The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana (With Sanskrit Text of Madhyamaka-Karika)

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Item Code: IDC170
Author: Theodore Stcherbatsky
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd
Language: English and Sanskrit
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788120805293
Pages: 414
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0" X 6.0"
Weight 700 gm
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Book Description

From the Jacket:

The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana provides an English translation of Nagarjuna's chapters on Causality and Nirvana and Chandrakirti's comprehensive commentary on the Sanskrit Text and presents a rare exposition of the Madhyamaka Dialectic. The book is edited by Jaideva Singh with an exhaustive introduction, containing the historical background of the Madhyamaka philosophy, a lucid exposition of its merciless logic, an admirable presentation of its uncanny metaphysics and a systematic account of its soteriology and Buddhology. The editor has also provided an Analysis of Contents and has added those portions of the text and the Sanskrit commentary on the basis of which Stcherbatsky wrote out his book. This will enable the reader to make a comparative study of Stcherbatsky's version with Original Sanskrit.

Abut the Author:

Theodore Stcherbatsky (1866-1942) one of the pioneering scholars of Buddhist Studies who wrote, edited and translated several works like - Nyayabindu, Abhisamayalamkara Prajnaparamitopadesa Sastra, Buddhist Logic (2 Vols.), The Central Conception of Buddhism, Erkenntnistheorie and Logic, nqch der Lehre der Spateren Buddhisten and so on and so forth.



Mahayana and Hinayana

There are two aspects of Mahayana Philosophy, viz. the Madhyamaka Philosophy or Sunyavada and Yogacara or Vijnanavada. Here we are concerned only with Madhyamaka Philosophy or Sunyavada.

Generally there are three names current for Hinayana and Mahayana. The three names for the former are Southern Buddhism, Original Buddhism and Hinayana, and those for the latter Northern Buddhism, Developed Buddhism and Mahayana. The first two names are given by European scholars. Southern and Northern Buddhism are names used on Geographical basis. European scholars called Buddhism prevalent in countries to the north of India, viz., Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan etc., Northern Buddhism and that prevalent in countries to the South of India, viz., Ceylon, Burma, Siam etc. Southern Buddhism. This division is not quite correct, for, according to Dr. J. Takakusu, the Buddhism prevalent in Java and Sumatra which lie in a southern direction from India is similar to that prevalent in the North.

The division ‘original and developed Buddhism’ is based on the belief that Mahayana was only a gradual development of the original doctrine which was Hinayana, but this is not acceptable to Mahayanists. Japanese scholars maintain that the great Buddha imparted his teachings to his pupils according to their receptive capacities. To some he imparted his exoteric teachings (vyakta-upadesa) containing his ‘phenomenological perception;’ to more advanced pupils he imparted his subtle esoteric teachings (guhya-upadesa) containing his ‘ontological perception.’ The Buddha generally gave an outline of both the teachings, and both were developed by the great acaryas. It is, therefore, a misnomer to call one ‘original Buddhism’ and another ‘developed Buddhism.’ Both the teachings were delivered simultaneously. The exoteric teachings may be called well-known Buddhism and the esoteric less known, the latter being subtler than the former.

We have, however, to find out how the terms Hinayana and Mahayana came into vogue. According to R. Kimura, the Mahasanghikas had retained the esoteric teachings of the Buddha and were more liberal and advanced than the Vajjian monks were excommunicated by the Sthaviras for expressing opinions different from those of the orthodox school, and were denounced as ‘Papa Bhikkhus’ and ‘Adhammavadins.’ The Mahasanghikas, in order to show the superiority of their doctrines over those of the Sthaviras, coined the term Mahayana (the higher vehicle) for their own school, and Hinayana (the lower vehicle) for the school of their opponents. Thus the terms Mahayana and Hinayana came into vogue. It goes without saying that these terms were used only by the Mahayanists.

Three Phases in Buddhism

Three phases can be easily marked in Buddhist philosophy and religion.

