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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 9 - 10, February 25 & March 4, 2023

Śūnyatā and Karl Marx | Pradip Baksi

Saturday 25 February 2023


by Pradip Baksi


About a year and a half before the publication of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, Erster Band (1867), there appearedintwo sentences withintwo of his letters, a particular view of the term शून्यता / Śūnyatā: renderedin his own English,asnothingness. He came to know about and understood this term in the context of some meditational practices of the monks, nuns and their householder devotees within some sects of the बौद्ध (Bauddha) धर्म (Dharma)/ धम्म (Dhamma) propagated in the name of शाक्यमुनि बुद्ध / Śākyamuni Buddha, which have been rechristened employing the umbrella word Buddhism by some Europeans. It appears from the evidence available so far that Marx had an encounter with this idea through his study of a text in Buddhist studies by his friend Carl (Karl) Friedrich Koeppen (Köppen). This article is about that encounter and about some of its consequences for investigations on the histories of human civilizations in Eurasia and beyond. It has three sections. The first section is about Marx, Koeppen and some features of European Buddhist studies of the nineteenth century. The second section contains some statements and remarks on the use of the adjective शून्य / Śūnya and the derived abstract noun शून्यता / Śūnyatā ascribed to the Buddha. The third and final section offers some observations on the trajectories of Bauddha editing of the oral discourses of the Buddha and those of Marxist editing of the written texts of Karl Marx.


Bauddha Dharma, Koeppen/Köppen, Marx, Marxism, Śūnyatā.


MAIN TEXT: §1. Marx and Koeppen (Köppen); §2. Śūnyatā; §3. From many Bauddha Dharma to many Marxism; NOTES;ABBREVIATIONS; REFERENCES


§1. Marx and Koeppen (Köppen) 

For about twelve years, from around 1862 to around 1874, Karl Marx conducted his critique of political economy as a part of his encyclopaedic investigations on many societies, issues and disciplines, amidst the continuous pain and agony caused by a skin disease called hidradenitis suppurativa 1. In March 1866 he went to the seaside English town of Margate, hoping to get some relief from this pain. While there, he wrote two nearly identical sentences in English in two of his letters, reflecting his views on what he thought was nothingness according to Buddhism2. He wrote:

1. “I have become myself a sort of walking stick, running up and down the whole day, and keeping my mind in that state of nothingness which Buddhaism [recte Buddhism] considers the climax of human bliss.” Karl Marx an Nanette Philips in Zaltbommel. Margate, Sonntag, 18. März 1866.

2. “As to myself, I have turned into a perambulating stick, running about the greatest part of the day, airing myself, going to bed at 10 o’clock, reading nothing, writing less, and altogether working up my mind to that state of nothingness which Buddhaism [recte Buddhism] considers the climax of human bliss.”Karl Marx and Laura Marx in London. Margate, Dienstag, 20. März 1866.

Marx did not add anything more about his understanding of the mental state of nothingness according to some sects of the Bauddha Dharma, lumped together and called Buddhism by the Europeans and by those among their partially Europeanized subjects and their descendants, constituting the past colonial and the present ex-colonial literati. Marx’s sentences on nothingness in Buddhism may be taken as expressions of self-deprecating sly remarks aimed at generating some comic effects for the benefit of his correspondents, and then maybe passed over in silence. Alternatively, these sentences may be taken as the ground zero for some serious investigations. This article goes for the second alternative. This choice stems from the fact that a major source of Marx’s exposure to European Buddhist studies of his time was a very serious work: the two volumes of Die Religion des Buddha von Carl FriedrichKoeppen. It is considered to be the first large-scale scientific critical treatment of Buddhism by a German scholar3. It has been published in 57 different editions and formats between 1857 and 20164.

