The author writes in a more philosophical approach in this book. In other books, she is usually writing an autobiographical story. She presents all the key ideas in a clear and systematic fashion. She also touches upon how Buddhism is practiced by actual people and even lamas. She touches upon the importance of vegetarianism and how it is not practiced much in Tibet. She mentions one high lama who was vegetarian even though it is not a supported practice in Tibet. She goes into the four noble truths, the eightfold path, the twelve interdependent originations, karma, reincarnation, and universal law, the moral precepts, and other themes. There are small sutras in the appendix to round out the Buddhist views. She does this with less words and more clarity than other books I have seen. She feels precise and clear on nearly everything she writes. It was one of the first books I read on Buddhism and I am grateful for all I learned from this book. I remember how I got it that nonattachment and nonclinging ended all sorrow, how there were only two kinds of sorrow, (1) wanting what you did not have and (2) having what you do not want, and how accepting life as it is solved both.
On the right path...
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 17 years ago
Alexandra David-Neel was a fascinating woman, daring to travel in disguise through the Far East, going through traditional Buddhist lands, including the sacred city of Lhasa, before other Westerners (much less women!) were permitted such license. The daughter of an exiled Parisian, she spent years travelling and living in Buddhist monasteries before returning to Paris and becoming a celebrity. Her fame spread both through her writings and her exploits, well-reported and toasted in society. She died at the age of 100, in 1969. David-Neel's writing helped inspire the nascent interest in Buddhism throughout Europe of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Never one to find herself confined to the academy, her writing does not suffer from the typical formulaic writing that much of religious studies scholarship possesses. Her work is clear and accessible, almost chatty at times, as befits a woman who lived the practices and beliefs of which she writes, rather than merely studying.Buddhism has made significant in-roads into the Western psyche since Mme. David-Neel's first writings; many of the principles and beliefs she covers here are covered in greater detail elsewhere. However, David-Neel provides a wonderful introduction to Buddhism, particularly for those who have little or no background in the subject. She looks at the legendary life of the Buddha, recounting the tales in lively form. She looks at the basis of the teaching of the Buddha and the general principles of belief derived from them, most notably the issues of suffering and elimination of suffering, the Eight-fold path, and the ideas of karma (karman, David-Neel uses, a more neutral term linguistically) and nirvana. The idea of confusion of philosophy and religion starts on the very first page of David-Neel's introduction - Buddhism lacks many of the 'classic' hallmarks of religion (lack of a deity is but one); David-Neel opts in this work not to go into the more arcane arguments of philosophy versus theology versus religion, but rather explains the experiential and practical side of Buddhism, whose adherents are rarely concerned about this distinction other than as an intellectual exercise.David-Neel concentrates primarily on the oldest form of Buddhism, Therevada Buddhism, drawing in Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism at different points; like the denominational divisions in Christianity, there is still a common core, and these commonalities form the majority of the narrative.The appendices have translations of pieces of Buddhist writings and scripture, including rules for moral living, meditation and various other pieces of interest. Some are sayings, some are poetry, and some are in dialogue form, showing the diversity of writing forms. I have a special place in my heart for this book, for it was the first religious-studies book I ever read, decades ago. I return to it regularly and recommend it frequently; while it is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive in its st
A deep and dense discourse on Buddhism
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 18 years ago
Alexandra David-Neel offers a scholarly treatise that examines the origins, techniques, beliefs, and contrasts within the sprawling religion of Buddhism. She tackles complex, seemingly impenetrable tenets of the various doctrines, then weaves together the key philosophy that yokes these within the overarching beliefs of Buddhism. I found the book enlightening and rewarding, though I struggled at times to find and hold a point of reference. I also rarely could read more than five or six pages at a time because of the density of the text. The problem is not her writing---which is clear, thorough, abundant---but my own lack of knowledge about the history, culture, and people who shaped Buddhism. To find those answers first-hand, Ms. David-Neel spent several years in Tibet, interviewing monks, abbots, spiritual leaders, and philosophers. The amount of material she must have collected is staggering, given that one assumes this book represents a distillation of that body of research. Though I'm not sure what effect, if any, the following fact had in shaping the book, Ms. David-Neel was in effect undercover, dressing as man, to gain access to places and audiences with people off limits to women in Tibet at that time (and they may still be to some degree).
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 20 years ago
I read this book twenty years ago. This is a valuable book for begginers and laymen alike.I hope it finds its way back into print.
Good place to start
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 20 years ago
I recently read this book. Anyone interested in Buddhism would enjoy it. It is an introduction to the subject but who can explain all the concepts in it? Actually I read the book twice trying to grasp what is meant by no permanent ego. This book is good for getting to know Ms. David -Neel better. She knows her subject well.
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