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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 3 of 3 Pages


A Dictionary of Buddhism

A Dictionary of Buddhism
by Damien Keown

Oxford University Press, 2003, 448 pp.

"Although Keown regretfully concedes that the vast subject of Buddhism cannot be 'compressed into the pages of a volume such as this,' and that his illustrated dictionary is 'far from exhaustive,' it may well be the most judicious encyclopedia of Buddhism ever to be crammed into a single volume. The entries cover Buddhist terms (20% of the text), biography (18%), scriptures (12%), important places (8%) and schools (7%), with the remaining portions given to brief discussions of ethical issues and other matters. The entries are short--'dharma,' for example, merits only a single paragraph, and 'Mahayana' gets just two--but such accessibility is the very reason why this should be on the bookshelf of every student of Buddhism."

"Oxford's new dictionary, although also a single volume, treats doctrines, practices, biography, scriptures, schools and sects, art, architecture, and more."

"More than 2,000 entries are alphabetically arranged from abhabba-tthana, the five things of which an arhat, or enlightened one, is said to be incapable, to Zimme Pannasa, the Burmese term for a collection of birth stories of the Buddha. The treatment of particular countries (e.g., China, India) as well as those for collections of sacred texts can serve as introductory essays of a sort. There are entries for terms in English (e.g., Diet, Reincarnation), including some on contemporary issues, such as Cloning and Stem cell research."

"Oxford's Dictionary of Buddhism provides authoritative and convenient treatment of a wide range of subjects."

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Buddhist Texts through the Ages

Buddhist Texts through the Ages:  A Unique Anthology of Buddhist Scripture
Translated and edited by Edward Conze, I. B. Horner, David Snellgrove, and Arthur Waley

Oneworld Publications, 1995, 324 pp.

"Covering the development of Buddhism through the ages, this collection of excerpts from all the important Buddhist scriptures is designed to serve scholars and students, as well as readers who wish to explore for themselves the original sources of one of the world's great religions. Translated into jargon-free English from Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese, the texts are accompanied by a glossary of English and foreign terms." -- Publisher

"An anthology of classic writings...this book offers 214 excerpts" from Buddhist texts through the ages.

"Edward Conze, I.B. Horner, David Snellgrove and Arthur Waley are big names in Buddhology. As scholars they each represent a specific age and development in the history of Buddhist Thought."

"Horner, member of the Pali Text Society, which publishes primary and secondary sources of Early Buddhism, takes her share with Part One. The Teaching of the Elders.  This part deals with canonical texts from the Theravada tradition and aims to sketch a picture of the Buddha by collecting small 'crucial' fragments from the suttas."

"In the Second Part. The Mahayana, Conze (Mahayana specialist) presents his selection of important Mahayana scriptures. Following the same theme as Horner, he too tries to 'reconstruct' the person of the Buddha, but, understandably, emphasizing the symbolic function of the Buddha, proper to Mahayana exegesis."

"In the Third Part. The Tantras, David Snellgrove (Tibetan Tantric Buddhism specialist) gives his overview of Tantric Buddhism (often mistakenly linked in the West with solely sexual practices.) Starting with a selection of Aryadeva, the foremost disciple of Nagarjuna (Madhyamaka), he proceeds with the very interesting 'Saraha's Treasury of Songs.' Other texts revolve primarily on practice and instruction."

"In the last Part Four. Texts from China and Japan, Arthur Waley gives us an interesting selection of texts that originated in India, were lost, but still exist in Chinese translations."

"It's an interesting selection of the vast quantity of Buddhist texts of most schools. We have all the 'phases' covered in Buddhist history starting from Pali, over Sanskrit to Chinese and Japanese. General readers will be fascinated by the richness of the Buddhist tradition, the shifting and developing of the meaning of the Dharma, the sometimes stunning interpretations done by later teachers.   It is a possible starting point for an introduction to primary sources and could serve, although critically, as a textbook for courses of Buddhism. But if you just like a good selection of texts to get an impression of what Buddhism is all about, then this bundle of wisdom will surely do." -- Stefan

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The Vision of Buddhism: The Space Under the Tree

The Vision of Buddhism: The Space Under the Tree
by Roger Corless

Paragon House Publishers, 1990, 362 pp.

Vision of Buddhism is, indeed, a remarkable exposition of Buddhism: some of its interpretations are brilliant. It is superbly informed.”–Frederick J. Streng, Southern Methodist University

“An impressive and distinctive book that portrays the unique character, the essential integrity, and the dominant motifs of the Buddhist tradition in a lucid and illuminating manner.”–F. Stanley Lusby, University of Tennessee

"Most Western treatments of Buddhism are historical, tracing in detail the chronology of Buddhism’s emergence and growth and its division into dozens of competing schools. This lucid and elegant introduction to Buddhism takes a non-historical approach, one that is more faithful to the Buddhist tradition itself. Author Roger Corless presents and explains Buddhist teachings and practices in light of events in the life of Buddha. He examines the mythologized version of Buddha’s life and the differing descriptions of Buddha’s life given by his followers. In the major section of the book he considers the matter of greatest importance to modern readers – how the Buddha’s life, in all its descriptions, may be repeated by each individual practitioner."

