Huston Smith is internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions. The recipient of twelve honorary degrees, Smith's fifteen books include his bestselling The World's Religions , Why Religion Matters , and his autobiography, Tales of Wonder.
Philip Novak is the Santo Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Dominican University in San Rafael, California, where he has taught for over twenty years, and the author of The World's Wisdom , a widely used anthology of the sacred texts of the world's religions and the companion reader to Huston Smith's The World's Religions. In his later years, when India was afire with his message and kings themselves were bowing before him, people came to him even as they were to come to Jesus asking what he was.
How many people have provoked this question -- not "Who are you? What order of being do you belong to? What species do you represent? Not Napoleon, or even Socrates. Only two: Jesus and Buddha.
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When the people carried their puzzlement to the Buddha himself, the answer he gave provided an identity for his entire message:. His answer became his title, for this is what "Buddha" means. The Sanskrit root budh denotes both "to wake up" and "to know. Buddhism begins with a man who shook off the daze, the doze, the dreamlike vagaries of ordinary awareness. It begins with a man who woke up. His life has become encased in loving legend.
We are told that the worlds were flooded with light at his birth. The blind so longed to see his glory that they received their sight; the deaf and mute conversed in ecstasy of the things that were to come. Crooked became straight; the lame walked. Prisoners were freed from their chains, and the fires of hell were quenched. Even the cries of the beasts were hushed as peace encircled the earth.
Only Mara, the Evil One, did not rejoice. The historical facts of his life are roughly these: He was born around B. His full name was Siddhartha Gautama of the Sakyas.
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Siddhartha was his given name, Gautama his surname, and Sakya the name of the clan to which his family belonged. His father was a king, but as there were then many kingdoms in the subcontinent of India, it would be more accurate to think of him as a feudal lord. By the standards of the day Siddhartha's upbringing was luxurious. I wore garments of silk and my attendants held a white umbrella over me. My unguents were always from Banaras.
He was, in short, a man who seemed to have everything: family, "the venerable Gautama is well born on both sides, of pure descent"; fine appearance, "handsome, inspiring trust, gifted with great beauty of complexion, fair in color, fine in presence, stately to behold"; wealth, "he had elephants and silver ornaments for his elephants. In addition, as heir to his father's throne, he was destined for fame and power.
This statement comes from the Buddha's realization that we are mortals, that life is finite, that death exists. This is powerful, coming from a rich young man who lived for pleasure and had been kept from the harsh realities of life. From this point, Smith and Novak continue to take the reader through the evolution of Buddhism and into its many different forms in the East. Then, the authors explore how Buddhism came to Europe and eventually to America.
They explain the variations of American Buddhism today and how challenging multiculturalism is on religions of the world. Buddhism: A Concise Introduction is a text as opposed to a persuasive book on a specific form of Buddhism or on a particular insight of this path.
It is a description of the roots of Buddhism, its variations and forms, and how it has been transformed by other cultures and societies. If you are interested in finding out what Buddhism is about, Buddhism: A Concise Introduction is definitely the book to read. Living Unafraid. Adam Hamilton. Blessed Broken Given.
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