hi folks, this topic is probably old-hat to most of you so it'd be good to get some thoughts on the matter and be pointed to any further sources. i've recently finished reading William's Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations and been introduced to the theory (liklihood?) that there may have been not only more than one Nagarjuna but also more than one Vasubandhu. to start with the former -
modern scholars sometimes incline towards the theory that there were at least two Nagarjunas, distinguishing between a philosopher Nagarjuna, who may well have been from the southern or Andrha region, and lived probably in the second to third centuries CE, and a later Nagarjuna who was a tantric alchemist and yogin. For that matter there may have been many Buddhists with the same name, that of Nagarjuna. On the other hand it is possible that works have been attributed by the Buddhist tradition to Nagarjuna simply because of his doctrinal importance.
and the latter -
The relevant work attributed to Vasubandhu is known, again in Sanskrit reconstruction from the Chinese, as the sukhavativyuhopadesa. Once more, this text may be by Vasubandhu or it may not. It is even possible that it was written in China itself, for it is not known as a work of Vasubandhu in any Indian or Tibetan source. According to the Pure Land Masters, both Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu turned to the Pure Land teachings in old age, although there is no independent evidence for this.
so, what are folks thoughts on the matter? without knowing too much about the writings of each (other than the Pure Land texts...i have a copy of the Mulamadhyamakakarika sat on my shelf but i'm a bit too scared to open it at this time lol) my own view is that sure, it would be nice to think that the Discourse on the Ten Stages and the Twelve Adorations were written by 'the' Nagarjuna and that the Discourse on the Pure Land came from the hand of 'the' Vasubandhu.....but beyond questions of authenticity and attribution, i have found these works greatly inspiring and encouraging and they have been a great source of help to me regardless of their authorship. ultimately, that is what matters to me and i am deeply grateful to whoever wrote them.
namu amida butsu