Who is Nāgārjuna?

Nāgārjuna is by any account the most influential Mahāyāna philosopher.  He is the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Buddhist philosophy and is immensely influential in subsequent Indian thought (Buddhist and non-Buddhist) as well as in Tibetan and East Asian Buddhist thought. Despite this fact, we know little of his biography.  Canonical biographies are hagiographic, and are of little historical use. It does appear that he flourished during the second century of the Common Era, although some argue for dates in the late first century or in the early third. Joseph Walser has argued persuasively that Nāgārjuna almost certainly lived in the lower Krishna River valley, in what is today the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, and almost certainly lived in a monastery that, like many monasteries of that era, housed both monks who followed the nascent Mahāyāna and those who did not. It is very likely that he was an advisor to one or more local kings, and that he held a leadership position within his monastery. 

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