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The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Sanskrit) or Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way, is a foundational text of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana philosophy, composed by Nagarjuna in approximately the second-third century CE. A collection of 27 chapters in Sanskrit verse, it is widely regarded as the most influential text of Buddhist philosophy and had a major impact on the subsequent development of Buddhism.
Sanskrit: Mula madhyamaka karika.
Tibetan: dBu ma rtsa ba’i tshig le’ur byas pa shes rab ces bya ba.

by Nagarjuna

Romanization and Literal English Translation
of the Tibetan Text

Stephen Batchelor


This document contains the romanized Tibetan text of Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika together with a literal English translation. Two Tibetan texts were consulted: the versions found in (1) The Asian Classics Input Project, Woodblock to Laser Source CD, Release A, Produced under the direction of Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, Washington DC, 1993, and (2) Dbuma Rigs Tshogs Drug: The Six Yukt Shastra of Madhyamika (pp. 1-37), edited by Prof. L.P. Lhalungpa. Delhi: 1970. The version here relies on both sources as well as the text embedded in the prose of Tsongkhapa’s An Ocean of Reason: A Great Exposition of the Root Text Verses from the Center (rTsa she tik chen rigs pa’i rgya mtsho). Varanasi: mTho slob dge ldan spyi las khang, 1973.

Each Tibetan verse is followed by a literal English translation. This translation served as the first draft for the free poetic version published in Stephen Batchelor.

In making the English translation, the primary authority was Tsongkhapa’s fourteenth century commentary: An Ocean of Reason: A Great Exposition of the Root Text Verses from the Center.

Any mistakes are my own.

Stephen Batchelor

Sharpham College

April, 2000

The title given in brackets below the title at the head of each chapter is the name of the poem found in Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime.

[Translator’s homage]

dBu ma rtsa ba’i tshig le’ur byas pa Shes rab ces bya ba bzhugs so////
rgya gar skad du//Pra dzny’a n’a ma m’u la ma dhy’a ma ka k’a ri ka
bod skad du//’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa la phyag ‘tshal lo

Herein lie the Root Verses of the Center called “Intelligence”. In the language of India: Prajnanamamulamadhyamakakarika. In the language of Tibet: dBu ma rtsa ba’i tshig le’ur byas pa shes rab ces bya ba. I prostrate to the youthful Manjushri.

[Nagarjuna’s homage]

/gang gis rten cing ‘brel par ‘byung//’gag pa med pa skye med pa//chad pa med pa rtag med pa//’ong pa med pa ‘gro med pa//tha dad don min don gcig min//spros pa nyer zhi zhi bstan pa//rdzogs pa’i sangs rgyas smra rnams kyi//dam pa de la phyag ‘tsal lo/