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Outline of Nagarjuna’s “Precious Garland”

Adapted from the translation by Jeffrey Hopkins

Cover of book Practical Ethics and Profound Emptiness.

An accompaniment to Practical Ethics and Profound Emptiness: A Commentary on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland of Advice for a King by Khensur Jampa Tegchok, edited by Venerable Thubten Chodron. Tune in Thursdays at 6 p.m. PST for Ven. Chodron’s livestreamed teachings and watch past recordings. You can also listen to Khensur Jampa Tegchok’s teachings.

The following outline is according to Gyaltsap Je’s commentary. The corresponding verse number follows the outline.

1. The meaning of the title
2. The homage of the translator

I. Higher Rebirth and Highest Good

3. The meaning of the text

3.1 Setting the occasion

3.1.1 Offering of praise to the Buddha 1 Meaning of paying homage Excellent result for oneself Excellent result for others Brief meaning Praise Praising by way of the excellence which is one’s own goal Praising by way of the excellent abandonment that one’s own goal Praising by way of the excellent realization that is one’s own goal Praising by way of the excellence for the other’s goal Homage Meaning of the words

3.1.2 Promise to compose the text Subject matter Purpose Essential purpose Connection Meaning of the words 2a Reason for explaining the Dharma to a suitable vessel 2b
3.2 Actual explanation

