Review: “An Illustrated Outline Of Buddhism: The Essentials Of Buddhist Spirituality” By William Stoddart

Via NetGalley, World Wisdom provided me with a copy of this book for the purposes of reading and reviewing it. While I was provided this book at no cost to me, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review. It should be noted this is a review of an advance copy of the book, which has not been published yet, and the contents of the final version might vary from my copy.

Always wanting to learn more about Buddhism, I requested this book in the hope of doing just that. Stoddart certainly didn’t disappoint me with this offering.

The author begins where he should, presuming the reader has only a passing familiarity with Buddhism. He covers terminology first, although it does seem rather fast and furious at times. But that’s the foundation that must be laid before discussing anything further. He also covers the various traditions of Buddhism and briefly how they differ.

Next, Stoddart talks about the life, before and after enlightenment, of Siddhārtha Gautama, who became the Buddha. I believe it’s appropriate that not too much is spent on the life and teachings of the Buddha himself, as it covers only a short period of time in the great scheme of things.

Notable Buddhists throughout history area covered next, each with a brief discussion of why they were included. This gives a nice foundation of the origins of Buddhism and the passing of teachings from one teacher to another.

Last, Stoddart covers the spread of Buddhism through various Asian countries, in particular China, Japan and Korea. Along the way, the author provides timelines showing important dates and persons involved in the spread of Buddhism.

What I found most interesting in the book was not the text itself, but the various pictures included. Among them are beautiful temples, paintings, sculptures, mandalas, and other Buddhist treasures throughout Asia.

While the book didn’t offer a lot of new information for me, it certainly stands as an outstanding resource for a beginner, giving them a nice historical foundation from which to start. The study of Buddhism itself is beyond the scope of this book, but that’s fine, as Stoddart doesn’t attempt to reach beyond that scope.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)