Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Nagarjuna's Madhymaka: A Philosophical Introduction
The Indian philosopher Acarya Nagarjuna the founder of the Madhyamaka (Middle Path) school of Mahayana Buddhism and arguably the most influential Buddhist thinker after Buddha himself. Indeed, in the Tibetan and East Asian traditions, Nagarjuna is often referred to as the "second Buddha."
This book presents a survey of the whole of Nagarjuna's philosophy based on his key philosophical writings. His primary contribution to Buddhist thought lies in the further development of the concept of sunyata or "emptiness." For Nagarjuna, all phenomena are without any svabhava, literally "own-nature" or "self-nature," and thus without any underlying substance. Particular emphasis is put on discussing Nagarjuna's thinking as philosophy. The present discussion shows how his thoughts on metaphysics, epistemology, the self, language, and truth present a unified theory of reality with considerable systematic appeal.
Jan Westerhoff offers a systematic account of Nagarjuna's philosophical position. He reads Nagarjuna in his own philosophical context, but he does not hesitate to show that the issues of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy have at least family resemblances to issues in European philosophy. This fascinating and much-needed analysis of one of India's most important philosophers is sure to interest and enlighten students of Buddhism and the European tradition alike.