Physical Congruences of Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, Yukti-sastikâ, śūnyatā and Pratītyasamutpāda. Note Quote


The Middle Way of Mādhyamaka refers to the teachings of Nāgārjuna, very interesting are the implications between quantum physics and Mādhyamaka. The basic concept of reality in the philosophy of Nāgārjuna is that the fundamental reality has no firm core but consists of systems of interacting objects. According to the middle way perspective, based on the notion of emptiness, phenomena exist in a relative way, that is, they are empty of any kind of inherent and independent existence. Phenomena are regarded as dependent events existing relationally rather than permanent things, which have their own entity. Nāgārjuna middle way perspective emerges as a relational approach, based on the insight of emptiness.  śūnyatā (emptiness) is the foundation of all things, and it is the basic principle of all phenomena. The emptiness implies the negation of unchanged, fixed substance and thereby the possibility for relational existence and change. This suggests that both the ontological constitution of things and our epistemological schemes are just as relational as everything else. We are fundamentally relational internally and externally. In other words, Nāgārjuna, do not fix any ontological nature of the things:

  1. they do not arise
  2. they do not exist
  3. they are not to be found
  4. they are not
  5. and they are unreal

In short, an invitation do not decide on either existence or non-existence (nondualism). According the theory of  śūnyatā, phenomena exist in a relative state only, a kind of ’ontological relativity’. Phenomena are regarded as dependent (only in relation to something else) events rather than things which have their own inherent nature; thus the extreme of permanence is avoided.

In the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, a tetralemma is pointed out: “Neither from itself nor from another, nor from both, nor without a cause, does anything whatever anywhere arise”. In the Yukti-sastikâ, Nāgārjuna says, “That which has arisen dependently on this and that that has not arisen substantially (svabhavatah, स्वभावतः). What has not arisen substantially, how can it literally (nama) be called ‘arisen’? […] That which originates due to a cause and does not abide without (certain) conditions but disappears when the conditions are absent, how can it be understood as ‘to exist’?”

By the notions of ‘to arise’ and ‘to exist’, Nāgārjuna does not mean the empirical existence but the substantial existence. When in many passages of Mūlamadhyamakakārikā Nāgārjuna states that things do not arise (7.29), that they do not exist (3.7, 5.8, 14.6), that they are not to be found (2.25, 9.11), that they are not (15.10), that they are unreal (13.1), then clearly this has the meaning: things do not arise substantially. They do not exist out of themselves; their independence cannot be found. They are dependent and in this sense they are substantially unreal. Nāgārjuna only rejects the idea of a substantial arising of things which bear an absolute and independent existence. He does not refute the empirical existence of things as explained in the following: “It exists implies grasping after eternity. It does not exist implies the philosophy of annihilation. Therefore, a discerning person should not decide on either existence or non-existence”. (15.10)

For Nāgārjuna, the expression ‘to exist’ has the meaning of ‘to exist substantially’. His issue is not the empirical existence of things but the conception of a permanent thing i.e. the idea of an own being, without dependence on something else. Nāgārjuna refutes the concept of independent existence which is unchangeable, eternal and existing by itself. Things do not arise out of themselves, they do not exist absolutely and are dependent. Their permanent being or existence cannot be found. The many interpretations of Nāgārjuna which claim that he is also refuting the empirical existence of objects, are making an inadmissible generalization which moves Nāgārjuna near to subjectivism, nihilism and instrumentalism. Such interpretations originate in metaphysical approaches which themselves have a difficulty in recognizing the empirical existence of the data presented. This is not at all the case with Nāgārjuna. Nāgārjuna presents the dependence of phenomena mainly in images.

Pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद; Pali: पटिच्चसमुप्पाद paṭiccasamuppāda) is an indication of dependence. Dependent bodies are in an intermediate state, they are not properly separated and they are not one entity. Secondly, they rely on each other and are influenced or determined by something else. Thirdly, their behaviour is influenced by something in-between, for example a mover is attracted by gravitational force, a viewer is dependent on rays of light between his eyes and the object, a piano player’s action is determined by the fine motor skills of his fingers, an agent is dependent on his act. Pratītyasamutpāda is an indication of dependence and of something that happens between the objects. One object is bound to the other without being identical to it. The implicit interpretations of Pratītyasamutpāda, are in terms of time, structure and space.

