The internet continues to challenge old ways of doing history. This item, a talk by Joseph Walser, is a case in point. Josepth Walser has recently published a volume on the social context of Nagajuna, and as with almost all scholars he has given seminars and talks on his new publication. This is a normal practice, but it is one that has in the past only involved other scholars, who have the leisure and invitations to attend such talks. These talks are informal, and easily accessible synopsis of an authors work, but in a sense not well targeted. The very people, academics and students, who could most easily cope with the dense, heavily referenced publication attend the talks, and that group of people, the general public, least interested in devoting time to a technical treatise, and most likely, judging by televisions output, to enjoy an informal and accessible synopsis of the work from the author, are exactly the people excluded. The Centre for Buddhist Studies Weblog provides the opportunity for members of the public to share directly in these seminars. Simply log in to the talk you are interested in and click on the link to play back the recording from your computer. Or if you are considerably more up to date than I am download it to your IPOD.
Walser's talk is concerned with Nagarjuna, the great nihilist of Buddhist philosophy. Almost nothing is known of Nagarjuna. He was born sometime towards the end of the second century AD and probably published his most important work the Muladhyamakakarika about 200 to 250AD. Where he lived, and exactly when are unknown, though he may have had some contact or perhaps even lived for a time in the Kushan Empire. His importance lies in the fact that his work was co-opted by the Mahayana movement of later centuries. Mahayana was a minority in the Kushan Empire but many of the texts which later came to be seen as foundational were published in this period.