Carl (Karl) Friedrich Koeppen (Köppen) (1808-1863) was a teacher at the Dorotheenstadt Secondary School in Berlin, a political journalist and a historian of ancient North European literature. He was interested in the renewal of European Enlightenment and in the critique of the European ideals of classical literature, idealist philosophy and romanticism. He was one of the most intimate friends of Karl Marx since their days together as fellow Young Hegelians5. During those days of their early intimacy, he had dedicated his book on king Friedrich II of Prussia, to his young “friend Karl Heinrich Marx from Trier”6. Their continuing relationship remains documented in a letter from Mrs. Jenny Marx (born von Westphalen) to Karl Marx’s publisher Franz Duncker, requesting him to send a copy of Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Erstes Heft (1859), “to senior teacher and author of works on Buddhaism [recte Buddhism] and Lamaism Friedrich Köppen in Berlin7. Köppen personally presented the copies of the two volumes of his Die Religion des Buddha to Marx sometime in March-April 1861, when they met in Berlin, and Marx considered this book by his friend to be “an important work”8.

Marx’s opinion about Koeppen’s work was shared by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)9, and by some other learned authors of survey articles published in such far away journals as The North American Review (1858)10, and The Calcutta Review (1874)11. Richard Wagner (1813-1883) did not like the book when he looked it up12 in search of materials for extending his unfinished prose sketch for a projected opera titled Die Sieger [The Victors]13 that he had planned to write around the characters of Prakṛiti, Ānanda and the Buddha depicted in the शार्दूलकर्णावदानं / Śārdūlkarṇāvadānaṃ [TheLegend ofŚārdūlkarṇa]14. Koeppen’s narrative did not resonate with his already formed mytho-poetic image of the Buddha shaped by some exposure to the earlier “European Speculations on Buddhism”15. Wagner did not compose the projected opera using that legend; others in East and South Asia used it in course of modernising the Beijing Opera and Bengali Nṛtyanāṭya (dance drama) in the twentieth century16.

It has been reported that Koeppen’s work was widely discussed by the European scholars engaged in Buddhist studies, spanning the two decades of 1860s and 1870s. He had sought and found in what he knew of the Bauddha Dharma, the affirmation of a purely human deliverance and the proclamation of the equality of all persons irrespective of their geographical locations and social statuses17. Before and after the publication of Koeppen’s book in Germany: “Divergent and contradictory ways of imagining the Buddha and Buddhism emerged, based on the translation and frequent conflation of sources from a diverse range of Buddhist discourses, as European thinkers in the nineteenth century debated issues such as whether (1) the Buddha’s teaching was world negating and pessimistic or an other-oriented ethics and way of life emphasizing compassion and tranquillity of mind; (2) its epistemology was empiricist or idealistic; (3) its highest principle concerned liberation or annihilation; and (4) its highest reality (nirvana) signified nothingness, the pantheistic unity of God and nature, the absolute in itself, or a primordial potentiality beyond and encompassing both being and not being”18. Within these discourses of European Buddhist studies of his time Koeppen presented and popularized an image of the Buddha “as an ethically oriented empiricist” 19.

Koeppen was well aware of the limitations of his book. He had earlier reported about the emerging Russian contributions to Buddhist studies in the German academic press20; and, wanted to improve his own book21 in light of the projected publications of Vasily Pavlovich Vasiliev [1818-1900]22. Vasiliev had inspected and studied many relevant texts during his stay in Beijing from 1840 to 1850. When he returned to Russia from China he brought with him some manuscripts and books on:1) the Buddhist dogmas according to the Sanskrit-Tibetan etymological dictionary महाव्युत्पत्ति / Mahāvyutpatti, compiled circa 8th-9th centuries23; 2) a review of Buddhist literature; 3) a translation from Tibetan of the History of Buddhism in India by Lama Tāranātha [1575-1634]24; 4) a history of Buddhism in Tibet; and 5) a translation from Chinese of the narratives of Xuanzang [602-664] depicting his travels in India25. Vasiliev had planned to publish these materials in several volumes26. The first and the third of those planned volumes were published. The projected second volume was never published. The unpublished materials collected by him were reportedly destroyed in a fire. Koeppen was aware of the existence of some of these texts but he did not live to see them published before his death in 1863. The level of Koeppen’s access to the codified and edited teachings of Śākyamuni Buddha and those of the various sects of Bauddha Dharma in the languages of Southern, Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Asia are comparable to that of those Anglophone students of Marx in our times, who may be aware of the existence of Marx’s papers in the original languages27 and about their publication within the aborted MEGA1, and the ongoing MEGA that now includes the MEGAdigital, and yet do not have adequate access to the same owing to their many linguistic, social, political, economic, technological, and other handicaps.

