The Buddhist Visnu: Religious Transformation, Politics, and Culture

Front Cover
Columbia University Press, 2004 - Religion - 441 pages

John Holt's groundbreaking study examines the assimilation, transformation, and subordination of the Hindu deity Visnu within the contexts of Sri Lankan history and Sinhala Buddhist religious culture. Holt argues that political agendas and social forces, as much as doctrinal concerns, have shaped the shifting patterns of the veneration of Visnu in Sri Lanka.

Holt begins with a comparative look at the assimilation of the Buddha in Hinduism. He then explores the role and rationale of medieval Sinhala kings in assimilating Visnu into Sinhala Buddhism. Offering analyses of texts, many of which have never before been translated into English, Holt considers the development of Visnu in Buddhist literature and the changing practices of deity veneration. Shifting to the present, Holt describes the efforts of contemporary Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka to discourage the veneration of Visnu, suggesting that many are motivated by a reactionary fear that their culture and society will soon be overrun by the influences and practices of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Good attempt but looks like author is lost in historical/time sense and in proving his point by hook or crook(for long western scholars called Buddha himself a myth! Now the books after books being written Jesus is a myth! Yet they can't see divinity of eastern philosophies!).
Recent research/archaeological evidince of 12000 year old Dwaraka (Mahabharat/Krishna's capitol city), 6000 yrs old Rama or Nala sethu/bridge between India and Sri-Lanka, 6000+ yrs old palace of Ravana on srilankan hills, the debunk Aryan invasion theory etc etc will make this book obsolete! They provide physical evidence of pre-Buddhist rich culture/well developed society utilizing Hindu scriptures/Vedanta. Author miserably fails to understand that Gita pre-dates Mahabharata /Krishna even though Krishna himself clarifies it to Arjuna! Biased citations, lack of understanding on Authors part aboutthe depth of Indian Vedic culture, deep rooted meaning of hymns w/ material/physical and spiritual science underneath etc shows his poor conclusions. BTW I've done enough Buddhist meditations, researched and visited sites Buddhist sites all over the world (In Japan for example common to see Buddha with Avataras like Hindu deities like Goddess or Vishnu -though poor Buddha never wanted anyone to even worship him!).
In short, it's simple waste of time.
 

Other editions - View all

About the author (2004)

John C. Holt is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities in Religion and Asian Studies at Bowdoin College. He is the author of several books, including Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Tradition of Sri Lanka, winner of an American Academy of Religion Book Award for Excellence, and The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhism, Art and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka, and is the editor of Constituting Communities: Theravada Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia.

Bibliographic information