Sunday, September 26, 2010
Buddhist Scriptures translated by Edward Conze
Buddhist Scriptures selected and translated by Edward Conze is a collection of various Buddhist texts offering the reader an overview of what Buddhism teaches and what Buddhists believe. This approach is both effective and limited. With a wealth of literature upon which to draw, it is difficult to summarize millennia of spiritual teachings. Perhaps there is even an implied hubris in attempting to do so.
For me the attempt is inadequate as I had hoped to read not only some of the mythology upon which this spiritual path is built but also explore some of the more practical applications. It is in this latter expectation that this book falls short for there is very little one can read and transfer into one’s personal life. Of course, with so many different schools of Buddhism, perhaps it was naive for me to expect anything more.
I confess I was put off by some of the teachings. While discussing the various reincarnations, implying a level of rebirth that will lead to Nirvana, one of the “lower births” includes being born as a woman. Lovely. And let us not forget that the Buddha is born without the impurities of the womb . . . *sigh*. I also found it interesting to catch little hints of the editor’s own biases in favor of one school of Buddhism over another. (Of course one could argue that these reflect a contradictory bias as people often over-compensate innate favoritism by outwardly favoring something else.)
For anyone who wants to read the mythology behind the Buddha’s birth and his promised return, about the heavens and hells of rebirth, and such then this book will probably be a delight. But for the reader who wanted to explore the Buddha’s teaching on how to live, on meditation, on life in general, then perhaps this is not the book to read. Is there such a book out there? For all I know, based on what this book has to show me, the Buddha never taught much about these things at all. I suppose it is my own fault. After all, I know that desire leads to suffering and I desired so much more than this book provided. Hence, I suffer.
Okay. Not really. But I can’t give this book a glowing review.