Barlaam and Josaphat: A Christian Tale of the Buddha (Penguin Classics)
Gui de Cambrai
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A new translation of the most popular Christian tale of the Middle Ages, which springs from the story of the Buddha.
When his astrologers foretell that his son Josaphat will convert to Christianity, the pagan King Avenir confines him to a palace, allowing him to know only the pleasures of the world, and to see no illness, death, or poverty. Despite the king's precautions, the hermit Barlaam comes to Josaphat and begins to teach the prince Christian beliefs through parables. Josaphat converts to Christianity, angering his father, who tries to win his son back to his religion before he, too, converts. After his father's death, Josaphat renounces the world and lives as a hermit in the wilderness with his teacher Barlaam.
Long attributed to the eighth-century monk and scholar, St. John of Damascus, Barlaam and Josaphat was translated into numerous languages around the world. Philologists eventually traced the name Josaphat as a derivation from the Sanskrit bodhisattva, the Buddhist term for the future Buddha, highlighting this text as essential source reading for connections between several of the world’s most popular religions.
The first version to appear in modern English, Peggy McCracken’s highly readable translation reintroduces a classic tale and makes it accessible once again.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
will hear me. You make Bacchus divine, and you say that he is the lord of wine because he drank a lot and seduced other men’s wives. He was drunk every night, for drinking was his greatest pleasure, and in the end he was killed.” (What will they do, those who drink wine and become drunk and then lie about it when they are accused? I put the blame on others, but I am at greater fault than any from here to Salerno, for I do business in taverns just like Bacchus, whom Nachor considered base and
with fervor, and he went into the middle of the field to watch the battle and see how the king fared as he pursued and tormented Polidonus, who continued to defend himself with what strength he had left. Josaphat showed his rival that he had been foolish to attack him. The Christians were defeating the Turks, who would not last through the battle.3 At noon the Turks’ army had turned back. The Christians had put them to flight, but Josaphat kept the defeated Polidonus in his prison. Then he
before the king. “You have committed a great sin by lying about your faith in God,” said Josaphat, “and it brings me deep sorrow. Ah, felonious traitor, what were you thinking when you sent word to my father and offered him this tower? You will die, for your betrayal has been proven. You will admit your bad faith when your body is delivered over to cruel torture and a dishonorable death. You are condemned by your own judgment, since you pledged yourself to God, and you will die in great shame.”
great pleasure in his reign and he was confident in his rule, for he believed that nothing could destroy or diminish him. He was greatly renowned, and his subjects served him willingly, but in serving their king they opposed the holy church. King Avenir vanquished all his foes, and he was wealthy, with many friends and fiefs, but his discernment was poor. He spent his time pursuing pleasure and did not realize that his great power impoverished him. He was most rich and handsome, but as you know,
wilderness, waiting for his reward. He was content to do penance, for he feared the judgment and the pains of hell. He was sorry that his life continued because he longed to reach the great joy that God saves for his friends. The wise men who dwelled nearby came often to comfort and encourage him. They told him not to mourn Barlaam’s death, because it had been time for him to die. Josaphat never stopped serving God and praying to him. I could not tell you all the ways he martyred his body, but I