The following citations and references illustrate the term Pratītyasamutpāda. Pratītyasamutpāda is used:

1. as Dependence in Nāgārjuna’s Hymn to the Buddha: “Dialecticians maintain that suffering is created by itself, created by (someone) else, created by both (or) without a cause, but You have stated that it is dependently born”.

2. as an intermediate state by Nāgārjuna: Objects are neither together nor separated

3. as bondage in the Hevajra Tantra: “Men are bound by the bondage of existence and are liberated by understanding the nature of existence”.

4. as an intermediate state by Roger Penrose: “Quantum entanglement is a very strange type of thing. It is somewhere between objects being separate and being in communication with each other”.

5. as something between bodies by Albert Einstein: “A courageous scientific imagination was needed to realize fully that not the behaviour of bodies, but the behaviour of something between them, that is, the field, may be essential for ordering and understanding events”.

6. as the mean between things in modern mathematics: to quote Gioberti: “The mean between two or more things, their juncture, union, transit, passage, crossing, interval, distance, bond and contact – all these are mysterious, for they are rooted in the continuum, in the infinite. The interval that runs between one idea and another, one thing and another, is infinite, and can only be surpassed by the creative act. This is why the dynamic moment and dialectic concept of the mean are no less mysterious than those of the beginning and the end. The mean is a union of two diverse and opposite things in a unity. It is an essentially dialectic concept, and involves an apparent contradiction, namely, the identity of the one and the many, of the same and the diverse. This unity is simple and composite; it is unity and synthesis and harmony. It shares in two extremes without being one or the other. It is the continuum, and therefore the infinite. Now, the infinite identically uniting contraries, clarifies the nature of the interval. In motion, in time, in space, in concepts, the discrete is easy to grasp, because it is finite. The continuum and the interval are mysterious, because they are infinite.”


2 thoughts on “Physical Congruences of Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, Yukti-sastikâ, śūnyatā and Pratītyasamutpāda. Note Quote

  1. Love it. I wish i was math informed to apprciate your physics stuff.

    The one issue I have though with such metaphysical reductions, regardless of how their explained or through wet series of symbols they might be explained —

    There is always a paradox between whether this is something that I am supposed to understand that somehow then transforms the way that I conceive or perceive a living of life or my life as I am living it, as if my understanding of it thus somehow changes some essential substrate in the universal or Kosmik substance or however you want to put it…

    For the question always seems to me: is there a connection between the symbols these words what we can call thoughts this thing or idea or absence or presence that I may call myself: do these conjoin?

    If they do not then I have no reason to be holding my dog on a leash right now so they don’t run out into the street chasing a squirrel and get hit by a car.

    But if they do then we have the hierarchical structures of religions that need to argue themselves into what is a better or best manner of describing some true situation of the universe.

    It wouldn’t seem that there is some sort of “origin” or “her or creator or essence or initial or impetus Joyner framer, that has some secret that were supposed to learn that other people are not learning.

    And so we come back to the contradiction of a religious idea.

    It makes me ponder if such metaphysical reductions really say anything about anything whether or not they’re encoded into scientific symbols or religious spiritual ones.

    What would you say about this?

  2. I totally concur with your drawing on the paradoxical claim here. But, conjoining religion, science and thereafter reductionism in the commonsensical manner is to draw on, or return to, the verstehen tradition in the history of science where explanation is ‘understanding’ and to claim that the explanation of religion is the exposition of a meaning rather than the location of a cause: to explain religion is not to seek a causal account in the first instance but to show how something is connected to a broader sphere or context and to demonstrate or translate a tradition’s semantic density into a language which is implicitly comparative. This kind of account is both descriptive and interpretative in drawing out the implications of description in theory-informed, semiotically sophisticated ways, and reasoning within the horizon of the western academy. This account is akin to phenomenology in wishing to offer thick description yet like hermeneutics in wishing to inquire beyond description.

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