The present work consists of four chapters dealing with the life of Buddha. As far as possible an effort has here been made to sift history out of the legendary life of Buddha from all available Buddhist literature, sculptures etc (chapter-I)
It expounds Kamadeva the God of Love known as Mara in Buddhism and its defeat by Buddha before enlightenment. Details about how Mara attained dominating position of one of the foure supernatural’s i.e Samkhya and the evolution of Buddhism has been discussed (Chapter-III)
If accounts how the deification of Buddha began and the Avtar conception of Buddha was introduced. All the miraculous powers attributed to Buddha, Buddha-bhakti and epithets, to make Buddha dev-deva in comparison with other prevailing conceptions of Hindu Gods have been incorporated.
This work is written in author’s own style which tells ofher scholarly mastery of the subject.
Dr. Sarla Khosla imminent scholar of Buddhism Her works “History of Buddhism in Kashmir”,”Gupta Civilization”,”Asvagosha and his times” and a number of research articles including “Buddhism in Ladakh” and “World Debt to Buddhist World have won her acclaim in the Buddhist world “ The Historical Evolution of the Buddha Legend” supplements her Book “Asvaghosa and his times.
The present work,” The Historical Evolution of Buddha Legend” is a unique attempts of its own kind . In it, I have tried historically to dig out the important events of Buddha’s life upto 2nd C.A.D. In the absence of normal contemporary, well –connected evidence, resort had to be made to whatever available , epigraphic , numismatic , religious , literature and archaeological sources like inscriptions , coins etc., to reach the conclusions ,as mentioned in this work.
Very little work by foreign and Indian Scholars has been done to trace the historical evolution of Buddha legend. For which they have sporadically utilised Pai and Sanskrit texts , such as Mahavastu and Lalitavistara. But none of them has incorporated so thoroughly and methodically the minutest changes , witnessed in the evolution of the said legend, during the course of nearly half a millennium, i.e. . right from pre-Buddha concept , to the times of Asvaghosa (2nd century A.D). The present volume tries to fill up these gaps.
Regarding the dates assigned to the Pali and Sanskrit religious literature without entering into any controversy , I have mostly depended upon the dates assigned by Pali text Society ,London ; Harvard Oriental Series Publication and Winternitz , through the opinion of other commentators and scholars of royal Asiatic Society and Asiatic Society , Calcutta ; Mahabodhi societies of India and Foreign countries ,such as at Bombay, Bihar, Colombo , London etc. have not been ignored.
Here a word of Caution ! The Buddhist literature, in Pali and Sanskrit deals mainly with ethics and religion . However , it grew up amongst those followers of Buddha, Who dwelt in the republics and kingdoms of those times. As such we do find references , here and there , in these texts, which tell us about the ideas held by the Indian people of these times. There references are purely incidental but this very fact makes them all the more valuable , because they gives us a picture , may be imperfect , but still fairly correct , as far as it goes, of the general conditions, economic ,social etc. As they appeared to the composers of these texts .
The Pali Literature is not earlier than 3rd to 4th C.B.C while Buddha lived in 6th -5th C.B.C . Moreover , these sources do not give the well-connected life –events of the teacher. Rather they make only sporadic references to his birth, heritage , renunciation, enlightenment and disciples. The Chinese ,Tibetan , Sinhalese and Burmese scholars have also mostly depended upon Pali (and Sanskrit) works e.g Mahavastu, Lalitavistara and Asvaghosa’s two Sanskrit works of Asvaghosa give us well-connectedevents of Buddha’s Life.
In PaliVinaya and Nikayas , the Buddha’s life begins from the great renunciation with only occasional references to Tusita heaven, while in Sanskrit sources. It begains from his pre-birth in Tusita heaven and ends with his pari-nirvana. Hence the Chinese , Tibetan ,Burmese and Sinhalese traditional life-events of his could not be ignored while tapping Sanskrit sources.
The present work includes a full chapter on the ‘Mara’ concept , in which , various aspects of ‘Mara’ , the Temptor, the Kamdeva personified etc. have been dealt with. The reason for this is simple fact, that this Mara concept , although it started the time of Asvaghosa. Asvagosha has personified ‘Mara’ as Kamdeva, a metaphorical figure in the Brahmanic literature. Siva is said to have burnt Kamdeva with his third eye. In Buddhist literature ,as a parallel episode , Buddha fights Mara, the temptor . Whether this fight in Buddhacarita symbolise his own inner conflicts or the conflict with the other prevailing sects , specially the Brahmanic theology , is still a matter of further probe.
The story of the ‘Evolution of Buddha Legend ’, over a period of more than half a millennium (Buddha to Kaniska) is a story of ups and downs .Starting with an Individual (Buddha) , initially it was confirmed to a very narrow central belt in India. But it had a popular appeal , as it not only allowed right of worship even to the made it very simple. So, gradually the number of converts increased. But in this process, the Buddhist preachers and writers had to flight the then prevalent other religious sects, specially the Brahmanism. So they resorted to depict Buddha and his life events , similar to other popular Hindu Gods. The Pre-Buddha concept Mayadevi’s dream, , four seen, the Mara concepts etc. all point to that end. However in the process of deifying Buddha , his original Philosophy and teachings slowly got changed , specially after the royal patronage of Asoka , when Buddhism crossed the Indian Borders and reached Tibet and china in the North and sri lanka in the south. So much so, that by the time os Asvaghosa (2nd C.AD), Buddhism was divided into eighteen factions . Asvagosha’s Sraddotpada Sastra clearly shows the change from Hinayana to Mahayana. This has been fully dealt with in my earlier project,”Asvaghosa and his times”. However, the missing links have been dealt with in this work.
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