cover image Buddhism: The First Millennium

Buddhism: The First Millennium

Daisaku Ikeda. Middleway Press, $14.95 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-9779245-3-0

Drawing on Japanese scholarship as well as close reading of Buddhist scriptures, Ikeda analyzes how a movement in turmoil after the death of the Buddha began to codify its teachings and split into two streams, the Theravada (""Teaching of the Elders"") and the Mahayana (""Great Vehicle""). He acknowledges the speculative nature of this task due to the ""fragmentary bits of information"" that have survived, but draws conclusions about the complex development of Buddhist thought by examining historical evidence and classic texts like the Vimalakirti Sutra. Ikeda shows how Mahayana philosophy emerged as a reform movement that followers believed was closer than Theravada to the true wisdom of the Buddha. Founder and president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a world-wide lay organization based on teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, Ikeda draws attention to Mahayana's emergence as a lay movement and to the importance of the Lotus Sutra. This thoughtful if sectarian introduction to Buddhism's origins describes how a movement interprets its founder's teachings, determines them to be authentic, and attempts to remain true to those ideals. An earlier version of this translation by scholar Burton Watson was published in 1977.