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Someone suggested that one good way to use this site can be to study books together, and post any questions from those books that we may have. The idea is that the text should be one that will stimulate our question-asking faculties, which we then apply by asking questions about the book of the month on Buddhism.SE. Everyone is free to participate.

Last month, the book selected for reading was Good Question Good Answer.

I'm opening this thread to get suggestions of buddhism books for reading during this month. One book per answer, please; top voted answer by June 15th can be our book to be studied this month.

There's really no restrictions for book suggestions, other than being available in english. However, books that are freely available are likely to be favored.

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  • Shamefully I've not finished last month's book yet so I'm going to duck out of this one and not suggest anything this time. Looks like we've got some good suggestions going anyway. Cheers – Crab Bucket Jun 7 '15 at 17:46
  • Don't hold yourself from suggesting though: maybe you came across something that many would find an interesting pick? :) – Thiago Jun 7 '15 at 19:02
  • There are many books recommended in this topic: Introductory books to Buddhism – ChrisW Jun 15 '15 at 1:49
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Any interest this month in "Women in Buddhism - Question & Answers" by Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Ph.D.? (Theravada tradition)

Ven. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh provides answers to questions often asked about women and the ordination issue and related topics. She responds to such questions as: In the Buddha's time what role did women play in Buddhism? Why cannot women become buddhas? What is the Buddhist attitude towards prostitution? What is an attitude of a Buddhist towards abortion? What is the unique characteristic in American Buddhism which might interest a feminist?

At 70 pages, it would be short and potentially interesting reading. :)

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  • we have a winner! I'll post the choice later on today :) – Thiago Jun 15 '15 at 19:26
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Here's one that looks terribly interesting to me and happens to be freely available online (legally or illegally, I can't say):

The Boundaries of Knowledge in Buddhism, Christianity, and Science

This volume brings together insights from religion (represented by Buddhism and Christianity) and science to address the question, What can we know about reality? Here science and religion engage each other in the human endeavour to understand a reality tantalizingly beyond our ability to understand fully.

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I'm interested in the following because it might help with understanding what the Buddha said.

How Buddhism Began – The conditioned genesis of the early teachings

  • Its table of contents is,

    1. Debate, Skill in Means, Allegory and Literalism ... page 1
    2. How, not What: Kamma as a Reaction to Brahminism ... page 27
    3. Metaphor, Allegory, Satire ... page 65
    4. Retracing an Ancient Debate: How Insight Worsted Concentration in the Pali Canon ... page 96
    5. Who was Akgulimala? ... page 135
  • It's written by Richard Gombrich who is or was

    • Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford from 1976 to 2004
    • Founder-President of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies
    • Past President of the Pali Text Society (1994–2002)
  • Summary

    This book, the second edition of How Buddhism Began, takes a fresh look at the earliest Buddhist texts and offers various suggestions how the teachings in them had developed. Two themes predominate. Firstly, it argues that we cannot understand the Buddha unless we understand that he was debating with other religious teachers, notably Brahmins. The other main theme concerns metaphor, allegory and literalism. By taking the words of the texts literally – despite the Buddha’s warning not to – successive generations of his disciples created distinctions and developed doctrines far beyond his original intention.

  • From the Introduction,

    The main purpose of this book is to present the Buddha’s ideas in their historical context.

    My most prominent theme, pursued in chapters II and III, is the relationship of the Buddha’s ideas to the brahminical ideas of his day

    In chapter IV I discuss the problem of monks who are said to be ‘released by insight’ (pañña-vimutto) and yet to lack the supernormal powers which result from accomplishment in meditation, specifically in the four jhana

    I show in chapter V that the legend of Angulimala, the brigand with the garland of human fingers, is incoherent in its traditional form. Very small changes in the text transform Angulimala into a worshipper of Siva and thus make sense of his behaviour. The commentators probably knew as little of Saivism several centuries before their time as they did of brahminism.

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  • I have this one unread, so it would be a nice motivation to put it in the front of the queue :) -- I did read Gombrich's "What the Buddha Thought" which I really liked (both his pleasant style and erudition). – Thiago Jun 7 '15 at 19:08
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Good, Evil and Beyond Kamma in the Buddha's Teaching by Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto

No. pages: 129

From the first pages:

Universally acknowledged as Thailand’s foremost Buddhist scholar, Venerable P. A. Payutto’s works range widely, from detailed exposition of the Suttas and Vinaya to consideration of the problems of society, environment, economy, law, and science and technology – all of these books and talks are based on an exceptionally profound and comprehensive grasp of the Buddha’s Teaching, which is given full expression in his ‘magnum opus’, Buddhadhamma, a book of over one thousand pages.

From Introduction:

The work presented here is based on a single chapter from Buddhadhamma, by Venerable P. A. Payutto. Buddhadhamma is perhaps the author’s most formal and ambitious book to date

However, I quickly read a few pages and it seems to be very accessible. Also from Introduction:

It is my belief that the present book is an invaluable reference for both the casual student and the more committed practicer of Buddhism.

There's also a chapter about misunderstandings of kamma in a Q&A style.

Contents:

  1. Understanding the Law of Kamma
    • Kamma as a law of nature
    • The law of kamma and social preference
    • The meaning of kamma
      • a: Kamma as intention
      • b: Kamma as conditioning factor
      • c: Kamma as personal responsibility
      • d: Kamma as social activity or career
    • Kinds of kamma
  2. On Good and Evil
    • The problem of good and evil
    • The meaning of kusala and akusala
    • Kusala and akusala as catalysts for each other
    • Gauging good and bad kamma
    • Primary Factors
    • Secondary Factors
  3. The Fruition of Kamma
    • Results of kamma on different levels
    • Factors which affect the fruition of kamma
    • Understanding the process of fruition
    • Fruits of kamma on a long term basis –
    • Heaven and Hell
    • Summary: verifying future lives
    • Kamma fruition in the Cula Kammavibhanga Sutta
  4. Kamma on the Social Level
    • The importance of ditthi in the creation of kamma
    • External influences and internal reflection
    • Personal responsibility and social kamma
    • Responsible social action
  5. The Kamma that Ends Kamma
  6. Misunderstandings of the Law of Kamma
    • Who causes happiness and suffering?
    • Beliefs that are contrary to the law of kamma
    • Can kamma be erased?
    • Do kamma and not-self contradict each other?
  7. In Conclusion
    • The general meaning
    • Intelligence over superstition
    • Action rather than prayer
    • Non-adherence to race or class
    • Self reliance
    • A caution for the future
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