The epitaph on the title page of the first volume of Koeppen’s book reads: “Für denjenigen, welcher die Verkettung der Ursachen und Wirkungen kennt, giebt es weder Seyn, noch Nichts. Çakjamuni Buddha.” [“For one who knows the chain of causes and effects, there is neither being nor nothing”. Śākyamuni Buddha]28. It reflects an understanding of निर्वाण / Nirvāṇa signifying Śūnyatā / emptiness as a primordial potentiality beyond and encompassing both being and nothingness. One cannot go back in time to talk to Marx about what exactly was of interest for him here. So it is not possible to make a definitive statement about that. Let me attempt a conjecture: this view of the Śākyamuni Buddha may have had some resonance with Marx’s own evolving understanding of the many potentialities of human thought, society and the rest of nature in history, in the light of the various sciences known to him, as a series of rejection of empty and speculative ideas, concepts and theories through testable and open-ended uncovering of the many processes of continuous Aufhebung / sublation29 on planet earth.

§2.  Śūnyatā

The abstract noun Śūnyatā has been variously translated in Europe as Emptiness /Nothingness /Vacuité / Пустота / Nichts / Leerheit, from Sanskrit: शून्यता / Śūnyatā; Pali: सुञ्ञता / Suññatā; Chinese:佛教 / Kōng; Tibetan: སྟོང་པོ་ཉིད་ / Stong-pa nyid; and Vietnamese: 空 / Không. This noun is derived from the adjective Śūnya /empty. Bauddha tradition locates the use of the adjective Śūnya and that of the derived noun Śūnyatā as specific terms in some of the discourses of Śākyamuni Siddhārtha Gautama turned the Buddha (circa 563 BCE or 480 BCE 483 BCE or 400 BCE).

We read about his reported use of the adjective Suñña / Śūnya / empty as a specific term in a सुत्त / sutta [particular discourse] within the मज्झिम निकाय /Majjhima Nikaya [Collection of Middle-Length Discourses] of the सुत्तपिटक / SuttaPiṭaka [Basket of Discourses], one of the तिपिटक / Tipiṭaka [Three Baskets of Texts] of the Pāli Canon 30:

“The intellect is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Ideas...Intellect-consciousness...Intellect-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on intellect-contactexperienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-painthat too is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.”

The use of the derived abstract noun Suññatā /Śūnyatā / emptiness as a specific term by Śākyamuni Buddha are traced back to the shorter31 and greater32 discourses on emptiness in another part of the same basket of texts. There emptiness is understood and treated in a repetitive way in three modes: (1) as a meditative state of consciousness, (2) as a quality of objects and, (3) as a state of release from all awareness about all empty and hence useless ideas, terms and themes. It appears that while writing the two indicated letters in March 1866, Marx had in view this third mode of emptiness for which he used the word nothingness. He may have arrived at an understanding of this term through Burnouf (1844) and Hardy (1850), quoted in Koeppen (1857)33. The possibility of other sources of related information available to him cannot be excluded.

Upon arriving at the above indicated state of release from all possible biases and speculations one neither adds anything to nor takes anything away from what is present. One simply notes: there is this. This term was used by the Buddha to drive home the point that all mental constructs and all metaphysical speculations about the so-called Ātman (self), Brahman (universal principle of the cosmos) etc. extensively and repetitively used within the dominant Brahmanical lore, as well as all ideas and concepts generated around these terms, are empty and useless and, that is why, must not be indulged in. I propose that we sum up this critical teaching of Śākyamuni as follows: Reject all empty words and concepts and do not speculate about them!

The Buddha did not erect any Bauddha Dharma. The leaders of those who called themselves Bauddha did. Karl Marx did not construct any Marxism. The leaders of those who called themselves Marxist did. The Buddha did not construct any metaphysical system of speculations based upon the terms Śūnya and Śūnyatā. That is the work of some of the founders and builders of the subsequent schools of Bauddha Dharma and दर्शन / Darśana. The editing of and commentaries on the discourses ascribed to the Buddha several centuries after his death by the leaders of these schools led to a continuous conflation of the texts ascribed to the Buddha with the subsequent texts of and about many Bauddha Dharma. This collapsing of various texts belonging to different historical times and orientations for the construction of some of our ancient and mediaeval ideological traditions needs to be closely studied together with critical investigations on the modern and contemporary conflation of the texts of Marx with those of his many Marxist editors and commentators.

§3. From many Bauddha Dharma to many Marxisms

At some stage of evolution of the Brahmanical Dharmic, the Ru Classicist ethical and the Abrahamic religious ideologies of some of the relatively large scale complex political economies of Eurasia, there arose some of the first approximations of human desire for liberation from various forms of personal and social oppression. The early ideologues argued that such liberation was not possible on planet earth; and they imagined some non-existent space for it, to use Marx’s words: “the fantastic reality of heaven”34. Marx continued: “Man is the world of manstate, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realisation of the human essence, because the human essence has not realised its own actuality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

“The religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

“The sublation35 of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their actual happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about one’s own condition, is the demand to give up that condition, which requiresillusions. The critique of religion is thus in embryo, the critique of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo36.

The Buddha was one of the pioneers of the critique of cognate Dharmic illusions in South Asia. He rejected the empty Brahmanical lore of heaven, god, soul etc., and the corresponding ideological speculations prevalent in his milieux. He proposed that individual human liberation is possible here on this earth.

This fact remains hidden in plain sight, owing to the  dense ideological fog composed of the myriads of empty concepts and theories generated by the many past and present varieties of Bauddha Dharma, elaborated through their vast literature, organisational structures and monastic bureaucracy. The Buddha cannot be held responsible for the emergence and development of these ideological empires. Multidisciplinary scientific investigations involving multiple critical gazes on all aspects of the many Bauddha Dharma and Darśana are required for their sublation, in the interest of emancipation of the teachings of the Buddha from their bondage. The Buddha did not leave behind any written text. For his discourses he did not use संस्कृतम् / Sáṃskṛtam, some Northern variant of which he must have known as an educated and truth-seeking prince turned sage, hailing from the ruling शाक्य / Śākya clan of ancient कपिलवस्तु / Kapilavastu. He could not have used the codified and standardised literary पालि / Pāli in which his discourses were edited, about 500 years after his death. The lexicon, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics of the dialect or combination of dialects of the Middle Indic Languages that he may have used for his discourses remain a matter of conjecture. The ongoing linguistic investigations on the texts ascribed to him and their subsequent transformation in course of transmission across Eurasia and beyond still have a very long way to go. Before the attainment of the current level of progress of investigations in linguistics, history of ideas and translation studies, and even after, grave errors of mistranslation of Bauddha Dharma as Buddhism or as Die Religion des Buddha [The Religion of the Buddha] have been committed by such conscientious scholars as Marx and Koeppen in the nineteenth century, and by such expert of Middle Indic Languages and Buddha-studies as Kenneth Roy Norman (1925-2020) even in the twenty first century37. All of them have laboured under the huge burden of received discourses, speculations, practices and vocabulary of the many streams of Bauddha Dharma and academic Buddhist studies. Now, of course, such errors are unpardonable. A more appropriate translation of the word collocation Bauddha Dharma would be: The Belief Systems and Rituals of theBauddhas. It is common ground today that the connotations and denotations of the words धर्म / Dharma and Religion, and those of the words दर्शन / Darśana and Philosophy, both converge and diverge, but never coincide; and that is why, their widespread use as equivalent words lead to many gross distortions, oversimplifications and prejudices, which are still very stubborn and continue to dominate the empty and ritualistic discourses of the academic-industrial complex and those of the many domains of other industrial mass media.

The transformation of the heterodox and critical discourses of the Buddha in the image of the prevalent orthodox Brahmanical beliefs and practices, carried out in the interest of mass mobilisation, for gaining greater influence and control over the people of South Asia, led to their mutual cross-fertilisation and the emergence of numerous sects of both. As the many sects of Bauddha Dharma and schools of Bauddha Darśana spread out to different areas of Northern, Central, Eastern, Southeastern and Western Eurasia, the processes of such cross-fertilisation with some of the earlier and later belief systems and ideologies of those areas continued38. These processes of hybridization, introduced and developed for the reasons of managing some of the relatively large empires, or some smaller states and their political economies, inverted and weaponized the emancipatory teachings of the Buddha and produced some hypocritical ideological lores and rituals used for rationalising human bondage. Some instances of these are their use for the management of: (1) some of the very large empires of ancient and medieval India, China, Iran, Tibet and Mongolia; (2) the relatively smaller ancient and medieval kingdoms and current governments of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia; and (3) some affairs of the last cold war involving the governments of the USA, PRC, India and some monks and politicians of Tibet in exile. The situation in respect of the many schools of Marxism that have come up in many languages, and in many societies around the world since the death of Karl Marx appears to be somewhat similar. Similar yes, but there are some differences too. The Buddha died somewhere around 483 BCE and did not leave behind any written text, whereas Marx left a very large number of written texts when he died in 1883. These differences produce different orders of problems and difficulties for conducting investigations about what these two persons did, and what others said that they did.

