Gautama Buddha: The Life and Teachings of the Awakened One
This fascinating book pieces together what little is known about Gautama, the historical Buddha who lived – in accordance with the historical tradition favoured by the author – in the Ganges Valley between 484–404 BCE. Son of a Shakyan ruler, Gautama’s early life was spent in luxurious seclusion before deciding – at the age of 29, according to Buddhist tradition – to start his quest for wisdom by renouncing possessions and status to become a shramana, a wandering holy man. By evaluating the historical evidence, Blomfield highlights the competition between rival beliefs – the Hindu Brahmans and the indigenous shramana tradition in the Ganges valley – and also between the claims asserted by different shramanic sects (Jains, Ajivakas). His “awakening” – dated here as 449 BCE – occurred in Bodh Gaya, where legend relates that the fig tree bent forward to protect Gautama in his “noble quest” to find liberation. The closing section offers an overview of Gautama’s legacy, particularly the ever‑growing appeal of Buddhism in the West. This compelling account evaluates the elusive historical figure and his impact using the techniques of the elephant tracker “who knows the dimensions of the beast he is following from the size of the footprint it leaves behind”.