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

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9780060699765: The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to Its History & Teachings

This engaging introduction to Buddhism by leading Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez Jr. offers an expert but lucid account that demystifies Buddhism and explains its practices, teachings, and schools. Blending penetrating analysis with engaging storytelling, Lopez makes Buddhism accessible and compelling as he reveals the commonalities and differences among the major traditions. The Story of Buddhism focuses on actual lived practice and shows why Buddhism has been so appealing and helpful through many centuries and many cultures, including our own.

Lopez begins with the creation and structure of the Buddhist universe and then tells the story of the life of the Buddha, weaving a tapestry of history, legend, and doctrine (a traditional approach in Buddhist literature). He explores important concepts such as dharma -- including devotional practices and techniques of meditation -- and sangha -- the communities of monks, nuns, and laypeople who follow the teachings of the Buddha. Finally, the author probes the meaning of enlightenment as a path to the realization of one's true nature and freedom from suffering.

Complete with a glossary, detailed index, and comprehensive bibliography, The Story of Buddhism is a rich presentation of the Buddhist tradition. Whether you are a practicing Buddhist, a student of world religions, or both, this concise, accessible introduction to the teachings, practices, and historical development of Buddhism is an invaluable guide that will set the standard for years to come.

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Review:

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. Religion professor Donald Lopez has mastered a good deal of this immense lore and managed with The Story of Buddhism to get it into a manageable package. Rather than providing a chronological history or country-by-country breakdown, Lopez 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. In addition, he spices up his work with delectable, if occasionally bizarre, examples from specific cultures. There is, for instance, the story of the depraved man who, once having said the words "Lotus Sutra," was saved from Hell. And the tale of the practice called the "act of truth," in which a perfectly candid statement can have magical powers. Or the story of the monk who attempted to rescue some maggots by opening his own flesh for them. No doubt, Buddhism is interesting, but it takes a competent scholar and a good storyteller to get it just right. Lopez fills the bill. --Brian Bruya

About the Author:

Donald S. Lopez Jr. is the Carl W. Belser Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author and editor of many books on Buddhism, including Buddhism in Practice and Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West, and key religious texts by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace, The Way to Freedom, and Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart.

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