3.2.1 General explanation of the cause and effect of higher rebirth and highest good Explaining the cause and effect of higher rebirth and highest good for each of them Setting the scene The order of the two factors 3 Identifying the causes and effects 4 Differences between the main and the secondary causes 5 Explanation of the characteristics of the person who is a suitable vessel 6, 7 Actual explanation of the causes and effects of higher rebirth and highest good Cause and effect of higher rebirth Extensive explanation Explaining the practices for higher rebirth Explanation of the sixteen practices for higher rebirth Thirteen practices to cease Refraining from the ten paths of nonvirtuous action 8, 9 Ceasing other blameworthy actions 10a Three practices to engage in 10b Summary The Tirthikas and other non-Buddhists don’t have these sixteen practices Engaging in imperfect paths harms oneself and others 11 People who go on the wrong paths 12 Disadvantages of engaging in a wrong path 13 The result of engaging in these wrong practices Causally concordant result of nonvirtue: a short life and so forth 14-18a Ripening result, rebirth in the lower realms 18b Result of virtuous karma is the opposite of those 19 Individual explanation of the results of virtue and non-virtue 20,21 How to practice 22 Result of practicing 23-24a Summary of the meaning 24b Cause and effect of highest good How highest good is explained in the sutras Brief explanation of the conqueror’s description How highest good is described 25 Why the naive become afraid at emptiness and the wise do not 26 The Buddha said the fear generated in the minds of the ignorant arises from true-grasping as its cause 27 Extensive explanation of highest good Showing that I-grasping and grasping at mine are mistaken Actual proof 28, 29 Showing that by abandoning them, one obtains liberation 30 Explaining the example of a reflection An example showing that realizing the aggregates and the person are not truly existent frees one from true duhkha and true origin 31, 32 An example of the opposite 33 Showing the cause of liberation 34 Bondage and liberation do not inherently exist The stages of entering cyclic existence Identifying the root of cyclic existence 35 Example showing how, dependent on the root, cyclic existence revolves 36 The stages of reversing cyclic existence 37, 38 The benefits of realizing emptiness 39 An explanation of the nature of liberation Fear of the extinction of true-grasping at the time of nirvana without remainder is inappropriate 40 Liberation is the extinction of all of true-grasping Showing the impossibility of an inherently existent non-thing being nirvana 41 Showing the impossibility of a thing being nirvana 42a The actual meaning of liberation 42b Distinguishing between right and wrong view 43, 44 Even at the time of nirvana with remainder, liberation is the extinction of true-grasping 45 Showing that all phenomena are free from the extremes of nihilism and absolutism Elaborate explanation Refutation of inherent existence of causes and effects Showing freedom from the extremes of existence and nonexistence regarding cause and effect 46 Showing that cause and effect do not inherently exist 47 Avoiding a contradiction with what is well-known in the world 48, 49 Showing that by realizing the meaning of nonduality one is liberated 50, 51 An example for understanding that An example of realizing and not realizing the suchness of things 52, 53 Refuting the inherent existence of the aggregates 54 If one doesn’t abandon the two extremes, one can’t become free of cyclic existence 55,56 Showing the absence of the fault of the extreme of nihilism The need to realize nonduality 57 Showing the [unwanted] consequence that the realization free of extremes entails having views of existence and nonexistence 58, 59 Showing that realizing that which is free from elaborations does not have the fault of nihilism 60 Freedom from the two extremes is a unique attribute of the Buddha’s doctrine 61, 62 Refuting the inherent existence of things Refuting coming and going existing from their own side 63, 64 Refuting the inherent existence of arising, abiding, and disintegration, the three attributes of conditioned phenomena 65 Tangentially, a refutation of others’ assertions Refuting the Vaisheshikas 66, 67 Refuting the assertions of the Vaishnavas 68 Refuting the inherent existence of the momentary The momentary must have parts 69 Refuting the inherent existence of that which has parts 70 Refuting the inherent existence of things by the reason free from one and many 71-73a The reason for not saying that the world has an end 73b-74 Summary How the Buddha taught the profound meaning of emptiness 75 The fault of fearing that 76-77a Advising the king to realize the profound 77b Exhorting the king to train in the profound meaning of emptiness Setting the occasion 78, 79 Explaining the two selflessness Selflessness of persons Unsuitability of the six constituents as the person 80, 81 Refuting an inherently existent person through a fivefold analysis 82 Selflessness of phenomena The form aggregate is not inherently existent Negation of the elements being inherently existent Refuting inherently existent identical and different 83 Thus the elements are not inherently existent 84 The composite of the elements is not inherently existent Mutual reliance within a composite is contradictory to inherent existence 85 Refutation of the answer to that 86 Dispelling further arguments 87 Refutation of proofs 88-90 Refutation of the inherent existence of the elemental derivatives 91a Application to other phenomena The actual explanation 91b-92 The reason proving the emptiness of inherent existence Explaining the meaning of all phenomena being empty of inherent existence 93 Explanation of the reason 94, 95 Stating a proof 96, 97 Freedom from the extreme of nihilism 98 Refutation of the inherent existence of space 99 Application of the same analysis to the remaining aggregates 100

