ME6213: Śūnyatā Doctrine in Nāgārjuna's Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā

MA Course
Dr Fa Qing

The Śūnyatā Doctrine in Nāgārjuna's Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā
3 (3-0-6), 1:30pm-4:30pm, Friday, Classroom (2)

Course Description:
The course is designed to give an understanding of historical and philosophical significance of the Madhyamaka system of Nāgārjuna. The emphasis will be on understanding the philosophy of emptiness by reading the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā of Nāgārjuna.

The course will be roughly divided into three sections:
a. The doctrinal background of Madhyamaka philosophy its history in brief;
b. Study of Kārikās: a study of selected chapters; and
c. Philosophical religious issues arising from the doctrine of emptiness (the idea of two truths, the alleged identity of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, etc.).

Required Textbook:
Kalupahana, David J. Nāgārjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way. New York: State University, 1986.
Recommend Reference
Inada, Kenneth K. Nāgārjuna: a Translation of its Mūlamadhyamakakārikā with an Introductory Essay. Delhi: Sri Satguru, 1993.
Garfield, Jay L. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Berger, Douglas. “Nagarjuna.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. November 3, 2006
Arnold, Dan. “Madhyamaka Buddhism.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. November 3, 2006
Peter Della Santina. causality and emptiness:The Wisdom of Nagarjuna. Singapore: Buddhist Research Society. 2002.
Batchelor, Stephen. Trans. Mula madhyamaka karika: Romanization and Literal English Translation of the Tibetan Text. Sharpham College, April 2000. November 23, 2006.

Course Plan:
The course will be taught according the following topics, each week one topic. It is a traditional lecture based course, however students are encouraged to ask questions in the class. Students must read the require text book (Kalupahana, The Philosophy of the Middle Way.).

1.The background of the arising Mahāyāna (read the introduction chapter pp:1-7)
2.The Emergence of Madhyamaka (pp: 8-19)
3.Nāgārjuna and Mūla-Madhyamakakārikā (MMK pp: 26-81)
4.Causes and Effects: study the first chapter of MMK
5.Study Chapter 2 and 3
6.Study Chapter 4 and 5
7.Nāgārjuna’s critique on the theory of moments
8.“Dependent co-arising”
9.Examination of Bondage and Release
10.Examination of Karma and Effect
11.Examination of Buddha’s teachings
12.Chapter 24: Examination of The Four noble truth
13.Nirvāṇa and Saṃsāra are not Two (chapter 25)
14.Madhyamaka and its later development

Course Requirements:
Students require to read the assigned textbook according the course plan. The MMK (Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā) consists of 27 chapters. Two short essays (around 5 pages, double space with footnotes and bibliography) and two presentations (based on essay) are required, thus each student is advised to concentrate on two chapters of MMK respectively. The presentation will be 10 to 20 minutes. After presentation there will be question and answer session. Each student must ask at least one question after presentation.
For essay writing guide, read my article online at:

1. Two Presentations: 10%
2. Two Short Essays 40%
3. Final written exam: 50%
Course Objectives
Upon completion of this course the student will:
1.Understand the basic concepts of Madhyamaka such as “emptiness” (śūnyatā), “two truths”.
2.Understand the essential history and major issues of Madhyamaka.
3.Understand the different methodologies used by Nāgārjuna to response to the diversity of Abhidharmikas.
4.Be able to write academic essay and present ideas critically.