1. The Abhidharmic phase from the Buddha’s death to 1st Century A.D.

This was the realistic and pluralistic phase of Buddhism. The method of this school was one of analysis. The philosophy of this period consisted mostly of analysis of psycho-physical phenomena into dharmas (elements) samskrta (compounded or conditioned) and asamskrta (uncompounded or unconditioned). The main interest in this period was psychological-soteriological. The dominant tone of this school was one of rationalism combined with meditation practices. The language used in this period was pali, and the school is known as Hinayana.

2. Development of Esoteric Teachings

The second phase consisted of the development of the esoteric teachings of the Buddha which were current among the Mahasanghikas, simultaneously with the abhidharmic phase. The main interest in this period was ontological-soteriological. The dominant tone of this school was one of supra-rationalism combined with yoga. The main attempt was to find out the Svabhava or true nature of Reality and to realize it in oneself by developing Prajna. The language used was Samskrta or mixed Samskrta. This school was known as Mahayana. The earlier phase was known as Madhyamaka philosophy or Sunyavada, the later as Yogacara or Vijnanavada. This phase lasted from 2nd century A.D. to 500 A.D.

3. Development of Tantra

The third phase was that of Tantra. This lasted from 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D. The main interest of the period was cosmical-soteriological. The dominant feature of this school was occultism. The main emphasis was on adjustment and harmony with the cosmos and on achieving enlightenment by mantric and occult methods. The language was mostly Samskrta and Apabhramsa. The main Tantric schools were Mantrayana, Vajrayana, Sahajayana, Kalacakrayana.

Here we are not concerned with the first and third phase. We are concerned only with the earlier phase of the second period. Stcherbatsky has provided a translation only of the first and twentyfifth chapters i.e. the chapter dealing with causality and that dealing with Nirvana of the Madhyamaka Sastra or the Madhyamaka-Karikas of Nagarjuna together with the commentary of Candrakirti. In the Introduction, an attempt is made to give a brief resume of the Madhyamaka system as a whole. Madhyamaka Sastra : Life of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva

The Madhyamaka philosophy is contained mainly in the Madhyamaka Sastra of Nagarjuna and the Catuh-Sataka of Aryadeva.

Books on Mahayana Buddhism were completely lost in India. Their translation existed in Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan. Mahayana literature was written mostly in Samskrta and mixed Samskrta. Scholars who had made a study of Buddhism hardly suspected that there were books on Buddhism in Samskrta also.

Mr. Brian Houghton Hodgson was appointed Resident at Kathamandu in Nepal in 1833, and served in this capacity up to the end of 1843.

During this period, he discovered there 381 bundles of manuscripts on Buddhism in Samskrta. These were distributed to various learned societies for editing and publication. It was then found out that the Buddhism in the Samskrta manuscripts was greatly different from that of the Pali Canon, and that the Buddhism in China, Japan, Tibet etc. was very much similar to that of the Samskrta works. Among the Samskrta manuscripts was also found the Madhyamakasastra of Nagarjuna together with the commentary known as Prasannapada by Candrakirti. This was edited by Louis de la Valleepoussin and published in the Biliotheca Buddhica, Vol. IV. St. Petersburg, Russia in 1912. An earlier edition of this book was published by the Buddhist Text Society, Calcutta, in 1897 and edited by Saraccandra Sastri. This was full of misprints. Poussin consulted this book, but he also used two other manuscripts, one from Cambridge and another from Paris. He also checked up the text of the Karikas and the commentary with the help of Tibetan translation. Dr. P. L. Vaidya utilised Poussin’s edition and brought out in 1960 Madhyamaka Sastra of Nagarjuna with Candrakirti’s commentary in Devanagari character. This has been published by Mithila Vidyapitha, Darbhanga. Stcherbatsky had utilized Poussin’s edition in writing out his Conception of Buddhist Nirvana.



