Buddhist Texts Through the Ages, Edward Conze

There are a lot of Books about Buddhism out there. Most of them focus on Buddhism for modern people: what’s relevant today. That’s fine, in fact that’s great. But it’s not what the Buddha taught. It’s not what Buddhists believed in and practiced over the past 2000 years. This book is.

In Buddhist Texts Through The Ages Edward Conze collected quotes from the main Buddhist scriptures about all the central topics in the Buddhist tradition. That is: not Buddhism as it applies to YOUR main concerns, but Buddhism as Buddhists have written about it.

This is a book for the serious Buddhist, or for the student of world religion who wants to know just what Buddhism is about.

This is one of the classics in Buddhist studies. First published in 1954 it marked the beginning of accessible texts about the major strands of Buddhism for a Western audience. Because it is meant as an overview, it is still a landmark. More specialized studies have followed it, but for the general reader those are perhaps not the best place to start.

If studying popular books about Buddhism has left you wanting a more thorough knowledge of the Buddhist tradition, this is a must have volume.

The Joy of being a Buddhist monk…
(p. 52, 53):

And what, monks, are the defilements of the mind? Greed and covetousness, malevolence, anger, malice, hypocrisy, spite, envy, stinginess, deceit, treachery, obstinacy, impetuosity, arrogance, pride, conceit, indolence. If a monk thinks and kn0ws that these are defilements of the mind and gets rid of them, he becomes possessed of unwavering confidence in the Buddha and thinks: ‘Thus indeed is he the Lord, Arahant, perfect Buddha … a Buddha a Lord.’ And he becomes possessed of unwavering confidence in the Dhamma and thinks: ‘Dhamma is well taught by the Lord, it is thoroughly seen here and now, it is timeless, inviting all to come-and-see, leading onwards [to nirvana], to be understood by the wise each for himself.’ And he becomes possessed of unwavering confidence in the Order and thinks: ‘The Lord’s Order of disciples is of good conduct, upright, of wise conduct, of dutiful conduct, that is to say the four pairs of men, the eight persons. [This refers to four stages on the Path, and those who have attained to the fruits of them] This Order of the Lord’s disciples is worthy of alms, hospitality, offerings and reverence, it is a matchless field of merit for the world.’

At this stage there is for him giving up, renouncing, rejecting, getting rid of, forsaking. When he thinks that he has unwavering confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Order, he acquires knowledge of Dhamma and the delight connected with Dhamma; rapture is born from that delight; being rapturous, his body is impassible; this being so, joy is felt, and in consequence the mind is well concentrated.

The limitations of happy feelings

One of the more controversial sides of Buddhism

Pleasant feeling is one dead end, painful feeling the other, feeling that is neither painful nor pleasant is in the middle, craving is the sempstress, for craving sews one.

(Anguttara Nikaya 3, 399-401 ; Conze p. 73)

This quote implies that one has to get beyond both happiness and sorrow, as one extreme leads to the other. Instead the happy medium should be found.

There are various versions of this classic available, including a Kindle Edition

More quotes from this book

  • Author: Edward Conze
  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Kessinger Publishing, LLC (March 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1425421431
  • ISBN-13: 978-1425421434
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 9 inches

Buddhism, Edward Conze – Buddhism: Its Essence and Development

This book was written as a companion volume to ‘Buddhist texts through the ages’. The latter books has only minimal notes: such as are necessary to understand the literary meaning of the text. To understand the context and the philosophy, one needs another book.

Edward Conze wrote his ‘Buddhism’ with just that purpose.

Because this book is ABOUT Buddhism, not simply a translation of texts, this is a book that is outdated a bit after 50 years of Buddhist research. Still, it’s a good start on understanding the history and philosophy of Buddhism. Written by the same author as ‘Buddhist Texts’ it will answer the main questions the latter book gives rise to.