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Nagarjuna Bodhisattva (Ryuju) Part 6

釈迦如来楞伽山 shaka nyorai ryogasen

為衆告命南天竺 ishu gomyo nantenjiku

龍樹大士出於世 ryuju daiji shuttose

悉能摧破有無見 shitsu no zai ha umuken

宣説大乗無上法 senzetsu daijo mujoho

(Chant Book pg. 18-19)


"Shakyamuni Buddha, on Mount Lanka,

announced to the multitudes that, in South India,

a great being named Nagarjuna would appear in this world

to thoroughly crush the wrong views of being and of non-being,

proclaiming the supreme Mahayana teaching."

Nagarjuna had achieved the 41st level of enlightenment out of 52. However, much to his frustration, he hit a brick wall in his ascetic training. He realized it would be impossible to attain a higher level of enlightenment. A bodhisattva named Mahoraga felt sorry for Nagarjuna, so he led him to a storehouse of Buddhist sutras called the Naga Palace and handed him various Mahayana (Great Vehicle) sutras. Nagarjuna finished reading through them all in 90 days. Amongst them he discovered the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life. In this sutra, Amida Buddha's Vow is taught. This Vow is a promise to save all people, no matter who they are, into absolute happiness without fail. In the instant of hearing Amida's Vow, Nagarjuna attained the 51st level of enlightenment. The 51st level of enlightenment is called the "stage of the truly settled" or "absolute happiness." It became completely clear to Nagarjuna that Amida Buddha’s Vow is the only way for all humanity to be saved. From that point onwards, he became fervently engaged in conveying true Buddhism.

At that time in India, there were many false religions and wrong schools of thought. Broadly speaking, they could be categorized into the "view of being" (有の見 u no ken) and the "view of non-being" (無の見 mu no ken). In short, the "view of non-being" is that there is no afterlife, and the "view of being" is that a fixed, unchanging soul continues to exist after death. Nagarjuna thoroughly rebutted both as wrong views.

When Nagarjuna heard that a Brahmanist king in southern India was opposing Buddhism, he went there alone to convey the teachings. However, it was very difficult to meet with the king. In order to approach the king, Nagarjuna enlisted as a soldier. He became distinguished because of his excellent leadership skills and quickly became a general. Now Nagarjuna had earned a position that would enable him to have contact with the king whenever he wished. Thanks to Nagarjuna's influence, the king eventually converted to Buddhism. Thousands of Brahmanist priests in the kingdom became Buddhists as well.

Through Amida’s Primal Vow, we will be saved into absolute happiness in the instant of hearing, and we will be born into the Pure Land upon death.

Nagarjuna dedicated his life to conveying this supreme Mahayana teaching, and he feared nothing. He was so fervent in clarifying true Buddhism that followers of false religions became deeply agitated. As a result, in the end Nagarjuna lost his life to the dagger of an assassin.

Murder is the lowest way of dealing with an unyielding opponent. But even this kind of persecution was unable to obstruct Nagarjuna's burning belief in true Buddhism. Nagarjuna had staked his life on his virtuous activities to share true Buddhism, which deeply moved many people. Thus the supreme Mahayana teaching - the Vow of Amida Buddha - began to spread more and more across India.