Pages: 480
Subject: Religion
Imprint: Oneworld


An Introduction

John S. Strong

A comprehensive survey of Buddhism as a religious tradition that is both coherent and diverse 

The Book

Buddhism or Buddhisms? By the time they move on to Buddhism in Japan, many students who have studied its origins in India ask whether this is in fact the same religion, so different can they appear. In Buddhisms: An Introduction, Professor John S. Strong provides an overview of the Buddhist tradition in all its different forms around the world. Beginning at the modern day temples of Lumbini, where the Buddha was born, Strong takes us through the life of the Buddha and a study of Buddhist Doctrine, revealing how Buddhism has changed just as it has stayed the same. Finally, Strong examines the nature of Buddhist community life and its development today in the very different environments of Thailand, Japan, and Tibet. Enriched by the author's own insights gathered over forty years, Buddhisms never loses sight of the personal experience amidst the wide-scope of its subject. Clear in its explanations, replete with tables and suggestions for further reading, this is an essential new work that makes original contributions to the study of this 2,500 year-old religion. 

Additional Information

Subject Religion
Pages 480
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

John S. Strong is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Religion, Bates College, in Maine, USA. Specializing in history of religions, Asian religions, and Buddhist Studies, with a focus on Buddhist legendary and cultic traditions in India and South Asia. He is the author of numerous books and articles including The Buddha: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld).


‘An original contribution and approach to this 2,500 year-old religion, with its precise explanations fortified by tables and information on further reading’.

- East and West Series

This substantial study is a near-comprehensive digest of the history of Buddhism in its multiple forms... Exemplary for its organization and writing, this work is likely to become the standard single-volume text on Buddhism for the student, whether within the walls of the academy or without.'

- Library Journal

Deftly selecting material from a vast tradition, Strong guides the reader through complex topics with precision, clarity, and insight... readers eager to dive into a rigorous, well-organized investigation of Buddhism's intricate 2500-year-old history will find much to reward them.'

- Publishers Weekly

‘Buddhisms: An Introduction is a Brueghalian masterpiece, which conveys the age-old religious themes in a setting of lived reality touched with hints of humour, offering intriguing perspectives on all of Buddhism's bewildering diversity. The effect is somewhat breathtaking - so much covered so apparently effortlessly.'

- Kate Crosby, Professor of Buddhist Studies, King’s College London

‘Written with great clarity and sensitivity... this work is a welcome addition to the genre of books that survey the development of Buddhism across Asia.'

