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Nagarjuna and Aryadeva

Āryadeva (fl. 3rd century CE) (Tibetan འཕགས་པ་ལྷ་, 'Phags-pa-lha), was Mahayana Buddhist monk, a disciple of Nagarjuna and author of several texts on Madhyamaka philosophy. He is also known as Kanadeva, recognized as the 15th patriarch in Chan Buddhism, and as "Bodhisattva Deva" in Sri Lanka. He is known for his association with the Nalanda monastery in modern-day Bihar, India.[1] After Nagarjuna, he is considered to be the next most important figure of the Indian Madhyamaka school.[2][3]



According to one source, Aryadeva was born as the son of a Sinhalese king but renounced his life and became a monk.[3] A biography that was translated by Kumarajiva into Chinese states that Aryadeva was born into a South Indian Brahmin family.[4]

Aryadeva was a student of Nagarjuna and contributed significantly to the Madhyamaka school. He was known for his skill in debate.[2]


Most of Āryadeva's works were not preserved in the original Sanskrit but mainly in Tibetan and Chinese translations.

Four Hundred Verses[edit]

The Catuḥśataka śāstra kārikā (the Four Hundred Verse Treatise) is Āryadeva's main work. It is available in fragmentary Sanskrit, in Xuanzang's Chinese translation of the second part only, and in a full Tibetan translation.[5] It is a work of sixteen chapters. David Seyfort Ruegg outlines the content as follows:

(i—iv) Elimination of the erroneous positing of things as permanent (nitya), pleasant (sukha), pure (asubha or suci), and self (atman) (according to Candrakirti these four chapters which dispel the four viparyasas explain the nature of mundane things so that they may be abandoned and buddhahood may be achieved), (v) The Bodhisattva's practice (which makes it practically possible to achieve Buddhahood). (vi) Elimination of the defilements (klesa) which hinder the preceding, (vii) Elimination of attachment to the enjoyment of seemingly desirable sensory objects (visaya), which causes the defilements to arise and increase. And (viii) the practice of the disciple. The first eight chapters of the C!§ are thus concerned with the preparation of those who practise the path. The last eight chapters then explain the non-substantiality of the dharmas. They deal in turn with the negation (pratisedha) of (ix) permanent entities, (x) self (atman), (xi) time, (xii) dogmatic opinions (drsti), (xiii) sense-faculties and their objects, (xiv) the positing of doctrinal extremes (antagraha, e.g. existence, non-existence, both, and neither) with special reference to identity and difference, and (xv) the positing of conditioned (samskrta) things as real. Finally chapter xvi, entitled 'An exposition of the cultivation of ascertainment for master and disciple', is devoted to a consideration of logical and epistemological problems in the doctrine of sunyata. In particular, it is pointed out (in conformity with Vigrahavyavartani 29—30) that he who does not maintain a thesis (paksa) based on the positions of existence (sat), non-existence (asat), and both cannot be attacked in logic by an opponent (xvi. 25).[6]

There also exists a complete commentary to this text by Chandrakirti which is only extant in Tibetan.[7]

Other attributed texts[edit]

Two other texts which are attributed to Āryadeva in the Chinese tradition (but not the Tibetan) are the following:

  • Śataśāstra (Pai/Po-lun, Treatise in One Hundred Verses), which only survives in Kumarajiva's Chinese translation. However, according to Ruegg, the attribution of this work to Aryadeva is uncertain.[8]
  • Aksarasataka (One Hundred Syllables) and its Vritti is sometimes attributed to Nagarjuna in the Tibetan tradition, but the Chinese tradition attributes this to Āryadeva.[9]

Chinese sources attribute a commentary to Nagarjuna's Madhyamakasastra ascribed to a "Pin-lo-chieh" ("Pingala") as being a work of Āryadeva. But this attribution has been questioned by some scholars according to Ruegg.[2]

The Hastavalaprakarana (Hair in the Hand) is attributed to Dignaga in the Chinese tradition and to Āryadeva in the Tibetan tradition. Ruegg states it is likely by Dignaga.[9]

According to Ruegg:

The bsTan'gyur also contains two very short works attributed to Aryadeva, the *Skhalitapramathanayuktihetusiddhi and the *Madhyamakabhramaghata. In the Chinese canon there is found a treatise attributed to the Bodhisattva Aryadeva on explanations of nirvana given by twenty sectarian teachers mentioned in the Lankavatarasutra (Taisho 1640, translated in the first part of the 6th century by Bodhiruci).153 Another work ascribed to him is a refutation of four Hinayanist schools mentioned in the Lankavatarasutra (Taisho 1639, also translated by Bodhiruci).[10]

The Tantric Āryadeva[edit]

Several important works of esoteric Buddhism (most notably the Caryamelapakapradipa or "Lamp that Integrates the Practices" and the Jñanasarasamuccaya) are attributed to Āryadeva. Contemporary research suggests that these works are datable to a significantly later period in Buddhist history (late ninth or early tenth century) and they are seen as being part of a Vajrayana Madhyamaka tradition which included a later tantric author also named Āryadeva.[11]

Traditional historians (for example, the 17th century Tibetan Tāranātha), aware of the chronological difficulties involved, account for the anachronism via a variety of theories, such as the propagation of later writings via mystical revelation. A useful summary of this tradition, its literature, and historiography may be found in Wedemeyer 2007.


  1. ^ Niraj Kumar; George van Driem; Phunchok Stobdan (18 November 2020). Himalayan Bridge. KW. p. 253. ISBN 978-1-00-021549-6.
  2. ^ a b c Ruegg (1981), p. 50.
  3. ^ a b Women of Wisdom by Tsultrim Allione, Shambhala Publications Inc, p. 186.
  4. ^ "Āryadeva"
  5. ^ Ruegg (1981), p. 51.
  6. ^ Ruegg (1981), p. 52.
  7. ^ Ruegg (1981), p. 52.
  8. ^ Ruegg (1981), pp. 50-51.
  9. ^ a b Ruegg (1981), p. 53.
  10. ^ Ruegg (1981), p. 54.
  11. ^ Ruegg (1981), p. 54.


External links[edit]

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