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KAREN ARMSTRONG BUDDHA PDF

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Buddha Karen Armstrong - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online. Copyrigllted Material. Praise for. Karen Armstrong and. Buddha. "(Armstrong's works are] penetrating. readable and prescient." -The New York Tim es. With such bestsellers as A History of God and Islam, Karen Armstrong has consistently delivered "penetrating, readable, and prescient" (The.


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Here is collection of 9 Keran Armstrong non fiction books in resourceone.info format Buddha () Karen Armstrong FRSL (born 14 November ) is a British author and commentator known for her books on comparative religion. Karen Armstrong's Buddha at the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, Gotama, the Buddha, the Buddhist sage, the Master shall all refer to the same. PDF | Karen Armstrong's Fields of Blood is a historical saga of she spends a good time praising Mahavira, Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster.

In our society too there are widespread malaise. So strong is this archetypal perception of the Buddha that perhaps the most famous story about him in the Nidana Katha. The story of Gotama has particular relevance for our own period. Buddhist tradition claims that there have been twenty-five such enlightened human beings and that after the present historical era. Like the people of North India. We too are living in a period of transition and change. Like Gotama. His scrupulous empiricism is especially congenial to the pragmatic tenor of our own Western culture.

In his view. The Buddha would have had little time for this. But the Buddha is also a challenge. He confined his researches to his own human nature and always insisted that his experiences—even the supreme Truth of Nibbana—were entirely natural to humanity. He may have been impersonal. We know that egotism is a bad thing. When people committed themselves to the regimen that he prescribed for suffering humanity.

But when we seek liberation—in either a religious or secular guise—we really want to enhance our own sense of self. People were not repelled by his dispassionate calm. Yet that does not seem to have been true of the Buddha.

We assume that a person like the Buddha. The constant. A good deal of what passes for religion is often designed to prop up and endorse the ego that the founders of the faith told us to abandon. He was a haven of peace in a violent world of clamorous egotism.

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The search for a place apart. Looking at these wonderful old trees. The life of the Buddha challenges some of our strongest convictions. We may not be able to practice the method he prescribed in its entirety. In one of the most moving stories in the Pali Canon. He dismounted from his carriage and walked among their great roots.

Some key terms of Buddhism are now commonly used in ordinary English discourse. For the sake of consistency. In quoting from the Buddhist scriptures.

I have drawn on the translations made by other scholars. But I have paraphrased them myself and produced my own version to make them more accessible to the Western reader.

I have kept to the Pali. Increasingly he had found himself longing for a lifestyle that had nothing to do with domesticity. He had called the little boy Rahula.. Chapter 1. His father was one of the leading men of Kapilavatthu and had surrounded Gotama with every pleasure he could desire. Gotama found it constricting. We are told that he was twenty-nine years old. But we are also told that before he left.

It was a romantic decision. Sidhatta stole upstairs. And this was the nub of the problem. Right from the start. If he wanted to live in holiness. It is almost as though he did not trust himself to hold true to his resolve should his wife beg him to stay. Gotama would not. Siddhatta Gotama took it for granted that family life was incompatible with the highest forms of spirituality.

When he looked at human life. Why this rejectionism? At present he was young. It was a perception shared not only by the other ascetics of India. Gotama could see only a grim cycle of suffering. Human beings are the only animals who have to live with the knowledge that they will die one day. To seek happiness in mortal. His parents. When he clung to them and yearned tenderly toward them.

His luxurious lifestyle seemed meaningless and trivial. Some people simply bury their heads in the sand and refuse to think about the sorrow of the world. But why did Gotama see the world in such bleak terms? Mortality is a fact of life that is hard to bear. His wife would lose her beauty. The same fate—or something even worse—would befall him and everybody he loved. But most of us manage to find some solace in the happiness and affection that is also part of the human experience.

Far from it. We are beings who fall very easily into despair. He was convinced that there was a solution to the puzzle of existence. Gotama had indeed become disenchanted with domestic life in an ordinary Indian household. When he decided to leave home. People then turn to other methods of transcending the sufferings and frustrations of daily life: From the very earliest times.

But sometimes the myths and practices of faith seem incredible. Earthly life was obviously fragile and overshadowed by death. Everything in the mundane world had. Yet that was not the case. Gotama shared this conviction. It is a perspective that is difficult for us to appreciate in the modern world. But the myth does express our inchoate sense that life is incomplete and that this cannot be all there is. This perception informed the mythology. All that we experienced here below was modeled on an archetype in the celestial sphere.

After an intense and eagerly awaited occasion. This universal suffering which makes life so frustrating and miserable was not something that we were doomed to bear forever. If our experience of life was currently awry. So Gotama was leaving home to find a cure for the sickness that plagues humanity and which fills men and women with unhappiness. Gotama believed that gods existed.

He would teach his disciples to do the same. They were not exactly regarded as worthless. They could expect no help from the gods. Instead of waiting for a message from the gods. He did not rely on divine aid from another world. Gotama believed that he could find the freedom he sought right in the midst of this imperfect world. They must validate his solutions empirically. Here again. But Gotama would claim that he did find a way out and that Nibbana did. The people of India had worshipped gods in the past: But by the sixth century.

Unlike many religious people. More and more men and women decided that they must rely entirely on themselves.

Nibbana was not. They believed that the cosmos was ruled by impersonal laws to which even the gods were subject. But rebirth in one of the heavens was not a happy ending. It was thought that a man or a woman would be reborn after death into a new state that would be determined by the quality of their actions kamma in their present life.

The sacrifices performed in their honor did not in fact alleviate human misery. Very few people in the ancient world at this point hoped for a blissful immortality. Bad kamma would mean that you would be reborn as a slave.

Gods could not show Gotama the way to Nibbana. The law of kamma was a wholly impersonal mechanism that applied fairly and without discrimination to everybody.

This is perhaps difficult to understand. Most of the religious solutions of the day were designed to help people It was bad enough to have to endure the process of becoming senile or chronically sick and undergoing a frightening.

Today many of us feel that our lives are too short and would love the chance to do it all again. But the prospect of living one life after another filled Gotama. It sounds like a bizarre theory to an outsider. But what preoccupied Gotama and his contemporaries was not so much the possibility of rebirth as the horror of redeath. All beings were. The freedom of Nibbana was inconceivable because it was so far removed from our everyday experience.

This was no passing craze. Gotama believed that he was setting out on an exciting adventure. Western people often describe Indian thought as negative and nihilistic. Some became their regular patrons and disciples. It was breathtakingly optimistic and Gotama shared this hope to the full. We have no terms to describe or even to envisage a mode of life in which there is no frustration. The people of India can be as materialistic as anybody else.

Not so. Ganges region in the late sixth century B. An increasing number had come to feel that the spiritual practices of their ancestors no longer worked for them. Why did the people of India feel this dis-ease with life? This malaise was not confined to the subcontinent. Gotama was often described in heroic imagery.

The monk was thus engaged in a quest that would benefit his fellows. People did not regard the renunciants as feeble drop-outs. As a result of the prevailing unrest. There was a spiritual crisis in the region. As a young man. He was compared to a lion. The sort of disillusion and anomie that Gotama had experienced was widespread. Confucius and Lao Tzu. The Axial Age marks the beginning of humanity as we now know it. Some historians call this period which extended from about to B.

During this period.

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Their experience of utter impotence in a cruel world impelled them to seek the highest goals and an absolute reality in the depths of their being. The great sages of the time taught human beings how to cope with the misery of life.

People who participated in this great transformation were convinced that they were on the brink of a new era and that nothing would ever be the same again.

The ethos forged during this era has continued to nourish men and women to the present day. Gotama would become one of the most important and most typical of the luminaries of the Axial Age. Yet despite its great importance. After this pivotal era. But in the Axial countries. Jews and Greeks experienced these new horizons and embarked on this quest for enlightenment and salvation?

The Babylonians and the Egyptians had also created great civilizations. Buddhism and Hinduism in India. It was only by participating in this massive transformation that the various peoples of the world were able to progress and join the forward march of history.

We do not know what caused it. The new religious systems that emerged during this period—Taoism and Confucianism in China. Why was it that only the Chinese. They sought change in the deepest reaches of their beings. All over the world.. It is a unity that is impossible for us to imagine in our more fragmented existence. In the Golden Age. They experienced the dawning of self- But people always tried to imagine what the Recorded history only begins in about B.

Nor were human beings divided from one another. God strolled in the garden in the cool of the evening. Adam and Eve lived in harmony. The story of the Garden of Eden. A conviction that the world was awry was fundamental to the spirituality that emerged in the Axial countries.

The Hebrew prophets of the eighth. As we have seen. Those who took part in this transformation felt restless—just as Gotama did. Gotama spoke of Nibbana and left his home in order to find it. They were consumed by a sense of helplessness. Human beings. The Hebrew Bible calls this state of wholeness and completeness shalom.

The Greeks saw life as a tragic epic. Confucius lamented the darkness of his age. In India. Gotama felt that his life had become meaningless. They expressed this malaise in different ways. The Zoroastrians of Iran saw life as a cosmic battle between Good and Evil. Gotama and the What had happened?

Nobody has fully explained the sorrow that fueled Axial Age spirituality. Gotama did not leave home to commune happily with nature in the woods. But why did the experience of suffering reach such a crescendo in the three core Axial regions? Some historians see the invasions of the nomadic Indo-European horsemen as a common factor in all these areas. Certainly men and women had experienced anguish before.

Nature had become obscurely menacing. They brought with them a sense of The world had become a frightening place. These Aryan tribesmen came out of Central Asia and reached the Mediterranean by the end of the third millennium. The warrior ksatriya class was devoted to government and defense. Despite the dynamism of its origins. By B. It divided the people into four distinct classes.. They replaced the old stable and more primitive communities.

They dominated India society to such an extent that we now know almost nothing about the indigenous. But the Jews and their prophets had no contact with these Aryan horsemen. Aryan India was static and conservative. The brahmins were the priestly caste. The Vedas were not written down. These were not thought to be dictated by the gods but to exist eternally and to reflect the fundamental principles of the cosmos.

Originally the four classes were not hereditary. The Aryans cultivated the drug soma. There was no possibility of changing this order by moving from one caste to another. A universal law. Aryan spirituality was typical of the ancient.

It was. The whole of life therefore centered around these rites. Even the gods depended upon these sacrifices and would suffer if the ritual was. The brahmins were clearly crucial to the cult. Kings and noblemen paid for the sacrifices. This primeval sacrifice was the archetype of the animal sacrifices performed by the brahmins. It was said that at the beginning of time. Over the centuries. They alone knew how to perform the sacrificial ritual prescribed in the Vedas.

Fire was of great importance in Vedic religion.

"Buddha" by Karen Armstrong

This deeply conservative spirituality sought security in a reality that was timeless and changeless. It was a holy time. Each householder also honored his own domestic hearth with family rites. On the eve of the uposatha. It depended upon external rites. It did not develop or change. One need only think of Socrates.

The Hebrew prophets overturned some of the He believed that instead of receiving knowledge from outside. It was completely different from the new Axial ethos. Vedic faith was thus typical of pre-Axial religion. Socrates questioned everything. Salvation and survival no longer depended upon external rites. The new religions sought inner depth rather than magical control. We need only recall the luminous calm of Socrates during his execution by a coercive state. He would now use the Gentile nations to punish Jews.

Crucial was the desire to bring unconscious forces and dimly perceived truths into the light of day. God demanded mercy and compassion rather than sacrifice. The sages were no longer content with external conformity but were aware of the profound psychic inwardness that precedes action. But the truth that they sought enabled them to find peace.

