A Christian Buddha: The Medieval Tale of Barlaam and Josaphat

Donald S Lopez

This is the first of three lectures by Prof. Donald. S. Lopez I will be posting in the coming weeks given as part of the 2012 Edwin O. Reischauer Lecture Series at Harvard.

Although I don’t normally post lectures that omit illustrations, in this case the sheer documentary evidence that Lopez presents warrants its inclusion here.

In the series Lopez looks at different encounters between Buddhism and Christianity, and manages to find some very interesting misunderstandings that took place on both sides.

The first, and I suppose the most famous, is the story of the transformation of the Life of the Buddha story and how it found its way into Catholic discourse, and the Bodhisatta was made a Catholic saint.

This in itself is, of course, an intriguing story, but there were many more confusions in which the Buddha appeared, for instance, as St. Thomas, the missionary to India.

There is also an interesting response from Prof, Charles Hallisey in which he brings out some of the underlying allusions to modern writers in Lopez’ lecture.


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