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Buddhism For Dummies Paperback – December 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


“…another interesting title that seems written for anything but dummies…” (Alain de Botton in The Observer, July 4th, 2004)

From the Back Cover

Covers daily observances, meditation practices, and making pilgrimages

Explore the fascinating history of Buddhism

What’s the significance of Buddha? How can the practice of Buddhism enrich your everyday life? This guide explains the important themes and traditions, revealing how Buddha’s teachings combine to create a path to enlightenment and spiritual awakening. Find out more about karma and discover how to fulfill your highest potential through Buddhism.

The Dummies Way

  • Explanations in plain English
  • "Get in, get out" information
  • Icons and other navigational aids
  • Tear-out cheat sheet
  • Top ten lists
  • A dash of humor and fun

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (December 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764553593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764553592
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #653,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Todd Buster Paris on October 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're looking for a general overview or a refresher on Buddhism this is the place to go
Remember - this is Buddhism For Dummies - and it delivers exactly that - as the book itself says "Your easy-to-understand guide to Buddhist traditions, beliefs and practices"
This is a perfect book for the person looking into Buddhism for the first time - it gives a general overview - and a closer look into specific areas - from history to practices to traditions to a general understanding of the what, how's and why's of Buddhism - in easy to read and understand steps - nothing too "out there" or overwhelming
This is also a great book for the person revisiting Buddhism - it reminds you of what you found interesting or drawn to in the first place and I found it to be refreshing through the eyes I have now
Most importantly - this is a book for your head - on a spiritual scale - it's not particularly moving or spiritual - again this is Buddhism For Dummies - it's more for your brain - it's a general look and explanation geared towards an intellectual understanding (Buddhism 101) - not the heart/mind understanding - there is some of that, but Buddhism For Dummies is for your brain
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167 of 181 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on July 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm one of the "dummies" referred to in the title. What I knew about Buddhism I'd learned while studying the transcendental writers, Emerson, Thoreau etc. while in college.
This book is written by Stephan Bodian, an American Buddhist monk, and Jonathan Landaw, who has led meditation courses at Buddhist centers for over twenty-five years.
Despite its cheesy title, this book answered most of the questions I had about Buddhism:
Why the heck does the Buddha have so many names? He was born Prince Siddhartha, but once he became enlightened, he was called Shakyamuni Buddha. Bodhi, the tree under which he meditated, means enlightenment. Shakyamuni means enlightened sage of the Shakyas, the clan to which he belonged.
Was Buddha God? No, he was a real human thought to have lived between 563 and 483 BCE. When you see Buddhist monks prostate before a statue of Buddha, they are praying to their inner Buddha. They believe each of us has the ability to achieve enlightenment (nirvana).
What is karma? Sort of credits you build up, both bad and good. Buddhists believe in reincarnation; karma credits transfer from life to life. So if you're dealt a bad hand; it's because you were naughty in a previous life.
What's the difference between Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism? The way I understand it, Theravada emphasizes individual enlightenment; whereas, the Mahayana's proponents are more worried about helping everyone achieve spiritual awakening. A Buddha becomes a Bodhisattva, sort of a savior like Shakyamuni. Theravadas also emphasize compassion and kindness which is pretty much the same thing. Zen Buddhism and Vajrayana (Tibetan) are offshoots of Mahayana Buddhism.
What about heaven and hell? This is where they lost me.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Churilla on March 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not going to write what's in this book; instead, I'm going to tell you about how reading this book changed my life for the better.

I was born and raised in a Catholic family, and for over 30 years I considered myself one, but I wasn't very good at it and I didn't like it; whenever I sinned, I was filled with despair and self-loathing. But then sometime in early 2008, I picked up this book and my life was changed forever. Within a few months my mind, my perceptions and my attitude toward myself had irrevocably changed.

What I took from this book was the lesson that the physcial world is impermanent, it is always changing, and from this I took so much more from it. I have come to believe that looking outside yourself for lasting happiness--whether it is food, money, power, possessions, even love from others--is impossible; these things can only bring temporary happiness. True happiness come from within.

Accepting this idea means you become much more accepting of the inevitable curve balls that life throws at you. You realize that the situation, while not to your liking, is only temporary, so just accept it and ride it out.

This acceptance of events also applies to people as well. I used to be very hung up on what others thought of me. I did everything I could to make them happy, but in the end only drove myself crazy when they didn't give me that approval I so desperately needed. But now I accept that no matter what I do, some people just won't like me and I don't try to win them over.

What also appeals to me about Buddhism is that you are allowed, even encouraged, to question the teachings of masters past. Even Buddha himself said not to follow what he said or did simply because he did it.
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95 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Todd V. Leone on April 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
All the title really means is that this book is written for people who know very little -- or nothing at all -- of the subject matter. When it comes to Buddhism, that's the majority of North Americans. I perhaps knew a little bit more than most as I live in San Francisco where Buddhists may be found readily, but I appreciated this book for filling me in on the ins and outs. (I knew enough to know I didn't know enough.)
This is a practical book designed to educate the Western reader on what Buddhism is and what it is not. A lot of attention is paid to dispelling myths Westerners frequently believe about Buddhism. What this book does not do is presume to get the reader started on some kind of practice of Buddhism, but it may well get a reader well enough informed to choose to pursue the Buddhist way further -- or not, for that matter.
As a liberal Christian, I appreciated this book a lot. I'm interested in knowing more because I already look from a viewpoint that includes Buddhist ideas as experienced truth. One of the interesting things about Buddhism is that it neither teaches nor denies a supreme being and has nothign negative to say about other religions. Rather, in a nutshell, Buddhism is more of a system of spiritual self-discovery than it is a religion, per se.
It's interesting to note that there are many different systems of Buddhist discipline, much as there are different denominations in Christianity, for example. The beliefs and teachings all have the same foundation, but are not necessarily identical from one form of Buddhism to another, nor are the practices the various adherents follow. It's interesting to find out what the differences are and when, how and where each "denomination" came into being.
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