Wherever they looked. For Socrates. The individual would still suffer and die. Axial faith put the onus on the individual. God was no longer automatically on the side of his people. The Axial sages scrutinized the old mythology and reinterpreted it. The sages were conscious of the past. Now the values that they enshrined must be consciously fostered in order to be restored to their original radiance. Confucius studied the ancient customs of his people.

It was by ethics. Human beings must study themselves. Morality had become central to religion. All were convinced that there was an absolute reality that transcended the confusions of this world—God. Confucius wanted to make explicit ideas which had previously been merely intuited. These sages were determined to put their theories to the test. Truth had to be made a reality in the lives of those who struggled to achieve it.

Study and debate became important religious activities. We shall see how closely Gotama mirrored the values of the Axial Age. Confucius traveled widely in an attempt to transform society. The Axial transformation was already well under way in India. Power was passing from the old partnership of King and Temple to the merchants.

Historians and scholars note that all these innovative ideologies were created in the setting of the marketplace. There was to be no more blind acceptance of the status quo. Socrates questioned everyone he met. Scripture was no longer the private possession of a priestly caste. The prophets of Israel spoke to ordinary people in impassioned sermons and eloquent gestures.

They had to rely on themselves and be prepared to be ruthless in business. The Gangetic plain became the center of Indic civilization. Six great cities became centers of trade and industry: It was clearly in tune with the newly emerging spiritual ethos. These social changes certainly contributed to the spiritual revolution. The market economy also undermined the status quo: Travelers described the copious fruit. A new urban class was coming into being. The plain around the river Ganges in North India.

Settlers poured into the region. By the sixth century. Urban dwellers felt at the cutting edge of change. This was all disturbing but invigorating. The cities were exciting places: Merchants from all parts of India and from all castes mingled in the marketplace. Rajagaha and Champa. Gotama was born in Sakka.

The Sakyans were The Ganges basin had originally been ruled by a number of small kingdoms and by a few so-called republics which were really oligarchies. The cities were dominated by the new men— merchants. The political life of the region had also been transformed.

The outside world had begun to invade the republic. Many were disturbed by the violence and But times were changing.

Their territory was so remote that Aryan culture had never taken root there. These modern monarchs were also able to police the new trade routes efficiently. Sakka felt threatened by the two new monarchies of Kosala and Magadha. The region enjoyed a new stability. This meant that each king had a personal fighting machine at his disposal.

These modern kingdoms had streamlined bureaucracies and armies which professed allegiance to the king alone. Kosala and Magadha were far more efficiently run than the old republics.

Naya and Vajji to the east of the region. Like the other republics of Malla. Animal sacrifice had made sense when stockbreeding had been the basis of the economy. The old rituals had suited a settled rural community. Merchants were constantly on the road and could not keep the fires burning.

Cattle were becoming scarce and sacrifice seemed wasteful and cruel—too reminiscent of the violence that now It was no wonder that so many people felt life was dukkha.

The traditional values seemed to be crumbling. Since these new men fit less and less easily into the caste system. The modern monarchies and the cities. At a time when the urban communities were dominated by self-made men who had to rely on themselves.

The brahmins alleged that these ritual actions kamma would bring the people riches and material success in this world. In the towns. Urban dwellers could see for themselves that their society was being rapidly transformed.

The doctrine of reincarnation. In the new economic climate. A few generations earlier. But as in the other Axial countries. They began to create a series of texts which were passed secretly from master to pupil. The Upanisads ostensibly relied upon the old Vedas.

The theory of kamma stated that we had nobody to blame for our fate but ourselves and that our actions would reverberate in the very distant future. These new scriptures were called the Upanisads. He asked Svetaketu to dissolve a lump of salt in a beaker of Salvation lay not in animal sacrifice.

It was a remarkable insight. The idea of an eternal and absolute Self would greatly exercise Gotama. But brahman was not simply a remote and transcendent reality.

The brahmin Uddalaka wanted to show his son Svetaketu. The classic expression of this doctrine is found in the early Chandogya Upanisad. In fact. That is what the Self is. There was no talk in the eastern Ganges of brahman.

