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Buddhism in Five Minutes

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In Buddhism in Five Minutes, academic specialists offer answers to over 80 questions about Buddhism that people curious about Buddhism might ask. The questions cover the Buddha, what the Buddha taught, Buddhist monasticism and the role of lay people, the historical development of Buddhism, Buddhist art, Buddhist ethics, Buddhist responses to other religions, and Buddhist thought on contemporary issues. They include: Who is the fat Buddha figure? Can we know what the historical Buddha taught? What is Nirvāṇa? Why do Buddhists meditate? Does Buddhism support gender equality? What is Zen Buddhism? Are Buddhists pacifist? What do Buddhists think about those who are LGBTQI? Are alcohol and drugs ever acceptable to Buddhists? How do Buddhists view Artificial Intelligence? Are there Buddhists in Latin America? Taken together the questions cover most aspects of Buddhist belief and practice in the contemporary world.

The collection is sponsored by the UK Association for Buddhist Studies but contributors are drawn from Asia, North America and Latin America, as well as Europe. The questions are answered in accessible, non-specialist language without too many footnotes. Each should take not much more than five minutes to read.

Published: Nov 1, 2021

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Buddhism as a Religion
1. Is Buddhism a Religion? Denise Cush
2. What is the Role and Focus of Faith in Buddhism? Asanga Tilakaratne
3. What is the Role of Ritual in Buddhism? Asanga Tilakaratne
4. Are Relics Important to Buddhists? Kevin Trainor
5. What are the Holy Texts of Buddhism? Asanga Tilakaratne
6. What is the Place of Images in Buddhism? Sarah Shaw
7. What is the Role of Narrative in Buddhism? Going beyond the Story of the Buddha Brian Black
8. Is Buddhism Atheistic, Non-theistic or Theistic? Peter Harvey
The Buddha
9. What do we Know of the Historical Buddha? Dhivan Thomas Jones
10. How is the Nature of Buddhahood to be Understood? Christopher Jones
11. How does one ‘Read’ a Buddha-image? Ronit Wang
12. Who is the Fat Buddha Figure? Paulina Kolata
13. What is a Bodhisattva? Ven Jianchengshi
14. How do Buddhists Show their Devotion to the Buddha? Paulina Kolata
What the Buddha Taught (1)
15. Can we Know what the Historical Buddha Taught? Rupert Gethin
16. What Part does Belief in Rebirth Play in Buddhism? Peter Harvey
17. Does Buddhism See the Mind as Separate from the Body? Peter Harvey
18. Do Buddhists See All that Happens to One as Due to Karma? Peter Harvey
19. Is Buddhism Fatalistic? Elizabeth Harris
20. What is Seen as Reborn, According to Buddhism? Peter Harvey
21. To what Extent does Buddhism ‘Deny the Self’? The Non-Self Teaching Christopher Jones
22. What are the ‘Four Noble Truths’ About? Arjuna Ranatunga
23. What does Non-attachment Mean in Buddhism? Dhivan Thomas Jones
24. What is Nirvana? Arjuna Ranatunga
25. What is it to be ‘Enlightened’? Peter Harvey
26. What is Buddha-Nature? Christopher Jones
27. What Kinds of ‘Saints’ does Buddhism have? Arjuna Ranatunga
What the Buddha Taught (2) Meditation
28. Why do Buddhists Meditate? Sarah Shaw
29. What is ‘Mindfulness’ in Buddhism, and does it Differ from Modern Secular ‘Mindfulness’? Tse-fu Kuan
30. What Kinds of Meditation are there in Buddhism? Dhivan Thomas Jones
31. What is the Role of Chanting in Buddhism? Ven Renru Tang
Monastics and Lay People in Buddhism
32. What is the Role of Monasticism in Buddhism? Ann Heirman
33. How does One become Ordained? Ann Heirman
34. What Rules do Monastics Follow? Alice Collett
35. What is the Position of Nuns in Buddhism? Ann Heirman
36. What is the Role of Lay Buddhists? Alice Collett
37. Does Buddhism Support Gender Equality? Alice Collett
38. What is the Role of Preaching in Buddhism? Mahinda Deegalle
Development of Buddhism: Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism
39. How did Buddhism Relate to the Brahmanism of the Buddha’s Day, and Later Hinduism? Christopher Jones
40. What Splits were there in Buddhism in the Early Centuries? Peter Harvey
41. What are the Main Contemporary Divisions in Buddhism: Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna? Christopher Jones
42. What is the ‘Hīnayāna’? Asanga Tilakaratne
43. What is Zen Buddhism? Hiroko Kawanami
44. What is Pure Land Buddhism? Wendy Dossett
45. What is the Role of the Dalai Lama? Cathy Cantwell
46. What is the Bodhisattva Vow? Sebastian Beaumont
47. What are the Meanings of ‘Emptiness’ in Mahāyāna Buddhism? Christopher Jones
48. Is Buddhist Tantra All about Sex? Nick Swann
49. Why are There so Many Different Celestial Beings in Tibetan Buddhism? Cathy Cantwell
Buddhist Art and Material Culture
50. What are the Main Buildings and Symbols of Buddhism? Arjuna Ranatunga
51. Why do Buddhists Make Art? Christian Luczanits
52. What is a Mandala? Christian Luczanits
53. What Kind of Contemporary Buddhist Art Exists? Tim Stephens
Buddhism and Other Religions
54. How do Buddhists View Other Religious Traditions? Elizabeth Harris
55. How has Buddhism been Influenced by Other Religious Traditions? How has Buddhism Influenced Other Religious Traditions? Sophie Barker
56. What Interreligious Encounters are Buddhists Involved in Now? Elizabeth Harris
Buddhism and Ethics
57. What are the Key Buddhist Ethical Values? Tim Stephens
58. What Ethical Precepts does Buddhism have? Nick Swann
59. Are Buddhists Pacifists? Peter Harvey
60. Are Buddhists Vegetarian? Dhivan Thomas Jones
61. Does Buddhism have Rules for Marriage, Family and Social Life? Alice Collett
62. How do Buddhist View Suicide and Self-immolation? Peter Harvey
63. What is Engaged Buddhism? Tim Stephens
64. Does Buddhism Encourage Indifference to the World? Pyi Kyaw
65. How has Buddhism and Buddhists Related to Politics? Brian Black
66. How Important is Compassion in Buddhism? Pyi Kyaw
67. Is Non-attachment Compatible with Compassion? Elizabeth Harris
Buddhism and Contemporary Issues
68. What do Buddhists Think about Sex? TBD .
69. What do Buddhists Think about Those who are LGBTQI? TBD .
70. Should Buddhism be Taught in Schools? Denise Cush
71. How do Buddhists See People with Disabilities? TBD .
72. Are Alcohol and Drugs ever Acceptable to Buddhists? Wendy Dossett
73. Are Human Rights Compatible with Buddhism? Damien Keown
74. Are Buddhists Active in Ecological Movements and Protecting the Environment to Mitigate Climate Change? Alex Owens
Buddhism and Science
75. How do Buddhists Relate to the Methods of Science? Tim Stephens
76. How do Buddhists View Evolution? Manuel Ato del Ave Carrera
77. How do Buddhists View Artificial Intelligence? Ralph Quinlan
78. How do Buddhists Relate to Modern Technology? Nick Swann
Emergent Buddhism
79. What is Secular Buddhism? Tim Stephens
80. Is Western Buddhism a New Form of Buddhism? Sarah Shaw
81. How can Buddhist Enquiry Contribute to Qualitative Research? Tim Stephens
82. Are there Buddhists in Central and Southern America? Manuel Ato del Ave Carrera