The Foundations of Buddhism, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Buddhism is a vast and complex religious and philosophical tradition with a history that stretches over 2,500 years, and which is now followed by around 115 million people.

In this introduction to the foundations of Buddhism, Rupert Gethin concentrates on the ideas and practices which constitute the common heritage of the different traditions of Buddhism (Thervada, Tibetan, and Eastern) which exist in the world today.

From the narrative of the story of the Buddha, through discussions of aspects such as textual traditions, the framework of the Four Noble Truths, the interaction between the monastic and lay ways of life, the cosmology of karma and rebirth, and the path of the bodhisattva, this books provides a stimulating introduction to Buddhism as a religion and way of life, which will also be of interest to those who are more familiar with the subject.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352 pages, 3 maps
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Buddhism
  • ISBN: 9780192892232



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This book is aimed at the university student of religion, and has a strongly academic and historical focus. There are detailed discussions about the emergence of Buddhism from ancient Indian religion, the principal doctrines shared by all schools of Buddhism, and the development of the philosophical traditions of Asian Buddhism. For the general reader, this can result in seriously too much information, but if you need a table of the Thirty-One Realms of Existence according to the Pali sources, a resume of the development of Abhidharma literature, or an analysis of the debates about "No Self" in the fifth-century BCE, then this is the place to come. (I was particularly intrigued by the concept of mental life as a sequence of evancescent atomic happenings, having just read Russell Hoban's SF novel <i>Fremder</i>, in which a similar notion underlies "flicker", a mind-mediated system of FTL travel.) This book certainly throws into sharp relief the highly philosophical nature of much Buddhist thought: similar discussions in Western thought are the province of secular philosophy, not of religion. It does not give, or aim to give, much sense of the spiritual life of contemporary Buddhists, and its discussion of meditation is centred on Theravadin practice, offering only a few passing comments on traditions such as Zen. MB 22-ii-2008