by Karen Armstrong

Paper Book, 2001




New York : Viking, 2001.


"Karen Armstrong's portrait of the Buddha explores both the archetypal religious icon and Buddha the man. Armstrong follows the Buddha - born Siddhama Gotama - as he leaves his wife, his young child, and his comfortable life and eminent social status for an arduous quest for spiritual enlightenment." "Armstrong brings to life the Buddha's quest from his renunciation of his privileged life to the discovery of a truth that he believed would utterly transform human beings and enable them to live at peace in the midst of life's suffering. Buddha also expands to focus and meditate on the culture and history of the time as well as the Buddha's place in the spiritual history of humanity and the special relevance of his teachings to our own society as we again face a crisis of faith."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Ogmin
An excellent introduction to the life of the prince of the Sakyas. To be brief, I was especially moved by the last chapter, where the Buddha is travelling alone with his cousin Ananda and sensing the end, he chooses to die in a small, quiet, dusty, out of the way village. The exchange between the teacher and his attendant is very touching and beautifully presented. Although I have been a Buddhist for many years, Ms. Armstrong provided unexpected insight into the humble humanity of this great teacher.… (more)
LibraryThing member Atomicmutant
OK, so I'm a Westerner with a Christian background, who would now be considered a rationalist. That makes a lot of the hows and whys of Buddhism difficult to approach. A lot of people steer away from this sort of Buddhist book, because "it's not the point". But I found this lucid, entertaining, informative, and, yes, spiritually enlightening. While it is impossible to cut through the myth and get to "the man", in the course of this "biography", it is certainly instructive to see the cultural and religious traditions from which the Buddha sprang. In the course of covering his life, Armstrong does, I think, a great job introducing the core concepts of the four noble truths and the eightfold path. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it. It's a short 200 or so pages, and an easy read (if you can call any writing about no-self, emptiness, and corporeal embodiments of universal compassion easy reading).… (more)
LibraryThing member petescisco
A solid, accessible biography of the Buddha, this book follows him from his days as a wealthy child to his doubt and then enlightenment. For anyone interested not just in the spiritual practice, but also in its origins and historical context, this is a good place to start.
LibraryThing member neurodrew
The Buddha, initially Siddhatta Gotama, is depicted in good prose, exploring his life and as much as is possible of his teachings without learning the disciplines of yoga. The interesting idea is that the teachings of the Buddha are intended to be a path to happiness and contentment, and are judged effective only if they achieve this goal in the individual. The 5th or 6th century BC Ganges plain was in turmoil, and Armstrong presents the Buddha’s teachings as a response to the dwindling belief in old agrarian Gods in response to increasing urbanization of life in the region. She also talks about the Axial Religions: the great changes in religion in India, Zoroaster in Iran, middle prophets in Jewish scripture, and Confucius in China, all emphasizing personal morality and individual ethics rather than roles inherited from castes. This appears to be a concept from Karl Jaspers and others looking back at these times.
Not much is known for sure about the Buddha’s life, but enough to suggest he was a historical figure, not a myth.

Read during a trip to Oakland.
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LibraryThing member Sandydog1
short, dense, concise and well worth a second reading.
LibraryThing member Gary10
Nonfiction account of the Buddah and Buddahism. I found it difficult to keep involved with--in part because so few records exist on the life of the man.
LibraryThing member bruce.montador
Not easy to follow; may reflect sources
LibraryThing member dvf1976


Siddhattha Gotama became the Buddha when he was 29 years old.

That's my age!

I'd love to be remembered for finding a 'middle way'.

(Although unlike the Buddha, I'd like to avoid ditching my wife and child to do it)
LibraryThing member alexgieg
A short and well written, although somewhat too materialistic, biography of the Buddha.
LibraryThing member Anagarika
A short, concise story of the Buddha.
LibraryThing member beabatllori
I picked this up expecting it would help me gather, organize and extend what little I knew about Buddhism. This book turned out to be rather helpful for that purpose, and as objective as can be expected (considering it's the biography of a man on whom we have very little "biographical" material). I'm not feeling particularly enthralled or "enlightened", but I'm glad I read it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tullius22
A decent sketch of the guy's life.

LibraryThing member BenKline
A good informative biography of the Buddha (Gotami). A very interesting read. A bit dry, but Karen Armstrong is a very skilled narrator and biographer and historian that it sucks you in and it's easy enough for the "layman" to read. Her "The History of God" was exceptional and this was no different. Though this was far shorter; but still very educational while being concise (definitely a plus). Just reminds me of how one of my 'bucket list' items is to walk and re-trace the steps of the Buddha some-day.… (more)
LibraryThing member gulley
Karen Armstrong doesn't have much to go on when it comes to telling a story about a person in the conventional sense. The Buddha seems so remote and impossibly unhuman. But Armstrong does lay a good historical foundation, and it's easy enough to see how the many centuries between here and there would have scrubbed the humanity out of just about anyone.… (more)
LibraryThing member tgraettinger
Not so much a biography than a primer. A better description of Buddhism and where it came from than anything else I've read.
LibraryThing member PhoenixTerran
Karen Armstrong has written a marvelous book investigating the life of Sidhatta Gotama, the Buddha. She writes from many different perspectives, including biography, history, mythology, and philosophy. She has delved into the sacred writings of Buddhism and put the life of the Buddha into the historical context of his time. Her writing style flows gracefully from one event and subject to another, and is quite pleasant to read. This is a wonderful book to start with if you're interested in the "historical" Buddha, or simply want to learn more about the Buddha or Buddhism.

Experiments in Reading
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LibraryThing member SLuce
Read during my trip to New Orleans. Understood more about Buddhism than all my other reading on this subject.



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