II. An Interwoven Explanation of the Causes and Effects of Higher Rebirth and Highest Good An interwoven explanation of the two Causes and effects of highest good Refutation of the view grasping extremes Reminder through another example of what has been understood before 101 Actual refutation Self and selflessness do not inherently exist 102, 103 Neither things nor non-things exist inherently Actual presentation 104, 105 Reason for not making a statement regarding the four extremes 106 Rebuttal of an argument that not making a statement regarding the end of cyclic existence was incorrect An argument 107, 108 A response An example for cyclic existence not inherently arising or ceasing The profound is hidden for those who are unsuitable vessels 109 The actual example 110, 111 An example for no inherent coming and going 112, 113 Everything is only designated by name 114 Therefore not making a statement regarding the four extremes 115 Realizing the profound is difficult Why it is difficult to realize the profound 116, 117 Why the Buddha didn’t teach the profound to unsuitable vessels 118 Explaining the reason The disadvantages of misconceiving the profound 119, 120 An example of the advantages of correct conception and the faults of misconception 121, 122 Advice to be conscientious in realizing the profound meaning 123
Causes and effects of higher rebirth Causes and effects of higher rebirth Setting the occasion Circling in samsara because of not realizing emptiness 124 Advice to exert oneself in having higher rebirths until one realizes selflessness 125 The actual meaning Practicing the causes of higher rebirth General explanation of the practice of the causes of higher rebirth Training in the cause that has five advantages 126, 127 General training in the holy way 128 Giving up policies that are unholy It is inappropriate to follow bad political treatises 129 Scorning reliance on such bad treatises 130, 131 Showing that Dharma policies are best 132 Training in the special causes of higher rebirth Training in the four means of attracting others 133 Training in the four, speaking truthfully and so on Showing them individually Training in truth 134, 135 Training in generosity 136 Training in tranquility 137 Training in good wisdom 138 Summary 139 Relying on special companions, which is a cause for increasing one’s virtue Qualifications of a special friend 140 It is appropriate to follow such a friend 141-42 Continually meditate on death and impermanence 143 Abandoning the causes of lower rebirth Brief explanation 144, 145 Elaborate explanation Stop attachment to alcohol 146 Stop attachment to gambling 147 Stop attachment to women General refutation of the cleanliness of a woman’s body 148 Specific refutation of the cleanliness of a woman’s body Refutation of the parts of the woman’s body as being beautiful It is not appropriate to be attached because of being unclean in nature 149, 150 An example for that 151 If one is attached to women then one cannot be free of attachment 152 Even though it is unclean, foolish people like it, superimposing beauty and cleanliness on it 153, 154 Refutation of the beauty of that which possesses the parts General refutation of attachment to a woman’s body 155-57 Stopping attachment to its shape and color Stopping attachment to the color and shape of a woman’s body in general 158 Stopping attachment to beautiful bodies Attachment is inappropriate 159-61 Disgust is appropriate 162, 163 Just as the female’s body is unclean, so is your own 164-165a Through those, the unsuitability of attachment to the body 165b-166 Chiding those who praise women 167, 168 Refutation of attachment being the cause of happiness 169 The result of meditating on uncleanliness 170 Stop attachment to hunting Give up killing 171 Give up making others afraid 172 Make them happy 173 A summary of how to practice Dharma and abandon non-Dharma 174a Causes and effects of highest good Collecting the principal causes of awakening into three and training in them 174b-175 Training in the causes for the thirty-two signs Exhortation to listen 176 The actual explanation 177-196 Explanation of why the causes and effects for the eighty marks are not explained here elaborately 197 The difference between the signs and marks of a buddha and those of a universal monarch Difference in effects 198 Difference in causes 199-200a Example showing the difference in the effect 200b

III. The Collections for Awakening

3.2.2 Instruction to engage in the two collections that are the causes of peerless awakening The way in which they are collections Exhorting the king to listen 201 Collection of merit is immeasurable Actual explanation Attaining one hair pore of a Buddha by ten times the merit of solitary realizers and so on 202, 203 Attaining one mark of a Buddha by a hundred times the merit producing one hair pore 204, 205 Attaining one sign of a Buddha by a hundred times the merit producing all the marks 206 Attaining the hair curl by a thousand times the merit producing all the signs 207 Attaining the crown protrusion by a hundred thousand times the merit of the hair curl 208 Collections are incalculable but are taught to trainees as if measurable 209 Collection of wisdom is immeasurable 210 Result of the two collections is immeasurable 211 Results of the collections 212, 213 Brief explanation 214 Extensive explanation Advice not to be lazy about the collection of merit The merit from generating the aspiration for awakening is boundless 215, 216 Therefore it is easy to attain awakening 217, 218 The ease of attaining awakening because of the four immeasurables 219, 220 Advice not to be lazy about amassing the two collections A general indication of how the two collections eliminate physical and mental suffering 221 Merit eliminates physical suffering 222 Wisdom eliminates mental suffering 223 No reason for feeling discouraged about accumulating the two collections 224, 225 Showing the power and strength of great compassion 226 Summary 227 Entities of the two collections Advice to abandon what is discordant with merit and to collect merit 228 The results of the three poisons and their opposites 229 The actual two collections 230 Branches of the two collections Brief indication The branches of the collection of merit Establishing objects of offering Newly establishing 231, 232 Offering to those already established 233 Making offerings to them 234-36 Not offerings to the unworthy 237 The branches of the collection of wisdom 238, 239 Extensive explanation The branches of the collection of merit Actually giving one’s own property 240-252a Give other things away 252b-256 Give everything away 257, 258 Give according to specific wishes Give according to what they want. 259, 260 Give to the needy 261 Give according to Dharma 262-64 The branches of the collection of wisdom 265-76 Benefits that arise to one who amass the collections The arising of five common qualities 277-80 The arising of twenty-five special qualities 281-99 Summary 300

