Nāgārjuna's Ratnāvalī is a unique text, delicately weaving subtle philosophical argument with political, ethical and religious instructions. This combination between philosophy and worldly-oriented concerns causes Nāgārjuna to define the Madhyamaka's philosophical contribution in remarkably lucid fashion. This paper is an attempt to listen to the Ratnāvalī's philosophy in its own terms and to define the basic position put forward by Nāgārjuna in the text: While attempting to convert his patron Sātavāhana king to a Mahāyāna viewpoint, Nāgārjuna redefines the Buddha's nirvāna as the ontological nature of reality; the Buddha's "cessation" upon his passing into nirvāna is interpreted as a description of how the world exists, beyond existence and non-existence. Thus Nāgārjuna is able to supply a new explanation for fundamental Buddhist portraits of the Buddha - why the Buddha refrained from answering metaphysical questions about the nature of the world and why his teachings were termed, "deep", "ungraspable" and "without foundation."
- Precious Garland