Hundreds of millions of people in the world - but mostly in India, China, Japan, and Indonesia - identify themselves in Buddhism, a path to spiritual perfection that can be practised without abandoning one's prior faith. A renowned specialist in Oriental studies, the author introduces the reader to a long, extremely complex history that presents many schools and currents. Their protagonists find unity in the "dharma", the set of truths revealed by Buddha and of practices that derive from those truths. The volume examines the historical and social context in which ancient Buddhism emerged, its subsequent Indian and extra-Indian development, the principles of its fundamental doctrines and their influence on society and artistic expression. The text also describes Buddhist meditation practices, that is, the element that ties together the most ancient and the most recent forms of a spiritual tradition that draws its strength and its success from its ability to offer deliverance from suffering and pain.
Giorgio Renato Franci teaches Indian and Far Eastern Philosophy at the University of Bologna.