- Stephen C. Berkwitz, Missouri State University

Table of Contents


Schemes and Themes


Note on abbreviations


Chapter 1      Introduction: Lumbinī, a Buddhist World Exposition

1.1 Theravāda and Mahāyāna

1.2 Lumbinī's Eastern Monastic Zone: South and Southeast Asian Traditions

1.2.1 The Mahā Bodhi Society

1.2.2 The Sri Lanka Monastery

1.2.3 The Gautamī Center for Nuns

1.2.4 Myanmar (Burma)

1.2.5 Meditation Centers

1.3 Lumbinī's Western Monastic Zone: East Asian Traditions

1.3.1 China

1.3.2 Korea

1.3.3 Japan

1.3.4 Vietnam

1.4 Lumbinī's Western Monastic Zone: Tibetan Vajrayāna Traditions

1.4.1 The Great Lotus Stūpa

1.4.2 The Lumbinī Udyana Mahachaitya


Part I: Foundations of the Triple Gem: Buddha/s, Dharma/s, and Saṃgha/s

Chapter 2      Śākyamuni, Lives and Legends

2.1 The Historical Buddha

2.2 The Buddha's World

2.3 The Buddha of Story

2.4 Past Buddhas and the Biographical Blueprint

2.5 The Start of Śākyamuni's Career

2.6 Previous Lives (Jātakas)

2.6.1 The Donkey in the Lion's Skin

2.6.2 Vessantara Jātaka

2.6.3 The Tigress Jātaka

2.7 A Lifestory of Śākyamuni

2.7.1 Birth and Childhood

2.7.2 Life in the Palace

2.7.3 The Beginnings of Discontent

2.7.4 The Great Departure

2.7.5 Paths Not Taken

2.7.6 Awakening

2.7.7 After Enlightenment

2.7.8 The First Sermon

2.7.9 Various Conversions and Miracles

2.7.10 Death and Parinirvāṇa


Chapter 3      Overcoming the Buddha's Absence

3.1 Seeing the Buddha in the Dharma

3.1.1 Excursus on the Buddhist Canon/s

3.2 Places of Pilgrimage

3.3 Relics

3.4 Buddha Images

3.5 The Masters of the Dharma

3.6 The Arhat Dharma-Protectors

3.7 Meeting Maitreya


Chapter 4      Some Permutations of the Middle Way

4.1 The Middle Way

4.2 Karma and Saṃsāra

4.2.1 Why Do Good Deeds?

4.2.2 Contexts of Karma I: Neither Free Will nor Determinism

4.2.3 Contexts of Karma II: Both Jain and Upaniṣadic Views

4.3 The Doctrine of Non-Self (Anātman)

4.3.1 Breaking Down the False Sense of Self: the Five Aggregates and Impermanence

4.3.2 The Elements (Dharmas)

4.3.3 Countering the Breakdown of Self: Personal Continuity

4.3.4 Explications of Continuity: Pseudo-Selves and Ersatz Ātmans

4.4 Summary


Chapter 5      The Four Truths

5.1 The First Truth: Stress

5.2 The Second Truth: the Continual Arising of Stress and Interdependent Origination

5.2.1 The Double Bind of Saṃsāra

5.3 The Third Truth: the Cessation of Stress - Nirvāṇa

5.4 The Fourth Truth: the Path to the Cessation of Stress

5.4.1 Moral Discipline

5.4.2 Meditation

5.4.3 Wisdom

5.5 Other Systematizations of the Path

5.5.1 The Seven Factors Conducive to Enlightenment

5.5.2 The Graduated Training

5.5.3 The Four Divine Abidings

5.5.4 The Four Fruits of the Path

5.6 Summary


Chapter 6      The Establishment and Character of the Early Buddhist Community

6.1 Monastic-Lay Interactions

6.1.1 Dāna (Giving) and Other Forms of Making Merit

6.1.2 Lay Ethics

6.1.3 Magical Protection

6.1.4 Laypersons and the Monastic Rules

6.1.5 Royal Supporters

6.1.6 King Aśoka

6.2 The Monastics: Wandering and Settling

6.2.1 Monastic Lifestyles

6.2.2 Monasteries

6.3 Mahāprajāpatī and the Establishment of the Order of Nuns

6.4 Common Moral Commitments

6.5 Initiation Rituals: Wandering Forth and Ordination

6.6 Monastic Rules

6.6.1 The Elaboration of the Disciplinary Code

6.6.2 Enforcement of the Rules: Prātimokṣa Recitation and Pravāraṇa

6.7 Some Exemplary Disciples of the Buddha

6.7.1 Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana

6.7.2 Paṭācārā

6.7.3 The Laypersons Nakulapitṛ and Nakulamātṛ

6.7.4 Viśākhā, Preeminent Laywoman

6.8 Summary


Chapter 7      Visions and Divisions of the Saṃgha

7.1 Council Stories

7.1.1 The Council at Rājagṛha

7.1.2 Vinaya Disputes: the Council of Vaiśālī

7.1.3 The Councils of Pāṭaliputra

7.1.4 Other Council Traditions

7.2 The Flowering of Mainstream Factionalism

7.3 Other Divisional Issues

7.3.1 Practice vs. Study

7.3.2 Meditators and Merit Makers

7.3.3 Forest Monks and Town Monks

7.3.4 The Question of Asceticism

7.3.5 The Question of Bon-Vivant Monks

7.3.6 Sect vs. Sect

7.4 The Origins of the Mahāyāna

7.5 Proliferation of Mahāyāna Schools

7.5.1 Mahāyāna Schools in India

7.5.2 Mahāyāna Schools in China

7.5.3 Mahāyāna Schools in Japan

7.5.4 Mahāyāna Schools in Tibet

7.6 Summary


Part II: Further Elaborations of the Triple Gem

Chapter 8      Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Ways of Meeting the Buddha/s

