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Unmasking Buddhism 1st Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1405180641
ISBN-10: 1405180641
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Editorial Reviews




"An ideal introduction to the tradition that debunks many of the Orientialist stereotypes by relentlessly highlighting the complexity and diversity of Buddhism in its localized and ritualized forms. It serves as an excellent way for readers to understand the work of one of the leading and groundbreaking scholars of Buddhist studies of this generation."
Steven Heine, Florida International University

"Many people know something about Buddhism, but, for interesting historical reasons, much of what they know is wrong. In Unmasking Buddhism, Bernard Faure offers a clear catalogue of these misconceptions and then compassionately dispels the darkness of ignorance."
Donald S. Lopez, University of Michigan


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (March 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405180641
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405180641
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Marcelo A. D'asero on May 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Unmasking Buddhism," by Bernard Faure, is an enlightening critical introduction to Buddhism, that is nonetheless written in a sympathetic manner, despite the connotations of the title's "unmasking."

Much of what I (a Buddhist studies amateur) have found regarding Buddhism on book store shelves is packaged entirely for a western audience and can be classified as either catechetical, apologetic, or devotional. Such materials are very unsatisfying to the reader (like me) that is trying to get behind the West's current popularly held beliefs about Buddhism, to what is truly known of the historical founding of this religion and the diversity of beliefs actually held by its Asian adherents over the last two millenia. Instead, such materials assume, for the most part, the complete historicity of Siddartha and the earliest canonical tales associated with him, as well as numerous anachronisms or misconceptions concerning Indian and East Asian Buddhism.

This book, on the other hand, aims to critically survey those anachronisms or misconceptions and view the canonical tales of the Buddha with the same analytical eye that has been turned by scholars to the content of the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian Gospels. It also offers a summary critique of erroneous beliefs about Buddhism that are often expressed in newspapers, in magazines, on the radio, on television, on the internet, and any other media of popular culture.

By no means the last word, this book is at least a good starting point for a less devotional, more scholarly approach to the Buddhist religion.
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33 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A reader on April 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a worthy topic, and one deserving of a rigorous treatment, but unfortunately, this isn't it. The book is lax and sloppy on a number of points. The first indication of this is that, incredibly, it has no footnotes. This would almost be excusable if the author had a convincing command of the material, but he doesn't. Consider this passage:

" . . .a schism occurred between the disciples of the Buddha that eventually led to a separation into the two main schools - the 'Great Vehicle' (Mahayana) and the 'Lesser Vehicle' (Hinayana). The name 'Lesser Vehicle' was given to the more conservative of the schools by its critics and rivals of the 'Great Vehicle.' It later became Theravada."

The Theravada was, of course, only ONE of the Nikaya schools, not what the "Hinayana" "later became."

Or consider this passage: "While it has been heavily indebted to Indian Mahayana tradition, Tibetan Buddhism is the result of a specific development, a mix of Tantrism and scholasticism."

Actually, the Indian Mahayana tradition was "a mix of Tantrism and scholasticism" from 750-1200, the whole of the Pala era and then some. This was not a Tibetan innovation by any means.

Based on these mistakes, when the author makes the assertion "There was, and still is, a 'tantric Theravada' that is strongly influenced by esoteric speculation," with no citation, I'm not willing to credit that he knows what he is talking about. Perhaps there is a present-day tradition of "tantric Theravada" that I've never heard of, but I've read fairly extensively about the matter, and I'm not willing to take the author's word for it.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Engaging critical introduction to many elements of Buddhism that have been obscured by "Buddhist modernism." There are some strange assertions which are not entirely covered: for example, "tantric Theravada" which I suppose is "Theravadan esoteric knowledge" which is not the same thing as "tantric." There are several elements where the "counter-factual" is slightly overstated. While there is nothing in this book that would surprise anyone with a strong scholarly background in Buddhism or even a history in the religious texts beyond popular introductions, it is very recommended for laypersons interested in the subject and whose prior exposure has been largely apologetic works.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ted Biringer on August 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Unmasking Buddhism", by Bernard Faure, the renowned Buddhist scholar and the author of a number of excellent Buddhist studies, including the landmark, "Chan Insights and Oversights", does a supurb job of accomplishing its stated purpose: to present the basics of Buddhist history, doctrines, beliefs, and practices.

In this slim volume (159 pages), Professor Faure lucidly and succinctly provides readers with a remarkably extensive overview of the fundamental characteristics of Buddhism. This is offered in plain English terms--where Buddhist "jargon" is unavoidable, Faure offers succinct, straightforward explanations.

While furnishing the average reader with an excellent grasp of Buddhist basics, Bernard Faure also applys his sword to some of the common, widespread misunderstandings concerning Buddhism.

The book is divided into three parts: I - Buddhism in History - II Buddhism in Local Cultures - III Buddhism and Society.

Some of the issues dealt with in Part I include: the diversity of Buddhist schools (or sects), the "human" nature of the Buddha, Buddhism and "nothingness", Karma, and the teaching of reincarnation.

Part II includes discussions on: Buddhism as atheistic, Buddhism as "spiritual", the role of the Dalai Lama, and the place of "Zen" in the Buddhist realm.

Part III discusses, among other topics: Buddhism and tolerance, Buddhist violence, Buddhism's relation to science, Buddhism and vegetarianism.

The book is rounded off with a thought provoking and insightful "Conclusion." It also includes a great little Glossary, a Biblography, and a very good index.

Bottom Line: A great book for beginners that want to get a solid grasp of Buddhist basics. Also recommended for every Buddhist who has ever been asked by their non Buddhist friends, "What does Buddhism teach anyway?" Next time, simply smile and hand them a copy of, "Unmasking Buddhism."
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