Of making many books...

There Is No End

I agree with everything Karen Armstrong writes about theology, except that she believes in God and I don't. Given that we agree on so many other things, it seems churlish to worry about such a minor quibble. I'm not sure which religion she is. Armstrong used to be a Catholic nun; she has won awards from Muslim theologians; and she teaches at a rabbinical college in London. [It was subsequently pointed out to me that Armstrong does not in fact believe in God. more...

Dr Epstein, a New York psychiatrist, has previously written on the relationship between psychoanalysis and Buddhism. In this book, he addresses the issues of emptiness in both these disciplines. As he points out, the 'emptiness' of psychoanalysis is different from the 'emptiness' of Buddhism. In psychoanalysis, emptiness means a feeling of insufficiency, that things just aren't quite right -- which corresponds more to the Buddhist notion of dukkha (a term notoriously difficult to translate, variously rendered as suffering, unhappiness or stress). more...

I am going to break one of the basic rules of book reviewing here and criticise a book against an objective that the author did not attempt to reach. The reason for this is that Kalupahana has written a history of Buddhism from the viewpoint of academic philosophy, which I am not competent to adjudge. Instead, I will consider whether the book is likely to be of any use to the ordinary Buddhist practitioner. more...

Richard Gombrich is Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford and specialises in Pali texts and the Theravada. He did his PhD (published as Precept and Practice or Buddhist Precept and Practice) by living in a Sri Lankan village for a year and recording all the Buddhist events (he concluded that they were generally in accord with the Tripitaka). In this book, which was originally delivered as a series of lectures in 1994, Gombrich explores several problems of the Tripitaka (the Theravadin canon). more...

The blurb on the back cover summarises the book as "...no amount of spiritual practice or meditative training can adequately prepare us for life... we must find our liberation through living, in this moment, no, in whatever circumstances we face." There are some good stories about Clement's time as a monk in Burma, his later involvement in the Burma democracy movement, in Bosnia and other stories of his life. I'm not sure I got anything though from his " more...

Readers of the controversies in Buddhist newsgroups over the nature of Tibetan Buddhism will find that this book set out many of the arguments expressed, and discussed them with rather more clarity and evidence than is usually found there. Controversialists may be advised to consult Lopez before launching their polemics into cyberspace: you may find that your argument has been already put, more clearly, by Professor Lopez somewhere in this book. more...

The author of this book, Eric Harrison, runs a "meditation business" [p17] in Perth, Australia. With this book, he wants to "take meditation out of the religious and esoteric world...[and] make [Buddhism] accessible to people who need it without over-simplifying it" [p17]. This book is intended to be an objective study of Buddhism, both the good side and the bad. The 'good side' is that Buddhism seems "tolerant and nontheistic, . more...

The book takes the reader through the four Noble Truths, with a focus on meditation, in terms that would be familiar and non-threatening to a western secular reader. This means that the books as a very low 'UFO factor' -- it does not mention any supernatural or 'metaphysical' side of Buddhism, and makes only the most passing reference in the appendix to rebirth. Bodhi is also relegated to the appendix (under 'enlightenment'). more...

David Brazier's The New Buddhism offers a perspective of Buddhism that is different from most. To Brazier, the Buddha was basically a social reformer (or rather a revolutionary, if only of the Wheel of Dhamma). Brazier argues that the Buddha's most important act was his renunciation of the world of privilege and power that he was born into, and that his enlightenment was only a consequence of this. Thus Buddhism is essentially a path of social practice, and training and discipline are means to better practice. more...