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58 Reviews
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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast and clear
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...
Published on 26 Jan 2001 by Sarakani

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too many shortcomings
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...
Published on 4 Aug 2009 by BobBob


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5.0 out of 5 stars Packed with info, 6 July 2013
By 
pacem et amorem (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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Whilst billed as a short introduction, this book comes packed with information about Buddhism and its many facets. Written in a clear, easy to read style, this is a perfect introduction to what is a contradiction in terms - a simple yet surprisingly complex set of beliefs. Perhaps one of the best sections to illustrate this is at the very beginning when it discusses whether Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion.
I have been very interested in Buddhism for a long time and this book has allowed me to gain greater insight into its many and varied tenets. If you are interested in finding out more about Buddhism, then there are worse places to start than with this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quite engrossing, 27 Jun 2013
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BruceB (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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I know something of a number of belief systems - nothing that greatly in depth though - but until I read this book, I knew practically nothing about Buddhism.

At the level I read it, it seemed quite a long 'short introduction', but was nevertheless engrossing, covering a host of material that was entirely new to me.

I found it helpful to have a précis of many salient points within the content, as well as the history it presented of Buddhism.

Having read the book, I feel I understand the subject to as great a degree as I need, and for the interested reader, it represents an ideal way to learn more about Buddhism. Not a book to be read at a sitting, I found it helpful to ready sections, consider and inwardly digest them, before moving further. On that level, it was very easy to pick up, put down and then pick up again. I found it best to read sections at bed time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An indispensable guide to Buddhism, 20 Jun 2013
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D. Pearce "djarmhp" (rainham, kent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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This book is fascinating whether you are completely new to Buddhism or have a little knowledge of the philosophy behind it. With detailed explanations of the principles of Buddhism from the beginnings of the Buddha's life to modern days it covers a huge amount of ground for such a small book. Whether you have a different faith or no faith at all the opportunity to understand this worldwide religion is invaluable. You will certainly be wiser by the final page and you may even find some lessons for your own life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A short, but comprehensive, introduction to Buddhism, 18 Jun 2013
This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction is an excellent introduction to Buddhism. The book covers pretty much everything the beginner would want to know in a lot of detail. The book begins by looking at the history of Buddhism and there is a discussion about whether Buddhism can be classified as a religion or not. There is information on the different branches of Buddhism and the author also looks at the way that Buddhism has evolved with it's introduction to the west. The rest of the book deals with Buddhist beliefs and practices. I think this is one of the best introductory books on Buddhism I have read. It is a fairly quick read, but is absolutely packed with information. I liked the fact that this book is very academic in style and that it does deal with issues such as the divisions within Buddhism. I find a lot of the basic books on Buddhism are very superficial self-help books which portray Buddhism as being a nice middle-class lifestyle choice. If you are interested in learning more about Buddhism I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Readable, definitely short, but very thorough., 10 Jun 2013
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H Pedder "bookworm" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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The Oxford's 'Very Short Introduction to...' series of books delves into all sorts of historical, theological, and philosophical (to name but a few) subjects that might usually seem a bit out of reach to the masses. They offer a brief insight into these often difficult subjects and this one on Buddhism is no different.

Written by a Professor of Buddhist Ethics, this short introduction to Buddhism is less than 150 pages (the book itself is smaller than A5, almost pocket-sized) but is packed with useful information and background details to this somewhat mystical religion. Damien Keown's expertise is evident, although I'm an absolute novice when it comes to Buddhism so wouldn't really know if it was wholly accurate. What I do know is that this book offers an interesting and accessible insight into the history of Buddhism, its general principles and its future prospects in the East and the West.

The book is broken down into manageable chapters, each one concise and focused. It touches on the better known elements such as karma, meditation and nirvana, as well as exploring the different major types of Buddhism and the foundations of the religion such as the Four Noble Truths. Keown also spans the life of the Buddha himself (and consequently the 'birth' of Buddhism) as much as is possible with the limited information available.

Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction won't 'instruct' you on how to become a Buddhist, nor will it offer any kind of clear definition of what it means to be Buddhist. However, if you're contemplating dipping your toe in the proverbial water, and are interested in finding out more about this most intriguing of religions, you might want to grab a copy of this book. It will provide you with an intelligent foundation on which to make an informed decision and could be the perfect springboard to help you find your own sense of peace, whether that's through Buddhism or not.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Another sad descent, 8 Jun 2013
By 
T. Russell "mug panda" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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I've read a number of short histories of various religions, and they all follow the same sad path - what starts as wisdom descends into cleverness, casuistry and schism (it only took a hundred years in this case) and thence to muddle, argument and exploitation. Here, we find that one of the central tenets - positive pacifism - has now become so twisted that some Buddhists proclaim violence is 'justified' in certain cases (ie when it suits their more worldly ambitions). I found much of the book hard going as there seemed to be so many numbers - of precepts, hells, heavens...everything - and the author's insistence on giving us the appropriate term for absolutely everything dragged the pace down to a crawl. On the positive side, however, the explication of nirvana and analysis of reincarnation were excellent, and made both topics a lot clearer. Worth reading, but I'm not tempted to re-open the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent well informed little book, 3 Jun 2013
By 
Jo Bennie (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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This is an extrememly good book by an expert in the field of Buddhist studies. It is the third in the extensive Very Short Introduction series of books by Oxford University Press which give well informed insight into complex fields of study. Despite the compact size of the book it is packed with information and I came away feeling I had a grasp of what Buddhism is and that I was able to access to further information if I wanted it.

