Buddhism : A Concise Introduction

Edition: Reprint
Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2010-04-01
Publisher(s): HarperCollins Publications
List Price: $14.99

Buy New

Usually Ships in 2-3 Business Days.

Buy Used

In Stock

Rent Book

Select for Price
There was a problem. Please try again later.

Rent Digital

Online: 1825 Days access
Downloadable: Lifetime Access

This item is being sold by an Individual Seller and will not ship from the Online Bookstore's warehouse. The Seller must confirm the order within two business days. If the Seller refuses to sell or fails to confirm within this time frame, then the order is cancelled.

Please be sure to read the Description offered by the Seller.

Customer Reviews

One of the Very Best Introductions to Buddhism  July 29, 2011
Rating StarRating StarRating StarRating StarRating Star

This textbook offers a straightforward summary of the origins and faith of Buddhism, beginning with the life of the Buddha, and then tracing the spread of Buddhism -- including its increasing presence and influence in the West. A textbook born of deep silence, it sings briefly its invitation to its silent root, and then lingers invisibly, the memory of a friend. It is poetry in this: it touches. Mind and heart, reason and compassion, indistinguishable, like Buddha's awakened energy, like true love. Who of the two authors is the poet, who the philosopher, who the mechanic of the heart? Both, all, there is finally only one author here.

Buddhism : A Concise Introduction: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.


A concise and up-to-date guide to the history, teachings, and practice of Buddhism by two luminaries in the field of world religions.

“A valuable primer on Buddhism East and West, old and new.” -David Loy, author of A Buddhist History of the West

“Those seeking to dip a toe into Buddhism will find this an inviting pond.” -Dallas Morning News

“This book is an impressive and accessible overview of the core teachings of Buddhism. ” -Inquiring Mind Magazine

“A useful primer for those new to the study of Buddhism.” -Indianapolis Star

“Stellar...outstanding....Highly recommended.” -Library Journal

Author Biography

Huston Smith is internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions He was the focus of a five-part PBS television series with Bill Moyers, and has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California, Berkeley Philip Novak Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Dominican University in San Rafael, California, where he has taught for over twenty years

Table of Contents

Forewordp. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
The Wheel of The Dharmap. 1
The Man Who Woke Upp. 3
The Silent Sagep. 14
The Rebel Saintp. 21
The Four Noble Truthsp. 31
The Eightfold Pathp. 38
Other Core Buddhist Concepts: Nirvana, Anatta, the Three Marks of Existence, Dependent Arising, and Emptinessp. 50
Theravada and Mahayana: The Great Dividep. 63
Vipassana: The Theravadin Way of Insightp. 74
Zen Buddhism: The Secret of the Flowerp. 88
Tibetan Buddhism: The Diamond Thunderboltp. 105
The Image of the Crossingp. 112
The Confluence of Buddhism and Hinduism in Indiap. 117
The Wheel Rolls Westp. 121
The New Migrationp. 123
America the Buddha Fullp. 136
Adaptations: The New Buddhismp. 143
America Starts Meditating I: The Ways of Zenp. 150
America Starts Meditating II: Tibetan Buddhism in Exilep. 161
America Starts Meditating III: The Vipassana Movementp. 172
Afterword: The Flowering of Faith: Buddhism's Pure Land Traditionp. 185
Notesp. 199
Suggestions for Further Reading: An Annotated Guidep. 220
Indexp. 231
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.


A Concise Introduction

Chapter One

The Man Who Woke Up

Buddhism begins with a man. 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?" with respect to name, origin, or ancestry, but "What are you? What order of being do you belong to? What species do you represent?" Not Caesar, certainly. Not Napoleon, or even Socrates. Only two: Jesus and Buddha. When the people carried their puzzlement to the Buddha himself, the answer he gave provided an identity for his entire message:

"Are you a god?" they asked.


"An angel?"


"A saint?"


"Then what are you?"

Buddha answered, "I am awake."

His answer became his title, for this is what "Buddha" means. The Sanskrit root budh denotes both "to wake up" and "to know." Buddha, then, means the "Enlightened One," or the "Awakened One." While the rest of the world was wrapped in the womb of sleep, dreaming a dream known as the waking state of human life, one of their number roused himself. 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 563 B.C.E. in what is now Nepal, near the Indian border. His full name was Siddhartha Gautama of the Sakyas. 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 was delicate, O monks, excessively delicate. I wore garments of silk and my attendants held a white umbrella over me. My unguents were always from Banaras." He appears to have been exceptionally handsome, for there are numerous references to "the perfection of his visible body." At sixteen he married a neighboring princess, Yasodhara, who bore a son whom they called Rahula.

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." He had a model wife, "majestic as a queen of heaven, constant ever, cheerful night and day, full of dignity and exceeding grace," who bore him a beautiful son. In addition, as heir to his father's throne, he was destined for fame and power.

Despite all this there settled over him in his twenties a discontent that was to lead to a complete break with his worldly estate. The source of his discontent is impounded in the legend of the Four Passing Sights, one of the most celebrated calls to adventure in all world literature. When Siddhartha was born, so this story runs, his father summoned fortune-tellers to find out what the future held for his heir. All agreed that this was no usual child. His career, however, was crossed with one ambiguity. If he remained within the world, he would unify India and become its greatest conqueror, a Chakravartin ("Wheel-Turner"), or Universal King. If, on the other hand, he forsook the world, he would become not a world conqueror, but a world redeemer. Faced with this option, his father determined to steer his son toward the former destiny. No effort was spared to keep the prince attached to the world. Three palaces and forty thousand dancing girls were placed at his disposal; strict orders were given that no ugliness intrude upon the courtly pleasures. Specifically, the prince was to be shielded from contact with sickness, decrepitude, and death; even when he went riding, runners were to clear the roads of these sights.

One day, however, an old man was overlooked, or (as some versions have it) miraculously incarnated by the gods to effect the needed lesson: a man decrepit, broken-toothed, gray-haired, crooked and bent of body, leaning on a staff, and trembling. That day Siddhartha learned the fact of old age. Though the king extended his guard, on a second ride Siddhartha encountered a body racked with disease, lying by the roadside; and on a third journey, a corpse. Finally, on a fourth occasion he saw a monk with shaven head, ochre robe, and bowl, and on that day he learned of the life of withdrawal from the world in search of freedom. It is a legend, this story, but like all legends it embodies an important truth, for the teachings of the Buddha show unmistakably that it was the body's inescapable involvement with disease, decrepitude, and death that made him despair of finding fulfillment on the physical plane. "Life is subject to age and death. Where is the realm of life in which there is neither age nor death?"

Once he had perceived the inevitability of bodily pain and passage, fleshly pleasures lost their charm. The singsong of the dancing girls, the lilt of lutes and cymbals, the sumptuous feasts and processions, the elaborate celebration of festivals only mocked his brooding mind ...

A Concise Introduction
. Copyright © by Huston Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Buddhism: A Concise Introduction by Huston Smith, Philip Novak
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

An electronic version of this book is available through VitalSource.

This book is viewable on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and most smartphones.

By purchasing, you will be able to view this book online, as well as download it, for the chosen number of days.

A downloadable version of this book is available through the eCampus Reader or compatible Adobe readers.

Applications are available on iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and Windows Mobile platforms.

Please view the compatibility matrix prior to purchase.