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Essential Tibetan Buddhism

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An accessible introduction to this rich spiritual tradition through its own vibrant literature, much of it only recently available in the West. Here are teachings about the Buddha, subsequent Buddhas, and our Buddhist nature; prayer texts and meditation techniques; the stories of hermits and yogis; the lessons of ancient monks and modern nuns—all centered around profoundly An accessible introduction to this rich spiritual tradition through its own vibrant literature, much of it only recently available in the West. Here are teachings about the Buddha, subsequent Buddhas, and our Buddhist nature; prayer texts and meditation techniques; the stories of hermits and yogis; the lessons of ancient monks and modern nuns—all centered around profoundly practical instructions for training the mind on the path to enlightenment. Clarifying but never simplifying the complexity of Tibetan Buddhism, this collection is the essential companion to anyone exploring the diamond path.

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An accessible introduction to this rich spiritual tradition through its own vibrant literature, much of it only recently available in the West. Here are teachings about the Buddha, subsequent Buddhas, and our Buddhist nature; prayer texts and meditation techniques; the stories of hermits and yogis; the lessons of ancient monks and modern nuns—all centered around profoundly An accessible introduction to this rich spiritual tradition through its own vibrant literature, much of it only recently available in the West. Here are teachings about the Buddha, subsequent Buddhas, and our Buddhist nature; prayer texts and meditation techniques; the stories of hermits and yogis; the lessons of ancient monks and modern nuns—all centered around profoundly practical instructions for training the mind on the path to enlightenment. Clarifying but never simplifying the complexity of Tibetan Buddhism, this collection is the essential companion to anyone exploring the diamond path.

30 review for Essential Tibetan Buddhism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris Lemig

    Robert Thurman is the preeminent American authority on Tibetan Buddhism. He was the first westerner to ever be officially ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and looks to the Dalai Lama as his personal mentor. (He's also Uma Thurman's dad!) I've seen a couple of lecture videos by him and I just love his enthusiasm and passion for the subject of Tibetan Buddhism. He's also super-funny in a very geeky sort of way. I didn't read through this entire book. It's a collection of ancient Tibetan writings Robert Thurman is the preeminent American authority on Tibetan Buddhism. He was the first westerner to ever be officially ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and looks to the Dalai Lama as his personal mentor. (He's also Uma Thurman's dad!) I've seen a couple of lecture videos by him and I just love his enthusiasm and passion for the subject of Tibetan Buddhism. He's also super-funny in a very geeky sort of way. I didn't read through this entire book. It's a collection of ancient Tibetan writings (translated by Thurman) and a lot of the subject matter is way over my head. Still, the beauty of the language and the imagery is inescapable. There is a wonderful story of the life of the Buddha. It follows the canonical account that all Buddhist tradtions tell, but adds layer after layer of supernatural imagery. Wish-fulfilling gems, five-hundred-mile-high trees, hosts of deities, demons and angles, miracles and prophesies all combine to illustrate a vibrant view of the nature of reality. This is a book that I'm going to keep handy and read bits and pieces of as I learn more about this wonderful tradition.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric Villalobos

    I think I will have to agree with another review that I read on this book: the book is way too dense at some points. A little past the halfway point, there's just this huge block of texts that you have to muddle through and at the end, you ask yourself "What did I learn?" and you can't really pinpoint an answer (which would be okay if it allowed you to experience Tibetan Buddhist culture or something of that sort, but I feel as if that could have been expressed with texts that are less dense). T I think I will have to agree with another review that I read on this book: the book is way too dense at some points. A little past the halfway point, there's just this huge block of texts that you have to muddle through and at the end, you ask yourself "What did I learn?" and you can't really pinpoint an answer (which would be okay if it allowed you to experience Tibetan Buddhist culture or something of that sort, but I feel as if that could have been expressed with texts that are less dense). There's a portion in that massive block that is just page after page of the descriptions of various deities: they all have three faces and six arms, and it proceeds to just list the colors of the three faces and what each arm is holding, one by one by one for each and every deity and their individual consort. If this were a commentary or translation of a specific text, I'd understand, but since this is supposed to be *Essential* Tibetan Buddhism, I have to critique the book for the equivalent of making an "Essential Bible" and then filling the chapters with page after page of "And so-and-so begot so-and-so". Other than that portion of the book, Thurnman provides a broad survey of Tibetan Buddhist literature. The introduction was very useful and informative, and I particularly liked the version of the Birth Story of the Buddha which Thurnman includes. The other prayers, treatises, and lectures which Thurnman included are also very colorful and informative, and merit a reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wayne

    This was a really dense read, esp. since I had zero experience with Buddhism prior to reading this book. Probably not the best place to start for someone curious about Buddhism. Otherwise, interesting stuff.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Interesting but rather heavy going in places. Sadly No index but contains a wealth of information about this subject.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian Dominguez

    As a professor of Indo-Tibetan studies, and chair of the religion department at Columbia University, Robert Thurman has had a great career devoted to the task of making the Buddhist teaching and scriptures, particularly those of the Tibetan people, intelligible to students and interested laypersons. `Tibetan Buddhism increasingly rivals Zen in its popularity as a path of Buddhist wisdom and practice.' Thurman has written and translated many texts in this area, particularly the well-received `Tibet As a professor of Indo-Tibetan studies, and chair of the religion department at Columbia University, Robert Thurman has had a great career devoted to the task of making the Buddhist teaching and scriptures, particularly those of the Tibetan people, intelligible to students and interested laypersons. `Tibetan Buddhism increasingly rivals Zen in its popularity as a path of Buddhist wisdom and practice.' Thurman has written and translated many texts in this area, particularly the well-received `Tibetan Book of the Dead.' In this book, `The Essential Tibetan Buddhism,' Thurman does a thorough job at laying out in concise and accessible terms the history and development of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as an explication and explanation of the core beliefs and practices. Dedicated to the Dali Lama (who I have had the honour to be near during his regular trips to Bloomington, my current home -- his brother has been on faculty at Indiana University), this book shows how Tibetan Buddhism grew out of a sense of having been personally touched by Buddhas dwelling among them. Indeed, Tibetans often take for granted the idea of a constant presence of Buddhas among them. While many varieties of Buddhism allow for the theoretical attainment of the absolute freedom required to be a Buddha, Tibetan Buddhism is rare in accepting that there are many Buddhas currently at hand. Tibetan Buddhism also preserved the Indian Tantric traditions, as a means for the attainment of complete Buddha-hood. Indeed, some of these Tantras contradict the cosmologies which speculate that there is a cycle of Buddhas, and that another Buddha is not due for thousands of years. `Thus at least one of the levels (the highest, most would say) of the Tibetan sense of history sees the planet as progressing positively toward a time of unprecedented fulfillment. Tibetan Buddhist society therefore is perhaps unique among Buddhist societies in that the people live within a consciously articulated myth of historical progress, carrying within itself a fascinating complexity.' Tibetan Buddhism is far from nihilistic, as indeed most Buddhism is not nihilistic. One discovers a unity of awareness and of all creation, something at the heart of many of the great religions of the world, if not so specifically laid out as a premise or as a possible attainment. The Buddha obtains total consciousness, a kind of universal omniscience; this is not to say a Buddha is God or becomes God (in fact, the Buddha will eschew God-like powers and domination over other creatures). Grant the vision of direct enlightenment, Whose nature is universal voidness! The disciple should press her palms together, Praise the Mentor, and then entreat him: 'Great teacher, grant me the vision Of direct enlightenment, Free from evolution and birth, Beyond the three luminaries... Complete with original translations of source texts, commentaries, essays of context and interpretation, and a good source of religious studies (history, philosophy, theology, etc.), this is an excellent introduction to the contemplation, study or even practice of Tibetan Buddhism.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Willow Redd

