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6 - Imagining the Buddha

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2023

Philip C. Almond
Affiliation:
University of Queensland
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Summary

Chapter 6 examines the ‘rediscovery’ of the Buddha when, during the ‘Age of Discovery’ in the sixteenth century, accounts from Catholic missionaries in China and Japan began to appear in Europe. Despite the inclination of the Jesuit missionaries to view all Asian idolatry as inspired by the Devil, they were instrumental in discerning that, while there were many idols referred to by many names, they were only local variations of a single figure: many idols, and many gods, but only one man – the Buddha. That said, it was a time of many imaginings, of multiple confusions, and numerous blind alleys – of the Hindu understanding of the Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu, of the Buddha as the equivalent of the patriarch Noah or the gods Mercury, Wod, and Oden, and of the African origins of the Buddha – as he was variously read into fanciful eighteenth-century readings of the origin of all religions in the time of Noah and the universal Flood.

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Chapter
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The Buddha
Life and Afterlife Between East and West
, pp. 203 - 246
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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