Part I



Mahayana and Hinayana 1
Three phases in Budhism 2
Madhyamaka Sastra : Life of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva 3
The Original Sources of Mahayana 7
The Madhyamaka Works and Schools 11
The Madhyamaka Dialectic : Its Origin, Structure and Development 14
Positive Contribution of Nagarjuna 20
Distinction between Hinayana and Mahayana 22
Main features of Madhyamaka Philosohy
Preliminary 61
Mystic Intuition (Yogi-Pratyaksa) 63
Buddha's belief in personal Immortality 64
Was Buddha an Agnostic 64
The Position of the later Schools of Hinayana 64
The Double Character of the Absolute 65
The Vaibhasikas 66
The Sautrantikas 67
The Yogacaras 67
The Madhyamikas 68
The Doctrine of Causality in the Hinayana 69
The Doctrine of Relativity 70
The Real Eternal Buddha 70
The New Conception of Nirvana 70
Is relativity itself reality? 71
Parallel Developments in Buddhism and Brahmanism 72
European Parallels 72
The Position of Nyaya-Vaisesika 73
Conclusion 75
A Treatise on Relativily 76
Prefatory 78
Examination of Causality 78
Preliminary 78
The Meaning of Pratitya-Samutpada 78
The Meaning of this Term in Hinayana 78
The Hinayanist Interpretation rejected 79
The Opinion of Bhavaviveka refuted 79
Bhavaviveka's Criticism Unsound 79
The Definition of the term by Bhavaviveka 79
The Principle of Reality : The Law of all Pluralistic existence 80
Causality Denied 80
Identity of Cause and Effect Denied 80
Bhavaviveka assails the Comment of Buddhapalita 80
The First Objection of Bhavaviveka Answered 81
The Second Point of Bhavaviveka Rejected 81
The Madhyamika Method Explained Buddhapalita's Comment Vindicated from the Standpoint of Formal Logic 81
The Answer of the Sankhya Virtually Repudiated by Buddhapalita 82
Some Minor Points Explained 82
The Third Stricture of Bhavaviveka Answered. The Denial of one View does not imply the Acceptance of the contrary 82
Examination of Bhavaviveka's Formal Argument Against The Sankhya 83
Bhavaviveka's Argument Assailed From the Standpoint of Formal Logic 83
Another Attempt of Bhavaviveka to Vindicate His Argument 83
Bhavaviveka Also Avails Himself of the Argument That for the Monist All Individual Existence is Unreal 84
Another Formal Error in the Syllogism of Bhavaviveka 85
The Madhyamika Repudiates His Opponent on Principles Admitted by Him 85
Logical Refutation on The Basis of Facts Admitted By Only One Party 85
Denial of Causality Through Separate Substance 85
Combined Causality Denied 86
No Pluralistic Universe Without Causation 86
Causality Through The Will Of God 86
Mahayana And Hinayana Contrasted 86
The Direct And Indirect Meaning of Buddha's Words 87
How Is The Moral Law To Be Vindicated in An Unreal World ? 87
The Twelve Membered Causal Series Refers To the Phenomenal World 88
Controversy About the Validity of Logic 88
Controversy with The Buddhist Logician Continued 89
Critique of the Notion of AN Absolute Particular Point-instant 89
Introspection 90
The Discussion About The Point-instant Resumed 90
Is There A Cogniser ? 91
Vindication of Phenomenal Reality 91
The Definition of Sense Perception 92
The Hinayana Theory of Causation Examined 92
The Existence of Separate Energies Denied 93
Causation Is Not Co-ordination 93
The Cause-Condition 94
The Object-A Condition of Mental Phenomena 94
The Cause Materials Denied 95
The Special Cause Also Denied


The Hinayanistic Nirvana Rejected 96
The Mahayanistic Nirvana 96
Nirvana Not As Ens (a particular existing entity) 97
Nirvana is not Non-Ens (non-existing entity) 97
Nirvana Is The World Viewed Sub specie Aeternitatis 98
Nirvana Is Not Both Ens And Non-Ens together 98
Nor Is Nirvana A negation of Both Ens And Non-Ens Together 99
The Real Buddha, What? 99
Ultimate Identity of The Phenomenal And The Absolute 99
The Antimonies 99


