Nāgārjuna the Yogācārin? Vasubandhu the Mādhyamika? on the middle-way between realism and antirealism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter works toward exposing the shared ground the foundational thinkers of the Madhyamaka and Yogācāra schools, Nāgārjuna and Vasubandu. It shows that there is good reason to connect the philosophies of these two seminal thinkers, primarily in their metaphysical frameworks. By executing a strong reading of the Madhyamaka denial of svabhāva (self-nature), I read Nāgārjuna as developing an ontological position that denies any objective aspect of reality-nothing truly exists. This highlights the participation of the mind in the conditioning processes of dependent-origination that are reality. Vasubandhu, whose philosophical temperament is more lenient than Nāgāṛjuna’s, argues similarly for the dependence of reality on consciousness. Neither thinker is a strict idealist, but both are staunch anti-realists who, although they do not think that consciousness or the mind truly exist, cannot see how what appeared at first to be external reality can be divorced from what we, conventionally speaking, call consciousness.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationMadhyamaka and Yogācāra
Subtitle of host publicationAllies or Rivals?
EditorsJay Garfield, Jan Westerhoff
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9780190231309, 9780190231316
ISBN (Print)9780190231286, 9780190231293
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Nāgāṛjuna
  • Vasubandu
  • anti-realism
  • realism
  • idealism


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