Questioning the Buddha

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“In this volume, prose and verse join beautifully to celebrate the Dharma. The selections show how rich, how diverse, and how wonderful the Kangyur is—and how little we know about it.” —from the foreword by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

“A stimulating and delightfully readable book . . . Peter Skilling is probably the most versatile scholar of Buddhology today, equally conversant with philosophy, history, ritual, doctrine, art, and iconography. He has selected from the Tibetan twenty-five sutras that were lost in India long ago, which he has translated into elegant English. His introduction and first two appendixes together form a most lucid and up-to-date discussion of Buddhist thought that should be compulsory reading in any field of Buddhology.” —Pratapaditya Pal, author of Quest for Coomaraswamy: A Life in the Arts

“Peter Skilling’s selection of Buddhist sutras comes with an informative introduction, a meticulous exploration of sources, and an attractive and reliable rendering in English. Textual discoveries and expositions of this quality are a substantial contribution to Buddhist studies.” —Romila Thapar, professor emerita of history, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

“A magnificent scholar and a magnificent human being, Peter Skilling has always been an example for us all, for his unbounded erudition combined with an unflinching modesty. This precious volume will serve as a reference and an inspiration to present and future generations.”
—Matthieu Ricard
, Shechen Monastery, Nepal


A Selection of Twenty-Five Sutras

Peter Skilling

In the forty-five years the Buddha spent traversing northern India, he shared his wisdom with everyone from beggar women to kings. Hundreds of his discourses, or sutras, were preserved by his followers, first orally and later in written form. Around thirteen hundred years after the Buddha’s enlightenment, the sutras were translated into the Tibetan language, where they have been preserved ever since. To date, only a fraction of these have been made available in English. Questioning the Buddha brings the reader directly into the literary treasure of the Tibetan canon with thoroughly annotated translations of twenty-five different sutras. Often these texts, many translated here in full for the first time, begin with an encounter in which someone poses a question to the Buddha.

Peter Skilling, an authority on early Buddhist epigraphy, archaeology, and textual traditions, has been immersed in the Buddhist scriptures of diverse traditions for nearly half a century. In this volume, he draws on his deep and extensive research to render these ancient teachings in a fresh and precise language. His introduction is a fascinating history of the Buddhist sutras, including the transition from oral to written form, the rise of Mahayana literature, the transmission to Tibet, the development of canons, and a look at some of the pioneers of sutra study in the West.

Sutras included in this volume are: Four Dharmas Not to Be Taken for Granted; The Benefits of Giving; The Exposition of Four Dharmas; The Merit of the Three Refuges; Four Dharmas Never to Be Abandoned; Advice for Bodhisatva Dharmaketu; Advice for Bodhisatva Jayamati; Sūtra Comparing Bodhicitta to Gold; Bodhisatva Maitreya’s Question about the Gift of the Dharma; Four Summaries of the Dharma Spoken to the Nāga King Sāgara; The Stanza of Dependent Arising; The Heart Formula of Dependent Arising; Prediction of the Boy Brahmaśrī’s Future Buddhahood; Kṣemavatī’s Prediction to Future Buddhahood; The City Beggar Woman; An Old Woman’s Questions about Birth and Death; The Questions of Śrīmatī the Brahman Woman; The Questions of the Laywoman Gaṅgottarā; Brahmā Sahāṃpati’s Question; Advice to King Prasenajit; Passage to the Next Life; Instructions for King Bimbisāra; Instructions for King Udayana; Buddhas as Rare as a Grain of Golden Sand; and Predictions on the Eve of the Great Final Nirvāṇa.

Learn more about the Classics of Indian Buddhism series.

book information
  • Paperback
  • 680 pages, 6 x 9 inches
  • $49.95
  • ISBN 9781614293934
  • ebook
  • 680 pages
  • $38.99
  • ISBN 9781614294085
about the author
Questioning the Buddha

Peter Skilling is a special lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, and an honorary associate, Department of Indian SubContinental Studies, University of Sydney, Australia. Until his retirement in 2017, he was a professor of the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) based in Bangkok. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in the humanities by Chulalongkorn University in 2020. He is an honorary member of the Siam Society, Bangkok, and in 2017 he was elected an honorary fellow of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai. He has been visiting professor at Harvard University (2000), the University of California at Berkeley (2001), Oxford University (2002), Sydney University (2009), Soka University (2009), and Savitribai Phule Pune University (2016–17). He has published widely on the Buddhist literature, history, and epigraphy of South and Southeast Asia.

Other books by Peter Skilling:
Buddha’s Words for Tough Times

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