Buddhism has captivated many millions of people around the world, its vitality and adaptability enabling it to transform the civilizations of India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan, and also become a lively component in the cultures of Europe, Australia, and the Americas. But have you ever wondered how a religion that doesn't even have a god could have accomplished this?
Now you have the opportunity to have your questions answered, as this series of 24 lectures by an award-winning teacher traces the history, principles, and evolution of a theology that is both familiar and foreign.
You'll learn the astonishing story of Siddhartha Gautama - who was to become the Buddha, or "enlightened one" - the Indian prince who abandoned wife, son, and a privileged life to seek the meaning of life and death, and whose "awakening" and subsequent teachings have since impacted the world as few others have.
And you'll learn what happened after his death, as his followers began to share his teachings about the "Four Noble Truths" and the "Path" to Enlightenment. You'll see how Buddhist beliefs underwent significant and even radical change, with different varieties of Buddhism having to take shape as those beliefs spread across India, Central Asia, China, Japan, and virtually every corner of the Western world, such as becoming more respectful of one's duties to family and ancestors in China or becoming reconciled with local deities in Japan.
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Accessible and informative
This a really good introduction to the subject. The narrator has a clear skill in making some of the complex cencepts of Buddhism (at least to a western mind) understandable. He is passionate about the subject, speaks clearly and his lectures have a good balance between 'story telling' and theory. I will be keeping this audiobook in my library to listen to again.
Much ado about Nothingness.
This series of essays did a fantastic job of highlighting the differences between the various forms of Buddhism practiced today. As someone who came into these lectures with only a superficial knowledge of Buddhism, I was struck by just how many different interpretations of Buddhist teaching there are in the world. It makes the Protestant/Catholic divide look more like a small ditch in comparison.
The bits on Vajrayāna Buddhism were certainly the most memorable parts of the lecture, primarily due to the tradition's enigmatical style of teaching . Contrasting the esoteric tendencies of Vajrayāna with the relative simplicity of Zen is almost like comparing apples and oranges, but it's this rich diversity that I found to be the most compelling aspect of the study.
Professor Eckel's love of the subject shone through my speakers. He approached the lecture with a zest that I wish more of the Great Courses lecturers possessed. His diction is equal parts scholastic and conversational, with a genial loquaciousness that wouldn't sound out of place coming from the mouth of a Hotei statue.
- Jonathan D. Stringer