Like the many Bauddha Dharma of the last two thousand years or more, the many Marxism of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries appeared on the scene first as oppositional and then as rulingpolitical ideologies, in many societies of Eurasia and the rest of the world. The many Marxisms continuously inverted and weaponized the scientific output and emancipatory discourses of Karl Marx for rationalising multiple forms of human bondage, including mass murder and harsh penal colonies, in the name of socialism. Here the examples include: (1) the Marxist Social Democracies subservient to the interests of capital and its empires in Germany and some other countries of Northwestern Europe; (2) the Marxist-Leninist autocratic party-statist governments and empires engaged in originary accumulation of capital and industrialization in many societies of Eurasia, Africa and the Americas, in the absence of a leading class of local bourgeoisie in those societies; and (3) the manipulation and use of these and of some other local ideologies derived from them by the out-of-power literati / intelligentsia of several countries of Africa, Asia and the Americas to serve their own interests, while pretending to serve the interests of the working people; for instance, in different parts of South Asia, just like the regional varieties of English colonial liberalism and socialism before them, all varieties of Marxism became subservient to the interests of the socially hegemonic ruling castes and classes.

Even when Marx was alive there were considerable difficulties regarding the publication of the tentative results of his ongoing critical investigations. On the 28th of December 1846, a 28 year old Karl Marx wrote from Brussels to the Russian literary critic and memorialist Pavel Vasilyevich Annenkov then living in Paris: “With this letter I should have liked to send you my book on political economy 39, but up till now I have been unable to have printed either this work, or the critique of German philosophers and socialists, which I mentioned to you in Brussels40. You would never believe what difficulties a publication of this kind runs into in Germany, on the one hand from the police, on the other from the booksellers, who are themselves the interested representatives of all those tendencies that I attack. And as for our own party, not only is it poor, but there is a large faction in the German communist party which bears me a grudge because I am opposed to its utopias and its déclamations41[stress added]. Subsequently, some of these empty utopias and rants of those within the German communist party during the middle of the nineteenth century who had a grudge against Marx, entered into the process of formation and development of the empty speculations and grotesque dystopias produced by the various sects of Marxists.

The General German Workers’ Association (founded by Ferdinand Lassalle in 1863) merged with the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany (founded by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1869) to form the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany at a congress held at Gotha, in May 1875. The draft platform of the Gotha Congress was sharply criticised by Marx42. That criticism had no effect on the delegates attending that congress. A few years later Engels’ Anti-Dühring was serialised in the Vorwärts, from 03 January 1877 to 07 July 1878. That text played a very important role in the emergence and development of various kinds of Marxisms and that of some of the later ideologies derived from them. Marx died in 1883. The Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany was renamed the Social Democratic Party of Germany [SDPG] in 1890. Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Programme” was edited and published by Engels about 8 years after Marx’s death, in 1890-91. From around the 1890s to around the 1950s the social democrats of Germany officially espoused and used many kinds of Marxisms in their quest for political power within, and management of, the industrialised bourgeois economy and polity of their land. The social democrats of some other countries of Europe followed suit.

