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The Mulamadhyamaka-karika (Skt. mūlamadhyamakakārikā; Tib. དབུ་མ་རྩ་བ་ཤེས་རབ་, Uma Tsawa Sherab, Wyl. dbu ma rtsa ba shes rab; Trad. Chin. 中論) or Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way, is a key text of the Madhyamaka-school, written by the great Indian teacher Nagarjuna.

This text belongs to Nagarjuna’s Collection of Middle Way Reasoning.

Alternate names for the text


  • Mulamadhyamaka-karika
  • Prajñā-nāma-mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Buswell, Rigpa wiki)
  • Mūlamadhyamakakārikā-prajñā-nāma
  • Madhyamaka-shastra (title used by Kumarajiva in his Chinese translation)

English language:

  • Root Verses of the Middle Way
  • Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way
  • Fundamental Stanzas of the Middle Way (Jay Garfield 1994)
  • The Root Verses on the Wisdom of the Middle Way (Rigpa Wiki)
  • Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way (Jay Garfield 1995, Brad Warner)
  • The Root Stanzas on the Middle Way (Padmakara)
  • Verses from the Center (Stephen Batchelor)

Chinese language:

  • Zhong lun ("The Chinese analogue of this text is the Zhong lun, which renders the title as Madhyamaka-shastra. This Chinese version was edited and translated by Kumārajīva. Kumārajīva’s edition, however, includes not only Nāgārjuna’s verses but also Piṅgala’s commentary to the verses."Template:Princeton inline)

About the text

Introduction from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamsto

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso states: Template:Quote

Introduction from Jay Garfield

Contemporary scholar Jay Garfield states: Template:Quote

Relation to Early Buddhism

Sri-Lankan born scholar David Kalupahana examined this text in relation to the views of the Early Buddhist Schools. One colleauge wrote of Kaluphana's work: Template:Quote

Kalupahanna stated that the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā is... Template:Quote

According to Kalupahanna, in this work, Template:Quote


The Mulamadhyamaka-karika consists of twenty-seven chapters.

Each [chapter] is itself a commentary on a different statement made by the Buddha in the sutras comprising the second turning of the wheel of Dharma. Nagarjuna proves the validity of the Buddha’s teachings with logical reasoning. The chapters also answer the successive arguments put to Nagarjuna by those who believed that things truly exist. In each chapter, Nagarjuna would successfully refute one such argument; his opponents would then come up with another argument that they thought proved that things were real, and Nagarjuna would refute that, and so on—that is why there are twenty-seven chapters! They are all very beneficial to us because they help us to overcome our own doubts, the same doubts that Nagarjuna’s opponents had.Template:Sfn

The twenty-seven chapters are:

  1. Examination of Conditions (Skt. Pratyayaparīkṣā)
  2. Examination of Motion (Skt. Gatāgataparīkṣā)
  3. Examination of the Senses (Skt. Cakṣurādīndriyaparīkṣā)
  4. Examination of the Skandhas (Skt. Skandhaparīkṣā)
  5. Examination of the Dhatus (Skt. Dhātuparīkṣā)
  6. Examination of Desire and the Desirous (Skt. Rāgaraktaparīkṣā)
  7. Examination of the Conditioned (Skt. Saṃskṛtaparīkṣā)
  8. Examination of the Agent and Action (Skt. Karmakārakaparīkṣā)
  9. Examination of the Prior Entity (Skt. Pūrvaparīkṣā)
  10. Examination of Fire and Fuel (Skt. Agnīndhanaparīkṣā)
  11. Examination of the Initial and Final Limits (Skt. Pūrvaparakoṭiparīkṣā)
  12. Examination of Suffering (Skt. Duḥkhaparīkṣā)
  13. Examination of Compounded Phenomena (Skt. Saṃskāraparīkṣā)
  14. Examination of Connection (Skt. Saṃsargaparīkṣā)
  15. Examination of Essence (Skt. Svabhāvaparīkṣā)
  16. Examination of Bondage (Skt. Bandhanamokṣaparīkṣā)
  17. Examination of Actions and their Fruits (Skt. Karmaphalaparīkṣa)
  18. Examination of Self and Entities (Skt. Ātmaparīkṣā)
  19. Examination of Time (Skt. Kālaparīkṣā)
  20. Examination of Combination (Skt. Sāmagrīparīkṣā)
  21. Examination of Becoming and Destruction (Skt. Saṃbhavavibhavaparīkṣā)
  22. Examination of the Tathagata (Skt. Tathāgataparīkṣā)
  23. Examination of Errors (Skt. Viparyāsaparīkṣā)
  24. Examination of the Four Noble Truths (Skt. Āryasatyaparīkṣā)
  25. Examination of Nirvana (Skt. Nirvānaparīkṣā)
  26. Examination of the Twelve Links (Skt. Dvādaśāṅgaparīkṣā)
  27. Examination of Views (Skt. Dṛṣṭiparīkṣā)


