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Several years after its publication on paper, Vishvapani’s book Gautama Buddha: the Life and Teachings of the Awakened One is now available as an audiobook.
This new audio edition is produced by Dharma Audiobooks, a new venture from Triratna’s Jinamitra, better known as Nicholas Soames, founder of Naxos Audio.
Published on paper by Quercus, Gautama Buddha is distributed by Triratna publishers Windhorse Publications, who recently interviewed Vishvapani about the book, exploring what he discovered about the Buddha in the course of writing it, and how he views the Buddha’s modern relevance. You can also listen to six original Dharma talks given by Vishvapani to launch the book.
Vishvapani writes for Triratna News: “The book seems to be well appreciated. I think it fills a gap between popular accounts and academic studies. It’s for people who want to get beyond the legendary accounts; who want to ‘meet’ the Buddha, not just learn about him. By the time I’d finished writing, I felt that I had much more of a personal relationship with him, as a human being with a voice, a character, a personality, someone I knew almost as a friend.
It’s been picked up in some surprising ways. For example, I’ve been in dialogue with a sculptor in Thailand who wants to make a statue of the Buddha that is close to how he might have looked historically. He’s found my book helpful as it gathers together numerous references from the Discourses - but I’m afraid there’s a point beyond which you can’t go! You can’t separate out the mythologised descriptions, which include the 32 marks and say his skin was like glowing gold, from others that are less idealised. He’s very serious about the project, though, and I may be travelling to Thailand next year to discuss this further.
I’ve become increasingly aware of how different the Buddha’s culture was from our own. The spirit world was clearly very important (see the interview for more detail on this) and I’ve realised that we need to take that more fully into account when we think about rebirth. If you experience the spirit world, then you’ll believe in rebirth as an obvious fact; in the Discourses rebirth usually means being reborn as a spirit, hardly ever as a human being. But it is bound to look very different when modern people think about rebirth, who don’t experience the spirit world in the way that pre-modern people did.
The Buddha’s core message is just as relevant to us today as it was two thousand years ago. He’s telling us that the root of suffering is in our own minds, and that if we can learn to pay attention to the way that our minds work, we can re-shape them in accordance with reality. Living in a culture that is in the midst of a serious mental health crisis, this message is extremely pertinent to us today. We’ve been forced to ask questions such as ‘What makes for inner wellbeing?’ The answer that many people are putting forward is mindfulness: exploring our direct capacity to observe our mental states and access states of calm. However, the Buddha went further than this: he asked us to examine our ethics – our core beliefs and views about the world – and to develop compassion. My hope is that the current interest in mindfulness and meditation will broaden out to include these other important elements of the Buddha’s message, so that more and more people can benefit from his teaching.”
Buy the e-book.
Buy the audio book
Listen to a brief extract from the audio book.
Order the paper book from Windhorse Publications.
Read the Windhorse interview
Listen to Vishvapani’s Dharma talks series on the book