2008:The Best Buddhist Book I Read this Year

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An End to Suffering:The Buddha in the World by Pankaj Mishra.

Published in 2004 this interesting and non-technical overview of  the historical Buddha and Buddhism was refreshing to read.

Pankaj Mishra personalizes his search for Buddha in India by visiting the various places where Buddha lived and traveled and where Buddhism developed. It has the feel sometimes of a travelogue as well as his personal narrative of his search for the Buddha’s inspirations and his own desire to understand this important development in the history of Indian culture.

While not overly scholarly he does provide a lot of interesting historical background that enlivens the view of what is elsewhere rather dry subject matter. One can almost see the panorama of the Himalayas and the flowering of Buddhism in that magnificent context.

As a writer he also discusses the influence of this Buddhist quest on his work and himself. He provides honest self-reflection that is both keen and insightful.

And he then gives a vibrant discussion of the spread of Buddhism to the west and its subsequent resurgence in India.

One thing that does stand out is his ability to encompass both the Indian and western viewpoints and examine their similarities and differences. This cross-cultural or bi-cultural discussion is particularly relevant for western Buddhism at the moment and getting a passionate yet well balanced view from non-western cultures is both informative and necessary.

Globalization of Buddhism is happening at an unprecedented rate and this book gives a good balanced perspective.

I have read some of this author’s other works and quite often he confronts the issues of culture clashes and globalization. His intelligent and honest viewpoint is something I’ve come to appreciate.

This book is suitable for newcomers to Buddhism as well as those with some experience and knowledge of the subject.

Here is a very good interview with Pankaj Mishra

In Canada you can get it from Amazon at this link:

An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World

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