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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Buddhism Paperback – September 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: The Complete Idiot's Guide
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Alpha; 1st edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0028641701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0028641706
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,288,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gary Gach is like that teacher you always wanted--easygoing, full of information, able to communicate in humorous and meaningful ways, and a little bit wacky. So he's the perfect author for The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Buddhism. In this trademark easy-to-read format, Gach introduces us to a very human Buddha, along with the rules for living that make a Buddhist a Buddhist. In addition to the various kinds of meditation, he shows us how to meditate at meals and be aware of the interconnections in life. We learn about popular branches of Buddhism, like Zen and Tibetan, with an emphasis on practicing here and now. There is the theoretical: emptiness, nothingness, impermanence, as well as a very strong dose of the practical: Buddha at work, Buddhist films, environmental concerns, Buddhist celebrations, etc. Gach brings it all together with a light touch and an enthusiasm that makes you want to get up and do something Buddhist. --Brian Bruya

Review

... hasn't dumbed down Buddhism here; he's jazzed it up ...covers the basic ground ...doesn't lead us astray ... -- SHAMBHALA SUN, May 2002

... get[s] across the incredible richness and diversity of the Buddhist experience without losing sight of the essentials ... Enjoy! -- Buddhism.About.com

... it's reaching out to so many people to bring the understanding, solidity, and compassion so needed in our society. -- Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh: Plum Village

... makes Buddhism ... so easy even a woman can do it. Not only that. Even a MAN! -- Susan Moon, Author

...useful for a number of reasons, but its approach ... is the most rewarding of all. ... intriguing and fun! Yippee! -- The WAVE Hit List, 5/23-6/5,2002 www.surfmetro.com

Great Book ... Be Well and Happy ... -- Rev. Kusala Ratan Karuna (Thich-Tam-Thien): International Buddhist Meditation Center; www.UrbanDharma.org

Simple *ain't* easy.... not many books give as good an overview ... a not an undignified place to start. -- Rain Taxi, Spring 2002

THE BEST OF ITS KIND. -- Chevy Chase

This marvelously complete guide is a bountiful resource... -- NAPRA

a wonderful resource ... gives and overview and goes far beyond the basics ... both enjoyable and inspiring -- Magical Blend, Issue 84, February 2003

Customer Reviews

I will be unreservedly suggesting this book to anyone who expresses an interest in this spiritual path.
Erin K. Darling
For Gary's reference, I must say that the book is easy to read and I find that it can be digested into pieces so that I can read it with the little time I have.
Barry Assadi
Further, the book does a terrible job of describing the different schools of Buddhism (Mahayana, Theravada, etc.) and explaining their differences.
"cardozo26"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Erin K. Darling on February 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Initially, I had great skepticism - c'mon a "Complete Idiots" book to get me started down the Buddhist path? Really? It just seemed so...so...*American*. But, I had to start somewhere, and my good friend Ben recommended it to me, so I gave it a shot. Now, having finished the book, I realize I owe both my friend and Gary Gach an immense debt of gratitude - this book is really amazing.
One problem I (and many others) have had with other beginning Buddhism books is that the format isn't one that's easy to soak up; the flow isn't as logical as this one's, or not enough detail or context is given to drive points home to a more understandable place. Gach has done a phenomenal job of keeping things simple enough not to overwhelm a newcomer, yet goes into enough detail to keep things interesting and real.
Gach goes beyond teaching the basic belief system into giving examples of how to apply what we've learned in real life, and where else to look for more information. He offers dozens of anecdotes, many koans, a plethora of historical tales and data points, a glossary, and a multitude of other items. One small criticism I have of this book is that he very often doesn't cite his sources when giving statistics.
Throughout the book, Gach returns to important concepts, but not in a manner which I found to be condescending at all - it was merely helpful to be reminded of X, Y, and Z at certain points throughout the book, because they were important to the current subject. The author gives the reader a very solid foundation to build his or her beliefs upon, should the reader desire, including a rich and detailed historical background of Buddhism throughout the world.
I will be unreservedly suggesting this book to anyone who expresses an interest in this spiritual path.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Hochmann on May 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I've read a number of books on Buddhism, and I can easily say this is one of the best I've encountered for providing a solid background and overview of this religion-slash-philosophy. However, the book suffers from something of an identity crisis, and lacks some critical information.

First off, the title says what this book is really about: *UNDERSTANDING* Buddhism. There is a wealth of information here, ranging from the basics (the story of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, cardinal precepts, etc.) on to explorations of the different branches (Vajrayana, Pure Land, Zen) and places Buddhism can be found in art and culture. This book is fantastic for learning about where Buddhism came from, where it is today, and where it may be going in the future.

However, the caveat is that this book is not so much oriented towards applying Buddhism to your daily life. The cover details really make it sound like you'll be getting lots of info on living in a Buddhist way, but it's just not true. There's a decent section on meditation, but by and large the book offers only vague guidance for putting the ideas you read about into practice. So, don't fall for the publisher and marketing hype - this is a book about understanding Buddhism, and not so much living it.

That said, the book falls flat on its face when it comes to providing some key information. The biggest example would be karma. Karma, a very important idea in Buddhism, is given less than TWO pages of discussion in a 400 page book! Yes, karma is a fairly simple concept, but anyone who has studied Einstein's theory of relativity can tell you that it's the simple things that are the hardest to understand intuitively.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Nishimura on April 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
First, one has to accept what this book's (almost all of the series)
purpose is: overview and a guide/introduction. Also you have to
consider the style of these Idiot books (informal; light; humorous) as well.
Yeah, that's Right View :-)
In that light, this book is a very good (and most of the time funny)
introduction to Buddhism. It covers the basics: 4 Noble Truths,
8fold Noble Path and covers the basics of the major sects. All in
a relatively easy to understand manner in a conversational tone.
Of course, one can quibble about the depth of detail (and I do),
but again, I don't think that was the purpose of the book.
Yes, the books does slow down and gets less
cohesive once the author gets into the impact on other disciplines
(and that's what makes me take one star off), but overall, I would recommend this to anyone curious about Buddhism overall.
My only major quibbles are that it would have been nice if the
author mentioned where to go for more information about the sect in the text.
In Gassho,
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By wind in the trees on November 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Baffled by Buddhism? Well, here you are! Don't let the flippant title deter you. This marvelously complete guide is a bountiful resource not only for the many who are new to the path, but also for those who have made a bit of the journey already. I've identified myself as a Buddhist for almost ten years; yet, not willing to pursue scholarly discourse, my actual knowledge has been sorely lacking. Gach has now provided me with answers to all I wondered about, or didn't even know I wondered about. There is seemingly enough information here to keep my monkey mind chattering away for a good long time. And while swinging around in the pages, I just may learn how to quiet that noisy creature. Gach's extensive work has been amazingly organized into an easy-to-read format. Twenty chapters and 400-plus pages traverse the historical Buddha and his time under the Bodhi tree, how to meditate, food issues, Dharma, Sangha, the different schools, and how to engage the world. I simply don't know why another Buddhist guidebook ever needs to be written! Perhaps The Complete Idiot's Guid is the best format after all; in true Buddhist manner, it is as a complete idiot that one should begin anything new
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