Buddhism in the Early European Imagination: A Historical Perspective

Audrius Beinorius

Abstract


Centre of Oriental Studies, Vilnius University


The article deals with the main historical and cultural approaches of Europeans to Buddhism in various Asian areas. The intention of author is to turn to discussion of those peculiar forms in which the knowledge of Buddhism was presented. This study sets out its aim to explore the way of engagement of the West with the Buddhist tradition, emphasizing the early period of the encounter and those initial imaginative constructions and early discourses that shaped the nascency of the scholarly discipline. Conclusion is made that Buddhism has been represented in the Western imagination in a manner that reflects specifically Western concerns, interests, and aspirations. Europeans saw themselves as possessing the criteria upon which the judgement of the religious, social, and cultural value of Buddhism rests. Buddhism was constructed, essentialized and interpreted through Western images of the Oriental mind that provided ideological strategies and a hermeneutic filter.


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