The Buddha-legend’s First Journey to the West

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 9, 2002

The Killing Test: The Kinship of Living Beings and the Buddha-legend’s First Journey to the West

Graeme MacQueen
McMaster University

As it has traveled, the Buddha-legend has carried complex messages and sets of ideas, among which is the kinship of living beings. When the story made its way to Europe in the medieval period in the form of Barlām and Josaphat, however, many of its messages were removed, and the kinship of living beings was one of the casualties. Concentrating on a particular episode in Barlām and Josaphat, I show how the kinship of living beings was progressively deleted. I then suggest that this removal was based, in part, on a historical practice used for the detection and repression of Manichaeism: the killing test. With the help of this mechanism of inquisition and persecution, the Buddha-legend was prevented, until the nineteenth century, from transmitting one of its key messages to the West.

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