Treatise on the Middle Way, The ［中論］ ( Mādhyamika-shāstra; Chin Chung-lun; Chū-ron): One of Nāgārjuna’s (c. 150–250) principal works, translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva in 409. This Chinese translation consists of verses by Nāgārjuna and prose commentary on these verses by Pingala, who lived from the late third through the early fourth century. The Sanskrit text of Nāgārjuna’s verses, which is no longer extant, was titled the Madhyamaka-kārikā, or Verses on the Middle Way, and consisted of some 450 verses in 27 sections. It was regarded as the primary text of the Mādhyamika (Middle Way) school, one of the two main traditions of Mahayana Buddhism in India, the other being the Vijnānavāda (Consciousness-Only) school.
The Treatise on the Middle Way criticizes the assertion of the Sarvāstivāda school that the dharmas, or elements of existence, are real; based on the Wisdom sutras, it expounds the concept of non-substantiality and the practice of the Middle Way. It opens with the eight negations: neither birth nor extinction, neither cessation nor permanence, neither uniformity nor diversity, neither coming nor going. Through the process of negating established ideas of extremes, it leads one to the idea of emptiness, or non-substantiality, which is the core of Buddhist philosophy. The Treatise on the Middle Way explains that phenomena have no self-nature and are empty, or without substance, because they arise and disappear only by virtue of their relationship with other phenomena (dependent origination). This non-substantiality, definable neither as existence nor nonexistence, is termed the Middle Way.
Nāgārjuna’s conception of non-substantiality formed the theoretical basis of Mahayana Buddhism and exerted an inestimable influence on its later development. In China and Japan, The Treatise on the Middle Way became one of the three principal texts of the Three Treatises (Chin San-lun; Sanron) school, the other two being The Treatise on the Twelve Gates also by Nāgārjuna and The One-Hundred-Verse Treatise by his disciple Āryadeva.