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Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Buddhism

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  281 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Enlightenment has never been easier—with this updated guide.

There’s more to Buddhism than meditation and mantras—and this fully updated guide is what every reader needs on the path to enlightenment. With expanded information on the practice of Buddhism in the United States and the West, a greater focus on the relationship between Buddhism and Islam, and the effects of B

Paperback, Second Edition, 416 pages
Published October 5th 2004 by Alpha (first published June 24th 1905)
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Peter Clothier
Feb 02, 2010 Peter Clothier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This might be a good time, for those who have not already done so, to consider Buddhism. I am no proselytizer of religion, but there is a great deal to be learned from the teachings. If, as I do, you look around in dismay at the hierarchies that seem to dominate our planet and our nation, you may stand to benefit from the non-attachment and the equanimity these teachings invite us to consider. You, as I, may have watched in sadness and bewilderment the stalemate of what purports to be our govern ...more
Nov 07, 2007 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Can I buy a vowel and tout my own book here? (This isn't the cover: it now has a big fat luscious lotus on a greenish background ... with the familiar orange trim that leaves an afterimage over the other books in the shelf)

It's really two books in one: Living Buddhism (guide to the basics) and Buddhist Living (the second half of the book explores relations to various walks of life. I'll add it's the only book to include all four schools of practice in the West, rather than write from one point o
Oct 21, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
A great primer for those of you wondering about Buddhism.

Especially recommended if you come from a Western Christian background. If you have some familiarity with Eastern thought already, this may be too much of a layman's book for you.

While it seems to play down the way that many sects (such as Tibetan and Pure Land) have turned Buddhism into a religion rather than a way of life, this book is useful for its accessible explanations and its practical applications.

It is divided into sections, fir
Gary Gach really delivers in this ambitious book. He goes broad, covering Buddhism from a zillion angles. You get the history. You get the important schools/variants. And you get solid coverage of the principles including the basics of a number of mindfulness meditation practices. It's kind of a short encyclopedia of Buddhism.

My only complaint, and the reason the book gets three stars instead of four, is that in the penultimate chapter Gach says something that is just patently false. He claims t
Phillip O'steen
May 28, 2011 Phillip O'steen rated it it was amazing
Very informative, and not as simplistic/touristy as you'd expect. Surprisingly broad and detailed where you'd want it to be. I'm particularly fond of the section on interfaith dialogue, which, at least for a western audience where Buddhism is a decided minority, is definitely important. The author doesn't offensively bias towards Theravada or Mahayana, and instead emphasizes similarities, which is oh-so important (and responsible, seeing how this is a beginner's book and most readers probably wo ...more
Kyle Brazil
Dec 30, 2010 Kyle Brazil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knowing very little about Buddhism, I set out to find a book that was comprehensive enough for me to understand if the practice was right for me. This book did exactly that. It is definitely recommended for anyone curious about this way of life. The style was very relaxed and presented the information in a way that, well, even an idiot could understand. It was enough for me to learn the history, basics, and start implementing the teachings into my own life. It has inspired to me continue learnin ...more
Dennis Schvejda
Oct 25, 2012 Dennis Schvejda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
When the student is ready... Well, I've been meaning to learn more about Buddhism for some time, and then this book was given to me. A great introduction, I enjoyed each chapter. The book has had a tremendous impact on my outlook on life, mindfulness, etc.
Steve Samrow
May 12, 2014 Steve Samrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Siddhartha was a prince of india, born in a hindu culture. He had seen people sick and losing loved ones, and decided to leave behind all of his riches and his wife and kids to become a monk. When he went in the woods to fast for days, he realized that all of nature is connected and everything was ever changing. From that point everyone knew him as Buddha which means enlightened one.
After Buddha's death, Buddhist thought traveled all over the globe. In India & Tibet it had the traditional th
Czarny Pies
Nov 01, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who has met a Buddhist
Recommended to Czarny by: I am practicing Catholic who is generally interested in learning about the positive qualities of other religions.
Shelves: religion
This is clearly a layman's book designed to help someone who is considering practicing Buddhism in a North American. The basic theology is explained as is the manner in which one lives the Buddhist faith in North America where it is a minority, proselytizing faith.

In this way the Complete Idiot's Guide clearly lets you know what you are getting yourself into or what their friends have gotten themselves into.

The author is an Adult convert from an ethnic community where Buddhism was historical ab
Jun 16, 2011 Jared rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ok here is the skinny on the Complete Idiots guide to Understanding Buddhism. He first starts out with a lot of postmodernism stuff. Then he actually explains Buddhist principles, and the four different branches of Buddhism (this is the part of the book actually worth reading). After that he writes about how Buddhism affects the arts and sciences and it just feels like a whole lot of stuff that any liberal would say. I also found a lot of the Buddhist beliefs difficult to understand and wish he ...more
This might be better titled "Beginner's Buddhism", in that it does more than just attempt to make Buddhism understood, but gets you started with many techniques and insights, particularly in meditation. Also, a great collection of histories of the major Buddhist players, from the Man himself, to many lesser known, but highly influential Buddhists.

