Unites the Buddha of history with the Buddha of legend in a bid to reveal the lasting spiritual relevance at the heart of the Buddhist tradition.
Acclaimed scholar John Strong examines not only a vast array of historical texts, but also the supernatural accounts that surround this great religious figure, uncovering the roots of many Buddhist beliefs and practices.
Includes helpful charts and tables.
Key topics covered include: biographical accounts from all the Buddhist schools, an analysis of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the life of the Buddha as depicted by Buddhist art and rituals, and the relics of Siddhartha Gautama.
Acknowledging that many introductions to Buddhism are already available, Strong focuses on three themes in this substantial survey: Buddhism as a "middle way," the efforts adherents have made to "overcome the Buddha's absence," and the importance of place. Strong, professor of religion at Bates College, uses the "three refuges" (Buddha, dharma, and samgha) to organize his exploration of the religion's earliest developments and later Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, keeping in mind the question, "Is there one or are there many Buddhisms?" Deftly selecting material from a vast tradition, Strong guides the reader through complex topics with precision, clarity, and insight, aided by tables presenting more abstruse information. Particularly cogent are his analyses of long-debated subjects such as karma, non-self, and approaches to enlightenment (practice/study, gradual/sudden). He includes topics related to women in Buddhism throughout. This introduction's primary shortcoming is its unevenness: Strong sometimes delves into too much detail for his intended audience, and his examples of current Buddhist practice outside Asia are too cursory to be instructive. Nevertheless, readers eager to dive into a rigorous, well-organized investigation of Buddhism's intricate 2500-year-old history will find much to reward them.