  • After Marx’s death his works were edited and published first by his Marxist friend Friedrich Engels, and then by some other Marxists of Germany and Russia. Engels discussed several plans for publishing his and Marx’s texts in or out of Germany, with August Bebel, Franz Mehring and Richard Fischer before his death. In this context he wrote to Richard Fisher on 15 April 1895: “[...] I have a scheme for again presenting Marx’s and my lesser writings to the public in a complete editionnot, that is to say, by instalments but all at one go, in whole volumes. I have already been in correspondence with August < Bebel > on the subject and we are still discussing it. So, you might have a word with him when he gets back. I am by no means certain that an enterprise like this is really your cup of tea, nor do I know whether you, i.e., the publishing side of the Vorwärts are the best people for the job—quite aside from the harassment of the press which has already inclined me to believe that we may be forced to have recourse to a publisher outside the German Empire”43. This is perhaps the first ever articulation of a plan for publishing the works of Marx and Engels lumped together in a single edition of whole volumes.
  • After the Bolsheviks captured power in the Russian empire, the industrial-managerial Marxisms of the German social democrats mutated into Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism etc., Russian ideologies of originary accumulation of capital, aspiring for the future industrialization of that empire. David Borisovich Riazanov [1870-1938] was able to secure the financial and administrative favour of the empire’s new rulers such as Lenin, for publishing the works of Marx and Engels. He also obtained the consent of the leaders of the SDPG, at that time in control of the papers of Marx and Engels, for copying them, and the collaboration of some Marxists of Frankfurt am Main for the task of cataloguing and photo-copying the same. The editing and publishing of those papers culminated in what is now called the MEGA1. Riazanov was perhaps the most competent and resourceful person for that project at that time. He planned to publish the selected and edited materials in the following four divisions: I. all writings of Marx and Engels, save the “Capital” and its drafts (17 volumes); II. the texts on the “Capital” and its drafts (13 volumes); III. letters (10 volumes); and, IV. a general index for all the texts published in the divisions I-III (2 volumes).
    The collected writings of Marx and Engels could have reasonably been published in three divisions: Marx’s writings, Engels’ writings, and the texts jointly written by them; within each division there could have been several subdivisions of the published texts, Dubiosa, unpublished manuscripts, drafts, notes, excerpts and correspondenceeverything arranged, domain by domain of investigations, and in chronological order. However, Riazanov remained faithful to Engels’ legacy of Marxist editing and his scheme of 15 April 1895 indicated above. Here he followed the tradition of lumping Marx’s and Engels’ texts together in single volumes already established by such earlier and senior Marxist editors as Mehring, Babel and Bernstein. Save the texts and manuscripts related to the “Capital”, which already carried the marks of Engels’ hand, Riazanov decided to lump all the other writings of Marx and Engels together in chronologically ordered single volumes. This decision was useful for constructing the myth of some hyphenated “Marx-Engels” as the co-founders of the ideology called Marxism. This myth has erected a very large obstacle on the path of critically investigating the attainments and future potentials of Marx’s excerpts, drafts, incomplete manuscripts, and consequently, those of his scientific research programmes in many fields. It promotes the unhistorical and brazenly idealist notion that Marx was the first Marxist. It denies the fact that Marxism was founded as an ideology by some people who called themselves Marxists, after his death and, that is why, only within some Śūnya / empty ideological hallucinations or dreams or nightmares can he be viewed as a person subscribing to that ideology crafted by others using his surname.

The practical priorities and perspectives of the Marxist editors of Marx’s texts were often very different from the theoretical demands of Marx’s scientific research programme44. As a Marxist intellectual Engels was primarily concerned about the practical ideological requirements of the then emerging Social Democratic trade unions and political parties of Germany, and those of some other countries of Europe. The same holds good for the subsequent editors of Marx’s papers such as Karl Kautsky, August Bebel and Eduard Bernstein of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. The latter had the additional practical task of trying to capture and manage political power within the then industrialising bourgeois system of economy in Germany. After them, the Russian Social Democrat turned Bolshevik editors, like David Borisovich Riazanov and his team, engaged in editing and publishing what is now called the MEGA1, were required to coordinate their editorial activities with their new political and ideological tasks. These tasks were related to managing the various transitions from some old agrarian and pastoral political economies to some new industrial political economies, in the territories of the erstwhile Soviet Union. These transitions were extended over a very large part of Eurasia, containing many civilizations, involving many people, living in multiple cultural-historical time zones. Further, all of this was required to be handled without the hegemonic presence of a corresponding class of local bourgeoisie. As a consequence of the power struggles within the rulers of the USSR, Riazanov was relieved of his editorial duties in 1931, and shot dead in 1938. In between these two events, the publication of the MEGA1 was brought to an end in 1935, by those who were engaged in managing the ideology of the CPSU.

