22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Depends what you want from a book on Buddhism,
This review is from: Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This book is exactly what the title advertises: a VERY SHORT introduction. Buddhism is a complex system of beliefs. This book purports to report on those aspects of it most refered to by an intrigued western audience, and it accomplishes it in some style. Despite the author's challenge of condensing that which is most important to a tradition spanning two and a half thousand years into a mere 125 pages, Damian Keown deals with the issue admirably. He invokes Ninian Smart's definition that religions have seven discernable dimensions (a valid assumption for the purposes of this book, anyway) and these are:
- Practice & Ritual
- Experiential & emotional
- Narrative & Mythic
- Doctorinal & philosophical
- Ethical and Legal
- Social and institutional
Besides this, the history of Buddhism is explored in some acceptable format, without being overwhelming, I might add. Also various denominations are discussed. This is really as comprehensive an account of such a diverse field as one could possible hope to squeeze into so few small pages and the author ought to be commended for his efforts.
On a practical note, the book's low price is really an advantage. I know not of any other book from which one could learn as much about the outlines of Buddhism as this one, especially without paying much more in monetary terms. I highly recommend it.