IV. Royal Policy: Instructions on the Practices of a Monarch

3.2.3 Advice to Train in Flawless Policy Transition Because most people are unable to point out the king’s faults to his face and only praise him, it is appropriate to listen to good advice 301-3 The Buddha himself said that one should listen to useful advice so listen accordingly 304 When the advice is useful, even if it has the short-term disadvantage of sounding harsh, definitely listen 305, 306 Extensive explanation Royal policy Increasing generosity 307, 308 Founding temples Training in vast actions and thoughts 309 Establishing centers 310 Special achievement 311-17 Maintaining what was established earlier General explanation 318 Appointing managers 319 Equal maintenance 320 Taking care even of those who aren’t seeking anything 321 Appointing ministers and so forth Appointing religious leaders 322 Appointing ministers 323 Appointing generals 324 Appointing treasurers and so on 325-27 Not degenerating the Dharma and training in the accomplishment Training in non-degeneration of previously existing practices Transition 328 The actual subject Gather people of unusual qualities and give them power 329 Make oneself compassionate Guarding with compassion 330 Be particularly compassionate to evil doers 331 Because it is appropriate 332 Free prisoners and make the prisons pleasant Free prisoners 333, 334 Make the prisons pleasant 335, 336 Send those who cannot be reformed elsewhere 337 Training to develop practices that you didn’t have before Practice the Dharma Send out agents 338, 339 Examples for that 340-42 Cease non-Dharma 343-45 Attaining liberation and not abandoning the universal vehicle scriptures Training in the path to liberation Refutation of the objects of craving—happiness and suffering—being inherently existent Negating the feeling of happiness being true happiness Transition 346, 347 Brief indication 348 Extensive explanation Refutation of proofs of real pleasure Refutation of a proof of mental pleasure being real 349, 350 Refuting proofs for real physical pleasure Refuting the collection of the five objects as a proof for inherently existent physical pleasure 351-53 Refuting individual objects as proof of real physical pleasure The actual refutation 354 The refutation of proofs Refuting inherently existent consciousness 355 Refuting an inherently existent object 356, 357 Refuting inherently existent faculties Refuting the inherent existence of the sense faculties and objects by refuting their cause, the elements 358 Refuting inherently existent elements 359 Therefore, form is not inherently existent 360 Refutation of the entity 361 Refuting inherently existent pain 362 The result of the refutation Showing that liberation comes from realizing emptiness 363 Identifying the subject, the mind cognizing emptiness 364 Both practitioners of the individual and universal vehicle need to realize subtle emptiness Even attaining liberation requires the realization of emptiness 365 The difference between the fundamental vehicle and the universal vehicle 366
The universal vehicle Not giving up the scriptures of the universal vehicle Extensive explanation Why it is unsuitable to forsake the universal vehicle scriptures Faults of disparaging the universal vehicle The way in which the universal vehicle is disparaged 367 Reason for disparaging it 368, 369 Faults of disparaging it 370, 371 It is therefore inappropriate to become hostile towards the universal vehicle It is appropriate to experience a little suffering when you can thereby eliminate a lot of duhkha 372 Do not be angry about a little suffering when practicing the universal vehicle, since it can eliminate all of your duhkha 373, 374 It is appropriate to exert yourself for great happiness and not be attached to small happiness 375-377 The suitability of liking the universal vehicle 378 Summary 379 Proving that the universal vehicle scriptures are the Buddha’s word The practices of the six perfections There is not the slightest bad explanation in any of the universal vehicle scriptures 380 The essential points for practice for those wanting to engage in the universal vehicle are shown in the universal vehicle teachings 381 Therefore the universal vehicle scriptures were taught by the Buddha 382 One needs to learn the complete bodhisattva path from the universal vehicle scriptures 383 The need to know the unique, inconceivable qualities of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha from the universal vehicle teachings Universal vehicle scriptures show that the causes for attaining the form body are limitless 384, 385 The fundamental vehicle scriptures’ explanation of the knowledge of extinction and the universal vehicle teachings on the knowledge of non-arising are the same in indicating the meaning of emptiness 386, 387 If one doesn’t understand the universal vehicle, it is correct to maintain a neutral attitude, not to disparage it 388, 389 Not all that practitioners of the universal vehicle need to practice is explained in the fundamental vehicle teachings Not all bodhisattva practices are explained completely in the scriptures of the fundamental vehicle 390, 391 One cannot attain awakening just by practicing the four truths and the thirty-seven aids to awakening 392 It is appropriate for the wise to consider the teachings of the universal vehicle to be the Buddha’s word 393 The purpose of teaching three vehicles 394-96 Summation 397, 398 Summary 399 Advice to ordain if you are unable to engage in these special practices 400

