What might daily life have been like in the time of the Buddha in the sixth century BC? Who were some of the rulers, monks, philosophers, devotees, and doctors with whom the Buddha would have interacted and had discussions? What was involved in spreading the message of Buddhism and setting up the Buddhist sangha (order)? What were the schisms and factions, and the nature of opposition to Buddhism from Brahmin hegemony? These are among the many questions asked and answered in this book.
A great deal is known about Buddhist tenets and doctrine, but very little exists on the lived context of the Buddha himself. Early Buddhist texts in Pali reveal a society in ways that other texts relating to Buddhism – including the Brahmanical literature – do not. Xinru Liu reads this literature to argue that the historical Buddha does not really exist in the imagination of most people, neither among Buddhists nor in others. This book plugs a large gap in our understanding of Buddhism.
Several misconceptions are eliminated through Xinru Liu’s richly scholarly yet accessible and imaginative account of society in the time of the Buddha. Gender, religion, and caste in early India come alive in this book for students, teachers, and everyone interested in the living universe of India 2500 years ago.
XINRU LIU is Professor Emeritus of early Indian history and world history at the College of New Jersey, and honorary visiting professor at the Institute of World History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Liu had little formal schooling: a peasant and then a factory worker during the Chinese cultural revolution, she taught herself English and history and got her PhD in 1985 from the University of Pennsylvania. Her revised dissertation, Ancient India and Ancient China: Trade and Religious Exchanges, A.D. 1–600 (1988), won the award for Outstanding Research Works done between 1977 and 1991 from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.