Uddalaka explained. People could find the ultimate for themselves. In the eastern part of the Gangetic region. This was just like brahman.

The next morning. But the sages of the Upanisads were not alone in the rejection of the old faith of the brahmins. Gotama does not seem to have heard of brahman. Some of the new ideas had leaked through on a popular level. The forest-monks may not have been conversant with the transcendent brahman.

People were less interested in metaphysical speculation about the nature of ultimate reality and more concerned with personal liberation. It also suited the individualism of the new society and its cult of self-reliance.

Once a monk had found his real Self. The doctrine of the Self was attractive because it meant that liberation from the suffering of life was clearly within reach and required no priestly intermediaries. But how could a monk find this Self and thus gain release from the endless cycle of samsara? Even though the Self was said to be within each person.

When Gotama left Kapilavatthu. Here the spiritual rejection of the ancient Aryan traditions took a more practical turn. The spirituality of the eastern Gangetic region was much more populist.

In the west, the Upanisadic sages guarded their doctrines from the masses; in the east, these questions were eagerly debated by the people. As we have seen, they did not see the mendicant monks as useless parasites but as heroic pioneers. They were also honored as rebels. Like the Upanisadic sages, the monks defiantly rejected the old Vedic faith.

The ritual required that the renunciant remove all the external signs of his caste and throw the utensils used in sacrifice into the fire. Finally, the new monk ritually and symbolically swallowed the sacred fire, as a way, perhaps, of declaring his choice of a more interior religion.

He had deliberately rejected his place in the old world by repudiating the life of the householder, which was the backbone of the system: The monks, however, cast aside these duties and pursued a radical freedom. They had left behind the structured space of.

Like the merchant, they were mobile and could roam the world at will, responsible to nobody but themselves. Like the merchants, therefore, they were the new men of the era, whose whole lifestyle expressed the heightened sense of individualism that characterized the period. In leaving home, therefore, Gotama was not abjuring the modern world for a more traditional or even archaic lifestyle as monks are often perceived to be doing today , but was in the vanguard of change.

His family, however, could scarcely be expected to share this view. The republic of Sakka was so isolated that it was cut off from the developing society that was growing up in the Ganges plain below and, as we have seen, had not even assimilated the Vedic ethos.

The new ideas would have seemed foreign to most of the Sakyan people. Nevertheless, news of the rebellion of the forest-monks had obviously reached the republic and stirred the young Gotama.

It is found only in the later extended. But even though we only find this tale in the later Buddhist writings, it could be just as old as the Pali legends. The Pali legends were certainly familiar with this story, but they attribute it not to Gotama but to his predecessor, the Buddha Vipassi, who had achieved enlightenment in a previous age. So the tale is an archetype, applicable to all Buddhas.

Instead, this overtly mythological story, with its divine interventions and magical occurrences, represents an alternative interpretation of the crucial event of the Pabbajja. This is what all Buddhas—Gotama no less than Vipassi—have to do at the beginning of their quest; indeed, everybody who seeks enlightenment must go through this transformative experience when he or she embarks on the spiritual life.

The story is almost a paradigm of Axial Age spirituality. It shows how a human being becomes fully conscious, in the way that the Axial sages demanded, of his or her predicament. It is only. The story in the Nidana Katha is symbolic and has universal impact, because unawakened men and women all try to deny the suffering of life and pretend that it has nothing to do with them.

Such denial is not only futile because nobody is immune to pain and these facts of life will always break in , but also dangerous, because it imprisons people in a delusion that precludes spiritual development.

Eight of the brahmins concluded that the child had a glorious future: He would possess a special divine chariot; each one of its four wheels rolled in the direction of one of the four quarters of the earth.

This myth was clearly influenced by the new cult. The image of the Universal Monarch cakkavatti would become his symbolic alter ego, the opposite of everything that he did finally achieve.

The cakkavatti might be powerful and his feign could even be beneficial to the world, but he is not a spiritually enlightened man, since his career depends entirely upon force. One of the brahmins, whose name was Kondanna, was convinced that little Siddhatta would never become a cakkavatti.

