Ashvaghosha’s Life of the Buddha

A Great Books Discussion Course

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Ashvaghosha’s Life of the Buddha

The Buddha's life compounds two aspects readers are always looking for: a captivating story and a meaningful dimension. That might be the reason why the work written by the Sanskrit poet Ashvaghosha was a hit in the whole of Asia. It talked to people beyond the land where it was written, India, to conquer the hearts of people living in Central Asia, China, Tibet, and nowadays even in the West. Being at once a story and a philosophical tale, the Life of the Buddha will give us a direct access to one of the first accounts of the life of the Buddha, but also one of the first presentations of what Buddhism is. This class will introduce students to many aspects of the text, from the literary aspect of Sanskrit poetry to the philosophical dimensions of an original Buddhist classic.



Course #: 



  • 7 Weeks


  • 1 hr 45 min


  • Online


US$ 235


“Early Bird” reduced tuition (US$ 195) available through March 27, 2017.

Section A(Course #: 170402A)

Tuesday, 8:00 PM CT
Apr 18, 2017 to Jun 06, 2017

Course Documents

Please Note

General Information

Like all Great Discourses discussion courses, this live, interactive online discussion course is designed to facilitate the collaborative close readings of classics in ways that help participants transform the challenging into the exhilarating and elevating through “Aha!” moments of profound discovery. Participation requires an Internet-enabled computer or mobile device. The course is open to adults from all walks of life (and to mature teens with parental consent) and does not require any specialized prior knowledge or experience. Students do a modest amount of reading homework in preparation for each live online class session, but there are no papers, no tests and no grades. The readings and discussion are in English.


Ashvaghosha. Life of the Buddha (c. 150 CE).
Recommended Edition: Clay Sanskrit Library, NYU Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0814762165. (Translated by Patrick Olivelle.)
View/Buy at: Amazon (US), Amazon (CA), Amazon (UK), Amazon (IN), Amazon (AU)

Please Note

You are responsible for obtaining your own copy of each book used in this discussion course. Most books are available in a number of editions, in both print and digital formats. All editions are acceptable unless otherwise noted, although print format texts are generally recommended. If you do choose to use a digital text, try to access it on a device other than the one you will using to connect to the online classroom.

Additional Readings

This course may have additional short readings that will be used during the first class session as well as during other class sessions. These will be available to you on the dedicated course page at the Great Discourses Collaboratory Online Course Center once you have completed your registration for this course.


To get the most out of this discussion course, you will have to do a modest amount of reading homework in between class sessions — usually about two hours of reading for each hour of class time. No homework is required before the first class session (although some technical and general preparation is required).

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