I feel like I didn’t cap this up as totally as my other thread about Yogacara. I’m going to post a quick summary, now, and, later, when I have more time, I’m going to actually read through each paper referenced above and provide a short summary.
For now, I’ll say: Nagarjuna is interpreted as a few different things, each with self refuting, or redundancy creating negatives.
1.) Nagarjuna’s teachings are that nothing exists whatsoever.
The obvious response here, is that if nothing exists whatsoever, then Nagarjuna has nothing to teach us at all, and his Buddhism is a non teaching. There would be zero reason to read his works, nor study Buddhism, let alone anything else, at all. This is a silly, even asinine position. It, by definition, self refutes into oblivion.
2.) Nagarjuna’s teachings are not that nothing exists! Only that everything is relative, and that nothing is true.
The response, here, is that this is yet another self refuting, ridiculous idea. If nothing is true, because everything is relative, then it is impossible that the statement “everything is relative” could be true. Hence, here, again, Nagarjuna would be self refuting silliness.
3.) Nagarjuna isn’t saying any of that! You are misrepresenting the great Nagarjuna! He didn’t teach anything different from what the Buddha taught in the Pali Canon.
The only response here is: Well, if this is true, despite that being conclusively false (see above posts of mine, where I demonstrate that he taught literally the opposite of what the historical Buddha taught), then what in the world is all the fuss over his teachings about? Why would we need to read his teachings, when we already have the Pali Canon? Why would Nagarjuna have wasted his time composing so many works if his works are identical to the Pali Canon? Wouldn’t he have just directed students and seekers to the words of the historical Buddha? Wouldn’t he, at the very most, have written commentary on the suttas, rather than blathering on into total insanity about extreme relativism/nihilism, unless he didn’t believe those teachings were represented in the suttas? And, the most devastating argument, which utterly obliterates this idea: Wouldn’t he have rejected the Mahayana sutras, if this was the case? Obviously, this doesn’t at all support Nagarjuna’s teachings being worth anyone’s time, and is a redundant position.
4.) Nagarjuna taught the mystical, magical Mahayana version of the Dharma, which supersedes all Theravada Hinayana Dharma. We must have faith in this correct Dharma, as it is the next turning of the wheel of Dharma.
Response: Come, on, that’s a low ball. You guys aren’t even trying any more. Well, anyway: Nope. Historical consensus is that Mahayana has no direct connection to the actual Buddha whatsoever. The “Buddha” of the Mahayana sutras is a fictional character. Only postmodernist historians, and critical theory influenced and, otherwise “woke” historians would come to any other conclusion (for the unaware: these historians do not believe that objective reality exists, so, trust them if you dare). The objective fact is that Mahayana is a fictional religion that was created centuries after the Parinibbana of the historical Buddha. It was the religious equivalent of when a really great book series ends, and fans start writing fan fiction to keep the story going, and, because they’re just goofy fans, not the original writer, they tend to be outlandish, and silly.
5.) Well, Nagarjuna used magic powers to go to the Naga realm, where the Buddha hid the Mahayana sutras until humans were ready for them. So, the Mahayana sutras are written by the Buddha through magical means that are unverifiable by historians.
Wow, come on guys. Another low ball. This logic means that we must ignore all of history, and logic on what the Buddha taught, versus what is made up by babbling idiots, because any claim that the Buddha hid something in some magical realm is to be accepted purely on faith. Thus, if we accept that Nagarjuna is the magical man who brought forth the Buddha’s true teachings from the snake realm, we must also accept the crazy man on the street who claims the same, and presents us with new “authentic” teachings of the Buddha. This is essentially an open canon. where any idiot can add “legitimate” teachings to the canon, and we must accept them as 100% word of the Buddha. Even if, and perhaps especially if they’re utterly contradictory, ridiculous ideas, since that is the precedent set by Mahayana, supposedly “authentic” teachings of the Buddha. Wow. You have got to be kidding me! But, alas, sadly, no, this is actually a very common position. It is indefensible nonsense, but that doesn’t mean people don’t hold to this position anyway.
6.) Well, that last point is no different than the Theravada position that the Buddha taught the abhidhamma to his mother in the Tavatimsa realm!
No, it is entirely different. First, and foremost, the abhidhamma is mentioned by name in the Pali Canon suttas (ex: MN 32) and Vinaya, and is referenced as the matikas (ex: AN 6.51, DN 16), Thus, the Buddha himself mentioned it, as did his followers. There is, of course, zero reference to the Mahayana sutras in the Pali Canon. Second, the abhidhamma predates the Mahayana sutras by hundreds of years, and there’s no evidence that the abhidhamma doesn’t go back to the Buddha himself, and there is evidence that it does go back to him, as mentioned above, in the form of him, and his followers, actually mentioning the matikas, etc. in the Pali Canon. This argument is a false equivalency, and a straw man caricature of the Theravada abhidhamma.
Stay tuned for my summaries of four brilliant papers that completely destroy Nagarjuna, and thus, the entire Mahayana school, except for a hint of Yogacara, which is refuted in my other thread.
After reading the inexorable conclusions about Nagarjuna, and my other thread about Yogacara, the fact is apparent that Classical Theravada is, quite literally, the only option, because almost all other schools are infected, to some degree, by Mahayana. I hope, through these writings, to help at least a few people get over any fascination with Mahayana, and focus their precious time in the human realm on Classical Theravada practice.