A modern guide to the teachings of Buddhism
Buddhism: An Introduction to the Buddha’s Life, Teachings, and Practices is an indispensable guide to a 2,600-year-old wisdom tradition that has transformed the lives of millions across centuries and around the world. Readers will learn how Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha, one of the most influential spiritual leaders of all time, and discover how they too can follow his revolutionary methods to attain happiness and inner freedom. Along with accessible overviews of central teachings—the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, karma, core virtues like kindness and compassion, and more—Buddhism covers such basics as:
- the three main Buddhist traditions—Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—historically and their relevance today
- the role of meditation and mindfulness in Buddhist practice
- step-by-step instruction in key Buddhist practices
Writing in an engaging, approachable style, author Joan Duncan Oliver outlines the fundamentals of Buddhism for every reader, revealing its timeless truths and their relevance for finding peace in uncertain times. A practitioner of Buddhist meditation for forty years, Oliver has written extensively on Buddhist wisdom and its application to daily life. Her practical approach makes Buddhism an essential modern guidebook to an ancient tradition.
Oliver (Coffee with the Buddha), editor at Buddhist magazine Tricyle, provides a shaky introduction to the history, traditions, theories, and practices of Buddhism in this unconvincing primer. She considers her topic not Buddhism, but "more accurately titled Buddhisms, plural." Oliver's prose, peppered with Sanskrit and Pali the languages in which many important Buddhist texts were written is friendly and welcoming, and she's generally adept at making advanced meditation techniques and the many facets of the Buddha's teachings understandable to readers unfamiliar with the material. However, she presents Buddhism as a potpourri of mutually reinforcing and never contradicting conventions and customs, not only congruous across traditions, but compatible with other religious beliefs as well. This simplistic approach often overlooks the tensions and divisions that can and do exist between Buddhists of different lineages across the globe. While the book is intended as an introduction, the eliding of well-known conflicts and divisions within Buddhism undermines the authority of the work. While readers with no knowledge of Buddhism might find this a satisfactory invitation to learn more, Oliver's overview is disappointingly incomplete.