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So, I've received "The Great Courses" catalogs for years! And for years I've been curious, but unless they are having one of their periodic sales (which I always happened to miss), I just felt they were massively overpriced. At least beyond my budget, I knew that much. So when I saw them arrive here at Audible for FAR less money, I was thrilled and purchased immediately! I listened to this title all at once, as I cleaned my house today.
A subject of particular interest to me is Buddhism, and there's two titles they offer, "Buddhism" and this one, "Great World Religions: Buddhism". The difference seems to be that this one is shorter, has less "lectures" (chapters) and is more of an introductory version. It being the lesser priced of the two, I decided to try this one out as my first purchase of these "Great Courses".
So, the first thing I feel like I should note is that it's not so much a "course" as just a lecture divided into chapters. There are no assignments, no students (other than you, the listener), no homework, books or any study materials whatsoever. That may seem more obvious here on Audible but I've always viewed their catalogs and actually thought it was some sort of, well, COURSE. It's really just listening to a professor speak on the subject, Buddhism in this case. This is fine as long as you are aware of that. I would have been livid if I had paid the $135.00 that the website wants for the CD's or even their digital price of $90.00 just to discover it's only a lecture. But for the ten bucks I paid here? Sure, worth it.
One minor criticism, and this isn't a huge deal, but worth a mention: It's a lecture in front of a "pretend audience". We're supposed to think he's standing at a podium in front of a college class of students or perhaps something like a TED talk, but it's really just clearly pre-recorded applause tracks and he's sitting in a quiet studio recording this. I mention it because it's **painfully obvious**; the chapters ("lectures") are each about 30 minutes long and start and end with the identical fake applause, so you hear that every half hour. There are times when he 'banters' or jokes with "the class", and that's just awkward because there's no one else giggling but him. However, having said that, I do actually appreciate that he makes a very genuine effort to personalize the listening experience and so perhaps I am being too harsh. Again, for ten dollars who cares, but at their full price I might have more of an issue with it.
Despite my above knit-picking, the speaker is actually enjoyable to listen to, he has an engaging voice and seems to have genuine interest in the subject. He makes a clear effort to act conversational as if there really is a live audience as opposed to a narrator reading and overall he's quite likeable and the audio is clear and good. (really good of course, since it isn't really live).
As for the actual content, it's tough for me to say as I am not a beginner to Buddhism. I think beginners would like it very much, but intermediate or advanced students would not find much new here. The emphasis appears to be mostly on the "history of Buddhism", or perhaps even a "geography of Buddhism", discussing when and where Buddhism spread around the Asian world as it grew. There is almost no mention of modern Western Buddhism or practices however, so if you're hoping for a current rundown or a 'how-to' of practices and rituals, this would not be a good choice. Also, it does not go into meditation; there's barely a mention and no instruction whatsoever; it's definitely more of a light history of it's origins and summation of it's core beliefs.
A side note: The speaker occasionally references "written material", glossary, etc., that are NOT included with this purchase. I was annoyed at this initially, but saw later that Audible does actually warn you of this below the description, I just missed it. It's nothing of major consequence to me, but if you are very new to Buddhism, he does reference a lot of names/words/terms that might be hard to look up later if you want to learn more but don't know the spelling. It doesn't interfere with the listening experience at all however, as long as the spellings aren't important to you.
Bottom line for me is that I would never-ever pay their usual full price for this, but the price that Audible is offering at is MUCH more in proportion to the content and value that you get. A great intro for newcomers who want to learn a bit about Buddhism's history.
9 of 12 people found this review helpful
this was a pretty interesting introduction to what Buddhists believe and where those thoughts came from.
the performance was good. at times the presenter would pause, and it was long enough that I had to check if my app had stopped. by the time I checked, he'd start talking again. not a complaint, just kind of a peeve.
it's interesting to note the similarities Buddhism has with Catholicism, in that traditions of human beings have been added on to the original source material to become what we know today. so, for any of you comparative types out there.
in the end, although this is interesting to learn about, I'm glad I didn't become a Buddhist when I was checking religions out as there just didn't seem to be any real sense of assurance it was the right choice.
check it out if you want to see where Buddhism came from and how it's changed over the years.