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The book “A History of Indian Buddhism from Śākyamuni to Early Mahāyāna. Honolulu” by Professor Akira Hirakawa is a summation of numerous researches about Buddhism by featuring an exceptionally comprehensive and an in-depth discussion of the Indiana Buddhism. The book contains very detailed chapters regarding the history of this religion, the doctrines and also its bibliography. This text also presents a number of debates on the Indian Buddhism that have accrued in the Academic community in Japan. It mainly emphasizes a number of issues that have been often treated regarding passing India and the west (Buddhism Encyclopedia Britannica).
Hirakawa’s extensive and exhaustive use of a number of Chinese translations of the Indian Buddhist sources and the great references he accords to the Japanese studies regarding Buddhism are very noteworthy. This book also includes a very extensive bibliography of the western scholarships that are compiled by the translator. Thus, this comprehensive, detailed and thorough survey and outlook of the initial six centuries regarding the Indian Buddhism just sums up all the results of a multitude of lifetime research on Buddhism by Professor Akila Hirakawa from Japan (Hirakawa & Paul 28).
He later became an associate professor in a very newly commissioned department of the philosophy of India at the Hokkaido University in the year 1950.After being a teacher for four years at the University of Hokkaido University. He then came back to Tokyo in the year 1954 and later on became associate professor of the Buddhist studies at Alma mater a personal establishment. He was then granted full professorship in the year 1962.He held this position until he reached the university’s official retirement age of 60 in the year 1975. Upon arriving at this age, Hirakawa was later accorded the title of Professor Emeritus.
Upon his retirement Professor, Hirakawa taught for more ten years between 1975 and 1985 at the Waseda University of Buddhist studies. He was attached to the Department of Oriental Philosophy, school of literature. While teaching at that university, this professor also served as the chairperson of the Japanese Association of Indian and the Buddhist studies directorate between the years 1983-1991.While there, Hirakawa made a number of contributions towards the advancement of this association. He later got selected as a member of the Japanese Academy in the year 1993 (Hirakawa & Paul 28).
He further went on to become the chairperson and professor at the University of International College for the advancement of Buddhist studies that was established in the year 1996.While at the University of International College for the promotion of Buddhist. In addition to his personal duties as the director in charge of research and education, Hirakawa was also responsible for the general administration of the entire college. He was in this position until his unfortunate demise in the year 2002 after 60 years of service in a career marked by numerous fields of Indian, the Japanese and also the Chinese studies.
Buddhism is defined as a nontheistic religious denomination or Dharma right way of life that comprises and encompasses numerous traditions, practices and beliefs mainly based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama also commonly known as the Buddha. Buddha is sometimes called the awakened one by the Buddhist believers. Based on the tradition of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha lived and also taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent approximately between the 6th and the 4th centuries BCE.
Buddha is recognized as the awakened one or the enlightened teacher by the Buddhists. They believe he shared his understandings, comprehensions, acumen and knowledge to help the sentient organisms and beings to end their suffering lives through a method of eliminating the ignorance and the craving. The Buddhists believe that this is also accomplished through a process of direct understanding and conceptualization of the dependent origination together with the four Noble Truths. The Eventual goal of Buddhism is the accomplishment of the sublime state known as Nirvana through a practice of the Noble Eightfold Path also called the Middle way.
The book “A history of Buddhism” is simply a summation of the lifetime of research on the practice of Buddhism in Indian. It is a remarkably complete discussion of Buddhism in Indian. This text presents a number of debates of Buddhism in Indian have over the years taken place in the academic community of Japan. It mainly highlights a number of issues which have often been considered as only in the passing in India in comparison to the west. This book also comprises of a bibliography that delivers a comprehensive expression of the study.
The two main branches of the Buddhist belief are recognized as the Theravada also called the school of the elders, the other branch is the Mahayana also known as the Greta Vehicle. Among these two, the Theravada has got widespread following in Srilanka and also in southwest Asia encompassing countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar among others. Mahayana is on the other hand found throughout eastern Asia covering countries like China, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan among others. This also includes a number of traditions like those of Pure Land. Tendai, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism. In some classifications, another branch called Vajrayana is considered and is practiced in countries like Tibet adjacent parts of Russia and India by the Indian Siddhas.
