Lives of Early Buddhist Monks: The Oldest Extant Biographies of Indian and Central Asian Monks

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Many Indian and Central Asian Monks undertook the perilous journey to China to spread the message of the Buddha to the Chinese in the early centuries of the first millennium of the Christian era. They crossed harsh deserts of Central Asia and perilous seas of South and East Asia. This biography contains accounts of twenty-eight monks, of which twenty-four relate to these monks. Their accounts were written by the Chinese in the first quarter of the sixth century. The four remaining accounts were translated from Indian sources, three in early fifth century, and one in the latter half of the sixth century. Contemporary China was passing through political turmoil, and the suffering masses were desperately seeking succor somewhere. The native philosophical schools were totally inadequate to respond to this need. Buddhism stepped into this vacuum with its religious doctrine. This brought great solace to the masses. The Buddhist promise of reward for the pious and punishment for the evil in the other world got general acceptance. China at that time was a highly literate society where scholars enjoyed great prestige. Many such scholars were attracted to the new creed, and became its champions. The Buddhist establishment also fostered talented novices to face their rivals in intellectual debates. China indeed proved to be a fertile soil with many challenges for monks from the west. There were hostile rulers with scant respect for these holy men. As against this, many rulers believed that the presence of holy men in their midst would strengthen their cause against their rivals. One ruler even went to the extent of sending an expedition across the Central Asian deserts to secure the custody of a famous monk. A weak ruler killed a monk instead of handing him over to a powerful rival. This biography is also a record of many contemporary historical and social events. Finally, it gives some idea of ethnic migration from Central Asia into China.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Saroj Kumar Chaudhuri

Prof. Saroj Kumar Chaudhuri taught Japanese in the School of Foreign Languages, New Delhi, university of Delhi, and Aichi Gakusen University of Toyota City, Japan. For a year he was in the Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo, as a Visiting Professor. He has written two books so far, Siddham in China and Japan dealing with the contributions of Sanskrit phonetics to Chinese and Japanese, and Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Japan. He is teaching Japanese in Delhi University at present as a Guest Professor. He is also associated with the Indira Gandhi national center for the arts, New Delhi, as a Consultant 


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Lives of Early Buddhist Monks: The Oldest Extant Biographies of Indian and Central Asian Monks
1st ed.
xxii+192p., Maps; Appendix; Index; 25cm.


#Central Asia