Mahayana Buddhism. The doctrinal foundations

Paul Williams

The first edition of this book appeared in 1989. It was completed, of course, earlier. Reviewers were kind to the book. It has been widely used as the standard single volume on its subject, and translated into several languages. Since 1989, however, there has been a great deal of further research and although the book has been reprinted just about every year since its publication its original purpose as an introduction to recent scholarly work has become a little difficult to defend. Although it is recognizably the same book, organized according to the same structure as originally, in this second edition every sentence has been considered anew and rephrased or replaced where it was felt necessary. There are several new sections, and the book is significantly longer than its earlier incarnation. Compared with the first edition readers will notice there is much more consideration of East Asian Buddhism, and the practice of Mahayana. Nepalese Buddhism is mentioned where relevant. There are also many long footnotes, adding more detail, taking further the discussion of the main text, and giving guidance and references for those who wish to pursue some of the themes in greater depth and at a more advanced level. It is hoped that the book will thus serve both as a reasonably comprehensive introduction to its subject and also as a reference manual for more advanced students who wish to take their studies further.

Those familiar with the first edition of this book will notice that for this second edition Chinese names and words have been romanized in the pinyin system, although I have also given the older Wade–Giles romanization of Chinese words at their first occurrence.

Please also note that as far as possible all modern Japanese names are cited in the Western fashion, with the family name last. Traditionally in Japan the family name comes first, and you may sometimes find it cited that way in other publications.

A number of scholars, as well as my students, have read parts of the manuscript and made helpful comments. For the first edition it gave me great pleasure to thank Steven Collins, Richard Gombrich and John Hinnells for their observations and constant encouragement.

A special appreciation went at that time to Lance Cousins, who made extensive and detailed comments on a number of the chapters, drawing in particular on his deep knowledge of the Theravada tradition. For this second edition I would also like to thank my colleagues Rupert Gethin, John Kieschnick, Rita Langer and John Peacock at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Buddhist Studies. I am grateful in particular to John Kieschnick for loan of his books and his encouragement and unwearying help with all things Chinese.

I have been very, very lucky in my university colleagues both in Buddhist Studies and more widely in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. This book is dedicated to them with deep affection and gratitude. I would like to thank too Professor Yukio Kachi, then of the Department of Philosophy, University of Utah, and Professor Paul Harrison who both wrote to me correcting some errors and typographical mistakes, Ken Robinson who also noticed many typographical errors in my manuscript, and my copy editor Sarah Hall who saved me from so many mistakes and infelicities. I am grateful to you all.

Thanks also to Sharon, our children, and now their lovely partners and our delightful grandchildren. To write a book is easy. But to strive to produce good human beings – now, there is a worthwhile venture.