400 verses | Āryadeva
400 Verses on the Middle Path
by Āryadeva c. 3rd century
400 Verses on the Middle Path by Āryadeva (c. 3rd century), one of the fathers of Madhyamaka philosophy of Mahāyāna Buddhism and the main disciple of Ārya Nāgārjuna.
The work consists of 4 parts or 16 chapters:
1. Overcoming Incorrect Consideration; Parts 1-4
2. Overcoming Disturbing Emotions and Helping Others; Parts 5-8
3. Refuting Distorted Views about Time, Space and Self; Parts 9-12
4. Refuting Distorted Views about Perception and Causality; Parts 13-16
Part 1 | of 16
Indicating Methods for Ridding Yourself
of Grasping (at the Body as) Permanent
As the master over the 3 planes of perishable existence,
the Lord of Death, by self-nature, is without a creator,
what could be more improper than to fall asleep
while the real situation is that he will definitely come?!
Having been born for the sake of coming to die
and, under the power of other (things),
having the situation of going (ever closer to your end),
it would appear as though you were going to die,
not as though you were going to live.
You may see as short your time already spent,
and the future as otherwise,
but (whether) you think of these as equal or unequal,
it would seem as though you should cry out in fear at the obvious.
If death is not fearsome to you
because it is something general, shared with all others as well,
does it make you suffer with jealousy
when it ravages someone (else)?
Although (you might feel that) since sickness
can be cured and old age can be treated,
you need have no fear when they (come);
nevertheless, as there is no cure for your future demise,
you should fear what is grossly obvious.
Death is common to everyone:
(we’re) like cattle about to be slaughtered.
As you have seen death come in fact to others,
how can you not fear the Lord of Death?
Because the time (of your death) is uncertain,
you might feel, “I am permanent.”
Yet nevertheless, at some time,
the Lord of Death is going to ravage you.
If you sell yourself, looking for gain in the future (of this life),
but not at the fact that your life is depleting,
would any kind person say
you were smart (and knew) your own nature?
You have (simply) pawned yourself (for a future karmic debt).
To commit a destructive act for any reason
you certainly need to be totally free
of clinging to a "self," as are the wise (Arhats).
This thing called “life,” no matter whose, is nothing
but (a phenomenon that passes from) moment to moment of the mind.
But beings have not ascertained this and are thus unaware.
To be certain of this and know your own nature is rare.
If you take pleasure
in (the continuity of your life) lasting a long time
and yet you do not delight in the signs of old age –
oh dear, such action as yours would appear as correct
only to ordinary folk like yourself.
When you should be grieving about your own death,
why do you (grieve) about (the death of) your children?
You yourself are going to be snatched,
but if you (only) carry on (about others),
why should you not be ridiculed (by the wise)?
When it is so that certain beings,
without requesting, become your own children,
then it is not at all improper that they should depart
as well, without asking (permission).
Because of naivety, you completely refuse
to be without biased thought toward your child,
but his desire to depart is demonstrated by his old age.
To a father, his son is adorable,
but (to his son) he does not generate similar (feelings).
Such a worldly one (because of attachment to his children)
goes to a worse (rebirth).
For this reason, birth in a higher status is difficult to find.
When (a son) is disobedient, no one would call him adorable.
And when (he is obedient), your attachment is merely generated
(in exchange for) a certain cause, as in a business transaction.
The suffering that swells at parting
quickly wanes from people’s hearts.
This example of losing the suffering
(that comes) even in connection with attachment
demonstrates (attachment’s) infirmity.
(To conform with convention at another’s death)
even if you decide to inflict harm on yourself (in a show of mock grief,)
while realizing it has no advantage,
you’ve become an outward hypocrite to your nature,
and this, in addition, is unjust to yourself.
These worldly beings, as if brimming over with suffering,
wander about (from one birth to the next).
So what is the use of filling yourself up with (further) suffering
(by currying friendship) with (some other) person
who will (only) bring you suffering (when you have to part)?
Whatever (happiness) there may be
at gathering with someone,
why isn’t there (the same) happiness at parting?
Don’t gathering and parting come one with the other?
As the past has no beginning and the future has no end,
why do you look (only at the short time of) being together
and not at that of when being apart,
even though it’s for so much longer?
Periods of time, such as instants and so forth,
(by robbing your life) act as an enemy.
Therefore, by no means should you have longing desire
for these things that act as an enemy.
O base-minded one, if due to your fear of separation,
you do not renounce and leave your home,
then that which wise ones would definitely do
will be enacted to you as your sentence (by the Lord of Death).
If you think that after attending to these (homely affairs)
then for sure you'll go (into retreat) in the forest,
well, no matter what you've attended to,
you’ll have to give it up (when you die),
so what advantage is there in having attended to it?
Anyone who has gained conviction, thinking, “I shall die,”
has fully abandoned attachment,
and because of this, what fear has he
even for the Lord of Death?