Viking Adult (February 15, 2001)Language:
1.0 x 5.8 x 8.0 inches
Editorial Reviews Amazon.com's Best of 2001
Books on Buddhism may overflow the shelves, but the life story of the Buddha himself has remained obscure despite over 2,500 years of influence on millions of people around the world. In an attempt to rectify this, and to make the Buddha and Buddhism accessible to Westerners, the beloved scholar and author of such sweeping religious studies asA History of God has written a readable, sophisticated, and somewhat unconventional biography of one of the most influential people of all time. Buddha himself fought against the cult of personality, and the Buddhist scriptures were faithful, giving few details of his life and personality. Karen Armstrong mines these early scriptures, as well as later biographies, then fleshes the story out with an explanation of the cultural landscape of the 6th century B.C., creating a deft blend of biography, history, philosophy, and mythology.
At the age of 29, Siddhartha Gautama walked away from the insulated pleasure palace that had been his home and joined a growing force of wandering monks searching for spiritual enlightenment during an age of upheaval. Armstrong traces Gautama's journey through yoga and asceticism and grounds it in the varied religious teachings of the time. In many parts of the world during this so-called axial age, new religions were developing as a response to growing urbanization and market forces. Yet each shared a common impulse--they placed faith increasingly on the individual who was to seek inner depth rather than magical control. Taoism and Confucianism, Hinduism, monotheism in the Middle East and Iran, and Greek rationalism were all emerging as Gautama made his determined way towards enlightenment under the boddhi tree and during the next 45 years that he spent teaching along the banks of the Ganges. Armstrong, in her intelligent and clarifying style, is quick to point out the Buddha's relevance to our own time of transition, struggle, and spiritual void in both his approach--which was based on skepticism and empiricism--and his teachings.
Despite the lack of typical historical documentation, Armstrong has written a rich and revealing description of both a unique time in history and an unusual man.Buddha is a terrific primer for those interested in the origins and fundamentals of Buddhism.--Lesley Reed From Library Journal
This sterling work by Armstrong (religion, Leo Baeck Coll.; A History of God; The Battle for God) is anything but standard fare. Armstrong combines the abilities of storyteller, historian, and interpreter of Buddhist thought to create a work that is both fascinating and informative. What makes this such a strong and engaging work is that she uses her discriminating insight as a historian while recognizing that "the people of North India were not interested in history in our sense: they were more concerned about the meaning of historical events." This insight is applied effectively throughout, as Armstrong considers the Buddhist teaching encapsulated in the major events of the Buddha's life. Her explications have great clarity and power, making this work essential reading for those looking for a brief introduction to the Buddha's life and Buddhist thought.DDavid Bourquin, California State Univ.