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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
72 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2014 idolators from India. One can only be awed at the irony, since just a few cen- turies later Europeans will describe the Buddha, on whom Iodasaph is loosely based, as the greatest and worst of all “idols.” The Georgian translation was a great success. Iodasaph was widely venerated as a saint in medieval Georgia, and Lopez and McCracken, rather persua- sively, see the Georgian reworking of the tale as a kind of Christian revenge fan- tasy of the time. Strikingly, the saintly prince, based on a Buddhist original and translated from an Arabic story, has now become a Christian champion invoked to defeat Muslims. The Arabic version had made one other dramatic change in the narra- tive, repeated in the Georgian version and then by all the European language translations. This is the introduction of a holy teacher for the prince, a kind of doubling of the saintly hero quotient. In all the subsequent Christian transla- tions of the story, the paired figures of saintly prince and holy ascetic teacher remain, as does the violent pagan father- king who persecutes them. In the pro- gression of these translations, the tale becomes ever more Christianized, with translators often inserting collections of Christian parables, theological discus- sions, and accounts of Christian relics. The story’s popularity really took off when it was translated from Greek to Latin in the mid-eleventh century. Col- lections of saints’ lives were hugely pop- ular at the time, modeling aspirations for Christian renunciation, monasti- cism, and heroic virtue. Barlaam, as the prince’s teacher was now called, and Josaphat, the prince, were never for- mally canonized by the Catholic Church, but they appeared in the Roman Marty- rology when it was published in 1583 by Pope Gregory XIII. Perhaps even more important for their enduring fame in Europe, their story was included in a famous thirteenth-century collection of saints’ lives called The Golden Legend. More widely printed even than the Bible prior to 1500, it was translated into most of the major vernacular languages of Europe. The French author of the final major medieval translation that Lopez and McCracken describe got his version from The Golden Legend. His Old French composition, titled Barlaam and Josaphat and written in the thirteenth century during the time of the Christian Crusades in Palestine, is in some ways the most strikingly distant from the life story of the Buddha. Now Josaphat has become a soldier who defends Christi- anity on the battlefield during the war declared against him by his Muslim father. We have come a long way indeed from the life of Shakyamuni. McCracken and Lopez persuasively see this most warlike take on the prince’s story as once again the result of contem- poraneous circumstances. They argue that Barlaam and Josaphat’s author was writing in part to exhort his noble French audience to further Crusades. The result is a set of interlocking iro- nies that may astonish the reader. Not only has a figure that began as the Bud- dha metamorphosed into a crusading warrior prince and a Christian, but the father king (whom all versions since the Arabic have described as an idolator) is now reimagined as a Muslim. This last irony is especially striking, since Islam, arguably more than Christianity, has often fiercely rejected all religious and even artistic techniques that might hint at idolatry. As Lopez has discussed in his other books on European encounters with Asia, idolatry became an important European polemical term for all non- Christians and was applied not only to Buddhists and Hindus but also to Mus- lims, however irrational this might be. The reader of In Search of the Christian Buddha gets a further sense of how medi- eval Christian communities, particularly in Europe, became increasingly isolated from other religions and from the rest of New book by Bonnie Myotai Treace WINTER MOON A Season of Zen Teachings Available now through Amazon.com and other retail outlets REVIEWS Jakusho Kwong, Abbot Soto Zen Lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi resident training monthly sesshins guest resident practice solo retreats workshops daily meditation rural country setting Genjo-ji 6367 Sonoma Mountain Road Santa Rosa, CA 95404 707.545.8105 firstname.lastname@example.org www.smzc.net SONOMA MOUNTAIN ZEN CENTER