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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2014 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 69 Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a king who wished for his son to succeed him on the throne. But wise men predicted that the child might turn to religion and become a great spiritual hero instead. To forestall this, the king surrounded his son with pleasures and hid the suffering of the world from him. But the boy learned the truth and, much to his father’s dismay, became a renunciant anyway. Despite his father’s resistance, the prince renounced the royal life and, after much self-cultivation, became a great and holy individual who ben- efited many people. Does this story sound familiar? To most Buddhists, this broad outline is instantly recognizable as a retelling of the life of Shakyamuni Buddha. In many Buddhist societies, in fact, this basic life story has formed an enduring template for the ideal biography for any Buddhist practitioner. Traditional accounts of exemplary Bud- dhist lives are often structured around these same predictable signposts of auspi- cious birth, renunciation (often in the face of parental resistance), spiritual exertion, and the ultimate triumph of enlightenment. ANNABELLA PITKIN is a visiting assistant professor of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures at Barnard College. She specializes in Tibetan Buddhism and Asian intellectual history. REVIEWS IN SEARCH OF THE CHRISTIAN BUDDHA: How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint HOW THE BUDDHA BECAME ST. JOSAPHAT Reviewed by Annabella Pitkin BIBLIOTHÈQUENATIONALEDEFRANCE Saint Barlaam Teaching Josaphat Detail from illuminated manuscript, France, 1463 by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. and Peggy McCracken W. W. Norton & Company, 2014 272 pages, $24.95