8.1 Changes in the View of the Buddha: the Lotus Sūtra and Śākyamuni's Lifespan

8.2 Three Bodies of the Buddha/s

8.3 Meeting the Buddha/s in Their Pure Lands

8.3.1 Akṣobhya

8.3.2 Bhaiṣajyaguru

8.4 Amitābha

8.4.1 Meeting Amitābha through Visualization

8.4.2 Rebirth in the Pure Land

8.5 Meeting the Buddha in the Great Bodhisattvas

8.5.1 Avalokiteśvara

8.5.2 Other Great Bodhisattvas

8.6 Meeting the Buddha/s in the Vajrayāna

8.6.1 Maṇḍalas and the Five Tathāgatas

8.6.2 Ritual Consecration (Abhiṣeka)

8.6.3 Merging with the Buddha

8.6.4 Visions: Meeting the Buddha/s in Bardo

8.6.5 Buddha Embodiments in This World: Gurus and Tülkus

8.7 Summary


Chapter 9      Māhāyana Doctrinal Developments

9.1 Emptiness: the Selflessness of Dharmas

9.2 Nāgārjuna and the Madhyamaka

9.3 The Expansion of Provisional Truth: Expedient Means (Upāya)

9.4 Tiantai Doctrines

9.5 The Ongoing Dialectic: the Yogācāra School

9.5.1 Asanga and Vasubandhu and the Development of the School

9.5.2 Yogācāra Doctrines

9.6 Avataṃsaka Doctrines

9.6.1 Applications of Interpenetration

9.7 The Buddha Womb/Embryo (Tathāgatagarbha) Teachings

9.7.1 Resurgence of the True Self

9.8 Buddha-Nature Controversies

9.8.1 Limitations to the Buddha-Nature: the Icchantika Debate

9.8.2 The End of the Dharma

9.8.3 Expansions of the Buddha-Nature Doctrine

9.9 Summary


Chapter 10      The Bodhisattva Path, Tantra, and Zen

10.1 The Bodhisattva Path

10.2 Sudden and Gradual

10.2.1 Disagreements over the Nature of the Path: the Debate at Samyé

10.2.2 Disagreements over the Nature of Enlightenment

10.3 Graduated Paths

10.3.1 Compassion and Bodhicitta

10.3.2 The Stages of the Path, the Perfections, the Five Paths

10.3.3 Routinization and Ritualization

10.4 Path Shortcuts

10.5 Tantra

10.5.1 Uniting the Poles

10.5.2 Tantric Physiology

10.5.3 Mahāmūdra and Dzokchen (Rdzogs chen)

10.6 Direct Experiences: Chan/Zen

10.6.1 Kōans

10.6.2 Critical Phrases (Huatou)

10.7 Summary


Chapter 11      Saṃgha Situations: Places, Persons, and Practices in Thai Buddhism/s

11.1 Buddhism in Thailand

11.2 Thai Monastic Life: Temporary Ordination

11.2.1 Life as a Novice

11.2.2 Experiences as a Monk

11.3 The Lives of Two Charismatic Thai Monks

11.3.1 Acharn Mun

11.3.2 Khruba Siwichai

11.4 The End of the Rains-Retreat in a Northern Thai Village

11.5 A Thai Temple in Wimbledon, England


Chapter 12      Saṃgha Situations: Places, Persons, and Practices in Japanese Buddhism/s

12.1 The Hexagonal Hall (Rokkakudō)

12.1.1 Prince Shōtoku

12.1.2 Shinran

12.1.3 Kannon, Jizō, and Fudō

12.2 The Ritual Year at Shinnyodō

12.2.1 New Year's

12.2.2 Ḍākinī and the Recitation of the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra

12.2.3 Main Hall Rituals

12.2.4 Goma

12.2.5 The Killing Stone

12.3 The Ryōanji Rock Garden

12.4 The Buddha's Birthday at the Morgan Bay Zendō

12.5 The Japan Temple in Lumbinī

12.6 Conclusion


Chapter 13      Saṃgha Situations: Places, Persons, and Practices in Tibetan Buddhism/s

13.1 Lhasa Jokhang

13.1.1 Pinning Down the Demoness

13.1.2 Flood Control

13.1.3 Grand Prostrations

10.1.4 The Great Prayer Festival

13.2 The Potala and the Dalai Lamas

13.2.1 Finding a New Dalai Lama

13.3 Scholars and Mad Saints

13.3.1 Drepung Monastery and Monastic Studies

13.3.2 Mad Monks: the Case of Tangtong Gyalpo

13.4 Samding: Female Incarnations and a Contemporary Buddhist

13.5 A Tibetan Dharma Center in Vermont, U.S.A.

13.6 Conclusion



Appendix A: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in India

Appendix B: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in Sri Lanka

Appendix C: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in Myanmar (Burma)

Appendix D: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in Cambodia

Appendix E: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in Thailand

Appendix F: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in China

Appendix G: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in Japan

Appendix H: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in Vietnam

Appendix I: A Short Chronology of Buddhism in Tibet


Bibliography of Works Cited