Instead, he would renounce the comfortable life of the householder and become a Buddha who would overcome the ignorance and folly of the world. Suddhodana was not happy about this prophecy. He was determined that his son become a cakkavatti, which seemed to him a much more desirable option than the life of a world-renouncing ascetic.

The gods could not themselves lead Gotama to enlightenment. They knew that even though his father refused to accept it. Gotama was a Bodhisatta. Suddhodana is an example of exactly the kind of authority figure that later Buddhist tradition would condemn.

But the gods could give the Bodhisatta a much-needed nudge. When he had reached the age of twenty-nine. This type of coercion could only impede enlightenment. As long as we persist in closing our minds and hearts to the universal pain. The young Siddhatta was living in a delusion.

He forced his own view upon his son and refused to let him make up his own mind. The gods. On two further occasions. When Gotama saw this old man. All around his couch. Inspired by the gods. Now that he was aware of the suffering that lay in wait for every Suddhodana redoubled the guard and tried to distract his son with new pleasures—but to no avail.

Channa explained that he was simply old: When he heard what had happened. That night. Gotama and Channa drove past a god dressed in the yellow robe of a monk. Channa told Gotama that this was a man who had renounced the world.

Gotama returned to the palace in a state of deep distress. Gotama had permitted the spectacle of dukkha to invade his life and to tear his world apart. Before leaving home. Life seems meaningless. It is always tempting to try to shut out the suffering that is an inescapable part of the human condition. He saddled his horse Kanthaka and rode through the city.

He had smashed the hard carapace in which so many of us encase ourselves in order to keep sorrow at a distance. But once he had let suffering in. Only when he had found an inner haven of peace would life seem meaningful and valuable once more.

Then he stole out of the palace. The gods opened the city gates to let him out. Mara would try to impede his progress and tempt him to lower his standards. If Gotama would stay at home for just one more week. Gotama shaved his head and put on the yellow robe. Gotama had to undergo one last temptation.

This was. Before he could begin his quest in earnest. It was the suggestion of an unenlightened being. Think what good he could do! It would also demand skill.

It is frightening to leave our old selves behind. But the holy life that Gotama had undertaken demanded that he leave behind everything he loved and everything that made up his unregenerate personality. Enlightenment is never easy.

Quest Chapter 2. At every turn. Even if the familiar is unsatisfactory. Long after Gotama had attained the supreme enlightenment. Gotama was looking for a wholly different way of living as a human being. This critical stance would stand him in good stead in the cities. There had been no caste system in Sakka.

He had not been brought up to revere the brahmins and never felt at a disadvantage with them. While begging for his food. But Gotama was able to look at the structures of Vedic society with the objectivity of an outsider. Gotama had belonged to one of the leading families in Kapilavatthu and felt quite at ease with kings and aristocrats. He would spend most of his working life in the towns and cities of the Ganges.

Gotama did not spend long in Rajagaha on this first visit. Some of them had brought their wives along and had set up a household in the When Gotama left the road to sleep in the forests of banyan. Gotama had probably seen very few monks.

In Sakka. In the early days. But by the time Gotama embarked on his quest. In the efficient new kingdoms of Kosala and Magadha. Hence a number of different schools had developed. Like the merchants. There were always some renouncers who were chiefly dropouts. By the time Gotama came to join them. But the monks of Magadha. By desire they did not mean those noble yearnings that inspired human beings to such inspiring and elevating pursuits as the holy life.

The monks of The monks had to prove that they were not parasites. The Upanisads had taught that the chief cause of suffering was ignorance: They were. Instead of regarding ignorance as the chief cause of dukkha. Kosala and the republics to the east of the Gangetic plain were more interested in practicalities. Most of the new ideologies centered on the doctrine of reincarnation and kamma: When we found that we wanted something.

