Buddhist Texts · indica lingua

♦ Again on Mūlamadhyamakakārikā VIII, 4 (in brief)

If we compare de Jong’s and de la Vallée Poussin’s editions of MMK, 4cd (we have already dealt with this kārikā here), we can notice the following difference:

de Jong:

hetāv asati kāryaṃ ca kāraṇaṃ ca na vidyate |
tadabhāve kriyā kartā kāraṇaṃ ca na vidyate ||

de la Vallée Poussin:

hetāv asati kāryaṃ ca kāraṇaṃ ca na vidyate |
tadabhāve kriyā kartā karaṇaṃ ca na vidyate ||

The Tibetan version of this half kārikā runs as follows: | de med na ni bya ba dang | | byed pa po dang byed mi rigs ||. This confirms the reading of de la Vellée Poussin against that of de Jong (bya ba = kriyā; byed pa po = kartā; byed = karaṇa). Moreover, de la Vallée Poussin’s MMK VIII, 4cd appears to be corroborated – as a textual evidence internal to MMK – also from the comparison with MMK XXIV, 17ab in which we find the same three words, even if in a different order: kāryaṃ ca kāraṇam caiva kartāraṃ karaṇam kriyam |.

Note the presence, in both the kārikās, of the two different terms kāraṇa and karaṇa, the first coupled with kārya, the second inserted in a list together with kartā and kriyā.


– de Jong, J.W. (ed. by), Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, The Adyar Library and Research Center, Madras 1977.

– de la Vallée Poussin (ed.by), Mūlamadhyamakakārikās (Mādhyamikasūtras) de Nāgārjuna avec la Prasannapadā commentaire de Candrakīrti, Bibliotheca Buddhica IV, St.-Petersbourg 1903-1913.

– May, J. (ed. and Franch trans. by), Candrakīrti Prasannapadā Madhyamakavṛtti. Douze chapitres traduits du sanscrit et du tibétain, accompagnés d’une introduction, de notes, et d’une édition critique de la version tibétaine, A. Maisonneuve, Paris 1959.

3 thoughts on “♦ Again on Mūlamadhyamakakārikā VIII, 4 (in brief)

  1. I suspect lay people think that the texts are all clear and settled, that we broadly agree on what they say.

    That you can still be pointing out stuff like this centuries later is really interesting – sometimes we’re still working out what the Sanskrit words are, and what they mean (and why), let alone trying to render that in European languages in a meaningful way. The difference between a long and a short vowel can make quite a difference!


  2. Jayarava, many thanks for having appreciated this post! If you are interested in another similar case that I have found in Bhavya’s Madhyamakahṛdayakārikā, go here: http://en.krishna.deltoso.net/a-brief-note-on-lindtner%e2%80%99s-edition-of-bhavya%e2%80%99s-madhyamakah%e1%b9%9bdayakarika-iii-253/
    Personally, I think that every ancient text of which we now have a critical edition shoud be revisited now and then. Take our case: de Jong has insightfully studied de la Vallée Poussin’s edition and nonetheless his edition still have some incongruences (emerged from the comparison with the Tibetan version). Of course we could also be here in front of a misprinted letter ‘ā’ for ‘a’. But the problem is that the first syllable of each pāda in an anuṣṭubh can be either long or short. Thus, both readings are virtually correct. Only the philosophical meaning of the kārikā helps us, and we are luky to have MMK XXIV, 17ab from which we infer that he sense of our kārikā must be the following: “if there is not causality, both a cause and an effect [from the context we infer “human cause” and “human effect”] are not evident, when they do not exist, activity, agent and the means for action [see Aṣtādhyayī I.4.49, if I remember well] too are not evident”.
    In this case the Tibetan version confirms the short ‘a’, but there are (several) other cases in which Tibetan is/could be misleading either because of a mistake in the translation or because the translators were working on an already corrupted manuscript .
    The analysis of ancient texts – as you know well – is always something delicate!
    k 🙂


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