Details of Karma: Madhyamaka Presentation

In accord with the Mahayana sutra and Sarvastivada abhidharma assertions, Nagarjuna listed seven types of karmic impulses, which included the mental factor of urges (sems-pa, Skt. cetanā) in actions of the mind, and revealing forms (rnam-par rig-byed-kyi gzugs, Skt. vijñaptirūpa) and nonrevealing forms (rnam-par rig-byed ma-yin-pa’i gzugs, Skt. avijñaptirūpa) in actions of the body and speech. Although Nagarjuna lived a half century after the The Great Extensive Commentarial Treatise was compiled in the early second century CE, which became the basis for the Vaibhashika presentation of karma, it is unclear how much this work influenced his brief statements about karma. Vasubandhu’s elaboration of the Vaibhashika system came only at the end of the fourth century and, although the Vaibhashika view of reality that he presented differed greatly from that of Nagarjuna, he also presented karma as including mental urges and revealing and nonrevealing forms. Later Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka commentators filled in some details about karma from Vasubandhu’s texts.

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