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Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime Paperback – July 1, 2001
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Ex-monk Stephen Batchelor has stirred up controversy in the past by marrying Buddhism to secular agnosticism. Now he goes right to the greatest Buddhist sage after Sakyamuni, Nagarjuna, for corroboration. In this translation of Nagarjuna's seminal work, Verses from the Center, we see Nagarjuna turning a skeptical eye to all dogmatic beliefs. But Batchelor, through his emphasis on the poetics of the work, moves away from polemics to experience--experience of the emptiness that pervades existence and teaches deeper truths. Verses from the Center is an extended meditation on the implications of emptiness, and thanks to Batchelor's limpid rendering, it prompts a meditative reading. Batchelor's opening essay, half of the book, is one of the best introductions you'll find on Nagarjuna's notion of emptiness, emphasizing that emptiness ultimately brings us back to face the world. In a chapter called "Acts," Nagarjuna says:
My acts are irrevocable--Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Because they have no essence...
Where are the doers of deeds
Absent among their conditions?
Imagine a magician
Who creates a creature
Who creates other creatures.
Acts I perform are creatures
Who create others.
From Publishers Weekly
Batchelor (Buddhism Without Beliefs) here translates and extensively comments upon Nagarjuna's 2nd-century masterpiece, Verses from the Center. Nagarjuna, the Indian philosopher-monk, is often revered for his deeds as a founder of the compassion-driven wing of Buddhism called Mahayana, but his writings have been unsung and largely untranslated (Batchelor's translation is the first nonacademic, idiomatic English version of the text). If Nagarjuna's teachings have been neglected, it may be because they are frustratingly difficult; Batchelor notes that while Nagarjuna was immersed in Indian traditions, elements of the Verses may be best understood as Zen koans. Indeed, Nagarjuna's dialectic poetry does contain the kind of maddeningly paradoxical statements that characterize classic koans. The Verses are preoccupied with the question of emptiness, which Nagarjuna sees not as an absence of meaning but as "a way to realize liberation of the mind." Emptiness, according to Nagarjuna, is the famed Middle Way of Buddhism and the closest vehicle to the sublime, though emptiness is slippery to attain. To illustrate the concept, Nagarjuna relies on a barrage of pairs of opposites, all the while expressing awareness that language and metaphors based on personal experience only inadequately reveal the true nature of emptiness. Although this bracing, abstruse text has been lovingly translated for accessibility, it remains a demanding philosophical treatise geared for the serious student of Buddhism, not the dilettante.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I found this to be an interesting book. I had to read it slowly because these are deep waters. I don't know how mainstream or radical the book is, but it explains without rancor of being right, and brings in other ideas about Emptiness that have been upheld during the long age of Buddhism. A book worth having for seekers. It is not a polemic.
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