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Thesis and unpublished book on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, the central text of a school of thought that later evolved and migrated to become Zen Buddhism.
Also available in a nicely-formatted PDF (2002). See more about this topic at wikipedia.

Bachelor's Thesis, Reed College (Portland OR); advisor Kees Bolle.

Thinking in Buddhism:
Nagarjuna's Middle Way

by Jonah Winters

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1. Intro

2. The Buddha and His Teachings 3. Early Buddhism and The Historical Context of Nagarjuna 4. Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika 5. The Philosophy of Madhyamika 6. Conclusion

Notes: The most readable version of this thesis is the nicely-formatted PDF (created by Christopher Richardson in 2001). The 1994 original was written in the TEX publishing code, which did not allow for easy conversion to html. Some characters are missing. While I stripped 99% of the internal TEX formatting codes, some still remain, and the footnotes are in the body of the text. This thesis was, in print, 175 pages. In 2002 Gilles Therrien added formatting that was not included in the original. Emphases (underlining) are Therrien's.


Any research into a school of thought whose texts are in a foreign language encounters certain difficulties in deciding which words to translate and which ones to leave in the original. It is all the more of an issue when the texts in question are from a language ancient and quite unlike our own. Most of the texts on which this thesis are based were written in two languages: the earliest texts of Buddhism were written in a simplified form of Sanskrit called Pali, and most Indian texts of Madhyamika were written in either classical or "hybrid" Sanskrit. Terms in these two languages are often different but recognizable, e.g. "dhamma" in Pali and "dharma" in Sanskrit. For the sake of coherency, all such terms are given in their Sanskrit form, even when that may entail changing a term when presenting a quote from Pali. Since this thesis is not intended to be a specialized research document for a select audience, terms have been translated whenever possible, even when the subtleties of the Sanskrit term are lost in translation. In a research paper as limited as this, those subtleties are often almost irrelevant. For example, it is sufficient to translate "dharma" as either "Law" or "elements" without delving into its multiplicity of meanings in Sanskrit. Only four terms have been left consistently untranslated. "Karma" and "nirvana" are now to be found in any English dictionary, and so their translation or italicization is unnecessary. Similarly, "Buddha," while literally a Sanskrit term meaning "awakened," is left untranslated and unitalicized due to its titular nature and its familiarity. Another appellation of Siddhartha Gautama, Tathagata, is the only unfamiliar term consistently used in the original. This has been done because translations of the term do not do justice to its mystic import and esotericism.

Finally, two processing errors must be explained. The occasional appearance of an extra space in hyphenated words, such as "self- nature," is due to an unavoidable conflict between two processing programs used in formatting this document. The extra spaces are not due to poor typing or incomplete proofreading. Second, the reversed opening quotation marks were not fixable.

"Misery only doth exist, none miserable,
No doer is there; naught save the deed is found.
Nirvana is, but not the man who seeks it.
The Path exists, but not the traveler on it."
- -The Visuddhimagga
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