A Concise History of Buddhism


Andrew Skilton

            Andrew Skilton, a Brit, was ordained a member of the Western Buddhist Order in 1979, and he published this book in 1994.  He has a degree in theology and has studied at Oxford.  That’s all of the good news.  A Concise History of Buddhism isn’t a history at all.  It is a pathetic, rambling commentary on fragmentary thoughts, most of which are beyond comprehension and take the reader nowhere.  To compound the agony of this work, the prose is labored by an endless use of Hindu words and phrases, many of which are never translated, and those that are become lost in the reader’s memory as so many are used.  The use of the word “History” in the title is, perhaps, the most offensively misleading element.  It tricks the buyer into purchasing something that has virtually no connection to its title.

              Having just read a treatise on Hinduism, this reader had a distinct advantage: he knew a number of the terms, the titles of various Hindu scriptures, and had some idea as to the thrust of those works.  What one garners from Skilton’s work is confirmed in more valuable Hindu texts: Buddha was a Hindu monk (or at least monastic in style); he developed followers, and the followers evolved into another Hindu sect.  (There are a handful of major Hindu sects but several thousand minor ones.)  Buddhism is, after all, little more than a further prominent Hindu sect.  It’s teachings, styles of meditation, yoga, asceticism, semi-Janism, etc., are very similar to those of many Hindus.  While different sources give different data on point, the world is said to be comprised of roughly 33% Christians, 20% Muslims, 15% Hindus, 6% Confucian/Chinese philosophies, 6% Buddhists, 5% Other, .2% Jewish, and 15% Non-religious.  (See http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm.)

In sum, if you want to learn about Buddhism or anything else, avoid this book.

Lee Lovett, Oct., 2005