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Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way

4.32 of 5 stars 4.32  ·  rating details  ·  642 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The Buddhist saint N=ag=arjuna, who lived in South India in approximately the second century CE, is undoubtedly the most important, influential, and widely studied Mah=ay=ana 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 philosophic ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 9th 1995 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 200)
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Barnaby Thieme
In my opinion, Nagarjuna is the greatest philosopher who has ever lived, and this is his magnum opus. In a series of reductio ad absurdum-like analyses of various types of phenomena, Nagarjuna demonstrates the incoherence of the belief in an inherently existent basis for objects of awareness. Phenomena are in fact dependent on the transient aggregation of their spatial and temporal parts, and cannot be described without invoking the process by which they are registered by a conscious entity. The ...more
This book is hella good. Excellent introduction to Mahayana Buddhism straight from the monk's mouth. Jay Garfield really knows his shit, and draws apt parallels with Hume and Wittgenstein without meandering into comparative philosophy.

The actual text of Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way is way too obscure for anyone who hasn't been schooled in this stuff, and Garfield does a great job of explicating the text, as well as giving references to alternate interpretations and guidance to the differ
Michael Alexander
Hold up, folks, this gets scholarly.

As interpreted by Garfield, Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika is most everything I ever wanted to say to the "early" Platonic dialogues but didn't quite have the sharp vocabulary as a college freshman to do so: you only get to worrying about ultimate forms and causes if you think people have to have a coherent meaning when they talk about them, and you don't have to think we're in Berkelian idealism-land otherwise.

In other words: in Garfield's Western-via-Tibe
I was about to write that this is one of the dozen most important and influential philosophical works I've ever read. But I must delete "philosophical." This is one of the dozen most important and influential books I've read in any genre. Nagarjuna seems to be little known or read in the West; at least I rarely encounter anyone who has heard of him. He was a 2nd century Buddhist. Let me quote from Library Journal: "Nagarjuna meets contrasting dialectical arguments, thereby proving that all pheno ...more
Read it cos I had to ...cos my Guru suggested it. Actually maybe he didn't...maybe I only read it because I needed to use it to rebut a particular stupid and pointless series of dogmatism by the pathetlic loser that was my Guru's translator...eek, nothing like having some sort of ex-harvard creep who was born in the Middle of a Republican Convention...yeah his mom broke water there and then stayed until the end and dropped him on his head and kept Cheering Ronald Reagan! Lol. ...more
This is a truly eye-opening book, especially if you're not familiar with Madhyamika philosophy. A little background in western epistemology and ontology is helpful (Plato, Hume, Kant) but not absolutely necessary if you're willing to let Garfield lead you through the arguments. My only worry about this is that Garfield is almost too good at this -- it's hard to read this as critically as one should. On the other hand, Nagarjuna is a ferocious logician and his arguments -- incredibly compact as t ...more
Sep 26, 2007 Jeremy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Seekers all
I had the extreme good fortune to be Jay Garfield's teaching assistant when he was writing this book and got to read (and proofread!) an early draft. More importantly, Prof Garfield explained the text with such clarity and intensity that the wisdom of the middle way was layed before me. Truly changed my life, and continues to inform my priorities. Thanks Jay, Thanks Nagarjuna. OmAhUm Benza Guru Patna Siti Om
Todd Mertz
Nagarjuna present an abrupt distillation of Buddhism that I find more concise and to-the-point than even the Dhammapada. Difficult reading, this is bare bones Mahayana Buddhism.
Jan 26, 2008 Ethan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosophers, Buddhists
Shelves: favorites
Nagarjuna is one example of a philosopher that says enough provocative things to hold peoples' interest, but is not quite clear enough for any one interpretation to win out, thus keeping his name on the lips of Indian and Buddhist philosophers for the last 1,800 years. Nagarjuna has come to be interpreted in a wide variety of ways by Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Western readers. I myself favor the skeptical interpretation that Garfield favors in this translation and which is also one of the main ...more
Camille Martin
The following is an essay in which I investigate the relevance of Nagarjuna to the poetry of contemporary poet Leslie Scalapino. In my discussion of Nagarjuna, I am indebted to Garfield’s clear analyses of the often puzzling and obscure verses of the Mulamadhyamakakarika:
Reading the Minds of Events: Leslie Scalapino’s Plural Time
Celestial Elf
remarkable tract essentially displaying the ultimate arrogance and failure of using mind made concepts to comprehend phiolosphical aspects which origionate outside of mind...
reflecting on the relationship between the ultimate and the relative.
written long before the fashion for trite, candy coated buddhist truisms,
If you have any interest in buddhism i would say this book is a must.
My interest in buddhism waxes and wanes but I'll always have this book nearby. Whether a spiritual read, or merely philosophical exercise, Nagarjuna's work is simply amazing. There is so much in so few words that it will forever be a book that can be read over and over again. I also appreciate the translators notes in this edition, without them much of the power of this book would be lost.
woa. mind blowing! i don't think one can ever "finish" this book...
Jessica Zu
only read assigned chapters. An awesome translation, and generative reading of this Indian-Tibetan classic.
David Joseph
Better than Garfield.
I got interested in reading this book after I read a paper that criticizes Derrida for not going far enough in his deconstruction and pointed to Nagarjuna's work as a true radical deconstruction. The book really goes beyond deconstruction the opposite to finally deconstruct deconstruction itself. It is not easy to read and a bit tedious at times but worth the effort.
A difficult text, but an amazing explication on the Buddhist view of emptiness, and, especially important for a western audience, how that differs from mere nihilism. Essential root text.
Lin Kudla
A little confusing, in my opinion. Garfield attempts to translate the original texts, but it seems like he's only restating them in equally confusing terms.
For the serious reader in Religious Studies or the student of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, it's a must read!
David Joseph
A nice introduction to logic for thoughtful practitioners.
Dec 19, 2007 Darren rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hardcore Buddhist Readers
Deep, intense, and mind altering.
i will fight you snake king
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Acharya Nāgārjuna (Telugu: నాగారజున) (c. 150 - 250 CE) was an Indian philosopher and the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism.

His writings are the basis for the formation of the Madhyamaka school, which was transmitted to China under the name of the Three Treatise (Sanlun) School. He is credited with developing the philosophy of the Prajnaparamita sutras, and was closely associate
More about Nāgārjuna...
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“Whatever is dependently co-arisen
That is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation
Is itself the Middle Way.”
“The victorious ones have said
That emptiness is the relinquishing of all views.
For whomever emptiness is a view,
That one has achieved nothing.”
More quotes…