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60 of 66 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

6 of 7 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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect introduction, 24 July 2013
James Walls (Nr Stroud, Gloucester) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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I have a few of these Short Introduction books and for the most part they are always very good. They fit this perfect market for being concise, electic and informative
This one is no exception, in fact it is probably one of the best.

With an interest in Buddhism since a trip to Tibet and Nepal last year I have wanted something to bring all the information I learnt in a simple format to begin with. I bought a couple of other books for learners of Buddhism and it was too much too soon, this one however does the job perfectly

Now I'm not a complete novice to the works of spirituality but I really wanted a book that I could enjoy while I read about the subject and that's what this is. Pure enjoyment

Cheaper (although smaller) than the other books I bought, however I should have got this first
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some flaws, 15 April 2012
D. V. Short "Enzo Short" (Orkney, UK) - See all my reviews
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Although this book gives one of the very best brief expositions of what Buddhism is, the author, Damien Keown, reveals himself as more of an academic than someone who has experiential knowledge of what it is to be Buddha-like. This is because he has made some questionable statements as set forth hereunder.

Damien Keown has adopted the criteria set forth by someone called Ninian Smart to define Buddhism as a religion:
- Practical & ritual
- Experiential & emotional
- Narrative & mythic
- Doctrinal & philosophical
- Ethical & legal
- Social & institutional
- Material

The original Buddha created a sangha, yet avoided creating religious practices even at the time of his death. The symbols created by Buddhist teachers in course of Buddhist history since the original Buddha were designed to help self-realisation for aspirant practitioners in the cultures of their time, and would have little relevance to the intellectually conditioned minds of Western cultures. Most Westerners have had to undergo a mental revolution to appreciate the significance of the cryptic Buddhist tantras, mandalas, and the like that reflect mental perspectives, rather than symbols of a god as signified by such things as the Christian cross. The practice of Buddhism also avoids dualistic perspectives such as a mental icon of the Christ so revered by Christians as "God".

As quoted by Jack Kornfield in his book, "The Wise Heart", of what was said by the Dalai Lama: "Buddhist teachings are not a religion, they are a science of the mind." This is about as close as the Dalai Lama can get to try help describe (succinctly) to the Western mind what Buddhism is.

The other flaw in Damien Keown's discourse about Buddhism is his describing meditation as being a trance-like state. A trance is a state of being in a very low state of awareness, whereas proper meditation is a very high state of awareness. A person in a meditative state can appear to an unenlightened observer as being "lost in mind", yet the meditating person is actually in a higher level of consciousness, fully aware of his surroundings, even with eyes closed. One can even meditate with one's eyes open while walking. It was said that Christ practised meditation.

For those who would like to find out for themselves what it is like to meditate, they may try apply the practice of meditation, which may be got from the guidance freely given by the Aromeditation organisation. (Apply the domain name Aromeditation-dot-org on the Internet)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good 5th book on buddhism, 24 Aug 2009
If you are confused with all the kinds of buddhism and what they are offering, then this book can help you. However, due to the immense task of documenting the history/psychology/spiritual aspects of buddhism, only the basic things about buddhism are documented and you are unlikely to get any great revelations from it.

As others have said the text is 'academic', which gives it both benefits and drawbacks. It puts great emphasis on the historical evolution of buddhism and at its worst you will feel like it is just listing meaningless names of places and people along with dates. At its best it will provide you with a clearer picture of the evolution of the main schools of buddhism (Theravada, Zen, Mahayana) and a basic understanding of buddhistic philosophy and its spiritual aspects.

I will not recommend this book as a first book on buddhism. I think it is more fun to get a book with more of a 'hands-on' approach as your first book.
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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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