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Buddhism
Introductions, Anthologies and Dictionaries
21 Recommended Titles

These titles constitute a core library
of books on the subject of Buddhism.

Page 1 of 3 Pages


Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction

Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction
by Damien Keown

Oxford University Press, 2000, 152 pp.

"This accessible volume covers both the teachings of the Buddha and the integration of Buddhism into daily life. What are the distinctive features of Buddhism? What or who is the Buddha, and what are his teachings? How has Buddhist thought developed over the centuries, and how can contemporary dilemmas be faced from a Buddhist perspective? Words such as 'karma' and 'nirvana' have entered our vocabulary, but what do they really mean? Keown has taught Buddhism at an introductory level for many years, and in this book he provides a lively, challenging response to these frequently asked questions."

"Damien Keown, of the University of London and the Royal Asiatic Society, addresses Buddhism past and present, East and West.  Keown examines some major questions. For example, is Buddhism really a religion? He looks at seven dimensions of religion and concludes that Buddhism does fit a broader definition of religion. Keown proceeds to look at the origins of Buddhism, the life of the Buddha, ideas of karma and reincarnation, and the central ideas of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism, etc.   There are useful maps, a nice snapshot timeline, and suggestions for further reading,  The book is also well indexed and has a useful glossary."

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The Buddha: A Very Short Introduction

The Buddha: A Very Short Introduction
by Michael Carrithers

Oxford University Press, 2001, 120 pp.

"In this valuable introduction, Michael Carrithers guides us through the complex and sometimes conflicting information that Buddhist texts give us about the life and teaching of the Buddha. He discusses the social and political background of India in the Buddha's time and traces the development of his thought. He also assesses the rapid and widespread assimilation of Buddhism and its contemporary relevance. Well-paced and informative, this introduction will enlighten not only those who study Buddhism and comparative religion but anyone intrigued by the remarkable philosophy of one of the greatest religious thinkers."

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A Concise History of Buddhism

A Concise History of Buddhism
by Andrew Skilton

Barnes & Noble Books, 2003, 263 pp.

"Buddhism is a widely diverse religion, with many traditions handed down through the centuries. The newcomer seeking to understand the sometimes contradictory spiritual texts can find it daunting. Andrew Skilton, a Buddhist and professor at Oxford University, now unravels these varied religious threads and creates a wonderfully clear and compact look at Buddhist history. From the ancient Indian context to Buddhism in countries beyond, from the Mahayana sutras to Tantra, this book presents an account of the religion's development up through the 19th century, its doctrines and its schools. But the study also covers the context in which Buddhism developed, the external events that had an impact on the religion. Using the most recent scholarship available, A Concise History of Buddhism reflects on the Buddha and his teachings, the paths to awakening, the development in the Sangha, the Tripitaka and the Abhidharma, the end of Buddhism in India, and the practice of Buddhism throughout Asia. A truly enlightening guide".

"A mere couple hundred pages in length, Skilton surveys events in brief eight to twelve page chapters that are easy to read without being simplistic. One gains insight into the great sweep of Buddhism across Asia from Japan in the East right over to Persia in the West. There is also a topically organized, extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources to further any interest the main text has raised."

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A Concise Encyclopedia of Buddhism

A Concise Encyclopedia of Buddhism
by John Powers

Oneworld Publications Ltd., 2000, 288 pp.

"A comprehensive handbook that covers an impressive range of terms . . . clear and accessible." --  Rupert Gethin

"From the afterlife to Zen, via Tibet and Theravada, this encyclopedia captures the rich diversity of Buddhism in one accessible and definitive volume.  Covering the teachings of the early masters to the growth of the tradition in the West, the succinct A-Z entries supply information on Buddhism’s key doctrines, practices and figures. Throughout, Powers balances conciseness with scholarship, explaining complex ideas in a manner that is both informative and accessible.   Features include over 900 entries; an 'at-a-glance' chronology; and a substantial and up-to-date thematic bibliography."

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The Experience of Buddhism:  Sources and Interpretations

The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations
by John S. Strong

Wadsworth Publishing, 2001, 2nd Edition, 384 pp.

"This comprehensive anthology provides translations of texts illustrative of Buddhist philosophy and doctrine as well as descriptive, concrete accounts of Buddhist practices, rituals, experiences and life situations. This approach does not neglect one dimension of the religion in favor of another. The book also covers the development of Buddhism in a wide variety of geographical and cultural areas (India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, and Japan), and gives a sense of the historical evolution of the tradition in these areas."

"The presentation of primary texts combined with commentary is an excellent presentation of Buddhist thought. Several historical and philosophical strands can be followed easily with this book. The organization and topical layouts allow the reader to move easily through the texts and focus in on areas of interest. Strong maintains acceptable historical objectivity within the context of a sympathetic presentation, allowing the reader to draw independent conclusions. Any student of Buddhism will benefit from this book."

See Table of Contents.

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Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction

Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction
by Richard H. Robinson, Willard L. Johnson and Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Wadsworth Publishing, 2005, 5th Edition, 368 pp.

"This historical introduction to Buddhism presents students with an engaging exploration of the diversity of thoughts and practices of a wide segment of followers of the Buddha. It covers five main aspects of Buddhism: ritual, devotionalism, doctrine, meditation, practice, and institutional history."

"An overview of the Buddhist Scriptures provides students with a framework for reading the primary sources.  A map of regions where Buddhism is largely practiced assists readers in gaining an important geographical perspective. A pronunciation guide and glossary help students gain familiarity with the Buddhist vernacular."

"The book is extensively cross-referenced to The Experience of Buddhism: Sources and Interpretations by John Strong (also published by Wadsworth). The books can be used independently or as a set."

See Table of Contents.

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An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices

An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices
by Peter Harvey

Cambridge University Press, 1990, 396 pages

"Peter Harvey's Introduction to Buddhism is to be recommended; in its breadth and scope it is without serious rival as an introductory volume...Harvey is to be congratulated on a rounded and sensitive presentation of Buddhist thought and practice." Times Literary Supplement

"This book is a comprehensive introduction to Buddhist tradition as it has developed in three major cultural areas in Asia, and to Buddhism as it is now developing in the West. It is intended to be a textbook for students of religious and Asian studies, but it will also be of interest to readers who want a general survey of Buddhism and its beliefs. Unlike many other general books about Buddhism, it not only explores the world views of the religion but also attempts to show how Buddhism functions as a set of practices. It thus includes chapters on devotion, ethics, monastic practices and meditation. Such practices are related to Buddhist teachings and historical developments. Emphasizing as it does the diversity found within different Buddhist traditions, the book aims throughout to underline common threads of belief, practice and historical continuities which unify the Buddhist world. Dr. Harvey answers questions that are often asked by people on first meeting the tradition, and in his section on Nirvana offers a novel interpretation of this ultimate, transcendent mystery."

"An Introduction to Buddhism is one of the best overall introductions to this vast subject now available, superseding equivalent good books which are by now up to 50 years too old. Harvey combines scholarship including a knowledge of Pali and Sanskrit along with sensitivity to the contexts in which the various scriptures can be seen."

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