In the 6th century B.C.E., a young prince named Siddhartha Gotama se tout on an ascetic quest to alleviate human suffering. In the middle ground between opulence and self-denial, he discovered a path to enlightenment and self awareness – and he dedicated his life to sharing that discovery. The man called Buddha, the “Awakened One,” traveled as an itinerant monk, imparting principles of enlightenment throughout India and what is now southern Nepal. He was not worshipped as a god, but became teacher and model to ascetics, royalty, and townsfolk alike.
In the 2,500 years that followed, through the spread of Buddha’s teachings and the monastic communities that upheld them, the world’s “oldest missionary religion” has grown so that it now boasts over 350 million followers worldwide. The story of Buddhism unfolds through a series of narrative chapters, dealing with the Brahmanical cosmology from which Buddhism emerged, the stories and myths surrounding Buddha’s birth, Buddhas’s path to enlightenment, an the eventual spread of his teachings throughout Indian and the world.
Kinnard’s clear telling of the tale helps students understand such complex concepts as the natural law of cause and effect (karma), the birth/life/death/rebirth cycle (samsara), the ever-changing state of suffering (dukkha), and salvation, the absence of all states (nirvana). Primary documents, illustrations, glossary and biographical sketches illuminate the extraordinary life and legacy of the man called Buddha.
About the Author:
Jacob N. Kinnard is Associate Professor of Comparative Religious Thought at Iliff School of Theology. He is the author of Imaging Wisdom: Seeing and Knowing in the Art of Indian Buddhism and co-editor of Constituting Communities: Theravada Traditions in South and Southeast Asia.