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The Foundations of Buddhism (Opus S) Paperback – September 24, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0192892232 ISBN-10: 0192892231

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Product Details

  • Series: Opus S
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192892231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192892232
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is the best introduction to Indian Buddhism that I have seen. It makes extensive use of the most current scholarship."--David Carpenter, St. Joseph's University

About the Author

Rupert Gethinis co-founder of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol and a specialist in Indian Buddhism.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
I am looking forward to reading it again in the near future.
The author's background is most valuable for classical Buddhism, but he provides a solid foundation for understanding later Buddhism.
This book covers the waterfront, is well-written, and is very readable.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

179 of 179 people found the following review helpful By James S. Taylor on April 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Having studied Buddhism privately and academically for over 20 years I usually consider introductory works not worth the bother. When I saw the outraged comments from the one-star reviewer below, however, I thought that this could be an interesting work. As another stated, most presentations of Buddhism that are made for Westerners are usually filtered to some extent, particularly older ones that are taking the Buddhism-is-the-secular-religion-for-us-grown-up-Westerners routine. Unlike Mr. Martin, I own and have bothered to read many of the early Buddhist writings, and they are chock full of the kind of things he claims are not part of Buddhism. The author of this book takes it all on the chin and doesn't let it faze him a bit. He's more interested in telling about both the story and teachings of Buddhism as they really were and, at core, still are, rather than keeping Western devotees comfortable.
And what an introduction! Take all those 5 star reviews seriously. I was repeatedly impressed with the clarity of prose and vision Gethin demonstrates while explaining even some of the most difficult to grasp Buddhist philosophical concepts. Things that it took two hours for some of my teachers to communicate to the point that students actually understood are brilliantly exposited with delightful comprehension in just a few pages. It takes a real grasp of the field to pull this off, and Gethin does it over and over. Illuminating charts, penetrating text, and, thank goodness, a topical bibliography to mine for years...what more could you want? If you want to read a book that will leave you with a solid understanding of core, foundational, Buddhist concepts, instead of a fluffy semi-New Age ransacking of the tradition to pamper Western assumptions about the self and the cosmos, look no further.
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Eric Van Horn on August 13, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I do not have the pedigree of Mr. Taylor (who wrote another 5 start review), I have read several hundred books on Buddhism, including all of the Nikayas, and I also took one graduate level course in a Buddhist Studies program, and I agree whole-heartedly with his comments. This book was one of the two main sources for the Buddhist Studies course, and to this day it is one of the handful of books to which I refer regulary. In fact, my copy is so worn out that I am about to order another one. If I were to teach an introductory course on Buddhism this would be the textbook. Unlike the 1 start review of Mr. Martin, I find this book wonderfully engaging and well-written. Occasionally I will pick it up to look up a fact, and find myself reading the next 20 pages.

Mr. Gethin is also uniquely able to present the different traditions in an honest way without being disparaging about any of them. It is perhaps the fairest, most even-handed and factual account of the different traditions that I have read. I find this quite remarkable. I think that a fair reading of this text will let you appreciate the different schools of Buddhism, even if you don't necessarily buy into them.

I think this book is a hidden gem. I wish that everyone with an interest in Buddhism could read - and appreciate (!) - this fine piece of work.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Foundations of Buddhism presents an introduction to Buddhism as it really is, as seen through the eyes of millions of its Asian followers, and not the cleaned-up atheistic Buddhism of latter-day "Western" converts. One reviewer thought that this book was a bad introduction to Buddhism simply because the author repeated the ancient Buddhist story of the Hindu gods paying homage to the Buddha at his birth! This merely reflects a largely "Western" bias. Belief in the existence of gods is not anathema to the so-called "real" or "original" teachings of the Buddha. Even Theravada Buddhism, the branch of Buddhism that is regarded as adhering most closely to the Buddha's original teachings, do not disclaim the existence of the Hindu gods. According to the Pali scriptures, the Buddha himself simply regarded them as irrelevant to mankind's salvation. Gods, like us, are caught in the web of samsara. They may occupy an exalted place in the current scheme of things, but they too will ultimately die (admittedly after a very long time) and be reborn (possibly on a lower plane of existence based on the law of karma, in accordance with their previous conduct), and die and be reborn, again and again. Thus, it is useless for mankind to blindly worship the gods in hopes of attaining salvation. Salvation in the form of Nirvana can only come from within - through our own renunciation of worldly desires. That is the main Buddhist message - Buddhism is simply not an atheistic philosophy that dismisses the existence of gods or other spiritual beings, contrary to what some "Westerners" seem to imply. In Mahayana Buddhism and to an even greater extent in Vajrayana Buddhism, spiritual beings of all sorts occupy virtually all spheres of existence. Buddhism is anything but atheistic. Just ask any Buddhist living in Asia.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book describes Buddhism, not as many Westerners assume it to be, but as it really was prior to the modern era.Most of us learn about Buddhism through Westernized versions which conceal those aspects not in accord with our own cultures dominant beliefs. Buddhists did believe in gods, thought it was not obligatory. The idea of an atheistic Buddhism is a Western construction. Much of what is written about Buddhism in English is designed to appeal to the lazy and so leaves out the philosohical parts which are extremely challenging but well worth the effort to understand.
This is not exactly an introduction because it includes the difficult parts but it is a way to learn actual Buddhism, not the pop forms introduced by Watts, Suzuki, Trungpa and many others. If you want to really know what Buddhism is about, read this book.The secton on Abhidharma, the central philosophy of Buddhism, is the best I have read.
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