The Buddha of History and The Buddha of Myth

Image from 19th-century Burmese paper folding book containing illustrations of 28 Enlightened Buddhas, with short captions

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The different faces of the Buddha in history, art and literature

This event will have live subtitles by Stagetext working with MyClearText.

The Buddha was Socrates’ contemporary and shared his wisdom through dialogue and communication with the people he met as he travelled India’s dusty roads. His insights into ethics, psychology, and meditation still resonate 2,500 years on. 

But this ‘human’ version of the Buddha contrasts with the ‘mythic’ Buddha we find in most Buddhist art and scripture. Even the earliest traditions represented in the ‘Buddhism’ exhibition depict the Buddha performing miracles and surrounded by gods, or in one of his many previous lives. The later Mahayana Buddhist traditions represent the many aspects of Buddhahood symbolically and archetypally through a huge variety of Buddha and bodhisattva figures.

Vishvapani traces the relationship between the different faces of the Buddha in the history, art and literature, and their continuing relevance for anyone seeking inspiration and wisdom from the Buddha’s legacy.

Vishvapani, author of Gautama Buddha: the Life and Teachings of The Awakened One, is a Buddhist writer and teacher, and the Buddhist contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

Part of our Buddhism exhibition events series. See more events and adult courses inspired by the exhibition.


Name: The Buddha of History and The Buddha of Myth
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546