After a gap of about 40 years, the publication of what is now called the MEGA2 (1975-) started as a joint project of the Institutes of Marxism-Leninism of Moscow and Berlin. It was edited by some Russian and German Marxist-Leninists from around the early 1970s to the early 1990s. Since the withering away of the GDR in 1989 and of the USSR in 1990, the remaining volumes of the MEGA2 are being edited by some people engaged by the Internationale Marx-Engels Stiftung [IMES]. This new management took over the publication of MEGA2 after the collapse of the GDR and the USSR together with their Institutes of Marxism-Leninism. Some new editorial principles were formulated; however, the already published volumes were not revised. Many of the old Marxist-Leninist editors were retained.

Subsequently, some new editors possibly with greater competence in edition science were brought in. They did not carry the ideological baggage of Marxism-Leninism in their heads; however, they were mostly quite Marx-innocent people, raised and educated in Western Europe during the last cold war, carrying many of the ideological biases and values implanted by that upbringing. Further, the Marxist and non-Marxist or anti-Marxist editors of the MEGA2 are required to work within the limitations imposed by the contemporary German and global academic-industrial complex.

The Buddha and Karl Marx abjured empty metaphysical constructs and useless speculations; and yet the Bauddha and the Marxist ideologues of all shades have continuously indulged in idealist and metaphysical speculations around empty ideas, illusions, and delusions refusing to simply note whatever is present and to proceed from there. Such are the states of affairs as of now in respect of the edited oral discourses of the Buddha and written texts of Marx.

This article is only a preliminary outline of the two ends of the very large task at hand. It is necessary to conduct fresh investigations into the history of human civilizations in Eurasia and beyond, from the time of emergence of the many streams of Baudhha Dharma to the current phase of many Marxisms. Such investigations will be required to cover all the major ideological speculations in between. These include: the ancient Brahmanical Varṇāśrama Dharma transformed into later ideologies of ruling caste hegemony known by their umbrella exonym Hinduism since the nineteenth century; the East and Southeast Asian ideologies of the Ru Classicists like Confucius indicated by the generic term Confucianism coined by some Europeans; the various Abrahamic faiths like Judaisms, Christianities and Islams; and finally, the contemporary ruling ideologies like the various forms of racism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, autocracy, democracy, authoritarianism, liberalism, faith oriented communalism, secularism, partocratic- and plutocratic-statism.


