From the Jacket:
The Lalitavistara is one of the greatest Buddhist texts, and presents us with one of the earliest accounts of Buddha's life. Nothing is known about its author or the specific period of its composition. It is called a Vaipulya sutra of Buddhism. Composed in what is known as Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, it is something of an enigma and there are still controversies about its interpretation. It is extremely important today not only as a religious text, but a sociological, historical and linguistic document as well.
About the Author:
Dr. Mrs. Bijoya Goswami graduated from Calcutta University with First Class Hons. In Sanskrit, and pursued her higher studies in Jadavpur University, Kolkata where she mastered in Sanskrit, with specialization in literature and literary criticism. She did her doctorate in critical appreciation of Jagannatha's Rasagangadhara. At present she is the professor of Sanskrit in the Jadavpur University. Her contributions to scholarly pursuits cover a wide range of interests, including Metaphor, Udyana dramas, Alamkara sekhara, Duta kavya, Interpretations of Valmiki, Ramayana, Arthsastra, and such other academic fields.
THE Lalitavistara is a work of tremendous importance in the field of Indological studies. It presents us with the life of Buddha from before his birth upto the attainment of Enlightenment. In this work, some of the major tenets of Mahayana Buddhism are expounded. It is written in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, which is a very difficult and obscure branch of Sanskrit. That is one of the reasons which is beyond the reach of most people. Raja Rajendralala Mitra made an attempt to translate this work into English, but did not complete it. Unfortunately, its reading are also obscure and faulty in places, so that so far it was not possible to go deeply into it. The Lalitavistara is a treasure house for research from the point of view of scholars and researchers dealing with comparative religion and philosophy, sociology and history, language and linguistics. For this a complete English translation of the work was essential.
The Society expresses its deep gratitude for the valuable service received from Dr. (Mrs ) Bijoya Goswami in translating this work. Due to Dr. Goswami's strenuous labour, the Society takes pleasure in offering this book to concerned readers and scholars.
SOME years back, it struck me that there was no complete English translation of the Lalitavistara. Rajendralala Mitra had undertaken the translation of this work late in the last century (1881-86), but had not completed it. The German translation by S. Lefmann (1875) was also incomplete. The only complete translation was the French translation by P.E. Foucaux (1884, 1892). It seemed to me that a complete English translation of the work was necessary, and so I undertook this extremely difficult task. Although I possess neither the erudition nor the mastery over language that belonged to the scholars mentioned above, I was better equipped in having their works before me as models, and I could start work from there.
The Lalitavistara, composed entirely in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, describes itself as a Vaipulyasutra (an elaborate text) and narrates the life of Buddha up to his attainment of Enlightenment and the imparting of instruction to the world. It is a massive work, and one of the essential texts of Mahayana Buddhism. One cannot say with any degree of certainty when the final editing of this text took place, although it may have been somewhere in between the first and the second century A.D. Apart from being of paramount importance in the religious context, this work claims a great deal of interest in the fields of history, sociology, art and literature as well.
In the present translation, I have followed the te published by the Mithila Institute of Post-graduate Studie. and Research in Sanskrit Learning, Darbhanga, 1987 (see bibliography), edited by Dr. Sridhar Tripathi. This text has been compiled from both the editions of R.L. Mitra and Lefmann. As with the compilers of this text, I have mainly followed Lefmann's readings, occasionally following Mitra's and in some cases, the interpretations offered by F. Edgerton in his Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary. I have mentioned this as far as possible in the end notes. I.have also followed the translation by R.L. Mitra and P.E. Foucaux. On occasion, however, I have been unable to totally decipher what has been intended, and instead of forcing my own interpretations on the reader, have chosen to leave it vague, trying to offer a literal translation of the passage. I realise that despite my best effort, the work emerges as a second-rate attempt, for which I crave the indulgence of the reader.
I am deeply grateful to the scholars of the Asiatic Society for giving me the opportunity for publishing this work. I am particularly grateful to Prof. Sukumari Bhattacharji for her helpful suggestions. I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to my colleagues Dr. Manabendu Banerjee and Dr. Debarchana Sarkar for their invaluable assistance. Thanks are also due to Dr. Syamali Basu, Librarian, Dept. of Sanskrit, Jadavpur University, Dr. Mitali Chatterjee, Asst. Librarian, Asiatic Society, and to Sri Jyoti Biswas, Sri Monoranjan Ghosh, Sm. Rapti Dev, Sm. Isani Chakravarti and Dr. Jayanti Dutta, research fellows in the Dept. of Sanskrit, Jadavpur University, for their help. I also offer my thanks to all others who have directly or indirectly helped me in my endeavour.
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