An Archaeological History of Indian Buddhism is a comprehensive survey of Indian Buddhism from its origins in the 6th century BCE, through its ascendance in the 1st millennium CE, and its eventual decline in mainland South Asia by the mid-2nd millennium CE. Weaving together studies of archaeological remains, architecture, iconography, inscriptions, and Buddhist historical sources, this book uncovers the quotidian concerns and practices of Buddhist monks and nuns (the sangha), and their lay adherents--concerns and practices often obscured in studies of Buddhism premised largely, if not exclusively, on Buddhist texts. At the heart of Indian Buddhism lies a persistent social contradiction between the desire for individual asceticism versus the need to maintain a coherent community of Buddhists. Before the early 1st millennium CE, the sangha relied heavily on the patronage of kings, guilds, and ordinary Buddhists to support themselves. During this period, the sangha emphasized the communal elements of Buddhism as they sought to establish themselves as the leaders of a coherent religious order. By the mid-1st millennium CE, Buddhist monasteries had become powerful political and economic institutions with extensive landholdings and wealth. This new economic self-sufficiency allowed the sangha to limit their day-to-day interaction with the laity and begin to more fully satisfy their ascetic desires for the first time. This withdrawal from regular interaction with the laity led to the collapse of Buddhism in India in the early-to-mid 2nd millennium CE. In contrast to the ever-changing religious practices of the Buddhist sangha, the Buddhist laity were more conservative--maintaining their religious practices for almost two millennia, even as they nominally shifted their allegiances to rival religious orders. This book also serves as an exemplar for the archaeological study of long-term religious change through the perspectives of practice theory, materiality, and semiotics.
The most influential work on Buddhism to be published in the nineteenth century, Introduction à l’histoire du Buddhisme indien, by the great French scholar of Sanskrit Eugène Burnouf, set the course for the academic study of Buddhism—and Indian Buddhism in particular—for the next hundred years. First published in 1844, the masterwork was read by some of the most important thinkers of the time, including Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in Germany and Emerson and Thoreau in America. Katia Buffetrille and Donald S. Lopez Jr.’s expert English translation, Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism, provides a clear view of how the religion was understood in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Burnouf was an impeccable scholar, and his vision, especially of the Buddha, continues to profoundly shape our modern understanding of Buddhism. In reintroducing Burnouf to a new generation of Buddhologists, Buffetrille and Lopez have revived a seminal text in the history of Orientalism.
The History of Indian Buddhism is undoubtedly Msgr. E. Lamotte's most brilliant contribution to the field of Buddhist exegesis. The work contains a vivid, vigorous and fully-detailed description of early Buddhism and its teachings, the material organization of the Community, the formation and further developments of the writings, the conciliar traditions, the evolution of Buddhist sculpture and architecture, the origins of the sects, the Buddhist dialects and the constitution of the legends, and sets them in the historical background in which buddhist doctrines originated and expanded in India and in the neighbouring countries. Using the material evidence provided by Indian epigraphy and archaeological remains on the one hand, and taking into account the data supplied by Western (Latin and Greek) and Far Eastern (Tibetan and Chinese) sources on the other, Msgr. E. Lamotte has succeeded in producing a lucid and basic book that is unanimously considered as a classic of contemporary Buddhist studies. After thirty years, the work has retained all its value, but, in order to meet the requirements of recent Buddhist scholarship, the History of Indian Buddhism has been supplemented with an additional bibliography, an index of technical terms and revised geographical maps.
This work, like his great work on Jainism,is a very informative text on the Life and Teachings of Gautama Buddha. It also contains chapters on the Pilakas and other Sanskrit Buddhist texts. We have no doubt that this work will be generously received by the scholars interested in Buddhism.