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Buddhism: A History

Buddhism: A History
by Noble Ross Reat

Jain Publishing Company, 1996, 392 pp.

"Ross Reat seems to have accomplished the impossible: a one-volume survey of Buddhism that is accurate, inclusive and readable. In an excellent narrative that links facts and ideas over three millennia, Buddhism: a History begins with four chapters on the background, inception and development of early Buddhism, then moves on through nine individual chapters on Buddhism in each of its major geographic locales, from Sri Lanka to Japan and even the West. A valuable work for student and casual reader alike."

"Reat covers the history of Buddhism in a marvelously interesting and informative way that will appeal to the general reader. In 13 chapters, he discusses the Buddha in history and legend; the death of the Buddha and the split that resulted in the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism; the teachings of the Buddha; and the development of Buddhism around the world, primarily in the United States. He also demonstrates the impact of the political history of different countries on the development of Buddhism and interweaves explanations of the importance of several Buddhist canonical texts with his descriptions of the development of the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism in various countries. Reat presents this history in a way that draws the reader into the account and provides answers to the questions a beginning reader would have. The result is more detailed than most introductions to the subject."

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The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen

The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen
by Michael S. Diener, Franz-Karl Erhard, Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber 

Shambhala Publications, 1991, 296 pp.

"This excellent A-Z dictionary is an invaluable reference. For anyone wanting to deeply study Buddhism and Buddhist sutras this book is very helpful. The entries are clear and accurate, with extensive cross-references. There are entries for each of the major sects of Buddhism as well as various doctrines and teachers."

"With over fifteen hundred entries and forty-six illustrations, The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen is designed not only for students and meditators but also as a book to help familiarize all readers with Buddhist terms and concepts—such as chakra, karma, koan, nirvana, and tantra—that are encountered with increasing regularity in the literature of a wide range of fields today. The lives and teachings of important Buddhist philosophers and meditation masters, the variety of practices, the basic texts and scriptures, and the range of sects and schools of thought are among the subjects covered. Pronunciation tables, a comprehensive bibliography, and a Ch'an/Zen lineage chart are also provided."

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A Modern Buddhist Bible : Essential Readings from East and West

A Modern Buddhist Bible: Essential Readings from East and West
by Donald S. Lopez Jr.

Beacon Press, 2002, 304 pp.

"This intriguing new work does not present canonical texts of ancient Buddhism to modern readers. Rather, Lopez seeks to define 'modern Buddhism' through the writings of 31 authors who came to prominence between 1873 and 1980. From early seekers such as Madame Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott to more contemporary and recognizable sages such as Alan Watts, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama, illuminating extracts follow brief biographical sketches. The interpretive introduction ties the diverse authors together into a 'lineage' of modern Buddhism, seen by Lopez as a new sect neither bound by location nor the product of evolution but rather harking back some 2500 years to the Buddha's original vision. This book is an important contribution to the literature of contemporary Buddhism."

"Prolific Tibetan Buddhist scholar Lopez wonderfully advances his argument for framing a contemporary understanding of Buddhism that is rooted in history and pays attention to texts as well as practice. This 'Bible' is a selection of 20th-century texts that have shaped modern Western-American Buddhism, which Lopez considers a sect in the same way that Thai or Tibetan Buddhism is a sect. The author assembles a canon for modern Buddhism, noting the interconnection of influential figures who form a kind of Buddhist lineage. The cast of characters includes some surprises, such as Theosophist Helena Blavatsky, as well as such usual suspects as Paul Carus, Alan Watts and W.Y. Evans-Wentz, who made The Tibetan Book of the Dead an accessible text. The selections are themselves diverse. The earlier 20th century writers provide fascinating views of the beginnings of the modern Asian-Western encounter of belief systems in the context of evolving postcolonial political awareness. An astute essay by Watts from 1959 on 'Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen' might be worth the price of the book. Poems written by Allen Ginsberg about the death of maverick Tibetan Buddhist guru Trungpa Rinpoche simply resonate. The book is a great contribution to bridging the gap between the text-and-language camp of academic Buddhists and the practice, practice, practice camp of modern Buddhist adepts."

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Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction

Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction
by Damien Keown

This book has not yet been published.  Available September 2005.

Oxford University Press, September 2005, 144 pp.

"The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed a growing interest in Buddhism, and it continues to capture the imagination of many in the West who see it as either an alternative or a supplement to their own religious beliefs. Numerous introductory books have appeared in recent years to cater to this growing interest, but almost none devotes attention to the specifically ethical dimensions of the tradition. For various complex cultural and historical reasons, ethics has not received as much attention in traditional Buddhist thought as it has in the West. Written by Damien Keown, one of the few experts worldwide who specializes in the area, Buddhist Ethics illustrates how Buddhism might approach a range of contemporary morals ranging from abortion to euthanasia, sexuality to cloning, and even war and economics."

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