Like many other great religions of the world, Buddhism arose from the teachings of one man: in this case, Prince Siddhartha of Kapilavastu, later called Sakyamuni or Gautama.
This book, turning to Buddhist scriptures and artistic monuments for its sources, presents the story of his life, so nearly as the facts can be determined, in a judicious, straightforward narrative designed for western readers. While it does not accept the pious myths and supernatural events as necessarily true, and does not accept to explain the nuances of Buddhist doctrine, it pays adequate attention to their place in the master’s career. The result is a volume of great interest to all concerned with the development and influence of eastern thought and culture.
Here are the details of Siddhartha’s life: his birth in the sixth century B.C. and his upbringing in luxury; his religious conversion; his seven years of wandering and seeking before he found enlightenment; his subsequent career as teacher of many disciples and as founder of the Buddhist order. Here are the miracles and the preachments, sympathetically presented against a panoramic background of Indian life and thought in that far-off time. Here too are the basic tenets of Buddhism, neither attacked nor defended but set both with clarity, fairness, and proportion. Here, in short, is an excellent introduction to the Buddhist world.
In preparing this American edition, on the advice of scholars and with the consent of the French publisher, the translator has shortened or omitted a few passages that seemed cumbersome in English or of no immediate interest to the general reader—excisions amounting to perhaps a dozen pages altogether. But she has made every effort to be faithful to the original in other respects, and particularly to preserve the quality of Foucher’s style and the humanistic turn of his mind. Most of the thirty-one illustrations depict monuments cited by Foucher, some of them so ancient as to be virtually contemporary with Gautama himself.
About the Author:
Alfred Foucher, 1865-1952, was professor at the University of Paris, director of the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, and member of the Institut de Francaise. He was known everywhere for his archaeological-cultural researches in Afghanistan and India, and especially for his profound understanding of Indian art and iconography.