“Buddhist History for Buddhist Practitioners” is a project I have been working on for about five years now, in various locations and within different forms of Buddhism. I would describe it in one sentence as “an attempt to do an accurate and non-sectarian history of Buddhism.” By accurate, I mean that it’s historically accurate, that we actually work with history, and that when necessary we are very careful to distinguish history and story. By non-sectarian I mean a history of Buddhism that is not just from one lineage among the many, but a history of Buddhism that is accurate for all of them.
I feel that too often in dharma courses in the Buddhist world we get just one version of Buddhist history. We don’t get an overarching version. As a practitioner I’m very troubled by the fact that Buddhists don’t seem to know a lot about each other, or don’t care to know a lot about each other. Each version of Buddhism tends to tell the story of Buddhism as if it is the only form of Buddhism in the world. As a historian, that of course is a problem because it’s inaccurate but as a practitioner it bothers me a lot more because I think it is important that we understand the totality of Buddhism and how our part of the Buddhist world fits into this totality.
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