Nāgārjuna’s Precious Garland

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“The new translation of Nāgārjuna’s Precious Garland by Sara McClintock and John Dunne is a wonderful book, with not only a new English translation but also comprehensive research on the text and the biography of the most celebrated Buddhist master Nāgārjuna that is insightful, leaving no aspect uncovered, and is certain to benefit readers and researchers. Since the treatise’s rich content addresses areas like spirituality, philosophy, and social and political governance, this book is particularly pertinent to society today.” —Geshe Ngawang Samten, former vice chancellor, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath

“A sensitive and erudite study and translation of Nāgārjuna’s unique, Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophical approach to ethics and politics, which urges kings (and by extension those of us with kingly resources) to pursue a profoundly coordinated practice of compassion and wisdom.” —Jonathan C. Gold, author of Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu's Unifying Buddhist Philosophy

“With their masterful translation and brilliant commentary, addressed both to academic scholars and Dharma students, McClintock and Dunne guide us through Nāgārjuna’s exploration of the bodhisattva’s life amid the complexities of our social and political worlds, inviting us to engage deeply with his poetic integration of emptiness and compassion.” —William Edelglass, director of studies, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

“In addition to the beautiful and philosophically precise translation of the original text, McClintock and Dunne also masterfully introduce the modern reader to the structure of this ancient text and the complex philosophical arguments it makes, managing to convey at times highly specialized discussions in engaging and effortless prose. They also helpfully include both the Sanskrit and Tibetan working editions of the text. I highly recommend this translation to anyone interested in the history, philosophy, or literature of South Asian Buddhism.” —Emily McRae, Department of Philosophy, University of New Mexico

“If it’s true, as Nāgārjuna says, that ‘rare are those who speak well’ and ‘rarer those who listen,’ I am moved to consider how rare it is to hear an ancient Buddhist voice sound as vital, as urgent, and as transformatively present in English as Nāgārjuna’s does here. Sara McClintock and John Dunne have given us an unsurpassable gift—the opportunity to really listen to something truly worth hearing.” —Sonam Kachru, author of Other Lives: Mind and World in Indian Buddhism

“Nāgārjuna’s Ratnāvalī, the greatest Buddhist treatise on statecraft, is also a brilliant exposition of the deep connections between emptiness and ethical practice. McClintock and Dunne have given us a gem in this precise and readable translation adorned with helpful notes and scholarly apparatus. This will be the standard edition of this text for scholars, practitioners, and kings for a long time to come.” —Jay Garfield, author of Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā

“This book is a must for everyone who is interested in understanding how one of the greatest Buddhist masters envisions the integration of wisdom, compassion, and ethical action.” —Thupten Jinpa, author of Tsongkhapa: A Buddha in the Land of Snows

“This is a major contribution to Madhyamaka studies and work of lasting value.” —Tom Tillemans, professor emeritus, University of Lausanne, and author of How Do Mādhyamikas Think?



Sara L. McClintock John D. Dunne

This elegant and precise rendering of Nāgārjuna’s work is certain to become the touchstone translation of this celebrated Buddhist text.

In this profound work of five hundred verses, we encounter a presentation of Buddhism that integrates both the worldly and the transcendent. The clear and sagacious advice laid out on every page serves as a road map to one’s highest goal—whether that goal is a better life, here called the Dharma of ascendance, or the ultimate one of spiritual freedom, the Dharma of the highest good. The verses, written for an unnamed ruler, touch on questions of statecraft, but their broader themes speak to us today because they tackle the difficulty of integrating one’s spiritual journey with the social and political demands of daily life.

Nāgārjuna was an Indian Buddhist teacher, probably of the second century CE, who was renowned for his astute articulation of the philosophy of the Middle Way (Madhyamaka). His thoroughgoing critique of all forms of essentialism became a touchstone for Mahāyāna Buddhism in India, Tibet, and throughout East Asia, and his importance for the development of the Mahāyāna tradition can scarcely be exaggerated.

The translators here first rendered Nāgārjuna’s letter for the Dalai Lama’s teachings on the work in Los Angeles in 1997. While that commemorative edition was translated from the Tibetan, the present volume prioritizes the surviving Sanskrit verses along with the only known Indian commentary, by the eleventh-century scholar Ajitamitra. This is the first complete translation in English of the Precious Garland that takes the Indian text and commentary as its primary authorities. In addition, they provide rigorous working editions of the Sanskrit and Tibetan verses they translate.

Learn more about the Classics of Indian Buddhism series.

book information
  • Paperback
  • 368 pages, 6 x 9 inches
  • $34.95
  • ISBN 9781614298465
  • ebook
  • 368 pages
  • $25.99
  • ISBN 9781614298687
about the author
Nāgārjuna’s Precious Garland

Sara L. McClintock (they/them) is a Buddhist philosopher and scholar of religion whose interests converge at the intersections of ethics, metaphysics, truth, and story. They obtained their PhD from Harvard in 2002, and are now an associate professor at Emory University, where they teach graduate and undergraduate courses in Indian and Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist narrative traditions, women in Buddhism, and interpretation theory in the study of religion. A specialist in the work of Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla, they also write and translate more broadly on topics in narrative, epistemology, and ethics. Their current book project is a philosophical exploration of the transactional and camouflagic nature of truth, drawing on ideas from Indian Buddhist thinkers and putting them in conversation with contemporary concerns. While not busy with teaching and research, their passion is to discover ever new ways to nourish freedom and joy in daily life.

Other books by Sara L. McClintock:
Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason
The Svātantrika-Prāsaṅgika Distinction

Nāgārjuna’s Precious Garland

John D. Dunne serves on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he holds the Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities at the Center for Healthy Minds. He is also chair of the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures. His work focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, especially in dialog with Cognitive Science and Psychology. His more than fifty publications appear in venues ranging across both the Humanities and the Sciences, including Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy (2004) and Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics: The Mind (2020). John Dunne speaks in both academic and public contexts, and he occasionally teaches for Buddhist communities. His broader engagements include being a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, where he was previously a member of the board of directors, and serving as an academic advisor to the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Other books by John D. Dunne:
In Vimalakīrti’s House
Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics, Vol. 2
Ecology, Ethics, and Interdependence
Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy

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