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.


  1. Oh well, sadly, there seems to be rubbish in every (institutional) religion - at least among the ones I've come across so far. Although, those bits are often overseen or ignored by people who haven't grown up with these concepts and who often tend to idealize these (especially eastern) "foreign philospohies"...

    Btw, a movie I think you really oughta see (in case you haven't already): "Mary & Max" (by Adam Elliot who I practically worship).

  2. Oh weird. It's already in my queue to be watched. Aha! So I will definitely bump it up. (My review posts are usually a bit behind the times in that often I write the post to "go live" on a particular date. Often, what you are reading is something I've either finished reading or watching a week or more in the past.)

    I think that idealizing spirituality is inevitable. The Dalai Lama actually encourages those in the west to not convert to Buddhism but to explore the faith of their fathers, as it were.

    I was raised atheist. Doesn't leave much to explore spiritually speaking. LOL!

    Oh and ummmmm . . . I did something today which is step one in sending you a little something something. Aha! Surprise! Because you see I received this nifty envelope and I think maybe you are watching over my shoulder because I have a tiny kitty charm on my desk. Same kitty as the stickers. And then you put a penguin sticker and I have a penguin too on my desk (not the same one however). But still, kinda strange that you would randomly choose these things that are familiar, you know?

    But it gets better because the mini-comic zine--I have a black thumb and kill plants with ease. I honestly think they just commit suicide as soon as they come into my presence, knowing the end is nigh.

    Anyway, so much love in one envelope. I'll be writing you soon-ish.


  3. Hehe. I was raised "catholic", although it may be more accurate to say "catholic on the paper" (like, going to church for X-mas and Easter if at all). I'm "non-denominational" now. And I think atheist leaves the most to explore, actually. Starting from zero unbiased always gives you the widest view. ;)

    Aaaaah, a little something something?! *excited* OMG, I'm gonna check my mailbox daily from now on!
    And, gosh! There really seems to be some weird mental wormhole (no pun intended) between Austria and the US! :D

    (Truth is: I've got mutant smurf spies positioned under your bed.)