    This book took a long time to get through. Several times I had to stop and take a brief hiatus from reading it because the text was a bit dense and required some time to consider before moving on. One reason for this is the author's call to leave his explanations of the selected writings for the Notes section at the very end. While I understand wanting the selected writings to speak for themselves, for someone who is looking to understand Tibetan Buddhism (like the majority of readers who find t This book took a long time to get through. Several times I had to stop and take a brief hiatus from reading it because the text was a bit dense and required some time to consider before moving on. One reason for this is the author's call to leave his explanations of the selected writings for the Notes section at the very end. While I understand wanting the selected writings to speak for themselves, for someone who is looking to understand Tibetan Buddhism (like the majority of readers who find this book, because it is clearly not for scholars who will immediately know what is going on) it made reading very tedious and a little confusing at times. Had it been me, I would have organized the book in which the notes would appear either before or after each selected writing, giving a full explanation as to its purpose and origins as the reader was introduced to it. In this way, the reader would have a much richer understanding of each selected writing and the structure the author was going for. Not sure if this is one I'd really recommend, as I'm sure there are other books that do a much better job of introducing the concepts of Tibetan Buddhism, but overall I did find it enjoyable if structurally lacking.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Josh Axelrad

    Thurman's 50-page condensed introductory history of Buddhism in Tibet is what I bought this for, in retrospect. That man can write a condensed introductory history of Buddhism in Tibet. The bulk of the remainder is texts (poems, narrative, commentary) from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which as a note to myself comes off rather religiously, when you look at it. Noteworthy: Tse Chokling Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen's telling of the story of the Buddha's life and Enlightenment is ornate, gothically b Thurman's 50-page condensed introductory history of Buddhism in Tibet is what I bought this for, in retrospect. That man can write a condensed introductory history of Buddhism in Tibet. The bulk of the remainder is texts (poems, narrative, commentary) from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which as a note to myself comes off rather religiously, when you look at it. Noteworthy: Tse Chokling Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen's telling of the story of the Buddha's life and Enlightenment is ornate, gothically beatific, a little nuts, reminiscent thematically of Christian myth. Neat.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim Parker

    Took me forever to read but this book is no lightweight. The notes at the end of the book are invaluable. The content is at times very difficult reading but this book is essential for anyone from the west who wants to be even a semi-serious student of Tibetan Buddhism. When not just presenting translations of classic text, Robert Thurman is extremely accessible, his understanding of Tibetan Buddhism opens the doors to understanding.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cy Winther-Tamaki

    The introduction and first few chapters were highly informative, they provided the history of Buddhism in Tibet, and the story of the Buddha himself. the second half of the book is primarily prose depicting the various deities, and there's little context provided for it. While beautiful, I didn't get too much out of this part. The notes section in the back does provide some context, but not enough to understand what it's about.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    A good overview of the fundamental beliefs of the Mahayana traditions emanating from Tibet. Whilst setting out the 'mythology' of Buddhism which is not unlike that of the Christian tradition, not for a moment is there any expectation that the reader will be expected to accept the mythology in a literal sense. Rather these stories are presented in a rich tapestry of symbolism. So far I am enjoying this work immensely.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Corey

    Informative, but tough going. A lot of the texts are presented without any explanation, which can be difficult for someone not oriented in the Tibetan cosmology to understand (and often Thurman leaves off further explication for the sake of brevity). Still, there is a lot to recommend this, such as the excerpts from Milarepa, Shantideva and the 14th Dalai Lama.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    The beginning is great in that it explains the history of how Tibetan Buddhism came about, but the rest of the book is not what I was expecting at all. It's incredibly dense, and definitely not for beginners. Given the title, I thought it would be more of an intro-style book, but it is not. I think it will be well worth coming back to later, when I have more knowledge/understanding.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Yet another fabulous book that I will never truly be "done" with. A lot of history in a short amount of space, my only complaint was that the typeface was so tiny. I loved reading about the history of the traditions I practice, and I strongly recommend this book to any Buddhist to help them understand the difference between Tibetan Buddhism and other traditions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Melbie

    This is a source book for all things Tibetan Buddhism. . . very useful. --From A Reader's Journal, by d r melbie.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mary Louise

    My husband and I watched the video version of his lectures about Tibet, and I am re-reading his terrific book again. http://www.amazon.com/Robert-F-Thurma...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Drennan

    A good introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, it did grow tiring in a few points. It was a useful reference while traveling in Bhutan.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steven Monrad

    It's not a religion. Uma's dad is slightly academic.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

  19. 4 out of 5

    Riobhcah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jorge Luis

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Garbacz

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leeli Davidson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dian Hardianti

  25. 5 out of 5

    Prakhar Godara

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deskeeder

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rajesh Mukundon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judith

  29. 5 out of 5

    Philip Proper

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

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