Book Review – A Survey Of Buddhism by Bikshu Sangharakshita

A Survey Of Buddhism: Its Doctrines And Methods Through The AgesA Survey Of Buddhism: Its Doctrines And Methods Through The Agesby Bikshu Sangharakshita
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great overview of Buddhism and the doctrines of its different schools. I’d purchased the book from the Bodhi temple’s Temple bookstore when I’d visited Bodhgaya. It was a serene moment to sit under the Bodhi Tree to share the moment in time with the greatest seer the world has ever seen.

Buddhism is one of the three great world religions, with a following which, at the height of its influence, included between a third and a fourth part of human race, and which even now is substantial. Buddhism is the greatest of the non-theistic faiths, and since both Christianity and Islam are forms of theism it is their sole representative among the world religions. Its influence upon other systems of belief has been profound. Sanatani Dharma, Confucianism, Shintó, and Bón were all remodelled in its likeness, while through Neoplatonism and Sufiism it exercised a remote but deeply spiritualizing effect on at least two out of the three great Semitic monotheisms. Besides being a carrier of culture and civilization for the whole of Asia, Buddhism affords the unique spectacle of salvation propagating itself on a hitherto unprecedented scale entirely by peaceful means. In the course of its long history it has given the world, and continues to give, an ethics based on the ideal of absolute altruism, a psychology that explores heights and depths of whose existence the modern professors of this branch of knowledge are beginning dimly to be aware, and a philosophy that discloses perspectives the most awe-inspiring in human thought, while its literature and its art are among the supreme flowerings of the human spirit. Unlike the two other world religions, whose theologies and psychologies are Christianised or Islamized versions of either Plato or Aristotle, Buddhism evolved all these treasures largely from the depths of its own inner resources with a little help perhaps from Sanatani Dharmic traditions.

One of the most original contributions of Bodhi Dharma to human knowledge is the discovery that theories are rooted in desires. Theories of a personal God and an immortal soul are so deeply rooted in the soil of the human heart that belief in them has often been regarded as synonymous with religion itself. Such belief is not synonymous with the Dharma. The Buddha in fact taught that belief in a personal God and immortal soul were rationalizations of desires, of our craving for love and protection, our attachment to our own personalities, and our thirst for life. Enlightenment can be attained by the renunciation not only of selfish desires but of the religious theories or views (drstí) that are based on those desires. Belief in personal God and immortal soul are not helps but hindrances to one who would follow the Dharma.

I would encourage everybody to read this book to understand the one of greatest treasures of the human kind i.e. Buddhism.

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