The Second Buddha

Considering the work of Nagarjuna, Buddhism's greatest philospoher

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IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT, after the Buddha, the single most important figure in the entire Buddhist tradition was a monk named Acharya Nagarjuna, sometimes called the Second Buddha. As is the case with many religious giants, we know little about the historical Nagarjuna. Scholars usually place him sometime in the late second century C.E., but he may have lived a hundred years before or after that period. According to tradition, Nagarjuna was a scholar-monk at Nalanda University, the great Buddhist center of learning in northeast India. Although we know him through his body of writings, we don’t really know how many “Nagarjunas” there actually were, for it is unlikely that all the works attributed to him were written by the same person. There may well have been three or four monks all writing under the same name.

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