Nagarjuna said that Buddhism was the relinquishment of all views.
By ‘views’ he meant a comprehensive theory, or picture, of the world. A statement of how things are, worldpictures.
The Buddha himself conspicuously refused to answer general metaphysical questions put to him about whether the universe is permanent or impermanent, what happens to us when we die, and so on.
That was unusual at his time, 5th century B.C India, where religious figures were expected to expound a particular position or view.
The Buddha’s language can be seen as being strategic and situational, directed towards relieving the suffering of whatever particular person was in front of him, not stating a general theoretical position and working backwards to the concrete situation.
After some considerable time had elapsed after the Buddha’s death, some Buddhist schools attempted to craft what the Buddha had said into a coherent and comprehensive philosophy. This seems to have coincided with his teachings being written down and grouped together.
It’s that which Nagarjuna is reacting against when he’s talking about the relinquishing of views. And he’s doing that through a newfound emphasis on emptiness, derived from the prajnaparamita sutras.
He talked about the relinquishment of views because it seems an inescapable part of our nature as human beings to create pictures of the world. It’s as if we’re almost continuously seeing images of the world, of ourselves, and grasping these as reality.
If we do that, then this world, the only world in which we can experience joy, becomes a ghost cave. It becomes like dead ashes.
If we see a little bird singing its heart out, even if we had a book to translate birdsong, I don’t think that we would ask ourselves, “what is that bird saying, and is it true or not?” Rather, we would see the bird’s ‘truth’ in its full expression of itself. The bird however does not require to grapple with the polarity which we have, between the felt, particular and indeterminate, and the symbolic and abstract.
In his book, ‘The Master and his emissary’, Ian McGilchrist speculated that we had two languages; a left brain language and a right brain language.
The right brain language is older and is particular. It is song, poetry, metaphorical language. It’s expressive of a particular person at a particular time and place. It’s ‘true’ because the person is fully expressing themself. The person, in their expression, is true.
Left brain language by contrast is to do with making truth, making pictures of the world. It was given a tremendous boost with the invention of writing. And if you look at the earliest forms of writing, these aren’t magical statements about the nature of experience, they’re lists, they’re inventories:- “That’s my cow.” “That’s my land.” “That’s my slave,” and so on.
The question for us as human beings is, who we want to be and what we want our life to be. Whether we want our life to be an inventory or programme of gain and loss. Or if we want it to be like a billion stars.