Buddhism: An Introduction and Guide

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9780140275834: Buddhism: An Introduction and Guide

This introduction to Buddhism offers an account that demystifies the religion and explains its practices, teachings and schools. The book focuses on actual lived practice: in monasteries, by lay people, by the Dalai Lama and even by Buddha himself. The author examines the central tenets of the relgion and explores the ways they become steps towards the ultimate goal of enlightenment. The book shows why Buddhism has been so appealing and helpful through many centuries, including our own.

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Review:

Much of what we hear about Buddhism today in the West focuses on its philosophy, and how it can change one's life. Throughout history, however, Buddhism's mythology, scriptures, heroes, and its promise for salvation from rebirth have been the Buddhist teachings that most people have known. Religion professor Donald Lopez has mastered a good deal of this immense lore and managed with Buddhism to get it into a manageable package. Rather than providing a chronological history or country-by-country breakdown, Lopez explores general topics, meandering through two-and-a-half millennia, from India to Japan. In sections such as "Monastic Life", "Tantra", and "Pilgrimage", he talks about the origins of each topic and its mainstream manifestations. In addition, he spices up his work with delectable, if occasionally bizarre, examples from specific cultures. There is, for instance, the story of the depraved man who, once having said the words "Lotus Sutra" was saved from Hell. And the tale of the practice called the "act of truth" in which a perfectly candid statement can have magical powers. Or the story of the monk who attempted to rescue some maggots by opening his own flesh for them. No doubt, Buddhism is interesting, but it takes a competent scholar and a good storyteller to get it just right. Lopez fills the bill. -- Brian Bruya

About the Author:

Donald S Lopez Jr is the Carl W Belser Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author and editor of many books on Buddhism, including Buddhism In Practice, and key religious texts by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

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