2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Deep and thoughtful,
This review is from: How Buddhism Began (Hardcover)
I read this book 15 years ago when I was living and working in a Buddhist study centre in Wales. It's stayed in my mind ever since, and has shaped the way I understand Buddhism, and now many years later how I teach it to others. Something from it which particularly stayed with me was how, in Gombrich's view, the Brahmavihara's were not taught as a lesser goal or half-way house towards Nibbana, but were in fact another way the Buddha expressed his own Path, albeit using language chosen for people who themselves used the language of "Brahma". This is the central message of the book in fact - that the Buddha taught in a skillful, mischevious way, using people's own religious concepts but redefining them and pointing them towards actual practice and experience. The orthodox doctrines of Buddhism as we have them now are, in Gombrich's analysis, just a major subset of all the various, ingenious ways the Buddha tried to teach. It's quite possible that the Dharma as we have it now is not straightforwardly "what the Buddha taught", but is "what the Buddha taught to those who ended up preserving and propagating his teachings the most", if you see the difference! The bikkhus tended to come from backgrounds with particular ways of thinking which the Buddha melded his own understand to, and then after his death his bikkhus were left developing a religion alongside the development of Hinduism, and ended up stressing those aspects of the Buddha's words which clearly defined how Buddhism is different from Hinudism, selectively editing and narrowing the expressions of the Dharma - which was quite different to the Buddha's own approach, as Gombrich presents it.
Fascinating and freeing. The Buddha taught Love as a complete spiritual path!