Verses on the Middle Way ［中頌・中論頌・中論］ ( Madhyamaka-kārikā or Mādhyamika-kārikā; Chūju, Chūron-ju, or Chū-ron): Also known as Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā (“Verses on the Fundamentals of the Middle Way”). A work by Nāgārjuna (c. 150–250) that became the principal text of the Mādhyamika (Middle Way) school in India. The Treatise on the Middle Way, translated by Kumārajīva in 409, consists of Verses on the Middle Way by Nāgārjuna and a prose commentary on it by Pingala who lived from the late third through the early fourth century. Verses on the Middle Way consists of some 450 verses in 27 sections. Verses on the Middle Way opens with a passage known as the eight negations, which reads, “Neither birth nor extinction, neither cessation nor permanence, neither uniformity nor diversity, neither coming nor going.” It maintains that all phenomena arise by virtue of dependent origination, i.e., their relationship with other phenomena, and therefore that they have no independent existence of their own and are non-substantial in nature. It sets forth the principle and practice of the Middle Way, which transcends and is free from attachment to conceptual polarities such as existence and nonexistence.
The ideas in Verses on the Middle Way later gave rise to the Mādhyamika school, one of the two major Mahayana schools in India, the other being the Vijnānavāda, or Consciousness-Only, school, and greatly influenced the theoretical formation and development of Mahayana Buddhism. Commentaries on Verses on the Middle Way were written by Pingala, Buddhapālita, Bhāvaviveka, Chandrakīrti, and other scholars. The Akutobhayā (“Fearlessness”) is a commentary on the same work attributed to Nāgārjuna himself extant only in its Tibetan translation. Among the several existing commentaries, the Prasannapadā (“The Clear Worded”) by Chandrakīrti, is the only one extant in its original Sanskrit. It is regarded as particularly important because it is only through this commentary that much of the content of the Sanskrit original of Verses on the Middle Way, which is no longer extant, is knowable. In China and Japan, Kumārajīva’s Treatise on the Middle Way became one of the three central texts of the Three Treatises (Chin San-lun; Sanron) school.