K. Manohar Gupta. The Aryan Path of the Buddha. Dev Nagar, India: Sundeep Prakashan, 2005. Hardcover, xx + 512 pp.
I was genuinely looking forward to plowing through this massive tome of 500 pages. Both the subject matter and the author’s inspiring appreciation of Buddhism seemed promising. Yet, as I was delving into the book, I found myself increasingly disenchanted with it for three reasons. First the writing is sometimes obscure and often grammatically blemished; second, the discourse (especially at the beginning of the book) is at times digressive, which makes for somewhat tedious reading. The author would have done better if he had pruned his work and reduced it down to perhaps 350 pages. The publishers would have done better if they had proofread the manuscript properly. The third reason for my disappointment was Dr. Manohar Gupta’s utilization of the Aryan invasion model of Indian history, which reflects the cultural bias of nineteenth-century European scholarship and which, thankfully, has in recent years been debunked by linguists, archaeologists, and historians.
Despite the above misgivings, however, I think that Dr. Gupta has made many relevant points and, as a side benefit, has succeeded in giving us a good sense of the stupendous contribution of Gautama the Buddha to the culture and philosophy of India. Because the author cites liberally and dexterously from the Pali canonical scriptures, we also are treated to a wonderful glimpse of the Buddha’s extraordinary personality as a sage and teacher. He combined rationality with profound spiritual insight and a deep moral sense (the kind of nobility epitomized in the word ariya/ārya).
Dr. Gupta focused on an analysis of the meaning of the term ārya (Pali: ariya), the noble eightfold path of the Buddha, the wheel of the dharma (Pali: dhamma), and the middle path devoid of extremism, as well as the Buddha’s skillful use of similes and parables and also reasoning (Pali: thāna) to prove a point. There are eleven appendices in all, of which appendices IX-XI respectively contain basic discussions of dependent origination, the four noble truths, and methods of meditation recommended by the Buddha. Taken together the author’s various investigations give us an excellent appreciation of the Buddha’s innovative approach and the principal theoretical and practical features of his spiritual system.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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