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Foundations of Buddhism

posted by Greg Zwahlen

I’m addicted to books about Buddhism; I have somewhere between two and three hundred of them. In my estimation one of the very best is Foundations of Buddhism, by Rupert Gethin.
It’s a relatively short book that nonetheless manages to provide a comprehensive overview of the fundamentals of Buddhist doctrine and practice, as well as a study of the textual corpora and historical contexts. Gethin explains difficult concepts with lucid prose and makes excellent use of the latest scholarship (as of 1998) to summarize different theories regarding such controversies as, to give one example, how the Mahayana traditions arose and evolved.
Gethin does a terrific job, in particular, of clarifying concepts we are often hazy on. One thing you’ll find when you start reading works of Buddhist Studies in addition to Buddhist books is that often the points that we find confusing are points that the tradition itself is confused about. That is to say, there is usually a history of doctrinal conflict and evolution about which it is very helpful to know.
There are a number of detailed, five-star raves on, a few of which make a better case for the book better than I can, so suffice it to say that this is one of the few books on Buddhism I would unreservedly recommend to anyone with more than a passing interest in the subject.

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Ellen Scordato

posted December 30, 2008 at 9:16 pm

This looks like exactly what I need! Not that I need another dharma book, exactly, but the topics it covers are ones I’m interested in. I have a decent background in religious studies and understanding of historical context in Christianity and some in Judaism, but none in buddhism. So this book is def on my reading list, thx.
And on a less serious note, do dharma books breed on bookshelves? perhaps they interdependently come into existence more frequently in the context of other dharma books? why is one never enough? . . . what is the dukha specifically related to dharma books? cuz there is one. I know it.

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Stillman Brown

posted December 31, 2008 at 1:34 pm

For a noob like me, this looks perfect.
And an addiction to Dharma books is a fine, fine addiction to have.

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Ellen Scordato

posted January 4, 2009 at 7:55 pm

@Stillman Brown: if you want to borrow it in a week or two, just remember to ask me.

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Julia May Jonas

posted January 7, 2009 at 11:50 am

Do folks have a favorite bookstore in NYC for Dharma books? I know internet is going to be the most reliable, but I love a good tactile browse. I’ve found East meets West okay but not great (and also almost surpassing my new-agey tolerance level). Other than that I don’t know anywhere.

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Greg Zwahlen

posted January 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm

East/West used to be better a few years ago. They are way New-Agey now. I think the Union Sq Barnes & Noble has the best selection at this point. But I never buy books in stores anymore.

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posted May 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm

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