Verses from the Center

Stephen Batchelor knows Buddhism and writes well, but Verses from the Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime is rather a failed experiment of a book. It centers on Batchelor's translation of poetry by Nagarjuna, a second-century Indian mystic-philosopher. But most of the material as presented is not at all poetic. Instead it reads like the pseudo-intellectual aphorisms of "The Sphinx", a wannabe-superhero character in the movie Mystery Men. Is the problem with the original Mulamadhyamakakarika or with the translation? An outsider has no way to tell.

Nevertheless, among the stanzas that Batchelor provides are some memorable images, e.g.:

Imagine a magician
Who creates a creature
Who creates other creatures.
Acts I perform are creatures
Who create others.
When buddhas don't appear
And their followers are gone,
The wisdom of awakening
Bursts forth by itself.
Your muddled conclusions
Do not affect emptiness;
Your denial of emptiness
Does not affect me.
The dissolving of objects
And easing of fixations is peace.
The Buddha never taught
Anyone anything.

See [1] and [2] for Batchelor's own presentation of a literal translation. Many of his comments in Visions from the Center are thoughtful and evocative, far more poetic than the original verses. Examples to follow ...

(cf. Buddhism Without Beliefs, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, Faith to Doubt, ...) - ^z - 2011-10-09