This is the second of four lectures given by Prof. Donald Lopez at Yale University as part of the Dwight H. Terry Lecture Series on Religion and Science. The first one was shown last week.
In this week’s talk Prof. Lopez unfolds the story of the European discovery of the Buddha during the colonial period, their piecing together over a couple of centuries that idolators in many different countries were worshipping the same ‘god’, whom we now know as the Buddha.
And it culminates in the description given by Prof. Eugène Bournouf in 1844 of a person we would recognise as the Buddha we know today – with there being only only one problem, probably no traditional Buddhist at the time would have been able to recognise who was being described.
In the fight for the defence of their nations and cultures though, this scientific Buddha was adopted by the religious and monarchical elites in all the Buddhist countries, who used it to show how their belief-systems were superior to the Christianity being fostered on them.
It is a fascinating story, and one that has had profound impact on Buddhism itself, and others’ understanding of Buddhism ever since. Prof. Lopez tells this story with faultless effort, being a master of his sources. And, as with each of the lectures, it is followed by Q&A with the assembled, and learned audience.
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