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Friday, 13 February 2015 12:24

Nagarjuna in Context

Nagarjuna in Context - Mahayana Buddhism and Early Indian Culture — by Joseph Walser

This work is the first examination of Nagarjuna's life and writings in the context of the religious and monastic debates of the second century CE.

While Nargarjuna's philosophy has been the subject of numerous studies and translations, Walser explores how Nagarjuna secured the canonical authority of Mahayana teachings and considers his use of rhetoric to ensure the transmission of his writings by Buddhist monks.

Review

Nagarjuna in Context - cover"It is refreshing to find a scholar putting Nagarjuna's feet firmly on the ground, right where they belong. Walser's admirable book contextualizes the origin of the Madhyamaka in early Mahayana and its struggles with the larger Buddhist communities.

He investigates the scriptural and intellectual background and finds Nagarjuna a canny Buddhist monk, seeking legitimacy for a new direction in Buddhist life and defending its position against the challenges of the day.

His use of surviving archive - in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese - fills in much of the gaps in the scholarship to date and takes us to a new level of understanding."

~ Ronald M. Davidson of Fairfield University -
author of Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement

Drawing on close textual analysis of Nagarjuna's writings and other Buddhist and non-Buddhist sources, as well as art historical and epigraphic evidence, Walser offers a creative and original contribution to the understanding of Nagarjuna and the contentious history of Buddhism.

Joseph Walser is associate professor and department chair of comparative religion at Tufts University.

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