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.
"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
Buddhist philosopher of the second century and a key figure in the development of Mahayana Buddhism in ancient India.
Few figures in the history of Buddhism stand out more prominently than Nagarjuna.
In Mahayana hagiographies, Nagarjuna is among the earliest of the great saints mentioned.
Nagarjuna is prominently represented in the transmission lineages for both the Zen tradition and the various Tantric traditions.
He has been cited as a source of authority by personages as diverse as Tsongkhapa in Tibet and Dogen and Shinran in Japan.
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.