This anthology illustrates the vast scope of Buddhist practice in Asia, past and present, by presenting a selection of forty-eight translated texts including hagiographies, monastic rules, pilgrimage songs, apocryphal sutras, and didactic tales from India, China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma. Most of these pieces have never before been translated into a Western language, and each is preceded by a substantial introduction by its translator. Together they are designed to do nothing less than reshape the way in which Buddhism is understood.
These unusual sources provide the reader with a sense of the remarkable diversity of the practices of persons who over the course of 2,500 years have been identified, by themselves or by others, as Buddhists. In this rich variety there are often contradictions, such that the practices of one Buddhist community might seem strange or unfamiliar to another. At the same time, however, there is evidence here of many continuities among the practices of Buddhist cultures widely separated by both history and topography. From "A Hymn of Praise to the Buddha's Good Qualities" through "On Becoming a Buddhist Wizard" to "Death-Bed Testimonials of the Pure Land Faithful," the selections here are an ideal introduction to Buddhism and a source of new insights for scholars.