Nāgāhvaya

159-161. (Cleary]: With five fives plus five, and nine flaws, covered with nails, teeth, and hair, one is born, quivering. Like a maggot when newborn, the human being is as if awakened from sleep; form becomes visible by means of the eye, development proceeds from performance. With a combination of the palate, lips, and oral cavity, conceived by mental construction, human speech issues like that of a parrot, by false imagination.

Further elucidations bespeaking the skandhic-bundle. The most striking images here are comparing a newborn to a quivering-maggot, just squirming about in the dung of humanity. Also the formation of human speech that once developed, is the human element going through life just parroting what one hears.

  1. Philosophical doctrines are definite, but the Mahayana [or Great Vehicle] is not definite, it is set in motion by the thoughts of beings; it is not an abode for those who see wrongly. The vehicle realised within my own inner self is not the realm that can be reached by dialecticians.

Expressing the superiority of the Mahayana over the derisory philosophical schools based on speculative-thought. The “vehicle realized” here within one’s inmost self is not per-say describing the Great Vehicle itself, but rather the more transcendent One Vehicle of the Unborn Mind. Buddha-nature can never be realized through narrow dialectical thought, but only Self-realized within the Dharma-womb of the Sugata.

163 – 164. After the passing of the Teacher, pray tell me who will be the bearer [of the Mayhayana]? O Mahamati, thou shouldst know that there will be one who bears the Dharma, when sometime is past after the Sugata’s entrance into Nirvana.

  1. In Vedali, in the southern part, a Bhikshu most illustrious and distinguished [will be born]; his name is Nagahvaya, he is the destroyer of the one-sided views based on being and non-being.
  2. He will declare my Vehicle, the unsurpassed Mahayana, to the world; attaining the stage of Joy he will go to the Land of Bliss.

The Lanka is actually prophesizing here the coming of a great sage who will expand upon the Mahayana in most propitious ways. The general scholarly-sense indicates that this is describing Nāgārjuna, although Suzuki states, “In the Sanskrit text we have, instead of Nagarjuna, Nagahvaya, and of course we do not know whether they are one person, or whether there is a mistake on the part of the scribe.” The mystery deepens even further with the following:

As a younger contemporary of Nāgārjuna and Deva, and their successor at the college of Nālandā, we find somewhere mentioned a certain Nāgāhvaya, otherwise named Tathāgatabhadra. As Fa Hian does not speak of the college at Nālandā, though he visited the village, the story deserves no credit. It is more likely that Nāgāhvaya is synonymous with Nāgārjuna. (H. Kern, Manual of Indian Buddhism, pg.128

Nāropa attributes the Kāyatrayastotra to Nāgāhvaya (“the one called Nāga”), which is not very specific, and exactly how Nāgārjuna is referred to in the above prophecy in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra. Tāranātha 1980 (p. 126) has the same attribution, obviously considering Nāgāhvaya to be a different person. (In Praise of the Dharmadhātu, pg. 39

Of course, it is Nāgārjuna who is famous for dismantling “one-sided views based on being and non-being”. But historical analysis indicates that he was most likely born of a Brahmin family in the Indian district of Vidarbha, not as mentioned above. Furthermore, the latter quote implies that Nāgāhvaya is an altogether different person. I’m inclined to agree with the latter assessment. I’d wager that Nāgāhvaya actually preceded Nāgārjuna and was an illuminator of equal measure. The name means, as stated above, “the one called Nāga”. The Nagas take on much added significance in the first chapter of the Lanka. Hence, this “prophecy” concerns one who is a Māhānāga. Perhaps one who, Maitreya-like in stature, pointed his own scribe Nāgārjuna in the right direction to the Naga-kingdom in epic search of the Prajñāpāramitā. Additionally, his surname (above) is most significant—Tathāgatabhadra—indicating a most highly auspicious Tathagata indeed. Ergo, Nāgārjuna does not stand alone, he had help—a propitious spiritual counselor of a most outstanding stature.

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