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ThingsReligion and the Question of Materiality$
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Dick Houtman and Birgit Meyer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823239450

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823239450.001.0001

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From Stone to Flesh the Case of the Buddha

From Stone to Flesh the Case of the Buddha

(p.77) From Stone to Flesh the Case of the Buddha

Donald S. Lopez

Fordham University Press

This chapter traces the origins of the Buddha as we know him today: the friendly, peaceful, and wise embodiment of a “pure” spirituality who represents not a religion but rather a philosophy, or even a morality or way of life. This dematerialized and textualized Buddha is only a recent construction. It owes much to the publication in 1844 of Sanskrit scholar Eugène Burnouf's book Introduction to the History of Indian Buddhism and has since been popularized in the West and even in Buddhist Asia itself. This contemporary Buddha is remarkably different from the various figures known before, when Western understandings of Buddhism were principally informed by “things”: his images, understood as “idols” by Western travelers and missionaries.

Keywords:   Buddha, Buddha image, Buddhism, Burnouf, Idol, Idolatry, Missionary

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