Buddhism

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Overview


Founded on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, the faith taught by Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha, or Awakened One) spread rapidly across Asia and then across the globe, becoming one of the world's largest and most influential religions. Buddhism combines lavish colorful photography and an authoritative text to provide a sweeping survey of this rich and varied religious tradition.
Eckel begins with an engaging portrait of the Buddha (who predated Jesus by 500 years), an Indian prince's son who embarked on an epic journey of enlightenment and discovered a way of overcoming suffering. The authors trace the flowering of Buddhist schools in his wake, from the major groups (Mahayana, Theravada, Tantric) to the minor (such as the Pure Land sect in Japan). With helpful sidebars, boxed features, and numerous illustrations, they explain Tantric Mandalas (sacred circles), the Sutras (holy writings), the sacred landscape, celestial beings in some Buddhist mythology, the path to Nirvana, and much more. They also discuss Buddhist temples, forms of worship and meditation, the cycle of rebirth, and roles and relationships in the Buddhist community (including Theravada, Buddhism's stress on the importance of becoming a monk for at least part of life). A helpful map reveals the course of Buddhism's expansion throughout Asia.
As a belief system, as an influential way of seeing the world, as a unifying thread of Asian cultures, Buddhism remains vitally important. This lucid, eye-pleasing introduction explains and celebrates this major world religion, bringing to life the full variety of Buddhist tradition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Eckel, an associate professor of religion at Boston University and author of To See the Buddha, offers the latest installment in Oxford's series of well-designed introductions to various world religions. Unlike previous volumes that have explored less well-known religions such as Confucianism and Shinto, this book undertakes the unenviable task of explaining one of the world's most over-published faith traditions: Buddhism. Also unlike those volumes, Eckel's addresses a religion that has adapted considerably throughout history and across many diverse cultures. Eckel begins with Buddhism's origins in the person of Siddhartha Gautama, discussing the religion's gradual dissemination throughout Asia and briefly mentioning its major divisions. His chapter entitled "Aspects of the Divine" ably tackles theological beliefs. (Although Buddhism superficially appears to have no theology, since it is non-theistic, some of its Mahayana traditions actually posit a rather complicated pantheon of deities, enlightened beings and bodhisattvas.) Other chapters deal with sacred persons, holidays and life cycle rituals, death and the afterlife and the role of religion in society. Eckel writes at a very accessible level, and the inclusion of primary texts at the end of each short chapter goes far to helping novices understand the issues at hand. Also, the full-color photographs and lovely design help to set the book apart. There are more comprehensive and engaging Buddhist primers on the market, but-considering the vast nature of the topic-this one will be useful to the neophyte. (Jan. 9)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up–Thorough research and concise writing brand this series. Each volume discusses origins and historical development; aspects of the divine; sacred texts, persons, space, and time; ethical principles; death and the afterlife; and society and religion. Each chapter includes an extract from a sacred text followed by analysis and commentary. Terms and ideas that are unique to the religion are explained clearly within context. These slim, attractive titles are sparsely but well illustrated with high-quality reproductions of paintings and photographs that support the adjacent text. There is enough substance here to make this series a key resource for reports. “Understanding Religions” is similar in scope to “Religions of the World” (Lucent, 2002), but the format here is more colorful and attractive, and has more illustrations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195219074
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Malcolm David Eckel is Associate Professor of Religion and Associate Director of the Division of Religious and Theological Studies, Boston University.

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