While this book was obviously written by an American for the American public, the message is universal. If there is but one thing I will take away from
Jun 20, 2009 Barbara rated it really liked it
Obviously, a beginner's guide to Buddhism. The book is over 400 pages, so it is comprehensive enough for the reader to "get it." The author tries, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to throw in the witticisms expected in the Dummies/Idiots books. There are too many sidebars for my taste and the author's personal experiences and advice are predictable. (The author walks down the streets of San Francisco hugging trees. Every day. I mean, when you read the book you will understand why he does t ...more
Jan 21, 2013 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mistake on page 39; trying not to discount the entire book and hoping it is corrected in later editions.

"The more extreme my position is, the more it embraces my worst enemy's" - in the section discussing Buddhism and Taoism and the yin-yang symbol.

Eastern vs. Western mindsets: the Eastern mind-set sees humanity embedded in nature, interconnected and intertwined

Theme on devoting time to noticing karma, interbeing, impermanence, self, suchness, and nothing (Page 112-113).
"Impermanence se
Jun 07, 2015 Mikelle rated it really liked it
Sometimes the science statements were a bit off but the intent and lessons were well written and understandable.
May 08, 2012 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never had a Complete Idiot's Guide make my head spin until I read this book. It's too confusing and cluttered with unexplained metaphorical maxims combined with hit-or-miss attempts at humor (it is also likely that it has the most sidebars of any book in the entire Complete Idiot's series).

However, it is not entirely incomprehensible. Most of the more confusing concepts are also, in a way, not confusing at all. Which is why it is so confusing.

If you choose to read this book, please do fi
Nov 06, 2008 Lucy rated it liked it
This is a book by Gary Gach and he's pretty good. In his book about buddism talks about what is buddhism and how do you learn buddhism. Buddhism was orginally developed in India then spread to many other places. In his book, talks about Zen and Tibetan. Many people practice nowadays and whoever wants to start practicing it, it's a good thing to read this book. It tells you about buddhism work, buddhism meditation, buddhism everything. Basically it teaches you how to really become a true buddhism ...more
Jun 18, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it
I'm kind of embarassed to say I read a "Complete Idiot's Guide" to anything, but I did. At least I read most of it -- it was due back to the library so I skimmed the last chapters. I found it very informative. I wanted to cut to the chase and know what Buddhism's all about rather than wade through different essays and books to piece it together myself. I found the constant corny jokes and puns a little distracting, but all in all it was a good read. I'll probably go back to it.
Jan 03, 2013 Darrell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
This book provides an insight into what Buddhism is about, the many forms of Buddhism as well as leads the reader to many various sources of information to find out more about the topic at hand. It is a wealth of knowledge and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to find out what Buddhism is all about. The analogies used in the book are also witty, quirky as well as inspirational. Good read.
Apr 09, 2013 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
For endorsements by, Neela Banerjee, Rev Dorsey Blake,, Chevy Chase, Ven Thich Nhat Hanh, Lama Surya Das, Shambhala Sun, Susan Moon, The Mountains and Rivers Order, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, and others :

Jan 17, 2016 Paige rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Just started what came as a well-reviewed and highly recommended straightforward book on Buddhism. Don't let the title fool is not a simplistic read, but a well organized look at the World's first international religion, philosophy, and psychology.
Good intro book but it would have been nice to see something about the Six Perfections. The book made it seem like the only Path toward enlightenment was the the Eight Fold Path, when in actuality many Buddhist teachers focus on the Six Perfections.
Janice Brodowsky
Janice Brodowsky : Very brief review
Your typical "Idiots Guide" or "Dummies" book. It's a good book for the absolute beginner who knows nothing about Buddhism. Has the typical cute icons and blurbs along the way to explain things in a simple way.
I don't think this book is really what I was looking for. Or maybe Buddhism wasn't.
I loved this book. I always buy and Idiot's Guide when I'm learning about something new, and this one was just as good as any other. Made all the basics very easy to understand. Wonderful!
Aug 18, 2008 Erik rated it it was amazing
probably my third favorite buddhism book. after thinking i'd gotten way over my head with the book of living and dying, this was a welcome, western relief in layman's terms.
Aug 26, 2008 Monique rated it liked it
The book is a requirement for my next class "Buddhism and Culture", and althought at times it is a little corny, for the most part, it is helpful in understanding Buddhism.
Aug 11, 2011 Darren added it
I can't say I read this cover to cover , but it is a cool reference book I pick at. I read some of it to Hayden because he was scared of a budda head on our Dresser.
Apr 09, 2010 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great introduction to understanding the foundations of Buddhism, its variants from the Eastern society and how it is being adopted in Western society.
Jan 24, 2009 Kelley rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I wanted to compare something written in a more layman style to other books on Buddhism, that I've read which are more theological or philosophical based.
Edward Viljoen
Apr 01, 2013 Edward Viljoen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found it very helpful. I enjoyed the humor in the side bars. I find myself going back to it now and then to reread sections.
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Clerk, 2nd-hand bookshop, 8 years. Book designer / typesetter, 3 years. Book editor, 1 year. Associated with a few books* with someone's name on them identical to mine; managed not to repeat myself, as yet.

Middle school years in Hollywood commemorated by classmate James Ellroy ("Let's Twist Again"). BA + 1 year (UCLA - SFSU). Moved to San Francisco 45 years ago, where have be

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