Keown opens the book with a set of useful maps showing where the Buddha lived and taught and where the different types of Buddhism are now found, followed by a note on pronounciation.

He follows this with 9 chapters, the first a valuable discussion on whether or not Buddhism can be classified as a religion. Next come chapters on the life of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, details of the essential Buddhist concepts such as karma, reincarnation and the written exhorations known as the Four Noble Truths.

In the latter chapters Keown follows the spread of Buddhism out of India and speaks about the place of mediation and ethics in Buddhism. In the final chapter he discusses how Buddhism has had an impact in the West in the present day and its relationship to new findings in science.

Finally there is a timeline, further reading and index. The further reading is particularly useful, Keown structures it by subject so, for instance, you know which book to read if you wanted to know more about Buddhism and neuroscience.

The only problem now is that I want to read all the 'Very Short Introduction' books and there are currently 344 of them!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!!!!, 1 Jun 2013
This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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If I could give this 10 stars I would. I had attempted other books on Bhuddhism before they made it look so complex. However this book explains Bhuddism in bite size chunks breaking things down into small chapters. In each when sanskrit & Pali terms are used these are shown in brackets. There is even a guide at the front showing how these are pronounced. The book does indeed not presume that the reader knows anything about Buddhism prior to reading it. However do not be fooled into thinking that there can't be much here as the book is small. It contains a wealth of information which covers information from both the many branches of Bhuddism around the world & the many aspects of it . I enjoyed in particular the excellent chapter on meditation &the lovely clear black & white photo's dotted around the book. A delight to read & a useful refference that I know I will return to. I highly recommend this book!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, 26 May 2013
By 
Tea Tango (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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Ive seen alot of books on Buddhism, that claim to be a quick read, or beginners guide to it. Most of them go into too much detail, or are just text with no pictures.

This book is a lot shorter than the rest, has some pictures too. However i still found the book pretty boring too read.
The book is more for those who are studying or doing some sort of project on buddhism, but not for those causal readers or those who prefer magazine bite size information.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant introduction, 23 May 2013
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This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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The book starts with the parable, known in other contexts too, of the blind men who each feel a different part of an elephant. The one who tugs its tail thinks an elephant is like a snake, the one who hugs a leg thinks it's like a thick post, and so on. Keown argues that buddhism is a bit like the elephant; people, especially westerners, tend to be interested in only part of the whole, and so conclude that buddhism is essentially pacifist, or that its written doctrines are the most important thing, or its mysticism, or its architecture...or whatever. (Me I think blind people have got more sense...)

The aim of the book is to introduce the main themes of buddhism without getting bogged down in the intricacies of any one of the many, many forms of the faith. And there really are many variations. Buddhism predates the Abrahamic religions (or at least christianity and islam) by several centuries and so has had plenty of time to mutate (writes Keown). In particular, the original buddha refused to accept a role as single head of the movement, or to appoint one to succeed him. So buddhism has never had a single central doctrinal authority like the pope, and developed along many different paths.

The main division is into theravada buddhism (Sri Lanka, most of south east asia) and mahayana buddhism (China, Japan, Tibet). Keown likens this to the split between conservative catholicism and protestantism (perhaps of the work-ethic variety). He warns against taking the parallel too far. My understanding is that theravada focuses on individuals gaining elightenment through personally developing their understanding whereas the mahayanan ("great vehicle") schools tend to see good works involving helping others as equally important in developing good karma. (Karma and dharma are explained at length and clearly). Mahayana buddhism has some interesting similarities to christianity - the Buddha can be seen as having three characters comparable to the father, son and holy spirit view of the christian god.

The divisons within each of the two forks are also considerable. Buddhism is profoundly affected by the cultures it exists in. The teachings of the orginal buddha drew extensively (as I read the book) on the religious and philosophical ideas of the indian subcontinent in which buddhism started and developed - yet it was almost entirely superseded by hinduism, islam, and other faiths in India itself. Again, though pacificism and respect for all life is basic to the orginal "canons" of buddhism, monks in Sri Lanka from ancient times, Burma/Myanmar currently, and Japan during WWII strongly advocated destructive violence against people - and took part in it.

The book concludes with chapters on the nature, importance and various practices of meditation; buddhist ethics; and finally on western attitudes to buddhism. An eye opening and very informative read, a good start to a fascinating subject. This review is of the updated second edition, by the way.
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Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Damien Keown (Paperback - 28 Feb 2013)
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