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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 2 of 3 Pages


The Foundations of Buddhism

The Foundations of Buddhism
by Rupert Gethin

Oxford University Press, 1998, 352 pp.

"This is the best introduction to Indian Buddhism that I have seen. It makes extensive use of the most current scholarship." -- David Carpenter, St. Joseph's University

"Buddhism is a vast and complex religious and philosophical tradition with a history that stretches over 2,500 years, and which is now followed by around 115 million people. In this introduction to the foundations of Buddhism, Rupert Gethin concentrates on the ideas and practices which constitute the common heritage of the different traditions of Buddhism (Theravada, Tibetan, and Eastern) that exist in the world today. From the narrative of the story of the Buddha, through discussions of aspects such as textual traditions, the framework of the Four Noble Truths, the interaction between the monastic and lay ways of life, the cosmology of karma and rebirth, and the path of the bodhisattva, this book provides a stimulating introduction to Buddhism as a religion and way of life."

"The Foundations of Buddhism presents an introduction to Buddhism as it really is, as seen through the eyes of millions of its Asian followers."

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The A to Z of Buddhism:  Historical Dictionary of Buddhism

The A to Z of Buddhism:  Historical Dictionary of Buddhism
by Charles S. Prebish

Scarecrow Press, 2001, 2nd edition, 312 pp.

"The book is divided into three parts: a lengthy introduction, the dictionary itself (the bulk of the book), and an extensive bibliography.

"The author's introduction opens with a biography of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, then expounds upon the information in the chronology and the scripture lists. The introductory material also includes a pronunciation guide, a list of Buddhist scriptures from its various branches, a 5-page chronology of Buddhist history, and a map."

"The dictionary itself has approximately 700 entries, each at least a paragraph in length; some take a whole page. Entries include westerners significant in Buddhism, such as Edward Conze and Caroline Rhys-Davids, as well as such Eastern Buddhists as the Dalai Lama and Nichiren; definitions of Buddhist terms and ideas: and important historical events such as the various councils and eras."

"The bibliography contains almost 1,000 entries. These are arranged by subject: Historical Development; Texts in Translation; Religious Thought; Practices; Soteriology; Biography and Mythology; Sacred Places; The Social Order; and The Arts."

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Buddhist Scriptures

Buddhist Scriptures
by Donald S. Lopez

Penguin Books, 2004, 556 pp.

"While Buddhism has no central text comparable to the Bible or Koran, there is a powerful body of scripture from across Asia that encompasses the dharma, or the teachings of the Buddha. In this rich new anthology of Buddhist texts, eminent scholar Donald S. Lopez, Jr. brings together works from a broad historical and geographical range, and from such languages as Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese. There are tales of the Buddha’s past lives, a discussion of qualities and qualifications for a monk, and an exploration of the many meanings of enlightenment. Together they provide a vivid picture of the Buddha and of the vast and profound nature of the Buddhist tradition."

"Buddhist Scriptures is a selection of Buddhist writings representing the full range of historical periods, geographical origins and literary styles. The text is organized into chapters on: the Buddhist universe; the Buddha; monastic life; meditation and other rituals; and enlightenment.  This new edition contains many texts presented in English for the first time as well as new translations of some well-known works, and also includes an informative introduction and prefaces to each chapter by Lopez, with suggestions for further reading and a glossary."

See Table of Contents.

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The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Schools, Teaching, Practice, and History

The Buddhist Handbook : A Complete Guide to Buddhist Schools, Teaching, Practice, and History
by John Snelling

Inner Traditions, 1999, 360 pp.

"An invaluable nonsectarian map to the complex terrain of Buddhist philosophy, history, and practice."

"This book offers a comprehensive worldwide cultural and historical view of Buddhism. The initial chapters detail its spread from India into China, Asia, Tibet, Japan, and adjacent areas. Later chapters deal with Buddhism in Europe since World War II, the history of North American Buddhism, and the influence of Buddhism on psychotherapy."