V. Practices of a Bodhisattva

3.2.4 Bodhisattvas who want to attain awakening quickly should become ordained Brief teachings on what bodhisattva householders and monastics are to adopt and discard 401-2 Extensive exposition Forsaking defects Extensive explanation of fifty-seven defects to be forsaken The first fifteen, anger, etc. One through fourteen, anger, etc. 403-6a Pride 406b-12 From hypocrisy to the forty-first, not thinking of death 413-25 The forty-second, proclaiming one’s own good qualities, etc. 426-33 Summary 434a Adopting good qualities Temporal good qualities General teaching Brief description of the entities of the good qualities 434b-435 Identifying their individual entities 436, 437 Individual effects 438 General effect 439 Excellent qualities of the ten grounds meaning Branch meaning Divisions of the ten bodhisattva grounds 440 Entity of each ground together with its qualities 441-460 Summarized meaning 461a Ultimate excellent qualities Showing that each quality of the Buddha is immeasurable The boundless qualities of a Buddha summarized in ten powers 461b-462a Examples of the immeasurability of the Buddha excellent qualities 462b, 463 The cause for developing belief in and appreciation of the buddhas’ qualities The reason the buddhas’ good qualities are limitless is that their causal merits are limitless Source for the limitlessness of the buddhas’ good qualities 464 Way to amass limitless merit 465 Brief presentation of the seven branches 466-68 Causes are limitlessness due to aspiring to help limitless beings 469-485 Immeasurability of the merit of those virtues 486 Sources 487

4. The action of concluding the text
4.1 Advice to generate joy in the practices and to observe the four practices
4.1.1 Generating joy in the practices 488, 489
4.1.2 Observing the four practices 490
4.2 The disadvantages of not relying on a spiritual mentor and the qualities of a spiritual mentor
4.2.1 Disadvantages of not relying upon a spiritual master 491
4.2.2 Qualifications of a spiritual master 492-493a
4.3 The supreme fruit is achieved through excellent behavior
4.3.1 Achieving the supreme fruit 493b
4.3.2 Advice to perform special deeds Extensive behavior 494, 495 Summarized way of behaving 496 Very summarized way of behaving 497
4.4 These practices are not only for the king but for everyone 498
4.5 Encouraging the king to heed the advice.
4.5.1 It is appropriate to think of the meaning of this teaching 499
4.5.2 It is appropriate to adopt qualities 500

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.

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