From the Buddha in ancient India to a nun in modern-day Los Angeles, Lives Lived, Lives Imagined crosses time, traditions, and cultures to present fascinating depictions of lives lived on the Buddhist path. Buddhist biographies come to life in many forms; they come from known poets and anonymous compilers; they are told by bards and even enacted by performers; they may also be autobiographies, either public or secret. Equally diverse have been the purposes they have served—as models for emulation, as origin stories for a particular community or lineage, or as narrative explications of doctrine.
This book, a collection of papers presented at a conference at the University of Oxford, presents a multifaceted, multitradition portrait of Buddhist biographies. Part 1 deals with biographies of the Buddha, investigating Chinese and Pali sources and the Sanskrit dramatizations of Asvaghosa. Part 2 contains modern Buddhist life stories, including a rare autobiography from Burma. Part 3 explores the Tibetan tradition, including such well-known figures as Milarepa, Shakya Chogden, and Karmapa Mikyö Dorje. Together, these biographies and studies reveal the rich diversity of Buddhism’s myriad incarnations over its long history and the dynamic scope of its thought and practice.