The Tree of Wisdom by Nagarjuna

Proponent of emptiness

Najarjuna — court advisor during the Satavahana dynasty
  • Najarjuna — court advisor during the Satavahana dynasty
  • He who undertakes work which he cannot carry out,
  • Who vies with the multitude and disputes with the powerful,
  • Who lets a woman know his thoughts —
  • The four gods of death sit at his door
  • Leaving the patron, Buddha,
  • And bowing to other gods,
  • Is like a fool who comes to the bank of the Ganges
  • And being thirsty digs a well.
  • When he was carried off by the King of the Birds
  • The White Lotus Serpent God said:
  • “He who tells secrets to women
  • “His life is lost there and then.”
  • If all these human beings
  • Could perceive the God of Death on their (own) heads,
  • Even in food there would be no flavour.
  • What need to mention other things?
  • Death does not wait to ask whether
  • your (composite) works are completed or not.
  • Therefore do to-morrow’s work to-day,
  • And the evening’s work in the morning.

— selections from The Tree of Wisdom by Nagarjuna

Nāgārjuna (c. 150–c. 250 AD) is an Indian philosopher and one of the earliest proponents of Mahayana Buddhism. While little is known about Nagarjuna’s life, he is believed to have been a court advisor to an Indian king during the Satavahana dynasty and that he was born in South India. His philosophy focused on sunyata, or the emptiness that Buddhism sees as key to true wisdom.

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