I can’t truthfully say that reading a lot about the history of Buddhism is going to help you become a better Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. So, if you are not into reading or listening to audio books about Buddhism in general, you can skip this post. Seriously, you can know nothing about how Buddhism got to Tibet and do just fine on your path to liberation, at least in my opinion.
However, being classically educated and teaching philosophy at the college level, it is a tough habit of mine to break, not knowing “from whence I came” so to speak. If you were to do a search on ‘Buddhism’ on Amazon, you will get hundreds of hits. My goal in this blog is to make life easier for you. So I am going to share some of the books I read to help orient me about what, historically, went on where Buddhism is concerned.
After reading many texts, I found that this simple series of college lectures pretty much does the trick in getting you up to speed quickly. It is not that you have to know every single minute detail, or personality. But it is about being able, later on, to distinguish between a Buddhist center or a resource or a talk that is within the kind of Buddhism and tradition you want. And assuming you want Tibetan Buddhism, you will find that a lot of information out there is NOT actually Tibetan. This course will arm you with magical glasses, so you can see what is really going on with information you see online or in Buddhist publications like Lion’s Roar.
Robert Thurman is an American who was ordained by H.H. The Dalai Lama as a Buddhist monk. He knows more about Tibetan Buddhism than you can imagine. The guy is amazing. This book is just one of many things he has written and researched. He is super well known in the Tibetan Buddhist scholarly world. However, once you get practicing (doing prayers and liturgies) with others, few if any talk about him. But working your way through this book, ( I chose the audio version so I can listen while I am doing other things), definitely helps. He plants a lot of seeds in your head that pop up years later on your journey. “A ha! That is what Bob meant when he talked about _______”, still happens to me often (grin).