Buddhism: An Introduction to the Buddha’s Life, Teachings, and Practices

Joan Duncan Oliver. St. Martin’s Essentials, $14.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-250-31368-3
Oliver (Coffee with the Buddha), editor at Buddhist magazine Tricyle, provides a shaky introduction to the history, traditions, theories, and practices of Buddhism in this unconvincing primer. She considers her topic not Buddhism, but “more accurately titled Buddhisms, plural.” Oliver’s prose, peppered with Sanskrit and Pali—the languages in which many important Buddhist texts were written—is friendly and welcoming, and she’s generally adept at making advanced meditation techniques and the many facets of the Buddha’s teachings understandable to readers unfamiliar with the material. However, she presents Buddhism as a potpourri of mutually reinforcing and never contradicting conventions and customs, not only congruous across traditions, but compatible with other religious beliefs as well. This simplistic approach often overlooks the tensions and divisions that can and do exist between Buddhists of different lineages across the globe. While the book is intended as an introduction, the eliding of well-known conflicts and divisions within Buddhism undermines the authority of the work. While readers with no knowledge of Buddhism might find this a satisfactory invitation to learn more, Oliver’s overview is disappointingly incomplete. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/19/2019
Release date: 04/30/2019
Genre: Religion
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