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Reviews of “Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions”

Reviews of “Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions”

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Cover of Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions.

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This book, coauthored by the Dalai Lama and a distinguished Buddhist nun, is a substantial advance in intra-Buddhist conversation. Though written by Tibetan monastics, the book steers clear of the usual triumphalist Tibetan reading of Buddhist history that locates the Vajrayāna as the final and highest turning of the wheel of the Dharma; most notably, there is no mention of the polemical term Hinayana to characterize other forms of Buddhism. The volume is an evenhanded treatment of what the authors describe as two main traditions, Pali Buddhism and Sanskrit Buddhism, with the latter indicating the two main branches of the Mahāyāna, the East Asian traditions on the one side and the Tibetan Vajrayāna on the other. The authors emphasize commonalities rather than differences among these branches, and they offer a very careful and accessible description of shared doctrine while also outlining points of divergence and development. The book is centered on doctrine and idealized representations of practice—monastic rule, meditation, philosophy, nirvana—rather than institutional Buddhism in history or contemporary Buddhist communities. The volume will be valuable for Buddhist practitioners and undergraduate classrooms for its clear and sympathetic account of Buddhist teachings.
—M. Heim, Amherst College, May 2015 issue of “CHOICE”

Originating from a common source in the teachings of the historical Buddha, the southern Theravada tradition, based on texts in Pali, and the northern traditions of Tibet and East Asia, based largely on texts originally in Sanskrit, all developed their own unique systems of doctrine and practice. These are impressive in their philosophical insights into the nature of reality and in their understanding of the deep potentials of the human mind. In this book His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the American bhikṣuṇī Thubten Chodron jointly explore the commonalities and differences among these Buddhist traditions, doing so with exceptional precision. This book will reward those who study it carefully with a deep and wide understanding of the way these traditions have mapped their respective visions of the path to enlightenment.
—Bhikkhu Bodhi

His Holiness and Thubten Chodron have put a huge amount of care and attention into compellingly pointing out, comparing, and analyzing in detail the various commonalities, synergies, and divergences of the major historical Dharma streams. This book gives scholars and practitioners alike an authoritative, wise, and invaluable modern perspective and resource for understanding not only where the various traditions within Buddhism originated, what they have in common, and where they differ in substance or tone, especially regarding liberation—an analysis never before done in this way—but also how these fundamental teachings of the Buddha might be skillfully and rightly understood and applied in the present era to, in their words, “serve humanity” and “benefit sentient beings,” both within the Buddhist community, and beyond.
—Jon Kabat-Zinn

Now that people around the world have unprecedented access to all traditions of Buddhism, a growing number of Buddhists find themselves drawn to theories and practices from different traditions. This makes this book especially valuable, for it presents clear and accurate comparisons between the Pāli-based and Sanskrit-based schools of Buddhism, showing the common ground and significant differences in their interpretations of key themes of the Buddhist path to liberation. I highly recommend this volume for everyone seeking a more global understanding of the many traditions of Buddhism, all inspired by the one Teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni.
—B. Alan Wallace

“Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions” is like a well-constructed bridge over a beautiful, deep river. People from all traditions will be able to find a clear view of both the Buddha’s teachings and the vast, rich landscape those teachings have nourished. The spirit of respect and harmony expressed in this excellent book is inspiring.
—Sharon Salzberg, Co-Founder of the Insight Meditation Society and author of “Real Happiness”

This is an invaluable survey of Buddhist civilizations—with their comprehensive histories, philosophical tenets, ethical disciplines, meditation trainings, and goals to be attained—all elucidated in one volume. This is a precious gift to all who love the Dharma.
Tulku Thondup

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Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.