Book Review: Buton’s History of Buddhism in India and Its Spread to Tibet: A Treasury of Priceless Scripture

Buton’s History of Buddhism in India and Its Spread to Tibet: A Treasury of Priceless Scripture by Buton Richen Drup is a bit of an unexpected read. The author is a 14th Century Tibetan Buddhist leader and the 11th abbot of Shalu Monastery. In addition to running the monastery, he also cataloged 4,569 religious and philosophical works in writing The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet. 

To start, as a history it is not what is expected. There is no date by date structure or mention of dates. There also is no cultural study or even how Buddhism spread to Tibet. Rather it is a collection of Buddhists texts . The first section of the book is a detailed study of Buddhism as it was taught at the time . That is followed up with two hundred pages of Buddhist text as history. Finally, there is a a short section on Buddhist history in Tibet. 

The writing is mostly ancient texts and the reading is very educational. This book is a great reference and a worthwhile read for those who want a very detailed study on Buddhism or the serious student or disciple. This book goes far beyond the Eight-fold Path and the Four Noble Truths. For Westerners the book may be compared to Leviticus opposed to the Ten Commandments. Most people can name a couple commandments but few can give a detailed accounts of the laws in Leviticus; the same with The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet. 

The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet is a difficult book to review because it is mostly religious texts. It is difficult to critique something written 700 years ago from texts that are even older. If Buddhism is something that interests you in a deep or scholarly way, by all means read this book; it is an excellent study. If you have a passing interest in Buddhism or just starting out, come back for it when you are ready.

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