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Buddhism in Five Minutes

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In Buddhism in Five Minutes, academic specialists offer answers to 75 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? 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.

Because each chapter can be read in about five minutes, the books offer ideal supplementary resources in classrooms or an engaging read for those curious about the world around them.

Published: Oct 25, 2021

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Cathy Cantwell
Introduction Elizabeth Harris
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? Brian Black
8. Is Buddhism Atheistic, Non-theistic or Theistic? Peter Harvey
The Buddha
9. What do we Know about 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. What is Seen as Reborn, According to Buddhism? Peter Harvey
20. To what Extent does Buddhism "Deny the Self"? The Non-Self Teaching Christopher Jones
21. What are the "Four Noble Truths" About? Arjuna Ranatunga
22. What is Non-attachment in Buddhism? Dhivan Thomas Jones
23. What is Nirvana? Arjuna Ranatunga
24. What is it to be "Enlightened" or "Awakened"? Peter Harvey
25. What Kinds of "Saints" does Buddhism have? Arjuna Ranatunga
What the Buddha Taught (2) Meditation
26. Why do Buddhists Meditate? Sarah Shaw
27. What is "Mindfulness" in Buddhism, and does it Differ from Modern Secular "Mindfulness"? Tse-fu Kuan
28. What Kinds of Meditation are there in Buddhism? Dhivan Thomas Jones
29. What is the Role of Chanting in Buddhism? Ven Renru Tang
Monasticism and Lay People in Buddhism
30. What is the Role of Monasticism in Buddhism? Ann Heirman
31. How does One become Ordained? Ann Heirman
32. What Rules do Monastics Follow? Alice Collett
33. What is the Position of Nuns in Buddhism? Ann Heirman
34. What is the Role of Lay Buddhists? Alice Collett
35. Does Buddhism Support Gender Equality? Alice Collett
36. What is the Role of Preaching in Buddhism? Mahinda Deegalle
Development of Buddhism: Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism
37. How did Buddhism Relate to the Brahmanism of the Buddha’s Day, and Later Hinduism? Christopher Jones
38. What Splits were there in Buddhism in the Early Centuries? Peter Harvey
39. What are the Main Contemporary Divisions in Buddhism: Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna? Christopher Jones
40. What is the ‘Hīnayāna’? Elizabeth Harris
41. What is Zen Buddhism? Hiroko Kawanami
42. What is Pure Land Buddhism? Wendy Dossett
43. What is the Role of the Dalai Lama? Cathy Cantwell
44. What is the Bodhisattva Vow? Nick Swann
45. What is Buddha-Nature? Christopher Jones
46. What are the Meanings of "Emptiness" in Mahāyāna Buddhism? Christopher Jones
47. Is Tantric Buddhism Just about Sex? Nick Swann
48. Why are There so Many Different Celestial Beings in Tibetan Buddhism? Cathy Cantwell
Buddhist Art and Material Culture
49. What are the Main Buildings and Symbols of Buddhism? Arjuna Ranatunga
50. Why do Buddhists Make Art? Christian Luczanits
51. What is a Mandala? Christian Luczanits
52. How is Buddhism Influencing Contemporary Art? Tim Stephens
Buddhism and Other Religions
53. How has Buddhism been Influenced by Other Religious Traditions? Sophie Barker
54. How do Buddhists View Other Religious Traditions and What Kind of Interreligious Encounters are Buddhists Involved in Now? Elizabeth Harris
Buddhism and Ethics
55. What Vows do Buddhists Take? Nick Swann
56. Are Buddhists Pacifists? Peter Harvey
57. Are Buddhists Vegetarian? Dhivan Thomas Jones
58. Does Buddhism have Rules for Marriage and Family Life? Alice Collett
59. How do Buddhist View Suicide and Self-immolation? Peter Harvey
60. What is Engaged Buddhism? Tim Stephens
61. What is the Relationship between Buddhism and Politics? Brian Black
62. How Important is Compassion in Buddhism? Pyi Kyaw
63. Is Non-attachment Compatible with Compassion? Elizabeth Harris
Buddhism and Contemporary Issues
64. What do Buddhists Think about Sex? Amy Langenberg
65. What do Buddhists Think about Those who are LGBTQI? Sal Campbell
66. Should Buddhism be Taught in Schools? Denise Cush
67. Are Alcohol and Drugs ever Acceptable to Buddhists? Wendy Dossett
68. Are Human Rights Compatible with Buddhism? Damien Keown
69. What does Buddhism have to Say about Race? Tim Stephens
70. Are Buddhists Active in Ecological Movements and Protecting the Environment to Mitigate Climate Change? Alex Owens
71. How do Buddhists Relate to the Methods of Science? Tim Stephens
72. What is the Buddhist Attitude to Modern Technology? Nick Swann
Emergent Buddhism
73. What is Secular Buddhism? Tim Stephens
74. How do Buddhists View Artificial Intelligence? Ralph Quinlan
75. Is Western Buddhism a New Form of Buddhism? Sarah Shaw
End Matter
Index Elizabeth Harris