The Buddhas of Bamiyan
Llewelyn Morgan Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress DS375.B36M67 2012 | Dewey Decimal 958.1
For 1,400 years, two colossal Buddhas overlooked the Bamiyan Valley on the Silk Road in Afghanistan. The Buddhas embodied the intersection of East and West, and their destruction by the Taliban in 2001 provoked international outrage. Morgan excavates the layers of meaning these vanished wonders hold for a fractured Afghanistan.
We have come to admire Buddhism for being profound but accessible, as much a lifestyle as a religion. The credit for creating Buddhism goes to the Buddha, a figure widely respected across the Western world for his philosophical insight, his teachings of nonviolence, and his practice of meditation. But who was this Buddha, and how did he become the Buddha we know and love today?
Leading historian of Buddhism Donald S. Lopez Jr. tells the story of how various idols carved in stone—variously named Beddou, Codam, Xaca, and Fo—became the man of flesh and blood that we know simply as the Buddha. He reveals that the positive view of the Buddha in Europe and America is rather recent, originating a little more than a hundred and fifty years ago. For centuries, the Buddha was condemned by Western writers as the most dangerous idol of the Orient. He was a demon, the murderer of his mother, a purveyor of idolatry.
Lopez provides an engaging history of depictions of the Buddha from classical accounts and medieval stories to the testimonies of European travelers, diplomats, soldiers, and missionaries. He shows that centuries of hostility toward the Buddha changed dramatically in the nineteenth century, when the teachings of the Buddha, having disappeared from India by the fourteenth century, were read by European scholars newly proficient in Asian languages. At the same time, the traditional view of the Buddha persisted in Asia, where he was revered as much for his supernatural powers as for his philosophical insights. From Stone to Flesh follows the twists and turns of these Eastern and Western notions of the Buddha, leading finally to his triumph as the founder of a world religion.
In volume 2 of this monumental work, Mircea Eliade continues his magisterial progress through the history of religious ideas. The religions of ancient China, Brahmanism and Hinduism, Buddha and his contemporaries, Roman religion, Celtic and German religions, Judaism, the Hellenistic period, the Iranian syntheses, and the birth of Christianity—all are encompassed in this volume.
Written in Kashmir around 400 CE, Haribhatta’s Jåtakamåla is a remarkable example of classical Sanskrit literature in a mixture of prose and verse that for centuries was known only in its Tibetan translation. But between 1973 and 2004 a large portion of the Sanskrit original was rediscovered in a number of anonymous manuscripts. With this volume Peter Khoroche offers the most complete translation to date, making almost 80 percent of the work available in English.
Haribhatta’s Jåtakamålå is a sophisticated and personal adaptation of popular stories, mostly non-Buddhist in origin, all illustrating the future Buddha’s single-minded devotion to the good of all creatures, and his desire, no matter what his incarnation—man, woman, peacock, elephant, merchant, or king—to assist others on the path to nirvana. Haribhatta’s insight into human and animal behavior, his astonishing eye for the details of landscape, and his fine descriptive powers together make this a unique record of everyday life in ancient India as well as a powerful statement of Buddhist ethics. This translation will be a landmark in the study of Buddhism and of the culture of ancient India.
Here is one of the most entertaining masterpieces of Sanskrit literature rendered in an English translation that fully captures the original's artistry and charm.
Written most probably in the fourth century A.D., the Jatakamala is generally considered the masterpiece of Buddhist literature in Sanskrit. In elegant, courtly style, Arya Sura retells thirty-four traditional stories about the Buddha in his previous incarnations, human and animal. Whether as a king, a brahmin, a monkey, or a hare, the Great One is shown in assiduous pursuit of virtue and compassion. Though primarily intended as exemplary tales illustrating the Buddhist virtues, these stories also provide a vivid picture of life at a high point in ancient Indian culture—city life in ordinary households or at the royal court, and country life against a backdrop of mountain, desert, and jungle.
Fresh study of the Sanskrit manuscripts, now scattered in libraries all over the world, has enabled Peter Khoroche to make this new translation faithful to the original in both style and content. His explanatory notes will assist student and general reader alike in appreciating this classic from an ancient and exotic civilization.
“The general reader will be highly grateful for this new translation which, besides being beautifully printed, is rounded off with a very informative and reliable introduction.”—Renate Söhnen-Thieme, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
“One would be a fool not to welcome the chance to read this book.”—Richard Gombrich, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Since its arrival in Japan in the sixth century, Buddhism has played a central role in Japanese culture. But the historical figure of the Buddha, the prince of ancient Indian descent who abandoned his wealth and power to become an awakened being, has repeatedly disappeared and reappeared, emerging each time in a different form and to different ends. A Storied Sage traces this transformation of concepts of the Buddha, from Japan’s ancient period in the eighth century to the end of the Meiji period in the early twentieth century.
Micah L. Auerback follows the changing fortune of the Buddha through the novel uses for the Buddha’s story in high and low culture alike, often outside of the confines of the Buddhist establishment. Auerback argues for the Buddha’s continuing relevance during Japan’s early modern period and links the later Buddhist tradition in Japan to its roots on the Asian continent. Additionally, he examines the afterlife of the Buddha in hagiographic literature, demonstrating that the late Japanese Buddha, far from fading into a ghost of his former self, instead underwent an important reincarnation. Challenging many established assumptions about Buddhism and its evolution in Japan, A Storied Sage is a vital contribution to the larger discussion of religion and secularization in modernity.
We tend to think that the Buddha has always been seen as the compassionate sage admired around the world today, but until the nineteenth century, Europeans often regarded him as a nefarious figure, an idol worshipped by the pagans of the Orient. Donald S. Lopez Jr. offers here a rich sourcebook of European fantasies about the Buddha drawn from the works of dozens of authors over fifteen hundred years, including Clement of Alexandria, Marco Polo, St. Francis Xavier, Voltaire, and Sir William Jones.
Featuring writings by soldiers, adventurers, merchants, missionaries, theologians, and colonial officers, this volume contains a wide range of portraits of the Buddha. The descriptions are rarely flattering, as all manner of reports—some accurate, some inaccurate, and some garbled—came to circulate among European savants and eccentrics, many of whom were famous in their day but are long forgotten in ours. Taken together, these accounts present a fascinating picture, not only of the Buddha as he was understood and misunderstood for centuries, but also of his portrayers.