They reasoned that all our actions were. Unless he felt a modicum of greed. His whole life consisted of one doomed activity after another. Nobody would bother to do an arduous and frequently boring job in order to earn a living unless he or she wanted material comforts.

But a householder had no chance of ridding himself of desire. It was his duty as a married man to beget offspring. It followed that kamma led to rebirth. But our desires impelled us to act. He could give alms to a bhikkhu. The best that our kamma could do for us was to ensure that in the next life we might be reborn as a god in one of the heavenly worlds.

But the monk was in a better position. Tied to this treadmill of fateful activity. He had given up sex. They could not bring the householder to the immeasurable peace of Nibbana. But because all kamma were limited. If he was a king or a ksatriya.

The axis of goodness

Compared with the householder. But even though he performed fewer kamma. He was still afflicted by lust. These sanghas were not tightly knit bodies. A teacher developed a dhamma. There was nothing to stop a monk from dropping his teacher as soon as he found a more congenial dhamma.

He then gathered a group of disciples. It became customary for the bhikkhus to hail Even the most committed monk knew that he had not liberated himself from craving. A number of different solutions emerged in the main monastic schools.

They had little or no common life. How could a monk liberate himself? How could he gain access to his true Self and free it from the material world. When the leader of one of the sanghas arrived in town. Lay people took sides. The religious life was not the preserve of a few eccentric fanatics. Teachers debated with one another in the city halls. And which dhamma do you follow? The sanghas were competitive and promoted their dhammas as aggressively as merchants pushed their wares in the marketplace.

The laity could appreciate the finer points in these debates. Religious knowledge in India had one criterion: Would it transform an individual, mitigate the pain of life, bring peace and hope of a final release?

Nobody was interested in metaphysical doctrine for its own sake. This is all that Buddhist enlightenment consists of. In fact, according to Siddhartha, anyone is capable of becoming a buddha and of achieving nirvana, which is why writing a biography about Siddhartha is so appropriate.

He was a man who struggled with problems like anyone else, making mistakes, learning lessons and changing directions throughout his life. He started by following in the footsteps of others, and later came to break away from all authority, ultimately establishing his own path toward reconciliation with the infinite. Armstrong's biography highlights, more than most other texts I've read, the mistakes and u-turns in the life of Siddhartha, from his abandonment of asceticism to his initial refusal to admit women into his order.

Armstrong does a wonderful job of showing that Siddhartha was not a divinely inspired figure who claimed to channel the unquestionable and final wisdom of the gods, but a real flesh and blood man who, though he sometimes stumbled, remained magnificent due to his willingness to admit mistakes, readjust his views, struggle with difficult ideas and to keep preaching the Truth as he saw it.

In this regard, Siddhartha resembles someone like Socrates more than he does Jesus. There are ideas and speculations in Armstrong's book I have never encountered before, and that imbue the Buddha's life and message with an increased level of complication.

One of these claims is that the Buddha offered a different set of teachings to those who were ready to fully commit to enlightenment than he did to those who were not. Armstrong writes that the Buddha encouraged the less committed to follow the basic rules of morality simply because it would make their lives easier and happier in the here and now. This is a quite pragmatic attitude toward morality that does not seem entirely consistent with other Buddhist doctrines, such as the second step in the Eightfold Path, which emphasizes the necessity of "right intentions," or the Buddha's assertion, in the Digha Nikaya that "there is no teaching for one type of person and another for other types.

She cites a scholar who points to the fact that upon sitting down to his last meal, Siddhartha did not allow any of his friends to eat from the same bowl from which he served himself, and afterwards that he had the leftover food buried.

This might be an indication that Siddhartha knew that his food had been tampered with and that he was trying to protect those who were with him. If this truly is the case, then it would be one more way that Siddhartha resembles Socrates, who willingly drank hemlock while his friends looked on.Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness , compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries.

She first rose to prominence in with her book A History of God: Buddhist scriptures mostly, then, outline the steps one must take to follow him. The prophets of Israel spoke to ordinary people in impassioned sermons and eloquent gestures. Recorded history only begins in about B.