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Publisher's Summary

Buddhism began with Gotama the Buddha in the sixth century BCE and has developed two chief forms: Theravada (or Hinayana) is found especially in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand; Mahayana is found in Japan, China, Korea, and Indochina. Zen, a more recent form of Buddhism, is found throughout the world. Some believe Buddhism is not properly understood as a religion, though this presentation describes its religious qualities: a belief in transcendent reality, sacred scriptures, monastic life, and views on a future life and the goal of human existence.

The Religion, Scriptures, and Spirituality series describes the beliefs, religious practices, and the spiritual and moral commitments of the world's great religious traditions. It also describes a religion's way of understanding scripture, identifies its outstanding thinkers, and discusses its attitude and relationship to society.

©1994 Carmichael & Carmichael, Inc. and Knowledge Products (P)1994 Carmichael & Carmichael, Inc. and Knowledge Products

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Master Yoda
  • 07-01-09

well written and well spoken

his work is well written and equally well narrated by Ben Kingsley. The only place where I did not agree with the author was when he said that Brahmanical "Moksha" was renamed to "Nirvana" by Buddha and its ritualistic dependence was de-emphasized by Buddha. This is not fully accurate, IMHO. All pre-Buddhist Upnishads had essentially said the same thing as Buddha when they said that rituals do not lead to "Moksha" and it can be attained only through knowledge of Brahman acquired through meditation and self-reflection. This is why the ritual section of Vedas is called "Karma Kanda" , or "Ritual Section" and liberation or "Moksha" related section of Vedas , i.e., Upnishads/Vedanta is called "Jnana Kanda" or "Knowlege Section". In Buddha's time the corrupted Brahmin clergy emphasized mainly the "Karma Kanda" section of Vedas, ignoring the "Jnana Kanda" section which has a higher authority within vedic framework. So there was nothing radically different in Buddha de-emphasizing the need of rituals for Moksha or Nirvana. It was more of revival of an earlier Vedantic Sharaminic tradition, rather than a revolt against it, which was very much also a part of Brahmanism even before Buddha. Upnishads were a product of this tradition much before Buddha appeared on scene. What Buddha did that was a bit radical was to open the gates of this teaching for all and sundry rather than keeping it esoteric and restricted to certain groups.

The book has been written with a great deal scholarly rigour and is far superior to other works on Buddhism written by hobby Buddhists or some other New-Age teachers based on their own self-projections (on what Buddha ought to have been ... like being a "rebel", "atheist", "rationalist", etc) rather than on what the academic facts say. This work has neutral tone which is very good.

I recommend this book.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Gini McKellar
  • 27-10-08

Understanding Buddhism

This book was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to know the history of Buddhism and this book said it beautifully. I have shared this story with my mom who listens to it regularly while she works with her plants. If ever I wish to be at peace with my day, listening to this story changes my outlook and brings my mind at ease. I have also listened to "The Middle Way (Unabridged): The Story of Buddhism" which I also love.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Jesse
  • 04-07-18


Had to stop listening when I learned about the history of excluding women. Not interested in this anymore.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • E.Deivanayagam
  • 30-06-07

A meaningful introduction

I heard this by chance - Not particularly looking for Buddhism but in general seeking anything that would stimulate my long driving journeys everyday. This rendering of Buddhism will defintiely waken up one's dormant intellect towards asking some relevant and improtant questions. My interst in Buddhism has now grown 10 times. Infact I started hearing the another book I had downloaded long back about similar thinking 'The Power of Now'. Now I am once again a seeker in my life. So it is definitely worth a listen.

The only thing I didnot like is the artificial accents of different buddhist leaders. It was quite annoying.

3 people found this helpful