not one that is necessary for liberation,
but one that is very powerful and well suited to the needs of intellectuals.
I also see Nagarjuna as very powerful. And I do not see him as refuting
abhidharma at all. Rather, what I see him doing is offering some cautions
against any kind of literalism, or any other sort of dogmatism. I see him as
warning against doing abhidharma badly, not against doing abhidharma at all.

So what I see going on in Nagarjuna is a brilliant spelling out of the
implications of the doctrines of no self and dependent origination. There is
nothing in him that would come as any great surprise to anyone familiar with
the Pali canonical suttas or the Chinese agamas. Nor is there anything in
him that would take the wind out of the sails of a good abhidharmist.

That said, one must acknowledge that there are some people who do Nagarjuna
badly, just as there were probably some individuals who did abhidharma
badly. (I do not believe that any entire school missed the point of
Buddhism; rather, I believe that every school has had a few individuals who
failed to get the point of Buddhism, or who at least expressed themselves

R.P. Hayes

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