7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Thought provoking and original,
This review is from: What the Buddha Thought (Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies Monographs) (Paperback)
When I saw that the book had just a 3-star average rating (based on two previous reviews), I figured I should chime in with a few words. First of all, the book IS excellent, well worth 5 stars.
I've had the book for over a year now and used it in a "Buddhist Philosophy" university course. I think it is best read by someone who has done some preliminary reading on early Buddhism. I used Paul Williams' "Buddhist Thought" to give a broader context to the material, and the two books work together very well. Gombrich's first couple chapters are indeed 'introductory' and tend to follow accepted academic work, but what he packs into those chapters is pretty extraordinary! He provides not just a translation of some key teachings and explanation, but a *way* of interpreting and understanding Buddhist teachings.
The rest of the book consists mostly of probing inquiries into certain 'puzzling' aspects of Buddhist thought, and some puzzling aspects of current scholarship. These chapters give systematic insight into teachings such as "no-soul" and the practice of metta (loving-kindness). You also get a look at how the Buddha taught, his use of metaphor and even satire.
What I liked most about the book is that I didn't feel like I was told "what to think" - but instead encouraged to re-think for myself how I understand the Buddha's teachings. Definitely a must read for practitioners who have already done some basic academic reading on the subject as well as academics looking for a fresh perspective.
And for what it's worth, it recently won a Choice Outstanding Academic Title award 2010 (check the publisher website for more on that).