Sanskrit text

Tibetan text

Selected verses

Verse 1:1

Jay Garfield translation:

Neither from itself nor from another,
Nor from both,
Nor without a cause,
Does anything whatever, anywhere arise.Template:Sfn

Ari Goldfield translation:

Not from self, not from other,
Not from both, nor without cause:
Things do not arise
At any place, at any time.Template:Sfn

Rigpa wiki translation:

Not from itself, nor from another,
Not from both, nor without a cause,
Does anything anywhere ever arise.[1]

Stephen Batchelor translation:

No thing anywhere is ever born from itself, from something else, from both or without a cause.[2]

Richard Jones translation:

No entities whatsoever are found anywhere that have arisen from themselves, from another, from both themselves and another, or from no cause at all.Template:Sfn

Verse 15:10

Jay Garfield translation:

To say "it is" is to grasp for permanence.
To say "it is not" is to adopt the view of nihilism.
Therefore a wise person
Does not say "exists" or "does not exist".Template:Sfn

Richard Jones translation:

To say “It is” is to grasp for eternal permanence. To say “It is not” is to grasp for complete annihilation. Therefore, the clear-sighted should not adhere to either "It is" or "It is not".Template:Sfn

Verse 16:10

Ari Goldfield translation:

There is no nirvana to be produced
And no samsara to be cleared away.
In essential reality, what samsara is there?
What is there that can be called nirvana?Template:Sfn

Verse 22:11

Jay Garfield translation:

"Empty" should not be asserted.
"Nonempty" should not be asserted.
Neither both nor neither should be asserted.
They are only used nominally.Template:Sfn

Verses 24:18-19

Jay Garfield translation:

Whatever is dependently co-arisen
That is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation,
Is itself the middle way.
Something that is not dependently arisen
Such a thing does not exist.
Therefore a non-empty thing
Does not exist.Template:Sfn

Verses 25:19-20

Stephen Batchelor translation:

Samsara does not have the slightest distinction from Nirvana.
Nirvana does not have the slightest distinction from Samsara.
Whatever is the end of Nirvana, that is the end of Samsara.
There is not even a very subtle slight distinction between the two.[3]

Verses 25:22-24

Stephen Batchelor translation:

In the emptiness of all things what ends are there? What non-ends are there?
What ends and non-ends are there? What of neither are there?
Is there this? Is there the other?
Is there permanence? Is there impermanence?
Is there both permanence and impermanence?
Is there neither?
Totally pacifying all referents and totally pacifying fixations is peace.
The Buddha nowhere taught any dharma to anyone.[4]



It is said there were eight important commentaries on the text in India, but only four of them have been translated into Tibetan and subsequently found their way into the Tengyur.

  • Buddhapalita, Mula Madhyamaka Vritti (Skt. Mūla-madhyamaka-vṛtti, in Tibetan referred to as the Buddhapalita commentary; Wyl. dbu ma rtsa ba'i 'grel pa buddha pā li ta)
  • Bhavaviveka, The Wisdom Lamp: A Commentary on the Root Verses on the Wisdom of the Middle Way (Skt. Prajñā-pradīpa-mūla-madhyamaka-vṛtti, Wyl. dbu ma'i rtsa ba'i 'grel pa shes rab sgron ma)


  • Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü
Ornament of Reason (translated by Dharmachakra Translation Committee)


  • "Middle Treatise" (中論 Zhong Lun), translated by Kumarajiva in 409. The author of this commentary is given as either "Blue Eyes" (青目; back translated as *Vimalākṣa) or *Piṅgala (賓伽羅). This is by far the best known commentary in East Asian Mādhyamaka, forming one of the three commentaries that make up the East Asian Madhyamaka (Salun) tradition.

