A review by Bruce Gill, Chair of NASACRE: the National Association of Standing Advisory Committees on Religious Education in the NASACRE Journal

 

From its opening sentences this book convincingly draws the reader into the culture of people and places of the distant past; powerfully evoking the sights, smells and sounds of times long gone; and in so doing provides a perfect backdrop to the light that Vishvapani Blomfield shines on the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha.

Blomfield’s narrative is founded on his faithful use of relatively recently translated texts and interestingly the gentle, careful and understated tone of his research speaks volumes of the mission, if not passion, that evidently moved him to devote time and attention to this work.

Gautama Buddha’s birth, Enlightenment and death are placed in the late fifth century BCE around a century later than the traditional dates. A light-touched and eminently readable biography, this is compelling and captivating as well as being significant in addressing an important gap in current discourse on the historical Gautama. It does not shrink from using the myths and legends that surround Gautama to shed light on his life and the development of his teachings and so contributes to the sense of a real encounter with Gautama.

Blomfield’s tracing of Gautama’s life and development is sympathetic and instructive and his accounts and explanation of the religious context of that development is clear and very accessible. As a result, Buddhist concepts that might be potentially difficult or new to readers are introduced in a meaningful manner that enables easier learning. Religious Studies students in schools will find this book both useful and inspiring. Particularly, those following A or AS level courses and GCSE students with a special interest in Buddhism will discover an extraordinarily human Gautama revealed within its pages.

Bruce Gill