The understanding of the nature of reality is the insight upon which the Buddha was able to achieve his own enlightenment. This vision of the sublime is the source of all that is enigmatic and paradoxical about Buddhism. In Verses from the Center, Stephen Batchelor explores the history of this concept and provides readers with translations of the most important poems ever written on the subject, the poems of 2nd century philosopher Nagarjuna.
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Ex-monk Stephen Batchelor has stirred up controversy in the past by marrying Buddhism to secular agnosticism. Now he goes right to the greatest Buddhist sage after Sakyamuni, Nagarjuna, for corroboration. In this translation of Nagarjuna's seminal work, Verses from the Center, we see Nagarjuna turning a skeptical eye to all dogmatic beliefs. But Batchelor, through his emphasis on the poetics of the work, moves away from polemics to experience--experience of the emptiness that pervades existence and teaches deeper truths. Verses from the Center is an extended meditation on the implications of emptiness, and thanks to Batchelor's limpid rendering, it prompts a meditative reading. Batchelor's opening essay, half of the book, is one of the best introductions you'll find on Nagarjuna's notion of emptiness, emphasizing that emptiness ultimately brings us back to face the world. In a chapter called "Acts," Nagarjuna says:
My acts are irrevocable--Brian Bruya About the Author:
Because they have no essence...
Where are the doers of deeds
Absent among their conditions?
Imagine a magician
Who creates a creature
Who creates other creatures.
Acts I perform are creatures
Who create others.
Stephen Batchelor is a former monk in the Tibetan and Zen traditions and the author of the national bestseller Buddhism Without Beliefs. He lectures and conducts meditation retreats worldwide, and is a contributing editor for Tricycle.
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