An Illustrated Outline of Buddhism.

Author:Rabe, Kristen
Position:Book review

William Stoddart (author); AN ILLUSTRATED OUTLINE OF BUDDHISM; World Wisdom (Nonfiction: Religion) 18.95 ISBN: 9781936597260

Byline: Kristen Rabe

In An Illustrated Outline of Buddhism: The Essentials of Buddhist Spirituality, scholar William Stoddart provides a comprehensive and succinct summary of the diverse expressions of Buddhist teachings and culture across history. In just 160 pages, his concise account covers tremendous breadth and is brought to life with eighty full-color illustrations of Buddhist art and architecture, along with many maps and charts.

This overview will be helpful to the novice, explaining many terms essential to Buddhist thought. In the first chapters, Stoddart recounts the life of the Buddha and other early figures and defines the basic teachings and nature of Buddhism. In the second half of the book, he explores the many variations on this foundation, with chapters on the unique cultural developments in numerous countries where Buddhism took hold. These sections include summaries of Zen Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, and Shintoism, along with insights into common Western misconceptions about reincarnation and pantheism in Eastern thought.

On reincarnation, for instance, Stoddart notes that in the West, "the notion of 'reincarnation' has been adopted by many cultists who profess to believe in it literally, envisaging a series of human rebirths in this world." According to Stoddart, the Buddhist conception of "transmigration" instead is far more subtle and refers to the "posthumous journeying of the unsanctified soul through an indefinite series of 'peripheral' or 'central' (but, quite emphatically, non-terrestrial) states." This general description begs for further explanation, which Stoddart attempts to provide by equating the Buddhist concept of transmigration with the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, though he asserts that a soul in purgatory is assured of paradise, whereas the "fate of a soul in transmigration may still be hell."

Similar attempts to compare Buddhist doctrines with Christian, Islamic, and other...

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