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Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition [Kindle Edition]

Paul Williams , Anthony Tribe , Alexander Wynne
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 0415207002
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-0415207003
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Book Description

Buddhist Thought guides the reader towards a richer understanding of the central concepts of classical Indian Buddhist thought, from the time of Buddha, to the latest scholarly perspectives and controversies. Abstract and complex ideas are made understandable by the authors' lucid style. Of particular interest is the up-to-date survey of Buddhist Tantra in India, a branch of Buddhism where strictly controlled sexual activity can play a part in the religious path. Williams' discussion of this controversial practice as well as of many other subjects makes Buddhist Thought crucial reading for all interested in Buddhism.

Editorial Reviews


"I would thoroughly recommend this book as an introduction for anyone trying to understand the rich variety of Buddhist thought on the fundamental question of existence." Denise Cush, Bath Spa University College, UK

About the Author

Paul Williams is Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy and Co-Director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol. His numerous publications include Mahayana Buddhism (Routledge, 1989).

Product Details

  • File Size: 1137 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge (January 4, 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FA63II
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,848 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Content, Dreary Style December 3, 2003
By Dewdrop
This book has many strengths and a notable weakness. On the positive side, both authors are extremely knowledgeable and guide the reader through some extremely difficult ideas. Indian Buddhism is not a straightforward topic. There are many academic debates raging on extremely fundamental questions, and there has been quite a bit of revisionism in recent years. Williams (who wrote all of the book except for the last chapter) is clearly in command of this complex material, including recent scholarship. And he has very well-considered opinions on major topics. His insights can enrich just about anyone¡¦s views of the development of Buddhism.
This book is not for everyone. It is definitely not an introduction to Buddhism ¡V Williams assumes that the reader has a little bit of background. Nor is this for traditional Buddhists who like their myths intact. Williams takes a historical approach that leads him to poke holes in many common beliefs. I consider this a plus - it's intriguing to watch Williams demolishing so many tired stereotypes.
Unfortunately, this book has a major flaw. Williams may be quite knowledgeable about Indian Buddhism, but he isn¡¦t a very talented stylist. His prose is dull, and sometimes this lackluster writing makes it difficult to understand what he¡¦s getting at. This is a shame, because the content is so good. The pace picks up considerably toward the end; Anthony Tribe writes with much more vigor, and he gives an extremely lucid introduction to Indian Buddhist tantra. I fault the publisher ¡V Routledge should definitely have subjected this book to some major editing to punch up the dreary style.
Despite this drawback, I would still strongly recommend this book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview by recognized author April 24, 2002
I'll be brief. This book is for readers interested in a good, relatively short, readable and useful book on the basics of Indian-tradition buddhism, which also touches on the confluence of Buddhism and Western philosophy. That said, it is an introductory work, and so it cannot cover everything.
Paul Williams is one of the finest writers on Buddhism and philosophy, and here he has written a wide-ranging book that -- while being devoted to doctrinal and practical and historical matters -- also touches on philosophy. The book is informed by his learning, and that of his co-author too (Tribe is responsible for just the one chapter.) I recommend it, and encourage readers to have a glance at Paul Williams' other books, and those of David Harvey as well.
Incidentally, the best short-and-sweet introduction to Buddhism must surely be Damien Keown's little book entitled Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. And should the reader want to move to the other extreme and tackle philosophically weightier, cutting-edge topics, he or she should pick up works by Jay Garfield or (especially) George Dreyfus.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of Indian Buddhist History September 9, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book to be an excellent overview of Indian Buddhist history. The writing style is engaging and absorbing, and the book offers thoughtful explorations of a number of issues that are a matter of contention among scholars. I found that the book was able to answer a number of questions for me that I had not found addressed in other overviews of Buddhist history. I was particularly taken with the discussions of 1) the coexistence and relative influence of various Mahayana and non-Mahayana schools of thought in ancient India, 2)the different meanings of emptiness in the madhyamaka and yogacara schools, 3) the discussion of Buddha fields and Pure Lands and the cults of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, 4)the author's understanding of Mahayana thought as a continuation of the Abhidharma project rather than simply a rebellion against it, and 5) the explanation of the relationship of Indian tantra in general to Buddhist tantra, and the way to understand the relationship between and differentiation of terms such as "tantra" and "vajrayana." This is not necessarily the best book to read as one's very first book on Buddhist history, but it fills a great void between books that are intended for beginners and books that are intended for readers who are already accomplished scholars.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, thoughtful survey of the Indian tradition November 19, 2011
This is one of the better (I hesitate to say "best") surveys of Buddhist intellectual history I've read. As such I'd say it's good for relative--i.e. not total--beginners. The author, Paul Williams, is a British academic with many publications under his belt, but is perhaps best known for his Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, often used as a textbook in Buddhist studies. (A second edition of the 1989 original is imminent.) The writing, while intelligent and at times demanding, is not so academic as to be stultifying. Williams even displays a bit of English wit now and then.

I always appreciate illuminating passages, no matter what the sort of book I'm reading happens to be. I mean the sort that make you snatch out a pen and scribble something next to it, or underline a sentence or paragraph. There are quite a few in this book, particularly, I'd say, in the first two chapters, which make up 40% of the book's text proper.

Chapter one, entitled "The doctrinal position of the Buddha in context," offers an excellent starting point. Indeed, some things said here need to be remembered by everyone venturing into the world of Buddhism. Consider the following from pages 2-3:

"Buddhism is thus...concerned first and foremost with the mind, or, to be more precise, with mental transformation, for there are no experiences that are not in some sense reliant on the mind. This mental transformation is almost invariably held to depend upon, and to brought about finally by, oneself for there can also be no transformation of one's own mind without on some level one's own active involvement or participation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing. Reads more like a quickly published PhD dissertation.
I was so excited to purchase this book, but I find it unfortunately obtuse. Buddhist thought is a complex topic, but the authors make it even less penetrable with their rambling... Read more
Published on April 3, 2009 by Teacher S
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Intermediate Guide
This book was recommended to me by a very serious student of Buddhism who
had the largest collection of Buddhist books I have ever encountered. Read more
Published on October 25, 2007 by Carl Strasen
1.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Lector
The reader should be aware of the fact that the author of this book was in the process of converting from Buddhism to Catholicism when he wrote it. Read more
Published on April 18, 2007 by Curtis Steinmetz
1.0 out of 5 stars Not that great
This is not a great book - pure and simple. The author is chaotic in his exposition of the subject and time after time tries to come up with his own reinterpretation of the key... Read more
Published on March 10, 2005 by Jo Everest
5.0 out of 5 stars Contains the best brief overview of tantric Buddhism
I've only read chapter seven of Williams' "Buddhist Thought," which was actually written by Anthony Tribe. Read more
Published on November 25, 2002 by Jeff Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Best single volume on the history of Buddhist philosophy
Williams trumps his masterful classic "Mahayana Buddhism" with an even better book. This is vastly superior to any previous effort (David Kalupahana, eat your heart... Read more
Published on June 4, 2002 by Brian C. Holly
5.0 out of 5 stars THE WAY THINGS ARE
Coming to see things the way they really are, is the path of Buddha Dharma, the Buddhist doctrine, that leads to enlightenment, as clarified by the author Paul Williams. Read more
Published on May 27, 2001 by Duodecimus
5.0 out of 5 stars THE WAY THINGS ARE
Coming to see things the way they really are, is the path of Buddha Dharma, the Buddhist doctrine, that leads to enlightenment, as clarified by the author Paul Williams. Read more
Published on May 20, 2001 by Duodecimus
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