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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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  • Jad
  • 2018-11-16

A good academic review

overall, it was good, only reason why I am giving it 4 stars is that I feel like there were aspects of Buddhist teachings that he did not mention, more specifically, besides not go into enough detail on theravada buddhism (whichis supposedly closer to the buddah's original teachings) and this course went into far more detail on mahayana buddhism (of Tibet, China, & Japan). Though mahayana buddhism was interesting, I found that he focused way too much on it, especially the history of it, but he didn't focus enough the fundamental practice of meditation and Theravada Buddhism.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

More History Than Practice

This course contained more history than practice, but it was very much worth listening to. The instructor is engaging and knowledgeable on the subject, and uses personal experiences to enhance the content.

You will not want to miss the lecture with the story about the Bonpo from Tibet visiting his class!

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  • Kindle Customer
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 2017-08-18

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.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonathan D. Stringer
  • Bay Springs, MS United States
  • 2015-02-11

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.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 2014-07-14

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Bookworm
  • 2015-08-05

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2013-11-10

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.

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.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • M
  • 2017-09-08

Great introductions information

Gives a broad overview of Buddhism and it's varying schools of thought. Recommended for anyone with a casual interest in Buddhism.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Doug
  • 2015-01-28

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mihal Ceittin
  • Charleston, SC
  • 2018-03-16

Strictly Academic

Perhaps because I am a somewhat familiar with Buddhist practice on a personal level, I found this course to be dry and generally 'academic' in tone, which is no surprise as Dr. Eckel is a college teacher in Boston. It literally dances from one topic to the next but fails to address the 'heart' of Buddhism. On the other hand, for the complete initiate it might provide a guide to basic terms and historical events and concepts. I also found the canned applause before and after each lecture to be silly.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Sivalus
  • 2018-10-21

Buddhist Culture Around the World

...is what this audiobook should have been titled. I understand touching on how Buddhism is currently practiced in different parts of the world, but the book's title and summary did not make it sound like that would be the main focus. If that's what you're looking for, I can recommend this audiobook to you. However, I was more interested in learning about the Buddha's teachings.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Luis
  • 2018-09-23

Fundamental History of Buddhism

Really great lecture that broadly covers the fundamentals of buddhist history and it's spread throughout asia with good timelines.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful