Book Review
The Buddha and the land on which he trod

budha.jpg (10000 bytes)Author: Nandasena Mudiyanse
Anura Manatunga
Head/Department of Archaeology
University of Kelaniya

Professor Emeritus, University of Kelaniya

Published by: S. Godage Bros.

675, Maradana Road, Colombo 10

The recent publication named ‘The Buddha and the land on which he trod’ contains 5 chapters and 19 plates. The first chapter is devoted to the main events in the life of the Buddha. The material has been chosen from the relevant Pali works and Classical Sinhala literature. The next chapter deals with (i) His teachings (ii) the three corner stones of Buddhist philosophy (iii) glimpses of Nibbana from Pali texts. The Buddha’s teachings (which run into several Nikayas) are a source of life time study but in this chapter, the author has attempted to summarise to the best of his ability, the fundamental teachings. The three corner stones of Buddhist philosophy i.e. anicca, dukkha, anatta (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness of existence and soul-lessness) are explained. It is well known that all the principles of Buddhist philosophy are based on these three corner stones.

Nibbana is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. It is a super-worldly state which has to be realised by self-effort. Just as the taste of honey cannot be explained to person who has never tasted it, Nibbana is state which has to be realised and attained. From certain passages in Pali literature, it may be possible to understand it and references and quotations have been made from such texts.

The Buddha’s person and personality can be understood from certain passages occurring in the four Nikayas and quotations are given in such a manner son as to make the reader understand or guess the nature of His personality. Pali as well as classical Sinhala literary works portray the Buddha as having an extremely pleasant appearance. A passage from Panca-raja-sutta of Samyutta Nikaya has been quoted in the following manner:

"The red lotus named Kokanada, when it blooms in the morning is sweet smelling. Similar is the Buddha whose virtues are sweet smelling. He has a shining physique".

Several interesting episodes from the Buddha’s life story are narrated in chapter 4. Quite thought provoking is the story of a Brahmin who came before the Buddha to display his skill in divulging the nature of a dead person’s re-birth by knocking at such a skull. When the Buddha gave him a skull (which happened to be one of an Arahat who had passed away) the Brahmin found his extraordinary skill a failure. The last chapter deals with notes on places of interest to pilgrims visiting Buddhist India. All the important places are dealt with in detail according to the chronological order of events of the life of the Buddha. I.e. Lumbini, Kapilavastu, Buddhagaya, Sarnath, Rajagaha, Vesali, Sravasti, Sankassa, Nalanda, Kusinara, Sanchi. The plates are also quite interesting. They have been chosen from archaeological material to be found in the museums. Some of the noteworthy ones are; Birth of the Bodhisattva at Lumbini; Bodhisattva being taken to school; The great Renuciation; Encounter with Mara; First sermon in the Deer Park; The Great Passing away. The back cover contains a picture of Buddha-gaya temple, which was originally built by Emperor Asoka and later enlarged by devout Buddhists. This publication which has been attractively bound, is certainly a valuable addition to a library.