Encountering Newar Buddhism: An Introduction through its Rituals and Stories
Author: Todd T. Lewis
Todd Lewis is one of a small group of scholars who have quietly been carrying out a revolution in our understanding of Mah?y?na Buddhism. We still find it stated that the Buddhism of Nepal is ‘inauthentic’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘unworthy of consideration by those wanting a better understanding of Buddhism because of its syncretistic nature with Hinduism’. Yet scholars like Todd Lewis have taught us to see the Buddhism of Nepal as a perfectly ‘orthodox’ expression of Mah?y?na Buddhism ‘in a place’, Buddhism which has to be understood – as Buddhism always should be – located in its authentic cultural situation rather than relying for our understanding of Buddhism mainly on elite doctrinal and philosophical texts torn from their historical context in real Buddhist life and usage. Not only this, but Todd Lewis and others have shown us that the Buddhism of Nepal, which was historically often esteemed by other Mah?y?na Buddhists for its purity and vigour, is capable of giving us an important insight into the nature of late Indian Buddhism, the Buddhism that was transmitted to Tibet and is absolutely crucial to understanding the development of Tibetan Buddhism. We now appreciate all the more – as we should have done all along - that no one can begin to understand the history of Tibetan Buddhism without frequent reference to Buddhism in Nepal.
This book by Todd Lewis has for some years been an essential work for those approaching Nepalese Buddhism. Lewis writes in a wonderfully clear and readable way, and the texts translated are not only centrally important for understanding the nature and day-to-day practise of Buddhism in Nepal, but they are also beautifully translated and great fun to read.
Todd Lewis’s book is a standard work. It is highly recommended as an essential resource for anyone wanting to understand real lived Buddhism ‘of a place’, Mah?y?na Buddhism in an Indic context rather than, say, the more frequently observed Mah?y?na Buddhism of China or Japan.
Paul Williams, Emeritus Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy, Centre for Buddhist Studies, University of Bristol, and author of Mah?y?na Buddhism: The doctrinal foundations (Routledge).