Nagarjuna, a profound and influential figure in the history of Buddhism, emerged in India during the 2nd century CE. His life and teachings have left an indelible mark on the development of Mahayana Buddhism, especially within the Madhyamaka tradition. This introduction delves into the life of Nagarjuna, his esteemed teacher, his core teachings, notable students, and the circumstances surrounding his passing. 

Birth and Early Life

Nagarjuna’s birth remains shrouded in mystery, with varying accounts regarding his place of birth and parentage. Some sources suggest he was born in Southern India, while others contend that he hailed from the Andhra region. Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding his birthplace, it is generally agreed that he was born around 150 CE. Nagarjuna’s early life is similarly obscured, but his intellectual prowess and inquisitive nature eventually led him on a spiritual journey that would profoundly impact the Buddhist tradition.

Teacher and Influences

Nagarjuna’s spiritual quest led him to the revered Buddhist scholar and monk, Sariputra, who became his primary teacher. Under Sariputra’s guidance, Nagarjuna not only honed his understanding of the Buddhist scriptures but also embarked on a journey of critical analysis and philosophical exploration. This pivotal phase of his life laid the foundation for his distinctive philosophical contributions.


Notable Students

Nagarjuna’s teachings attracted numerous followers and scholars who continued to develop and disseminate his ideas. Among his notable students was Aryadeva, who furthered the Madhyamaka tradition. Nagarjuna’s profound influence extended beyond his immediate circle of students, shaping the philosophical landscape of Mahayana Buddhism for generations to come.

Death and Legacy

Nagarjuna’s death, much like his birth, is enveloped in obscurity. Nevertheless, his enduring legacy in the realm of Buddhist philosophy and the propagation of the Madhyamaka tradition cannot be understated. His teachings continue to inspire scholars, practitioners, and seekers of truth, both within Buddhism and beyond.


Nagarjuna is best known for his profound teachings on the philosophy of “Madhyamaka,” which translates to “Middle Way.” At the heart of Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka philosophy is the concept of “emptiness” (shunyata). He expounded that all phenomena, including the self, are devoid of inherent existence. Nagarjuna’s elucidation of emptiness aimed to transcend the extremes of eternalism and nihilism, advocating for a balanced understanding of reality.

One of his seminal works, the “Mulamadhyamakakarika” (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way), is a masterful exposition of Madhyamaka philosophy. In this text, Nagarjuna employs a rigorous dialectical method to deconstruct conventional notions of reality and elucidate the profound implications of emptiness.

Nagarjuna’s life and teachings stand as a testament to the enduring power of philosophical inquiry and spiritual exploration. His contributions to the Middle Way philosophy have left an indelible mark on the development of Mahayana Buddhism, emphasizing the importance of critical thinking, balanced understanding, and the profound concept of emptiness as key elements on the path to enlightenment.

“Whatever arises dependently is explained as emptiness. That is dependent designation, and it is itself the middle way.”


Masters Series: The Teachings of Nagarjuna

Over 5 hours of recorded commentary by Kevan Gale on this extraordinary yogi

Enroll Now