Cover image for Buddhism : origins, beliefs, practices, holy texts, sacred places
Title:
Buddhism : origins, beliefs, practices, holy texts, sacred places
Author:
Eckel, Malcolm David, 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
112 pages : color illustrations ; 21 cm
Language:
English
Subject Term:
ISBN:
9780195219074
Format :
Book

Available:*

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BQ4022 .E35 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes


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


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Though hardly exhaustive introductions, these two new members in the series already including Shinto and Islam [BKL Ag 02] will be welcomed by those seeking to learn more about their subjects without being overburdened by detail. Buddhism begins with an overview of the historical and mythical roots of the tradition, focusing on Siddhartha Gautama's enlightenment and the subsequent spread of his teachings across the Silk Road from India to Southeast Asia. Eckel goes on to explore, albeit briefly, the sacred texts of the Mahayana, Therevada, and Tantric schools of Buddhism; sacred space and time in Buddhist thought; and the interaction between Buddhism and society. Without shying away from philosophic complexity, Eckel manages to convey the Buddhist basics in remarkably few words, and the many illustrations complement an engaging read. Oldstone-Moore challenges the notion that Confucianism is merely legalistic, especially in her chapter on death and the afterlife, where she shows that, along with Confucianism, a murky mixture of indigenous beliefs, Taoism, and Buddhism contributes to death rituals. Arguing that the Confucian tradition is quite a bit older than Confucius himself, Oldstone-Moore traces the emphasis on filial piety and the exaltation of the group over the individual to yet more ancient Chinese roots. At the end of each chapter, Oldstone-Moore insightfully comments upon selections from the Analects and other Chinese writings. --John Green


Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved