Buddha: his life and thought
A superb introduction to the life and thought of a revolutionary spiritual thinker.
Buddhism is a faith that commands over 100 million followers throughout the world. Buddha stands with Christ, Confucius and Mohammed as someone who revolutionized the religious ideas of his time to advocate a new way of living. All that is known about Buddha comes from a collection of ancient writings that fuse history, biography and myth. Karen Armstrong distils from these the key events of Buddha's life: his birth as Siddhatta Gotama in the fifth century BC and his abandonment of his wife and son; his attainment of enlightenment under the Banyan tree (the moment he became a buddha, or 'enlightened one'); his political influence; the divisions among his followers; and his serene death. Armstrong also introduces the key tenets of Buddhism: she explains the doctrine of anatta ('no-soul') and the concepts of kamma ('actions'), samsara ('keeping going'), dhamma ('a law or teaching that reflects the fundamental principles of existence') and the idealised state of nibbana (literally the ' cooling of the ego'). Since it promotes no personal god, Buddhism, writes Armstrong, 'is essentially a psychological faith'. In our own age of secular anxiety, she shows that it has profound lessons to teach about selflessness and the simple life. Karen Armstrong's short book is a magnificent introduction to the life and thought of this most influential of spiritual thinkers.
About the Author:
Karen Armstrong spent seven years as a Roman Catholic nun, an experience she recollected in her two volumes of best-selling autobiography, Through the Narrow Gate and Beginning the World. More recently, she was the author of the world-wide best-seller, A History of God (which has now appeared in more than thirty languages) and the highly acclaimed History of Jerusalem. She is a teacher at the Leo Baeck College for the Study of Judaism and an Honorary Member of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists.