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Publisher's Summary

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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Jennifer
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 07-14-14

Accessible and informative

Any additional comments?

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.<br/>

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Much ado about Nothingness.

What did you love best about Buddhism?

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.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Buddhism?

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.

Have you listened to any of Professor Malcolm David Eckel’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • 11-10-13

Informative, entertaining and personal

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Very informative lectures. The balance between being high level and providing too much information is well maintained. The author is clearly an expert on the subject, he draws from personal experience and tells us many anecdotes about his personal experience with Buddhism.<br/><br/>Informal and relaxed lecture style; very easy to listen to. I highly recommend this lecture series.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Buddhism?

He is very passionate about the subject.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 08-18-17

Wonderful, But So Glad There Is No Final Exam!

It is all about Buddhism, focusing on its origins and history up to the present day. The Prof discusses the key figures--originators, leaders, lamas, gurus, followers. He covers its origins in India and how it morphed as it spread from country to country, from India to Tibet, China, Japan, the US and many others. You get a feeling for why Buddhism was so contagious and attractive. You learn of the different proponents even if you can't pronounce their names or remember who was who, as you proceed through chapter after chapter. You learn chants which you wish you could remember but don't because, if you are at all like me, you did not write them down or download the pdf at the start of the course. If you did download it, you many not have chosen to print it out as it contains over 100 pages as it is very inclusive of each lecture's materials.

What made this series of lectures most special to me was the love of Professor Eckel for his subject matter. He is the real thing, one of the world's leading experts on Buddhism. His interest in and love of the religion shine through the entire series. He has a wonderful sense of humor. Even if you are not a religious person, like me, you can't help but respect him and want to hear more. You may even start wondering if Buddhism could be a part of your life, if it could offer anything for you and make your life more enriched.

I highly recommend this Great Course if you are feeling curious, as I was.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Good Basic Overview

I really enjoyed this course. The professor has a variety of engaging and interesting personal anecdotes that he adds to the lectures. This was a great introduction, so if you are looking for something really in depth, you probably won't like this as much. But great for someone who doesn't know much about Buddhism.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

The author is exactly what every college professor should aim to be - passionate about his subject, knowledge, funny, and interesting to listen to. He goes through the basic tenets of Buddhism and discussed the different types. He even have great reading suggestions. I very much enjoyed learning about a subject that is not well understood in western culture.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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good overview

definitely the overview and history I was looking for.
now I have lots of ideas for other avenues of study

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great listen

The instructor clearly has a passion for sharing Buddhism and putting it in lay terms. I'll definitely be revisiting this book/lecture series again!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not what I thought it was

This poor review may be my fault in not looking more closely about the content. I was looking to learn more ABOUT Buddhism, what it is, the tenets of it. This course is a history of Buddhism. I actually only made it to the middle of the second lecture because once he outlined the structure of the course and basically said there is no ONE Buddhism and it is impossible to describe what it is I knew I was in the wrong place. If you are looking for a history of Buddhism as it moved internationally then you would probably be happy with this course.

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A fascinating exploration of Buddhism and its schools

A must for anyone who is exploring Buddhism. Professor Eckel breathes new life into how Buddhism has adapted and spread. His passion for the subject is infectious! I’ve already listened to it twice. This series of lectures will definitely be a set I revisit again and again!

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  • Kingster
  • 12-09-16

A great look at the development of Buddhism

I love this audible book. I wanted to broaden my knowledge of Buddhism whilst travelling around the country. The narrator brings the subject to life with his wealth of expertise in the subject. Full of stories of experience is different forms of Buddhism and how that's translated in his life. I would recommend this book as a good starting point and well worth your investment. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Md Lachlan
  • 02-29-16

Detailed, knowledgeable and interesting

An engaging lecturer who clearly knows his subject in great depth. Too much to absorb at one listen, I will be playing this one again.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anne Robson
  • 04-22-15

Brilliant

Clear, cohesive, comprehensive and just the right level of challenge!

Great course, thoroughly enjoyed it. I would highly recommend it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-19-17

Great overview of Buddhism

Really enjoyed the content of this talk. It's heavy at some points but professor Eckel does very well at making it as entertaining as possible with his jokes & lighthearted style. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wishing to understand more about Buddhism.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr S.
  • 07-19-17

Informative, Thoughtful, Insightful, Funny!

What made the experience of listening to Buddhism the most enjoyable?

Profession Malcolm Eckel knows his subject inside and out. As a practicing Buddhist in the Zen Tradition I learnt much about Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism that was new to me. His presentation style is very much conversational and at times based on his own personal experiences of the many traditions and schools. Compassion and humor run through all his lectures. Would happily recommend to anyone interested in the subject.

What other book might you compare Buddhism to, and why?

It's hard to find a direct comparison. I have many books on Buddhism and they tend to be either very dry and academic or light touch descriptions of the practices and traditions of the various schools.

What about Professor Malcolm David Eckel’s performance did you like?

He clearly has a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the subject and a very definite sense of humor.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rhiannon
  • 11-01-16

Detailed and interesting

It was incredibly fun to learn about Buddhism from someone who sounds like he is an authority and has so much enthusiasm.
How he gets excited, laughs, and punctuates facts with personal stories makes this easy to listen to.
You do have to pay a lot of attention because it is intricate and complex, but I would happily listen to this again and again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • kjzee
  • 07-14-16

Wonderful, scholarly and entertaining overview of Buddhist tradition and its development.

This is a wonderful overview of the Buddhist tradition from the early traditions that gave rise to Buddhism in India right through to Buddhism in the US in the twentieth centuries.

It is not able to give in depth overview of every aspect of such a vast tradition in just 22 glad hour sessions but does focus on certain key periods. Early Buddhism in India, the development of separate schools, and more in depth on the Tibetan and Mahayana schools.

I really enjoyed the lecturers style, knowledgeable always, but also with a sense of lightness and humour. He clearly has a great deal of passion for his subject and some personal experience.

Can't recommend more for anybody confused by the myriad traditions, schools snd histories of Buddhism. That was definitely me and I have a much clearer understanding of the history and development now.

Recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Nanra
  • 05-02-16

A brisk romp through every facet of Buddhism

This is a break-neck tour of the history of Buddhism in all its guises. Professor Eckel is very engaging, and talks briefly on just about every topic from art to all the variations practised today, in a factual though entertaining manner. For someone like me, looking for a more spiritual introduction, it wasn't ideal since it didn't go into any depth about the essential teachings of the Buddha. I much preferred "Buddhism for Beginners" by Jack Kornfield also available here.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Carey
  • 11-10-17

Wonderful Journey

I've read a number of books on Buddhism and wanted to delve a little deeper, this is exactly what I was looking for. Though really it's more a journey than a series of lectures, the deliverey is pitch perfect, suffused with gentle humour and clarity. From an understanding of the core precepts to a magnificent overview of Buddhism through history and culture; this audio book is a gem.

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  • Daniel
  • 08-30-17

A Fascinating Insight into Buddhism

A great overview of the history and development of Buddhism covering many of the different schools and permutations of the Buddhist teaching