issue 16 summer 01
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Buddhist Thought

A complete introduction to the Indian tradition

Paul Williams with Anthony Tribe

Routledge 2000, $14.95/£8.99 p/b

There are plenty of introductions to Buddhism on the market, but this book fills the need for a survey of Buddhist thought and teaching written in the light of the main findings of academic research over the past 20 years. Though it confines itself to developments in India, this includes most of the major strands of Buddhist thought. Many of the developments outside India have in any case already been covered by Paul Williams in his Mahayana Buddhism, which now serves as a useful companion volume.

Six of the seven chapters, covering early and Mahayana Buddhist thought, are by Williams. His writing is clear and readable, even on complex philosophical issues. The final chapter by Anthony Tribe (Anandajyoti), no less lucidly written, outlines the development of tantric Buddhism in India. This is the best short introduction to the frequently misunderstood world-view of tantric Buddhism that I have come across. While the main emphasis is naturally on Buddhist thought, the authors constantly draw out the practical implications of the thinking. However, developments of a less philosophical nature, such as the Pure Land cults and the tantra itself, are not neglected. The book provides an excellent and reliable basis for understanding the tenets of the main schools of Indian Buddhism. With its extensive and up-to-date bibliography, it is also an ideal starting point for further exploration.