From Stone to Flesh the Case of the Buddha

Donald S. Lopez

in Things

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780823239450
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823239498 | DOI:

Series: Future of the Religious Past (FUP)

From Stone to Flesh the Case of the Buddha

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This chapter traces the origins of the Buddha as we know him today: the friendly, peaceful, and wise embodiment of a “pure” spirituality who represents not a religion but rather a philosophy, or even a morality or way of life. This dematerialized and textualized Buddha is only a recent construction. It owes much to the publication in 1844 of Sanskrit scholar Eugène Burnouf's book Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism and has since been popularized in the West and even in Buddhist Asia itself. This contemporary Buddha is remarkably different from the various figures known before, when Western understandings of Buddhism were principally informed by “things”: his images, understood as “idols” by Western travelers and missionaries.

Keywords: Buddha; Buddha image; Buddhism; Burnouf; Idol; Idolatry; Missionary

Chapter.  6323 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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