History of Indian Buddhism: from the Origins to the Saka Era
By Etienne Lamotte. Translated by Sara Webb-Boin, under the supervision of Jean Dantinne.
Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain: Louvain, 1991.
870 pp. $95.00 (paperback).

Etienne Lamotte (1903-1983) was a renowned scholar of Buddhism and disciple of La Vallee-Poussin, the founder of the Belgian school of Buddhist studies. His international reputation as an editor and translator of Mahayana texts is beyond question. However, the crowning achievement of his long and distinguished career will always be his Histoire du Buddhism Indien (1958), now available in Sara Webb-Boin’s translation.

History of Indian Buddhism provides students of Buddhism who lack a reading knowledge of French with an incredibly detailed account of the first six centuries of Buddhism. An additional chapter, devoted to the origin and development of Buddhist sects in ancient India, includes a summary of the formation of the Buddhist languages: early Magadhi, Pali, Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit, etc. Lamotte’s tome is a model of historiography, covering the material organization of the sangha, the evolution of rituals and traditions, the development of Buddhist sculpture and architecture, the emergence of legends—and all of this against the historical background of Buddhist expansion in ancient India. As Jean Dantinne suggests in the foreword,History of Indian Buddhism is the most remarkable product of Lamotte’s most “phenomenal memory.”

Although the core of the work remains a classic of Buddhist studies, a team of scholars has supplemented Lamotte’s bibliography, added an index of technical terms and revised geographical maps in order to reflect the advances made in more recent Buddhist scholarship. These additions are indeed appreciated, but remind us somewhat nostalgically that although the study of Buddhism progresses, pioneers of Buddhology like Lamotte have established a standard for breadth and depth of scholarship that remains unchallenged by later generations of scholars.

An Inquiry into the Good
By Kitaro Nishida.
Translated by Masao Abe and Christopher Ives.
Yale University Press: New Haven, 1990. 1
84 pp. $25.00 (hardcover).

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