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A Dictionary of Buddhism Hardcover – July 10, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The Buddhist tradition is a venerable one, widely practiced and studied. Yet, until recently, substantial reference works have lagged behind the interest in the subject. Most available in English are single-volume works that address terms, concepts, or deities. 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. Most entries are transliterations from Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Pali, and so on, giving the work a very academic flavor and seeming to require some prior knowledge of the subject. In fairness, the author does state in his preface that this work is more of a companion to the growing literature on Buddhism rather than an introduction to it. 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.

Despite the work's academic bent, entries provide no supplemental bibliographies. This is an especially disappointing omission in the appendix, which outlines the divisions of the three main collections of canonical scriptures (i.e., Pali Canon, Chinese Canon, and Tibetan Canon), as finding translations of particular sacred texts can be difficult.

The Concise Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Oneworld, 2000) also lacks a true index and supplemental bibliographies for entries but has some features the Oxford title doesn't, namely, a nice introductory essay on Buddhist history, doctrines, and literature as well as a thematic bibliography. Its coverage, however, is not as comprehensive, with just over 900 entries. Although Oxford's Dictionary of Buddhism may not be all it could be, it does provide authoritative and convenient treatment of a wide range of subjects. Academic and public libraries would do well to acquire it. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198605609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198605607
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.3 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Damien Keown is Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Ethics at Goldsmiths College, University of London. His research interests centre on the study of contemporary moral problems from a Buddhist perspective. He is co-founder of The Journal of Buddhist Ethics and the author of the best-selling 'Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction' and 'Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction', both from Oxford University Press and also available on Amazon.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Kim Boykin on March 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
For many years, "The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen" has been the best Buddhist dictionary in English. It now has a worthy competitor in Damien Keown's "Dictionary of Buddhism."

Keown's dictionary includes over 2,000 entries, as compared with the Shambhala dictionary's 1,500+, and is more up-to-date. Keown includes long and helpful entries on the history of Buddhism in particular places (e.g., Sri Lanka, Japan, Britain) and entries for issues like abortion, cloning, diet, and reincarnation. And Keown has more extensive coverage than Shambhala of Western Buddhism (including entries on, e.g., Alan Watts, Christmas Humphreys, the Buddhist Churches of America, and Naropa University).

But the coverage of Zen isn't as extensive in Keown as in Shambhala. E.g., Keown doesn't include entries for oryoki, rakusu, mokugyo, or tenzo--all in Shambhala. And Keown includes only the more prominent Zen teachers. E.g., there are no entries for two of Dogen's teachers (Myozen and T'ien-t'ung Ju-ching) or one of Hui-neng's two main successors (Ch'ing-yuan)--all in Shambhala. The Shambhala dictionary also includes a Ch'an/Zen lineage chart.

Keown includes many more cross-listings than Shambhala from English terms to their Sanskrit equivalents (e.g., if you look up "emptiness" in Shambhala, you'll find nothing, not even a cross-listing to the entry for "sunyata"; in Keown there's a cross-listing). Keown also includes a helpful chronology of important events in Buddhist history and a listing of the major Buddhist scriptures in the Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan canons.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on October 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Compiled and edited Damien Keown (Senior Lecturer in Indian Religion, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London), the Dictionary Of Buddhism is a straightforward, alphabetically arranged, "user friendly" reference filled cover to cover with succinct entries regarding people, places, religious terms, figures of history, meditative states, English translations of terms occurring in connection with Buddhism (such as "upasika", a female lay Buddhist). The 2,000 brief yet illuminated entries make Dictionary Of Buddhism a highly recommended consulting resource for studying about this ancient and honorable religion -- and an essential part of any personal, academic, or community library Buddhist Studies reference and resource collection.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Let it Be on December 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am of the opinion that this contemporary dictionary is the yet the most concise, comprehensive, updated and historically accurate work about Buddhism written in English.

At first impression, this dictionary may appear to be a book fully dedicated to a religious topic and written with an intention to reach a limited audience.

On close inspection,however, I am convinced that the author has done a marvelous job in this well researched work to qualify this dictionary as a must-have reference book and mini English dictionary on Buddhism for Buddhist readers, academics, students and researchers in Asian studies.

The book is concisely written and could be read as a little encyclopedia with topics arranged in alphabetical order.

The author has not only successfully dealt with a subject which may otherwise appeal only to interested readers with a religious, spiritual and philosophical background. But interestingly, the author has also nicely done it from a secular and historically accurately perspective for the layman who wishes to acquire more knowledge about Buddhism.

I have used this book for more than 1 year and have managed to find every Buddhist terminologies, historical characters, notes on practices, ceremonies,listed in English which I have encountered in other English and Chinese books on Buddhism.

This dictionary could be used as an INDEX and starting point to studies and readings into more detailed areas of Buddhism.

The book also a very international outlook as even Buddhist societies in America and United Kingdom and their brief history was entered into the 2000+ entries.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Metta on December 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
From the viewpoint of a Buddhist practitioner, some of the entries were disappointing. For example, the entries for Ksitigarbha and Kuan Yin were not as good as the entries in Shambala Dictionary. Oxford is obviously more updated and includes terms that Shambala doesn't. This is the only advantage it has over the Shambala dictionary (I'd love to see how Shambala would present them). If you're looking for secular reference information the Oxford dictionary is suitable. If you're looking for non-secular information that is commonly agreed upon by most Buddhist practitioners, Shambala is a better choice.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Groff on August 30, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This review is for the format of the Kindle edition. If this had been set up like the Oxford dictionary it would be a lot easier to find the entries. Why isn't there a word list or any links? Sometimes, with only the Kindle index to use, it can take a really long time to find the word. I should have bought the book instead.
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