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

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415207003
ISBN-10: 0415207002
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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: 1131 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge (January 4, 2002)
  • Publication Date: January 4, 2002
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FA63II
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,396,876 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Paperback
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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