Philosophy of the Buddha

Philosophy of the Buddha

Philosophy of the Buddha

Philosophy of the Buddha

Synopsis

Philosophy of the Buddha is a philosophical introduction to the teaching of the Buddha. It carefully guides readers through the basic ideas and practices of the Buddha, including kamma (karma), rebirth, the not-self doctrine, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, ethics, meditation, nonattachment, and Nibb¿¿na (Nirvana).The book includes an account of the life of the Buddha as well as comparisons of his teaching with practical and theoretical aspects of some Western philosophical outlooks, both ancient and modern. Most distinctively, Philosophy of the Buddha explores how Buddhist enlightenment could enable us to overcome suffering in our lives and reach our full potential for compassion and tranquillity.This is one of the first books to introduce the philosophy of the Buddha to students of Western philosophy. Christopher W. Gowans' style is exceptionally clear and appropriate for anyone looking for a comprehensive introduction to this growing area of interest.

Excerpt

Followers of the Buddha are increasingly visible to people in Western societies. Most Buddhists live in Southeast Asia, China, Korea or Japan, but there are also significant Buddhist populations in countries such as Tibet, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Though accurate measurement is difficult, there are perhaps some 500 million Buddhists in Asia. Western awareness of Buddhists is not entirely new: Christian missionaries and colonial forces entered much of Asia centuries ago. But today, on account of increased ease of communication and transportation, and the general phenomenon of globalization, we in the West now have the opportunity, and sometimes the necessity, of interacting with Buddhists to an extent unprecedented in our past.

In fact, due to immigration and (to a much lesser extent) conversion, many Buddhists now live in Western countries. For example, there are probably at least one to two million Buddhists in the United States of America and significant numbers in European countries such as the United Kingdom and France. This too is not altogether a recent development: there were Chinese Buddhists in California shortly after the Gold Rush of 1849, and Buddhist societies began to spring up in some Western countries in the late nineteenth century. Moreover, closer to our time, books such as Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery (1953) and Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha (1951), along with the writings of D.T. Suzuki and Alan W. Watts, inspired a good deal of popular interest in Buddhism in the period after the Second World War. But in recent years, immigration to the West by Buddhists has increased, and so has interest in Buddhism among persons in the West, such as myself, who were not raised as Buddhists.

An indication of the current interest, and part of its cause, is the prominence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual head and political leader-in-exile. His efforts both on behalf of Tibetan independence from China and in support of inter-religious dialogue between Buddhism and Western religious traditions have attracted much attention. The Dalai Lama's book The Art of Happiness was on the New York Times 'best sellers' list for well over a year. There is also a small movement of 'Socially Engaged Buddhists' in some Western countries led partly by Westerners with a serious

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