The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction

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Overview

For centuries, Buddhist teachers and laypeople have used stories, symbols, cultural metaphors, and anecdotes to teach and express their religious views.  In this introductory textbook, Carl Olson draws on these narrative traditions to detail the development of Buddhism from the life of the historical Buddha to the present.  By organizing the text according to the structure of Buddhist thought and teaching, Olson avoids imposing a Western perspective that traditional texts commonly bring to the subject.

The book offers a comprehensive introduction to the main branches of the Buddhist tradition in both the Mahayana and Theravada schools, including the Madhyamika school, the Yogacara school, Pure Land devotionalism, Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and village folk Buddhist traditions. Chapters explore the life and teachings of the Buddha in historical context, the early development and institutionalization of Buddhism, its geographic spread across Asia and eventually to the United States, philosophy and ethics, the relationship between monks and laity, political and ethical implications, the role of women in the Buddhist tradition, and contemporary reinterpretations of Buddhism. 

Drawn from decades of classroom experience, this creative and ambitious text combines expert scholarship and engaging stories that offer a much-needed perspective to the existing literature on the topic.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813535616
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Carl Olson is a professor of religious studies at Allegheny College.
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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Origins and historical development
1 Crows and monks : introduction 1
2 The elephant and the Buddha 21
Pt. 2 Theravada philosophy and practice
3 The narrative path of the Buddha 45
4 Ethical and political implications of Buddhist narratives 68
5 The tale of beggars and donors 88
6 The feminine narrative in Buddhism 110
7 Stories from Buddhist villages 123
Pt. 3 Major Mahayana movements and schools
8 The Bodhisattva's path to perfection 143
9 Secret narratives : philosophies of emptiness 163
10 Devotional voices of the pure land 184
11 Tales of Lamas : Tibetan Buddhism 201
12 The no-narrative of seated meditation : Zen 225
13 New narratives : recent paths of reform and revival 245
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