New Biography of the Buddha

For those of you who are wondering why there is such a long time between my posts it is because I am working on the seven-part series of “Little Books on Buddhism.” I am in the process of releasing book 3, which is a biography of the Buddha. You can now download the eBook version of the Little Book on the Life of the Buddha from the Books page. The print version is still being reviewed. The eBooks will eventually be available from the Apple store and Amazon, but it usually takes between 1 and 3 weeks for the books to work their way through the system. It also takes me a week or so to convince Amazon to distribute it for free. And I am never quite sure what Kindle Direct Publishing does with my files, so I recommend that if you have a Kindle that you download from this site. I have proofed these Kindle versions myself.

This was a very challenging project, unlike anything I have done before. The amount of information you have to work your way through is staggering. But it gave me an opportunity to delve into sections of the Pali canon with which I was not previously familiar. I spent a lot of time in the Vinaya (the monastic code), which surprisingly has some detailed chronologies, and a great deal of other biographical information. I also spent more time in the Jataka tales, a journey that began in The Little Book of Buddhist Virtue. (If you don’t read anything else in that book at least read the last chapter where the paramis are explained by using Jataka tales.)

I have come to love the Jataka tales, and indeed a lot of the mythical stories. Joseph Campbell said that in the West we have lost touch with our mythology. Myths often tell stories that have important messages, and they say them in ways that are more colorful and more memorable.

Now that I live in the southwest I am learning more about the myths of Native Americans. A few posts back I told one of these stories, the Comanche story about feeding the right wolf. It is a curious thing that American Indians, who were misnamed because Columbus thought he was in India, may have a lot in common with India Indians. When I was in India the distinction between myth and reality was very blurred. That is often true with American Indians. And for many generations in Asia lay Buddhists only knew about the Buddha’s teachings through the Jataka tales.

I would also like to give a shout-out to my daughter Rebecca who I hired to be my editor. She is currently in the MFA Writing program at the University of New Hampshire. It is a rare privilege to be able to work with your own daughter. Her writing is much better than anything of which I think I am capable. Of course, whatever problems are in the book are strictly my own fault, but I think it is much better because of her help.

I hope that you will enjoy the story of the Buddha’s life. I came to really love the people in the Buddha’s life and the wonderful stories. There are so many inspiring people from the Buddha’s time. The Pali canon gives us a rich, three-dimensional view of that time. Not everything the Buddha did worked out. That is life. And we are so fortunate to have this rich and detailed account of his life. It is an inspiring tradition, and we are extremely privileged to be a part of it.

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