The Unfortunate Idol Fo: The Story of a Forgotten Buddha

Donald Lopez

The second of these eye-opening lectures by Prof. Donald S. Lopez focuses on some misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the Buddha that were made in the early modern era by Christian missionaries.

Prof. Lopez looks at three examples, the first from China where missionaries misinterpreted the religion of the Buddha (Fo) as being the origin of idol worship; the Chinese reciprocated by confusing the missionaries with a sect of Buddhism.

The second and most interesting confusion comes from Thailand, where not only the life of the Buddha became hopelessly confused by Jesuits, but where Christ was seen as an analogue to Devadatta by the Thais.

The third from missionaries in Japan has the Buddha, a philosopher like Aristotle, preaching emptiness, then as nobody would accept it, preaching a more mundane philosophy of heavens and hells, before reverting to his doctrine of nothing on his death bed.

The main lecture is followed by a succinct summary and additional examples given by Prof. James Robson, who adds valuable information to that presented by the main speaker.


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