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What the Buddha Thought


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Table of Contents

PrefaceBackground InformationChapter 1: IntroductionChapter 2: More about karma, and its social contextChapter 3: The antecedents of the karma doctrine in brahminismChapter 4: Jain antecedentsChapter 5: What did the Buddha mean by no soulA"?Chapter 6: The Buddha's positive values: love and compassionChapter 7: Assessing the evidenceChapter 8: Everything is burning: the centrality of fire in the Buddha's thoughtChapter 9: Causation and non-random processChapter 10: Cognition; language; nirvanaChapter 11: The Buddha's pragmatism and intellectual styleChapter 12: The Buddha as satirist; brahmin terms as social metaphorsChapter 13: Is this book to be believed?Appendix: The Buddha's appropriation of four (or five?) brahminical terms

About the Author

Richard Gombrich is founder and President of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, and Chairman of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies. Before his retirement in 2004, he held the Boden Chair of Sanskrit at Oxford University and a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College for 28 years. He is the author of 200 publications. He continues to lecture and teach at universities round the world.


Winner of Choice Outstanding Academic Title award 2010...a great advance on most other studies of early Buddhism, for these generally tend to minimise the originality of the early Buddhist movement... .In What the Buddha Thought, then, we get much more vivid sense of the history of early Buddhism than has previously been achieved. ...This important book provides us with an invaluable starting point from which to pursue such investigations into early Buddhist thought.
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Remarkable for its clarity and depth, this volume will be exciting for coursework in philosophy, comparative religion, and Buddhist studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers.
L. J. Alderink emeritus, Concordia College, ChoiceThis is by no means an easy book to read despite the lucidity of Gombrich's prose and exposition. The trouble is, however, worth taking for anybody interested in the ideas of the Buddha and their importance for humankind.
Rudrangshu Mukerjee, The Telegraph, CalcuttaIf you are fascinated by the Buddha but put off by the scholarly tomes that seek to explain his life and words, then you have reason to feel excited. Richard Gombrich, renowned scholar of Buddhism and Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford between 1976 and 2004, has just written a book, What the Buddha Thought, that aims to do precisely what its title says: tell ordinary but inquisitive readers about the ideas that the Buddha preached and how they came about. It requires a special kind of imagination to bring a genius like the Buddha to life, and Gombrich precisely has that spark of eccentricity. Although the book deals with some very complex ideas, Gombrich adheres to a lucid style.
Somak Ghoshal, The Telegraph, Calcutta...Gombrich has provided a masterly study of how much of the Buddha's teaching may be understood by reference to the accepted wisdom of his day. ...this is a stimulating book and presents an excellent, closely-reasoned argument. It is a valuable addition to the canon of Buddhist studies, not only for the information it contains and the challenges it poses, but also as an example of how to study the historical material of the field.
BASR Bulletin

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