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Many Buddhas, One Buddha

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Many Buddhas, One Buddha introduces a significant section of the important early Indian Buddhist text known as the Avadānaśataka, or “One Hundred Stories”, and explores some of its perspectives on buddhahood. This text, composed in Sanskrit and dating to perhaps the third to fifth centuries of the Common Era, is affiliated with the Sarvāstivāda or Mūlasarvāstivāda, and thus provides important evidence of the ideas and literatures of lost non-Mahāyāna schools of Indian Buddhism. The text is a rich literary composition, in mixed prose and verse, and includes some elaborate devotional passages that illuminate early Indian perspectives on the Buddha and on the role of avadāna texts.

The book introduces the first four chapters of the Avadānaśataka through key themes of these stories, such as predictions and vows, preparations for buddhahood, the relationship between Śākyamuni and other buddhas, and the relationship between full buddhahood and pratyekabuddhahood. The study of these stories closes with an argument about the structural design of the text, and what this tells us about attitudes towards different forms of awakening. The second part of the book then presents a full English translation of stories 1-40. From tax-dodging merchants, to monks fretting about their sewing skills, the stories offer a rich and entertaining slice of Indian Buddhist literature and teaching.

Published: Mar 1, 2020

Section Chapter Authors
Preface Naomi Appleton
Part A: Study
1. Crossing the Flood of Rebirth Naomi Appleton
2. The Avadānaśataka Naomi Appleton
3. Many Buddhas Naomi Appleton
4. Śākyamuni’s Past Lives Naomi Appleton
5. Independent Buddhahood Naomi Appleton
6. Miracles, Offerings, Aspirations and Predictions Naomi Appleton
7. And Then the Buddha Smiled Naomi Appleton
8. Structure of the Avadānaśataka Naomi Appleton
9. Many Buddhas, Many Buddhisms Naomi Appleton
10. One Buddha, Many Lessons Naomi Appleton
Part A Notes Naomi Appleton
Part B: Translation
Note on the translation Naomi Appleton
First Decade (Stories 1-10) Naomi Appleton
Second Decade (Stories 11-20) Naomi Appleton
Third Decade (Stories 21-30) Naomi Appleton
Fourth Decade (Stories 31-40) Naomi Appleton
Part B Notes Naomi Appleton
End Matter
Glossary Naomi Appleton
Bibliography Naomi Appleton
Index Naomi Appleton


The Avadānaśataka is a centrally important text for understanding non-Mahāyāna Sanskrit Buddhism. Naomi’s introduction presents some significant new points about the work as a whole and her translation is accurate, and closely follows the syntax and phrasing of the original Sanskrit. Yet the English flows easily. In my opinion, this a wonderful achievement, for it gives the reader a feel for the way such Buddhist legends sound—how they are worded and put together—in addition to what they mean. This volume will be well received by scholars in the discipline and much appreciated by students and general readers with an interest in Buddhism or just in some good stories.
John S. Strong, Charles A. Dana Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Bates College