The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way
The Buddhist saint Nagarjuna, who lived in South India in approximately the second century CE, is undoubtedly the most important, influential, and widely studied Mahayana Buddhist philosopher. His many works include texts addressed to lay audiences, letters of advice to kings, and a set of penetrating metaphysical and epistemological treatises. His greatest philosophical work, the Mulamadhyamikakarika—read and studied by philosophers in all major Buddhist schools of Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea—is one of the most influential works in the history of Indian philosophy. Now, in The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Jay L. Garfield provides a clear and eminently readable translation of Nagarjuna's seminal work, offering those with little or no prior knowledge of Buddhist philosophy a view into the profound logic of the Mulamadhyamikakarika.
Garfield presents a superb translation of the Tibetan text of Mulamadhyamikakarika in its entirety, and a commentary reflecting the Tibetan tradition through which Nagarjuna's philosophical influence has largely been transmitted. Illuminating the systematic character of Nagarjuna's reasoning, Garfield shows how Nagarjuna develops his doctrine that all phenomena are empty of inherent existence, that is, than nothing exists substantially or independently. Despite lacking any essence, he argues, phenomena nonetheless exist conventionally, and that indeed conventional existence and ultimate emptiness are in fact the same thing. This represents the radical understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of the two truths, or two levels of reality. He offers a verse-by-verse commentary that explains Nagarjuna's positions and arguments in the language of Western metaphysics and epistemology, and connects Nagarjuna's concerns to those of Western philosophers such as Sextus, Hume, and Wittgenstein.
An accessible translation of the foundational text for all Mahayana Buddhism, The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way offers insight to all those interested in the nature of reality.