Dharmapala Thangka CentreSchool of Thangka Painting

12.7 Nagarjuna

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Nagarjuna [dates for him are cited from ca. first centiry B.C.E, to second century C.E.] is known as the first of the Six Scholarly Omaments. The others are Aryadeva, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, and Dharmakirti.

Nagarjuna sits on a throne, his left leg extending beyond the throne and leaning on a lotus.

His distinctive feature is the snake hood canopy above his head is missing on this painting. His disciple Aryadeva kneess below him. One Bodhisattva [manifestation of Avalokiteshvara?] is depicted above Nagarjuna in the right upper corner.

Nagarjuna was born to a wealthy Brahmin Family in South India probably at the beginning of the second century C.E. He became a Buddhist monk and great philosopher who initiated the Madhyamika school, or the Middle Way, the highest Buddhist doctrine of wisdom refer-ring to the understanding of dependent origination, the relative nature of reality, and the ab-sence of absolute reality, or emptiness [sunyata].

He is sometimes said to have been the chief abbot of Nalanda, the great Mahayana Buddhist monastery / university near Bodhgaya, India [Nalanda University was not founded until the third century c.e., however].during his supposed tenure in Nalanda, the country entered a period of famine and there was no food for the monks.

According to one legend, Nagarjuna travelled to a distant planet and brought back a secret chemical said to change base metals into gold. With the gold he was thus able to make, Nagarjuna supported the monks for six years. When the monks learned that he was making and selling gold, however, they expelled him from the monastery since doing business without permission, even for their benefit, was against the rules of the Vinaya, the prescriptions for monks' behaviour. [However, a second Nagajuna, an alchemist, was in later days identified with the great Nagarjuna, and his works and deeds came to be attributed to the first one.]

After Nagarjuna left the monastery, he went to the forest, where he practised religion and reached the highest spiritual perfection of a Mahasiddha. During his lifetime, Nagarjuna gave many teachings, won many debates, and had many disciples. He also built many temples and stupas.

He was a prolific writer on such diverse subjects as Madhyamika philosophy and religion, how to make mandalas, the herbs with which to make incense, astrology, and stories of ghouls and vampires.

Almost all his books were translated into Tibetan in the eighth century during the reign of King Trisong Detsen and can be found in the Tanjur, the collection of commentaries on Buddha's sutras. One of his famous comments was: "Whoever is born has to die; whoever are together have to separate; whatever is saved has to be used; whatever is created is impermanent. So do not be upset over these laws of nature." His teachings are still widely followed in all countries practicing Mahayana Buddhism.

According to legend, he was invited to teach the nagas, water spirits that usually take the form of snakes. Although he was invited to remain with them, he would not, but received twelve volumes of the Prajnaparamita from them [now in the Nagarjuna Temple in Kathmandu] and naga clay with which to build Stupas. He is usually depicted with a snake Canopy above his head, showing that he had naga disciples and was protected by nagas. His name, Nagajuna, means that he was successful over the nagas.

The last part of Nagarjuna's life was spent in meditation at a mountain called Shri Pravarta in southern India, but there is little historical information. One common oral legend concerning his death recounts that his Hindu debating opponents begged him to die because they could not win in debates against him and they were powerless to harm him.

Nagarjuna agreed but said that only one of the debaters, who had been an ant in his previous life and was accidently killed by Nagarjuna with a Piece of kusha grass, had the power to kill him. This opponent, therefore, cut off Nagarjuna's head with a stalk of kusha grass.

After his death, Aryadeva, the second of the Six Scholarly Omaments, and one of his disciples, continued his teachings. there is disagreement as to how long Nagarjuna lived, with estimates ranging between 150 and 300 years!] His body is said to be preserved at Shri Pravarta, awaiting the arrival of Maitreya Buddha.

Measurements: 17.7 x 28.3" | 45 x 72 cm
Price: on request
Shipment: Parcel Service from Germany or Nepal
Color: Color Version
Material: Natural Stone Colors