Monday, January 21, 2013

Buddhism: A Modern Perspective / Charles S. Prebish, ed. -- University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University, 1975

Buddhism, edited by Charles Prebish is a cross between a introductory survey and an brief, one volume encyclopedia of Buddhism.  It is composed of 45 chapters, averaging five and a half pages.  Each chapter explores a significant topic in the history and philosophy of Buddhism.  The First Part deals with "Indian Buddhism," beginning with a history of early Buddhism.  Chapter Six begins the treatment of the central ideas of Buddhism:  the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Three Marks of Existence, the Five Aggregates, Dependent Origination, and the Stages of Sanctification. The rest of Part One provides and account of the major schools, important literature, and advanced ideas.  Remarkably, the authors of each of chapter manage to convey the important concepts clearly and concisely, quickly presenting the essence of the topic at hand. 

Part Two deals with "Buddhism Outside of India."  Unfortunately, it is here where the work begins to falter.  There is simply too much information about the development of Buddhism in Ceylon, Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, and the West to pack into the brief chapters allotted to these regions, some of which have been home to Buddhism for nearly two millennia.  Nonetheless, even Part Two can serve as a worthwhile reference source for names of political and religious leaders and monastic communities.  They also provide a thumbnail sketch of the history of Buddhism in the region

A short bibliography of "suggested reading" follows each chapter.  The work also includes a brief directory of Buddhist communities in the United States and an extensive glossary, general bibliography, and index.

Buddhism: A Modern Perspective will be more valuable for the beginner, but more experienced scholars are bound to find an number of chapters quite useful.

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