General Question

mmckenzie21's avatar

Anyone know a good book about explaining the religion of Buddhism?

Asked by mmckenzie21 (23points) October 9th, 2008

i am very interested in exploring major world religions and want to know if anyone knows any good books that are relatively easy to read that explain in depth Buddhism or any other major religion with the exception of Christianity. thank you.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

16 Answers

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I like Essentials of Buddhism by Jack McGuire–2

I’m sure there are lots of other great ones as well.

kevbo's avatar

The World’s Religions by Huston Smith is one of the definitive contemporary studies of the six major world religions. Christianity is included, but you’ll probably find value in that discussion despite what you know. Plus, the book explains how the different religions relate to each other.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

also, welcome to the collective! i saw on your profile that you’ve lived in texas, me too!

loser's avatar

Don’t know if you’re interested, but here’s a cool place I like to hang out sometimes:

fireside's avatar

The Heart of the Buddha’s teachings provides a good explanation of the basic principles.
I just picked up Deepak Chopra’s book on Buddha, but haven’t opened it yet.

Since Buddhism is more about the heart than about the head, you may find anecdotal stories insightful.
For that I would suggest:
Siddhartha by Hesse
or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig

Both are good journeys of exploration and return.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I second Siddhartha. I could never get into ZAMM though. too much detail about motorcycles i guess…

fireside's avatar

yeah, its definitely more of a guy book i think

SuperMouse's avatar

Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen, or Inner Revolution by Robert Thurman.

Since you asked for information other religions, you might want to check out Thief in the NIght by William Sears and Gardeners of God by Colette Gouvion. They are both excellent books on the Baha’i’ Faith.

Maverick's avatar

Well first off, I’d just like to point out that Buddhism is not really a religion, it’s more of a guide for living. In the West it is characterized as religion more as a means for Christians to discount and ridicule it than for any other purpose. But, I digress.

If you are interested in finding out about the world’s religion, and religion in general, I think the best book you could read is “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. It’s probably not what you were thinking of, but I would consider it essential reading for any one seriously attempting to understand religion.

I also want to congratulate you for taking the first steps to research religion. I did the same many years ago and think it really helped provide me with a deeper perspective of the people of the world and Human belief values.

fireside's avatar

You could also read, The History of God by Karen Armstrong.

It provides an in depth analysis of the various forms that Man has used to describe their understanding of God.

Harp's avatar

Buddhists have always considered Buddhism to be a religion. We’re still struggling with that label here in the West because we have a hard time untangling the ideas of “religion” and “God”, and Buddhism (in most of its forms, at least) has no concept equivalent to a supreme God.

Buddhism is a way of living, true, but that way of living is seen as a path to spiritual understanding, which is what qualifies Buddhism as a religion. The fact that God is not seen as part of that process of spiritual understanding doesn’t make Buddhism any less a religion.

While I don’t have any titles to recommend, I’d like to adjust your expectations of what you can get from reading about Buddhism your use of the words “explain” and “in depth” are what sends up red flags for me. The Buddha himself said that his teachings are “hard to understand”, and that’s quite the understatement. Viewed from the outside by a non-practitioner, it appears impenetrable, confusing and even contradictory, and any attempt to avoid or simplify those inherent difficulties does so at the expense of accuracy.

This doesn’t bother Buddhists, because they’ve always known that words are a hopeless way of conveying what Buddhist teachings are really getting at. Words make the Dharma sound like some horribly complicated conceptual scheme, when it is in fact utterly simple. But its extreme simplicity is what makes it inaccessible intellectually. Books have no choice but to speak to us via the conduit of the intellect, and the Dharma never quite emerges intact from that conduit. Fortunately, the intellect isn’t the only way in.

Read what you like, but keep in mind that reading about Buddhism is a little like reading about a piece of music: once you’ve experienced it for yourself, the words make sense; but until then, they’re just so many words.

fireside's avatar

^^well said^^

sdeutsch's avatar

I haven’t read it yet, but my dad just gave me Buddha or Bust , which he really liked. Siddhartha is definitely a good one, and The History of God has a lot of great information, but it was a little too dry for me…

If you’re interested in Hinduism, I highly recommend Arrow of the Blue Skinned God – it traces the path that Rama supposedly took through India in The Ramayana (which is also a great read).

erniefernandez's avatar

There are a lot of books on Buddhism and it can be overwhelming.

“What Makes You Not a Buddhist” is a short, concise book in modern language published fairly recently which gives you all the essential information about Buddhism as it is relevant to every day life.

After reading this book, you will know whether or not you are interested enough to read more.

Cheesefoot's avatar

Can’t believe I don’t see ‘Majjhima Nikaya’ on the page yet; it’s often translated as ‘Middle length Discourses of the Buddha.’
Oral traditions of Buddhist wisdom got together a few centuries after Buddha’s death to make written records of the teachings (in Pali), which are the origin of most—if not all—modern schools of Buddhism. This particular collection consists of 152 Suttas, about 5 pages each. It is topically diverse and easy to understand, except for some terms for which English still has no useful equivalents.
I always recommend starting with this excerpt from the Kalama Sutta, of the Anguttara Nikaya:
‘Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.” When you know for yourselves that, “These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering” — then you should abandon them.”
“When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

Cheesefoot's avatar

I forgot to mention that most of the Pali Canon (above) is online in various translations. So is…
Book 4 by Aleister Crowley. The author has a bad bad bad bad bad reputation in some circles, and it is hilariously easy to take his words out of context to damn him and his life’s work. This hasn’t diminished my appreciation for his efforts.
Thelema is, like Buddhism, an inclusive and tolerant aggregate of practices (yes, I’ve seen the “eyes of Jesus/Buddhist flesh” quotes); in fact, it was a good friend and one time teacher of A.C. who was reputedly the first westerner ordained as a Buddhist monk in Burma, subsequently bringing the teachings to the west via the establishment of ‘Buddhasasana Samagama’ (International Buddhist Society) in Rangoon, Burma.
Personally, I found Thelema seemed to lack the positive, clear direction of Buddhism, offering many powerful tools with no instruction on what to use them for, or perhaps encouraging inclusion of wisdom from other sources. Overall his work is valuable for the often humorous light it sheds on the practices of all religions.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther