In this short text, part of Nāgārjuna’s seminal “Sixfold Collection of Reasoning,” Nāgārjuna offers dynamic responses to ten hypothetical disputes that could arise in response to his exposition of emptiness in the first chapter of his text “Root Wisdom.” Although he does not name the disputants, the arguments likely reflect actual disputes put to him by both the non-Buddhist Nyāyā school and also other Buddhist scholars.
Two important themes that stand out are the philosophy of language and epistemology. Regarding the first, Nāgārjuna shows how language can still be used to make meaningful and persuasive arguments even in the absence of a findable referent to terms. Through his arguments, we can begin to understand the meaning of the oft-used maxim “merely
labelled.” In terms of epistemology, he questions how we can certify the existence of either mind or objects of mind without reference to the other, thereby offering a thoughtful challenge to theories of mind that either consider matter as primary and mind as an emergent property, or mind as real and matter as merely a fabrication of mind.
Through understanding his creative responses to these incisive questions, students will likely gain a clearer grasp of what is and is not meant by “emptiness.” As always, Ven. Gache will make every effort to relate these topics to modern views of the world, and convey not only what the text means but why this information is important and efficacious for those seeking spiritual liberation.
"If I had any thesis at all,
Then yes, it's true, I'd have this fault.
But since I have no thesis at all,
I'm absolutely free of fault!"
-Nāgārjuna, "Dispelling Disputes"
Students interested in preparing ahead of time are encouraged to read Jan Westerhoff’s “The Dispeller of Disputes,” an excellent translation of Nāgārjuna’s root text and autocommentary, but such reading is by no means required.
Venerable Tenzin Gache has lived, studied, and practised at Sera Je Monastery since 2006. Currently he has completed 14 years of the 19-year Geshe (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy). Ven. Gache is the translator of Choden Rinpoche's book "Mastering Meditation: Instructions on Calm Abiding and Mahamudra," For the past two years, while stuck in lockdown in Nepal and India, Ven. Gache has been engaged in an exhaustive study of Nagarjuna's works.Having grown up in a Western context, he is especially interested in understanding how ancient Buddhist wisdom can be made accessible to educated, thoughtful people in the modern world without diluting the profundity of the Buddha's message.
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Root Institute is a delightful, semi-monastic meditation centre.
To maintain a conducive, spiritually harmonious atmosphere for inner reflection and meditation, we kindly ask all our students, guests and visitors to observe the following guidelines:
Respect all life: do not intentionally kill any living being, even small insects.
Respect others' property: do not steal or take anything not freely given.
Be honest and straightforward: do not lie or intentionally deceive others.
Be celibate: no sexual activity; this also includes no romantic holding hands, hugging, massages and other physical displays of affection.
Be alert and mindful*: avoid intoxicants such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; we encourage you to stop smoking while here, but if this is impossible, you can smoke outside the gates.
Be considerate of others' silence: keep silence in the appropriate areas and at all times during residential courses, especially in the meditation hall (gompa) and dormitories; no singing or playing music and, in general, maintain a quiet demeanour while on the property.
Be considerate of the monks and nuns: dress respectfully; please no shorts above the knee, tank-top shirts, or tight and revealing clothing.
Couples: can stay in the same room for two weeks or less under the celibacy policy.
Please be aware:
* The Bihar state government has passed laws totally prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state, with very severe penalties! Please ensure that you do not carry any alcohol with you in Bihar.
Also, please note that those in service or teaching in FPMT centers and projects do not engage in the practice of Shugden and, due to our commitment to following His Holiness the Dalai Lama's advice and supporting his work, we do not share our materials and facilities with those who knowingly continue to practice Shugden against his advice.