This is a fragment of what was certainly a longer work that has been lost. According to Bu-ston, the Tibetan historian, Vyavaharasiddhi was written “to show that through there is no own-being (svabhava) in the ultimate sense (paramarthatah), still the empirical is justified conventionally.”
I like this because it is short, like a poem, and so is a succinct exposition of a major point of Madhyamaka (Middle Way) philosophy.
The translation is Chr. Lindtner’s, from Nagarjuniana, Studies in the Writings and Philosophy of Nagarjuna (with a couple a changes):
Vyavaharasiddhi/The Process of Realization by Nagarjuna
One syllable is not a mantra. On the other hand, many syllables are not a mantra either: dependent upon syllables that are therefore insubstantial, this mantra is neither existent nor non-existent.
Likewise no medicine appears independently of it specific ingredients. It appears like an illusory elephant; it is not identical with them nor is it absolutely different from them.
It arises in dependent co-origination. Who would be so ignorant as to maintain that it is existent or non-existent? Actually visual consciousness arises similarly when it is based on eye and form.
Projected by the power of karma and passion, the appropriator arises out of existence. Form also arises in the same manner. Who would be so ignorant as to maintain that it is existent or non-existent?
Similarly, all the twelve members of existence are simply conventional designations. Consequently all phenomena such as extinction have only been advocated by the Buddhas with a specific purpose.
As it appears to be a mantra without really being a mantra, and as it appears to be a medicine with really in itself being a medicine, thus all phenomena are stated to be dependent. Neither of the two can be established independently.
Lindtner’s explanation: “Though all phenomena, such as mantras, etc., arise dependently and thus neither are existing nor non-existing, they are none the less efficient. Likewise all interior and exterior phenomena arise dependently, and though they are thus mere metaphorical concepts. Buddha has formulated his dharmas with a specific practical purpose (samdhaya . . . “