Part II


Preliminary 1
Buddhism And Yoga 2
Mystic Intuition (Yoga-Pratyaksa) 18
Buddha's Belief In Personal Immoratality 23
Was Buddha An Agnostic? 24
The Position of The Later Schools of The Hinayana 26
The Double Character of The Absolute 30
The Vaibhasikas 31
The Sautrantikas 34
The Yogacaras 36
The Madhyamikas 41
The Doctrine of Causality In The Hinayana 45
This Doctrine Modified In Mahayana 47
The Doctrine of Relativity 48
The Real Eternal Buddha Cognised In Mystic Intuition 51
The New Conception of Nirvana 53
Is Relativity Itself Relative ? Condemnation of All Logic For The Cognition of The Absolute 57
Parallel Developments In Buddhism And Brahmanism 59
European Parallels 59
The Position of Nyaya-Vaisesika 62
Conclusion 69
Nagarjuna's Treatise On Relativity 72
Prefatory 72


Examination of Causality


Examination of Nirvana 81
A Comment Upon Nagarjuna's Treatise On Relativity By Chandrakirti 85
Examination of Causality 87
Preliminary 87
The Meaning of Pratitya Samutpada According To The Author 89
The Meaning Of This Term In Hinayana 90
The Hinayanist Interpretation Rejected 90
The Opinion Of Bhavaviveka 91
Bhavaviveka's Criticism Of Buddhapalita's Comment 92
The Definition Of The Term By Bhavaviveka 93
The Principle Of Relativity The Law Of All Pluralistic Existence 94
Causality Denied 97
Identity Of Cause And Effect Denied 98
Bhavaviveka Assails The Comment of Buddhapalita 99
The First Objection Of Bhavavieka Answered 99
The Second Point Of Bhavaviveka Viz. That The Answer Of The Sankhya Is Left Unnoticed By Buddhapalita, Rejected 101
The Madhyamika Method Explained 103
Buddhapalita's Comment Vindicated Form The Standpoint of Formal Logic 104
The Answer Of The Sankhya Virtually Repudiated by Buddhapalita 106
Some Minor Points Explained 107
The Third Stricture of Bhavaviveka Answered The Denial Of One View Does Not Imply The Acceptance Of the Other 108
Examination Of the Bhavaviveka's Formal Argument Against the Sankhya 111
Bhavaviveka's Argument Assailed Form The Standpoint Of Formal Logic 113
Another Attempt Of Bhavaviveka To Vindicate His Argument 114
Bhavaviveka Also Avails Himself Of The Argument The For The Monist All Individual Existence Is Unreal 118
Another Formal Error In The Syllogism Of Bhavaviveka 122
The Madhyamika Repudiates His Opponent On Priciples Admitted As Valid BY The Same Opponent 123
Logical Reputation On The Basis Of Facts Admitted by Only One Party 124
Denial Of Causality Through A Separate Substance 125
Combined Causality Denied 127
No Pluralistic Universe Without Causation 127
Causality Through The Will Of God 128
Mahayana And Hinayana Contrasted 129
The Direct And Indirect Meaning Of Buddha's Words 132
How Is The Moral Law To Be Vindicated In An Unreal World 133
The Twelve Membered Causal Series Refers To The Phenomenal World 140
Controversy About The Validity Of Logic 142
Controversy With The Buddhist Logician Continued 147
Critique Of The Notion Of An Absolute Particular Point-Instant 150
Introspection 152
The Discussion About The Point-Instant Resumed 154
Is There A Cogniser 156
Vindication Of Phenomenal Reality 158
The Definition Of The Sense Perception 165
The Hinayana Theory Of Causation Examined 174
Existence of Separate Energies Denied 177
Causation Is not co-ordination 179
Cause Condition 181
Object-a Condition of mental phenomena 182
Cause materials denied 184
Special cause denied 186
Examination Of Nirvana 193
Mahayanistic Nirvana, What? 196
Nirvana not an Ens 200
Nirvana a Non-Ens 203
Nirvana is This World Viewed 205
Nirvana not both Ens and non-Ens 209
Nirvana not a negation of both Ens and non-Ens 211
Real Buddha What? 213
Ultimate Identity of the phenomenal and the Absolute 215
Antinomies 215


Part III


       Madhyamaka Sastra of Nagarjuna
       Sanskrit Text With the Commentary
       Prasannapada of Acarya Candrakirti
Pratyaya pariksa 1
Nirvana pariksa


Part IV


Index To The Introduction 1
Index To Stcherbatsky's Text 5
Index To Subjects 17


Sample Pages

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