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Comparing 5 Of The Best Books On Buddhism – Which Is Best?

Posted by Ray McLennan on 13-Sep-2016 10:19:00

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Buddhism is one of history’s greatest religions, claiming more than 500 million adherents around the world. As well as inspiring the lives of millions of devotees across India, China, Japan, and South East Asia, Buddhism is also one of the fastest growing religions in the West.

For a Westerner interested in Buddhism but unfamiliar with the cultural landscape and history of India, it can be tricky to know where to begin. The picture is complicated by there being two major ‘schools’ of Buddhism, as well as dozens of smaller ‘denominations’ within each school, and local cultural variations.

Which Buddhism?

In general, Theraveda Buddhism focuses on achieving a state of Nirvana, or detachment and inner peace. These traditions and practices became most highly developed in the South East Asian region that now includes Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand.

The other major school is Mahayana Buddhism, which focuses less on Nirvana in favour of achieving a state of Buddhahood; a level of spiritual and ethical attainment known as a Bodhisattva in the tradition. Mahayana includes Zen Buddhism, which is the most popular form of Buddhism in China, Japan and the West.

A ‘subset’ of Mahayana is known as Vajrayana Buddhism, a richly symbolic Buddhist tradition that has evolved to include Hindu, Tantric and native Tibetan Shamanic (Bon) elements. The most recognisable face of this tradition in the West is Tibetan Buddhism.

5 great introductory books from Indian publishers

The following are our favourite five new books on Buddhism from Indian publishers that cover this fascinating religion from all angles:

1) The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana | Theodore Stcherbatsky -
ISBN: 9788120805293, HB £23.99

This important introduction goes straight to the core of the Buddhist concept of Nirvana by examining the wellsprings of the tradition. The core of the book is an excellent English translation of works by two important Buddhist scholars; Chandrakiriti’s commentary on the Madhyamaka- Karika and Nagarjuna’s examination of causality.

2) Buddhist Logic Volumes One & Two | Theodore Stcherbatsky -
ISBN: 9788120810198, HB £38.99

Drawing exclusively on Sanskrit sources and carefully researched Buddhist history, Stcherbatsky reveals the Buddhist worldview as a logically developed way of life that accommodates the needs of the human condition. Buddhist Logic examines the religion within the historical context of Indian civilisation, shedding new light on many of its core teachings and practices for Western readers.

3) The Buddhist Pilgrimage | Duncan Forbes -
ISBN: 9788120816503, HB £14.99

This is a brilliant introductory book about the Buddha himself, Siddartha Gautama, as a historic personality, as well as the sites associated with his life. Forbes explains the traditions of Buddhist pilgrimage that have become associated with the sites and the spiritual and archaeological implications of grounding Buddhist practice in historical context.

4) Nirvana: The Highest Happiness | Susunaga Weeraperuma -
ISBN: 9788178222660, PB £7.99

Weeraperuma’s comprehensive but accessible examination of Nirvana does a great job of describing extremely complex spiritual concepts in plain English for the general reader. Nirvana is explained as the ultimate paradox: the extinction of illusion and the individual ego on one hand, but also as the highest attainment of personal consciousness on the other. The author’s perspective is thoroughly grounded in the tradition of Theraveda Buddhism.

5) The Buddhist Tantras | Alex Wayman -
ISBN: 9788120827004, PB £15.99

For readers interested in the Mahayana, and particularly the Vajrayana traditions of Buddhism, Wayman provides an interesting study of the emergence of Indian and Tibetan mysticism. The focus of the book are the early sacred texts known as the ‘Tantras,' especially the Guhyasamajatantra. Essential reading for practising Buddhists seeking a deeper understanding of the riches of their religion, as well as for newcomers approaching the Mahayana tradition for the first time.

New perspectives on Buddhism

Every year, thousands of scholarly and spiritual books on Buddhist practice and history are published by Indian publishers. For a western readership, these publications offer a wealth of knowledge and insight that is rarely delivered by European and American publishing houses. To find out more about stocking English language Indian books on Buddhism and other subjects, please download our FREE ‘Independent Booksellers Guide to Books From India’ from our website.

For a full list of available titles, contact Barbara@motilalbooks.com

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