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Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto [Paperback]

Michael Coogan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

5 May 2005
This comprehensive survey is a thorough introduction to the five great Eastern faiths for all those in the West who wish to fathom the spirit of the East. The vast range of topics covered includes: the life of the Buddha; karma and rebirth; inspiring teachers and gurus; the life of Confucius; sacred Taoist texts; the epics of the 'Ramayana' and the 'Mahabharata; holy landscapes, shrines and festivals; and enlightenment. The book gives an overview of each faith's approach to spiritual and ethical beliefs, art and architcture, sacred writings, ritual and ceremony, and death and the afterlife. Also, included are special documentary sections presenting extracts from and summaries of key texts and other invaluable reference material designed to illuminate central features of all five religions.

Product details

  • Paperback: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers (5 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844830411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844830411
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 784,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A readable sourcebook on Eastern religions 12 Sep 2012
By Dr. H. A. Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER
Eastern Religions edited by Michael D. Coogan, Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2005, 552 ff

This illustrated survey of the five principal Eastern religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Shinto - is presented in highly readable text, though the small page size (195 x 130 mm) and tight binding make it a bit difficult to hold in your hands to read: it needs to be held open on a flat surface. This is a shame because in its material I think this is an excellent book giving details of the origins, beliefs, practices, scriptures and sacred sites relevant to each of the faiths. I have used it as a sourcebook of reference material on several occasions. Jainism is also mentioned but only in passing: there are no substantive details of this faith. The only other book covering the same material but in a completely different way - more like a prose storybook rather than a reference text - is Ram-Prasad's Eastern Philosophy. Prasad's book does cover Jainism but not Shinto. I particularly liked the Commentary pages at the end of each section of the Coogan book that provide various kinds of background of the chapter material -historical, geographical or political. If you want to explore the eastern religious philosophies, either of these books (Coogan's or Prasad's) will give you access to the fundamentals of each faith in a fair amount of detail, using quite different approaches. Coogan's book works through each of the religions in turn. Prasad explores the subject conceptually - the self, the good, knowledge, etc. The fact that I describe Coogan's book as a `sourcebook' must not give the impression that it is `stuffy' to read - far from it. It is as readable as Prasad but easier to use to find specific information, which is more difficult to extract with Prasad, despite a good index.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual introductory text 6 Nov 2005
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
This Oxford publication seems best suited for a comparative world religion course. I found it in search of material for a unit on comparative world religion in my Sociology of Religion course, and I have used it several times now. I wish there was something comparable on Western Religions! EASTERN RELIGIONS is unorthodox in that it has the glossy pages and color photos typically found in a large-format textbook, but instead is in a 5" X 7.5" handbook format. It is 550 pages long, but with plenty of great photos, including reproductions of artwork, the actual text is nowhere near that long.

The organization of the sections is both the strength and the weakness. Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Shinto are covered, and for each there is a section on 1) Origins and Historical Development, 2) Aspects of the Divine, 3) Sacred Texts, 4) Sacred Persons, 5) Ethical Principles, 6) Sacred Space, 7) Sacred Time, 8) Death and the Afterlife, and 9) Society and Religion.

The strength of this approach, from a sociological standpoint, is that religious practices receive as much attention as religious doctrines and beliefs. For instance, Dipavali, the Necklace (or Festival) of Lights, which was recently celebrated, is covered in the Sacred Time sub-section of the Hinduism section. For instance Laozi, fabled author of the Tao te Ching, is worshipped as a god by Taoists in China, which I'm sure is news to many in the West who read the Tao te Ching as philosophy and are informed that Laozi may never have existed as a singular historical person at all. The reader learns of the Three Teachings tradition of China, which combines Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Here's where the strength becomes a weakness, though -- the China expert has to write the Taoism and Confucianism sections separately, and so while some of the material overlaps (for instance qi, yin and yang), it remains unclear exactly how they are (or were) combined in the everyday life of the Chinese people, let alone how they combine with Buddhism which has a separate author altogether. And the Chinese "popular religion" is mentioned as well, but never explained at all, because it doesn't fit the framework.

Credit where credit is due: the Hinduism section is written by Vasudha Narayanan, Professor of Religion at the University of Florida, the Buddhism section is written by Malcolm David Eckel, Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University, the Shinto section is written by C. Scott Littleton, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and the sections on Taoism and Confucianism are written by Jennifer Oldstone-Moore, Assistant Professor (of what the book jacket does not say) at Wittenberg University in Ohio.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nice :3 8 Feb 2009
By Esther - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Concise information, nice (and lots of) pictures, and NEVER boring! I really enjoyed using this book for my Eastern Humanities class. It was not at all what I had expected: it was not hard to understand, it was not boring, and it did assume that I already knew everything there was to know about Eastern religions.

So, all-in-all, I would recommend this book... even if you're not taking an Eastern religion class! It really clarifies a lot of myths and misconceptions about Eastern religions.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There are better books on the same topic. 15 April 2011
By Lover of black tea with milk - Published on Amazon.com
The author said that Shaolin and Wudang are the 2 most notable Taoist martial arts schools. In fact, Shaolin is the most famous Buddhist monastery in China and it is the birth place of Zen Buddhism ( the same word is pronounced Chan in Chinese and Zen in Japanese ). Chan (Zen) Buddhism is the predominant form of Buddhism in China. Shaolin has nothing to do with Taoism. For the author to say that Shaolin is Taoist is akin to saying that St Peter's Basilica in Rome is Muslim. Wudang is indeed Taoist and it is the birth place of Taiji ( Taichi ).
The author also said that Buddhist monks aim for nirvana while laity aims for better rebirth. This is true of Threravada Buddhism ( mostly in S.E. Asia and Sri Lanka ) only but not accurate in describing Mahayana Buddhism ( mostly in China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia ). In Theravada Buddhism, nirvana is only possible for those in monastic life, whereas in Mahayana Buddhism, both monks ( and nuns ) and laity can attain nirvana.
The author duplicated word for word large parts of the section on Confucianism and the section on Taoism. While Confucianism and Taoism share some common heritage, being both originated in China, the 2 religions are very different and in fact diametrically opposite in many of their perspectives on the same thing. At any rate, there is really no reason to duplicate large parts of several chapters in 2 different sections of the same book.
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it!!! 30 Aug 2013
By riwen zhang - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book looks like a new one !! I really love it!!Our professor recommend us to buy it, hope it will be helpful!!
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent 28 May 2013
By Joseph Scifres - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although it seems the book gives good details, it comes off as random facts thrown together in short sections. All together it was a decent overview of 'Eastern Religions', but if you want to know more than layman's knowledge keep looking for a better book.
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