• Luigi

Nagarjuna and Impermanence


釈迦如来楞伽山 為衆告命南天竺 龍樹大士出於世 悉能摧破有無見 宣説大乗無上法

shaka nyorai ryogasen ishu gomyo nantenjiku ryuju daiji shuttose shitsu no zai ha umuken senzetsu daijo mujoho

(Chant Book pg. 18-19)

[the meaning] "Shakyamuni Buddha, on Mount Lanka, announced to the multitudes that, in South India, a great being named Nagarjuna would appear in this wworld to thoroughly crush the wrong views of being and of non-being, proclaiming the supreme Mahayana teaching."

Nagarjuna was born in Kosala, in the southern part of India, 700 years after Shakyamuni Buddha passed away. Shakyamuni Buddha had prophesied this in the Lankavatara Sutra. However, it was after Nagarjuna experienced various tragedies that he came to know true Buddhism and played a great role in conveying it to others. Nagarjuna was so intelligent by birth that by the time he turned 20, he had learned everything there was to learn in his time, including astronomy, pharmacy, divination, and other such academic subjects. It is said that people tend to make friends with similar people, and indeed, Nagarjuna had three close friends who were also very clever. One day, one of them said, “Since we’ve learned everything that there is to learn, there’s no more joy in learning for us.” Another friend said, “That’s true, but there are other pleasures besides the pleasure of learning. We haven’t indulged enough in sensual pleasures.” Everyone agreed, so they began pursuing women. Before long, they even began to sneak into the inner palace and would flirt with the King’s beloved beautiful women every night. However, conceit and lust drove Nagarjuna and his friends deeply into immorality, and at last into a terrible tragedy. What would happen to Nagarjuna?


In an act of youthful indiscretion, Nagarjuna and his friends started sneaking into the inner palace and would fool around with the King’s beautiful concubines every night. They were not found out for a while. This was because most of the women secretly welcomed their visits since they had few chances to see the king and were not allowed to see other men. However, the king eventually noticed something unusual about the women. He ordered an investigation, and became furious when he found out what was going on. He ordered his vassals to hide and wait for Nagarjuna and his friends and kill all of them. With no idea that the king's selected soldiers were hiding in wait for them, Nagarjuna and his friends sneaked into the inner palace as usual that night. The young men realized that it was a trap, but it was too late. All three of Nagarjuna's friends were immediately cut down with swords.

However, Nagarjuna made a quick decision and hid behind the king. The law at that time didn’t allow people to draw swords near the king. Nagarjuna managed to escape while the soldiers were hesitating. Nagarjuna's friends had been killed in front of him. He was horrified by the fearsome results of his bad deeds and the harshness of impermanence.

#SevenPatriarchs #impermanence