Indian Esoteric Buddhism

Indian Esoteric Buddhism

Product ID: 13732

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Author: Ronald M Davidson
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass
Year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 475
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8120819918


Despite the rapid spread of Buddhism-especially the esoteric system of Tantra, one of its most popular yet most misunderstood forms-the historical origins of Buddhist though and practice remain obscure. This groundbreaking work describes the genesis of the Tantric movement in early medieval India, where it developed as a response to, and in some ways an example of, the feudalization of Indian society.

Drawing on primary documents- many translated for the first time-from Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tibetan, Bengali, and Chinese, Ronald Davidson shows how changes in medieval Indian society, including economic an patronage crises, a decline in women's participation, and the formation of large monastic orders, led to the rise of the esoteric tradition in India that became the model for Buddhist cultures in China, Tibet, and Japan.


An exceptional work of stunning research, eloquence, and unusual innovativeness.
-David F Germano, University of Virginia

This extraordinary work advances our knowledge of esoteric Buddhism in India by placing it in broader context of Indian history and culture, drawing on texts, archaeological evidence, and inscriptions. It will no doubt be required reading for all serious students of medieval Indian religion.
-Phyllis Granoff, McMaster University

Ronald M Davidson gives us an original and revelatory contribution to the study of Buddhism and Indian religions, one that will surely provoke animated discussion and debate. Buddhist tantrism, the subject of much mystification in the past and at present, is here clearly examined in its early social and historical context for the first time, Indian Esoteric Buddhism begins the necessary task of theoretically and substantively grounding our approaches to scholarship in this endlessly fascinating and puzzling domain, revealing the all-too-human faces of its sages, wizards, and kings.
-Matthew Kapstein, University of Chicago


Maps and Illustrations


Preface to the Revised Edition


Pronunciation and Orthographic Guide

Introduction: A Plethora of Premises

Prayers in the Palace, Swords in the Temple: Early Medieval India

The Medieval Buddhist Experience

The Victory of Esoterism and the Imperial Metaphor

Siddhas and the Religious Landscape

Siddhas, Literature, and Language

Siddhas, Monks, and Communities

Conclusion: The Esoteric Conundrum

Appendix: Probable Pasupata Sites