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The Living Buddha

The Living Buddha
Pub. Year



Middleway Press



  The Living Buddha (Published by Weatherhill, 1995)

Republished by Middleway Press in the U.S. in 2008, this biographical account of Shakyamuni weaves together what is known and what can be surmised about his life and times. The author draws on the Buddhist canon for its narratives to provide insights into this historic figure who dedicated his life to helping all people free themselves from suffering.

Shakyamuni, known historically as the Buddha, was said to have attained enlightenment about the essential nature of life and then went on to teach others. Ikeda's rendering shows Shakyamuni as not a mystic but a warm and engaged human being who was very much a product of his turbulent times. His was an exemplary life in transcending much the same kinds of circumstances we face in our own times of rapid change.

The author provides insights that reveal the struggles of Shakyamuni as not only accessible but those commonly felt by all humanity. Describing Shakyamuni’s hesitation to preach the enlightenment he had attained, Ikeda writes: “The enlightened man has sufferings known only to himself, for he alone is aware of the wisdom he has achieved. All the great pioneers and teachers in history have experienced this problem . . . But when once he rises up in determination, then the world of truth that is within himself will be transmitted to the rest of the men of the world in a form that is capable of awakening a universal response within them as well. Only then will his sense of loneliness be dispelled.”

These insights derive as much from Ikeda’s interpretive view as from the extensive sources he cites. A follower of the teachings of 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren, Ikeda places emphasis on the purpose of Shakyamuni’s existence and the aim of Buddhism.

Translated by Burton Watson, The Living Buddha is an important contribution to writings on Shakyamuni and his legacy, and a perceptive introduction to the founder of one of the world's major religions.

The Living Buddha is also available in Japanese, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Indonesian, Swedish, Portuguese, Danish, Russian, Chinese (traditional and simplified versions), Thai, Vietnamese, Serbian, Sinhalese and Greek.


Preface to the English Edition by Daisaku Ikeda
Translator’s Note

  1. The Young Shakyamuni
    Shakyamuni’s Names
    The Shakya Tribe
    The Historical Setting
    Shakyamuni’s Family
    Shakyamuni’s Early Years

  2. The Great Departure
    The Ascetic and Indian Society
    The Departure and Wanderings
    The Rise of a New Culture
    The Six Non-Buddhist Teachers

  3. The Years of Austerities
    The Encounter with King Bimbisara
    The Two Brahman Hermits
    The Practice of Austerities
    The Rejection of Austerities

  4. The Enlightenment
    The Temptation of Mara
    What Is Enlightenment?
    The Content of Shakyamuni’s Enlightenment
    The Law of Causation

  5. Shakyamuni the Teacher
    The Decision To Propagate the Law
    Turning the Wheel of the Law
    Shakyamuni’s Disciples
    Preaching at Uruvela

  6. The Company of Disciples
    Shariputra and Maudgalyayana
    Shakyamuni’s Visit to Kapilavastu
    Upali and Aniruddha

  7. The Growth of the Order
    The Other Major Disciples
    The City of Shravasti
    Management of the Order
    Devadatta’s Revolt

  8. The Entry into Nirvana
    The Sad Events of Shakyamuni’s Closing Years
    The Last Journey
    Chunda the Blacksmith


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