The Second Buddha – Acharya Nagrajuna
Acharya Nagarjuna is a renowned philosopher, mathematician and alchemist. He was a leader with profound spiritual insights and propounded the Madhyamika ( “the Middle Path” ) philosophy and wrote the treatise Pratitya Mulamadhyamika Karika. He described the concept of Sunyata or “Emptiness”. Acharya Nagarjuna is a Buddhist philosopher. Before the Buddha left his mortal body on the earth, he made a prediction that another soul would be born to uphold the teachings of Buddha in the land of Bharath. True to that prediction, 400 years after Buddha, the second Buddha had arrived. Aswaghosha preached Mahayana Buddhism and the Madhyamika principles of it was written by Acharya Nagarjuna. This Madhyamika Tatwa spread in China as three texts. Acharya Nagarjuna was responsible for the spreading of Mahayana Buddhism. Pragna Parimita Sutras were also written by him. He preached Buddhism in Nalanda University. With his preachings at Nalanda he became famous as an acharya. . Nagarjuna is also referred as the second Buddha.
Very little is known about the life of Acharya Nagarjuna. His biography was written in Chinese and Tibetan languages centuries after his death. Based on some proofs available. Nagarjuna was born in a vaidika Brahmin family belonging to Andhra region. After the birth of Nagarjuna, His parents were really upset because the town oracle had predicted that their newly born baby boy was going to live only for seven years. The couple was devastated to hear this. When the boy turned five, they were very sad and were not ready to see him die, so they sent him away on a pilgrimage with several other Buddhist monks who were visiting the town. This little boy sincerely followed the monks around and learnt all the mantras and yogic practices. The monks taught the boy a special mantra called the Amitabha mantra. Amitabha means eternal light and health. The boy sincerely repeated this mantra day and night, and lo! He turned seven, and was still alive! The Amitabha mantra had given him an extended life. This is the first of the many miracles that happened in this boy’s life.
Nagarjuna took sanyasa in childhood itself. He studied Hindu Tatwasaastram and mastered the Vedas and all of the existing Hindu sciences, including magic, while still a young boy. When Nagarjuna was born, astrologers predicted that he would live for either seven months or at the most seven years only. However, when he was taken to Nalanda for studies, where the Buddhist philosopher Saraha said that if he became a monk he would live longer and become a great scholar. It was proved correct. When he was a teenager he used his magical abilities to render himself and two of his friends invisible so that they might slip unnoticed into the royal harem of the local king’s palace. They took advantage of the situation and then made their escape. On attempting to leave, however, his friends neglected to make them sufficiently invisible and were caught and executed. Nagarjuna escaped, but this experience caused him to reevaluate the desires which had caused him to come so close to peril.
Inspired by this episode, Nagarjuna entered a Buddhist monastery. In a mere ninety days he studied and mastered the whole of the Pali canon, the early writings of Buddhism. He left the monastery in search of more advanced teachings of the Buddha that he felt sure after the time of the Buddha, some of the most important sutras had disappeared from the earth. It was believed that the Naga kings had taken the sutras to their land for safekeeping. The Nagas are serpent people and they are believed to live in the nether world, not on earth. Additionally, they were known to be not so friendly either. One day he was expounding upon the doctrine of the Buddha to a group of listeners and noticed that, following the lecture, two members of the audience disappeared into the ground. He followed them to what proved to be their home, the kingdom of the Nagas, a land inhabited by beneficent, half-divine, serpent- like beings. Here the Nagas presented Nagarjuna with the occult teachings and with several volumes of sutras, canonical scriptures. These writings were the Prajnaparamitas, the “Perfection of Wisdom” sutras. The Buddha had delivered these sacred teachings centuries before but had decided that they were too profound for his contemporaries. He arranged to have them hidden for safe keeping in the nether world until humankind had acquired the necessary sophistication and spiritual development to allow them to appreciate these teachings of “perfect wisdom.” Now that the world was ready, Nagarjuna was permitted to spread the Buddha’s final teachings.
According to Acharya Nagarjuna, Lord Buddha is the originator for Madhyamika method. Satavahana king Yagnasri Satakarni was largely influenced by Acharya Nagarjuna and and he built a Buddha Vidyalaya and made Nagarjuna head of the organization. This university became world famous because of Nagarjuna. Students from other countries also used to come here. Nagarjuna’s contribution to Buddhism was considered to be extraordinary. When there was a severe drought, he meditated and produced enough food for the entire Nalanda. After Lord Buddha, it was Nagarjuna who propagated Buddhism. Nagarjuna’s teachings spread to Tibet, China, Japan and to the islands of south east Asia. Nagarjuna’s teachings and philosophy is the principle cause behind the popularity of Buddhism in East Asia today.
In the latter parts of his life, Nagarjuna returned to Andhra Pradesh, where he was born, to continue preaching. The only wordly possessions Nagarjuna ever had was a golden begging bowl that the king has given to him with great devotion. Just as he was retreating to bed one night, he heard a thief outside his hut, and not wanting to get killed, he told the thief that he could take the golden begging bowl, as there was nothing else to give to him. The thief made off with the begging bowl, but returned the next day with the begging bowl and a request. When Nagarjuna asked him what he wanted, he replied “Oh monk! When you gave me the begging bowl, it made me realize how empty I am and how empty my life is. You displayed such a great sense of detachment from these wordly things that I was drawn to come back and learn from you.” The thief also joined Nagarjuna’s order and became a monk himself, after giving up his lowly way of life. This anecdote describes the effect that Nagarjuna had on people; even if they only interacted with him briefly, they felt cleansed of their sins.
according to the legends Nagarjuna lived for nearly 600 years, and little is known about how he gave up his body. In honor of this great monk, the Andhra Pradesh government named the magnificent dam on River Krishna – the Nagarjuna Sagar.
Special thanks to Randheer Mahapatra
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