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Reference Books on Buddhism


Buddhism A to Z
Ronald Epstein, PhD

A Readable Reference Guide
What do sangha, karma and Bodhisattva really mean? Who were the major disciples of the Buddha? Find out in this lively and easy-to-read, alphabetical listing of major Buddhist terms and figures. Written by a practicing Buddhist scholar for the beginner, many entries read like short stories. Cross references.

What others are saying about Buddhism A to Z

A highly recommended introductory reference . . . a "user friendly" and recommended addition to personal and academic Buddhist Studies reference collections.
Midwest Book Review


  $21.95 trade paper
284 p withcolor illustrations
ISBN: 088139-353-3
includes bibliographies and indicies
BQ130.E76 2003

Have you confused karma with dharma? Amida with Gautama? The Five Desires with the Eightfold Path? Then Ronald Epstein's Buddhism A to Z can provide a little enlightenment. Geared for English-speaking Westerners who want to know more about Buddhism, this alphabetical dictionary covers everything from the role of an abbot to the contributions of Zen. The format is very user-friendly, with a dual-column layout, 100 illustrations, and explanatory quotes from Buddhist masters.
................................................................................Publishers Weekly

the right mix of scholarly attention and accessible language.
David Batsone
Department of Theology & Religious Studies
University of San Francisco

a comprehensive handbook, not only useful for the interested beginner but also a treasury of teachings for the experienced practioner.
Ajahn Amaro
Co-abbot of Abbhayagiri Monastery


An excerpt from Buddhism A to Z
copyright Buddhist Text Translation Society 2003

Chan is an abbreviation of chan-na; the Chinese characters sounded slightly different in the past and were used to represent the sound of the Sanskirt word dhyana. The general meaning of dhyana is meditation. In the Chan School the practice of meditation is foremost. The Japanese pronounce the character for chan as zen.
The Chan School is foremost among the Five Great Schools of Buddhism in that it transmits the Buddha's Mind Seal, pointing directly to the mind so that one sees one's nature and becomes a Buddha. When the Patriarch Bodhidharma came from India, he widely propogated this method. At that time the practitioners of Buddhism were still very enamored of the language of prajna, exerting their efforts in the compostion and phrasing, vying on the sutras they argued over each other's strong and weak points, and in speaking Dharma they would praise themsevles and deprecate others.

Different schools were set up, and doing battle with words was the mode of the times. Some resorted to individualism and in an attempt to be unique, they set up theories that were distinctly different from the mainstream, and they perfected the art of unobstructed and clever debate. People wrote books and set up doctrines, disparaging others while promoting themselves. In this way they forsook what was fundamental and pursued superficialityies; the theories of teaching schools flourished widely.

The four main enlightened teachers in China just prior to the introduction of the Chan lineage were the Venerable Daosheng, Vinaya Master Daoxuan, the Great Master Zhiyi and the Venerable Dayuan. Each taught mediation in the context of the teachings of his own school.