Customer Reviews: Buddhism for Beginners
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on October 24, 2002
I was looking for a good beginner's book on Buddhism, and found it with this one. Thubten Chodron did an excellent job in teaching the basics of Buddhism, it's history, and the difference in interpretations by various nations. She breaks down the chapters into various topics, from "Meditation" to "Social Activism & Ethical Issues." Each chapter is composed of Q&A's, like "What is karma? How does it work?" After reading this book, I got a great idea of how Buddhists view their world. This book is rather brief (150 pages) but it accomplishes it's intended purpose well.
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on July 6, 2002
Venerable Thubten Chodron is a wonderful writer - she explains things simply and sometimes humorously, and always holds the reader's interest. If you are beginning to practice Buddhism or are contemplating doing so, this book is a great place to start. It is the perfect book to give to friends or family members who are not familiar with Buddhism but want to understand your newfound spirituality.
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on August 25, 2001
I read this book after I finished a more scholarly book on Buddhism. It was quite refreshing to read "Buddhism For Beginners", as it is an easy read. The book is full of questions and answers from cover to cover. You can pick up the book, read it for an hour or so, or just read it for 5 minutes with ease. You can thumb through it looking for subjects that interest you, or you can go from cover to cover. Either way, it is a nicely written book, with clear and simple text. For one who actually wants to begin studying and practicing Buddhism I also suggest they read "Buddhism Plain and Simple" by Steven Hagen. These are both very good books!
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on December 22, 2008
This is a great book for beginners with a little bit of knowledge about Buddhism already. If I knew nothing at all I think it would be very overwhelming because of the amount of information presented so quickly. It answers some great questions about the practice of Buddhism and I would certainly recommend it. My only advice is that if you do get overwhelmed and you really are just beginning, don't give up learning about Buddhism- it is a wonderful practice!
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on February 27, 2004
Great Introduction to Buddhism
This book was written in response to many - "can I ask you a question about Buddhism?"
I really enjoyed the question and answer style that this is written in - for example in chapter one the question is asked - "What is the essence of Buddha's teachings?" and an excellent and easy to understand answer given. "What is the goal of the Buddhist path?" and again another easy to understand and terrific answer given etc -
These and other great questions throughout the book are questions that someone looking into Buddhism would be asking.
Some of the questions I hadn't really considered before, but was really glad they were asked and fully interested in the answers and learned new things.
This is an easy and enjoyable book to read. Great for the beginner or someone just curious about Buddhism. Great for someone further along the path to sit, smile and enjoy.
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VINE VOICEon March 14, 2005
This book grew out of a smaller work entitled "I Wonder Why;" it "is not designed to be a comprehensive introduction to Buddhism, but to clarify points, provide Buddhist perspectives on modern issues, and stimulate the curiosity and questioning minds of the readers" (p. 10). The author makes some profound statements about questions: p. 7: "In the beginning one should remain skeptical and rely on questioning and checking the teachings based on one's understanding" and p. 9: "I believe that spiritual practice is more about holding questions than finding answers. Seeking one correct answer often comes from a wish to make life-which is basically fluid-into something certain and fixed." The latter applies directly to Buddhism itself: p. 77-8: "As the Buddha's teachings spread from one country to another, they adapted to the culture and mentality of the people in each place without changing the essential meaning...The external forms and ways of doing things are not the Dharma." Thus, she differentiates between true practitioners and p. 118: "joss stick Buddhists." Needless to say, this book is for people truly interested in or at least honestly curious about Buddhism. The author corrects many incorrect views: p. 42: "There is nothing inherently wrong with the world; the real problem lies in our disturbing attitudes" and p. 63: to set reachable short-term goals as well as long-term resolve when purifying negative traits and actions. In addition to considerable information on helping the dying, a mantra to say when about to eat meat (p. 109: "Om Ahbirakay tsara hung" said 7 times & pray for animal to have fortunate rebirth), types of Buddhist nuns and robes, and especially children (p. 132: "When children see an adult sitting peacefully, they get the idea that they can as well" and p. 134: "Love is more important to children than material possessions. Choosing to earn more money at the expense of good family relations may mean later having to spend that extra income on therapy and counseling for both parents and children!"). Her words are worth considerable thought though they are quite basic and virtually nonsectarian. It's worth your time now since: p. 41: "No one dies thinking, `I should have worked more overtime.'"
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on June 9, 2010
This is a really bad place to start for those new to Buddhism. The title should have been "Tibetan Buddhism for Beginners." There is so much emphasis on the very mystical, literal interpretation of reincarnation that is specific to the Tibetan tradition, and this is not a good way to start. Details such as "it takes 4 minutes for the transmigration of the soul... I don't know why, but it just does" (not a literal quote, but she basically says this), is really ridiculous.

A better place to start would be "What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Rahula or "What Makes you Not a Buddhist" by Jamyang Khyentse.
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on December 11, 2005
This is a wonderful book. Great introduction, with great answers for common questions. You should probably read 'A Buddhism Primer - An Introduction to Buddhism' as well for a little more in depth but complimentary book to this one.
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on March 7, 2013
As other reviewers have said, this is not really for beginners wishing for information about practicing buddhism. It's a question and answer format aimed at buddhists who want to fully understand their practice better. It was overwhelming for someone who wanted more of a beginning understanding of buddhism practice today. I reccommend a title change to keep the true beginner away. Packed full of information otherwise, but not what I was hoping for.
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on June 14, 2001
The strongest feature of this book is the simple and straight-forward English explanations to many, many Buddhist questions. Each chapter deals with a general topic and has several questions relating to that topic. The answers are concise and well thought out and are excellent introductions to some of the more weighty thinking Buddhism has. The questions range from the sublime (the nature of the mind) to the mundane (lay ordained monks were asked to wear a white strip on their shawl to distinguish themselves from the other ordained). All of the answers are insightful, even to those more advanced beginners out there.
I think this book is best for people that have read some other Buddhist influenced books (perhaps something like The Art of Happiness where the author uses the Dalai Lama’s answers to form some general advice on dealing with life). To those “advanced” beginners, they might have formulated many of those questions contained in the book. (Answering questions you didn’t think of isn’t the best learning mechanism at times.) If you want to know more about Buddhism, the religion and the philosophy, in very general broad brush sweeps, this is an excellent book...
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