Haunting the Buddha: Indian Popular Religions and the Formation of Buddhism

Hardcover | December 21, 2004

byRobert DeCaroli

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Early European histories of India frequently reflected colonialist agendas. The idea that Indian society had declined from an earlier Golden Age helped justify the colonial presence. It was said, for example, that modern Buddhism had fallen away from its original identity as a purely rationalphilosophy that arose in the mythical 5th-century BCE Golden Age unsullied by the religious and cultural practices that surrounded it. In this book Robert DeCaroli seeks to place the formation of Buddhism in its appropriate social and political contexts. It is necessary, he says, to acknowledge thatthe monks and nuns who embodied early Buddhist ideals shared many beliefs held by the communities in which they were raised. In becoming members of the monastic society these individuals did not abandon their beliefs in the efficacy and the dangers represented by minor deities and spirits of thedead. Their new faith, however, gave them revolutionary new mechanisms with which to engage those supernatural beings. Drawing on fieldwork, textual, and iconographic evidence, DeCaroli offers a comprehensive view of early Indian spirit-religions and their contributions to Buddhism-the first attemptat such a study since Ananda Coomaraswamy's pioneering work was published in 1928. The result is an important contribution to our understanding of early Indian religion and society, and will be of interest to those in the fields of Buddhist studies, Asian history, art history, andanthropology.

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Early European histories of India frequently reflected colonialist agendas. The idea that Indian society had declined from an earlier Golden Age helped justify the colonial presence. It was said, for example, that modern Buddhism had fallen away from its original identity as a purely rationalphilosophy that arose in the mythical 5th-ce...

Robert DeCaroli is Assistant Professor of Art History at George Mason University.

other books by Robert DeCaroli

Image Problems: The Origin and Development of the Buddha's Image in Early South Asia
Image Problems: The Origin and Development of the Buddh...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 6.3 × 9.29 × 0.79 inPublished:December 21, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195168380

ISBN - 13:9780195168389

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"Robert DeCaroli's book sheds new light on a body of material that is central to our understanding of ancient South Asian cultures. It explores the complex relationship between Buddhist religion and pre-existing popular beliefs and highlights, in an unprecedented way, the impact of localtraditions on the formation of Buddhism and its art. This book is valuable to specialists, yet it is accessible and meaningful to a broader audience approaching this important material for the first time."--Kurt Behrendt, Department of Art History, Tyler School of Art, Temple University