Karen Armstrong

Josaphat Revealed

In Search of the Christian Buddha: How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint


W W Norton 262pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

‘What’s so great about this guy?’ an enraged woman demanded while I was promoting my biography of the Buddha in the United States. ‘He’s just some other lousy skunk who left his wife and kids.’ It was a reasonable question and showed the importance of critical interpretation while reflecting on any narrative. In the earliest accounts of his decision to leave home and seek enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama, the future Buddha, does not seem to have a wife. He simply dons the yellow robe of the renouncer and bids farewell to his distraught parents. It is only in a later version that the Buddha takes a last, lingering look at his sleeping wife and newborn son.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter