The History of Buddhist Thought

The History of Buddhist Thought

The History of Buddhist Thought

The History of Buddhist Thought

Excerpt

A history of Buddhism in the sense of a connected account of the chief events of all the Buddhist communities throughout the centuries is an ideal not yet attainable. The monumental Cambridge History of India is blazing a path, but it has so far completed only the first volume of the Hindu portion. Merely to record the known facts of some two thousand years of Buddhism would require more than one volume.

During the last few years several important works dealing with the less explored regions of Buddhism have appeared. Dr. N. Dutt Aspects of Mahāyāna Buddhism is more fundamental than appears from the title, and in The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature Dr. H. Dayal has devoted much intensive research to one special development. A general treatment has been begun by Dr. McGovern in his Manual of Buddhist Philosophy, vol. 1, and in An Introduction to Maāyāna Buddhism. From Dr. B. M. Barua we have Prolegomena to a History of Buddhistic Philosophy.

The earliest period has also received new attention. This period, according to Mrs. Rhys Davids, was so different from the picture that we find in our earliest records that she prefers to call it not Buddhism but Sakya. "Put away, for your origins, the word 'Buddhism' and think of your subject as 'Sakya'." This is really a religious question, and the interest that Buddhism still rouses from this point of view can be seen from Bishop Gore's Gifford Lectures, The Philosophy of the Good Life, and the Bampton Lectures of Canon Streeter, The Buddha and the Christ. It is Buddhism as we find it actually recorded, not a hypothetical primitive system, which still forms a challenge to other religions.

Through the labours of Rhys Davids and his colleagues it has become possible to form a clear idea of one of the earliest schools of Buddhism, that of the Pāli tradition still flourishing in Ceylon, Burma, Siam, and, Further India. It was no . . .

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