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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a reference, 15 Feb 2012
By 
M. Denis Wallez (London, U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo (The Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices) (Paperback)
R Gombrich is a well known and respected author on Buddhism. "Theravada Buddhism" is the (updated) re-edition of a classic that remains the reference for that particular school of thought. Theravada Buddhism, "the way of the elders," is primarily based on the Pali canon (the Tripitaka). Pali is a dead language, and played the same role as Latin did in Christian history: it unfortunately limited access to knowledge, but it also helped keeping the knowledge in the first place by consituting a "lingua franca" stable and shared by monks of different periods and differents parts of the world. Orthodoxy is thus the strength and weakness of Theravada, and R Gombrich gives a balanced presentation. Both the canon and how the practical aspects of the community's life evolved historically (from the origin/inception to the most recent years) are described in this book. R Gombrich's incredibly refreshing presentation also covers how rules were bent through the years, how Theravada nearly died and how "Protestant Buddhism" constituted a revival leading to today's influence. This is an erudit, precise, complete reference on a particular school whose canon is the base for most Buddhist evolutions.
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