An End to Suffering

by wil — Sep 13, 2011

An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World is ostensibly a book about the Buddha/Buddhism — and it is, in part. It’s also part travelogue, part memoir, part primer of Indian politics/history.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is the chapter on the discovery/rediscovery of Buddhism by early-19th-century Europeans. By the 19th century, Indian Buddhism had all but disappeared, and the origins of Buddhism had become shrouded in mystery. But the story of the Buddha and Buddhism was gradually uncovered and reassembled and presented to the West in 1844 as the Introduction à l’histoire du bouddhisme indien, “the first comprehensive attempt to explain the Buddha’s teaching available in the West,” influencing, among others, Emerson, Thoreau, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.

This section makes me want to explore the Western discovery of Buddhism further. I’m looking at The Search for the Buddha: The Men Who Discovered India’s Lost Religion by Charles Allen as a follow-up. An End to Suffering has also turned me on to Montaigne and Vaclav Havel — so it’s definitely been worthwhile as a source for new reads, but in and of itself, it’s a bit of a meandering, mixed bag — interesting, but not particularly cohesive.

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