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review Nagarjunas Middle Way

Ive touchstone presentation of the doctrine of emptiness Professors Siderits and Katsura prepared this translation using the four surviving Indian commentaries in an attempt to reconstruct an interpretation of its enigmatic verses that adheres as closely

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Nagarjunas Middle Way

Winner of the 2014 Khyenste Foundation Translation PrizeNagarjuna's renowned twenty seven chapter Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way Mulamadhyamakakarika is the foundational text of the Madhyamaka school of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy It is the definit Translating a text like N g rjuna s M lamadhyamakak rik MMK is no easy task especially since the Sanskrit text is itself often obscure and has an 1800 year history of incredibly varied interpretation commentary and translation in Asian and European languages Additionally one might wonder whether this text reuires yet another English translation when there are already several decent ones available eg Garfield s The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way N g rjuna s M lamadhyamakak rik Inada s Nagarjuna A Translation of His Malamadhyamaka Karika etc More cynically drawing on works like Tuck s Comparative Philosophy and the Philosophy of Scholarship On the Western Interpretation of Nagarjuna one might wonder if another translation of the MMK will do anything but mirror the translator s views and interpretationsFor the most part this translation from Siderits and Katsura both eminent scholars of Buddhist philosophy offers both a novel insightful translation and allows readers to come to their own conclusions about the interpretation of the text and thus avoids becoming merely a mouthpiece of the translators interpretations with a few exceptions which I ll note belowLike Inada s translation this one includes the Sanskrit text along with the English translation which is helpful for those who read Sanskrit or who are even just familiar with a few of N g rjuna s key terms like svabh va nyat etc As a teaching tool it helps to show students a little bit about the original language even if they don t read Sanskrit at all Siderits and Katsura provide their own commentaries on the verses that are relevant for a modern philosophical audience while drawing on the major Indian commentaries of Candrak rti Bh viveka and Buddhap lita without merely reproducing these commentaries They don t go much into non Indian commentaries Tibetan Chinese etc nor do they say much about contemporary scholarship While hard core N g rjuna scholars may feel this is not doing proper justice to the text I think Siderits and Katsura are wise to take this approach let readers wade into the text before diving into the oceans of scholarship and commentaryWhile the translators generally present the text in a way that allows readers to draw their own conclusions to the extent that this is possible for any translation there are occasionally places in which Siderits s particular anti realist interpretation is presented as obvious than it really is The translation of prapa ca as hypostatization instead of something like conceptual proliferation eg p 15 125 126 is a less literal translation than they usually give Also the inclusion of metaphysical in suare brackets before verse 138 p 145 is a strange move unless one were convinced that only certain types of interpretations like anti realism were right to deny that N g rjuna could literally mean all views although this tactic is not taken in the last verse 2730 p 334Still I think Siderits and Katsura s is probably now the best English translation available I recently used it in a course in comparative philosophy While N g rjuna is never easy this translation was able to present the text to newcomers in a way that allowed them to get something out of it It also helped me make sense of a text with which I ve been grappling for years and plan to continue grappling with for years to come

Mark Siderits ã 0 Summary

As possible to that of its earliest proponents Each verse is accompanied by concise lively exposition by the authors conveying the explanations of the Indian commentators The result is a translation that balances the demands for fidelity and accessibility A really good translation of Nagarjuna s Mulamadhyamakakarika probably his most important work on Buddhist metaphysics Nagarjuna extended the idea of Shunyata or Emptiness of the Buddha to demonstrate that ultimately everything is empty of an intrinsic self or essence including emptiness itself and this interpretation of Buddha s doctrine of Dependent Origination led to the establishment of the Madhyamaka school of thoughtIn his work Nagarjuna employs the structure of a Tetralemma to formulate the various causal possibilities of an object say O and an a cause say C which goes roughly as follows 1 C is the cause of O thus causally related2 C is not the cause of O thus distinct entities3 C is both the cause and non cause of O4 C is neither the cause nor the non cause of OHe then uses a form of inductive reasoning to disprove each of the 4 points and conclude that both the object and the cause are empty of intrinsic nature He uses this method in a lot of situations 27 to be exact such as when arguing about the nature of Dharmas Skandhas Time etcAbout the book in general I am extremely impressed with the uality of the translations as well the clarity in which the rather aphoristic lines are explained to the reader The authors have kept their personal interpretations of the text to a minimum and instead presented the interpretations of several famous Buddhist commentators such as Chandrakirti Akutobbhaya Buddhapalita etc Philosophical texts are often extremely esoteric in nature and very difficult to understand for people who are not familiar with the original author s works in general This masterful work overcomes all such difficulties and presents a book that can be read by students as well as the casual reader I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in understanding Nagarjuna s idea in some depth


10 thoughts on “Nagarjunas Middle Way

  1. says:

    Translating a text like Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā MMK is no easy task especially since the Sanskrit text is itself often obscure and has an 1800 year history of incredibly varied interpretation commentary and translation in Asian and European languages Additionally one might wonder whether this text

  2. says:

    It is so important for one who takes up the onerous job of translating a text like this one of Nagarjuna to be not just familiar with the tea

  3. says:

    Simply incredible A surgical approach to the middle way with easily accessible commentary I'll be working with this book for a long time to come

  4. says:

    Я долго к этому шел Превосходный учебник буддистской абстрактной логики и только для сильных духом Комментарии порой сильно за

  5. says:

    The Mulamadhyamakakarika is a foundational text of Mahayana Buddhism including the Mahayana branches of Tibetan Buddhism and Zen But this tex

  6. says:

    absolutely top notch annotated translations You get not just the verses but the combined major commentaries in these verses Highly recommend to all interested in Buddhist philosophy

  7. says:

    A really good translation of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika probably his most important work on Buddhist metaphysics Nagarjuna extended the idea of 'Shunyata' or 'Emptiness' of the Buddha to demonstrate that ultimately e

  8. says:

    This is an exceptional edition of a brilliant work of philosophy Nāgārjuna’s style is extremely dense and cryptic so Siderits and Katsura include a running commentary of every verse of his poem which they base on the four surviving ancient commentaries of the work Their translation is rigorous consistent and fluent They explain all the complexities and subtleties of the argument clearly and concisely Best of all t

  9. says:

    The translators do an excellent job of presenting the Mulamadhyamakakarika in what could be close to its original context Eschewing their own 21st century commentary the translators instead summarize and present ex

  10. says:

    I must admit this was an abstruse read the first time I read it But was definitely worth reading again and again u

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