Gautama Buddha by Vishvapani BlomfieldI was looking for an up-to-date, well researched biography of the Buddha, and I sort of found it in this book. I say “sort of” because it wasn’t as heavy on the scholarship as I would have liked, though it was enjoyable, generally insightful, and informative.
Blomfield takes his time getting to the Buddha’s birth, first drawing a picture for us of the world Gotama grew up in. He describes the political and economic scenes and gives us a sense of the religious ferment of the time. I was disappointed though that while Blomfield adopts the more recent scholarship dating the Buddha to c.484 – 404 BCE, the rational for this new dating is never discussed.
Blomfield mostly adopts a realistic tone in portraying the events of the Buddha’s life and upbringing, though inevitably mythical elements intrude. All in all, I think he does a pretty good job at indicating what sort of person the Buddha was–energetic and sincere, inquisitive, skeptical, a brilliant raconteur, adaptable, charismatic, a genius. His treatment of Gotama’s search for enlightenment draws on recent scholarship (I recognized Alexander Wynne’s contributions) but for me his account of the enlightenment falls flat. I actually got the sense Blomfield doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m not saying he doesn’t know his way around the suttas, just that he doesn’t really seem to grasp what the Enlightenment actually entailed or meant. (This despite the back flap claiming Blomfield has been practicing and/or teaching meditation for thirty years.)
After Gotama became the Buddha, the sequence of events is difficult to nail down, so Blomfield pauses to discuss the teaching. I thought this the weakest part of the book, for the coverage here is incomplete, and let’s face it–I’m very hard to satisfy as regards these matters! Admittedly though, saying something about the Teaching here is unavoidable, and Blomfield takes a decent shot at it despite limited space.
Further chapters take up the formation of the Sangha, how the Buddha interacted with the society around him (“A Holy Man In the World”–an excellent chapter), the Devadatta crisis and then the last years. By the end I realized just how much had either been left out or only skimmed over, and it occurred to me that if anyone is ever going to do a really thorough, scholarly treatment of the Buddha’s life it may well run to a thousand pages (not including a hundred pages of notes). Personally, I would like to have seen more discussion of the important disciples, as well as something more about the various rival shramana sects (Ajivakas, Jains, etc) who competed with the Buddha. Blomfield could have said more too about the archaeology of the Buddha’s life–e.g., the debate over exactly where Kapilavastu was (generally now thought to be Tilaurakot in Nepal) is a fascinating story in itself. Anything at all to lift this man’s life out of the realm of legend and lost kingdoms and to place it on a solid footing, on the earth, connected to real things we can see and touch, would have been appreciated. (And I can always dig talk of relics!)
I have one other specific complaint: the use of Sanskrit terms, place and personal names instead of their Pali equivalents. I really don’t understand this practice. The earliest texts, the only ones that can lay any claim to being truly biographical, are all in Pali. It is simply logical to defer to those texts. Using Sanskrit instead bespeaks an ideological prejudice of some sort, I am convinced. Exactly what that prejudice might be, though, probably differs from one writer to the next.
Don’t take my complaints here too seriously though. This is a worthy book and ought to prove inspirational to many. While it is not the biography I would have written, I can honestly that what Blomfield has done here both moved and informed me.
Lumbini - The Birth Place of Gautam Buddha
The Buddha was a prince named "Siddhartha Gautama". He was born in Nepal and was the person who created the religion of Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama was born just outside the city in Lumbini. His father was a king named Shuddhodana , and his mother was a queen named Maya. Maya died when Siddhartha was about 7 months old. His father controlled him in a very peaceful and nice way. There were home tutors for him as he was not interested in the outward things that took place at that time.
On this day, Buddhists celebrate the commemoration of the birth of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism , thought to have lived in India from B. Actually, the Buddhist tradition that celebrates his birthday on April 8 originally placed his birth in the 11th century B. The kingdom of the Sakyas was situated on the borders of present-day Nepal and India. His mother, Queen Mahamaya, gave birth to him in the park of Lumbini, in what is now southern Nepal. A pillar placed there in commemoration of the event by an Indian emperor in the third century B. At his birth, it was predicted that the prince would either become a great world monarch or a Buddha—a supremely enlightened teacher. The Brahmans told his father, King Suddhodana, that Siddhartha would become a ruler if he were kept isolated from the outside world.
He lived and taught in the region around the border of modern-day Nepal and India sometime between the 6th to 4th century B. During his meditation, all of the answers he had been seeking became clear, and he achieved full awareness, thereby becoming Buddha. Buddha was born in the 6th century B. Other researchers believe he was born later, even as late as B. He belonged to a large clan called the Shakyas. In , archaeologists working in Lumbini found evidence of a tree shrine that predated other Buddhist shrines by some years, providing new evidence that Buddha was probably born in the 6th century B.
He later taught throughout other regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kosala. Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism. He is believed by Buddhists to be an enlightened teacher who attained full Buddhahood and shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. Accounts of his life, discourses and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarised after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about years later.