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17 Part 1  Buddha Biography in Textual and Visual Narratives Reynolds, Woodward, and Brown present a common focus on classical articulations of the Buddha biography in the textual and visual renditions of the Buddhist tradition and civilization. By focusing on the central role of the Buddha’s own biography, this section begins the discourse at a juncture where previous studies and conventional understandings of the life of the Buddha meet innovative interpretations of the processes by which the Buddha biography becomes universalized across the tradition. Reynolds’ discussion of mythology in the Buddha’s biography leads him to identify lineages that link the Buddha to his karmic past, to other Buddhas of the past and future, and to a genealogy of worldly rulers into which his last birth is placed. Reynolds shows how these lineages of the Buddha have been used to legitimate religious and civil institutions throughout the history of the tradition. Woodward’s emphasis on the biographical imperative in the Theravâda tradition relates the Buddha’s biography and those of his fellow travelers to the philosophical tenets in the Theravâda tradition to illuminate correlations between biographical narratives about individuals and abstract conceptualizations of the path to enlightenment. Brown’s essay explores the role of visual and iconic representations of the Buddha biography in Indian and Southeast Asian religious architecture in order to expand our conventional understanding of their function as didactic tools and symbolic referents to the texts of the jâtaka tales, the stories of the Buddha’s former lives. He shows through evidence of the placement of these visual biographies, often partially hidden from view and out of narrative sequence, that these representations of the Buddha’s biography served as objects of worship rendering more immediate the Buddha’s presence within the architectural configuration of sacred space in these religious monuments. 18  Part 1 ...


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