  1. Hidradenitis suppurativa: the word hidradenitis is derived from Greek ἱδρώς (hidros = sweat) + ἀδήν (aden = gland) + -ῖτις (-îtis = inflammatory disease); and, the word suppurativa is derived from Modern Latin suppūrātīvus (= decay of tissues producing pus); hence: hidradenitis suppurativa = inflammation of sweat glands resulting in decay of tissues producing pus. During Marx’s lifetime this disease was variously referred to as ‘furuncles’, ‘boils’ and ‘carbuncles’, by him, his wife, their friends, and physicians. In contemporary dermatological literature this disease of Marx is being discussed as a textbook case of hidradenitis suppurativa; see: Haple and König, 2008: 255-256; Jemec, 2008: 1382-1383; Shuster, 2008a: 1-3 , 2008b: 256-257; van der Zee et al, 2012:735-739; Micali, 2017: 1; Meißner, 2019: 255-257 ; and, Bukvić Mokos et al, 2020: 9-13.
  2. Marx, 1866.
  3. Leifert, 1971: 99.
  4. Koeppen, 1857; 1859.
  5. Hirsch, 1936: 311-370.
  6. Köppen, 1840: dedication page.
  7. Jenny Marx an Franz Duncker, 28 Juni 1859: Blumenberg, 1965: 116; MEGA2 III/9: 497.
  8. Karl Marx an Friedrich Engels, 10 May 1861: MEGA2, III/11: 469; MECW 41: 287.
  9. Arthur Schopenhauer an Adam von Doß, 18. März 1858, in: Schopenhauer (1987): 425, mentioned in: Droit, 2003: 134.
  10. Anonymous, 1858: 455.
  11. Heeley, 1874: 141.
  12. Golther [Hrsg.], 1904: 161.
  13. Wagner, 1856; Burnouf, 1844: 205ff.
  14. शार्दूलकर्णावदानं / Śārdūlkarṇāvadānaṃ, noticeNo. B, 17 in Mitra (1882): 223-227.
  15. Hodgson, 1841, Articles IV-VI: 136-157.
  16. Shang, 1929; Tagore, 1933 and 1950; Zu, 2021.
  17. Droit, 2003: 133.
  18. Nelson, 2017: 166.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Köppen, 1852.
  21. Koeppen, 1857: Vorrede [Preface],iii.
  22. Vasiliev, 1857; 1869.
  23. Mahāvyutpatti: महाव्युत्पत्ति,c. 8th-9th centuries C E).
  24. Tāranātha,1608; Vasiliev, 1869.
  25. Xuanzang, 629; Eng. tr.1884.
  26. Vasiliev, 1857: Предисловие [Foreword], iv.
  27. Papers of Karl Marx: sections a.-e within KM/FE__P.
  28. Koeppen, 1857: title page.
  29. Froeb, 2020.
  30. The Suñña Sutta: Tripiṭaka, Sutta Piṭaka, Saṃyutta Nikāya 35:85.
  31. Cūḷa Suññata Sutta: Tripiṭaka, Sutta Piṭaka, Majjhima Nikaya 121.
  32. Mahā Suññata Sutta: Tripiṭaka, Sutta Piṭaka, Majjhima Nikaya 122.
  33. Burnouf, 1844: 408, 411ff.; Hardy, 1850: 271ff., quoted in Koeppen, 1857: 589, f.n.1).
  34. Marx, 1844: 71.
  35. Froeb, 2020.
  36. Marx, 1844: 71-72.
  37. Norman, 1983; 1994 [subsequent editions: 1997; 2012].
  38. Zürcher, 1959 [subsequent editions:1972; 2007]; Hanayama, 1961; Bosworth and Asimov [Eds.], 2000; Williams [Ed.], 2005; Nguyen Thi Thu et al [Eds.], 2008; Foltz, 2010.
  39. Marx, 1859.
  40. Marx/Engels, 1932; 2017; Marx/Engels/Weydemeyer, 2010.
  41. Marx an Annenkov 28 December 1846: MEGA2 III/2: 79-80; MECW 38:105.
  42. Marx, 1875.
  43. MECW 50: 497.
  44. Avineri [Ed.], 1977; Baksi,2021.


IISG/IISH: Internationaal instituut voor sociale geschiedenis
[International institute of social history], Amsterdam:
IMES: Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung:
KM/FE__P: Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels Papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (IISG) [International Institute for Social History (IISH)], Amsterdam: digital copies of the Papers of Karl Marx [sections a.-e.] and those of Friedrich Engels [sections h. and j.-n.] are available for inspection at:
The corresponding papers available at the Российский государственный архив социально-политической истории (РГАСПИ) [Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RSASPH)], Moscow: : Фонд [Fund] 1, Описи [Inventories] 1-5, are yet to be digitized.
MECW: Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels (1975-2004), Collected Works, in 50 volumes;Moscow: Progress.
MEGA1: Historisch-kritische Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe

Projected volumes:
Aufbau und Programm der Erste MEGA, 1925:

Published volumes:
Frankfurt/M.-Berlin-Moskau-Leningrad: Marx-Engels-Verlag:
Werke / Schriften / Briefe [1927-1935]:
MEGA2: Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, Abteilungen I-IV,Berlin: Dietz-Verlag/Akademie Verlag/De Gruyter Akademie Forschung [1975-]:
MEGAdigital: Online section of the complete historical-critical edition of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [MEGA2 ] Published by the International Marx-Engels-Stiftung (IMES), since 2009:
RGASPI/РГАСПИ: Российский государственный архив социально-политической истории
[Russian state archive of socio-political history], Moscow:


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Notice: This is a part of a work in progress.  An earlier version of this article was presented as a paper under the title “Marx on nothingness in Buddhism” at the 2nd International Conference on Innovations in the Social Sciences and Humanities, 17-18 December 2021[ISSH 2021], held at the Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City, and published in the Conference Proceedings of ISSH 2021:20-25.

Wednesday, 21 February 2023

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