"This book really is an excellent, comprehensive guide to Buddhism. It will orient you in the wide array of Buddhist practices going on today, with historical and conceptual background from the Indian roots of Buddhism, through its spread over Asia and into the West, so you can get a clear understanding of what the differences are between Zen, Theravada, the various Tibetan schools, etc. At the end is a 'Who's Who' of contemporary teachers a Westerner might meet or want to know about; then a list of useful addresses in the US and Canada; a festival list; a 'further reading' list; and an index."

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The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to its History & Teachings

The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to its History & Teachings
by Donald S. Lopez Jr.

HarperSanFrancisco, 2002, 288 pp.

"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. Rather than providing a chronological history or country-by-country breakdown, Lopez in The Story of Buddhism 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."

"Donald Lopez attempts to present a balanced, accurate picture of Buddhism as it has been practiced over the generations. His book The Story of Buddhism considers the actual practice of Buddhism, in all its diverse forms, in Asia, superstitions, magic, idiosyncrasies, etc."

"The focus of the book is on the various schools of Mahayana Buddhism and on the Buddhism of Tibet. There is a great deal of emphasis in the book on how the Buddha's teaching was applied and modified over the years. Most of lay practice, Lopez informs us, was devoted to the accumulation of merit by the practice of good deeds. A regular meditation practice, much less textual study of the Sutras, was simply unavailable to most people who have over the generations called themselves Buddhists, either laity or monastic."

"Lopez describes well the ritualistic practices of any number of Buddhist schools, emphasizing matters such as relic worship, ancestor worship, fortune-telling and horoscopes, miracle cures, magic, mandalas, and what the modern reader is likely to view as superstition. He briefly describes for the reader a number of Buddhist schools and practices, including Tantric Buddhism, the Pure Land School, and Zen, and their different paths to enlightenment."

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Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition

Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition
by Paul Williams with Anthony Tribe

Routledge, 2000, 336 pp.

"I know of no more lucid expositor of Indian or Buddhist philosophy." -- Richard Gombrich

"Buddhist Thought guides the reader toward an understanding and appreciation of the central concepts of classical Indian Buddhist thought, tracing their development from the time of Buddha to the latest scholarly perspectives and controversies. Of particular interest here is the accessible and up-to-date survey of Buddhist Tantra in India.  A detailed bibliography completes a comprehensive, authoritative and engaging introduction to one of the world's great philosophies."

"If you intend to gain a first, yet thorough and actually reliable understanding of the extensive realm of Buddhism, choose this book as your indispensable guide"

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Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations

Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations
by Paul Williams

Routledge, 1989, 317 pp.

"This will without doubt become a standard textbook on the Mahayana. Argument and assertions are throughout backed up by reference to primary sources and there are citations or quotations from texts on almost every page." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

"This volume provides an up-to-date and accurate account of the principles of Mahayana Buddhism as they are found in both the Indo-Tibetan and East Asian forms of Mahayana. Throughout, the book places Buddhist doctrine within a historical and cultural context, and provides a basis for students and readers to engage in their own further research and study into Buddhist theory and practice."

"Originating in India, Mahayana Buddhism spread to Central Asia, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Japan and other countries of East Asia. In Tibet and East Asia, Mahayana eventually became the prevalent form of Buddhism. Western interest in Mahayana has increased considerably over the last twenty-five years, reflected both in the quantity of scholarly material produced and also in the attraction of Westerners towards Tibetan Buddhism.  This book aims to provide in one volume an up-to-date and accurate account of the principles of Mahayana Buddhism as they are found in both the Indo-Tibetan and East Asian forms of Mahayana. It seeks to introduce and reflect some of the recent scholarly work in the field, and in particular the book is concerned to convey the diversity and richness of Mahayana Buddhism, a diversity which prevents any attempt at simple definition."

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