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Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 28 Feb 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 2 edition (28 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199663831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199663835
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.8 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Damien Keown is Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Ethics at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and Chair Professor at Geumgang University, Korea. His research interests centre on the study of contemporary moral problems from a Buddhist perspective. He is co-founder of The Journal of Buddhist Ethics and the author of the best-selling 'Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction' and 'Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction', both from Oxford University Press and available on Amazon.

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Review

Keown's skill in explaining complex ideas and the book's clarity of structure and style ensure that it will retain the respect of scholars and students. In short, the book is a very worthwhile read. (Naomi Appleton, The Expository Times)

About the Author

Damien Keown is Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Ethics at Goldsmiths College, London. He is Founding co-editor of the Journal of Buddhist Ethics and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. He is also the author of Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (2005) and co-editor of Encyclopaedia of Buddhism (Routledge, 2007). He is now retried.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Sarakani on 26 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback
The quality of a factual book should be judged by its lack of overt partiality, comprehensiveness, sources and ability to make you think and ask questions. This book scores well on all points and above all reads like an essay which you can zap through. It contains a good bibliography for follow up reading and includes details of the the award winning "Journal of Buddhist ethics" on the web which was partly established by the author. Apart from the author's erudition his book is backed up by other experts and has been reviewed by his students.
Above all the book analyses what is meant by religion (as Buddhism does not easily fit this classification) and provides a modern interpretation of this system of thought from all its major perspectives. The treatment of Mahayana Buddhism short, yet precise and on the whole Keown concentrates on highlights. Towards the end is a discussion on Buddhism in the West. The book also provides useful comparisons with other religions.
Compared to many small and "cheap" introductions to Buddhism, this book is fairly impeccable. It is not perfect (2 tiny errors I identified with regards to scriptural quotations) but will lead anyone interested to work out what Buddhism is for him or herself, rather than being spoon fed as it were. I was however, disappointed that the book ended so fast - and glad at the follow up leads left, by this trustworthy writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. I. McCulloch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 July 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For anyone who has expressed an interest in Buddhism, or who is focused on finding more about the faith in general, this is an excellent purchase.

It's a neat summary of the teachings of the Buddha, but as well as this, it looks at how the practice of the faith may be incorporated into daily life. It's an examination, not rigourous, but still remarkably thorough on what it means to be Buddhist.

Many introductions to Buddhism lose themselves in deep descriptions of mindfulness and meditationary practices which can be confusing and too much to absorb. This book steers well clear of that trap and offers something far more readily accessible.

It points out the major features of Buddhism that distinguish it from other religions; it also looks at the spread of the faith and its development over the centuries. Recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By BobBob on 4 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a quick and easy read, and it attempts to give a very brief overview of Buddhism. The book provides some helpful information but I believe that it has some significant shortcomings which is why I have given it only two stars.

I'm not sure what audience the book is aimed at. It is too brief for an academic interest, and my personal view is that it would not be very interesting for anyone looking at Buddhism for personal interest. It might be helpful for a secondary school student doing a project on Buddhism.

I have been involved in Buddhist meditation for many years and I wanted to gain a better general knowledge of Buddhism. I thought that this book might give an interesting overview of the history and cultures of Buddhism, and some insight into the nature of the Buddhist belief system and an overview of the different Buddhist meditation practises.

The Pros:

The author helpfully provides a very brief and balanced overview of the history of Buddhism, and of the different lineages.

And the book succinctly explains some confusing aspects of Buddhism which I have touched upon when learning meditation, but which I had not properly understood before, as follows:
1) An explanation of the meanings and origins of some of the Buddhism-specific words which crop up regularly when learning Buddhist meditation;
2) An explanation of the history of the two main Buddhist texts (Pali and Sanskrit); and
3) The explanation of the differences between the two main schools of Buddhism (Theravâda and Mahâyâna).

The book takes an academic approach, and so the subject is explained dispassionately, which has some value in some of the chapters.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
This VSI strikes an excellent balance between being concise & covering the essential elements of Buddhism. I have >20 books on Buddhism & find this one of the best. Particularly good chapters are:
Ch 1 discusses whether Buddhism is a religion and the different dimensions of Buddhism - practical, emotional, mythical, philosophical, ethical & social.
Ch4 on the Four Noble Truths (the Buddha's description of the way the world is) is particularly clear compared to many other books on Buddhism.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
This book, although short, has all the key concepts and ideas a beginner would wish to explore with regards to Buddhism. Most questions are answered and the various schools are explained and touched upon. It is clear to read and understand and a good place to start if you wish to learn more about this wonderful path.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The OUP Very Short Introduction series more often than not hits the mark and this is a worthy, updated part of the series.

As an introduction to the religion- and it starts with a chapter that defines exactly why it is a religion and not just a philosophy as so many in the West try to interpret it- it is clear, concise and thought provoking.

Towards the end the author tackles the complex issue of how Buddhism is being practiced, promoted and interpreted in western societies which is a tall order for such a small book, but one needing addressing. On the whole Keown gives it a good shot and rightly points out that Buddhism has happily schismed and set up new schools since the Buddha transcended and so there is no problem with a western one evolving too. This is fair enough but still I felt stands shy of criticising a lot of people who profess to follow Buddhism in the West, but do so in a supposedly 'secular' way i.e. picking out the bits they like that they can use even whilst calling themselves atheists i.e. using the religion as psychological self-help programme more than anything else. This perhaps, debateably, is not a problem... and to be fair probably outside the scope of such a small book. It is however becoming an increasingly prevalent aspect of western Buddhism and begs the question of whether true Buddhism is being practiced this way or not.

Whatever, this is on the whole a balanced and fair representation of the Buddhist faith and well worth a look if you are starting from a standing point with regard to your understanding of its theology, and a good companion to the Buddhist Ethics volume.
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