The second Buddha’s greater vehicle
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The Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding [prajña paramitā], shed light on the fi ve skandhas and found them all equally empty. After this penetration, he overcame all pain. (“The Heart Sutra”1)
With Nāgārjuna, we encounter the fi rst named Buddhist philosopher. His impact on the character of Buddhist thought was so massive that he is sometimes hailed as the ‘second Buddha’. But he is an elusive fi gure. Very little is known of him personally, except that he is probably from an educated Brahmin family in the south of India, and was working in the fi rst to second centuries ce. Trained in the Vedic tradition, Nāgārjuna established the practice of discussing Buddhism in Sanskrit, the shared language of the educated classes, rather than in Pāli or some other vernacular, thus bringing Buddhist and non-Buddhist thought into a common linguistic and intellectual space.