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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2014 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 73 the world. The cosmopolitan quality we see in the early part of our story—where Arabic authors could be intrigued by a Buddhist tale in Sanskrit and render it in their own language, in a way that’s familiar but different—seems long gone. The story that Lopez and McCracken tell has a final chapter, a last, rather delicious irony. For eventually colonial encounters, as Lopez has told us else- where, led to widespread European interest in Asian languages and reli- gions and to the study of a new field called Buddhism. Before the nineteenth century, the parallels between Saint Josaphat and the Buddha were some- times observed but never explored—per- haps, as our authors suggest, “because the Buddha was an idol and Josaphat was a saint.” But in the nineteenth cen- tury the dots were finally connected, “generating both delight and dismay.” In the process, unsurprisingly, Josaphat lost his official sainthood. And the Buddha, Lopez and McCracken argue, became a new kind of saint: the darling of liberal humanists, who saw in him an alternative to precisely the kind of Christian triumphalism and Catholic miracle-working that the Barlaam and Josaphat tale had celebrated. Indeed, some European scholars of the Barlaam story appear in Lopez and McCracken’s reading to have positively delighted in undoing the layers of Christian and Islamic alteration to reveal the “real” story of the Buddha beneath. Ultimately, Lopez and McCracken leave the reader to speculate on this extraordinary story of a story—not only how far and wide a tale can travel but also how, even at precisely the times when armies and religions clashed, a tale from someone else’s world might intrigue a new author enough to make it their own. Is Barlaam and Josaphat the “same” story as the story of the Bud- dha? Do any stories remain the same? Buddhists may not be surprised to learn that stories, like everything else, are con- stantly moving, always in translation. REVIEWS