This work seeks to give an integrated understanding of the rich and multi-faceted Buddhist tradition through the exploration of a number of key themes: sacred writings, human nature, portrayals of the ultimate and the divine, devotional practices, rites of passage, ethics, gender, attitudes to nature, cosmology, myth and symbolism and sacred space. These themes have been selected to be of interest to the general reader as well as to students of religious studies, Buddhist studies and anthropology, and are dealt with from a broadly phenomenological perspective by a team of scholars, Buddhist and non-Buddhist. They provide a picture of Buddhist visions of reality, myths and symbols, and emphasize the way in which these are lived out in practice. The book illustrates the constant interplay of belief and practice within Buddhism and provides a view of both the diversity and continuity found within the different Buddhist communities. The introduction gives an historical overview of the traditions of Buddhism and relates the themes dealt with to Ninian Smart's system of seven dimensions of religion.
Peter Harvey is Professor of Buddhist Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Sunderland, UK. He is a co-founder of the UK Association of Buddhist Studies and is a Theravada Buddhist.