--> Skip to main content

Sunyatasaptati – Text On Concept Of Nothingness By Nagarjuna

Sunyatasaptati is a text by Nagarjuna on the concept of Shoonyata or Sunyata (nothingness). It is a collection of seventy karakas (verses) elaborating on this theory of Sunyata (void, nothingness). The final three karakas are considered by later commentators to be interpolations. However, it is not easy to confirm this from the nature of discussion of the text, because the arguments are logically developed and conceptually integral.

In this work, Nagarjuna advances arguments to substantiate conclusively the concept of sunyata (void,nothingness). The method of argument is as follows –the dharmas (elements of existence) exist only relatively, i.e., are products of samvriti, and therefore, in the course of realization of Paramartha (Ultimate Truth), one cannot find the truth about the phenomenal reality. Everything is pratityasamutpanna (produced in dependence) or sunya (void); thus nirvana is of non-origination.

Using a rigorous method of analysis and interpretation, Nagarjuna refutes the conception of bhava (existence), karma (action), skandha (five constituent elements of human personality), especially rupa (material form of element). He says avidya (ignorance) disappears when it is understood that nothing exists really. Paramartha, the Supreme truth, is also Sunyata and anutpada (non-origination). Since the Supreme Truth cannot be conceptualized, one has to revert to samvritt (relative truth) with shraddha (faith).

There are three commentaries available on Sunyatasaptati by Indians, written in Sanskrit: one attributed to the self-same Nagarjuna; another one written by Candrakirti; and the third one by Parahita or Bhadra, an eminent scholar who lived and worked in Kashmir and Tibet at the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century CE. There are also a number of commentaries available on this work of Nagarjuna in Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, English and German, etc.