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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 69 be shared by Buddhists and scholars in both Asia and the West. Lopez prods at the complacency of our modern world- view by asking us, “Was something lost in the march of schol- arly progress, did something disappear when weathered stone turned to smooth flesh, when the idol turned into an ‘image’?” He suggests, “Perhaps the collapse of many gods into a single human Buddha effaced a level of detail, of specificity, of local- ity that can no longer be discerned, yet was glimpsed long ago by the eyes that could still be captivated and astonished, eyes that could not read, eyes that could only see.” Thus Lopez does far more in this book than simply chart the often fantastical misunderstandings and willful prejudices of the European writers of earlier times. In the subtle and elegantly provocative style that readers may remember from Lopez’s ear- lier works, From Stone to Flesh ultimately asks us to reexamine the nature of the Buddha we think we know. Lopez hints that we might in fact want to question aspects of the so-called “scientific” study of Buddhism that dates from Burnouf. Other scholars, such as Philip Almond in his indispensable book, The British Discovery of Buddhism (and Lopez himself, in earlier works like Prisoners of Shangri-la), have spelled out in detail how European “scientists” of Bud- dhism working in the shadow of Burnouf came to view Bud- dhist teachings as best preserved and most correctly under- stood in Europe by European scholars and not by Asian Bud- dhists. European (and later American) scholars in this mold believed Asian Buddhists had allowed Buddhism to degenerate and be corrupted with ritual, magic, irrational beliefs, and tantric practices. Least corrupt, in this European view, were the Theravada traditions of Southeast Asia; most corrupt were the northern and East Asian Mahayana traditions, with the worst degeneration being found in the Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet. Lopez does not explore these points here in full, but he suggests we might want to question our acceptance of the glo- balized, modernist, and in many ways secularized idea of the Buddha that has become dominant in both Europe and Asia. In the end, Lopez posits, we may have made mistakes our- selves, wise and well-informed as we are. Perhaps we should not have been so quick to replace the profusion of local presentations of the Buddha, each a focal point of supplica- tion and prayer, with a single figure of rationalism, science, self-help, or even humanism. Perhaps we actually require the infinite local buddhas of miracle and devotion. Lopez opens the door to forgotten possibilities: “The Buddha of Bernouf, though alive in our imagination, is long dead... He is not worshipped, he is remembered... But the idols called Xaca and Fo and Sommona-Codom remain alive, animated by the rituals of the faithful, granting our wishes, speaking to us in our dreams, inspiring our aspirations. It was not a case of mistaken identity. We should restore the idols to their empty thrones.” REVIEWS www.festivalmedia.org view the catalog and trailers online The award-winning first feature film from Tibetan director Pema Tseden now on dvd