Buddhapālita’s Commentary on Nāgārjuna’s Middle Way

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“Buddhapālita’s commentary on Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā is of the first importance among Indian Madhyamaka texts. It is not only the earliest detailed treatment of Nāgārjuna’s masterpiece, but it is the foundation of the entire Prāsaṅgika tradition that represents the pinnacle of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophical thought. Buddhapālita opens the structure of Nāgārjuna’s arguments and shows us just how to read this difficult verse treatise. Dr. Coghlan offers this Indian classic to the contemporary Western reader through an elegant translation, at once lexically precise, philosophically sensitive, and immediately accessible.”
—Jay Garfield, Smith College

“The Indian commentarial literature is an indispensable key to Nāgārjuna’s masterpiece, the Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way. Buddhapālita’s commentary occupies a central place amongst the early works on this foundational Madhyamaka text. I am delighted to see that Ian Coghlan’s lucid translation opens a door to the entirety of Buddhapālita’s profound explanations of the intricacies of Nāgārjuna’s thought to an English-speaking audience for the first time. This is a major milestone in the Western study of Madhyamaka and will be an essential resource for students of the Asian philosophical tradition.”
—Jan Westerhoff, University of Oxford

“Ian Coghlan provides a welcome introduction to Buddhapālita, an important Buddhist philosopher whose work influenced the much better known Madhyamaka commentator, Chandrakīrti. Coghlan’s work, Buddhapālita’s Commentary on Nāgārjuna’s Middle Way, delivers a clear, concise, and accessible English translation of Buddhapālita’s interpretive commentary on Nāgārjuna’s terse and sometimes enigmatic verses. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Madhyamaka arguments against Nāgārjuna’s Abhidharma opponents’ views and interested in these Madhyamaka proponents’ persuasive arguments for cultivating insight into emptiness.”—Karen Lang, University of Virginia (emeritus)



Ian James Coghlan

This “Buddhapālita” commentary on Nāgārjuna’s famous first-century text Wisdom: Fundamental Middle Way Verses has been considered for over a thousand years by Indian and Tibetan philosophers to be the special key that best unlocks the deep philosophical freedom from confusion and perplexity that the Middle Way (or Centrist) school seeks to provide for its students.

Chandrakīrti (seventh century) defended Buddhapālita’s elegant approach as most effective in opening the Middle Way for the inquiring mind to find the liberating experience of reality. Atisha (eleventh century) brought Buddhapālita’s and Chandrakīrti’s transformative critical method to spread widely in Tibet, and Tsongkhapa (fifteenth century) provided a clarification of this philosophical work that was so rigorous and crystal clear that it opened the minds of Tibetan philosopher scientists of all schools until today.

Ian Coghlan’s masterful translation makes Buddhapālita’s breakthrough elucidation of the Wisdom Verses clearly accessible. The translator’s unique education combines the Indo-Tibetan geshé curriculum with the modern doctoral training that adds comparative text-critical analysis and comparative language research in Sanskrit as well as Tibetan. This intellectual and experiential education enabled him to produce this reliable translation for the philosophical seeker to fully engage with Buddhapālita’s richly transformative, liberating work.

book information
  • Hardcover
  • 400 pages, 6 x 9 inches
  • $69.95
  • ISBN 9781949163209
  • ebook
  • 400 pages
  • $35.99
  • ISBN 9781949163216
about the author
Buddhapālita’s Commentary on Nāgārjuna’s Middle Way

Ian James Coghlan (Jampa Ignyen) trained as a monk at Jé College, Sera Monastic University, completing his studies in 1995, and holds a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from La Trobe University. He has translated and edited a number of works from Tibetan including Principles of Buddhist Tantra (with Kirti Tsenshap Rinpoché and Voula Zarpani); Hundreds of Deities of TusitaAn Offering Cloud of Nectar, and Stairway to the State of Union (with Choden Rinpoché and Voula Zarpani). Currently he is a translator for the Institute of Tibetan Classics and an adjunct research fellow at SOPHIS, Monash University.

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