Translations into English

Author Title Publisher Date ISBN Notes
Richard Jones Nagarjuna: Buddhism's Most Important Philosopher Jackson Square Books 2014 Template:ISBN A translation from the Sanskrit of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā and Nagarjuna's other available Sanskrit texts. A plain English translation intended for a general audience.
Mark Siderits and Shōryū Katsura Nāgārjuna's Middle Way: Mūlamadhyamakakārikā Wisdom Publications 2013 Template:ISBN A translation from the Sanskrit, with Sanskrit verses presented in Roman characters. Includes commentary that conveys interpretations given in extant Indian commentaries in order to capture the early Indian perspectives on the work.
Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Brad Warner Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika Monkfish Book Publishing 2011 Template:ISBN A modern interpretation from a Zen perspective.
Dharmachakra Translation Committee Ornament of Reason: The Great Commentary to Nagarjuna's Root of the Middle Way Snow Lion 2011 Template:ISBN A translation from the Tibetan of the root text and commentary by Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü.
Padmakara Translation Group The Root Stanzas on the Middle Way Éditions Padmakara 2008 Template:ISBN A translation from the Tibetan, based on (but not including) a commentary by Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche. This volume, containing both the Tibetan text and translation, was made to mark the visit of the Dalai Lama to France in August 2008.
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso The Sun of Wisdom Shambhala 2003 This commentary by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso includes translation of selected verses. Translated by Ari Goldfield.
Luetchford, Michael J. Between Heaven and Earth - From Nagarjuna to Dogen Windbell Publications 2002 Template:ISBN A translation and interpretation with references to the philosophy of Zen Master Dogen.
Batchelor, Stephen Verses from the Center Diane Publishing 2000 Template:ISBN Batchelor's translation is the first nonacademic, idiomatic English version of the text. This translation is available online; see Translations available online
McCagney, Nancy Nagarjuna and the Philosophy of Openness Rowman & Littlefield 1997 Template:ISBN Romanized text, translation and philosophical analysis.
Garfield, Jay L. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way Oxford University Press 1995 Template:ISBN A translation of the Tibetan version together with commentary.
Kalupahana, David J. Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way State University of New York Press 1986 Template:ISBN Romanized text, translation, and commentary. Interpretation of the text in the light of the Canon.
Sprung, Mervyn Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way Prajna Press, Boulder 1979 Template:ISBN Partial translation of the verses together with Chandrakirti's commentary.
Inada, Kenneth K. Nagarjuna: A Translation of his Mulamadhyamakakarika With an Introductory Essay The Hokuseido Press 1970 Template:ISBN Romanized text and translation.
Streng, Frederick Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning Abdingdon Press 1967 (predates ISBN) Translation and considerable analysis.

Translations available online

The complete text of Stephen Batchelor's translation is available at these sites:

Similarities to Greek philosophy

Because of the high degree of similarity between the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā and Pyrrhonism, particularly the surviving works of Sextus Empiricus.[5] Contemporary scholar Thomas McEvilley suspects that Nagarjuna was influenced by Greek Pyrrhonist texts imported into India. However, since Pyrrho of Elis is known to have visited India, it is also suspected that his formulation of the Three Marks of Existence and the tetralemma was influenced by Buddhist and Jain philosophers (the so-called gymnosophists) from whom he is known to have learnt during his travels to India.[6]

See also



  1. Template:RW citation
  2. Template:Rangjung citation
  3. Template:Rangjung citation
  4. Template:Rangjung citation
  5. Adrian Kuzminski, Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism 2008
  6. Thomas McEvilley, The Shape of Ancient Thought 2002 pp499-505


External links

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Page is sourced from Mulamadhyamaka-karika