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The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to Its History & Teachings
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The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to Its History & Teachings

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  124 ratings  ·  15 reviews
This engaging introduction to Buddhism by leading Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez Jr. offers an expert but lucid account that demystifies Buddhism and explains its practices, teachings, and schools. Blending penetrating analysis with engaging storytelling, Lopez makes Buddhism accessible and compelling as he reveals the commonalities and differences among the major tradit ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 5th 2001 by HarperOne (first published 2001)
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Incredibly well-written, well-researched, and thorough - a highly accessible book that anyone curious about Buddhism should read.
Unlike many other books on Buddhism, this one dives straight into Buddhist conceptions of : (a) the universe (b) the Buddha (c) Dharma (d) monastic life (e) common practises (f) enlightenment. Lopez makes a great effort to clarify essentially difficult topics like "emptiness", "enlgihtenment" etc., At its heart, as per my understanding, Buddhism relies on the idea of a "non-self". Unlike one of the important strands of Hinduism, wherein at the height of its epistemological subtleties, the self ( ...more
Christopher Smith
Donald Lopez’s The Story of Buddhism is a concise, readable introduction to the intellectual history of Buddhism. Lopez reveals the incredible diversity of Buddhist teaching and practice over the course of its history and the regions to which it spread. He also describes important differences between lay-Buddhism and Buddhism as taught and practiced by monks and philosophers. These distinctions may seem confusing or unimportant to readers looking for an idiot's guide to Buddhist spirituality, bu ...more
I have no idea where I bought this book, nor if there are better sources on Buddhism out there...but I found this book very readable (dense but useful), dissecting all the various types/countries of Buddhism, and tracing the history of The Buddha, The Dharma, rituals of monastic life, lay practice, and achieving enlightenment. My interest is Japanese Buddhism, the Kannon Bodhisattva and trying to understand how it was brought to Japan and the United States, This book answers these questions very ...more
A good survey of Buddhist practices, history and major texts, which means that it's not for everyone. Others might not care about the differences between the numerous sutras, and the odd doctrinal quarrels of Hiniyana sects. Having dabbled in Buddhism for years, I found it well presented and provocative in presenting Buddhism as a dis-unified set of traditions. Sections on what Buddhism means for ordinary people are also worthwhile.

On subjects of interest, I like to switch between general works
This is the best introduction to Buddhism out there. Lopez manages to approach the controversial topic of the origins of Buddhism with the same critical lense that he uses in all of his work, but at the same time writes in a way that feels like a friendly monk telling you the story by candlelight. I recommend this for anyone who wants an introduction to Buddhism that doesn't take any particular view of the Buddha at face value
The author does a good job with his subject, including differentiating among the various Buddhist traditions. His style is occasionally dense, but that's probably to be expected in any discussion of some of the more esoteric topics--no-self, for instance. The book is for a reader who is serious about understanding the history and key concepts of Buddhism, not for someone with only a passing interest.
This book presents a coherent introduction to Buddhism and its schools and practices in Asia. At times it generalises and lacks nuance, and it is completely out of date (or dismissive) with regard to the study of women in Buddhism and feminist scholarship. I would recommend this book, but only alongside a supplementary text.
Matt Cavedon
Excellent account of Buddhist practice, with a critical treatment of doctrinal history. Needed more on contemporary Buddhists, Zen, interactions with other traditions, and missionary spread. Strong Mahayana and tantric focus to detriment of Theravada. Insufficient treatment of ethics, even for an introduction.
Excellent academic insight on that which is called "Buddhism", and as the book reminds us.. we are still discovering what "that" is..^_~
Pretty dry. Not very beautiful. Informative however.
Good overview of the history of Buddhism. Presents its origins in an interesting, story-like format which keeps your attention.
Some parts of this book are very interesting while other parts are boring and difficult to comprehend.
Eileen Rivetti
I am reading this book for my Buddhist Arts of Asia class, I shall report back when I am done.
Hunter Marston
A decent overview for a beginner, but it's too scattered.
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Donald Sewell Lopez, Jr. (born 1952) is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures.

Son of the deputy director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Donald S. Lopez.
More about Donald S. Lopez Jr....
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“Only the ignorant would believe that things exist in the way that they appear.” 3 likes
“To seek the self, one must first have a clear idea of what one is looking for. Thus, some meditation manuals advise actively cultivating the sense of self, despite the fact that this sense is the target of the analysis. Our sense of identity is often vaguely felt. Sometimes, for example, we identify with the body, saying, "I am sick." At other times, one is the owner of the body, "My stomach hurts." It is said that by imagining a moment of great pride or imagining a false accusation, a strong and palpable sense of the "I" appears in the center [of] the chest: "I did it," or, "I did not do that." This sense of self is to be carefully cultivated, until one is convinced of its reality. One then sets out to find this self, reasoning that, if it exists, it must be located somewhere in the mind or the body.” 2 likes
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