I am no scholar and frankly admit that my long years of immersion in Eastern Philosophy were driven solely by an obsession to destroy my own darkness. In my teens, I dived into esoteric teachings in an attempt to understand my angst, and while much I learned took me a little further down the road to peace, it was a Buddhist Geshe I met in Manhattan many years ago who finally helped me sort out the confusion I felt about the nature of reality; it was through him that I came upon the luminous Indian scholar Nāgārjuna, considered second only to Gautama Siddhartha in the context of his critical contributions to eastern thought.
Nagarjuna’s life is a bit of a mystery to us moderns since surviving accounts of his life were written, in Chinese and Tibetan, centuries after his death. Most likely he was born into a Brahmin family in South India and later became a Buddhist. Some say he was an advisor to Yajna Sri Satakarni, a king of the Satavahana dynasty who ruled between 167 and 196 CE, which places him around 150–250 CE. Nagarjuna is considered the founder of the Madhyamaka School; due to his efforts, the concept of ‘emptiness’ (shunyata)—which he focused on in order to refute the metaphysics of some of his contemporaries—became the central ontological concept in Mahayana Buddhism. Continue reading