Buddha (Penguin Lives Biographies)

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9780143034360: Buddha (Penguin Lives Biographies)

Buddhism is a faith that commands over 100 million followers throughout the world. Buddha stands with Christ, Confucius and Mohammed as someone who revolutionized the religious ideas of his time to advocate a new way of living.

All that is known about Buddha comes from a collection of ancient writings that fuse history, biography and myth. Karen Armstrong distils from these the key events of Buddha's life: his birth as Siddhartha Gotama in the fifth century BC and his abandonment of his wife and son; his attainment of enlightenment under the Banyan tree (the moment he became a buddha, or enlightened one; his political influence; the divisions among his followers; and his serene death. Armstrong also introduces the key tenets of Buddhism: she explains the doctrine of anatta (no-soul) and the concepts of kamma (actions), samsara (keeping going), dhamma (a law or teaching that reflects the fundamental principles of existence) and the idealised state of nibbana (literally the 'cooling of the ego'). Since it promotes no personal god, Buddhism, writes Armstrong, 'is essentially a psychological faith'. In our own age of secular anxiety, she shows that it has profound lessons to teach about selflessness and the simple life.

Karen Armstrong's short book is a magnificent introduction to the life and thought of this most influential of spiritual thinkers.

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Writing a biography of the Buddha is not the same as writing one of most other people--even other founders of religions--as Karen Armstrong explains at the start of this excellent book, part of a series of lives of significant figures. Armstrong is a former nun who is now probably Britain's best-known popular writer on religion, the author of A History of God and The Battle for God amongst others.

Almost nothing is known about the Buddha's life as Siddhatta Gotama. The main source is the Pali Canon, a collection of texts made about a century after his death, though not written down until much later. This is a huge body of work which contains the Buddha's sermons and verses, rules for Buddhist monks, and philosophical analyses--but, apart from in passing, almost nothing about his life. In some of his discourses the Buddha illustrates a point with a personal anecdote; his "biography" has to be pieced together from these snippets. And Armstrong accepts that many of these may be mythological in nature, rather than historical in the factual sense we might wish for today. But does this matter? "The early Buddhists looked for significance, rather than historically accurate detail, in their scriptures."

Armstrong takes these snippets and puts them in order to tell Siddhatta Gotama's life story--but she does much more than that. The Buddha didn't spring out of nowhere. One of the most valuable things the author does in this book is to set him in his historical context of the changing religious ideas of the time. And in doing that she also gives an excellent explanation of what Buddhism is all about, in terms that a non-Buddhist can understand. Highly recommended. --David V Barrett

Review:

Destined to become the classic source for anyone delving... into the life and teachings of the religious icon. ("Christian Science Monitor")

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 175 x 127 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. With such bestsellers as A History of God and Islam, Karen Armstrong has consistently delivered ?penetrating, readable, and prescient? ( The New York Times ) works that have lucidly engaged a wide range of religions and religious issues. In Buddha she turns to a figure whose thought is still reverberating throughout the world 2,500 years after his death. Many know the Buddha only from seeing countless serene, iconic images. But what of the man himself and the world he lived in? What did he actually do in his roughly eighty years on earth that spawned one of the greatest religions in world history? Armstrong tackles these questions and more by examining the life and times of the Buddha in this engrossing philosophical biography. Against the tumultuous cultural background of his world, she blends history, philosophy, mythology, and biography to create a compelling and illuminating portrait of a man whose awakening continues to inspire millions. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780143034360

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 175 x 127 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. With such bestsellers as A History of God and Islam, Karen Armstrong has consistently delivered ?penetrating, readable, and prescient? ( The New York Times ) works that have lucidly engaged a wide range of religions and religious issues. In Buddha she turns to a figure whose thought is still reverberating throughout the world 2,500 years after his death. Many know the Buddha only from seeing countless serene, iconic images. But what of the man himself and the world he lived in? What did he actually do in his roughly eighty years on earth that spawned one of the greatest religions in world history? Armstrong tackles these questions and more by examining the life and times of the Buddha in this engrossing philosophical biography. Against the tumultuous cultural background of his world, she blends history, philosophy, mythology, and biography to create a compelling and illuminating portrait of a man whose awakening continues to inspire millions. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780143034360

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