The Buddha: Life and Afterlife Between East and West

Cambridge Univ. Dec. 2023. 300p. ISBN 9781009346795. $39.99. REF
Almond’s (emeritus, religion, Univ. of Queensland; Mary Magdalene: A Cultural History) book describes how it took centuries, countless encounters, and an amazing number of missteps and misinterpretations for Buddhism to dawn upon the West. He shows that the transmission of the story of the Buddha from the Indian subcontinent to Europe is an intricately complicated history of translation through cultures, times, and languages. His book traces the many paths and dead ends that led to the current awareness of Buddhism. That includes initial narratives of the life of Buddha through the reports of Greek philosophers traveling with Alexander the Great, the manuscripts of Arab and Georgian editors, the invention of Saint Josaphat, Jesuit missionary invectives against idols, early versions of The Encyclopedia Britannica, misguided African origin theories, and much more.
VERDICT This fascinating book expertly weaves together a formidable mass of scholarship into an accessible, inviting summary that contextualizes an extensive history of religious encounters within a relatively brief work. It also sheds light on the long and global interconnections of religious ideas and highlights the often ridiculous ways that people have misunderstood and misrepresented one another throughout time.
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