The Buddhist schools normally vary regarding the exact nature of the way to liberation, on the importance and canonicity of the numerous teachings and scriptural interpretation and most especially their respective practices. The most fundamental foundations of the Buddhist belief and tradition are the three Jewel. For instance, the Buddha, the Dharma, which also refers to the teachings, and the Sangha which also refers to the community.
Taking refuge in the triple gem has conventionally been also a declaration and a commitment commensurate to being on the Buddhist path, and this sets the major difference between the Buddhist and non-Buddhist believers. The other practices that are also practiced by the Buddhist believers include; support of the monastic community; a number of moral insights and beliefs, repudiating the traditional living and also becoming a monastic. The practice meditation is also central o the beliefs of the Buddhists; the advance of the mindfulness; cultivating of a greater wisdom accompanied by discernment; careful study of the scriptural writings, ceremonial practices; the belief in devotional practices and the invocation of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas in the traditions of the Mahayana (Gard, 56).
Within the Buddhism tradition, Samsara is usually defined as the continuum cycle of birth and death that usually comes from the ordinal person’s grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. Samsara thus refers to the process of cycling through one reincarnation after the other within the six demesnes of an existential being in which each of these realms can be properly understood. It can be understood as a physical realm or a just a state of psychology that is characterized by a particular type of suffering. Samsara thus arises out of an ignorance (vidya) and is also characterized Dukkha, which also means anxiety, suffering and dissatisfaction. Thus according to the Buddhists, liberation of one’s self from the Samsara is only possible by following the path of Buddha (Fujija 3).
In the Buddhist belief, Karma is the main force that keeps driving the samsara which represents the cycle of reincarnation and suffering for each being. Thus, the good deeds referred to as the “Kusala” and also the bad and unskilled ones collectively referred to as the “akusala.” It usually produces seeds in the mind that come to the realization either in this life or a subsequent reincarnation or rebirth. In Buddhism, the act of avoiding the unwholesome actions and also the cultivation of the positive actions is referred to as the “sila” which also means ethical conduct. Thus in Buddhism, Kharma is used to refer specifically to all those actions of the body, way of speaking or the mind that usually spring from the mental intent also called cetana. The actions bring about a consequence or fruit called phala or a result also called vipaka.
The Theravada type of Buddhism, there can be no heavenly salvation or forgiveness for an individual’s Karma because it is a purely impersonal process that also forms part of the general makeup of the universe. On the other hand in the Mahayana sort of Buddhism, the texts of some individual texts called the Mahayana sutras, for instance, the Lotus Sutra, the Nirvana Sutra and lastly the Angulimaya Sutra. These claim that the recital or merely the hearing of their texts have the ability to obliterate the strips of the negative Karma. The other forms of Buddhism for instance Vajrayana regard the recital of mantras as a means for cutting off the previous negative Karma. Genshin, a Japanese teacher, once taught that Amida Buddha possess the power to destroy the Karma that would otherwise bind on in samsara (Fujija 7).
Devotion is such an integral part regarding the practice of most Buddhists, and some of the devotional practices include Bowing, pilgrimage, offerings, performing pilgrimage and chanting. Thus in the pure land of Buddhism, the act of devotion to Buddha Amitabha is the major practice and in Nichiren Buddhism, the devotion to Lotus Sutra is the main practice.
Buddhism also incorporates a number of states of meditative absorption the most ancient sustained expression of the yogic ideas is also found in the early sermons of the Buddha. In fact, one key innovative teaching of the Buddha was mainly the meditative absorption combined with liberating thought. Meditation was a very important aspect of the practice of the Yogis in the centuries preceding the Buddha. In fact in Buddhism, the mindful and clear awareness are also to be advanced at all the times. Religious knowledge was also indicated as a result of the Buddhist practices. According to Samannaphala Sutta, this kind of knowledge arose for the Buddhist skillful as an outcome of the perfection of the act of meditation together with the perfection of the discipline.
Hirakawa, Akira, and Paul Groner. A History of Indian Buddhism from Śākyamuni to Early Mahāyāna. Honolulu: U of Hawaii, 1990. Print.
Gard, Richard. Buddhism. New York: G. Braziller, 1961. Print.
FUJIJA, Kotabo. "In Memoriam Professor Akira HIRAKAWA." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 26 (2003): 3-9
Wells, John. Longman Pronunciation Doctionary. Longman, 2008.
Buddhism.Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 22rd 2015,from encyclopedia Britannica Online Library Edition(2015)
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