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The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika Hardcover – November 9, 1995

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Professor of philosophy and director of Hampshire College's exchange program with exiled Tibetan scholars, Garfield provides the first Tibetan-to-English translation of eminent second-century Buddhist N ag arjuna's greatest work: M ulamadhyamik arik a. Reflecting Indo-Tibetan Pr asangika-M adhyamika (Middle Path) School commentaries by Buddhap alita and Candrakirti, it is aimed at Western philosophers, not philologists. Throughout this profoundly logical text, N ag arjuna meets contrasting dialectical arguments, thereby proving that all phenomena are empty of inherent existence and nothing originates independently of anything else. He forges a middle path between conventional and ultimate truths. In his comments, Garfield compares this complex doctrine with Western philosophical concepts of emptiness and essence, demonstrating its empirical stature. Kenneth Inada's Sanskrit translation, N ag arjuna (1970) is more accessible to general readers, emphasizing the Buddhist mentor as a benign mediator rather than a strict logician. Garfield's text successfully appeals to scholars and is recommended for academic rather than public libraries.?Dara Eklund, Los Angeles P.L.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 9, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195103173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195103175
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,090,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a translation and commentary of the central philosophical writing of Nagarjuna, the Mulamadhyamakakarika, or The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. Nagarjuna, an Indian Buddhist master who lived in the First Century A.D., was the first to clearly articulate the Madhyamika philosophy, the most profound view of reality to be found among the various schools of Buddhism, and the philosophy that permeates the Prajnaparamita, the various Perfection of Wisdom Sutras that form the foundation for Mahayana Buddhism. Nagarjuna's writings were elaborated upon by his disciples Aryadeva and Chandrakirti, and by later Tibetan masters such as Je Tsongkhapa. In fact, it is a Tibetan translation of Nagarjuna's original Sanskrit text that Mr. Garfield has translated here, and since his own practice follows the Tibetan tradition, this allows him to bring a more sympathetic understanding to the text and its insights.
This is a marvelous book, the likes of which I never thought I would find. You will understand something of my despair, and hopefully likewise appreciate the many fine qualities this book embodies if you have also spent years as a Buddhist practitioner trying to understand the profundities of Eastern and Buddhist philosophies by reading the currently extant English translations and commentaries to the great scriptures. Most such books suffer from one or more of a number of serious flaws, such as writing and thinking that is sloppy, imprecise, or hopelessly fuzzy and full of vaguely defined mystical jargon that clouds understanding, or interpretations and conclusions that are idiosyncratic and out of sync with other major scriptural sources. None of that here! Mr.
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Format: Paperback
The Mulamadhyamakakarika(MMK) by Nagarjuna is one of the most important scriptures within Mahayana Buddhism. It's the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. Although other English translations exist already, Mr Garfield's rendition is the first that shows the Prasangika Madhyamika (Middle Way Consequence school) view on the MMK.
The MMK consists of 27 chapters which are examinations of fundamental theoretical elements in Buddhist ontology like Dependent origination, Impermanence, Perception, Aggregates (skandhas), Self, and relations between Substance and Attribute. The book is divided into two sections: 1. The translation of the 27 chapters, 2. The translation + commentaries.
It's noteworthy to mention that this book is based on the Tibetan dBu-ma rtsa-ba shes-rab, the Tibetan translation of the original Sanskrit work of MMK.
Garfield asserts in this book that Nagarjuna's goal was to refute the view of extremism of the Sarvastidas (All exists) and the other side of Nihilism (Nothing exists), proposing a Middle Way position. Pointing out the Two Truths of reality; Absolute Truth and Conventional Truth, Nagarjuna uses the Emptiness (shunyata) doctrine to show the reader upon examination that phenomena (both mental and physical) are empty of inherent-exitestence, but also that they are NOT non-existent (they exist within the Absolute Truth). Through these Examination one will obtain insight into the relativity of concepts and phenomena.
As a side note: Nagarjuna's goal is not to bring about a philosophical debate on metaphysical elements. Garfield points this out perfectly in the Introduction to the Commentary section of this book.
I have not read other renditions in English on the MMK, but so far this one is a very bright shining jewel in my extensive collection on Buddhism.
For further reading I would suggest Candrakirti's Prasannapada (Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way), which is a commentary on the MMK and it's best companion in my opinion.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As Garfield states in the introduction, his analysis of the text is more from an analytical, Western philosophical perspective than from a "Buddhalogical" (his word) one. The result is authoritative, scholarly and a little dry. His presentation reminds me of David Brazier's presentation of the Abhidharma in his book "Zen Therapy: Transcending the Sorrows of the Human Mind." The experience of reading this book is very demanding, but also very satisfying. The benefits to be derived are probably directly proportional with the work one puts in to understanding it.
A more poetically compelling translation of the Mulamadhyamikakarika, along with a very thought-provoking introduction, is to be found in Stephen Batchelor's "Verses from the Center."
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Format: Paperback
This book has been a treasure to those of us who had stared in consternation at K. Inada's translation or wrestled with the misprints in D. Kalupahana's edition. Here lucidity reigns. But there is something excessively dry and scholastic about Garfield's Nagarjuna. I think this is partly due to the fact that Garfield translates from the Tibetan, not the original Sanskrit. Compare his translation of Ch. 19, verse 1: "If the present and the future/Depend on the past,/Then the present and the future/Would have existed in the past", with Sprung's: "If what is arising here and now and what is not yet realized are dependent on what is past, what is arising here and now and what is not yet realized will be in past time" (which could be further improved by translating "atita" as "what has been"). So dry is Garfield's diction that his retention of a verse format seems pointless. The Gelug-pa Tibetan interpretation of Nagarjuna is a scholasticizing one, and loses some of the savor of emptiness and liberation which gives meditative point to Nagarjuna's laconic logic. Also, Garfield keeps referring to Hume and Wittgenstein in a way that further domesticates and scholasticizes Nagarjuna, making him a linguistic therapist who frees us from substantializations and reifications, but who also allows us to install ourselves comfortably in the conventional dependently co-arising world. It seems to me that in Buddhism this samsaric world is always painful, radically unsatisfactory, and that Nagarjuna is not just curing us of false theories about it, but is revealing it as radically self-contradictory even in its everyday pragmatic or conventional texture.Read more ›
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