Essential Tibetan Buddhism, by Robert A.F. Thurman

My Copy: 9780785808725 (image from, different design from what’s available today)

I’ve had this book on my shelf for roughly fifteen years, and hadn’t so much as cracked it open til this week. I suppose there was a reason for that. I had to struggle to hit the 100 page benchmark before giving up.

Yes, I didn’t finish the book, so take this with a grain of salt if you want.

The introduction was 45 pages long, and even that was tough to get to. After that, Essential Tibetan Buddhism goes into clusters of scriptures, poetry, stories, etc. I think it’s just the presentation that made things difficult. It felt way over my head in the introduction, and then with the scriptures, it just jumped in.

Maybe I didn’t get enough out of the introduction, though I tried. I think there would’ve been some benefit to the idea that each section of the chapter with different types of scriptures or whatever could have a short introductory paragraph explaining what it is we’re going to be reading.

That would’ve made me keep going, that’s for sure. Those touches really help in an unfamiliar cultural text.

I also think that perhaps this is a more intermediate to advanced read for someone already familiar with Buddhism, Tibetan or otherwise. I have no real background except for scraps I’d gleaned in college, so I came into this without preparation. I hoped this would be a more novice-friendly text.

I’ve read other translated and compiled religious texts (anything done by Thomas Cleary is fantastically done, just to give a heads up), and this book was in the same style with the same publisher. I didn’t notice it was a totally different author til later, but I figured maybe it was part of some series.

Nope, this is a whole different animal. Then again, I’m sure Cleary has mostly dealt with Western religious history and texts versus the East.

But I digress.

If you’ve already got some Buddhism background to work with, then this book might just be useful. On the other hand, it’s not beginner-friendly, so if you’re like me (trying to learn everything you possibly can), then this might be a book to set aside for another year.

I’ll have to start with Buddhism for Dummies the next time I tackle Eastern philosophy and religion, I suppose.

Again, I didn’t finish Essential Tibetan Buddhism, but I tried. Just need more background or exposure to it, so take this review with a grain of salt if you want.

2 thoughts on “Essential Tibetan Buddhism, by Robert A.F. Thurman

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      I got Buddhism for Dummies on my shelf, and I’m itching to read it. I just felt this one was on there so damned long I’d better pull it down and read it. Bu it was way over my head–no sense of context to work with, and even though i’d read other stuff, I admit I’m a bit confused with Buddhism. Sometimes Buddha is on par with Jesus or God, other times it’s the philosophy people claim without acknowledging a godhead. I guess it’s the fluidity of it (without much direction) that made this so tough to try and get through. I’ll give these resources a whirl, though. They could only help my understanding at this point (hee hee).

      Liked by 1 person

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