The Vision of the Buddha: Buddhism-The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment

Tom Lowenstein, Author
Tom Lowenstein, Author Duncan Baird $24.99 (184p) ISBN 978-1-900131-19-3
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Paperback - 184 pages - 978-0-316-53431-4
Paperback - 184 pages - 978-0-00-765725-4
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This full-color introduction to Buddhism offers some delightfully informative moments, but suffers from its superficial coffee-table format. Lowenstein, a onetime Guggenheim Fellow who has studied Buddhism in many cultural contexts, traces the development of Buddhism in early India, then explores its penetration into Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Tibet and finally the West. It is to Lowenstein's great credit that he ably discusses Theravada as well as Mahayana; the sections on South Asian Theravada are some of the most educational in the book. This editorial commitment is reflected not just in the text but in the accompanying art; alongside the typical Japanese paintings and Tibetan sculptures are photos of Cambodian monks, facsimiles of Burmese manuscripts and reproductions of Thai frescoes. However, just when Lowenstein's text becomes deeply interesting, he changes the subject, sacrificing depth in favor of breadth. He asserts, for example, that although Buddhist monasticism appears ascetic, such discipline ""is a source of happiness, not deprivation."" Only much later does he explain a bit about monastic practices, and even then he is frustratingly closemouthed. While those with a firm grasp of Buddhism may quibble with such sparse explanations of complex subjects, novices will greatly appreciate the well-organized text and accessible format. The final chapter on Buddhism in 20th-century Europe and North America speedily chronicles the rise of various forms of Buddhism in the West. (Sept.)
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